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Pyke Bishop (Birmingham, UK)

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Desperate Justice [1993] [DVD]
Desperate Justice [1993] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Lesley Ann Warren

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mothers revenge, 5 Feb. 2013
An anguished mother stands trial for attempted murder after shooting her daughter's rapist in court.

Carol Sanders' (Lesley Ann Warren) life is torn apart after her young daughter is found viciously beaten and raped, and now lies in a coma.

The school janitor Frank Warden (David Byron) is arrested and tried, but is allowed to go free as his hot-shot lawyer Ellen Wells (Annette O'Toole), and his doting mother Bess (Shirley Knight) provide a rock solid case and alibi. Distraught and traumatised by this injustice, Carol takes the law into her own hands with disastrous consequences.

Carol discovers that the law which let a brutal attacker walk free has no mercy for a mother who was desperate to find some justice.

This isn't original but I still watched it because I was curious. Thankfully, this wasn't painful to watch.

One of the strengths here is the acting. It was interesting to see Lesley Ann Warren play a strong maternal role for a change. Bruce Davison and Melissa Lahlitah Crider came off as genuine as her loyal husband and older daughter. And Allison Mack as her youngest daughter/the victim was a picture of innocence, and wasn't annoying. There isn't any background on David Byron's character (who plays the sex offender), and he's not around for long. David Byron didn't look like a threat, which I suppose worked in his favour.

I like how the writers didn't immediately have the family come together in a time-of-crisis. Traumatic events can fracture families, temporarily or permanently. Although the ending isn't the typical happy Hollywood ending..it's pretty close to it.

If you like U.S. TV films and there is nothing decent on in the afternoon then you would probably enjoy this family/courtroom drama.

Wolfenstein (PC)
Wolfenstein (PC)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fun sequel, 4 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Wolfenstein (PC) (Computer Game)
The sequel to 2001's Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a worthy addition to the series and a fun romp in its own right.

The setup for this historical/sci-fi mash-up is typical Wolfenstein whimsy, shouldered by the ever-capable B.J. Blaskowicz. This returning hero has spilled his share of Nazi blood, so who better than B.J. to protect the residents of the city of Isenstadt (not to be confused with the Austrian city of Eisenstadt) from the ongoing onslaught? Isenstadt is the headquarters of several resistance groups that seeks to wrest the secrets of the supernatural from the hands of the Schutzstaffel. It seems the Nazis are up to their old tricks, this time harnessing the powers of a mystical force called the Black Sun for the usual take-over-the-world kind of evil.

Wolfenstein sticks to the trusty run-and-gun formula that has worked so well for shooters over the years. And it does it well, sending you into country farms, sprawling airfields, and secretive corridors to see how well you can fend off the soldiers and various anomalies it flings toward you. Your tools of destruction are solid. Traditional World War II weapons, such as the MP40 SMG and the Flammenwerfer, feel excellent, so even if you run out of ammo for the more powerful firearms, you'll never lament falling back to the simpler choices. But the better half of your arsenal is essentially snatched from an alternate reality. Of these options, you'll quickly grow fond of the Tesla gun, which fires electric streams in various directions at once, and the Leichenfaust 44, which is a heavy weapon that instantly vaporises standard enemies. As you explore Isenstadt and complete missions, you'll earn money and find bags of coins. You can then spend these spoils on upgrades for your weapons, such as diminished recoil or greater damage. While some weapons are better in certain circumstances than others, there's really no weak link in this bunch.

The action itself is rudimentary as far as first-person shooters go. There is no cover system to grapple with; you won't peek around corners, slink in the shadows, or pilot vehicles. You can, however, enter a parallel dimension called The Veil. When you activate The Veil, the world is shrouded in a shimmering cloak. In it, you can run faster, and enemies glisten, making them easier to target. Odd creatures called geists also float about, shocking nearby enemies if you shoot them down and even creating fearsome webs of electricity in tandem with neighbouring geists. More importantly, entering The Veil lets you perform three potent powers: slow down time, surround yourself with a bulletproof shield, or empower your own bullets to do more damage and pierce paranormal force fields. You can also purchase upgrades for Veil powers just as you do for weapons. Eventually, you might be turning adjacent enemies into pillars of ash when you suppress the flow of time or deflecting bullets back toward your foes when in the safety of your shield.

You'll need to make frequent use of The Veil. Wolfenstein is occasionally challenging when you don't use it; in spite of his regenerating health, B.J. is rather fragile. The game often pits you against a healthy (or unhealthy, in this case) number of Nazi soldiers and ninja-speed sorcerers, so you'll need to stay on your toes and charge up your Veil energy reserves whenever you see an energy deposit's telltale shimmer. That doesn't mean your adversaries are very smart. Soldiers often won't react to a grenade thrown at their feet, don't always care when the Nazi standing right next to them gets shot, and generally seem unconcerned with preserving their own lives. Most of the challenges will come from sheer numbers.

The tension of combat culminates with several fantastic boss battles, each of which requires you to think on your toes and utilize Veil powers to the best of your ability. The final boss fight is the finest of them all--the kind of exciting and extended epic conflict that you rarely see in recent shooters. Your struggles against bosses, along with some terrific set piece battles, help energize the more predictable fire-fights that light up the streets of Isenstadt. In a very early scenario, for example, you'll discover that shooting the containers of blue goo will cause enemies near them to rise into the air as if immune to gravity. You'll fight your way across the room, sending Nazis into the air and filling them with lead as they flail helplessly (it's unclear why they won't use their weapons once airborne, but perhaps it's best not to ask). Other memorable sequences include an escape from an underground base on the brink of destruction and an assault on a sinister stronghold that is replete with Nazi flags fluttering in the wind. Even in the less intriguing battles, soldiers flail around when they catch on fire and headshots result in a gruesome spattering of blood. If you're looking for an exaggerated and occasionally exhilarating spectacle of violence and mysticism, you won't be disappointed.

These long, noisy battles make a big impression, yet a number of small flaws eventually add up to make impressions of their own. For example, you'll open a lot of doors, often to be greeted by enemies on the other side. Yet the doors close on their own without any regard for how close you are to them - and they do so very shortly after opened. You'll often have doors shutting themselves in front of you as you shoot through doorways, and you will need to keep opening them again. Or sometimes, they'll get stuck on objects on the other side simply because so many cramped environments are overfilled with physics-enabled junk. Checkpoints don't always work as you'd expect them to, and there is no manual save function, so you may or may not return to the most recent checkpoint if you quit.

The environmental design for Wolfenstein is terrific, and special effects, such as the electrical streams from your Tesla gun, dramatically light up rooms and corridors. The levels are highly varied; you'll trudge through water-filled sewers, fight on the smoky rooftop streets of Isenstadt, and battle aboard a colossal zeppelin. The visual effect upon entering The Veil is slick; it's as if the real world is being peeled away to reveal the hidden dimension beneath.

Wolfenstein's class-based online multiplayer was wholly inspired by its predecessor's terrific multiplayer modes. There are three modes total: Team Deathmatch, Objective, and Stopwatch (RTCW's Checkpoint mode was jettisoned). Objective and Stopwatch modes provide the core online entertainment, assigning the resistance team to a series of objectives that the Axis team must thwart. The main difference between these two modes is that in Stopwatch, players take turns on each team to see which can earn the fastest completion times. Regardless of which mode you choose, you'll play as a soldier, a medic, or an ever-helpful engineer. Each class also gets a Veil power of its own, though these don't mirror the campaign's Veil powers. Soldiers perform an explosive Veil strike, medics possess an area-of-effect heal, and engineers can run really fast.

Wolfenstein proves that even as first-person shooters progress, there is still plenty of room for traditional shooting unhindered by modern frills (although I found the game to be shorter compared to RTCW). Big bosses, crazy weapons, and exciting scripted fire-fights are the focal point of this game. It's also an ample one if you take on all the side missions and scour environments for intelligence, hidden tomes, and secret money stashes. And if you don't find the game fun enough to keep you coming back, a system of un-lockable upgrades should keep you interested. And there are enough great boss battles here to keep you entertained.

If you enjoyed Return to Castle Wolfenstein and want more of it, you'll get exactly what you want from Wolfenstein, no-more-and-no-less.

Loose Cannons [DVD]
Loose Cannons [DVD]
Dvd ~ Gene Hackman
Offered by joe4books
Price: £6.45

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A match made in hell, 27 Jan. 2013
This review is from: Loose Cannons [DVD] (DVD)
Detective Mac Stern (Gene Hackman) has a reputation for petty eccentricities. He is a hard-bitten cop with an informal attitude toward his work. Some feel that he is overly fond of his vintage car and his pet cat, but when Stern is assigned to a murder case he is teamed with a new partner, Ellis Fielding (Dan Aykroyd), who redefines the meaning of eccentric.

Throw the two of them together for a bizarre case involving a pornographic movie featuring Adolf Hitler as the star, and what do you have? 'Loose Cannons'.

Fielding is a brilliant detective, a man with a keen analytical mind. Unfortunately he doesn't react well under pressure. Put him in a violent situation (a car chase, a gunfight, a brawl) and he'll freak-out, doing a mile-a-minute stream of imitations and quotes. Stern soon realises Fielding suffers from a multiple-personality disorder and as a result was institutionalised in a Benedictine monastery.

They must protect a porno film king who is a chief witness in a murder case. After they discover they are being trailed by Israeli secret agents, Neo-Nazis, and the FBI. They learn their murder case involves a former buddy of Hitler's who wants to be West Germany's next Chancellor.

The film is seasoned with comedy and violence as the pair unravels the crime and brings the criminals to justice.

The film is a very interesting combination of action, comedy and drama, with a pre-requisite 80's happy ending. It veers from wacky comedy, to psychological drama, to gun-toting action, sometimes within the same scene.

Either way, I liked this movie, particularly the scenes involving Dan Aykroyd's psychotic episodes, and Dom DeLuise's supporting role. Although I think Gene Hackman's character could have been developed further.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 19, 2017 11:08 PM BST

Serious Sam 3 (PC DVD)
Serious Sam 3 (PC DVD)
Offered by scaddingk
Price: £15.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Impactful arsenal & crisp visuals, but Sam's macho quips are rarely amusing, 26 Jan. 2013
This review is from: Serious Sam 3 (PC DVD) (CD-ROM)
Serious Sam 3 is a good-looking game that can deliver some excitement, but Sam's macho image has grown wearisome.

The Earth has been in a rough spot for quite some time in Sam Stone's world, though BFE actually takes place before Serious Sam: The First Encounter. The place in the timeline hardly matters, however, because Sam's objectives to locate downed crewmembers or gain entry to underground temples merely serve as waypoints on his ceaseless crusade to destroy the invading aliens. In previous games, Sam's brash attitude provided some amusement along the way, but his masculine wisecracks come off as boring and predictable in Serious Sam 3.

This leaves the burden of entertainment squarely on the shooting. From a humble sledgehammer, you build your arsenal throughout the campaign to encompass a variety of guns that spew bullets, lasers, explosives, and even oversized cannonballs. The double-barrelled shotgun is a deadly standout, as is the ammo-devouring mini-gun. Given the outlandish nature of Sam's foes, it's disappointing that the guns aren't more inventive, but they all fire with a solid sense of impact, thanks to good sound effects and sharp visual design. The environments also sport a lot of nice details, from rubble-strewn streets to crystal-clear water. most levels give you plenty of room to manoeuvre as you gun down your foes, and each map hides a bevy of secrets that reward diligent explorers with health, armour, ammunition, keys to other secrets, or even new weapons.

The more guns you acquire, the better, because there are seemingly endless hordes of aliens to kill. Lurching robo-humans, sprinting skeletons, one-eyed monsters, and chittering arthropods are the most prevalent threats early on, but later levels bring charging bulls, shrieking harpies, and a variety of unpleasant flesh-metal hybrids. Different weapons are better at killing certain types of enemies than others, so as you run around, it's worthwhile to actively switch weapons to outmanoeuvre your foes. Fast, ferocious, and numerous are the classic characteristics of enemies in Serious Sam, but it takes a while before things really get hectic. The adrenaline-inducing panic of being vastly outnumbered doesn't come often until the later levels, which makes the first few levels feel like an uncharacteristically slow start.

When the action finally heats up, blasting your way clear of danger can be a satisfying feeling. Driving rock music often complements your efforts nicely, and the calm after the storm is a welcome reprieve. Even when things get quite difficult toward the latter half of the game, you feel like you're thinning a herd rather than decimating deadly foes.

You can spice things up by joining other players in cooperative play. Up to four players can play via split-screen (with three USB gamepads) or 16 players online can blast the demonic hordes in levels from the campaign or in three survival maps. Having friendlier guns adds an enjoyable camaraderie to the action, and other players can help you discover secrets you might have otherwise missed. Given the campaign's slow start, however, it's best if you crank up the difficulty when playing with others. There's also a variety of competitive modes that involve killing other players or killing AI aliens quickly so that you can kill other players.

There is some solid enjoyment to be had in Serious Sam 3: BFE, but sprinting around and blasting through thousands of enemies feels more like cleanup than combat, and the good audiovisual presentation can only add so much.

The Unholy (Uncut Version) [DVD]
The Unholy (Uncut Version) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ben Cross

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Scared Stiffy?, 24 Jan. 2013
The Unholy (1987) is a supernatural horror film directed by Camilo Vila, starring Ben Cross and Ned Beatty. It also features Trevor Howard in the role of Father Silva.

In The Unholy, a beautiful siren of a demon sporting ketchup red hair is bent on tempting one priest after-the-other at a local church. Father John Michael (Ben Cross) has been selected by the Arch Bishop (Hal Holbrook) and the clergy to parish this same church after he was pushed out of a high storey building and survived without a scratch. The Arch Bishop believes Father Michael to be the 'chosen one', or one who is spiritually enlightened.

We find that Father Michael is in-fact the third priest assigned to St. Agnes church. The former being Father Dennis, and Father Collins who proceeded him. Each have died violently by way of their throats being ripped out. Local detectives were stumped with the incidents, leaving no clues or criminal motivation to draw from. Ned Beatty plays the role of Lieutenant Stern.

Father Michael, like his two predecessors follows the trails hoping to lead him to answers about what really happened. This is when he meets Millie (Jill Carrol), a local waitress who works for a theatrically trendy satanic bar under the leadership of charismatic businessman Luke (William Russ). Luke often provides much of the satanic influence to the staff and crowd with live 'faked' sacrificial acts.

Luke begins to indulge by playing head games with Father Michael. It soon becomes apparent that dark forces are at work here that are intent on claiming the lives of whoever it can tempt. Especially men of the cloth!

The Unholy works with its simplistic approach of one ambitious young priest versus the throes of evil. Actress Nicole Fortier provides a high level of sexuality with her seductress demonic appearances. Twice she appears half naked with her blowing red hair. Simply credited as 'demon', we never doubt her evil intentions.

Acting credits go to Ben Cross who tried his level-best to play the role very straight, which at times, seemed laughable since the material was rather silly. Ned Beatty (Lt Stern) bumbled in and then bumbled out. He did fine, but was a useless part! Hal Holbrook (Archbishop Mosely) ran with his role and gave an admirable show. And, William Russ (Luke) actually stole the show as the level-headed Satanist...he was the most likeable character in the film.

FX man Bob Keen is the master mind behind the final demon. Though while the craftsmanship here was pretty poor - it had some issues with movement, making it appear clumsy and awkward during the final scene. Nowadays viewers might roll their eyes back a bit and even laugh at the sight of it all, however it just reminds me of retro 80′s nostalgia.

DVD extras: Scene selection, talent profiles & theatrical trailer.
Aspect ratio: 16:9 (Widescreen) - 1.78:1

Legend of Hell House [DVD]
Legend of Hell House [DVD]

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Mount Everest of haunted houses, 9 Dec. 2012
This review is from: Legend of Hell House [DVD] (DVD)
A small group of people; a house where things go bump-in-the-night; a desire to document what's happening. Those elements were the basic ingredients for The Legend of Hell House. Adapted by Richard Matheson from his own novel, the film follows an investigation into the paranormal activity at an abandoned mansion in the UK known as "the Mount Everest of haunted houses," a place where eight people have died in previous attempts to get to the bottom of things.

The group, financed by millionaire Mr. Deutsch (Roland Culver), is composed of physicist Lionel Barrett (Clive Revill), his wife Ann (Gayle Hunnicutt), psychic medium Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin), and physical medium Benjamin Franklin Fischer (Roddy McDowell). Fischer is also the sole survivor of the most recent paranormal investigation, years before, but he's lured back by the large pay-check that awaits each member of the group if they are successful in bringing back any factual evidence of "ghosts".

Given only five days to complete their investigation, they must work fast, which suits Barrett just fine. He is a rigorous man of science, and is positive that the paranormal phenomenon that's been reported will prove to have an explanation grounded in reality, at least as he understands and accepts it.

As the group walks into the house, Florence immediately feels the presence of...something...and so does Fischer. Barrett sizes it up immediately as electromagnetic energy, for which he has equipment to detect and record. He wants Florence to have a "sitting," or seance, mainly so he can observe, but Florence begins to have physical manifestations of the energy, or ghostly presence, and it appears to be directed toward Barrett.

This kicks-off a personal conflict between Barrett and Florence, in which Ann is a potential object of collateral damage, while Fischer absents himself for any responsibility. As Florence is drawn into deeper involvement with the psychic forces that swirl through the house, Barrett remains unperturbed. He is, after all, a man of science, and remains focused on completing the investigation in a timely manner.

Richard Matheson's script displays a keen sense of story, balancing the action with well-drawn characters who are, yes, types, yet behaving in a manner that is recognisably human. The four lead actors also balance each other out. McDowell is outstanding, but Revill is very strong, and so is the top-billed Franklin. Hunnicutt has the least to do - it's "the girlfriend" role - though she ends up contributing more than mere decoration.

The Legend of Hell House is very much an "old school" horror production; although not in the same realm as many of the horror movies that were made during that time (which consisted mainly of vampires, zombies or werewolves).

I suppose the movie has more of a grown-up attitude towards horror, and things that go bump-in-the-night! And is therefore meant for a mature audience - containing the action within a large mansion with large, shadow-filled spaces, with all the windows boarded up.

Crowned And Dangerous - A Killer Comedy
Crowned And Dangerous - A Killer Comedy

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Looks can kill!, 4 Dec. 2012
Yasmine Bleeth and Jill Clayburgh are respectively cast as ambitious beauty contestant Danielle Stevens and her even more ambitious (and overbearing) mother Cathy. It is clear from the outset that this pair will stop at nothing to win a prestigious beauty pageant, which naturally casts suspicion on both mother and daughter when newly appointed beauty queen Shauna Langley (Cassidy Rae) is murdered.

Danielle is a beauty pageant veteran, but finds that she is always the runner-up when competing alongside the ever charming Shauna Langley. Danielle soon realises that second place is no place, and is compelled to win no-matter-what!

Danielle begins dating a young man by the name of Riley Baxter (George Eads) who is heir to his Father's fortune, and stepson to Patrice (Gates McFadden) - who feels she has a moral duty to look-out for Riley's well-being (even if it means choosing his girlfriends). Danielle is aware that Riley was in-fact Shauna Langley's former boyfriend, Shauna soon realises that Danielle is dating Riley and decides to throw a spanner-in-the-works by telling her former lover that she is pregnant? Riley driven by responsibility decides to leave Danielle in an effort to patch things up with Shauna and to look after his unborn child.

Danielle knows she has lost again to Shauna Langley and soon realises she looses yet again to Shauna when they both compete in another beauty pageant.

Hours after the beauty pageant Shauna is found dead. The police suspect foul play and begin their usual round of short-listing suspects, which includes: Danielle, Cathy (Danielle's mom), Patrice, and even Riley Baxter.

At times it is hard to tell whether this made-for-TV movie is supposed to be taken seriously or not. I suppose it could be considered as a black comedy/drama at best!

Although the story is fictional it tries to retrace the accounts of the incident by giving chosen scenes timelines and location information. And suggests the notion that things like this can happen in society. Perhaps in an effort to compound the age-old maxim that beauty is skin-deep!

I suppose to certain audiences it would appear either as too funny to be serious, or too serious to be funny. But when dealing with the subject of vanity opinions will be divided on the subject.
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Far Cry 2: Fortune's Edition (PC)
Far Cry 2: Fortune's Edition (PC)

4.0 out of 5 stars Rumble in the jungle!, 2 Dec. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
In Far Cry 2's chaotic world of mercenaries, gunrunners, and armed militias, you'll find yourself dropped into a dizzying web of shady clients and paper-thin alliances. All manner of names and faces are introduced during the course of the storyline, but the real star isn't anyone brandishing a smuggled weapon in search of blood diamonds; it's the daunting and awe-inspiring 50-square kilometres of African landscape that make up the game's open-world setting.

The game gives you tremendous freedom to approach each mission. Far Cry 2's sheer breadth of action provides you with plenty of reason to stay lost in the African wilderness despite an underwhelming plot and the occasional sense of tedium in navigating from one location to another on the gargantuan map.

Far Cry 2's story is filled with potential. You're a mercenary working for a client who's sent you to an unnamed African nation engulfed in civil war, and your job is to take out a notorious arms dealer known as "The Jackal". He quickly proves to be an elusive figure, so you'll need to begin working for various warring factions that the Jackal has armed so you can trace the supply line back to your target. The two primary organizations at the heart of all this bloodshed are the militaristic UFLL and the revolutionary APR. You'll spend the bulk of the story working for these two groups, getting to know their power structures, and taking on all of the violent tasks they throw your way. Complicating things is the fact that your character has malaria, which means you'll need to occasionally play nice with the more ragtag Underground militia, the only group with the medical connections necessary to keep your potentially life-threatening symptoms at bay.

Each mission can be played in multiple ways. There are 12 potential buddies randomly scattered throughout the storyline who you can befriend (nine of whom are available to choose as your silent protagonist), and they're often keen to tack on their own interests to the quests handed out by the UFLL and APR. Instead of just taking out a target, you have the option to earn extra reputation points by working alongside your buddy to first squeeze any remaining assets from the soon-to-be-deceased. This also earns you the ability to increase your level of companionship with that buddy. It's a neat reward, but it doesn't shed much light on their backgrounds.

The game is organised in a way that provides a daunting amount of freedom to explore, earn currency, and wreak havoc on the game's landscape and its inhabitants. Pulling out your map reveals a collection of icons that signify available missions and points of interest that you can meander toward at your own leisure. Among these are dozens of side missions that you can take on, with various forms of rewards. Delivering transit papers to trapped refugees earns you malaria medication, destroying rival convoys for gun merchants unlocks new weapons for purchase, and performing assassinations for mysterious voices at the other end of your cell phone rewards you with diamonds. You can also rough up militias stationed in small camps and turn their dwellings into your own safe houses. The side missions can feel a bit repetitive when played through in rapid succession, but they offer a great change of tempo when sprinkled throughout the main narrative. But what's most clever is how their differing rewards intermingle so wonderfully with your needs in progressing through the story: Malaria pills keep your HP and stamina up, diamonds buy you new weapons and ability upgrades, and safe houses provide temporary shelter to stock up and save your game.
The freedom of choice that goes with selecting which mission you want to perform carries over to how you execute them, and that's where Far Cry 2 really shines. There are a variety of factors that affect the way you approach each mission, from the number of people you need to kill, to the landscape, to the weather and time of day. The whole process of completing a mission only becomes more intricate and rewarding as you slowly upgrade your safe house into a full-blown armoury and unlock new weapon and vehicle abilities.

The sheer variety of weapons plays a big role in your ability to craft a personalized approach to each mission. For every situation, there's a weapon! From the AK-47 to the Molotov cocktail and the remote-detonated improvised explosive device, they all feel like weapons that could easily be plucked from the civil wars of Africa. Furthermore, your weapons will cycle through an authentic level of wear and tear, particularly those picked up from ragtag militiamen; second-hand weapons will show dirt, frequently jam, and eventually back-fire, which means that it's best to buy them from the shop.

Your health is divided into several individually regenerative bars, if it gets too low, you can inject yourself with a syrette for added health (though if it's really low, you'll first need to perform a slick self-heal such as yanking bullet shells out of your leg or snapping a broken arm back into place). You can eventually upgrade the amount of ammo and health you have to further tip the odds in your favour, and even have a buddy rescue you whenever you die (though you need to keep an eye on him because he can be permanently killed in a scuffle). Most of the challenge arrives when you're looking at your map in search of the next mission and then get surprised by a bunch of roadside bandits while you're driving one of the game's numerous run-down vehicles or river boats. If there's one drawback to the combat, it's that bandits respawn after having cleared an enemy checkpoint.

Visually, Far Cry 2 is a stunner. Several landscapes are represented here: dense forests, rolling plains, arid deserts, craggy badlands, and even shantytowns and hut villages. You'll see trees swaying, the charred remains of a brush fire, and several forms of wildlife running around. It all looks incredible in the transitional period of the day-night cycle when the sun is falling or rising through the horizon and everything is cast in a warm glow. The game also sounds great, with tribal music accompanying you at all times, from a relaxing ambience in calm situations to a rapidly escalating roar of drums in battle. The voice acting during mission briefings feels strangely hurried, but that's largely offset by excellent enemy banter during combat.

Overall, Far Cry 2 is a game in which you can quite literally get lost for hours at a time. But that feeling of exploration is precisely what makes the game so much fun; although travelling for long stretches can become tedious. Your creativity never feels stifled when approaching a mission, and the game's overall structure of side tasks, friends, rewards, and upgrades is a diverse system rivalling the landscape itself. You won't be disappointed by Far Cry 2.

Fortune's Pack content included:
Weapons - Silenced Shotgun, Craftsman Shotgun & Crossbow.
Vehicles - Utility Truck & ATV
Maps - Cheap Labour, Last Resort, Lake Smear & Fort Fury.

Picnic At Hanging Rock - Deluxe 3 Disc Edition [1975] [DVD]
Picnic At Hanging Rock - Deluxe 3 Disc Edition [1975] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Rachel Roberts
Offered by MediaMerchants
Price: £11.26

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Picnic at Hanging Rock is an enigmatic film experience like no other, 20 Nov. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Peter Weir made this unsettling, atmospheric film early in his career, and it is still one of his most successful films to date.

On a drowsy St. Valentine's Day in 1900, a party of girls from a strict boarding school in Australia goes on a day's outing to Hanging Rock, a geological outcropping not far from their school. Three of the girls and one of their teachers disappear into thin air. One of them is found a week or so later, but can remember almost nothing. The others are never found.

On this foundation, Picnic at Hanging Rock constructs a film of haunting mystery.

The movie, which has been restored in a new 'director's cut' that, unlike most revisions, takes out footage instead of adding it. Weir has pared seven minutes from an already lean and evasive film. The result is a movie that creates a specific place in your mind; free of plot, lacking any final explanation, it exists as an experience. In a sense, the viewer is like the girls who went along on the picnic and returned safely: For us, as for them, the characters who disappeared remain always frozen in time, walking out of view, never to be seen again.

Of course the entire point is that there is no explanation. The girls walked into the wilderness, and were seen no more. Aborigines might speculate that the rock was alive in some way - that it swallowed these outsiders and kept its silence. As Russell Boyd's camera examines the rock in lush and intimate detail - its snakes and lizards, its birds and flowers - certain shots seem to suggest faces in the rock, as if the visitors are being watched.

The film opens as if it will make perfect sense. At Appleyard College in Woodend, Victoria, firm discipline and ladylike behaviour are offered as a substitute for learning. The "college'' is more of a finishing school for adolescents, who live in an atmosphere where schoolgirl crushes are inevitable. Mrs Appleyard (Rachel Roberts) herself seems to contain unexamined needs, and punishes one girl, a passionate rebel, by making her stay home from the outing.

The other girls, 19 of them, with two teachers, leave in a carriage for Hanging Rock. They are all dressed in Victorian clothing that emphasises modesty and inconvenience (an early scene shows them lined up, lacing each other's corsets). On the slopes of the rock their parasols and happy laughter are a contrast to the ancient, brooding land. Close-up photography shows the rock crawling with countless forms of animal, reptile and insect life, which hurries on its murderous business with no thought to the visitors. Music, played by panpipes, is an unsettling contrast.

My guess is that Weir's seven minutes of trims are intended to further discourage a solution. The other party on the rock that day - the two young men, an older couple - are there not as possible suspects, I believe, but simply to show that a picnic on the rock could be perfectly safe. The film wants us to sense that the heightened and repressed sexuality of the young students was in some way connected to their disappearance, as if their emotional states interlocked somehow with the living presence of the land. The underlying suggestion is that Victorian attitudes toward sex, coupled with the unsettling mysteries of an ancient land, lead to events the modern mind cannot process. That is exactly the message of Picnic at Hanging Rock.

There are other suggestions that help us toward this idea. Of the girls who originally set out on the walk, one named Edith returns quickly, screaming the warning that the others are gone. Later she remembers that she saw the missing teacher in her underwear. Scraps of lacy underclothing are found later during a search. Back at the school, unspoken sexual feelings lie beneath many of Mrs Appleyard's disciplinary actions, especially in connection with the rebellious Sarah - the girl who was not allowed to go on the trip.

The film is just too damn impenetrable for its own good, but of course if you could penetrate it, there would be no film - simply a police case, or an account of an unfortunate accident.

While not for everyone - especially less mature viewers and viewers hoping for a simple "whodunit" mystery where everything's tied up in a nice bow at the end, Picnic at Hanging Rock is an enigmatic film experience like no other.

Branded (Marcado a Fuego) Spanish import
Branded (Marcado a Fuego) Spanish import
Dvd ~ Al Pacino

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another gratifying Western from Alan Ladd, 24 Oct. 2012
Branded is a 1950 western film starring Alan Ladd and Mona Freeman. It was adapted from the novel "Montana Rides Again" by Max Brand.

Alan Ladd plays Choya, a morally ambiguous loner (asked if he has any friends or kinfolk, he submits "my guns" and "my horse") and falsely-accused bandit who gets pulled into a fool-proof million-dollar scam that involves impersonating the long-lost son of a rich Texas cattle rancher. Needless to say, complications ensue. The villain (Robert Keith) is ruthless and impatient; the rancher, Lavery (Charles Bickford), and his wife turn out to be kind and decent people; Choya takes an interest in his sister (Mona Freeman) that goes well beyond fraternal devotion; and his conscience kicks in, too. Feeling guilt-ridden and seeking redemption, Choya spends the second half of the film on a quest to find the real missing Lavery heir (no easy task, as "Tonio" has been raised by a notorious Mexican outlaw).

They don't make 'em like Branded anymore. Made during the golden age of westerns, Branded has all the right ingredients for a great western - good story, decent acting, and superior writing to go with it. The dramatics and action that unfold are rugged "tough guy" western traditions united with very believable motivations. Branded is a good, wholesome family fare, and although some have said it's too bad Alan Ladd made "Shane", because it overshadowed this great piece. There's room for both movies to fill the honour roll of classic westerns.

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