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Ever since me and the wife got a Cineworld unlimited pass we have found ourselves going to watch films that we perhaps wouldn't usually have done. Even if the film is rubbish we haven't lost out and then I can hopefully pass on my experience to you fellow Dooyoo'ers to save you some precious pennies. Most of the films we go to see are 'Man films' as the wife calls them, so this time around it was her turn to choose, she decided on 'The Duchess'. The Duchess is a 2008 released film directed by Saul Dibb, based on Amanda Foreman's biography of the aristocrat Georgiana Cavendish, otherwise known as The Duchess of Devonshire, played in the film by Keira Knightley. The film is set in England in at the end of the Eighteenth century when corsets and knee high boots were in fashion.
I have to say I was fairly sceptical having only seen two trailers for the film, both of which only showed Knightley turning to look at the camera, and considering trailers are usually the 'Best parts' of a film it certainly wasn't promising.
The plot -
The film opens with Georgiana and a group of young girls betting on who would win a running race between Charles grey (Dominic Cooper) and a group of his mates. They have to pick the men's names out of a hat and amazingly enough Georgiana picks Charles. Charles wins and in doing so impresses Georgiana who clearly already has a soft spot for the young gentlemen. Regardless of this Georgiana is promised to the Duke of Devonshire, William Cavendish (Ralph Fiennes) by her mother. Georgiana is thrilled with the news, the prospect of having the wealth, power and respect of the people excites her and all appears well. There are however rules to the marriage, she must not only be faithful to him but also provide him with an heir, something she has no control over.
Georgiana and William soon drift apart and find they struggle to have a conversation; Georgiana is bored with life and is thrilled when she meets a young lady called Lady Bess Foster (Hayley Atwell) who has herself had a hard marriage. The two soon develop a good friendship which results in Bess staying with the couple in their manor. The friendship helps Georgiana come out of her shell and she soon becomes an icon not only in fashion, but as a mother of not only two of her own daughters but also a third, mothered by a poor women, but fathered by William.
Before long she unexpectedly meets Charles Grey, who has become a budding politician, she soon gets heavily involved in politics and puts her and thus the peoples, support behind Charles in his run for Prime Minister. The spark between them begins to ignite and she finds herself thinking about him all the time, she does however 'love' her husband and would never go behind his back.
Unfortunately I am going to stop there, if I told you any more it would ruin the remainder of the story, those of you who are up on your history will be glad to hear it follows the real-life story of Georgiana.
The Acting -
Keira does a surprisingly good job as the Duchess, although it is not surprising considering many of her recent roles have been of a similar nature, like in Atonement. I wouldn't however say this is a criticism, if something is going well, why change it? Her beauty is unrivalled, and her long graceful neck immediately commands the attention of any hot blooded male.
At the start of the film we see Georgiana's warm caring side coming out, she wants to be loved by her husband, she needs to be loved by him, but unfortunately he is the only man in England who is not in love with his wife. By the end Georgiana's attitude has completely changed and Keira conducts herself brilliantly throughout. There is a specific scene involving herself and her husband where she begins extremely calm but by the end is screaming her pain at him, tears streaming down her face, a great piece of acting and very moving.
Although Keira does a great job of portraying Georgiana, I'm not sure she was the best cast for the role. This isn't anything against Keira's ability to play the part, but I would have liked to have seen someone with more chest for the role. In that age bursting corsets were the 'In thing' and were used to get men's hearts racing, unfortunately, as beautiful as Keira is, I didn't find her as sexy as her co star Hayley Atwell. Although Atwell is less stunning, she is far more desirable in my eyes; she is buxom and has that naughty look in her that could draw any unhappily married man away.
Hayley does a great job as Bess Foster, she is very quiet and clearly cares dearly for her children. Unfortunately her tough marriage has made her weak and Hayley shows this well with her somewhat continuous frown.
I have to say Ralph was one of the weaker actors in my opinion. I understand his role aided the fact that his character could never get too exciting, but even during the high tempo, or emotionally moving scenes he struggled to produce a truly moving performance. A scene involving both him and Keira springs to mind where he is trying to console his wife with a heartfelt apology, unfortunately, I was never quite convinced.
Another mentionable performance was by Dominic Cooper as Mr Grey, his continuous enthusiasm and adoration for Georgiana kept the film on a high.
Other points -
The film was rated as a 12A based on the fact that the sex is discreet and infrequent, I wouldn't however take my twelve year old to see it. With out trying to sound like a prude the film was quite erotic, there is a scene involving Georgiana and Bess that involves a small amount of lesbian action, also another between Georgiana and William where the sex is quite graphic. I would therefore suggest children under the age of 15 avoid the film, I thought we were trying to reduce the number of underage pregnancies, not throw it in children's faces.
The film length was just about right, 110 minutes was enough to describe the story in adequate detail, but not too long that you were wishing it to end. The makeup, clothing and props were also exquisite, especially Keira's outfits which were designed to specifically stand out from the rest.
The music was good but not amazing; it was in keeping with the rest of the film and supported the onscreen action well. The filming and script writing was also well done; Dibb obviously had a good idea about how he wanted the film to be perceived. The scenery was beautiful and the locations perfect for the filming, it certainly added to the whole effect and at some points left me with my mouth hanging open.
The film was actually very good, after disliking Keira's performance in Atonement I was worried she wouldn't be able to produce a good performance here, I'm happy to say she does. The casting as a whole was good, especially Hayley as Bess Foster, I personally would have changed Ralph but at least his acting wasn't unwatchable. I would certainly suggest anyone to go and watch it, even if you are slightly dubious, you won't be disappointed.
My partner is an avid fan of walking around, thus I often have the delight of walking around all of the national trust locations in and around Bedfordshire. At the weekend however she decided she wanted to go to the Royal Botanic Gardens, otherwise known as Kew Gardens. The gardens are located between Richmond and Kew in Southwest London. The site Director is Professor Stephen D. Hopper, it is considered an International important botanical research and education institute. The gardens employ around 700 staff and have an annual income of £44 million; they are also sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural affairs.
The site is a leading centre in botanical research, it is a hive for visitors, artists and professional gardeners and in 2005 around 1.48 million people visited them. There are numerous attractions within the gardens such as Kew palace, a treetop walkway, an art exhibition, museums, shops, restaurants, a huge pagoda, Queen Charlotte cottage and waterlily house, this is however just a selection. There are also a huge collection of plants such as the arboretum (trees), cacti collection, alpine collection, bonsai collection, grass collection and a bamboo garden.
My experience -
I had personally never been to Kew gardens before, my partner however had; luckily for me she knew where to find the car park. It is possible to find a parking space for free outside the gardens if you get there at the crack of dawn, we however arrived at around 11, by which time all the free spaces had gone. In order to reach the actual car park you need to go down a small alleyway, which only one car can fit through. Unfortunately it isn't signed; the only visible sign read 'maintenance and repairs', not much help. Upon entering the car park you will notice various signs thanking you for your contribution, what for I thought, I hadn't done anything, turns out you have to pay £5 for parking however long you are there, so make sure you have plenty of change.
We however didn't have any change, so once we parked up in one of the many spaces we trundled off to the ticket booth to get some change. As it turned out we could pay for the parking ticket with our regular tickets, when we looked at the prices we were shocked, £13 for adults, apparently only a year ago it was £10, a 30% increase, slightly above inflation wouldn't you say?...If you are elderly, disabled or a student you can get a reduction and young children go free, but still. Wait for it though, here's the bombshell, after asking for the £31 the young gentlemen had the audacity to ask if we would like to pay an extra £1.30 so they could claim the tax back, with a swift response of "No, you've already charged me £5 for parking" we set off into the gardens (I would also like to point out that there wasn't a queue, which was good).
The gardens themselves are vast and beautiful; we decided to visit the treetop walk and Rhizotron first. The treetop walk has been designed to blend in with the background; the huge supports have been painted brown and have branches like trees to support the walk. It sits around 18m off the ground just above the tree canopy. The view is amazing, unless you look right down, at which point you may feel a bit of vertigo, the floor is mesh so partly see through. The lift was out of service when we went so if you are disabled or struggle with steps, be warned, it may not be open. The Rhizotron sounded exciting in the map we were given, it said explore the routes and creepy crawlies under the ground, turns out you simply go a little underground where they have fake insects made of wood and a few short videos, more suited to 5 year olds and a bit of a let down.
After this we visited the various green houses which hold all the various different types of plants, bushed and trees, some of the plants are amazing. I would like to mention however that the tropical greenhouses are very warm, so don't wear anything too warm that cannot be easily removed. In some of the greenhouses are fish tanks which have various types of fish and other sea life, my favourite was in the palm greenhouse where there was a funny worm thing in one of the tanks that was half under the ground and half out, it was very strange but interesting at the same time.
The gardens are extremely well maintained, I didn't see a single piece of litter the whole day which helps make the day a little bit better. The trees also looked amazing with their vibrant colours, autumn is without doubt one of the better months to visit, even if the weather isn't quite so hot. In some ways this is better though because you won't melt walking around both outside or in the greenhouses. As well as plant life there is a diverse range of animal life, you will find the usual collection of squirrels and pigeons, but we were lucky enough to see some guinea fowl, a golden pheasant and many other varieties of birds.
Unfortunately there is one problem which for me ruined the entire day, and destroyed the tranquility of the gardens. The gardens are located very near to Heathrow, you will find that every two minutes without fail a jumbo jet will fly over your head about 300 meters off the ground, the noise is tremendous and cannot be ignored. Although the gardens are vast you cannot escape the noise or sight of the planes anywhere, even inside the restaurants and shops they can still be heard, a big let down in my opinion, unfortunately it is out of their control, therefore they cannot be blamed, but the problem still exists.
We didn't actually eat in the restaurants so I cannot comment on the food; we did however browse around the shops. Many of the items are for children, particularly in the shop nearest the entrance, all you will pretty much find is toys. The shop however by the Palm green house does contain more grown up items such as plants, books, ornaments etc at reasonable prices.
Wind down -
There are plenty of benches to sit on within the gardens incase you need a quick rest, it will take you around 5-6 hours to do a complete tour, my favourite area was the treetop walk, mainly because it was a bit different. Even at the weekend the gardens aren't so full that you can't get a bit of privacy, we often found ourselves alone...until a 747 from Thailand flew overhead. I would advise the gardens to families with small children, they will find the attractions far more interesting than perhaps teenagers, and you can get children in for free. You can easily spend a whole day there and in the summer you could quite easily have a picnic if you wanted to save a few pennies on food. The price for adults in my opinion is a bit steep and asking for the extra £1.30 ridiculous, why don't they just lower the ticket price and include it in that?
Overall I would suggest visiting once just to say you have been but I wont be going again for a long time, I am much happier using my national trust membership that cost me £15 for a year and visiting equally beautiful places much closer to where I live.
Transformers was one of my favourite childhood programmes, so you can understand my excitement when I heard they were bringing it to the big screen. I had seen numerous trailers of the film before I went to see it, but nothing could prepare me for what I was about to experience. The film was released in 2007, Directed by Michael Bay and executively produced by Steven Spielberg, looking at the names you already know you are in for a treat.
The film grossed approximately $708 million making it the 30th most successful of all time, and was nominated for 3 academy awards; it also won four awards from the Visual Effects Society. It did receive some criticism however, largely due to the radical re-design of the characters, this however didn't bother me, I think they look brilliant. The sequel Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is predicted to be released on 26th June 2009, one I personally can't wait for.
The film opens with a brief description from Optimus Prime (leader of the Autobots - Peter Cullen) of how the Transformers planet, Cybertron, was destroyed by Megatron, (leader of the Decepticons - Hugo Weaving) who are intent on domination.
All of the Transfomers take the form of an Earthly vehicle; Optimus, Jazz, Ironhide and Ratchet (Autobots) all take the form of cars and trucks, whilst Blackout, Scorponok, Frenzy, Barricade, Starscream, Devestator and Bonecrusher (Decepticons) all take the form of army like vehicles such as tanks. When they transform they turn into huge robots around 30ft tall with powerful weapons and human voices that have learned from the web, this is also where they found out about the glasses, through Ebay where Sam is trying to sell them.
Both groups are searching for the All Spark, Megatron located it on Earth but crash landed in the Arctic circle, freezing him for years. Unexpectedly Captain Witwicky and his group of explorers discovered Megatron but at the same time activated his navigation unit, the coordinates of the All Spark were etched in the Captains glasses who have now found their way into the hands of his Sam Witwicky (Shia Labeouf), descendent of Captain Witwicky.
We next see an attack on the U.S Soccent FWD military Base in Qatar, two Decpticons, Blackout and Scorponok are trying to hack the military network to find out the co-ordinates of the glasses. Their plan however is thwarted by the base staff who cut the lines, unfortunately their second attempt on the Air force one is more effective, and two more Decepticons, Frenzy and barricade begin to search for Sam. Luckily the Autobots have a robot, Bumble Bee (disguised as a 1976 Chevrolet Camaro - Mark Ryan)) already on Earth who gets to Sam in the nick of time. Bumble Bee also helps Sam out with his crush Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox), Bumble then sends out a signal to his fellow Autobots who respond to the call and crash land on Earth.
From here on the story really takes off so I won't say anymore in case I spoil it for you. I apologise if my plot description is brief, but if I went to another level of detail it would simply be too long and boring.
My Opinions -
Before Transformers I had never heard of Shia, he had probably been in films but I had never noticed him. After, he became one of my favourite actors, I thoroughly enjoyed watching him in every scene, he isn't your usual hero which makes it so easy to relate to him. He is trying to 'hook up' with the hottest girl in school, even though he is a bit of a nerd, one scene with a disco ball in his car is hilarious. He is however extremely charismatic and funny, his relationship with his parents is also brilliant, especially the scene involving 'Sam's happy time' which I laughed out loud at, as well as half the audience. This is obviously what makes him attractive to Mikaela, she is used to vain football players but obviously appreciates the attention Sam is paying her. The relationship between Sam and Mikaela starts out a big weak in my opinion but by around half way through the film is a solid one.
In my opinion Shia made the film what it is, his acting style suits the film perfectly, far more than his role in the latest Indiana film which I thought was terrible. Although Sam is a very nervous person he still has the guts to stand up for himself, expressed in one scene by a very strange policeman who is trying to make something of nothing, and accuses him of staring at his 'piece'...gun.
Although Megan does a great job of playing the eye candy in the film I think she struggled to keep up with the quality of acting going on around her. It felt to me like Shia carried her though the film and without him she would have had nothing to work off of, Shia on the other hand gave the impression he could have managed the film alone. Im not saying she did a terrible job, on the whole she did very well considering the expectations placed on the film, but she just wasn't as good as some others.
Tyrese Gibson and Josh Duhamel play Army Captain William Lennox and Robert Epps, two parts of a seven man Special Ops team who survived the attack on Qatar and who feature heavily in the film. The connection between these two is great, and the witty banter helps keep a light feeling to the film. In one scene they are in a deadly fight with Scorponok and still managed to make me giggle with a joke relating to the location of a phone. Bernie Mac also gets a small appearance in the film selling cars as Bobby Bolivia, in just these few minutes he had me chuckling, a credit to his career.
The Robots themselves are equally as impressive, the CGI is amazing and you would struggle to notice that they are added into their environment. You feel as if they are really there, water bounces realistically off of them, lights and shadows follow their movements to the dot and their mouths actually move accurately with what they say. Although Bumble Bee can't talk he is my favourite by far, I think the Directors have done a great job of getting his opinion across using the radio, brilliant. Apparently it took around 38 hours to create one frame of movement.
Although the storyline is actually very good there are a few problems I have, unfortunately they all appear after some crucial points in the film so I cant tell you them...therefore I give the storyline a score of 80% to give you abetter idea of my thoughts.
The music was composed by Steve Jablonsky who worked along side Bay on the film 'The Island'. Recording took place in April 2007; the score includes teaser music and overall used six major themes across 90 minutes of music. The Autobots have three of these scores themselves, including one to represent their friendship with Sam called 'Optimus' and another played during their arrival on Earth. I have to say I thought the music was quite powerful and really stressed how important and momentous some of the scenes were. I am also a fan of Linkin Park so I was pleased to hear one of their tracks, 'What I've Done' as the theme song to the film; it's a very mellow but in some ways fitting song for the film.
As you can tell I thoroughly enjoyed the film, I was captured for the entire 143 minutes, I didn't find myself bored for one second. Usually if I have high expectations for a film it ends up letting me down, that wasn't the case here, it exceeded my expectations. I would recommend the film specifically to any comic book fans, but everyone will get something out of it. Even my mum who usually hates my film suggestions got very much in to it. There are some scenes of violence and a few suggestive lines so children under the age of 10 should be supervised. You can purchase the film from Amazon or Play for around £4-5, a complete bargain; it should definitely have a space in your DVD collection.
Buy - Yes
Rent - Yes
Borrow - Yes
Usually I try to review films that haven't had too much coverage, I like to let people know of films that are somewhat unheard of but still great films in there own right. Gladiator however is world famous and already has 341 reviews, despite of this I am still going to add my piece; I felt I needed to for such a brilliant piece of work. Gladiator is a film of epic proportions, released in 2000 and directed by Ridley Scott.
The film won five Academy awards including best picture and revived the sword and sandal genre, this lead to the releases of films such as 300 and Troy. I have become a strong Roman History fan, largely due to the wonderful Emperor books written by Conn Iggulden so Gladiator has become one of my favourite films of all time.
As the film opens we see General Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russel Crowe) leading the Roman Army against the Germanic barbarians in 180AD. The battle ends a long war gaining Maximus the respect of the current Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris). Although Marcus has a son, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), he appoints Maximus as his heir, hoping to return power to the senate. After asking Maximus to fulfil his request he tells his son who take the news very badly, he kills his father in his rage and declares himself Emperor of Rome. Commodus asks Maximus for his loyalty but Maximus refuses. Unsure of Maximus's intentions he orders for him to be executed, and dispatches his Praetorian Guards to murder his wife and son. Maximus narrowly escapes but returns home too late, his son and wife have been killed, he also sustained an injury in his escape and collapses beside the graves he has dug for them.
Maximus wakes to find he has been picked up by slave traders; he is taken to Zucchabar where he is purchased by Proximo (Oliver Reed), the owner of the local gladiator school. Initially Maximus refuses to fight, but he soon has to defend himself in the gladiator ring, his tremendous skill with a blade earns the respect of both the audience and his fellow fighters, in particular Haken (Ralf Moeller) and Juba (Djimon Hounsou).
In Rome, Commodus announces the opening of the gladiatorial games to commemorate his father; Proximo's gladiators are asked to participate, leading Maximus closer to his enemy, the Emperor. I won't say anymore in case it ruins the rest of the story, although I'm sure many of you know the outcome.
My Opinions -
Crowe does a wonderful job of playing General Maximus, I always imagine generals as leaders rather than managers, people want to follow them rather than be ordered to, only then will soldiers follow their leader into battle. Crowe definitely plays the caring side of Maximus very well, it is clear he cares for not only his family but all of his soldiers too by the way he personally greats one in the opening scene. This is what makes him the great leader and husband he is, at the same time Maximus can become a true warrior, Crowe is fairly well built and so is believable as a great swordsman, his demeanour is also perfect, calm and collected and phased by very little, as a Roman General should be. I was impressed with Crowes ability to relate to all those around him, and his friendship with Hagen and Jaba really feels like a true one, considering the position they were in, it was crucial to have friends to watch your back.
I think this is by far Crowe's best performance to date, a role made just for him. In many films we see the camera flying around so fast in battles that it is hard to see what is going on, usually to cover up an actors inability to wield a sword, here however we see the sword fights in good detail, a sign that Crowe handles a sword well and isn't afraid to do his own stunts, I appreciate that in an actor. One of my favourite scenes is where he escapes from execution. Although short and sharp it really shows Maximus's experience over the standard soldiers, a great piece of acting.
Crowe however isn't the only good actor in the film, Djimon plays the part of Jaba very well, as he always does, for me this was the start of a very impressive career. Djimon's frame also makes him a believable warrior, his acting ability knows very little limits; he can be incredibly caring one minute and very menacing the next, as we can see in one of his more recent films 'Blood Diamond'. He too handles a sword impressively and plays the role of Maximus's best friend well, as I mentioned before the connection between them is apparent and they must have been good friends off screen.
Joaquin for me played his role as Commodus to the tee, he is someone who always likes to put on a brave face and pretends nothing bothers him, but really just wants to be liked. Ever since Joaquin played this role I have always had a dislike for him, not because he is a bad actor, but because I always see him as the bad guy, in some ways this is a credit to his acting, he played the role so well. To become Commodus a man has to think sneaky and cruel and I think Jaoquin put in a wonderful display of both caring (mainly for his sister) and hate (for Maximus). He too is however a great swordsman and this is displayed in a small scene where he is practising against 5 of his men, the camera is constantly on him and his ability with a sword is apparent.
Another mentionable role is Oliver Reed as Proximo, a man who initially appears to be driven by money, actually displays the care for his gladiators, the reason we find out later in the film.
The filming style of Gladiator is what I believe makes it so watch-able, the film is past paced when it needs to be, but subtly slows when the more 'political scenes' are on. I personally like a fast paced battle; it keeps you on the edge of your seat and exciting. Even the opening battle scene is kept quite short, even though it is quite a large battle. At the same time however it highlights how much of a great leader Maximus is, and how much he is adored by his soldiers.
Even now, the special effects don't seem dated, the fighting scenes and the Colosseum are particularly impressive and really help express what life was like back then. As I mentioned before we see every sword swing and every splash of blood in the hand to hand combat, which is how it should be in a film named 'Gladiator'. The action is always clear and well lit, mainly because it is set outside the majority of the time, but this increases its watch-ability.
The score was composed by Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard and conducted by Gavin Greenaway. The music for the battle scenes, which is my favourite, has been noted as similar to Gustav Holst's 'Mars: the Bringer of War'. It is incredibly fast paced and hard hitting and blends in wonderfully with the action, the timing is also crucial, particularly noticeable in one of the Collosuem battle scenes. The sound effects are loud and crisp in the fighting scenes but soft in the more tranquil scenes meaning your attention isn't unnecessarily taken off the film you are supposed to be watching.
The film received a 77% from Rotten Tomatoes, in my opinion a very low score, I would have expected it to have got at least a 90%, its one of those films that simply sets the standard for any film after it. The film grossed $457 million worldwide and was named the sixth greatest film of all time in a channel 4 TV poll. The film is 154 minutes long, but it certainly doesn't feel like it, the battles are frequent and the political scenes interesting. At the end however I remember thinking to myself, this has ended at just the right time, there isn't a dragged out ending that forces you to sit there through sufferance. It can be purchased for around £3 off Amazon or Play and comes in a variety of different box sets. I would suggest children under the age of 16 did not watch the film without supervision, the fighting scenes are very gory (like a man getting his head cut clean off), and other scenes fairly suggestive, sexually.
The film overall however is a great one and I cant think of anything bad to say about it, I always find myself putting it on just to watch the brilliant fighting scenes, the music on a surround sound really gets you into it. For the cost it should hold a place in every single persons DVD collection just for those rainy days. I hope you have enjoyed my review and if you haven't seen it the legendary film that is Gladiator.
Buy - Yes
Rent - Yes
Borrow - No, BUY!
Now some may call me naïve, but I had never heard of, let alone read 'The Boy in the striped pyjamas' by John Boyne so I was completely in the dark with regards to its storyline. My partner and her mum had both read the book and apparently cried at the end, so I thought it might have some strong emotional appeal. The film has been reviewed as having "One of the most powerful endings ever captured on film".
The film version based on the novel is British-American and was directed by Mark Herman; it was released on 12/09/2008 in the UK and has a running time of 93 minutes.
Bruno (Asa Butterfield) is the young naïve son of a strict Nazi concentration camp Commander, named Edward (David Thewlis). Bruno has a very ignorant and strong minded sister called Gretel (Amber Beattie) who although at first seems to despise the boy, eventually shows her love for him. The live in a five storey mansion but without warning are moved to a place called Out-With (Auschwitz).
Bruno is furious with his father's decision to move, not only has he lost all his friends but the house is much smaller, limiting his chance for exploration that he enjoys so much. One day Bruno sees a fence from his window with people in striped clothing on the other side. I'm sure you are well aware these are the Jews, locked in one of the terrible concentration camps where they will either die of starvation or be gassed to death. Bruno falls of his swing and hurts his leg, this is the first time he meets Pavel (David Hayman), a doctor and a Jew.
One day Bruno's parents decide he and Gretel need a tutor so ask Herr Liszt (Jim Norton) to teach them history, he does however put a very biased twist on everything in favour of the Nazi's and tells them all Jews are evil, Gretel listens whilst Bruno just finds him boring. Bruno decides to wander off one day and see what the fence is all about; upon reaching it he meets a young boy in striped pyjamas called Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), a Jew. From here their friendship develops but I will say no more, I wouldn't want to spoil the ending for you.
My Opinions -
In my opinion the only acting that really kept this film watch-able was that of the two young boys, Shmuel and Bruno. Asa does a terrific job of portraying Bruno as the naïve, shy and imaginative boy he is and reminds you of how it was to be 8 years old and intrigued by everything and anything, even if you thought you shouldn't be. Asa copes with the strain of being the lead role brilliantly, better than some grown men have and was a pleasure to watch. Jack does however exceed the standard set by Asa, Shmuel is more aware of his situation than Bruno and the trials he has been placed under have allowed him to mature beyond his age. Jack really makes you feel sorry for his situation, and his facial expressions are perfect for every scene.
The two bond brilliantly and play off each other well; it makes the film more enjoyable when the chemistry between two characters is believable. Actors/ Actresses shouldn't be cast based only on their acting skills, but on their ability to relate to those they are working with, I think the choices for both characters were good ones.
Another mentionable performance was that by Rupert Friend as LT Kotler. He is directly responsible to Edward in the film and is a perfect soldier, unfortunately he is also very just much to the displeasure of Edward. I liked his acting style and thought he held his own very well.
Unfortunately this is where the 'good' acting ends; I was disappointed with the rest of the casting. I found David Thewlis slightly weak in his role as Edward, I didn't really enjoy watching him, I'm not sure he suited the role to be honest. I also found Gretel played by Amber Beattie to always feel like an add on to the family and never part of it, like she was there just to make up the numbers.
The movie however was directed very well, the filming style really made you feel like you were back in the war and reminded me of Steven Spielberg's 'Saving Private Ryan'. It was very dark throughout and I think that helped emphasise the horrible times everyone went through, even those in charge. Although there weren't any graphic scenes some are quite suggestive, although younger children will probably not understand so I would recommend children 10 and above would feel comfortable watching it. Unfortunately I don't think they would enjoy it, the story is actually very deep and meaningful and there is some very serious issues highlighted, especially Bruno's naivety which comes to a climax at the end of the film. Those who have read the book won't be disappointed with the ending; it is filmed very well and is probably the best 5 minutes of the whole film.
The soundtrack is nothing special in my opinion, I cant really say I can remember any of it, I'm sure at the time I thought it was 'ok' because I don't remember thinking 'This is terrible', but it certainly wasn't memorable. It was composed by James Horner and includes the following songs.
1. Boys Playing Airplanes
2. Exploring The Forest
3. The Train to a New Home.
4. The Wind Gently Blows Through The Garden
5. An Odd Discovery Beyond The Trees
6. Dolls Aren't for Big Girls, Propaganda is...
7. Black Smoke.
8. Evening Supper - A Family Slowly Crumbles.
9. The Funeral
10. The Boys Plans, From Night to Day
11. Strange New Clothes, an Impending Storm.
12. Remembrance, Remembrance.
Although I have pointed out a few good points, overall I found the film dull and slow going, its around 30 minutes before the real story begins and by then the film is almost over. There were a few good pieces of acting, but they just weren't enough in my opinion. The 93 minutes definitely feels like 93 minutes which for me always indicates I haven't enjoyed it, I can even say that I fell asleep for five minutes until I was awoken by partner with a few swift jabs.
I would recommend the film to anyone who has read the book and anyone interested in history, but it isn't one for a family outing or for a date, there simply isn't enough to keep the film entertaining.
Buy - No
Rent - Maybe
Borrow - Yes
Cinema - No (Unless Unlimited card)
Youtube is a video uploading site where anyone and everyone can as they say 'Broadcast Yourself' to the entire world. Any video can be uploaded (as long as it is within the guidelines) and displayed to anyone around the world who wishes to view it. The site was created by two young fellows in a garage and was sold a few years ago to Google who purchased it for around $1.65 Billion, I assume those two fellows will never have to work again...When I first heard about Youtube I didn't really get excited, I thought to myself, why would I want to look at some homemade videos. Once I actually logged on however I realised some of the videos were well worth watching.
There is so much hidden talent out there and Youtube gives people the chance to show the world their work. I watched a 10 minute video where some guy had painted a story along walls throughout a city in white paint, it was speeded up so you didn't see him painting it, but it looked great, it must have taken months. The site however doesn't only include people's homemade work; it also has music videos, TV clips, film clips and many other videos to watch. I have been quite interested in the videos related to 7/11 and how it has been branded a conspiracy, very interesting; did you know THREE buildings collapsed? One next to the two towers that shouldn't have fallen did...check it out, it makes you wonder whether its all that it seems.
The site is actually very easy to use, you simply type in words associated with the subject you are searching for and hit the search button, straight away you are shown 20 videos relating to the search term with a small preview picture of each. It is also possible to write a review about the video based on how good you think it was. This actually turns out to be very useful, some users post videos with titles that are actually nothing to do with the subject at all; it will perhaps be a video of them doing a strip or something, very annoying. The trouble is they aren't actually breaking any rules, only videos that include full sex or violence are banned. Although some videos do include adult content, such as film clips, you can sign up to Youtube which takes a few minutes. If you declare yourself over the age of 18, it will allow you to watch them.
In terms of reliability the site seems very sound, I haven't yet visited that site and experienced the 'Closed due to maintenance' message that some sites insist on doing during peak web surfing time. The videos can also be displayed in small picture size or full screen. However, a lot of the videos are in a fairly low resolution, I guess to decrease uploading times, therefore I would suggest just watching them on the smaller size. Download times are obviously dependent on your connection, but I always seem to have a high connectivity, never had I had to wait more than 10 seconds for a video to load, especially if it is streaming.
The layout of the site is very simple, and the colours are simple and clean, there is a white background with small tabs along the top for easy navigation. There is a small picture preview of each video and a small description of the movie beside it, to play the video simply click on the picture it will then load up. You can also add the video to your favourites or email it to a friend.
Youtube will continue to be the global leader in video broadcasting, its diversity is great and with the creators of Google behind them they surely cant go wrong. I would advise the site to anyone, although parents should keep an eye on what their children are looking at, some videos do involve violence or suggestive scenes that could give young influential minds bad ideas.
Noughts and crosses, or Tic Tac Toe isn't just a kids game, there can be an incredible amount of skill involved when it is played properly, like when me and my friend Liam used to play it during lectures...The concept is incredibly simple, it is essentially a two player game, you start off with a blank 3x3 square grid, at the start of the game each player chooses whether they want to be noughts or crosses. Usually the player who chose to be crosses goes first and begins by placing a 'X' on one of the squares in the grid. The 'O' player then places a 'O' somewhere on the board, in an empty square. The idea is to get three of your symbols in a row vertically, horizontally or diagonally.
There are a vast number of ways the X's and O's can be placed on the board (around 362,880), and depending on where the first X is place, there is always an unbeatable strategy. The Tinker toy computer was developed by MIT students and only plays Noughts and crosses, to this day it has never lost a game, it is on display at the Museum of Science in Boston. The simplicity of the game means that the game can be used in many interesting ways; Casino owners now give players the choice to play it against trained chickens, although the chickens are influenced by a computer.
One of the main advantages of the game is its ability to be played anywhere and everywhere, all you really need is a pencil and paper, you can draw your grid and symbols and then simply throw the paper away. This makes it ideal as a travel game, and amazingly cheap. Although I don't personally play the game that much anymore it was a great way to pass the time during our more boring lectures, the games are also incredibly short (around 1 minute) so you would never have to leave a game half completed.
I have to say I would lose more often than not, but I didn't really care, its not as if I can put on my CV 'Great at Tic Tac Toe', although at the time I did get a little frustrated that he always seemed to find a way to beat me.
I wouldn't advise anyone to buy the game unless it is perhaps one of the outdoor versions that can be purchased for around £10. They made of foam and work great as a party piece. Considering the game can be played for free though it is a bit of a waste of money. I would recommend the game for young children, until they learn an unbeatable method, at which point they can move onto more difficult games such as 'Dots and Squares'.
There is no doubt that communication between people has become infinitely easier since the web became available. Since the first instant messengers we have seen more diverse communities evolve such as Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and even blog's or forums where people can discuss their common interests. I have to say I used to be a real chatterbox, I used to log into the chat rooms when I was 15-16, I found it interesting talking to people from different places, at the time it was unique.
Facebook is now my main source of communication with others outside of work, I heard about it from a university friend who was already a member. I liked the fact that I could contact and be contacted by people that I hadn't seen for years, it also allowed me to share photos and videos. It was useful right after I left university, it allowed me to keep in contact with all my university friends who returned to their home towns, having a full time job makes it hard keeping up with them all, but having a place where everyone can meet is perfect.
Email is my main source of communication inside of work, and to others whilst I am at work. It is quick, easy and more importantly free. Email used to be the best way to communicate over the net but since the introduction of instant messengers and websites like Facebook, I'm sure the number of emails sent for private use has deteriorated. A conversation via email does have its limits; you have to wait for your email to get to them, then for them to send theirs back. With instant messengers you can type in real time meaning messages are more recent and relevant, which generally improves conversation. I used to use these a lot during summer breaks from university to catch up with all my friends, nowadays I don't have time to sit there fore hours talking to my mates, I usually just call them.
Even now Facebook has been pushed to the back burner, I very rarely have the time to log in and send messages to people's walls. I also don't really have the time to upload photos and videos; I think this is because I am married. I think if I was single it would be a different story, I could use it to meet people. The novelty however has now worn off and I use community sites maybe once a week. My work has also blocked Facebook from use like so many other companies have, and considering I spend nine hours a day at work, it is quite a considerably amount of time gone. Also owning a house puts serious constraints on your free time, there are jobs that always need doing and this has further reduced my spare internet time.
I think online socialising has got a bit out of hand, parents now have very little control over what they children get up to on the net, and in some cases it can spell trouble. Young children often get convinced by older people that they are talking to someone of their own age, and get led to 'meet up'. The children often know what they are doing is wrong and so wont tell their parents or anyone else where they are going, which only magnifies the problem. When I have children I think I will place strict rules on internet use, but by then who knows what new technology will be available, opening new doors for perverts and paedophiles to take advantage of unsuspecting innocent children.
In conclusion, online socialising can be great fun and help old friends re-unite; it can also be the cause of tremendous heartache. A certain level of trust and care must be taken at all times, not only with children but adults as well. If anyone is interested in joining a social site I would advise using the better known ones such as Facebook, Myspace etc. Thanks for reading and keep socialising responsibly!
Jason Stratham has always been one of my favourite actors, he oozes cool and has so far played every role well, I was however slightly worried about his new film Death Race, not because I thought he couldn't handle it, but in case the film was a flop. The film was released on August 22nd in the UK and is a remake of the 1975 version called Death race 2000. It was directed by Paul W. S. Anderson and based on lb Melchior's short story 'The racer' and is of the 'Action' genre.
Four years on from 2008 the United States economy has taken a nose dive, crime and unemployment levels are off the chart and private corporations have begun to run most of the prisons for profit. The prison we focus on in the film is Terminal Island prison who hosts a show called 'Death race', they then charge people money to watch it over the net. The Film starts with a race near its end between Machine Gun Joe (Tyrese Gibson) and a masked driver called Frankenstein (David Carradine), Frank's defensive systems collapse leaving him wide open to Joe's attacks. Joe launches a missile attack and destroys Frank's car with him trapped inside (his ejector failed), we assume this leaves Franks severely injured or dead.
Jensen Ames (Jason Statham) is a man framed for his wife's murder, amazingly on the same day that the steel mill he works at closes. The man who set Ames up points a hand gun at him before he leaves. Ames is sent to prison and convinced by the sadistic prison warden Hennessey (Joan Allen) to become the new Frankenstein, if he does and wins his next race he can leave prison for good (In order to earn their freedom the drivers must win 5 races, Frankenstein had already won 4 so Jensen only needs to win one more).
Each race is spread across three stages, the first two the driver simply has to survive, the last however they must win. The cars have both defensive and offensive capabilities which are activated by driving over initiating marks on the floor which randomly activate. Weapons include Heavy machine guns, missiles, oil spills, smoke and Frankenstein's ultimate weapon the 'Tombstone' which drops a huge metal defensive barrier off the back of the car hopefully right into the opponents path.
Just before the first race Ames is introduced to his navigator, a beautiful young lady called Case (Natalie Martinez), who happens to be Frankenstein's old navigator. Ames also sees another driver called Pachenko make the same gun action as the assassin did, the rivalry begins. I will leave it there; I wouldn't want to ruin any of the racing for you, or the storyline to follow.
My Opinions -
The acting in the film is actually very good, Jason as always makes his presence felt and slips into his new role without any problems. This role has a strong resemblance to his 'Transporter' days which I think benefits him here, also his part in the remake of the 'Italian Job' have helped to make him a believable driver. He can easily switch between loving husband/ father and psycho killer which I think makes him great for the part, he is also well built which makes you think he could actually perform the moves in the film.
Tyrese is another worthy asset, he too has had previous driving experience in films with '2 fast 2 Furious', making him another good choice. Like Statham he is muscular and looks like the kind of person you would expect to find in a top security prison where all they get to do all day is work out. I have to say I think he suits a more cheeky part like he played in 2F2F but I still liked his acting here.
Joan Allen also did a good job as Hennessey, she is cruel and harsh and fits the bill perfectly. She is extremely seductive which think gives her the power she does in a male prison, she knows what she wants and she will do anything to get it. She is most recently known for her roles in the Bourne films, although the roles aren't entirely the same, there are some similarities.
Ian McShane plays Frankenstein's loyal mechanic, an old man who knows the prison inside out and has the respect of everyone in it, he adds a comedy element to the film and keeps it light hearted. I liked his acting style; it was extremely laid back and made me feel immediately at ease.
It isn't just the acting that makes this film good, the great stunts and CGI also keep the film exciting. The crash scenes are brilliant and are full of explosions; clearly the film wasn't low budget and the director had a clear picture of how he wanted each scene to be viewed. I won't say too much but one scene in particular involving a large vehicle certainly puts you on the edge of your seat. Among the high action scenes however there are some well directed conversation pieces, including opportunities for Statham to show his caring side. The film also carry's an onze of comedy amongst all the destruction, like the joke seen throughout the film where every navigator for Joe seems to get killed, I found it quite amusing.
The soundtrack is respectable and was composed by Paul Haslinger, the original was released on August 19th 2008. The sound effects are also great and work well with the high energy on screen action.
The trouble is, even with good acting, a watch-able story, great stunts and a reasonable soundtrack the film isn't great. I'm not sure why, maybe it's because it doesn't have an epic appeal, the film is set pretty much in one place. Or maybe it's because there isn't enough acting with so much of the film being racing, either way the film only score a 40% on rotten tomatoes. Personally I would give it a score of around 70%, I enjoyed watching it and it didn't bore me, the 105 minutes running time was just right in my opinion. I would also suggest those with a weak stomach do not watch it, there are some pretty graphic scenes, like one where a guy gets hit square on by a two tonne car...not very pleasant.
The film doesn't claim to be anything it isn't; it is a high octane thrill ride with big crashes, explosions and gore. I think the critics have been slightly too critical, a score of 40% is a bit extreme, even a 50% is a bit too low. I wouldn't advise seeing it at the cinema unless you are a Statham fan, unless you have an unlimited card in which case you can't go wrong. Saying that I can imagine this film not quite having the same impact unless you have a decent surround sound system, after all, the explosions make the film what it is.
Cinema - No
Rent - Yes
Buy - No
Borrow - yes
Poker chips are as you can imagine used to play the brilliant game of poker; there are many different styles and qualities of chip each with a varying price bracket. It depends really on how much you play Poker as to how much you spend on Poker chips, it isn't really necessary to buy any at all. It does however make the game far more realistic and fun; it also makes it a lot easier to determine the amount of money at stake during betting. Usually the chips come in different colours, these being red, black, green, blue and white. At the start of a game of poker a value is designated to each coloured chip, red for example might be worth £1, whereas black could be worth £10. Therefore is some bets with 10 red chips you can equal their bet with 1 black one.
This method can be deceiving to players on the table however, just because someone has a massive pile of chips it doesn't necessarily mean they are winning, they could have 100 (£100) red chips, on the other hand someone may have 30 black ones (£300) their stack will just look smaller. Therefore it is sometimes better to play the way me and my mates do, we simply assign say 25 chips to each player at the start, each chip with the same value. We then base our bets on the number of chips, not necessarily the colour. It therefore gives each player a better idea of how their opponents are fairing with a quick glance instead of doing long calculations in their heads. You can still use all the chips because the colour doesn't matter, just the amount you have.
There are a few disadvantages with chips however, after each game it is likely all the chips will be mixed together, if your like me and appreciate things being tidy it will take you a while sorting them all out into their colours again. The chips can also break if not looked after, they are quite brittle and if they start getting thrown around a little during alcoholic fuelled games accidents can and will happen.
Having the chips however does make the game feel more realistic, like you're actually in a casino, I personally have a poker table cover which has the green felt to make it feel more like a poker table; it also stops the chips sliding around as much considering their slippery surface. Sets can vary widely in both size and price, I would advise purchasing a pack of minimum 125 chips, this should allow around five or six max to play a decent game, although a larger 250-300 chip pack would be more ideal. A poker chip pack usually also comes with a few packs of playing cards as well to get you on your way. That's what makes poker chip sets an ideal present, they are ready to go right out of the box and they usually even have an instruction manual on how to play poker.
Chips sets can range from as little as £15 to £70, although a £25 set is usually adequate, the £15 sets will either be too small or of a poor quality, probably plastic chips. If you spend a bit more you will get high quality composite resin chips with metal inlays for extra weight, each chip should way around 11.5g.
Overall chips aren't crucial, you could play with matchsticks but it doesn't have the same appeal, especially if you play for money. Having a large stack of chips in front of you while your opponent has a tiny stack is quite enjoyable and worth paying the small fee for. I would suggest keeping the chips away from children under the age of 6 however, they may accidentally swallow them, and also if dice come in the pack I would advise keeping them out of reach as well.
My first run in with Solitaire was around my Aunties house at a very young age, it took me a while to grasp the concept of the game but after a while I was pulling off some pretty good performances. The game is actually very easy to understand, you play on a circular (usually wooden) board that has 33 dimples shaped in a cross formation and a circular dimple cut all the way round its outside edge. At the beginning of each game you have a small marble sized ball in each dimple except the middle one (32 balls in total). To complete the game you have to end up with just one ball left in the middle dimple that was originally empty. To remove a ball you must jump over it with another piece that is directly adjacent to it, this can only be done in straight lines however, no diagonal moves, once a ball has been removed it is placed in the dimple around the outside.
Apparently the best way to approach the game is to work around the outside, start on the outside of the board and work your way around left or right, this should hopefully leave you with mostly the middle balls left, meaning when it comes to getting a ball in the middle it is easier, saying this I haven't yet managed to complete the game, I was once left with two balls but that's as close as I can get...Although the game isn't difficult it can be disheartening, if you aren't successful it means you have to replace all the balls and it can get annoying after a few games.
Although the game is designed for adults and children alike I would be careful giving it to young children, the pieces are very small and present a very real danger to any baby or animal who may think they look like sweets. I once accidentally swallowed a marble and believe me it wasn't a pleasant experience trying to get it out...Their size also means they are very easy to misplace, especially in transit, their circular shape means they can role and role and end up in the most ridiculous places. Luckily the shape of the pieces doesn't effect the game so you can easily replace the ball with anything else, it just won't have the unified look.
The game reminds me a lot of solitaire on the PC, not because of how you play it but of how annoying it is when you don't complete it after playing for the past five minutes. I'm sure there is a very easy way to complete it but so far the answer has evaded me, maybe one of you knows the way?...its one of those games that if you complete it you will never be able to do it again the same way, but i guess that improves its repeat play value.
The game can be picked up from any decent toy shop and some supermarkets; it will usually be priced around the £2 - £3 mark, with the nicer sets reaching £7 - £8. In my opinion it's worth spending the extra money on a nicer set, and then it can be used for decoration. Like chess its one of those games that when people see it in your room makes them think, 'Ahh, they are an intellect', when in reality you haven't got a clue how to complete it.
Unfortunately I haven't got a set of my own so haven't played it for a while, I might pick one up just to keep me entertained during those boring times. I would advise anyone to purchase it that enjoys testing their mind, or just a bit of fun. I wouldn't buy it for children under the age of 6 because they probably won't understand it and may swallow one of the balls.
Thanks to Dooyoo I was able to treat myself to an iPod touch, I have only ever had dealings with Apple on one other occasion and that was with their original iPod Nano, I didn't however use the site on that occasion. This time however I noticed that if I purchased my touch from the site rather than in store or from any other stockist I wouldn't be able to get free laser engraving on the back of the iPod.
Upon loading the site you are hit with a bright white screen with various tabs taking you to different areas of the site. You can look at each iPod type individually, accessories, the application store etc very easily. There is also a search box to save you browsing through the menus, simply type in a word relating to what you want to find and within a few seconds are a list of related products.
I spent most of the time in the Touch screen and was pleased by the amount of support and options available, it allows you to watch a video of the iPod in action and useful tips on how to use it. The only draw back I found with this however is that you have to have QuickTime player on your computer, it can be downloaded for free from the site but you have to have Windows XP service pack 2 installed, this can be downloaded from the Windows site, or through Windows Update.
The information available is abundant and easy to understand, it is also clear and the colours contrast well with each other. There are plenty of screenshots of all the products and small reviews from real users to give you a better idea of how the product performs under everyday use. Once you have picked your item you add it to the basket, ready for when you go to the checkout. If you are a new user you have to join up which takes a few minutes. The purchasing of an item is again very simple, a few simple questions such as age, address, telephone number and then entry of your bank details concludes the process (if you are a previous member this is all saved for further use), takes around 4 minutes. Delivery is free on items over £68 which I qualified for (didn't understand why £68,why not £70...) and it said it would be delivered in 3-5 working days, pretty good considering it was free. I placed the order on the Sunday, recieved an email to say it had been shipped on Monday and arrived on Tuesday Midday, very fast, efficient and the packaging was very sturdy, all in all probably the best service i have experienced.
I found the site very easy to use and actually quite fun, the colours are bright and welcoming and the simple tabs at the top allow for easy navigation. I experienced no trouble in terms of site access speed, all the pages loaded up quickly without fail. I would definitely recommend purchasing your iPod from the official site, it provides more safety than from any other supplier in my opinion, I have heard rumours of people buying the Version 2 Touch from Amazon, and when it arrived they had the version One and couldn't return it. The free laser engraving is obviously another bonus, iPod's are the same price throughout stores so to get it personalized for free makes sense, it just means waiting that little bit longer. I would say however be very careful when typing in what you want engraved, if you misspell a word it cannot be returned, mainly because they cannot resell it with you name on it...
My only problem however was the cost of some of the accessories, if you browse the net you can find some cheaper alternatives that do a similar if not the same job. The only thing to look out for is the returns policy, I once purchased a USB cable for my Nano from a third party and it didnt fit, luckily I could return it but im sure this wont always be the case.
I have always been a Natwest banker, ever since I became 13 and could have a solo account, although it wasn't anything special it allowed me to have the freedom to spend my money at the point of sale rather than withdrawing cash. Online banking is the next step in banking freedom and through my experience Natwest have done a good job. Since I joined up the process has become far easier, instead of phoning up Natwest you can do the whole process online. It asks you some simple Personal questions and lets you choose a password of your choice which you can then sign on with.
The logging in is very easy, it uses your four number PIN you have chosen and your password. To login you have to enter three numbers from your pin in the order requested and three letters from your password again in the designated order. Once you are in navigation is very easy and all the features are accessible via tabs along the left hand side of the screen. The main screen has a summary of all your accounts including the account number, balance and available money. You can also click into each account and look at all the movements in more detail over set periods of time, one month, two months six months etc.
Managing your money is very easy; you can make transfers, set up new accounts or even create down payments all without leaving your chair. For the last point however you now have to use the new card reader they send through the post. The card reader generates a number that you then have to enter on the net in order to validate your movement; it checks by scanning your bank card that you insert in the reader, I find this a good step towards fighting fraud which is becoming ever more widespread. It is also possible to do account transfers to other accounts if for example you owe your friend money, a lot easier than getting the cash out, then giving to them only to pay it in again, saves both you and the bank time and effort.
Regarding this Natwest are always sending reminders and warning messages regarding any new fraud methods that become apparent and constantly remind you of ways to reduce your chance of being targeted.
Natwest are also trying to reduce their environmental impact by asking users to opt for online statements as opposed to paper ones, which I have personally gone for. I don't need a piece of paper to tell me how much money I have in my accounts, usually it is five or six days old anyway, I can get an up to date look right off the net anytime I want.
Overall the site is very simple to use and as yet I have had no problems with downtime, the site also runs very quickly. If the computer is left idle for 10 minutes it will automatically log you out, great if you are checking your account on a public computer, it again reduces the chance of being fraudulently attacked. I will continue to use online banking and advise anyone with simple computer abilities to use it also; it will save you a lot of time and effort.
Ciao is a price comparison site very much like Dooyoo, You can sign up for free and write reviews of thousands of products or services. I actually came across Ciao through a friend, they said had been using the site for a few months and had made a little bit of money on in their spare time, having just bought a new house I decided to give it a go.
The site has been operating now for many years and has a very large customer based, there are thousands of users who regularly write reviews and rate others. Obviously people use the site for one main reason, the rewards, these are given out by bank transfer. In order to receive any money for your review, the product needs to have a remuneration value; these are determined by the owners of Ciao. A product that is popular but has few reviews already written about it will give a higher payout than one which has hundreds of reviews.
There are four pay out levels, 0p, 0.5p, 1p and 1.5p, which are determined by pound signs next to the product name. if a product has one star you will receive 0.5p for every rating you receive from a fellow Ciao member, if it has three you will get 1.5p per rating. On top of this there is a premium fund of £2000 which is spread every month to the best reviews, I have received a bonus of £2 twice (£4) in three months, so not a great deal of cash.
There isn't any kind of reward for initially writing the review as you do on Dooyoo which is a big turn off for me, if I only get ten rates, all at 0.5p I only get 5p,whereas on Dooyoo I get 50p for simply writing it, therefore for me there is very little incentive to write good reviews on Ciao.
The website layout I also find a bit complicated, there are so many links and options that it can be very daunting at first trying to understand everything. I am sure veterans find it a breeze but as a new user I prefer simplicity and Ciao is definitely not that.
You get points for various things like referring friends, writing reviews and rating other people's reviews etc, the more you get the higher your level. Your level doesn't really make a difference; it only makes you look more respectable as a user. I find that the level system makes it hard for new users to get involved as much; people only tend to look at the higher ranked users reviews. On the home page of the site they have a small area for a highlighted user; in order to get on there you have to have a fairly high rank. It would make more sense to me to put the newer members on there so people can become familiar with them, what is the point putting a veteran user on there who people already know?...
To get a decent number of ratings you have to rate about 200 other peoples every day, something I haven't got time for. I am currently a green user which is fairly low down the scale, although I haven't put much time into it, I find I get a far better return on my time from Dooyoo, although I do tend to copy my reviews to ciao to get a few extra pennies.
I sometimes cannot find the product I want to review, and the fact I cannot add the item makes it even more annoying. At least on Dooyoo you can make a suggestion for an item to be added, I think Ciao need to include this feature, it would significantly broaden their product selection and improve customer service.
The site isn't however all bad; the site is fast running and only occasionally goes down, although I did have a problem once where I couldn't write or read any reviews for a few days which was very annoying.
I have recently taken my first payment of £5.20 out after three months, but considering I have £100 on Dooyoo after two months you can see the difference. The payment did however come through very quickly and easily, I simply had to type in my bank details and the transfer was made.
There is the option of undertaking surveys for Ciao; they can pay anything from 10p to £26 in my experience, although I have only had one for this top amount which was an hour online session. The trouble is you don't get paid based on the length of the survey; therefore you could do one that take 35 minutes and only get 10p. On other occasion you could get £5 for ten minutes of your time. I also find the surveys close very quickly and you send a lot of your time completing the first few questions only to be told you don't qualify for the survey, why send me it if I cant do it!!!?
Overall the site is good as an add on to Dooyoo, I certainly wont be putting in a lot of my time into it because I think the rewards are fairly lacking, most of the time you will find yourself writing reviews for no remuneration at all, what's the point in that? It is very hard for new users to get into the 'loop', you have to spend hours rating others to get noticed which many people haven't got the time for.
My friend Tim introduced to the film, he clearly had a misconception about what University (English version of College) would be like, turns out his false ideas all spawned from one film, Van Wilder: Part liaison. The film was released in 2002 as a comedy and was directed by Walt Beckers.
The lead male role is played by Ryan Reynolds, an at the time fairly new actor who has since continued to play similar comedy based roles in films such as 'Just Friends'. Tara Reid plays the lead female role, best know for her performances in the American Pie films and Cruel Intentions.
The film starts as it means to go on, we see Vance (Van) Wilder (Ryan Reynolds) standing with an old Chinese lady kneeling down in front of him, but we only see the top half of her head. Accompanying this rather suggestive scene are some even more suggestive sucking sounds, all is revealed however when the screen pulls back and we see her measuring his leg to adjust his trousers and sucking a lollipop. I knew straight away I was in for a good show.
We immediately see that Van is an incredibly popular and highly respected young man; he has been at Coolidge College for seven years and in that time has made quite a name for himself. He is so popular he even has assistant auditions; the lucky candidate gets to help Van with the planning of fundraising events for charity, parties and Vans general admin. After sampling all Coolidge has to offer Van still hasn't found a worthy assistant, enter Taj Mahal Badalandabad (Kal Penn). Taj at first appears to be a 'shy' foreign exchange student from India, but after a few questions we find out he is on a mission to 'get laid' and have a good time, just the kind of man Van wants.
Van has actively avoided trying to graduate for the simple fact that he enjoys it too much; however, after paying for Van's college fees for seven years his dad pulls the plug on the funds, in order to stay Van must raise the money himself. After being approached by a group of geeks to arrange a party for them for $1000, he sees he could use his talent of arranging amazing parties to raise the four payments of $5000 he needs to stay at Coolidge.
While all this is going on, Gwen Pearson (Tara Reid), star reported for the college newspaper has been asked by her editor to write an article on Van. Her first one is so popular she is asked to do a follow up; unfortunately being the smooth guy Van is he sees her attempts at meetings to be romantic dates, much to her initial distaste. Her current boyfriend Richard (Dick) Bagg (Daniel Cosgrove) is busy preparing for medical school, leading the Delta Iota Kappa (DIK) fraternity and now disapproves of Van's intentions; he takes an immediate dislike to Van and the conflict beings.
From then on the two are in a constant struggle to both keep their dignity and Tara's attention; the pranks they pull grow increasingly extreme and are hilarious to watch. I won't tell you any more because I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise.
My Opinions -
The casting for the film was spot on and is the reason for the films success, the role of Van was made for Ryan and he performs it brilliantly. Ryan has a natural charisma that seems to make everyone around him happy, and those watching him smile. After watching the film I thought to myself, 'I wonder if anyone like Van actually exists', his character seems to draw people in and encourages them to achieve their best, as shown in a scene with the basketball team, where they are performing poorly until Van gives them an encouraging speech while the deaf coach is turned away, very funny.
Aside from Vans charismatic side he also has a very caring one, which is highlighted in a few scenes. He not only takes the time to look after the campus 'sick guy' who always picks up random diseases, but more importantly he takes an immediate liking to Tara and soon finds himself infatuated. Ryan has no trouble switching between the two roles.
Kal does a tremendous job playing Taj, himself and Van are two very different characters, Van is very cool and calm while Taj is very alert and nervous. The two bounce off each other wonderfully and there is a natural comedy spark between them. Kal is an actor not embarrassed to make a fool of himself and so is perfect for the role, he also gives a realistic performance of someone who 'worships' Van and would do anything for him. This is proven by the fact that he agrees to work for Van for free after only knowing him for a few days, 'loyal' defines him perfectly.
Tara plays the serious reporter role, a student very much focused on her career and future, after knowing Van though she starts enjoying life more, and listens to his words, one line in particular 'Don't take life too seriously, you wont get out alive'. It once again shows his ability to bring out the best in people and I liked the way that point was highlighted throughout the film. Tara does a good job in my opinion, the chemistry between her and Van is believable and a pleasure to watch, especially when she is dressed in her ice hockey gear, a scene for the gents.
Another good performance came from Daniel as Dick, very funny but serious at the same time, he has some great lines and I like the way he always seems to turn the situation into a medical disease (you will have to watch to see what I mean).
The film as a whole is great, the script writing is something to be admired, and I am surprised the film didn't become as successful as the American pie series, it is in my opinion more entertaining. The film proves the point 'Time flies when you're having fun', it has a running time of 93 minutes which whizzes by, the comedy simply doesn't stop, every scene has a joke or funny quip that you sometimes only notice the second time you watch it. The music is very fitting to the film, with tracks from The living End, Jimmy Eat World, Sum 41, Air Supply, N.E.R.D and American Hi-Fi. There is however a small inconsistency in the film, in a scene where Taj is trying to woo a lady, he says the track on the radio is 'The white Barry', referring to Barry white, the song is in fact "Stumblin' In" by Suzi Quatro and Chris Norman, I presume they couldn't get the rights.
The DVD has a few good extras like deleted scenes, outtakes, Burly Bear TV specials, a Comedy Central: Reel Comedy TV special, a "Bouncing Off the Walls" music video performed by Sugarcult and other promotional material like television ads and poster art.
Comedy Genius are the only words to describe it, I would recommended the film to teenagers or adults, some of the jokes and scenes are in my opinion too suggestive for younger children, although there aren't any 'full sex' scenes. There has been a sequel released which I haven't as yet watched focusing on Taj, although I haven't heard good things. You can pick the film up for around £3-4 from Amazon or play and is worthy of any DVD collection. The older generation may not be able to relate to some of the scenes, the film is focused on the younger generation, but I am sure they will still get a few chuckles.
Rent - Yes
Buy - Yes
Borrow - yes
9.5 / 10