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Tim Coleman "Jesus freak movie geek" (Coventry, UK)

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Pirates Of The Caribbean Trilogy [DVD]
Pirates Of The Caribbean Trilogy [DVD]
Dvd ~ Keith Richards
Offered by HalfpriceDVDS_FBA
Price: £21.99

8 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very, very over-rated, 2 Sept. 2009
I wanted to like the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, I really did. I had heard that the first one was a classic, and although the sequels did not quite hit the mark they were still passable fare. However, having just yawned my way through "At World's End" last night I can safely say that Pirates of the Caribbean is one of the most over-rated movie franchises of modern times, and here's why:

To begin with, the plot becomes increasingly confused and confusing. Whilst "Curse of the Black Pearl" is reasonably tight, the series rapidly descends into a mess of convoluted plot lines spasming incoherently, desperately trying to seem epic and important whilst all the time coming across like the writers had no idea how to tie the whole package together. Indeed director Gore Verbinski lamented that the second two films both began filming without finished scripts, and it shows. Although most of the plot is eventually tied up by the closing moments of "World's End", this is after nigh on 6 hours of floundering, lazy scriptwriting that takes a long time to say nothing worthwhile.

In addition to this, the acting is pretty patchy. Orlando Bloom in particular should be singled out as an example of how an uncharismatic performance can damage a whole enterprise. Kiera Knightley is passable, and Geoffrey Rush and Bill Nighy are rather good as pirates Barbossa and Davy Jones respectively. Then of course there is Johnny Depp, who, as everyone acknowledges, is the best thing about the Pirates films. Indeed, he is almost the only good thing about them, with his drunken swagger and Keith Richards-esque mumbling. However, Depp is but one man, and despite some genuinely inventive action sequences (the water mill swashbuckle in "Dead Man's Chest" stands out) and he cannot save the story from descending into pap around him.

Pirates of the Caribbean could have been so much more than this. As a pretender to the throne of great adventure films like the original Indiana Jones trilogy it had all the right ingredients yet misfires again and again. Ultimately, it's a 9-hour long, lumbering behemoth of disappointment, and should only be embarked upon with extreme caution. With Pirates 4 pitched for sometime in 2011, one can only hope the writers will have hammered out a story worth telling before the cameras start to roll.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 16, 2012 10:41 PM GMT

AVG 8.5 Identity Protection 1 user 1 year 8.5 (PC CD)
AVG 8.5 Identity Protection 1 user 1 year 8.5 (PC CD)

4.0 out of 5 stars Does the job, but...., 1 Sept. 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
AVG are renowned for making quality anti-virus and computer security software, so it comes as little surprise that this Identity Protection package lives up to their high standards. I installed it in literally about two minutes, and from the first moment it ran unobtrusively in the background with no discernible lag on my system (I'm running Windows XP with 1GB of Ram on a dual-core desktop).

However, as other reviewers have mentioned, it's a little bit hard to say what the point of this software is when compared to more comprehensive packages. Norton, McAfee and of course AVG all offer comprehensive internet security software that includes identity protection as standard, and presumably a consumer who is concerned enough about ID fraud to buy this package would also want the additional protection of these more comprehensive bundles. As such the question is really who is going to buy this package as a stand alone when for a £20 more you get so much more? Honestly, if I hadn't got this for free I wouldn't have bothered.

Signs And Wonders
Signs And Wonders
Offered by DLC_MUSIC
Price: £4.99

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Close but no cigar for London Indie rockers, 1 Sept. 2009
This review is from: Signs And Wonders (Audio CD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
On first listen one would expect great things from London indie rockers Animal Kingdom. Their debut album kicks off with a couple of tight, soon-to-be-classic tracks: the eponymous "Signs and Wonders" is wonderfully catchy, with edgy guitars and a soft rat-a-tat delivery by singer Richard Sauberlich, whilst single "Tin Man" is a pleasing, surprisingly tender poor-me anthem ("Since you took my heart, I've got a missing part"). Belonging to the softer side of indie they come across as a more poppy Bends-era Radiohead, with Sauberlich's smooth, high-pitched voice sounding like he's from a disaffected 60's pop band.

However, despite a few nice moments (the piano in the second half of "Into the Sea"; the catchy hooks in "Two by Two"), the album fails to live up to the promise made by these opening hits. Although this is slightly redeemed by the closing moments of "Chalk Stars" (a building crescendo of delicacy and power, think "For Me This is Heaven" by Jimmy Eat World), there are too many missed opportunities and Animal Kingdom miss out on delivering the indie-pop classics they clearly are capable of writing. Nevertheless, this is a promising first outing and with the music press already comparing them to Sigur Ros, Keane and Coldplay, expect great things from them in years to come.

Fireproof [DVD] [2008] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Fireproof [DVD] [2008] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Price: £5.50

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Good, 28 Aug. 2009
I'll admit I was skeptical. Christian film is a relatively specialised genre and, I would argue, faces the unenviable dilemma of holding many competing ambitions in tension: can it be authentically present a Christian worldview without resorting to preachy polemic? Can it have good production values without becoming a simple blockbuster clone? Can the writing navigate a path through the minefield of sentimentality whilst still plucking the heart strings?

In "Fireproof", the answer is surprisingly yes. The plot, as others have covered, relates to Caleb and Catherine, thirty-somethings whose
marriage is breaking down and whose divorce seems to be a logical answer. Caleb's father confides in him that he too went through a bad patch with Caleb's mother which almost led to their divorce, a denouement only narrowly avoided by the application of a document cryptically called "The Love Dare". Caleb reluctantly takes on the "the Dare", and so the plot unfolds.

"Fireproof" comes as a welcome antidote to a lot of movies who paint love in terms of passionate feelings that sweep people off their feet, often regardless of how this affects people around them ("The English Patient", I'm looking your way). Rather, "Fireproof" suggests that real love is unconditional, and rather than being primarily about how one feels it is grounded in a constant decision to love someone, irrespective of whether they deserve it. This is not a popular or sexy view, but it is a Christian one, so hats off to the makers of "Fireproof" for bucking a trend which portrays romance in terms of endless sunshine and tragic endings. Rather I felt the love displayed here was far more real, tangible and authentic.

The acting and writing too was generally strong, and with not a little amount of comic relief this film could comfortably sit alongside any number of romantic comedies from Hollywood. Although there are a few cliches the writers have managed to avoid many more then they hit, and so it feels less like a tract and more like an honest and heartfelt examination of what it is to love your spouse selflessly.

One more word, in response to the negative review on here: this is a Christian film, so please don't be surprised when God shows up as a major influence in character's lives. This is the experience of Christians, and so it is appropriate that it influences Christian art. Similarly there is a fairly clear presentation of the gospel about half way through, which seems to have offended some people. However Christianity does not proport to be unoffensive, rather the truth. That said I do not believe that this so heavy handed as to ruin the film for those who don't believe.

I am a Christian, and to be honest I felt "Fireproof" did an excellent job of treading a difficult line: to show us what true love looks like without being too soppy or sentimental, which is more than can be said for most Hollywood rom-coms from down the years. Go on, give it a go.

Love and Obstacles
Love and Obstacles
by Aleksandar Hemon
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Love, loss and bees, 24 Aug. 2009
This review is from: Love and Obstacles (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
"Love and Obstacles" charts the misadventures of an unnamed narrator, covering episodes from his adolescence through to early middle-life, encompassing locations ranging from the DRC, Chicago, Ukraine and Sarajevo. The novel is primarily about growing up, identity, fiction and truth. Although it is not primarily about the siege of Sarajevo, that conflict remains omnipresent throughout, intersecting sporadically with the narrative and causing the displacement of many key characters.

Beginning in the DRC during the narrator's teenage years there is a youthful exuberance in the prose as he recounts minor incidents with extravagant, exaggerated precision. His joyful embellishment of what is, on the face of it, a reasonably straight forward plot remains a feature throughout, although (as another reviewer has mentioned) the prose settles down into a more nuanced and mature style as the narrator ages in latter chapters. However it remains funny throughout as the narrator charts episodes involving chest freezers, new immigrants to America and his main focus, writing.

Writing and story telling is thoroughly baked into "Love and Obstacles". We meet the narrator as a budding poet, and variously encounter other characters such as an American writer, Bosnian poet, a film student and the narrator's father who takes it upon himself to write a "true book" chronicling their family history of bee-keeping. The narrator's life apparently mimics Hemon's own, to the extent I was left questioning whether this was more embellished autobiography than pure fiction. This seems to be at least one of the book's key points, as the narrator's father is obsessed with truth (as opposed to literary fiction), and the narrator confesses that he enjoys enriching his own childhood recollections with extra polish. The prime example of this is when, in the closing story, the narrator recounts a story that another author has written, drawing from the narrator's life for inspiration: as such Hemon effectively presents us with a story within a story, both of which may be based on his own (true) life anyway. As such "Obstacles" has a clearly meta-fictional edge that mostly works, but at times is a little over-bearing.

However, this is not to detract from the book's energy and vigour. Hardly a page goes by without Hemon's wonderfully wry humour cutting in, and the man seems able to draw on an almost limitless supply of memorable images and similes. His observations are also precise and perfectly observed, proving for great satire that one can readily identify with on numerous occasions. His comic timing is excellent, as is his ability to juxtapose this with rending tragedy. These things combine to make the narrator a funnier Holden Caulfield, with the key difference being that Hemon's protagonist grows up (or at least older).

Overall "Love and Obstacles" is a satisfying and funny read, successfully exploring the issues of displacement, family life and identity following the twin exiles of growing up and being forced from one's country. He explores these things with an engrossing exaggeration and well-polished wit, and ultimately proves himself to be a premier story teller indeed.

Hüllen / Papiertaschen / Versandtaschen für einzelne CDs / DVDs, 50 Stück
Hüllen / Papiertaschen / Versandtaschen für einzelne CDs / DVDs, 50 Stück
Offered by Media Replication
Price: £4.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good value, reasonable quality, 16 July 2009
This product does what it says on the tin. The card sleeves are reasonable quality, with a few of them not being properly glued down. However, aside from this relatively minor issue they are bang on, and with the costing working out as 10p per sleeve with no charge for postage, it's an absolute bargain. I've ordered around 300 of these now and have been very impressed indeed. Recommended.

Prison Break - Season 4 (plus Final Break) [DVD]
Prison Break - Season 4 (plus Final Break) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Wentworth Miller
Offered by HarriBella.UK.Ltd
Price: £11.63

18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Prison Break's final chapter, 16 July 2009
Prison Break Season 4 starts immediately where s.3 left off: Michael (Wentworth Miller), intent on avenging his beloved Sarah's murder, is back on US soil to hunt down Whistler (Chris Vance) and Gretchen (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe) no matter the cost. However, Government Agent Self (Michael Rapaport) has other ideas, and is looking to recruit Michael, along with some other familiar faces from Fox River and Sona, to bring down the Company by breaking into their headquarters and stealing a device known only as Scylla.

Following on from the rather lack lustre s.3, s.4 hits the ground running. Kicking off with thundering action it feels like the shows creators have been taking careful notes from messers Bourne, Bond and Bauer, and the result is splendid. Of course it's a little contrived as the usual suspects are rounded up into a motley crew, but I can personally forgive this improbability in the face of such rollicking entertainment.

The first half of the season continues in much this vein, as the team set about breaking into the Company's impregnable fortress. Without giving too much away the focus shifts in the second half, and here, in my estimation, is where a lot of problems surface. Plot lines become increasingly convoluted, credibility is stretched beyond breaking point, and the whole affair starts to feel rather repetitious and formulaic. Yes, it's still good fun, but after nearly 10 episodes of double crosses, then double-double crosses, of guns drawn, threats made, and all the principles running round and round, one starts to feel that the writers were just trying to make the series last it's 22-episode contract. By the time the final episode comes on in it is way overdue, and although the ending is touching it cannot excuse the mess that went beforehand.

Now there are some great qualities to this season, the action and tightness of the early episodes being one. Similarly (and this is something that has marked Prison Break out on every series) there are some star turns from an ensemble cast. William Fitcher's disgraced FBI agent Mahone is a force of nature with a stomach turning revenge subplot: there is a stricken sort of vulnerability about him juxtaposed with a relentless, world weary deadliness. Robert Knepp's paedophile/murderer-turned salesman T-Bag is wonderfully entertaining again, evoking a broad range of reactions from the audience from laughter to horror, disgust, repulsion, pity and sorrow. However, Miller and Purcell (playing Michael's brother Linc), who should be the cornerstones of the cast, continue to give resolutely wooden performances. Miller especially lacks the range and depth as an actor to evoke anything much at all here, which is a real shame as he is, after all, the hero.

Tacked onto the end of this series is a double episode TV movie, "The Final Break" (billed, perhaps incorrectly in the box set, as episodes 23-24). Without giving too much away this movie goes back to the final episode, filling in the blank left by the now infamous "Four Years Later" flash forward in the series finale. The problem here is that as we already know how this will end there isn't much tension. Indeed, the device of ending the whole show on one more prison break is nice for closures' sake, but it is quite forced and really doesn't do justice to the mastery of tension in the first season when breaking out of prison was a rather more lengthy affair. However it does end on a genuinely emotional note, and gives some closure to all that has gone before.

As such, s.4 is a rather mixed bag. Some great episodes, some fantastic performances, but similarly some rather humdrum plot devices and uninspiring lead turns as well. There are those that disliked the way Prison Break has departed from it's original premise at the beginning of this season: I would disagree, arguing that the premise of the team breaking in, rather than out, was fresh and inventive. However as the writers try desperately to make this somehow go the distance of a whole season, it comes apart at the seams. This is still an improvement on the dismal s.3, but frankly s.1 and 2 stand a head and shoulders taller than 70% of what is on display here.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 7, 2010 7:02 PM GMT

by Peter Benchley
Edition: Paperback

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Moby Dick it ain't, 27 Jun. 2009
This review is from: Jaws (Paperback)
Peter Benchley's debut novel is perhaps almost impossible to seperate in ones mind from the Spielberg blockbuster of the same name. Both film and book cover the events of a few summer weeks on the island resort of Amity in which a killer shark chomps its way through a series of swimmers, leading three men to go to sea to in a man vs. beast showdown. So iconic is Spielberg's adaption in fact, that one can almost here John Williams' famous score when reading the passages in which the fish attacks.

However Benchley's novel differs from the adaption in a number of key ways; what's more, to be fair, Benchley's novel obviously came first and so should be judged on it's own merits.

On the plus side Benchley writes with a pulpy kind of urgency, carrying the story through at a brisk pace that catches the reader along with him. There's some nice passages of characterisation, and the neutral tone in which the shark attacks are described lends a chillingly amoral feel to the horror: this is, the argument follows, just a big fish feeding. What's more there are some nice tensions drawn out in the last 100 pages or so: is the fish just an unthinking animal, or is it a cunning, thinking adversary? Is it a tool of divine judgment on the corruption lurking in Amity (adultery, mafia deals, etc), or is it just a random coincidence? The fact that Benchley gives no answers to these questions is to his credit, and leaves the novels climax pleasingly unresolved and open to interpretation.

However, the problems with this book are extensive. Despite pacing his story well on the whole, there are some clunkingly bad sections of writing. Dialogue is reeled out in lengthy passages that lack authenticity, and character's voices are somewhat indistinct from each other. There are some repetitious and lame paragraph structuring that actually caused me to read it out to my wife in disbelief that something like this could be published. What's more Benchley misjudges some crucial moments. For instance (and although I'm somewhat loathed to compare the novel directly to the film, I'm going to do so anyway) in the scene when the shark finally appears to Brody, Quint and Hooper on their climatic hunting trip, instead of the "You're gonna need a bigger boat" line from the film, the characters launch into a 2-page debate about whether prehistoric megladons could exist which are even bigger than this shark. What we want is excitement: what we get is a natural history lesson. Spielberg also stated that he found the characters unlikeable, and whilst I would concur with this assessment I would say this is not necessarily a problem and may, in part, be part of the point.

Overall Jaws delivers cheap, trashy thrills with a smattering pleasing thematic tensions and compulsive page-turning. This is marred by some low grade, GSCE-level writing and some very poor dialogue indeed. Robert Shaw, who played Quint in the movie, said this book was a piece of rubbish, and whilst I mostly agree with that it is still very enjoyable rubbish. Just don't read it on the beach.

No Country For Old Men [DVD]
No Country For Old Men [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tommy Lee Jones
Price: £2.65

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Coen Brother's Masterpiece (contains spoilers), 17 May 2009
This review is from: No Country For Old Men [DVD] (DVD)
The Coen Brother's are well practiced at dark thrillers and black comedies, with their filmography littered with both. Whilst "No Country" has elements of both of these, it is also neither, which is what sets it apart and perhaps went towards it's winning of the Best Picture Oscar.

The plot is standard enough: everyman Josh Brolin finds a $2 million in a case in the desert following a drug deal done south. He decides to steal the money and go on the run, with murderous psychopath Javier Bardem (on deservedly Oscar winning form) and grizzled, world-weary Sherrif Tommy Lee Jones both on his tail. The Coen's lovingly polish the set pieces in this fairly classic type plot, racking up the tension with almost Hitchcockian aplomb until one feels constantly tense throughout, even in dialogue driven scenes.

Where the movie takes off though is in it's much-debated (and perhaps disputed) third act. The film makes an audacious leap forward in time, effectively cutting out the most conventionally important scenes of the narrative. This almost doesn't work, but the Coen's pull it off and effectively completely refocus the story of the film. As such, what we thought was a standard (albiet exquisitely executed) thriller becomes nothing of the sort: rather a mournful, reflective meditation on what it means to live in a world where evil happens. The hints about this are there from the outset, with Tommy Lee's drawling voice over, but by the time those final shots of his gnarled, defeated face, the message is deep and effecting: bad things happen for no good reason, and this is not something that old men, especially those who have fought for good like Jones, find easy to deal with in their final years.

A Mighty Heart [DVD]
A Mighty Heart [DVD]
Dvd ~ Dan Futterman
Price: £2.72

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Traumatic but vital, 1 May 2009
This review is from: A Mighty Heart [DVD] (DVD)
Winterbottom's "A Mighty Heart" could very well be considered the second half of his film a year earlier, "The Road to Guantanamo" (2006). Whilst "Road" dealt with the suffering of prisoners within the US' imfamous Cuban military base, "Heart" takes place on the other side of the world, in Karachi, Pakistan, covering the real life kidnapping of US reporter Daniel Pearl by jihadi militants.

Watching "Heart" is gut wrenching from the get go. Winterbottom's cinematography is gritty, bearing a strong stylistic resembelance to his film "Welcome to Sarajevo", made a decade earlier (1997). From the opening news footage to the grainy shots of Karachi, to the naturalistic performances from the ensemble cast, the whole film feels uncomfortably real and naturalistic. A far cry from Hollywood (and, importantly, fictitious) movies such as "Proof of Life", "Heart" avoids crassness and sheen. Jerky handheld camera shots, married to some excellent location shooting, only serve to emphasise the claustrophobia that this is a true story being told.

But it is Jolie that shines. Whatever glossy trash she might have under her belt, she is a revelation here, playing Mariane Pearl (Daniel's wife) with an understated strength, resolve and dignity. When the closing scenes arive, as they inevitably must, and Jolie uncorks her emotions letting them tumble out in the privacy of her bedroom, it is nothing short of heart breaking.

As such watching "A Mighty Heart" is an intense experience. Traumatic, deeply harrowing and thoroughly grief-stricken from the outset, this film remains however essential viewing. In these post-9/11 days cinema that intelligently explores jihadism and the "War on Terror" have a special place of importance, and this is maybe where "Heart" succeeds the most: it is both political and personal; a true story that teaches us. And, indeed, the fact that the shadow of Guantanamo stands long and hard over this film (though mentioned only in passing in the script itself) should cause those of us in the West to consider what we really believe about kidnapping, torture, and people.

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