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With the Twilight saga bringing Vampires back into the mainstream it has almost brought about the introduction of new genres of films for the nocturnal creatures. Prior to the Twilight movies a Vampire movie was designed to scare the viewers, however by bringing in the romantic element it has brought about a number of new movies in different genres, where Vampires are no longer creatures to be feared, something that would perhaps have Dracula turning in his coffin. One of the more recent outings is in the Tim Burton directed Dark Shadows, it's a remake of a classic American Tv show from the 1960's and Burton has put a comedic twist on the original drama and having enjoyed the majority of his movies I was quite looking forward to this film.
Having crossed the wrong woman in 1772, Barnabas Collins goes from being a thriving business man in Collinsport, Maine to being a hunted outcast following a spell cast by Angelique Bouchard who places a curse on him making him a Vampire. Fast forward two centuries and Barnabas is freed from his captivity by a group of construction workers. Now finding himself in 1972 he returns to his old estate to find his descendants have fallen on hard times and his beloved estate has fallen into disrepair. Having returned to a different time Barnabas discovers a lot has changed, except for one thing, Angelique is still in Collinsport and still wants to be with him but will he rekindle their relationship or has someone else caught his eye.
As with all Tim Burton directed movies there are those that will love it regardless and then there are those that will hate it because of him. I actually fall somewhere in the middle. I enjoy a lot of his films but equally there are some I've really not taken to. What I feel Tim Burton does well is slightly darker themed movies and that's perhaps wht makes him the ideal choice to direct something like Dark Shadows. He creates an atmosphere around his characters and their surroundings that fits the theme of the movie rellu well. For me though he just doesn't really set the present I've quite right and it feels a bit more like 2002 rather than 1972.
It's fair to say that Dark Shadows is filled with Burtons trademark dark humour and at times it is very funny but for me the whole film really lacked something. There wasn't really a spark to keep me interested throughout and whilst the script was quite amusing and the film looked pretty good, it Just didn't really seem to be much more than average. I had never seen the original series and whilst I'm sure Burton's take on the original has taken it in a different direction, nothing about the film really made me want to look up the series and become aquainted with it.
Of course no Tim Burton film would be complete without a role for Johnny Depp and this is very much the case here as Depp takes the lead role as Banabas Collins. As usual with Depp he brings a lot of his manurisms to the role and Barnabas reminds me a lot of Depp's portrayal of Jack Sparrow, only with considerably less rum. It's with his unique sense of humour and quirky out look that stops Barnabas from being an average, run of the mill character and iNstead makes him interesting enough to make this movie worth watching.i think the biggest issue for Tim Burton though was the lack of chemistry between Depp and Eva Green who played Angelique.
Whilst there feelings were supposed to be totally one way it felt more like an evil sense of revenge than a portrayal of lust and romance on Green's part. She just didn't seem to suit the romantic side of the role, whilst the evil and twisted side did seem to work really well. It was a shame as there was certainly a sense of chemistry between Depp and other members of the cast but the one cast member it should have been with just didn't seem to click. From a casting point of view though the film does work despite this minor blip and that is really what makes it enjoyable. The comedic element of the film is certainly provided by Depp's portrayal of Barnabas and without his normal collaboration with Burton this film would have probably failed massively.
Overall this is a pretty good film, I wouldn't say it was excellent and it certainly isn't particularly new but it takes the Vampire genre in a totally different direction. It proves that Vampire comedies don't have to star Leslie Nelson and that its possible to make a dark and funny movie staying true to the ethics of Vampire movies. Of course as the popularity of the creatures of the night continues to thrive I'm sure there will be more and more attempts to put them into funny situations but at least Burton has set the stall out early and whilst his portrayal of the time period hasn't really worked, the attempt to make Vampires reasonably funny has worked and with the help of Depp they've made a film that could have been better but it is amusing and delivers almost 2 hours of amusement that certainly kept me entertained if nothing else.
Having spent a lot of time in hotels recently it has given me an opportunity to catch up on a number of movie's I've been wanting to see for quite some time. The latest of these was Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. I wasn't really sure what to expect from the film but with the Vampire theme I expected to at least enjoy it. The film was a little bit of an unknown as I hadn't really read any reviews of it and strangely didn't know anyone else who had seen it, but I thought I might as well give it a try.
When his mother is killed by a Vampire whilst he is just a child, Abraham Lincoln vows to take revenge on the man who killed her. He hadn't realised that this man was a Vampire but after a rather aggressive encounter with this beast he meets Henry, someone who claims he can help him. Henry trains him to become a Vampire Hunter and sends Abraham off to Springfield to target the towns Vampire population but things aren't always as they seem and as Abraham falls in love he starts to doubt his mentor. Now he has to make a choice between doings things the right way or do them Henry's way.
The film comes from director Timur Bekmambetov, who also directed the Angelina Jolie film Wanted. The period style of the movie really captures the time well and Timur has done an excellent job of recreating the 1800's within the film. It's a shame that the script isn't quite as well written as the settings. Whilst it is an impressive looking movie, I really felt that the story was a little clichéd and could have been a lot better. At times the plot is too slow and the action sequences seem to be a little rushed as Abraham tackles the Vampires. There was a lot of potential in the storyline but I didn't really feel that it really delivered.
The screenplay comes from Seth Grahame-Smith who wrote the novel and also adapted it for the big screen outing, but I feel this is really where the film fell down. With a decent adaptation this could have been a really good movie but instead the impressive look is wasted with a script that just didn't come up to par. It's a shame as I recently seen another of Smith's Vampire themed movies, Dark Shadows, which I actually really enjoyed. There are good parts to the script but I think the pace of the film just let's the screenplay down and what I thought would be a good film just never quite lives up to the promise.
I don't think the cause is really helped by the casting of Benjamin Walker in the lead role as Abraham Lincoln. He doesn't really have the screen presence to pull the role off and I think that really lets the film down. With a stronger, perhaps more charismatic lead actor would have really made the film considerably better. There is no real connection between Walker and his co-stars either and their appearances on screen together really feel very forced.
Of course the lack of any star names in the film would explain he lack of interest in the movie and I think had there been a better lead to compliment Dominic Cooper in the co-star role as Henry could have worked well. I thought that Cooper was a decent choice but amongst a cast that doesn't really work he really struggles too. It's a shame as with a better cast and a slightly stronger screenplay this could have been a very good, if not perhaps a slightly bizarre concept for a movie.
Overall I have to say I was massively disappointed by Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. I'm still not totally sure what I was expecting when I sat down to watch it but I was certainly expecting something better than the end result. There was potential in this movie and it looks impressive but with disappointing casting and a slightly too slow pace for my liking the film just never really seems to deliver. The conceptual of the movie could have worked but the execution just wasn't as good as it really could or should have been.
Over the last couple of years as my participation in sports such as Football and Cricket has dwindled slightly, my desire and drive to get on my bike has increased significantly. In fact it even got to the point where I signed up and completed the London to Paris challenge in September. As a result of this new found sense of purpose, or perhaps stupidity, I've also had to increase my recreational riding and put in the hours training. To aid with this process and to give myself a guide, I thought it best to invest in a piece of technology to help me and to that end I went and bought a Garmin Edge 800 from Wiggle, my new favourite online store.
What Is An Edge 800
The Garmin Edge 800 is effectively a GPS device for use on your bike. It keeps a track of where you have ridden, can store directions of where you want to go and keep a track of vital information such as speed and heart rate. The reason the Edge is so special though is that it is the first touch screen GPS device available to cyclists and having debated the benefits of buying this over say a Garmin Edge 500, I felt the range of features this offered far outweighed the difference in price. There are various different packages available for buying your Edge 800 starting from £244.75.
In The Box
Either the base model at £244.75 you get the Garmin Edge 800 unit, which is about the size of a rather chunky mobile phone. You will also get a quarter turn bike mount and the basic map package for navigation. There are bundles available which include other items such as a more advanced set of maps, a wireless speed sensor and a heart rate monitor, but for each of these items that you ass to the basic edge the price will continue to rise and can end up costing around about the £400 mark for a bundle that includes all of the previously mentioned items.
Setting It Up
The initial set up of the device onto the bike is nice and easy. Using the elastic cords you position the bike mount on the handle bars by looping them underneath and they hold the mount tightly onto the bars. The harder part of the set up comes when you want to plug it into a computer and start to use the maps feature on the device. To do this you have to register at Garmin Connect and from here you can plan, share and analysis any details you want to about your ride. The site is a little complicated, however that's for another day and another review. In addition to Garmin connect you can also use sites such as Strava to track your performance and see how your cycling is going.
I find the Garmin connect site is the best source of information though and once your past the early difficulties of working out what you are meant to do it becomes a very useful tool. It lets you program your own rides picking out the roads you want to ride down and where you want to go before saving it and transferring it via a USB cable onto your Garmin device for use when you are out on the bike. You can also use this system to collect other peoples routes around your area, which after the first time you use it is really quite simple.
Using the Garmin
Once the bike mount is set up and your Garmin is registered it is time to hit the open rode and see exactly what this device is all about. Using a collection of Satellites the Garmin picks up a signal which tracks your location and also tracks your speed, allowing this to be displayed on the devices screen. As soon as you bike starts to move the satellite senses the movement and if you've not hit the timer will ask you if you would like to start the ride. On the devices main screen it tracks the time the ride has taken, your speed, the distance travelled, the current time and the number of calories the current ride has burnt.
All of this is incredibly useful information for improving your riding performance and monitoring how well your rides are going. The best features of the Garmin though are the navigation and the virtual partner. First of all the navigation uses either the predetermined maps created on Garmin Connect or your current position on the road to help you to decide where to go next. I prefer to create routes prior to going out and by doing this the Garmin shows my current position and where I should turn next to get to my destination and even warns me if I stray off course.
The problem with just using the maps to navigate around relies a lot on you knowing the area enough to not get lost and on longer rides this can be risky and that's why I prefer to map my rides out prior to leaving. Of course there are predetermined points of interest programmed into the system such as shopping centres and cash points, which you can also use the Garmin to navigate to.
The virtual partner is the other aspect of the Garmin I really like. It allows you to set a target pace for your ride and by using your speed and the distance you have travelled it creates a time split either ahead or behind your target speed that gives you an idea in terms of time and distance how well you are doing against your target. I have found this to be a very useful tool, particularly on longer rides to gauge how well I'm conserving energy and where perhaps my riding needs to be a little more conservative.
It also uses the speed sensor and the heart rate monitor to track your performance, however I am yet to purchase these elements but will be sure to let you know how well it works when I eventually do.
Ease Of Use
The touch screen technology used within the 800 is very easy to use. It isn't too sensitive meaning you won't change any settings should you accidently brush the screen with your finger. The screen is very clear and displays everything you want to know in mainly black writing with a splash of colour where required. The battery is also quite impressive and seems to last for a long time. My longest ride with the Edge so far has been a 4 and a half hour ride in Essex and it still had almost half the battery left once we had finished. All in all the Garmin 800 is a very useful and easy to use piece of technology.
Being the avid cyclist I am the Garmin has been an excellent purchase but the real downside has to be the initial outlay. It is fair to say that £250 plus is a lot of money to justify for a hobby but I feel that the benefits provided by the Edge 800 really do justify the cost. I use my Edge once a week at least and at this kind of use it justifies the price, but if you felt you wouldn't use your bike at least once a fortnight then maybe the edge isn't the right GPS device for you, however with its navigational capabilities and performance monitoring the device soon becomes an easily justifiable purchase.
Should I Buy One
Having debated the should I, shouldn't I for a couple of months I have to admit that I'm actually glad that I took the chance and bought the Edge 800 rather than the 500. Whilst I've not tried a 500, I have been incredibly impressed with the 800's range of features and with the use I'm getting out of the Edge 800 I'm glad I spent a little bit more on it. I will soon be setting off for Paris in the devices biggest challenge to date but with my Edge firmly fastened to my bike I am looking forward to having an account of the route and my own performance in the ride. This is an excellent piece of kit and if like me you aren't sure if you can justify the cost, if you ride enough the you'll come to regard the Edge 800 as one of the best purchases you have ever made, well after a decent gel saddle and pair of shorts anyway.
Having been inspired as a 13 year old to pick up her Father's guitar having heard Travis at T in the Park, Amy Macdonald has really come a long way. Of course it shouldn't really be a surprise as she was playing coffee houses and pubs around Glasgow as a 15 year old. It showed a level of commitment to music by the Bishopbriggs born artist as she has channelled her desire and passion for music and now with the release of this her third album she really seems to be making a name for herself.
After making a relatively slow start to her career back in 2007, her debut album has now sold over 3 million copies, which is quite an achievement. She then went on to record and release her second album A Curious Thing in 2010 and it has so far racked up an impressive 1 and a half million sales prior to the release of Life in a Beautiful Light in June this year.
Following on from the Inspiration by Travis to pick up a guitar in 2000, Amy still counts the Glasgow Indie Rockers as one of her major musical influences. In addition to Travis she also draws a large amount of influence from The Killers and The Libertines to name a few. From listening to her music there is a sense of Indie rock there, but she also veers slightly towards a more Scottish folk sound, particularly with the strength of her accent reflected within the music given her sound a traditional Scottish feel.
She opens her third album with a very purposeful and quiet sound bite that leads into a more upbeat guitar and drum beat taking the track to the vocals. Very quickly the slow tempo picks up nicely and makes "4th Of July" a perfect upbeat and happy track to kick the album off with. It has a well-produced combination of guitars and drums that really compliment Amy's vocals perfectly. From the moment the vocals kick in the Scottish element of Amy's vocals are really highlighted and for me this is a real positive as a lot of singers try to hide their natural accents, but for Amy I think it really adds to the appeal.
From there the album takes a slightly different turn with the very gentle and soothing guitar intro into "Pride" the albums second and perhaps most popular single to date. Once again the vocals are really strong, with a very well-constructed drumbeat and guitar backing combination. It's on tracks like Pride that I think the Scottish folk element really shines through in Amy's music, with the guitars in particular reminding me of some of my favourite Runrig tracks.
Released in April, "Slow It Down" was the first single to be taken from the album and it seems to have a slightly different sound to the opening tracks. It picks up the pace where "4th of July" left off but it has a more prominent vocal section accompanied by a big drum beat that really overshadows the other instruments. It works really well though and with a touch of sampling on the vocals this is a very upbeat and interesting track. It's probably the only track on the album where Macdonald really tests her vocals but the end result really works for her.
Once again the pace of the album slows down again at the start of "The Furthest Star" where Amy's vocals return to what she's proven to be good at. Accompanied by the guitar for the introduction to the track a keyboard joins in for the chorus and the two instruments work well together to provide a solid bed for her vocals. The lyrics in Amy's tracks are of a very high standard and I've found that they really tend to not only be quite catchy but also make you think about the context of the lyrics, creating quite personal tracks that clearly mean a lot to her.
The album slows down a little further for the start of "The Game" as the vocals, accompanied by the piano wind into the main track. It's a decent start that slows the pace of the album down quite a bit but with the strength of the vocals it's a track that really works well. Once again her vocals are incredibly powerful and are complimented perfectly by a combination of drums, guitars, piano and strings for a chorus that really works well.
By the time the album reaches "Across The Nile" there is no doubt that Macdonald has good range and just to demonstrate it further she speeds things up again. Once again there is a real hint of Scottish folk rock in the musical accompaniment. Her vocals really stand out once again and the drums keep a good beat to give each of the tracks on the album a decent tempo.
In a slight change of tempo the drums open up on "The Days Of Being Young And Free" before being joined by a slow guitar rhythm section. Once MacDonald's vocals come in the track is building nicely and her vocals, sounding slightly different start to set the scene within the track. The lyrics are quite well considered and I found myself really enjoying the lyrical content of the track more than the musical element. Her vocals are slightly lower on this track but with the content of the lyrics this actually works really well.
After a slightly more up tempo offering things slow down again with a slow drum beat with an acoustic guitar for company and a slow vocal offering at the start of "Left That Body Long Ago". It's a slightly different approach to the rest of the alum to this point but her vocals are still strong and imposing, which is one thing I really love about female singer songwriters. There are far too many singers with weak vocals but it's fair to say that Macdonald really carries her voice well and it suits the varying paces of the tracks she writes. This sounds a little like a female version of Damien Rice and really sounds good.
Once again after one of the albums slower tracks the pace is uplifted by the albums title track "Life In A Beautiful Light". If there was one track on the album that really highlighted Amy's Scottish vocals it would be this track and it's because of tracks like this that I think her style is quite unique. The pace of the track works really well as the drums and guitars combine to set a fast pace that is really complimentary to her vocals. This is one of my favourite tracks on the album.
With only three songs left the next track is "Human Spirit" a slightly slower start to the track with a string accompaniment to the guitar that works really well. Her voice starts to really shine through as more strings join the base of the song. Again her vocals are the prominent aspect of the song but they are accompanied by a very solid musical accompaniment that works really well.
As the album winds its way towards the end, "The Green And The Blue" is a slightly more experimental track musically with a few samples joining the traditional combination of drums, guitars and strings and the samples actually work really well. The vocals are very solid and the lyrics I suspect are a nod towards the divide in Glasgow created by the cities two football teams, what with Macdonald being a Rangers fan herself.
Its then onto the last track of the album and the aptly titled "In The End". It slows the tempo down again with a guitar really taking the prominent role on the track. Once again the vocals seem to blend nicely with the guitar and with a subtle yet effective drum beat it is a track that really sums up this album well. It's a track that really shows what Amy is capable of and whilst she might not be breaking new ground with the track or the album this is still a really well rounded piece of work.
Overall I think it's really an album for fans of strong female vocalists. The vocals are prominent throughout the album and there is no point where Amy seems in danger of her voice being engulfed by the beat or rhythm of a track. Her lyrics although perhaps a little simple in places are very well structured and thought provoking. For fans of Laura Marling and KT Tunstall, if you haven't already discovered Amy Macdonald then I'd suggest you'd really enjoy her and this album is certainly up to the high standards of her first two offerings. This is an album I wouldn't hesitate to recommend.
With certain films there seems to be a build-up of expectation that will ultimately leave you underwhelmed when you finally get around to seeing it. That is certainly a sentiment that applies to 2011's Bridesmaid's. It's a film that seemed to generate a lot of positive press and just about every review for it was a glowing recommendation of the latest Hollywood generated, Wedding based Romantic Comedy. I don't normally allow myself to get caught up in the hype around films but this time I did and when Jen bought it a couple of weeks ago I was actually keen to watch one of her many Romcom's, obviously I must have had a fever.
Always The Bridesmaid
For Annie life is proving to be quite tough, she's just lost her business , her flatmates are weird, she's in a relationship with a guy that won't commit and now she's just found out her best friend has gotten engaged. Now she has to put on her happy face as her best friend Lillian wants her to be Maid of Honour and she faces tough competition for the role from Lillian's new friend Helen. From here Annie has to do all she can to make sure her best friend has a wedding to remember but the harder she tries to compete with Helen, the more disastrous things become.
A Little Predictable
The film is director Paul Feig's big screen debut and sees him move from perennial TV show director to the Hollywood big time and in truth he didn't really do anything wrong. He created a movie that flowed along nicely and with the use of the right camera angles and lighting managed to create a reasonable movie. My problem with it though was after all of the hype about how funny this film was it didn't seem to deliver. Now don't get me wrong it had some very funny moments but by and large it was nowhere near as funny as I had expected following the positive comments I'd heard about it.
The script was a collaboration between Kirstin Wig and Annie Mumolo and whilst there were some very funny scenes I thought there could have been a lot more. For example the scene in the bridal store was less funny and in fact simply rather disgusting. I think the biggest problem though was my expectations for the film and the fact it wasn't quite as funny or original as I had been hoping. There were a few new ideas but really it was a slightly different reworking of some classic concepts with a slightly new spin and whilst the film was funny it certainly didn't break any new ground.
Write The Film, Star in the Film
It seems for actors the best way to get a role that really suits your abilities is to write the film yourself and that's exactly what Kirstin Wig does here. The part of Annie fits her abilities perfectly and you couldn't imagine anyone else really getting the role right. From her efforts to impress the wrong guy Don played by Michael Hitchcock to her attempts to avoid the right guy Rhodes played superbly by the It Crowd's Chris O'Dowd. The onscreen chemistry between O'Dowd and Wig worked really well and helped to really create a plausible love interest for Annie.
The rest of the bridesmaids are made up of some very funny actresses who bring their own unique talents to the movie. From Maya Rudolph who plays bride to be Lillian to Rose Byrne as Helen and Mike and Molly's Mellissa McCarthy there is a good range of talent on show. All of the actresses cast as the other bridesmaids and the bride work well and whilst the jokes are a little predictable they do a good job in supporting Wig in the lead role and creating a memorable film, just maybe one that's not quite as good as the reviews suggest.
Worth The Hype?
My short answer would have to be no it isn't. Having read so many reviews and heard so many good things about Bridesmaids I was expecting something ground-breaking. Instead the end result is a reasonably funny romantic comedy that entertains for its slightly over 2 hour run time but never really delivers anything exceptionally funny or new. It's a decent film and one that I would recommend, but I just didn't find it to be the amazing film that I was perhaps meant to. As rom com's go it is pretty good, but just don't expect to be blown away.
With every major sporting event the inevitable rash of "official products" hit the shop shelves from lunch boxes to t-shirts and of course not forgetting the official computer game as well. In a slight change to the norm however the "Official" game to accompany London 2012 is not brought to us by the masters at EA Sports, but instead is the handy work of the team at Sega. Having played the previous Olympic game, Beijing 2008 and with this one being the home Olympics it was really a no brainer that this would become part of my PS3 game collection.
What's Good About The Game?
The game actually boasts a number of positive aspects, which slightly outweigh the negatives as there are certainly a few of those too. The first thing that really stands out about London 2012 is the graphics; it looks a lot sharper than Beijing 2008 did. The detail that has gone into recreating the settings and giving the game-play an impressive aesthetic appearance has really worked well for Sega. There is a sense of realism and the settings make the game-play far more enjoyable because of these details. The colours used are sharp and vibrant making London 2012 a really enjoyable game as a result.
They also seem to have gone to a lot of effort to improve the actual game-play, gone is the tremendous effort of button bashing and in its place a more enjoyable method of control that requires a good rhythm rather than a simple pounding of the controls. The days of Daly Thompson Decathlon are gone and the developments by Sega make it a much easier game to play for longer sittings. I personally think this is an excellent development for this genre of games and by punishing players for the button pounding on London 2012 it makes victory more about skill and ability rather than speed and brawn.
It also helps considerably that the game is easy to pick up from scratch. The controls are relatively simple and this really helps to ease you in to the game play. The game also includes in excess of 45 events for the player to compete in giving it a lot of variety and particularly in multi-player mode a lot more longevity. I actually found that the multi-player mode against friends was by far the best way to play London 2012.
Not All Good Though
Of course with all of the good parts about the game there are also the disappointing elements and there are almost as many of those as there are positives. In fact the first major gripe is about the single player mode of the game. I've found that playing on your own the game doesn't seem as interesting, it loses a lot of the competitive edge that the multi-player has and I did find it a little too easy to win events in the single player mode.
There are also far too many replays that detract from the overall feel of the game, slowing the pace of the single player mode down and really making it a struggle to keep your interest on the game at hand. The single player mode is still good but I think it would be fair to say that this game really excels as a multi-player game, even if the scoreboard doesn't hold PB's, World records and Olympic Records on anything other than the main controller.
Whilst the multi-player on one console works incredibly well, the on-line multi-player option is a real let down. Now this isn't because of the actual game-play, connection or even graphic issues, it all comes down to the length of time it takes to find an event to compete in. I've heard a few people complain about this aspect of the game and even when I tried it with someone I knew both trying to compete in the same event at the same time we couldn't find each other on the system to actually compete making what could have been a great feature of the game become very disappointing.
Of course whilst there are 45 events included within the game there are also a lot missing from Road Cycling and Football to just about all of the gymnastic events. There are some good events included but I would have liked to have seen a lot more, especially when you consider the scale of the Olympics and the fact the developers have known the event list and locations of all of the events for a long time.
The Biggest Disappointment
Whilst the issues mentioned above did detract a little from the overall game-play, they certainly aren't my biggest problem with London 2012. As the "Official" game of the Olympics you would expect it to be crammed full of a who's who of Olympic Athletes from Tom Daly and Sir Chris Hoy to Usain Bolt and all of the other Athletes taking part but they aren't here. Instead you end up with Computer generated opponent names and part of the appeal of an Official Olympics game becomes lost.
Would I Recommend It
I think if I'm being honest I would only recommend the game if you were going to be playing a lot of multi-player games and weren't too bothered about the names aspect. There are a lot of events included within the game but the majority of these are over incredibly quickly and with so many sports missing the longevity of the game, particularly in single player mode, is really lost. The graphics and sounds of the game are a major plus for it but I think it needed something quite special and that really is what's missing.
It's a good game for playing with your friends every now and again but I don't think it will hold too much attention once the game sin London themselves are over in 2 weeks' time. It's a shame as the games themselves promise so much, the game is really a very middle of the road effort that looks impressive. My advice would be to rent the game and save yourself the £32.97 it would cost to buy.
Other Platforms: PC & Xbox 360
Age - 3 plus
Having recently watched Paul Blart - Mall Cop, we then came across Observe and Report. It was made around the same time as Paul Blart and seemed to have a very similar premise and with Seth Rogan in the lead role I thought this might be pretty good. The premise sounded a lot darker though and I was sure that with Rogan and a darker style of comedy this would be slightly better than the Kevin James penned Paul Blart. Despite all of this, I had read a number of bad reviews on the film and so I sat down to watch it with my expectations as low as possible, but was it worth it?
The film stars Rogan as Ronnie Barnhardt a mall cop with a burning aspiration to become a full time Police Officer. The problem is that Ronnie is Bi-polar and on medication to control his feelings and that will severely affect his chances of joining the force. The mall has been struck by a robbery and appears to have a serial flasher on the loose and the manager calls in a local Police detective to help Ronnie to close the case. The two clash and end up on a collision course as Ronnie tries to push through his dream of joining the Police.
Didn't Really Work
It's the first time I've come across any mainstream work from director Jody Hill and based on this I think and hope it will be a while before he is given another chance. As both writer and director he has to take the blame for just about everything that's bad about this movie. The script is slow and at times cringe worthy and whilst I like a good black comedy, this movie seemed to really be missing the comedy element. Even writing the summary above proved to be quite difficult as the whole plot is a little offensive and not really that funny.
It's a real shame because with Seth Rogan and Ray Liotta both in this movie I had expected Hill to be able to make something mildly entertaining. The truth is that the stars aren't really given an opportunity to shine, the script is pretty poor, the plot is depressing and the direction is average at best. It may sound like I'm being a little harsh on Observe and Report, but the fact is it just doesn't work, it isn't funny and worst of all its actually mildly offensive. The subject matter could have made an interesting and funny film had it been handled correctly but instead it is just insensitive and very ordinary.
Waste Of Talent
I've grown to like Seth Rogan over time but this is one of his worst films to date. Had the lead role been better written then I think it would have actually suited him but he looks uncomfortable as Ronnie Barnhardt. It's almost as if he's struggling with the concept and the reality of what he's actually being asked to do. The character doesn't really play to his comical strengths, but that's more due to the lack of comical material within the script. There isn't even any chemistry between him and Anna Farris his love interest and whilst there was a spark with Collette Wolfe, the relationship between their two characters didn't seem to develop fully.
It is also a massive waste of Ray Liotta who seems to be the slightly edgy and mysterious Police Detective who could have played a huge role in making the movie funny. The reality instead is that Liotta's character is even worse than Rogan's and from the first time he appears on screen you are compelled to hate him, for no real reason. The choice of cast though could have worked really well, had there been far better characters and a much better script.
Waste Of Time
Whilst the criminal underuse of the cast appears to be a massive waste, the biggest waste with this film is actually the time you spend watching it. At 86 minutes long it isn't the longest film but it feels an awful lot longer. With a poor script, awful plot and painful direction this was never going to be the greatest film, but for me there really is no redeeming features to note. The whole film is a let-down, even though I had very low expectations to begin with. Even with Seth Rogan and Ray Liotta there is nothing I can even begin to see as a positive about this movie and so I even feel guilty giving it one star, my final advice if you hadn't guessed already would be to avoid this film.
If there is one part of my male grooming routine that I hate, although it's not really that much of a routine, then it would be shaving. The time and effort it takes has always been a source of discussion between Jen and myself, she'd like me to do it more often, whilst I just can't see the point unless I have a meeting at work or a special occasion. Of course this is a state of mind that has developed over the years due to the lack of decent equipment to be able to shave with. The problem is that wet shaving takes too long, especially early in the morning and I'm yet to find an electric shaver that ticks all of the boxes and in fact when I received the Philips PT715 as a gift I thought that maybe I'd be able to have my mind changed.
My Problem With Electric Shavers
The biggest problem I have with Electric Shavers has to be the quality of the shave. Prior to receiving my latest shaver I've found that none of the electric devices I've had previously have delivered a shave anywhere near as close as I would like. I've always found that they leave small stubble patches and even miss hairs completely. It's not like they've been cheap razors either with my previous two being first a Remington and then a Braun, but neither have sold me on the concept. Couple with this a poor battery life and all in all I've been largely unimpressed by Electric Razor's.
Giving Philips A Try
With the above in mind I am always slightly sceptical about a new Electric Shaver, but I was willing to give Philips a chance to change my mind. In order to combat my usual compliant about the battery this model has a built in power cord, which means that battery use is a thing of the past, but then this does remove the portable element I do actually like about electric razors. It's a small price to pay though for having the ability to pick up the razor and not finding that it needs charging... again. Of course the corded aspect of the razor does confine you to within about a metre of the nearest shaver socket, which again is a bit of a disadvantage at times.
The razor itself has a blue body with a black trim across the back and comes with the three circular headed blades, all of which are doubled up. I've often preferred this style to the straight blade as I find it follows the contour of my skin a lot better. The concept behind the design is that on each of the three heads there are two blades, the first to lift the hair and the second to cut it. By using this system Philips claim that it allows the device to cut long and short hairs alike for a very close shave.
But Does It Work??
It would be fair to say that the results from the Philips PT715 are much better than they have been with either of my previous two razors, but it's still not perfect. The majority of the stubble is removed and the finish is quite smooth but it still seems to struggle getting a close enough shave on my neck and underside of my jaw. There are still little clumps of hair that seem to remain behind, although this one doesn't seem to miss any, just doesn't quite get as close as I would like.
Having sensitive skin it also seems to irritate a section of my neck just like my previous two razors had done. The shave though is more acceptable and not as noticeable that a few hairs have been missed as my old razors. I'm still not totally sold on Electric Shavers but the Philips PT715 seems to have gone a long way to improving my opinion of them greatly. Of course for the closer shave I'm not sure if it's really worth the lost flexibility in where the Shaver can be used but for the moment it's something I'm willing to overlook.
Maintaining The Philips
The heads on the Philips are waterproof meaning that you can simply wash the heads under the tap once you've finished shaving. The heads themselves are corrosion free meaning they still look as sharp and clean after they've been cleaned as they did new. You also get a small brush to get even the smallest hairs out of the heads to properly clean the Shaver up. The Philips range offer replacement heads, which they suggest are replaced every couple of years, however these cost about £25 and with the razor only costing £38 new I do wonder if it's really worth replacing the heads or just replacing the razor.
If you are looking for an Electric Shaver that isn't portable but gives a reasonably close shave then yes I would say it was. For the price it is certainly a decent razor and despite the lack of a side burn trimmer it does still tick all the boxes for me. That's not to say that I use it any more regularly than I did my previous two electric shavers, but I do find that when I use it, the results are far better. Not having the flexibility to be able to take it to work or in the car is a pain but given the improvement over my previous two shavers this is an issue I can overlook. At £38.50 the Philips PT715 is a decent razor and whilst I'd recommend it in terms of quality only you can decide if the fact it has a cord will become a deciding factor.
We were looking for something to get my Sister in Law when she graduated from University last summer. She was about to embark on a year away from home first in Greece and currently in the Alps and we wanted to get her something she could take with her. That's when we came across the Cirrus digital photo key ring. Having seen how good her one was we ended up buying one each as well so we could have our favourite photos with us at all times. The idea of having a way to carry a few of our favourite photos around on our keys was actually quite appealing.
The key ring itself is about 75cm high, 50 cm wide and about 15cm deep with a screen that measures in at just 1.5 inches. It does mean that it doesn't feel overly chunky in your pocket and is actually quite discreet. There is also an option to use this as a neck chain and the appropriate alternative fixings are included within the box. Personally though I'm not really one for wearing necklaces and for that reason the Cirrus takes pride of place on my keys.
In order to put pictures onto the Cirrus it comes with a USB cable and the key ring has a port on the side to plug into to both transfer content and charge the devices battery. The Cirrus boosts 8MB of memory, which for such a small device is quite impressive. Each of the photos has to be 128 x 128 pixels and with the 8MB memory this means you can get around 120 photos onto the device. There isn't any additional scope to add additional memory, which feels a little like a missed opportunity, particularly as it would work perfectly with a micro SD card.
Given the size of the screen the quality of the pictures is still very high and I was very impressed as I had doubts when I'd seen the screen size originally. Of course given the advances in technology over the last few years it shouldn't surprise me that the pictures are so clear and the quality of the image is still very sharp.
Whilst the image quality and the memory are both very good plus points for the Cirrus, there is one major downside as well and that is the battery life. I've found that on a good day the battery will last for around 45 minutes, but depending on how regularly the images change that can drop down to around the half an hour mark. The key ring gives you the option to have the picture change at regular intervals from 1 to 16 seconds or stay on one picture. Obviously depending on which setting you go for will determine how long the battery actually lasts. Luckily though the battery is a rechargeable one and can be given a boost by connecting the device to a USB port.
The device is available in a few different colours including red, silver, pink, blue white and black. I've got the blue one and I find that it really complements the onscreen images really well.
For a novelty item that costs around £8 (currently £8.99 on amazon) this is a very good little product. The battery life isn't great but that can be forgiven when you see the size of the memory, the quality of the pictures and its size. It isn't something you can have running all the time but it is ideal for showing off things like holiday snaps. For the price it is a decent little gadget and one I would happily give as a present again as both my wife and sister in law have got no end of use from their key ring and although mine isn't used as regularly it is a nice item to have with you at work to remind you of a holiday or event to give you a lift.
Just before we headed off on Holiday to Mallorca in September we began to discuss whether or not we needed a new TV. I'd had our current one for about 5 years and although it was still working little things started to go wrong with it. As a result we came home from our holidays and promptly headed into Curry's the next day to purchase a Samsung UE40D6100 1080p Fully HD LED 3D television. Now the biggest debate we'd had prior to buying the TV was regarding whether we really needed 3D, but as the 3D version was only £30 more it seemed silly not to get it anyway.
In The Box
The TV comes with a stand to fix it onto as well as the required fixings should you have a wall hanging bracket, the TV and a remote control (batteries not included). Now being a 3D TV we had expected at least one pair of glasses to be included, however it doesn't come with any. Thankfully the sales assistant in Curry's liked giving stuff away and gave us 2 pairs of Samsung 3D glasses worth £100 for nothing.
Set Up And Ready To Go
The set up procedure on the Samsung is relatively easy. Once you've got it on the stand and plugged in it guides you through the basic set up procedure, to tune in the channels and set the clocks etc. Our TV reception is all routed through our Sky HD box and as a result the connection is simply via one of the 4 HDMI points on the back of the TV and you've got picture and sound. Compared to my old Hitachi TV it is far easier to get up and running.
How Good Does It Look
Once the TV is set up and sitting in the corner of the room its slick black design with the backlight LED trim looks really impressive. Once the TV is switched on the first thing we noticed was just how sharp the image was. The picture quality is enhanced even on the regular channels with depth and detail added to programs filmed in standard definition. It's a factor of the TV that has drawn comment from anyone who has visited. They expect us to say we are watching BBC HD, when in fact it is regular BBC due to the quality of the image on screen.
Having experienced the regular channels you turn it onto a HD channel or watch a Blu Ray the picture quality becomes even sharper with every detail really standing out. It adds even more definition to the picture that makes HD channels look almost 3D, adding depth and enhancing the colours really well. Whether it be on standard channels or on HD input the picture is amazing. The colours are really crisp and the picture looks more realistic than anything I've seen on a TV screen.
The final mode to test out was the 3D option on the TV and whilst we've only used this a couple of times for watching TV, I have used it a lot with the PS3. The quality of the 3D makes the purchase of the TV justified. We debated quite a bit whether we really needed 3D and I'm glad that we spent the little extra to get it. The picture definition is fantastic whether we are watching films, sport or I'm play on the PS3. The clarity and depth perception is taken to another level with really high quality 3D technology.
I have to admit to being a little wary when we bought the TV but it has more than proved its worth from the quality of all three viewing modes. The TV more than lives up to its price tag and given the features it boasts the £638 we paid for it back in October was a very reasonable price compared to the Sony and Panasonic alternatives with the same features.
Whilst the TV has the speakers built into the back of it, the sound quality is very good. The Sounds are crisp and clear and the volume doesn't need to be too loud to be able to enjoy a program. As the volume gets higher it doesn't seem to distort and the quality of the TV's speakers really shines through.
Along with being fully HD and 3D, the TV has another two features that really impressed me given the price. The first is access to Samsung's Smart TV feature where through an internet connection you can access a number of very useful features by using the internet. This includes access to the BBC I player, lovefilm and even facebook. You can connect the TV by either using the Ethernet port on the back or by purchasing a Samsung wireless card. We've got it connected on the Ethernet port at the moment and the quality and speed of the content all depends on your internet connection. this feature does allow you to access additional 3D content and is one of the most impressive additions to the features available on modern TV's.
The other inbuilt feature on this model is a Freeview tuner that allows you to tune in and access the wide variety of Freeview channels available including the HD channels. Having sky we haven't really had need to use the Freeview feature on our TV but it is a nice added bonus for anyone who doesn't subscribe to Sky TV.
Quality and Cost Effective 3D
For the price of this TV, it's now retailing at £599 for this 40" version, it certainly crams a lot of very good features into it for the price. Since we bought the TV I have been very impressed with both the quality of the picture and the amount I've used the 3D aspects. Having doubted whether it was worth it prior to parting with the cash, I'm quite glad to be able to say now that it really was. This is a quality TV that will last us for years. The colours are sharp and the screen offers a very high quality of definition, whilst the set itself is very slick and stylish. If you are looking for a 3D TV then you could do a lot worse than buying the Samsung 6100.
Ever since I bought my Playstation 3 there have been a few game series that have become must buys and one of these is the Uncharted series. Having played and completed the first two instalments, I really couldn't wait once I'd heard about the release of a third. Having finally been released in November last year, I had to wait until Christmas to get my hands on a copy, which given how keen I was to play the latest instalment, seemed like a long time. Once I did get my hands on it though it was a case of sitting in front of the PS3 for days on end to get to end of another Nathan Drake adventure.
What's Drake Up To This Time?
The game starts with a flashback to Drake's younger days, before he heads of on the first two adventures to discover some of his ancestor, Sir Frances Drakes, buried treasures. We learn some of the back story and how he came to be paired up with Sully before embarking on his latest adventure, to find a buried city in the sands, where Drake is convinced that Sir Frances had discovered and left a number of clues on how to find it. Of course Drake and Sully aren't the only ones looking for the lost city, as Katherine Marlow a face from both Drake and Sully's past appears to be hell bent on finding the City before them and enlist the help of a large number of goons to halt Drake's progression.
How Does It Compare?
Well having set quite a high precedent with the first two games, the developers Naughty Dog left themselves with a very tough job of improving the adventure of Nathan Drake. It's fair to say that they have managed to almost achieve the same high standards of the first two games; it's just that there is also a major element of the game which isn't quite as good as the previous outings. Of course in developing one side of the game I guess there were always going to be elements that were sacrificed, but first I'll look at the good aspects of the game.
Like the previous two games the developers have done wonders in creating an original and captivating storyline that keeps players hooked. It's fair to say that the plot for this game is just as god as the previous two and once again I wasn't allowed to play it unless Jen was in the room to see how the game unfolds. Of course it's fair to say that Drake gets himself into some impossible situations and with the number of bad guys running around it does make it quite challenging but the story really works and the games varying levels of difficult make it possible for all level of players to control and enjoy the adventures of Nathan Drake.
The biggest improvement from the first two games has to be in the graphics and general look of the games. The first two games had really made me realise what the PS3 was capable of but the third instalment pushes it even further. The graphics look like a movie whether you be in cut scenes or the actual in game play. This latest instalment also supports 3D play and this adds a whole new look to the style of the game. The 3D works really well and makes the game even more enjoyable to look at and play.
I did of course mention however that there was a downside and unfortunately that downside is quite a major one, at least to begin with anyway. The control side of the game really lets it down as you don't appear to have as much freedom to explore each environment with Drake and when you're on the run from the bad guys he has a tendency to jump in the wrong direction or run in a slightly different direction to how you're telling him to on your controller. The glitch itself is quite minor but it seems to happen at quite key moments of game play, which make it more annoying than anything else.
The other slight problem I had was with killing the enemies. As usual there are swarms and swarms of them, I'm sure there has to be a goon for hire shop somewhere in these games, but occasionally even when you hit them with a direct shot to the head they keep coming at you as if they hadn't even been touched. This has been a problem on all three Uncharted games, but with the added control issues mentioned above it makes it stand out a lot more. One element they have improved from the control point of view is hand to hand combat and the new system for this works really well and encourages you to take on more bad guys in fist fights, which are far more fun than hiding behind something shooting at them.
Just like the plot and graphics, I thought that the developers have done an excellent job with the sounds and music used throughout the story. The voices are all in synch with the story and the characters on screen, which really works well with the stunning graphics. The music too is well thought out and works really well with each individual scene.
Still Worth Buying?
Despite the negatives that come with this game, I think it is still one I'd highly recommend. The flaws in the controls are few and far between and whilst they are annoying when they happen, they don't detract too much from a very well put together game. The graphics are still outstanding and the story is really addictive immersing the player right back into Drake's world of adventure. The controls when they work are really simple and follow a very easy to manage method. All in all its an excellent game, although not quite up to the standard of game play as the previous two. All in all I got about 16 hours of gameplay from Drake's deception, which for the current price of £37.25 is quite good value.
If you do buy one action adventure game this year then I'd seriously recommend that you buy Uncharted 3, however if you are yet to experience the Uncharted series then you'd also be advised to stretch to the first and second instalment as well.
Other Platforms: PS3 exclusive
Age - 15 plus
It's important to note that the game does have online enabled content, however I'm not big on Online gameplay and instead am writing this review based on the game itself, not the online aspects.
It's nice to see that whilst game developers are busy working on new formats, styles and characters for games the old favourites aren't being forgotten. The latest character to be brought back is Rayman, whose last outing was in 2005 on the Gameboy advance. I'd played the original Rayman game on the Playstation back in the mid-nineties following its release on the original console and that prompted me to get the new version from lovefilm to see if the latest update made the game as good as I remembered the original to be.
The original Rayman concept was that of a 2 dimensional based platform game similar to Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog staring a character called Rayman. The character is a body with hands, feet and a head floating the appropriate distance from the body, in essence he doesn't have any limbs. By using his hair and his extendable reach you must guide Rayman through the 2D platform workd to reach his goal.
In Rayman's world of Glade of Dreams things have been good for a long time; however the Darktoons have shown up, hell bent on taking over the Glade of Dreams. The Fairy Council enlists Rayman, Globox and two crafty wizards known as the Teensies to team up and take on the evil forces of the Darktoons. They must succeed and save the Glade Of Dreams otherwise it will disappear and be quickly forgotten about like the worst nightmare imaginable. So it's over to us, the players, to help Rayman and his team to stop the Darktoons.
One of the first things that impressed me about Rayman Origins was its sheer size. The game comprises of 12 different worlds, which in turn are made up of some 60 levels giving the game a vast selection of levels. The gameplay and the levels do have quite a quick pace to them as you play but even if you use the most direct routes there is at least a hundred hours of gameplay open to you with this title. The levels are well varied giving the game quite a good sense of variance as you progress from one level to the next.
By sticking to the classic Rayman 2D look I felt that the developers Ubisoft have stuck to what made Rayman such a good game in the first place. There would have been a temptation to switch to a 3D format for this game but thankfully they have decided against this. Instead they have used the graphic capabilities available to them to create a very sharp looking 2D platformer that works really well.
I have to admit that the game son the Wii are getting better graphically year on year as developers start to try out the systems capabilities. I found that the colours all looked very sharp and the look of the game was very impressive. The backdrops to each level blend in really well and the game is really a triumph for Ubisoft's new in house graphic engine, which has received its first run out on this latest Rayman release.
As you travel through the levels defeating the baddies along the way and rescuing the trapped inhabitants of the Glade of Dreams the game does get slightly harder with each level. This is counteracted by your character getting new skills and abilities to help you progress. It isn't the world's hardest platform game but the difficulty takes into account that the game is aimed more at Children than the likes of me and I think the level the developers have aimed it at works really well.
Even the multiplayer side of the game works really well. You can play with up to 4 players at any time and each of you takes on the role of one of the 4 members of Rayman's team. The graphics still flow smoothly as you play. With this being the Wii you can play this game using as little or as much movement as you choose. I thought the control system was quite easy to get to grips with and really enhanced the feeling of the game.
If I was to pick the major flaw with the game it would be the sounds that accompany each level. They aren't really suited and I found that the combination of the music and noises really got on my nerves as I was playing. I thought that on the whole the soundtrack and the noises from the characters didn't really work for me, but then I found this to be quite similar to my experiences with the earlier Rayman games.
I wasn't too sure when I first started to play Rayman Origins. There was something a little off putting about the first couple of levels but once you get into the game it is really enjoyable. The game has a good number of levels to explore and this gives it a decent lifespan. The levels are quite fast paced with a good mixture of action that really aids to make for enjoyable gameplay. Whilst I felt the soundtrack to the game doesn't really work, everything else about Rayman Origins does work really well.
It isn't overly complicated and it is enjoyable for all ages. As a fan of Rayman I really enjoyed it and was particularly glad that Ubisoft had remained true to the 2D look of the Rayman games. I've really felt with the last few Wii games I've played that the quality of the output on the system is increasing all the time and games like this will really help to keep the Wii competing with the Xbox and PS3. This game is available on both of those systems but I felt that the Wii is the better, more suited platform for the game. It's a game I'd happily recommend to fans of the Mario games, Sonic and the classics such as Earthworm Jim. A 4 star game for me.
Other Platforms: PS3 & Xbox 360
Age -3 plus
As I've mentioned a couple of times recently we are quite big fans of Kevin James in our house. He is amongst a group of actors whose appearance in comedies usually sees the films added to our too watch list. The fact that the film, as usual with James's movies recently, came from Adam Sandler's Happy Madison production company and featured Sandler as a Monkey also added to the appeal. Of course the number of good films with animals that talk are very few and far between, but I hoped that given the James and Sandler combination this one would work.
Having prepared a romantic proposal for his girlfriend, Griffin Keyes is crushed when she not only rejects him, but dumps him as well. Now 5 years later and Griffin is back to his old confident self and has recently been made head Zookeeper. Following a chance meeting with his ex-girlfriend Stephanie he decides he needs to leave the Zoo to win her back. The animals though don't want him to leave and decide to break their vow of not talking to humans to help Griffin win his ex back without leaving them.
A Happy Madison Production
It would seem that Kevin James has slotted perfectly into the Happy Madison production set up. He has become a regular star of the company's movies and gives them a second outlet alongside Adam Sandler. This time he links up with Wedding Singer director Frank Coraci, a regular Adam Sandler collaborator. He does everything he need to do with this movie well. The special effects work really well and the animal's really do interact with James's character well. He has some interesting ideas but his work behind the camera is pretty similar to all of these style of movies.
The script is a collaboration between 5 writers including star of the piece Kevin James. Once again James has managed to ensure that the lead role is the perfect fit for him. It works to his strengths and with a number of writers around him they have managed to come up with a funny, if not particularly original plot. Whilst there is nothing particularly original about the movie it does have its funnier moments and if you like any of the other films with Kevin James in the lead role then this will not disappoint.
All Star Vocals
With Kevin James having written a part for himself in the lead role it was fair to say that his performance would be good enough, after all he'd written a part that really worked to his strengths as an actor. The real test was for his co-stars and straight away I felt that Leslie Bibb was a poor choice as Stephanie. There was no chemistry between her and James, which just left the romance between the pair feeling empty and unbelievable. Thankfully with Rosario Dawson as Griffin's co-worker and alternative romantic interest at least there was a saving grace. I thought there was far more chemistry between James and Dawson from the beginning than he had with Bibb.
The real key to this film was from the animals and with a number of stars providing vocals it made the film a little more amusing. Whether it was Adam Sandler voicing Donald the Monkey or Sylvester Stallone providing his dating wisdom as Joe the Lion. There are a whole host of stars but the emphasis and star of the piece is Nick Nolte as Bernie The Gorilla. On the whole the concept of the film works well and the director gets the animals personalities matched with the right type of vocal, but the problem is it's all been done before.
Amusing But Nothing New
Now whilst it would be fair to say that I did really enjoy Zookeeper, it was a bit of a repeat of other animal based films. The plot isn't particularly original and neither is the comedy, but as long as your expectations aren't too high and you aren't expecting the world's funniest film then you will enjoy it. There is a good mixture of romance and comedy in the film and I think its fair to say that if you like Kevin James, Adam Sandler and any of their previous work then there is something in Zookeeper that you will enjoy. My only advice however would be to rent or wait till it's on TV as this is very much a onetime watch kind of film.
I first came across The Maccabees in 2007 when they released their first album. They had a very fresh and interesting approach to the Indie pop market that really seemed to appeal to me. Now returning with their third album, I was hoping that it would improve of their second release in 2009. I still love and regularly listen to 2007's "Colour It In", but I've never really been captivated by the follow up Wall Of Arms. It seems though that the return of The Maccabees has got the critics excited and so I was keen to see what the new album had to offer.
What's In A Name
The band's name comes from, what can only have been a drunken night, where they were flicking through the bible picking random words. Having passed up their original choice of Thanet band they landed on The Maccabees. Despite the religious routes of their name the band have stated on numerous occasions that they aren't in any way religious, which again leads me to believe that drink had to be involved in the London 5 pieces name choice.
It would seem that the music world has finally seen that the Maccabees are a band that should be taken seriously, with many suggesting that this is the bands big break. It would be the first real breakthrough for the band and for a short time last week it looked like they would get number 1 in the album charts, settling in the end for number 4, which still makes it their best performing album to date, but is it their best?
Given To The Wild
For me the answer to that question is a simple no. The debut album is still by far and away the bands best album and although the sound has matured a lot since then, they don't seem to really have been able to capture the energy levels in their music anymore. It's evident from the opening track of Given To The Wild, which builds very slowly and creates a very atmospheric and solemn mood that I don't really feel works for The Maccabees. The echo on the vocals is a little weak and as an opening track it really does nothing for me.
It builds slowly into the album and is followed by "Child". This is another slower number with a very low beat and a quieter musical element that really takes its lead from "Given To The Wild". The trakc is very slow and structured but it just seems to lack the bands trademark spark. The vocals are very slow and feel quite forced. The pace picks up slightly with "Feel To Follow", but it still has quite a slow beat and continues with the atmospheric musical accompaniment. There are slight glimpses of the earlier Maccabees in the chorus but it just isn't quite enough.
Just as I felt it was about to really take off, things slow down again and it's this aspect of the bands newer material that just doesn't really work for me. Whilst the albums fourth track "Ayla" is still quite slow it does have a more energetic feel to it. Once the vocals kick in the pace lifts slightly and this is what I feel The Maccabees are really good at. The album to this point has been nothing special, but it starts to sound more like the album I was expecting with "Ayla".
That sound is lost on "Glimmer", which brings back the more atmospheric sound that the start of the album was really moving towards. Even the vocals sound totally different to how I expected and by the 5th track on the album I'm finding it quite hard to recommend it. The album then moves on to "Forever I've Known" and as it builds into the vocals it is musically quite a quiet and slow track again. The vocals come in and the pace stays quite slow and the tempo very low. It's a track that seems to keep building from the start but never really goes anywhere. As you keep expecting it to really get going it just seems to meander on, which again doesn't really work for me.
The volume is raised slightly with the slightly more upfront "Heave" but the pace of the album still seems to be stuck in first gear. A lot has been made about the more mature sound of The Maccabees, but I think they've really lost the appeal their early material had with this slower, more mature approach. In fact it takes to the albums 8th track and the first single before I really found a track that I liked. This sounds like the more upbeat and Indie pop friendly Maccabees that looked destined for great things in 2007.
It has a decent beat with a good tempo and catchy lyrics that really work. From the guitar intro to the introduction of the vocals and then the drums it is perhaps the direction I had hoped The Maccabees were heading. It does have its slower moments but the quality of the music and the stronger vocals really make this the track the rest of the album needed to be. It's a shame because it's a sound that continues into "Went Away". It still has the atmospheric pitch of the earlier tracks, but the faster paced sections really sound quite good. the problem for me is how late in the album this all begins.
The album then slows right down again with "Go" and the momentum that the previous two tracks had begun to generate was quickly lost. It's far too slow with a very quiet vocal and a meandering guitar riff that just fails to really get started. It's fair to say that the last three tracks on the album continue this trend with "Unknow", "Slowly One" and "Grew Up At Midnight" all sounding quite similar and leading the album to a very uninspiring climax.
I had real high hopes for the 3rd album from The Maccabees. I had hoped that the direction they began to take with the second album would have passed and a return to the debut albums style would be evident. Sadly that doesn't seem to be the case and instead they've moved to what many are describing as a more mature sound, but it's a sound that I don't think really suits them.
Having loved the debut album its tinged with sadness that I write this review as instead of having three albums I love, I'm indifferent to two of the bands 3 albums and that's the reason why I really can't recommend Given To The Wild, it's a shame as I wanted to like it, but after many listens it just isn't happening and there are still really only two tracks I can hand on heart say I like. I can see why new fans of the band might like the album, but given where the band have come from I feel this is a really disappointing release.
The album is currently available for £7.99 on amazon
Due to having a regular late finish on a Friday night these days it would seem that we more regularly sit down to enjoy a movie on a Friday, rather than going out. Of course we now have a choice between a massive backlog of movies on Sky+ or the current offerings from lovefilm and this week it was lovefilm's turn to provide our Friday evening entertainment. The film in question was Horrible Bosses, a movie that seemed to get good reviews and having seen the trailers looked quite funny. It had a decent cast and mostly positive reviews so we were hopeful.
It's hard to get motivated for work at the best of times but for Nick, Dale and Kurt their bosses make their life hell. Nick having worked harder than he's ever worked before is passed over for a promotion, when his boss decides to take the role himself. Meanwhile Dale is being sexually harassed by his dentist boss and Kurt has to put up with Bobby Pellitt the waster son of the company's original owner. One night the three friends are so ticked off they decide its time to do something about it and hatch a plot to kill each other's bosses.
I'd not come across director Seth Gordon's previous work and so I knew very little about what to expect from Horrible Bosses. He does a pretty good job with each scene and creates a movie, that although is quite slow to begin with actually works quite well. It has plenty of comedy scattered about its, slightly too long, 106 minute runtime. He does create a good background to each of the characters and their motives and seems to ensure that although each story is intertwined that there is plenty of screen time devoted to developing each characters distain for their boss.
The script is a combination effort between 3 writers who count the likes of Ted Danson's doctor sitcom Becker and Crime Drama Bones amongst their writing credits. The concept they have come up with for Horrible Bosses works, afterall, I'm sure everyone has had a boss they wished wasn't around anymore. The only criticism would have is that the film has quite a slow start to it and even the comedy seems to take a little while to kick in, but when it does the combination of a decent script and credible direction make for a reasonable movie.
It would be fair to say that this is a film that contains a lot of big names and I had wondered how the combination of that many stars in one movie would work. The answer is that it works surprisingly well, although I did feel that Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell were massively underused. In the lead roles as Nick, Dale and Kurt the casting of Jason Bateman, Charlie Dale and Jason Sudeikis respectively works really well. The three are convincing as onscreen friends and even show a sufficient amount of determination and then trepidation about what they are planning to do.
There is as always a good performance from Kevin Spacey as Nick's psychopathic boss. As usual he really makes the role his own and really portrays an evil boss with what appears to be very little effort. The more I see Jennifer Aniston recently the more two things crop into my mind. Firstly she is improving as an actress and no longer just appears to be Rachel from Friends and secondly she is looking incredible, particularly when you see her in very little clothing in this film. Rounding off the bosses is Colin Farrell as Bobby Pellitt but sadly his screen time is largely reduced compared to the others.
It is probably fair to say that Horrible Bosses wasn't quite as good as I'd heard it was going to be, but it was still an enjoyable movie. It had plenty of funny moments and a lot of instances that I think most people can relate to with their own boss. I did feel it was a little longer than perhaps it needed to be, but it still worked and had me laughing a lot, admittedly more towards the middle and end of the movie. If you enjoy a comedy with some dark humour, then this is certainly one to look out for. I don't think it was as good as the reviews and hype made out but it was still a good film and for that reason I'd happily give it a 4 star recommendation.