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Chris White (United Kingdom)

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Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag (PS4)
Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag (PS4)
Offered by Shop4World
Price: £24.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here be treasure!, 20 Jun. 2014
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
The sixth game in the solid-but-slightly-stale Assassin's Creed franchise represents a definite return to form. All the familiar elements are present but the ocean-going dynamic and a lighter tone allow it to chart fresh new territory. For this one, Ubisoft has thrown so much at it that you're never at a loss for something to do. My completion is now at 100% - after over 100 hours of gameplay that took longer than three months. I call that superb value for money.

Admittedly it takes several story missions for Edward Kenway (father of AC III's Haytham) to find his sea legs but once he acquires his trusty ship, the Jackdaw, he has a vast open world to explore. In these sandbox-type games, I'm more drawn to the side missions and collectibles as they offer a lot more variation than the main narrative. If Black Flag falls down anywhere, it's with the seen-it-all-before-just-get-on-with-it type stuff: tailing, eavesdropping and instant failure upon detection. Fortunately, such moments aren't that frequent in the grand scheme of things (but there are one or two that'll drive you to distraction before you get them right). The 100% synch 'optional objective' has now become part of the furniture and although I detest having limitations on how I play the game, I will concede that they do add an extra layer of challenge. Let's face it, they're hardly 'optional' if you want to complete the experience.

The Jackdaw is almost a secondary character and you'll need to upgrade her as much as possible to take on bigger ships and forts later in the game. There are some 50 islands to explore, three major locations, underwater wrecks, four Legendary Ships (of which at least a couple are insanely difficult), hunting and harpooning, as well as numerous assassination and naval missions. In addition to the usual 'quest' components (synchronising viewpoints, collecting treasure chests, animus fragments, etc.) there are also 22 buried chests, a map being needed for each. If, after having done all this, you're hungry for more, then visit the AC Initiates website for extra challenges.

This was my first PS4 game and the graphics look absolutely gorgeous, particularly the Pixar-style shimmering oceans and lagoons. Sometimes, having synchronised a viewpoint, you just want to do a 360-degree pan to take it all in. There's a lot of attention to historical detail and the mostly British cast lend authentic accents and performance capture to the principal characters.

By taking note of what makes AC tick and keeping the annoyances to a minimum, Ubisoft has produced an exceptionally enjoyable game and given the series the shot in the arm it needed. Also, by inviting players to rate each mission upon completion, it's clear that their opinions are taken seriously and this bodes well for the forthcoming, French Revolution-set Assassin's Creed: Unity.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 30, 2014 12:27 PM BST


Frozen [Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Frozen [Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Price: £19.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disney by numbers, 20 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Art and commerce can be uneasy bedfellows and never more so than at Disney, whose desire to merchandise sometimes comes at the expense of quality. Although certainly not in Frozen's target demographic, I've always had an interest in animation and have kept an eye on the studio's product over the years.

I have to admit that I find it disappointing that such a bland entry into the canon has attracted so much acclaim. Is this now the benchmark for an exceptional Disney movie? It becomes quite obvious when watching Frozen that the whole experience has been designed by a committee of corporate box-tickers, whose aim is to maximise as many of the company's revenue streams as possible. New Disney Princess? Check. Cute comedy sidekick with spin-off potential? Yep. Plenty of songs so we can get it on Broadway? You got it.

The story (inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen) and its execution are inoffensive enough and there are many worse ways to pass the time. However, musicals are such an acquired taste that if you're going to have characters breaking into song every couple of scenes or so, then those songs must be pretty darned good. Here is Frozen's biggest sin and the absence of the late Howard Ashman is felt keenly. It was Ashman who - as lyricist together with composer Alan Menken - oversaw Disney's last 'golden age': The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. Each of those films features a standout musical number that has endured: respectively "Under the Sea", "Be Our Guest" and "Friend Like Me".

Frozen's songwriting duo, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, don't seem to grasp that for a song to be memorable, it has to have a catchy melody and a clever, multi-syllabic rhyming scheme that continues the narrative. Alas, all too frequently, the characters just 'sing the script' in an arbitrary chord sequence with no attempt being made to turn each composition into something special.

Of course, the computer animation is top-notch and the Blu-ray looks stunning. The extras are scant and don't really add much. Although I did get the 3D version, a friend demanded a 2D viewing first and by the time it had finished we both agreed that once was enough.

To those of you who enjoyed it, then I completely respect your opinion but to my mind, Disney is capable of a lot better. The studio must question whether its purpose is to make money as a result of its films or instead to provide first-class entertainment that will lead naturally to financial reward.


Philomena [Blu-ray]
Philomena [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Judi Dench
Price: £8.80

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Extremely moving and unexpectedly funny, 30 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Philomena [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I knew nothing of Philomena's remarkable story before watching this film and it enhanced my enjoyment of it enormously. Even if you had read Martin Sixmith's book (upon which it is based but with a little artistic licence) I don't think you'd have expected such a chemistry between its two stars.

Philomena Lee's baby son (born out of wedlock in 1952) is taken from her by Irish nuns and sold to American adoptive parents. Fifty years later, having kept it a secret from her family, she decides to try and trace him. Meanwhile, Martin Sixmith is dealing with losing his job as a government advisor under unfortunate circumstances. She wants to find her son; he needs a compelling story.

The pair make an unlikely couple, and the ever-brilliant Judi Dench and her co-star, Steve Coogan (who also produced the film and co-wrote the screenplay), judge each scene to perfection. I didn't expect to find it as funny as I did, given its emotional subject matter, but Coogan largely plays it straight with much of the humour occurring naturally because of the characters' differing backgounds - she being religious and he an atheist. Coogan also uses the opportunity to take the occasional broadside against both the Catholic Church and the journalistic profession, having been on the receiving end of some of the latter's more intrusive practices in real life.

The Blu-ray picture is pleasing with a slight layer of grain being added for certain flashback sequences - apparently because these were shot on 16mm film as opposed to the digital format used for the rest. Bonus features comprise a commentary by Steve Coogan and his co-writer, Jeff Pope, and several featurettes, with the most interesting being a lengthy Q&A with Coogan that followed a US screening. (Note that in order to access the commentary, you have to go to 'set up/audio' on the menu because it doesn't appear as an option with the other material.)

I thoroughly recommend this film. The tale it tells is an absorbing one and is nowhere near finished when you think it is. Not just that, it's also the witty dialogue and accomplished, moving performances that lift it above a run-of-the-mill drama.


Gravity - Limited Edition Steelbook [Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray] [2014] [Region Free]
Gravity - Limited Edition Steelbook [Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray] [2014] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ George Clooney
Price: £24.99

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Takes 3D to the next level, 5 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Gravity has joined that select band of films that truly show you what 3D can do when used properly. The stunning vista of Earth from space provides a spectacular backdrop to this tale of a shuttle mission suffering catastrophic failure and one woman's determination to survive its aftermath.

The whole movie is effectively a two-hander between Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, respectively playing mission specialist and commander. The pair provide the humanity during a taut ninety minutes that could so easily have been overwhelmed by visual effects.

Alfonso Cuarón has crafted a suspenseful, compelling story and made it even more immersive by using sound and imagery to put the viewer right in the moment. He is one of a few talented directors, such as Ang Lee and James Cameron, whose meticulous visual flair is complemented by shooting in the third dimension. It's not spoiling much to say that - as if the jaw-dropping scenery isn't enough - the opening shot is an ambitious, continuous camera move that lasts several minutes.

The Blu-ray's sound and picture are, of course, both state-of-the-art and bonus features include a comprehensive set of featurettes on the film's making.

Since Avatar in 2009, 3D has had a bumpy ride in cinemas. The premium on tickets has left many wondering if the extra expense is really worth it, with some directors either eschewing the format completely (Christopher Nolan) or reluctantly accepting it after studio pressure (Guillermo del Toro). However, like Life of Pi before it, the mesmerising look of Gravity in 3D lifts an already good film to another level entirely. It's a magnificent artistic and technical achievement.


Breaking Bad: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]
Breaking Bad: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Bryan Cranston
Price: £55.00

106 of 116 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For every action..., 1 Mar. 2014
I've just watched the 62nd and final episode of Breaking Bad and here, without any major spoilers, is why you should begin the same breathtaking journey.

The series is an action-drama that centres on Walter White. He's a 50-year-old respected chemistry teacher, just about keeping his family afloat with the aid of a second job at a car wash, who one day is given a diagnosis of terminal cancer. With a wife, son (who has cerebral palsy) and soon-to-be-born baby to care for, not to mention his considerable medical expenses, he needs money - and fast.

Walt takes the fateful step of combining his perfectionist chemical know-how with one of his more street-savvy former students, Jesse Pinkman, to 'cook' and supply the highest quality crystal meth that their area has seen. He discovers that once on this path, although there are many detours, it's very difficult to go back. Walt's relationships with his family and friends (including his DEA agent brother-in-law) are suddenly beset with problems, and he frequently relies on resourcefulness, ingenuity and serendipity to both keep his illicit activities from them and play the criminal fraternity at its own game.

So why does the series enjoy so much acclaim? It comes down to a brilliant original idea from Vince Gilligan, working closely with a talented writing team who, over the course of five seasons, hammer out every single plot point and use all the narrative devices in the book to tell an utterly compelling story of one man's embarkation on a hazardous voyage. Not just that, it has the magical combination of a first-rate ensemble cast (Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul play Walt and Jesse respectively), innovative hand-held camerawork (beautiful timelapse establishing shots; out of kilter POV moments) and excellent characterisation.

Because Sony was taking a tentative punt on the series and it coincided with a writers' strike, the episodes in the first batch are few in number (just seven). However, each of the next three seasons comprises thirteen instalments and season five is split into two runs of eight apiece. The low episode count for season one works to its advantage as it allows plenty of time to set the scene and introduce characters while still telling a blackly comedic tale, which leads directly into the series proper, if you like.

This is a programme you'll want to stick with. It continually raises the stakes as it goes on and, come the final episodes, you'll be bingeing on it. Breaking Bad is, quite simply, one of the finest examples of television art. There are many British shows that could learn from it.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 5, 2014 6:38 PM GMT


Breaking Bad - Season 1 (Blu-ray + UV Copy)
Breaking Bad - Season 1 (Blu-ray + UV Copy)
Dvd ~ Bryan Cranston
Price: £13.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For every action..., 20 Feb. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I've just watched the 62nd and final episode of Breaking Bad and here, without any major spoilers, is why you should begin the same breathtaking journey.

The series is an action-drama that centres on Walter White. He's a 50-year-old respected chemistry teacher, just about keeping his family afloat with the aid of a second job at a car wash, who one day is given a diagnosis of terminal cancer. With a wife, son (who has cerebral palsy) and soon-to-be-born baby to care for, not to mention his considerable medical expenses, he needs money - and fast.

Walt takes the fateful step of combining his perfectionist chemical know-how with one of his more street-savvy former students, Jesse Pinkman, to 'cook' and supply the highest quality crystal meth that their area has seen. He discovers that once on this path, although there are many detours, it's very difficult to go back. Walt's relationships with his family and friends (including his DEA agent brother-in-law) are suddenly beset with problems, and he frequently relies on resourcefulness, ingenuity and serendipity to both keep his illicit activities from them and play the criminal fraternity at its own game.

So why does the series enjoy so much acclaim? It comes down to a brilliant original idea from Vince Gilligan, working closely with a talented writing team who, over the course of five seasons, hammer out every single plot point and use all the narrative devices in the book to tell an utterly compelling story of one man's embarkation on a hazardous voyage. Not just that, it has the magical combination of a first-rate ensemble cast (Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul play Walt and Jesse respectively), innovative hand-held camerawork (beautiful timelapse establishing shots; out of kilter POV moments) and excellent characterisation.

Because Sony was taking a tentative punt on the series and it coincided with a writers' strike, the episodes in the first batch are few in number (just seven). However, each of the next three seasons comprises thirteen instalments and season five is split into two runs of eight apiece. The low episode count for season one works to its advantage as it allows plenty of time to set the scene and introduce characters while still telling a blackly comedic tale, which leads directly into the series proper, if you like.

This is a programme you'll want to stick with. It continually raises the stakes as it goes on and, come the final episodes, you'll be bingeing on it. Breaking Bad is, quite simply, one of the finest examples of television art. There are many British shows that could learn from it.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 21, 2014 7:07 PM GMT


The Lone Ranger (Blu-ray)
The Lone Ranger (Blu-ray)
Dvd ~ Johnny Depp
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £9.21

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If it's good enough for Tarantino..., 10 Dec. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
When the US critics sniffed trouble at Disney over The Lone Ranger's budget, knives were gleefully sharpened. Did they ever consider that all that money might have been spent on something worth watching? Did they even see it?

Over here, reviews were more positive. Even notorious curmudgeon Mark Kermode grudgingly conceded that he'd found it more enjoyable than the same team's Pirates franchise. Then came word of mouth: a couple of friends saw it separately and they were both unequivocal in their recommendation.

Yes, The Lone Ranger is your standard expensive summer blockbuster - but easily the most entertaining that 2013 has to offer. The plot is cohesive, the cinematography is breathtaking and the two leads, Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp, demonstrate an assured command of action, comedy and pathos.

For the younger generation who are perhaps unfamiliar with the characters, the story concerns John Reid, an idealistic lawyer in the Old West, who questions his abhorrence of violence when murder is visited upon his family. He is aided in his quest for justice by Tonto, an eccentric Comanche Indian who has his own reasons for vengeance.

The film does have a long running time but not once did I glance at my watch. Director Gore Verbinski paces the narrative well, with periodic action beats being imaginatively executed and never outstaying their welcome. The sequences represent a triumph of old-school movie-making; the stunt performers in the end credits almost outnumber the digital artists.

It would be a bit spoiler-ish to discuss the incredible finale: absolutely the 'icing on the cake'. Suffice to say, it's the most grin-inducing moment, largely because of Geoff Zanelli's rousing new arrangement of the William Tell Overture, which segues so smoothly to Hans Zimmer's score and back again that you'd think it was Rossini's original composition all along.

Every so often those who watch movies for a living say some bizarre things. Others have speculated that the story holds up a mirror to early American history that was simply too uncomfortable for them to stomach, and they saw it as their duty to warn people away. Well, if so, they were wrong.

Quentin Tarantino named The Lone Ranger as one of his ten best of the year. For what it's worth, so do I.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 10, 2013 8:04 AM GMT


Man of Steel - Limited Edition Steelbook [Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free]
Man of Steel - Limited Edition Steelbook [Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Diane Lane
Offered by RUGELEY GAMES
Price: £19.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't mention the S-word, 7 Dec. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
After Christopher Nolan's successful reinvention of Batman, Warner Bros (which owns the rights to the DC Comics characters) had been struggling to similarly re-energise its Superman franchise. The first two Christopher Reeve films cast long shadows and Bryan Singer's Superman Returns, though earnest in its intent, elected to remain firmly under them - and to its detriment. Now, with Nolan again on board as producer and co-writer, the character is back.

The problem with Superman (as any writer will tell you) is that because there's virtually no situation he can't handle, the possibilities for dramatic conflict are limited. Therefore this retelling of his origins essentially combines elements of the Richard Donner/Richard Lester movies and concentrates on Kal-El's Kryptonian heritage. Almost as if the 'S' moniker is an embarrassment, it's used sparingly to reinforce our hero's alien credentials.

By removing the 'mild-mannered reporter' alter ego from the narrative, it allows for a lot more action (sometimes too much). Indeed, the coda to an already frenetic third act seems merely to serve as a kick-start to Metropolis' construction industry. At times it veers dangerously close to Transformers territory but director Zack Snyder proves himself adept at handling anything the script throws at him. However, just because visual effects have advanced to the state where the camera can move anywhere, it doesn't mean it should. Snyder's signature 'dart-zoom' movement becomes tiresome by the end and there are moments when you wish he'd stop the fidgeting and use a steadicam.

For all that, this remains an enjoyable experience. The production design is innovative and spectacular; the cast are well-suited to their roles. Han's Zimmer's thematic score owes more to John Williams' iconic motifs than he would care to admit (as one or two online mash-ups have proven). The 3D conversion, while containing nothing egregious, doesn't really add much and only comes alive here and there. Bonus features comprise a pair of documentaries and a featurette.

By staying true to the source material and at the same time injecting the film with a modern blockbuster sensibility, the makers of Man of Steel have enabled him to take flight once more.


SKS P45 Chromoplastic Bicycle Fender Set (700c x 28-37 Tires, Black)
SKS P45 Chromoplastic Bicycle Fender Set (700c x 28-37 Tires, Black)
Price: £26.92

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Patience needed but worth the effort, 9 Nov. 2013
It's best to set aside half a day and carry out the installation methodically. Bike upside-down, both wheels off. It can be a finicky job so keep a level head and take your time!

The fitting instructions are quite basic and I found myself referring to a useful YouTube video as I went along. There are more fittings included than you actually need; that said, as an absolute necessity your bike needs mounting holes on the saddle-stay crosstube, at the bottom of the seat tube and at the top of the front fork. Along with the stay mount holes at either end of the frame, these should all be pretty standard.

It's easier if you mount the stay caps beforehand. The stays must be inserted into these via small holed bolts, which can be difficult to hold in position until loosely secured (at first) with the proper nuts. Once you're happy that the bike wheels turn freely with a roughly equal gap each side, tighten them up. The main fender frame mounts also have some up-and-down adjustment.

My tyres are 700 x 40 so I bought the P50 size. I found the rear fender to be a good fit with only minor tweaking needed to the stay screws to get it to sit symmetrically. It comes with a rear reflector so there was no need to reattach my old one to the saddle-stay crosstube.

The front one, however, caused problems. Once in situ, the foremost edge was fouling the tyre quite considerably. The only way I could fix this was to hacksaw approximately 3 cm off the end of each stay rod and this gave a much better fit.

They do look smart once installed and do exactly what they're designed for. A worthwhile purchase if you're prepared for a bit of trial and error during fitment.


Cloud Atlas [Blu-ray + UV Copy] [Region Free]
Cloud Atlas [Blu-ray + UV Copy] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Tom Hanks
Offered by direct-2-u
Price: £9.97

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "A better world... and I'll be waiting for you there.", 3 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I became aware of this film because of an impressive extended trailer, whose latter half was exceptionally well-edited to the accompaniment of M83's "Outro".

Cloud Atlas deals with bold themes, exploring how actions in the past affect the future and toys with the notions of reincarnation, karma and déjà vu. The deft cutting therefore continues within the movie itself, seamlessly transitioning back and forth between six neatly-woven stories set in different time periods and genres but which are somehow connected.

The viewer is warned to pay attention right from the off: each narrative strand gets its own cold open. The pacing then develops into a rhythm that gradually pays off as certain story elements begin to coalesce. With a near-three-hour running time it's a challenging experience but the three directors (the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer) have ensured that it remains an entertaining one.

Each of the principal cast plays multiple roles, switching age, race and even gender with consummate ease. Most of the make-up used to achieve this is effective; in a couple of cases it's unfortunately less so. However, when you watch the montage during the end credits you'll be genuinely surprised at not recognising one or two of the performers. As their 'main' characters, Ben Whishaw and Jim Broadbent are especially good.

The Blu-ray features a great transfer and a soundtrack that really comes into its own during the futuristic Neo Seoul sequences. The cinematography and music also deserve a mention. Bonus features comprise seven informative featurettes that amount to a 55-minute documentary when played together.

It's not perfect but nonetheless brilliantly ambitious. You'll never see another film like it and will probably want a second viewing.


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