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G. Thomas (Canterbury UK)

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The Impossible [Blu-ray] [2013]
The Impossible [Blu-ray] [2013]
Dvd ~ Naomi Watts
Price: £3.08

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A wasted opportunity, 17 Aug. 2013
Concerning the dreadful events of 26/12/2004 I'm sure there is an important film to be made one day but this certainly isn't it.

Be warned I will now *SPOIL* what scant plot there actually is.

The technical side of this movie is pretty flawless but is also creatively pedestrian. There are good performances but also one that's quite annoying.
The family arriving in Thailand and subsequently being caught up in possibly the worst natural disaster of our time is handled effectively.
The immediate aftermath is where the film starts to sag and its tight focus on just the one family robbed me of any sympathy I had for their plight. Basically they all survive and we know that from quite early on. Having removed every last drop of tension the film-makers then offer us a series of searching-family near-misses that quickly becomes annoying.
Now I know it's a true story and maybe this is exactly how it happened but as a film it just becomes tedious and remarkably trite. Whenever there is a break in the hide-n-seek action they crowbar in deliberately mawkish encounters where people look shell shocked, "share", achieve "closure" and cry while hugging children or each other.
I find that Fabrice du Welz's film "Vinyan" explores the issue of loss from the Tsunami far more effectively than "The Impossible" and it's hamfisted story telling.

There is also a much wider issue.
All these people are western/white tourists. The plight of the locals (whilst occasionally visibly evident) is never really touched upon. To add insult to injury the real family portrayed by McGregor, Watts and co were actually Hispanic.

The final scenes of the family flying over the devastated landscape in their pristine medical-insurance funded hospital plane heading for a "proper" hospital in Singapore is just the final insult.

I sense the clumsy hand of studios trying to appeal to a preferred demographic rather than explore the near unimaginable tragedy of those who did actually lose something other than their suitcases.

Philips O'Neill SHO9554/10 Specked In-Ear Headphones
Philips O'Neill SHO9554/10 Specked In-Ear Headphones
Offered by Megga Distribution
Price: £39.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Great initially but..........., 19 May 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was initially very pleased with these headphones. They were a major improvement over my old ones especially with the much deeper bass tones and the tangle-free cord.
If I'd had to pick on one thing I didn't like it would have been the slightly garish colour scheme but I couldn't honestly mark them down for that because I was testing them for free.
The "feather" fittings for the ear canals were very comfortable and the inclusion of larger and smaller fittings is a great idea.
So far so good......

......but I have been using these for a couple of months now and an age old issue has reared it's ugly head. I am hardly a vigourous, sporty or rough user and (no word of a lie) not having treated them badly or carelessly I still find that the jack and specifically connecting collar have started to fail. Let me explain....
..previously all my headphones with non-flexible rigid jack-collar have failed the same way. Audio connection to the socket becomes intermittent and at times fails completely so when I plug in the headphones and switch on my musical device the sound still plays from device's external speakers. I can only put this down to the design of the "collar" because it has never happened with more flexible ones.
So sadly I'm back to using my old earphones with a lesser sound quality but much greater resilience.
A real shame because these O'Neill ones started so well :(

Monsters [Blu-ray]
Monsters [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Whitney Able
Offered by HarriBella.UK.Ltd
Price: £4.25

8 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Multi-stranded, subtle and mature, 9 April 2011
This review is from: Monsters [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Inevitably any film which makes us look at our own preconception of the word "monster" is also going to fall foul of negative opinions from those who judge a book, or in this case a DVD/Blu-ray, by it's cover. Sadly the promotion of this tender and melancholy movie has been slightly misguided. The presentation of the trailer definately suggests "action movie" as do the (deliberately) misleading quotes on the cases.
Rest assured this in fact a great movie for grown-ups but certainly isn't an action movie about America saving the world from killer alien monsters.......(although this is more relevent than it first appears)
Multi-stranded and subtle with much food for thought this is a film about the nature of things as they actually are and how they are mistakenly perceived. It's about American foreign policy, immigration, alienation (!) and ultimately loneliness.

The film is visually and aurally beautiful with two very good, improvised, lead performances and a great maturity beyond it's apparent subject matter.

Frommer's London Free and Dirt Cheap (Frommer′s Free & Dirt Cheap)
Frommer's London Free and Dirt Cheap (Frommer′s Free & Dirt Cheap)
by Joe Fullman
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic little book, 24 July 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've taken some time out and followed quite a bit of the advice in this book to see if it's accurate and/or current.
Everything I've tried has turned out to be as written. If the book says free then it was free and if the book said dirt cheap then it certainly turned out to be so.
This book covers everything from shopping, keeping a roof over your head, eating, partying and soaking up culture to finding quiet spaces for relaxation or even learning a martial art. Practically nothing is left out and I was truly surprised at the breadth of coverage within some of the categories.
Not only is this book helpful from a financial point of view but I found it to be very informative and practical whilst navigating around London because it also cancels any need to purchase maps or guidebooks.

It's also a fascinating read between expeditions.

Red Dead Redemption Limited Edition (PS3)
Red Dead Redemption Limited Edition (PS3)

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Once upon a time in the west", 23 May 2010
If you entertain a pathological dislike of westerns then this game may not be for you but if like me you grew up on a diet of films like "Once Upon A Time In The West" "The Searchers", "Stagecoach", "Big Country", "The Magnificent Seven", "Rio Bravo", "True Grit", "The Sons of Katie Elder" and many, many others; you're going to love "Red Dead Redemption" with a passion.

So Rockstar has finally made the break from setting GTA in the same environments and given us a Western sandbox to play with. I would suggest that it was entirely the right decision. Let me just say now that there is far too much in this game to even begin to cover it all in one short review.

As wonderous as Liberty City became during it's last outing the world of Red Dead Redemption is so very much better. There is a breadth, scale and life to Western Border States that delights with each new discovery. Gone are the purely abusive passers-by and what replaces them are characters who all seem to serve a purpose other than pavement skittles. The level of detail is almost fanatical in it's love of the Western mythology. The towns and small settlements ooze authenticity from the layout and architecture to the town drunk, ineffectual marshal, snake oil salesman, bar-room girl and self-righteous bible-basher. Every western film cliche is here and you're only too glad to see them.

As the stranger-on-a-mission you enter this world and thankfully find yourself taken in by friendly ranchers who through a series of small missions teach you all you need to know about the game world (riding, shooting, roping etc) The characters are well acted, believable and likeable where appropriate which is a welcome improvement on the usual line-up of GTA freaks. Moral ambiguity isn't really an issue for you but you can still take the less honourable path through various misdeeds but be prepared to face the consequences when the inevitable posse comes after you.

By this stage you will probably have accessed the "Limited Edition" content via a simple code entry system. You get the "golden guns" "warhorse" and "deadly assassin's" outfit. The outfit (which has advantageous properties) is provided in the form in a "unique" quest which you must undertake to unlock it. Some have complained about it not being immediately available to wear but I like the fact you have to work for it...more gameplay and a reward can surely only be win-win.
The "Golden Guns", that give more fame per kill, are negligible in their usefulness but the "Warhorse" is a visually distinctive and very fast mount which can be re-summoned via a "deed of ownership" if you happen to carelessly get it killed like I did...twice in one day!

edit: I feel I must add that due to a bug in the game some people have not been able to claim their "Deadly Assassin Outfit". While you could possibly claim that this is a disgrace and an outrage because as a purchaser of the special edition you are due this outfit I would suggest that not having access to it is hardly going to ruin or even spoil your enjoyment of the game (and also Rockstar are working on a fix a.s.a.p).

From here on the game world opens out into a totally epic experience. The first time I jumped from horseback onto a moving train and then rode atop it taking in the achingly beautiful countryside made me come out in goosebumps. The landscape is utterly gorgeous and yet totally familiar at the same time. Buttes, mesas, canyons, forests, cacti filled scrubland and cattle pastures are transplanted wholesale from every western you've ever seen. Sometimes I will catch myself letting John Marston just stand as I soak up the game's atmosphere. The sound of impatient hooves on dry earth and water burbling somewhere nearby interrupted by the cries of coyotes and maybe sporadic gunfire way off in the distance as the sun sets spectacularly behind the trees casting a radiant pattern of blinding light slivers that dapple the ground all around me. Then I snap back to reality as a grizzly bear chases off my horse and smashes me to the ground with one almighty swipe of it's paw.

There is an ever present and bustling ecosystem which you will no doubt butcher and uproot to your heart's content to bolster your finances and also fulfil a series of minor wilderness challenges. Alternatively you can complete missions, rob banks, passers-by or corpses, bounty hunt, play cards, dice and horseshoes or help out various strangers in random encounters. It all has the GTA formula but there is just so much more to do here. One of the many trophies on offer is for knocking someone out during fist-fights in every saloon. You just walk up behind someone and shove them with both hands...that usually kicks things off.

Obviously we have the gunplay to consider and it's basically an improved version of the GTAIV mechanic but with the trademark Red Dead "Dead Eye" mode. For those who haven't played Red Dead Revolver; you basically enter a sort of bullet-time effect and hurriedly target all your shots before real time reactivates and your hail of lead is spread accordingly. There are diffrent levels of this feature which unlock as you play. Initially you'll find the L2 auto target and one or two shots quite sufficient. The starting guns can be replaced by bigger and better models as the local store gets a larger stock, or alternatively you can sometimes find them after completing ghostown/gang hideout challenges.

I can take or leave multiplayer to be honest. I get bored of just killing and re-killing the same people but the free roam posse option could be interesting.....time will tell. The single player is so good that I really can't see myself spending much game time away from it.

A special mention should go to the horses in this game. All the animals are well done but the love that has been poured into creating the horses is obvious. The animation, sound- effects and small behaviours are an absolute triumph.

So the "Limited Edition"..worth buying?.
If you can buy it at a reasonable price then it probably is...but only just. If you plump for the normal version instead you'll find it's still so much fun and so thoroughly engrossing that you won't actually feel as though you're missing out on anything.

My Best Friend Is You
My Best Friend Is You

20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What Katie did next, 19 April 2010
This review is from: My Best Friend Is You (Audio CD)
Everything I loved about "Made of Bricks" is still present in "My Best Friend Is You" but crucially some new elements have been added. Kate now does "dark" and occasionally she does "rage".....it took me totally by surprise.
To be honest that's simplifying matters a little but for me the "rage" is certainly (initially) the most arresting thing about this album. The songs here are definitely far more mature with much fuller production (courtesy of the great Bernard Butler no less) but they now exhibit a distinct edginess which thankfully never strays into the overwrought.

The whimsical has been almost replaced by a brooding anger and disappointment but Kate Nash still has a wickedly humourous and very pertinent way of expressing herself.
Don't get me wrong, this is still a very positive album which delivers Kate Nash's unique interpretation of the world around her and I absolutely love every moment of it.

I'm sure that this album won't convert those who already seem to loathe Ms Nash with such unreasonable hatred but I think it totally delivers on the promise of her first release and shows what a true talent she actually is.

Head First
Head First
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £5.08

62 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some kind of wonderful, 22 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Head First (Audio CD)
When I first heard the single "Rocket" I was horrified. It was played one afternoon while I was at work. "Rocket" came on the radio and I immediately accused a colleague of changing the channel from 6Music to Radio2. As I listened further I began to recognise the voice but didn't want to believe that it was actually Goldfrapp. My mind filled with images of Van Halen's "Jump", Starship and other equally big-haired US west-coast MOR acts who blighted my formative years.

Investigating further I discovered that the whole album was a trip back to many different sounds from the 80s and suddenly "Rocket" was in context and my previous shortsightedness melted away. Even though it happens to me every time they release a new album I had fallen into the same old trap which seems to define my relationship with the music of Goldfrapp. I realise this is part of their appeal and I do know they change their sound every album but I seemingly just need to be wrong-footed every time in order to appreciate it.

Any personal prejudice I may have about (some of) that 80's sound is totally irrelevant because Goldfrapp make it their own. I can almost understand why some may initially dismiss this album as lightweight or lazy but remember this is Goldfrapp and they just don't do lazy. I think the confusion arises because they manage to make it all sound so effortless which, somewhat ironically, actually takes a lot of hard work and talent to achieve.
Listen again and listen with an open mind. The tracks on "Head First" may be fizzy 80's pop on the surface but they are also typically warm and lush and slightly unusual in that singular and distinctive way that Goldfrapp do so well. Apart from the obvious musical similarities like Abba and Olivia Newton-John I also hear Depeche Mode, Laurie Anderson, OMD, Japan and other acts that I loved.....

....and there you have it.....

Another wildly eclectic album from Goldfrapp which stretches my mind-music-muscle into new exciting shapes and takes me places I never thought I wanted to go, whereupon I find it's actually somewhere pretty wonderful.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 11, 2014 7:03 AM BST

Apple iPod touch 32GB (Launched Sept 2009)
Apple iPod touch 32GB (Launched Sept 2009)

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A recent convert, 10 Mar. 2010
I've always been a bit of an Apple curmudgeon and for years I have bought and replaced all my "generic" music players from Creative Labs for a number of sound (!) reasons. My 30G Zen Vision had begun to look a little ragged around the edges and was becoming slightly temperamental so in a fantastically callous piece of compulsive consumerism I decided to replace it. I checked online for the new Zen model and horror of horrors it had lukewarm reviews; not just from the usual anti's and fanboys but other longtime users.

So I went for the player that fared best review-wise and now I am the proud but slightly sheepish owner of a third generation iPod touch.

It is a very sexy item and I am strangely drawn to holding and touching it even when it's off......but the less disturbing positive attributes are almost too numerous to mention.
Easy use of iTunes is obviously a huge bonus, no more buying, burning, converting and synching for me. The ease of use and the whole interconnectivity thing drew the occasional jealous glance before when I couldn't use it properly. Now I just had to hold back from an obscene spending spree. (I also bought a Klipsch iGroove iPod Speaker System Black compatible with 3rd Gen Touch and 5th Gen Nano which is tremendous).

The menu system has taken a couple of days to get used to but is now quick and instinctive. I'm loving the apps..the more foolish the better and watching old 50's Sci-Fi B movies on the train is a joy.
Battery life seems very impressive especially if I just stick to music and, surprisingly, movies (it's the apps what saps!). The wi-fi options, whilst many and wonderous, aren't really a priority of mine. I mostly listen to music, play games, watch films and store photos all of which the "touch" does spectacularly well.
Overall this a beautifully made piece of technology which I shall no doubt explore and utilise to a greater extent as time goes on.

Negative points?....yes the bundled earphones are appalling (the rumours were true) and there is a slight but noticeable reduction in sound quality (especially bass and volume) compared to the Zen but I've let the many positives squash dissention although they are the reason for knocking off half a star but that can't be shown so the laws of mathematics insist that I round up instead of down.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 16, 2010 4:39 PM GMT

No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars Don't hesitate..., 18 Feb. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
So what can I say about this cable that hasn't already been stated in other reviews?
To be quite honest the answer is nothing at all.

It is certainly competitively placed within the market when I consider the almost criminally huge price I once paid for an HDMI cable from a certain (regularly overpriced) high street retailer back in the early days of HD viewing. Miraculously use of this cable has also seemed to improve the picture "depth" when viewing certain Blu-rays and/or playing games. I guess it's possibly all just a sign of technology moving forward but that still doesn't excuse the aforementioned profiteering which continues to this day.

As for the packaging....well it certainly is a recycler's dream come true but also does seem somewhat oversized for the cable itself.

Overall this is a high quality product which may even improve your current picture but at the very least is still a good old fashioned bargain.

Bayonetta (PS3)
Bayonetta (PS3)

39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathless, 8 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Bayonetta (PS3) (Video Game)
I am currently having a rest from what can only be described as sensory overload. This is sincerely the most intense and at the same time absolutely bonkers gaming experience I've had in all the years since videogaming itself began back in my distant youth. There's no slow invitational build-up here; Bayonetta just grabs you by your short and curlies and insists.
Plot you say?
What's the point when you have witches, Heaven vs Hell, huge mutant angels with babies heads or two headed dragon/angels with upside down heads for bodies.
"Bullet Climax"?... you bet.
A suit made out of hair that unravels into a giant boot, a hand for picking up and throwing cars or even a huge serpent that eats major enemies?... of course.
Sega's groan-inducing in-jokes and cutting off angel's heads in guillotines or sending them to hell kicked into an iron maiden?...just all in another day's work for this game.
These are just a few of the delights experienced within my first few breathless hours of play. Next thing I know I'm running up waterfalls in heaven (Paradiso) and stealing an enormous egg-timer. The pace never really lets up until you die.
(3 cheers for prompt delivery in this severely inclement weather too)

Certainly it is reminiscent of other well-known games that I won't mention here but take my word for it, within the first few hours of play Bayonetta has already surpassed them all. It's time to take off those training wheels and play with the grown-ups.
Fast and intuitive combat mixed with a superbly ecclectic soundtrack and some ridiculous "stupid big smile" moments. I know I haven't got far but I do know when I'm gobsmacked by something and Bayonetta finds me rocking back and forth mumbling in the prescence of true gaming greatness. The cutscenes initially appear to be the work of a lunatic mind but do link the segments together well enough so you can get on with enjoying yet more of the sublimely engineered combat. Rest assured the story does make sense but you'll only pull all the threads together towards the end of the game.

The animation of Bayonetta herself is so characterful and so over the top that she puts all other generic game leads to shame. In between acrobatics she struts around like she means it and her measured, disdainful English accent only serves to enhance the appeal.
There are a few rudimentary puzzles, a bit of "item/ring collection" and some very useful "Alchemy" which will no doubt bolster your offensive and defensive capabilities later on. Visit "The Gates of Hell" a cheesy cocktail bar on the edge of Hell where you can buy new items or fighting techniques. Replayability is looking good with scaling awards for each level completed and the usual host of unlockables and trophies to earn. There is more that I could add but I wouldn't want to spoil the joy of discovery for anyone else.

edit: Still playing Bayonetta over a month later and the addiction level is still fierce. The sense of achievement and actually becoming better is beautifully paced with what once seemed near-impossible now being a walk in the park. Don't let that fool you though; Bayonetta continues to ramp up the difficulty with "Hard" and then "Infinite Climax" mode. The latter becomes a war of attrition between you, your joypad and the joints of your fingers. This is not just a case of more hit-points per enemy but more enemies and the later-harder-enemies actually replacing earlier easier ones and they all move about three times as fast. Bosses have new moves and are less forgiving but worst of all there is NO WITCHTIME when you dodge so thank goodness for the "Dodge-Offset" move. I'm still trying to get platinum trophies, all umbran tears and unlock all weapons until I can face the ultimate unlockable enemy...Rodin..and I'm still enjoying it all immensely.

I had heard grumbles about the conversion for PS3 but seriously I have no complaints at all. Something this good shouldn't be compared to other versions; it should just be enjoyed.

As Bayonetta herself says "I've got a fever and the only cure is more dead angels"
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 8, 2010 9:41 AM GMT

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