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K. Elliott (Wiltshire, UK)

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Orphan Black [DVD]
Orphan Black [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tatiana Maslany
Price: 17.75

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and suspensful, 27 Oct 2013
This review is from: Orphan Black [DVD] (DVD)
Orphan Black truly is some of the most compelling television in quite some time, and the only genuinely problem I found with it was it's short length, ten episodes, meaning it was over all too soon, but then that itself leads to some incredibly tight storytelling and powerful drama.

The premise itself is intriguing on its own merits, and is cleverly plotted with a focus on a core set of well-rounded and engaging characters, a spiral of interconnecting stories and intelligent twists that never loses coherence by becoming needlessly complicated or losing sight of the human stories at the heart of the tale of cloning and the ethical ramifications hinted at with a deeper myth arc running alongside the very personal journey of the main characters.

The principle character, Sarah, is a fascinating one, hard edged and flawed from a difficult life, thrust into a role and series of events that in some ways she seems perfectly suited for, and others spectacularly ill-prepared for as she tries to remain selfishly focused, and through her eyes the developing revelations about the truth of her existence as a clone and the lives of her fellow clones intersecting with her complex personal troubles, resonates so much more deeply than with a cardboard heroic or anti-heroic archtype. Her arc

The rest of the core cast are colourful, they have they own motivations and perspectives, ensuring that any time away from the main character is not wasted time or dull. The story is a mystery that must be unravelled, but it is not convoluted, and as it builds it leaves the viewer hungry for more details, not annoyed.

Tatiana Malsany is a revelation in the role, without doubt one of the toughest and most layered performances seen on television in some time, and in such a short span of episodes as well. The strength of the seris with its powerful and deep characters across the board could so easily have been a hindrance if the lead actress required to perform several of those roles struggled to show the individuality of the various clones, but she pulls it off and in stunning fashion. Were the characters merely broad stereotypes the range of acting would be astounding, but as they are so much more complex, it is nothing short of amazing.

In conclusion, Orphan Black is intelligent and expertly crafted drama, with outstanding acting and suspensful moments throughout, without ever sacrificing on moments of humour and humanity with its twists. To be blunt, sometimes clone shenanigans are by their very nature amusing, and without going in for mugging acknowledgement of that, the show is still able to have its moments of genuine levity without undermining the stakes and the main dramatic plot.

A few thoughts?

Accent wise? Eh, I've heard a lot worse as a brit watching a lot of american tv, it didn't bother me in the slightest but I can see why it could impact on some people.

The science? I imagine people who know things about genetics will be rolling their eyes, that is just the way tv works of course, but it's an interesting and well presented plot, so I think most people will be able to forgive any artistic licence.

I do actually have to disagree with one of the other people who posted a review about the portrayal of the abilities of serving detectives though - I've watched a lot of detective shows, and shows that merely featured detectives, and in the latter (which this show definitely falls into), the detectives are usually a lot lot worse! I never felt taken out of the story by the detectives' intellect in putting the pieces together over the series, in fact compared to a lot of shows they caught little details and followed threads, kept pushing when things just didn't seem right, so I was actually impressed by them!

Definitely watch this show.

A Memory Of Light: Book 14 of the Wheel of Time
A Memory Of Light: Book 14 of the Wheel of Time
by Robert Jordan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 16.75

25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A frenetic - sometimes too frenetic - but emotionally powerful conclusion to the most epic fantasy series penned, 13 Jan 2013
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Lord knows the Wheel of Time series has flaws. All fans know that. Plot missteps, idiosyncratic touches which did not always work. Characterization that did not work for everyone.

Nevertheless, no series - none - has earned its ending volume quite like The Wheel of Time. Epic is a word that is overused, but for this series, it genuinely has to apply. No series earns its sacrfices, its twists, its darker moments, with quite the weight of this series. The scale, the depth, the engagement with characters taking dark, sometimes unpalatable paths, and, yes, the length, all contribute to this. None of its flaws overcome how much impact the journey of the series has had on me, and has truly tested the standard forms of the genre while making them feel real and emotionally satisfying; the role of any good reconstructionist.

Rand al Thor was the Chosen One, and no Chosen One ever suffered so much, transformed so much - even into places which were not pleasant - and actually earned the Chosen One label like he did. His journey was real, tragic and draining, and yet his position as prophesized chosen did not feel cheap, as it so often does, as he plainly was the chosen figure of the world for demonstrable reason, a force on the Pattern as much as the evil they all faced. And with a case of engaging, flawed, heroic, complex and yes, even frustrating, core characters, the series built a world of enviable complexity and idiotic humanity, that drew us in even when it dragged or annoyed. Even the seemingly two dimensional had true depth to them. People changed, grew, devolved and above all lived.

No world ever suffered like the world of the Wheel of Time, or at least not for so long in our memories building for book after book. We saw it approaching the end for so long, and believed it, building an apocalypse that matches the dread of the bleak brutality of Westeros despite the vastly different styles of writing. Whole nations seemed to have their own stories we only glimpsed, and yet did not feel tacked on but part of the overall chaos these characters experienced. The atrocities and heroics did not take place in some flimsy construct, but in a land which gave it all weight.

As a finale, A Memory of Light could be hard to follow sometimes, flitting about at light speed between seemingly hundreds of locations and characters coming together in, appropriately, one giant tapestry of epic conclusion. It was only ever going to be thus. As the final planned third of the final book, the glut of action was inevitable, and the confusing mass of characters, motivations and backstories is par for the course for Wheel of Time fans. There are moments of humour (mostly from Mat ;)), glorious heroics, heartbreaking sacrifices and moments of incredible tension as the costs of actions took on all involved.

It was well structured despite the action heavy focus, juggling the incredible weaving of plots with skill, and had moments of emotional power throughout, and I read it all in one day.

Was it perfect? No. I mostly adored the ending conflict and scenes, but without spoiling felt the emotion was undercut by some decisions. It did feel very rushed, as though some other plots should have been resolved or at least addressed in the previous two volumes, leading to some exchanges that just seemed too brief for the occasion, and for my own personal preferences, there was still too much focus on some characters I'm not particularly fond of, but that's on me. I do like being able to imagine the stories of characters beyond an ending, even if I don't necessarily care to see any (which is one problem I had with Mass Effect 3's ending - wondering what the point of all the emotion and energy put into the world and characters had been for if I couldn't picture how things might play out, for good or ill), and appreciated that the world of the books feels real to me, even after this epic story has concluded. There will be triumphs and disasters for these people and world, even if we do not get to see them.

I would thoroughly recommend this series despite all its flaws and length, for though its style might not be for all to enjoy, its development of character in sometimes unexpected directions, it's grand plot that attempts a truly world shattering, high stakes end of world scenario, without copping out on the scale, even if it does require splitting of focus in many places and among many people to keep a character focus to emotionally invest us. And A Memory of Light delivered on much of what was promised. It was a good Wheel of Time book, a mostly fitting conclusion which did not hold back and was not afraid to take risks with characters or plots. Not all of those I liked, even including with the ending, but any negatives won't stay with me in the face of all the good. I read the whole thing in less than 6 hours I was that gripped with its tale.

Well written, emotional, exciting, epic. Fans should be pleased with the finale we got (minor quibbles aside), and what a journey it has been to experience along with all its players. Nostalgia for the whole series makes me want to give it a five star, but four is still great, make no mistake. I look forward to many more rereads of the whole series, and recommend all do the same, with this book in many ways a glorious celebration of the series.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 24, 2013 4:14 PM GMT

Weapons of Choice: World War 2.1 (Axis of Time Trilogy 1)
Weapons of Choice: World War 2.1 (Axis of Time Trilogy 1)
by John Birmingham
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Has its moments, 18 Dec 2011
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If possible I would rather give this book a 3.5 rather than a 3, but it is definitely more 'just ok' than great.

That's not to say there is not plenty to like here. On the contrary, I found the book to be fast paced and based around a very interesting idea which for the most part was enjoyably explored. I got through the book in one sitting, so can have no complaints about its ability to draw in the reader and, though not hugely deep, it did have some good thoughtful moments to complement some fun action and technobabble, as well as the contrast between the clashing cultures to appreciate.

Unfortunately, I found the potential of the book to be higher than the book itself; the execution could have been far better. The central premise was good and there were good moments, but on the whole I found it hard to care a great deal about the predicaments of the characters, of which there were far too many. In of itself this would not be a flaw, but the deliberate short, punchy scenes that contribute to the fast pace of the book also make it hard to spend any amount of time with any one individual or group of characters, and the narrative flow does have a tendency to jump around a great deal as a result, and the dialogue and exposition has to be, at times, far too terse and obvious to get things moving.

It was more of a style issue than a deal breaker, however. I would have preferred a more limited cast, or more time devoted in longer sections to developing plot points and characters, but it was still an easy to read romp with a fascinating concept and oodles of potential for the author to explore, and I am looking forward to seeing how they develop things further in the series.

SanDisk Sansa Clip+ 8GB MP3 Player with Radio and Expandable MicroSD/SDHC Slot - Black
SanDisk Sansa Clip+ 8GB MP3 Player with Radio and Expandable MicroSD/SDHC Slot - Black
Price: 35.17

5.0 out of 5 stars Does the job and superb value, 25 Sep 2011
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This is an excellent little device. It's simple to use, works well and stores plenty, and with the price currently so low it is fantastic value for money. I confess to thinking it was a little too small even for such a player when it first arrived, but I've had no problems. In short: Cheap and effective.

How I Met Your Mother - Season 1 [DVD]
How I Met Your Mother - Season 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Alyson Hannigan
Offered by Champion Toys
Price: 10.79

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good indeed, 26 Dec 2008
Although it does follow some standard sit-com plots and cliches, HIMYM is a very impressive show, being extremely funny and clever as well. The characters are among the most likable and true on television (with exceptions for great comedic moments obviously) and the premise, while silly sounding on the face of it, has proved to be engaging. I would say it is better than Friends ever was, and I am a big fan of that show as well.

Season 1 is not the best of the show in my opinion but it is still superior to most comedies of the moment and stands up well among old favourites too. The laugh track is irritating but these things happen and can be overlooked. And it has to be said, Barney is awesome.

Battlestar Galactica: Season 4 (Part One) [DVD]
Battlestar Galactica: Season 4 (Part One) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Edward James Olmos
Price: 10.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent, 17 Dec 2008
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BSG was already a brilliant show and after the mind blowing climax of Season 3 it was going to take a lot of effort to deliver the goods. Well they did. The episodes feel much more like part of one concurrent story than previous seasons and the various threads are developed little by little in a way that interacts fantastically, leading to some top draw (and believable) character development and one of the most beautiful, if heartbreaking, climaxes to a season ever. Thank goodness it is not the end of the series though, however great the ending was.

There are one or two episodes that are not quite as good as the rest, though nothing as poor as the more notorious bad episodes of the series, and it is true some minor characters do not play as much of a role as they used too, but this is unavoidable given the number of episodes left and the amount of main character development and plot remaining. It should be stressed that this does not detract from the greatness of the season and it never feels cluttered.

All in all I thought this was possibly the best season yet, intended as the first part of the last season it contains the culmination, or approaches the culmination at least, of multitudes of plots and we are seeing some payoff from four years of patient character buildup while still adding to the core mystery of the show and pulling off some wonderful shocks and twists along the way. A must buy for any fan.

Battlestar Galactica - The Mini Series [2003] [DVD] [2004]
Battlestar Galactica - The Mini Series [2003] [DVD] [2004]
Dvd ~ Edward James Olmos
Price: 4.00

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant on all levels!, 5 Oct 2008
I had never seen the original Battlestar Galactica and watched this mini series because it was cheap and I saw it had reasonable reviews. BSG is now my favorite TV show. The characters are complex and believable, the story is dark yet superbly told and the show combines stellar acting with some fantastic action sequences. As a whole the series manages to be compelling in many ways. The music and CGI are top notch and the wonderful cast add depth to every issue that gets raised and many are. This is no black and white story as it hinted at in the mini series and it is astounding how deep it all gets while never losing sight of the struggles of the amazingly well defined and diverse characters.

The mini series itself was the first thing I have ever watched that brought me to tears just with the sheer emotion it exuded, it has a real quality (possibly helped by the decision to have documentary style camera effects) that means everything impacts the audience much more than is usually the case and enables us to care much more deeply about characters we've only just been introduced to. As an opening to the new series this mini series did a brilliant job of drawing me in and it was well worth it. The stories are A grade, the characters are powerful, cowardly, crazy, moral, heroic, stoic and more and all backed up by a tense atmosphere, a terrifying yet still sympathetic enemy (when the show begins to delve into that), and quality music and SFX while still being a show that feels very real. It is dark, yet not without some hope and rarely stops hitting you hard emotionally. A masterpiece.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 22, 2011 11:21 PM BST

Parliaments and Politics during the Cromwellian Protectorate (Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History)
Parliaments and Politics during the Cromwellian Protectorate (Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History)
by Patrick Little
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 68.37

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and highly significant work, 2 Oct 2008
I acquired this book as a major source for my dissertation research and found it immensely helpful. The various themes are extremely well covered and it not only helps identify other vital works on the topic, primary and otherwise but fills a major gap in the study of the politics of the Interregnum. D.Smith and P.Little examine every aspect of the Parliaments of the Cromwellian Protectorate: its constitutions, membership, relationship with the Protector, the internal schisms and much much more. This book is a must have for anyone interested in studying the workings of the Parliaments in this period. Yes, at over 50 (as of 02/10/08), it is very expensive, but it proved essential in my own studies, and wasn't a bad read either, and so I say it was well worth the price.

Engine City: Engines of Light Book 3
Engine City: Engines of Light Book 3
by Ken MacLeod
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.44

3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad but not as good the preceeding titles, 6 Aug 2007
I found engine city to be reasonably entertaining and intelligent. There were some exciting and pleasingly humurous sections along with MacLeod's usual skillful style. There was nothing really wrong with the book but i felt it suffered from a haphazard finish amid the struggle to bring a complex series to a close. It was also not quite as polished as the previous titles. Still a good read although not on the same level as the previous two, the disappointment being the only reason for the lower rating. Were this book not compared with the other two i would give it a four out of five.

The Wire : Complete HBO Season 1 [DVD] [2002] [2005]
The Wire : Complete HBO Season 1 [DVD] [2002] [2005]
Dvd ~ Dominic West
Price: 14.84

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius, 2 Jun 2007
The Wire is television near its very best. With traditional crime dramas increasingly stale it is great to see a show such as this. Detailing the intricacies of a long term case, dealing with interference and institutional mayhem this takes a while to get going but becomes almost hypnotic. Further seasons get even more complex, with wider scope, so if you weren't convinced by this season don't bother with later ones. But if you love intelligent writing and complex developments this is the show for you.

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