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Jordan (Oxford, England)

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Spy Girl (Korean Version)
Spy Girl (Korean Version)
Dvd ~ Sang Mi Nam

3.0 out of 5 stars Charming yet flawed romantic comedy, 31 May 2013
This review is from: Spy Girl (Korean Version) (DVD)
Given its proximity to one of the world's most secretive states, it's perhaps no surprise that the South Korean box office is dominated by films about spies - whatever the genre. In that vein, this perfectly serviceable (if unoriginal) rom-com sees a hapless young dropout fall for a beautiful North Korean spy, who is working undercover at a Seoul 'Burger King' while hunting down a defector on the run from Pyongyang. Although the concept would later be redone - and far better - in 2009's My Girlfriend Is An Agent, those looking for a charming and inoffensive romp could do a lot worse than this...

Spy Girl begins from the perspective of Ko-bong, a perpetual loser whose bachelor status is a constant source of ridicule. Hoping to inspire the lovelorn chap, Ko-bong's friends direct him to a website they've set up that allows young men from across Seoul to share pictures of attractive girls working in local fast food restaurants. Ko-bong - along with half the population of Seoul, it seems - soon falls head over heels for newcomer Hyo-jin, who is described on the site as being "so beautiful, anyone who doesn't know her is a North Korean spy".

You can probably guess where this is going.

After switching to Hyo-jin's perspective, we learn that she actually is a spy for the North and is in Seoul to track down a defector wanted for embezzlement. The fast food job is a useful cover for this, but when Hyo-jin stumbles across the 'hotties' website - and misinterprets the "North Korean spy" reference as blowing her cover - she quickly tracks down the owners of the site to demand they delete her photos. They agree, but on one condition: Hyo-jin has to go on a 'blind' date with their friend, Ko-bang. And so it begins.

In one sense, it is difficult to criticise Spy Girl because it delivers much of what it promises at the outset: some proper laughs, a sprinkle of genuine charm and lots of screen time for the strikingly attractive Kim Jung-hwa. But even judged by this lower standard, it isn't a perfect film by any means. I think what ultimately lets it down is its lack of clear focus and direction. Perhaps due to the dual-perspective opening, the whole film feels like it's just setting the scene for something bigger; it never really gets out of that 'first act' mentality into something approaching a conventional narrative.

By the time we approach the final act, then, we're still not really sure if the two protagonists are even in a relationship, let alone if it's a strong one. This obviously makes it difficult to empathise with the characters when they face inevitable tough decisions towards the end. So although there's plenty of genuine laughs and some very funny scenes along the way, the overall structure for those scenes seems sadly lacking.

But perhaps I'm being too harsh. This isn't meant to be taken seriously: it's a fun, leave-your-brain-at-the-door romantic comedy that hopes to raise a smile or two en route to a warm and fuzzy ending. Judged by that standard, Spy Girl succeeds - although if you haven't yet seen the similarly themed (and quite brilliant) My Girlfriend Is An Agent, you might want to check that out first.

6/10 - more than watchable.


Spy Girl [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Spy Girl [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £77.77

3.0 out of 5 stars Charming yet flawed romantic comedy, 31 May 2013
Given its proximity to one of the world's most secretive states, it's perhaps no surprise that the South Korean box office is dominated by films about spies - whatever the genre. In that vein, this perfectly serviceable (if unoriginal) rom-com sees a hapless young dropout fall for a beautiful North Korean spy, who is working undercover at a Seoul 'Burger King' while hunting down a defector on the run from Pyongyang. Although the concept would later be redone - and far better - in 2009's My Girlfriend Is An Agent, those looking for a charming and inoffensive romp could do a lot worse than this...

Spy Girl begins from the perspective of Ko-bong, a perpetual loser whose bachelor status is a constant source of ridicule. Hoping to inspire the lovelorn chap, Ko-bong's friends direct him to a website they've set up that allows young men from across Seoul to share pictures of attractive girls working in local fast food restaurants. Ko-bong - along with half the population of Seoul, it seems - soon falls head over heels for newcomer Hyo-jin, who is described on the site as being "so beautiful, anyone who doesn't know her is a North Korean spy".

You can probably guess where this is going.

After switching to Hyo-jin's perspective, we learn that she actually is a spy for the North and is in Seoul to track down a defector wanted for embezzlement. The fast food job is a useful cover for this, but when Hyo-jin stumbles across the 'hotties' website - and misinterprets the "North Korean spy" reference as blowing her cover - she quickly tracks down the owners of the site to demand they delete her photos. They agree, but on one condition: Hyo-jin has to go on a 'blind' date with their friend, Ko-bang. And so it begins.

In one sense, it is difficult to criticise Spy Girl because it delivers much of what it promises at the outset: some proper laughs, a sprinkle of genuine charm and lots of screen time for the strikingly attractive Kim Jung-hwa. But even judged by this lower standard, it isn't a perfect film by any means. I think what ultimately lets it down is its lack of clear focus and direction. Perhaps due to the dual-perspective opening, the whole film feels like it's just setting the scene for something bigger; it never really gets out of that 'first act' mentality into something approaching a conventional narrative.

By the time we approach the final act, then, we're still not really sure if the two protagonists are even in a relationship, let alone if it's a strong one. This obviously makes it difficult to empathise with the characters when they face inevitable tough decisions towards the end. So although there's plenty of genuine laughs and some very funny scenes along the way, the overall structure for those scenes seems sadly lacking.

But perhaps I'm being too harsh. This isn't meant to be taken seriously: it's a fun, leave-your-brain-at-the-door romantic comedy that hopes to raise a smile or two en route to a warm and fuzzy ending. Judged by that standard, Spy Girl succeeds - although if you haven't yet seen the similarly themed (and quite brilliant) My Girlfriend Is An Agent, you might want to check that out first.

6/10 - more than watchable.


PaperMate S0957191 InkJoy 100ST Ballpoint Pen, Medium Point - Assorted, Pack of 10
PaperMate S0957191 InkJoy 100ST Ballpoint Pen, Medium Point - Assorted, Pack of 10
Price: £2.74

5.0 out of 5 stars The best disposable pens on the market, 29 May 2013
I love these Inkjoy pens. They just seem to glide across the page and are ideal for quick writing, while the quick-drying ink leaves fewer smudges than rollerball or biro. Print quality is similar to the old Papermate handwriting pens (though much easier on the wrist!). Highly recommended.


Paper Mate Inkjoy 100 CAP Capped Ball Pen Medium Tip 1.0mm - Blue (Box of 50)
Paper Mate Inkjoy 100 CAP Capped Ball Pen Medium Tip 1.0mm - Blue (Box of 50)
Price: £8.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best disposable pens on the market, 29 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I love these Inkjoy pens. They just seem to glide across the page and are ideal for quick writing, while the quick-drying ink leaves fewer smudges than rollerball or biro. Print quality is similar to the old Papermate handwriting pens (though much easier on the wrist!). Highly recommended.


Belkin F8N143 Portable Notebook Cushdesk Comfort Lap Desk for Laptops up to 18.4 inch - Black/Pink
Belkin F8N143 Portable Notebook Cushdesk Comfort Lap Desk for Laptops up to 18.4 inch - Black/Pink
Price: £12.22

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 29 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This really is an excellent laptop tray: big enough to fit most size laptops, but compact enough to rest against the side of the sofa when not in use. The top is a sturdy hard plastic, so no danger of your laptop 'sinking' into the material and blocking the outlet fans (as happens with some cheap trays). The base is a soft but firm fabric which feels comfortable even after many hours' use. There is also a rubber stopper near the foot of the tray to stop the laptop sliding off when used at an incline.

The one slight drawback is the colour of the base - a rather bright purple, bordering on pink - but I suppose that's a matter of personal preference. If you're looking for a lapdesk, especially at this price, this really does tick all the boxes.


Verbatim 43667 8.5GB 8x DVD+R Double Layer Inkjet Printable 25 Pack Spindle
Verbatim 43667 8.5GB 8x DVD+R Double Layer Inkjet Printable 25 Pack Spindle
Price: £21.78

5.0 out of 5 stars Expensive, but worth the extra (from a former AOne Gold user), 29 May 2013
I've been using AOne Gold dual-layer discs for a while but I've become frustrated at the number of coasters in newer batches (both during the burning and verification stages). Although these Verbatim discs seem much more expensive (at around £9 for 10, as opposed to £7 for 25 of the AOne), I was only getting around 12 usable discs from the latest 25-packs of AOne so these are more or less the same price per usable disc. And not a single coaster since I switched.

Highly recommended if you need a dual layer DVD+R disc - though remember BD-Rs remain much cheaper (per GB) if you're backing up a lot of data.


Sadako - Ring 3 [Blu-ray] [2012] [US Import]
Sadako - Ring 3 [Blu-ray] [2012] [US Import]

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A missed opportunity, 28 May 2013
The Ringu franchise gets a 21st century update in this fourth instalment of the classic horror series. Coming over a decade after Ring 0, Sadako 3D was a real chance to kickstart the ailing series and give renewed life to Koji Suzuki's classic story. Sadly, although the film starts well and manages to update key elements of the Sadako folklore, it is ultimately let down by a bizarre finale and its completely pointless use of 3D. We are left to wonder whether Sadako should have perhaps stayed down the well.

The film begins with the suicide of a disgraced artist, broadcast via webcam to a handful of people on a video sharing website. Although the video is promptly deleted, it soon becomes notorious throughout Japan as "the cursed video" after rumours emerge that all who watch it take their own lives shortly thereafter. The legend is particularly popular among teenagers, who scour the net 24/7 trying to find a working link among the `404 not found' error pages.

The film's protagonist, Akane, is a high school teacher drawn into the legend after one of her students apparently commits suicide while watching the clip. As more and more of her class expose themselves to the danger, Akane learns of a connection between the suicidal artist and the notorious Sadako legend from a decade earlier. Could Sadako be behind this latest cursed video? If so, what does she want this time? And how can she be stopped?

For fans of American horror, Sadako 3D is to Ringu what Scream 4 was to Scream: a reimagining of the original story, transferred to a modern setting with modern technology, and with characters who are aware of the previous films' events. Where Scream 4 failed was in trying to merge the original premise - of teenagers being isolated and stalked in a small town - with the modern setting, never really answering the question of how a 21st century teenager can ever be 'isolated' in an era of smartphones and mobile internet. By contrast, the writers of Sadako 3D recognise that the original film's premise would seem dated today, and use advances in technology to their advantage.

For starters, Sadako no longer needs a television set to wreak her revenge: the creepy long-haired girl appears from smartphones, laptops and even electronic advertising boards. It's a useful ploy that means characters are never really safe wherever they are, and it works well. What also succeeds is the uncertainty of the 'cursed video': instead of a tape that characters either watch (and be damned, exactly seven days later) or don't watch (and be safe), the video is an online stream that moves about the internet, appearing at random on computers or smartphones that have previously searched for it. This means you are never really sure when (or if) a character will be next, giving a breath of fresh air to what could have been considered, by now, a tired concept.

All of that, though, is completely undermined by the final act, where the director (for some inexplicable reason) decides to crossover a decent paranormal ghost story with a creature feature - with predictably terrible results. Without spoiling the full details in this review, nuances from the Sadako legend are reduced to Silent Hill-like zombie creatures, almost leaving the viewer unsure if they're still watching the same film. Of course, genre crossovers are popular in Asian cinema and can be done successfully (see, e.g., Spellbound), but this just fails miserably. Things do get back on track somewhat for the ultimate finale, which satisfies to a point, but the damage has already been done by that stage.

Mention must also be made of the 3D effects. Although often a gimmick at the best of times, the extra dimension serves no purpose whatsoever here, being restricted to shots of Sadako's hand emerging from screens of various sizes - and that's about it. Moreover, since most of the (modest) budget appears to have been spent on the 3D apparatus, the film looks decidedly low-budget when watched in 2D, with some truly laughable CGI effects. I appreciate that the 3D `gimmick' may have been required to get this film made at all, but I do wonder whether the final act would have strayed so far from the Ringu folklore had the director not being able to cheat his way out of proper storytelling with the cheap, gimmicky effect.

Ultimately, then, we are left with the feeling of what could have been. With its decent overall premise and its intelligent use of technology to update the original story, this could have been the refreshing reboot needed to kickstart the Ringu franchise. As it is, Sadako 3D is a mere curiosity; worth a watch (for the first hour at least) if you enjoy the original films, but more likely (in the final act) to alienate existing fans than win over new ones.

5 out of 10 - disappointing.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 28, 2013 10:10 AM BST


Samsung 900X3C 13.3-inch Laptop (Black) - (Intel Core i7 3517UM 1.9GHz Processor, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD, LAN, WLAN, BT, Webcam, Integrated Graphics, Windows 8)
Samsung 900X3C 13.3-inch Laptop (Black) - (Intel Core i7 3517UM 1.9GHz Processor, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD, LAN, WLAN, BT, Webcam, Integrated Graphics, Windows 8)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent laptop, but a few things to know..., 26 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This really is an exceptional Ultrabook, with a stunning screen, a fast SSD, decent battery life and ample processing power. Other reviewers have already covered its strengths well, so I just wanted to highlight a couple of smaller details/niggles that I myself would have found useful before buying. In no particular order, then:

- Though the official colour is "marble ash", it has a strong navy blue tint.

- The model currently advertised for sale here (900X3C-A05UK) DOES use the faster Liteon 128GB SSD drive, not the poorer quality Crucial drive found in earlier models.

- The battery is non-removable but does charge very quickly: about 1.5 to 2 hours from empty. That is giving me around 5 hours battery life with light use.

- Surprisingly, there is NO place to attach a security lock (Kensington or otherwise). I understand that sacrifices are needed to keep the form factor so small, but this really is a huge omission that makes it difficult to use the laptop in public.

- The default Windows 8 installation comes with a fair bit of bloatware and the system feels a little sluggish on first boot. However, after formatting, disabling UEFI/SecureBoot in the BIOS and installing a fresh copy of Windows 7, the machine runs like a dream. Drivers for Windows 7 (and XP!) are on the Samsung site.

- Although obviously a matter of personal preference, I find the keyboard a joy to type on. Keys are well spaced and travel sufficiently to know when you've connected. The overall feel is similar to a chiclet-style desktop keyboard.

- The keyboard backlight is exceptional: just the right amount of light to illuminate the keys without overpowering the keyboard or screen, even in total darkness.

- A rather big (and distracting) message flashes on the screen every time you turn the CAPS LOCK or NUM LOCK on/off. I cannot find a way to disable this without also disabling the function keys (for brightness/volume etc).

- There are two USB ports, though only one is USB3.

- The laptop is completely silent. I've yet to hear the fans once.

I hope this answers some questions you may have as a prospective buyer (as I know I scoured the net in vain with similar questions before buying it myself!). I'll add to this list if I think of anything else that may be relevant, and please feel free to ask any questions in the comments section below.

All in all, even with a couple of niggles, this is an exceptional device.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 28, 2013 7:27 AM BST


Samsung Executive Leather Case for Galaxy S 2 - Black
Samsung Executive Leather Case for Galaxy S 2 - Black

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good case, just a couple of small niggles, 6 Feb. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This genuine Samsung leather case is an excellent accessory for the Galaxy S2. It keeps the screen and back completely covered when in your pocket (or in your car's small change holder) and it doesn't add much width or weight to the super-sleek handset.

I only have two small gripes. First, although there is a hole in the top of the case for the headphone socket, there isn't one on the bottom for the charger/USB/HDMI lead - so you either have to remove the phone from the case to charge/transfer files/output to TV or leave the case fully opened while you do so (which obviously takes up twice as much room on the desk - and won't protect the phone from dust/spills).

Second, and linked to the first, the phone is a VERY tight fit, and I'm worried the handset might scratch soon if taken in and out of the case regularly. I suppose it's useful to know your handset isn't going to fall out at any point - but the hard plastic fittings on this case seem just a little too small to rub against the bottom of the handset regularly.

All in all, though, a recommended purchase.


What the Night Knows
What the Night Knows
Price: £3.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Flashes of vintage Koontz but ultimately unsatisfying, 7 July 2011
As an avid Koontz reader since the early nineties, I (like many) have grown dismayed at the marked decline in his recent work. Sadly, although WHAT THE NIGHT KNOWS offers a few glimpses of vintage Koontz, the overall novel again falls short of being a satisfying thriller.

The story follows John Calvino, a detective with a seriously gruesome past. When John was 14, his family were the final victims of a sadistic serial killer, Alton Blackwood. John managed to survive the slaughter and to kill Blackwood, but he has lived with the guilt of not being able to save the rest of his family ever since that tragic night.

Now, twenty years later, two families are slaughtered in the 'Blackwood way' and an unwelcome presence can be felt in the house that John shares with his wife and children. Eschewing logic, John becomes convinced that Blackwood's spirit has returned from beyond the grave, determined to exact bloody revenge against John and his new family.

WHAT THE NIGHT KNOWS starts sluggishly and I'm not surprised to see that some reviewers gave up on it within the first five chapters. Two main problems affect the pacing for me: i) John's character is wholly undeveloped for a protagonist - Koontz often describes locations in more detail than his main character - which in turn makes it difficult to empathize with John; and ii) too much of the story is told from the POV of John's children, who shift between 'unusually insightful' and 'extremely idiotic' with frustrating ease.

The high points of the novel come when Koontz switches to Blackwood's POV - or, more typically, to one of the 'vessels' that Blackwood controls to assume human form. For me, some of these moments represent Koontz' finest writing since INTENSITY; it's just a shame they account for about 5% of the total novel, if that.

I have no doubt that Koontz remains capable of writing another five-star thriller, as the odd snippets in this novel suggest. However, if truth be told, I'm not sure whether I would still be reading Koontz' newest works if not for the author's reputation: if Koontz had written his 21st century novels under a pseudonym, I doubt they'd still be topping the bestseller charts. 2.5 out of 5.


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