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The Thing (2011) [Blu-ray]
The Thing (2011) [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Price: £4.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Thing about The Thing (2011), 10 May 2013
The Thing about The Thing (2011) is it's a cover of a classic. However well made, your reaction is likely to be either `how dare they' or `meh.' Sometimes it can work, (The Thing is itself a remake of The Thing From Another World (1951) [DVD]), but only if you take it in a different direction. Which this doesn't.

On paper this is a great movie. It fits into the world without screwing up the what has gone before or resurrecting dead characters. It purposely choses different plotlines, a different test to separate friend and foe, the characters are different, and it has some amazing set pieces, like the sequence when one of the caterpillar vehicles falls into fissure into the ice. We get to see more of the Thing's spaceship too.

So whats wrong with it? The film opens with the stereotypical scientist-called-away-to-investigate-a-mysterious event premise that has been used many times, a sharp contrast to the bizarre opening of Carpenters The Thing [Blu-ray] [Region Free], where some Norwegians in a helicopter, chase a dog into McMurdo station and the Americans have no idea why, (this is cleverly tied together during the credits of the Thing 2011). In fact the entire plot feels very much like Alien vs Predator with a bigger budget, right down to having a sensible woman (whose expertise is ignored) surround by men who are apparently unable to think. There is a Kurt Russell analog, who also happens to be an american helicopter pilot, but the meat of the role goes to Kate who as an elite scientist never feels as much of an everyman as MacReady or Childs were. Dr. Sander Halvorson, the sinister scientist leader, is not as human as the brash overbearing American base commander Garry, while not being different enough to add a new dynamic to the script. Even the creature itself moves in away that reminds us of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, which as well as looking too familiar, is not nearly as `alien' as the original model effects in Carpenter's film.

I guess the problem is that this movie feels close to the original but lacks the essential qualities that make it what it was. It's not the real Thing, but an just insidious replica.

Graffiti on the Train [VINYL]
Graffiti on the Train [VINYL]

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can graffiti be art?, 7 May 2013
I've been listening to his album for a while and I have to say: I love this album. It's beautiful. Its the perfect mix of rough guitars and ragged vocals with sweet orchestral backdrops. The tragic love story of the title track made me well up the first time I heard it. The murderous thunder of Violins and Tambourines as it builds to a scream makes my pulse pound. The plaintive cry of No Ones Perfect that asks for forgiveness without makes excuses is touching and human. Even the faux blues of Been Caught Cheating, complete with crowd calling out assent and clinking glasses manages to feel genuine rather than contrived.

And it sounds great on vinyl. Albums like this are why vinyl exist. It sounds warm and analog and natural. The violins sound sweet, and acoustic guitars ring out while their electric cousins snarl and spit, and the bass pulses at it's heart.

Kelly Jones's voice has less of its characteristic rasp, though it's still far from smooth. The songs are mostly centred around love, in it's various forms and with it's various endings. This record is sometimes so melancholy it becomes spooky, as in Take Me with it's whispered female harmony, at other times, such as the song Catacomb, it sounds distinctly menacing, evoking some strange disturbing place with it's electronica overtones. The single Indian Summer was a rip roaring success, becoming Stereophonics 1st UK Top 40 single since 2007, with its story of a lost love and the good times that used to be, backed with an orchestral sound and ending with a simple slide guitar lick. There aren't really any aggressive rockers on this album, those looking for another Superman or Doorman are doomed to disappointment, but it's clear that the songwriting and playing have matured. These are satisfying songs, each crafted until it can reward repeated listens. Anyone who liked You Gotta Go There to Come Back would like this.

My copy was the Vinyl 180g special edition and it sounds spot on (in fact I used it to demo a new turntable), and the artwork, an abstract face done in oils by British artist Stephen Goddard, looks wonderfully detailed. I love this choice in an era where minimalist artwork is often used as a safe option (to make it look good on an itunes thumbnail). Nice work guys. I got a free mp3 download (320 kbps) with my copy, that arrived by straight away by email link. While it's nice not to have to set up another account with somebody or mess about with download codes, I wound up without even an official looking receipt so if my backups fail I guess I'll have to buy again or bit-torrent. (I'm really not sure what the legal side of music downloads will do in the future. My two best guesses either bit-torrenting will become the accepted norm or anti-piracy measures will become so fierce that we'll have to prove the origin of every music download we have. I'd be interested to know what other reviewers do about their backups.) This however is a small issue and I only mention it for the sake of completeness. It doesn't detract from my enjoyment of the amazing music. Thank you Stereophonics.

For me this might be the best album of the year, which is saying something as my favourite band of all time, Deep Purple, have now entered the UK charts (for the first time since I was about two!) with their new offering Now What ?! I think it's going to be a great year for music.

OtterBox Commuter Series Two-Layer Protection Case Cover with Screen Protector for iPhone 5/5S/SE - Black
OtterBox Commuter Series Two-Layer Protection Case Cover with Screen Protector for iPhone 5/5S/SE - Black
Price: £19.41

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Protection for your iPhone, but I managed to break the case, 5 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Otterbox gets rave reviews for their products, so after some careful research I went for the commuter case, having lived with it for about 5 months I think I can safely give a balanced review. I want my iphone 5 to last the next two years and was particularly concerned about damage from dropping the phone, so I decided it was worth getting a larger armoured case. It does make the phone bulkier, not in my opinion to problematic level. The screen protector went on just fine (with the handy 'credit card' applicator. It's important to press the plastic down slowly and carefully to avoid air bubbles, and I can recommend the technique of taping the protector to one side of the phone to ensure the cut outs for the home button and speaker grill line up (and stay lined up). Patience here will be rewarded. You can get it so you don't know that it's there.

The rubber inner covers then phone and then a plastic outer fits clips on and holds it in place (there are plenty of videos on youtube that demonstrate this nicely.) The rubber plugs that cover the ports fit well and show no sign of tearing, which was one of my concerns about the design, as they are integral to the rubber inner. I haven't experienced any problems with using the camera and flash either, the cut out seems to work nicely. The textured plastic outer is tough and would probably absorb a fair bit of impact damage.

There are two things you should consider before buying. First, this kind of case prevents you from using a dock, as it simply won't fit, and removing the phone from the otter box is not the sort of thing you want to do on a regular basis. Cables are just fine for my needs but if you make regular use of a dock for charging this may be a dealbreaker for you. It may also be a problem for headphones with thick housings around the jack. Second, once the case is on, no one will recognise this as an iphone, so if you want bragging rights, again, probably not for you. Equally, I don't want to be mugged for my high value tech either, so if I can make it a little less conspicuous that's a good thing. It looks pretty smart anyway with its black textured surface.

The reason I can't give this a five is that I managed to drop my phone and crack the hard plastic shell where it is thinnest, just above the cut out for the lightning connector. The phone survived unmarked (which after all is what the case is for) but the case around that cut out is just a little to thin for my liking. However, I'm not sure what they could have done engineering wise without adding further bulk and weight to it, or cutting off easy access to the lightning and headphone ports so I guess that is just one of those things. The case still protects the phone so I will live with it for now.

Overall a good case which will keep your iphone in good order, but be careful of the weakness around the cutouts.

Snark Clip On Chromatic Guitar Tuner - Metallic Blue
Snark Clip On Chromatic Guitar Tuner - Metallic Blue
Offered by Angledbox
Price: £10.93

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Tuner for Guitar or Mandolin, battery shipped in a separate bag, 5 May 2013
This is a contact chromatic tuner that was recommended on toptenreviews.com (it came second), with a bright colourful display, powered by a watch battery. Simply clip it onto the headstock and off you go. A needle sweeps from flat to sharp with large letter in the centre to indicate the note. The display is coloured, with red for flat, yellow for sharp and green for bang on. You can angle it towards you easily using the double jointed arm and the clip looks nice and robust with a metal spring inside.

It works great on acoustic guitar, and it also works well with my Mandolin!

Mine shipped with the battery in a separate plastic bag, so make sure you empty out the cardboard packet to find it, and read the instructions to see which way up it should go (or you may cause a short!) as it's not immediately obvious. Otherwise a nice cheap functional product that does exactly what it says on the tin.

Mandolin Scales & Studies
Mandolin Scales & Studies
by Ray Bell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Mandolin Scale Book, 5 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
If you're buying this don't expect it to contain lessons, as such. It is a dictionary of scales for mandolin, and a very comprehensive one, but it is really intended to be used with either another tutor book with songs and exercises or maybe a course of tuition with a good mandolin teacher. However, that shouldn't put you off, because scales are essential skills in building your knowledge an ability and the one thing I have found with music books is that very few of them do it all. Find a selection that each do one thing well and you'll get to be a more rounded musician as a result.

The book is printed clearly and has a host of scales from standard pentatonic to some real obscure stuff that would take you into the world of jazz and beyond. Its also spiralbound so it will lie flat or even fold up to the size of a single page A4, much more convenient and hardwearing than a regular binding! This might make it a little more expensive but it makes it much more usable, and you want to as few barriers as possible between you and your mandolin practice. If only all music books were made this way.

Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A great upbeat duet from two great guitarists, 5 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Cherry (MP3 Download)
Taken from the Three Kingdoms album, this is a great upbeat tune from two great british finger style guitarists, John Renbourn and Stefan Grossman. You can hear them trade licks and melodies on a surprisingly complex little tune, that branches out into some nice bluesy improv. Listening to these guys, and John in particular, is always a pleasure.

World's Thinnest Wallet: Coin Pocket Nylon Black
World's Thinnest Wallet: Coin Pocket Nylon Black

5.0 out of 5 stars Very thin but with decent space for change, 5 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Billed as the world's thinnest wallet, this is made from tough looking ripstop nylon (there is a leather version for a few dollars more) and is made in the US in by All-Ett. There are some good youtube videos showing the exact layout of the wallet which has four slots for cards (which can hold five or six cards a once but will happily fit less), two deep pockets for notes, the extra long one that could also hold photos or receipts, and a wide coin pocket on the outside. The wallet is large enough to hold UK and euro notes and a reasonable amount of change without becoming too bulky.

Perfect for those of us who want a smartphone in one jeans pocket, and wallet and keys in the other.

Looper Steelbook (Limited Edition) [Blu-ray]
Looper Steelbook (Limited Edition) [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Offered by My Steelbook Collection
Price: £24.95

17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Closed Loop or Open Question?, 5 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There is something about Philip K. Dick's short stories make great movies. From Minority Report, Total Recall, Paycheck, The Adjustment Bureau, something about ideas in his novels, but particularly his short tales, that seems to make them perfect for expanding into larger movies. That said they often undergo a change of tone in hollywood's hands. Blade Runner lost it's Mercer Boxes and electric sheep to become a film noir that focused on what it meant to live (not that I'm complaining, what a movie!) The original short story that became The Adjustment Bureau was focused on the disturbing thought that some faceless Bureaucrat somewhere was auditing your life, where the hollywood version made it a love story, where the adjusters were angels (and the Chairman, by implication, God).

Looper feels like a Philip K. Dick story. It's disturbing, it's not neat or even necessarily logical (`...that's an exact description of a fuzzy mechanism'). It has a menace to it and the ending offers hope, but no guarantees. It portrays a sort of rundown American future of the 1950s, with a modern drug scene controlled by a powerful organised crime syndicate whose future influence is already being felt. It is not a buddy movie where young Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and his older self (Bruce Willis) take on the world and right wrongs. The real point of this story is a philosophical question. If you could travel back in time to when Hitler was a child, would you kill him? What would your answer say about you?

There are great performances throughout this movie from Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels (great as a horribly efficient, world weary gangster from the future) and Noah Segan who veers from amusing to horrifying as incompetent enforcer Kid Blue (implying that much of the evil in the world is caused by anger, fear and disappointment rather than by nihilistic hatred). Bruce Willis proves what a good actor he is by making an unsympathetic role understandable, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a compelling leading man.

The Bluray release has excellent with great picture and sound, and the steelbook version is a thing of beauty.

Some reviewers have complained that the ending is inconsistent. I disagree. The mistake that characters make throughout the movie is thinking that just one more death will sort things out. Young Joe's actions in the last scene are not only a logical consequence of situation (the limitations of the 'Blunderbuss' weapon are discussed at several points in the film), but a philosophical statement that a cycle of violence cannot end until someone decides not to strike back. Making that choice does not guarantee a happy outcome, in this film or real life, but in the end it's the only course of action that offers one.

Gabrielle Aplin: Live At Koko
Gabrielle Aplin: Live At Koko

4.0 out of 5 stars Nice Live Modern Country, 5 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Great sounding live EP from Gabrielle Aplin, who can clearly put on a good show (you can hear an enthusiastic crowd at Koko on this recording). Stanger side has a nice country shuffle rhythm to it, while How do you feel today starts as a modern acoustic piece before expanding to include a soothing violin melody. Go your own way bursts into anti-love ballad backed by a snarling country telecaster, that takes a good solo. Please don't say you love me rounds it off with piano lead melody and some heart wrenching lyrics about what happens to a relationship when two people aren't on the same page.

This is nice a promo for the new album English Rain, and well worth checking out if you like modern country.

Seasick Steve Amazon Artist Lounge (Amazon Exclusive)
Seasick Steve Amazon Artist Lounge (Amazon Exclusive)
Price: £1.77

4.0 out of 5 stars It's Righteous! Grinding blues from a Self Sufficient Man., 4 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Barebones blues works perfectly in a live context, so this is great with the unaccompanied grind of Self Sufficient Man, as Steve challenges critics that if we have something to say '... say it to my face next time we meet.' He busts out a slide for Keep On Keepin On, and in Over You he uses some fingerpicking to make underscore a melancholy ballad.

If you like the blues simple and unaffected, but played with skill and flare, give this one a go.

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