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Mystery Science Theater 3000 - The Movie [Blu-ray] [1996]
Mystery Science Theater 3000 - The Movie [Blu-ray] [1996]
Dvd ~ Michael J. Nelson
Price: £5.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mocking Cinema at its Finest, 4 Sept. 2012
Mystery Science Theater 3000, a unique show about a man and his robots who are shot into space and forced to watch the worst movies ever as scientific experiments. If he cracks, then the mad scientists holding will win and be able to have a weapon for global domination to utilize - bad cinema. In order to combat these bad movies our human, Joel until he escaped and then Mike who features here, alongside robots Crow T Robot and Tom Servo provide a hilarious running commentary or quips, riffs and comments. For just under 200 episodes and as much pain as one can get from seeing the worst of humanity's imagination put to celluloid, the crew of the Satellite of Love took films from the archives of under-budget Roger Corman, the diaries of passionate Ed Wood, as well as some of the depressing auteur works of Francis Coleman. But surprisingly enough the movie they chose for the motion picture wasn't as bad as the aforementioned. This Island Earth isn't that bad a movie and whilst it's not that great or logical a film it still holds water in respect for classic sci-fi. Regardless, Mike, Tom and Crow enter and give one of their finest performances.

One thing to notice, for one thing this movie is about 15 minutes shorter than the usual episode. Secondly, the riffs here are further apart from each other and allow time for the audiences to fill it with laughter, they can do far faster riff counts (an average of 600 per 90 minutes). But the riffs for this movie are more finely tuned, more time allotted to polish them and there's plenty of fantastic riffs such as the now classic "NORMAL VIEW! NORMAL VIEW! NORMAL VIEW!" The movie itself is about a group of scientists who come together for uranium production in an estate in Georgia, but only our hero Cal Meechum and his old lover/friend Ruth escape with another man to find themselves survivors of the house's explosion and that their hosts have been aliens needing Uranium to save their own world. Cal and Ruth are taken to this world and in a rather confusing set-up have no time to contribute as they end up on the run and escaping as the planet goes up. I think this movie's third act was the sinking effect if nothing else just for plot holes. The movie sounds a lot more exciting on paper than on execution. But still Mike and the bots give it there all with many jokes about overall movie quality "Ah, the script has arrived", the wormy sidekick "I'm going to get in his sock drawer - and sleep for days!" and the references to the slightly enlargened heads of their hosts: Ruth - "Do you notice a slight indication in the forehead?" Tom - "NO!" Probably one of the best shots MST3K ever did, this movie will make you laugh and is OK for beginners to the show as the movie itself is not that bad. It's the origin of the Mutant character, as in the blue-bug the size of a man with the brain and the goggles.

The extra budget allocated to this movie gives the Satellite of Love a more expensive and more flashy interior but without showing off and the host segments, ie. breaks between the movie that the bots and host always took during the movie are quite good. Prior to the film Crow tries to tunnel his way out of space with hilarious results, we get to see steerage on the Satellite of Love and how it's best that Mike never drive, and we also get to see Servo's room and the occasionally mentioned Underwear collection. Overall, if you're a fan of MST3K already or new to it than you'll enjoy this, because, this is what Mike, Joel and the bots did best, they riffed and they turned unwatchable (except for this and a handful of other movies) into essential viewing.

Catching Fire
Catching Fire

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From someone who didn't like the first installment, 2 Sept. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Catching Fire (Kindle Edition)
As the title suggests I wasn't a fan of the "The Hunger Games" which puts me in a minority with its lack of likable or interesting characters, originality or in major parts and logic on the part of the human condition and totalitarianism. Whilst many praised the Hunger Games as one of the best Young Adult fiction books out there, I disagreed and read it when the hype was at highest, just before the film came out. So with this in mind I stayed off the trilogy until I came back to see if I would like the second book - Catching Fire. Whilst it comes under more dispite, I found myself enjoying myself reading this more and it was generally a far better story. Whereas the first was underwhelming, this one was good, really good.

Catching Fire essentially does what all good sequels do, it raises the stakes and develops the characters. Now granted the second half is very much a rehash of the first Hunger Games, but I'll get onto that later. Whereas in the original I didn't care for any character (Rue just felt like a plot device for audience tears despite her sympathetic stance), here this wasn't repeated. A lot of the time we actually get to know these contenders for the Games rather than last time which focused entirely on Katniss, Peeta and Rue, the latter too only in for a third of the overall Games time. Here the contestants actually do quite a bit to make them sympathetic, self sacrifice, cooperation, shows of intelligence and wit and also do many thigns for each other. The logic of cooperation first time wasn't so well executed, why did they not kill Peeta then? Also the fact that the author seemed to stereotype certain districts into good and bad was annoying in the first book. But anyway, as well as the contestants, we also get the injustice of the District populations and the revolts, in some ways I felt more for the people dying and at risk in the Districts than 22 children I barely knew anything of. Tension in Catching Fire is better executed with the plot elements feeling more natural than forced. And of course the stakes are raised, no longer is this a matter of two people surviving, but the entire face of Panem and in many cases this was far more engaging with the scale increased and the constant sense of barbarity and emotions being more well handled here. Combine that with the-in-person President Snow, more violence and sympathetic characters getting the harsh end of the rope and you have a story which is far better than the first time out. I had issues with Collins' dystopian regime beforehand, free education and no such thing as passive resistance? Well this handles it better and in many ways bothers me less than the Hunger Games.

Now for the major complaint by those who don't like this- the rehashing the plot of the first one into the second half here. To be honest I actually preferred this set of Hunger Games to the previous one, the arena was more interesting, the concepts better handled and the characters were sympathetic because we actually meet them beforehand and a lot goes into their identities as victors rather than just scared children. The grey lines between them and the ideas of exterior control are well utilized. As well as this the love story. In the original I wasn't keen on it as this was meant to be YA 's departure from the train wreck of Twilight. This however reassured me more, whilst Gale I don't find to be that great a character, Peeta was more developed and actually not nearly as annoying as I thought he would be, a caring individual who would protect Katniss because nothing is left for him to return to if she dies, it was much more interesting and his creative pulls at the interview were far less cliched and predictable than the "I love her" speech in the Hunger Games. Combine this with the far less predictable plot and the much better protagonist and this scores miles better than the first installment.

Do I have issues with it, well the fact that it's written in the Present tense, not an easy form to write in still irks me as does Katniss at times, like her need for addressing everything like the extended reactions to her clothing which made me just want to move on. Yes it drags in places and does feel more like a bridge between two stories which the third I have yet to read, but it's still better than the first (popular opinion will disagree). This time no movie was immediately coming back and since people are more willing to criticize this book, I actually preferred to it to being underwhelmed first time out. So overall, a pretty good Dystopian yarn.

Unsung Heroes
Unsung Heroes
Price: £15.93

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Album that will Divide, 27 Aug. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Unsung Heroes (Audio CD)
Ensiferum's journey continues as 3 years following what is my favorite album, From Afar, the Battle-Anthem producing Finns deliver their fifth opus, "Unsung Heroes". A few things to make clear, in no way is this is a sequel or a continuation from Afar, or any other Ensiferum album. Truly its own entity for better or worse, Unsung Heroes is a unique, strange and diverse offering of Ensiferum's battle anthem work with female led folk, songs of battle and heroes and the usual fanfare of instrumental work, heavy thrashers and of course the finale epic. This album will do many things, it will make some fans happy, it will make others scratch their heads in confusion, others will cheer, others will groan. A grower - yes? A good album, on first try I think it is with some problems abound.

So we begin with the opening standard, an instrumental. "Symbols" is shorter than the usual Ensiferum opener and is more symphonic than folk, more in the "Ad Victoriam" vein of warm-ups. It's a good track to begin with, pulling us in despite the fact nothing is new here, but the piece itself builds up nicely.

We then get the second track and our opening battle anthem "In My Sword I Trust." Whilst at first this was disappointing as it doesn't build up that much speed or power like "From Afar" it is a grower and there are plenty of components that make is a good track. The chorus, albeit cheesy is irresistible to sing along to and the guitar solo is excellent, as are Sammie's vocals. Petri on the other hand, well, I was fine with him On Victory Songs, impressed at times on "From Afar", here, he sounds tired, spent and this is a major problem on this album, he just doesn't have the old power. Despite this being the only real problem on this song, it's still a good track and grows over time.

We then get the title track - "Unsung Heroes," a somewhat slow and methodical song with some excellent instrumental backing with Petri's vocals still not quite getting up there. The choir backing is pretty good, as are the lyrics (certainly less cheesy then the prior track) and symphonic elements work in the song's favor as opposed to potentially undermining it. Overall, slow and another grower.

"Burning Leaves" - I love this song. Beginning with a soft folk melody and then kicking off with the heavy guitars on a great riff, this song was the first released and an excellent addition to Ensiferum's live set and discography. The song is powerful, Petri actually isn't bad here and the chorus sung mainly by Markus is excellent as are the symphonic backing and solo. It's a great song for its power, speed and feels very much like Amorphis' later material, which discredits it not. Lyrically and musically good, the best song on the record.

"Celestial Bond" breaks off the metal side of things and we get a folk song with graceful, soaring female vocals with good lyrics and a steady pace. It builds up gently over time but never really breaks out of its soft and delicate scope. Another great song which definitely catches off guard and is a definite show of Ensiferum's willingness to diversify.

And then we get a straight up thrash song which hearkens to the days of Iron. "Retribution Shall be Mine" is fast, furious, pounding and well accompanied by clean vocal work and the symphonic arrangements, as well as being a stripped down piece of brutal Folk Metal which works, running over "Celestial Bond's" calm in two seconds flat. Despite this though it's quite forgettable, with Petri being somewhat iffy here at times and the solo all too short. An enjoyable track nonetheless and again, a grower, certainly for me.

Celestial Bond continues with its brother "Star Queen" which begins like a slower "Burning Leaves." The clean vocals here are good, the song plays slowly like its counterpart and it whilst it doesn't go anywhere until the final half minute, it still is a good, solid track concluding the third of Ensiferum's two-parters.

"Pohjola" is the next track and comes in with more choir work, a struggling Petri and some plain strange elements after a good enough riff. There's a spoke segment after the fourth minute, there's plenty of orchestral work behind the guitars which like on the second track, never quite get up to speed. The choir work here is quite strange yet fun to listen to and the song feels almost too trying as it pulls off little, but is solid and probably, like others, will grow.

And now we get the last two tracks and things get really strange here. "Last Breath" is an acoustic track which, I have no idea how to feel. A man drones throughout it and I feel like Lou Reed stumbled into the studio. However as soon as he shuts his mouth the song actually gets pretty good with a decent instrumental acoustic section and a storming in choir arriving, before the song goes back to him again for the last half minute and he drones more. And then we get "Passion Proof Power" This is the strangest song Ensiferum have ever created. After a minute and a half of assorted sound effects we get a good enough intro with a slow accumulating guitar which is pretty good and then ... - it goes mad. Clean vocals are first with the guitar work is fine and it seems to be building up to something, then Petri sings some parts, more instrumental, then we get an opera vocalist (not making it up it sounds like Tarja is tired of solo careers and has joined the Vikings) before some more jiggery-pokery instrumental work, then Petri and then a speech in German. At this point, 12 minutes in I have nothing to say. The German speech makes no sense and sounds just strange, and the song feels devoid, the build up worthless. It's a weird finale track and then it goes away before going back to the guitars for more vocals, more Petri and choir work before finishing on a dissolve. "Passion Proof Power" is just strange and isn't the best way to finish an album or be an epic with its disjointed feel and mixed segments of quality.

So there you have it the fifth Ensiferum album. I don't like it when albums end badly, which this one does, but there's enough redeeming value for me to come back to it, good songs, songs that will in time grow, why? Because I keep coming back to them and seeing new elements I like every time. Yes it will divide fans, and yes it will not be for everyone, but I put it in as a solid effort.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 30, 2012 8:36 PM BST

Price: £13.03

4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Amaranthe: The Anti-Metal, 25 Aug. 2012
This review is from: Amaranthe (Audio CD)
Amaranthe has three vocalists, who play no instruments. That alone wasn't the best sign. Seriously, live for these guys must be difficult, having to wait 2/3 of a song for you to contribute in any way to the performance. The sextet in question looks at first to be another in the long line of female (well, sort of) fronted Gothic/symphonic metal bands. But no, this one is different, with each of its vocalists illustrating a different genre. The female one displays mainly straight up pop, the male, power metal and the growler male, well he could be a melodic death metal vocalist but I doubt he'd really manage there. Overall what we get with three lifeless musicians in their backdrop is one of the most overlooked abominations for anyone, True Metal cause or casual observer.

Amaranthe claims itself to be Metal, sort of, Pop-Rock-Metal fusion as the best description but this is NOT metal. Because Metal isn't just the vocalist, bass, guitar, drum lineup at its core. Metal is not this. Metal as a genre is the underdog, something of an alienation which takes risks, speaks out against issues and is not manufactures. Amaranthe is manufactured, to its core. Every song is sweetly sick to be as catchy as possible for the purposes of extreme radio play (pop radio that is). The three genres involved in the conception of this record do not have enough to work with to make a cohesive whole and what we get at it's core is something which is pop masquerading as Metal music. Amaranthe may be catchy and sing-alone and some may find this a good thing. But I don't, because quite simply this is soulless in attitude and manufactured in scope. It doesn't feel like the works of a band, more like a company with a band as the front, like a good majority of the Pop industry.

The songs are all short, poppy and generally uninteresting, the vocalist rotations get old after the first hit single and the fact it feels so false drags this record into a kind of bleak oblivion as it continues to try and sound Metal but doesn't seem to know what Metal is, it feels false and that condemns any talent in any of the six members. Chances are these guys and girl will succeed as they clearly have already hit Wacken and will become popular, because how could they honestly not? Pop, Rock and Metal fusion sounds good because it has enough rock and metal to make Metalheads, it's edgy for the Rockers and the Pop fans will engage with what little there is for songwriting as it suits their taste. If you like this band, good for you, but I can't stand them as a conception of a band, particularly in the company of their peers which actually try to say something that means something and write good, memorable and not trashy pop music which is labelled as Metal to give it a false edge.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 22, 2013 10:26 PM GMT

Price: £7.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weight of Steel and the Smell of Cheese - GLORY!, 25 Aug. 2012
This review is from: Steel (MP3 Download)
The glory days of Metal were the 80s, New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Thrash in North America and plenty of records abound that are cemented as classics from a prosperous era. But entering the cynical 2000s where everything has seemingly been done and new life is always yearned for, we get plenty of bands doing it retro. Some succeed in recapturing that 80s essence, others fail in miserable condition. But here we have Battle Beast's debut and surprisingly - the Finns have done it and have made an album of good old heavy metal with catchy riffs, heroic solos, synthesizer aplenty and powerful vocals. Battle Beast's debut may be a concept album of sorts, I don't think they'd care if it was, with the lyrics about death, war, mechanical entities, metal of various weights and heroic stuff all round.

One thing to note, this is a band which pulls no punches and is OTT to the max. So naturally it smells like cheese which never will die. But the band doesn't exactly take itself seriously from the name to the cover art to the songs themselves so no problem. It's meant to be over the top and the cheesiness of the overall product just adds to how enjoyable the record is. Seriously, if you get over the initially ridiculous lyrical and musical layering here then you get a really enjoyable, fun record of 80s style retro old fashioned heavy metal. Leading this band is none other than female vocalist (although this is hard to distinguish without confirmation at times) Nitte Valo. Wow, a Metal Titan to rival any male counterpart, she has it all, air raid siren, rapsing shouts and lungs that could rival Bruce Dickinson for capacity. Combining that with solid and epic backing from the other 5 members of the band who play flawlessly throughout and you have an epic of an album with power and cheese wafting through the casing.

So what we have at the end of the day is probably the cheesiest record in creation perhaps to revive Manowar's efforts, but it's a great, catchy and fun record with epic tracks like "Enter the Metal World", folk power with the synthesized "Band of the Hawk" with "Victory" a fitting epic close to a magnificent, perhaps insane album which reaches new depths of ridiculously epic. But what's the point of living if all must be complicated and serious eh? For those who just wish to leave behind the genre's complexity for something retro, fun and ridiculous, OTT and a sonic joy throughout, then this is an album for you. Enjoy!

Wrath Of The Titans (Blu-ray + Blu-ray 3D) [2012] [Region Free]
Wrath Of The Titans (Blu-ray + Blu-ray 3D) [2012] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Sam Worthington
Price: £3.98

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Expect little and you get Much, 20 July 2012
When Clash of the Titans came out, I was one of the people who was fine with it. Yes it wasn't nearly as good, or good in any sense of the word, as the original stock motion picture, yes the characters were bland, the 3D was terrible and the dialogue - best not repeated in some cases. But it was essentially what it made itself out to be, a mindless CGI blockbuster. In my opinion the film industry is big enough to mix in CGI mindless blockbusters with movies of value and depth, (unless it becomes offensive and racist (nod to the "Transformers" movies). But anyway, 2 years later and we're presented with the second Titans movie. For me the main thing that made me want to see this film was that overall the movies around this time were really disappointing, the Hunger Games had terrible camera work and I personally dislike the book so the film didn't improve on much. John Carter was also lackluster, with everything capable of producing an epic but never amounting to it in tone, scale or emotion. Even the Pirates film was pretty lacking in antagonists and good humor. So, knowing that if I had expectations low and sought only CGI and poor characters, I'd be happy with Wrath of the Titans - and only in 2D, not falling for that a second time.

The movie itself concerns the rise of Kronos, father to the main trio of Zeus, Poseidon and Hades. Trapped in Tartarus, Hades and son of Zeus, Ares free him with the life force draining from Zeus. However before falling into their trap, Zeus gets precognition of the end of the world and warns his son Perseus, now widowed and with a son, that it will soon be the apocalypse as he knows it. So after initially turning down his father's pleas, Perseus fights a Chimera from Hell and then goes out to join Andromeda (damsel in distress turned warrior queen) and her war efforts against the oncoming onslaught. To save Zeus and prevent World's End, they must travel to the Underworld in a much more complicated manner than the first time round, different part of Erebus presumably. So they join up with Poseidon's son and the trio with accompanying soldiers set out to defeat unspeakable evil. Along the way they run into Cyclops' and Hephaestus, the forger of the great weapons the three Gods who Kronos is the parent of. He leads them to the entrance to a labyrinths of sorts before Ares, summoned by a desperate soldier kills most of them except the non-expendable characters. From there on its the Minotaur, battles between Gods and mortals and the final showdown between Kronos, Perseus and the armies of both with a couple of changed alliances and personal dealings of the whole father/son priority.

So what's good about this film. Well of course the CGI is excellent as always, the score is very good. The Acting is an improvement and it seems an ounce more effort went into developing this time round, Sam Worthington looks more interested here, Andromeda has more to work with here than a submitting damsel, though not much. The God characters despite how 2D they are hold up well enough in the proceedings and there isn't much else too it. The plot is at least better constructed than the first one, the set pieces when they're not on green screen are crafted with nice details. I do take issue with this film though with the message, its clearly tapping into the secular mindset of the modern world, some will like it if they can see it through the blistering special effects and the poor dialogue. The original and for that matter Greek Mythology as a whole was really choosing Gods wisely and finding individual paths, but acknowledging a humble place for humanity, here, its the end of a God-like era and entering a truly human one. An interesting idea, but not for this kind of lazy movie. However, why rate this film so highly if the dialogue is trite and the only value lies in the visuals and not much else? Well if you know what to expect these films are fun to sit back, have a laugh and enjoy. Not mentally taxing, although films like that are more entertaining, just turn the mind off and let it fall back into CGI monsters and battle. If you know this film isn't good for any depth, then it's quite fun and enjoyable, if not then this isn't for you.

The Amazing Spider-Man (DVD) [2012]
The Amazing Spider-Man (DVD) [2012]
Dvd ~ Andrew Garfield
Offered by The Happy Zombie
Price: £1.50

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Decade's Worth of Experience: The Amazing Spider Man, 18 July 2012
It's been 10 years since Spiderman was released for the first time and in 2002 it laid the foundations for what would and wouldn't work in a 21st century Superhero story, as did the two sequels. And in many ways the flaws of the original are exactly what are refined here because the original took the old and integrated with the new to make a new decade's worth of Superhero flicks. The sequels in 2004 and 2007 also showed what does and doesn't work when continuing the story and in many ways the first sequel of a Superhero movie tends to be the one which goes most popular, similar to X-Men, the reason being the first one sets the premise of this hero up and the sequel develops it with more emphasis on the personal struggles, the development and distancing effects of the character (Iron Man 2 for that point does it well) and of course more emphasis on an iconic villain. So what we have 10 years after the foundation stone in modern Superhero flicks is a reboot of the Spiderman franchise, one of the most iconic Marvel heroes known to man.

Now many of us are thinking, why did this happen? Spiderman 3, whilst not a great success critically was only 5 years ago. Well it's down to the fact that Toby McGuire didn't want to reprise his role as the spider so it made more sense to reboot rather than recast. Essentially however this turned out in many ways to be a good thing. I'm not a huge fan of the original trilogy, I appreciate how it was very much doing what it had to in unexplored territory for a new millennium but in many ways it was still awkward, slow and the villain's cheesiness and predictability were too in your face for my liking. But for all the mistakes the three films made, this one manages not only to skip over them but make itself a very different and enjoyable entity compared to the first film. It's grittier, it's more human, darker and less cheesy, as well as messing around with the formula Superhero films took from Spiderman. The characters have more dimensions, more usage and connections, the dialogue is snappier and the actors are far better in their roles than the first run of events.

First of all the major plus is the characters and the casting, Andrew Garfield is a far more 3D Spiderman than Maguire ever was in his role, whereas the former played a mild-mannered, trying to the best thing with limitations, Garfield plays the character as more human and more product produced. He feels more realistic and his nerdy awkwardness apart from in one scene is barely overplayed. He also doesn't lose that human flawed side even after donning the mask and makes mistakes, is quite a cocky person and generally non-heroic, despite having the heart of gold idea. In many ways the vendetta aspect of his character links him to Bruce Wayne, but more played down with less money. He's also resourceful in that he makes the most of his abilities and the crafting of his suit. Emma Stone plays Gwen Stacey and the female interest is so much more interesting and less awkward than Mary Jane was in the original, and a major change from the original is that in this version it doesn't take two movies of awkward dialogue and separation for her to find out who Spiderman is, it's just less awkward, less predictable and she actually manages to be of some help whereas Mary Jane was a damsel in distress more than anything else. She's also got some wit, intelligence and humor to her character. Dennis Leary also gets to find out ahead of time and the brief chemistry between him and Peter Parker is not only well played but convincing. Martin Sheen as the Uncle is more memorable and stern, and Sally Field as Aunt May is more human, fragile and just more developed. The film's grittier atmosphere helps to make the more fragile characters better. The actors are brilliant for the film as is the characters they play. Nearly forgot to mention however our antagonist, Rhys Ifans playing Curt Connors and the monster known as the Lizard. Another change in the story, the fact that actually the scientist doesn't want to prove his point immediately through human trials on a scientific works but develops into that way of thinking under corporate pressure and eventually FROM his developments becomes the monster.

The CGI in this film is better than the first time round and better used, there's far less lame comedy and more grit, the characters are more developed and used and the bloodier violence and emotions of the characters is more felt. A lot of people love the original, I found it OK and prefer perhaps Nolan's work with the Dark Knight. This however is probably Marvel's best stand-alone (meaning not the Avengers) flick and not only reboots but re imagines the way in which the story is told, with less awkward romance, more to-the-point plotting and more fragile yet still human and likable characters. The damsel is no longer just in distress, the hero has more flaws even after beginning his heroic stand and the monster is not so cheesy and 2D. So after 10 years of trial and error Superhero flicks, the Amazing Spiderman emerges and with the Avengers now assembled, it's a relief to have one of the other creations emphasized, reworked and looking fantastic.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 19, 2012 11:02 PM BST

The Varangian Way - Director's Cut
The Varangian Way - Director's Cut
Price: £9.97

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Magnum Opus of Heroic Metal, 15 July 2012
Turisas is, my favorite band, the one that introduced me to heroic metal, and for that matter, all Metal. The Varangian Way was the album that first introduced me to this genre and the hundreds of sub genres I love and hold dear now. And even after hearing hundreds of albums from so many bands, I always return to the first one I truly listened to and loved. The Varangian way is Turisas' second album following the folk tinged, aggressive but more than anything else, fun Battle Metal. Whereas their debut concentrated on battle, drinking and Finnish folklore, the Varangian way takes Turisas onto their historical route that would take them all the way through two albums. The Varangians were Scandinavians who went down the Eastern River Routes of Ukraine and Russia to reach Constantinople / Miklagard, the Great City. The album tells of this remarkable journey, from setting sale at Holmgard / Novgorod through portage, courts and rapids to their final destination to serve the Emperor at what was then the most impressive spectacle of the era.

The album being with Turisas' most renowned track aside from Battle Metal - "To Holmgard and Beyond", it's a pounding, epic and heavy yet melodic masterpiece of strong clean vocals, grinding guitars and the accordion and violin tinging the sides as the song progresses in sheer epic strides. It's a powerful opener and is best heard live as the crew of the Varangians set sail for their epic journey Southwards down the rivers. Track 2 is the seaman's song "A Portage to the Unknown" with choir like choruses and that orchestral feel in the backing as the men continue on thier voyage, carrying their boats on waters too dry and shallow. "Cursed be Iron" is an unusual track lyrically and is based on a mythology standpoint about the iron workers from the view of our narrating protagonist. It's heavy with rough vocals and the kind of mining atmosphere only countered perhaps by Rammstein's "Sonne".

Fields of Gold, the song describing the fields on the side of the rivers in Ukraine, yet also a track about the good things in life and appreciation, is fast, lyrically sparse (yet when it does come it comes bellowing out with a force unlike any other) and a great song overall. The next track is the somewhat strange and almost demented "In the Court of Jarisleif" with a vocalist that sounds like the Go-Compare man having an epileptic fit and refusing to shut up. It's an entertaining, whimsical and downright puzzling piece. And then we have one of my three favorites on this album, "Five Hundred and One". This track begins with a haunting piano melody before kicking in with heavy guitars and rough vocals. We then get a track which goes from tough decisions to roll call and eventually choir singing finale of sheer power that is only matched in the final track.

The final two tracks are "The Dnieper Rapids" and "Miklagard Overture" which are both two masterpieces, the former an atmospheric and frantic ride down the rapids with pace, orchestration perfectly delivered and rough vocals throughout. And then the latter is the epic of the album, Miklagard Overture, containing two female choir segments, multiple key changes and Turisas' first guitar solo - which after two albums in Metal is restraint unto itself (previously it was all done on Violin). The final track ends the album magnificently and with great prowess of Turisas' achievements.

Bonus track on here is Rasputin, the disco-metal hit Turisas conceived and has become one of their most popular live songs with its funky styling, excellent lyrics and manic pacing. So that concludes this review of my first and favorite album of all time, thank you Turisas, you delivered me to Metal, will never forget it.

Limbo: Special Edition (PC DVD)
Limbo: Special Edition (PC DVD)

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Gem of Modern Gaming, 15 July 2012
Gaming today often has too much to it, complications, a lot of noise and a lot questions, sometimes simplicity serves better. And LIMBO is simple, very simple, perfectly effective. It essentially is a puzzle solving game in a 2D monochrome world where you play a boy going through this haunting world, dodging death and outwitting the numerous scenarios blocking your path. However the idea of this game is not so much its main selling point, rather the execution. Visually LIMBO is stunning in its simplicity, the lack of colorful distraction and the emphasis on shadow play and lack of full visualization is perfect for what the game is trying to do. The game is atmospheric, entrancing and truly other-worldly with its monochrome setting and eerie score which accompanies. As well as this the single-path way is in a way, far more entertaining that a multiple option / 3D work, it keeps the game going at a steady pace and means you are more enthralled and brought into the story than actually focusing on the fact its a game.

LIMBO's plot is very easy - there is none other than a basic premise, a boy is searching through this LIMBO world to find the fate of his sister, that's all we know. And in some cases we need know nothing else, all we have to show for all this is the boy, a silhouette with two white eyes which glance and blink with no exaggeration. Despite not seeing anything detailed on this boy we actually come to sympathize with him a lot more than hours devoted to characters on Skyrim could achieve - why? Is it because we don't know what this world is and that he's alone, is it those eyes, or is it the fact that unless you move carefully he dies in a multitude of ways, gruesome and / or haunting. The boys deaths (and without doubt you'll see plenty working through this) are grim, and it attaches you more to him with every chance you get to get the puzzle right on the next occasion.

The game also is a very dark piece, bordering on a demented artwork for what it shows us, the boy's deaths are, not nice to put it easily, its either a really haunting way to go such as drowning or falling, or the sharp objects get their way in a number of creative scenarios. However despite this though it is actually a relaxing experience with the music, the multiple shades of grey and the very basic controls, five in total and four of those are movement anyway. Its very much an escapist piece of work, able to take you into another place, making everything easier, and more dangerous.

LIMBO is a perfect combination of monochrome style, simplicity and puzzles, the only problem being its length, its too short but personally I find a short gem is better than a long failure, so take what you get here and you'll be thoroughly satisfied. LIMBO's only problems lie in the length and any frustration one may get from repetitive deaths - but it causes more good than bad and is far more of an encouragement than the failures in different puzzle games such as the Portal games (even though they are two of the best games in history they don't attach so well to the protagonist as LIMBO does).

The Lion King 3: Hakuna Matata  [DVD]
The Lion King 3: Hakuna Matata [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bradley Raymond
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £5.87

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some say it degrades the original, I don't agree, 8 July 2012
The Lion King was a classic, a Hamlet inspired story of kings, romance, betrayal and standing up to fight, basically creating one of the best films and most iconic masterpieces Disney ever made. later on a direct to video sequel was made, Lion King 2: Simba's pride, one of the better sequels with decent animation, a different conflict and some engaging ideas thrown together. And then we have Lion King 3 or Lion King 1 1/2 which is not a sequel as the latter title choice indicates, but rather more of the same story but at a different angle, in this case, the comic relief of the original and sequel, Timon and Pumba, the no-worries advocates with bug arguments and enough one-liners to satisfy two movies. The concept of this is pretty simple, Timon and Pumba are taking the MST3K format of the theater arrangement and then showing a kind of behind the scenes parody by showing the events of the Lion King from their perspective. Its the first Lion King film that's aware of itself as entertainment rather than simply telling a story, some may see that as clever, others as tedious. Anyway this essentially covers Timon's early life, his leaving of his old home and meeting Pumba, before their search for an ideal home. From there they meet Simba and the rest is history.

So is this a good direct-to-video sequel? Well in some ways it is, it has its moments where it succeeds at what's its trying to achieve, the scene in Scar's assembly of hyenas despite being short is humorous, the interludes of the silhouettes in the theater of Pumba and Timon analyzing the film are often funny and insightful, however the best material is when we see scenes entirely different from the Lion King rather than the unique angle idea. Such as Timon identifying the name of the their philosophy whilst Pumba throws in a dozen dishes of synonymous names in the background. Also seeing Simba growing up with them is quite interesting, and funny as the chores of parenthood fall onto our characters. Visually it's fine and musically it works out well enough, it has fewer songs than either of the other two Lion King films and when it does they do in fact mean something to the plot, not a fault of the other movies but something missing from many Disney sequels. Now granted it does have its flaws, some bad taste perhaps as Pumba's special power is overplayed, the climax like Lion King 2 perhaps lacks something, mainly because the central action was Simba in the first place. Casting wise the duo are well voiced and the supporting cast does well enough with Timon's mother and Uncle Max perfect for their respective roles, as are of course the returning Simba and Raffiki.

Some consider this movie to basically defecate on the original, I digress and disagree on that, its humorous if a bit pathetic at times and at least is a different, cohesive whole of a film which is funny, features character development and gives character's from the original at least something to do unlike the direct sequel of the classic original.

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