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Sam Anders (Scotland)

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Assassin's Creed (Xbox 360)
Assassin's Creed (Xbox 360)
Offered by passionFlix UK
Price: 6.54

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice, but could have been better, 9 Mar 2008
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
The adverts for this game were very very cool, the hype that surrounded it's release was huge, it looked set to become a truly incredible and original game; sadly it's not, but it is still pretty damn good.
The plot follows two characters; Desmond, a bartender in near-future America and Altair, his twelfth century ancestor. Desmond is being forced by a mysterious organization to access his genetic memory via a device called the animus and play out a specific period from Altair's life for reasons the organization keeps solidly to themselves. In the game you play as both these characters but spend most of your time as Altair. When playing Desmond the controls are simplistic in the extreme, with the look of the game being quite close to Fahrenheit, but that's fine since those sections are basically interactive exposition segments. When playing as Altair the controls are actually quite hard to get to grips with at first, but once you get a handle on it they allow you a huge amount of control and freedom of movement. Altair has the ability to free-run and the environments are really well designed so that you've got a lot of freedom of movement and plenty of different routes through the three cities in which the game is principally set.
Now, this game's about a medieval assassin so the action/stealth segments are very important to the overall quality. Overall these are done well, the stealth assassinations are performed with the 'hidden blade' an extremely cool and well designed weapon, this is a small blade which as it's name suggests is hidden within your sleeve and can be snapped out instantly allowing you to move in on your target, deliver a lethal strike and vanish instantly into the crowd. Occasionally, and particularly near the end of the game, Altair finds himself in full scale sword fights with guards, these fights allow you to attack and block as you'd expect but are actually mainly timing-based since you must dodge and counter-attack to have any kind of chance of survival, the counter-attacks are very nicely designed and animated with a real sense of skill but also a lot of brutality.
The plot of this game is good to begin with, deeply interesting and strange in the middle, but then something of an anti-climax at the end. Altair's plot is very nicely (if a little oddly) tied up at the end, but it's Desmond who's left to dangle somewhat impotently as the writers don't seem to be able to work out what to do with, his story really feels like the last chapter is missing and that's a shame since up till that point it's very intriguing and shows lots of promise. If you wait till after the credits you get an extra snippet of game play (as well as an achievement) which makes it look like this game's intended as the first part of a possible franchise. I'd love to play a sequel to this game but it seems to have sacrificed it's ending chapter to build expectation for a sequel and this definitely loses it a star.
This isn't the most original game of all time, the game play will be very familiar to Prince of Persia fans, and the plot has enough conspiracy goodness for everyone who has read a Dan Brown novel to recognize. The plot has an unsatisfying conclusion and doesn't really flesh out some of it's stranger elements, but is nonetheless compelling up until it's (admittedly anti-climatic) ending. The game play is lots of fun and there's so much satisfaction to be had from it though so you shouldn't pass this over... But then again you should probably wait for the price to come down.


These Are The Good Times People
These Are The Good Times People
Price: 7.78

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars High energy, light weight, and lots of fun, 7 Mar 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a pretty short little album from a band you've probably never heard of, but it's definitely worth a listen. There's a certain cheeky absurdity to all of the lyrics here, and all the music has a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm which keeps it all going along at such a great pace that you find yourself pulled along so quickly you almost forget how mad all the words are. It takes a few tracks to really get you into this album but once your with it you find yourself easily lost in it's energy and sense of fun so that you lose track of the brief listening time.
That said, the album isn't all that long and though it's pretty easy to listen to again and again anything can become repetitive and this is no exception. This isn't helped by the fact that all the songs are so similar in sound, so that occasionally you can feel like you've heard a track before even if you haven't.
I really enjoy this album, it's immensely entertaining and it's somewhat repetitive nature shouldn't stop you from checking it out and having a great time while you do it.


Making History
Making History
by Stephen Fry
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smart, light-weight and highly enjoyable., 24 Feb 2008
This review is from: Making History (Paperback)
Having never read any of Stephen Fry's novels before I have to say I was surprised by how accomplished a writer he really is. The novel is pretty long at well over five hundred pages, but manages to remain extremely quick and light-weight reading throughout, with Fry's trademark sparkling wit lending the whole thing an admittedly slightly self-indulgent but nonetheless very intelligent tone.
The story is an extremely well thought through peice of sci-fi working around the old question of whether or not it would be justifiable to kill Hitler before he had a chance to commit his attroticies. There's a good understanding of history present here though and Fry avoids over simplifying his portayal of the people and the time, in fact lending the whole thing a great deal more complexity then most writers would have. The principle character is very relatable, he's sympathetic for all the same reasons as a Douglas Adams character but is very much Fry's creation and a protagonist who the reader can't help but like.
The story has enough thematic intricacies and philosophical questions to keep hardcore sci-fi fans satisfied but remains highly accessible throughout and as such never excludes the reader regardless of their personal taste and preferences.
This is an inventive little sci-fi adventure that should keep both newcomers and stalwart fans of the genre entertained for all of it's pretty considerable length. Definitely one to check out if you get the chance.


Angel - Season 5 [DVD]
Angel - Season 5 [DVD]
Dvd ~ David Boreanaz
Offered by WorldCinema
Price: 19.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best. Ending. Ever., 23 Feb 2008
This review is from: Angel - Season 5 [DVD] (DVD)
Rarely have I been as disappointed to learn that a show had been cancelled as I was with Angel, it was easily one of the best shows in the genre and by season 5 it was eclipsing it's parent show Buffy on a regular basis. But all good things must come to an end, and when they do try to make them end like this.
OK, so at the end of season 4 we saw Angel and co join and agree to run their evil enemy, the law firm Wolram&Hart. Now it's obvious to both the characters and the audience that this is an attempt to corrupt them and bring them onto Wolfram&Hart's side for real, this is handled very well and actually quite subtely in the show so that you start noticing little differences long before the major plot points show up around it. There's lots of interesting thematic examinations around the concept of how far you can go into the darkness before it gets to you, something we've already seen Wesley go through in previous seasons but which is equally interesting now since all the characters are effected differently, with different consequenes for the group and themselves. As this is the final season of the show it's where we get to see everyone's character arcs get wound up, and it's a compliment to the writers that they manage to make the same set of events provide material for the show's conclusion but also keep everyone's personal arc seperate and distinct. Wesley, unsurprisingly, remains the most tragic story in the series with this season pushing him even further than season 4, his concluding scenes are an act of nihilistic tradgedy that act as the perfect antithesis of his orginal clown-like role and are by far the saddest moments of the series.
The final season also contains the return of some of the series' best characters, most of whom are a major plot reveal and so I won't spoil them for you, but since James Marsters is in the opening credits it's not mutch of a spoiler to say that Spike is back in town. Spike forms a major part of the show this season, acting as a great irritant to Angel whilst also carrying a couple of episodes on his own ('Hell Bound' and 'Damage' are two of the series' scarriest episodes by far and both rest heavily on Marsters).
This season of Angel is, as previosly stated, the last. Thankfully the writers were aware of this and have managed to give Angel a proper ending rather than the sudden death of Firefly. The final episode, appropriatly named 'Not Fade Away', gives a definite and satisfying conclusion to all of the character arcs and provides the series as a whole with a pretty solid finale both in terms of plot and thematcally. The end of Angel feels like it comes all too soon, but that doesn't stop it being one of the best endings of any television show in recent memory.


Metallica
Metallica
Price: 10.51

5.0 out of 5 stars Solid, 20 Feb 2008
This review is from: Metallica (Audio CD)
For a metal album to do as well as this one is extremely rare and it's a tribute to how solid this album really is that it manages to pull in an audience who presumably would normally avoid this sort of material. Admittedly this success is partly due to the solid single value of standout tracks 'Enter Sandman' and 'Nothing Else Matters', but the album itself has a consistently high quality that doubtless contributes to its continued success.
For fans of metal this has proved a good album but not necessarily the band's best, but nonetheless it really is great to listen to and one that you really should check out regardless of your feelings on the genre in general.
There's no weak track here but there are certainly some especially strong ones, both 'Enter Sandman' and 'Nothing Else Matters' deserve mention, as does 'Unforgiven' which really should have gotten it's own single release.
If you're looking for a solid metal album, are curious to hear some of an iconic band like Metallica or just liked one of the singles then this is definitely one to check out.


Carry On
Carry On
Price: 5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Cornell is on a real high right now, 18 Feb 2008
This review is from: Carry On (Audio CD)
Chris Cornell first joined Soundgarden in 1984, he has since produced a pretty large amount of material ranging from grunge into other areas of hard and soft rock through later bits of Soundgarden, his first solo album and his most recent effort (bar this) with rock super-group Audioslave. The last Audioslave album, Revelations, was their most successful and easily their best and it was a shame to hear Cornell was moving back to his solo career but since this was the product we can forgive him.
This album is really really solid, Cornell has stayed well away from the grunge angle and stays with much lighter weight more ballad-style material but this veers it away from the somewhat uneven feel of early Audioslave and makes everything nice and consistent. All of the songs here are well chosen and form a good bit of variety within their overall soft-rock/ballad gene pool. 'No Such Thing' is a decent opener which is the closest to Audioslave on the album, 'Billie Jean' is a surprisingly good take on the Michael Jackson classic that manages to take the song somewhere you'd never have imagined, 'You Know My Name' is of course the theme to Bond reboot Casino Royale but makes a decent little song in itself and it's good to see it in there, and the whole album just hangs together really well making it very rewarding on repeat listens.
Cornell has a great voice for these sorts of songs and his composition shows some genuine originality in his writing and adaptation. The lack of supporting players of an Audioslave standard does mean that it's all Cornell's show and he manages to do it without any trouble whatsoever, easily carrying the material, holding back or throwing himself into it whole-heartedly where necessary he shows huge diversity within his evidently self-realized limits and is a real pleasure to listen to as a result.
If you're a fan of Cornell then this is definitely one to check out as it's a surprisingly solid album that works brilliantly together and has a few great stand-out tracks in there with good single value. Great album, great artist, great fun.


SanDisk Sansa c150 2GB MP3 Player
SanDisk Sansa c150 2GB MP3 Player

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for me, but be careful., 17 Feb 2008
This is a really solid little MP3 player. It holds a decent amount of songs and since your PC will treat it as if it were a portable hard drive all you need to do is click and drag files back and forward between your music folder and the MP3's folder to make transfers which is extremely convenient. The sound quality is pretty decent on the headphones provided but I found that they wore out in one ear after about six months and would highly recommend a pair of 'Sony MDR-E818LP Acoustic Twin Turbo Headphones' if this happens to you since the quality is fantastic and you can pick them up pretty cheaply. The MP3 uses AAA batteries which makes it very convenient for travel purposes since you can pick them up in any garage or corner shop if you need to, as well as meaning that you can pick up a pack of rechargeables so you'll always have some spare, basically it's hard to find yourself in a position where there's no way to get the power back without waiting for a lengthy recharge time.
Having said that there are issues which must be addressed. The MP3 is reportedly not Mac compatible, it doesn't contain a radio like it's U.S. counterpart and it won't play videos (though I believe I can store them, but I haven't tried so can't vouch for that). These weren't problems I encountered personally because I don't want any of those functions, but if you do then this is probably one to avoid.
But if you will be using a PC, only really want it for playing music not videos, and don't need a radio function, then I can't recommend this highly enough to you.


The Sleeping Doll
The Sleeping Doll
by Jeffery Deaver
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but far from the best., 14 Feb 2008
This review is from: The Sleeping Doll (Hardcover)
I have to confess to being a huge Jeffery Deaver fan, I love his books and I've read most of them so when this came out I got my hands on it as soon as possible. It's a real shame to say it but I was really underwhelmed by this initially promising book.
First off, this is a spin-off from the Lincoln Rhyme series centered around Kathryn Dance, a kinesics expert who featured in 'The Cold Moon'. Dance is a strong central character at first and this book being based around kinesics rather than forensics makes a nice change not unreminiscent of 'The Devil's Teardrop'. Sadly the kinesics angle simply becomes repetitive as Dance interviews key person after key person with the same techniques and outcome which though relatively accurate to fact is not always very engaging since the whole process takes on a severe inevitability later on in the book. Dance herself is explored a fair bit in the book and shows a fair chunk of potential, however she's simply not as good a protagonist as Rhyme and she lacks enough individual charm to carry a book off on her own like Kincaid or Gillette could in 'The Devil's Teardrop' and 'The Blue Nowhere' respectively. Dance shows promise, but she would have probably been better kept as a continuing Rhyme character then a book's focus in and of herself.
The villain of 'The Sleeping Doll' is by far it's strongest point. Daniel Pell is a creepy and threatening force who oozes pure menace throughout the characteristically twisted plot, he stays unsettling and genuinely frightening to the very end but Deaver was never going to be able to make a whole book work purely on the basis of a really good villain.
The plot has all the trademark Deaver twists you'd expect, though seasoned fans may spot a few coming there's so many in there towards the end you'll definitely be surprised at least a few times and that's always good. I don't want to give too much away here so I'll stop just in case.
There's a further issue with the book that really damaged my enjoyment of it, which had not happened before with Deaver and isn't his fault, and that is the proof reading. I have no idea who proof read this thing but they did an appalling job since there are sentences and words repeated all over the place that are clearly Deaver just getting too caught up in what he's writing and that shouldn't be a problem since a half decent proof reader would pick up on and change them immediately but for some reason that didn't happen here and it really pulls you out of the book and gets pretty confusing in a few places.
'The Sleeping Doll' is an effective psychological thriller with an excellent villain and an adequate if underwhelming heroine, it's fun to read and still manages to surprise it's reader. But it's not all that great, Deaver's not given himself the best tools to work with and he's not used them as well as you'd expect from him. The novel's also badly proof read which is a major fault you wouldn't expect and can really hamper your enjoyment of the book. An OK installment for fans looking for something to tide them over till the next Lincoln Rhyme book, but that's really all it is - OK.


300 [2007] [DVD]
300 [2007] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Gerard Butler
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: 3.39

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent B-Movie action flick, 12 Feb 2008
This review is from: 300 [2007] [DVD] (DVD)
Oliver Stone likes to make the distinction between films and movies, with films being the smart Oscar-winning type of stuff and movies being the popcorn crunching brainless audience-pleasing type of thing. As a film 300 is terrible, but as a movie it's absolutely fantastic. This is a big, pointless action film, but it knows it is and is a huge amount of fun.
OK, so the film is (very) loosely based on the events surrounding the battle of Thermopylae, where 300 spartan soldiers supported by a few thousand other greeks (who get almost no part in the film whatsoever, but then early on it's made clear that historical accuracy really isn't a concern for this movie) took on the single largest army the world has ever seen. The film actually has a surprisingly long build up to the battle, with a good thirty minutes of introducing the main characters and setting up the basic principle of the Spartans being the hardest soldiers of all time ever. Mind you once we get to the battle there's a good hour of beautiful carnage to enjoy.
The action scenes in this film are really fantastic, with a stop-and-start slow motion effect that keeps everything moving at a decent pace while highlighting the best bits of the excellent choreography. The effects in the film are lavish, OTT, and massively comic-booky, but given the idea is to make it look like a comic-book that's fine. The effects are also used to enhance the light-dark difference so shadows and bright lights look very sharp and dramatic, this device also makes the already ridiculously muscular cast look even more pumped up then they already are.
The actors don't have too much to do since all the characters are 2D in the extreme, but all do a good job with what they have, with particular note going to Gerard Butler who throws himself whole-heartedly into his shoutey Scottish-accented (told you it wasn't going for historic accuracy) Leonidas with wild abandon and he's huge fun to watch as he belows his way from macho sound bite to macho sound bite.
At the end of the day the only thing you really need to focus on in this film is that it's just about having fun. There were no rhinos at Thermopylae, Leonidas wasn't Scottish, Xerxes wasn't a nine foot tall demigod, but it doesn't matter. This movie gives you a great adrenaline-fueled action ride with great infinitely quotable action-movie bad dialog ("This...is...SPARTA!" has lept straight into the pop culture reference library) and lots of re-watchability to boot. Go watch it with beer and turn off most of your brain and you'll have a great time.


Angel - Season 4 [DVD]
Angel - Season 4 [DVD]
Dvd ~ David Boreanaz
Offered by ajdiscs
Price: 19.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic Entertainment, 3 Feb 2008
This review is from: Angel - Season 4 [DVD] (DVD)
Cordelia has gone above and Angel has descended deep below. For three months Gunn and Fred have searched fruitlessly for their lost friends, accompanied by an impulsive and violent Connor. Lorne has all but lost contact with the group and Wesley has fallen further into darkness and into the arms of Lilah Morgan - his once sworn enemy. And so begins Angel's darkest and most exciting season so far.
Season four begins with a few episodes which are essentially just to get the group back together and set up for the main plot of the season, this set up period could have been pointless but is in fact extremely necessary since from episode 7 onwards this is just one massive story-arc with little or no separate stories within the episodes themselves, making a good set-up badly needed. This mega-arc is focussed around a demon called 'The Beast', an incredibly tough and dangerous enemy who vastly outstrips all other Angel opponents so far and completely changes the nature of the game since he is apparently immortal and extremely good at mass murder. That our heroes can't simply find The Beast's weakness and bump him off at the end of the first episode, in fact they get their collective ass handed to them every time they even try, makes him much more threatening and intimidating than previous enemies. Every episode of the mega-arc ends on a cliffhanger and it all hangs together like one massive episode, this works especially well on DVD and is very rewarding to those fans who've seen all the previous seasons.
As well as being heavy on the story arc season four ups the anti in terms of both action and in just how dark the series gets. There are plenty of action scenes as always in Angel, but in season four there's regular use of matrix-esque slow-motion to highlight the excellent choreography and just make things look much much cooler. The slo-mo effect is used regularly but always purposefully, it's well placed and never overused, enhancing the levels of excitement in the action massively.
In terms of darkness the season really goes an extra stretch compared to previous installments in the series, with all the characters being pushed further and harder than they can cope with: Wesley is now a violent and tortured character who has no problem torturing innocents or using other methods that are well over the moral line that he once saw and respected so clearly, Alexis Denisof does a fantastic job with the character and really makes you feel for Wesley whilst still being repelled by just how far this once comical and morally upright man has fallen; Angel spends the whole season watching his world fall apart and he grows further and further from those he loves and is forced yet again to confront his darkest impulses; Fred and Gunn are strained in their relationship as they try to come to terms with losing their friends and their disowning of Wesley at the beginning of the season, and by the end Fred finds herself realizing she's no longer the person she used to be, that she has lost something of herself in her involvement with this world of violence and fear, Gunn meanwhile has lost all faith in his own role as simply 'the muscle' and struggles with the rest of the group treating him as such, by the final episode he's a completely changed man, and that's not necessarily a good thing. Even the chirpy Lorne has a tragic splinter strongly wedged in his heart by the time those last credits role, no-one is left uncorrupted or unscarred.
Season four contains some of the most tragic, exciting, scary, dramatic and surprising episodes of the entire series. It easily outstrips the three previous installments and provides a huge reward for continuing fans of the show. It can be sad, funny and thrilling in equal measure, but Angel Season Four never for one moment stops being one of the most stunningly enjoyable things you'll ever watch.


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