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RussellC

RussellC
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Member since: 16.07.2000

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      21.09.2000 07:30
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      This is the second Alfred Bester book I've read, the first being the enjoyable 'The Stars My Destination', and I came to it with high expectations. I'm pleased to say that 'The Demolished Man' more than met those expectations and has to be one of the most enjoyable pieces of SF I've read this year. Bester has a talent for writting gripping, easy to read books that at the same time manage to contan great depths. 'The Demolished Man' paints a portrait of a fascinating future society, where changes to humanity are more significant than changes to technology. Ben Reich is one of the richest men in the Universe, running a giant corporation which apparently spans a multitude of businesses and planets. However, this isn't enough for Reich, his company is constantly threatened by closest rival D'Courtney. Reich is a driven, obsessive man who decides that something has to be done and consults the locked away emergency plans of an ancestor. To his surprise he finds guidelines on how best to execute a murder, the very plan he was beginning to hatch. Driven on by this advice and taking to heart the message that a murderer must be bold and strong in his action Reich plans to murder D'Courtney forcing a merger of their two companies. Unfortunately for Reich, even for a man of his power and wealth, murder is not an easy business in the future. Many humans are what is known as Espers, individuals with the ability to read the minds of others. Predominantly they are third class espers only able to scan the concious mind and then easily blocked. His real danger comes from the first class Espers to whom his mind will be an open book. So Reich sets about his plans with care, filling his mind with an infectious jingle to prevent 3rd class Espers detecting anything, and bribing a 1st class Esper into blocking the more skilled from reading his mind. We witness the succesful murder and then the game really becomes interesting
      . A 1st class Esper police detective called Lincoln Powell takes charge of investgating the case and it isn't long before he manages to snoop into Reich's mind and determine that he is the murderer. All he needs to get is the physical evidence of method, means and motive to convince the jury computer of Reich's guilt and he's one. key to the crime is the daughter of D'Courtney and only witness who has been sent out of her mind by the events. The plot then follows the two men as they play a game of cat and mouse, Lincoln always on the tail of Reich, and Reich always managing to dodge his traps. What marks the book out is the cunningness of Reich, his obsessive drive pushing him out of one situation into another as he increasingly desperately tries to prevent his 'demolition' where his mind will be destroyed. As Reich concedes he has 'the killer instinct' and is determined to fight society to get his way. If I had to fault this book in anyway it would be it's length, I read this in no time. In it's praise though, I read it so quickly because it was so hard to put down. The plot drives forward, throwing in new twists and turns. Just as you think Powell will have Reich and you know where the book is going, Reich dodges out of the trap again. Espers are incredibly well written, their secret telepathic communications often forming patterns on the page. It's an effective way to display how unique telepathic communication would be. Fututristic technology takes a back seat to the central characters making the book feel like a fifties film noir detective story. The characters are so well written it doesn't really matter when it's set though. There's a superbly written and breath-taking penultimate chapter (but to say anymore would spoil the ending a little) and a satisfyingly neat ending. A highly recommended novel, painting a fascinating picture of a future humanity where telepathy is a h
      ighly lucrative power too own. Ben Reich and Lincoln Powell are engrossing characters each driven in their own way, perhaps a little stereotypical, but still entertaining. Though quick to read, the book feels the right length, the story doesn't stretch itself too much and you come away with a solid picture of this world. The imaginative use of typesetting to represent telepathic communication adds to the amusement. It's a book every SF fan should take the time to read.

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    • Chrono Cross (PS) / Archive Game / 2 Readings / 36 Ratings
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      18.09.2000 08:16
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      Well after roughly 37 hours of gameplay spread over the last few weeks I've finally completed Chrono Cross and what a fantastic RPG it has been. The second title to be released in the US as part of Square's 'Summer of Adventure' it's a shame that we are unlikely to see the title released over here. Visually it will appeal to anyone who's enjoyed Sqare recent Final Fantasy titles, but in my opinion it shows a greater depth of gameplay then either FF7 or FF8. There's more freedom to the game, things are definately a lot less linear and the plot is entertainingly complex (yes, far more so than either of the recent FF games). Immeadiately the game starts you're thrown into the action, finding yourself in charge of Serge a yougn boy leading a group of 2 others through a tower apparently racing to encounter Sir Lynx. Just going with the events surrounding you, you explore the tower, fight a few creatures and activate a transporter pad. This takes you to a large door which you open and suddenly experience a series of bizarre visions. The next moment you wake up in the small village of Arni. Speaking to your mother you learn that you are late to meet your girlfriend, Leena. Rushing to meet her, she demands you fetch her some Komono scales to make a necklace. Dutifully you head off to fight the lizards and get the scaes, before meeting Leena on the nearby beach. It's at the beach that things really start to pick up, Serge hears a strange calling and suddenly finds himself falling only to wake up later on the beach. Returning to Arni he soon discovers this isn't the same world he was in a while ago, everything seems identical except that he died when he was younger in this world. This is where the adventure really picks up, as Serge sets out to find just what has happened to him. It isn't long before he encounters Kid a young girl seeking revenge on Sir Lynx for killing a friend and one of Serge's accomplaces d
      uring the raid on the tower that started the game. The plot thickes as we learn of frozen flames, six mythical dragons and the existence of these two worlds in which Serge apparently plays a key role. It isn't so far into the game before Serge can return to his own world, but by then he is so embroiled in far bigger events that he doesn't have a chance to settle back into ordinary life. Instead Serge must save the world from the apparent threat that Sir Lynx represents. However things will get a lot more complex before he gets chance to do this and not very much turns out to be as it seems. If anything where Chrono Cross really wins is in plot, it's complex and deep, perhaps suffering a little from the Japanese RPG's habit of preaching on how mankind abuses the Earth, but none the less entertaining. It does get very complex, especially once the two worlds are involved, often with certain events only being performed on one or the other. The worlds are identical in terms of locations though the locations themselves may vary and this adds a lot of interest to a game. Half the puzzle can be determining which world you should be exploring a location in. Any plot filled with time travel and dimension crossing is likely to be convoluted and this is certainly the case for Chrono Cross. By the end of the game it turns out that an awful lot of events all tie in to events of Serge's life. Fortunately much of these revelations are only hinted at until the last few hours when you're so busy rushing to save the two worlds that you don't worry about being confused. It really isn't a barrier to enjoying these games. Graphically Chrono Cross is excellent, generally resembling FF8, but with slightly better visuals I feel. As some one used to the Dreamcast's higher resolution I coudn't help thinking how much the title would benefit from being on the DC or PS2, it would look superb in a higher resolution. However locations are
      varied and colourful, clearly a lot of time and attention have been spent on the design (as you'd expect from Square). The world map is detailed, but easy to use, though in general you won't be spending that much time on it. The games music matches it's visuals with a number of excellent tracks, the opening theme being one of my favourites. Sound effects are distinctly Square with a nuber of them being familiar from the last two FF games. All in all the presentation is superb, for a game without the hype of Final Fantasy (in the West) this more than matches in quality. Gameplay manages to outclass the presnetation. Controls will be familiar to anyone who's played FF7 or 8 and the game can be picked up in a matter of minutes. Combat isn't time based, but rather stamina based and uses a system of elements for magic, perhaps comparable with FF8 junctionign system. The elements and stamina add a degree of complexity to combat that rewards intelligent and thought out battle strategies. Get your strategy right and combatting bosses becomes a lot easier, relying on the player to keeps their wits and carefully choose their attacks. The use of magic and summoning spells results in typically impressive graphics. All in all it ensures that combat never gets tiresome, which is a problem that some RPGs need to deal with. To make matters easier there are no random encounters, so if you don't want to fight a creature just avoid it. Characters only level up through fighting with bosses so you really could get by without many fights, but the spoils from fighting are needed fro upgrading your equipment. Puzzles tend to be of the usual RPG fare, find a person or object, bring it to a certain location or perfrom some other similar task. The existence of two worlds as mentioned adds some interest as you may need to perfrom the task in one world or the other. There's a large number of other characters who can join your party, some of them i
      ntroducing potential subquests. For example a blacksmith tells you of a rainbow material that makes very good weaponry. When you find some you learn that you'll need to bring the blacksmith from the other world and find a good enough hammer to make this weaponry. It's quite entertaining to bring the same people from the two worlds together, but in this instance I didn't find the hammer before completing the game. These side quests along with several periods where the game is very nonlinear makes for a much more interesting RPG than I've experienced of late. Mush of the time I wasn't railroaded down a particular course or another, but free to wander and discover things at my own pace. Upon completion of the game you can make a Game+ save which enables you to play again, but with all the party members you'd found and with your much higher levels right from the start. If you want to find everyone who can join your team and explore every little nuance of the game you'll need to do this. I haven't started down this path yet, but I suspect I'll give it a go soon as Chrono Cross has been so enjoyable. Chrono Cross is based 20 years after the events of the SNES game Chrono Trigger. I've never played Chrono Trigger, but I knew it was a fan favourite and this was what prompted me to buy Chrono Cross. Having enjoyed the game so much I've now downloaded a SNES emulator and a copy of the Chrono Trigger ROM so I'll get to find out even more about the events in this world. It's a definite sign of quality when a game can create such a desire to replay it and to explore its world further, if only more RPGs were this involving. If you hadn't guessed by now, I really loved Chrono Cross and whole heartedly recommend it to any Playstation owning RPG fan. I haven't enjoyed an RPG this much since I import Lunar from the US, but it's a shame I have to import these games to enjoy them, if only more were releas
      ed in the UK. If you enjoyed either of the Final Fantasy outings on the Playstation then I think you might find this an even more rewarding game and anyway it'll help tide you over until FF9 makes an appearance. Highly recommended for anyone who likes RPGs and likes them with some depth.

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        15.09.2000 06:58
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        When I started reading this book I had a strange feeling of deja vu, largely thanks to recent film and TV in the form of Starship Troopers (based on a Heinlen novel of the same name) and Space Above and Beyond. This book was written back in 1974 and so got there long before either of those two and anyway it tells a far better war story. Joe Haldeman writes inspried by his experiences in Vietnam and the result is a book that really conveys the pain of warfare. My only complaint has to be that this message has become so common in our film and literature that it seemed almost tired. Being fair to the book it gets its message across well, it's just that it isn't a new message to me. As Earth's space travel capabilities improve we gain the ability to travel close to the speed of light and hence cover vast distances in relatively small spaces of time (take note, relativity is very important in this novel). Mankind makes forays into colonising other star systems, but soon meets with disaster when the colonists are wiped out by an alien race known as the Taurans. Immeadiately the Earth rallys for war collecting together a bunch of well educated men and women to train into skilled killing machines. Amongst these soon to be soldiers is our protagonist William Mandella, a young man with a Physics degree. Packed off to a space boot camp he learns to fight in the most extreme conditions where simply tripping over can mean death. Those that survive basic training are sent out to attack a Tauran base in a distant solar system. Shipped off near the speed of light relativity means that what will seem like a few monts for the soldiers will be many years for those back on Earth. After a successful first campaign the soldiers return back to Earth heros. Many years have passed and Mandella and the few survivors are shocked by how much the world has changed. Mandella is met by his mother, now an elderly woman, accompanied by a bodyguard as it's dangerou
        s to travel openly without one. As he and his lover, Marygay, dscover just how alien the world is too them now they soon come together and ultimately sign up for another tour of duty. The two continue to fight together in the war, suriviving a number of difficult battles and space flights. Relativity separates them further from their home planet of Earth, each journey bringing them back to a world technologically and sociologically distinct from before. All seems well for them until they are given separate commissions, ensuring they'll never see each other again as once again relativity takes it's toll. Overall it's a pretty good book, gripping enough that I raced through it and with an interesting if now familiar message. Relativity proves to be a powerful tool for driving home the separation and seclusion of the soldier from society. When society is so radically changed it becomes an easy step to understand the alienation the soldiers feel. One particular flaw for me arises from just how distinct the culture becomes later on. Returning from one tour of duty Mandella and Marygay discover that homosexuality is now the norm, the eugenics council of Earth encouraging it to cut down on the birth rate. In fact it's gone so far that there are no heterosexuals anymore, and if anyone is heterosexual that can be corrected. I've no objection to the homosexuality, it just seems a little bizarrely far fetched that within a matter of a few hundred years (perhaps a couple of generations) everyone has changed to one sexual orientation. My one other complaint has to be a somewhat weak ending, the resolution of the war is something of a cop out and briefly handled at that. Perhaps it'as because the book's primary concern is the affect of war upon it's soldiers, but I felt the conclusion could have been neater. Perhaps surprisingly it finishes with an amazingly happy ending that I have to admit left me feelng good. Perhaps a little
        too sickly and even a surprise in a book focussing on the affect of war on man, but definately a relief when you've felt nothing but pity for Mandella over the last hundred pages. These complaints aside it's an enjoyable book and a good page turner. In my opinion its not the best of the titles currently available in the SF Masterworks range, but it's definately worthy of the title. If you enjoy war stories definately read this, it's suitably thoughtful on the subject. If you want some easy to read SF with a strong message again this is a book to consider.

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        12.09.2000 07:34
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        I've long had an interest in Science Fiction, but spent most of my teenage years reading classical literature and as such haven't read that broadly of the great writers of SF. Which means that for me the SF Masterworks series from Orion is an excellent range giving me a chance to experience a diverse selection of authors. Having read Olaf Stapledon's "Last and First Men" I have to question the appearance of the word 'Masterwork' on the cover of this book. I don't doubt that it may have been influential, but I found the novel to be both dull and increasingly absurd. Written back in 1930 this book presents a future history of mankind from what was then the present far forward by many billions of years. Stapledn was a psychology and philosophy lecturer and a pacifist and this shows to an extent in his writing. For example on of the later stages of mankinds civilisation bears an uncanny resemblance to Plato's Utopia as given in the republic. Throughout the history mankinds acts of violence and destruction are viewed with suitable harshness and are frequently the cause of mankinds own downfall, which delays our evolution to the form of last men. The book falls down however when it comes to the development and evolution of man. I do not expect my SF to be scientifically accurate and I'd regard myself as pretty good at suspending disbelief, but Olaf makes it very hard to do it. Perhaps I should note that I used to be a biologist, and though it's been a while I still have a pretty good understanding of evolutionary theory, which is more than can be said for Stapledon. I don't mind authors using biology with some flexibility when it lends to a good story, but some of Stapledon's ideas are insane. It isn't so long from now that we all live in giant tower blocks spending most of our life flying small aeroplanes in elaborate rituals to our Gods. At a young age children are taken out by plane, gripping
        on to the wings for their life, only those who hold on survive and enter the nezxt generation, yet Stapledon tells us that the human ability to grip is being reduced when there is an obvious sleection for it. Well perhaps I'm not suspending my disbelief as much as I could do but I couldn't help being reminded of Vic Reeves asking Carol Vorderman if in the future we'd all drive round in giant weeping lemons. Other interesting events to come are the loss of fuel by the race of plane flying men causing civilisation to crash. Uprising's of the Republic like society, which crashes due to warfare. The rebuilding of humanty from about 10 survivors of a great disaster. The development of giant braned men, whose minds are cased in great columns. The shifting of the position of the moon because the devlopment of civilisation apparently has an effect on the pull of gravity. One of my personal favourites the self-modification of some men into birdmen who are so euphoric whilst flying than can commit suicide. I could go on, but perhaps I've given too many things away already. Needless to say their are many more variations on mankind mentioned in the book. To be fair Stapledon is imaginative and highly inventive, but I can't help feeling that his world s at times incnsistant. Some of his ideas had me laughing with their silliness; perhaps a consequence of progress in scientific knowledge making Stapledon's vision seem somewhat dated. I can't help feeling that other authors gave both more accurate and more entertaining visions around that time. Part of the problem for me with "Last and First Men" is it says very little to me about mankind, there is a message there of our own folly and self-destructive habits, but it's at times incidental to the bizarre and grand nature of our set backs. A lot of the SF I've been reading lately (in the Masterworks range) has said far more of interest to me about man's philosph
        ies and psychology. For me this book was a disappointment, the weakest novel in the lineup so far. Despite this I will be reading the other Stapledon book in the collection, but more for the sake of completeness than for hopes of a better book. It does have entertainment value, primarily for some of the absurdities of Stapledon's vision. Perhaps his views or more understandable when we remember that the atomic era lead to stories of giant radioactive insects threatening mankind.

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        • Shanghai Noon (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 24 Ratings
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          09.09.2000 00:37
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          I've long been a fan of Jackie Chan's movies, his talent for physical comedy and martial arts is impressive, so it's no surprise that I wanted to see shanghai Noon. I have to admit though that some of Jackie's recent films, particularly those made in the west hadn't quite captured the spirit and fun of his earlier work in Hong Kong. 'Rush Hour' had particularly put me off, apart from anything else I found Chris tusker's character in that film highly irritating. Fortunately 'Shanghai Noon' gets both the comedy and the action right and in my opinion is the best Chan has done in a while. If you've never seen a Chan film before there are a couple of things to bear in mind, firstly the plot will be very simple and have a happy ending, and secondly the comedy is very basic. As long as you go in not expecting anything very deep you're not likely to be disappointed. The plot of Shanghai Noon is nothing more than your typical underdog hero rescues the princess story. Chan plays Chon Wang, an Imperial Guard in the forbidden City in China, witnessing Princess Pei Pei (Lucy Lui) leaving the fortress he manages to gain a place on the rescue mission when it turns out she's been kidnapped. Moving swiftly to the West, Chan's Uncle is killed by bandits lead by Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson) and he sets out on his own to find the Princess. Wang bumps into O'Bannon again on his journey and after at first fighting they set off to rescue the Princess together. It isn't long before they're wanted men with Wang known as the Shanghai Kid though. All of this leads to plenty of opportunities for fights and disagreements between the two leads. The action is as excellent as usual, though I have to admit it did seem toned down compared to some of the impressive stunts Chan has pulled off in the past in films such as Project A. Perhaps as others have suggested Chan is showing his age now. That's not t
          o detract from the action in the film though, it's still very impressive and often highly amusing. Chan does his usual routines involving props in the fight, this time they are western props though. What helps raise this film above the likes of 'Rush Hour' is a far more amusing partner for Chan, Owen Wilson makes a highly amusing inept Bandit, with a nicely dry sense of humour. The interaction between the two works very well, Wilson gets most of the funny lines, whilst Jackie gets the best of the action. Overall it's a highly enjoyable hour and 50 minutes of entertainment. The actions not as good as in his early films like Drunken Master (available on DVD in the UK) or even some of his more recent works like Rumble in the Bronx. The plot and characters in this film are a little stronger than in some of his previous works. If you're already a Chan fan then you should go and see this one, it's better than Rush Hour. If you've never seen Chan before then I'd recommend it if you're looking for a lightweight bit of comedy and action, something that doesn't need too much thought.

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          • GameCube in General / Archive Game / 0 Readings / 23 Ratings
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            05.09.2000 07:34
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            After months of speculation Nintendo have final announced the specifications for its new console and Playstation 2 rival. As someone with most of the major consoles and no real company loyalty I have to say that the machine is looking quite promising. I don't think Nintendo fans should expect it to shake up the market, Sony have established such a strong brand now that it would take an awful lot to shift their market presence. However the machine gives me hope that Nintendo will continue to occupy a firm niche in the gaming world and that hopefully means I'll still be able to get some of the superbly designed games they produce. Considering the boxes specifications all the expected leaps have been made. Nintendo have shoved tonnes of power and memory into the little box. A 405Mhz CPU produced by IBM is at the core of the system alogn with a GPU from DEC. All together the machine houses an impressive total of 40Mb of RAM, in the order of ten times more than the N64. Numbers like that alone don't mean much, but the images and video Nintendo have been showing so far make the right impression. Resolution is vastly improved, but there's still the distinctive Nintendo style, bright colours and bold design. Memory cards will come in at roughly 1Mb, but with optional adaptors for memory cards in the range of 32-256Mbs. It looks to me like Nintendo are going to try to achieve what they aimed for with the 64DD drive. Perhaps saving large levels or extensions to your memory card? There's more than enough room on one of those for any of the N64's cartridge games. Probably the biggest change of all is that Nintendo have finally moved to disc based storage, this time using their own proprietary mini-DVD format to house a game. Promising 1.5 Gb of sotrage on a disc this should be mroe than enough for the style of gaming Nintendo normally go in for. It does however limit the Gamecube away from the wider field of DVD movies, something I'
            ;m more than happy to accept, I prefer my games machine to be a games machine and my DVD player to be a DVD player. However for those who want a hybrid, there are rumours that Panasonic will be building the technology into future players. All this is built into a neat looking cube with four sockets for controllers at the front. One feature I was pleased to see was the promise of wireless controllers so we don't have to have tonnes of wires trailing across the floor and waiting to trip us up. Superficial, but welcome. The controllers themselves look like the odd hybrid child of an N64 controller and a playstation one. I'm not convinced it'll be comfortable but time will tell. I musn't forget to mention the presence of the now obligatory Internet connection. At the base of the cube is a slot into which either a modem or broadband connection device can attach (the later not any time soon in this country it would seem). In raw numbers of polygons Nintendo's games designed for the system are outputing at a rate of 6-12 million per second, compared with the PS2's alledged 75 million per second (or X-box's 150 million) it doesn't sound so good. The thing to remember is that so far PS2 games are working in the order of 3-5 million per second as difficulties with the PS2 architecture have made it hard for developers to maximise their usage of the platform. More important to remember is gameplay, however many polygons you have on screen gameplay still counts, anyone who has played Mario 64 knows that Nintendo can do gameplay. Whether compelling gameplay will be enough when faced with Sony's marketing skills will have to be seen. Overall I'm optimistic about the Gamecube, I'll definately be getting one, but then I'll be getting a PS2 too and I already have a Dreamcast. Nintendo seem to be going for a niche market of hardcore gamers and younger children still and leaving the older teens and twenty-somet
            hing market to Sony. Games though at a higher resolution still seem to have the more youthful appeal of the typical Nintendo game (though it has to be said that the N64 has branched out into more adult gaming). Perhaps with good pricing they could pose more of a challenge to Sony as the £300 tag for PS2 does seem a little much. It's a well speced box that will hopefully carve out a niche in the market s I can continue playing those Mario and Zelda games.

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            • More +
              04.09.2000 23:28
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              Getting hold of a press pass for ECTS this year gave me the opportunity to play with the Nintendo's Gameboy Advanced, probably the most interesting item on display on their stand (they chose to show off the Gamecube behind closed doors the day before). The first thing that struck me about the unit was how much it reminded me of the Neo Geo Pocket Colour which was available in this country for the last year. Unfortunately SNK choose to withdraw the Neo Geo from the Western market and it leaves a clear path for Nintendo to continue its domination of handhelds. Nintendo have opted for a silver colour for the body, rather than the usual bright plastic toy colours it has been using on the Colour unit for the past year. Like the Neo Geo the machine is now horizontal with a 'widescreen' TFT LCD panel providing a very crisp display in the middle of the unit. Buttons haven't changed much sine the original Gameboy: below the screen there's the start and select button, to the left hand side is the 8 direction joypad (as with the Gameboy this just isn't responsive or subtle enough), to the right are the A and B buttons and two new additions are here in the form of a left and right shoulder button. ECTS had 4 games on show, but due to the popularity of the stand I didn't get much chance to play them. The game I did have a go at was a fun puzzler currently going by the name of Kuru Kuru Kururin. The object is to guide a rotating bar around a narrow maze, never allowing it to touch the edges. The game is suprisingly tough, requiring accurate timing and skilled control to keep your bar safe. It's also highly addictive and will be a title sure to appeal to any fans of games like Bust-a-move. The most popular game on show had to be Mario Kart Advanced, which was so crowded that I never got a chance to play. It was set up to show the 4 player capabilities of the unit, when connected using it's link cable. Graphically the games imp
              ressive, graphics are smooth sharp and detailed and it really shows the potential in the system. If its popularity was anything to go by it's sure to be a success. Though not shown here there's future promise for internet connectivity though how that will work out for the UK will remain to be seen (Bandai were showing off their Wonderswan with internet connectivity, but when I asked admited that there was no plans of a UK release for the machine). It'll be cpable of hooking up with the gamecube, much as the Neo Geo Pocket can connect to the DC allowing trading between King of Fighter's data on the two platforms. Battery life is a respectable 15 hours, which isn't bad for a handheld and there's the handy option of a rechargable battery unit to save on cost. Powered by a 32bit RISC CPU the machine stocks a lot more power than it's predecessor and any other handheld currently available. There's speculation that it may have some rudimentary 3D capabilities, perhaps at the level of Starfox on the SNES. With no challenging handheld device in the Western market now the Gameboy Advanced seems sure to win. I'm guessing the pricing point will be around £90 as the dollar price is expected to be at that price. Nintendo's main challenge will be pursuading gamers to upgrade, but games like Mario Kart Advanced seem a sure fire way of achieving this. Screenshots from games in development at the moment all look colourful and imaginative so the unit has much promise. I think there's a lot to be said for describing this as the SNES of the handheld world.

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              • Ren & Stimpy / TV Programme / 1 Reading / 17 Ratings
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                04.09.2000 21:35
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                Ren and Stimpy was the product of the warped minds at Spumco and in particular John Kricfalusi for Nickelodian. It was aimed at children, but there was just so much in it that was surreal, twisted or sick enough to be appreiciated by adults. At some point in the second series Nickelodian unsurprisingly became concerned about some of the shows content and sacked Kricfalusi. Unfortunately, from that point on an element of the twisted humour was gone and the show never quite lived up to its early episodes again. There was still enough bizareness for it to stand out from other cartoons though. Ren is an overly aggresive chihuahua whose temper easily explodes and who longs for a bigger set of pecs; Stimpy on the other hand is a dumb cat who collects nose goblins and later has a son in the form of a fart (one of the funnier season 2 episodes). Shows generally took the ofrmat of two short stories along with a mix of other elements, such as the classic advert for log, a childs toy conisting of a log of wood and various clothing to dress it in (with a very memorable jingle). A number of cameo appearances are made by others, such as the bizarre pipe smoking trouser-less Mr. Pipe or in another classic episode Ren's dim brother Sven (who has a jar of spit). As you may be able to tell there was very little depth to the humour, it relied on its ability to disgust and often sat very close to the borders of taste. Ren and Stimpy doesn't crop up on TV as much as it used to, but occasionally makes appearances on BBC 2 or Nickelodian. Episodes to watch out for include 'Big House Blues' which started it all ans Stimpy's Invention where Ren becaomes the guinea pig for a number of Stimpy's inventions and the 'Happy happy joy joy' song is introduced. From season 2 'Sven Hoek', for Ren's dim brother and the excellent board game "Don't whiz on the Electric Fence", 'Haunted house' and 'Son of Stimpy'
                to see Stimpy search for his long lost fart (Nickeldoian has alledgedly banned this episode). There's lots of small skis in between these longer cartoons of varying quality, but with many moments of insanity amongst them. If you like your humour insane and bordering on the sick then Ren and Stimpy is something you'll defintely enjoy. It's hard to believe it was aimed at children as some of the humour will fortunately go over their heads. Highly recommended, don't let some of the poorer later series episodes put you off looing out for the gems.

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                • Ring (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 22 Ratings
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                  04.09.2000 20:23
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                  You may need to look around to find this film. I saw it at the ICA in London where it was shown without any sign of a BBFC certificate so I'm not entirely sure it is on general release. All this aside this film is an excellent and subtle horror movie, relying heavily on tension and atmosphere to build up to a spooky conclusion. It's not the kind of horror filled with violence or sudden shocks, but if your prefer you're scares with the pacing of Blair Witch or perhaps the original Carnival of Souls then you should enjoy this. A comparisson with the Blair witch is all too often made so I should state that it's only similarities lies in the use of implied horror rather than on screen shocks. A young reporter Reiko is interviewing local school children about an urban myth of a video tape which if viewed the viewer will dies exactly 7 days later. Her interest in the subject isn't really held until a cousin dies and at the funeral she learns of a link between the cousins death and the videotape. Reiko sets off to a cabin where her cousins and friends (all of whom have also died) stayed together, whilst there she finds the tape and watches it. Condemned to only a week more life she shows the tape to her ex-husband and father of her son as he is more knowledgable on spiritual matters. The pair then spend the next week trying to trace the history of the tape in time to save Reiko, her ex-husband and their son who happens to watch the tape. Anything more would spoil the film though. Ring doesn't rely on special effects of any kind, the majority of the film follows Reiko and her ex as they race to find the origin of the tape. The video for the tape itself is grainy black and white and similar effects are used later on as flashbacks reveal some of the history. The plot is nicely understated, the focus purely on the activites of the two leads. Tension is built by the presence of this week long deadline and the increasing desparation o
                  f the pair. The back story itself as it is revealed is nicely discomforting and carefully revealed by a series of twists. Of particular note has to be one or two of the final scenes, when the true nature of the horror is revealed. There's a particualrly nice twist here and a scene that even now sticks in the mind. It's a satisfyingly thoughful ending to the film. I thoroughly recommend Ring to any horror fan, it's subtle and thoughtful and the pacing is superb. It's proved very popular in Japan, spawning sequels (something which had initially made me assume it'd be more comparable with modern sequel driven slashers) which hopefully we'll get to see at some point over here. The print is subtitled, so if you can't cope with these you'll be disappointed, but as far as I'm concerned it's the better way to watch the film. Certainly one of the better horror films I've seen in a while.

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                  • Tomb Raider 3 (PS) / Archive Game / 0 Readings / 14 Ratings
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                    31.08.2000 00:59
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                    A third Tomb Raider game was inevitable, the previous two had done very well, everyone had heard of Lara Croft, Eidos would have been foolish not to. Unfortunately this outing comes acrossas nothing more than a further attempt to cash in on the franchise. Something is missing from this game and it's a real disappointment if you've enjoyed either of the previous games. This time round Lara's after some crystals, I'm afraid I can't remember why she wanted them, but it's probably of great importance. Locations are even more diverse than before, with Lara in London, the Ganges River and some old Temple ruins (well this one is more traditional). Not only are there new locations, but Lara dresses for the occasion now, though she's still running around the arctic in a little pair of shorts. When it comes to the plot and locations it really is business as usuall, it's not really a bad thing as very few games rely on strong plotting anyway these days. Gameplay is much the same as the previous two games, refinements have been made again, but the basic controls remain consistant. You can use the dual analog pad now, but as with so many games I find it proves to be a hinderance, if a game is going to make use of it the designers really need to look at the sensitivity of it. After a while playing you'll get into the swing of things again and be able to get Lara to perform at her best. You'll definately need to as this game is distinctly tougher than the previous two. You really need to be careful of your life and ammo rations or you're likely to come unstuck later on in the game. It's as much a reflection on my skills as the game itself, but I found the difficulty too high now. Rather than challengin the game frustrates, the difficulty becomes a hinderance as you repeatedly reload in order to have one more go at the level. More balance is needed, a game shouldn't be too easy, but equally you alienate a playe
                    r when it's just too hard. Graphically the game is impressive, taking some important leaps forward over the previous two. Changes in the rendering engine give Lara a little more freedom in the environment, it makes the game feel a little more real. Lara still turns awkwardly and it's something I'd really like to see games like Resident Evil and Tomb Raider fix. With the increase in console power and improvements in graphical engines can someone have a go at animating character so they turn on the spot more realistically please? Not really a major problem and it has to be said that Tomb Raider has excellent graphics, especially compared with the first two. I didn't however enjoy the game, in fact I never got round to completing it. The basic problem comes down to game design, levels are still in my opinion too large, Tomb Raider 1 got it exactly right, there just isn't a need for vast levels. As mentioned I think the difficulty level is set far too high, not just in terms of the challenging of controlling Lara, but also the ease with which you can wander into a unescapable trap. The only way you can be aware of some traps seems to be if you've played the leve before and that just isn't good game design. Traps should be there, but the player should be given the chance to escape, not just suddenly find themselves facing an imminent death. Overall I don't recommend this one and it was enough to stop me buying anymore Tomb Raider games, I'd suggest the first or second over this one, or seeing what peopl thought of the fourth.

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                    • Tomb Raider 2 (PS) / Archive Game / 0 Readings / 11 Ratings
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                      25.08.2000 07:07
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                      With the success of the first game a sequel was inevitable and it wasn't too long before one appeared on the market. The imaginatively named Tomb Raider 2 continues the adventures of Lara Croft, this time in the hunt for an ancient Chinese dagger which can give immortality to the person who stabs their heart with it. Not that Lara wants to stab her heart with it, she just thinks it'll look good above her mantle piece. Unfortunately for Lara there's a power crazed bad guy after the dagger too, and he does want to plunge it into his heart. So plot's the usual sort of thing, but gameplay is expanded a little over the previous game. All of Lara's previous moves are there, but she's learnt a few new tricks. Biggest of all is the ability to drive a number of vehicles, so for example you'll need to use a speed boat to complete the Venice section of the game. To be honest control of the vehicles is a bit weak, but it does add another gameplay element and I enjoyed its presence at the time. The overall gameplay is the same as the first game, traps abound along with bad guys. There are more human oponents in this one than before and so you come up against more guns which makes things a little more challenging. If you've liekd any other Tomb Raider game, you'll be familiar with the gameplay here and you'll enjoy it. Level design has changed slightly in the second one. Firstly Lara is gettign about a bit more now, not just the dingy Tombs for her, but locations like Venice giving a more interesting range of environments to play in. It's visually more varied when you are in Venice for a while, but then later you're in a sunken ship and then further on you're in China. It doesn't really add much to variety in gameplay, the elements are the same where ever you are. In the sunken ship there may be more swimming for example, but the principles remain the same. Things look good, and certainly graphics are impr
                      oved over the first, not just on superficial things like Lara's floating pony tail, or her rounder breasts. There are a few irritating things still present, Lara's awkward turning motion for example. Overall it's a visually pleasing world you're in. So the second outing for Lara was a success, the game retained the enjoyment of the first and built upon it. The only complaint must be that overall most improvements were superficial, but having enjoyed the first one so much I was happy to play more of the same. If I had any other problem with the game it would be that levels have started to grow a little too large and the tightness of the firsts level design is at times missing. Still it's a good game, it's a budget title and it has to be said that it is a classic. If you've never played any Tomb Raider before I'd recommend this one overall.

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                    • Tomb Raider (PS) / Archive Game / 1 Reading / 14 Ratings
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                      25.08.2000 06:46
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                      Here's a game that has probably helped sell more Playsations in the UK than any other, that's launched tonnes of merchandising and that has it's own official model. I doubt there's a person in this country who doesn't know about Lara Croft she has after all become an icon of our times. Tomb Raider is the first outing for her and as such it's the roughest of the lot and now that there are sequels is perhaps less interesting to those who've never played Tomb Raider before. The plot is something familiar to anyone who's seen an Indiana Jones movie, Lara is an archaeologist in the Indiana Jones, not in the Time team way. She's a rich aristocratic girl, who lost her parents at a young age and spends her time endangering her life in the quest for ancient relics. I guess she's got to do something with her time and all that money? Lara's been contracted to collect a number of artifacts that come together to create a mystical Scion. Of course as it turns out this Scion isn't that nice really, especially when in the wrong hands, which it inevitably falls into. In the end it's up to Lara to save the world from disaster. No awards for orginality there, but its when you play the game that things really get good. Step back to a couple of years ago, Tomb Raider was brand new hyped up and everyone wanted it. When you put it into your Playstation you entered a world you'd never seen before, 3D and highly interactive, you realy felt like you were there. Lara was highly controllable, running, swimming, climbing and shooting. Plus she was designed to appeal to every man in the country (and it seems to have worked to greater or lesser extents). Graphically the game was highly impressive, there was this large 3D world filed with 3D creatures, and not cute ones like in Mario 64, these ones were dnagerous. Gameplay is excellent, as I've said Lara is versatile, but controls are intuitive. When you first come to th
                      e game there's a period of adjustment, but the addition of a practice ground and training zone in Lara's house help with this. A few levels in and there's no problems making Lara do exactly what you want. Puzzles are of the rudimentary find the lever, pull the lever type, perhaps with the occasional find the key throw in. A number of traps and pitfalls make things more interesting though and combined with the opponents make many sitations a life and death moment. The real challenge is generaly ensuring you have enough ammo and health at all times, by working through the levels to the best of your abilities. Saving is limited to save crystals strategically placed around the levels so you need to take care as you play. Level design is superb, levels are just the right size and always at the right level of challenge. This isn't a game where you'll tire of replaying a difficult section. Overall Tomb Raider is a very satisfying gaming experience, good design and a consistant plotting make for an enjoyable experience. It's still one of the better 3D worlds to play in, though it's showing its age now. In many respects I prefer it to later games as it felt more original when I first played it and the gameplay was kept tight. Probably of more interest now is the sequel Tomb Raider 2, which improved on the graphics and added in a few more controls. Still this is a budget game and worth many hours of gameplay so look out for it.

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                      • More +
                        24.08.2000 19:04
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                        Censorship is a highly emotive topic on which I doubt there will ever be a true consensus, as such the best I can do is present my own opinions and thoughts on the topic as they are. As with most people my most obvious and frequent encounter with censorship is at the cinema where films may be cut or edited to make them more suitable for public viewing. The other main area where debate on censorship crops up is with the Internet, it's lack of regulation and the inherent difficulty in maintaining any regulations meaning it can be easy to get around the limits of a country's laws. The essential principle of censoring what we watch seems to be that we may either be offended by what we see, or that we may be incited to behave in a similar manner. Considering the first option, a simple classification system, without any censoring (i.e. giving films a rating, but never removing any of their content as submitted) should be sufficient to reduce the risk of people being offended. If someone knows they are offended by particular types of scenes be they religious or sexual in nature, simply following the classification, reviews and film tag lines should be indication enough as to whether a film is likely to upset. Failing that they can always leave the cinema. I feel that for the case of viewers being offended by the images they see doesn't really apply as a solid argument for censorship. The primary issue of any censorship debate is the ability of images to 'deprave and corrupt' (to use the wording of the BBFC). It has long been the stance of the government and the BBFC that certain images are liabel to corrupt some members of society and may induce them to physical or sexual violence. It's a hard point to argue, especially when the press often make the connection between the media and the actions of a criminal. So we have instances where the tragic gun massacres that took place in a anumber of American High Schools were immeadiately
                        linked to a variety of films and video games. Following on from this media created link there have been one or two poorly arranged, unscientific experiments performed that have shown links between aggresion and videogaming. Lack of or weak controls in these experiments along with a lack of strong proof of a connection between the video games and genuine acts of violence make the evidence questionable, though some elements of the media have promoted it. A strong link between what we see and how we behave is always going to be somehing we cannot prove given the complexity and range of experiences the average person is subject to. There's also a need to make a distinction between technique and drive to commit an act. Again sticking with the extreme end of the scale, if a murder is commited which mimics a murder in a film, surely we can see a case where the murderer was already susceptible to commit an act of murder, but merely adopted the technique they had witnessed. The question is did the film incite the act or merely shape its otucome? It's neither a pleasant question, nor one to which an easy answer springs. The process of classification determines what material is suitable for which age group, and in this it seems fair enough. I have no problem with restricting children from buying videos, video games or going to see certain films. What a child sees and how they assimilate what they see is the responsibility of the parent, by classifying material we give the parent a guideline as to what they allow their children to see. Should we really object if a parent bought an 18 certificate video for a 12 year old? Mine did, but despite seeing scenes of graphic violence I was never incited to behave in a similar manner largely due to being instiled with a firm opinion that all violence was abhorent. Obviously that's anecdotal and the debate is far more complex, parents cannot watch over their children 24 hours a day so something is liabel to slip th
                        rough. To continue the anecdote, friends would have watched some of my films and I couldn't say what their parent's view of the issue would be. A few months ago the BBFC rejected four R18 videos (films restricted for sale in licensed sex shops) arguing that they were liabel to corrupt minors if they were to see them. The distributors of those films responded by taking the matter to the Video Appeals Commity, the body which monitors the activites of the BBFC. The VAC found that the videos were not liabel to corrupt minors as their sales would be restricted to licensed sex shops and the risk of a child seeing a parent's copy was small. Also the evidence the BBFC gave that children could be corrupted by such viewing was seen as insufficient. The BBFC's response to this was to go to court to get the VAC's rulings overturned, just recently the court case failed and the videos will now be available. The result is that the BBFC is finally reconsidering their stance on censorship and will be allowing more material through on the R18 label. It's not of much interest to me really, but it shows a fundamental flaw with censorship in this country. If we are to have censorship it should reflect the current state of the country, but the BBFC's rulings were based on the 1983 Video Recording Act, which is itself based on older obscenity laws and upon closed consultations they have held. Hardly a reflection of the current state of the country and the ability of video material to 'deprave and corrupt' has frequently failed to stand up in court. Another interesting facet of media censorship in this country is the lack of coordination between the three primary organisations involved in this process. The BBFC, customs and the police all act upon their own guidelines, so it has been known in the past for disagreements to cause confusion. Further examples of confusion come when you consider the fact that a local council may overrule th
                        e BBFC decision and choose to show or not show a film despite the BBFC's rating or rejection. So when Crash was released Westminster council would not allow cinemas to show the film whilst surrounding councils would. Having seen Crash the film was more likely to bore people than corrupt them. More interestingly their have been cases where a local council has given permission for a cinema to show a particular uncertified film, but then the police have siezed the film considering it in breach of obscenity laws. Such confusion amongst censoring bodies doesn't help their situation or that of the viewers. Briefly considering Internet we have the problem here that there isn't even the conept of classification let alone censorship. Add to that the difficulty with International law and the technical difficulties of censoring it and it becomes a difficult dilemna. The Internet does give easy access to material of any nature and to anyone who wants it, even sometimes those who don't. There probably isn't an easier place for kids to get hold of pornography and there isn't an easy way to stop this. Prevention of this sort of thing is dependant on the nature of these site, are they willing to conform to system to reduce the risk? The best we can do at the moment is Net Nanny like programs that restrict the sites you can view. Not an ideal solution, the smart kids can turn them off and they don't block every site. I cannot see a way, short of parent's monitoring every step of their children's Internet activity, that you can guarantee they won't stumble across something you wouldn't want them to see. At which point I think we're returning to the question of does it harm the children? To sum things up my debate on censorship is large and complex and there is no solution that will satisfy everyone. I've only considered the censoship of film in any great detail as well so the problem becomes more complex when we op
                        en it out to a broader range of media. Things are laso likely to be made more interesting when the European Human Rights Bill comes into force here as it may well have impacts on the way censorship is enforced here (particualrly custom's ability to arbitarily confiscate anything by their own internal guidelines). My own stance is that we should have classification in place of censorship and good control over ensuring these products are only freely available to the appropriate age groups. I'm not convinced of a link between violent images and violent behaviour, or at least not the strong one that the media often applies. I think there is a definite need for clarification of the way censorship functions in this country and organisations like the BBFC must be open about all their decisions. If you are interested in film censorship I'd recommend looking at: the BBFC (www.bbfc.co.uk), melonfarmers (www.melonfarmers.co.uk - be warned strong language is used) and I enjoyed the book 'Censored!' by Tom Dewe Matthews for a detailed look at the history and problems of UK censorship.

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                        • Bringing Out The Dead (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 9 Ratings
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                          22.08.2000 07:43
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                          This has to be one of the more intelligent and thoughtful films to come from the US in the past year. Based on a book by a genuine New York paramedic (Joe Conelley), the film follows a few days in the life of Frank, himself a New York paramedic. Scorsese directs with his usual skill, presenting New York at night as a dispondent ghost town. Frank (Nicolas Cage) is a man on the brink of a break down, he desperately wants to escape from the daily pain of the paramedic and makes feeble attempts at getting himself fired by turning up late for work. Despite this apparent desire he seems compelled to continue in a job he apparently hates; it all seems to come down to his own addiction to helping people. By his own admition when you save somebody you feel like a God and everything seems wonderful, unfortunately Frank hasn't saved anybody in a long time. Instead he's haunted by the ghosts of those he hadn't saved and in particular one girl whose face he sees on the people on the night streets of New York. On one call Frank manages to bring a man back to life, but he unfortunately remains in a comatosed state, an apparent vegetable. Frank develops an interest in the daughter of this man, Mary (Particia Arquette) and throughout the couple of days calls on her and tries to help her through the difficult time. It's as much a recognition on Frank's part of his need for companionship (having been left by his wife long ago) and a recognition of something similar in Mary that drives his interest in her. Throughout the course of the two days this movie follows Frank goes out on calls with a number of other paramedics each afflicted in their own way. Larry seems to shut it all out, hates the job, but holds onto his dream of becoming a captan and escaping from the ambulance. Marcus uses his paramedic skills as a floor show to promote his evangelical christianity and spends much of his time flirting at the unresponsive Dispatcher. He's a veteran
                          who has used his religion to keep his sanity in the face of their continual confrontation with death. Tom has turned into a thrill seeking psycho, always hoping for violence, and occasionally taking opportunities to mistreat some of their patients. At times they all seem to sink to uncompassionate lows as the strain and stress of their job takes its toll. This is all matched by the hard edged cynicism of the Medical staff at the local Hospital. Tehy've seen it all before, they're over worked and it's a struggle for them to care about the patients anymore. All in all it paints a bleak picture of Frank's world, there's a lot of black humour, and often you realise you are laughing at extreme cases of creulty between men. Our lead character seems as lost as many of the people who walk the streets of New York. Frank is looking for his own redemption, but failing miserably to find it. He longs for the high of saving somebody's life, but is too fixated on the failings to see the good he does. The atmosphere Scorsese paints in this movie reflects Franks state of mind, New York is a bizarre and twisted ghost town where death is an everyday part of life. Frenetic burst of action from the ambulance crews, cleverly evoked by jerky stop frame camera actions and a pounding rock score counter the slower state of Franks deteriorating mind. It all combines for a beautiful and thoughtful film, it's not always easy to understand how the paramedics do some of the things they do, but it's hard not to feel sympathy for Frank's state of mind. The performances of all the actors involved are impressive they make the characters real and believable. This is a great film to see at a decent cinema, it really makes the most of Scorsese's wonderful direction and excellent sound track. A DVD is now available in this Country and is probably the best way to get this film. Picture and sound quality are god on this disc, but there's a dist
                          inct lack of extras. A short Production featurette is somewhat sickening as every single actor tells you how wonderful it was to work with all the other and very little is learnt about the making of the movie. A few interesting insights into its orgin come from Scorsese and also the writer of the original novel. The movie is an excellent and thought provoking 2 hours and well worth the moeny of the DVD, definately one to see.

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                        • Worst / Archive Movie / 0 Readings / 42 Ratings
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                          21.08.2000 04:49
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                          This sort of list is liable to change over time but looking at my IMDB votes I've come up with a list of my top 10 all time worst films. These aren't films that are so bad they're good, these are films that are simplay rotten and ones I hope to never have to watch again. I'm not going to put them in any order there's a level at which I think this becomes unnecessary. So in n particular order my 10 worst films: 1. Eraserhead David Lynch's bizarre and dark film of a man called Henry Spencer living in a building in an industrial city with some sort of chicken baby thing later on. Ok that's probably not the best account of the film, but it's fairly accurate. There's no real plot here, just a series of bizarre events surrounding the main character. This has been hailed as a visionary piece of cinema, but I don't really see it. There's a point at which a full length movie descends too far into dark surreality and enters into the region of unwatchable. I'd recommend that if you really do want to see this film, watch it on fast forward, you'll not miss any dialogue (there's very little) and you'll save yourself some time. Fortunately David Lynch has made better films since and the excellent Twin Peaks TV series. 2. Wild Wild West The most recent of the films in my top 10 list and a real stinker. Barry Sonnenfield joins up with Will Smith in an attempt to recreate te magic of Men in Black, this tiem bringing the TV series Wild Wild west into the nineties. Unfortunately they fail miserably, creating one of the dullest movies I've had the displeasure of watching. Will Smith and Kevin Kline are Government agents back in the odl West and they embark on a mission to stop Kenneth Branner's (was he desperate for money?) evil professor. There's some great special effects, but it's all pretty pointless when the plot is uninspired and the comedy is so bland. That said the man in the r
                          ow behind seemed to really enjoy it, personally there was far too much of Will Smith's humour here for any comedy to get through. 3. Highlander 2: The quickening I liked the idea of the Highlander movies, a race of immortals batte it out amongst each other, beheading being the only way to kill them. At the end of the first movie there was only one immortal left and the battle had come to an end. Highlander 2 updates the story, we learn the immortals are beings sent from another planet as punishment. MacLeod (the immortal who won in the first one)didn't bother to mention this in the first one, but isn't surprised when suddenly more turn up and the games start again. All the events happen in an unpleasant futuristic earth, but this doesn't make things anymore interesting. What follows is an hour and a half of dull violence, poor fights and an amazing effort at destroying everything that made Highlander good. 4. Kentucky Fried Movie Probably the worst of all the movies Abraham and Zucker wrote. It's a series of sketches spoofing all sorts of things in the most inept way you possibly can. There's the usual spoofs of TV and movies that you expect to see, a few cameos from famous people and not a single funny joke for the full length of the film. It lacks any of the humour shown in Police Squad and Airplane and instead delivers dated predicatable jokes. Being just unrelated sketches there's no plot to hold the film together and so if the comedy doesn't work for you there's nothign else to recommend it. I won't be watching this one again. 5. Nine 1/2 Weeks A feebly plotted erotic drama in which Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke indulge in a shallow sex driven affair that becomes complicated. Essentially it's a thin plot on which a series of soft porn scenes are hung. It's not a movie that delivers anything worth thinking about and it is about as erotic as one of those late night TV shows t
                          hat Channel 5 shows. Truely a feeble effort, it'll leave you feeling dirty and used if you watch it. 6. Police academy 4: Citizens on Patrol It's hard to pick out a worst in this series of diabolical comedies. The first one was almost good, and all the later ones were near equally bad. In the fourth outing, the team have a drive to resruit ordinary members of the public into the police force, obviously with hilarious consequences. All the regulars are here, there's the one who can make a wide range of noises with his mouth often leading to much confusion. There's the big muscular woman with large breast, the guy who likes big guns, the really big strong black guy and some other ridiculously stereotypical comedy characters. So the citizens are all trained up and miraculously save the day in the final set piece. Steve Gutenburg still appears in this one, he hadn't quite realised it was time to jump ship yet. I'm not sure if this can appeal to anyone, if you liked Kentucky Fried Movie you might lie it. What's really puzzlng is that a TV series has been made of this show. Why? 7. Sleepless in Seattle. Probably the dullest romantic comedy I've had the displeasure to view. Tom Hanks is a lonely widower, who can't get over the loss of his wife. One night his son phones a radio agony aunt and his fater ends up broadcasting his story to the whole of the US. Suddenly he's inundated with letters from women interested in meeting him. One of these letters is Meg Ryans, a journalist who becomes obsessed with him. Ultimately they manage to meet up in New York knowing they love each other. It's all very unbelievable and tedious. There's little romance here and even less comedy, all in all an uninspiring film. I believe both Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have repeated this dull formula since. 8. Nine Deaths of the Ninja. An unbelievably bad comedy/action film I once caught on TV late at night. It's h
                          ard to know what was going on. There's hostage taking, ninjas, lesbian nazis, wheelchair bound nazi's and a large black man who rubs his cheast and laughs evilly quite a lot. So some antiterrorist agents fight these villains to free a busload of American School children. The action is appalingly bad, of the very lowest quality I've ever seen and the comedy is dire. I have to be honest and say that there is a fascination in watching such an apallingly made movie. The DVD of this is coming out soon and given it's cheap I have to admit to being tempted to get it. Perhaps it shouldn't be in my 10 worst films? 9. From Hell it Came. I saw this once on BBC2 very late at night and was amazed by what I saw. A note to all horror movie producers, walking trees are not terrfiying, especially when they move at the rate of an ordinary tree. Maku a prince in a island tribe is falsely accused of some crime and sacrificed, he returns as a tree, called Tabanga and terrifies the villagers in only the way living tree can. For something that moves so slow he actually does do quite a bit of harm killing a number of the villagers. Fortunately some US Citizens are on hand to save the day and ultimately the animated tree is defeated. Admitedly this has an amusement factor if only for the absurdity of the monster, but overall it's a dire film to watch. 10. Dirty Dancing. A young and awkward girl goes on a family holiday and learns about love and dancing. That's about all there is to it. The girl nicknamed Baby goes to this camp, learns to dance with Patrick Swayze's character and falls in love with him. The movie is essentially a chance for Patrick to show off his dancing ability, which frankly I don't care about. There's nothing much more to this film than a series of irritating dance scenes. What makes it worse is that the actors involved were relatively big names, so they should have been able to do better. Rumour is that a
                          remake is planned, let's hope not. As I wrote that list I came to realise that there are really more than 10 in my barrel of terrible movies. These 10 were the ones that stick n my mind as truely some of the most diabolical films I've ever seen.

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