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Hal Marshall "It wasn't me!" (Brentwood)

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Silly Sentences (DK Games)
Silly Sentences (DK Games)
by Captain John Adams
Edition: Misc. Supplies
Price: £6.79

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Desperation is the Uncle of Invention..., 8 Sept. 2014
My little home-educated relative, aged 6, was given this for her birthday this year by her grandparents: folk who are quite notorious for buying gifts for people that ultimately prove to be of no practical use whatsoever.

The box was quickly opened and the 6 year old rapidly set about pressing all 124 jigsaw-type cardboard tiles out of their frames. She was smiling with joy, her nine year old sister was scowling with jealousy... 'Silly Sentences' looked like being a superbly judged purchase, with the potential to break the unenviable cycle that sees this, otherwise lovely, couple buying and wrapping up the sort of misguided tat that makes you wish they'd just get you a chocolate teapot and have done with it. The chance to have fun while learning, but without even realising it? That is, surely, the Holy Grail for any educational toy. It seemed perfect.

Wouldn't you know it though, the game's 'Easy-to-follow instruction sheet with helpful note to parents and teachers' was nowhere to be found in that box. All that effort, all that hope...all of it completely up the Swannee. What are the odds?

It's not easy to find the rules anywhere on the internet either. In fact, it's nigh on impossible. Fortunately, the kids were able to cobble together their own rules which - with my occasional help - have evolved to make the game far more entertaining (and given it a whole new level of longevity) than I'm sure even DK themselves could ever have dreamed.

The tiles are all colour-coded, depending upon whether they are nouns, adjectives and so on, and they will only fit together if your sentence follows the rules of grammatical English. There are tons of nouns but only four verbs they can get up to ('saw', 'ate', 'jumped' and 'climbed'), which does impose some severe limitations on quite how outrageously they can behave. But they do introduce the concept of verbs to smaller people - whereupon the power of their own imaginations can then take over.

Our variation on the rules sees all those nouns turned face up and shared between the assembled 1-4 creative geniuses. All the 'boring' tiles without pictures on are placed, face-up, in the middle... WITHOUT those four verbs. The players then take it in turns to select the bits and pieces they'll need for their silly sentence, leaving gaps where the verbs ought to be. THAT is where the comedy comes in! And the only restriction on just how crazy the sentences can then be comes down to the available verb vocabulary of the players themselves. Good, eh?

The only downside is that some rather nefarious bodily functions do tend to figure rather highly in our bespoke verb version. Every creature - and most of the inanimate objects - in those nouns seems to have a problem with flatulence and even some degree of incontinence.

Still, that does give some undoubtedly silly sentences...

The Hannibal Lecter Trilogy [DVD]
The Hannibal Lecter Trilogy [DVD]
Dvd ~ Anthony Hopkins
Price: £7.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Psycho killer, qu'est-ce que c'est?, 8 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I am baffled by the reasoning behind Amazon's extraordinarily bad habit of lumping reviews for broadly similar products all together like this. I wouldn't have the first idea what to do with a Blu-Ray version of this box-set so, in the unlikely event that this review makes it look like I do, I am rather keen to make one thing completely clear: my purchase was of the ordinary, 'no-frills' DVD three disc set. Blu-Ray and I have never met before and, given that this plain old box-set was cheaper than the Blu-Ray one anyway, I can't see us becoming acquainted at any time in the foreseeable future.

There. I feel much better for that.

Packaging-wise, there are three separate boxes and they all reside together inside a perfectly adequate cardboard sleeve. Inside each box is one single, solitary disc... and that's it. 'Hannibal' and 'Red Dragon' are both Regions 2 AND 4. Which I think means that, if I ever have cause to abscond to Rio, I will at least have these two DVDs to start my new collection.

Presentation-wise, the discs offer you the following;


- Subtitles in: English (Hard of Hearing), Croatian, Czech, Danish, English, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish and Turkish.


- Subtitles in: English SDH, Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Norwegian, Swedish, Turkish and Icelandic.
- A fabulous commentary by the director, Ridley Scott, that is worth the price of admission all on its own. It's a real insight into the process of condensing Thomas Harris' epic novel into a workable screenplay.


- English and Hungarian subtitles AND language.
- A commentary by the director and the screenplay writer that is nowhere near as informative as Ridley Scott's, despite there being two of them. Ridley comes across as a down-to-earth creative wizard... Brett Ratner just comes across as being completely full of himself.
- A much more interesting 'Music Score Commentary', which allows you to enjoy the soundtrack as you watch the movie.
- Some mysterious technological wizardry that, allegedly, allows those viewing on their computers to install something from the net and to, allegedly, enjoy 'bonus' things. I haven't bothered to investigate it, and nor am I ever likely to.

'Hannibal' is the reason I sent for this set in the first place. Putting the grisly bits towards the end to one side (and the fact that the ending bears no relation to Thomas Harris' novel) it is a beautifully made film with a perfect soundtrack and a phenomenal choice of Florentine shooting locations. Julianne Moore is pretty darn gorgeous in it too.

I've never quite figured out the best time to watch 'Red Dragon', given that it is supposed to be the first part of the trilogy but it was filmed last. The make-up folk do a fabulous job of touching up Sir Hopkins and his 'dungeon' in Baltimore has been perfectly recreated, that's not the problem about watching it first... I think the problem about watching it first is that it makes 'The Silence of the Lambs' seem so incredibly slow by comparison. I do tend to watch it last but, then, that never feels quite right to me either.

There can't be anyone reading this who doesn't know the plots of these three films but, basically, Anthony Hopkins steals the show in every one. 'Hannibal' is the only one of the three that allows the character of Hannibal Lecter to dominate the story but in every case, as a viewer - while I do appreciate the effort that went into making the movies in general - I'm really only interested in his scenes. And - while I do appreciate that Sir Hopkins is a fantastic actor and Dr Lecter is the role of a lifetime - I'm really only interested in trying to figure out why 'Hannibal The Cannibal' is so incredibly attractive to women.

AND men.

No? Oh well, that must just be me then!

Paul Lamond Horrid Henry Homework Puzzle (250 Pieces)
Paul Lamond Horrid Henry Homework Puzzle (250 Pieces)
Price: £7.84

4.0 out of 5 stars Let it glow, let it glow, let it glow, 5 Sept. 2014
= Durability:3.0 out of 5 stars 
This jigsaw is my six year old relative's current obsession - and she is extremely possessive of it too. Her nine year old sister can only watch from afar (no doubt plotting - a la Horrid Henry himself - to get her own grubby paws on it, ONE way or another) as, just occasionally, a grown-up is permitted to serve as the little one's right-hand man. It's a purely ceremonial gig though, that; despite the '7+' age limit on the box she can, quite easily, complete this puzzle herself.

The pieces fit together very nicely but the cardboard they're made from is very thin indeed: I don't predict a long life for any of them. The scene is reasonably challenging and the glow-in-the-dark bits add an extra little element of interest. I've seen nothing so far to suggest they would ever glow as brightly as the lid of the box would have you believe, but they do glow.

This would definitely appeal to fans of Horrid Henry... as well as to though of us who are prepared to lie about how much we like him, purely to get an invite to the puzzling table.

No? Oh well, that must just be me then!

Waddle! (Scanimation Books)
Waddle! (Scanimation Books)
by Rufus Butler Seder
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.98

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Could it be magic?, 4 Sept. 2014
Length:: 1:12 Mins

I've lost track of how many copies of this book I've purchased for my friends' toddlers over the years. The blurb on the back of it says that it 'will enchant everyone from 2+' and that's consistently been the case in my experience. It is utterly charming and - apart from the fact that the plot is a little threadbare for us older readers - completely irresistable to both adults and half-pints alike.

The colours haven't come out at all well on the video but, basically, the colour of the writing beneath each picture is the colour that is used for that creature.

I don't know how the magic is achieved and, frankly, I really don't think I WANT to know: Father Christmas abandoned me when I started asking too many questions... I don't want this waddling penguin and his chums to do the same.

Shards - the brickbreaker
Shards - the brickbreaker
Price: £0.92

11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All in all you're just a... nother brick in the wall, 3 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Shards - the brickbreaker (App)
This is a variation on the 'Brick Smash' theme and is rather more user-friendly than similar games I've tried. Not that I've had much success with it so far... but then, it seems I have the reflexes of a Nytol-popping sloth, so that's hardly surprising.

The 'original soundtrack' is very 80s (which is no bad thing at all) and the graphics are very impressive. The controls are so smooth that, annoyingly for me, they cannot in any way be made to shoulder the blame for the ineptitude of their controller. The game can be played at three different speeds (Slow, Normal and Fast) and, like all good (ie. fiendish) brick demolition games, annihilating the bricks does not represent anything like the end of your brick-related worries... lurking behind these bricks are a number of different 'symbols', just waiting to do you good: or, more likely, evil.

It's a jolly good idea to make the 'Help' page your very first stop actually, to get the lowdown on what all those different symbols mean. I didn't bother and, as a consequence, I was obliged to stand helplessly by as my equipment shrank away to nothing, leaving me very ill-prepared for the task ahead.

Crikey Moses - it was like my wedding night, all over again...

The Secrets of Underground Britain, Volumes 1-3 [DVD]
The Secrets of Underground Britain, Volumes 1-3 [DVD]
Offered by Special Interests
Price: £9.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Down down, deeper and down..., 31 Aug. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I came upon these three, very informative, documentaries recently while perusing the delights on offer on a well-known video sharing site (whose name rhymes with New Moob). Informative or not though, had I not been mercilessly hounded by adverts at every turn, there's a reasonable chance that I might never have put my hand in my pocket to purchase this three disc set. Still, despite my inherent meanness (plus a, thankfully, groundless fear that my purchase of this Reader's Digest product might somehow lead to my being mercilessly hounded once more - this time by Tom Champagne's 'Prize Draw' successor), I am rather pleased with this particular financial outlay.

It came as a welcome relief to find not a trace of an advert in sight here; just three 55 minute programmes devoted to lifting the lid on Britain's secret underground life. The filming takes place entirely on location and the whole thing has been very professionally done. Each disc also has a snazzy menu which allows you to find individual stories very easily.

The locations covered are:


- Helston (Underground Mines)
- Plymouth (Crownhill Fort)
- Exeter (Secret Tunnels)
- Liverpool (Williamson's Tunnels)
- Edinburgh (Underground City)
- West Wycombe (Hellfire Caves)
- Royston (Knights Templar Tunnels)
- Godalming (Witley Park Ballroom)
- London (Camden Catacombs; Kensal Rise Cemetary)
- Dover (Dover Castle)
- Brighton (Victorian Sewers)
- Hastings (Smugglers' Caves)


- Glasgow (Museum of Transport)
- Liverpool ( Western Approaches Museum)
- Parham (Secret Auxiliary Units)
- London (WW2 Tube Secrets; Secret Stations & Rivers; Whitehall & Churchill's Secret Bunker; WW2 Bunkers & Post Office Tunnels)
- Corsham (Ammo Store & Aircraft Factory)
- Dover (WW2 Bunker)


- Anstruther (Scotland's Secret Bunker)
- Corsham (Burlington Nuclear Bunker)
- Kelvedon Hatch (Nuclear Bunker)
- Crystal Palace (Pear Tree House)
- Brede (Water Treatment Bunker)
- Wakehurst Place (Secret Seed Store)
- Plymouth (Tamar Bridge)
- Veryan (Royal Observer Corps)

I was going to say that this 'box-set' would be a perfect gift for anyone with an interest in the more obscure aspects of British history... but then I remembered my initial disappointment upon opening the package that delivered them to me. Suffice it to say, the individual discs come at you individually wrapped in cellophane, and bound together with an ugly-looking loop of plastic. There's no smart cardboard sleeve, no nothing. The whole thing positively screams 'cheap', which is perhaps not the cleverest look for something you're planning on giving away as a gift: and it really doesn't do this product justice.

Maybe they thought people would be so distraught at the sight of all that completely impenetrable (and completely pointless) cellophane that they'd never even notice?

These discs are interesting and warrant multiple viewings. Although, they will make you wonder - if this is the sort of stuff we DO know about, what the heck else is down there that we DON'T?!

Gemz Fancy Dress Blow-Up Doll, Female
Gemz Fancy Dress Blow-Up Doll, Female
Offered by K Direct
Price: £7.69

8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I WAS in the mood for dancing - but I'm not anymore!, 30 Aug. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I can't think of any other purchase I have ever made that has put me in the sort of moral dilemma this doll has. I don't even know what star rating to give her.

Oh, I'm so confused!

The thing is, the Gemz Fancy Dress Blow-Up that recently turned up on my doormat bears very little resemblance to the one in that product description, despite the fact that she is proudly wearing that moniker on her invoice. I have taken the liberty of adding my own 'Customer Image' to the mix, to show you precisely what I mean.

As you can see, the smooth skin, pert breasts and vaguely human-looking face that Amazon promised has been replaced, in my case, by a wrinkled, drunken inflatable, with a head not unlike one of the members of The Abominable Dr Phibes' clockwork band.

Worse though, far worse, is the discovery that my version has a hole at the front AND a hole at the back that join up in the middle... down 'there'.

Now, I'm not actually complaining about that last bit... which is undoubtedly even WORSE.

The thing is though, I only bought her in the first place to help me learn a few ballroom-dancing steps with the curtains closed of an evening, to prepare me for a cruise around the Canaries this winter - with my ex-wife. She and I have nothing at all in common these days and she obviously hates me enough to have wanted to accept my drunken and ridiculously expensive invitation. But, I thought I might surprise her by actually being of some use for once - and taking her out on the dance-floor to the cheers and applause of our fellow passengers.

I was even planning on eschewing my preferred fancy frocks and heels in favour of a tuxedo and some patent leather. Believe me, I was taking this seriously. Until I met this doll. Now, suddenly, the idea of 'taking [my former wife] out on the dance-floor to the cheers and applause of our fellow passengers' has taken on a whole new - and rather sinister - meaning.

Whether I will, in fact, end up practicing something more along the lines of a horizontal quickstep with this doll one of these lonely evenings remains to be seen (well, hopefully not - MUST remember to close those curtains). But, for the moment, the temptation to stick more than just an exploratory finger into, what was supposed to be, my ex-wife is so great that I have had to deflate this doll completely and put her safely away in a cupboard.

Shame that - because I WAS in the mood for dancing!
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The Definitive Collection
The Definitive Collection
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars 'If that's Stevie calling to tell me he loves me, tell him I've moved!', 27 Aug. 2014
It's funny how many of these songs were familiar to me, despite the fact that I've never actively gone searching for any of Stevie Wonder's songs before. Mind you, one or two of his songs have come on a bit strong to me in their time. I mean, I can't watch a single one of those 'Worst Songs Ever' programmes without encountering 'Ebony & Ivory'; and, of course, there was that awful period in late 1984 when the only way for me to escape the equally awful 'I Just Called To Say I Love You' was to hide under my bedclothes and wait for Wham! to come and send Stevie - and his iron-grip on the top of the UK charts - well and truly packing.

Nevertheless, one brief look at the playlist for this 2-disc set at the supermarket was more than enough for me to abandon any pretence of trying to follow a sensible shopping list and to find room instead in my sad-single-person's-trolley for 36 individual works of Stevie Wonder's undoubted musical genius: plus 'Ebony & Ivory' and 'I Just Called To Say I Love You'. The collection was put together in 2002, which did give me some pause - especially at this sort of price. Ah, but the very convenient way in which both 'I Just Called To Say I Love You' and 'Ebony & Ivory' have been quarantined together there, nice and early in the proceedings, did strike me as a very handy way of killing two birds with one fast-forward button. And there were just so many other songs on here that I'd heard of that I simply couldn't resist buying it.

The sleeve notes are interesting, although they're nothing like as comprehensive as I would've liked. There are some cracking pictures of Stevie Wonder through the years, they're great. And there's an impressive gallery containing fifteen little snapshots of his albums. But the actual listing of the tracks themselves does not give any indication as to precisely which album each one hails from. That's going to make it a bit inconvenient should I decide to dig a little deeper into the Stevie Wonder back-catalogue. Quite apart from which, it would've been interesting!

The music quality is excellent and, because the songs are not arranged in chronological order, it means you are never very far away from an absolute classic. For reasons that I'm sure I'd be best served never to dwell upon, I seem to have taken a particular shine to 'Never Had A Dream Come True'. It's a beautifully arranged piece of music, but I can't quite figure out whether the lyrics are more depressing than a page from the script of 'EastEnders' or whether they are, in fact, giving losers in love everywhere a little bit of hope. I certainly don't feel especially 'hopeful' when I hear it... it makes me want to bawl my eyes out.

And yet, I can't stop playing it.

Hm... with a masochistic streak like that, maybe I SHOULD give 'Ebony & Ivory' a go?

Gun Fu: Stickman Edition
Gun Fu: Stickman Edition
Price: £0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Give it some Stick!, 26 Aug. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Gun Fu: Stickman Edition (App)
You know how life's problems always like to come at you en masse? Well, bright red stickmen brandishing weapons - and with murder, very much, on their minds - adopt a similar approach in this game.

Officially, this app is a handy means of checking your reaction time. But, what it REALLY is, is a fabulously therapeutic little stress toy, fully equipped with sound-effects, which can be called upon at a moment's notice whenever the stresses and strains of life threaten to get the better of you. Not that it's all about violence - at least, not on your part.

At first glance, it looks as though there is only one level available to you, with the rest being firmly padlocked and, presumably, rather partial to a bit of that old 'in-app purchasing' that is mentioned in the product description. Each 100 points you earn in the game will get you one little golden thingamabob: I guess one day I might manage to accumulate enough of those to unlock the adjacent level. As it stands though, I haven't managed to unlock any other levels yet, so my little stickman generally has to make do with 'just' a pistol in each hand. He is some marksman too, despite having no opposable thumbs or, indeed, fingers.

Scarlet-shaded assassins are dispatched with one shot and, if you can take two of them out at once, you get even more points. Well-aimed shots make for the best score, although you do still get points for the odd botch-job. But, beware - shooting your weapon too early (or, heaven help us, in the wrong direction entirely) constitutes a 'miss'. And three misses means your little stickman will get his head blown off.

The developers seem very keen to get me on Facebook so I can compare the statistics of my massacres with the wider population but I really don't think I can be bothered. There are a few ads too but they're only in-between games and so are not at all intrusive. Apparently you can turn them off - but it will cost you.

Oh yeh, if you scroll down the game menu past all those padlocks, you'll come to three fabulous little 'extra' games that are probably even more fun to play than that pistol-packing one. The first has a Hallowe'en theme, and involves your stickman trying to annihilate a plethora of pumpkin-headed protagonists before they can blow his Frankenstein's Monster head off.

The Christmas-inspired game involves your stickman chucking gifts at his would-be murderers and thus getting rid of them in a completely non-violent way, before they can blow his little Santa head off. And the Valentine's game sees your stickman taking on the role of Cupid, firing arrows full of love at his enemies (but not the goat - don't hit that goat!) before, you've guessed it, they can shoot his head off.

I am thoroughly enjoying taking my (many and varied) frustrations out on the homicidal cast of this app!

Free Colour Sudoku Demo
Free Colour Sudoku Demo
Price: £0.00

2.0 out of 5 stars So, it's just as I've always feared - size DOES matter!, 26 Aug. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Free Colour Sudoku Demo (App)
It's taken me forever to get the basic gist of this, chiefly because:

(a) I am as dense as a bowl of custard
(b) There are no instructions
(c) On a Tab 3 screen, the two little bubbles that hold key information relating to how many guesses you've made and how many points you've accumulated so far remain, annoyingly, just below the horizon
(d) Apart from successfully making your way to the end, there is no way out of a game once you've embarked upon it other than to command your machine to reboot itself: which, in app circles, is the equivalent of commanding your machine to tell 'Free Colour Sudoku Demo' to go forth and multiply

Now, the problem with the game's appearance might just be down to the fact that the size of my handheld entertainment device leaves an awful lot to be desired (and if that IS the case, then it seems my ex-wife might just have been right after all). Folk with more inches at their disposal will doubtless be able to derive an awful lot more pleasure from this demo - and probably from a fair few other things in life as well - than me. So, perhaps I'd better stop cursing Mother Nature for being so stingy and tell you what I THINK this app is all about.

I believe the app consists of 18 different games, all of which are, allegedly, 'Easy'. Within that, I reckon there are three different levels of 'achievement'. When I do manage to figure out the correct colour of a square in the grid, the game awards me points, but how they are worked out is a complete mystery. All I can see when I'm playing is a 30 second countdown, so I guess that allows you thirty seconds between each successful deduction. Because I am as dense as a bowl of custard, my countdown keeps starting from the beginning again and, I assume, taking my maximum points along with it.

Were I able to persevere with this app for long enough to actually make it to the end of any one game, things might be a tad clearer. I haven't checked recently to see whether Hell is expecting a cold snap but, unless it is, I can't ever see that happening though.

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