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the antiquary (England)

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Excalibur Classic, Vol. 1: The Sword Is Drawn: Sword Is Drawn v. 1
Excalibur Classic, Vol. 1: The Sword Is Drawn: Sword Is Drawn v. 1
by Chris Claremont
Edition: Paperback

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brief glimpse of how great a mainstream comic can be, 26 Jan. 2009
The original Chris Claremont and Alan Davies Excalibur comics were amongst the best that Marvel has ever issued. A spin-off from the X-Men, except with humour and contemporaneously better art and writing (it almost gave 'wacky' a good name), unfortunately Excalibur soon fell victim to the constant push for $ with the ridiculous demand for output and therefore frequent turnover of writers and artists at Marvel.

Kitty has never been so charming and geeky, Rachel was given a coherent and decent (if indecently clothed) storyline for the one and only time (not including Days of Future Past of course), Captain Britain was still Captain Britain and a wonderfully flawed hero, Megan endearing and the team member you were patiently waiting to grow and Nightcrawler at his swashbuckling best (the antithesis of the movie version). There's precious little to compare it to, but with its concern for character and personal lives it does have a similar feel to Buffy sometimes (apparently Kitty was the inspiration for Buffy, and with his British connections I'm sure Joss Whedon must have taken notice of these - in fact I'm wondering now if Captain Hammer was partially inspired by Captain Britain).

Every issue not featuring the Dan Dare inspired Alan Davies really was a case of criminal damage, no invective is bad enough to describe the abysmal substitute art. With no more CC and AD the comic very quickly lost its way with writers of little talent who had no idea what had made it great. The magic numbers are: Introductory Special Edition, 1-7, 9, 12-17, 23-24, 42-50, 54-56, 61-67.

Oh, and the new Dr Who shamelessly ripped-off at least the war wolves from here.

Nero 9 (PC CD)
Nero 9 (PC CD)

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Once Upon A Time..., 18 Jan. 2009
This review is from: Nero 9 (PC CD) (CD-ROM)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Blur and Oasis mattered for some reason, the Unabomber was finally caught and Windows 95 roamed the land. And kick-starting Nero takes us back to that time with bafflingly primitive process boxes and an interminable installation time.

1. Close all windows.
2. Turn-off your anti-virus
3. For good measure disconnect from the internet and turn off your firewall.
4. Leave your PC alone for 30 minutes (if it's fast) - don't expect any helpful tips or instructions to pop up.

But this is no reason to bash the product with 1* reviews and I wanted to stick up for Nero, only I'm not really able to, much.

Every piece of free to try video capture software has been able to detect my graphics card - but not Nero - I have an Nvidia 8800GT.

I tried Nero Recode next - apparently the world's fastest video converter - thought I'd try to play around with a video file that needed compressing, well I added files, but Nero gave absolutely no options so I couldn't do a thing. So I tried importing a non-copy protected amateur DVD production - but near completion Nero said it couldn't read it.

The video author/editor is not great. Nero Vision's interface is like it's been translated from a foreign language - not intuitive, not even clearly labelled, few icons are immediately intelligible. Perhaps professionals call video files assets - but I can't imagine why they would use this piece of software so obviously for the amateur. I'll never fathom why you can't continue editing or even pause playback in full screen mode.

But finally a winner - sound file creation and manipulation. Got any music files that are incompatible with whatever media player you are using? Convert audio files can fix that and to save time you can do them in batches. It can even make Windows Media Player recognise an mp3 again - something which Roxio cannot.

Similarly the ability to record sound files in WaveEditor might need an initial adjustment, but is far superior in utilities and execution than Roxio.

Picture editing is good for a jack-of-all trades package like this, but not comprehensive.

Given haphazard performance I don't want to trust Nero with backing-up my data so I can't comment on this feature.

-Good for sound files, very poor for video.
-Video editing feels like a chore when ought to be fun.
-Slow, badly organised multiple menus - access is not simply a click away.
-The online tutorials are not a great help at clearing up confusion.
-Faster than Roxio's latest, but still slow.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time [DVD] [2006]
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Mamoru Hosoda
Price: £3.65

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent manga film in an (almost) realistic setting, 15 Jan. 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A good, involving film. The back cover blurb rather overdoes it a little with 'feast for the eyes', given the setting, but there's no doubt that the animation is very good within the limits that manga sets itself, and the character design is something to boast about.

Makoto is an endearing character and carries the story well so that you do care about what happens, which is fortunately not obvious. The film can be read a number of ways, so I'm wary of giving details of even themes away, which might make you anticipate the ending. About the ending there is a loose hinge which was very unsatisfactory for me (although not everyone is bothered by it).

The film does have a slight Studio Ghibli feel to it, which isn't surprising considering some of the artists involved.

Power DVD 8 Ultra
Power DVD 8 Ultra

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ultra for Blu-Ray playback on your desktop, 15 Jan. 2009
This review is from: Power DVD 8 Ultra (CD-ROM)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
First of all let's make it clear - because the product page does not - that anyone looking for just DVD playback needs to get over to the deluxe or standard editions (personally I think the extra audio capabilities make the deluxe version worth the extra) - The doubling in price to the Ultra edition enables you to play blu-ray discs.

So PowerDVD, make no mistake, is the best film playback software for PC for the general consumer. Picture and sound are obviously superior to Windows Media Player, Real Player, or anything else I've encountered, and with no bugs (as opposed to those 2 blights to our computers). The core program makes this a 5 star product (even if blu-ray is currently overpriced in my opinion).

However, there are one or two things that need improving:

Whereas the automatic settings on version 7 were too light, version 8 has overdone the attempts to fix this and now automatic settings are too dark, overall the mood might be better but now detail is lost.

It would be great to play audio through this program but it seems to have been designed to discourage this. Controls are unintuitive or non-existent, I eventually found shuffle, the playlist is a pain, the list does not stay open and even accessing it resets you back to the start of a song in the middle of playback. There are only presets for a graphic equaliser, one of which is 80s Glam Rock, which gives new meaning to the phrase 'If you can remember it, you weren't there'.

A radical rethink of MoovieLive and the movie remix is needed. These are not going to take-off in their current foramt. MoovieLive as a web site has not been properly thought-out (the name itself is incredibly childish). The main problem is that the website has been clumsily set up - the review section is more like a comment section and there are no individual forums for films, so the stated aim of making friends and a community is hamstrung - and we need an alternative to the weirdos and stalkers on IMDB.

And the movie remix? Remember Etch-A-Sketch? Did you like me wonder what was the point of spending an hour or so painstakingly creating something only to have it wiped clean a minute later? Well, it's not that bad but almost, you are forced to save into a file format used nowhere else (and for how many years and versions will that be supported?) and can only be viewed by people who also own the dvd through the inadequate website.

I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue: Chairman Humph - A Tribute
I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue: Chairman Humph - A Tribute
by BBC
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £9.25

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I'm sorry there wasn't more, 29 Dec. 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I don't need to recommend this well-presented obituary to existing Humphrey Lyttelton and ISIHAC fans - it's a fine thing to have - and included are plenty of funny anecdotes and clips (just don't expect this to be a compilation). As the original free broadcast it is pleasant and blameless, as a cd to buy though it is lacking in range and detail.

There isn't enough jazz, at least one full track with the band surely would have made this a more rounded tribute. As would hearing from a wider range of people than predominantly Radio 4 personalities. Still, it is clearly labelled and aimed at the radio show fans, and a worthwhile remembrance of a man who needs to be remembered.

The Red House Mystery
The Red House Mystery
by A. A. Milne
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ho-hum, 8 Dec. 2008
This review is from: The Red House Mystery (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A good opening, but nothing else like it follows. A few witty lines, but not as good a mystery as the author thought it was and Holmes would have solved it before he'd finished his breakfast. It feels like after planting a character Milne forgets to feed them and they stop growing. Pleasant but not compelling.

Roxio Easy Media Creator 2009 Ultimate (PC)
Roxio Easy Media Creator 2009 Ultimate (PC)

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unfinished homework 2 stars - after the time extension 4 stars, 14 Nov. 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I loved the old Roxio from around 2005. It worked, it worked well and worked fast. Unfortunately like so many other packages Roxio has now lost the plot - buggy and slow - its main purpose now seems to be to put your firewall through a punishing exercise. I was really looking forward to this update but Roxio has now become the kind of program I originally turned to Roxio to avoid.

(Using high end PC with Vista 64)

EDIT June 09 - It has improved - as with so many other programs and games nowadays the lesson seems to be to try and wait until 6 months after release - by which time updates should have turned the beta program to a proper item ready for consumers.

It is pleasanter to use than Nero, and far less buggy after the patch, otherwise there's not that much between them.

The Clouded Yellow [1950] [DVD]
The Clouded Yellow [1950] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Trevor Howard
Offered by DVDDemon
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fine film for a winter afternoon, 4 Nov. 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
One can see why this watchable but flawed film has been overlooked and only now deservedly issued. The director Ralph Thomas couldn't do dark or sinister to save his life, some of the scenes are badly framed and the ending is barely adequate. However it is a film that kept me entertained in a continuous sitting - it deserved better - it has excellent pacing with a proper build-up, a good score, manages to sucker-punch you a couple of times and contains an excellent cast.

Trevor Howard makes you realise what a good James Bond he would have made had he accepted the part. Jean Simmons is as ever very watchable but she was badly directed and her role was limited enough to begin with. You get closer to the scenery than Kenneth More in this film, but you're glad he's there. It is also interesting to watch for some real location filming and the manners of the time - contrary to half-watched reports there's a fair cross-section of British society.

Unfortunately yet again Eureka have done a poor job. The box presentation leaves a lot to be desired and a very helpful review here has pointed out that the start of the film has inexplicably been cut out.

I will briefly mention something in the hope that it will be noted by some. Simply retracing what happens is not a review, and worse, is likely to detract from others' enjoyment.

Ocean's Thirteen [DVD] [2007]
Ocean's Thirteen [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ George Clooney
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.10

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars 'The moment you become embarrassed of who you are you lose yourself', 26 Oct. 2008
A trite line from the film but one which resonates as it sums up the whole experience. You know those dire, bland early 70s B-films where a lot goes off and nothing happens, time seems to drag on forever and you begin to stare oblivion in the face? Ocean's 13 pays perfect homage to these movies.

Even Vincent Cassell has had any semblance of character drained from him. Julian Sands, the patron saint of bad movies, turns up to officially declare it a turkey. I can't help but think that this was all deliberate on Soderbergh's part to ensure the studio didn't ask him to make any more. Ocean's 11 & 12 might only have been what Hitchcock would have described as 'baubles' but they were at least entertaining.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 18, 2009 7:12 PM GMT

Paul Gayler's Sauce Book: 300 World Sauces Made Simple
Paul Gayler's Sauce Book: 300 World Sauces Made Simple
by Paul Gayler
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the essential cookbooks, 15 Oct. 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Comparing this excellent book to Michel Roux's Sauces I had to reluctantly admit, at writing at any rate, that the old French master had been edged-out. I have never heard of Paul Gayler before but if you are not convinced by his impressive resumé then you will be by his first-class recipes, tips, and presentation - combined with the sheer variety.

The sauces have simply and sensibly been laid out. But the publishers have neglected the introduction, which needs to be more welcoming.

And it is not just sauces, you don't have to hunt down other recipes to accompany your tapenade, wasabi, avgolemono or harrisa - for the major, if unfamiliar, sauces a good use to put them to is provided.

I am disappointed with only three pages on gravy but no decent chef that I know of has given adequate attention to it and this is more than others. Also, despite introducing the generally good Asia section with a picture of India, the subcontinent is only represented by a couple of accompanying sauces - but perhaps currys do need a book to themselves.

Contrary to reviews the simple tomato sauces do not require expensive or far-flung ingredients. This book is perfectly usable with supermarket shopping (as long as it's not Iceland). But there are options for other recipes that do require you to stock up and lay-off the madeira or port or make a special trip to a good supermarket or specialist shop.

Few fears here of a Nigella-like disparity in your results to the book. Not for an absolute beginner but you don't have to be very advanced at all to use this book easily and successfully.

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