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S. Millman (Penarth, Wales)

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Mind Your Language: Learn Japanese (Nintendo DS)
Mind Your Language: Learn Japanese (Nintendo DS)

2.0 out of 5 stars Poor, 22 Jan. 2012
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
While mildly entertaining, this fails at every opportunity. The vocabulary and phrases you learn are extremely basic, and the method in which you learn them disjointed: there's very little explanation about the language and what you're actually learning, so they throw you in at the deep end at the start. I had trouble and I've attempted to learn japanese a few times, so a lot of the content of the first few "levels" was familiar. The testing system is frustrating and does not help you to remember the language at all.
The games are ok, but easy to cheat. A lot of the time it felt like I was learning a pattern rather than the words and hiragana. The avatars are pretty ugly and not customizable enough, even though thats not really why I bought this game in the first place. So, not a fun game, and not a great learning tool either. Save your money. My Japanese Coach is much better, but nothing beats real lessons.

Samurai Champloo Complete Collection [DVD]
Samurai Champloo Complete Collection [DVD]
Dvd ~ Shinichirô Watanabe
Offered by mvm_entertainment
Price: £22.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sharp like the edge of a samurai sword, 20 Dec. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is one of the best animated series ever. Period. The action sequences are slick, the music fits so well and not one episode fails to entertain. Like Cowboy Bebop, even SC's "filler" episodes are excellent. Seriously, I can't find one single thing that doesn't work in this series.
However, this is my third time watching it and the first time watching the dub. Usually I'm not bothered by dubs - most of the time the argument between subs and dubs seems a little like splitting hairs to me - but this one was slightly jarring. I think it's because all of the voices in the japanese version are excellent, and Mugen's fits his character perfectly. The american ones are adequate and certainly get better as the series progresses, but I'd stick with the original if you can. Some of the jokes and dialogue flows much better in japanese, and while the english language voices are very watchable (listenable??), Mugen is just brilliant with his original voice actor.
Both are on this DVD, which is a great buy for it's current price. I'm very jealous if you haven't seen it yet, and I dare you to try to stop watching once you start - I watched it in one sitting!

Acting for Animators: A Complete Guide to Performance Animation
Acting for Animators: A Complete Guide to Performance Animation
by Hooks
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent - when taken with a pinch of salt, 9 Nov. 2011
I was advised to pick up this book after attending an acting for animators lecture which was based entirely on Ed Hooks' methods. Along with the Illusion of Life and Timing for Animation, the tutor said that it was an indispensable part of any character animator's reference library.
And for the most part, I can see where he was coming from. If you've studied drama or tried to act before, a lot of what he says is familiar - if not, it could be a revelation. The application of Laban's theories was certainly new for me, and caused me to look at movement in much more methodical way.
Where Hooks lost me was his use of examples, especially in the heroes and villains section. His approaches to character development can be pretty simplistic. For instance, he suggests that a villain cannot be successful if you can't empathise with it - this I aggree with - but seems to confuse "likable" with "empathic" as he goes on to criticize a Disney villain (Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame)for not being friendly at any point, or displaying emotion that could be considered "human" (read: likable). You can empathise with the ugly parts of a personality as well as the nice parts - don't we all feel a little bit of the evil Queen's envy when we see the beautiful Snow White? (Saying that Hitler was an excellent villain was a particularly bad misstep too - what was WW2 then, a movie??) Plus, one of the greatest villains of all time, Sauron, does not display likeable human emotions at all, yet you can empathise with his fear of death, his craving for power and the deabilitating power of addiction (in Sauron's case, the ring). You need to understand a villain, but not necessarily like him.
It would be definitely wrong to take all of Hooks' teaching as gospel. A lot of it is useful, but some parts jar, especially when Hooks verges on ground that is clearly unfamiliar to him. But then, Hooks does not claim to be gospel, as he admits pretty early on that he's not an animator and can't give technical advice in terms of animation construction - if you're looking for step-by-step drawing tutorials, you're in the wrong place. However, if you're at all interested in giving your characters the "illusion of life", this is definitely worth a read and is an excellent starting point, but I'd take a look at other theorists Hook mentions and form your own opinions about performance and character development as well as reading this.

Sweatshop [DVD] [2009]
Sweatshop [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Ashley Kaye
Offered by HarriBella.UK.Ltd
Price: £2.94

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Less than average, 24 Oct. 2011
This review is from: Sweatshop [DVD] [2009] (DVD)
Independent horror films are usually very hit and miss, yet you can't help but root for them as the underdogs of the film industry. We've also seen plenty of these underdogs really tear the genre a new one and redefine it to great success. Sadly, however, Sweatshop is not one of them. Like a student film you can feel the creators enthusiasm and love for their work, but this just doesn't translate into a good movie.
The villain is fantastic - his hammer weapon pretty devastating - and for a low-budget film his design is impressive as it is imposing without creating unnecessary costs for the production team. He reminded me a little of pyramid head from the Silent Hill series, but his companions let him down - why were those girls following him about? All they seemed to do was gurn at the camera, and by the end scene they'd all but disappeared.
The ending is pretty satisfying too: as all the characters are extremely annoying and undeveloped, it's difficult not to feel relieved as most of them inevitably meet their end. I know this is a horror gorefest and great plotting is not expected from this genre, but all the characters have literally the same personality, and seem only to be defined by their sexual orientation. As previously stated, they are all very very annoying and whiny, so watching them get slammed in the face with a massive hammer like a human whack-a-mole is strangely satisfying.
The gore is pretty bad. Not only have we seen the majority of death scenes before, but they are very cheaply done and visibly so. We know that good gore can be done on a budget (see Tucker And Dale vs Evil) so if the gore isn't up to scratch and the story fails, what's left? Not much.
It's certainly not the worst horror film out there, but by no means is it one of the best: not by a very, very long way.

Camp Hope ( Camp Hell )
Camp Hope ( Camp Hell )
Dvd ~ Dana Delany
Offered by DaaVeeDee-uk
Price: £20.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas, poor execution, 23 Oct. 2011
This review is from: Camp Hope ( Camp Hell ) (DVD)
I feel like this is a missed opportunity - the film really captures the choking, repressive nature of such a fanatical community, and yet the horror is more focused on supernatural elements. To me, this is counter productive, and almost justifies such obsessive behaviour: if demons and possession were real, then joining something like Camp Hope wouldn't be such a bad idea. All representations of people who disaggree with Camp Hope and their religion are undeveloped and comical - forest dwelling goths anyone? - though the young protagonists are very believable, Jack and Tommy in particular, and the acting of the majority of the cast is very good.

The story takes a long time to get anywhere, and it seems like they needed a much better editor as there are many scenes that only unnecessarily over-complicate the plot. There are one or two quite scary moments, but they are massively outweighed by the heavy amount of praying. The score is also one of the worst I've ever heard. Why have opening credits if both the music and the visuals for said credits suck?

This is NOT a horror film - there is no tension whatsoever, and the messages of the film are so confused by the end that it has hardly any impact on the viewer at all. Worth a look, but no more than that.

Chain Letter [DVD]
Chain Letter [DVD]
Dvd ~ Twilights Nikki Reed)
Offered by HarriBella.UK.Ltd
Price: £3.25

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Why is it always raining??, 22 Oct. 2011
This review is from: Chain Letter [DVD] (DVD)
I watched this simply because I'm an avid horror fan, and having heard very little about this curiosity got the better of me.
What a waste of an hour and a half. Not only is the premise outdated (chain letter murderer? what is this, 2002?) but the technology is laughable - there's a scene where the detective is leaning over a desk to talk to someone, and on his computer screen is complete gibberish in large, arial font. For a film that's all about the evils of technology, surely they could've updated their systems to 2010? It takes the majority of the film for the heroine to realize the killer is using GPS to track them, and any savvy, blackberry toting teenager in her position would have picked this up instantly. The only current looking element that brings this to 2010 is World of Warcraft, and even that is shoddily edited into the film.
The setting itself is also rediculous. As another reviewer has said, in literally every scene it is dark and raining, and we have the usual scenes of a pretty twenty-something (who's pretending she's 18) getting stalked down alleyways or getting naked somehow while the killer watches on. The whole set-up is extremely lazy - it's as if the producers and directors saw Scream, wished it had the gorey elements of Saw and stole The Matrix's screensaver, while forgetting they needed a plot.
And what was with the ending? The killer isn't given any kind of motivation other than "TECHNOLOGY IS EVIL, KILL ALL TEENAGERS WHO USE IT!!" and isn't charismatic or intimidating enough to be interesting. I won't give the "twist" away, but by the time it came along I'd lost interest.
There really isn't anything that redeems this film. I suppose if you're a gore fan, there's one particularly nasty death towards the beginning, but even that is poorly executed. Save your money and your time.

Ranma 1/2 (vol. 1)
Ranma 1/2 (vol. 1)
by Rumiko Takahashi
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars The School Of Indiscriminate Grappling, 5 Oct. 2011
This review is from: Ranma 1/2 (vol. 1) (Paperback)
I recently revisited Ranma 1/2 after it was recommended in a great comics manual (Scott McCloud's Making Comics), somewhat hesitant as I've drifted away from manga in the ten years since I first read volumes 1 and 2. I loved it as a child, but doubted that it would be readable as an adult, especially after years of ridiculing manga's artistic "simplicity".
I was pleasantly suprised, and happy to be proved wrong. Takahashi's playful art style reminded me of what I enjoyed in manga in the first place. Some of the spreads are etched into my memory, and for good reason: her page layouts are masterful and she has a great sense of comic timing.
Ranma does hit some pitfalls though. Takahashi's style suffers from a flaw that is common in manga (and a lot of western comics): change the hair and many characters look the same. The faces of the main cast of young love interests all seem to blur into one, with very little variation. This isn't a major drawback, however, as Ranma's supporting characters are vibrant and unique, and her characterization of the main cast through facial expressions also helps to distract from this.
At 36 volumes, Ranma can put off a lot of first time readers. After a while, the introduction of new love interests for Ranma/Akane/Shampoo/etc. can become tiresome, but Takahashi keeps her audience through sheer inventiveness (the variety of battle settings is just astonishing...). The humour can be a little puerile at times - yes, we've seen Ranma's boobs, move on - but it never fails to entertain, and even now at 23, some parts had me laughing out loud.
Takahashi is a master, and Ranma is a classic of the manga genre. If you haven't read it yet, I envy you.

The Silent House (Original) [DVD]
The Silent House (Original) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Gustavo Hernandez
Price: £5.10

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Maybe if it was a little less silent..., 20 Aug. 2011
It's not every day you come across a horror film from Uruguay, so The Silent House immediately has a USP. It has benefitted from a lot of hype and some excellent reviews, so any horror fan will walk in with high expectations.

And for me, these expectations were not met by a long shot. Which, ironically, is what this is - La Casa Muda was made in one continous take and is one of the first films to do so. While this is a novelty, it hardly brings anything new to the table. The tagline says invitingly "real fear in real time", which is all well and good but it fails to mention the long scenes of the main character, Laura, wandering aimlessly and snivelling. The continuous take gimmick also has a massive, gaping flaw, and that is that the actors could not have been given very much direction. The result is a bit of a mess, with actors who clearly look lost in long, sprawling scenes. There were times when the characters motives were unclear due to the "silent" element of the film, and it really could have done with more and better dialogue or at least better mime.

It's not that I thought Colucci was necessarily a bad actress: she leads as well as she can, and at times I felt genuinely worried for her. But those times were few and far between. I find that if a character's actions are unexplainable the story falls completely flat, and Laura spends the majority of the film (with the same expression throughout) examining pictures on the walls of a house that for all she knows is inhabited by a MURDERER. It's no great spoiler to say that she finds her father dead very early on, with little explanation as to why and how it happened (certainly, no supernatural explanation is provided) and her first reaction - rather than to, say, go outside, scream, or phone the police - is spend the next 20 minutes or so shakily investigating the upstairs rooms, with very little result. It takes her a rediculously long time to even pick up a weapon, and at some points she was acting so stupidly I actually wanted her to die.

Also, are there no mobile phones in Uruguay? Just saying.

There is a fairly decent twist, which, if you are observant, you'll probably see from a mile off. It felt like a bit of a cop out as it has been done before, and it provides some stinking great plot holes which I can't go into without ruining it. There are also some great jumps and set pieces (the polaroid scene comes to mind) but, if like me you feel that jumps do not make a scary film, this adds little to the story. Stay put after the credits as there is a particularly nice sequence to be seen, which for me was the best scene in the entire film. The whole thing is shot beautifully - with so little budget to work with you can't help but admire the final result.

All in all, worth skimming through to experience it, but La Casa Muda did feel like a bit of a waste of time. Some critics have called it a "Uruguayan [REC]", but don't touch it with a barge-pole if that's what you're expecting. The tension is shattered by unexplainable motives and actions, and it seems to me like the filmmakers couldn't quite decide if they wanted to make a chilling ghost story or a survival slasher. The result is something that doesn't quite satisfy either genre, and will probably leave you shouting at the screen in frustration.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 13, 2011 9:39 PM BST

Wacom Bamboo Fun Pen and Touch - Medium
Wacom Bamboo Fun Pen and Touch - Medium

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good after many teething problems, 19 Aug. 2011
I'm fairly familiar with Wacom having upgraded from an older Bamboo model, and have always found their products pretty reliable. Having read reviews and wanting a larger but still fairly cheap model, Bamboo Fun seemed like an obvious choice.
And it is pretty good - it's fairly easy to install and the size is very nice (the workspace is roughly A5, the overall size A4). One of the main plus sides of Wacom tablets is that the styli are not powered by batteries and the nibs easily replaceable, and the Bamboo Fun Pen and Touch is no exception. The plastic on the drawing surface is smooth and very similar to the earlier Bamboo models - from experience I know that they scratch, but not so much as to effect performance - and it is very comfortable when using the pen. It also works for both left handed and right handed people, and the placement of the shortcut buttons is a lot less intrusive than other tablets (which often put them at the top.) The bamboo dock software is quite interesting, allowing you to access your favourite programs easily just from the shortcut buttons on the tablet, but it isn't a dealbreaker and it could easily do without it.
I found that using the touch function is slightly uncomfortable: if you are unfortunate to have sweaty hands, your finger will drag on the surface, causing it to click unnecessarily. It baffles me slightly as to why this feature was included in the first place. I have found no use for the touch functions and while they are mildly interesting, they are too sensitive and innaccurate to be effective. With tablets (not graphics tablets - touch tablets as manufactured by companies like hp) becoming cheaper and more accessible, why would this function be useful?
Luckily this is easily disabled, and if you choose to leave it enabled it does not disrupt the quality of the pen function. The main issue that has affected me is the temporary loss of pressure sensitivity and the eraser tool on the top of the pen (which now functions as a pen tip, not an eraser). I am running Vista on a Vaio, trying to draw in Photoshop CS3 and Autodesk Sketchbook. After research I have found that this is a common problem also affecting other operating systems, with no clear solution. Even the technicians on the Wacom forums seemed like they had no idea how to solve it, which is shocking as some of the queries are a year or so old. After messing around with it, this seemed to work for me:
- Uninstall the driver and install the latest version from the Wacom website.
- In the start menu, click "run" and type "services.msc".
- Scroll down to the t's, and disable "Tablet PC Input Services", then restart "TabletServicePen", which should be just underneath it.
Again, this is just what worked for me. For something that should work straight out of the box, this was an extremely frustrating problem to solve. Touch sensitivity is a vital selling point for artists and for it to be faulty is a great handicap.
In conclusion, this is a decent piece of kit with some massive teething problems and unnecessary software. If you own an old Bamboo model it is probably not worth upgrading, and from what I've read, it's probably better to save up for a Intuos4 or Cintiq. However, as a budget replacement/first tablet, it does the job after some fiddling.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil [DVD] (2011)
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil [DVD] (2011)
Dvd ~ Tyler Labine
Price: £5.98

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So overlooked!, 15 Aug. 2011
I can't believe that such an amazing film had so little publicity or distribution - I am so excited that it will finally be released!
As an avid horror fan, I had no expectations for Tucker and Dale. I basically watch anything and everything, and seeing as this was low-budget with very little publicity, I underestimated this. It has since become one of my favourite movies ever.
Alan Tudyk is fantastic as always, and I had never seen Tyler Labine before but he basically steals the show. While the films it's ripping are pretty foul, T+D still manages to have a lot of heart, and Labine's character is so adorable!
This does for The Hills Have Eyes what Shaun did for Dawn Of The Dead, while kicking Zombieland in the privates. Unmissable.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 4, 2015 5:47 PM GMT

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