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Mr. James Dickson (Sheffield, England)
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Lonely Planet Best of New Zealand (Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet Best of New Zealand (Travel Guide)
by Lonely Planet
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great guide for short and long tours of New Zealand, 23 July 2017
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Spent two months travelling New Zealand by campervan and coach, through cities and remote rural regions in North and South Island, all of which would have been much harder without this book. Practical and informative, it was indispensable while planning the tour as well as for reference and inspiration throughout. It offers the usual up to date quality advice and information for which lonelyplanet are known, in a concise and portable format, perfect for short or long semi-planned trips (unlike the comprehensive Australia guide which is really only useful for preparation before departure given its unwieldy size and weight, or just to hack apart and pack the relevant chapters).

I don't mind that this isn't a comprehensive guide, and enjoy the fact that it features concise info of the best bits and points you in the right direction for more (websites, apps etc) if desired. Camping NZ being one of the foremost recommended apps (handy even if you arent camping) for info on walks and activities, supermarkets, petrol stations, free Wifi and for offline maps.

If you have something specific in mind then maybe get a comprehensive or tailored guide book for your particular interest. If you want some inspiration, ideas, and general information for a broad tour of the country then I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Additionally, if you arent travelling alone (or don't mind losing the extra luggage space) a handy accompaniment is the DK Eyewitness guide for NZ. This typically offers lengthier historical and cultural insights for general interest readers, but also offers practical advice and useful tips for travellers.


Betron ELR50 Earphones Headphones, Balanced Bass Driven Sound, Noise Isolating, Stereo for iPhone, iPod, iPad, Samsung and Mp3 players (Without Mic)
Betron ELR50 Earphones Headphones, Balanced Bass Driven Sound, Noise Isolating, Stereo for iPhone, iPod, iPad, Samsung and Mp3 players (Without Mic)
Offered by Betron Limited ( VAT Registered)
Price: £49.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Super quality in sound and design, 23 July 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Superb earphones. Great quality sound with solid bass and good noise blocking so you don't have to crank up the volume super high. They're comfortable to wear for long periods, don't tangle awkwardly and pack easily, offering great value without sacrificing quality in sound, appearance, or durability. On a superficial level, the metallic look also adds to the general appeal and unique quality of the product.

I've only had these since April 2017 so can't attest to the longevity of the specific tem, but I have bought Betron before and consider them a reliable quality brand that offer good value earphones that will last at least 12-18 months (rugged use everyday for sustained periods).


Dead Or Alive [DVD] [1999]
Dead Or Alive [DVD] [1999]
Dvd ~ Riki Takeuchi
Offered by westworld-
Price: £9.84

3.0 out of 5 stars or somewhere in between, 11 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Dead Or Alive [DVD] [1999] (DVD)
For such a prolific film maker it would be foolish to presume that all his films will meet the same kind of expectations, or necessarily appeal to the same kind of audience, but whatever the film, I've never been disappointed by Miike; freaked out, scared, amused, titillated, repulsed, beguiled, and engaged, but never disappointed. As for Dead Or Alive, this falls somewhere in-between many of these qualities, but never quite hits the mark.

On the surface, although it might sound and look like it, this is not the world of Infernal Affairs, as the film is less plot driven and ultimately targets different sensibilities. While it is set in the action-packed and crime-ridden Yakuza over-world (in which underpaid cops fight unscrupulous gangs while struggling to maintain a fragile personal life), Dead Or Alive never truly pushes to such extremes as you might expect or desire. Arguably this could be due to a desensitising of such tropes for over a decade since the films release. It's not that it's short on more typical extremes of action, violence, or horror, but rather the extremes of heightened intrigue and characters that normally accompany and elevate Miike's work, aren't quite as forthcoming as you might hope.

As is sometimes the case with Miike, it takes a while to build the characters or to see where the film might be going, which can be intriguing or frustrating depending on what side of the fence you're sitting on. As a result, while the journey throughout the film is rewarding and entertaining, the ending doesn't quite fit (as stupendous as it is), and instead it feels like what was brewing throughout erupts into something far beyond left-field. This isn't necessarily a bad thing however, as the ending certainly does enough to shock and entertain but essentially feels rather out of place, almost like the film could have been a kind of comic-horror-action revenge short instead. There's enjoyment to be had, but perhaps not in the manner you might expect.

If this is your first foray into Miike territory (and depending on your sensibilities), you might be better off starting with some of his more cohesive work such as Audition or Ichi The Killer, to get you into the swing of things. Probably the main thing to take from Dead Or Alive however, is that it is definitively a Miike film, and a good one, just not great.


Project Nim [DVD]
Project Nim [DVD]
Dvd ~ Herbert Terrace
Price: £4.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tragic documentary, for all the right reasons, 11 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Project Nim [DVD] (DVD)
Though I'd never consider myself to be particularly naive, there was much in the film to be shocked by, not just from what was essentially cast as the villain (the LEMSIP organisation), but from the more liberal anti-establishment hippie types who participated in such a lax, poorly envisioned, morally and ethically neglect, social and psychological experiment (and not even on an orphaned chimp but a kidnapped one).

Of course, methods and standards change with the years and it's often easy to look with scorn and haughty derision at the past, but at the heart of the issue presented, it appears the lack of regulation and naivety/moral ambivalence toward Nim's care was the main flaw of the experiment; not to mention the distinct lack of research and scant knowledge of primates. As a result, the documentary presents an almost absurd but totally true and shocking account of Nim's life, which although filled with much joy and apparent content in a human environment, carries with it the inevitable and almost unbearable melancholy and injustice of an ill-conceived and morally bankrupt experiment.

The personal accounts of those involved reflected the times to an extent, though many carried with them a great love and compassion for Nim, which makes his predicament all the more tragic when some of those people were so powerless to help him. Yet, in the best way a documentary can be, the argument is never one-sided and what is presented is largely a presentation of fact and first-hand accounts, and it is from these accounts we are left to decide who are the heroes and villains of the piece - and there really are heroes and villains. A tragic documentary, for all the right reasons.


Compliance [DVD] [2013]
Compliance [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Ann Dowd
Price: £6.00

7 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Simon says...make a documentary, 8 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Compliance [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
Going into this film, I was well aware of the background and the fact it is based on real events, so I was burdened with the prejudice of my opinion on the following:

Sorry as I am that people have been unwittingly exploited in this manner, and sorry as I am that many people would so openly exploit others in this manner (and I don't even mean the prank caller here but the people he gets to do the exploitation); I cannot however, say I am as sorry about these events as I am for the state of free will, independent thought, and capacity for reason in human beings. While I haven't looked into exactly how much of this is fact and how much fiction, I still can't comprehend that so many people are complicit in the utmost ridiculous, outrageous, and unbelievable acts beyond comprehension. And all because Simon says.

With this prejudice in mind, I found it nigh on impossible to enjoy the film without knowing exact facts, or at least the evidence currently available, and would much preferred to have seen this presented in the form of a documentary. This would have been far more riveting than simply watching other people do as they're told, and would I feel, have lent a greater degree of honesty to the subject matter. Instead, creating a fictional representation of real events just enters doubt and implausibility into the viewers mind, no matter what the facts.

While not poorly acted, the cast aren't exactly easy to endear to, and because the film is a film and not a documentary, it can't help but be accused of itself being a) insulting to the staff of fast food outlets and b) being exploitative. While this is not an opinion I agree with on either front, I just think the film makers took the wrong angle and simply opened themselves up to such attacks, and instead of investigating and shooting an intriguing documentary, they took the easy route and created a fiction. A 'controversial' fiction, which most likely created a bigger fanfare (and revenue stream) than a documentary might ever have done. Perhaps I'm being too cynical there, but there really isn't much to appreciate as a result.

I'm not sure whether this film was designed to generate anger and frustration in the audience, whether we ourselves are meant to be ashamedly complicit in the implicit mocking of the really really gullible characters, or if it was genuinely meant as a near to real portrayal of events as possible. This ambiguity makes appreciating the film a hell of a lot harder on any front. I'm not saying I expect to be spoon fed, but I can't help but feel a documentary, even if it asked more questions than it answered, would have been a better and fairer approach to the audience as well as the victims. Were I such a victim, this film would offer no catharsis. Instead, I would feel belittled as an icon of ridicule. Compliance gives no opportunity to understand the mindset of the central victims or antagonists, and as such offers very little to truly contemplate.

While I'm well aware of many social engineering experiments that have had as equally depressing results as the events portrayed, I still just find it very very hard to believe things like this happen, and the film opens no portal into comprehending this fact any more than my meagre analysis has. Being unable to remove that thought from my head, ruined any chance I might have had to appreciate this film. Simon says...make a documentary.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 16, 2013 2:27 AM GMT


The Secret Adventures Of Tom Thumb [DVD]
The Secret Adventures Of Tom Thumb [DVD]
Dvd ~ Nick Upton
Offered by DVD SOLUTIONS * FAST WORLDWIDE DELIVERY * SAME DAY DISPATCH BEFORE 3PM MON-FRI * GUARANTEED TO BE IN STOCK
Price: £9.95

4.0 out of 5 stars A slightly over-twisted classic, 8 Sept. 2013
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Rather than an endearing and charming fantasy, this version of the fairy tale takes a twisted stance on the characters and settings, evoking post-war depression in the hagged cobbled streets and dank infested interiors of this imaginative underworld; occupied by strange genetic creations, sewer life, and creepy crawlies, in a delightfully odd looking mix of claymation and perfectly animated live action characters, all of which are wonderfully suited for stop motion. This dark, hideous underworld is offset by the brightness (though perhaps darker with sentiment) of the sophisticated, factory-like labs of the isolated meddling scientists as they conduct their questionable genetic experiments which gave rise to Tom, among other creations.

The world portrayed really says much of the tone of the film, which is generally quite sombre and primitive, and although this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it does make things a little harder in terms of getting to know and feel for the characters, especially given their muteness. Tom Thumb and his parents can sometimes appear more as figures of pity than empathy. Meanwhile, the real hero of the piece is Jack the Giant Killer, who really takes the lead on action and helps the story unravel as he aids Tom in his adventures.

In the truest sense of a fairy tale, this is dark and sinister, and in some cases abrupt and ambiguous, classic traits which can all too easily be forgotten given many a Disney adaptation of works by Grimm and others. While this may not seem a traditional tale, it is probably more traditional than you you might think, and the darker unsettling elements of the film are typically what make all fairy tales (this one included) a joy to indulge in, while always giving the sense there is a deeper subtext to be enjoyed as well. What might let it down however, is that it can feel a little short on pace and may be a little too peculiar; so perhaps not one for the impatient, weird-wary, or younger audiences.

As long as you go into this and don't expect to see handsome heroes, bold princesses, and cute characters, but instead prepare for a sinister, macabre, and ultimately saddening tale of some unsavoury and unsightly characters, then you have no reason not to enjoy it. An added bonus on the DVD is the short film 'Saint Inspector' (worth saving as a lighter hearted finish to the overall experience), which once again excels in the animated splendour of strange, yet endearing creations.


Orphan [DVD]
Orphan [DVD]
Dvd ~ Vera Farmiga
Offered by A ENTERTAINMENT
Price: £4.80

3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable horror but no surprises, 1 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Orphan [DVD] (DVD)
The nightmarish pregnant trauma in which Orphan opens is a perfect introduction to the story, characters, and general tone of the film, setting the scene very well for what is essentially a quite predictable but generally enjoyable experience.

After a battle with alcohol addiction following the loss of their unborn child, Kate (Vera Farmiga) with the support of her husband John (Peter Saarsgard) as well as her two children and psychiatrist, decide that the family is ready to welcome another child into their lives, but one who they say really must be deserving of the sheer amount of unspent love they were unable to heap upon their unborn...so how about an orphan? And so, the film gets a name and the story gets going.

Esther the orphan is ostensibly a child prodigy, if not a bit of an anachronistic loner too, and is at first played sympathetically enough to at least suspend the disbelief that this child is ultimately going to tear this family apart at some point. The other two children in the family play their roles well and while their deaf 5 year old daughter soon falls for Esther, their older son is not so convinced (if not just out of envy). Our sympathies for Esther mainly come from the fact she gets bullied at school, but it's not long until she gets her own back and we get to know the extent of her cruel sadistic agenda.

Unfortunately, there isn't quite enough time to empathise with Esther the Orphan before she starts playing havoc, and as such, the film effectively enters a going-through-the-motions phase, albeit done well and frustratingly enough to offer some entertainment. This frustration is the result of the conflict between doubtful mother and blindly dutiful father as Esther gradually wedges them apart. It should be noted that Isabelle Fuhrman as Esther is very good in this, playing the subversive and devious with a maniacal glare just as well as she does the innocent and lovable outcast. This is however, essentially The Omen with some minor role reversals, but it's the fact that cheeky chubby Damien is never explicitly responsible for the misfortune throughout The Omen that makes you empathise with him whilst being torn in supporting his fathers intentions; with Orphan there is no such dichotomy as you just don't empathise with Esther because of her rather despicable motives (further supported by some other plot revelations). As such, you know exactly who you're rooting for and as a result it becomes a lot less fun.

Despite this, Orphan is sufficiently enjoyable on first viewing as all the roles and events transpire satisfyingly enough, but nothing overly alarming or surprising happens (especially given that a sweet deaf child is involved). As such, this is enjoyable horror fare, but nothing too scary or unpredictable is on offer to warrant more than one viewing.


Insidious [DVD]
Insidious [DVD]
Dvd ~ Patrick Wilson
Price: £3.00

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Revenge of the clone of the Phantom Menace, 1 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Insidious [DVD] (DVD)
For reasons not made obvious to the viewer, the scary ninja demon at the heart of the Insidious spirit world appears to be Darth Maul (apparently being split in two at the end of Phantom Menace wasn't enough to destroy even this stupid character). Meanwhile, his grandmother steals the main antagonists role of stereotypical horror crone, bedraggled in black netting, with a propensity for appearing in mirrors and dreams and stuff, then just as you turn to look at her she kinda scampers, etc.

Patrick Wilson manages the role of sceptical-dad-with-a-reluctant-psychic-potential in a more than adequate manner, while Rose Byrne as the wide-eyed-paranoid-superstitious-mother-whose-worries-funnily-enough-turn-out-not-to-be-so-paranoid-and-superstitious-for-the-sake-of-the-narrative, is equally fine (aside from the fact she looks ridiculously skinny despite having just given birth). So, no major acting faux pas, a haunted house (or is it?), ghostly apparitions, spirit world, creepy child drawings, mediums and possessions...and yet none of it is remotely scary. Then you throw in Darth Maul and his gran, and it just becomes hard not to laugh.

It's not that the performances or script are particularly terrible, they're just obvious, and there really isn't much in the way of ideas or originality. If you're going to make a film that relies on the tried and tested, then it has to be well rounded and polished to pull off a good horror show. The Woman in Black is probably a decent example of this; while presenting nothing ground breaking, it does the simple things well and at least makes you care. If you're as intent on meddling with horror clichés as Insidious is, then why not make something like Raimi's Drag Me to Hell and throw in some gypsy curses and sacrificial goats for an intended laugh rather than the tiresome despairing laughter encountered with Darth Insidious and his angry gran.

If you like a bit of familiarity to your horror, jump at the same old things, are easily spooked, enjoy the hype surrounding horror films, or if you just like The Phantom Menace, then maybe this will be the film for you. If however, you enjoy a tense, original, gruelling, haunting, and unnerving ghostly horror, then you should avoid Insidious like Darth Maul should have avoided Obi-Wan.

Oh well, at least we have Insidious 2 to look forward to...


Gozu [DVD] [2003]
Gozu [DVD] [2003]
Dvd ~ Hideki Sone
Offered by Home Entertainment Online
Price: £7.88

4.0 out of 5 stars Worth waiting for the gruesome weirdness to unfold, 26 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Gozu [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
Much like Audition, Gozu is another Takashi Miike slow burner, that ostensibly begins life on a quite different path to the one it eventually follows. To be any more explicit would be to spoil much of the film, and as it is a film in which the events lend much weight to the audience satisfaction, it would be cruel to say much more than to just stick with it despite its pedestrian quality. If you're of a patient temperament, the gradual mysteries of the film will unravel quite satisfyingly and disturbingly.

The tension and intrigue builds nicely throughout, aided by an atmospheric and very subtle score, which lends a certain unease to the film, and is less a typical musical score and more an amalgamation of almost imperceptible drones and uneasy tones that help unsettle the viewer without being overtly obvious. Alongside this, are the perhaps more obviously disconcerting characters that shadow the central protagonist in the search for his yakuza brother. Their bewildering personalities, dialogue, and distinctly local (very much in The League Of Gentlemen sense of the word) habits, underpin much of the strangeness and unease that builds to the denouement. Their behaviour is ultimately summarised by their very own semi-frequent statement of "you're not from Nagoya are you?", which although it evokes an almost horror cliché or spoof, is actually delivered well and effectively underlines the oddness of these characters.

As our protagonist battles through his own anxieties and comes to the completion of his journey, there are some pleasantly shocking and disturbing moments of a quite unique nature that are simultaneously repulsive and amusing (in a hysterical sense). The body horror moments are akin to the plastic reality of Cronenberg at his best in work like Videodrome and Shivers, and as a result they really aren't for the squeamish or faint hearted.

This is ultimately surreal and disturbing, not in a manner like David Lynch which can often be too arch and alienating without reason, this is surreal and disturbing in a truly satisfying and at times humorously shocking way. Although well accomplished, with some great horrific moments and some customary Miike weirdness to boot, this isn't perhaps as fulfilling as other films in his repertoire (Audition for me being the high water mark of this type), perhaps as a result of the films rather slow pace. While I'm well prepared to put in the effort as it were, this might not be the same for all viewers. For me though, it was worth waiting for the gruesome weirdness to unfold.


The Story of the Solar System (Classic Reprint)
The Story of the Solar System (Classic Reprint)
by George F. Chambers
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.56

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Science is not sentimental, 20 Aug. 2013
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I can't fault the book for its content. Obviously, being written around 100 years ago, new discoveries and all manner of workings of our Solar System have been unveiled, but as a well written introduction to our Solar System, as well as what drives us to learn about it, our lust for discovery, the practice of science, to explain and unravel the mysteries of the Universe at large, this is a great book.

So, given that the book is obviously somewhat outdated, it does not feel out of date. By which I mean the language would not be out of place in the modern day and the approach to reason and scientific analysis from a number of observers studies over the years is highly commendable, perhaps even something that many modern writers may not so strictly adhere to, while admitting as much to what it doesn't know as to what it does.

While this is a very good book with exceptions, the main downside is in the physical product itself. The production is pretty cheap, and while I appreciate that such classic reprints will obviously lose some quality in the process of restoration and reproduction, I can't help but feel Amazon (who print this edition) have extensive funds to make a better product than that on offer. The plasticy cover just looks and feels cheap and tacky, though I found the binding quite sturdy. The print is really quite large, akin to what might be found in a young children's book, and it's printed on some quite shockingly white paper that can feel a little blinding, especially in bright light. (I should say I have no problems with my vision). This isn't to put you off but just make you aware that you shouldn't be expecting the usual tactile comforts, aesthetic pleasure, and even the smell of a good book.

This is a wonderful read as an insight to the learnings of the past and how far we've come. Pluto was not a planet to feature in this book (it was unknown at the time), and it's strange to think that it has been a Planet and then not a Planet in time for this reprint. Hopefully The Story Of The Stars will be just as enjoyable and with any luck a better quality print.


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