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RamblinMan

RamblinMan
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Member since: 30.10.2009

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    • Samsung RSA1WTMH / Fridge / 14 Readings / 12 Ratings
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      15.06.2011 12:57
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      Highly recommended, if you have the space!

      After saying goodbye to my old Electrolux fridge freezer that had served me well for nearly 15 years, I started looking around the shops for a new fridge. Samsung was one of the brands that surprised me as a lot of people seemed to be recommending them, and I didn't even know they made fridges! As luck would have it I was able to get a massive discount through work so it cost me a fraction of the price. Kerching (though I deserve it!). I am told the regular price at Comet or Curry's is pretty good anyway, as this isn't the most expensive fridge they sell, more of a mid-range variety.

      The deal included a free delivery and installation, and after checking the measurements (my front door was only just wide enough!), the silver beauty was wheeled into the kitchen and plugged in. As fridges go, it's somewhat shorter than usual, and rather wide, but it fitted in perfectly. It made a bit of a whirring noise (as if to introduce itself to us!) and the delivery guy recommended we make sure the fridge is level to avoid the noise it sometimes makes. Done.

      I took a quick look at the instructions but there was hardly any need as even a chimp on acid would know what to do. It's all very easy and self explanatory. You have a little LCD panel to control the fridge and freezer temperatures, a very useful holiday function that turns the fridge off while keeping the freezer on, and the open door alert that starts beeping if you happen to leave the door open. Simples.

      The fridge section is larger than the freezer, but both have so much space that now I can fill it up with supplies for several weeks ahead. There are lots of shelves and drawers, a bottle rack in the door, an egg tray, ice cube trays and of course the chilled Brita filtered water feature that my flatmates love (yes the fools still drink tap water despite my Isklar review!).

      The shelves can be moved around to accommodate larger items (say a 24 pack of Buds) and if there happens to be an angel that wants to clean the fridge for you, said shelves are very easy to remove for cleaning. And what more do you need to know? I'm very happy with it so far, it's a fairly quiet appliance and apparently uses less energy than my old fridge did, so there's a saving on the bills too. If you're looking for a new fridge freezer and have the required space in your kitchen, this is a very good choice.

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      • Dyson DC33 / Vacuum Cleaner / 12 Readings / 10 Ratings
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        25.05.2011 13:28
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        What a dirt-sucker.

        Yep, that's what I said to my old vacuum cleaner, it kind of died recently and so it was time to get a new one.

        After extensive search (20 minutes) I decided on this "animal" - DC33 Dyson. It helped that I got it for just under £200 from my local shop, delivered free as well.

        I used to be a stranger to this vacuuming malarkey, usually leaving to someone else in the house, but now I'm definitely a fan. DC33 makes it too easy. The thing moves around like it's made of feathers and it's quiet like an angel. Big plus point. Storing it is also a piece of cake as it stands upright and fits into a small cupboard.

        The suction is pretty powerful on all surfaces I've tried (carpets, rugs, concrete, tiles, small family pets, etc) and not an atom of dirt is left behind. Wow. If they tell you DC33 sucks, it's true but in a good way! Thus be careful where you point this beast as it will grab small items you might have wanted to keep!

        I have also tried it up the wall (oo-er!) to get into all the dusty corners and cobwebs, it's dead easy to lift as it's so light, plus the cord is a decent length too, so no need to move from socket to socket all around the house.

        Reading the blurb that explains the "cyclone technology" used in this machine has given me a mild headache and attempting to explain it myself would positively put me in a coma, so I'll just leave it out.

        The good thing is that the filtration system is intended to work for a lifetime so you don't need to replace bags of dirt anymore. Ever. One touch of a button and the transparent container is emptied. So a money saver right there, and it saves the planet in a small way.

        It's also very easy to take it apart and clean various elements. With a five year warranty and a nice price tag, I can't think why anyone would look beyond this little gem.

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          08.12.2010 15:23
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          Well worth the investment!

          They tell you to replace your toothbrush and visit your dentist regularly for a good reason. The cynics might say it's a ploy to extract more money out of your pocket, and when your teeth "feel" okay you might think about delaying your next check-up. But one easy way to keep your teeth and gums healthy is to brush regularly and brush with a good toothbrush!

          I've tried several brands of electric toothbrushes over the years, wasted my money on Colgate (they kept falling apart!), before discovering Braun. It seems to be the best one so far, most cost effective and reliable in the long run. It's certainly better than a manual toothbrush and you've been told many times that dentists recommend Braun!

          And it's all true. This thing cleans your teeth thoroughly, and leaves your mouth feeling fresh. Some manual brushes can be harsh on your gums, this one however is quite gentle. But it's powerful too! Rotating at 7600 times per minute and pulsating at 20000 per minute, this "plaque terminator" gets to areas where bacteria hang out and takes no prisoners.

          Perfectly safe and very easy to use, just charge it up and switch it on. It says one charge should last a week, but for me it stretches for up to two weeks at a time before having to recharge again.

          I paid £19.99 for the toothbrush at Boots, but it may be cheaper online if you check the current deals. It came with the charger base and two interchangeable heads. I already have adapters for various plugs and sockets so that was no problem. It's good to know the replacement parts seem to be easily available in many shops, which tells me it's quite popular. You have to of course account for the cost of replacing heads as well, but I guess it's cheaper than fillings and root canals!

          One other thing to mention, every 30 seconds there is a short stuttering sound of which I am not a huge fan of, intended as a reminder to clean different parts of your teeth and not hover around the same area. I find it a little patronising, but maybe it's a useful feature for others.

          I've used it now for almost 9 months and it's still spinning and buzzing happily. I've had no problems with it whatsoever and would highly recommend it.

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          • Monsters (Blu-ray) / Blu-Ray Movie / 30 Readings / 29 Ratings
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            30.11.2010 15:16
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            Interesting blend of science fiction and romance

            *Film review only*

            The basic plot:
            Six years after aliens have invaded Earth a photojournalist agrees to escort his boss's daughter through an infected zone in Mexico to the safety of the US border.

            Main cast:
            Scoot McNairy - Andrew Kaulder
            Whitney Able - Samantha Wynden

            I don't think the trailer does this film much justice, it's obviously given false expectations to some people. It's a bit of a road trip through wasteland, but don't expect a big blockbuster with endless shooting, explosions and a hero saving the world... It has very little to do with extra-terrestrials, and is more concerned with the slowly developing relationship between Kaulder and Samantha as they struggle to get to safety.

            But it also points the finger at the monstrous things humans do. Yep, we are the real monsters! The "war" against aliens could be any human conflict, where the rich buy their way out of danger, the corrupt minority find ways to profit and the poor ordinary people suffer. And then we see it all on TV from the comfort of the sofa.

            Along those lines, the morality of photojournalism is questioned here, with the two main characters discussing whether it's right to take a photo of a dead girl in the street that could make you $50000. For those of you in London (if you can stomach seeing horrific images), there is a "World Press Photo" exhibition now on at the Royal Festival Hall, it's thought provoking to say the least!

            I wasn't expecting much but in the end I was pleasantly surprised, considering the film's low budget. Very atmospheric, some striking scenes, good home-made special effects, the shaky camera and out of focus shots make it look partly like a home video and partly like a news report from a war zone, with the aliens only appearing sporadically and in the dark.

            The pace was a bit slow at times, but it never felt boring, even though some of the dialogue could have been better. The crazy old woman symbolically wrapped in an American flag possibly got the best line in the film, spouting gibberish before trundling off down the road with her shopping cart.

            I liked Scoot McNairy in "In Search of a Midnight Kiss" (it was on TV recently) and I thought he was pretty good here too, playing a regular guy thrown into an extraordinary situation. I didn't warm to the female lead though (Whitney Able), felt she was a little too emotionless, and the romance between her and McNairy's character didn't feel very believable (as it turns out, they are a couple in real life, but I didn't know that while watching the film! Weird, eh?)

            But overall, glad I ventured out on a cold Sunday morning to see it, would recommend others giving it a chance, as a change from Hollywood remakes and reboots that seem to be churned out on a weekly basis these days.

            Written & directed by Gareth Edwards
            Distribution: Vertigo Films
            UK cinema release: Dec 3rd 2010
            Running time 94 minutes

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            • Splice (DVD) / DVD / 84 Readings / 82 Ratings
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              13.08.2010 12:56
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              Intriguing and shocking treat for fans of weird sci-fi

              Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) are two scientists working in a research lab of a powerful pharmaceutical company "N.E.R.D.". They are also a couple and live together.

              Having successfully combined the DNA of different animals to create two hybrid animals, they suggest adding human DNA to the experiment in order to develop a protein that would possibly provide a huge breakthrough in medicine and earn them huge profits. The company bosses reject the idea on ethical and legal grounds, but Clive and Elsa secretly decide to carry on anyway.

              Soon enough, the female "creature" is born, and Elsa names her Dren (Delphine Chaneac). They move to Elsa's farm to prevent Dren being discovered and to allow her more space as her accelerated growth rate means she has quickly grown into adulthood. But as Dren becomes more and more curious about exploring the outside world, Clive and Elsa begin to realise their experiment could get out of control, with dangerous consequences.


              Cast:
              Adrien Brody - Clive Nicoli
              Sarah Polley - Elsa Kast
              Delphine Chanéac - Dren
              Abigail Chu - Young Dren
              David Hewlett - William Barlow
              Brandon McGibbon - Gavin Nicoli


              Splice was one of the main feature films at the London Sci-fi film festival earlier this year. I missed out on seeing it then and have been looking forward to it ever since, as it sounded very promising. Having finally got to see it when it was released in late July, I was left with mixed feelings about it.

              On the face of it, it's a familiar story of scientists meddling with nature and then having to deal with the chaos when things go wrong. Indeed, "Bride of Frankenstein" actors Colin Clive and Elsa Lanchester were the inspiration for the names of the two main characters Clive and Elsa. The trailer also makes it look like a regular horror movie, but it's more than that.

              It's a unique film with intriguing and audacious ideas, and disturbing twists and turns all the way through. Despite the low budget, it's done in a stylish way, with surprising moments of pure horror as well as pure beauty. It keeps your interest throughout, and is truly captivating, as we follow the developing relationship between the three main characters.

              The story touches on ethical boundaries of genetic engineering and asks the usual "right or wrong" questions, hinting at the kind of nightmare we could be dealing with in the not too distant future. And with issues of parenthood and sexuality bubbling under the surface, there is plenty to keep your brain occupied.

              The plot however does have some holes in it, the few minor characters are mostly two-dimensional, and in the final act the writers appear to have run out of steam as the movie descends into a more traditional and disappointing horror territory with a predictable climax.

              As the two ambitious, rebellious and at times un-likeable scientists, Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley both put in decent performances, not outstanding but sufficiently believable. Their chemistry on screen as a couple is pretty good, but you feel as if their characters are given too many issues to grapple with.

              The real star of the film though is French actress Delphine Chanéac who plays Dren. With no dialogue for the duration of the film, she smiles, whimpers, chirps and growls through an amazing range of emotions, and you warm to her very quickly. And even when she grows into a stronger and more frightening beast, you still see that innocence in her eyes, and you root for her. Her continuing transformation is almost magical as well as chilling, and the special effects are astonishing, and very convincing for the budget available.

              Delphine Chanéac also gets to play out one hilariously shocking scene with Adrien Brody that had the entire audience gasp in horror and shriek with laughter, all at once. I didn't see it coming and I'm glad I hadn't read any detailed reviews before seeing the film as it would have spoiled the surprise. It's worth seeing for that alone.

              The film received mostly positive reviews from critics, but that didn't translate into huge box office takings. As is often the case, there are hints at the possibility of a sequel, although this seems unlikely, as the director is known to prefer open and ambiguous endings.

              Overall, it's an enjoyable, thought provoking and entertaining movie for the most part, a little uncomfortable too, and will possibly haunt you for some time after leaving the cinema. For science fiction fans, it's a must see.


              Directed by Vincenzo Natali (Cube)

              Written by Vincenzo Natali and screenwriters Doug Taylor and Antoinette Terry Bryant.

              Classification: 15 (nudity, sexual content, violence and language)

              Runtime: 104 min

              Released on DVD/Blu-ray on 29th November 2010

              http://www.splicethefilm.com/

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              • Zanussi ZWF1221 / Washing Machine / 72 Readings / 68 Ratings
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                14.07.2010 12:28
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                Mean clean washing machine!

                You know you've joined the grown-up league (even though I'm still resisting it...) when you start looking for your first washing machine. Oh yes, the responsibility! But after a few years of using the local laundrette I'd decided enough was enough...

                I like to do my research before making a purchase, even though it can be tedious at the best of times. After much browsing, I settled on a Zanussi machine that seemed to have all the features I wanted, was in my price range (sub £300) and it looked good as well.

                I first bought it from Argos, but after their cavemen delivered two (yes two!) broken machines (with various dents and broken off pieces!), I asked for a refund and instead got my machine from Comet. Few days later they delivered a pristine Zanussi ZWF1221W, and we have lived happily ever since. (Although saying that, I've probably just jinxed it!)

                Unpacking & initial set-up was fairly easy apart from releasing the drum. You are advised to lay the machine on its back and unscrew a panel, before practically climbing inside and removing two long and thin polythene bags containing foam blocks at either side of the drum. These things are important as they keep the drum in place during transport, but it took the strength of Hercules to pull them out. I don't know what other machines are like in this respect, but this should be made easier.

                After that, blood pumping, testosterone flowing, I got my toolbox out (I say toolbox, but I mean the pliers...), connected the inlet hose to a cold water tap under the sink, the outlet hose to some other tap (the one my plumber had pointed out), and my appliance was ready to go.

                The manual recommends placing the machine on a solid floor (not wooden or carpeted floor) and checking the machine is level (by raising or lowering its feet with a spanner) to prevent noise, vibration and displacement. I did that too.

                So, what about the machine itself? Well, it takes up to 6kg of your dirty stuff, which sounds like a decent amount, although have you ever weighed your laundry before filling up the machine? Neither have I.

                The spin speed reaches a dizzying 1200rpm (and at that speed it sounds like a jet engine!), although you can set it to a lower speed (a more sedate 900, 700 or pedestrian 500rpm), if you don't want to wear out your drum altogether in the first few months! I find 700 or 900rpm is usually more than enough.

                The 27-page instruction booklet that comes with the machine is fairly detailed, describing all the important features, maintenance and troubleshooting, installation, as well as providing you with many useful tips (such as washing very small items inside a pillowcase, fastening buttons and zips, not going to Glastonbury and rolling in the mud, etc).

                It also addresses environmental issues in terms of water and energy usage, and suggests always using a full load, avoiding pre-wash if possible and washing at lower temperatures, amongst other things.

                The control panel on the machine if very straightforward, particularly if you have bothered to flick through the instruction booklet. The washing sequence is very simple as you might imagine... load the drum, pour in your detergent/fabric softener, select the required programme/spin speed and press the start button. You have the option of delaying the start by up to 12 hours, maybe that's useful for some, not so much for me.

                Various washing programmes are available, including delicates, hand wash, wool, and 30-minute quick wash, along with the usual cotton/linen, white/colour and synthetics options. There are two economy settings, intended to use less energy, and the machine also uses an "Eco valve" which reduces water consumption and ensures all detergent is used up during the wash cycle. Another plus point.

                Each pre-set is described in detail (e.g. temperature, maximum load, intended use, and time length) so you can choose a very specific wash programme each time, best suited to your needs.

                Some programmes go on for over 2 and a half hours, which seems like an eternity! I've found the quick wash at 30C to be the most useful so far, as it only takes around 30 minutes and does a pretty good job. A quick spin or two and your clothes will be dry by the end of the day.

                Overall, I've had no complaints and I've been very happy with the performance so far, so would happily recommend this washing machine. Provided you keep up with basic maintenance and don't give it too much abuse, your machine should last you many years.

                Basic info:

                Spin Speed max. 1200rpm

                Weight Capacity 6kg

                Energy Efficiency A
                Wash Efficiency A
                Spin Drying Efficiency B

                Height 85cm
                Width 60cm
                Depth 60cm

                12 month standard guarantee

                www.zanussi.co.uk

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                • Get Him to the Greek (DVD) / DVD / 104 Readings / 101 Ratings
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                  14.06.2010 19:05
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                  good comedy to see after you've had a few beers!

                  ~ Film review only, some spoilers included! ~

                  Plot:

                  Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) is an intern at Pinnacle Records who gets a dream assignment to fly to London and accompany struggling British rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) to a comeback concert at L.A.'s Greek Theater.

                  It's billed as the 10th anniversary of a legendary show that took place at the same venue, and it's a sell-out. Along with sponsorship deals and back catalogue sales, it's sure to make millions for the record company, and Aaron's boss Sergio Roma (Sean Combs) has to put all his trust in Aaron to get the rebellious and unpredictable rock star to the show in one piece.

                  Aldous Snow however is in no rush to get to L.A. and instead would rather chase groupies, take all manner of drugs and party all night long, from London to New York, to Las Vegas. To avoid falling out with the star thereby jeopardising the show, Aaron has no choice but to join in, putting his health and sanity at risk, and in the process straining the already tense relationship with his hard working girlfriend Daphne (Elisabeth Moss) back in L.A.

                  As you might guess, what follows is a crazy drink and drug-fuelled 72-hour ride from bar to night club, to hotel room, to airport, to another bar, another hotel room etc, until you're wondering what might happen next and whether they will ever make it to the Greek.

                  Main Cast:
                  Jonah Hill as Aaron Green
                  Russell Brand as Aldous Snow
                  Elisabeth Moss as Daphne Binks
                  Sean Combs as Sergio Roma
                  Rose Byrne as Jackie Q
                  Colm Meaney as Jonathan Snow

                  (Plus brief appearances by Christina Aguilera, Pink, Kurt Loder, Dee Snider, Lars Ulrich and other "celebrities" playing themselves...)
                   

                  When I first saw the trailer for this film I thought I would probably hate it and won't bother going to see it, but then a pair of early preview tickets at Vue in the West End landed in my lap. The invite ominously stated dress code is to be "rock star inspired". This immediately made me want to do the exact opposite and turn up in pyjamas, but alas since I don't have any, I went in my usual attire.

                  The promise of free beer and pizza will lure me to the other side of the planet, even if the pizza is cold and you have to fight tooth and nail to get the veggie one. And you have to elbow your way past various film critics who you're pretending not to have recognised, just to get your free drinks. It was tough but someone had to do it...

                  I figured I would need all the beer I could drink in order to enjoy a film featuring Russell Brand and Sean Combs (aka Puff-P-Diddly or whatever it was that they used to call him...). Not a great fan of either of them to be honest, but I'm always prepared to give people a second chance, so I went in with an open mind and actually enjoyed the film all the way through. In fact I was too busy laughing most of the time, and in the end thought both Brand and Combs were really good.

                  This movie is partly supposed to be a spin-off from "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" but since I haven't seen it, I can't comment on how it follows on from that film. The story line is kept simple and the final outcome predictable, so the main appeal is the comedy, and the laughs keep coming throughout the movie with very few breaks in between. People around me were all in fits of laughter, so it wasn't just me.

                  Mostly it's vulgar gross-out jokes and hilarious one-liners but there are a few clever and subtle little digs in there too...(Aldous Snow compares himself to Jesus, with a badly received single called "African Child" about starvation in Africa)

                  I don't know if Brand's role actually required him to do too much acting, as he just seemed to be himself more or less. I wasn't sure what I'd make of him in the film but he seemed to come across very natural and relaxed playing a washed-up rock star whose career and personal life have gone downhill. I'm sure he had enough experience from his own life to draw upon as inspiration! He didn't irritate me as much as his usual public persona does.

                  The chemistry between him and Jonah Hill was really good and it's what makes the film work. Jonah Hill is excellent as the shy and awkward record label intern, basically a good guy trying to get along with everyone and do the right thing even if he gets manipulated, humiliated, drugged and practically raped along the way.

                  Sean Combs came across surprisingly well as the over-the-top record company executive, managing to pull off a very funny role while maintaining a straight face throughout. His "mindf**k" scene with Hill and the Vegas hotel chase were both hilarious.

                  Actually I would struggle to pick one favourite scene, as there are so many good ones to choose from... Aaron's encounter with a groupie called Destiny and her sex toy, the scene involving smoking a Jeffrey (all kinds of drugs rolled up into a joint), as well as Aldous telling off Metallica's drummer are all close to genius. I think I will have to go and see this film again.

                  If you've seen the trailer by the way, it's worth pointing out that a lot of those scenes weren't in the movie, not sure why.

                  The movie soundtrack has already been released and it mostly features songs performed by Aldous Snow and his band Infant Sorrow. Several people, including Jarvis Cocker, wrote the songs, and I didn't mind some of them. I wonder if Jarvis had anything to do with "African Child", being a Michael Jackson "fan" and all...

                  The movie also features a lot of well known classics that don't appear on the soundtrack, such as London Calling by The Clash, 20th Century Boy by T-Rex, Anarchy in the UK by The Sex Pistols, Personality Crisis by New York Dolls, etc.

                  One problem I had with the movie was seeing Colm Meaney in the role of Aldous Snow's father. Well known for his appearances on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space 9, and great as he is as an actor, I just felt he was out of place somehow. Maybe it's just that I've watched Star Trek too much!

                  Overall I thought it was a fun feel-good movie that conveys a familiar message, that fame and fortune are not all they're cracked up to be and that ultimately what's important is having someone special to come home to at the end of the day. There are one or two poignant moments but mostly it's a lot of crude humour, so as long as you're not easily offended, you won't be disappointed with this film.

                  Directed by: Nicholas Stoller
                  Cinema release date in UK: 25 June 2010
                  Certificate: 15 (strong sexual content, drug use and language)
                  Runtime: 109 min
                  DVD extras: TBC

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                  • General / Discussion / 94 Readings / 92 Ratings
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                    27.05.2010 12:00
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                    There now, wasn't that boring?

                    1. Which do you prefer - shower or bath? And why?

                    Shower, it's quick and invigorating.

                    2. What do you swear you'll never do?

                    Answer another 100 question quiz!

                    3. What's the most embarrassing thing you ever done?

                    Nothing springs to mind.

                    4. What is your favourite quote?

                    "Trying is the first step to failure" and "Stop thinking and start drinking" (very noble and intellectual, eh? I quote Homer Simpson a lot...)

                    5. What was your favourite holiday? And why?

                    Two weeks in Japan, purely mindblowing experience. Oh and the £ was still strong back then...!

                    6. What was your favourite childhood toy?

                    Model cars.

                    7. Do you have any pets?

                    I have a mouse ;)

                    8. Savoury or sweet?

                    Sweet.

                    9. Hot or cold?

                    How about warm-ish.

                    10. What's your favourite drink?

                    Coffee! Preferably made in a small cafe in Barcelona, they know how to make a good coffee!

                    11. What's your favourite food?

                    I have Italian blood in the family, so it has to be Italian!

                    12. Who do you hate the most?

                    The tall guy with big hair, that inevitably sits in front of me in the theatre!

                    13. Do you have a crush on someone? If so, who?

                    Yes, T'Pol... okay, fictional character, but phew!! (played by Jolene Blalock by the way...)

                    14. What is your favourite colour?

                    Black.

                    15. What did you do last night?

                    Went to see a film preview.

                    16. What's your favourite thing to do?

                    Oh, I'm doing it right now!

                    17. Favourite movie, TV Programme, Book?

                    Off the top of my head... Play Misty For Me, Star Trek (TNG) and Waiting for Godot.

                    18. Who's your hero?

                    It's a toss-up between The Man With No Name and Frank Sidebottom!

                    19. Favourite song of all time?

                    Impossible to answer! There's so many good ones.

                    But let's say favourite song this week.. it's Darkthrone's "I Am The Working Class".

                    20. Have you ever had a supernatural experience?

                    I went to see "Woman in Black" recently, an old fashioned ghost story and Scary Spice was sitting in the row behind me...

                    ("Supernatural, perhaps. Baloney, perhaps not!")

                    21. Favourite Sound?

                    The sound of a Gibson Les Paul, played through a Marshall amp, turned up to about 8 and a half..

                    22. Favourite Smell?

                    Coffee! Freshly cut grass is good too...

                    23. Favourite place to be?

                    Kyoto gardens in Holland Park, West London.

                    24. Happiest moment in your life?

                    My "happiness off the scale" moments mostly involve travel or music, so in no particular order...

                    Landing at Narita airport and seeing the sign "Welcome to Japan"... spectacularly happy to have finally made it over there!

                    Jam session with Dee Dee Ramone, once in a lifetime!

                    Sunset at Hopi Point, on the South rim of the Grand Canyon, with a cold coffee/chocolate Godiva drink in my hand.

                    AC/DC at Hammersmith Apollo, the entire set went by so quickly, it qualifies as a "moment".

                    25. Saddest moment in your life so far?

                    This would mostly involve people letting you down one way or another, without going into details..

                    26. What is your dream job?

                    Photographing bikini models while test-sailing luxury yachts around the Caribbean?

                    27. What would be your idea of a perfect date?

                    Being stuck in the turbo-lift of Starship Enterprise with two Klingon females and a stack of chilled Romulan ale.

                    28. What are your favourite Newspaper/ Magazine?

                    I pick up Terrorizer occasionally for amusing pictures of Black Metal bands.... Newspapers carry too much bad news, and I don't need to know everything..

                    29. Which celebrity do you like the most?

                    I'm mostly not interested in "celebrities".

                    30. Do you have any siblings?

                    One sister.

                    31. Have you ever been in hospital? If so, why?

                    Yes, a bunch o' times...

                    32. Have you ever broken a bone or had stitches?

                    I once spent a "fun" evening at Homerton hospital, with a "possibly fractured skull", waiting all night until about dawn, for a young and overworked doctor to finally needle 'n' thread a cut on my head.... How it all happened is another story.

                    33. Do you believe in Angels/Ghosts/Demons?

                    Something must have possessed me to do this bleedin' quiz..

                    34. Are you superstitious?

                    No.

                    35. What colour eyes do you have?

                    Hazel... and that's not my nickname or alter ego.

                    36. What colour hair do you have?

                    Increasingly grey, and totally white by the time I've done all this!

                    37. What religion are you?

                    Interesting question.... King Diamond once said that doing what you want without feeling guilty is one of the basic principles of Satanism, and according to that, a lot of people around the world are Satanists, without realising it!

                    I hate organised religion, as it has probably caused more harm than good, but I have a basic rule in life of treating everyone equally and respectfully that most decent faiths will agree with.

                    38. If you could change 1 thing about you, what would it be?

                    Extra pair of eyes in the back of my head would be good...

                    39. If you could change 1 thing about your personality, what would it be?

                    Increase brain capacity!

                    40. What is your biggest fear?

                    Being afraid of stuff.

                    41. Do you have any regrets? If so, what are they?

                    No regrets, f*** it.

                    42. Have you ever been in love?

                    Yes. And I understand what it is now.

                    (Funny how this is question no. 42 a.k.a. the meaning of life, the universe and everything...)

                    43. What's the most important thing to you in the world?

                    Stickin' it to "The Man", cliche but true!

                    44. What is your most treasured possession?

                    My sanity, although it's never around when I need it.

                    45. What's your job?

                    Part-time door-to-door door salesman.

                    46. What's the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?

                    Let's be honest here, most men would read that question and only think of one thing...!

                    47. What's the worst thing anyone has done to you?

                    The country going to war "on my behalf" got me rather miffed...

                    48. Dream car?

                    Chevy Camaro or Pontiac Firebird.

                    49. Favourite celebration?

                    Super Bowl, if that counts..

                    50. Where do you hang out?

                    The local park bench.

                    51. What School did you go to?

                    The School of Rock!

                    52. What/ Who annoys you?

                    My neighbours.

                    53. Do you recycle?

                    Yes, with gusto.

                    54. What's your favourite sport?

                    American football.

                    55. Who was the last person to upset you?

                    I can't remember really.

                    56. What are your hobbies?

                    Squirrel photography.

                    57. What was the last joke you heard?

                    "The Aristocrats" joke, they made a whole documentary about it...

                    58. What is the best joke you've heard?

                    George W Bush being re-elected is as funny as it gets!

                    59. What's the worst joke you've heard?

                    See No. 58.

                    60. Name 3 places you have been on holiday:

                    Japan, California, Croatia.

                    61. Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

                    In a lunatic asylum, the way things are going, ha ha... (laughs nervously)

                    62. Favourite Season?

                    Autumn.

                    63. What's your favourite website?

                    YouTube and/or Spotify.

                    64. What's your favourite shop?

                    As of last week... Waitrose! I took some alcoholic ginger beer to the counter and a nice young lady asked me for ID... really made my day! I went past 18 long time ago.

                    65. What's your worst habit?

                    Checking everything twice.

                    66. What's your favourite animal?

                    I love all animals about the same, but small furry things are extra cute.

                    67. What is your ultimate fantasy?

                    Lady Luck has already made it happen!

                    68. Can you cook?

                    Yes.

                    69. What is the last lie you told?

                    See No. 68.

                    70. Favourite flavour ice-cream?

                    Coffee, surprisingly.

                    71. Favourite take-away?

                    Some kinda pizza I suppose.

                    72. What do you hate doing the most?

                    Queueing in the Post Office.

                    73. What do you like doing the most?

                    Well, duh!

                    74. If you were a Super Hero what would your name be?

                    Lotto-Number-Predictor-Man.

                    75. What is your favourite name?

                    Eyjafjallajökull. It rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?

                    Craphonso (real name!) is also rather hilarious.

                    76. If you were an animal what would you like to be?

                    Animals have a pretty rough deal on this planet, so I probably wouldn't choose to be an animal.

                    77. What would your animal name be?

                    What a question, how the hell do I know? Wafty?

                    78. If you could go back in time, what time would you go to?

                    Haight Ashbury in 1967, or maybe CBGB's in 1976 to see the Ramones, or London 1970 to save Jimi Hendrix..... I'd do some mileage on that time machine!

                    79. Any person alive or dead - who would you meet?

                    Honestly don't know, I'm not so bothered about meeting anyone, can't I just email them?

                    80. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

                    San Francisco or Tokyo.

                    81. Favourite musician(s)?

                    It's a long list, so let's just say in recent months, The Devil's Blood, from Holland.

                    82. What was/is your nickname?

                    Long time ago, "Lenny". I have no idea why, it makes no sense.

                    83. Have you been to college?

                    Yes.

                    84. What is the wildest thing you've ever done?

                    I'd rather not say!

                    85. Can you play an instrument?

                    Yes.

                    86. What's your favourite Disney Character?

                    Goofy.

                    87. Favourite theme park?

                    The Las Vegas Strip!!

                    88. What size feet are you?

                    Extra medium.

                    89. If you were King/Queen for a day what 3 changes would you make to the world?

                    Abolish all money and currency, prohibit clothing and prohibit speech! Back to dark ages :)

                    90. What is your favourite Night Club?

                    Don't really do night clubs any more, closest would have been the old Marlborough Head when it used to be the "scary" pub and when Terrorizer djs played some good ol' metal on Saturday nights!

                    Now it's been refurbished and made to look bland and faceless much like any other wine bar in London. Ugh.

                    91. Name one thing that most people don't know about you?

                    I am actually an alien and that's a fact.

                    92. When was the last time you cried? And why?

                    I'm crying now, why did I start this stupid quiz!?

                    93. If you could have 3 wishes, what would they be?

                    Give animals the power of speech, make Santa Claus real and make Clint Eastwood do Dirty Harry 6.

                    94. Would you ever have plastic surgery? If so, where?

                    No thanks.

                    95. What are you most ashamed of?

                    Nothing in particular.

                    96. What pet would you love to have?

                    The talking meerkat from that tv advert! (It's good that I'm taking this seriously)

                    97. Blondes/ Brunettes or Red heads?

                    "I like 'em big,
                    I like 'em small,
                    And if I had to take an oath,
                    I'd take them all"

                    (Name that tune!)

                    98. If you won the lottery what would you spend the money on?

                    A proper old school heavy metal bar in London, a trip into space, and a sanctuary for orang-utans.

                    99. If you could have a super power/ ability, what would it be?

                    It would be amusing to be able to make everyone's trousers drop down in the street every 5 minutes.

                    100. Did you enjoy doing this quiz?

                    No! But I will give it 5 stars anyway.

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                      23.05.2010 13:24
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                      A very good comedy featuring John Cusack

                      ~ Film only review, some minor spoilers included, so if you haven't seen this yet, stop reading now ~

                      Cast:
                      John Cusack as Adam
                      Craig Robinson as Nick
                      Rob Corddry as Lou
                      Clark Duke as Jacob
                      Sebastian Stan as Blaine
                      Lizzy Caplan as April
                      Collette Wolfe as Kelly
                      Crispin Glover as Phil
                      Chevy Chase as the Hot Tub Repair Man
                      Kellee Stewart as Courtney Webber
                      Lyndsy Fonseca as Jennie
                      Charlie McDermott as Chaz
                      Crystal Lowe as Zoe
                      Jessica Paré as Tara
                      William Zabka as Rick Steelman
                      Thomas Lennon as Customer
                      Michael Roberds as Desk Clerk


                      Adam, Nick and Lou were best friends growing up in the 1980s, but as is often the case, they slowly drifted apart over the years. Adam has just split up with his girlfriend, Nick has abandoned his dreams of being a singer in a band and instead works in a dog parlour, and Lou (a.k.a. Violator) masks his depression by drink-driving his Firebird with the stereo still blasting out Motley Crue. They are brought back together when Lou ends up in hospital after seemingly attempting a suicide in his garage.

                      To cheer him up, Adam and Nick suggest a trip to Kodiak Valley, a kind of a trip down memory lane, back to the ski resort where they had some crazy times back in the 80s. Adam's geeky nephew Jacob tags along and soon they're back in the same hotel and in the same room they stayed in all those years ago.

                      Lou is excited and wants to go crazy again, get drunk, find a prostitute and stick some drugs up his back passage, in order to create another great memory. Adam and Nick however want to take it easy, so they fire up the outdoor hot tub. A lot of alcohol is consumed that night. The next day, they wake up to the sight of leg warmers, cassette players, Ronald Reagan and Alf on TV, and a "black" Michael Jackson. They're back in 1986!

                      The Hot Tub repair man (played by Chevy Chase, one of the 80s screwball comedy legends, an inspired choice for the minor part) pops in to fix the hot tub and let everyone know they only have until dawn to get back to present day. In the meantime, it's "Winterfest '86" and Poison are in town. In order not to change anything that happens in the future, the guys decide to re-live that night all over again without changing anything, but that's easier said than done...

                      You might think this is a dumb and crude slapstick comedy, and partly that is true, but once you get past the silly idea of time travel via a faulty Jacuzzi, it's actually a pretty good film. Issues regarding destiny and friendships are explored in a way that many people can relate to. We all wonder what we might have done differently in the past, and we all have friends from back in the day that we don't see as much in later life. So here are three old friends who get a chance to go back in time (unbelievable as that may be) to re-live one night from their youth and re-connect with each other, and maybe even change a thing or two if they dare. You are also left wondering what you might do if you had the same opportunity!

                      John Cusack is his usual self (not too dissimilar to the character he played in High Fidelity for example) and Craig Robinson is great too. Clark Duke and Lyndsy Fonseca both appeared in Kick Ass recently and Duke is almost the same guy, a sarcastic teenage nerd, while Fonseca at least gets something different and makes the most of Adam's obnoxious ex-girlfriend role, even if it is only a brief appearance. I've known guys like Violator, who have been around for decades and still want to party all the time, and Rob Corddry plays him to perfection. Likewise, Chevy Chase's whimsical and ghostly repairman is excellent.

                      This movie brings back a lot of memories for me (mostly good ones!), growing up in that infamous "decade that style forgot". I remember the colourful outfits and outlandish hairstyles, and listening to my tapes on the Walkman until the batteries run down and the music gets slower and slower...

                      Speaking of which, the movie soundtrack is a mixed bag of 80s nostalgia as you might expect. The cheesy pop from the likes of Scritti Politti, New Order and Spandau Ballet (are you grimacing yet?) are balanced out by Public Enemy and Motley Crue, so it's a varied compilation, and "Once in a Lifetime" by Talking Heads fits in perfectly at the end.

                      Strangely, "Kickstart My Heart" by Motley Crue (about the only song by them that I actually like) is in the movie, but doesn't appear on the soundtrack CD.

                      "Jessie's Girl" (originally by Rick Springfield) and "Let's Get it Started" (originally by Black Eyed Peas) are both sung by actor Craig Robinson and he's pretty good. The album is on Spotify if you have access to it and would like a quick listen, although not all songs are available to play.

                      Soundtrack CD:

                      1. Louder Than a Bomb (Back Into Time) - Public Enemy
                      2. Perfect Way - Scritti Politti
                      3. The Safety Dance - Men Without Hats
                      4. What You Need - Inxs
                      5. Modern Love - David Bowie
                      6. I Will Dare - The Replacements
                      7. Push It - Salt N Pepa
                      8. Bring on the Dancing Horses - Echo and the Bunnymen
                      9. Save It For Later - The Beat
                      10. True - Spandau Ballet
                      11. Jessie's Girl - Craig Robinson
                      12. Bizarre Love Triangle - New Order
                      13. Once In a Lifetime - Talking Heads
                      14. Home Sweet Home - Motley Crue
                      15. Let's Get It Started - Craig Robinson

                      Hot Tub Time Machine is out in cinemas now and if you're looking for a really funny feel-good film to see with your mates, this is the one!

                      Directed by Steve Pink (who previously also co-wrote the screenplay for High Fidelity and Grosse Pointe Blank, both starring John Cusack)

                      Running time: 99 minutes
                      Rated R in the US, 15 in the UK
                      DVD extras TBC

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                      • More +
                        16.04.2010 12:05
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                        Bottled natural mineral water that's good for you and the environment.

                        Funny how things change... Years ago we would have laughed at the idea of actually going to the shop and buying a bottle of water, when you're already paying your local water company to provide you with good quality drinking water at home. It just seemed a silly idea. Kids would call you a sucker if you walked out of the shop with a bottle of Evian...

                        Still, the bottled water industry kept bubbling away and soon buying a bottle of Evian or Volvic became perfectly normal. The market was flooded (ha, I had to use that one sooner or later...) with various brands, somebody somewhere was making heaps of cash and we were all healthier due to all that wonderful mineral water...

                        In recent years there have been campaigns by environmental groups (in London, Venice, etc.) calling for people to go back to drinking tap water, for example in restaurants. Transporting water from source to the shops, plus all that plastic isn't good, so save your money, save the planet and have a fresh glass of river Thames...right?

                        Nice idea, and I'm all for protecting the environment, but when you look at what's actually in your tap water, protecting your own health becomes a more obvious choice. Thus the pendulum swings again. Well, at least for now...

                        I'll skip the wild rumours regarding my local supplier Thames Water (the ones regarding the London wastewater being treated then circulated back to your tap several times over...) and stick to one or two facts.

                        I'm not sure if all water suppliers provide this information, but Thames Water are happy to let you know what they found in your local area last time they did a quality check. Type in your postcode and browse through the numbers on the pdf sheet...

                        http://www.thameswater.co.uk/cps/rde/xchg/corp/hs.xsl/899.htm

                        For the purpose of this review and the time I have at my disposal to write it, I'll resist the temptation to Google every single item on the list. Instead I'll just mention a few things... A case of Coliform bacteria found in 2008 (ooh, lovely) plus Aluminium, Cyanide, Lead, Mercury, Arsenic and various pesticides! Slightly alarming!

                        Overall quality "good" and all the bad stuff is below prescribed levels (e.g. Mercury average is 0.1 micrograms/litre, where prescribed limit is 1 microgram/litre).

                        I'm no expert by any stretch of the imagination, but does this inspire confidence in you, or do you think your drinking water should perhaps have zero amount of Lead or Cyanide? Maybe I'm just paranoid, but what's the long-term effect of those tiny amounts of say Aluminium settling in your brain? Oh that's right... now I remember... Alzheimer's!

                        Anyway, draw your own conclusions from that, but for this cynical paranoid fool, tap water is out! (except when my mum makes soup, it's just too good to worry about tap water...)

                        So it's bottled water for me, and Isklar is my new favourite. I first discovered Isklar last year in my local Waitrose. It's been on the market since 2008 and is slowly appearing in more and more shops.

                        Isklar (meaning "ice-clear") comes from the 6000-year-old Folgefonna glacier in the Hardanger region of Norway, a remote area that has never been inhabited or industrialised and where "soaring mountains plunge into deep mysterious fjords", as the promotional waffle describes it.

                        It's also where Norwegian Black Metal bands film their videos (I'm just guessing...) and where mountain trolls dance around the fire and guard the source of Isklar (this bit is true, at least according to the legend!), only allowing those worthy of it to drink it!

                        While many other mineral waters are extracted by borehole, Isklar is bottled where it naturally bursts out of the mountainside, high above Hardangerfjord, and is shipped directly from there. The bottling plant uses locally generated hydroelectric power, all of which helps to reduce that pesky carbon footprint. Their bottles are CarbonNeutral (and guilt-free) and the company has invested in a plastic recycling plant. They also encourage their employees to swim to work, crazy Norwegians.

                        Filtered by layers and layers of hard rock and glacier ice, Isklar is one of the purest natural mineral waters in the world. It's always refreshing and I find that I drink more water than I used to. I suggest you give it a try and see for yourself.

                        Isklar is also low on sodium, for those keeping to a low Sodium diet. My tap water for example contains 24.7mg/l, while Isklar has only 1.2mg/l of Sodium.

                        Here's a typical mineral analysis (mg/l):

                        Calcium - 6.4
                        Potassium - 2.1
                        Sodium - 1.2
                        Bicarbonates - 17.2
                        Chlorides - 1.5
                        Sulphates - 8.8
                        Nitrates - 0.3
                        Silica - 1.2
                        Dry residue at 180C - 32

                        Isklar is sold in various sizes (single bottles of 250ml, 500ml, 660ml, 1litre and 1.5litre) as well as the usual multi-packs of 6. The bottle design is the best I've seen. It's easy to grip and the blue and white label plus all those triangles and diamond shapes reflect the light at various angles making the bottle appear to be a thick block of ice. Truly dazzling!

                        At the moment Isklar is on special offer at Waitrose. The 1.5 litre bottle usually costs 65p, but this month it's 48p. The 6-pack is £2.66, which works out even cheaper.

                        Also available is the new Isklar sparkling mineral water, but that's another review... For more information, check their flashy and ice-cold website http://www.isklar.no

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                        • Whip It (DVD) / DVD / 106 Readings / 103 Ratings
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                          07.04.2010 13:49
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                          A bored teenage girl becomes roller derby star

                          ~ Film only review, includes some spoilers! ~

                          Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page) is a bored 17-year-old girl living with her parents and younger sister in Bodeen, a small town on the outskirts of Austin, Texas. She works as a waitress at a roadside café called Oink Joint, with her best friend Pash (Alia Shawkat). They both dream of escaping, and while Pash is trying to get into an Ivy League school, Bliss doesn't know what direction her life is going in.

                          Her mother Brooke (Marcia Gay Harden) pushes her into entering regular beauty pageant competitions, even though Bliss has no interest in them. Her father Earl (Daniel Stern) meanwhile is happy to hide away in his van drinking beer and watching football on his portable TV, while everyone thinks he's working late.

                          During a shopping trip to Austin with her mother, Bliss picks up a flyer for a local roller derby game. She decides to secretly go to the event with Pash, and falls in love with the underground sport. While talking to one of the roller girls Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig) afterwards, she gets invited to try out for the Hurl Scouts, a team that has never won a game.

                          Thanks to her speed on skates, she gets a place on the team (pretending to be 22 years old) and is soon nicknamed Babe Ruthless by Razor, the team coach (Andrew Wilson). After changing her work shifts and telling her parents she's taking extra classes, Bliss starts taking regular bus rides to Austin to train with her team.

                          Along the way she meets Oliver (Landon Pigg), a singer in a rock band and starts going out with him, before he goes on tour with his band. The Hurl Scouts meanwhile manage to win a few games thanks to their new star player Bliss, and are due to play in the Championship game, which falls on the same date as a beauty pageant that Bliss's mother is looking forward to.

                          Bliss faces a tough choice, although when Iron Maven (Juliette Lewis), a bitter 36-year-old player from the opposing team, discovers Bliss has lied about her age, this choice is made a little easier. As she is underage, Bliss's only chance to play in the final game is to get permission from one of her parents...

                          Cast:

                          Ellen Page - Bliss Cavendar
                          Marcia Gay Harden - Brooke Cavendar
                          Daniel Stern - Earl Cavendar
                          Juliette Lewis - Iron Maven
                          Alia Shawkat - Pash
                          Kristen Wiig - Maggie Mayhem
                          Andrew Wilson - Razor
                          Landon Pigg - Oliver
                          Carlo Alban - Birdman
                          Zoe Bell - Bloody Holly
                          Eve - Rosa Sparks
                          Drew Barrymore - Smashley Simpson
                          Ari Graynor - Eva Destruction


                          This is Drew Barrymore's debut as a director and it's not a bad film overall. I mostly enjoyed it, although it seemed to drag a little in a few places, and perhaps could have been 15 minutes shorter. It's a familiar coming-of-age story, teenage rebellion against the parents, first romantic disappointment, learning a few lessons along the way, etc, etc.

                          What makes it a little more interesting is the all-girl roller-skating action and the sport that's fairly underground in most places being shown on the big screen. A lot of it is a blur of boots, fishnets, bums and elbows, and fascinating as that is, at one point I did wish I was watching the original Rollerball...

                          Ellen Page puts in a great performance as the innocent and bored teenager. She's obviously a very talented actress and no doubt will have a successful career. (She also did all her stunts in the movie after learning to skate for the role)

                          I first saw Marcia Gay Harden in Space Cowboys, and later in Mystic River. Here, she is excellent again, as Brooke Cavendar, a strict mother who only wants the best for her daughters. (Her eyebrows remind me of Spock somewhat...!) Anyway, there's good chemistry between her and Daniel Stern (City Slickers / Home Alone), a chilled out and sympathetic dad who eventually rebels against his wife and allows Bliss to skip the pageant and go to her game.

                          Juliette Lewis is her usual self, perfectly capturing the jaded and slightly psychotic older woman who wants her five minutes in the spotlight before she is inevitably replaced by younger and faster Bliss. Few years back I saw Juliette perform with her band, and great as she is as a front woman, she really should stick to acting.

                          Drew herself takes a minor role as Smashley Simpson, one of the roller girls, and she seems to enjoy herself a lot, particularly during the food fight scene. That must have been a fun day on the set!

                          Some of the minor characters in the film could have been cast better, the "cute" rock singer and the annoying game announcer to name a few. And the whole first crush subplot bored me a bit, and could have been left out.

                          The film has a lot of music, and in places it just doesn't fit. Instead it feels as if the soundtrack is being shoved down your throat too much. I hate that, although I didn't mind hearing "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker"...

                          Whip It was mostly filmed in Michigan (cheaper for tax reasons apparently) and roller girls from local teams were used as extras. Several scenes were also filmed in Austin, Texas.

                          The film has so far received mostly positive reviews from critics. It grossed $13m in North America.

                          Written by Shauna Cross, and based on her novel Derby Girl.

                          Directed by Drew Barrymore

                          Runtime 111 min

                          UK Cert. 12A (some sexual content, bad language and drug material)

                          Released in UK cinemas April 7th

                          DVD extras TBC.

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                          • Kick-Ass (DVD) / DVD / 87 Readings / 86 Ratings
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                            22.03.2010 16:46
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                            I'm going to see it again tomorrow!!

                            ~ Film only review, some spoilers included! ~

                            Dave Lizewski is a regular teenage boy who spends time hanging around with his two geeky school friends, reads comic books and dreams about girls. When he gets mugged yet again by local thugs, he begins to wonder why people don't dress up as superheroes and fight crime in real life.

                            Inspired by his comic book heroes, he gets hold of a green and yellow suit and mask, names himself Kick-Ass and goes out to look for bad guys, undeterred by the fact that he doesn't actually have any superpowers.

                            This gets him badly injured when he attempts to stop two thugs breaking into a car, and he ends up in hospital. The good news is, when he recovers and goes back to school some time later, he finally gets noticed by Katie, the girl he's been lusting after.

                            He soon dons the suit again and gets involved in a 3-against-1 fight outside a diner, managing to fight off three guys using only sticks and powers of persuasion. The incident is witnessed by a handful of people in the diner, one of whom films the fight on his phone and posts the clip on You Tube. Kick-Ass soon becomes world-famous as the clip is watched by millions.

                            This attracts the attention of the local gangster boss Frank D'Amico, as well as real life vigilantes, 11-year old Hit Girl, and her father Big Daddy. Dave realises he's not quite cut out to be a superhero after witnessing Hit Girl despatching half dozen men and saving his life. But he's involved more than he realises.

                            When D'Amico's men get slaughtered and his warehouse destroyed, Kick-Ass gets the blame. D'Amico is furious and wants him dead. Meanwhile, Dave is spending more and more time with Katie. She worries about him getting injured again, so he promises he'll quit after doing one more "Kick-Ass thing".

                            He meets one of his "fans" from MySpace, another crime-fighting superhero, Red Mist, who appears to idolise Kick-Ass. They go to meet up with Hit Girl and Big Daddy, but not everything goes according to plan...


                            Cast:
                            Aaron Johnson - Dave Lizewski / Kick-Ass
                            Nicolas Cage - Big Daddy
                            Chloe Moretz - Mindy / Hit Girl
                            Mark Strong - Frank D'Amico
                            Christopher Mintz-Plasse - Red Mist
                            Lyndsy Fonseca - Katie


                            I was one of the lucky few who managed to blag a ticket for the first preview screening of Kick-Ass in the UK. I'd been looking forward to finally seeing this movie for some time, having seen the trailer ages ago. And it's been worth the wait. As comic book superhero films go, this one really (pardon the expression) "kicks ass"...

                            Right from the start, the laughs and punches come thick and fast, and the action hardly slows down until the very end. Mark Strong is great as the bad guy, and Aaron Johnson (apparently a last-minute casting) does a good enough job of being Kick-Ass.

                            Chloe Moretz (12 years old at the time of filming) gets to do a lot of the kicking, shooting, stabbing and swearing in the movie, and steals a lot of the limelight from Nicolas Cage, who hardly says a few lines before putting on his Batman-like suit and doing some shooting of his own... (And to think the role of Big Daddy nearly went to Robert De Niro!).

                            The story is fairly simple although there are one or two twists and surprises along the way, including a very cool piece of kit used in the final sequence (which I won't give away). There is a lot of violence, and we get to see knuckle-dusters, baseball bats, knives, swords, machine guns, hand grenades and a bazooka used to hurt and kill a lot of people. Oh, and an industrial-sized microwave too.

                            It's not for the faint-hearted, some stunts do leave you gasping in horror, although you do end up laughing a lot too, so it's a fairly good balance between the two. There isn't a dull moment that's for sure.

                            Our hero's outfit gets ridiculed (they call him a "green condom") and when there's no crime to fight, he goes looking for a missing cat! It's the kind of silly stuff that appeals to me...The reaction at the cinema seemed to be pretty good too, plenty of laughs and even a spontaneous applause at the end!

                            Kick-Ass should do well at the box office and may well go on to become a bit of a cult movie. There is an obvious hint at the sequel towards the end of the film, and frankly looking at the recent "serious" superhero movie sequels like Batman / Spiderman / Superman, I think I'd rather see another Kick-Ass film than anything else!

                            But it nearly didn't get made, as various Hollywood studios kept turning the movie down. It's only when a handful of people (including a certain Mr B. Pitt) put up their own cash that project got off the ground. When some of the footage was shown at the Comic-Con last year, it apparently raised the roof, so much so that the big studios were now desperate to get in on the action!

                            Aside from the comedy and cartoonish violence, the film does ask one serious question. Would you get involved if you saw a crime being committed? It reminds me of that old guy from Richmond who confronted a group of kids breaking into a jewellery shop while the rest of the people just looked on. Was he unbelievably brave or just lucky that the hoodies didn't turn on him?

                            That brings me to (probably) my favourite scene in the film, which takes place outside a diner, where Kick-Ass is trying to protect a complete stranger from three thugs intent on beating him up. He's desperately outnumbered but he's not giving up.

                            The thugs, mystified, ask what's wrong with him? Kick-Ass reverses the question and asks them to consider if something might be wrong with them, beating a defenceless guy in front of everybody...They turn and walk away, the good triumphs over evil, words prove mightier than the fist.

                            The movie "soundtrack" is hit and miss, it's nice hearing Joan Jett's Bad Reputation, and The Dickies' Banana Splits in the background while Hit Girl runs around beating people up (and nice for them to get some royalties too!), but using Morricone 's For a Few Dollars More theme tune towards the end was a letdown. An original piece of music would have worked so much better! But that's only a minor complaint...

                            All in all, it was a good night, the movie was free, and thanks to Metro newspaper and Jameson's, so were the Irish Mule cocktails before and after the screening! I behaved though, and didn't attempt any kick-ass stunts myself...(just as well!)

                            I'll be getting this on DVD when it's released, but would strongly recommend to go and see it on the big screen, if any of the above appeals to you...!

                            Director: Matthew Vaughn

                            Cert. (UK): 15 (Graphic violence, some naughty language, brief nudity and drug use)

                            DVD extras TBC

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                            • Coogan's Bluff (DVD) / DVD / 93 Readings / 88 Ratings
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                              29.11.2009 15:50
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                              A treat for fans of early Clint Eastwood

                              The Plot (some spoilers included)

                              Walt Coogan (Clint Eastwood) is Deputy Sheriff of Piute County in Arizona, who has a habit of disobeying orders. When his superior, Sheriff McCrea finds him frolicking in a bathtub with someone else's wife, instead of dealing with the Navajo prisoner he had just tracked down in the desert, Coogan is given a tricky assignment as punishment. He is to travel to New York City to extradite a captured fugitive named Ringerman (Don Stroud) so he can stand trial in Arizona.

                              Arriving in New York (and landing on top of the Pan Am building in a helicopter no less) Coogan is informed by the overworked NYPD Lieutenant McElroy (Lee J. Cobb) that Ringerman is at the Bellevue hospital recovering from a bad LSD trip and can't travel until doctors release him. When they do, he'll need to follow procedure and get various papers from the District Attorney's office and the State Supreme Court.

                              As this may take some time, Coogan is told to stay in New York and wait. He passes time flirting with probation officer Julie Roth (Susan Clark) before losing patience and "bluffing" his way into the prison hospital and persuading the doctor to release Ringerman into his custody.

                              On the way to the airport however Ringerman escapes, with a little help from his friends, including his hippie girlfriend Linny Raven (Tisha Sterling). Coogan is left unconscious and hospitalised, his ego also severely bruised. He then has to face the exasperated Lt. McElroy, who tells him to keep out of it and let the NYPD deal with Ringerman. But even when Sheriff McCrea officially takes him off the case, Coogan doesn't give up the chase and again takes matters into his own hands.

                              The Cast

                              Clint Eastwood - Deputy Sheriff Walt Coogan
                              Lee J. Cobb - Lt. McElroy, NYPD
                              Susan Clark - Julie Roth, probation officer
                              Don Stroud - James Ringerman
                              Tisha Sterling - Linny Raven
                              Betty Field - Ellen Ringerman
                              Tom Tully - Sheriff McCrea, Piute County
                              James Edwards - Sgt. Wallace, stakeout cop
                              Albert Popwell - Wonderful Digby
                              David Doyle - Pushie, tavern owner

                              This movie isn't an Oscar-worthy epic and won't change your life. It also wouldn't make my top 10 list of Clint Eastwood films. The story is fairly straightforward and the outcome predictable, but it's still an enjoyable and action-packed 90-minute ride, sprinkled with a bit of humour and some great one-liners.

                              Clint puts in a cool performance as usual, and his fans won't be disappointed, although Lee J. Cobb almost steals the show as the irritated Lieutenant McElroy. I've seen this film many times over the years, and the scenes involving Coogan and McElroy are still great to watch. Likewise Coogan's attempts at chatting up Julie are very entertaining, Susan Clark playing the role of the naïve and awkward probation officer really well.

                              The rest of the cast does a decent enough job, Betty Field is great as Ringerman's mother, but a special mention goes to Albert Popwell, who you may recognise from various Dirty Harry films (the pimp in "Magnum Force", Big Ed Mustapha in "The Enforcer", etc.)

                              He briefly pops up as Wonderful Digby, one of Linny Raven's stoned friends in the club, and has a knife point stand-off with Coogan. Few years later these two would act out the legendary and the frequently misquoted scene in "Dirty Harry", where Popwell is the bank robber who "gots to know" if Harry had fired "six shots or only five..."

                              The film is directed by Don Siegel (he also did the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", "The Shootist", "Dirty Harry", etc) who along with Sergio Leone was to become a major influence on Clint Eastwood as a director. Siegel supposedly appears in the film, Hitchcock style, but I haven't been able to spot him hard as I try.

                              The original score is by Lalo Schifrin ("Bullitt", "Dirty Harry", "Magnum Force", etc.) including the catchy opening theme (with a slight hint of Morricone, and the kind of tune you might like to whistle as you walk along an echoey corridor), and the silly flower power "Pigeon-Toed Orange Peel" song featured in the psychedelic night club sequence.

                              The name of the film is a reference to "Coogan's Bluff", a natural landmark in New York City in upper Manhattan (a small hill that rises up from the Harlem River, once owned by someone named Coogan...) considered to be the boundary between the neighbourhoods of Harlem and Washington Heights. The "bluff" features in the film several times, first when Coogan is taking a walk with Julie and then again during the final motorcycle chase sequence.

                              The studio executives must have only expected to sell a handful of copies of this film, so no effort was made with special features on the DVD, other than subtitles in multiple languages. The movie trailer, inclusion of some deleted scenes, and maybe the original poster artwork would have been nice! I'm aware of at least one deleted scene from the beginning of the film where Coogan is given his assignment by the Sheriff in his office. It's not crucial to the plot, but it does exist.

                              Also, when shown on TV, the fist fight in the pool hall is sometimes edited, as is the nudity in the night club, where a bare-chested woman literally lands in Coogan's arms, knocking his cowboy hat off. I wonder how many takes they needed to get that scene right!

                              Released: 1968 (Universal Studios)

                              Runtime: 93 min

                              Directed and produced by Don Siegel

                              Certified 15 in the UK (some nudity and violence but not too graphic)

                              Price from play.com £3.99 for the Region 2 version

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                                20.11.2009 22:25
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                                A great little town in Southwest USA

                                One fine sunny day, in the spring of last year, I spent an afternoon in Flagstaff, a small mountain town in Northern Arizona. I was on a three-week trip in the States with my travel buddy, and after the madness of Las Vegas, and three spectacular days at the Grand Canyon, it was time to catch our "ride" to the West Coast, the overnight Amtrak train to L.A.

                                We were dropped off at the railway station in Flagstaff in the early afternoon, and since our "Southwest Chief" train service wasn't leaving until around 9pm, we had half a day to kill.

                                Now some people like to sit on the beach and do nothing when they're on holiday. And there's nothing wrong with that. I however tend to cram as much as possible into every day, so much so that when I get home, I feel like I need another holiday just to have a rest.

                                Having said that, I hadn't researched Flagstaff too much as it was only supposed to be a quick stopover, somewhere to have a bite to eat, do a bit of shopping, and then have a few beers while waiting for the train. It didn't take too long to realise what a gem this place really is. I could have spent a week here at the very least, exploring the town and the surrounding area. But as our schedule was already full, one afternoon would have to do on this occasion.

                                First things first, we needed somewhere to leave our bags for a few hours.
                                We tried the train station first, but the nice gentleman at the counter explained that they had to remove lockers for security reasons, and suggested we try the International Hostel, a short walk away on the other side of the tracks. Five minutes later, we were at the hostel and a very friendly Bill Oddie lookalike at the reception took our bags in and promised to keep them safe for us for a small charge of $1 per bag. Sorted.

                                We walked back towards the train station admiring the view of the snow-covered mountains in the distance. The San Francisco Peaks, considered sacred by various local Native American Indian tribes, were named by the Franciscans in the 17th century, long before the City by the Bay got the same name. The mountain (a dormant volcano!) now offers various outdoor activities, including skiing and snowboarding at the Arizona Snowbowl resort, and is part of the Coconino National Forest, North America's largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine forest. And it was a flagpole, made from one of those Ponderosa Pine trees that gave Flagstaff its name!

                                We paused at the crossing to let a freight train go by and were astounded by the length of the train, it just seemed to go on forever! And the noise it made was deafening. As we later discovered, it was that very train line that put Flagstaff on the map. In the late 19th Century, Flagstaff became the largest town on the line between Albuquerque in New Mexico and the West Coast.

                                An eternity later the barriers were lifted and we crossed over, only to be faced with another major crossing - the legendary Route 66, which runs alongside the train line. Connecting Chicago to L.A., this was one of the original U.S. highways when it opened in 1926. It was immortalised in the song "(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66", recorded by many artists, Nat King Cole Trio, Chuck Berry, and the Rolling Stones to name a few. And although the old "Mother Road" has now been replaced by the Interstate Highways, some sections, including this stretch along Flagstaff's Santa Fe Avenue, are still marked as "Historic Route 66". So I've finally crossed it off my list! Eventually the traffic stopped and we were allowed to go and "(Get Our Lunch On) Route 66".

                                Café Espress on San Francisco Street was a good choice, huge portions, very cheap, with quick and friendly service. Then just around the corner, on Aspen Avenue, we stumbled upon the Downtown Diner. We just had to go in for a slice of cake and some coffee (including the obligatory free refills!). Very charming old diner, with leather booths, black & white photos of old Flagstaff on the wall, and the bar counter that's covered with car registration plates from all over the US.

                                After some 17 cups of coffee and about a hundred photos, we went out for a stroll around the town. The central area is pretty small, so you can walk everywhere, and it's laid out in a grid pattern, thus very easy to navigate. The atmosphere is easygoing and relaxed. Everywhere you go people are friendly and welcoming, and you feel like you could stand there and chat to them all day.

                                There are many bars and restaurants, art galleries, and jewellery & souvenir shops. I could have spent hours looking through some of the work by the local Navajo and Hopi artists, it was all very inspiring. A few grizzled bikers on Harley-Davidsons thundered by, and I stopped and admired (drooled over) some classic cars from the 50s and 60s. Seeing some of these beauties at the Ace Café in London is one thing, but to see them here, in their "natural habitat", was something else.

                                The day went very quickly and there just wasn't time to do much else. As we trundled back to the hostel for our bags, I started making a mental list of things to do in Flagstaff, when I come back. For some reason, I always do these lists, wherever I go...

                                The place recommended by most people seemed to be the Lowell Observatory, where first evidence of an expanding universe and Pluto were discovered! It's just outside Flagstaff and it's open to the public.

                                The Museum of Northern Arizona was also highly recommended, and some locals were also very proud of the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, one of the premier regional orchestras in the US apparently! Then there's the Arboretum, which features a huge collection of high-country wildflowers, as well as nature trails and scenic views. And using Flagstaff as your base, there are endless possibilities for day trips out of town, for example to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, the Meteor Crater, Walnut Canyon, etc.

                                It's also worth mentioning that several well known movies have been partly filmed in Flagstaff, including Midnight Run (the train depot), Forrest Gump (jogging around downtown Flagstaff), as well as Little Miss Sunshine and Terminal Velocity. The Hotel Monte Vista in Flagstaff hosted many film stars including Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Jane Russell and Bing Crosby during the 40s and 50s, when over 100 westerns were filmed in nearby Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon. Definitely worth a day trip, if you're a bit of a movie nerd like me.

                                To do these places justice, you need at least a week. And so it was decided, Flagstaff would be added to the global list of places to re-visit at some point in the future, for a minimum stay of seven days! This historic declaration was of course made over a cold beer at Mahoney's bar, yet another cosy establishment in Flagstaff, which luckily was within stumbling distance to the train station.

                                We were told our train can sometimes be late, as it has to give way to the freight trains along the way. Darkness fell and, as luck would have it, the Southwest Chief pulled in to the station on time. As we boarded, the train attendant took our bags and showed us to our "roomette", casually adding the toilets were out of use, until we get to California. Something to do with being high up in the mountains or something, his heavy accent and technical jargon made no sense.

                                And soon we were away, the lights of Flagstaff flickering in the distance, then disappearing. It was to be a night of absolutely no sleep whatsoever, a lot of staring out into the dark sky, and then watching the light levels gradually rise and seeing the first of many tall and skinny palm trees as we finally reached California...

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                                  13.11.2009 17:18
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                                  Must-see in Dubrovnik

                                  Pick up any guidebook to Croatia and the chances are it will have Dubrovnik's Old Town on the front cover. And usually it's that famous shot of the city walls, the old port, terracotta roof tiles and the glistening blue Adriatic Sea in the background.

                                  Nicknamed the "Pearl of the Adriatic" it truly is a magical place to visit. I have great memories from all my travels along the Croatian coast and having visited Dubrovnik a number of times over the years, I can see why people fall in love with the place. It's somewhere you should go at least once.

                                  First item on your Dubrovnik itinerary should be the tour of the medieval city walls that encircle the pedestrian-only Old Town. Built to protect the city from various enemies, the walls date back to 12th century, and are up to 6m thick and 25m high.

                                  Modifications and reinforcements were carried out over several hundred years including the addition of a series of towers and bastions. The walls were never breached by force and have been fully restored following the Serbian siege between October 1991 and May 1992.

                                  The fortresses are used in various ways today, one of them housing the Maritime Museum and Aquarium, another acting as a concert venue during the Dubrovnik Summer Festival.

                                  The views are amazing. As you walk around, photo opportunities present themselves, and whether you're looking out to sea and the island of Lokrum, the surrounding hills or down into the streets of the Old Town, you can't help but snap away.

                                  At nearly two kilometres in length, it's quite a walk. Allow yourself plenty of time, at least one hour, and if you like to take regular breaks to rest or take photos, then it's closer to two hours.

                                  I would suggest you do the tour first thing in the morning, as it gets very busy later on, particularly if there is a cruise ship around. Otherwise do it late afternoon, say 1 hour before closing time.

                                  During the summer months, specially July and August, it gets very hot up there, so keep that in mind. There aren't many shaded areas, so wear a hat and sun protection.

                                  Also, it may be obvious, but comfortable shoes or sandals, and a bottle of water are essential. Walking all the way around may be too much for young children or the elderly, as there are many stairs to climb.

                                  Finally, some sections are quite high and narrow, and looking down can be a little hair-raising for those with a fear of heights!

                                  Open daily 8am - 7pm in the summer, 10am - 3pm in winter.

                                  Entry is 50 Kunas, via Pile or Ploce gate.

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