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It seems that every musical genre has its own champion, a band or individual that manages to transgress the boundaries of public taste, and appeal to a wider audience than would be generally expected. With the beginning of the 90s the music of the masses was a mixture of various dance based genres brought about by the increase in technology involved in the production of music, allowing for more complex song structures to be assembled at the mere touch of a button. Of the various dance and house bands that populated the charts, quite possibly the most infamous and revered was the Scottish based band The KLF. Unlike their musical counterparts they took a very different approach to their music, which managed to inject a fun and humorous element to many of their songs.
The Ancients of Mu Mu
The KLF was the brain child of Bill Drummond and Jim Cauty, who also where the only two permanent components of the group, with any additional roles within their tracks being filled with various studio and guest artists. These additional artists provided each track of theirs with a slight variation.
Drummond came from a musical background prior to the formation of The KLF and not only worked as an A & R executive for the WEA music label, but also played alongside the likes of Ian Brodie from The Lightening Seeds fame, and Holly Johnson, the lead singer of Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
Like Drummond, Cauty also came from a very musical based background, and he worked alongside some greats of the industry when he performed in the band Brilliant, who had the song writing and producing team of Stock, Aitken and Waterman backing them, along with Drummond as their A&R manager.
All Aboard for Transcentral
The album The White Room was originally flagged for release in the late 80s to coincide with an art house style film from Drummond and Cauty by the same name, with this album forming the soundtrack. After several problems with the film which caused its eventual cancelation, the album was almost completely overhauled to give it a broader mass market appeal that could stand alone independent of the film. This process delayed the album's release by two years, and it eventually made it on to the market in March 1991.
1. What Time is Love (LP Mix)
The KLF were first and foremost the pioneers of the ambient house music genre, and the peaceful and serene intro to the album, courtesy of the singer Black Steel plays to their general music genre. However, this tranquilly beginning is soon torn to shreds with the insane chants of the infamous "Mu, Mu", and the fast and frantic dance drum and bass line that build the atmosphere into all out body moving experience. Vocally, the honors are taken by Issac Bello of the British hip-hop group Outlaw Posse, who does a fine job of keeping his lyrical rapping crystal clear over the top of the abundance of chaos that is occurring behind from the rest of the band. The track has been recorded in a number of formats alongside this album version, with a majority of casual listeners being the most familiar with the Stadium House version, which replaced the tranquil beginning with a rawer live sound complete with crowd noises.
2. Make It Rain
Following on from the more commercial sounding previous track, Make It Rain takes on a much darker and heavier feel; as the bass line and drums really rattles out through the speakers with a great sense of importance. To contrast to the throbbing of the backing track the lofty and almost angelic tones of Maxine Harvey flow gently across the song and although not always completely in time with the backing, they give the track added colour to what would otherwise be a very black and white style of composition.
3. 3 a.m. Eternal (Live at the S.S.L.)
Perhaps the true anthem of the album, 3 a.m. Eternal is a real masterpiece of music with every element that The KLF had at their disposal being thrown into the mix and shook up just for good measure. From the moment that you hear the gospel based chant of "KLF" from Maxine followed by the now familiar four note musical intro, the band's sound takes back its hardcore dance origins and gives the crowd the type of music that just can't help but make your body start to move in all sorts of ways that you never thought possible. Alongside the gospel based sounds of Maxine, the lead vocal line is taken by The KLF resident rapper Ricardo "Da Force" Lyte who just like Issac Bello is able to hold his own over the turmoil that is occurring all around him. Just like What Time is Love? this song is most aired as its Stadium House version which again features a more live format to it.
4. Church Of The KLF
More of a filler piece than anything else. This track is just here to provide a bridging gap between 3 a.m. Eternal and Last Train to Transcentral, although it does have some nice sounding gospel chanting from Maxine, it does little to add to the album itself.
5. Last Train to Transcentral (LP Mix)
The first thing you notice about the driving undertone to this track is that it has a very much train like chug to it. The rumbling bass line mimics the sound of a train's low thudding along the tracks, with the lighter cymbal tapping accenting the bass line. The whole song has a much slower tempo overall which escalates with rapidly played stringed instrument sections, before returning to its low pounding state. Once again vocalists' Ricardo Da Force and Maxine Harvey take the helm and steer the good ship KLF through its usual chaotic waters. This track was released as a single, but as with many of the band's single releases this track takes on a far more dance based feel to it than is present on the LP version, which is a much more toned down affair. Despite this change in tempo for the single mix the album version is a great little slowed dance track.
6. Build A Fire
The more dance and trance orientated beginnings of the album fall away with this track and, this song brings the album more in line with the band's previous album Chill Out which is a ambient house classic album, just perfect for unwinding and relaxing to. This has a very familiar sound to it, which those who have watched the David Lynch classic Twin Peakswill be able to pick up on straight away, as the background sound to the track contains the melody of the title theme within it. This is the first time on the album that Drummond and his great Scottish accent roll in for the lead vocals, and is joined once again by the angelically voiced Maxine who provides a lofty air to the tracks overall feeling.
7. The White Room
As the title song to the album The White Room keeps in place with the toned down tempo of the previous outing, and yet again features the vocal talents of Drummond. Drummond'svoice seems to have a really relaxing and soothing velvet tone to it, which gently laps at the listener's senses. The chilled out feel of the album is continued with some rather odd clarinet sounds occasionally punctuating the track, and adding some colour and variation to the proceedings.
8. No More Tears
No More Tears is quite an odd sounding track and clocking up at just over nine minutes it makes up almost a quarter of the album on its own. The oddness of the sound however doesn't detract from the quality of the song as it rolls along beautifully as a variety of samples and vocal styles are injected into the track along the way. When originally planned forrelease this song was a much shorter affair with a lot of the repetitive aspects of the track removed, however the repetition of the track sections actually produces a wonderfully relaxing and tranquil feeling, and coupled with such things as the almost random scat singing and piano work courtesy of singer Black Steel the song is a well rounded composition.
9. Justified And Ancient
Justified and Ancient begins almost note for note recreating the intro to the album, but this time instead of
like with What Time is Love?, the dance based beats don't kick in, and we are left with a chilled out and relaxed outro to the album, which caps off everything really neatly. In a biopic style this track seemingly takes us through just what the band and their beliefs are all about, with the singer Black Steel elaborating upon his brief appearance in the intro of the opening track of the album. As well as being the closing track to the album this song became the last single for the band from this album, however again in keeping with their other single releases it was vastly changed for the charts. The single version of this track is a much more commercial affair with a thumping dance beat to it and guest vocals from legendry country singer Tammy Wynette. The single also included a strap line of Stand By The JAMS, which was a play on the Tammy Wynette song Stand By Your Man. Alongside Tammy Wynette the vocal talents of Maxine Harvey and Ricardo Da Force take the honours instead of Black Steel on the single version. Comparatively between the two, even though I enjoy the dance aspect of the single version, I personally feel that the album version is perfectly arranged to top this masterpiece of an album off.
Last Call For Transcentral
Despite having a more rock and heavy metal based listening preference; I have always found that The KLF is one of those bands that I just keep going back to time and time again. It is very hard to believe that their music unfortunately is no longer with us, due to the destruction of all the original master copies of their entire discography by Bill Drummond and Jim Cauty. I feel fortunate to have picked up an original CD of this album when I lost the cassette of this spectacular masterpiece many years ago, however with the digital age it does now reside in its rightful place within my CD collection whilst its digital cousin graces my iTunes. In some ways this lack of any new copies of this album coming on to the market, to me just makes their music all the more special, as it was a piece of musical history that could never be repeated, and even if it was it would undermine the whole reason behind it.The KLF was perhaps to me one of the first bands that I took seriously, yes I had listened to other music before these guys came along, but it was with this band that my true musical appreciation grew.
Time to stand by the JAMS
3 a.m. Eternal (Stadium House Trilogy)
Last Train to Transcentral (Stadium House Trilogy)
What Time is Love? (Stadium House Trilogy)
Rockstar games has since its introduction of Grand Theft Auto III ruled the roost as far as sandbox genre games is concerned, however, asides from the fantastic game Bully (or Canis Canem) the Wii very much lacks this style of game within its library. In answer to this rather lacking section of the Wii gaming experience the software developers Radical Entertainment have come to the rescue with Scarface: The World is Yours, and in doing so have provided us Wii users with something to quench our thirst for a game with very little limits.
----Time for a Sequel----
The game basically starts where the movie ended, however, with one small but, very important detail changed, that being that Tony Montana doesn't die in the end but, instead manages to escape the mansion by the skin of his teeth. In fact, the game play opens with Tony shouting the iconic phrase "Say hello to my little friend" as you then set about with the challenge of getting Tony out of Dodge as quickly as possible. However, in escaping from the mansion Tony loses everything and is left penniless and in pretty bad shape, this losing of everything gives the game a great basis to start from as you, as Tony, are charged with rebuilding the Montana drug cartel and taking control of the world, well Miami at least.
----Take a Look at My Little Friend----
The game was originally developed for the PS2, Xbox and PC back in 2006, so graphically we are not talking about a masterpiece here, but certainly for its time the graphics looked pretty decent and would stand up to most other games out on the market at the time. The Wii version of the game came about one year later, and as with a number of other games that have been ported onto the Wii system the graphics are really left as they are, due to the Wii's lower graphical capabilities in comparison to the other gaming systems on the market, like the PS3 and Xbox 360. This being said though, the game setting is very well rendered, and a great deal of attention has been paid in the overall look of the city of Miami and its population. The only thing I found a bit poor was the lack of a multitude of NPC's loitering around like you would find in other games like the GTA series, this lack of a large number of just random people going about their business seemed to make what should be the busy streets of a city more like a ghost town. As far as Tony is concerned the portrayal of him is very much in keeping with his look towards the end of the movie, and has a lot of Tony's mannerisms built into his movements and gestures throughout the game.
----Move For Me Tony----
As with a lot of games in this genre there are a number of different buttons and movements of the controls are required to get your character to do everything you want them to do, and unfortunately for Wii users there is no substitute for the good old hand held joy pad for this job. This large number of controls does leave the poor Wiimote in desperate need of a few more buttons, as all the walking, shooting, and driving controls try desperately to find a button they can use. Although the Wiimote has the option of its movement sensor, Scarface just doesn't seem to put this to any real good use, as I'm sure this could have helped out in some way, and so making the controls for the game just that little bit easier to manage, instead of being restricted to just turning Tony on the spot. Despite the controls slight complexity a seasoned gamer should be able to pick them up with relative ease, it's just a case of remembering which button does what after you haven't play the game for a couple of days.
----Sounds like the 80s----
So we have an Al Pacino look alike running around, so quite obviously he needs to sound just like Tony too. Well, despite his best efforts Al Pacino is not all that young anymore and so was not given the part of voice actor for Tony, instead this honour was given over to André Sogliuzzo who was personally selected by Al Pacino for his closeness in vocal talents to the original sound of Tony Montana when the original film was released. Along with André's excellent performance, original cast members Steven Bauer and Robert Loggia make an appearance albeit in different roles. As well as some old faces we are treated to the addition of some new ones such as, Cheech and Chong, along with the rappers Ice-T and B-Real amongst many others. Asides from the voice acting the real standout part about the oral side to the game is the soundtrack, with a mixture of electro based 80's pop alongside rock, country, rap and even a bit of reggae, there will be something to suit all tastes whilst cruising around the streets of Miami.
----Staying Alive Till the End----
As far as the game length is concerned the main storyline should take the average gamer around about a day to complete from start to finish. However like so many games from the Sandbox genre there is not much chance of you completing it in such a way, as the real fun of games like this can be more found by just cruising around the streets and completing the multitude of side quests that are available to you. In fact, the completing of side quests can in some ways allow you to progress through the game at a faster pace as you gain cash and drugs from them, which enable you to gain bigger and better items within the game to aid you, everything from new weaponry through to a new cars and even a driver and an enforcer who accompany you around the game. Certainly there is an awful lot to do and see within the city limits and I'm sure that the game will have a great deal of appeal even after a lot of playing.
----Is The World Enough?----
Whilst not exactly a major rival to the GTA series, Scarface: The World is Yours does provide the Wii user with a game in the Sandbox genre which is certainly a gaming category that the Wii does not seem to have an abundance of. With some great graphics, vocals and soundtrack along with a slightly crazy plot line this game fills the gap in the Wii's catalogues quite nicely. In spite of the difficult controls the game has been one of those games that I have happily returned to time and time again, and I'm sure will give me many hours of entertainment in the future.
Over the years I have enjoyed a wide and varied music taste ranging from rock music through to country music and even into popular music. During all these various musical tastes though there has been one genre and in particular one band that has stayed close to my heart and that is heavy metal and the almighty Iron Maiden.
Iron Maiden was first formed back in 1975 by their bass player Steve Harris who is the only original member of the band since its conception. The band themselves pioneered the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement and soon found success with the release of their self titled debut album Iron Maiden. Released in April 1980 it marked the first of many chart hits for the band when it reached number 4 in the UK album charts in its first week of release.
Steve "Bomber" Harris - Bassist
Steve is the real driving force behind the band and due to his founding of the band itself has most of the say over the musical direction of the band as a whole, in fact a vast majority of the songs on each of their albums is either penned solely by him or co-written by him. As far as playing is concerned Steve has very distinctive sound, his franticly paced bass line can be heard tearing through the songs at all times. This provides each of the tracks with a clear and decisive direction to them.
Paul Di'Anno -Vocalist
Paul has a great range to his vocal talents and can quite easily change from a soft and subtle tone through to a rip roaring scream in a matter of a few short moments. Unlike Bruce Dickinson ( Paul's successor), Paul has a much rawer and almost unkempt sound to him which gives the tracks a dirty sort of feel to them.
Dave Murray - Guitarist
Asides from Steve, Dave is one of the longest serving members of the band. His initial wailing guitar sound on the first track of the album has made him a true firm favourite of mine in the band, and although looking quite reserved his playing is anything but.
Dennis Stratton - Guitarist
Alongside Dave the manic guitar work of the band was taken by Dennis, this was the only album to feature Dennis on it as he was later replaced by Adrian Smith a friend of Dave Murray from a previous band. Similarly to Paul, Dennis has quite a raw sound to him as well all be it in the form of his rhythm guitar work.
He certainly provides a great accompaniment to Dave's playing.
Clive Burr - Drums
Clive has a great no holds barred powerful drumming style, which at times was required to keep up with some of the complex and demanding guitar riffs during the tracks on this album. Clive would go on to make a further two albums with the band before leaving to be replaced by the half crazed Nicko McBrain Maiden's current drummer.
Dennis starts off the album with a feisty guitar riff punctuated by Steve and Clive's bass and drums, after just a few seconds Dave then wails his way in, shortly followed by Paul as the whole band explode from the speakers in a raw manner. The main content of the story is about a flasher exposing his self to women which seems like a rather unusual subject to base a song upon, but has worked out so well that the song has been a constant part of their live set to this date.
2. Remember Tomorrow
After the frantic pace of the previous track this song takes a really down turn in pace well initially anyway. The song itself follows a very set pattern of a slow quiet section leading to loud raucous part and then back to the quiet section. This song pattern can be seen with a number of other bands who have taken influence from Maiden. Perhaps one the best examples of this is with the band Metallica who were heavily influenced by Maiden as shown with the similarities between this track and such songs as Fade to Black and (Welcome Home) Sanitarium. Along with the great musical side to this song Paul truly rips his vocal line over the top of everything.
3. Running Free
A true classic in the Maiden repertoire this song just has everything that makes for a great Iron Maiden song, firstly we get the thumping bass line of Steve with Clive's drums hammering home underneath it then the tearing sound of the twin axemen not only providing some nice power chord sections to the song, but the true corner stone of the Maiden guitar sound in the form of the complex dual guitar riffs which are beautifully overlaid upon each other. The vocals to this song are of a fairly simple content which makes this the prefect song for the band to perform live as they have so well over the years.
4. Phantom of the Opera
Over the years the main song writer for the band Steve has drawn inspiration for some of the Maiden tracks from various literacy works. This is the first of his attempts at translating story to song, as him and the band try to tell the tale of the infamous Phantom of the Opera. Along the way we are again give the key musically traits of Maiden, with a bass line that hammers along overlaid with the two pronged guitar attack of Dave and Dennis. On an album that lasts just a little over 37 minutes this song is a true behemoth at just under 7 ½ minutes, despite this the various changes in pace and musical styling to the song leave the listener in a constant state of pleasure as the song almost whistles past you at breakneck speeds.
Time for vocalist Paul to sit out on this song, as the rest of the band breakout into an awe inspiring instrumental which literally attacks your ears from every which way it can. The song is seemingly unrelenting from the word go as it takes us along with it on a musical rollercoaster ride that takes to every high and low that an instrumental could go, without becoming tedious and boring.
6. Strange World
The end to the previous track Transylvania forms the beginning of this track as they seamlessly blend together to give us almost one complete track. However unlike its predecessor this song has much less sense of urgency to it, and forms the almost ballad of the album. The song not only provides a great break to the manic speeds we have encounter so far on the album, but also proves that Paul has a great sounding voice and that the band are more than just a one trick pony. There are some real haunting sounding guitar parts throughout the track which add to the overall feel of the song and provide a great backing to Paul's vocals.
7. Charlotte the Harlot
Along with the band's mascot Eddie the band have another reoccurring character through their career by the name of Charlotte. This is the first of their songs involving her and her antics as a prostitute. After the down turned beat of the last track this song has a real rocky and raw feel to it, and makes you just want to turn that volume knob up to 11 and thrash about like a mad man. During the whole song Paul's vocal line runs right over the top of the guitar almost in an attempt to punctuate each of his words with a strum of the guitar. In spite of the lyrical content to the song it doesn't feel as though there is anything that is really put in to the song that is all that offensive.
8. Iron Maiden
This track is by far and away the best on the album and really acts as the almost theme tune for the band. The song itself has a very simple structure to it, but it is this simplicity that makes it such a great song. Not only does the song provide us with a real feel to what it is that the band is trying to do, but provides the band with an almost perfect self indulgent live song to get the crowd singing along to. Paul's raw and raucous vocal tone rips over the pounding bass and twin guitar licks with a real sense of power and determination.
Looking back at this album now after what has been over 30 years since its original release the raw energy and enthusiasm of the band can still be heard. The album itself is one that frequently I will come back to as despite the fact that I find the current line up of Iron Maiden to be outstanding, it is the almost lack of polish to the sound of this album that draws me back time and time again. Along with this raw feeling, every song on this album is a true classic with each of them having become part of the Maiden live setlists throughout the years and still even now standing the test of time and being not just a winner to me, but the thousands upon thousands of Maiden fans out there. With the up and coming album New Frontier being released later in 2010 this is a great time to listen to just how this truly magnificent band started out with this album.
So the new golfing season is well under way and the weather is starting to turn out nice, so it seemed like just the right time to dig the old bats out and head back out on to the course. However, like most of us golfer's sometimes the bane of our life's can be the trusty old putter, which I have fallen in and out of love with more times than I've changed my underwear this year.
With this in mind I finally decided (or rather I finally convinced the little lady) that a new putter was the key to a more successful golfing experience for me this year. Over the years my Odyssey White Hot #7 putter has treated me as well as can be expected, however, she is now starting to show her age, so it was time I traded her in for a newer and sleeker model.
Over recent years the number of styles and manufacturers of putters has increased somewhat with a greater number of weird and wacky shapes appearing with equally insane names to them to match. Having tried a number of these slightly more outrageous designs though I personally found them to have too much of a busy appearance to them, which just led to me concentrating on the shape of the thing and not the putting stroke itself. After much searching though I finally came upon the one putter that seemed to hold all the magic, as the relatively unheard of company Fisher Golf came to my rescue with their fantastic CTS-3 putter.
To most people golf just appears to be a bunch of old blokes going around hitting a little ball with a stick, this unfortunately is not the case as a lot of work and technology is now being used in the production of these clubs, and this putter is certainly no expectation to this vast degree of technology.
---Looking Good, Putting Good---
The putter is a mallet variety, which means that it has a large head in a sort of semi circle design as opposed to what they call a bladed style putter which is more like the traditional shape club that is usually depicted. Having this enlarged size to the head naturally gives the head of the club a much greater weight and thus providing the player with a much easier to apply stroke on their putter, as the weight tends to pull the putter head through almost all by itself. Along with the head shape another key feature of the design of the putter is the way in which the shaft of the club joins the head in the centre of the club. This results in the club becoming what is known as face balanced, this in a similar way to weight helps to square up the head through impact and thus provides a straighter shot (or at least we can but hope it does.)
However, the main feature of this putter is the face which is a polymer insert, which is designed to not only provide a soft feel and touch to your putt, but also aids in the actual putting stroke itself. The way in which it helps your average golfer is by increasing something called "Dwell time" this is the time in which it takes for the ball to come off of the face of the putter after being hit. By increasing this time the accuracy of the putter is increased drastically by stopping the ball from skidding too much which is where a lot of the problems with putter accuracy come from. These polymer inserts are available in three different variations, Black which has a very firm feel, which is suitable for slow paced greens, Burgundy which provides a soft feel to it, which is more suitable for better condition greens, and finally Green which is the softest of the colour variation and would only really be suitable for only the very fastest of greens. Personally I found that the Burgundy insert was my favourite, though I would have loved a variation of it that provided all three coloured inserts in one, oh well I'll just have to convince my partner that three putters are now better than one.
---On the Course---
Now that we have some good weather I have been able to get back out there on the course and this has allowed me to give this little beauty a try out on the course. During the number of times that I have used my new putter I have found it to be very useful, the extra weight and head design have not only helped me to take fewer putts during my usual rounds but it has really instilled a greater level of confidence in my short game, and as any golfer knows 90% of this game is all about feeling confident. Quality wise I've found the club to of been made to an incredibly high standard with a fantastic look and finish to it that I really wasn't expecting from a company that I up until recently had heard nothing of. Though a lot of us out there I'm sure will be drawn to the big name brands this is one of those times where I can quite confidently say that this matches up to, if not, far exceeds the big boys in the putter market.
The reinvention of the Batman franchise by Christopher Nolan has given us the audience a need for all things batty. With a rather shallow movie related game being the only means of playing this new improved Batman, being our only chance so far. However now with the game Batman: Arkham Asylum we get treated to being the world's greatest detective in all his dark and knightly self.
We start off with Batman racing through the night towards Arkham Asylum, after having just captured the Joker from his latest one man crime wave. Once we arrive all seems fine until Joker is set free and all hell breaks loose, courtesy of all the goons that have been transferred over to Arkham from Gotham City's Blackwood prison after it burnt down with a little help from the Joker. You, as Batman are then charged with bringing order back to the mad house, and of course administering some downright dirty justice to the criminal inmates as only the Bat knows how.
The game is set in a third person style with the action being mainly seen over the shoulder of the Dark Knight. Though the main game play is in a linear form, there is still room for some free roaming of the island to take place, however this can be quite limited at the start of the game as certain areas only become available with certain items in Batman's arsenal. There are two distinctive parts to the game itself, the first of these is Batman making his way through the hordes of villains that the Joker has under his command. The second part of the game requires for you to solve a number of different tasks and problems in order to progress through the game. The combat consists of a vast array of fighting moves in a free flowing combat style, which allows for you to take on a multiple number of opponents at one time, in an almost seamless manner. Alongside Batman's physical prowess the wonderful collection of various Bat gadgets allow for some great combinations of fighting styles.
As well as Batman's gadgets for combat he employs a number of different techniques to locate and solve any problems he comes across. The main thing that you will use is his ability to use an x-ray vision which allows you to find secret areas ,and also plan how you can tackle large groups of bad guys who are armed to the teeth and baying for the Bats blood.
The graphical content of the game is nothing short of stunning, and even at its lowest settings it still provides a great deal of detail and wonder. All of the characters within the game are rendered to a very high level with even the bog standard henchmen being given a real life of their own. Above all though it is Batman who gets the most attention, and rightly so. Unlike in a lot of games like this where your character remains prefect, the whole game along Batman and his outfit really do take a good beating, and it is this level of attention that makes the game in my eyes complete.
Along with the stunning graphics the game contains a vast collection of vocal talents to complement them. The game employs various vocal actors from the DC animated universe to breathe life into the characters, with Kevin Conray, Mark Hamill and Arleen Sorkin providing the main characters of Batman, Joker and Harley Quinn. It's not just the character voices that are first rate, but everything within the game is given the special touch in the sound department. From the whoosh and clink as you throw a batarang at the wall, to the eerie and ghostly sounds of your first encounter with Scarecrow is masterfully done.
The main game plotline will take around about five to six hours of straight playing to complete for your average gamer, however in addition to the plot there are a number of hidden challenges and riddles along the way to complete courtesy of The Riddler. For those who find this type of game a bit of a challenge there is an easy difficultly level as well as an expert mode for those veteran gamers amongst us.
After completing the game for the first time, I had enjoyed myself so much that I almost instantly restarted the whole thing from scratch just so that I could experience the total immersion of a game in all its glory once again. As well as completing the main game there are a number of challenges that are opened up to you as you complete parts of the game. These challenges take the form of two different styles, firstly as a straight fighting scenario with you as Batman taking on a large number of thugs. The aim of this challenge is to achieve the highest score by combining as many fighting moves together to take out all of the bad guys as quickly as you can. The second of the scenarios is a little less direct, and requires for you to silently dispatch of a group of thugs along the way you can gain bonuses for taking out the thugs under certain circumstances, such as sneaking up behind them or throwing over a ledge. The challenge scenarios provide a welcome distraction to the main game especially when you get to a section in the game that is proving to be frustratingly difficult to complete.
Once in a while a game comes along that just really stands out from the crowd by a long way, and this game provides us with just that. There is just very little that you can fault in the entire game, and the whole thing just moves along at such a cracking pace that you will find it hard to tear yourself away from the screen. Although the overall length of the game is not huge the beautiful look of the game will bring you back wanting more, luckily a sequel to the game has been announced which if this game is anything to go by will be the most wanted video game of this year, if not this decade.
Being a more family orientated console the Wii has always been lacking in some of the more adult themed games. I really wanted a game that would not just entertain me, but also get my pulse racing just like that first time I saw the dogs jump through the windows in the original Resident Evil game. So when I learned that the Silent Hill franchise would be making its way over onto the Wii, I just couldn't wait to sample this survival horror game in all its dark and spooky glory. The game was released on 4th March 2010 and is basically a re-imaging of the original game in the series. This time around however the motion activated controllers of the Wii give this game a breath of fresh air. As with many other games on the Wii you, as the player are far more involved in the game than what you would be if using just your plain old joypad, and this game takes advantage of everything the Wii has at its disposal.
The game centres around the character Harry Mason a father who has been involved in a car crash with his daughter. When he awakens from the crash his daughter is nowhere to be seen, and so begins his quest to find her and discover just what is going on around him in this seemingly sleepy town. Along the way you are offered a number of different choices which will in turn alter the way the characters and scenes will appear and interact with you later in the game. The game takes place in three distinctive styles, firstly a form of exploration and puzzle solving, secondly in the "nightmare" sections which see Harry running for his life from faceless deformed creatures, and finally in a kind of psych evaluation with a doctor asking various questions on different subjects which will bare a relevance to the proceeding part of the game.
The game is played in a third person format with the action being seen from over the shoulder of the main character Harry. The unique control devices of the Wii are given a full work out as the Wiimote provides your character with the ability to look round and interact with objects such as turning door knobs or manipulating objects and the Wii Nunchuck providing your character with the means to move around the world of Silent Hill. Alongside these control abilities the Wiimote is also given a very interesting new function as the inbuilt speaker on it converts the Wiimote into a telephone to enable you to hear calls that you make or receive to your cell phone.
Despite the Wii's naturally low graphical capabilities in comparison to its rival console formats the games overall look is handled very well. Everything from the smooth and fluid movements of the characters, to the wonderful eerie backdrops that make up the game are among some of the finest you are likely to encounter on any Wii title. However it is the finishing touches that really show just how much work has gone into this aspect of the game as we see the chilled air being expelled from Harry as he breathes, and the spooky figures that suddenly dart past the corner of your eye and very nearly make you reach for a clean pair of underwear!
The characters voices, though not by world famous actors are all well played with the likes of veteran Silent Hill vocalist Mary Elizabeth McGlynn once more making an appearance in the gaming series with a beautiful rendition of the song "You Were Always on My Mind". The real star of the sound aspect of the game is brought to us via the Wiimote's cell phone ability as eerie voice after eerie voice is played down it just to keep the tension of the game as high as possible to the point of almost nerve shattering. Just like with the graphics the attention to detail is really quite remarkable with every aspect of sound being included in the game even down to Harry's breathing.
The game itself will last the average gamer several hours and due to the variable options that are presented to you along the way will lead the game into taking slightly different routes each time you play. Though the game doesn't have any real side missions (short of the odd collectible which seem to serve little to no purpose,) and is told in a linear form the game becomes so involving that playing it a second or even third time does not prove boring or repetitive to the player. So I would certainly say that this game does have a good degree of re-playability, however due to the sometimes jump-out-of-skin moments within the game some may find just the once round to be more than enough for the nerves to take.
Prior to this game I had not really played on any of the Silent Hill games so I knew very little about what to except from it in general, and quite honestly I was taken back with how I could have missed out on such an incredibly well crafted piece of gaming literature in the form of this series. Not only was I treated to a full immersion in just what the Wii could be truly capable of doing, but also I was shockingly entertained by just what the game was offering to me. Do be warned that this game is really not for the faint of heart or those in a nervous deposition as even the toughest of gamers will find themselves diving behind the sofa on some parts of this game.
I'm sure that like so many of us, certain pieces of music, albums or artists hold some form of special significance to us. For me the album that I hold to be special would have to be "Tango in the Night" by the great "Fleetwood Mac". Though most would say that it in no way compares to their "Rumours" album for me this is their cream of the crop. Whenever I hear this album it reminds me of my father as this was one of his favourites and he would play it over and over again to me to show me just what good music should sound like.
Fleetwood Mac underwent many different band line-ups during their career but out of them all this is pretty much their classic band line-up and the one that most of us would be familiar with. At the time of release back in 1987 the band consisted of;
Lindsey Buckingham: - Vocals, Guitar
Stevie Nicks: -Vocals
Christine McVie: - Keyboards, Vocals
John McVie: - Bass
Mike Fleetwood: -Drums
The only thing that I ever found odd about this was how they managed to find a man called Lindsey and a woman named Stevie to appear in the band, but oh well they did make for a wonderful singing pair.
By having three vocalists within the group the range and diversity of their song styles was pretty great and was coupled incredibly well with the unique playing style of Lindsey Buckingham, who played all of his guitar parts by picking the strings with his fingers as opposed to using a plectrum. Along with the masterful playing ability of Mike Fleetwood who had an amazing talent for making his drum kit literally sing out the beat.
1. Big Love
Immediately we are greeted with a very clean and crisp sounding start to the album with Lindsey's velvety tones running rampant over this quick paced beauty that is Big Love. Probably one of the most memorable sections from this song though is "oh" "ah" sounds that we hear through the song, which in fact where produced by only Lindsey using various pitch levels to his voice to give them a male and female sounding vocal to it. All in all this song makes for a great start to the album.
2. Seven Wonders
So with this track we see Stevie absolutely belt out this song which is certainly one of my favourites, and brings back memories of driving to Devon on holiday with my father as he seemed to have this song on constantly the whole way there. Despite having listened to it so many times though the track still sounds just as fresh and captivating each and every time. The chorus line of all three vocalists blend together wonderful and make for a spine tingling hook to the song.
The track starts off with the lovely keyboard work of Christine, who then proceeds to enchant us with her fantastic voice. Like most of the bands works this song has a very light and airy feel to it, especially with the lofty sounding backing vocals through the chorus. The musical content of the song is kept to a very simple and plain style to allow for the vocals of all three singers to really reign supreme throughout the track.
Without a doubt this is the best Fleetwood Mac song in my opinion and one that seems to mysteriously be missing from their greatest hits album for some reason. A great drum backing beat from the great man himself Mike Fleetwood overlaid with a tremendous bass guitar and keyboard line, which gives Lindsey and Stevie something to really work over as they lay down some thick and smooth harmonies.
5. Tango in The Night
The title track to the album starts off very calmly and gentle, but despite this subtle sound to the tracks beginning you can feel the more powerful chorus section building up through most of each verse. The song also boasts a tremendous guitar solo from Lindsey towards the end of the track. In comparison to their previous tracks on the album this song has a much darker and heavier edge to it, and makes for a wonderful break in the album.
The feel of the album instantly lifts straight back up into the clouds with this track and brings with it an uncomplicated sound along with it. The only problem though is I just feel that this song suffers from where it is on the album as following on from the title track of the album leaves this song feeling flat in comparison.
7. Seven Wonders
The lofty harmonies are laid on nice and thick with this song sees both Stevie and Christine teaming up to absolutely rip into this killer track. Fleetwood Mac never seem to have an overall complex song structure to any of their tracks, but this just stops the ear from being distracted from the main vocal lines. This being said though there is still enough in the music side of this song to enhance the overall sound of it.
8. Family Man
After the girls have had the reign of the vocals over the last few, it is time for Lindsey to once more take the lead, and he truly does just that as his voice leads the way with his spritely Spanish sounding guitar work rattles along with it. The song has quite a funky and almost poppy beat to it and keeps the song moving along at a good pace.
9. Welcome To the Room... Sara
The tempo of the album remains at a nice and smooth pace with Stevie returning to the lead vocals for this track. This again is another great sounding track, but just doesn't seem to match up to the rest of the album. Lindsey and Christine provide some great sounding backing harmonies throughout the song as well.
10. Isn't it Midnight
The album jumps back into a much rockier feel and sound as Lindsey's guitar playing gains a real edge to it during the intro and verse sections of the tune. During the chorus lines though the song lifts into a much higher and lighter plain. This track manages to also showcase some more of Lindsey's majestic soloing abilities.
11. When I See You Again
Unlike a majority of the rest of the album this track has a much more stripped back and bare feel to it which just gives Stevie the opportunity to demonstrate just how good a vocalist she is. Lindsey and Christine join in during the chorus parts to make for a wonderfully haunting sound to the track. The music to the song is literally made up of just Lindsey's guitar and the odd occasional piece of percussion from Mike.
12. You and I (Part 2)
After the last tracks almost absence of musical instruments this track makes back up for it and brings a really upbeat and bouncy feel to the ending of the album. The vocal for the track is given a massive range by at times alternating the vocal line over both your left and right speaker making the song sound absolutely massive and all encompassing.
One of the great things about this era of Fleetwood Mac was the great ease at which the band slipped between male and female main vocalists without it sounding out of place at all. This really gives this album something for everyone and doesn't leave the listener becoming bored of the same style being used over and over again which unfortunately some bands can fall prey to. The album spawned no less than six singles from it with their biggest success being Everywhere which peaked in the UK charts at number four. Even now after a good 23 years this album still sounds and feels just as strong as that first time my father started to teach me just what great music is all about, and has been a solid favourite of mine since then. All in all if you are tempted into sampling just what Fleetwood Mac are all about then this is a great place to start and if you should like it then their Rumours album is an absolute corker too, and certainly worth your listening time as well.
Having suffered from eczema for a number of years I have never had the best of skin conditions, so I am constantly being badgered by my girlfriend to keep my skin moisturised to prevent it from drying out too much. Since becoming a father I now really understand what sleep deprivation is, relaxing and sleeping are something that is now becoming a thing of the past for me, especially with the increasing amounts of energy that my children have got and my advancing years. This has greatly increased the poor condition of my skin and just lately has lead to the areas around my eyes starting to become a little worst for wears. Not only are they sunken with black rings around them, but the delicate skin around the eye area is becoming quite dry and sore due to my constant rubbing from tiredness.
Although I'm not a vain man and I don't have any real kind of skin care regime, I thought it was high time to do something about my poor little peepers. I work fairly close to Boots and so I am usually down there buying one thing or another and I will quite often find a £5 voucher in my bag for the No7 range. Although I have always considered this to be a female range of beauty products I thought I would have a little nosey to see if there was anything worth using the voucher on as I was passing the No7 stand on my way out of the store.
I happened to notice a tiny shelf relegated to the men's range of skin care products, with only a few products to look at I didn't feel overwhelmed. However looking at the high prices I wondered who in their right mind would buy any of these products if they had to pay the full retail value. The selection of goodies were mostly new to me and after perusing the shelf for a couple of minutes feeling somewhat self conscience I plucked up the courage to have a closer look, I noticed the eye stick and picked it up for further inspection. At £7.50 for a tiny little box I was a bit stunned, but after reading the blurb on the back of the box and all its promises I decided to give it a shot only because I had a £5 voucher of course.
==Just look at that box!==
The miniscule box contained a small stick tube that contains a measly 6g of product, so you're really not getting much for your money at all. On the plus side it is something that will easily slip into my pocket and the dark grey packaging doesn't draw attention to it. There is no information on the actual tube itself, other than the name of the product and a recycling symbol but to be honest they wouldn't fit much more on there.
==Is this eye cream or glue?==
The tube looks similar to that of a glue stick, however do be aware that's where the similarities end as all the posters I tried to stick up with fell down again after only a couple of seconds. The large cap lifts off with ease to reveal the slimy looking goo inside, and the colour isn't very appealing being a putrid yellow colour I don't think the slimy appearance helps though. Upon sniffing the contents, (not sure why...) it has a subtle but odd scent to it. The base of the tube is to be twisted for the product to rise in order for it to be applied in a similar manner to a lip balm (damn now you know that I use lip balm too). It states that you are to glide it along the contours of the eyes, not too difficult to do then. Applying it feels slightly cooling as you rub it along your skin with a slightly thinner texture too it than your standard lip balm. It does absorb into the skin fairly quickly without leaving any sticky gung behind, plus once it is applied it is not visibly noticeable so you don't look and feel too girly whilst using it.
==Does it work then?==
After applying it morning and night I was expecting the skin under my eyes to improve, after a few days I can't say I noticed a vast improvement, in fact I'm not sure that there were any visible improvements at all. However I continued to use the stick in hope that it would work eventually, but after a week or so the skin under my eyes had become irritated and the skin where I had been applying the cream had become red and inflamed. The product claims to be hypo allergenic and suitable for sensitive skin so I wasn't expecting it to have any bad reaction with my skin, but I know that I have many problems with these so called sensitive skin products before in the past so I'm not truly surprised for my skin to have reacted in such a way.
==Harry's final thoughts==
All in all for the fact that the product should have cost £ 7.50 I certainly wouldn't recommend it as it hasn't really given over any of the benefits that it claims to have to me. To be honest even at the £2.50 that I did pay for it I'm feeling slightly ripped off. Oh well back to the old drawing board, maybe a couple of hour's kip will do the job (at least it won't cost me anything.)
Back in 1977 a large number of key events occurred in the world; Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Silver Jubilee, Star Wars was first released, Marc Bolan died, and a certain reviewer first appeared in a maternity ward in Bury St Edmunds. Amongst these rather important dates for your diary came the release of the 4th best-selling album of all time, "Bat out of Hell" by the musical mountain that is Meat Loaf. Though this was not his first album, it is the first upon which he was the major collaborator and marked the start of a massive decade spanning career for Meat Loaf.
Having been force fed rock music from a very early age by my father with the likes of such things as Dire Straits, Fleetwood Mac, and The Rolling Stones; I found this album incredibly easy to get into and it has since prompted me to buy several more of his albums throughout the years. The album itself has been re-released on a number of occasions each time with the inclusion of extra tracks; however for the purpose of this review I will be covering the first edition of the album which I have owned on vinyl, cassette, CD and of course it now resides within the music files of my computers as well.
==The Tracks from Hell==
1. Bat Out of Hell
There are very few opening tracks to an album that can match up to this pure tour de force that is the title track to this album. Starting off with some quite stunning piano work accompanied by Meat Loaf's incredibly powerful voice this song very soon builds up in to an all encompassing rock out. The song itself contains a large number of pace and style changes throughout it, everything from slow and heartfelt sections through to absolute pure and simple rock of the highest quality. Whenever I listen to this track I personally find it to be just as fresh as the first time it graced my stereo all those years back, and still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
2. You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth
After the brief spoken part of this track the song takes off at a nice steady pace, though a great song in its own right with some great vocal work from Meat Loaf I really feel that this song suffers from having to follow on from such a rock classic as the previous track. This being said I still really enjoy listening to this track and it contains some nice harmony sections through the chorus sections. The only thing that I personally don't much care for is the spoken section at the start of the song in fact my iTunes is set up to miss the first 49sec of the track nowadays.
3. Heaven Can Wait
The first of the ballad tracks on the album, we see a good majority of the song being made up of just Meat Loaf's voice over yet another bout of fantastic piano playing. Unlike the previous tracks Meat Loaf's vocals have been really brought under control to produce a wonderfully heartfelt lyric to the song. Even though Meat Loaf's raw power is not there in his singing his passion is there and can be felt in bucket loads, making this one of the best songs on the album to me.
4. All Revved Up With No Place To Go
The album's tempo returns to a rockier pace as we enter this song and really motor along with a rather thumping style drum and bass combination in the background with some nice saxophone work over the top of them. Even though this is a great song I would have to say this is the track I am least impressed with on the album, which is a shame as on any other album this song would really shine.
5. Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad
The album drops back down to the ballad pace of "Heaven Can Wait", however we are give a bit more music for our money in this track. Despite it not holding the same simplistic style as "Heaven Can Wait" this track still contains a great soulful feel to it. This does mean that Meat Loaf's voice is given a bit more edge and power to it which really adds to the overall sound of the song.
6. Paradise By The Dashboard Light
"Bat out of Hell" may be Meat Loaf's most popular track, but personally for me this song is his finest. The track itself is broken down into three quite different and distinguishable parts; we firstly start off with "Paradise" which has a very rocky and American Diner feel to the way it trucks along. Following this the second part of the song "Let Me Sleep on it" turns up the pace just that little bit as singer Ellen Foley lets fly with some fantastically power vocals that come on par with that of Meat Loaf's. The second part of the track builds into the climax that is the third part of the song "Praying for the End of Time" which rocks the roof down and cranks the pace of the song up into overdrive. All in all this song makes for one stunning epic of a musical masterpiece and makes for a great karaoke track as well, especially when you are trying to imitate the Baseball commentary track as well.
7. For Crying Out Loud
As well as this album containing one of the best openers of all time, "For Crying Out Loud" makes for one of the most fitting closures to an album that I have ever heard. Musically it sits just in between "Heaven Can Wait" and "Two Out of Three" with a soft and sombre feel to it that can very quickly escalate into a rather edgy and raw sounding performance. The diversity of Meat Loaf's voice within this song is amazing, as he very quickly and simply turns from a quiet and reserved vocal line to an all out onslaught to the ears. By the time we reach the ending of the track there can be little doubt left in your mind as to just how great a singer Meat Loaf truly is.
==This Hell Feels Just Like Heaven==
No matter what mood I am in this is just one of those albums that I can listen to and get just as much enjoyment out of it. It is very hard not to see why this album has been so popular over the years and it still has a highly fresh and raw sound and feel to it. The album has a bit of something for everyone and if you haven't already got a copy of it lurking in your collection then as soon as you've finished reading this get your shoes and coat on and get this album now, as there is no doubt as to you being impressed with this masterpiece. For those who can't find a copy of the original seven track version of this album the best version to get would the eight song album featuring a much younger looking Cher providing an amazing duet alongside Meat Loaf in the form of the classic track "Dead Ringer for Love".
Ever since the end of the new Battlestar Galactica I have been looking around for different TV series' to occupy my time, and amongst the one that I have enjoyed Leverage has become one of my favourites.
The show centres around a group of modern day "Robin Hood's" who work on behalf of those who have been mistreated by the rich and powerful, to whom regular channels of justice don't seem to apply. The main antagonist of the show is an ex insurance fraud investigator by the name of Nathan Ford affectionately known as Nate to the rest of the group that he works with. Within each episode of the series the Leverage gang pull off a number of elaborate scams and cons to right the wrongs done to common folks who have come to them for help.
Nathan Ford "Nate" - Mastermind - Timothy Hutton
Nate is an ex insurance investigator who was dismissed from his company after his son was refused payment on his treatment on the grounds that it was experimental, which resulted in Nathan becoming an alcoholic. Nathan provides the mastermind role to the team and is able to plan in great detail about any sort of situation that they come across and will usually have more back up plans than your average episode of the A-Team. Despite the fact that he is undertaking in a number of criminal activities he tries to maintain a moral high ground convincing himself that what they are doing is the right thing. Timothy does a great job of portraying the role especially whilst he is playing the denying alcoholic, however it is his cool and calm exterior during the jobs that they undertake that is quite stunning to watch.
Sophie Devereaux - The Grifter - Gina Bellman
Sophie is an aspiring actress with just one problem, mainly the fact that she's terrible at acting on stage, however her real stage is the criminal world where she becomes one of the most diverse and skilled members of the group. Her ability to gain the trust and confidence of anyone that she meets is first-rate and will usually provide the team with a way to get to the person that the group are trying to take down. As the most familiar face on the show Gina provides the show with a wonderful performance, her portrayal of her character is fantastic and the onscreen chemistry between her and Timothy really adds to the show and provides the two characters with a sense of familiarity to each other.
Eliot Spencer - The Hitter - Christian Kane
Whereas the rest of the team prefer to take a more subtle approach to their criminal doings Eliot prefers the more direct approach and provides the muscle to the group. Highly skilled in various forms of martial arts and weapon use he is easily able to protect the gang from most threats that they encounter, despite him displaying a great skill with guns he does show an extreme distaste towards them preferring to take on his opponents in a more personal way. Along with his tough man role he does also show an incredible talent for gaining the trust of the ladies which is in no way hindered by his rough and rugged looks. Christian shows a real talent in his portrayal of Eliot and he has some great scenes during the series, it is just wonderful to watch him try to reign in the killer instinct that his character has when the team are working in a more normal situation, such as when he becomes the chef at a wedding.
Parker - The Thief - Beth Reisgraf
Parker is a highly skilled cat burglar who is perfectly summed up in the first episode when Eliot refers to her as "Twenty pounds of crazy in a five pound bag." She is a massive risk taker and is always challenging herself with more and more elaborate ways of doing things. Despite all of her skills as a thief though she has a real inability to connect with people socially, and will quite often come out with very harsh and almost cold comments towards people that they are trying to help. Before watching the show personally I had never heard of Beth however after doing a little checking about I found out that she was at one point engaged to comic actor Jason Lee, and does seem to show a quirky sense of humour much like his. Beth provides some great comic relief to the show and some of the things that she does during the series are just brilliant to watch. Even though at times her character is shown to be very headstrong and independent she does a great job of bringing out the troubled and almost innocent side of Parker's character.
Alec Hardison - The Hacker - Aldis Hodge
Now in order for the Leverage gang to pull of their elaborate scams they require a lot of information on their targets and usually as quickly as possible, this is where Hardison comes in as he brings the modern age to the team providing them with all the latest gadgets and computer wizardry that he can muster. Aldis does a great job of portraying Hardison as he tries to bring the team into the modern technologically age. His onscreen chemistry with Beth really adds to a real "will they won't they" subplot going on throughout the first series. The dialogue that Aldis has as Hardison plays up to the "geek" status that he has and is littered with reference to many different Sci-fi programs especially "Doctor Who" with a few times of him providing names from the "Doctor Who" as aliases for the gang.
There are a couple of reoccurring characters during the series most notably would be Sterling played by the fantastic Mark Sheppard who prior to this appeared in my favourite Sci-fi program Battlestar Galactica as Romo Lampkin the defence lawyer for Gaius Baltar and also as Cecil L'Ively in the episode "Fire" from the first series of the X-Files. Sterling worked alongside Nate also as an insurance investigator and shows signs of being just as devious and cunning as Nate can be, but Mark portrays him in as a dark side version of Nate who will go to the greatest of extremes to get the job done. Even though Nate has left the insurance firm Sterling still considers him a threat and on occasions will play the role of arch-nemesis to the team. One of the other actors that I recognised from the series was Saul Rubinek from Sci-fi channel's show "Warehouse 13" and "Eureka" who stars in the pilot episode and is the one who firstly brings the team together and provides them with their first job.
---The Con is on---
Each episode of the show starts off in a pretty similar fashion with basically someone approaching the Leverage team with a problem that cannot really be solved via the normal channels. The team will then set about bringing down the bad guys and bringing justice to the victims that they are working for. The aim of the game for them is to set up an incredibly elaborate con to pretty much give them what they want whilst leaving enough rope for the villain of the day to hang themselves. Much of each episode involves the setting up of the con with a good majority of the action only occurring towards the end of the show; however this being said the way you think the con is going is not always the case as quite frequently something unexpected will occur meaning all will seem lost up until the last minute. Even though each of the episodes can be watched independently to each other there are a number of running themes that occur through the series such as Nate's drinking and the team changing feelings towards how they used to act as criminals and how they are now as "the good guys".
My favourite episode of the series would have to the two part finale "The First David" and "The Second David" jobs. These episodes provide all the elements of the previous show but with some fantastic twists and turns along the way which bring about an absolutely perfect climax to the series.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the first series of the show so much so that I am currently sitting here eagerly awaiting the next part of the second series to grace my screen. All of the acting from the main cast all the way through to the background players is first-rate. Alongside this the sets and locations that are used during the show are brilliant and I personally would love to work in a place like the Leverage teams offices. The only thing I felt was a little bit bad was the overacting that sometimes occurred from certain characters that the team were trying to play during their cons especially from Nate as a lot of the characters were so seemingly outrageous, that how anyone with at least half a brain couldn't see through them was ridiculous to say the least. As long as you can suspend your disbelief in regards to things like this though there should be absolutely no reason why you, like me, will find a great deal of pleasure out of watching this slightly out of the box show. Just don't blame me if after watching a few episodes that you suddenly start becoming a criminal mastermind and start robbing the rich to give to the poor.
Finally after a year of the game being out us poor old British Wii owners get to join in with the revolution that is "Rock Band 2". The game is part of the ever increasing range of music and rhythm based genre games that have sprung up around us in the recent years. Having always been a big fan of the first game I was overjoyed when the sequel made its way into our household, as it made available a lot of features that were up till now reserved only for the likes of the PS3 and Xbox 360 owners. The game has again been produced by the company Harmonix who are the guys behind the original "Rock Band" title as well as creating the original "Guitar Hero" series which would then be taken over by Neversoft.
Just how do Wii Rock?
First off for those unfamiliar with this particular style of game the aim is to play along in time to various songs using different pseudo instrument style controllers, with the ability to have up to four players join in you and your friends are able to create your own band and dominate the music scene. With this game to the ability to use the guitar from the Guitar Hero game series has been included so you no longer need to have two different sets of guitars for each of the gaming series.
During each of songs you will need to press the various buttons on the neck of the guitar in time with the pattern of notes that appear on the screen just like the "Guitar Hero" games pressing the buttons is not enough though as you have to hit the strum bar located on the body of the guitar in order to activate each of the notes. The drums work on a similar basis but instead of requiring you to just press some buttons on the instrument you get to beat the living daylights out of your fake drum kit as each of the pads corresponds to each of the various notes that appear on the screen. Unlike the other instruments the vocals take on a slightly different tone as you get to blast out karaoke style as you physically sing along to the track with the main key being that of sing in time and at the required pitch.
With all of the instruments there are varying levels of difficultly ranging from "Easy" with the option of a No Fail which basically allows you to play the whole song through no matter how bad you are, all the way through to Expert level which sees the notes appearing on the screen at breakneck speeds and giving those fingers the workout of their life. With each of songs there are two main objectives to reach for the first of these is to achieve the maximum number of notes played this is measured by you being awarded with a number of stars anything from one star for you doing absolutely abysmal to five stars for you performing the song perfectly. The second target for each song is to achieve the highest score points wise this is monitored by awarding you with a set number of points for each note played, and as you string more notes together without making a mistake these awarded points are multiplied however be warned that if you should make a mistake the score multiplier will reset and you will have to start a fresh string of notes again to bring back the scoring bonus.
Do Wii look good then?
Overall there is a great upgrade graphics wise in comparison to the original "Rock Band" with the most obvious addition being the inclusion of the option to customize your little rocker to either look similar to yourself or as outrageous and zany looking as you want. As with most of the games that cross platforms between the PS3, Xbox 360 and the Wii this game will never be able to keep up with the graphically enhancements that HD and a far great computing power can provide but they certainly still make for a great looking in game experience. Each of the characters will react in various ways during different songs with a great deal of varying camera angles coming into play as well for example when the guitarist goes into a solo the camera will sometimes look up along the neck of the guitar to witness the fingers of the player moving up and down the fret board.
Can Wii play louder?
With the original "Rock Band" game we were treated to just under sixty songs to play through, but with this sequel that number has been increased out to 84, as well as this increase of songs available all of the tracks are actual master recordings by each of the bands themselves as opposed to the original which featured quite a number of cover versions within its ranks. As with the first game the songs available range from the golden oldies in the form of such bands as Fleetwood Mac and The Who all the way through to the modern music age with such bands as Paramore and Avenged Sevenfold. If that wasn't enough music to make your ears bleed though you are in for a treat in the form of the in built music store which allows you to browse a massive collection of songs that you can access for a price of course from over two hundred and fifty artists spanning nearly four decades of musical influences. The release of the downloadable songs has prompted a number of bands to release a downloadable album for use in the game alongside the proper album so far we have had entire albums being released by the likes of Guns 'n' Roses with their Chinese Democracy album, Pearl Jam with their new Backspacer album and the fantastic Spinal Tap with their latest offering in the form of their Back from the Dead album. As well as these more well known bands we get some much less well known bands making the store like the amazing Anvil (for those of you who don't know about these guys you need to check out the documentary about them.)
If you want to see exactly what songs are included on the game you can take a look at this webpage;
I Wanna Rock Band All Night
Like a lot of the other rhythm and music based games in this genre there is an awful lot of longevity to this, like I said if the original songs that are included with the game are not enough the ever increasing list of downloadable tracks should keep you going for a heck of a long time to come. A nice feature that the game also includes is the fact that if you don't have people to join in with you in playing on the various instruments in the game you can join up with other users online and create your own worldwide band. Like with a lot of the Wii's online games there is a means of inputting your friends Wii codes so that you can easily connect with them to play. If this wasn't enough for you the creators of the game also run in game competitions which will appear at the various venues in the game, these competitions can take various forms from trying to achieve the highest score on one or more songs too gaining the highest note run over several songs which can be a very frustrating competition especially when you fully complete two songs and then miss the first note on the third song.
To Rock or Not to Rock
With so many different things included in this game it is certainly one to keep my interest for some time to come, and will make a fine addition to my ever increasing collection of games from this genre. Despite all of the praises that I have for this game there are a few bad points to it as well the first of these being that fact that whenever I play it I have to have my TV turned up to almost unbearable volume levels just so that I can rock out as hard as possible. This unfortunately means that my neighbours probably like me even less than usual now, and also that while I'm rocking away my girlfriend finds it incredibly funny and will usually sit watching me in fits of laughter. Seriously though the only disadvantage with this game or any of the others from this genre is the drum kit as great an idea as it is they just make such a racket so it's well advised not to play this game at 1 am that is not unless you like having your door knocked down by the police.
Alongside the game there is also opportunity to link up your game to the games official website here you can check on new downloadable music that will be becoming available and other game related news such as up and coming competitions and new products as well.
The address for the games official website is: http://www.rockband.com
I'm sure that this game will provide just as much enjoyment to everyone else as it has to me so get out there and start rocking!
-Film Only Review-
It seems in today's world more and more of us try to make sense and patterns of seemingly random and unrelated events and things, anything from the stars in the sky to dates of historical events to the geographical locations of old Woolworths stores (just check out this website for a bit of a laugh http://www.standupmaths.com/woolworths/.)
Following in this theme we come to the film "The Number 23" starring the fantastic comedic talent of Jim Carey who takes on a much darker and almost sinister style role in this movie than we have previously seen in his others.
What is The Number 23?
The movie centres itself around Walter Sparrow played by Mr Carey himself a seemingly ordinary guy who spends his working life as a dog catcher. The story starts off with him being bought a copy of a rather old and tatty looking book by his wife entitled "The Number 23" the book contains a story about a character named "Fingerling" a saxophone playing detective who has an obsession with the meaning behind the number 23 and how the events in his life keep relating to it. As Carey's character becomes more engrossed in the book he too starts to notice the number 23 cropping up in the world around him more and more frequently, along with the striking similarities between himself as the main character in the book "Fingerling". From there we are taken on a journey with Walter as he tries to unravel just what the connection is between the book characters obsession with the accursed number and his own more frequent sights of the number in his everyday life.
Just who is counting to 23?
Walter Sparrow - Jim Carey
Now obviously Jim Carey is best known for his comic roles, but personally I have enjoyed those parts in his movies where he has been just that little bit more serious for example in films like "Man on the Moon" and "The Majestic". So for me this was a real treat to see him doing something a little bit out of the box and off the well beaten track. His slightly zany side was still present and you kept expecting him to do something daft at any moment but in all, this seemed to add to the growing paranoia and insanity of the character.
Agatha Sparrow - Virginia Madsen
Virginia I feel has always been one of those vastly overlooked actress' who is able to perform a superb role no matter what the style of film is. For those of you amongst us who don't who see is just check out her rather small but fantastic roles in such films as "The Rainmaker" and my personal favourite film of all time "Dune" in which she starred as the Princess Irulan. In this film she does a stunning job of trying to bring balance to Carey's character as the number 23 takes a firm grip on him.
Along with these two the cast also contains the likes of Danny Huston, who has just recently starred as Colonel Stryker in the X Men: Wolverine movie and Logan Lerman who has just starred with Gerard Butler in the Gamer and will be taking on the title role in the new film Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Both of these play their respective roles very well and give a lot off added background to the main characters of the film.
For a full list of the cast from this film you can visit this web page:
Did I count to 23 also?
Overall I found this film to be really rather enjoyable, the fact they have got such a notoriously funny guy to play the main part in this film is a great testimony to both the acting ability that Jim Carey possesses and also to Joel Schumacher for bringing Carey into such a role. The film itself does contain some graphic content within it and quite rightly deserves the rating of 15 that it has, this being said though the more gruesome content of the movie is not just there for shock value and is all kept within the boundaries of the film and never act as the be all and end all of the movie.
The only thing that I found a little bit disturbing about the film is that you yourself then go on to start noticing the number 23 appearing as if by magic all over the place in fact I just noticed my son has just built a tower out of his Duplo using 23 bricks that's just freaking me out too much, I'm off.
It seems that the closer we get to the mythical date of the 21st December 2012 the more and more people are starting to become fascinated with it and its meaning, and of course the mighty "Hollywood" is no exception. Don't worry though as this film has very little to do with the actual Mayan predictions of the end of the world, with only a very small number of references being made which is a shame as I could have included a boat load of background on the actual predictions and unless I had my head buried in the popcorn I certainly saw no sign of a full solar eclipse or planetary alignment in the entire movie. (Oh well here's to a non woolly sheep review.)
The movie 2012 sees veteran disaster movie director Ronald Emmerich take the helm in this latest attempt for him to all but exterminate the human race. As with Ronald Emmerich's previous apocalypse style movies the basic plot of the film revolves around an ordinary everyman in the form of the character Curtis Jackson played by John Cusack who is a science fiction writer and part time limo driver. His adventure starts with him taking his kids camping to Yellowstone National Park where he happens upon a military fenced off area of the park where some strange goings on are occurring in the form of a lake that has all but evaporated. After being escorted from the area he meets up with the seemingly crazy character of Charlie Frost played by the wonderful Woody Harrelson who goes on to explain to him about his theories on the coming apocalyptic events. It is then from this point on in the film that the real action of the movie starts to break as the special effects team for the film are really made to work for their pay check this time.
---Just Who Gets to Survive the Apocalypse---
Curtis Jackson - John Cusack
As I said Emmerich likes to take the everyman and throw them head long into the action for instance in Independence Day we had Jeff Goldblum and in Day After Tomorrow we were treated to Dennis Quaid. Just like these two John Cusack is not exactly known for his action roles however he very easily falls into the self sacrificing hero part. Personally I have always enjoyed his movies especially the likes of "High Fidelity" which is definitely in "My Top Ten" (That ones for people who know the movie) and this one is certainly no exception, he always seems to bring in his own quirky behaviour and style to any part he plays.
Adrian Helmsley - Chiwetel Ejiofor
Chiwetel plays the scientific advisor to the American government on the pending end of the world, and helps the world in predicting when the end will come although this sort of thing is not an exact science as we soon find out. Although not the biggest movie star in the world I did have the pleasure of seeing his fantastic acting skills in the TV drama series Tsunami: The Aftermath in which he portrays a father searching for his daughter, if you ever get a chance this is one of the best TV programs to have graced my television in years and definitely worth a watch especially for both Chiwetel's and Tim Roth's portrayals in it.
Carl Anheuser - Oliver Platt
Again not one of those big name actors, never the less Oliver does a great job of portraying the part of Carl Anheuser the American President's chief of staff. During the film he is the one that is left to really get the whole saving mankind at any cost plan in to action and is forced to make some really tough decisions which at times make him out to almost be uncaring and a virtual bad guy to the whole film. I have only seen him in a couple of his smaller supporting roles prior to this film in movies like "Benny and Joon" and "Married to the Mob" but in all as in this he has a great presence on the screen and really sells his character to the audience.
Alongside these there are a good number of other actors and actresses such as Danny Glover, Woody Harrelson, Amanda Peet and Thandie Newton who all do a great job of bring their respective characters to life and death, to get a full breakdown of the cast you can visit the 2012 IMDB webpage;
---Will the Effects Blow You Away or Just Fizz Out---
Now of course we all want great acting in our films but the real reason why you would go to see a movie like this is for the effects and this has them by the bucket load. Long gone are the shaky camera effects to simulate an earthquake now we get to see buildings being torn to shreds as the ground rips open, and no longer does a tidal wave look like a small ripple in a bath tub. It's not just the sheer size of these disasters that are depicted throughout the film that stuns you but the level of detail that is there. This being said though the only way to watch this film is on the big screen so I'm afraid you're going to have to pay for those overpriced cinema tickets and extortionate popcorn and drink to see just what I mean as we are treated to the seeing the likes of people clinging onto their office desks as the side of the building is ripped off just before it collapses and someone unsuccessfully trying to dodge a car in the far distance as we fly overhead.
---Did It End or Rock My World?---
I certainly got a great deal of enjoyment from this film and as I've said the effects where nothing short of stunning but unfortunately there was just something missing that I couldn't quite put my finger on. Maybe it was the fact that despite me really liking all the actors and actresses that were in the film it could probably have done with some big name actor to really launch it in the right direction in much the same way as "Independence Day" and "The Day After Tomorrow". All in all though this is without a doubt worth a watch and will certainly have you worrying about the 21st December 2012, if you're not already. The one thing I would say though is that the film itself actually has very little to do with the Mayan predictions of the end of the world and the film really could have been set at anytime, it just seems like I said previously that everyone is jumping on to this 2012 bandwagon. So head off to the cinema and see the world come to a crashing end.
With the Winter Olympics fast approaching it's time for the old rival companies Nintendo and Sega to reunite for their third game outing together to feature characters from the two respective gaming series' in the form of Mario & Sonic at the Winter Olympics. The game is the first in the range of various games that are being released to coincide with the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver and will be exclusive to the Wii and Nintendo DS, well after all Nintendo aren't going to let Sony and Microsoft get their grubby little hands on their prize characters now are they.
For those of you who did not have the pleasure of playing the Summer Olympics game that Nintendo released for the Beijing games this game works in a very similar fashion with you taking control of your chosen character/athlete and competing in various Olympic events in order to obtain as many gold medals as you can. As with the original game there are a large number of various characters to choose from Mario and Sonic themselves through to the likes of Metal Sonic and Bowser, each of the characters has their own strengths and weaknesses and will perform better in certain events over others. Alongside the in game characters your Mii can also take part in the proceedings like the other characters they too will have particular events which they will be better in, this is determined by the shape and size of your Mii so do experiment with a number of different shapes and sizes for your little character.
==Taking to the Snow==
The game is split in to a number of different play modes, the main one of these being the Olympic festival mode which basically allows you to compete in a Winter Olympic style tournament. As you progress through the tournament you will firstly get to have a practice run at the event before competing for real in the event, although this may be good for the first time round of playing the game it very soon becomes an almost pointless exercise as the controls for each of the events is available at the start of each of them anyway. Alongside the festival mode there is also the option to play in just single events of which you start out with a few in a similar fashion to its predecessor which can be added to by completing the events in the festival mode. As well as being able to play this game in a solo fashion there is also the ability to join up with up to three other players to complete the activities. This adds a whole new element to the game as some of the events require all of the players to match each others movements such as the Team Bobsleigh which requires all the players to turn their Wiimotes in the same direction at the same time.
==How to Win Gold==
Unlike the Summer Olympics game the controls for this game seem to be more about careful twists and turns of the controllers rather than fast and frantic movements that would have you sweating like you had just run the race yourself. In a way this has made the game much more open to those who can't keep up with the ravaging demands that the first game would demand of its user, however personally it makes it feel less like a sporting game which is what the first one really showed to me. Now alongside the regular controls the guys at Nintendo have incorporated the use of their wonder product the Wiifit board, despite the fact that I have a large collection of Wii games this "oh so essential" item of the Nintendo Wii has never darkened my door so this is one aspect of the game that I can't really comment upon, other than the fact that it cannot be used during the festival mode only during the single game mode which seems to defeat the point a bit really.
==Do the Graphics Win Gold or Just Bronze?==
Graphically the game is very much along the cartoony lines of the Mario and Sonic lines and so provides a very neat look to the game despite the Wii not having the greatest of graphical capabilities. The animation and overall appearance of the game is very fluid with next to no problems or glitches occurring to the look of the game. Once again the weather channel has been employed to provide changing weather conditions from either Vancouver itself or even from where you live, so far though I've just kept it set on Vancouver's weather as I'm afraid that the snow might melt if I change the weather conditions to where I live. A nice feature that has been introduced is the ability to dress your Mii in some much more appropriate attire as winning events in any of the competitions will give you in game money to spend on making your Mii and their equipment a little bit more individual.
==The Sound of Victory==
As with the graphics there is very little to complain about in this department with the sound effects of such things as wind whistling past you at the top of the large hill, and the sound of snow breaking under your skis helping to add a great atmosphere to the game. Alongside this you are treated to a typical collection of cartoony style background music composition which could have been lifted straight from a Mario or Sonic game.
==A Game for the Season or Beyond==
Unfortunately unlike the Summer Olympics game personally I can't see this game really dragging me back more after several months of playing. However for those that do courtesy of the Wii's internet capabilities it is possible to compare your scores alongside those of other players around the world and I'm sure this will keep many players interested for a long time to come as they try to do the impossible of coming first in the world at an event. As I said earlier with the controls being less demanding the use of this game as a more relaxing social group game can again keep the lifespan of this game going for much longer as well.
==Is it a Gold From Me?==
Although a nice little addition to my ever increasing collection of Wii games and despite all its good points and fun factor, I'm afraid that this game does not quite stand up to its predecessor. This being said though it is one more game that my girlfriend can actually take part in despite her getting frustrated when she doesn't win an event. The only other problem that I had with the game is the fact that the practice events during the festival mode just didn't serve a purpose and just felt like they where there to pad out the game a bit.
Over recent years there has been one genre of video games that seems to have gained more press and attention in the public eye than another and that would be the rhythm based games. The leading companies in this genre are EA games in conjunction with Harmonix who have brought us the Rockband series and Activision with their partners Neversoft with the Guitar Hero series. Now each game series has its unique little selling points but both are pretty similar, but like most fans of this gaming genre I prefer one over the other and that one would be the Guitar Hero series. (Sorry Rockband fans.) So when Activision announced the release of the new Guitar Hero Metallica I found the wait to be almost unbearable. Since I am a massive fan of the "Tallica" boys and since the age of 16 I have tried to learn to play as many of their songs on guitar as my little fingers would let me so I was really looking forward to getting stuck into this game.
"Enter Sandman" or Metallica should we say
Released for the Wii in May 2009 the main objective of the game like all the others in this gaming series is to play along to each song in time by pressing different button combinations in relation to what is shown on the screen, (sounds pretty easy now doesn't it.)Beings as the game is centred around the band Metallica a large number of the songs on this game are by them however there are a number of tracks by other artists who have either influenced the band over the years or who the band enjoy listening to themselves. The game carries along the same lines as Guitar Hero World Tour allowing the player to shred the guitar, slap the bass, thump those drums or even wail your lungs out in the singing mode. These parts can then be combined to form your very own super group.
Getting "Frantic" with the controls
Now this is the one point of this gaming series that gets to most people as unless you have the additional and sometimes expensive instrument additions to your Wii-mote these games are unplayable. Now each of the controls works in a similar way to their real life counterparts such as the guitar and bass require you to press the corresponding button on the fret board of the guitar neck whilst strumming the bar on the body of the guitar, whereas the drums allow you to hit the drum pads in time and the microphone lets you see just how bad your voice really is. The guitar, bass and microphone work in exactly the same way as with Guitar Hero World Tour, however it is the drums that get a bit of an overhaul as a new level of difficulty is added to test our metal. The newly named expert+ level which allows for the addition of a second bass pedal to the drum kit, and yes you've guessed it at an extra cost as well.
Graphics that are not "Sad but True"
Now graphically the Wii is never going to stand up to its seventh generation cousins the PS3 and the Xbox 360, however the real winner for this title graphics wise is not how every tiny detail is there but on the sheer movement and animation of the characters themselves. As with World Tour motion capture has been used with the main characters of the game so James, Kirk, Lars and Robert all play, act and move around the stage just like their real life selves would. In fact there's a couple of great little videos of the guys all kitted out in the motion capture suits rock away on a mock stage. Along with the "Tallica" boys you get to create your own character as well who will perform on the songs that are not by Metallica, plus there are a couple of guest appearances from the likes of Lemmy from Motorhead and King Diamond from Mercyful Fate.
A soundtrack that's "The Ace of Spades"
This is really what people who have bought this game have bought it for the music and believe you me it does not disappoint in the slightest. The Metallica song list is fantastic with some classic tracks throughout their entire catalogue even including tracks from the S&M album and the Garage Inc. album as well. With out doubt you will be hard pushed to want to move off of the Metallica tracks and on to the other bands, however that being said there are some absolute corkers there too with the likes of Bob Seger, Corrosion of Conformity and of course Motorhead and Mercyful Fate.
For a full listing of the tracks available for this game you can check out the Guitar Hero: Metallica Wiki page.
So will this game "Fade to Black?"
With 49 songs to play through the initial game will only take several hours to work your way through, however as with other games in the series playing through the game is just never enough as the game not only has five different levels of difficulty (six for the drums) but also allows the player to try and beat there highest score not only on the number of notes hit but also on the number of points scored while playing. Alongside the solo and group game play you also have the option of taking the band on the road or should I say online, as you can compete with other players all over the world in various online head to head tournaments and challenges. In addition to this the Guitar Hero creators have come up with a great way of allowing cross platform usage by providing the Guitar Hero players with a website to which they can register and link their systems too. Through this system players from all over can compare their score compete in online competitions for real prizes and general share tips and hints on how to become better at the games themselves.
To find out more about the online game play element you can visit their website
"Wherever I May Roam" will this game come too?
Out of all the games that I own for my various computers this is the one that I come back to time and time again; overall the game just has everything that I could want in a game. Admittedly the fact that the game is based around one of my favourite bands gives it a majorly huge advantage, but it is the sheer addiction to wanting to fully complete a song without making a mistake and then when you're feeling brave enough trying to work your way up to the next difficulty setting. Which personally for me "Medium" on the guitar is plenty hard enough at the moment and as for singing lets just say that "Easy" is sometimes a struggle so there's still plenty of life left in this title for me. The only thing that I wasn't to keen on was some of the other artist tracks that are on the game however the great majority of awesome tracks on the game more than made up for it.
Not only does this game provide a lot of enjoyment for myself but even my partner once again finds her own perverse pleasure in it as she sits there giggling to herself as I jump around the living room cursing the T.V. whenever I miss a note. All in all if you liked the other games in the series this will make a fantastic addition to the collection especially for those like me who hold a special place in their musical hearts for Metallica. Now I just wish they would make a Guitar Hero: Iron Maiden and then my life would be complete.