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GramiWay

GramiWay
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Member since: 11.07.2008

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      18.08.2009 10:32
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      The end of the Harry Potter saga

      Released originally in 2007 'Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows' is the final book in J.K Rowling's massive series featuring the boy wizard and the secret magical community. It is going to be turned into a movie that will have two parts with the first being released next year.

      The series has seen Harry Potter grow from a small boy who discovered his magical heritage and ventured to the school Hogwarts, an institution within the hidden magical world that trains young witches and wizards in the arts of magic. With his best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, Harry has gotten into some scrapes over the years though the time for teenage rebellions and romance have passed as the fourth book ended with the return of Lord Voldemort, the evil dark wizard who terrified the magical community for years until Voldemort attempted to kill Harry but failed...

      With Voldemort's return came a much darker style of writing from Rowling's pen. Characters we had come attached to began to drop like flies as the dangerous war threatened to engulf the world yet again. Forced to grow up and shoulder the responsibility that has been thrust upon him, Harry finds himself without his long line protectors but armed with the knowledge of Voldemort's horcruxes. If the remaining horcurxes are found and destroyed then the dark wizard will be rendered mortal and will be able to be killed like everybody else... With Hermione and a reluctant Ron by his side 'The Deathly Hallows', truly leaves behind every aspect of innocence Rowling had conjured up in previous instalments and throws her main characters right into the heart of darkness...

      The plot of the book is fairly simple and it's almost as if everything the characters have learnt over the past six books is tested here. The rather arrogant and teenage angst ridden nature that crippled Harry in the past two books is absent here which is a pretty drastic change in character. Ron & Hermione of course are always brilliant and their determination to help Harry is a great sign of how strong their characters are. The book is thrown into darkness straight away as a number of the Order of Phoenix members arrive to take Harry away from the Dursleys to protection and in doing so they are ambushed by a gang of Death Eaters with Voldemort himself in tow.

      The book sort of faints into a Lord of The Rings style quest as Harry and company hunt the horcruxes. It's an interesting development on Rowling's behalf to not have the trio return to Hogwarts and the book doesn't suffer because of this as we see friendship and strength tested to the maximum.
      What I have always loved about Rowling's writing is how she is able to create this entire world and have it flow from her fingertips onto paper and really take a hold over the reader. You can actually visualise the places she describes and the things the characters see and it's very rare a book manages to do that for me.

      Of course I'm not going to spoil the ending or give away lots about the plot but I found myself enthralled from start to finish. There are lots of characters returning to the story which really does bring around a sense of closure though it's the final battle at Hogwarts that just blows me away. I am hooked on every word as Rowling describes this epic battle and you get such a rush through you as you see all the characters band together. It's what was sorely lacking from 'The Half Blood Prince' and we can see why as Rowling dedicates at least four huge chapters to the event and it is a fantastic ending to the series. [I choose to ignore a certain portion of the ending which reads like it was written by some fan fiction wannabe].

      You do feel as if you've grown up with these characters and that the fate of this fictional world matters to you as much as it does to them. I did find at times that Voldemort was extremely careless. He's meant to be the strongest dark wizard ever yet Harry & Hermione can escape him at one point in the book and he doesn't think to ground them or something? Again during the chapter at Malfoy Manner, I'm amazed at how easily they get away. It's as if Rowling drags it out throughout the book with many near misses and constantly upping the stakes so she can knock us down when the final fight gets underway.

      'The Deathly Hallows' opens a whole new chapter in Harry Potter mythology whilst also closing the door on the series altogether. If you're a hardcore fan then you're obviously going to read far too much into every knook and cranny that Rowling opens but other than that, this is a fast paced and exciting book that has the perfect balance between mild humour and despair and even a faint hint of romance. Rowling has pulled out all the stops to make the ending as brilliant as possible and after waiting for this moment since the very first chapter of 'The Philosopher's Stone', she really doesn't disappoint. It's an incredible final book that cements the series' status as one of the best selling of all time.

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        15.08.2009 09:52
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        The soundtrack to current music - November 2003

        I've decided to review a few of my Now That's What I Call Music' albums. Just because they were released many years ago it doesn't mean that they don't still generate huge interest from the public who like to pick them up cheap from places like Amazon and such and relive the musical classics of yesteryear or avid collectors who wish to complete their collection, so this review will no doubt be helpful to someone.

        Released in Christmas 2003, Now 56 has the very cold and attractive, icy looking cover with blends of blue, white and purple and featured the biggest hits from the closing months of that year. Personally a lot of the music around in 2003 bored me to tears but this was a very strong Now album that focused on a lot of good pop music that was around at the time and one or two guilty pleasures.

        The attraction of the Now CDs is that you can pick up many tracks all on one CD. They are great for perhaps an older generation or just really anybody who likes a lot of the stuff played on radio but isn't interested in purchasing entire albums by said artists.

        Now 56 was before the series started to base its first disc on the more pop-RnB hits and leave CD2 to dance and more rock/alternative orientated tracks. As of such the track list is quite scattered with a wide variety of genres and artists all included on the two discs. I find this works better as it improves the listening experience so you don't have a certain amount of tracks geared towards one specific audience all clumped together.

        - Disc One -

        'Where Is The Love?' by the Black Eyed Peas starts off the album. 2003's best seller and listening to it now it does sound incredibly dated. The vocals sound so old fashioned and cheesy and only the chorus and beat manage to save the song. Rachel Stevens is up next. The former S Club 7 member branched out with the raunchy 'Sweet Dreams My LA Ex'. A song penned by Cathy Dennis it is a slick and sexy RnB number with all the pop hooks and polished production familiar from her pop band days.

        There's also 'Slow' by Kylie Minogue. One of my least favourite Kylie songs it has a much more laid back sound than her usual material but still relies heavily on a strange, hypnotic, rhythm that bounces along over Kylie's purring and vivacious vocals.

        Don't get me wrong there are worse moments on the album such as the hideous 'Be Faithful' by Fatman Scoop or Javine's massacre of 'Surrender [Your Love]' but these are beaten down by the infectious 60's based beat of Emma Bunton's 'Maybe'. Her vocals and just the fast paced, furious mood of the song make this one of her best solo singles whilst the Sugababes attack us with 'Hole In The Head', Girls Aloud tone things down with the rather bitter 'Life Got Cold'. Iconic hits of the decade like 'Superstar' by Jamelia and Beyonce's 'Crazy In Love' also make the cut. The latter always seems to win me over no matter how much I hate Beyonce. The verses and contribution from Jay Z are dismal at best but it's just the soaring chorus that oozes confidence and a killer hook that sells the track.

        Disc One also showcases the annoyingly awful amount of reality TV show stars around in 2003 with boyband Phixx's 'Hold On Me'. A modernised Duran Duran esque track in the making which is actually very good.

        - Disc Two -
        Elton John's annoying 'Are You Ready For Love?' is up first here. Re-released in 2003 due to it's use in a Sky Sports advertising campaign it made Number One and is just as irritating as the rest of Elton's back catalogue. Justin Timberlake and Robbie Williams fly the flag for the male solo artist camp though 'Rock Your Body' as catchy and funky as the beatbox interval is was over six months old at this point and 'Something Beautiful' is a poor and uninspiring ballad from Robbie that tries to be witty with its video mocking the reality TV culture but the song itself is limp and bland.

        I do love Busted's 'Sleeping With The Light On'. A more laid back affair for the pop trio whilst Amy Studt was a very underrated talent and 'Under My Thumb' is angsty pop-rock that Avril Lavigne would kill to get her hands on. It's only a sample of Studt's wonderful debut album 'False Smiles'.

        This disc is lacking the big hits and is rather poor in comparison to the first. There's dull contributions from the likes of 50 Cent or Ashanti whilst Lisa Scott-Lee tries to make it alone with 'Too Far Gone'. A very enthusiastic disco number that has vocals closely resembling nails on a chalkboard.

        There are some great upbeat offerings though such as 'Love Me Right' by Angel City or the epic 'Finest Dreams' featuring Kelis in a very raunchy and electronic vocal and produced by Richard X. Jaimeson's 'Complete' also has its foot firmly in the garage based department but combines catchy hooks with a thudding beat to make a rather good track.

        The CD ends with slower tracks courtesy of Daniel Bedingfield, the Stereophonics with one of my favourites 'Maybe Tomorrow' and of course the Christmas no1 of 2003 'Mad World' by unknown singer and pianist duo, Michael Andrews and Gary Jules. The Tears For Fears classic is just given a modern polishing production wise but other than the vocalists singing it, there's nothing that different from the original.

        Now 56's tracklisting alone should tell you that this was a time where manufactured music still ruled the roost. Before the surge of artists playing their own instruments and writing for themselves this was the music that was popular. Obviously there are some great pop classics here but there's a lot of dud tracks that I had no idea what they were until I actually listened to the CD, despite some of them coming from very big artists at the time. If you do fancy a trip down memory lane and the tracklist is appealing then by all means check it out but do avoid an otherwise rather weak addition to the Now collection.

        Disc one
        1.Black Eyed Peas : "Where Is the Love?"
        2.Rachel Stevens : "Sweet Dreams My LA Ex"
        3.Kylie Minogue : "Slow"
        4.Blue : "Guilty"
        5.Fatman Scoop featuring The Crooklyn Clan : "Be Faithful"
        6.Beyoncé Knowles featuring Jay-Z : "Crazy In Love" and
        7.Sugababes : "Hole in the Head"
        8.Liberty X : "Jumpin"
        9.Jamelia : "Superstar"
        10.Lumidee : "Never Leave You (Uh Oooh, Uh Oooh)"
        11.Stacie Orrico : "Stuck"
        12.Lemar : "Dance (With U)"
        13.Javine : "Surrender (Your Love)"
        14.Emma : "Maybe"
        15.S Club 8 : "Sundown"
        16.Ultrabeat : "Pretty Green Eyes"
        17.Sophie Ellis-Bextor : "Mixed Up World"
        18.Phixx : "Hold On Me"
        19.D-Side : "Invisible"
        20.Louise : "Pandora's Kiss"
        21.Girls Aloud : "Life Got Cold"
        22.Atomic Kitten : "If You Come To Me"


        Disc two
        1.Elton John : "Are You Ready For Love"
        2.Justin Timberlake : "Rock Your Body"
        3.Robbie Williams : "Something Beautiful"
        4.Nickelback : "Someday"
        5.Busted : "Sleeping with the Light On"
        6.Mark Owen : "Four Minute Warning"
        7.Amy Studt : "Under the Thumb"
        8.Texas featuring Kardinal Offishall : "Carnival Girl"
        9.50 Cent featuring Nate Dogg : "21 Questions"
        10.Ashanti : "Rock Wit U (Awww Baby)"
        11.Joe Budden : "Pump It Up"
        12.Jaimeson : "Complete"
        13.Lisa Scott-Lee : "Too Far Gone"
        14.Angel City featuring Lara McAllen : "Love Me Right (Oh Sheila)"
        15.Richard X featuring Kelis : "Finest Dreams"
        16.Rishi Rich Project featuring Jay Sean & Juggy D : "Dance With You"
        17.UB40 featuring The United Colours Of Sound : "Swing Low"
        18.Starsailor : "Silence Is Easy"
        19.Stereophonics : "Maybe Tomorrow"
        20.Daniel Bedingfield : "Never Gonna Leave Your Side"
        21.Michael Andrews featuring Gary Jules : "Mad World"

        *Track listing from Wikipedia to save me getting RSI!

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          14.08.2009 10:58
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          Milky Bar chocolate in yoghurt form

          I'm not normally a yoghurt person but when faced with the task of buying for a picnic with a group of friends to celebrate the end of college recently, I delved into the yoghurt aisle of Sainsburys to investigate what was on offer.

          If I remember rightly you could purchase two Rolo/Milky Bar yoghurts for 99p and get one pack free so I scooped up one of each!

          The Milky Bar Yoghurt is basically the famous white chocolate bar by Nestle in dessert form. As somebody who likes to get their money's worth, I wouldn't pay the price I did normally if I didn't get a freebie as there are only two pots in a pack and though they're quite wide they're not that big and there are far cheaper yoghurts that will give you more.

          The bottom of the pot is the typical creamy, pale yellow colour associated with Milky Bar whilst the lid looks just like the wrapper of the bar itself. When you peel back the lid you are instantly hit by the creamy and tasty smell of white chocolate. My first impression was that the taste was a bit too strong though it soon overwhelms your taste buds and is fantastic. It's like the chocolate bar has been melted and whipped around a bit and had tonnes more cream and such thrown in to strengthen the flavour and it just attacks your taste buds and leaves you wanting more. It has an almost mousse like texture but is far smoother when you dig your spoon into it.

          Shockingly, they're not that sickly and you can easily eat one pot without getting that bloated feeling or wanting to give up. I think in that instance, the size does work in the product's favour.

          Obviously with such a strong taste these are going to be stacked full of calories and are probably best avoided if you're watching the scales or of course are not a fan of white chocolate. As with all yoghurts, they should be stored in the fridge and are free of wheat, yeast, nut and gluten which means that most people should be able to enjoy them without any problems.

          You can enjoy both the pots or even share and though the price may seem unreasonable when there are cheaper yoghurts on the market, these are actually worth every penny.

          It's refreshing to come across a classic chocolate bar that has been turned into a yoghurt or ice cream or some such and still retains it's traditional flavour whilst being given an extra boost in the process.

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            13.08.2009 11:13
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            One of the freshest new talents of 2009

            I first came across the track '3 Little Words' last October and was introduced to Frankmusik. Months later and he was named as one of the freshest new talents to emerge in 2009 alongside the likes of La Roux, Florence & The Machine and Lady Gaga.

            Frankmusik [real name Vincent Frank] has been around in the music industry for a few years remixing tracks for the likes of Keane, Alphabeat and the Pet Shop Boys. He's recently been working on comeback material for washed up Neighbours star Holly Valance and has had a fairly mixed start to his pop career so far though only looks set to grow stronger with the recent release of his debut album 'Complete Me'.

            Frankmusik has a style of singing similar to Mika, an artist who immediately springs to mind when I listen to this album. However with his odd haircut and rather eccentric appearance and attitude towards music, Frank isn't trying to sound like a Freddie Mercury tribute act and there's a lot more emphasis on the music here which lends itself to very modernised beats and effects but with a very heavy 80s influence present on a number of songs.

            'In Step' starts off with an incredible, funky beat that sounds like something from a children's video game, complete with strange helium esque harmonies. Frank's vocals are often modified to fit in with the rather futuristic and odd direction from the music. 'In Step' flows perfectly with the music definitely being the driving force and its catchy hook and chorus.

            'Better Off As Two' is one of the less polished tracks on the album. It has a very simple melody and Frank's vocals sound a lot stronger and consistant here. It's a lot more relaxed than other tracks here but the chorus just thuds into your head and wraps itself around you. Definitely one of the record's highlights.

            'Gotta Boyfriend' is a rather dull song, plodding along against a very repetitive and unimaginative beat. The lyrics just don't really connect with me but if there was ever a track on the albm to sound like a memoir to the 80s, the very dated beat and vibe of the entire song lends itself to the decade.

            'Confusion Girl' is the current single and probably the most well known song from the album. It's amazingly catchy and sounds perfect to bring some sunshine into your life. Pulling it apart leaves yet another average beat and half shaped vocals but its the production and the way it all flows together that will guarentee you'll be singing it all day whether you like it or not.

            'Your Boy' ditches the fast paced and dance orientated theme of the album for a piano led number. It works very well with Frank's vocals shining through a lot stronger than on other tracks where his voice is distorted. 'When You're Around' sounds like a club smash in the making. The verses are very lifeless and wooden but when the chorus kicks in, there's echoes and twirling and just an infectious beat that compels you to keep you listening.

            I was very disappointed with '3 Little Words' though. I loved the demo version but for the album, the song has been remixed and has had lyrical changes, most notably in the chorus. It just didn't work for me in the same way as I felt it had lost that magic punch that made it so brilliant to begin with. It's now relegated to a boring, mid-album filler with a slow, flat chorus and even flatter vocals. It's as if changing its structure and production has drained the spark out of it.

            My dismay at the album continued with the horrifically cheesy 'Wonder Woman'. Whilst the music and production are listenable enough, I can't deal with the cringe-worthy lyrics.

            'Complete Me' on the other hand restores my faith in Frankmusik. He begins the song with just a piano and a very delicate and beautiful vocal that soon grows into a thundering and explosive chorus. It's the most emotional song on an album crammed with hits that are dedicated to making you bounce, whilst 'Vacant Heart' sounds oddly like 'Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now' by Starship though the middle 8 section reminds me more of 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody' by Whitney Houston. It's just a flawless piece of music that captures the 80's style and meshes it with an amazing modernised beat and Frank's distant vocals. My favourite track by far.

            There's definitely hints of Mika & Calvin Harris scattered throughout 'Complete Me', but Frankmusik has managed to slide into a group where there isn't a lot of competition and create his own unique and rather entrancing style of music. This record does sound rather samey in places and there a number of dull tracks. Some songs which sounded better as demo versions have been ruined when added to the record but you can't deny the talent Frankmusik has, more so for writing and production than say his vocal abilities. All this considered the best way I can describe 'Complete Me', is that it's an album that makes you feel like you've had too many E-numbers and consists of a mixture of genius and rather odd and boring material but if it's a nice, fun, happy record you're after to keep the continuous rainfall at bay, then this is definitely the album for you.

            Tracklisting -
            1.In Step
            2.Better Off As Two
            3.Gotta Boyfriend?
            4.Confusion Girl
            5.Your Boy
            6.When You're Around
            7.3 Little Words
            8.Wonder Woman
            9.Complete Me
            10.Vacant Heart
            11.Time Will Tell
            12.Done Done
            13.Run Away From Trouble

            And here's a video to check out clips of the album :D [Quality is average sadly!]
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vibTvrbKQ4E

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            • True Blood / TV Programme / 65 Readings / 62 Ratings
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              12.08.2009 10:22
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              Even with synthetic blood the vampires are still causing trouble!!

              I'm quite obsessed with vampires at the moment and it seems the world is following my lead as new dramas or films revolved around the fanged ones and their blood drinking antics seem to be popping up everywhere.

              Cue the new show taking the world by storm 'True Blood'. Based on the series of novels by Charlaine Harris called 'The Southern Vampire Mysteries', this American created series comes from the production network HBO who have brought us 'Sex & The City' and 'The Sopranos' amongst others in the past. It currently airs in the UK on FX and will be arriving on Channel 4 in October.

              Currently in its second season, 'True Blood' is based on a fictional and small Louisiana town called Bon Temps. In the 'True Blood' universe the existance of vampires is well known and they have intergrated themselves into society as normal citizens. This is due to the Japanese who have created synthetic blood [Tru Blood]. Anna Paquin plays the main character Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic waitress who lives in Bon Temps with her close community of family and friends. However, the town's peaceful atmosphere is shattered when its first vampire moves in - Bill Compton [played by Stephen Moyer].

              The show focuses primarily on Sookie and Bill's love affair. Sookie finds herself pulled to the vampire as she cannot read his thoughts and this makes her feel comfortable. Their relationship grows into romance as the show progresses much to the initial distaste of Sookie's friends

              The town also starts to be plagued by a series of murders as it seems somebody has it in for 'fang bangers' [people who have sex with vampires], or indeed anybody that even associates with them. The show also explores a lot of other characters living in Bon Temps like Sookie's womanizing brother Jason, her best friend Tara Thornton, her boss Sam Merlotte who is also a shapeshifter and madly in love with Sookie and various other residents that are used more to fill in scenes whilst also developing their own characters.

              Each episode lasts between 45 and 55 minutes and there are 12 episodes in each of the two seasons so far. The show is all about right and wrong and discrimination. Whilst some vampires wish to fit in with normal society, there are many who still wish to kill humans or exploit their new found freedom and equality. On the other side, the majority of humans are prejudice against vampires, whilst many find themselves attracted to the dark world they dwell in. Many more like Jason Stackhouse get 'high' off vampire blood and resort to exploiting, kidnapping or draining the vampires.

              The show deals with the discrimination between both sides in the sense that vampires are the new black people or homosexuals and there are often political scenes on the television where vampire politicans are arguing that they deserve equal rights and humans are just as bad as them [slavery, genocide, nuclear bombs etc].

              The only things I don't like about 'True Blood' are the constant sex scenes. Whilst this died down somewhat after the first few episodes, it was so consistant I did believe at one point I was watching porn [though as the show comes from the makers of 'Sex & The City' I wasn't surprised]. This often shows heterosexual sex scenes that are very graphic in nature so definitely not a show to let the young ones watch.

              Other graphic scenes involve the drinking of blood and extracting it with needles. It's an extremely scattered and rather insane show for the first few episodes but don't give up on it and it starts to form a more structured flow and have proper storylines.

              As well as relationships, themes such as death, addiction, sexuality and demonic possession are also explored.
              The awful accents the characters adopt sound very fake and forced as well as annoying but even these don't faze you as much once you've heard them consistantly.

              I would've also liked to have seen how exactly the vampires came into the open.

              'True Blood' is compelling viewing. It mixes drama, with the horror, fantasy, humour and a lot of sex! Whilst a lot of the actors are wooden and we don't really get to see much of their characters hidden depths, Tara is perhaps the strongest in terms of both performance and the backstory that unfolds for her. I don't think much of Anna Paquin as she seems very shallow and I struggle to connect with her character's constant mood changes. I can't help thinking she was cast for her looks alone. Stephen Moyer has the whole dark, brooding vampire thing down to the wire but I wrestle with whether he's good looking or not and the fact that he too seems a very withdrawn actor.

              I enjoy the show's unique take on vampire lore such as the gruesome way a vampire is staked and though at times I find myself wondering why on earth I am watching this show 'True Blood' takes that part of all of us that wishes we could be something more and captures perfectly the predatory, sexual, exploititive nature of the human race and many of us are just the same as vampires underneath at all [except we don't kill obviously, well not all of us].

              It's an outrageous, camp but thoroughly entertaining drama series that just grows deeper and more compelling over time. The characters and writing grow stronger so try not to give up on the show until you get past the sex fest and introductions that plague the first five episodes or so.

              'True Blood' is a fascinating show that has definitely got me hooked.

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                11.08.2009 10:26
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                Why bother when you can play the other 3?

                Crash Bandicoot - The Wrath of Cortex [TWOC] is the sixth game featuring the orange marsupial in the hugely successful franchise. It was also the first game to be released on a platform other than the original Playstation. This review focuses on the PS2 release in Autumn 2001, though the following year also saw Crash venture onto the X Box and Game Cube for the first time.

                Chronologically TWOC is the fourth Crash Bandicoot instalment, following on from Crash Bandicoot 3 - Warped three years previously. Travelers Tales also took over from Naughty Dog as developers of the game which meant that with this fact and the upgrade to the PS2 that the Crash world was about to get a bit of a makeover.

                - Story -

                After thawating Dr Cortex and the evil mask Uka Uka's plans for world domination at the end of the last game, Crash Bandicoot is finally taking a well earned break. However, his peaceful vaccation is about to be shattered as on a secret space station Uka Uka has gathered Cortex and some of the previous game's villains to berate them for their incompetence.
                The group hatch their most villainous plan yet to destroy Crash and the world. Cortex reveals he has been working on a new super weapon but doesn't have enough power to bring it to life. At this, Uka Uka decides to summon the elemental, four dangerous masks specialising in earth, water, fire and air who were locked away due the threat they posed.

                With the elementals and Cortex's new weapon [a muscular and nasty looking bandicoot named Crunch], Crash and Coco are forced to open a virtual hub and travel to locations throughout time and once more gather the crystals so they can reseal the elementals and end Cortex's latest scheme.

                - Game Play -

                Much of the game's action takes place in the virtual hub. This is an environment similar to the warp room lay out of Crash 3. There are five individual warp rooms and upon starting the game you can only gain access to one of them. After gathering all the crystals and defeating a boss round in that hub, the next one will open and so on.

                Each hub contains five levels which are playable by either Crash or Coco. The levels are a lot more detailed and longer than before, with more boxes to face and much harder environments, particulary as you progress through the game which may alienate younger audiences. The object of each level is to collect the pink crystal either by battling through an environment filled with various foes, completing a task like destroying boats or by winning a race.

                There is also a clear gem for every level which you can collect at the end provided you have broken all the crates in the level. Certain levels also have a second clear gem which can be obtained by completing various hidden sections. The five coloured gems can also be found this way. All in all
                there are 46 gems to collect.

                You can also obtain relics. These are won when you re-enter a level after obtaining the crystal and beat the set time for getting through the level. You can break the time crates during this frantic dash which freeze the clock for either 1,2 or 3 seconds. You can activate time trial mode by grabbing the floating clock located at the start of every level.

                It's not essential to collect all the gems and relics as you can progress through the game and defeat Crunch and Cortex with the crystals alone. However, if you want to get 100% it's worth collecting everything you can get your hands on as well as exploring the game's secrets!

                I was excited about playing as Coco, though to be honest, she was difficult to control. She's a lot slower than Crash and doesn't have the same move set as him, making her very limited. It was very hard to complete the time trial mode and various parts of her levels and she was so slow moving that your reaction time to various foes was seriously lowered. Fortunately she only appears in 6 levels out of the 30 available.

                Amongst the vehicles available there is a mine cart, a plane, a jet pack, a jeep to escape a herd of rhinos and an odd mech suit. Coco has a scooter and a snow board which she uses to escape from a tsunami or a snow avalanche. There's the usual annoying under water levels whilst the characters also explore volcanos, the Arctic, an old abbandoned mine town and a medieval castle. You can also roll about in the Atlas ball [it looks like Crash has become a gerbil], in a very fast paced jungle environment.

                Crash is armed with all of his usual moves and new powers can be obtained by defeating each hub's boss. The only new inclusion was the tip-toe technique which allows you to sneak across the notorious green Nitro crates undetected. This is very helpful in certain bonus stages but can only be done in a side scrolling environment. I thought the creators could've used this a lot more as it had good potential.

                The levels are enjoyable but the dimwitted elemental masks were extremely annoying. Everytime you entered a new level, that hub's boss mask would pop up and shout a random insult or a badly constructed pun such as 'I'm going to burn you alive!' [the fire mask]. It wasn't funny, just annoying. That coupled with the silly 'LOADING...' screen that insisted on appearing each time you enter or exit a level, made for frustating game play at times.

                - Graphics -

                Like the other games TWOC is a platform game which uses a face on environment in its levels in which the levels are coming towards you. There are also various side scrolling elements moving in both directions or the infamous 'chase' levels in which Crash or Coco are trying to escape in this case a dragon or a tsunami for example. These levels involve the character moving towards the screen.

                The graphics have been seriously upgraded and I wasn't too keen on the new look characters. Whilst they retain their usual attributes, Cortex and Coco in particular just don't seem to fit with their previous counterparts. Cortex looks a lot more muscular and It just doesn't feel as if the graphics really work that well in this instance. The levels however, have been massively altered. They seem so much more realistic especially the snow environments.

                The music is also less irritating than other Crash games with some pretty decent soundtracks to various levels. A soothing element when you're re-doing the levels for the 10th time or such.

                I was extremely pleased with the WOC. The massively rendered environments and difficulty of the levels finally produces a Crash game that is challenging. Whilst the format is pretty much the same to the past two games and may bore some, I found the number of different vehicles and slight different twist to certain elements in the game to be very intriguing and a welcomed success. I did feel that despite the game's 3+ rating, it was extremely difficult and there were so many controls and new inclusions that a lot of children would find it really hard to grasp the game play and to get through a lot of the levels, which is a shame as the other games were a lot more accessible for a wider audience.

                I do admit that I am left with a strong urge to play TWOC's predecessors after this game because despite all of the game's strong points, it's just a generic formula being rehashed and tweaked with each game to continue ensnaring fans and their money.

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                • Mars Revels / Chocolate / 65 Readings / 62 Ratings
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                  10.08.2009 10:14
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                  Boots Mix N Match but with chocolates

                  Chocolate is something that most of us enjoy. I wonder if there were a survey how many people would class themselves as a chocoholic?
                  Anyway adding a new twist to the world of chocolate as we know it are Revels. I like to class them as the 'lucky dip' of the chocolate community.
                  Revels are made by the Mars company who have of course brought us the Mars chocolate and Galaxy amongst other tasty treats. Revels come in a bright packet with the colours orange, brown, red and yellow dominating the packaging and small pictures of the inhabitants against the large white writing telling you what you're buying

                  Revels are available in a standard size bag like Maltesers and can also be purchased in much larger bags fit for sharing or for a movie.
                  The beauty of Revels is that there are five types of chocolates in one packet. OK so this is probably going to put a lot of people off as the flavours are rather odd and not really the sort you'd expect to get people buying in their droves.

                  - The Sweets -

                  1) The Malteser
                  The classic little ball of floaty goodness is here! Maltesers are their usual taste of heaven. A small chocolate ball that has a delicious honeycomb centre that just sticks to your taste buds the moment you bite into it.
                  The chocolate coating isn't that thick meaning that the sweet focuses more on the delicious centre. They are also the largest sweet in the Revels catalogue so are easy to spot.

                  2) The Orange One
                  These have the same shape as the Malteser but are smaller. With a warm and tasty chocolate coating, inside is a gorgeous sort of orange creme that isn't runny just nice and soft when you eat it. The orange taste isn't as overwhelming as I'd hoped but it does have a very nice texture and works well with the different taste of chocolate. These
                  are my favourite.

                  3) The Coffee One
                  Unfortunately coffee is back! The downside is that these are the exact same shape and size as the orange flavoured Revel which means you have no idea which is which until you've actually bitten into it. Using the traditional chocolate casing, there is a sort of brown, coffee creme inside.
                  I'm not a big coffee fan but I can eat this as like the orange, the taste isn't that strong at all. You can tell it's coffee obviously but it's just a mild shock to your taste buds when you first bite into it and then the taste is sort of swallowed up by the chocolate making it harmless.

                  4) The One With The Raisin
                  Sounds like a cool Friends episode non? This is basically a simple and boring raisin encased by chocolate. I don't mind these either but they're very plain and ugly looking. They come in a variety of shapes but you can usually tell them apart as they not circular and look rather squashed up due to the raisin being dipped into chocolate. The chocolate is a poor
                  addition here as it adds nothing to the flavour if only to make the sweet taste really sickly. The raisin also tastes plain and boring. It hardly makes me revel in the excitement!

                  5) The Toffee One
                  Like the raisin except with a hard toffee centre. Not nice on the teeth and also with a trace of caramel that does make it taste nice.

                  6) The Minstrel
                  Adding another classic sweet to the mix comes the Galaxy Minstrel. These are available separately but here they add a true chocolate inclusion to Revels. Whereas all the other sweets hardly use any chocolate at all - the minstrel is all about the brown goodness. It's almost flying saucer shaped and is pure chocolate in the middle with a harder casing.
                  Sadly, I don't think they're the real minstrels as the outer shell isn't as dark or as tasty as the Galaxy ones. However, they're still gorgeous and it's nice to know that you're still getting 100% chocolate with this product.

                  Revels are a brilliant confectionary idea to share or to indulge in by yourself. They're very distinctive and not like anything else on the market.

                  The makers seemed to have veered away from more attractive flavours in favour of fillings like coffee or the bizarre idea of the raisin in chocolate but none of the sweets tase awful, they're just different
                  and that is the reason for their popularity. Despite what the adverts decipher, unless you wear a blind-fold or don't look at what goes in your mouth, they're very easy to tell apart except for the orange and coffee ones. I also don't like how there seems to be far more of the unpopular flavours like coffee and raisin in every bag of these I try!

                  I guess the only major downside to these is if any of the sweets within Revels are not to your taste or if you're fussy about the way you eat your food etc. They're not sickly sweets as there's not enough chocolate and the fillings aren't exactly to die for, so you can eat them in moderation without feeling bloated.

                  That doesn't mean they're fat free as there are 480 calories in a 100g packet!

                  Revels just seem to be an interesting novelty that are rather hit n miss. I wouldn't waste a lot of money on them unless you're really into them and you've never tried them before I'd suggest purchasing one of the standard sized bags for about 50-60p. The larger bags are usually about 1.55 from most supermarkets though are often in offers.

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                    09.08.2009 11:05
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                    A disappointing album that is begging for a track named 'Psychics'!

                    'Chemistry' is the third studio album from arguably Britain's biggest girl band Girls Aloud. However, at the time of this album's release there was a lot of speculation that the group wouldn't be around much longer due to its poor sales and a rather dismal performance of its singles. Thankfully the girls proved their critics wrong and have continued to make brilliant pop music.

                    I'm a huge fan of Girls Aloud and I brought their first three albums as their singles are consistently strong and catchy pieces of music. However, after hearing 'Chemistry' in its entirety, I have given up delving into the rest of their studio releases due to the fact that I realised that behind these excellent singles, the girls just tend to produce albums that are full of filler and songs that lack the same punch that their major hits do [with a few exceptions obviously].

                    The cover of this album also put me off slightly. It's just an innocent and simple photograph of the band together looking all comfortable and cosy but the facial expressions and head arrangements beg to differ. It's actually a bit creepy and if this is what their group 'chemistry' looks like, then I pray to God I never get caught in the middle of it...

                    Anyway the CD itself is packed full of some rather vibrant and infectious moments and then some rather experimentive tracks that don't really produce the required result. Girls Aloud haven't strayed from their usual formula of upbeat pop and the production team Xenomania are at the helm of most of the record's big tracks as are the team of writers that pop up on a regular basis in the band's album credits. However, despite this safe and repetitive partnership each Girls Aloud album seems to progress in sound and maturity and 'Chemistry' is no exception with the music already sounding light years away from their last album 'What Will The Neighbours Say' but not quite reaching the more mid tempo, electro vibe that was so evident on 2007's follow up 'Tangled Up'.

                    The 'Intro' is barely a minute long and is just a warm up to the first actual track 'Models'. This is classic Girls Aloud with its distinct feel and fast paced beat. Vocally it's not up to much but the lyrics are witty and clever and the song has enough momentum to stick in your head all day.

                    And at the core of their career that's what Girls Aloud manage. They may not write their own material or play instruments but they do add a sense of style to their songs which like or not, you will be humming them over and over again. 'Biology' is an energetic and musically scattered track that works so well. On first listen you think to yourself that the verses and chorus are all over the place and this is just some random mess that hasn't been mixed properly but the girls' vocals work in sync with each other as Nadine, Sarah and Nicola take on the stronger parts of the song whilst Kimberly and Cheryl have the sultry and seductive lines. 'Biology' creates a ferocious whirlpool of musical indulgence and is one of Girls Aloud's finest hours and its beauty lies in the uniqueness of the track.

                    'Wild Horses' is one of my personal favourites. The vocals take on a bitter and twisted edge and the stinging, electro-rock fuelled chorus just bounces off the walls and into your brain. There's an urgency and a deep seated anger to the track that comes out amazingly in the girl's voices though the fact that again they seem to 'speak' the verses is very off-putting.

                    'See The Day' and 'Whole Lotta History' are the ballads of the album with the latter continuing the school subject theme [shame they didn't include Psychics somehow]. 'Whole Lotta History' is a beautiful string led ballad that is vocally weak in places [Kimberly, Cheryl and Nicola don't suit the song in my opinion] but is a vulnerable and emotional track that stands out from anything else on the CD due to it being so different to anything the band has produced before.

                    'See The Day', on the other hand is a poor imitation of the Dee. C. Lee song and is bland from start to finish. It has a faint Christmas feel to it due to the production but I just don't feel the song and find myself wanting it to end as soon as possible rather than trying to get into it.

                    After a strong start the album descends into boredomville in is second half. There's nothing wrong with the songs they just seem very flat and are nothing to get that excited about. The lyrics are extremely sexy and the girls try to get that across in the way they sing the songs. This is most notable on 'Swinging London Town' and 'Racy Lacey', both again are new directions for the band's music but don't really seem to work that well.

                    'Long Hot Summer' is the last major song on the album and even that tends to fall on death ears as the production and harmonies are a bit tacky and the 'rap' part from Nadine is just cringe worthy. It's obvious that the girls are trying to pocket their music into as many different styles as possible but in this respect, straying from the formula doesn't work as well as it does on later offerings.

                    This mish mash drive course through various genres and such makes the whole feel of the album seem rather scattered and their insistence to 'speak' parts of their songs really leaves a lot up the melody and production to save them, something which fails epically on the futuristic sounding 'It's Magic' which builds up to its climax for so long when the song actually does get good you'll probably have switched off completely.

                    'Chemistry' will no doubt please the fanatic and irritating Girls Aloud fanbase no end but for the casual buyer, only a few tracks really warrant any attention and chances are you'd have heard over half of those on the radio. It shows minor development both in the vocal, lyrical and production area but leaves little to the imagination. It's almost as the band and those around them had run out of ideas at this point and got the wagon rolling again a year or so later. 'Chemistry' does pick apart the Girls Aloud formula and leaves a rather watered down taste in its wake.


                    Complete Track listing:

                    01 - Intro
                    02 - Models
                    03 - Biology
                    04 - Wild Horses
                    05 - See The Day
                    06 - Watch Me Go
                    07 - Waiting
                    08 - Whole Lotta History
                    09 - Long Hot Summer
                    10 - Swinging London Town
                    11 - It's Magic
                    12 - No Regrets
                    13 - Racy Lacy

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                    • Smiths Frazzles / Snacks / 75 Readings / 72 Ratings
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                      08.08.2009 12:14
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                      Bacon flavoured corn snacks

                      Frazzles have always attracted my attention when I've been shopping. Not only because they're different to any other crisp out there but also for the strange and wacky name that goes with them. This week I finally decided to buy some.

                      Frazzles have been in production for almost 30 years and at first were manufactured by Smiths but are now the property of Walkers. However, legal reasons mean that the Smiths logo still appears in the top left hand corner of each packet.

                      The product is rarely seen as a single pack in shops. I don't think I've ever seen them sold individually. This is due to the rather small size of the packets which are stuffed to the brim with crisps. They instead, come in a multibag of 8 and cost me 1.77 from Sainsburys though I'm guessing prices differ from store to store.

                      Frazzles are recognised by the bright yellow writing displaying the product's name. Underneath this is an almost lightning bolt shape with one of the actual crisps themselves to entice buyers. The packaging is rounded off with a very vibrant background which looks like a mixture between red and brown.

                      The crisps themselves come in just one flavour. Bacon. To tie in with this flavour, the crisps themselves are shaped like rashers of bacon. They are a flat rectangular shape with pink and yellow ridges running along the top and bottom though these are not as apparent on the actual crisp as they are on the one pictured on the front of the packet.

                      Described as 'crispy bacon flavour corn snacks' by the manufacturers and as soon as you open the packet you are greeted by a very strong bacon fueled aroma, that instantly causes your mouth to start to water.

                      I do love Walkers Smoky Bacon flavoured crisps but I find Frazzles to be a bit too much. The packets are stuffed to the top with crisps which is good but the bacon taste is very overpowering and incredibly strong. You can taste a lot of salt the moment you put one of the crisps into your mouth. It almost burns your throat and causes your eyes to water before a rather savoury and unpleasant bacon after taste kicks in. The actual corn taste of the crisp itself is lost by the overuse of other ingredients.

                      Eating an entire packet was a horrible chore for me as I was attacked by the same horrible flavour over and over again. Not even bacon itself at its most smoked tastes this awful and I can't help but feeling as if the makers have tried too hard to model this crisp after the meat and in turn made this!
                      Despite the flavour the crisps are deemed suitable for vegetarians and no other information about allergies or such is given.

                      Frazzles are extremely popular so they must be doing something right. However, for me I couldn't stand the high amount of salt especially as you could actually taste it and not just read the ingredients and know it was present! The crisps may be different and attractive because of that but taste wise they really failed to come through for me. The fact that just one tiny bag contains 112 calories and 5.3g of fat is also a cause for concern.
                      I gave Frazzles a try and they well and truly put me off for life!

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                        07.08.2009 14:48
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                        Television with an added punch

                        I know that during my time on Dooyoo I have provided a review on each individual season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer but this is an overview of the entire show in the hopes that it will entice new viewers and open up a world to them which at times has been a friend, a comfort, a confidant and a general output of humour for me. I hope I haven't over done this or missed anything!

                        - History & Conception -

                        Buffy began in the form of a movie, aptly titled 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer'. The 1992 box office flop stared Kristy Swanson as the fashion conscious vampire killer, Donald Sutherland as her watcher and Luke Perry as her love interest.

                        Joss Whedon was the creator of the character and the mythology that surrounded both the film and the TV show, but felt that the movie wasn't done justice. Fortunately, he was given the chance to bring Buffy back from the dead four years later when American network the WB expressed interested in a show focused on the slayer.

                        Sarah Michelle Gellar took the title role gaining international stardom in the process whilst unknown actors Alyson Hannighan, Nicholas Brendon, James Marsters, Anthony Stewart Head and David Boreanaz all breathed life into the show as various other characters. The show premièred in Spring 1997 with a 12 episode season. It gained a huge fandom and went down well with critics and went on to run for 144 episodes spanning seven seasons before culminating in 2003.

                        The show has also spawned a wide variety of merchandise from a role playing game, to stand alone novels, figures and most notably the spin off show 'Angel' revolving around Boreanaz's character. Buffy has also recently returned once again, this time in comic book form which officially picks up after the end of the TV series to show fans what happens next.

                        - Why I Love It? -

                        The great thing about Buffy is that the show was vibrant and exciting and turned people's pre-conceived opinions on their heads. The title itself is very outrageous and the idea of a blonde, school girl killing all sorts of terrible creatures from nightmares is laughable but pretty damn amazing that Whedon managed to pull it off in the way he did.

                        I love the characters. The characterisation on the show has always been incredible. The doomed relationships and the realistic drama that each character faces in their personal lives is always dealt with and touched upon in a wonderful way that allows the audience to really feel what's going on and relate the situation and it's very rare I get that involved in a show. Usually they're just something I watch to amuse myself but 'Buffy' uses modern day issues people face like sexuality, losing your virginity, drug addiction and death and puts a supernatural spin on them whilst still being believable.

                        The witty language created just for the show is extremely entertaining. 'Buffy' is a show drenched with references to pop culture such as The X Files, Spiderman, Star Trek and even things like Hitler.
                        It's fresh and exciting and the writers are always finding new ways to use everyday metaphors and twist them into a brilliant story.

                        - Structure -

                        The show deals with stand alone episodes usually revolving around 'a monster of the week', whilst also adding to larger story arcs which play out over longer periods. Buffy is forced to confront a new foe and uses her friends to 'research' whatever event or monster is in town, before battling it.

                        Each episode is between 40 - 45 minutes in length and each season usually contains a 'Big Bad' that is the primary antagonist Buffy has to defeat. The show deals with the character's lives with these issues sometimes being related to the main story of the episode or dominating entire episodes with little emphasis on the actual supernatural.

                        The show has also done episodes in the style of a silent movie, a musical and an episode focusing entirely on the character's dreams amongst others. Personal favourites include the gang losing their memories and an episode in which everybody becomes what they're masquerading as for Halloween.

                        Whedon is a huge fan of the plot twist which on first viewing always keeps you in suspense. I used to love thinking I knew what was going on only to be side tracked when the story took an unexpected turn!


                        - Seasons -

                        A breakdown of each season to wet your appetite:

                        - Season One -
                        Buffy Summers is just like any other 16 year old girl. She wants to have fun, have a boyfriend and grow up - NORMAL. But as we soon discover she is anything but normal. Buffy is the latest in a long line of chosen female warriors known as the Slayer. It is her destiny to battle the forces of darkness - in particular vampires.

                        The series starts with Buffy and her mother Joyce moving to the town of Sunnydale which just happens to be on a Hellmouth. A Hellmouth is a portal of tremendous energy that leads to another dimension and causes all sorts of odd and paranormal things to occur in the town and is also why Sunnydale has so many undead inhabitants. Buffy meets her best friends Willow & Xander, future love interest Angel and her watcher Giles and spends most of the season trying to juggle school and her slaying duties and take on an extremely old and powerful vampire known as The Master. I love how innocent and happy the characters are in this season. There are one or two dark episodes but it's just nice to see Buffy not as depressed as she becomes over the course of the show.

                        Season Two
                        Buffy's romance with the ensouled vampire Angel continues to blossom but an event causes Angel to lose his soul and resort to his evil persona Angelus. As Angelus terrorises Buffy and her friends, the slayer struggles to deal with his mind games and come to the point where she is able to kill her. Throw in the usual high school traumas, a new batch of creepy demons to take on and the arrival of two very sexy and evil vampires Spike and Drusilla and Buffy has a lot to handle.

                        Season Three -
                        This year sees the show focus around the gang's senior year at high school and all the usual trials that brings with it. Buffy is forced to embrace her destiny as her relationship with Angel deteriorates and rogue slayer Faith [played by the brilliant Eliza Dushku] throws a spanner in the works. As graduation approaches the gang also struggle to find a way to stop Sunnydale's evil mayor and his 'acension'.

                        Season Four -
                        Buffy feels dwarfed by her new college environment as the gang drift apart and struggle to find themselves in the big bad world. Willow starts to question her sexuality whilst Xander bounces from one pointless job to the next. Buffy also starts dating Riley Finn only to discover he is part of a secret government organisation experimenting on supernatural creatures. However, the Initiative has a much more sinister purpose: a human, demon, machine hybrid by the name of Adam.

                        Season Five -
                        Buffy moves closer to Spike who declares his love for the slayer as her relationship with Riley crumbles. Buffy is torn between her destiny and her family as her mother is taken ill and her bratty sister Dawn is suddenly thrown into the mix. It turns out Dawn is actually a mythical key sent to Buffy for protection from the mentally unstable hell god Glory.
                        Can Buffy keep the world intact when everything close to her is falling apart?

                        Season Six -
                        The year of the infamous musical and also the depressing and dark shadows that took over the characters. As Xander prepares to marry Anya, Buffy returns from the grave and into an abusive relationship with Spike, Giles leaves for England and Willow's reliance on magic begins to spiral out of control. Three nerds also try to take over Sunnydale and their comical ways lead to them inadvertently creating the true danger of the series...

                        Season Seven -
                        It's all hands on deck as Buffy and her friends face the source of all evil - The First. With allies new and old jumping on board, Buffy finds herself burdened with raising an army of potential slayers before the Hellmouth, The First and its inhabitants swallow her whole...



                        Characters -
                        I loved Sarah Michelle Gellar's performances even though the character of Buffy got very unlikeable and hard in later seasons. She always added a bubbly, high spirited tone to her voice and the serious moments of the show demonstrate some flawless acting.
                        I don't see the hype around James Marsters, other than he looks sexy as bad boy vampire Spike. The character became overused and whilst is a great example of the show's excellent characterisation, I felt he tried to take over the show too much and ruined quite a lot of the final two seasons.

                        Anthony Stewart Head stars as Giles, Buffy's watcher and father figure and his very 'British' manner always amused me. Every episode he is in has at least one line from him that makes me laugh, whilst Alyson Hannighan's Willow steals every scene she is in. Her very outgoing, quirky and geeky nature in the early seasons makes her adorable though she becomes rather obnoxious and cast aside towards the end as does the other principal character Xander.

                        Inclusions to Buffy's gang of supernatural fighters over the years include Charisma Carpenter as bitchy, rich girl Cordelia Chase. She lights up the first three seasons with her acid tongue an over reaction to everything but grows on you and even more so on the spin-off 'Angel' in which she joins Boreanaz after Buffy's third season.

                        - Suitable For Kids -

                        I'd recommend watching the show with younger children as even though the DVDS generally get a 12 or 15 rating, some of the scenes in various episodes are very violent or frightening. Not a lot of the demons are too scary though there are exceptions and especially in season six, the show is very dark and disturbing and has some graphic sex scenes and other violent moments which are unsuitable for a younger audience. Overall I'd say Buffy can be a family show if you're prepared to explain everything to your kids!

                        - Conclusion -

                        'Buffy' combines the supernatural world with romance, tragedy, drama and comedy. The acting and writing is always on fine form and though the show does become a bit disjointed in its later years it becomes more mature and grab a more adult audience with its themes. I love how the characters progress realistically and the depths Joss will go to to keep on bringing incredible stories the screen.

                        The introduction of Dawn was annoying to me as Michelle Tractenberg is a terrible actress who became pretty irrelevant to the show's plot after her initial story arc was over only to serve as a winging background ornament every now and again.

                        There are great fight scenes and some brilliant special effects for a show airing in the late 1990s. Some of the demons can be quite frightening and the vampire dusting technique continues to evolve over the course of the show.

                        Joss Whedon turned the vampire world on its head and never stopped bringing outlandish and captivating monsters and relationships to the show. The fact that the show still has a hardcore and dedicated fan base 15 years on proves that 'Buffy' is one of the best TV shows of all time.

                        With wonderful, witty dialogue, interesting and loveable characters and the perfect partnership of talented writers and actors 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer' is the best TV show ever in my opinion and it's well worth checking out. You can catch it often on Sky One/Two/Three or more regularly on FX. You can also buy on DVD with each box set being crammed with extras and available for as little a £13.00 each on sites like Amazon.



                        * For more information on individual seasons, check my reviews on them.

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                          06.08.2009 11:06
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                          Yet another gripping installment from the pen of JK Rowling

                          * Minor spoilers*

                          I find that the Harry Potter series are one of those collections of books that you can go back to time and time again and still be pulled into that magical world and feel all the emotions you did first time around. That's a bit of a difficult notion when it comes to tackling the fifth story in the series. Coming in at a whopping 766 pages, it is the longest story in the massive selling series that have become classics across the world.

                          Written by J.K Rowling, 'Harry Potter & The Order of The Phoenix' details the title character's fifth year at the fictional magical school Hogwarts. However, there are consequences from the events of the previous book, that our hero must deal with as well as some new enemies both within and outside the confinements of the castle.

                          Rowling undoubtedly is an author with a rare and incredible talent. Whilst this book may seem like mostly filler to the average reader with a lot of pointless sections and a bit of overindulgence in the explanatory side of things, it is the perfect stepping stone for the final two books in the series and Rowling has managed to create a realistic and perfectly thought out time line with the Harry Potter books. Obviously '...The Order of The Phoenix' is the calm before the storm and that is represented in the rather slow moving and frustrating pace and mood that she creates in this book.

                          Readers of the previous book will know that the most powerful dark wizard of all time Lord Voldemort has resurrected himself and is trying once again to seize control of the hidden magical community. You'll also remember that the Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge refused to believe Dumbledore and Harry's account of his return, instead choosing to slip into a fruitless denial. Harry, is spending the summer alone at Privet Drive and must once again contend with his antagonising 'muggle' relatives the Dursleys. However, the sleepy and boring human street is set to collide with the magical world in a way that spells a trial of under-age magic for our teenage wizard.

                          The Order of the Phoenix are of course a secret group, ran by Dumbledore who work against stopping Voldemort. Various characters from the previous books like Professors Mcgongall and Snape, Hagrid and the Weasley parents are members, whilst there are also some new characters introduced.

                          A lot of the first part of the book is dedicated to introducing the order and coming to terms with these new characters and it seems as if Rowling is moving at an even slower pace than usual. Her characters are continuing to grow, in particular Harry who is a bubbling pit of adolescent despair and rage. We see quite a different side to the character in this book and it leaves you torn as a reader between sympathy and plain annoyance at his behaviour. Ron and Hermione of course, are still on hand to keep him grounded though their characters seem to be stuck in a rut this book as Rowling glosses over characterisation and focuses primarily on weaving her magic in more gripping ways.

                          The arrival of Dolores Umbridge at Hogwarts is a perfect addition to the story. She is a vindictive and evil individual that brings a lot of humour and darkness to the story as she showcases just how far the Ministry of Magic would go to enforce their rules and regulations. She doesn't help Harry's adolescent spiral one bit, nor does the creation of Dumbledore's Army. A secret society created by certain students in which Harry teaches them the Defense Against the Dark Arts skills the Ministry is anxious to prevent.

                          There's so many side plots and different events going on in the book that it is rather messy and at times the plot can seem all over the place. Rowling's writing is still incredible but it just feels like there is a frantic urgency in the book to include everything she can and it can make for a rather disorientating experience at times. Couple this with the amount of pages and it's not really as exciting delving into the magical world as you'd have previously thought.

                          The final chapters though are a credit to her writing. It's almost as if she's kept us in suspense for the entire book to deliver one hell of a battle. It's Harry Potter at its darkest and it shines through perfectly. The tragedy and action that unfolds is captured far better on the pages of this book than it was in the movie, I must say. You can feel the urgency, the gripping nature of the fight just takes a hold of you. Harry Potter is incredibly powerful for making you identify with the themes and characters and a blinding fight like this is one of defining moments in the entire series.

                          Despite a rather clumsy and boring middle section, Rowling paces herself to deliver another brilliant ending. Whilst this is perhaps the slowest and poorest book in the series, it still has that magical spark that makes it so endearing and impossible to put down. The only problem is that younger readers may struggle to grasp the concepts here and also the story may become far too dark. It does seem with every book that Rowling wishes to leave 'The Philosopher's Stone' far behind her and as her characters grow and Voldemort's grip on the magical community increases, her audience also become more and more adult and the darkness that encases the fictional world she has created also reaches out to them in a spectacular and spellbinding way.

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                          • Boots Advantage Card / Credit Card / 88 Readings / 87 Ratings
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                            05.08.2009 11:08
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                            A worthwhile loyalty card scheme

                            I've never understood supermarket loyalty schemes or in store cards and as I rarely do a lot of shopping on things other than food it seemed pointless to me to bother getting all these cards when they'd probably not be used that often anyway.

                            However, I have since started getting all of my toiletries from Boots as I love some of their own products. I finally decided to try out their advantage card after my boyfriend at the time was always raving on about how beneficial it was to have one.

                            - How Do I Get It?-

                            I'd like to state that the Boots advantage card is probably one of the best card schemes out there. From research on other offers it definitely seems to be the most rewarding. It is free to get your own advantage card and you can sign up either by going in store or via the official Boots website. I did so on-line and had to enter a few details like my name and contact details. Within a week the card was sent to me in the post. It is the size of a normal credit or debit card and is white with the Boots logo in the centre and your name and unique number in the bottom left hand corner.

                            Every time you shop at Boots, you just hand in the card with your purchase [most times the cashier asks if you have one anyway!]. If you like to shop on-line you can enter the number on your card in a special form at the on-line checkout.


                            - What Do I Get? -

                            Buying from Boots stores or the website will give you advantage card points. For every £1 you spend, they will give you 4 points. Each of these points is equilavent to 1p. It may not seem like a lot but say you spend £10 in store. That's 40 points which is the same as 40p. If you're a consistent visitor to Boots then you'll soon find yourself having loads of points! I'd recommend still getting one even if you just visit the store occasionally as it is still very useful.

                            I do stress that purchasing products on-line will get you points but you will have to go to a store and activate them using one of the 'machines' [explained below]. It's not something I've yet done as the website doesn't sell a lot of the things I usually buy, but my friend is always complaining about how it takes away the supposed convenience of on-line shopping.

                            Being part of the advantage card club also means you are eligble for a variety of special offers 'normal' customers are not. There are machines located in a lot of Boots stores that allow you to insert your advantage card like an actual cash machine. When this is done you are able to view a number of special offers exclusive to advantage card holders and print them out there on the spot to use if you wish. These rarely attract me apart from one time where there was a 'buy one, get one free' offer on a shaving gel I purchase that wasn't possible without the card...

                            They also send you vouchers in the post such as a 'double points coupon'. This gives you double points on 2 separate transactions, though all of these vouchers do expire after about a month or so.

                            There are also in store offers and a parenting club which I have had no need for but from the description of the website it details extra money off vouchers and support for expectant/new mothers on baby products.


                            - How Do I Redeem My Points? -

                            You can redeem your points at any time if you wish. Just hand in your card at the cashier and ask to pay with your points. Once you have £5 worth of points for example you can buy something from Boots for that amount and get it free with the card! Your points will be knocked off your total and your receipt will tell you how many you have remaining. This is true of every receipt you get from Boots provided you have handed in your card.

                            HOWEVER:
                            You are unable to redeem your points on-line.
                            You cannot use your points to purchase gift vouchers or top up your
                            mobile phone.
                            You cannot have a part payment of points and cash.


                            - What's The Catch? -

                            To be honest there are none. This is a very worthwhile and rewarding scheme. I am using all the points I get to buy toiletry sets as Christmas presents. The best part is that even if you forget your advantage card, if you tell the cashier who will activate your receipt allowing you to go back and have the points added on to your current total.

                            Apart from the rather silly notion of not automatically updating your card with points if you make an on-line purchase and other silly little limitations [which are inconvenient but understandable], the Boots card is a worthwhile investment. You are always kept informed about the latest developments and treated with up most respect. The rewards may not always be right for you but sooner or later a bargain will come up that catches your eye. It really is worth to join the scheme for the money you can save not only when doing your normal shopping but also when it comes to those days when you can cash in your hard earned points!

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                            • Will and Grace / TV Programme / 82 Readings / 79 Ratings
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                              04.08.2009 10:39
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                              A sitcom about two best friends - one straight, one gay.

                              What do you get when you put together a wealthy,heartless bitch with a voice so high even Sooty's best friend Sweep would be mortified, a red haired, neurotic designer and two gay guys? Other than the obvious answer of the best orgy ever, you'd come up with 'Will & Grace', a very successful American sitcom that spawned 8 seasons from the autumn of 1998 before finishing in 2006 with nearly 200 episodes being broadcast during this period [194].

                              It's huge popularity even now means that it is rerun almost everyday back to back on both Living TV and occasionally on Channel 4 weekday mornings. Each episode is the standard length for a sitcom and is between 20 and 25 minutes long.

                              My gut instincts tell me that this is the wrong kind of show in every sense of the word. It's awfully stereotypical of the gay community in some respects and in others it manages to show that they are real people with real feelings just like everybody else. The fact that the show has a great cast who have a nice chemistry together and a knack for hilarious innuendo based jokes slotted in just about everywhere also helps!

                              The Show -

                              The show is based in New York in which the main characters Will & Grace share an apartment together. On first glance you'd expect this to be some cheesy romantic sitcom about two lovers [ewww Dharma & Greg], but Will Truman [Eric McCormack] is actually a gay lawyer, whilst Grace Adler [Debra Messing] is the aforementioned designer who is not only straight, but also Jewish!

                              The pair have been best friends for years and share everything together. Also in the picture are Grace's friend Karen Walker [Megan Mullally], a wealthy individual by marriage to a husband who is always in prison and never appears on screen. Karen has a hilarious voice and works as Grace's receptionist just for something to do though she rarely does anything work related. She also happens to be an alcoholic. Rounding up the foursome is Jack McFarland [Sean Hayes], a gay friend of Will's, who is every gay stereotype you could ever dream up in your head. He is a struggling actor who reminds me so much of the Joey character from Friends except he isn't as thick and is obviously gay.

                              Each episode focuses on some sort of obstacle that either comes up and gets in the way of Will & Grace's friendship or a personal situation they have to deal with. Sometimes the show also focuses on Grace & Karen, Jack & Will or the Karen & Will relationship. I always find that outside of the rare episodes where all the characters interact together in one large story they always seem to be split into two. Sometimes this makes thing more interesting but you rarely see all four of them in one scene. You can always guarantee that whilst one 'couple' will have a serious story that is at the heart of the episode, the other two [usually Karen & Jack] will provide a rather more humourouss and entertaining sub-plot.

                              Over the course of the show, topics concerning marriage, prison, homophobia, family drama, artificial insemination, deportation, drugs and of course sexuality are all dealt with. The writing is constantly strong and some of the scrapes that the characters get themselves into are great to watch. Whilst a lot of the comedic content explored in 'Will & Grace' can be considered unrealistic, the show uses this to mask over the more difficult and sensitive storylines, that sometimes run through one episode or several. I really liked the artificial insemination storyline in the show's 5th season. It showed Will's desire to have children and being unable to do so because of his sexuality. As he and Grace decide to have a child together through artificial insemination, Grace meets and falls in love with her soul mate of the show Leo and the plan and their friendship is thrown into jeperody. Messing and McCormack have an incredible chemistry together that makes them delightful to watch in whatever scene they're playing. It's strange for me because I actually don't find Will and Jack that interesting at all. A lot of the time I see Jack as just a filler and Sean Hayes seems far too comfortable in acting like a crazy, flamboyant gay guy. I find it to be very much over the top and fake and it makes me really dislike the character a lot of the time. Will is much more laid back and reserved and though I feel I am a lot like him, there is a spark with the character that just isn't present and McCormack often appears rather wooden.

                              It's Grace & Karen that often provide the best moments in the show. Grace's dysfunctional and neurotic behaviour at times is amusing whilst Megan Mullally steals the show for her portrayal of Karen. Her acid wit and cold heart demeanour, coupled with her hilarious, high pitched speaking voice make her the show's strongest character. Even more interesting are the rare occasions when we able to explore Jack & Karen's character more rather than the show always focusing on it's title pair.

                              The show uses lots of running gags in order to keep the comedy swimming over nicely. Things such as Will & Grace being referred to as married by other characters, Grace's small 'chest', Karen insulting Grace's fashion sense and Will & Grace's fondness for recording outrageously sad and cheesy answering machine messages being just some of them. There are also a number of supporting characters to add further humour to the show like Karen's maid Rosario [Shelley Morrison] or the very small and camp Beverley Leslie [Leslie Jordan].

                              Each season really sort of follows the same sort of structure with stand alone episodes or longer story arcs that further the character's and their romantic or life situations.

                              Conclusion -

                              Will & Grace will obviously not appeal to everyone. I think it's more of a show aimed at a female and homosexual audience. It is based primarily on top comedy and strong writing with a vibrant and energetic cast that slide into their roles easily and provide an enjoyable and wonderful show.

                              Whilst I don't always agree with the way the gay world is portrayed and I find more episodes to rather boring with their main content than good, I'll never turn it off when it comes on because it's something to take your mind off things. The humour is always on top form and will have you laughing no matter how hard you try to resist and the acting is of the highest quality.

                              All eight seasons are available in DVD box sets from stores or cheaper on-line from websites such as Amazon or Pla

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                              • Cadbury Creme Egg / Chocolate / 96 Readings / 96 Ratings
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                                03.08.2009 09:12
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                                One of Cadburys finest inventions

                                It's a shame that Cadburys crème eggs are so difficult to find once Easter has come and gone!

                                I have many favourite chocolates and sweets but if I was sad enough to compile a list of the ones that I enjoyed the most, the crème egg would definitely be in the top 3.

                                The crème egg in its current form was first introduced to the UK market by beloved chocolate makers Cadburys in 1971. Apparently the eggs are the biggest selling confectionery item between January and Easter. I'd say that the crème eggs are just a little smaller than a standard sized egg and obviously due to the name have the same name.

                                They come in a very attractive foil paper that has a mixture of colours on it such as red, yellow, blue and white. The Cadburys logo is present with its familiar purple background as is the words crème egg, written in a very bubbly purple font.

                                However, like most products the attraction of the crème egg has nothing to do with how it's packaged as the wrapper is pretty much removed anyway before eating. This is an annoying task as it is sometimes difficult to get all of the wrapper off in one piece without getting chocolate under your nails or having a stray bit still stuck to the egg itself!

                                You can smell the lovely chocolate aroma when you first open the product and it's nice that the filling hasn't oozed out of any cracks or such and made the egg all messy when. This has happened to me many times with imitating products.

                                The egg has a chocolate outer shell which in itself tastes amazing but it's the white and yellow filling that is the main attraction. You can bite the egg in half or just bite off the top to see the filling. It is dominantly white with just a little swirl of yellow to resemble a real egg. I didn't know until doing research today but the filling is actually made of egg itself alongside sugar and other such additives.

                                The filling has a very sickly taste and if you swallow it too quickly it can actually hurt your throat it has such a strong texture. It sort of lingers in your mouth whereas the chocolate just melts. It's also extremely sickly and just one of these can leave you feeling quite full. The chocolate acts as a barrier for your taste buds so you're not completely overwhelmed by the rich filling.

                                Sadly these eggy treats are not very big which is a disappointment for us but good for Cadburys as with such an entrancing taste you're bound to want more. The filling can be quite gooey and messy and if you're not going to devour your crème egg whole, be prepared to have the filling ooze out when you bite into your egg and leave a bit of a mess!

                                There's lot of fun ways to devour your crème egg which make them a fun product to eat, though be careful when giving them to children as its almost like handing them a tasty toy. It WILL get everywhere!

                                I don't think I need to say that nutrition wise, these little beauties aren't that good for you!



                                Cadburys crème eggs are usually available between New Year and Easter, though some shops can sell them all year round or at a discount price after April time. One egg costs about 50p though most shops will offer 3 for 1.00 or some such. There are little boxes that have 3, 6 or 12 crème eggs in them for a higher price as well as these other products that have branched out from the range over the years:

                                Mini crème eggs
                                Dairy Milk with crème egg bar
                                crème egg twisted
                                crème egg ice cream cones

                                I'm not sure if McDonald's still offer the crème egg Mcflurry as I don't eat there but I haven't seen it advertised on TV in a while so I guess not...

                                Crème eggs are an amazing little product that are damn right tasty. They serve brilliantly as a treat for yourself every now and again. A wonderful idea from Cadburys that combines their classic chocolate with a unique and gooey filling. One of their best products!

                                Just one favour. If you're going to rate the review - do share... How do you eat yours? :P

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                                • More +
                                  02.08.2009 12:42
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                                  A promising start to the successful TV series' comic book revamp.

                                  Buffy The Vampire Slayer was a very successful TV show that aired between 1997 - 2003, spawning seven seasons and making household names of its cast in particular Sarah Michelle Gellar who played the title role. However, when the series finally ended the show's massive and dedicated fan base were eager for a spin off like the equally successful 'Angel'. Sadly despite talks and various ideas forming about the characters of Faith, Spike or even Giles getting their own spin offs, none of the ideas ever came into being.

                                  In 2006 Buffy creator Joss Whedon announced that he would be reviving his fashion concious vampire slayer in comic book form and that the series would continue as Season 8 in this format. The first comic book was released in 2007 and the first arc is titled 'The Long Way Home'. The product I am reviewing combines the first four issues into one large book.


                                  Season 8 picks up where the TV show left off. After making all the potential slayers, actual slayers in order to defeat the First Evil, Buffy now finds herself in charge of a massive army of slayers operating all over the world. Of course she has her friends on hand to help her out. Buffy herself is based in Scotland with Xander, Willow, Dawn and a whole bunch of new slayers. Giles, Faith, Andrew and other characters from the TV series are scattered across the globe with similar organisations.

                                  However, things are far from peaceful as well as dealing with inner conflict, Buffy is worried about the arrival of 'Twilight'. A new foe whose identity remains concealed even now! Working with Twilight are members of the US government who think Buffy and her friends are terrorists after what they supposedly did to Sunnydale at the end of the TV series. The military are aided by deranged witch Amy Madison and shockingly Warren Mears, the guy Willow flayed alive during her spell as Dark Willow, who has grotesquely been reanimated by Amy and still skinless. Twilight wants to end all magic as he/she sees it and what Buffy has done as a huge threat to the world.

                                  That's the basic outline but does Buffy work as well without its small screen environment? The answer is yes and no. The artwork is done by a guy called Georges Jeanty and from the front cover he has managed to capture the characters perfectly. The picture of Buffy, Willow and Xander is very realistic and looks exactly like the actors themselves. However, inside I noticed at times that Buffy looked a little odd and her features became more and more unfamiliar whilst the rest of the characters that appeared were easy to identify even if they weren't formally introduced.

                                  The story follows a typical comic book format with the various boxes showing one piece of action and then moving on to the next. The story does flow very well though the battle scenes are very difficult to grasp as there are a lot of limitations on the drawing space and you really have to look hard to decipher what is actually happening in each picture. Lots of new characters are introduced whilst Whedon takes full advantage of the fact he no longer has to rely on a small screen budget or actors showing up and throws in a lot of slayers and a lot of characters make appearances from the show such as Amy's mother, Ethan Rayne and of course Warren and Amy herself. This is good as we get to say our favourite characters again but it also seems a very forced way of throwing in old faces. The manner in which Ethan Rayne appears is very ridiculous, though the picture of Warren skinless is probably more creepy than any of the demons that appear in the issue.

                                  Whedon's writing skills are obviously at work. The comic book is exactly like watching Buffy on television. The language is the same and you can really imagine any of the actors saying some of the lines in real life and his flare for writing a good story is obviously still strong as he sets up a lot of interesting mini arcs as well as working on the larger Twilight story. [Sadly it has nothing to do with novels by Meyer so sorry to disappoint]. Pictures of Giles cleaning his glasses or toying with Andrew's sexuality again only reinforce that Whedon is still alive and active and knows the voices of his characters.

                                  Whilst the series has drawn a lot of criticism for the rather controversial and unconventional twists the story has taken along the way, I feel that 'The Long Way Home' is a decent start to the Buffy comic collection. It will feed your need for the TV show by bringing your favourite characters back to life once more in a very slick and wonderful animated fashion. At times I do think the story jumps from one scene to another extremely quickly and whilst this works on TV or in a movie, it can leave very big holes in a comic book format as so much goes into actual body language and such. It seems that Whedon has yet to find his feet in the land of comic books and make that transition though he seems to have figured out that the sky's the limit and wastes no time in pulling out even bigger magic fights between Willow and Amy and of course turning Dawn into a giant...

                                  This is a very enjoyable romp that kept me entertained for a good hour or so with its unique and fresh look and very strange and rather revealing drawings, it was the first time I'd ever gotten into a comic book. The only problem is they are very hard to find in the shops, so you'll probably have to order issues from Amazon. I got this one from the local library. Buffy's back from the dead again so if you're a fan grab a copy to see exactly what does happen next.

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