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Mr. SCM Bell "Black Cat Theory" (UK)

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Vampire Lovers/Lust For A Vampire [DVD] [1970]
Vampire Lovers/Lust For A Vampire [DVD] [1970]
Dvd ~ Ralph Bates

37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of the Goddess Pitt in Vampire Lovers!, 10 Nov. 2009
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The problem with Hammer Horror films it is, for all their charm and atmosphere, it is, at times, difficult to ignore their weaknesses - the uneven pacing, shoddy sets and hackneyed characters that dog their history. That said Vampire Lovers is a particularly fine example and a cultural milestone that heralded the arrival of vampyric characters as being romantic, charismatic and seductive.
For all the strength of the cast in this film - George Cole and obligatory Peter Cushing, for all it's whimsical, dreamlike eroticism and relatively slick (by Hammer standards) execution this film rises head and shoulders above it peers solely by virtue of it's leading lady.

Essentially defining the vampire for the generation of films that would follow Ingrid Pitt carries the cast and production effortlessly on a tide of charisma, charm, grace and almost preternatural beauty.

While this film is undoubtedly exploitative and resolutely sexist, it manages to inadvertently empower it's female lead albeit at the cost of the bevy of blushing, fainting beauties who line up only to fall under her spell. The patriarchal men who populate the film, dotting about looking worried, grumpy and pallid, look pathetic next to the animalistic, virile goddess squaring up against them As they cower behind their trinkets of religion, powerless to stop their women being spirited away, we inadvertently begin to side with the vampires. Just observe the scene where Ingrid's Carmilla bears down on the young buck who storms in to rescue the dizzy young virgin from our anti-heroine's clutches. Is it me or does the phallic sword that he wields seem to droop slightly as she storms down the stairs towards him?

Weight is lent to Ingrid's performance not only by her almost unbelievable natural charisma, but also by her acting abilities. This woman possessed more talent than the horror genre often asked of it's ladies. Just observe her work the subtle nuances of her craft as the spectre of a smile creeps across her face on hearing that she is to be taken in by yet another unsuspecting band of aristos. Also fantastic is the scene where a couple of male characters discuss the fact that the predator amongst them is a woman... `an extremely beautiful woman'. We are then treated to a quick cut-away to Ingrid sitting in a chair managing to look haughty, sexy, smug, dangerous, seductive and powerful all at the same time - I kid you not!

The film's much vaunted eroticism, through solely projections of male fantasy, are undoubtedly stirring. Ingrid's seduction of Madeline Smith when she chases her round the room before falling onto the bed alongside her is as erotic as anything I have seen onscreen and the real life revelations that, at the time the film was made Madeline was a virgin, while Ingrid was almost certainly not, make it all the more intoxicating.
That Ingrid did not go on to achieve greater success as an actress is a sin, after all she was (and is) a fine actress and surely one of the most beautiful women alive. That she went on to have a successful writing career and continues to be worshipped by a legion of fans is wholly apt.

To conclude Vampire Lovers is a gem which deserves to be savoured and relished over and over again.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 15, 2012 10:13 AM BST

Haze (PS3)
Haze (PS3)
Price: £4.98

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Please God Make it Stop!, 29 May 2008
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This review is from: Haze (PS3) (Video Game)
Lets start with the good part. Haze is an absolutely brilliant story premise with it's chemically dependent soldiers waging dubious wars in foreign parts backed by a shadowy, all-powerful private military corporation. It has both sci-fi intrigue and uncomfortable echoes with current real-world events.

However make no mistake Haze is utter, utter drek.

I don't work in the software industry and in truth I don't really know how it works but I would imagine it's something like this: Sony really, really need a big hit exclusive game for the PS3, which at the time of writing is little more than a really expensive Blu-Ray player (in my house anyway). Free Radical are given a large money advance to start developing Haze. Things are going well and the deadline is still miles away. Sony start ramping up the hype surrounding Haze. Behind the scenes Free Radical are experiencing some problems and that deadline is getting closer. Sony's PS3 is being crushed by the 360 in Europe and the US and so they ramp the hype up to fever pitch, still not in possession of a Bioshock sized hit exclusive. Free Radical start to panic as the deadline draws near. Under pressure from Sony not to let the release date slip they abandon some of the lofty plans they had for the game. Time they hoped to spend smoothing textures, filling in detail and deepening the experience no longer exists.

Release date comes and tellingly they are too scared to give pre-release copies to the press.

Says it all doesn't it.

My first problem is that this simply isn't a next gen game. It's a PS2 generation FPS with tarted up graphical textures. Here's why: The whole point of the PS3/360 generation of consoles was supposed to be not just graphical advances but processing grunt too. In Haze you are supposed to be part of an army and yet your team consists of two or three other guys and your enemies never number more than four at a time. It's simply pathetic. Like Medal of Honour Frontline - and that was nearly a decade ago.

In the early levels when you can use the drug Nektar to heighten your fighting skills it is tempting not to do so as using it causes dreadful visual distortions on screen that are far too frequent to be anything other than nauseating and annoying.

For a supposed premier FPS the voice acting and some of the character models are terrible with the ambient character dialogue of the guerrillas grating particularly badly. The cut-scenes too are long and bland with uninspired dialogue and often nothing but the waxy, inanimate face of another character to look at.

The set-pieces blow chunks too with dull vehicles bumping about in small, linear levels quite contrary to the laws of physics. The scene in the copper smelting plant with the drop ship versus the missile turret would have been laughable even on the PS2. When you get behind the wheel of a vehicle yourself things don't get any better. While the control system is very good, connecting with the scenery results in the vehicle coming to an almost dead stop.

As if all this wasn't bad enough, the weapons are lifeless and uninspired, the visual effects lacklustre and the levels totally and utterly linear. The god-awful `play dead' feature is worthless and only the Nektar grenade feature managed to raise a smile.

Having paid the going rate for this game certainly didn't.

When I had only had my 360 for a few months I considered Ghost Recon - Advanced Warfighter a big disappointment but this is exponentially worse.

I really didn't want to be saying this but this game is getting sold as soon as I've finished the story mode (I want to stay with it just to see how bad it'll get) and sadly it is nothing more than another blow to the PS3 at a time when it really doesn't need it.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 29, 2012 5:50 PM BST

Grand Theft Auto IV (Xbox 360)
Grand Theft Auto IV (Xbox 360)
Offered by trguk
Price: £17.50

96 of 123 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I don't know... I just don't know., 30 April 2008
The most eagerly awaited game ever? Well it's certainly up there in the top five, rubbing shoulders with the Master Chief which ever way you cut it.

Does it look amazing? Yes of course it does. More gritty and less cartoonish than it's predecessors, detail aplenty, pop-up and draw-distance problems controlled if not entirely removed, cars that look as good as a racing game, characters that look as good as a third person action game. It's all here.

It looks and feels fantastic, but...

If you've been there since the beginning there is just a tiny nagging feeling that past all the glitz and glamour, beneath all the media hype it isn't really that much of an advancement from GTA III, Vice City and San Andreas.

You see, when GTA III came along it replaced a crude but addictive top-down scroller. It took that world and used the newly minted PS2 to blast it into full 3D, defining that platform and ushering in the era of the sandbox game.

As I stare at GTA IV in 36 inches of HDMI beauty I simply don't feel quite as excited as I did when I hit the streets of Liberty City the first time. There's a tiny voice inside me that keeps saying that all the glowing reviews in the mainstream media are only written because those reviewers weren't there to see how incredible it was when the series first went 3D. Struggling to come to terms with a form of media that they neither understand nor respect, they are only written because they feel they are expected to crow about how great it is.

I try to put my finger on what exactly has disappointed me but it isn't easy. Perhaps it was the fact that Saints Row really made a feature of the car modifying thing, that San Andreas gave you a whole county to explore, perhaps I just like the playlist less this time or perhaps its just one sandbox too many?

Don't get me wrong, this still beats most games by a country mile. The voice acting is beyond reproach, as are the character models, the level design, the cell phone system. In short, it oozes quality from every pore and yet remains a bizarrely muted experience.

Of course you'll buy it. Everyone will. But twenty years from now, will we talk most fondly about this one? Or will it be one of the previous three?
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 29, 2010 3:37 PM BST

Bioshock - Limited Edition [Tin Case] (Xbox 360)
Bioshock - Limited Edition [Tin Case] (Xbox 360)

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like Nothing Before It., 28 Aug. 2007
Every time you pick up an FPS, regardless of the hype you always ask yourself `have I just made a terrible mistake?' Because even in this world of cell processors, photo-realistic graphics and real actors for every Medal of Honor: Frontline there has to be a Medal of Honor: Rising Sun!
For anyone who has followed the Genesis of Bioshock it should be apparent to you that developer 2K mean business. This game fully intends to break moulds rather than follow trends. Mixing one third premier class FPS, one third survival horror with one third role playing game should produce something truly special for the Xbox 360. And it does.
Remember when you first booted up Gears of War and looked out across the ruined city while that fantastic atmospheric score swelled behind you? Remember when you first shoved Dead Rising in your machine and made it down onto the floor of the mall, grabbing the nearest object that came to hand and wrapping it round some unfortunate zombie's head?
Well, I'm here to tell you that my first two hours on Bioshock beat both of those hallowed moments, hands down.
I have been playing computer games since the days of the ZX80 and never in my entire life have I seen such a cinematic, awe-inspiring and frankly beautiful first level as that of Bioshock.
From a Lost-esque plane crash showcasing the singular best water effects ever to appear in a game you are catapulted into a world that is as disturbing as it is beautiful. The locations and detail are mind-bending, leaving your average Hollywood movie for dust and the voice acting and character detail is beyond reproach.
The story guides you forwards smoothly, giving you enough rein to feel that you are free to explore but never enough so you are just wandering around aimlessly.
Like many games Bioshock sports the `ambient character dialogue' that has been par for the course since GTAIII and here it is once again used to maximum effect truly instilling you with the sense of a utopia gone very, very wrong. Keep a look out for the ghost of the plasmid junkie in the ladies bathrooms - that was well disturbing!!
To conclude I could spend the rest of the morning talking about how great this game is but there is no point. If you are reading this it is just confirming what almost everyone in computer-game-land is currently talking about.
This is probably the most important computer game event since GTAIII and you'd better believe it. So get out there and get onboard!

Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.54

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Lesson in Technical Excellence... and Egyptology!, 30 July 2007
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This review is from: Ithyphallic (Audio CD)
Having got into Nile at the time of the release of Annihilation of the Wicked and then moved backward to In Their Darkened Shrines I was awaiting the release of Ithyphallic with not inconsiderable excitement. Nile, like Opeth exist as the cream of the crop of modern extreme metal. They are the genres renaissance men, pushing the boundaries of musicianship and blurring the frontiers of genres.

Nile's development, if not as musicians, as songwriters and arrangers has been an impressive one. While undoubtedly awe-inspiring I found In Their Darkened Shrines to be almost too complex in places. In other places it became a little too textural and meandering. With Annihilation of the Wicked they hit it just perfectly. There were the North African sounding sections, technical mastery and speed in spades. But added to those factors there was a distinct songwriting sensibility that was absent on the previous release. Lashed to the Slave Stick and Cast Down the Heretic being the finest examples of this. With Ithyphallic, Nile have attempted to sidestep the very same problem that Carcass faced more than a decade ago: When your lyrics and music have become as technical and challenging as possible, where do you go next?

Nile's first solution appears to be to rely less on the blistering 250+BPM speed workouts that peppered the previous two albums. There are more traditional chord progressions and more mid-tempo grind. Secondly Sanders appears to have taken a less wordy and complex line with the lyrics. Indeed this is no bad thing. The use of repeated refrains in As He Creates, So He Destroys work brilliantly, realising a potential that was hinted at but never reached in songs like The Blessed Dead.

While things sound a little less frenzied and technical in places, don't be put off. This is still the Nile we know and love. Its still fast, its still full of ridiculous dynamic changes and athletic drumming. The instrumental sections are still present and correct, in my opinion conveying a more Arabic feel that the straight-forward cod-Egyptian stylings of the past.

Ithyphallic is beautifully produced and absolutely crammed full of lush guitar textures, keyboard, horns and bells and will take time to fully explore. Although much of the album has undoubtedly yet to fully imprint itself on my consciousness my current feeling is that the songwriting is slightly weaker than on Annihilation of the Wicked. Perhaps it is missing a Lashed to the Slavestick? Only time and many more listens will tell. One thing is certain though Nile's intelligent touch and technical mastery makes them excellent spokesmen for death metal and indeed metal in general. With luck Ithyphallic will bring their music to even greater audiences.

Twilight of the Dead
Twilight of the Dead
by Travis Adkins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.95

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Amateurish., 15 Jun. 2007
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This review is from: Twilight of the Dead (Paperback)
In the horror sub-genre of post apocalyptic zombie fiction the last few years have seen the writing of some impressive tomes which, in the guise of Max Brook's incredible World War Z have even succeeded in making a dent in the mainstream consciousness. Elsewhere JL Bourne's fantastic Day by Day Armageddon raised the bar for self-financed horror novels everywhere.

Originally published in 2004 Twilight of the Dead has been quite hard to track down in the UK. The recent popularity of the genre has seen the book repackaged with a couple of short stories, stylish cover art and an introduction penned by fellow English zombie aficionado David Moody. The result is an attractive and promising package that sadly fails to match its peers on a number of levels.

From the outset Travis Adkins lack of research is apparent. Most literary depictions of the end of civilisation at the hands of the undead feature the military and emergency services struggling to maintain public order. From the outset `Twilight' is no different. Unfortunately the author's lack of knowledge of military rank, file and methodology is immediately and painfully obvious. While Max Brooks dazzled us with his meticulously sketched images of the planet's armed forced being mobilised en masse and JL Bourne impressed us with his real life knowledge of weaponry Adkins quickly becomes mired in factual inaccuracy and made-up hardware.

This alone is hardly enough to damage the enjoyment of what promises to be an exciting story, however more disturbing is his ham-fisted writing style. Narrating a story from the perspective of a teenaged girl when you are (presumably) a middle aged man is, granted no easy task but on this count `Twilight' fails spectacularly. The main character, Courtney Colvin is intended as a beautiful, alluring, slightly stuck-up loner however through Adkin's eyes she never really develops further than a thumbnail sketch and the bland dialogue in which she constantly states that things "kinda suck" quick begins to grate.

Equally poorly fleshed out are the `Black Berets', a civilian defence force of which the main character becomes a member. We are asked to believe that during the few weeks leading up to the zombie apocalypse spiralling out of control a team of practitioners adept in despatching zombies in all manner of creative ways are founded and sent out across the country to spread their teachings. Even more ridiculously the author tells us that on encountering one of the `Black Berets' the heroine is trained to join their ranks in little more than three weeks. During this period she also finds time to enter into a toe-curling sexual relationship with her instructor.

It isn't that Twilight of the Dead is a bad story. On the contrary its basic tenet is a good one, however Adkins allows every potential dramatic set-piece to slip through his fingers in a haze of poor description and inane dialogue. At less than 200 pages the book soon slips by and the feeling that is left behind is one of having read an elongated essay rather than a full novel. This is one for zombie completists only I'm afraid.

Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 (Xbox 360)
Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 (Xbox 360)
Offered by PROGAMES
Price: £29.99

37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Oh come on, lighten up folks!, 3 May 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
If you want to accuse me of buying this game only because it contains scantily clad, ridiculously stylised women frolicking, of being lured in by the chance to collect bikinis for said women, take photos of them, watch them cavorting... then you'd be absolutely 100% correct.

To break it down for you, sports games really aren't my bag. In fact generally, I would call them dull. Normally I gravitate toward first and third person action titles and survival horror. I am currently making my may through F.E.A.R. and to be frank the bleakness, the onminous, brooding environments gave me the urge for a little change of pace. Something all-together more cuddly! And there you have it - D.O.A. Xtreme 2.

Criticism of this game has been frankly massive. 50% because of its titillating nature, 50% because of gameplay flaws and the fact that is regarded to be in many ways inferior to its predecessor.

Personally I haven't played the first D.O.A. Xtreme game so I can't judge how the volleyball sections have suffered with this sequel but as voyeuristic, girlie, sports non-games go I simply can't see whats so bad about this.

Admittedly the camera angle is a little difficult on the volleyball levels and the casino games can seem just a tiny bit stacked against you, but that really is the worst of it. The jet-ski levels are fun with a reasonable learning curve and the ability to chuck stunts in here and there give the whole thing a little more longevity than its being credited with. The camera mode too comes across like part of the game in itself as the controls are deliberately difficult in order to prevent you from, say, zooming in directly on the booty!! The minigames like pool-hopping and the guiltily pleasing `butt battles' are pleasantly diverting and neither suffer from the mammoth loading times or frustration levels that some reviewers seem to be accusing them of.

In short, is this game a work of genius that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Gears of War, Dead Rising and Resident Evil 4? No of course it isn't.

It does however do exactly what it says on the tin: Fun, aimless, fantasy in a beautiful playground. If you don't like it, don't buy it. But please don't try and preach morals.

The Stench Of Redemption
The Stench Of Redemption
Price: £5.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back to Reclaim Their Throne., 28 Aug. 2006
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Barely twenty seconds into the punishing title track it is already clear that Deicide have turned a corner. Behind them, it seems, are the internal conflicts, lack of inspiration, record label dissatisfaction and Glen Benton's recurrent whinging about his personal life. In place you have Nile-bothering speed work-outs, tortuous grooves and blistering guitar histrionics.

Benton seems to be uncharacteristically happy with the new line-up, fully allowing Steve Ashenhiem off the musical leash and once again injecting some venom and imagination into his anti-Christian rumblings. The void left by the Hoffman brothers has proven easily filled by the two new guys and serves to illustrate one thing only: While the Hoffmans were solid rhythm players, their lead work was often restricted to unadventurous scales and phrasing and frequent sub-Slayer whammy-fests. The Stench of Redemption is no so hampered with plenty of harmony parts, outrageous anorak pleasing solos and even some slower, atmospheric sections.

All in all it's a package that reaches even higher than their genre defining debut album and the awesome Once Upon the Cross. By the time you have taken in the phenomenally atmospheric Desecration, the ludicrously evil groove of Homage for Satan and the albums cinematic closer The Lord's Sedition you will be sold. This is an album which is not only brutal but, satanic lyrics aside, extremely mature.

For metal fans, this is a comeback that many bands could only dream of. Miss this and be ridiculed by your children a decade from now.

Land of the Dead:  Directors Cut with Limited Edition theatrical poster (Exclusive to [DVD]
Land of the Dead: Directors Cut with Limited Edition theatrical poster (Exclusive to [DVD]

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Another Great Franchise Ruined., 8 Aug. 2006
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It seems that George Romero has made the mistake as many in the entertainment industry: Sacrificing their art for a pathetic pot shot at the Bush administration and America's foreign policy. Okay, so a little political subtext can add a welcome extra dimension to a film and certainly Night, Dawn and Day all wielded social and political aspects to their plots, but they were subtle. And Land of the Dead isn't. `We don't negotiate with terrorists' drawls Hopper at one point, doing his best impersonation of old George W.

`I'm going to do a Jihad on his ass' enthuses John Leguziamo at another, no doubt inspired by those people who, previously trained and equipped by the US, now find themselves the subject of its aggression. How pathetic. Why not just call the film: `Western people are all bad... with zombies.'

Sadly the problems with the film stretch beyond hideous, unwanted political grandstanding (see Bono for details): while this film sports production values that make it easily the equal of its predecessors the story is just too lame and listless to survive. The tenuousness of zombies, during their short, decomposing lifespan somehow `evolving' and focussing their undead rage on the barricaded tower block that houses the rich (therefore evil) people who run the show is just sad. Further nails are hammered into the coffin by the awful acting, particularly that of the `lead' zombie and the charisma-bypass hero of the piece.

There are a few things that stand out, Asia Argento provides acting skills that are well cut out for this kind of work as well as being damn good looking. The sets too are fantastic, although sadly we see very little of them. And that, unfortunately is the crux of the matter. There are so many things in the film that could have made it brilliant: Dead Reckoning (confined to the background), the tower block (wasn't it crying out for a siege), the sleazy underbelly of the city (gets about 5 minutes screen time). But in the end, the films short run time is filled up with idiotically shallow character development and impotent action scenes.

George Romero invented this genre, he gave us 3 life-changing horror films and directly inspired a raft of awesome video games and films, so forgive me for saying it, but this is just bilge-water.

Apple iPod - 30GB - Black [video playback] MA146B/A
Apple iPod - 30GB - Black [video playback] MA146B/A

22 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Agree, 19 May 2006
Another review advises shoppers to avoid the iPod like the plague as they appear to break almost as soon as the warranty runs out. I just wanted to corroborate this in that yes, they are the best portable music player in the world but mine also broke just a few months after the warranty ran out. Again, the problems appears to be some sort of intermittant hard-drive access problem.

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