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Dr. George L. Sik (Epsom, Surrey)

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Hue Animation Studio (Green) for Windows PCs and Apple Mac OS X: complete stop motion animation kit with camera
Hue Animation Studio (Green) for Windows PCs and Apple Mac OS X: complete stop motion animation kit with camera
Offered by premier-express
Price: 79.95

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Never-ending fun - one of the best toys ever?, 25 April 2011
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Back in 1974 I remember being glued to a BBC programme called The Do-It-Yourself Film Animation Show. Well, in those days, such a hobby was frighteningly expensive, elaborate and laborious so all most of us could do was dream we would one day emulate Walt Disney. If only this little bit of kit had been available then!

It really is so easy! I was inspited by visiting the 'Animate It!' exhibition in Bristol's @Bristol museum. This does everything you could do at that exhibition. You can pick it up in minutes and soon you'll think you're the new Nick Park.

Top tip: toy cars and engines of the Thomas and Friends variety are excellent objects to animate - really simple and you can make them do all sorts of things when you're first starting out.

No more twiddling your thumbs on the long winter nights - and kids will absolutely love the results! A truly amazing hobby in a box.

Shameless Series 8 [DVD]
Shameless Series 8 [DVD]
Dvd ~ David Threlfall
Price: 10.25

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mid-term report + update, 17 April 2011
This review is from: Shameless Series 8 [DVD] (DVD)
I wrote the bulk of this review half way through this series. Channel 4's decision to split the series in half and screen the rest of it in the late summer has been very frustrating. They did this suddenly and without a fanfare and I wonder what the reasoning behind it was. Maybe viewing figures were down? Screening the first five episodes on successive days of the first week was another experiment which may not have worked.

So is it as good as it ever was? Well, the best of it certainly is: Mimi's dismissal of Manchester United fans being misconstrued as racism was a piece of social satire on a par with Swift, Dickens, Chesterton and the rest; Micky's 'specialist website' with its Dragons' Den moment featured in one of the best episodes ever; Carl going to work for Jamie Maguire set up another cracking adventure. No other comedy-drama has such comedy and such drama and they never dilute one another.

That said, I can't in all honesty say I've enjoyed this one (so far, at least) as much as previous series - and I'm talking about my favourite programe here. So many of the original cast have left (in fact, I think Frank, Karen and Carl are the only ones who survive from the first episode). We lost Paddy and Ian at the end of the last one and these were giant losses. While there are some engaging new characters, 'absent friends' cast a long shadow.

Furthermore, what separates the terrific scripts in Shameless from the hack work of soaps like Eastenders is that the plots and situations appear to grow naturally from the personalities of the characters, as opposed to the characters doing unbelievable things to serve the needs of the plot. In this series, however, certain things felt unconvincing to me: the falling-out of Shane and Jamie; Liam's inexplicable decision to go with his mother (I guess the actor who played him wanted to move on, but the twisted logic was incomprehensible); Libby persisting with Frank for as long as she did. None of these things felt emotionally 'right' for the characters. Previously, major plot points which could have been difficult to sawllow (Paddy on heroin and his gradual estrangement from Mimi, Ian's relationship with Maxine etc) were written so well and happened so gradually that I believed them. Only Debbie's sudden decision to join the army felt wrong. In this series, though, quite a few things have felt incongruous.

In addition to this, the plot about Frank going missing on the eve of his wedding, with its Doctor Who references and its rather obvious re-working of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, just didn't do it for me. It's as though they have done all they can with Frank. There is simply nothing more left that they can possibly do. Frank featured little in the subsequent episodes and I didn't miss him.

I really, really hope that Shameless doesn't derail or go gradually stale. I love it so much!

Here's to a second half to this series that blows us all away!


Update: The second half of the series has now been screened and undeniably had some very strong episodes with insense drama and great comedy. This included an extended hundredth episode. There is still something of a feeling that the plots are beginning to repeat themselves though, and the constant references to characters who have disappeared - indeed the return of some of them - inevitably invites comparison with the past. At the end of the series it is clear that more well-loved characters are likely to depart and it will be hard to imagine a new series without them. With some regret, then, because it is still superior to most TV series, I'm sticking with four stars.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 31, 2011 4:12 PM BST

Flanimals - Complete set of 6 figurines
Flanimals - Complete set of 6 figurines

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flan-tastic!, 30 Jan 2011
= Durability:3.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:1.0 out of 5 stars 
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These are quite magnificent but the real surprise is how big some of them are. A friend's son (aged 10) is a huge fan of Ricky Gervais's books, so I thought these novelities would be right up his street. Being made of resin, they are not designed to be thrown around, but the books appeal to older children so I don't think that's a problem. I frankly expected them all to be cracker-novelty sized, a bit like those Go Gos that kids are so keen on. A couple of them, however are simply huge so, when they all arrived, it was in something that felt like a small crate! Their sizes vary tremendously which adds to

Anyway, he was over the moon. If kids like the books, they'll love these!

Not Dead Enough
Not Dead Enough
by Peter James
Edition: Paperback

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dead Boring, 29 Jan 2011
This review is from: Not Dead Enough (Paperback)
My, how this goes on. And on and on. To say Peter James could do with a more ruthless editor is an understatement - the conclusion, when at long last it comes, is a total anticlimax, particularly because the author has made you work so hard for it.

Other reviewers have pointed out how deliberately James's books resemble television scripts: short scene after short scene; chapter upon chapter...will it never stop? Dead Simple, the first of the Roy Grace novels, had a deliciously original plot, if a rather haphazard finale. By the second book, Looking Good Dead, a law of diminishing returns had already begun to set in (it also owed a lot to Lynda La Plante's Killer Web - right down to the Brighton setting). This third one is like pulling teeth so I'll be stopping here and waiting for the inevitable television adaptation rather than reading any more.

I once heard someone say that Titanic is a much better film if you miss out the middle couple of hours. Something similar applies here.

The Addams Family: An Evilution
The Addams Family: An Evilution
by H.Kevin Miserocchi
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 24.94

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Creepy and kooky in equal measure, 29 Jan 2011
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There have been many collections of Chas Addams's cartoons over the years and for those of us brought up on the TV Addams Family, this one is particularly satisfying. It presents the illustrations on a character-by-character basis and gives some fascinating insights into differences between the cartoon character and the later incarnation. Gomez was originally more of a sleazeball than a suave swashbuckler, Lurch was blind in one eye and Thing (or THE Thing) was more of a 'Kilroy was here' peeping presence than a disembodied hand. And did you know that Cousin Itt only ever appeared twice in print? This is all the more fasinating when you learn how tightly Addams controlled the content of the programme - it was a genuinely evolving creative process rather than others messing about with his vision.

A must for friends of 'The Family' everywhere!

Let Them Come Through
Let Them Come Through

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Medium Rare, 29 Jan 2011
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What a superb read! At once a gripping thriller that never lets go and a darkly comic satire about showbusiness, fake psychic (is there any other kind?) Nick Santini encounters a suspicious death and watches his life implode. The characters are maginificently drawn, including his sleazy, thieving agent Tony and unfathomable detective Brewster. There are two interwoven narratives, one covering how Nick arrived at the point where the book begins and one that reveals what happened next. In the hands of a lesser writer this could be incredibly annoying, but here it works a treat.

Like some of the other reviewers, I was only familiar with Neil Forsyth's Delete This at Your Peril featuring Bob Servant, the Henry Root of the digital age. I therefore knew that this would be funny but I hadn't guessed how compelling and well-constructed a whodunit (or perhaps a whatthehellisgoingon) it would turn out to be.

Highly recommended!

The Armstrong and Miller Book
The Armstrong and Miller Book
by Alexander Armstrong
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 19.99

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harsh!, 5 Oct 2010
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To start with the smallest of criticisms: this book is so lavishly produced that its title appears in silver letters. Unfortunately, the silver colour has a tendency to disappear from the cover and end up all over your hands...but maybe my copy was just hot off the press!

For those who have been fans of Armstrong and Miller since their Channel 4 days, this book will come as the most indulgent of treats: hilariously written, exquisitely produced (the silver colouring aside) and packed bursting with detail. All your favourite characters are there including the RAF pilots whose lingo sounds suspiciously up-to-date, the accident prone historian Dennis Lincoln-Park, the unsettlingly frank divorced father and his son, and my favourites: Brabbins and Fyffe, Flanders and Swann cross-bred with the Macc Lads. There are a few faces I didn't recognise who I think will making their first appearances in the shortly-to-be-aired third BBC series and perhaps in their live stage show which will be touring very soon.

My laugh-out-loud pick of the crop has to be a series of restaurant menus which skewer the way these are currently written with surreal panache - and a painfully funny take on the branding of the 2012 Olympic Games.

All in all, everything you'd hope for from this talented pair (ably assisted by the League of Gentleman's Jeremy Dyson). Is it though?

Poirot - Complete Season 12 [ 2009 ]
Poirot - Complete Season 12 [ 2009 ]
Dvd ~ David Suchet
Offered by brrsales
Price: 9.99

72 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not yet shown on British television - it's criminal!, 16 Sep 2010
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There can be few things more British than a fine murder mystery - even if the detective is Belgian. It is frankly shocking, then, that Americans and various Europeans get to see episodes of Poirot long before we do. At the time of writing, the three best episodes from this series of four had not yet aired on British television. This sorry state of affairs has existed for some time, while ITV rather lamely pretends that the episodes are still being made.

In a welcome two fingers to ITV, then, it was a delight to buy these episodes ahead of UK transmission - and from Benelux, too! Hercule would be proud.

As for the adventures themselves, The Clocks is very well constructed and I enjoyed it all the more because I was unfamiliar with the book so didn't know whodunit. I have to say I replayed Poirot's summary - the solution is more complicated than usual (for reasons which become clear) but actually fits together superbly.

Murder on the Orient Express is the one most of us are already familiar with so it is intriguing to see a new slant put on it as the good detective wrestles with his conscience to decide what is the right thing to do. In an age where Catholic dogma (in fact, religion and morality generally) is increasingly under the spotlight, this version resonates and haunts rather more than 1974's lavish parade of stars and costumes ever did, David Suchet playing a more troubled, less perky Poirot than Albert Finney, which befits the dark subject matter.

The star turn here is Halloween Party, again one of the darker Poirot adventures, concerning (like Murder on the Orient Express) the killing of a child. Writer Mark Gatiss invests it with just the right balance of seriousness and scary thrills. It is superbly atmospheric and authentically unsettling.

And the fourth one you've already seen but I won't spoil it for you if you missed it.

All credit must go to the Dutch for letting me see these early and it's high time the schedulers at ITV started using their little grey cells a bit more.

Chas Addams Half-Baked Cookbook
Chas Addams Half-Baked Cookbook
by Charles Addams
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You rang...for dinner?, 31 Aug 2010
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To anyone who loves the Addams Family and the wonderful cartoons that led to the television series, films and so on, this will be a treat. It isn't really that much of a cookbook, though there are a few recipes, borrowed from various sources and picked for their weirdness (of course). In the main, however, this is a collection of Charles (or 'Chas') Addams cartoons selected by his widow, many hitherto unseen.

It is an eclectic mix, spanning the years and featuring many that appear rough drafts, rather than the intricate finished masterpieces that appeared in The New Yorker and elsewhere. Their rawness feels like an insight into the mind of the cartoonist. As a whole, the collection is fascinating and an absolute delight for fans. 'Mushrooms Fester' might well have the same effect!

Our House - a Musical Love Story [DVD]
Our House - a Musical Love Story [DVD]
Dvd ~ Suggs
Price: 5.00

5.0 out of 5 stars The best 'jukebox' musical in years - if not the best musical full stop, 6 July 2010
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Most 'jukebox' musicals, as they have become known, bank on you enjoying the tunes so much that you won't care about the plot. The usual suspects spring to mind: Mama Mia, We Will Rock You and the rest. What makes this one different is that the story is intelligent, emotional and totally gripping - so much so that you don't even have to be a Madness fan to enjoy it. Of course, the Madness songs are all there, but they are integrated so seemlessly (and with occasional changes to the lyrics) that they could easily have been written especially for this show.

Expertly written by Tim Firth (of Calendar Girls fame) and acted out by a largely young, supremely energetic cast, the story rests on a petty crime from which can spring two separate destinies for its central character, Camden teenager Joe Casey (a magnificent performance by Michael Jibson, more recently seen in the film The Bank Job). One path - the one which the ghost of his father encourages him to follow - seems to lead to nothing but trouble while the other - the cowardly, indefensible one - initially seems to point towards unstoppable success. It is this subtle moral ambiguity, coupled with fantastic trick effects as we continually switch from one Joe to the other in their alternative futures, that makes this show so compelling.

It deserved a much longer run in the West End (its marketing did not make enough of how clever the story is - the rather dull tagline 'a musical love story' doesn't do it justice) though it has since been on tour and I even recently caught a partly amateur prduction in Kingston. Looking back on it, I can't remember enjoying a show more in all my years as a theatregoer. If you haven't seen it yet, I can't recommend it strongly enough and this DVD captures it perfectly.

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