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These days, I don't read half as much as I'd like too; or half as much as I should - but during a recent holiday I found the time to read a few books! My girlfriends father lent me his Nook - an e-reader - and told me there were a few thrillers on there. However, I found myself straining to keep up with the majority of them because of the large amount of subsidiary storylines that were running alongside. So, I bought myself a regular paperback - none of this downloading malarkey involved - for a measly sum of Euro3.95 (I was in Spain), although i'm sure you can pick it up for cheaper! The book, entitled 'QI: The Book of the Dead', is written by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson. John Lloyd and John Mitchinson- as any QI fan should know - are the series creator and head researcher, respectively, of the British panel game QI. This is the fourth book to come from the QI franchise, and as the title suggests, includes many interesting and obscure obituaries of some well known, and some lesser known figures from our history.
~~~ The Book ~~~
There are a total of 10 chapters in the book. The chapters are in no particular order, but the lives of the people in each chapter are grouped by similar experiences. For example, the first chapter, 'There's Nothing like a Bad Start in Life', reflects on how some of the great people from our history did not have an easy start to life - some losing parents, some with premature births. This basis for grouping continues throughout the book, with chapters dedicated to sex-fiends and others to people who kept monkeys (and more). Bizarre. The 'celebrities' mentioned in the book are largely familiar and recognisable names, with the likes of Isaac Newton, Florence Nightingale and Genghis Khan all featuring. However, the book does include a few lesser known names - but with equally interesting and curious pasts. The blurb sums the book up perfectly - 'Six-dozen lives of the most successful, happiest, saddest and maddest men and women in history..'. There are a total of 67 bizarre and wonderful tales in the book - of some of the craziest and wackiest individuals ever to have lived!
Due to the large amount of information in the book, there is both an Index Page and a 'list of references' / Further Reading and Acknowledgements. Generally, you tend to see a list of references in a text book or university assignment, not a light-read you pick up on your summer holidays! It just goes to show the pure amount of information included in the book - making an Index Page necessary for if you want to read up on something.
~~~ My Thoughts ~~~
From the very first chapter, I fell in love with this book. The first chapter - regarding individuals with unhappy childhoods - is such an inspirational start to the book. The likes of Leonardo da Vinci; whose mother and father abandoned him, and Sigmund Freud; whose father plunged his family into poverty, headline this chapter. The fact that both men have become household names in the history of the human race after such awful starts to life, even just reading about it, is inspirational. A fantastic opening chapter to the book which sure does grab your attention and make you want to read on!
Although it would be very easy for me to sit here and discuss in depth with you each and every chapter, it would be somewhat of a spoiler - and to some extents plagiarism! The fact that each chapter is as interesting as the last, is testament to John Mitchinson and his fantastic researching skills. There are pieces of information and facts in this book that are completely mind-boggling and pretty hard to believe are true! Lord Byron (1788-1824) for example, read over 4000 novels by the age of 15! Oh, and did I mention that he regularly drank burgundy from human skulls? Yup. Sure did.
The book is jam-packed with interesting discreet facts that truly do get your mind racing. My crave for information and bizarre facts seemed to snowball whilst reading - the more I read, the more I wanted to read! However, the sheer amount of information is at some points hard to compute and honestly, I've forgotten the large majority of information included in the book. I think this may be due to my lesser-developed memory function and not necessarily a fault of the book! Critics have largely taken a positive stance to the book. Stephen Fry, the host of the QI television show claimed the book was 'Dead good' - blunt and relevant! On the other hand, some critics have gone on to claim that the book, in places, is wrong. How dare they accuse John Mitchinson, the great John Mitchinson, of making mistakes! Well, he is human I guess!
QI: The Book of the Dead is a fascinating read and I would recommend it for all - though those with better memories and/ or higher IQ's may be able to extract more from the book! I myself, happily, will have to read it again! That's a win in my book!
After weeks of constant earache from my girlfriend and endless 'discussions' involving me telling her I categorically did not want to go on holiday this year - I eventually submitted. What a girl wants, she gets! I agreed to a last minute holiday in the sun. After scouting the internet for last minute deals we stumbled across a reasonably priced 4-star hotel in Fuerteventura, courtesy of FirstChoice. It had an overwhelming amount of positive reviews so we thought, after much debate, we would book a week away! My girlfriend, being somewhat of the obsessive type, checked review sites daily to see what people had been saying about the hotel. Sadly, the most recent reviews weren't great. Tales of cockroaches, broken air-conditioning units and unfriendly staff introduced an air of reluctance regarding our week away in the sun. Sadder still, the tales were true!
When my girlfriend and I go away, we usually travel with her parents. So, although we have been on 3 previous holidays together, this was our first alone! The thought was quite daunting. They say that first holiday together is what makes or breaks a relationship! Can you deal with her/him for an entire week, alone, constantly? As this was our first true holiday 'together', I really hoped the hotel would prove those harsh critics wrong and deliver us a wonderful, unforgettable experience. It was unforgettable - but for the completely wrong reasons.
~~~ Initial Impressions ~~~
If there was ever a wrong way to start a holiday, this would have been the perfect example. Arriving at Suite Hotel Atlantis, on-time and without delay, we were greeted by the front-end staff who gave us a quick 5 minute talk about the hotel. Where to find things, what time breakfast and dinner was - the usual 'need-to-knows' when arriving at your hotel. We were also given a map of the resort, although it is not a large resort, it is somewhat spacious and the map does help in finding your way around. The lady marked on the map where our room was and we set off on our way. Arguably the furthest room away from the reception area, we arrived, carted our luggage up a steep flight of stairs, only to find that the room had not been cleaned. The bed was a mess and there were cigarette butts in the ashtray. We were pretty displeased; but being a typical British couple we made little fuss - asking if we could move to a room that had been cleaned. Carting our luggage all the way back to the reception area, the staff offered little apology. Quite horrendous behaviour for a four star hotel.
Furthermore, we were given a replacement room and told it was situated in a much better area of the resort. Which would have been true - if we were 12 year old children. The area we were given was directly adjacent to the children and toddlers pool. Accompanying this prime location, was the fantastic sounds of crying and banging children - pretty much throughout the entire day (particularly early mornings) - which made mornings a delight. I hope by now you have recognised the sarcastic tone for which I write. Arriving at this replacement room, we found it to be - similarly to the previous room - of an unsatisfactory standard. In the room was a cot (yes, a babies cot) which had obviously been used by the previous residents (I guess this because of the strong aroma which could be smelt nearby). Continually, trying to understand the air-conditioning remote was like solving a Rubik's cube. We had to call a member of the maintenance staff down to sort it out for us because we could not get it to work. To add to this delightful start to our holiday, the sofa in the suite (which can also be used as a bed) seemed to be the subject of severe cleanliness-deprivation; providing the room with a strong sweat-like smell. Fab.
The quality of the room was also pretty poor considering it is a 4-star hotel. The decor was old and displeasing to look at, there was mold on one of the walls which the air-conditioning unit was situated, the air-conditioning unit itself leaked (which would explain the mold) and the neighbouring walls were far too thin (which would explain our ability to hear the children banging), all-in-all it was in need of a splash of paint and a few visits to IKEA. A pretty poor start to the holiday I might say!
~~~ Restaurants, Food and Drink ~~~
After this pretty abysmal start to our holiday, we made our way to the 'Restaurant Gaudi' were the evening meals were served. There are three restaurants situated on the premise of the resort - Gaudi, Rambutan and Eldorado Rock Cafe. Gaudi is the main restaurant - serving all three meals a day. Rambutan serves breakfast only but provides a 'Pool Snack Bar' service for lunchtime and throughout the majority of the day. Both Rambutan and Eldorado offered a booking service - whereby you can book prior to eat at the restaurant for an evening meal. This service was offered on Tuesdays and Fridays only. Upon entering the restaurant we were greeted by a chauffeur-type employee, who ushered us to the adults-only area of the restaurant. Now, when I read 'adults-only', I think 'adults-only'. So the fact that there were children sitting in this area is pretty hard to explain. The restaurant staff made little, if any attempt to move children away from the adults-only area, which begs the question, why have an adults-only area at all?
The variety of the food available was excellent - though (and I speak on my girlfriends behalf aswell) not to the most of British tastes. Snails, rabbits and octopus are all delicacies which I do not consider delicacies at all. A lot of the nights my girlfriend and I would eat soup or paté simply because the food was so extravagant. I understand the phrase 'When in Rome' might apply here, but I simply could not stomach eating a rabbit or the tentacles of an octopus. There were nights were there was food that we could eat, and I'd even go to the lengths of saying we enjoyed it, but for the majority of the holiday, as mentioned, we ate paté on bread or soup. There was a young Somalian chef who made a mean steak, which was for me, the highlight of the food on display. Being all-inclusive felt like a waste considering we largely ate bread rolls, but the peace of mind that accompanies an all-inclusive board basis goes to some lengths as to compensate the poor food on display!
My girlfriend and I booked the Restaurant Rambutan for the Saturday night, were they had a BBQ going! This was a nice addition to the holiday and provided some variety. Upon arrival at the restaurant we were greeted with champagne and a waiter who guided us to our table - very nice. The food was good, considerably better than the food served at Gaudi, and for one night we had full bellies to go to bed on. I would definitely recommend booking one of these evening meals.
The drinks the hotel had to offer were pretty standard. All-inclusive allows for an unlimited amount of refills on soft drinks, beer, wine and a limited number of cocktails at the hotels choosing. I think, from what I can recall, there were 8 cocktails included in the all-inclusive board basis. They even had a cocktail named after the hotel, which I have to say was pretty nice. The bar staff were friendly for the most part, but we did encounter a few who looked horrified that we had 'dared' to ask them for a drink! The staff did seem to put huge amounts of alcohol in the drinks - we asked on a number of occasions for a little bit of a vodka in one of the non-alcoholic cocktails, and they poured more than half a glass of vodka (no exaggeration), smiling at you as they were doing it! I think possibly because of our youth they thought we wanted to get drunk, but there is a dividing line between getting drunk and having your stomach pumped! They also served daiquiri's, which for those of you who don't know, is an ice based drink similar to a slush puppy. However, they only served these at the reception bar, which meant you had to trundle your way to reception and back again just to get the drink you wanted, which was a little annoying!
~~~ The Resort, Pools and Activities ~~~
Suite Hotel Atlantis is a lot different to other hotels I have stayed in. Typically, your average hotel consists of a large reception area and many adjacent corridors and floors where the rooms are situated. Atlantis has its rooms dispersed over the entire resort, kind of like mini villas. The rooms are outside and consists of a maximum of two floors. Dependent on where you room is situated can be quite advantageous - you can open the front door in the morning at already be at the pool. None of this trundling down corridors and out of the reception area to get to the pool. Similarly to the food, the hotel has a large variety of pools - having 7 in total! There are pool bars located near to all of the pools, so getting a drink during the mid-day heat is no problem! Also, due to number of pools and small amount of rooms (totaling around the 300 mark I recall) there is never any problem getting a sunbed. On previous holidays, my girlfriend or I would have to wake up at an incredibly early hour just to ensure we could get a few sunbeds next to one another. At Suite Hotel Atlantis, there is no such problem. We woke up between 9 and 10 o'clock each day and never had any problem getting sunbeds.
Of the 7 pools, only one of them is an adults-only pool. The lifeguards and other passing members of staff would often have to tell parents with children to relocate to another pool - due to the fact that 'adults-only' is poorly displayed. There is only one (tiny) sign that tells users that the pool is adults-only, so one cannot blame parents for taking their children in! The lifeguards were pretty strict and had a no-tolerance approach to children using the adults pool. Some parents would complain when asked to leave because their rooms would be right outside the pool, but they had no leg to stand on - it's not like there was a lack of choice or anything!
A large amount of the sunbeds, were in a word, rubbish! The newer sunbeds (probably 80% total) all had the fabric stretched across them too tight, which made for an annoying ordeal when lying down. The sunbed would often dislodge from the rung you had put them in when you sat down, which made in difficult when trying to lay flat! Only the older sunbeds which had been worn-in allowed you to lay flat and choose which rung you wanted the head support in! Being a keen reader, it also made reading books difficult!
Booking with FirstChoice, there is always a 'Welcome Meeting' the following day after your arrival. These welcome meetings compose of a travel rep talking you through the resort, where the best places to go are and what the best things are to do! The range of activities offered by FirstChoice was overwhelming and it took us a good half-an-hour to read through the brochure and decide what we wanted to do. There was a Waterpark, a Catamaran day out, a Submarine, Quad bikes/Buggies to hire - the list goes on. We opted for a day at the Waterpark and a 'Restaurant Night'. The Restaurant Night was absolutely fantastic value. For Euro18 you got a three course meal and 4 drinks - each - at a restaurant called La Playita next to the harbour in Correlajo! Expecting nothing wonderful (at a price of Euro18 you can see why) we were completely gobsmacked how nice the food was and the variety that was on offer! The Waterpark, on-the-other-hand, was a complete disaster!
Baku Waterpark is the only Waterpark, I am led to believe, on the island of Fuerteventura. After witnessing the heights of Siam Park in Tenerife two years earlier, I knew this could never compare. How right I was. Baku Waterpark is an absolute rip-off. A waste of a day. Extortionately priced with a plethora of dreadful rides. Exactly what you don't want when visiting a Waterpark. Our travel rep told us it was a must day out, although I wish he had been more honest because it was absolutely awful. Before I start my rant, I have to say the weather was not great the day we went and did add to the disappointment. However, regardless of the weather, this Waterpark is disgraceful. Having a total of eight slides, a lazy river, children's area and wave pool, the prospects looked good. Charging us Euro25 for the day, we thought we were set for the day! Wrong. Firstly, we were told we had to rent a locker, which required a Euro5 deposit and Euro4 charge. Then, when we wanted to go on the two 'best' (I use the term loosely) rides, we were told we could not go on without rubber rings. We went to the place the rubber rings were given out, only to be told it was another Euro5 and Euro4 charge - per ring. We went ahead with renting the rings - only to find that the Waterpark had rent-free rings that could be used for no charge. I was absolutely fuming!
Continually, accompanying the feel that I had just been mugged was a nice bump to the head. The slide which required a rubber ring was extremely dangerous. My ring got upturned (banging my head) when going down the slide and it shooted over the edge. Also, for the time that I was actually in my ring, I was getting dangerously close to the edge of the slide! Quite appalling. Also, the floor around the lazy river was littered with cigarette butts and pieces of cement which had dislodged itself from the floor. A shocking state of affairs. You'd think they could afford to employ a maintenance team with all the money they are practically stealing from your back pocket. A disappointment. Categorically avoid.
~~~ Nightlife and Entertainment ~~~
The plaza is located just outside the main restaurant, Gaudi. Here, there is a large bar, plenty of seating, a theater with play reenactments for the children, often a holiday stall and the Eldorado Rock Cafe - which at night transforms into an adults only bar! By the way of entertainment, there isn't much. Apart from the theater for the children, there is little entertainment, which at times can be rather boring as an adult. Usually on holiday we are subjected to some sort of live music or band and often a man with exotic birds - here, there is nothing. There is however, a man who will draw your caricature for a Euro10 fee, but other than that the entertainment is pretty non-existent. The adults-only bar is a welcome addition, especially if you want to avoid the noisy hustle and bustle of the plaza floor. We found ourselves sitting up there (its on a balcony) most nights.
The main port of Corralejo is a 15 minute walk away. There is a stretch of beach which takes you directly to the main strip, which is a delight to walk when the sun has set. In Corralejo, you will find all the standard holiday-type shops; offering all your heart desires, from souvenirs to fake Raybans. There is a plethora of restaurants, ranging from steakhouses to tapas bars. The streets are clean and the sea-air fresh - it is a lovely relaxing place to go when you've had enough of the hotel plaza.
~~~ Summary ~~~
Its awfully sad reminiscing back, that our first holiday 'together' was somewhat ruined by the hotel. From the moment we arrived we felt inundated with setbacks and flaws, and wherever we went in the hotel we could find something that wasn't quite right. My girlfriend found it acceptable to point out to me the state of the wall I had been sitting next too in the restaurant, on the last day. It had been hand-painted with a typical 'Fuertaventuran' landscape. What the painting was hiding however, was the condition of the wall. The wall was covered with remnants of food that had been splashed from peoples plates. Quite disgusting I must say. This, for me, summed up the entire hotel. From a distance it looks beautiful, with 7 large elegant pools, a beautiful reception area and friendly staff. But when you take a closer look, you actually find that it is not as once seemed. The kids pools are overcrowded, the sunbeds aren't quite fitted right and there is mold on the walls of your suite. This hotel can never be a 4-star hotel, surely? Well, in the reception area of the hotel, you will find the walls plastered with certificates praising the hotel. 5.1 / 6 from Tripadvisor. 4.5 / 5. 4 / 5 star. Perhaps we were just the subject to a series of events which forced our hand in concluding this hotel is overrated. Regardless, my opinion stands - an average hotel and an average experience.
The Wolverine is a 2013 superhero film brought to us by Marvel Entertainment and 20th Century Fox, and as the title suggests, is based around the Marvel Comics character Wolverine (a.k.a Logan, a.k.a James Howlett - only the most dedicated fans of Marvel will know this, or anyone who has access to Wikipedia). Reprising his role as Wolverine, Hugh Jackman takes center stage for this, the 6th installment of the X-men franchise, amongst a little of lesser known names.
~~~ Plot Synopsis ~~~
(Spoiler alert) In 1945, Logan has been detained in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during the Nagasaki atomic bombing. At the moment of the explosion, Logan saves the life of a young Japanese service man - who goes by the name of Yashida - by shielding him from the blast.
In the present day, a young Japanese woman named Yukio watches Logan as he lives a desolate and alone life in the wilderness. Yukio confronts Logan and tells him that Yashida, the boy he saved 70 years ago, is dying and wishes to thank him for what he did the day of the bombing, all those years ago. Upon meeting Yashida - who now owns a very large, affluent and powerful organisation - he asks Logan to save his life by giving him his ability of immortality (which is possible by the way, geez its 2013). Politely declining, Logan learns the reason behind this is so that Yashida can protect his grand-daughter Mariko, from prominent dangers that she may be faced with! Meanwhile Yashida's doctor, Dr.Green, enters Logan's bed chambers as he sleeps and suppresses his immortality, making him susceptible to damage.
Yashida sadly passes away. His funeral is attended by Logan and a large number of Yakuza gangster who try and kidnap Mariko. And so the story begins. Logan sets himself the task of protecting Mariko (minus his immortality) and unveiling the truth as to why the Yakuza are after her. But what lies in-store is a series of shocking truths - and more twists than a bag of pretzels!
~~~ My Thoughts ~~~
Righto. Where to begin. The storyline perhaps. Which appears to have quite a few flaws. Logan has lost his abilities, he no longer is immortal - he feels pain and gets tired like the majority of folk. So you would think that a shotgun round to the stomach would pretty much finish him off. Nope. He survives not only the shotgun round, but about another 6 or 7 bullets straight to the gut. He's me thinking it was his skeleton that was made of metal, not his bodily organs aswell!
The story is more focused around the Wolverine the man, rather than the mutant. By this I mean it's less action-packed and more 'pour your heart out' - we see a side to the Wolverine that we haven't before! Personally, this was a huge disappointment for me. When I go and see a superhero/ mutant/ Marvel Comics film, I expect lots of action and (in the case of Wolverine) lots of slicing and dicing. I can recall three marginally decent fight scenes which, considering this is a Marvel film, is fairly poor. I want to see fight scenes and killing and cool mutant abilities, I don't want to see a 10 minute scene about which side of the bowl you should put your chops sticks on (this actually happens). What makes Marvel films what they are, are mediocre story lines and lots of gut-busting action. Not, a handful of poor fight scenes and a super-confusing storyline that I still don't fully understand after reading a full synopsis. Definitely a step in the wrong direction in my opinion.
Furthermore, the film felt like it was lacking something. Yes, Wolverine didn't have his full fighting capabilities, but it was all a bit bleak and stale. Maybe it was just the sheer lack of mutant abilities - the only two being Wolverine and Viper/ Dr.Green. I understand the title of the film does not suggest any incorporation of alternate mutants, but it would have been nice to see a few more - maybe Viper's assistant could breathe fire or even a previous member of the X-men helping Logan out, anything to add a bit of umph to an already lack-lustered story!
The ending was easily the worst bit of the film. I don't want to give anything away but it was truly an awful ending to a pretty poor film. Also, it's not until the end of the film you start to realise how confusing it really is. There is three or four storylines running simultaneously; Logan and Mariko, Logan and his nightmares of Jean, Logan and Yashida's son Shingen, Yashida and Dr.Green. I mean really Marvel, how many plots does one film need? Keep it simple next time.
~~~ Characters ~~~
Hugh Jackman as Wolverine/ Logan - I commend Hugh for this performance. If it weren't for him, this film would be stone-cold dreadful. Considering he has played the part of Wolverine 5 times previous to this film, including his own feature 'X-men Origins: Wolverine' - it's no surprise he has the role of Wolverine down to a tee. Obviously, the shirtless scenes are unnecessary (but necessary - for the ladies) but he sure has gotten ripped again for the film following the minor weight gain of Les Miserables. A good performance all-in-all.
Tao Okamoto as Mariko Yashida - Like you, I have never heard of her before. That's because this was her movie debut. Now, I have no expertise regarding the world of film - in fact my sole involvement is restricted to watching - but I'm not convinced having a film debutante in a starring role of a Hollywood blockbuster is wise decision. Having said that, her performance was adequate enough to shock me when I found out this was her debut film role. So again, a decent performance I suppose.
Svetlana Khodchenkova as Dr. Green / Viper - Being the film's main antagonist (there are a few secondary antagonists) I feel as if I have to mention her. The producers of the film sure did make a mess of this character. It's not until the end of the film she reveals herself as 'Viper' - and even then they could have made it a bit more obvious; the green palette they've used to identify her as Viper is close to black and her abilities are pretty rubbish to be fair. Unfortunately, Svetlana was just a pretty face for me - an unforgettable performance.
~~~ Summary ~~~
To sum up this film in a few words - pretty mediocre. Hugh does magnificently well to make this film even the slightest bit believable; whereas the remaining cast deliver pretty unmemorable performances. The confusing storyline and majority of actionless scenes makes for an overall poor viewing. Although I cannot quite put my finger on it the film feels like it is lacking something throughout. It's as if Marvel have made a film just for the sake of it, with no real thought to the plot or any regard for emotional interactions between characters and the audience. I have no doubt the film will be a success, considering it is a Marvel film after all, but I most certainly will have my reserves the next time I consider watching any upcoming Marvel film!
A few years back, when hair straightening was the 'in thing', I purchased a pair of GHD Mark IV Mini hair straighteners off of the GHD official website. GHD - an acronym of Good Hair Day - are a manufacturer of hair care products originally from Leeds, UK! I recall having quite some difficulty picking up a pair from local retailers; GHD largely dealt as a business to consumer retailer along with supplying directly to hair salons, which would explain why I couldn't find a pair anywhere other than the GHD website!
~~~ Price ~~~
After a visit to one of my local casinos, I was fortunate to win a small amount of money. I had no obligations at the time, still at school and getting (as my dad would call it) a 'free ride in life', I decided to use the winnings to purchase my second ever set of hair straighteners! Previously, my mother had bought an inferior set of straighteners amounting to the costly sum of £4.99 - you can imagine my delight! Its safe to say, they were dreadful. So, me being the wisdom-filled individual that I am, I went out and bought the most expensive pair of straighteners on the market. GHD Mark IV Mini. Genius!
I bought my straighteners for £129.00, but you can pick up a pair nowadays for £99.00. The release of the Mark V straighteners has somewhat out-dated the Mark IV's, explaining the £30.00 difference in price! Included in the price is a 24 month guarantee - which is reasonable to say the least.
Its no secret that GHD's are highly priced compared to it's competitors. Toni&Guy, BaByliss, TRESemme - their salon professional straighteners costing anywhere in the region of £20-£50! So, why am I paying two and half times the price than salon leading experts for a pair of hair straighteners? Do they have some sort of hair-regenerating technology not mentioned on the box? Or maybe they transform into a beautiful pair of shoes? To date, they've showed no signs of hidden technological advancements. What they have done however, is given my awfully straight, malleable hair!
~~~ Quality ~~~
For a pair of straighteners nearly three times the price of it's closest competitor you'd be expected to expect a mind-blowing product! Hair as straight as what the boundaries of physics allows! And I'm glad to say, they deliver. My hair is extremely thick - thicker than anyone I have ever met - which is quite a statement. My father was blessed with a good head of hair; but my mother was blessed with locks Rapunzel herself would be jealous of! Thicker than Forrest Gump! Due to the magnificence of genetics, her wonderfully thick hair was passed to me - one of the traits I'm was not too happy about inheriting!
I consider having the thickest hair in the world a burden! During my 21 years on this planet, I have managed to find only a single (yes, only 1) hair product that can manipulate my hair! So you can imagine my reluctance when I first came to use my brand-spanking new pair of GHD's! No way can these straightener's straighten MY hair, I said to myself! How. Wrong. I. Was.
I'd used other straighteners before - notably the £4.99 pair my mum bought me - but none of them had an effect on my hair! So I turned to GHD. These straighteners are something else. After a quick 2 minute straighten of my hair, it was light enough and straight enough to style into any which way I pleased! Something I had never been able to do in my life. I was dumbfounded. Dreaming almost.
~~~ The Product ~~~
For £129.00, you get free delivery and a 24 month guarantee. For a manufacturer to offer a 24 month guarantee says a lot about the confidence they have in their product. Considering GHD know that the majority of their straighteners will be used on a daily basis, offering a 24 month guarantee shows how confident they are in the build quality and durability of their product! I am sad to say that I had to call upon this guarantee within the first two months of using my GHD's! The wire connected to the straightener had started to come loose and would only turn on if I twisted the wire into a certain position. I had to return my straighteners. GHD could not have been more compliant might I add; returning to me a brand new pair of straighteners within the space of a week!
When turning the product on, there is a 30 second delay before you can use the straighteners! The ceramic plates need to reach the temperature required to straighten your hair. A red LED light will appear when you switch the product on and will flash when the straighteners are hot enough to use! Be careful though, I've lost count the amount of times I've burnt my fingers - boy does it sting! The straighteners also have incorporated into them a timer. If a 30 minute period passes without the straighteners being used they will automatically switch off - a novel safety feature, but one I'm sure has saved a few peoples houses from burning down! The mini ceramic plates make these straighteners predominately aimed towards the male portion of the market. The mini plates makes straightening short hair no hassle at all, although I'm sure these straighteners work wonders for women too!
My current pair of straighteners (the replacement pair GHD sent me) also have a slight defect - but I am probably to blame for that! I have a tendency to leave plugs lying around; occasionally standing on them. Unlike most plugs, GHD's have a single plastic prong along with two metal prongs. Plastic is of course a lot easier to break than metal which unfortunately, I experienced first-hand. Stepping on the plug socket one day broke the plastic prong - being plastic, it is not essential in operating the straighteners - so they do still work. I do however, now have incredible difficulty plugging the straighteners in and have to stick something into the socket before my GHD's fit in! I make sure the electricity is off before I do this, don't worry!
~~~ Summary ~~~
Overall, I have had quite a pleasant experience using my GHD's. The high price is justified by their ability to mold and straighten your hair along with the day-to-day durability of the product! Although I am currently on my second pair of GHD's, I do believe they are well built product and durability is a key selling point of theirs. The fact that the product comes with a 24 month guarantee and free delivery only fortifies the brand image. A fantastic product from a fantastic manufacturer. Many more Good Hair Days to come I hope!
USN - an acronym of Ultimate Sports Nutrition - are a leading American sport nutritionists and supplement manufacturer. Founded way back in 1979 by Victor H. Rubino, an amateur power lifter, he saw fit to introduce a range of supplements that were more 'market-orientated' toward the current crop of US power lifters! USN were among the first batch of companies to introduce Amino Acid tablets, protein shakes and Fat Burners! Currently, their influence spans continents and are a globally-recognised sports nutritionists.
~~~ The Need ~~~
Being a keen gym enthusiast, it's essential my shakers are reliable and easy to use! I've been on the receiving end one too many times of small-time businesses attempting to craft their own shakers, and being the sucker that I am, persuaded into buying them! These shakers are the definition of awful! You wouldn't expect so many things could go wrong with such a simple product - but you couldn't be more wrong! Screw caps that don't fit, mesh interiors that fall into your protein as you shake, the contents of the shaker featuring as your new wallpaper due to the lid not fastening properly - literally disastrous! After I'd cleaned the walls, the search for a reliable shaker began!
The current gym I am a member of, as only can be expected, sell a variety of shakers - including USN! But being the wisdom-filled competent individual that I am, I knew I could find a better price elsewhere, potentially online. This may sound pedantic, shopping elsewhere to save a few quid, but because I go the gym 6 times a week I find it far more convenient purchasing more than a single shaker, saving me a lot more money! Having shopped around, I managed to find a place that sold them for £3.49 online - versus the £4.99 that my gym sold them for. I bought 4! The reason for this is two-fold. First, as mentioned, I try to get the gym 6 times a week, having a rest day on Sunday! Second, I have both a pre-workout and post-workout shake to deal with! So over the course of a week I consume (at least) 12 shakes, sometimes more if I decide to have two post-workout shakes after a workout! Knowing this, I thought 4 was an adequate amount to purchase!
So as you can imagine, due to excessive use, I require my shakers to be reliable and somewhat durable! I am glad to say that USN have crafted a shaker which fulfills my needs adequately. No more wet gym clothes, no more protein covered walls - I had myself a beefy USN shaker!
~~~ The Shaker ~~~
At 700ml, this shaker is no different to the majority of shakers out there! A standard post-workout protein shake is around 400ml of water/ milk, plus two scoops of protein - making 700ml more than an adequate size! Most protein shakes (at least all the ones I have come across) have a mesh-like grill that sits on a makeshift shelf inside of the shaker to ensure the contents are mixed thoroughly! The ability to mix the contents somewhat depends on how 'snug' this grill sits on the shelf. If the grill is a loose fit it is most likely going to fall into the protein mixture as you shake, leaving a clumpy mess behind! USN have ensured that this grill is a complimentary fit, ensuring the contents is mixed thoroughly and maintaining an even consistency! Spot on!
Another recurring problem I found using previous shakers, was loosely fitted screw caps. There is nothing worse than turning up to the gym, opening your kit bag and finding your clothes absolutely drenched! Not only do you have to do your entire workout sopping wet, but you also loose the contents of you pre-workout shake - a costly affair! Furthermore, this creates problems when shaking the product. The whole premise of manufacturing a container to hold the contents of something - is that it does that, hold the contents! Loosely fitted screw caps makes shaking your shaker an 'event' - trying to ensure all the contents maintain inside the poorly manufactured shaker is an art in itself. It is of up-most importance to me then, that my shaker has a fitting screw cap. I am glad to tell you that USN have managed to manufacture a perfectly fitted screw cap, making gym visits a much less wet affair!
Having 4 USN shakers, it is difficult for me to comment on the durability of a single shaker because whatever damage my shakers may have been subject to is 'spread out' over 4 separate entities, whereas those people with only a single shaker are subject to that single shaker taking the full brunt of damage - making it much more susceptible to breaking, if you catch my drift! All I can say is that my 4 shakers are still in decent condition after 2+ years of use, although the branding on the outside has partially removed due to excessive dishwasher-ing!
~~~ Summary ~~~
Simple products with no specialised selling points are difficult to rate against other similar products because there is nothing that differentiates them or makes them stand out within the market place! What makes these simple products more desirable are aspects such as build quality and their ability to carry out the function they were designed for! USN's protein shaker is a perfect example of when a simple product can excel within a marketplace due to superior build quality! By ensuring the shaker is a no-fuss, no-mess product; provides it with a strong foothold in the marketplace! This shaker has been everything but a nuisance to me and would be a recommended addition to any gym-lovers kit bag!
Like many of my reviews, I have a tendency to review products long after their initial release - Skyrim being no exception. Released in 2011, it has taken me nearly two years to get round to playing, and completing Skyrim! Its full title - The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - (as you might have guessed) is the fifth installment of 'The Elder Scrolls' franchise and succeeded 'The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion'. Brought to us by Bethesda Software - an American video game publisher - they boast an impressive smorgasbord of successful titles, such as; Fallout, Brink, RAGE and Dishonoured.
Skyrim was a Christmas gift back in 2011, however back then I had a 28" Pacific (Asda-own brand) television set and I found it awful difficult to read the in-game text. As a 21st birthday present I was (gratefully might I add) gifted a 48" HD TV - which even the most partially sighted of people would struggle to see, or in more broad terms - it's big! As soon I got my new TV I knew at some point I would get round to completing Skyrim (however dreadful the game, I always make a point of at least finish the main story before moving onto another) - I'm just disappointed I couldn't bare witness to this games true magnificence earlier; two whole years off my life without Skyrim - I dread to think!
~~~ The Premise ~~~
The High King of Skyrim (a province on the continent known as Tamriel) has recently been murdered by a rebellion leader who goes by the name of Ulfric Stormcloak! Skyrim is in turmoil as pretenders to the throne rise. Various allegiances form across the vast expanses of the province as the battle for the new High King begins. However, as far as threats to the province go, this is just a minor interruption. Dragons have returned! An ancient evil has befallen all of Skyrim and the fate of the province hangs in the balance. Ancient stories tell of a mortal man gifted with the power of The Voice, a man born of dragon blood, who can defeat this ancient evil and rescue The Empire from a terrible fate! You!
So the premise of the story is set! You are the Dragonborn (or Dovahkiin) - the only playable character of the game who's fate it is to defeat the primeval dragon known as Alduin who is prophesised to destroy the entire world! Oh, and if that wasn't a big enough task, your expected to save The Empire - returning it to its former glory! What? You think you'll have it all polished off in no time? Think again - to date, I have over 60 hours of in play game time and still have not completed all the concurring quest lines! A mammoth of a game would be an understatement, my friends!
~~~ The Basics ~~~
Skyrim is an open world role-playing game. In other words, you can pretty much do whatever you want, when you want. Tired of the main storyline? Why not go slay some dragons? Or raid a troll's lair and murder his pet mammoths? The old cliché 'the possibilities are endless' is quite suitable here - the non-linear nature of the game allows you to roam till your hearts content!
The controls are fairly simplistic. The left trigger (LT) and right trigger (RT) control the left and right hands respectively. The left button (LB) is sprint and the right button (RB) uses the Dragonborn's Shout or Power! The game is pretty much a hack and slash - meaning your going to be spamming those trigger buttons until all nearby enemies have been decapitated! Holding down the trigger buttons perform power attacks - these are much stronger attacks which deplete your stamina. Actions such as sprinting and shield-bashing also deplete your stamina, don't worry though - stamina is replenished over time. Stamina can also be replenished in other various ways, such as; consuming potions, waiting and sleeping!
In a realm where dragons roam; unexpected it is not, that magic is a much practiced art. The Dragonborn can master various forms of magic. As stated above, the left and right triggers control which hand is being controlled - this is no different if you are using magic. Using both triggers simultaneously however will result in a more powerful spell being cast! Using spells and incarnations depletes the Dragonborn's magicka - which, like stamina - is restored over time!
~~~ Levelling Up ~~~
Roaming the vast plains of Skyrim battling giants and slaying Kings of the Undead, has a considerable augmentation toward the skills that the Dragonborn practices. Or, put more simply; the more you use a skill, the faster it improves. Skyrim implements over 18 different skills that can be improved and upgraded dependent on the user's preference. If you choose to become a master archer, then your Archery skill will improve. If you choose to use destructive magic then Destruction will improve and so on! The 18 skills are defined under three main categories; Might, Shadow and Magic. The path of Might consists of the more physical skills, including; Heavy Armor, One-Handed weapons, Two-Handed weapons, Archery, Block and Smithing. Being a massive Lord of the Rings fan, I based my character around Legolas and so was a highly skilled archer. The path of Shadow consists of skills that revolve around stealth and deception, including; Speech, Pickpocket, Light Armor, Alchemy, Sneak and Lockpicking! And finally the path of Magic includes; Restoration, Conjuration, Destruction and Enchantments.
As you gain experience by levelling up any one of these 18 skills, your character levels up also. When your character levels, you get to increase either your health, stamina or magic by 10 points. Also, each time you level your character you are gifted a skill point. This skill point can be allocated to any one of the 18 individual skill trees granting the Dragonborn additional benefits. For example, if you choose to use your skill points in the Archery skill tree, you can; draw your arrows up to 30% faster, inflict twice the amount of damage per arrow or even paralyze your opponents! Each skill tree has its own unique set of perks that can improve your skills beyond reckoning! Mastering the Conjuration skill tree enables the Dragonborn to summon two atronachs at once (an atronach is a creature or golem made up of a single substance i.e. a flame atronach is made of 100% fire), whereas mastering the Pickpocket skill tree enables the Dragonborn to pickpocket equipped weapons and clothing without being detected. The skills you wish the Dragonborn to master ultimately decides where you allocate these points.
Although I have over 60 hours of playing time under my belt, I have yet to master all of the skill trees. I have mastered; Archery, Smithing, Pickpocket (twice) and One-Handed weapons. How you ask, have I mastered a skill twice? Well, once any of your skill trees reach the maximum level of 100 you have the opportunity to make it a 'Legendary' skill. This resets the skill back to its starting level of 15, however grants the Dragonborn all the skill points that might have been used throughout the skill tree back - allowing you to reallocate these skill points. Effectively, it makes levelling your characters abilities indefinite, making the game in many senses, endless! The vast nature of the skill trees incorporated into Skyrim truly is something to behold. Bethesda have done a magnificent job in creating a unique playing experience, crafting your character into the ultimate fighting machine suited to how you want to play the game is a modern day wonder of the gaming world.
~~~ Shouts and Powers ~~~
During your long and winding quest to defeat the ancient dragon Alduin, the Dragonborn will be subject to various changes! What makes the Dragonborn unique, is his ability to manipulate the dragon tongue (similar to how Harry Potter can speak to snakes). Effectively, from learning the ancient language of the dragons, the Dragonborn can use an array of abilities that no mere mortal could ever dream of possessing. The Dragonborn has the ability to 'Shout' - focusing the words of the ancient dragons into a powerful and destructive force. For example, the word for fire is 'Yol', and once mastered, allows the Dragonborn to shoot fire from his mouth. Once the Dragonborn has learnt this word, he has the potential to use against foes - providing he has unlocked the word with a dragon soul. It sounds awful complicated but it really isn't. Whenever you defeat one of the many wandering dragons in Skyrim, you absorb the soul of that dragon. This soul can then be used to unlock any word you have learnt.
Each Shout has three separate words and with each word the shout gets stronger. So, the Dragonborn has already learnt the word for fire - 'Yol' and can use it deadly effect against foes. However, if he were to learn the words inferno - 'Toor' and the word Sun - 'Shul', then his fire breath would become exponentially stronger. However, these cool abilities come at a cost. The stronger the Shout, the longer the cool-down period, i.e. the amount of time that must surpass before the Shout can be used again. There are 20 Shouts that can be unlocked throughout the world of Skyrim - ones which can slow down time itself, and ones which call dragons to fight by your side. Cool, eh? Words can be found at word walls - large stone tablets usually located at the end of cleared-out dungeons.
Alongside Shouts, the Dragonborn has the ability to use 'Powers' that he has stumbled upon on his travels. Each Power can only be used once a day (in-game time) but usually lasts for a prolonged period of time. I'm unsure the number of Powers that are secreted throughout the world of Skyrim, I have about 5 unlocked. The power I use most is 'Lycanthropy' - the ability to transform into a werewolf! Its quite useful when travelling to far away undiscovered places, as werewolves are awful fast! Faster in fact, than any horse in the game! I suppose the werewolf is pretty good at tearing peoples throats out aswell - but travelling is essential! You can also become a vampire I am told and summon ancient assassins to fight by your side! Pretty. Damn. Awesome.
~~~ Loot, Weapons and Enchantments ~~~
Glad to say, Skyrim is littered with all kinds of goodies! The amount the Dragonborn can carry depends on his stamina. An added benefit with increasing stamina is that you also increase the Dragonborn's carrying capacity! The Dragonborn can have equipped at any one time; Armor, Gauntlets, Boots, Ring (x1), Necklace/ Pendant (x1) and a Helmet/ Circlet (x1), along with any chosen weapons! The variety of different items and armor incorporated into Skyrim is quite frankly, scary! You could have equipped a ring that fortifies your Archery skill whilst wearing a Necklace that increases your chances of Pickpocketing! The combinations are mind-blowing!
Many of the quests in Skyrim involve you clearing out dungeons and defeating a boss-like character at the end! As discussed, word walls are often situated at the end of these dungeons. Along with word walls, there normally is a chest full of high valued items and weapons. There are a large number of chests scattered throughout dungeons, but the ones with the best loot are normally located toward the latter levels! The most valuable items normally are enchanted ones - weapons or armor with an accompanying characteristic that improves some aspect of the Dragonborn's character!
Enchanting items yourself couldn't be easier! First, you will need to know an enchantment, this is normally done by disenchanting items that are no use to you! Second, select and item or weapon or piece of armor you wish to enchant. Finally, use a soul gem (a gem which has a trapped soul inside) to bind the item and enchantment together! And Voila! You have yourself an enchanted weapon! Beware though, enchanted weapons have to be 'charged' in order for the enchantment to work - you can recharge enchanted weapons using soul gems! There are literally thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of soul gems lying around the plains of Skyrim! Get this - you can even enchant a weapon so that when you kill an enemy you trap there soul in a soul gem! Enchanting is a very useful skill to have, once mastered, you can enchant an item with '''two''' enchantments! Cool or what?
You can, if you have the skills and ingredients, craft items yourself! This is called Smithing and is very popular among the YouTube community, who have found several ways to 'boost' Smithing to level 100 so that you craft the prestigious 'Dragon Armor'. Smithing also enables the Dragonborn to improve the quality of weapons and armor, which also increases its base damage! Increasing the quality of a weapon can be done at a grindstone whereas increasing the quality of armor can be done at a workbench! These can be found in every city in Skyrim. Whether it be via the grindstone or arcane enchanter, if you want something upgrading, the only thing holding you back, is you! Skyrim is your oyster!
~~~ Graphics and Soundtrack ~~~
Mesmerising. If I could some up Skyrim's graphics in one word, yup you guessed it! Mesmerising. The landscapes are truly something to behold. Whether your wandering the expanses of the realm on a warm summers evening, with the sun setting in the distance, or running up a mountain side with the cold winters breeze at your back - sometimes I honestly found it difficult to ascertain the difference between Skyrim and reality! Imagine what the next Elder Scrolls has in store for us, on a console rumoured to have 4 times the processing power of the current generation! I truly cannot wait!
Accompanying these sensational visuals, is a soundtrack which sure does its part to compliment the 'epicness' (just made up a word) of Skyrim! Its the little subtle bits that get your heart racing! Approaching a dragon? The background music - slow and steady like a beating drum- as if not to disturb its slumber! Its seen you! The music kicks in, a fast-tempo low humming perfectly suiting the situation you seem to have managed to get yourself into! I didn't know a game could get the adrenaline pumping - apparently so! Approaching word walls has a unique accompanying sound, it's almost as if Alduin himself is singing you a low pitched melody - getting louder and louder with each and every step towards the word wall, almost daring you to get closer! With a little research, I've actually found the title of this song - 'The Song of the Dragonborn' - pop it into YouTube and have a listen!
~~~ Achievements ~~~
There are a total of 75 achievements that can be unlocked playing Skyrim. 25 of them can only be unlocked by downloading the three DLC's that Bethesda have introduced since it's launched - making 50. I myself (boastingly) have managed to unlock all 50 achievements. Smug face. There are around 16 quest- related achievements, so working your way through the game completing the main storyline will get you about 16 or so achievements. I'm somewhat against games introducing DLC's. I've bought the game already, why exactly (apart from making you money) would I want to download part of a game that I have already paid for? It's beyond me! Anyhow, I really do enjoy getting all of the achievements in a game, there's a real sense of satisfaction to it!
I would like to discuss one of these achievements specifically - 'Oblivion Walker'! This achievement requires you to acquire all 15 Daedric Artifacts scattered throughout Skyrim! The 'Daedra' as they are called, are a group of supernatural entities that inhabit the plains of Skyrim. They often have a large group of worshipers. The Daedric Princes are I suppose, Skyrim's alternative to Gods. There are 17 Daedric Princes, accompanying them are there very own quests. Upon completion of a quest, the Dragonborn will often speak to the respective Daedric Prince, who will grant him a Daedric Artifact for a job well-done. These artifacts are highly prized items - normally a weapon - which have exceedingly credible credentials when it comes to combat. Or, put more simply; they're strong - arguably the best weapons in the game! There's something about 'helping out' the Gods that appealed to me - this achievement was arguably the most difficult, yet also the most satisfying!
~~~ Multiplayer ~~~
Unfortunately, there is no multiplayer function with this game! Which is somewhat of a bummer. With the expanse of Xbox Live and PSN, I really do believe Bethesda have missed a trick here! World of Warcraft (arguably Skyrim's main competitor) has incorporated a very sophisticated multiplayer function into it's game, so I see no physical barrier stopping Elder Scrolls from becoming a multiplayer competitor! In fact, I tell I lie! One of the few disappointments I witnessed playing Skyrim, were it's incredibly long loading screens! I understand the need for such a long loading sequence due to Skyrim's huge open world. Following from this, I dread to think how long the loading screens would be if it were a multiplayer game! Maybe the current generation of consoles simply does not have the processing power to sync 4 (or however many players) networks together over the internet considering the grand scale of the game! Quite understandable then, why Bethesda decided to opt against a multiplayer function. There are rumours however, that Elder Scrolls 6 will have a multiplayer function! Excited would be an understatement!
~~~ Summary ~~~
Well, what a gaming wonder we are lucky enough to have witnessed! Skyrim is a beautifully engineered role-playing gamer's paradise! Absolute perfection! Elder Scrolls V is a finely tuned gaming experience, a world accomplished by collating together the successes and failures of its predecessors! The game possesses everything needed to satisfy even the most critical of gamers, from outstanding visuals to in-depth character customisation, the game is truly a modern day masterpiece. The longevity of the game is almost limitless, being able to 'reset' skill trees makes the characters development indefinite. With over 60 hours of gameplay and all of the achievements tucked away under my belt, I'm pleased to say I am still in love with this game! I recommend Skyrim to any and every gamer, whether you be male or female, racing fan or COD fanboy, this game will not disappoint! I urge you to witness the epicness (there's that made up word again) of Skyrim. A masterpiece!
Jack the Giant Slayer (previously entitled Jack the Giant Killer) is a 2013 theatrical release based around the English fairy tale 'Jack and the Beanstalk'. Warner Bros and New Line Cinema have teamed up in an attempt to bring back-to-life this story of old! And quite a mess they made in doing so might I say! Now I'm no review master; and I would be the first to admit my review writing is somewhat 'average' - but I'm fairly sure that the act of remembering what happened in a film would be a good a start when writing a review - right? I watched this film a few days ago and by no fault of my own I haven't the foggiest what happened - It was truly that unmemorable! Here goes my (assisted) attempt in remembering...
As you may have guessed, the plot is loosely based around the fairy tale 'Jack and the Beanstalk' with some added alterations! The opening see's Jack's father telling him tales of the past - about an ancient King who once ruled the lands they occupy! The King defeated an invading army of giants - who came from the skies - by forging a magic crown. Whoever wore the crown commanded the giants. The King ordered the giants back up the beanstalk, to never return! Meanwhile, in the palace, a young Princess by the name of Isabelle becomes infatuated by the same story!
A number of years pass and Jack is ordered into town to sell his uncle's horse and cart (broadly similar to the fairy tale) - however the cart gets stolen whilst Jack is distracted by the Princess, whom he is trying to protect from a group of thugs! Jack takes the horse into the center of the citadel, where he stumbles upon a monk trying to flee the town. The monk offers Jack some 'valuable' beans in exchange for the horse! What an entrepreneur!
Jack returns home to his uncle - only to find him disgruntled by Jacks disobedience - oh, and the fact that he sold a horse for some beans. Good job Jack! Infuriated, Jack's uncle leaves. Meanwhile, Princess Isabelle flees from the palace and stumbles upon Jack's house! A short conversation ensues, only to be interrupted by a huge beanstalk shooting through the middle of his house! Jack attempts to rescue Princess Isabelle who is trapped inside the house, only to fall - leaving the house skyrocketing toward the heavens and the clutches of the giants!
Jack wakes, surrounded by the King's guard and the King himself! After telling them what happens, the King orders a party of men to climb the beanstalk and rescue the Princess! How cliché. Jack, being the hero that he is, insists to be among the group of men ordered to rescue the princess - the King accepts. Jack, Elmont (Captain of the King's guard) and Lord Roderick (the King's adviser) reach the top of the beanstalk unscathed and follow a giant to the castle which they live! Here, Lord Roderick reveals the magic crown that was forged hundreds of years ago - making him commander of the giants. He orders the giants to eat the Princess and Elmont. Jack (having managed to evade capture) kills the giant who is about to eat Elmont and rescues the princess. The three of them travel back to the beanstalk. Elmont reveals he is going to stay at the top of the beanstalk and confront Roderick! Elmont kills Roderick but cannot manage to claim the crown. The leader of the giants - known by the name Fallon - claims the crown and orders the giants down the beanstalk to attack the Kingdom below!
The giants reach the Kingdom where a battle ensues. Fallon falls into the oil-filled flame-lit moat surrounding the city and enters the sewers underneath! Meanwhile, the King and Elmont are holding off the giants - who cannot cross the moat and are attempting to lower the draw bridge! Fallon erupts into the palace where Jack and Princess Isabelle are hiding! A confrontation ensues, but Jack manages to kill Fallon by throwing the last magic bean down his throat! Jack claims the crown and the screen cuts black before we hear what he says to the giants. I assume he ordered them back to their realm - I myself would have ordered them to clean up the damn mess they had made, destroying the Kingdom and what-not! The closing scene sees a group of school children visiting the Tower of London - where the crown has been forged into St. Edwards Crown!
I can see why Warner Bros and New Line Cinema might have thought - looking at the script - that this was a worthwhile project! I mean, having read over it, the plot sounds pretty good - this, coupled with a star-studded cast, you'd assume that they'd be onto a winner here. Unfortunately, this is far from the case.
*** Jack - Portrayed by Nicholas Hoult - A pretty dreary performance here by Nicholas. Completely unmemorable and predictable. I actually think Nicholas is a fairly good actor from what 'I've seen of him on Skins. However, I think the boring script, unmemorable quotes and lack-lustered performances all round may have had a overwhelming influence on his performance.
*** Princess Isabelle - Portrayed by Eleanor Tomlinson - I'm going to be honest, I don't know who this is. Apparently she's been in Alice in Wonderland. I don't recollect seeing her much in the film, the large majority of screen time is taken up by Jack and Elmont - for me, she is somewhat of a secondary character; incorporated merely just to add a twist to an already familiar storyline.
*** Elmont - Portrayed by Ewan McGregor - By far the most recognisable name amongst the cast of characters. I believe his appearance contributed largely to this film managing to break-even. Again, a pretty unmemorable performance considering an overwhelming amount of screen time he had - quite uncharacteristic from Ewan might I say! Casting such a recognisable figure in a secondary role is pretty foolish if you ask me!
*** Lord Roderick - Portrayed by Stanley Tucci - Arguably the most believable performance of the film. Stanley is a very diverse actor and adapts to many different roles in the films he has acted in - The Devil Wears Prada would be a namely one. He portrayed the main antagonist fairly well considering the lack of emphasis the other cast members delivered. The performance of the film - not anything to brag about, mind!
Jack the Giant Slayer was somewhat of a disappointment. I remember nagging and nagging my girlfriend to go and see it during its release into cinemas! And boy I am glad I didn't! 'Dull' would be a fitting description for the majority of the film, including the performance of it's cast! At no point was I in suspense as to what might happen next nor was I compelled to watch on! The thought I had previous to watching the film regarding Jacks first encounter with the giants, was it to be a grand affair with a barrage of witty lines and memorable action scenes. At least the trailers made it look action-packed! In fact, it was far more of a grand farce, using 2 foot deep water to hide from a 50 foot giant with poor dialogue throughout. The 'romance' between Jack and Princess Isabelle - highly predictable might I say - was unconvincing and shallow throughout the entire film. There seemed to be little chemistry between them and the addition of the Princess was merely to create a twist in an already forgotten story line. Poor, poor, poor!
If you have a spare couple of hours and want to keep the kids entertained, then sure why not! But for a compelling story line, memorable characters and a believable chemistry that even the most basic of actors should be able to portray - go elsewhere! Saying this, I'm not even at all convinced its suitable for children - at least under the age of 12 anyway! The dreary palette and the fair amount of violence used could well end up given the little'ens nightmares. Which begs the question; who is this film aimed at? The fact that this film actually managed to break-even is a mystery in itself! Jack the Giant Slayer, more like Jack the Movie Slayer!
~~~Rugby World Cup 2011~~~
As a lot of you may or may not know, the 2011 Rugby World Cup is just around the corner! Specifically, 10 days away. So, you can imagine my excitement upon hearing the news that an official 2011 Rugby World Cup game was being released? Exactly! Being a keen rugby player (and fan) its been a long time since a rugby game has been released, Rugby 2008 was the last game of the EA sport franchise which as the name suggests, was released in 2008! Imagine my disappointment when i come to realise that the 2011 Rugby World Cup game, is in fact Rugby 2008 with different names and faces?
Before I start my long and tedious rant about how awful this game is, I suppose its only necessary to share what the game offers! The game offers 5 games modes, the Rugby World Cup itself, International tests, Warm-up matches, a place kick shoot-out and of course, online play! What the developers of this game have done, is essentially take Rugby 2008 the game, get rid of tournaments such as the 6-nations, the Tri-nations and the Guinness premiership and replace them all with the Rugby World Cup! Great idea guys,boy do I hope that the developers are getting payed healthily for such ingenious ideas!!
Furthermore, although it states that this game is the Official Rugby World Cup game, it doesn't even hold licenses for all the teams. Thus, meaning that half of the teams are made up of 'made-up' individuals. Teams like Russia and Japan have no real players, they are comprised of fictional individuals and fictional team strips. Also, house hold teams in the name of rugby such as Australia and New Zealand do not hold official licenses, this surely cannot be tolerated as a serious attempt to make a game. Continually, to rub salt in the wounds the developers have marketed the game to retail at competitive prices. Example, you pay £30-£35 for a game that essentially was released in 2008! Its just not acceptable.
The Warm-up Tour (a specific game mode) is essentially a string of international tests played one after an other. There is no real enthusiasm or diversity that makes this game stand out within the market place, literally absolute nothing would make this game appealing to a customer. Apart from the fact that the title involves the word 'Rugby', I can think of no reason why a sane individual would purchase this game. Which leads me to ask the question...'why did I?' !
The online game modes are dull and lack-lustered. The multiplayer function of the game can incorporate up to 4 players to play in a sort-of mini tournament, however even the online play offers a mere two player limit! There is nothing ground-breaking about this game, it just acts as a filler to whenever we get the next installment within the game franchise.
~~~Gameplay, Graphics and Realism~~~
So, like Ive already said, this game is an awful lot similar to Rugby 2008, and it differs not in this category either. Imagine Rugby 2008, now attach cardboard cut-out faces onto the old players, and there you have it...Rugby World Cup 2011. In a nutshell! The graphics are dreadful, Toby Flood for example seems to be made up of angular arms and legs, and he also seems to be competing in The Worlds Strongest man because he is buff (in the game anyway)! The graphics haven't improved at all from Rugby 2008, it is in fact like playing the exact same game. The only improvements to graphics are the HUD (heads-up display), polished place kick measures for example have been upgraded!
The gameplay, again, is very similar to that of Rugby 2008. The AI are very clumsy and seem to have no separate personality, for example if a player breaks the defensive line then all of defending team follow the man in single-file. Bizarre! The controls are fairly simple, L1 and L2 pass left and right respectively, R2 is sprint! The one tiny thing I like about this game is the ability to fend off an opponent. However, it's not groundbreaking development because of course it was available in Rugby 2008. You can push the right analog stick in a given direction to fend an opponent. Push the stick toward the defender to shoulder charge, away to hand off and perpendicular to side step! The set plays offer no real opportunity to feel involved in the game, a simple tap of a button and you win the ball!
This game is completely unrealistic, in a word! The last time I saw James Hook punt a ball from within his own in-goal to the opponents 22 was well, never. Why develop a game and involve aspects that would never happen in real life? I mean i know Jonny Wilkinson has a big boot, but he can't kick a goal 65 metres away from the posts! The players, their faces, their postures and builds are all completely unrealistic. By the size of Danny Care I would assume he could bench press about 250kg (which is alot). The game does have some realistic aspects, but all in all a poor attempt of a game!
This game is disastrous. Avoid it like the plague. Its completely disgraceful for a game developer to put a game on the market which essentially was released 3 years ago, and expect to sell it at a competitive price. The fact that they have the audacity to do such a thing is completely unacceptable! I mean yes, if your a rugby fan I can see you buying this game (I mean I did) but please don't! I know it's been a while since a Rugby game was released but please avoid this game, an official game that doesn't even have official licenses, poor graphics and the exact same game engine as Rugby 08, there is no need to buy this!
I would be the first to confess that I'm a little late to board the Game of Thrones bandwagon - with it being released in 2011 and only just getting round to watch it! Initially, I couldn't see the appeal - I tend not to take interest in things that I haven't accustomed myself to and Game of Thrones was no exception. I was quite happy knowing that I'd watched the likes of 'Lost' and 'Prison Break' and more recently 'Heroes', and couldn't possibly see how Game of Thrones would ever match up to these mighty 'primetime' competitors. How. Wrong. I. Was.
(Spoiler Alert) Game of Thrones, as its name suggests, revolves around four families fighting for the right to rule over a territory know as 'Westeros' and take their place as rightful ruler. These four families each believe they have a strong case to rule over the 7 kingdoms of Westeros. Currently, the 'Iron Throne' (as it is known) is occupied by Robert Baratheon, of house Baratheon. He has a son called Joffrey, the so-called rightful heir to the Iron Throne. The opening episode sees Robert Baratheon visit one of the 7 kingdoms that he rules over, known as Winterfell, on a trip to visit and seek council from his good friend Eddard (Ned) Stark. Here, he announces Ned as the new 'hand of the King', or more simply, the fellow who does all his dirty work! As the new hand of the King, Ned has a duty to leave the city of Winterfell and take up Robert Baratheon's side at Kings Landing (the home of the King). Here, Ned discovers the true identity of Joffrey Baratheon - he is in fact the son of the Queen and her brother (yes, incest is quite prevalent throughout the story, and has no rightful claim to the throne. Joffrey is in fact of house Lannister - and alongside Stark and Baratheon, the third of the four families fighting for the Iron Throne.
Meanwhile, in the neighbouring plains of 'Essos' - across a vast ocean - lives a brother and sister counterpart by the names of Daenarys and Viserys, of house Targaryen. Initially, Viserys (the brother) sells his sister to a group of tribe-like warriors known as the Dothraki. In return for his sister, he plans to the lead the Dothraki over the great sea and conquer the seven kingdoms to take his rightful place as King. You should note, during the first episode it becomes apparent that before Robert Baratheon was King, the father of Daenarys and Viserys was King - but was brutally murdered by Jamie Lannister (the Queens incest lover). Wow - this really is a game of thrones, and very hard to explain! Anyway, the Dothraki become tired of Viserys and kill him, leaving Daenarys as rightful heir to the throne. House Targaryen is the last of the four houses fighting for the Iron Throne, so we have; Baratheon, Stark, Lannister and Targaryen all fighting for the throne - what a mess!
A recurring and somewhat prevalent theme throughout Game of Thrones are the respective sigil's that occupy each house. A sigil is a banner which represents the house. The Kingdoms of Westeros and Essos are scattered with mythical beasts and so become a recurring theme throughout the storyline. The sigils of each house are as follows;
*** House Stark - The Dire Wolf - Each of the 5 Stark children are given a dire wolf pup in the opening episode. Personally, I would have liked to have seen the dire wolves feature more in the storyline - they are however viciously fierce when a member of the Stark family is in danger and do, on a number of occasions save their lives.
*** House Targaryen - The Dragon - Season one sees Daenarys acquire three dragon eggs as a wedding present when she marries the leader of the Dothraki - Khal Drogo. We see how much of a caring person she becomes - mothering the eggs, but whether they hatch or not is another thing!
*** House Lannister - The Lion - There is no prevalent occurrence of any lions in the storyline! However, the lion represents the Lannister's pride in their house name. Tywin Lannister (the grandfather of Joffrey) expresses this throughout the story, highlighting that the Lannister name will prevail long after the lifetimes of the current generation and it is their duty to ensure it is feared among the 7 Kingdoms.
*** House Baratheon - The Stag- Similarly to Lannister, the stag has no occurrence during the storyline of Game of Thrones. The stag represents the hunt, which is ironic - as Robert Baratheon actually dies when hunting wild boar - which sees Joffrey as King at the end of the first season!
Eddard (Ned) Stark - Portrayed by Sean Bean. Ned is arguably the main protagonist during the first season as we see his journey from Winterfell to Kings Landing unfold. His relationship with his sons and daughter Arya especially, develop throughout the first season and we see a soft side to Ned. He his arguably the most level-headed, honourable characters throughout the entire season and his thoughts regarding the succession to the throne are admirable. Sean Bean plays his part fantastically and is for me, the star character in the first season. He doesn't 'make the cut' for the second season however, if you catch my drift!
Robert Baratheon - Portrayed by Mark Addy. Mark for me, is the perfect person to play the role of King. His rudeness, audaciousness and disregard for his own remarks is a stereotypical portrayal of a King. Considering Game of Thrones somewhat revolves around the War of the Roses, that would make Robert Baratheon, well - Henry VIII! Perfect! As the plot unfolds, we find that his son Joffrey is not his son at all. During Ned's investigation into Joffrey, he stumbles upon a young blacksmith called Gendry - who is later revealed as Roberts bastard son - and the rightful heir to the throne. Gendry doesn't feature much until season 2 and 3.
Cersys and Jamie Lannister - Portrayed by Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, respectively. These two are somewhat of the sinister type. The opening episode sees Jamie push Ned's son from a window after he had discovered their incest! Cersys is continually over-protective of Joffrey and has a blatant disregard for the laws of the Kingdom. She is the only character to quote 'game of thrones', I am aware of, to date.
Tyrion Lannister - Portrayed by Peter Dinklage. Tyrion brings the comedy element to Game of Thrones. His quick wit and equally as quick tongue sees him escape unscathed from many tedious situations. As the story unfolds we begin to sympathise with Tyrion as we bare witness to his fathers disrespect toward him - due to him being a dwarf. Tyrion is by far my favourite character throughout the entire three seasons and although this is a season one review - Tyrion definitely grows into a lovable and caring character as the story unfolds.
Daenarys Stormborn, House Targaryen - Portrayed by Emilia Clarke. Second to Tyrion, Daenarys is my next favourite character. She is a caring person and her struggle with her husband Khal Drogo makes the audience empathise with Daenarys. She calls herself the mother of dragons (spoiler) and goes from city to city freeing slaves. Her kindness sees her into trouble during the first season - saving a woman who turns out to have a very hidden agenda!
There are a number of recurring characters who feature in almost every episode but I have tried to contain the review to the houses fighting for the Iron Throne. There are a number of separate and branching stroylines that are present and the interconnected web of networks that have been created is special.
'A mix between soft-core porn and Lord of the Rings' a friend once quoted to me regarding Game of Thrones and it's quite an accurate description. There is an overwhelming amount of nudity and scenes of rape and pillaging - but these elements are what brings Game of Thrones to life. It adds a quality that I believe cannot be achieved otherwise. Certain emotions cannot be accessed without scenes of such nature - the fact that it is done in a respectful way is commendable. The mix of characters and personalities are enough to satisfy all audiences and I believe that this is a major factor contributing towards its success - there is a character for everyone to enjoy!
Throughout, there are enough twists and turns for Game of Thrones to be classed as a rollercoaster. There is no doubt you'll be on the edge of your seat after almost every episode begging for more - reaching for that next DVD that whittles another 50 minutes of your life away! But its worth every minute!
Borderlands 2 is the second installment in this frantic first-person shooter franchise, brought to us by Take Two and Gearbox Software. Released in 2012, Borderlands 2 has already claimed several of the top accolades associated with FPS's, not to mention the coveted X-Play 'Game of the year' award. It also won 'Best Shooter', 'Best Multiplayer', 'Best Character' and more. I get the feeling before I've even started, that this game is in little need of a review - the awards it has already won speaks volumes in itself.
~~~Gameplay and Storyline~~~
(Spoiler Alert) The opening credits sees the four playable characters on an unsuspecting journey to a city called Sanctuary, a place - as its name suggest - to be tranquil and harmonious. The 'leader' of this city goes by the name of Handsome Jack, which is somewhat ironic seeming that his face is actually glued on and is not his face at all (you'll understand if you play it). Anyhow, Handsome Jack is in search of an infamous group of individuals known as 'Vault Hunters' - people who planet hop in search of vaults. Although at first Jack may seem quiet, belligerent and comforting, he does in fact have a hidden agenda - and its about now this train gets hijacked by machines that attempt to kill the vault hunters on board!! Touché Jack, touché! Did I forget to mention this game is full of surprises? And so sets the backdrop for the main quest line. Find Jack. Kill Jack - before he unleashes his army of robots on the world and awakens a formidable beast known as The Warrior. Now for the good stuff!
Borderlands 2 does not play like most first person shooters (FPS). Take the likes of Call of Duty or Battlefield, a pair of very serious, somewhat white-collar games which do nothing to challenge the expanses of modern FPS's. Borderlands 2 however, takes the biscuit. The gameplay is utterly mind boggling. Every aspect of the game has been crafted to a superb standard, to the smallest of Skag Pups (a dog-like enemy recurring throughout the game) to the largest of Badass Constructors (a robot-spawning robot and the bane of my life). Small and subtle additions are what truly make this game magnificent; headshots result in tiny red letters reading 'Critical Hit'; Handsome Jacks hilarious commentary via your Echo device (a device each character is fitted with that gives the player access to their inventory) and the almost endless amount of Badass challenges that make the game re-playable dozens of times. This is by no means a FPS that was created to fit the niché as it exists today, this is a game that was created to push the limits and boundaries of what is considered a leading FPS.
Honestly, I wasn't expecting much for the graphics. Scrolling through various trailers I thought that the graphics looked fairly poor and in all honesty put me off buying the game initially. It reminded me a little of TimeSpltters, a game some of you may remember from the good-old days of PS1! The graphics, although not as disappointing as first thought, are pretty decent considering the cartoon-like nature of the game and although they were never going to be mind-boggling, the graphics certainly exceeded my expectations - especially if hooked up to HMDI!
The game engine is superb. Each player has the space for four equipped guns, a shield, a grenade, a class-mod and inventory space for up to 28 items. Weapons can be looted, bought or awarded for completing quests. All equipment, including weapons and shields are rated in order of rarity - the rarer the item, the stronger it is. White items are the most common and orange items are the rarest! That feeling you get when you see an orange item on the floor in the distance is quite satisfying! Although confusing orange weapons with dropped money (which is yellow) is equally as frustrating!! Class-mods boost some of your players skills and can really help if your struggling to defeat a Badass opponent. The amount of different loot that can be found and used is extreme, with hundreds and thousands of weapon combinations available. Some weapons have the ability to burn, corrode or shock an opponent. These weapons are super-effective against certain enemies, for example a fire weapon is super-effective against flesh enemies; whereas a corrosive weapon is super-effective against a metal enemy! Like the overwhelming majority of the game, the weapon and equipment system is superbly well thought out! You can even gamble your hard-earned money away at Moxxxi's bar for the chance win that first prestigious orange weapon!
Upon release, there were four playable characters. They are; Axton, Maya, Salvador and Zer0. At this present point, Gearbox have introduced 2 additional characters in add-ons and DLC's. These two additional characters go by the names of Gaige and Krieg. These two characters are downloadable characters only and require additional fees if you want to play as them. Each character has an 'Action Skill', in essence this is an ability specific to that character that they can use during combat to aid the fighting. After using an action skill, a cool-down phase is initiated - a period of time the player has to wait before the action skill can be used again. They characters respective action skills are as follows;
*** Axton (The Commando) - Sabre Turret - A deployable turret that can be called upon when the fighting gets tough.
***Maya (The Siren) - Phaselock - This ability allows Maya to suspend an enemy in the air where they remain unable to fight for a short period of time.
*** Salvador (The Gunzerker) - Gunzerking - This allows Salvador to use two weapons at once for a limited amount of time.
*** Zero (The Assassin) - Deception - Zero casts a hollow project of himself which enemies confuse as Zero himself, allowing the player to remain undetected.
Each character can be enhanced and upgraded to suit the playing style of the user. This is done by incorporating 'Skill Trees' - which is a concept pretty self explanatory. As your character levels up, you are given skill points to spend and use on your respective characters skill trees. Each character has three skill trees, containing 9-10 different skills and abilities that can be purchased. Each skill tree works toward a different skill, and completing a skill tree can come with devastating effect. Each character can only have one skill tree completed, as a completed skill tree gives the player a special ability that can be used when initiating the action skill. It sounds complicated but its anything but! For example, I have completed the game a few times and played with all 4 character - my favourite being Salvador. Salvador's skill trees are: Brawn, Gun Lust and Rampage. Completing the Rampage skill tree enhances Salvador's gunzerk ability, making dual-wielding weapons last much longer. The Brawn skill tree on the other hand targets Salvador's health regeneration and fire rate - and so customising your character becomes completely diverse and the combinations of abilities are indefinite (Gearbox claim that each character has millions of combinations - a truly mind-boggling claim). Additionally, Badass Ranks are awarded after completing in-game challenges. Badass Ranks allow for further customisation of the character, allowing the player to enhance things like fire rate, critical hit damage, health regeneration, shield regeneration and more. This two-tier customisation truly make the possibilities endless to what type of character you wish to create.
You may recognise some of the non-playable characters in the game (if you happened to play the previous Borderlands) such as Mordecai and Roland - as these are the playable characters in the previous game. They serve vital in assisting the vault hunter in defeating Jack - and they bear some overwhelming similarities to the playable characters in the game. Roland and Axton, Brick and Salvador - have such similar characteristics that one might assume Gearbox 'copy and pasted' the character profiles from the previous game - they are THAT similar.
The character Handsome Jack (the main antagonist) won the award of 'Best Character' from X-Play and as soon as you switch the game on you can see why. The creators at Gearbox have created a character that is hugely memorable, charismatic and audacious and it is easy to see why the acclaim for this character is such. His witty remarks throughout the entire game, coupled with his humorous disregard for human rights and lack of moral understanding make him truly sensational and credit to Gearbox Software in designing such a character. Other characters - notably Claptrap (your robot best friend) - also have an overwhelming bearing on the game and are vital additions to the story-line and add to the humorous nature Borderlands.
The multiplayer function available in Borderlands 2 is average. Personally, I did not buy the game for its multiplayer function and so the multiplayer did not dampen my thoughts of the game. Most FPS's feature multiplayer games like 'Team Deathmatch' and 'Free-for-all', but Borderlands 2 focuses on the questline - and so the multiplayer sees you working together with other combatants to complete quests. Although you can fight other players in your party, there are no team games like many rival shooters include. Also, in order to play multiplayer you have to download a 'Compatibility Pack' (don't worry, its free) which in my case took 20 minutes to download - quite annoying if you've just got yourself pumped up for some brain-splattering action! Players can trade and duel for weapons and money - there is also (I probably shouldn't say) a glitch which allows players to duplicate weapons, making it completely viable to have an orange weapon in all 28 inventory slots!
All-in-all, this game is absolutely sensational. The awards and critical acclaim it has already achieved speaks volumes in itself and any words I might say right now do not meet the prestigious nature of these awards. The game engine, character customisation, challenges and gameplay are truly magnificent. I have completed the game 3 times over and continue to play - it never gets old! The vast amount of character customisations, weapons and equipment unlocks available are all additional factors that persuade me to play over and over again. A credit to Gearbox Software. A credit to Take Two Entertainment. A credit to the world of First-Person Shooters!
Pokerstars is a down-loadable poker room. It prides itself upon being the largest online poker room with an average of 100,000 players playing at any given time! To be honest, I'm not all that certain on the history of Pokerstars, but then again most poker players are there to win money, not learn about the history of the site! I've been playing poker now for almost 2 years, and no, before you ask I'm not an addict! Pokerstars has a large number of features which gives it the edge over competitors eg.Full Tilt! Here are those features!
At first, the Pokerstars interface is a whole load of mumbo-jumbo! For a player who had just recently downloaded Pokerstars, It's easy to understand you feel in over your head! After downloading the software off of the website, the loading screen will appear! You are required to enter your details (to ensure your over 18) and select an alias! This is what other poker player will see you as, so choose carefully! I once saw someones alias as 'w4nk3r', i thought to myself 'what and absolute.....'! Anyway, after installing, the interface will appear! The screen will appear with a long list of poker games available, and to be honest it's very difficult to understand for a beginner! Pokerstars haven't made it user friendly for beginners, they use code words to explain what type of game your entering. For example, NL 6-max 100cap! I didn't have a clue what was going on! It's a daunting feeling not understanding what to do on a gambling site, one click and you've lost all your money. I exaggerate. I had memories of the first time I walked into a bookmakers, in at the deep end!
After my initial deliberations and ignoring the silly code words, the interface isn't all that bad! You have a series of pull-downs from the top of the screen whereby you can choose what game type you want to play! Hold'em, Omaha, Stud, Tourney, Sit & Go are all options you can choose from! Once you've chosen your category, you can decide what stakes you want to play. The options are High, Medium, Low and Micro. However, I was hoping that selecting these options would direct me to a game i wanted to play, 9/10 times it does not! You have o further refine your search, you can do this by selecting a feature in the bottom right of the screen, a filter! Here you can adapt the search to show games you wish to play in, for example, how many player you want to play against, how fast the blinds increase and more.
Before you can enter any game, you have to deposit money! Simply click on the cashier button to the bottom left of the screen and enter your credit card details, and you request will be processed immediately! There is a fast-track option whereby you can save your credit card details onto Pokerstars and you can add chips without entering your details again.
===At The Table===
When registered to a tournament, a screen appears automatically with the table you have been designated. The layout is fairly simplistic, with players located around the table. There is an option at the main interface which allows you to pick your preferred seat if you wish. By selecting the dealer position (or by right clicking anywhere at the table), you get a series of options which allow you to customize the table to your liking! You can change the table layout, the deck type and even request an email to see your statistics. I like this feature as it allows more experienced players to analyse how they play.
At the bottom right of the screen is where all the action happens! This is where the betting takes place. You have three options when you play a hand, you can check, bet or fold depending on the strength of your hand. There is a slider that allows you to vary the amount you want to bet, or can type a figure in the box provided! As with most things on Pokerstars, there are various options you can choose from to make the slider more personal.
Pokerstars prides itself on its unique tournaments! Unlike any other poker site they have specialist tournaments that you can only enter on Pokerstars. During the months of Spring, they offer entries into a unique tournament know as SCOOP events! This stands for Spring Championship Of Online Poker. It offers huge prize pools for small entry fees, making it one of the most popular events all year! There are around 50 events, divided into 3 sub-categories (small, medium and large) depending on the buy-in! The small events have small buy-ins where as the larger events have big buy-ins! Either way, you can end up winning $30,000 by investing on $11, not a bad opportunity hey! They offer similar style events all through the year such as the WCOOP. These events occur during summer months, and are knows as the World Championship Of Online Poker!
Pokerstars also offer a game type known as satellite events! These allows players to buy-in to small events (eg.$5) and if they win, gain entry to a higher buy-in game (eg.£50)! I'm sure all you poker geniuses know, Chris Moneymaker went on to win the 2003 World Series of Poker main Event after gaining entry via a $40 satellite game. He won $2.5 million! Thus, Pokerstars creates opportunities for amateur players to play in the big games!
Pokerstars is largest online poker site in the world, and it is so for a reason. Its offers unique events, it's reliable (Full Tilt has recently come under problems involving players not getting their winnings), it's easy to use and offers the user unique opportunities that can be found nowhere else! If there were one aspect where Pokerstars could improve, it would certainly be its user face!However, It is by far the Star of the poker world, and I suspect it to retain It's crown for many years to come! Full Tilt? I'd be tilted if my main competitor was head and shoulders above the rest of the competition!
Top Spin 4 is the most recent installment of the top Spin franchise. Developed and published by 2K Sports, it gained a lot of hype prior to it;s release.
Top spin 4 offers a shallow range of game modes, but what else can be expected from a tennis game? Never the less it does not fail to impress. When you first load load the game you will be taken to training camp, where you are given the opportunity to learn the basics of the game. Once you get into the swing of things (excuse the pun) you can start to play tournaments and games. but we'll come to that a bit later on.
The game has a very polished feel to it. You can tell that 2K sports have developed the game to be very user friendly. When you come to hit the ball, its all about timing. If you want to perform a precision shot, you tap the button, and if you want to perform a hard shot, you hold the button (Flat shot = A, Top spin = B, Slice = X etc). Anyhow, if you release the button your holding too soon the ball might be hit too short, whilst releasing too late the ball might get hit long. Hence the overwhelming emphasis on timing.
The thing i really love about topspin is the realism, you wont see anything on Topspin that wouldn't happen in real life. For example I'm a fan of Call of Duty, but is it real realistic to throw a hand axe into someone face? Erm, I think not. Also Top spin adds another dimension to its gameplay but integrating advanced serves, whereby you can use the right analog stick to serve the ball, a good touch i felt. So, what does the game offer?
A single player mode where you can create a player and rise to the top of the rankings. A little limited though i feel as your player can only increase to level 20, and when you reach level 20 your attributes can no longer increase so it feels a little lifeless (career mode anyway). Also, there are only 20 player s you can select from if you wish to play a quick match, so some of you may be disappointed because your favorite players are not present.
Multiplayer offers you the oppurtunity to play against others. You can enter best of 8, 16 or 32 player tournaments. Multiplayer offers nothing unique, but it does increase the lifespan of the game. You can also play a player match where if you wish to play with real life players (eg Federer, Nadal) then you can.
Each time you play online you are awarded points that contribute toward the global leaderboards. 3 points for a win and 1 point for a loss ( provided you dont rage quit when you lose the first set). The graphics are realistic and the sounds are as good as expected with a tennis game, with the recent arrival of virtua tennis 4 it will be interesting to see who will become number 1??
Definately the Andy Murray of the game world, good but will it ever win a grandslam??
F1 2010 is the most recent addition to the formula 1 franchise, and its been a long time coming. The last formula game was in 2006, which emerged on PS2, and to be honest was a little lack-lustered and tedious! However, F1 2010 is a completely different kettle of fish! From the boys who brought us GRID, Codemasters have created a masterpiece here and have done themselves well!! Games master awarded F1 2010 90% and is quoted as "brilliant"!
So where to begin? F1 2010 contains all drivers, cars and tracks present during the 2010 season! So if your wondering, there is no DRS or KERS, as they are 2011 season features. However there is an adjustable front wing option! For those of you similar to Racedriver GRID, F1 looks and feels a whole lot similar. The main menu is very user friendly and is as easy to use as a disposable toothbrush!
The Drivers Room
This option allows you to start your own career. Frankly, from a developer who solely concentrates on driving game Codemasters sure do have a knack to create unique and dynamic career modes. Before you start a career, you have to choose how long you wish your career to be. The options are 3 year, 5 year or 7 year career, which ever option you choose, you will be forced to retire at the end of that season!
When it comes to choosing a team, you are not giving the opportunity to race for McLaren in year one!! You have to work for that honour!! The starting teams are the likes of Williams and Force India! Which ever team you choose you will have specific objectives. For example, if you ever get to race for Ferrari, your objectives are to win the World Championship, however racing for Mercedes will only require a 6th place finish lets say!!
The drivers room consists of your agent, leaderboards, helmet select and other options! your agent is there to offer guidance about other teams interest in you! When selecting a race, you have the option of a short weekend or a long weekend, completely at your own preference. There is also a large variety of difficulties you can choose from, making this game appeal to all ages!! For example, you can select a racing line to appear which allows you to see which racing line fastest and when to brake! it goes without saying that you can choose the AI difficultly, there are 4 difficulties!
During a short weekend you will compete in one practice session, a single 20 minute qualifying and a certain race distance! During the practice session, sometimes you are given objectives to complete and if completed, you can unlock enhancements for your car! Before exiting the pit garage, you can change your car setup, look at your team mates stats and even change strategies. There is a strong emphasis on your team mate, the first driver in the team gets dibs on all the new upgrades, so it's in your best interests to out race your team mate!
Racedriver: GRID incorporates a system whereby if you crash or go off track, you can use a 'flashback'. A flashback allows the racer to turn back time, prince of Persia style! A lot of hard core Formula 1 fans did not like the idea as it goes against the realism of the game, however I completely disagree and believe it is a welcome addition!! It provides another dimension into tactical racing! The amount of flashbacks you can use during a race depend on the difficulty setting you choose. However, like all the difficulty settings in this game, you can change the amount of flashbacks you want!
Remember the days of Gran Turismo 2, where if you wanted to win a race the main objective was to crash into other cars? Well Formula 1 mulitplayer relives those days! To be honest what else can you expect? 9/10 online games I have played I have ended up looking in the round direction before i reach turn one! The grid positions are completely chosen at random, and it's sad to say but the best position to start is last!! So that you can avoid all the chaos at the first corner!
Online play is far from a spectacle! However it does offer other race modes such as lap record, whereby you can't crash into each other, its simply fastest lap wins!! I often play time trails as there easy and you cant cheat, but its a little tedious as if you cut a corner the tiniest amount your lap gets invalidated!!
The gameplay of Formula 1 2010 is superb. The graphics are something to behold, after watching a qualifying session on the TV I often have a quick blast and to be honest I struggle to tell the difference between game and real life! During wet weather conditions the realism is literally as real as real life!
The gameplay is outstanding and it truly feels like your sitting in the car!! Although I have no idea what that feels like!! The flags and penalty system can be as real as you like, if you want to play with full penalties then be my guest. However the game offers a reduced penalty system which isn't so hard!! Ideal for all you cheaters who like to win by cutting whole chunks of corners!
There are endless amounts of adjustments that you can choose on your car, ranging from aerodynamics to gearbox settings, allowing you to create your very own Formula One car!! I would recommended the game to any enthusiast, or maybe just for all you adrenaline hunters who want a quick hit and run! The game truly is a spectacle and an outstanding game in itself. It won the best sports game at the BAFTA Video Game Awards, out lasting FIFA11 and Football Manager 2010, which speaks for itself! I would recommend keeping hold of your cash for now though, as F1 2011 will be in stores in September!! Im counting down the days!!!
Sports fans listen up. The Guru of sport is about to announce the official top 10 sporting moments ever. Nah im just kidding, im not really a sporting guru, though, my body is a temple!! Anyway..
10. England beat West Germany 4-2 in the final of the 1966 world cup. After going 1-0 down within the first 15 minutes, Geoff Hurst leveled it out 5 minutes later. In the 77th minute, we were ahead by a goal from Martin Peters, however in the last minute of added time Germany equalized. Boo. Then during E.T, Geoff Hurst whipped in 2 more goals to make England World Cup winners.
9. Michael Schumacher wins 7 world championships in 2004. He won a record 12/ 13 races in the 2004 season, only to be eclipsed by magnificent upcomers, the likes of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.
8. Yesterday, Usain Bolt broke the 100 metres world record to set a time of 9.69 seconds. He was celebrating the last 20 metres of the race, as he new he had won. He originally was never going to run the 100m as he is a 200m runner. His shoelace was also untied.
7. Kelly Holmes taking double gold medals in the 2004 summer Olympics. She won both the 800m and 1500m events. Dedicated to koshkha, and her strong minded ways.
6. Three time boxing heavyweight champion of the world Muhammed Ali, defeats George Foreman to retain his title after tough times in his life. The fight known as 'The Rumble in the Jungle'.
5. Diego Maradonas goal against England in the 1986 World Cup. Haaa. This makes me laugh to this day, when he slapped the ball in the back of the net. This could be even funnier than Graham Poles three yellow cards!
4. Lance Armstrong wins the Tour De France 7 times in a row. Having defeated cancer, he managed to defeat his demons also. Probably the best athlete in the world.
3. Lewis Hamilton loses the 2007 F1 championship to Kimi Raikkonen in the last race of the season. He came second infront of his team mate Fernando Alonso, but drew on 109 points. Raikkonen had 110 points.
2. Sir Steve Redgrave wins the gold 5 times in 5 consequetive Olympic games. Also has won a bronze in Seoul 1988. He competed in both the coxless pair and the coxed four.
1. 2003 Rugby World Cup. England defeat Australia 20-17 after extra time. Jonny Wilkinson drop goals the 3 points on the dead of full time. The only try coming fom Jason Robinson. Good job lads.
Brought to you by the sporting Guru.
Iron Man portrays a story of Anthony "Tony" Stark, a wealthy weapons manufacturer and president of Stark Industries. This is Marvel Comics newest film, together along with The Incredible Hulk and it is brought to the big screen from neighbourhood favourites Paramount Pictures.
The beginning of the story is as follows. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is on a business trip in Afghanistan, but the convey he is travelling in is attacked by a terrorist group. They capture him and take him to there secret base, very orthodox, and instruct him to build his latest weapon that could potentially give the terrorist world dominating power. However, during the accident Tony is injured and his heart suffers major damage. Dr. Yinsen (Shaun Toub) is a fellow captive along with Tony, powers his heart upto a car battery to stop him from dying. Tony, being the genius that he is, starts building Iron Man mark 1, or in a nicer way, a hunk of junk! However, the creation helps Tony escape, but his friend Dr. Yinsen tragically dies.
When back in the US, Tony no longer wants to supply weapons to such criminals, and he announces that he is retiring. Only to make time for his new creation, Iron Man mark 2. After numerous weeks of development, Iron Man is ready. For his first test drive, Tony attacks the terrorist who have spread into Dr. Yinsen's village. After a gruelling battle, or not so gruelling battle (this is Iron Man we are talking about, he doesn't hang around) Tony flies back to the US, only to be attacked by two fighter planes. Great. Talk about sitting on the fence! Tony attempts not to do too much damage, but ends up destroying one of the fighter planes.
Later in the story, Tony sends his personal assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) to retrieve evidence from his computer which much be destroyed. Here, Potts meets Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) who was Tony Starks adviser earlier on in the film. Pepper Potts discover that Stane hired the terrorist group to capture Tony Stark and kill him. Furthermore, she also discover that Stane has acquired Iron Man mark 2, you know, that hunk of junk from earlier. And all that he needs is Tony's heart piece that keeps him alive. Stane goes to Starks house and immobilises him with a taizer-like tool, takes his heart piece and powers up his new and improved Iron Man mark 1. Stark, now lying half dead on the floor, remembers that earlier in the film Pepper Potts gave him a Birthday present of the same stuff that his heart piece is made up of. He goes and fetches it and place it back into his heart. Great, now everything is Hunky Dorey! Except Stane is on his way to kill Pepper Potts. Will Tony make it in time? Will Pepper Potts be saved? Can Iron Man defeat mutant Iron Man? I know, the tension!
It takes a while for the film to get up and running, and the all the good stuff doesn't come till later on in the film, and, in all honesty its not worth the wait. The ending is very cheesy and more predictable than a Robbie Williams concert. Plus, Iron Man isn't even a super hero, truly, what can Tony Stark do that every other Human can't? Breath fire? Nope. Teleport? Not a chance. However, I do have to say, although not technically classed a superhero, Iron Man has a never-ending list of fighting moves and cool stuff in his inventory. It would all be really impressive if it wasn't artificial.
The actors in the film fail to impress me, Robert Downey Jr plays a sturdy role in the film, but with no real moments of excellence, I cant help but think why they cast such an unmemorable actor. Gwyneth Paltrow was no better herself. With such hype and tension at the Box Office before its release, I am really disappointed. The story line is great, but the producers and director Jon Favreau have failed to make a marvel out of a marvel comic! Oh, you have never heard of him? Well, do you remember that friends episode when Monica dates the millionaire who wants to become a UFC champion? Yup, its him. To be blunt, he is a lame actor, and from witnessing Iron Man, a pretty lame director. I would say don't give up your day job. But he's rubbish at that too.
My words do sound a little harsh, and maybe Iron Man is not as bad as I'm showing, but its not exactly a thriller. There a few good points that do make the film an average watch. The special effects for example, are stunning and the storyline is fantastic, hey, you know what? I ever kinda liked the music! If your looking to waste a few hours with no particular care what you do, Iron Man is for you. But if you feel as if you want to watch something worthwhile, go for The Incredible Hulk. Hey, and you won't wont to kill yourself after watching it either. Talk about two birds with one stone!