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Caleb Williams (Liverpool)

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The Storm: The World Economic Crisis and What it Means
The Storm: The World Economic Crisis and What it Means
by Vince Cable
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I Didn't Understand It, But Then Again, I Was Foolish To Think I Would, 15 May 2010
This is a book on economics by a man I have much respect for. The title of my review speaks from my own personal perceptions of the book as, having exactly no understanding of even the basics of economics, I was a fool to think I'd be able to understand what this book was talking about. I, like everyone around the world, am aware that we're gradually moving out of a global financial crisis that has affected almost everyone from every walk of life, but I never really understood what it was all about and really wanted to know more. Having a lot of respect for Cable on a political level, I thought he'd be the best man for the job to explain, to an economically ignorant person such as myself, what exactly it was all about. But he simply didn't succeed, yet this is not his fault.

Cable writes with a genuine intelligence and a vast knowledge of the subject he's talking about. He has a reasoned and moderate perspective of what causes fluctuations in global markets and what, ultimately, lead to the global crisis from which we are still nursing our wounds. I'm sure that if I had even a basic understanding of economics, then I can imagine I would have understood and enjoyed this much more, so I would only recommend this to those who have a basic or higher knowledge and understanding of economics and the world markets as I was completely lost by the end.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 11, 2012 3:19 PM BST

Secret Britain: The Hidden Bits of Our History
Secret Britain: The Hidden Bits of Our History
by Justin Pollard
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic collection of interesting little historical snippets, 10 May 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I found this book rather enjoyable if I'm honest although I'm not going to comment on any particular tale contained within, I will say that I struggled to put this down as, if a story neglected to raise my eyebrow in astonishment, it would make me laugh and vice versa. Incredibly enjoyable and I would highly recommend it.

Avatar [DVD]
Avatar [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sam Worthington
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Epic Brilliance Not Seen Before, 10 May 2010
This review is from: Avatar [DVD] (DVD)
I went into this film with not much expectation if I'm honest. Even though it was a massive success in the box office and with critics, I just couldn't see myself enjoying it, but I must say I loved every minute. The special effects are really something astonishing in creating the world of Pandora, the Na'vi and everything else in between, but the story itself, although brilliant seemed fairly cliché and could have offered so much more had Cameron spent a little more time putting the story together. Although this is the result of over 15 years of work by Cameron, I just felt that, in the end, the story could have been so much better when you consider the immensity of the special effects and acting quality provided.

The story focuses around Corporal Jake Sully, a crippled ex-marine called in to take part in the Avatar program as a replacement for his twin brother. This program puts him in the body of a Na'vi which are the native sapient humanoids of the Earth-like moon of the planet Polyphemus, Pandora. The human military are on this planet to mine a rare but valuable mineral called unobtanium and it is Jake's and the other members of the Avatar team to try and convince the Na'vi to leave their village to allow the humans to mine for the mineral. However, the Na'vi's relationship with nature is much more than just living side by side, their is a connection that humans cannot understand until they become one of them and Jake finds out the hard way, that his native species aren't the moral beings he thought they were.

One thing I will say first of all is that this certainly a piece of artistic imagination with the creation of a whole new world and new species and have a great detail of information surrounding the creatures, plants and planet of this film. The character distinction between the Na'vi and Humans is something a little too familiar that some, more politically minded people, may find a tad uncomfortable as it's a blatant and tough reflection of the imperialists invading the native countries of a so-called savage race. Consider the British invasion and colonisation of America and the pillaging of the land of the native Americans, or even the British Empire as a whole and its war with the native African Zulu tribes. Up until even the 1930s we were still calling the native African tribes savages and using this rhetoric as a way of taking their land in the name of democracy and freedom. Perhaps I'm looking too much into it, but I found this to be a stark finger pointing at those who hold such opinions and may even be applied to the current "war" in Afghanistan and Iraq as many would question the real motives of being in these countries.

The acting is splendid to say the least. Sam Rockwell does brilliantly as the main protagonist of the film in both his human and Na'vi form. Sigourney Weaver also plays an excellent hard ass scientist role and makes the film that little bit more entertaining. The Na'vi characters such as Zoe Saldana as Neytiri are brilliantly done and were created through a motion capture technique which is why the movement and behaviour of these creatures comes across so well on screen. By far though, the best character in this movie is the main antagonist Colonel Miles Quaritch played by Stephen Lang. He's the stereotypical army man; loyal to his code and his country and has total disregard for all those who associate themselves with the "enemy". He's cruel and sadistic and by far the most entertaining of all the cast.

The planet is beautiful and the characters complex and interesting. However, I only wish that the story was the same, as it felt shallow and typical; but it was enjoyable nonetheless. Watch it, you'll love it.

The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ (Myths)
The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ (Myths)
by Philip Pullman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A Splendid Read, 10 May 2010
Having not read any of Philip Pullman's previous works, I didn't go into this with any particular expectations, but I have to say that my mind was blown by how much I enjoyed it. The news surrounding this has drawn criticism from many Christians claiming this book is blasphemous and even some fundamentalists sending the author hate mail. In fact I got quite the opposite impression from this book and although this hasn't been the first attack against Christianity that Pullman has waged in his writing, I got the impression that he wanted to handle this with a bit more care.

The story focuses around Jesus and his twin brother Christ and follows them as they grow up, depicting Christ as the true follower of his brother Jesus documenting everything he says and every miracle he performs so as to retain in history the story of this great man. However, a stranger approaches Christ with promises of helping retain this glorious documentation of the life of Jesus and the good work he has done. However, this help turns out not to be as straightforward as Christ is first lead to believe as the story of Jesus will be manipulated in favour of creating an image of the kingdom of God on Earth to lead the people to do good to their fellow man.

I can understand how Christians may see it as just another mainstream attack on the church as it certainly depicts the idea that the church is a result of a manipulation of history and proposes that Jesus may not be as perfect a man as he is depicted in the Bible. But to say that this is outright blasphemy is, in my eyes, wrong. When an individual looks at history, they will plainly see that throughout there has been a continuous manipulation of the documents that formed the bible and the catholic church as a whole. To imply that the Catholic church is free from corruption and anything that suggests otherwise is also misleading and I think Pullman is simply putting across the idea in this book, that things such as this should never be taken at face value.

The characters are well rounded in their own part. Jesus is the mischievous child who grows into the loving, but sometimes temperamental individual, whilst his brother Christ comes across as the naive man who has always wanted to do good but is driven to betrayal and sin through his own self pity and distaste at the way some perceive his brother as somewhat of a trouble maker. This is a terrific read that I found to be both enlightening and thought provoking and one that I would highly recommend.

Monsters vs Aliens [Blu-ray]
Monsters vs Aliens [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Rob Letterman
Price: £6.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Really Enjoyable, 7 May 2010
MVA, at first glance seems like a movie that's typically attempting to capitalise on the growing trend of CGI animated "comedies", however, I would personally consider it up there with the likes of Shrek and Toy Story and not down there with the likes of Space Chimps and Fly Me To The Moon, two films which may appeal to kids, but I absolutely hated. These types of movies generally attempt to appeal to both adults and children with different types of comedy which is aimed at kids, and risqué comedy which would appeal to adults and go right over the heads of the kids, not risking the embarrassment of parents having to explain to their kids the adult jokes.

The story focuses around Susan Murphy (Witherspoon) who's hit by a meteorite and is mutated and grows to about 50 feet tall. As a result she is captured and kept in a secret government facility with other monsters; B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), Dr. Cockroach Phd (Hugh Laurie) the missing link (Will Amett) and a giant grub known as insectasaurus. These are kept under lock and key by General W.R. Monger (get it?, voiced by Keifer Sutherland). Meanwhile, in space, an alien known as Galaxar (Rainn Wilson), wants the energy that made Susan a giant and to do it, he's going to send his giant, indestructible robots to do his dirty work.

It really was enjoyable with the typically stupid but brilliant humour that many have come to expect from films of this kind. The message here is to be comfortable in your own skin and recognise your own potential even if, to some, you might be a "monster" or a "freak" what really matters is what you think of yourself and what you know you're capable of achieving, and it's a message that I really like. Although the typical friendship message is still there, this resonated above the others and I just thoroughly enjoyed this film.

The animation is superb as you would expect and the voicing wonderful, especially for Keifer Sutherland and the fantastic Hugh Laurie. Definitely a family friendly movie that can be enjoyed by everyone.

Ninja Assassin (Blu-ray + DVD Combi) [Region Free]
Ninja Assassin (Blu-ray + DVD Combi) [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Rain
Offered by rsdvd
Price: £9.80

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Expected To Hate It, But I Loved Every Minute, 20 April 2010
I don't know whether to be slightly embarrassed by the level of enjoyment I got from this as it's by no means a good film in the traditional sense of the word. The acting is by no means good and perhaps it doesn't need to be as it's obviously a film targeted at the gore loving adrenaline junkies of the 21st century. It fits well for its target audience and will undoubtedly, as it's done with me, draw in people who would consider themselves fans of "Good Cinema" and would usually turn their noses up at films such as this. I criticised other critics for their justification of the 2012 movie by putting across the "remove your brain" argument as a means of justifying its existence. Although some would consider this a brainless action flick, I think some would find it more enjoyable should they retain the ability to think independently while watching the film as some of its enjoyment is through the sheer absurdity of some of the scenes.

The plot of the story focuses around Raizo, a man who, as a young boy was kidnapped and raised by the Ozunu Clan to become one of the deadliest assassins that ever lived. As he grows older he becomes a target of investigations by Europol who are called into task because of the assassinations that Raizo has committed under the command of the clan leader. The secrets of the ninja clan are being investigated by Mika and her partner Maslow, but little do they know what their investigations will uncover and just how dangerous this clan really is, not just to the public, but to themselves.

Now I'm a bit biased towards this film as I think Rain is an excellent fit for a cross-continental action movie star who could really make it big in the US and sort of break down a few barriers between the cultures like men such as Jet Li and Jackie Chan have in the past. He does superbly in the main role as, when you first meet him, you're not sure whether to like or hate him and you certainly don't trust him. The action is non-stop throughout with some amazing moves and the speed of some of the fights are phenomenal to say the least.

One thing I will say also and this is both a compliment and criticism. The blood side of things seemed to take on an anime/manga style of extravagance in terms of the spurting of blood here there and everywhere to the point it was just comical. There is a mixture of CGI blood and fake blood actually used in the scene, but the CGI didn't fit very well as, at one point, our hero stabbed an opponent only to have blood spurt out of the wound, but the CGI blood didn't match the wound and the movement of the characters which took a lot away from the overall feel and context of the movie.

Overall, however, it's just a fun movie. The supporting characters do well to compliment the leading man and it just comes together brilliantly. It's a highly enjoyable flick that us brain dead folk can enjoy without thinking too much about it.

Battle Royale (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
Battle Royale (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
by Koushun Takami
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

5.0 out of 5 stars I Adored This, 20 April 2010
Now I'm a huge fan of the film, and call me shallow but I actually didn't know the movie was based on a book until I accidentally found it through browsing the Amazon books section. I was shocked to learn it was a book but when considering my own opinions about the somewhat glazing over of certain characters and their personalities, it's not really surprising.

The story follows a group of students from Shiroiwa Junior High School who, under the guise of a study trip, are kidnapped by the government of the Republic of East Asia and entered into "The Program". The Program is a government run competition which pitches a class of 3rd Year Junior High School students against each other in a game of death. They must kill each other until there is only one survivor, otherwise, they all die.

I could not put this book down. I loved every minute of it. I've always had a bit of a fascination with the Japanese culture, and although this doesn't exactly delve into that culture on the traditional level, however, it does give an interesting glimpse (from the English translation) of a use of language that is Americanised in structure. The writing takes on quite a conversational tone which provides for the easy flow of the narrative and presents the characters and the situation in a much more realistic fashion.

The characters are given scope to be explored in the depth that is needed in order to truly understand their reactions to the situation. It's not just graphic and shocking, it's intelligent and insightful as it gives a psychological exploration of kids in a situation so alien. The writer presents a chilling feeling of impossibility, the struggle that the kids in this book find themselves in is frightening, almost claustrophobic with the idea that you either kill or die.

Perhaps it's a more blunt look at the every day behaviour and minds of the modern day teenager. Being unable to really trust those around you, no matter how close you are to them or no matter how much you care for them, they may not feel the same way. Perhaps I'm looking a bit too much into it, but I simply loved this and would highly recommend it.

Sherlock Holmes [DVD] [2009]
Sherlock Holmes [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Robert Downey Jr
Price: £3.10

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good as a stand alone piece, but doesn't compare to its literary counterpart., 11 April 2010
This review is from: Sherlock Holmes [DVD] [2009] (DVD)
The first thing to say is that I really did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did. However, there are points this review will touch on which I just didn't find fit in with the Sherlock Holmes universe. To take such an iconic character, and put a modern Hollywood twist to it, would undoubtedly generate some criticism from those who have read the original stories and are fans of the traditional Arthur Conan Doyle creation. Although there have been many incarnations of Sherlock Holmes in the cinema, this is the first to give Sherlock Holmes the big budget blockbuster panache that some thought would work well. As a stand-alone, the film worked well, but in comparison to one of literatures greatest creations, it just didn't work.

The film naturally focuses on Holmes and his companion, Dr. Watson who are faced with possibly their most challenging investigation ever. Lord Blackwood, a serial killer who is executed for his crimes rises from the grave and is determined to use his supernatural powers to become leader of the British Empire and inevitably the world. Holmes has to use every facet of his talents to solve this mystery as he is faced with the supernatural, which he deems to be irrational. With the help of his friend Dr. Watson and a supporting cast of other great names in the novels such as Irene Adler and Inspector Letrade, Holmes works to solve one of the greatest mysteries he has undoubtedly ever faced.

Do not get me wrong, I enjoyed this film, but I felt it was too much and diverged too far away from the character in the books to the point it felt that the film was just capitalising on a familiar name. Guy Ritchie has accomplished something of worth, however, in that he has put one of my favourite literary characters on the silver screen and managed to make him cool. One thing I will point out which, although insignificant, makes all the difference to fans of the novels perceptions of the film. The very appearance of Holmes is something out of place with the era that he is meant to be representing. The absence of the deerstalker hat in favour of a fedora, although a small difference is something that I thought looked too contrived. An attempt to make the character look cool to draw favour from the image obsessed modern culture whilst insulting the fans of the novels who took the time to get to know the characters traits and his appearance.

The actors for their respective roles did well. Mark Strong as the antagonist, Lord Blackwood made for a very intimidating foe. His mannerisms, appearance and dialogue formed a very definite character in considering his purpose and mission in the film. Not being much of a fan of Jude Law in general, I was critical of the man going into this film, but I found myself enjoying his performance and appreciating the fact that he makes the perfect on screen Dr. Watson. The big discussion though is about whether or not Downey Jr. performed well in the role as Sherlock Holmes. In a lot of ways, he did really well. Some of the characters mannerisms we performed as you'd expect them and he just presented an all round realistic portrayal of Holmes, however, the accent didn't really work for me as it appeared as the typical way the British accent would be portrayed in a Hollywood blockbuster.

The setting of 19th century London was superb and overall, as I mentioned above, on its own, the film did a great job of providing two hours of good entertainment. I think a worthy alternative for Downey Jr. would have been Hugh Laurie taking on the iconic role. He is both experienced in playing a character based on Holmes, has a superb, natural British accent and is also known worldwide in one way or another whether that be for his work on House or his other work on UK TV. I would recommend this as a decent bit of light entertainment and the nods to the book are a welcome wink to fans of Conan Doyles literary creation.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 19, 2010 6:21 AM BST

Up (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy)
Up (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy)
Dvd ~ Ed Asner

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As Expected, Brilliant., 8 April 2010
What an inspiring and yet, another genuinely enjoyable feature film from the artists at Disney & Pixar studios. I went into this having high hopes as I'm a massive fan of all Disney/Pixar collaborations with the exception of Wall-E which I simply did not enjoy for reasons I honestly cannot explain. I have to say my expectations were not only met, but surpassed. This not only warmed the heart but tickled me to the point I was in genuine tears of laughter. These types of films have developed a way of telling a story through the art of pictures; there is no need for words but music and moving images can tell just as much of a story than an entire script could. Even though I didn't enjoy Wall-E, this is something that I will praise it for. The makers have developed a way of telling a story without needing to explain it to you through dialogue. Well paced and well depicted animation is all you need to really tell a story and this is why I appreciated this that little bit more.

The movie tells the story of Carl Fredricksen an elderly man who, as a child, idolised explorer, Charles Muntz. Charles Muntz, while Carl was a young boy was discredited as a fraud by claiming to have discovered the bones of a giant bird which he found at Paradise Falls in South America. Determined to prove himself, Charles vows to not return until he has brought back a living specimen of the bird. Meanwhile, Carl meets Ellie, a feisty young girl with the same explorative dreams as Carl and they become fast friends. Then begins the silent homage to their life as it shows them becoming married and living their lives together still as in love as the day they first fell for one another. Sadly, Ellie, in her old age passes away and Carl is left alone in the home they bought and decorated together and around the home skyscrapers are being built with Carl being constantly pressured to sell his home to the company building the skyscrapers. After a series of more annoying events, Carl decides he's had enough and wants to go on that adventure to Paradise Falls him and Ellie always wanted to go on. But instead of just jumping on a plane, he fills his house with balloons and decides to fly there and take his house with him.

After the initial launch of the house, there is a lot more to the story as we are gradually introduced to Russell, a wilderness explorer aiming to achieve his "help the elderly" badge so he can become a senior Wilderness Explorer and in order to do this he is determined to help Carl with anything he needs help with. Then, when they make it to the wilderness we meet Kevin the giant bird and a talking dog named Dug. These are characters, although extremely different from one another, blend well together and actually make for a heart warming good guy ensemble cast. Some of the contents of the film are actually quite cliché. The grumpy old man who's grumpy because he never accomplished his dream and the young boy who has all the ambition in the world and just wants to impress his family. These are character traits indicative of the Disney genre, although that is no bad thing. The setting, although at times filled with vibrant colours, is actually quite bland and unimaginative, though that doesn't take anything away from the animation which, as you'd expect from a Pixar movie, is superb.

The comedy, again as you would expect, is very witty and at times unusual but always funny. The bizarre traits of the animal characters dragged along for the ride are both genuine and hysterical, such as the typical dog traits for Dug, but fitted with a human voice amplifies those traits to a comically terrific level. The voice acting of all involved is, again spot on. Although not voiced by major names, the voices fit the characters well; from the loveable old man Carl voiced by Edward Asner, to the adorable Russell voiced by the young talent new on the scene, Jordan Nagai. One of the voices, I wish to point out for personal reasons really took me by surprise as I only realised who this man really was through simply browsing Wikipedia, and I was overjoyed to discover who this man was. Christopher Plummer was the voice of Carl's hero, Charles Muntz. Now the name may not ring any bells with most modern film fans, but to those fans of the old movies, especially fans of musical, The Sound of Music you will recognise this man as Captain Von Trapp himself. That's a little nerdy joy for me, so I hope you'll forgive me for getting a little carried away.

Overall, there's nothing bad I can say about this film. It's got originality to it that you see all the time with the Pixar outings, yet it keeps to the same old formula Disney has made famous since its creation, yet the mixing styles never get boring. Sure, to some the formulaic layout of the Disney movies may get a tad tedious, and they have even grated on me from time to time, but I adore the Disney/Pixar collaborations simply because they're fun and remind me of the simpler time when I was a kid. This is another strong outing from the team and I would strongly recommend it to all film fans of all ages, as there's something there for everyone.

haribo maoam stripes
haribo maoam stripes
Offered by The Sweet Pot
Price: £7.79

7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm addicted to these things, 14 Feb. 2010
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: haribo maoam stripes (Misc.)
Products like this in the marketplace are the reason why I wish one day Amazon UK will take another page out of their American counterpart and start selling food items just so I wouldn't have to wait about 3 weeks for these to arrive, which they took.

If you love MAOAM then you should pick these up in the shops, otherwise you'll be waiting a long time to get them when ordering them from here. 5 stars simply for the product itself.

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