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SRowlands

SRowlands
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Member since: 23.05.2001

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    • Wilderness (DVD) / DVD / 34 Readings / 33 Ratings
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      17.10.2006 15:50
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      A decent British horror / thriller

      "Wilderness" begins in a male young offenders institution, where conditions are pretty harsh. Offenders are locked in dark, damp cells with up to nine other inmates.
      Bullying is ripe in the institution, and tends to be focused towards two of the most timid inmates, until one morning one of these "targets", Davey, is found dead in his bed having slashed his own wrists.

      The prison warden demands action be taken, and the inmates are sent to a supposedly uninhabited island off the UK mainland on a survival / teambuilding exercise.

      It soon becomes apparant that they are not alone, and one by one the inmates meet gruesome endings...


      This new British horror movie is from director Michael J. Bassett, who previously directed the movie "Deathwatch", starring Jamie Bell.

      Wilderness is classified as a horror, although I feel it fails to live up to this reputation. At no point during the film is the viewer left feeling scared or on the edge of their seat. Sure, there are some fairly gruesome scenes, but these are no more intense than, say, a british television thriller such as "Wire In The Blood" or "Cracker".
      Part of the problem is that you cannot feel any empathy or compassion for the main characters, and therefore you just don't care whether they live or die (although there are a couple you hope will get a particulary nasty demise !).
      The other problem is that the director makes no effort to conceal the identity of "The Hunter". Perhaps it is a credit to the audiences intelligence that this is done - I figured out who it was going to be about five minutes into the film (and readers of this review will probably gather who it is going to be within a couple of paragraphs), but the identity is revealed very early on in the film. Once this is revealed, some of the element of mystery (and any element of doubt that you may have had) are gone, so again this reduces some of the fear element.
      The film draws much inspiration from other similar movies, such as "Lord Of The Flies" and "Deliverance", but fails to capture the tension that these films deliver.


      The isolated island where the movie is set provides some spectacular scenery and backdrops, and the director makes full use of this in the scenes. Dark crevases in cliff faces, heavily wooded forests, rocky beaches and fast flowing streams all feature in scenes in the film.

      The cast is virtually made up of unknown actors, with the only exceptions being Lenora Crichlow, who plays "Sugar" in Channel 4's "Sugar Rush", and Sean Pertwee as the Offical required to escort the inmates on this expedition. As in many other British horror movies (28 Days Later / The Descent ), this approach is successful as it leaves the viewer unsure of who will live and who will die.
      All of the cast perform their roles well, although no-one steals the limelight.

      The DVD has a couple of features, including the standard commentary and an outtake reel - probably worth viewing once, but lack the appeal for repetitive viewing.


      Overall, this is a perfectly watchable and enjoyable film. There is enough blood and gore to satisfy fans of the horror genre, yet it's not scary enough to put more timid people off from watching it. The film is obviously shot within a tight budget, yet it achieves what it sets out to do.
      The film has been quoted as "The best British horror since '28 Days Later'", but they have obviously totally overlooked "The Descent" which was, in my opinion, far scarier and a much better film.

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        16.10.2006 13:37
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        Undisputedly the best ground for Premiership atmosphere

        Having been born in, and living in Portsmouth all my life, when it comes to football there can be only one team for me... Portsmouth (or Pompey as it is commonly known). My first trip to Fratton Park, Pompey's home ground, was back in 1992, and I now go to every match that I can get to.

        Fratton Park is notorious for being "the worst ground in the Premiership" - but is this opinion justified ? Admittedly, the ground is very old - not a lot has changed from my first visit apart from the obvious transformation of the terraces where I first stood into an all seater ground. The seats are plastic, with not a lot of leg room, but serve their purpose. Fratton Park must be the only club in the country that can have covered stands for it's home fans, whilst the "away end" is not covered and open to all elements of the weather that the South Coast has to offer - rain and wind in the winter, and scorching hot sunshine in the summer months.
        The toilets are basic, and often involve quite a hefty queue especially before the match and at half time.
        Catering facillities too are quite basic, although there is a good selection of food and drink available. Tea and coffee are of the "vending machine" variety, and cost around £1.50. Beer, snacks and hot food are also sold at higher than average prices.

        So, from the above information you'd expect that the reputation was deserved... but you'd be wrong. What makes Fratton Park such an amazing ground cannot be assesed by any of the above factors. Both home and away fans (and the television pundits) agree that the atmosphere at Fratton Park is unrivaled in the Premiership. The home fans sing throughout the game, however well (or badly) the team is doing, and the compact design of the ground amplify the acoustics. It really does have to be experienced at the ground to fully appreciate the atmosphere created.

        If you are taking young children to the ground, you need to be aware that some of the lyrics of the songs are quite rude, as is some of the inevitable shouting (usually towards the referee).

        The ground is very well marshalled, and this makes the arrival and departure process very well co-ordinated.

        Ticket prices are around £26 to £30 for adults, with concessions available at around £20. Programmes are also available for £3, with unofficial publications at around half the price.

        Travelling to the ground can get very busy on match days. By car, the main road is the A2030 "Eastern Road" towards Milton. Whilst there is a car park at the ground, this is charged at £5, and often gets full quite early on. There is some street parking available, but again this soon gets full and the area can get very congested. I'd recommend travelling to central Portsmouth and using one of the big car parks there - the main one near the Civic Center and Courts charge just £2 for all day parking on a Saturday.
        If you do decide to come by car, it is a great idea to tune your stereo to 107.4 The Quay - the Official Portsmouth radio station. They provide up to the minute travel information, along with a pre-match build up with banter, competition and statistics that are sure to get you in the mood for the game.

        Alternatively, you can get the train to Fratton Station, which is located just 5 minutes walk from the ground. There are extra trains put on for match days, and the station is well policed to ensure that everyone arrives and leaves safely.

        I originally wrote and published this review on youstayuk.co.uk in April of the 2005/06 season, when the future of Portsmouth Football Club was uncertain. This was the season when our manager Harry Redknapp left the club for our rivals "down the road", a new French manager was failing to win any games at all, and the players were (understandably) demotivated. As a result, the club was propping up the bottom of the league, facing almost sure relegation. Later in the season, the club sacked the French manager, Harry came back and a new Russian tycoon Alexandre Gaydamak purchased the club, with the promise of investment in new players and a new ground.
        These changes boosted the club and the players performance, and we had a tremendous end to the season ensuring survival.

        Now, six months down the line, Portsmouth Football Club is facing a new lease of life. Having topped the table in the early stages of the new season, the club has welcomed the addition of several new players and the future is looking very bright for the team.

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          14.10.2006 14:47
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          A nice and comfortable hotel ideally located in the heart of the town.

          I recently had to attend a course for work, which involved several overnight stays in Bournemouth. I opted to stay in the RAC rated **** Norfolk Royale Hotel, located in the central town area of Bournemouth. Arriving at the hotel, there is an area at the front where you can drive in and park whilst you check in. (You can also park in this area overnight, or in the underground carpark - each charged at £9 per night).

          Checking in is straightforward - although you will need to leave credit / debit card details, but this is standard practice. Reception is in the lobby area - a plush, well furbished area with comfortable chairs, an open fire and a bar.

          You will be given a keycard, and told where your room is. (On my visits, a porter service was not visable, although may have been available on request).

          The hotel itself is quite old, but is currently being updated. The front of the hotel is the original building, which whilst is attractive, has one or two drawbacks. The biggest problem is that the floorboards are probably around 100 years old - hence they are very squeaky ! This is not too much of a problem during the day, but at night can be a huge problem !
          At the rear of the hotel, a large extension has been built. The rooms in this section are slightly smaller, but without the annoyance of the squeaky floors !

          During my visits, I stayed in two different rooms - the first at the front of the hotel was very large and comfortable. The room had just been refurbished, and the bathroom was very big. One of the two drawbacks of this room were the aforementioned squeaky floors. The other was that the toilet was positioned directly in front of the window in the bathroom. I actually didn't notice this at first, until I needed to use the toilet. I "dropped trou'" and sat down to do my business, and realised that as the window was open, I was looking out onto the busy street outside !!
          My second stay saw me in a room at the back of the hotel. This was much quieter, and slightly smaller, but was very comfortable. Rooms all have a televison (with a selection of Sky channels), Playstation (charged at £4.50 / hour), telephone (very expensive... do not use !!) and en-suite facillities. Rooms also have a minibar, which in line with most other hotels, is very expensive. Typical charges are £2.50 for a 33cl bottle of water, £1.85 for a small tub of Pringles, with charges for wine and beer around £4.00 a bottle.

          My stay also included breakfast. This was served in the resturant next to the lobby, and consisted of a buffett style breakfast of Tea and Toast, Cereal, Fruit and Yoghurt and a full english breakfast. The food was very good, and the service in the resturant was excellent.

          The hotel has an onsite indoor swimming pool, sauna, jacuuzi and steamroom. The pool, sauna and steam rooms are very nice and very clean, however despite visiting the hotel twice over four weeks, the jacuuzi was not working. The changing rooms are clean and are currently undergoing refurbishment, and resemble changing rooms in an expensive gym ! Unfortunately the refurbishments were not complete on my visit, and things such as door handles and signage were not in place - hence I originally walked into the wrong sex changing room (which was fortunately unoccupied).
          There is no gym on site, however the hotel has a local agreement with the gymnasium across the road, and allows free access for hotel guests.

          The hotel is perfectly located for tourists and business visitors alike. You are
          situated right in the heart of town, with shops, bars and resturants all within a
          very short stroll. Although I didn't have much interaction with the staff (I wasn't in the hotel for long !), they seemed friendly and helpful.

          Overall I would recommend the hotel, although their standard rates of between £130 and £190 per night is a bit on the expensive side !

          (I originally published this review on youstayuk.co.uk, under my username BAW123)

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          • 2001 Maniacs (DVD) / DVD / 22 Readings / 19 Ratings
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            13.10.2006 11:20
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            2001 Maniacs is a very Confederate salute to horror movies from the 60s and 70s.

            You'd have thought, by now, that if American students only learn one thing in college, it's never to take a detour or short cut down dirt tracks when driving. Apparantly not !
            As their seimester comes to an end, three college guys, Anderson Lee (Jay Gillespie), Cory Jones (Matthew Carey), and Nelson Elliot (Dylan Edrington), plan on heading down to Daytona Beach for Spring Break. After a break from driving, they wake up to find the road ahead closed, and a hastily errected "Detour" sign diverting traffic up a narrow dirt track.
            Before long, the trio arrive in the town of Pleasant Valley - a sleepy 19th century town, and are readily greeted by one-eyed Mayor Buckman (Robert Englund) and the townsfolk who are preparing to celebrate "The Guts and Glory Jubilee" - an annual event commemorating a historic event in the American Civil War - and all are dressed in costumes from the era. As Confederates, the town welcomes the Yankee students with open arms by making them their special guests of honour for the celebrations.
            As the students are debating whether or not to accept the invitation, another car arrives containing two gorgeous girls whom the trio had met earlier that day and a male friend. This, obviously, seriously sways their decision as they say "We'll stay if you will".
            Just as it looks as though the party is complete, a motorcycle pulls up carrying Malcolm (Mushond Lee) and Leah (Bianca Smith) - a black African American and an Asian girl. Despite their initial reservations, (the Confederates are know for their "dislike" of non-white people), Mayor Buckman agrees that they too can join in... "The more the merrier".

            The group settle in to a fantastic home cooked meal, prepared by Granny Boone (Lyn Shaye), as the townsfolk prepare for the following days events.
            However it soon becomes apparent that all is not how it seems as the group begin to disappear one by one - each facing an agonising fate...


            The cast list is headed up by Robert Englund, of "A Nightmare On Elm Street" fame. As you would expect from an actor of this caliber, he takes on the role of Mayor Buckman with ease - absorbing the character and amplifying the role. He is both charming, funny and psychotic... often all at the same time ! Granny Boone is portrayed by Lin Shaye, who is a fantastic actress with movies such as "Critters", "Project: ALF" and "Dumb and Dumber" to her name. For me, however, she will always be remembered as Roy's cringeworthy landlady in "Kingpin". In "2001 Maniacs". Again, Shaye's performance is top notch, and you can tell that she had a lot of fun in the role - in fact you can tell that the whole cast had a great deal of fun.
            Another notable performance comes from Giuseppe Andrews, who plays charming and charismatic Harper Alexander. He appears the perfect gentleman, whilst transforming into the perfect villian.

            "2001 Maniacs" is actually a remake of a 1964 movie, "Two Thousand Maniacs", the original being written and directed by legendary horror meister Herschell Gordon Lewis, who also directed movies such as "She Devils On Wheels", "Wizard Of Gore" and "Blood Orgy".
            This new version is directed by Tim Sullivan, who follows the original storyline very closely, but makes some small changes to appeal to todays modern horror fans. It's difficult to know where the extra "maniac" in the title comes from, but speculation suggests that it is a you girl who gleefully dissects animals just for fun.
            The fact that Sullivan decided to stick to the original story is enhanced by the way he has chosen to reflect the horror genre of the 60's and 70's too. Many horror movies pre-1980's were designed to shock and outrage the audience with blood and gore rather than actual horror, and Sullivan has captured this atmosphere spot on. The movie is not scary at all, but there is enough blood and guts to keep any horror fan more than happy. As well as this, the director has decided to be unashamadly politically incorrect as were many film makers from this era. This is apparant when the African-American is told to "wait one cotton-picking moment", and is later referred to as "dark meat". This humour, of course, may offend some viewers, however it fits in well with the general look, feel and other dark humour in the film.
            Another classic feature of horror films from the 60's and 70's was the abundance of naked flesh... and I'm pleased to report that "2001 Maniacs" does not fail to live up to expectations. The movie is crammed full of beautiful girls who are not at all modest, and provide plenty of entertainment when there is not a nasty death on screen... and sometimes when there is !
            "2001 Maniacs" is not a serious horror film, but rather a movie made for horror fans - in much the same way that "Snakes On A Plane" was made for its fans. It resembles the original "Nightmare On Elm Street", (and not just because Robert "Freddy Kruger" Englund heads up the cast), mixing dark humour with plenty of blood, guts and gore. Hence, it will certainly appeal to fans of the early 80's slasher movies.

            The movie is peppered with so many memorable moments, and so many are stereotypical images of life in the "Deep South". Look out for the hillbilly who's in love with a sheep (you'll often see him chasing after her with his trousers at half-mast !), and the lovely kissing cousins !! There are also many memorable lines that will probably go down in movie history. One of my personal favourites was a fatherly chat between Rufus and Mayor Buckman...

            Rufus - "Now. Daddy. Daddy, don't mind Lester none. I got full confidence in him."
            Mayor Buckman - "Son, one time I had full confidence in a fart. Shit all over myself."

            The soundtrack is largely provided by two musical minstrels. In a very similar vein to "There's Something About Mary", these two characters frequently pop up with a musical interlude, often signifying what is about to happen in the scene. Both entertaining and amusing, this is a welcome addition to the movie.

            The DVD version has a number of special features, including a commentary by Tim Sullivan and Robert Englund, and a second commentary with Tim Sullivan, co-writer Chris Kobin and producer Chris Tuftin. I haven't actually had chance to view the film with the commentary yet, but I am sure it'll be interesting and will point out little trivia facts that you may have missed first time around.
            There is also a number of deleted scenes and an outtake reel with some humourous moments. My opinion of these are that they are ok to view once or twice, but if a scene did not make it into the final cut, then it's probably not that important.

            The DVD is presented in 16:9 Widescreen, and this is the format in which the movie was originally shot, hence it is best viewed on a widescreen television.


            Overall, the movie needs to be watched in the context is was designed - with an overall appreciation of the genre and with a very good sense of humour ! The movie will almost certainly appeal more to male, rather than female, viewers, and is ideally watched over a couple of beers and snacks. Whilst not very original, and very predictable, it is extremely entertaining.
            And the great news is, when the closing credits roll and you are left wanting more, Sullivan is currently filming a sequel with the imaginatively titled, "2001 Maniacs: Beverly Hellbillys", due for release next year !!!

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              12.10.2006 11:41
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              One of the best family days out in the UK

              Whilst visiting the Lake District recently, we spotted a promotional leaflet for the “South Lakes Wild Animal Park”. Initially we were in two minds whether to visit or not, as we had been to another zoo just one week before, however the leaflet made this site sound particularly interesting.

              We were staying in Cartmel – a small village in the Lake District, and getting to the park was easy. It is clearly signposted from Junction 36 of the M6 with brown signs showing a white elephant. These signs direct you along the A590 to the town of Dalton-in-Furness and the South Lakes Wild Animal Park. Free car parking is provided at the entrance to the park.

              The park is actually home to two registered charities: The Wildlife Protection Foundation and The Sumatran Tiger Trust.

              Admission to the park costs £10.50 for adults, with children and pensioners charged a reduced rate of £7.00. Under 3's are free. Regular visitors can become “Friends of the Park” by paying £10 after admission, then following visits cost just £1.00 ! A proportion of this fee goes directly to the conservation charities this park supports.

              As soon as you walk in, you realise that this isn't “just another zoo” – in fact they make a point of not mentioning the “Z-Word” in any of their literature. The first enclosure you come across is the Cheetah's. The enclosure is really big, and ensures that the four animals enclosed have plenty of room and vegetation. There is a wooden walkway that goes above the enclosure, and this highlights one of the main features of the park. Their aim is to get you closer to the animals, without barriers where ever possible. Looking down on cheetahs, you can see them basking in the hot sun or prowling around. This, of course, also makes ideal photo opportunities.

              Another aim is to mix animals that would normally be found together in the wild, hence the next enclosure (which is huge !) has giraffes, rhino's and monkeys all together. Once again there are wooden platforms at both sides of the enclosure – one of which is at head height with the giraffes.

              As you progress through the park, you see so many different animals from all over the world, and most have very little barriers between you and them. Even the spectacle-eyed bears enclosure is only waist high, and photographs from here look as though it was taken in the wild.

              I have many good memories (and photographs) of this park, but there are two that stand out above all others. Firstly there is an aviary that you can walk through… but this one houses vultures and parrots. Standing just one meter away from a vulture as he spreads his wings and blocks your path may be slightly intimidating, but it is truly an experience you will never forget. The birds fly freely around the aviary and are amazing to see.

              The only thing that topped this was the feeding of the tigers. At 2:30 each day, there is a talk by the keepers about the tigers and the charities efforts to prevent them from disappearing in the wild forever. This is followed by a feeding which is totally unique in Europe, as the tiger's meat is fastened to the top of wooden poles. When released back into the enclosure, the tigers climb the vertical poles to get to their food. Whilst this is an amazing sight for the visitors, it is not done for the crowd's entertainment, but rather to make the tigers work for their food and keep them strong and healthy.

              The park aims to encourage interaction with some of the animals. As you enter the park, you can buy bags of food from which you are encouraged to feed some of the animals. Information is printed on the bag and on enclosures as to which animals you can and cannot feed, and this needs to be strictly adhered to.

              Other animals, such as the lemurs, can be fed at set times under the careful supervision of the keepers.

              Other facilities within the park include a small railway, with all proceeds going to support the ongoing charity work that the park does, a restaurant offering a wide range of snacks and meals at fairly reasonable prices and a gift shop.

              The park is suited to families and visitors of all ages, although it should be noted that, for obvious reasons, dogs (including guide dogs) are not allowed in the park.

              Overall, the South Lakes Wild Animal Park is an extremely interesting and entertaining full day out which represents excellent value for money, and I would highly recommend the attraction to everyone visiting the South Lake District area.


              *Please note that this review was previously published under my alternative username BAW123 at youstayuk.co.uk

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              • An American Haunting (DVD) / DVD / 37 Readings / 32 Ratings
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                01.05.2006 10:35
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                A movie adaptation of American's most documented haunting

                "American Haunting" begins in the present day, with a terrified young girl being pursued through snowy woodland - the subject of her fear is unknown. She stumbles, but quickly returns to her feet and continues running towards her house. As she reaches it, she runs upstairs into her bedroom, slamming and locking the door behind her. The door violently shakes, and the door handle twists rapidly as the mysterious horror that lurks behind the door desperately tries to get into the room.
                After some initial shocks and jumps, the scene changes to the girl's mother, who is reading a journal that her daughter found in the attic. This journal is from the early 1800's, and was written by John Bell Jr.

                The movie then goes back to Red River, Tennessee, in the 1800's - the date of the journal - and to the lives of the, then happy, Bell family.
                John Bell (Donald Sutherland) is the father of the family, and a wealthy landowner. He is standing before a panel of church leaders, accused of overly profiting from a loan and land sale. Whilst found guilty, he is told he can keep the profits. The victim is known throughout the community, and many believe that she practices witchcraft - so when she promises that bad times will fall upon the Bell family, they become slightly concerned.
                Before long, strange things begin to occur to John's daughter Betsy Bell (Rachel Hurd-Wood), and the family begin to wonder if the threats were real...

                My attention was drawn to this movie by the very scary and well edited trailer that was shown on television prior to the movies release. Both the main stars of this film have previously been in highly respected films in the horror genre - Donald Sutherland in "Don't Look Now" and Sissy Spacek was, of course, "Carrie".
                Spacek portrays John Bell's wife really well, with the emotions of a worried mother very believable. Sutherland, however, is now looking his age, and this is also reflected in his acting. It is sometimes difficult to understand what he is saying - he reminded me a lot of Oliver Reed in his latter years. Despite this, it does actually suit the character he is trying to portray.
                Rachel Hurd-Wood is a young British actress, who's only previous role was that of Wendy in the adaptation of "Peter Pan". This role should have been challenging for her - Betsy Bell undergoes a huge range of emotions from adolescent infactuation and playful teenager to that of a horibly tormented and scared victim of an invisible entity. To her credit, Wood's performance made it look as though she acheived this character with apparent ease and as a result the character of Betsy Bell is one of the strongest performances in this movie.

                The film is directed by Courtney Solomon, who's only other film, "Dungeons and Dragons" was awful ! That was six years ago, back in 2000, so it's reassuring to see that he has learnt from that experience ! The film is very well directed and shot, aided by the fantastic woodland and countryside scenery that Romania (where the movie was shot) had to offer.

                "An American Haunting" is a modern ghost story set in historic times, and this in itself works well. The scenes where Betsy or her father are being shaken and attacked by the invisible force are scary, and there are plenty of "jumpy" moments in the film too - often accompanied by loud noises. Despite this, I felt let down by the film. Perhaps, partly due to the fact that horror is my favourite genre of movie, the movie had nothing really new to offer. Scenes of possession or ghostly attacks have been seen countless times before and, quite often better than in this movie. The movie also has numerous flashback scenes that, whilst explain the background to events, sometimes assume the cinemagoer to have very short memories or unable to think for themselves.
                As the film nears it's final scenes, pieces of the jigsaw come together, and it is here when I felt most let down. As the movie was "a true story, based upon the most documented haunting in American history", I felt the movie would have been best left with an unexplained ending rather than the conclusion that was made.

                Needless to say, this film will affect different people in different ways - those who are easily scared and hate horror films will not enjoy this film. Gore fanatics will be disappointed - virtually all the movie's horror relies on dark shadows, unseen forces and psycological terror. There will be others, the "Most Haunted" fans, who will look at this film as an actual account of a haunting. General movie fans will no doubt enjoy the films, whilst people in the catergory that I fall into, the "Horror fans" will be somewhat disappointed. "An American Haunting" isn't a bad film... it just didn't live up to my expectations.

                The movie is in cinemas now, Certificate 15.

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                • Orange County (DVD) / DVD / 46 Readings / 44 Ratings
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                  05.03.2006 16:36
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                  Jack Black and Colin Hanks star in this very funny movie.

                  You may ask why I'm reviewing this movie, when it's been out a whilst and there are already several ops out there.
                  Well, to be honest, I think that this film has been given a hard time by the other reviewers and the movie is under-rated. Please read on to discover why...

                  THE PLOT...

                  Shaun Brumder is a highly talented, intelligent, but easily distracted surfer who finds a book by acclaimed author Martin Skinner. This discovery leads him to focus his attentions on becoming a creative writer at Stanford University. However, due to a mix up, a degenerates details are sent in place of Brumder's, which eliminates any chance of him getting into Stanford.
                  Shaun must rely on help from his girlfriend and his family (which include his dopehead brother) to correct the error and fufil his lifes ambition.

                  THE CAST & CREW...

                  The casting of this film is excellent, with many uncredited cameo appearances included in the line up.
                  Shaun Brumder is played by Colin Hanks, Tom Hanks' son. This is his first starring role, although he has had roles in Band Of Brothers, Roswell and That Thing You Do. Acting is obviously in his blood, and this comes across in this movie.
                  Shaun's junkie brother, Lance, is played by Jack Black. Anyone who has read my previous reviews will know that I am a big Jack Black fan, and in this film he doesn't fail to live up to expectations. He is hilarious, and the real star of the film. If you like him in the new "School Of Rock", you are sure to like him in this.
                  Catherine O Hara (from Home Alone) and John Lithgow (3rd Rock From The Sun / Ricochet / Cliffhanger) as Shaun's seperated, dysfunctional parents.
                  Other well know stars include Lily Tomlin, Ben Stiller, Harold Ramis, Chevy Chase and Kevin Kline.

                  Mentions must also be given to the writer, Mike White and the Director Jake Kasdan.

                  SOUNDTRACK...

                  This movie has a great soundtrack - consisting mainly of tracks bu groups such as The Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chilli Peppers. It fits in really well to the American Coming Of Age movie, and enhances the movie experience.

                  OVERALL OPINION OF MOVIE...

                  I liked it alot ! The movie is very short compared when compared to other films, with a running time of 1hr 14mins. The comedy though is excellent, and makes you cringe as you experience what Shaun is going through. One scene, for example, is when he has a home interview to try and get into Stanford. He is so keen to impress, but his mother gets drunk, his brother is high and his senile "step-dad" is causing no end of problems.
                  If you enjoy films such as American Pie or School Of Rock, then you will probably enjoy this movie.

                  MEMORABLE SCENE...

                  (In an English Lit class...)

                  Teacher - "Macbeth - what is there to say about Macbeth ? William Shakespear... Shakespear In Love... Gwyneth Paltrow... who dated Brad Pitt... who is married to..."

                  Class (in unison) - "Jennifer Aniston."

                  Teacher - "Who is on 'Friends'. Interesting. Can anyone name their favourite Friend ? Chad ?"

                  Chad - "Joey."

                  Teacher - "Joey - thats right. Anyone else ? Tina ?"

                  Tina - "Monica ?"

                  Teacher - "Monica - That's right. Good. Shaun - can you name your favourite Friend ?"

                  Shaun - "Ross.. I guess."

                  Teacher - "Actually no - I'm sorry. What about Chandler. Does anyone like Chandler ? Can I see some hands ?"



                  OTHER INFORMATION...

                  The film is Cert 12, and has a running time of 79mins.

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                  • Traser Glowring / Gadget / 40 Readings / 39 Ratings
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                    04.03.2006 15:29
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                    Useful little gadgets that glow in the dark.

                    I have to admit that I enjoy my gadgets, gizmos and novelties. I also have to admit that many of these have no real benefit to my day to day life. Sure, there is the Creative Nomad Jukebox MP3 Player that is now an essential part of my life - as is my PSP (Playstation Portable), but I have a huge drawful of short-lived novelties that are now just sitting there, gathering dust.

                    If you take the time to look at the ever-growing number of gadget web sites, you will see thousands of items of various prices and quality. An item that I found and subsequently purchased on one such site a whilst back is the Traser Glowring.

                    The name "Traser" comes from a combination of Tritum, the main chemical element in these items, and "Laser".

                    The Traser Glowring was first marketed a few years ago, and is effectively a "glow in the dark" keyring. Measuring approximately 1.5" in length, these plastic fobs contain a one millimeter wide borosilicate glass tube. This tube is coated with a microscopic layer of luminescent powder.
                    The tube is then filled with a radiated hydrogen gas, Tritum, which causes a chemical reaction and the tube is then sealed with a laser. This method results in the tube glowing with no external light or power source for over ten years.

                    During the day, the glowing element is not visable, and it looks like a plain plastic keyring. However, when in a darkened room or at night, the glowring has a steady luminescent glow to it which can be clearly seen for up to 50 feet away.

                    I originally purchased a pack of three about two years ago, of which I put one on my keys, gave one to my girlfriend and kept the other as a spare. Because I work shift work, which often involves nights or early mornings, I find these glowrings invaluable. I normally leave my keys on the bedroom side or on the stairs, and when it is dark I can easily find them without the need of turning on any lights. (Indeed, with glowrings attached, it is probably easier to find the keys with no lights on !).
                    My girlfriend uses her glowring on her keys, and this makes it far easier to locate them when her keys are in the bottom of her bag.

                    The brilliant thing about Glowrings is that, even though they are generally marketed as keyrings, they have so many other uses. You can attach them to bags, dog collars (ideal if you walk your dog at nights !), kids schoolbags, bikes - the uses are endless. Two ideal ways that I've heard of these being used are by fishermen as lights on their lines, and as a more general use attaching them to torches in the house, so that in the event of a power cut, you can easily locate your torches.

                    The Traser Glowrings come with a 10 year guarantee, so in the extremely event of them failing to glow during that time, they will be replaced.

                    There are actually two types of Glowring on the market - the older plastic ones, and the newer type, the "X2" which are glass with metal on both ends. Cost varies, but you can expect to pay around £5 for an older model, and around £9 for a newer X2 version. Glowrings are available from most online gadget stores.

                    I would highly recommend Traser Glowrings. These are more than just a novelty item - they have a practical use and will last for a long, long time, making them excellent value for money.

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                    • Mean Creek (DVD) / DVD / 39 Readings / 35 Ratings
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                      10.02.2006 16:27
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                      A coming of age movie, in which a planned prank will change lives forever...

                      Now, before I start this review, it must be said that I do not generally like drama movies. The reason I actually watched this was down to a semi-drunken conversation with a mate, in which we were discussing movies. During this discussion, we went through the usual routine of "What's your favourite action / horror / sci-fi" etc, but when it got to dramas, he accused me of not having ever enjoyed one. My defence was the excellent movie, "The Shawshank Redemption", but he said that movie didn't count, as it was a Stephen King movie (and I am a big King fan). So, that also ruled out my other favourite dramas, "The Green Mile" and "Stand By Me"... and then, yes, I was actually stumped !!

                      With this in mind, I have started to discover a whole new genre with some unexpected results. The first drama I watched following this conversation was a 2004 movie, "Mean Creek"...


                      As the film opens, we are presented with a hard hitting (quite literally) scene of bullying, as a high school, overweight bully named George (Josh Peck) physically lays into a younger boy. When confronted by his older brother as to the origin of his injuries, the younger boy, Sam (played by Rory Culkin), admits to his brother that he is the victim of bullying.
                      Together, and with the help of some of their friends, they create a plan to get revenge on the bully by luring him into joining them for a river trip where they could get their own back for all the things he has done to Sam and the other victims.
                      The plan was flawless... or so they thought until things start to go wrong, and events that follow push everyone's friendships to the limit......

                      This is a fairly unusual modern movie, as Mean Creek does not rely on a huge budget, special effects or even a soundtrack to get the story across to the audience... it relies on just two elements - a good story and good acting !

                      The first thing that I noticed about this movie was the style of this film. Straight away it is obvious that this is not a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster. The opening shots are filmed on a camcorder, and throughout the film you get the feel that much of this was filmed on handheld cameras or rented equipment. The actual budget of the film was a tiny (in comparison to Hollywood movies) half a million dollars. Yet, rather than lower the standard of the film, it actually adds to the overall atmosphere of the movie. The occasionally grainy picture, and background noises such as the roar of water breaking over rocks, that were not edited out make the whole thing far more believable, with a sense that it could have been produced by the group of kids itself !
                      The film was shot entirely on location in and around Oregon - and you can see why... the scenery is amazing. High mountains, steep grassy riverbanks, stunning wildlife and crystal clear water make you wish you were there. Again, when producing a low-budget movie, why waste money on building lavish sets when you have the beauty of the countryside around you. The scenes in the town and it's outskirts resemble a stereotypical poor American town, with run-down petrol stations and wooden housing.

                      Much of the films success must be credited to the cast of children and young adults who, without exception, portray their characters in a believable and realistic way. When first viewing this film, I immediately recognised Rory Culkin (MacCaulay's younger brother) from previous movies such as Signs. I recognised a couple of other members of the cast, but could not place where I'd seen them before. This is probably due to the fact that up to this point, their appearances were on American television dramas.
                      Trevor Morgan plays Rocky, Sam's older brother. His previous roles include characters in ER, Baywatch and CSI. He also played the role of Erik in Jurassic Park 3.
                      The role of George, the bully, is portrayed by Josh Peck - again fairly unknown in the movie business. Peck deserves a special mention, as this must have been a very tough role. At the beginning of the movie we see George as a vicious thug - and immediately despise him, but as the movie progresses, you actually get to see that there is another, gentler side to him which makes him act the way that he does, and you end up feeling for him.
                      Amongst the group of lads, there is one girl - Sam's new girlfriend Millie, played by Carly Schroeder. Millie comes across as an innocent country girl who unwittingly gets involved in the plot to get revenge on George. As a young actress (she was 14 when this movie was filmed, but looks younger), Schroeder's character shines through with an amazing performance.
                      Again, though, it's the fact that no one steals the limelight that makes this film believable and such a success. Each is happy to play their own role to the best of their ability, and to react to each others performance.

                      Again, a lot of credit must go to the writer and director of Mean Creek - Jacob Aaron Estes. His story and vision reflects on both personal experiences and is influenced by other stories and movies. Despite this being only his second movie that he has been involved in, his lack of experience is totally hidden by the quality of the results.


                      As I mentioned right at the start of this review, I am a big Stephen King fan, and really enjoyed the movie "Stand By Me". This film does bear a strong resembalance to the King classic - it is essentially a story about a group of kids that go on an adventure, unaware and unprepared for what lays ahead. Both movies are about discovery and friendships, and the blissful innocence that only children can have. The general feel of the two movies are also closely matched.
                      However, this cannot take anything away from Mean Creek - indeed, it is a compliment to be compared to such a classic story and movie.

                      So, onto the big question... did I enjoy Mean Creek ? Well, I can honestly say that, with the exception of aforementioned Stephen King movies, this is one of the best dramas I have seen in a long, long time.
                      I was drawn into the story right from the start, and really felt part of the story - almost as if I was there watching events unfold. The story - whilst nothing really original - is captivating, and will leave you what's going to happen. There is an uneasy sense of fear throughout the movie, and right up to the end you don't know how things will unfold - and the fact that this is not a Hollywood movie, there are limitless posibillites.
                      When the end does come, I was actually slightly disappointed... not because it was poor, but rather I wanted more !! I actually feel as though I could have watched another hour or so of the film and still really enjoyed it.

                      Therefore, I have no hesitation in recommending this film to readers of this review - even if traditionally you don't like dramas, try and make room in your movie-watching experience for Mean Creek !

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                      • More +
                        09.02.2006 16:26
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                        The T-Virus is spreading, and people are dying to show you the effects !

                        In 1996, a new console game was released on the Sony Playstation under a hype of publicity in Japan, titled "Biohazard". Critics were describing it as the "best 3D action game ever", and raved about it's fantastic rendered graphics, it's amazing sound and it's cinematic storyline.
                        Combining all the elements from classic horror movies (such as flesh-eating zombies and mutant creatures), the game took Japan by storm. Shortly afterwards, the game had it's American release under the new title... "Resident Evil".
                        The game's storyline was gripping - Racoon City was like any other US city, and it's quiet suburbs seemed like the ideal place to live. However, the subdued atmosphere is shattered when residents start to see strange creatures, and people start to disappear. Following the discovery of bodies with wounds resembling animal attacks, the city sends it's Special Tactics and Rescue Squad (S.T.A.R.S.) to investigate. What they discover is terrifying, and they are forced to retreat to a nearby mansion... and this is where the horror begings.

                        The game spawned a whole series of follow on games and, in 2002, the first Resident Evil movie was released. Starring Milla Jovovich, the film was, in effect, the prequel to the first game. Set in the underground labs known as "The Hive", it showed how The Umbrella Corporation was researching a virus which could reanimate dead cells. The effects of this could be amazing, however an accident released the virus, turning the workers into flesh-eating zombies.
                        S.T.A.R.S. are sent in to investigate what had happened, and a battle of life and "un"-death ensues.

                        Resident Evil: Apocalypse picks up from where the first film finished. The inhabitants of Racoon City are totally unaware of the viral timebomb ticking away below them, nor of the research that the Umbrella Corporation had been conducting. Keen to cover up what had happened, Umbrella send more S.T.A.R.S. members into the hive to destroy any evidence. However, no sooner do they enter the hive the virus escapes bringing unexplainable violence onto the streets of Racoon City.
                        Fearing the widespread release, Umbrella closes all exits from Racoon City, effectively quarantining the residents.
                        At this point, Alice awakes from "suspended animation" in the local hospital, where she was detained following her escape from the hive. She, along with several S.T.A.R.S. members and residents must survive the zombies, the virus and escape Racoon City before Umbrella destroys all evidence of the incident.


                        The film really does resemble the computer game genre - the team are being chased by zombie-dogs through a corridor, only to find that the "Exit" is blocked by debris / weapons are dropped in by helicopter etc.
                        The locations used also fit into the game genre - the school building, the hospital, the tower block - each with very effective lighing and atmosphere enhancing elements.
                        The characters in the film could be ripped straight from the game series. Alice (Milla Jovovich) is the buxom-ass-kicking-gun-toting-blonde. Carlos the "George Clooney" lookalike S.T.A.R. member, played by Oded Fehr. The Nemisis - Umbrella's mutant secret weapon - looks and acts exactly as you would expect if you had stumbled across him in the game. Even the zombies move, look and act perfectly.
                        Mike Epps plays "the custom black guy" role as seen in many horror films, but has some of the best and funniest lines in the film. One classic line is whilst he is driving - a zombie steps out in front of him, to which he shouts out... "G.T.A." (a reference to the very popular PS2 game, "Grand Theft Auto").

                        Director Alexander Witt has really done well with this film. His previous credits include that of Director Of Photography and Assistant Director in movies such as "XXX", "Black Hawk Down" and "Pirates Of The Caribbean", although this is his first movie as Director. He even plays a cameo in the film as a S.T.A.R.S. sniper !

                        This is one of those rare films, in the fact that the sequel is far superior to the original. Whilst the original film was enjoyable, the sequel is far more entertaining, atmospheric and enjoyable.
                        The horror relies on shock tactics such as a zombie jumping out or a loud noise rather than long suspenseful moments - but again this is very much suited to this type of film. The action sequences and stunts are similar to those in "The Matrix" or "Blade" - extreme and over the top, but very entertaining.
                        Ok, there are some very cheesy lines, such as "We're gonna need more ammo", but hey, this is a action / horror film ! We need lines like that occasionally !

                        There have been a few "Zombie" films released over the past year or so - "Dawn Of The Dead", "Shaun Of The Dead" - and this movie takes the best elements from these and the computer games.

                        Onto the DVD itself now. This DVD is a single disc feature, but don't let that deceive you, as the makers have crammed it full of features and goodies for you to enjoy !
                        Obviously, the purpose of buying any DVD is for the main feature, and this is presented in 2.40:1 Anamorphic widescreen, and with Dolby Digital 5:1 surround sound. This means that with the right equipment, this movie looks and sounds just as good as it did at the cinema - abliet on a smaller screen !

                        Upon inserting the DVD, you are presented with an animated menu screen from "The Umbrella Corporation", offering the usual options. Selecting "Special Features" takes you to a new section of the disk. From here, you can select to view the movie with any one of three commentaries from the film makers, the stars or the writer and producer.
                        You can also view 20 (yes, twenty !) deleted scenes. These vary in length and quality, but provide a deeper insight into the movie.
                        There are also three featurettes, which looks at individual elements of the movie. As well as these, there is a "making of" documentary which is really interesting.

                        In a movie of this scale, obviously not everything went according to plan. Fear not, as you can also watch the out-takes in all their glory ! These are entertaining, and also you get to see the real actors, and laugh at their expense !


                        Overall, Resident Evil: Apocalypse has a very stylish feel to it, and the ending leaves the story open for a third installment to this series... which I am very much looking forward to !!!

                        I would recommend Resident Evil: Apocalypse to any horror / action movie fans, and anyone who has played and enjoyed the games !

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                        • More +
                          03.02.2006 10:03
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                          A microgel that flushes out cold germs before they can develop.

                          "Beep...beep...beep" - I opened my eyes and hit the alarm clock. 0500 it read, and I realised that my slumber under my warm quilt had to end. I yawn, stretch and sit up on the edge of the bed. But then I notice that my throat feels really dry. I swallow, only to be greeted by the unmissable pain associated with a sore throat !

                          Hoping that it is just the effects of a deep sleep, I continue to get ready for work, and set about my day - oblivious of what is in store for me. Throughout the day, I suffer a bout of sneezing, then the nose starts to get congested - all unmistakable signs of a cold !
                          Several people at work have already been struck down by this latest virus, which seems to be particulary nasty. The last thing that I want is to come down with it - particulary with so much going on over the next few weeks.

                          On the drive home from work I plan on stopping off at the pharmacy to stock up on supplies, when a television advertisement pops into my head - I'm sure you've seen it !
                          It's the one where a mother and her young son are at the supermarket, and he starts to throw a tantrum, chucking a bag of cereal on the floor. She responds by making an even bigger scene by screaming and rolling about on the floor - causing the son to look shocked and behave himself.
                          The product being advertised was "Vicks First Defence", with the slogan, "Fight Cold Germs Before They Can Take Hold".

                          Upon entering the pharmacy, there was a big display for this new product on the counter. I asked the pharmacist about it, and she brought over a shiny little blue and green box containing the bottle. It was priced up at £6.99.
                          This sounded like quite a lot of money for such a small item, so I asked the pharmacist if it worked. She admitted that she hadn't tried it, but said that she had heard several positive comments about it from customers.
                          £6.99 was expensive, but I weighed up several different factors. If someone offered me the chance to get rid of a cold for less than £7, I would snap up the offer. Also, comparing the price to some branded cold treatments, it was expensive, but it offered a different approach to fighting the cold virus by attacking it and preventing it from developing, rather than treating the symptoms whilst the cold takes it's natural course.
                          So, with these factors considered, I soon parted with my money and took possession of the product.

                          First Defence targets the area inside the nasal cavity, where cold germs first start to multiply.
                          It comes in the form of a nasal spray - a bottle with a pump disperser on the top that is inserted into the nostril. As the spray, based upon plant extracts, is applied, it traps the germs. This prevents them from multiplying, and helps remove them from the body.

                          First Defence needs to be used when there is a risk of catching a cold (e.g. when all your colleagues are coughing or sneezing !), or when you feel the first symptoms of a cold - normally within the first 24 hours.
                          After removing the protective cap, you simply insert the nozzle up each nostril and spray two or three times.
                          When you have first sprayed, you don't actually feel as though anything has come out, however after a few seconds you feel a burning sensation - like the cold is actually being burned away ! This then changes into a tingling, pulsing feeling as the product gets to work.
                          Your eyes briefly turn bloodshot and tears will probably roll down your cheeks. Excess fluid will come back out of your nostrils... along with quite a bit of mucus (now carrying the trapped cold virus. When you swallow, you will notice a burning (and not very pleasant taste) making it's way down your throat... like a cheap whiskey !
                          It's strange - this description makes the product and sensation sound awful... but it's actually not that bad ! I'm sure you'll know that when you have got a cold, anything that clears your head that quickly has to be more than welcome.

                          The products active ingredients are plant based, which means that this is not actually classed as a medicine. There is no list of possible side effects, and does not say to avoid other medication whilst using this - so you could use it in conjunction with other cold remedies.
                          It does have warnings, however, as to who should use this product. Women who are pregnant or breast feeding, or those who have sensitivites to the nose, ear or throat should not use First Defence. Simarily, it is not suitable for children under 12 years of age.

                          So, the big question... does it work ? Well, I can only go by my own experiences. I woke up with a sore throat first thing in the morning, and by early afternoon I was congested and felt really ill. I first took Vicks First Defence at tea time that day. Initially it really did clear my head, but I went to bed feeling pretty rough.
                          The following morning, I awoke with quite a bad headache, but the cold felt quite a bit better. I took another dose of the gel, and by eleven o clock I felt almost 100% better !
                          It's difficult to say if the headache was brought on by this product, but this then developed into a migraine - something which I very rarely get (the last one was over a year ago !). However, after my normal painkillers, the migraine soon dispersed and I felt fine.
                          I have used the product since then with no similar side effects, so it is probably just a coincidence. (I shall update this review with any further instances !).

                          Now, of course, this dramatic recovery wasn't under any scientific conditions - it is entirely possible that my cold might have just got better by itself in this short time. However, the cold that is going around at the moment seems to be particulary nasty, with friends and colleagues suffering symptoms for up to three weeks.


                          Weighing everything up, I would certainly recommend Vicks First Defence to potential buyers. The product is expensive for what it is - (and the instructions wisely recommend that you do not share this product - each person should have their own one !). However, £7 to recover so quickly from a cold is very cheap. Also, for full recovery from my last cold, I took five doses - (it recommends using it for around 2 days after you feel better, but I ignored this advice). After these doses, I still have around 80% of the bottle left, so it'll probably last me for another year !

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                          • Dawn of the Dead [2004] (DVD) / DVD / 43 Readings / 39 Ratings
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                            21.01.2006 09:59
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                            A remake of George A. Romero's classic 1978 zombie movie.

                            Before I start this review, I think that I should point out that this movie is a remake of the original 1978 Classic George A Romero horro movie (with the same title). I have not actually seen the original, so I am unable to compare this new version to it - so this is a review based solely upon my thoughts of this new 2004 version.


                            THE PLOT:
                            =========

                            The movie opens with a nurse returning home from an excessively long shift to a typically rural American scene - houses all new and clean, kids playing in the street. The scene then cuts straight to the next morning, when her husband is awoken by a creaking door, and standing there is the "girl next door" - with a blood stained night-dress. Without giving away too much... the horror starts here.
                            The nurse, and a handful of other "uninfected" survivors manage to make their way to the local shopping mall, where they manage to baracade themselves in - whilst the undead zombies gather in the streets outside.
                            What follows is a series of encounters, which bring together some members of the group, whilst dividing others.


                            THE CAST:
                            =========

                            Quite unusually for modern films, this cast does not have any "A-List" Celebs in the cast. Ving Rhames is probably the biggest name, and he plays the Police Officer who manages to make his way to the mall.
                            Sarah Polley, who's other films include "Go" and "eXistenZ" takes on the role of Ana the Nurse. She plays the role really well, and does look genuinely afraid in certain scenes.
                            Jake Weber also portrays his character well. He is probably best known for his role of Dr. Matt Crower in American Gothic, but has also appeared in U-571 and Meet Joe Black.
                            The only other notable actor is Mekhi Phifer, who has also appeared in 8 Mile and Shaft.

                            Each member of the cast plays their allocated role well, and they all fit into the stereotypical image of horror movie characters.


                            THE SOUNDTRACK:
                            =================

                            The music in the film was very varied. It contains country music from the likes of Johnny Cash, to hard rocking metal tracks and "shopping mall" music. Each song fits in well to that particular part of the movie.


                            ANALYSIS:
                            =========

                            This movie has many of the essential elements of a good horror movie...

                            1. The line "I'll be back" actually does appear in the film !
                            2. The essential characters - a scary kid, a pregnant woman, the "heroic" cop, the ones you hope get killed and the ones you just don't care if they get killed !
                            3. Blood ! Quite a lot, in fact !!
                            4. Weapons - shotguns, chainsaws, croquet mallets, sticks, sniper rifles, pistols.....
                            5. The enclosed location - in this case, a shopping mall.
                            6. The enemy - braindead zombies !

                            The film gets straight into the horror - there is no build up or explanation of the background to this "contamination". This is due to the fact that the original Dawn Of The Dead is a sequel to "Night Of The Living Dead" - and this has all the build up. This works well, as you get thrown in at the deep end as the survivors would have been - although you may feel that some explanation would have been nice. This comes in news broadcasts in the background, which speculate on the source of the virus.
                            There are also some excellent camera shots - one of which is a car speeding around suburban streets, with a fixed camera behind the car. This gives the feeling of speed, and that you are actually following the car.
                            The make-up and effects are very good too. The zombies look terrifying, and whereas some "zombie" movies have them staggering around slower than walking pace, these zombies run as fast as Sally Gunnell !
                            There are also some funny moments, which can break up the tension for some, but spoil it for others.


                            OVERALL OPINION:
                            ================

                            My feelings for this film were mixed. The opening scene was really good, and I hoped that the movie would carry on in the same fashion (i.e. tense and scary). Parts of the film lived up to these hopes, but other scenes failed. I think that if the movie had maintained the pace, but eliminated the humor, it could have been one of the best horror films of this decade (so far !). There were also some unnecessary and tacky scenes and lines which spoilt the momentum and suspense of the movie.
                            Despite this, however, I did enjoy the movie. If you leave your brain outside (excuse the pun !), and enjoy the film for what it is - a tense, edge of the seat horror - it does work well.
                            Obvioulsy, it will not appeal to everyone that reads this. If you do not like horror or gore, then steer well clear of this film.


                            FURTHER INFORMATION:
                            =====================

                            Check out the official movie site & trailer at dawnofthedeadmovie.net.

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                            • The Machinist (DVD) / DVD / 52 Readings / 48 Ratings
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                              12.01.2006 10:58
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                              An insight into the mind of a confused man.

                              Trevor Reznik is a man on the edge. Desperately underweight and pale, Reznik's so called life is more of a day to day existence.
                              He spends his days working as a machinist in a small engineering factory. His nights are spent between a prostitute, Stevie, who has genuine feelings and concern for him, and an airport coffee bar where he exchanges stories with Marie - the waitress. Sleep is not an option for him - he has not slept for over a year, hence his complexion and morbid existence.
                              Reznik becomes paranoid and begins to doubt his own sanity when strange notes appear on his fridge - some in the form of a game of "hangman". Each morning, an extra letter appears, and yet the landlady has not seen anyone hanging around the apartment. Who is leaving these notes ?


                              The atmosphere in the factory is tense. The foreman is power hungry to the point where he bullies his staff, and the workers themselves all seem to have shady backgrounds - none more so than that of "Ivan", a worker from the night shift.
                              During one shift, there is a terrible accident that pushes Reznik over the limits of his sanity, and into a journey to find out where reality ends and insanity begins…



                              The movie has a dark and tense atmosphere, and you never quite know what is going to happen next. There are many surreal and disturbing images in the film, including the scariest ghost train in the world which is enough to drive anyone insane !
                              As in many good drama thrillers, there are plenty of clues scattered throughout the movie to give an indication of the end - it's just a case of keeping your eyes open.


                              - The Cast -

                              Trevor Reznik is played by Christian Bale, most recently star of "Batman Returns". When he first appears on screen, you will be shocked by his appearance. Rather than looking like a Hollywood actor, he looks more like a refugee or prisoner of war. In order to play this role, Bale actually went down from 180lbs to 120lbs, reportedly eating just one tin of tuna and an apple a day. Despite losing 60lbs, he wanted to drop another twenty, but the studio feared that this would be too dangerous and forbid him to lose any more. As it was, this is believed to be a record amount of weight loss of any actor for a movie role, and one that will be hard to beat !
                              This weight loss shows Bale's dedication to the role, but would be worthless if the acting was poor. Fortunately, despite his weak state, Bale's acting abilities shine through and he plays the role amazingly well. The role requires a whole range of different traits, from paranoia to humor, and from a dull nothingness to some energetic scenes - all of which Bale handles in a believable way.
                              Reznik has few friends, but his closest are a prostitute played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, and the coffee bar hostess, portrayed by Aitana Sanchez-Gijon. Leigh is a much under-rated actress, and this role will prove that point. Throughout the movie, you will see the mental pressure Stevie is going through - trying to remain positive whilst selling her body to make a living. Her feelings for Reznik are drawn - he is her best client, but she is concerned for his obviously declining health. As she says in one point, "You can't die… you're my best client" !
                              Marie, the coffee hostess, provides not only hot black coffee, but a listening ear. The actress who plays her is fairly unknown in the west - she is Italian and has only been in European movies.
                              In the factory setting, Reznik's closest friend is Miller, played by Michael Ironside. Ironside rarely has a leading role in movies, but will probably be best known as Richter in "Total Recall", or as Ham Tyler in the TV mini-series, "V".

                              The movie is directed by Brad Anderson. Born in Connecticut, USA, in 1964, Brad Anderson has few directing credits to his name. He has directed episodes of hit US television programes, such as "Homicide: Life On The Street", "The Shield" and "The Wire". This movie captures the darkest images of these series and turns the atmosphere even darker.


                              - Overall Opinion -


                              This movie has a great cast, great acting, good direction and a very dark atmosphere. It should be a great movie..... but it's not ! The problem lies with the story - it's dull with a capital "D" ! Although there is a curiosity to find out what the film is about, when you do it's disappointing. You realize that you've spent two hours watching something with very little point. Sure, there are some great images in the film, but it doesn't compensate for the lack of interesting plot.
                              It's somewhat ironic that a film about a guy who hasn't slept in a year is more than likely to send you to sleep.

                              Amazingly, the film has been nominated, and won, several prestigious film awards, and come the Oscars next year, I think that this will get several mentions. I believe that Christian Bale would be a worthy recipient of Best Actor for all that he went through in preparation for this role, and for his acting in it.
                              There will be people who really enjoy this film, and indeed many reviews rave about it, but it's not for me, and I'd personally find it hard to recommend to other people.

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                                10.01.2006 10:12
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                                At last - a site with free ringtones... and no catches !

                                Oh, how those flippin' "Crazy Frog" advertisements annoy me - I really hope that he ends up as a delicacy in some French restaurant. I also hope that "Nessie The Dragon" runs into a dragon-slayer in the not too distant future. And as for "Sweetie" the Chick ? Well, let's just say that it looks just about the right size for a McNugget !

                                Now, don't get me wrong - I have nothing against the computer generated characters themselves, (well, except for Crazy Frog !), nor the people that wish to personalise their mobile phones. My big gripe with these is the companies behind them, that saturate television airwaves with advertisements aimed at getting as much money as possible off children and teenagers... and some adults that should know better !
                                It is estimated that this year (2005), mobile phone users will spend over £740million downloading ringtones, music, pictures and other content to their mobiles. The ring tone market is the largest sector in this group, and that alone will earn companies around £245million. The "Crazy Frog" phenonomen is already estimated to have raked in over £15million in ring tone sales !
                                Apart from the cost alone, (up to £4.50 per ring tone), there is another problem with receiving messages after you have purchased a ring tone. Many of these companies will bombard you with text messages - with some even charging you for every message that they send you.

                                When I wanted to add a couple of ringtones to my mobile phone, I searched the internet for a reputable site that would supply a ring tone with no (or very little) cost, and yet not send you loads of junk mail and messages in return.
                                Typing "Free Ring tone" into a search engine such as Google or MSN Search brings up thousands of positive results. Unfortunately most of these link you to sites where - you've guessed it - you have to pay a small fortune or sign up to a regular service.
                                Despite my initial disappointment, I continued upon my quest to find a free ring tone supplier, and eventually I stumbled upon a site with a very promising name...

                                "FREE-RINGTONES-FREE-LOGOS.COM"

                                free-ringtones-free-logos.com is run by a company called CardboardFish, or CBF for short ! Their aim is to provide ringtones and logos for your mobile phone, along with a range of other services at no, or very little cost to the user. CBF make their money from advertising on the site - which is fairly unobtrusive and does not fill your screen with loads of pop-ups, unlike other sites.

                                When you first go to www.free-ringtones-free-logos.com, you are presented with the home page.
                                The home page looks fairly cluttered and basic, with the only graphics being banner advertisements at the top, bottom, left and right of the page. This actually has its intended effect, though. Rather than looking at the text in the middle of the screen, you really do notice the advertisements - and this should encourage companies to continue to support the site in the future.
                                The central section of this page contains a basic search engine to locate ringtones and logos on the site, a text poll and the opportunity to subscribe to CBF's newsletter. By subscribing, you get occasional emails from the site notifying you of updates to the website, and some exclusive offers - but they guarantee not to send unsolicited emails or sell your information to anyone else. You also have the option to unsubscribe at any time.

                                At the top of the page is the navigation links - clicking on these take you to different parts of the website, which are as follows...


                                Logos:

                                There are literally thousands of free logos available on this website. They are carefully split up into forty three categories, ranging from Alcohol and Animals to Movies, Football and Cartoons. Each category may also be divided into sub-categories.
                                The logos are generally of a very high quality, and you can even edit or personalise them before you download it to your phone.
                                One small critism here, and that is that there is an Adult logo section, with explicit graphics and rude words - and yet there is no warning and nothing to stop younger users going in and downloading these to their phones.

                                There is also a facility to create your own custom graphic and download it to your mobile.
                                This is done with a basic set of tools, and a pixilated screen where you can draw or write whatever you want.


                                Tones:

                                This section caters for the older mobile phones, that cannot handle the Polyphonic Ringtones (multi-channel).

                                There are twenty eight categories, with ringtones ranging in quality.

                                As with the logos, there are tools in this section that enable you to create your own ring tone and share it with your friends.
                                You can also download tones from a custom category, which have been created by other users on the site.


                                Polyphonics:

                                The Polyphonic Ring tone section is the most popular part of the website.
                                Once again, the tones are divided up into twenty eight categories, as follows...

                                60's - Classic songs from the Beatles and The Righteous Brothers.
                                70's - Music from the 70's, including ABBA and the Bee Gees.
                                80's - What a great era for music !! There are some fantastic tones here from the likes of Blondie, Madness, Duran Duran, UB40 and Spandau Ballet.
                                90's - Includes music from Take That, Pet Shop Boys and Ocean Colour Scene.
                                Alert Tones - These are shorter tones which can be used to inform you of text alerts. One of my favorites on here, which I recommend to everyone is the tone from the TV Series, "24", called "24CTU". It sounds just like Keifer Sutherland's phone !!
                                Anthems - Hmm - not such a good section... just a few national anthems.
                                Boybands - Blue, Busted, McFly and Westlife feature predominately in this section, so could appeal to some people.
                                Christmas - A must around the festive season... this section has loads of tones from Christmas's present and past. I think that virtually all the Christmas songs are here - The Fairytale Of New York will be on my phone this Christmas.
                                Dance - There are loads of tracks in this section from artists such as Basement Jaxx and Fatboy Slim. There are also some lesser known tracks.
                                Essential - Some great tracks from R Kelly, Paul Van Dyke and Kelis, amongst others, feature in this category.
                                Films - There are far to many great tones to mention in the film category, but they include themes from Harry Potter, Gremlins, Ghostbusters, James Bond, Kill Bill and Austin Powers.
                                Football - There is a small selection of music associated with football here - from terrace chants to television themes.
                                Girlbands - Loads of downloads from the Sugarbabes, Girls Aloud and Atomic Kitten.
                                Hip Hop - From Big Brovaz and Blazin Squad to Snoop Dogg and So Solid - they are all in here.
                                Indie - This section is huge, with music new and old from artists such as Ash, Athlete, Franz Ferdinand, REM and Radiohead.
                                Kids TV - It's got to be done, hasn't it ?!?! Music from Kids television from the 70's, 80's and today. "Can He Fix It ?" Yes, Bob The Builder is there, along with Balamory, The Banana Splits, Rainbow and the Muppets !!
                                New Tones - When new ringtones are added to the site, they appear in this section for a short time. Obviously this changes on a regular basis, but at the time of writing this, it includes Dr Dre's Xxplosive and Franz Ferdinand's Walk Away. This should be your first port of call on a regular basis.
                                Nu Metal - Iron Maiden, Linkin Park and Judas Priest all feature in this section, so get those heads banging !!
                                Oldies - ... but goodies. Songs in this collection include some all time classics from Elvis, Elton other artists present and past.
                                Pop - A huge section that has outgrown itself, and has had to roll over into the next category...
                                Pop 1 - ... which includes songs from the 80's up to the present day ! Again, there are far too many to mention, but chances are that you'll find what you're looking for in here.
                                Punk - With Green Day, Blink 182 and The Offspring, this section has a lot of modern punk covered. Unfortunately it currently lacks original punk music.
                                R&B - Some top tracks from Nelly, TLC and Craig David, among others.
                                Rock - Air guitars at the ready !! With tracks from Bon Jovi, Foo Fighters and the Rolling Stones, you'll be strumming away in no time.
                                Solo Men - Bryan Adams, Elton John, David Sneddon and Enrique are just waiting to satisfy you women...
                                Solo Women - ... whilst us guys have the likes of Alex Parks, Dido, Britney Spears, J Lo, Kylie and many others !! ( :o) )
                                Themes - A bit of a mixture here, but it includes themes from computer games, movies and adverts that could not otherwise be classified. (How would you classify the excellent Pearl and Dean cinema theme ?!?)
                                TV Themes - Another "must download" category. With tones such as "Murder She Wrote", "Only Fools and Horses" and "Jim'll Fix It", you'll spend a lot of time browsing these !


                                Downloading Tones & Logos:

                                Downloading both ringtones and logos are done in a very similar way. After you have selected what you want to download, you are given the option to preview it. With the tones, this opens a media player on your computer, and the track will play.
                                If you are sure that this is the one that you want, you click on a button marked "Continue".
                                You then need to enter your mobile phone number (and a friends if you wish to send it to them), your network (all major networks are supported), and the format of polyphonic tone you require. Most phones (Nokia, Motorola, Sony etc) use a format called SP Midi, whereas Samsung use a format called SMAF/MMF.
                                The next page gives you the instructions on how to get it onto your phone, although this is very simple. On your phone, you need to access your WAP services, and enter the URL http://d1m.net. This then takes you to a simple page, where you have to enter a short code that is given to you on the next page.
                                Once this is done, the ring tone / logo downloads, and you just save it to your phone.
                                Whilst CBF do not make any charge for this service, you may incur a small charge from your service provider, who often charge to view WAP sites and download information. I have checked with the major providers, and the typical cost will be around 10p per tone - even on pay-as-you-go ! This is a massive saving over the sites that charge up to £4.50 per tone !


                                Other Services:

                                As well as the logos and ringtones, CBF also offer two other main services...

                                SMS: As if the free ringtones and logos were not enough, the site also allows you to send free SMS messages to mobiles ! Rather than paying up to 12p per message, you can access this free service which allows you to send messages to your friends.
                                According to the conditions, you agree not to use any pop-up blocker on the site, as when sending a text message, an advertisement will appear in a separate window. Your message will also carry the CBF website details, so your actual text message will be limited to a respectable 137 characters.
                                The text message will normally be sent within a few seconds, and the screen will display a message when the text has been successful.
                                There is also a facility to receive replies to your text via the website. After sending your message, you will be given a code to allow this to be done - although at the time of writing this, the service was unavailable.

                                WAP Download: This service is excellent, yet not very well publicized on the site. WAP Download allows you to transfer items from your PC to you phone. Say, for example, you had a photograph of your kids or puppy on your PC that you would like as wallpaper on your phone. You could simply upload that image to CBF and then, using the same retrieval method as the tones and logos, download it to your phone. Size and file type are limited, but I have had no problems at all with this service. Best yet - you've guessed it - it's totally free !! (Except for the usual service provider charge !!).


                                All that you need to use these services are a PC, (which I guess if you're reading this online shouldn't prove a problem), and a WAP enabled mobile phone.
                                WAP is a smaller form of the internet that is accessible over the mobile phone network, and most modern phones have access to this. You will need to be able to type in a URL (or website address), which if you do not know how to do this, your phone's reference manual should be able to help.


                                The only drawback to the site is the presentation - yet it's hard to criticize this when the service and downloads are so good and totally free of charge.
                                The site is generally very fast, easy to navigate and updated on a regular basis.
                                Also, considering that this site's main source of income is the advertisements, these are fairly inconspicuous and do not interfere with your use of the site in any way.

                                Overall, I cannot recommend "www.free-ringtones-free-logos.com" enough. I estimate that I have downloaded around 100 tones and downloads since I have been using this site, which I reckon has saved me between £300 and £500 !!
                                I would strongly urge any mobile phone user who wants to personalise their phone to check this site out - especially teenagers (or parents of teenagers) who are currently the biggest users of these services !!

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                                  06.01.2006 21:47
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                                  It's a battery operated, vibrating interdental cleaner.

                                  The Oral-B "Hummingbird" is the latest in a long line of gadgets designed to help us improve our oral hygiene. The dental market has almost become flooded over the past few years, with additions such as a whole range of electric toothbrushes, mouthwashes, tongue scrapers, tooth-stain erasers, scale removers, flosses, tapes and many more items.

                                  The Hummingbird is a battery operated device, about the size of a thumb (about 4" high), designed to clean in between teeth. This is acheived using two standard methods - floss and dental sticks.
                                  As you use the device, it vibrates to enhance the cleaning process, whilst emitting a fairly high-pitched humming noise.

                                  The name, unsurprisingly, is derived from the fact that the gadget's unique shape resembles that of a hummingbird. The base of the device holds one AAA battery (a Duracell battery is supplied with purchase), which gives many hours of use. (I have been using the device for about two months now, on a regular basis - and still on the original battery !).

                                  At the top of the barrel, there is the operation button. This is a rubber coated button that, when held down, operates the vibration effect.

                                  Moving up to the top, there is a plastic section, where you can slot in either the dental stick or the flossing attachment. This is simply a push on, pull off method that is very quick and easy to use.


                                  Using the product is also very easy. After selecting on of the attachments, you simply insert the end between your teeth and hold down the power button. Some additional hand movement is required to obtain the best results, and you work across from one tooth to the next.

                                  After use, you simply remove and disgard the attachment and rinse the device.



                                  OVERALL OPINION:

                                  The Hummingbird aims to provide two methods of cleaning between your teeth where a regular toothbrush cannot reach. If this were it's only aims, then the product would be a success.
                                  If however, as appears to be the case, Oral B are claiming that the Hummingbird is more effective than standard flossing and dental sticks, then I would question those claims and generally regard the product as a failure.
                                  Looking at each of the attachments in turn, the flossing tool has approximately 1cm of floss on it. Comparing that to when I use standard floss, I use around 30cm - and this means that the actual length of floss passing between my teeth is far greater.
                                  The vibration effect is so minimal, I cannot see any improvement it could make over the standard floss.
                                  The actual plastic tool does make it easier to get access to more difficult teeth - however there are other "non-vibrating" plastic tools that provide this benefit at a far cheaper price.
                                  On the subject of cost, the floss refills are priced at around £2.50 for 15 - which compared to those other non-vibrating models is around 150% more expensive !

                                  Onto the dental sticks - these are short, plastic pointed sticks that attach onto the end of the Hummingbird. These are used to clean between the teeth and massage the gums.
                                  These actually have quite an unexpected strong minty taste that leaves your mouth feeling quite fresh.
                                  Again, however, the vibration is so slight that any benefits would be negligable. By manually sliding the device between your teeth, you do feel the results, but again these are just as easily achieved with standard dental sticks at a fraction of the cost. The standard price for a refill pack is around £2.50 for 25 - (10p each !).
                                  The sticks are designed to be quite flexible in order not to damage the gums, and to make manipulation slightly easier. Unfortunately I did find them to be a bit too flexible and after very short times, the point was so distorted I could no longer use the dental stick.

                                  After the first use, I noticed some slight bleeding of the gums - however after a couple of uses this was not the case. I belive that this is to be expected in many cases - espcially if flossing is not a regular activity for you.

                                  Looking at the official Hummingbird website (www.oralbhummingbird.com), the makers, "Oral B", claim to have scientific proof that this device is "Clinically Proven" to work. In fact, if you look carefully at the site, the claim is actually "Clinically proven to perform as well as traditional floss" - note the last five words there !
                                  This was my experience - yes, the device did work, but only as well as traditional floss and sticks !!

                                  So, would I recommend the product ? If you want to spend a relatively large sum of money on yet another gadget for you bathroom cabinet, then by all means do so.
                                  If, however, you are cost-concious, on a budget or just sensible, I'd recommend you stick with the wide range of traditional products out there at a fraction of the cost.
                                  As my "pros" and "cons" state, "It cleans as well as other floss and sticks... but at a much higher cost" !


                                  The starter pack costs around £3.49 - £4.99, and includes the Hummingbird, one AAA Duracell battery, 3 floss attachments and 5 dental sticks. This is widely available from chemists and drug stores.


                                  Oh, and by the way, if you haven't already figured out the answer to the title question, "Why Does The Hummingbird Hum ?", it's because it doesn't know the words !!! An old joke I know, but you try coming up with a title including the word "Hummingbird" !!!

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