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SimonCook

SimonCook
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      30.09.2003 20:14
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      I was going to wait until November to buy the four DVD version of the LOTR:The Two Towers, but being a family man I found a few logical reasons not to buy this version and instead go for the recently released 2 DVD version: 1 The 4 DVD version has 30 minutes more movie ? the director cut these extra 30 minutes on purpose to make the movie as good as it could, why would I want to see a movie that wasn?t the director?s true end product. 2 There are 3 DVDs of extras ? well this is cool and I would have watched these extras ? however I only ever watch DVD extras once, thus I would be paying an extra 30 pounds to watch something once ? doesn?t make economic sense! I have split my review into two ? first I give the DVD extras, as this is a DVD review, this is followed by an updated version of my original movie review: **********DVD Extras********** **Video** Available in Wide Screen or Full Screen (I have the wide screen version). This DVD is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. OK so this doesn?t mean much to me either ? essentially though it is in ?letter box? format. While this means that you get to see the movie almost the same way as on the cinema screen it does present problems on a regular tv. To get the best out of this I would recommend at least a 35? tv ? this allows you to see the movie pretty well in Wide Screen. The quality of the movie is excellent ? this seems to be pretty standard for movies transferred to DVD these days, but I was particularly impressed with the transfer of the night scenes, as the clarity seems to be excellent. I did notice the odd blurring throughout the movie, but this was probably more because I was looking for them for a review. **Sound** I am only really beginning to appreciate the quality of sound on a DVD since I bought a surround sound system. Due to the fact that my wife was in bed, I had to initially play this movie in standard stere
      o ? this was very good, but felt very two dimensional - I actually have decent speakers in my TV but really didn?t get the depth or feel of the movie screen. The following day I replayed the movie with the kids using the full surround sound! WOW! This movie is loud ? the sounds are very well reproduced and gave the same feel as in the movie. The level of noise is important for many of the battle scenes, although at times the kids felt they were a little loud and scary ? I loved them! I especially liked the quality of music that complimented the ?loudness? ? the sound really does justice to the movie! If you haven?t got surround sound then buy it! **The Extras on disc two** It is obvious that many of the juicy extras are being held back for the 4 DVD set, however there?s enough on this DVD to keep many people happy. *?.On the Set ? ?The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers? (about 15 mins)* This behind the scenes documentary was shown on tv before the movie was released. Essentially an extended trailer it has some pretty interesting interviews and many clips of the movie ? this was probably great to watch before the movie came out, but as you?ve just watched the full movie, then it does become a little monotonous seeing repeats of clips. There are some good behind the scenes clips though. *?.?Return to Middle Earth? (About 45 mins)* Again this seems to be a ?useless? extra as it summarizes the plot of the film after you?ve just watched it. This is more like a promotional video to gain an audience before the movie was released. It does have some decent insight into the complex process of shooting Helm?s deep and the creation of Gollum, but you may want to wait for the 4 DVD version to get a lot more detail. *?..Theatrical trailer* Lots and lots of trailers and tv spots that promoted the movie ? not sure why anyone really wants to watch these though! *?.Eight featuret
      tes* giving some insightful information on some of the places, cultures and characters in the movie. The featurettes originally appeared on lordoftherings.net and are generally very short. Probably of most interest to those who have read the books. These featurettes often repeat some of the information seen in the main two documentaries, however I was particularly interested to see a section about Gandalf and perhaps the best featurette, Gollum. It has some extremely interesting split screen shots of the final acting, side by side with the actors performance. Very intriguing. *?.Emiliana Torrini 'Gollum Song' music video* You?ve probably heard the song before, but not realized it. This video allows you to see the singer. She has a pleasant voice, a little like Bjork, but the song really isn?t that inspiring or interesting ? I watched for about a minute before getting bored. The video intersperses pictures of the singer with pictures of Gollum ? nothing new here. *?.'The Long and Short of It' by Sean Astin* Not really sure why this was included, but it was fun I guess. Doesn?t really add much to the movie. It is a clever little movie though, and perhaps says a lot about how we should not judge each other to harshly, everyone has their place in this world. *?.10-minute preview of 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King'* Woohoo ? probably the only extra that I really wanted to see ? this 10 minute behind the scenes trailer gives you some tantalizing glimpses of what you should expect to see in December ? and boy does it look great! From what I can see, it seems more atmospheric and darker than the other two movies ? the fight sequences look amazing and dwarf those in this movie?. *?. 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' the video game.* Footage of the soon to be published video game ? looks pretty good, but probably won?t appeal to many.
      I am a computer game fan so I probably will buy this ? if it?s anything like the first then the graphics will be spectacular, but the game play will generally be action and more action. *Preview of the Special Extended DVD Edition* I really am annoyed that they have produced two versions ? it really is an attempt to extract more money out of us! For reasons given above I will not be buying the Special Extended edition. However, it does look impressive, and really has all the Extras that are missing from this DVD. There is a major expansion of the movie, as well as more on some of the lessor characters such as Treebeard, Faramir and Denethor. I am sure millions of people will buy this, but I will not. I suspect that once all three movies are complete you?ll be able to buy a special special edition that shows all three movies as one 12 hour movie, and provides you with 20 DVDs! *?.DVD-ROM* Been there, done that ? don?t bother with them anymore! I have always been disappointed with the DVD-ROM elements of a DVD, so I didn?t even pop this into my computer! Sorry! **********The Movie********** Peter Jackson?s three-film adaptation of J R R Tolkiens?s ?The Lord of the Rings?, perhaps destined to become one of the cinema?s masterpieces, moves on to book two in the series ? ?The Two Towers?. This movie, continuing where the first left off, conjuring up imagery and culminating in an amazing battle sequence that has no equal, continues with the same quality as the first, immersing us in Middle-Earth. Even though this is a middle movie and shouldn?t really be watched as a stand-alone movie, those who didn?t see the first movie will still be fairly satisfied with this movie, if only for the magnificence and splendor ? it is an amazing and beautiful movie to watch. This achievement of Jackson is nothing short of Genius; transforming the magical and mystical works of Tolkien is not easy, b
      ut somehow this magic is very evident on the big screen. Designers Grant Mahor and Andrew Lesnie have produced some of the most compelling sets that I have had the privilege to see, Tolkien himself must be smiling somewhere. When reading the books you are able to imagine the world that Tolkien talks about because he was an exceptional writer and was able to convey a true feel of his vision ? thus when you see the sets and scenes in this movie you are amazed how close Jackson has come to your own personal vision. Jackson has managed to combine wonderful special effects, great sets and an advanced narrative that is emotive, sad and frightening; somehow the combination of the three is perfect and Jackson has set the standard for other moviemakers. What is amazing is how seamlessly all these different elements have blended, leaving you almost watching a living world, rather than a cinema movie. ?The Two Towers? was always going to be a difficult movie to make; being the second book of a trilogy is like being the middle child of a family with three children. The storyline is very fractured, in fact it has three distinct story lines; as the Fellowship broke up in the first movie we find our intrepid heroes all facing their own challenges. Sam (Sean Astin) and Frodo (Elijah Wood) have perhaps the hardest challenge of all, to enter Mordor and destroy the One Ring ? this is perhaps the least prevalent plot in the movie as it really doesn?t get that interesting until the third movie ? it does give Jackson the opportunity to show some wonderful scenes of the Modor landscape though. We do see the strange bond between Frodo and Gollum surface, and this subtle link cleverly builds us for the next movie. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) track a dangerous group of Orcs who have kidnapped Merry and Pippin; Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) who have been captured have their own dangers
      as they try and stay alive while in the evil hands of the orcs.; this element has much humor in it as you see the tough dwarf trying to keep pace with the more nimble elf and human. Add to this the other twisting sub plots involving the even more powerful Gandalf (Iam McKellen) and his nemesis Saruman (Christopher Lee) and you begin to realize how powerful, daunting and challenging this movie was. I was a little surprised that Jackson allowed Gandalf to be shown in trailers ? this probably spoiled much of the surprise for new Tolkienites. We are introduced to many new and wonderful characters in this movie; Theoden, King of the Rohan (Bernard Hill) who?s kingdom is best by Saruman?s evil army of Orcs is somehow bewitched by the ratty character Grima (Brad Dourif); his niece Eowyn (Miranda Otto) arrives adding a little competition to Arwen (Live Tyler?s) romantic interest in Aragorn. This element was cleverly done, and was perhaps better than the book ? I always found this section of the book to be ?cloudy? and not well explained ?the movie portrayed this element very clearly and concisely. One thing stands out immediately as I list the characters and cast; each of the cast members fits their character perfectly, as far as I can tell there really isn?t one flawed performance from any of the characters. The faces and acting could well have come directly from the book. As we move through this movie we begin to see stronger performance from the likes of Elijah Wood; with the evil of the ring starting to change Frodo and weigh him down, we begin to see the childlike innocence of the first movie be replaced with a fearful and at times sinister character that hints at the power of the ring. It is important to point out that in the book it is obvious that the ring is having a detrimental effect on Frodo ? Wood has removed all humor from the character and this is perhaps the only way he could have shown this effect in the movie.
      As Gollum (Andy Serkis) becomes more prevalent in the movie, and the realization that Gollum was once a living creature not unlike a hobbit, we begin to realize the danger that Frodo is in; not only physical danger but also mental danger. As an aside, Gollum is one of the most enchanting and ?real? animated characters that has graced the movie screen. Gollum, with his ponderous mood switches and his almost lizard like movements almost steals the show as the performance is amazingly powerful. When Gollum becomes the guide for Frodo and Sam, we have a mixture of emotions. In one hand we feel sorry for this creature hoping that association with Frodo and Sam may help him reclaim his lost soul, on the other hand we are fearful for our heroes as we realize that deceit and dishonesty go hand in hand with this evil little character. Gollum is almost like a mirror of what might happen to Fordo should he fail in his quest ? indeed we even feel that the ring may win the battle before the quest is over. The animation of Gollum is amazing ? from the wizened bent over body, to the wide eyes that almost have a strange innocence we are immediately captivated by this character and soon forget that it is an animation. So with all these intermingling plots and storylines not quite finding a conclusion within this movie, we are in danger of getting muddled in a meaningless movie. Although Tolkien did not actually write the book as a trilogy it has always been sold that way, and thus it was logical to make three movies. Now as a fan of the books I do not see this as a major problem. The Tolkien purists will understand the need for three movies, these same purists will then pull apart the second movie commenting on what was missed out or changed. However, from a movie watcher?s point of view I feel that the movie did enough to hold my attention, keeping the movie moving at a great pace while still staying fairly true to the books. Again
      the movie ends abruptly, but this does set up the final movie for a great and climatic ending. As I mentioned before you don?t have to see the first movie, but you will only get the most out of this movie if you have seen the first movie! Both of the movies so far have been very visual; this richness of imagery is perfect for Middle-Earth and makes the watcher want more, compelling him to believe in the world in which the movie is made. This is movie magic at its greatest. As a kid reading the books I wanted to live in Middle-Earth ? what is amazing is that the Middle-Earth I see on the big screen is just like the one I wanted to live in ? in fact my inner child still wants to live there! I must admit that I feel that the movie should have been shown as one 9-hour movie. I realize that economically it is more sensible to show three movies, but I feel one movie telling the whole story would have been magical! I guess this is what you have to bear in mind when you watch this movie; the ending is more of an interlude, all be it an interlude of a year. I simply cannot wait to own all three DVDs and play them back to back! I suspect there will be a DVD produced that does this, editing out all the ?repeated? items. This movie does have its problems. With all the stories that are going on there is always something that will not translate quite the way the book read. For instance, once Merry and Pippin are rescued by Treebeard (another clever and tantalizing animation) I somehow felt that the bond that built up between these characters in the book is lost, and this part of the movie almost becomes very secondary, almost switching back to the Ent just to show that Merry and Pippin are still alive. Although I hate voice over, I almost felt that they could have discarded all of this section and just had a narrator help us catch up with Merry and Pippin. There are some amazing scenes with Treebeard, especially some of the battle scenes, but
      again I felt that this really only showcased the amazing special effects that Jackson has used rather than highlighting the story. However, Jackson has left the best until last. The battle of Helm?s Deep conjures up the imagery that Tolkien?s words inspired. Having read the book (again) only a year ago I am still captivated by the desperate battle at Helm?s Deep. This movie has captured this perfectly. The epic proportions of the battle really highlight the gigantic struggle that the few defenders of Helm?s Deep had. The battle in itself gives this movie a realism that isn?t often evident in Fantasy movies. The sheer tragedy and frightful death, really puts everything in its right place, making you realize that this movies isn?t a fanciful little adventure, but is more a dangerous journey that has implications for the whole of Middle-Earth. As we see 10,000 Orcs charge at Theoden and the Rohan, with the rain falling making the battle-field very grim we always have a sense of impending doom (even though I know what happens in the battle!) The awesome battle is incredible; the clarity of the action is amazing. How such a huge battle can be filmed and not get too confusion will always amaze me! The computer artificial intelligence that has been used for the battle is very good ? the sheer number of orcs that are attacking seem to flow and ebb like some vast sea, and you can almost sense their delight at battle and fear as things go against them. Peter Jackson has really shown us his genius with the way he has taken chances that no other director would ever dare (I must admit my amazement that he did not get and Oscar nomination for direction, and yet the movie got a nomination?!). What is very evident in this movie is the love of the craft from all involved. The acting is professional, and there seems a camaraderie amongst the actors that is very evident on screen and only adds to the feeling of ?fellowship?. Every detail of the movi
      e shows that everyone was there for the love of the book and not merely to make money. In conclusion, this movie is just as good as the first movie, if not a little better. It assumes you have watched the first movie, giving no-recap of the story. The music is still as good as the first movie, adding the right amount of atmosphere where needed. Although there is no amazing acting performance in this movie, the characters are growing and perhaps the next movie will produce an award or two for acting. (My tip is Elijah Wood ? his performance has grown beyond measure in this movie, and perhaps with the daunting storyline in the next movie we will see him get nominated for an Oscar). Jackson has managed to bring a difficult middle book to the big screen and not disappoint us or get the viewer lost ? it really has set the stage for a great final movie. Will this movie win any awards? Probably for visual and animation, definitely not for Movie ? why? Well I firmly believe they are saving that for 2004 where Jackson will win Best Director and the movie will win Best Movie! **********Conclusion********** I mostly buy DVDs for the movie. Although the extras are good they are not the best I have seen - the 4 DVD version will be far better! Thus if you love DVD extras wait for the 4 DVD version - if like me you really want to see a great movie as it was meant to be seen then buy this DVD

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        25.09.2003 03:32
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        ***Review on the Twin Pack special edition of Matrix Revisited.*** A few weeks ago I decided to go and watch ?The Matrix Reloaded?, however to ensure that I wasn?t going to get too confused I decided to by the special DVD set ?The Matrix Revisited?. After seeing the trailers for ?The Matrix? back in 1998, I was instantly hooked. The look and feel of the movie was brand new, and the special effects looked spectacular. As I watched the trailer in the cinema I could feel the excitement it inspired in the audience; there was an audible buzz in the cinema as the trailer faded away, and at that point I knew the movie would be a success. The trailers gave us a glimpse of a movie that promised much. Obviously an action movie, it highlighted the spectacular special effect while also giving us a glimpse into the ?philosophy? that it seems to be based on. This intriguing combination promised much, the only question was ?Would the movie live up to the trailer??. *****The Matrix***** For once, a daunting sci-fi movie that combines high speed action and a far-fetched plot actually works. Not only that, but it doesn?t just appeal to the standard sci-fi fan base, but has a far reaching and wider appeal. The Wachowski brothers have produced a movie that is dripping with atmosphere. Sometimes subtle and sometimes in your face, the movie combines old techniques with brand new techniques to not only set the standard for future sci-fi movies, but also make this a pretty good movie. Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is a programmer for a major software development firm. However, perhaps due to boredom, or a need for danger, he has a different career under a pseudonym of Neo. This career involves hacking into highly protected computer systems for money. While working on his PC one night, he sees a message telling him to ?follow the white rabbit?. This message appeals to the audience in many ways. Not only is it puzzling for a fe
        w seconds, but it is also telling us that the movie is just about to get weird ? the parallelism isn?t obvious, but my initial thought was ?Alice in Wonderland? ? in a way, The Matrix does become a sort of modern day ?Alice in Wonderland?. A few minutes later, after dealing in some illegal software, Neo is invited to an illegal rave. Just as he is about to turn down the offer, he notices one of the ladies who is going to the rave has a tattoo of a white rabbit. This instantly intrigues him and he decides to go to the rave. At the rave Neo meets the beautiful and strangely erotic Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss). She informs Neo that she works for Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) a legendary hacker, who is a hero figure for Neo. Neo has been inspired by this man for years, but it turns out that Morpheus has actually been looking for Neo. Morpheus is convinced that Neo is ?The One? - now there are subliminal messages throughout the movie, but the fact that Neo is an anagram of One is a little too obvious and plainly silly for me! ? ?The One? is apparently prophesized to be the savior of the world, which is enslaved in ?The Matrix? ? the Matrix is a vast virtual reality world which most people think is the ?real world? ? we are all simply plugged into the Matrix. Intelligent machines have invaded the earth and essentially have enslaved mankind and use them as a power source. Cleverly they have deceived mankind by designing an elaborate Matrix that provides a virtual twentieth century for the unsuspecting humans to ?inhabit?. However, there are a few humans who are aware of this deception; additionally some humans seem to have the power to manipulate the matrix and seemingly have super human powers. Neo is supposed to have been born with the power to destroy the machines and end the enslavement of the human race. Unfortunately for Neo, the machines are also aware of Neo?s supposed power. Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) is a strange FBI li
        ke agent who is sent out to deal with Neo. Agent Smith, trying to break the resistance, plants a ?spy? inside of Neo. This sequence of events begins to show how the machines are able to manipulate the Matrix for their own good. Neo has to battle with Agent Smith, but also with his own demons. Will he believe Morpheus? Is this just some strange dream that he will soon wake from, or some insidious nightmare cause by madness? Or is the Matrix real? Watch the movie and you may find out! *****The Movie***** By all appearances this should be a cult movie for sci-fi fans only. The producers have melded together several plot elements from various genres. There?s a little Twilight Zone, a link to Alice in Wonderland and a large part of existentialist philosophy that deals with the ideas of ?reality? or lack of it. Somehow though, perhaps because of the mix and match, and the special effects, the movie is very good. Although it is immensely confusing, and doesn?t really delve into existentialism enough to make it ?logical?, it somehow melds together to produce an intriguing and exciting movie. The producers also took a gamble with the casting of Neo ? Keanu Reeves hadn?t really had a decent movie for years, having drifted from poor movie to poor movie. However, somehow he seems the perfect fit, as he brings his own form of disdain and disbelief, yet giving of a strange invulnerability as he begrudgingly accepts his role as ?The One?. The casting of Fishburne was perfect; the enigmatic character Morpheus is excellent as Fishburne seems to fill the mysterious man?s shoes well. He plays the character with a mystical feel, as you almost believe he knows everything. Hugo Weaving is perhaps my favorite actor in the movie. He plays Agent Smith with a deviousness and shrewdness that is perfect. He adds just enough humor to make the character likeable, yet instills a sinister feel too. Great acting, great character. What s
        tands out for me is the way in which the Wachowski brothers have made a real world feel somehow unreal. Perhaps because of the way in which the reality is easily manipulated, or perhaps because of the ?slow? special effects, but somehow the subtle filmmaking has given the scenes a detached feel that add to the reality of ?The Matrix?. The movie used ground-breaking techniques to enhance the visuals. There are other movies that have used these techniques, but The Matrix is really the first to make these effects a part of the plot rather than being clever special effects. These techniques have become standard now, and have even infiltrated computer games as well as some sports events (American Football Superbowl used similar camera techniques). The Matrix rejuvenated a ?staid? movie industry. It combined new with old to produce a visually stunning movie, that also had a reasonable and intriguing plot. It set the standard for modern day movies. *****The DVD Extras***** **The Matrix Revisited** With the huge success of the Matrix it was inevitable that there would be a sequel (two in fact). However as four years have passed since the release of the movie, and a whole bunch of action movies have improved on the techniques used by The Matrix, the producers decided to make a documentary about The Matrix that hopefully would draw audiences back in and hopefully make the sequel(s) a success. (In my opinion this wasn?t really needed as The Matrix is a cult movie and most people would watch the sequel anyway). Thus the ?Matrix Revisited? was created. This is a 2 hour documentary about the making of the Matrix. The movie concentrates on several aspects of the movie, revolving around many different interviews. Predominant is an interview with the directors (The Wachowski brothers), but there are also interviews with the cinematographer, the editor, the producer and the fight choreographer (Yuen Wo Ping). Interps
        ersed with these are comments and interviews with the cast and crew. The documentary is very insightful offering interesting peeks into the making of a movie, ranging from the crew member?s memories and ideas (i.e. the costume ideas, the sets etc) to the experiences of the cast. It mostly concentrates on the first movie, showing much behind-the-scene footage; I particularly enjoyed the footage of how many of the stunts were produced. I?m not sure if this will inspire many people to watch the sequels, but it is definitely one of the most detailed and interesting ?DVD Extras? I have seen so far, and is worth watching. **Sound and Video** The picture quality (like most DVDs these days) is excellent. I?m not an expert in these matters, but it didn?t have the grainy and often faded feel of a VHS, but seemed to be a similar quality to the actual movie. The Sound was stunning; the surround sound effects were spectacular and really worth the extra money I spent on the Surround Sound system. **What Is To Come** The main documentary does have a little discussion on the next movies, this little 3 minute snippet offers some production footage of the future movies. I was a little disappointed as it didn?t really show much. **What is the Animatrix** A short feature explaining the ideas behind the mini animated Matrix stories. Features a couple of interviews with the animators, as well as the producer. Not really useful for me as I am not interested in ?Animatrix?. **Whatisthematrix.com** Another short feature about the forthcoming website. Not particularly interesting. **The Dance of the Master** Perhaps the most interesting feature aside from the main feature. This feature has about 5 minutes worth of fight choreography; it is very interesting to see how the fights were planned and how they eventually made it to the final cut. **The True F
        ollowers** A very strange section giving details about the movies internet fan base! One question comes to mind ? why!!?? **Bathroom Fight** Another small documentary about the planning of a fight sequence ? one wonders why this wasn?t included in the previous feature. **Misc** There are random clips of the production work all pasted together to form a feature ? not particularly inspiring. . **Extras Conclusion** The main documentary is very well done, and adds value to the whole package. Personally I would have preferred for them to add 15 minutes to the length and include all the other ?Additions? together. It seemed that the other Additions became a little disjointed almost as if the makers decided to add them to fill up the DVD.

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        • Legend of Dragoon (PS) / Archive Game / 3 Readings / 11 Ratings
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          19.08.2003 20:12
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          My only Role Playing Game (RPG) experience on the Playstation has been the excellent Final Fantasy series, however my opinion of the series is subjective as I have only other FF games to compare with. Therefore, I searched for a similar game to compare against. Having played Sony?s excellent Ico, I felt justified in expecting a very good RPG from Sony and thus I purchased Legend of the Dragoon. This game is not the first RPG from Sony, but form what I have read, it is their first serious attempt to produce a decent RPG after a few ?market? testers. *****Introduction***** RPG games have been around for years, initially being available on paper and then transferring to the computer. There are several types of this game; there are those that allow the player to really get involved in the rules and statistics, and those that tend to leave a lot of the number crunching to the computer. This game is more of the latter, and while it does give some choices in the combat, it isn?t really a true RPG. It is more like a graphics-adventure with some RPG elements thrown in. *****Story***** What immediately stands out is that, although a little contrived, the story is well thought out and doesn?t have any serious flaws or problems. It is pretty typical for your RPG though, involving an orphan hero, and a big nasty evil monster to defeat. You are introduced to Dart, a young man who is from a village called Neet that was mysteriously destroyed by a ?Black Monster? eighteen years ago; somehow Dart was the only survivor. As Dart wandered the burned village he discovered a memento of his father, a strange but seemingly useless stone that his father always carried. This stone grows in importance as the story unfolds as it holds the secret power of the Dragoons. As he grew up Dart lived in a village called Seles and formed a bond with a young girl called Shana. On the return from a quest to try and avenge his home villag
          e he is attacked by a Dragon and escapes with his life thanks to a strange and mysterious woman named Rose. As Dart approaches Seles he realizes that his new home village has suffered a devastating attack; fearing that the Black Monster has returned, he finds out that Seles was attacked by Imperial Guards; his childhood friend Shana is captured. Dart, finding survivors in the village, promises to rescue Shana. She is imprisoned in a daunting island prison, but despite the odds against him and with the help of an escaping Knight called Lavitz, Dart successfully rescues her. However, while trying to return to their home in Seles they find their road blocked by Imperial soldiers ? this therefore leads to a detour that takes Dart to Lavitz? hometown. Once you get to this town you begin to learn what is happening in the world ? apparently the imperial soldiers are at war with Lavitz?s kingdow ? Shana seemingly is linked to the war and has an important role that only seems to be known by the enemy. After much thought Dart and Shana decide to help Lavitz and fight the war. The three intrepid heroes are sent to a border town to help defend it ? when the town is attacked Dart finally comes across a fearsome beast named Giganto ? suddenly all looks lost as Dart is knocked down and Giganto is poised to kill him. Luckily for Dart, the mysterious woman that saved Dart from the dragon had sensed something special in him ? she again arrives and helps him to transform into an amazing winged being that is able to destroy Giganto. Dart finds out that he has become a legendary Dragoon; the Dragoons were essential in the defeat of the Dragons in an ancient battle ? it also seems obvious that Dart?s father was a Dragoon too. The mysterious lady (Rose) teaches Dart how to use his new powers ? she is also a Dragoon. The four heroes now realize that to win the war they must destroy the dragon ? they set out to find the lair of the dragon, realizing that their ro
          le in the world has changed and that things, although still mysterious and ever changing, may never be the same again? *****Graphics***** The graphics in this game are good, not quite the standard of the later Final Fantasy games, but on a par (or slightly better than) Final Fantasy 7. The game has concentrated much on the battle scenes, realizing that this is an important aspect of the game. The characters in battle are well drawn and animated, giving much detail. They don?t suffer from the usual distortion or pixelation that seems to occur with the early Final Fantasy games and this gives the battle sequences a more real feel. The enemies are just as good, especially some of the ?bosses? ? I was particularly impressed with Giganto ? somehow the graphics does make you feel that this character is very large, and the axe he wields is particularly awesome. The combat graphics are interesting ? I was quite amused and surprised by some of the enemies attack methods. One enemy uses a chain to grab you, lift you up and smash you to the ground. Giganto often charges you, grabs the two characters in the battle and bashes your heads together ? these idiosyncrasies in battle make the game less monotonous. The graphics of the battle magic are, but don?t quite seem as ?epic? as the Final Fantasy games. Some of them are spectacular though, but don?t give me quite the feel that I required. They do seem a little more ?personal? though ? they seem to concentrate on the ?inner being? of the character and see much of the power being drawn from inside. The graphics outside of the battles are perhaps not quite as good. The ?settings? are excellent, giving a very atmospheric feel to the game. Some of the spot effects such as water, fountains etc are very good ? I did find the design to be a little annoying at times as traveling through these pre-rendered screens wasn?t always intuitive. (Sometimes I would be moving down the screen, w
          hen the next screen appears I often found that I had to change direction ? this was confusing and often led me back in the direction I came from ? I also had trouble locating my character on the screen occasionally. The animation and design of the characters seemed to lack a little ?pazzaz? ? they weren?t bad they just weren?t outstanding. This lack of interest also meant they were hard to find at times in the colorful and highly detailed settings. This was a little disappointing as the other graphics were generally very good or excellent. Like most other games of this type there are quite a few ?cinematic? sequences. Now I have been spoiled with the Final Fantasy ?cinematics? but was generally pleasantly surprised by the quality and detail of the Sony cinematics. Sony really have challenged Squaresoft in the cinematics battle! {I would point out as this is a PS1 game, the Cinematics do not compare with FF 10 - this is a PS2 game). It should be noted that the first decent Cinematic doesn?t appear until the second disk, but it is worth the wait. Overall the graphics are very good ? a little flawed at times perhaps but good nonetheless. One interesting thought though ? having played Final Fantasy X, where the graphics are amazing, I suddenly realize that this can be at the expense of the game ? although FF X is a very good game, if they had perhaps not concentrated so much on the graphics they probably could have produced the perfect RPG. Thus I feel the graphics in this game compliment the game play very well and do not overshadow it. *****Sound***** I am very spoiled in this aspect ? the sound in the FF games, especially FF X that includes speaking characters is exceptional ? the music is fantastic, the talking is excellent, the only downfall is the spot effects at times. Thus I was a little disappointed with the sound in this game. The music is very nice, and often atmospheric but seems u
          nemotional. With FF you really get a feel of how the characters are feeling as the mood of the music changes, I didn?t get the same feel I this game. This doesn?t mean the music is poor, it just doesn?t compare to the exceptionally high-class music in FF. There are no voices in this game, which is disappointing, but given that it is designed for the PS1, this is understandable. It did mean that I had to do a fair amount of reading just to keep up with the plot. The spot effects and battle effects are on par with FF, nothing special but generally good. *****Gameplay***** Generally the game play is very similar to FF; moving through a pre-rendered world, you move from location to location speaking to characters and finding clues that will help you continue the story. This game had a few more traditional type puzzles than FF, i.e. spin the wheel to open the door etc. What I liked about this game was that the game play wasn?t too complicated ? I feel that FF went overboard in this aspect and thus often made game play a little too challenging. **The Battle System** The game is a turn based system so that when it is your characters turn, the action essentially stops and gives you time to think. You then have various options available including the most wonderful ?flee? ? however I would point out that if you flee from battles then you will not gain experience and will find it difficult to beat tougher enemies. Sony I think have a better system of combat than FF ? in FF although you choose what actions your character will do, there is no ?skill? element. Sony have introduced a skill element that essentially involves ?timing?; the better you are at these timing elements, the more damage you do ? if you are particularly good at the timing elements, your character will do a ?special move?. Again this differs from FF ? in FF you gain points every time you battle ? as you fill a
          meter with these points, you will always end up doing a special move. In Sony?s game, you essentially can do a special move every time you attack ? assuming that your timing is very good. In a similar way to FF you can use items during combat ? again Sony have introduced a ?skill? element. As you use some attacking potions, you can increase the power by hitting the ?X? key very quickly. One thing to note is that Sony only allows you to hold 32 items at a time ? this is restricting, but adds an element to the game that doesn?t exist in FF ? the ability to manage your items well. You can also ?guard? during a battle ? this reduces any attack the enemy does, but also heals your character. This is a useful feature as you will not have a massive supply of healing potions due to the item restriction. This adds a strategic element to the battle, One element that is perhaps not as good as FF is Magic ? you can only use magic once you have become a Dragoon. As you battle you gain Dragoon points ?once you have filled a meter you can transform into a Dragoon for one turn of combat only. You then have the ability to either attack or cast a spell. Attacking is similar to standard attacking, but uses a different type of ?skill?. Magic is simply choosing a spell and casting it at an enemy. The only real advantage of transforming is that the attack and the magic are far more powerful than normal attacks. (note as you raise Dragoon levels, you stay as a Dragoon for one turn for every Dragoon level). The system overall is similar to the FF games, not quite of involved but it does add a nifty skill element. **Items and Skills** Like most of these typed of games you can buy items that will improve your character. What I particularly liked was the way in which you could see what he item would do to your statistics before you decided to wear it ? this made choosing items far easier and intuitive. Leveling
          was totally controlled by the computer ? thus as you gained experience and raised levels, the computer raised the appropriate statistics. This was perhaps good for beginners but I would have liked a little control of my ?leveling? if only to give myself a little ownership of the character (as an aside I was a little disappointed not to be able to name my character.) **Enemies** The type of enemy you face is varied ? from simple foot soldiers, to bizarre monsters. I found it harder to find the weaknesses of each monster than in FF ? FF gave you spells that would help find weaknesses, but generally I was able to defeat most monster fairly easily. There are quite a few ?boss? monster to fight, and quite often you faced these after several other encounters and didn?t have the chance to heal properly ? this meant they were tougher and more strategic ? I quite often found myself using ?shield? to avoid being hit and also to heal a little. *****Storyline***** One thing I found with the FF series was that the game often had peeks and troughs ? I found at times that I really didn?t have anything major to do, and was waiting for the game to start up again. This game doesn?t really suffer from that problem. The story unfolds well, and although initially you are in the dark about the overall plot, and may be a little confused as things start to unfold, you do find that the plot begins to get more interesting as the game develops. I liked the way in which my interest was constantly kept as the story began to add new elements as I went along. I never found myself lost looking for something to do, and generally enjoyed the story. There was of course the traditional love element, but this didn?t detract from the game. While the game isn?t as large as FF and doesn?t have any of the sublots prevalent in FF, it was logical if a little too straightforward. One thing I particularly liked was the way places
          revealed themselves as the game continued ? I found that in FF I wandered into areas that I didn?t need to see early in the game, and thus nothing was surprising or particularly new to me. *****Overall***** It?s hard to compare these types of games, as some people will like the simplicity and ease of this game, whereas many will prefer the detail, the sub games and plots of FF. I really enjoyed this game, feeling that it is perhaps a great introduction to the genre of RPG. It wasn?t too difficult, but neither was it too easy. It also had an in built tutorial that gently introduced you to the game elements as you went along. Overall I would say this is a very good game that will appeal to many gamers ? this type of game is becoming more and more popular as it gives value for money. Although the game is pretty linear, you probably will come back and play it eventually.

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          • The Pianist (DVD) / DVD / 1 Reading / 15 Ratings
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            08.08.2003 22:44
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            There are two human traits that are complete opposites but are linked inexorably together. Cruelty and survival are perhaps the most fundamentally linked traits; one borne out of a desire for power and the abuse of the power, the other borne out of desperation and need. Throughout humanities sordid history the two traits have been prominent as humanity continues to show its passion for depravity and evil. One of the most prominent examples of this link is the atrocity that occurred during World War II. As you are slowly introduced to Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody), a gentle and talented pianist, living in relative wealth in Poland, you begin to feel a tangible fear as the occupying Germans begin to covertly destroy the culture and lives of the Jewish population of Poland. As the Jews are driven into segregation, being marked as lesser beings and being treated as mere animals, you feel the frustration of the musician as he is forced to live a different life and begins to see the decay of his society. With a starkness and realness we begin to see the suffering of the Jews as the callous power mongers begin to beat and indiscriminately kill them. Wladyslaw slowly watches the death and decay around him, surviving at times thanks to mere luck ? at times German officers line up the Jews and pick out ?volunteers? and then shoot them in the head ? this highlights the whimsical luck that pervades the survival of each individual. Wladyslaw is a spectator to the atrocities; his musical talents seems to mark him strangely, making him a friend to the resistance that is scheming the German downfall, but not allowing him to join aside from providing assistance to get weapons. This desperate act of his highlights a need to do something, while really he still remains powerless and impotent. Slowly, as the population is decimated thanks to ?relocation? of the Jews ? which effectively is elimination of the Jews ? we see the desperation set in as
            Wladyslaw realizes that his family is gone and the stench of death he smells every minute is a sordid reality that he must escape. Finally, with help of the resistance Wladyslaw escapes to the ?outside?. Warsaw is spilt in two ? you have the relatively normal ?outside? that although is oppressed and constantly in fear of retribution for helping the Jews, is somewhat normal ? you then have the walled off ?inside? which is a concentration of Jews ? it initially holds half a million, but soon dwindles down to a mere sixty thousand as death as resettlement help to dwindle the population. Wladyslaw, protected by the help of friends can only sit back and watch the decay of the city. Slowly the Jewish resistance is destroyed despite a valiant uprising; gradually, as Wladyslaw becomes more desperate and hungry, the Polish resistance begins to fight back; although the power of the German?s is obvious, there does seem to be a shift in the tide and although this second resistant is quelled the feel of the city changes as rumors of Russian armies approaching begin to surface. Wladyslaw has to run after a harrowing and frightening tank attack on his building, we begin to see another side of the German army. Finally we see an officer who actually helps Wladyslaw, one who is not cruel or callous and seemingly is more humane?.. The movie is a stark movie, pulling no punches and showing the decay and destruction vividly and bluntly. Showing the brutality of a small faction of German officers, it highlights the inhumanity of the segregation of the Jews in an objective and non-judgmental way. It tells the true story and allows you to feel disgust and anger at the perpetrators as they destroy the foundation of Jewish society and begin to destroy the people themselves. It is a reminder of the evil that was perpetrated under the name of Hitler, and how fear controlled not only the ?non-Jewish? population, but also controlled the regular Germa
            n officers who merely followed orders during a war on humanity. As Wladyslaw borders on madness, we see him practice ?air? piano; the haunting melodies of the piano play out in his mind somehow allowing him a grasp on sanity that perhaps saves his life. This eerie soundtrack gives the movie a strange and compelling feel that combines with the starkness and brutality to hold your attention to the very last second. Polanski has drawn on his own personal tragedies during the war to bring an emotive and true story to life, giving us a glimpse into the madness that gripped Europe under the sway of a mad dictator. Although the movie is more dramatic, and less of a documentary than Spielberg?s Schindler?s list, it is a reminder of the brutality of the period. Polanski has focused on the brutality, and at times does not hide the sinister side of the German army, showing much death that seems simply random and meaningless, and often is a means of fun for the perpetrator. At times it is shocking, particularly one scene where an old man is unable to stand due to being in a wheel chair ? he is thrown from his balcony to his death ? this is followed by the slaughter of his family in the streets. The feel and look of the movie is very dank and bleak, somehow giving a feel for the desperation of the people as they often wander around looking for their loved ones. The movie seems to drain your strength in a similar way to the way the ?entrapment? probably drained the Jews strength and will. As we watch Wladyslaw somehow survive the atrocities, the hunger, the cold and the war, we realize that fate is really fickle. Wladyslaw alive thanks to friends, ?enemies? and pure unadulterated luck. This movie is a great reminder of why we must continue to fight for free speech and freedom, for we can easily slip back into cruelty?.. Brodie is excellent as Wladyslaw; initially showing a calmness and an unwillingness to believe w
            hat was happening to him and his family, we slowly watch him wither and almost lose his spirit ? yet the survival instinct is prevalent in his eyes as he somehow becomes a spectator to the war. Brodie is understated in his performance showing us a subdued and often passionless man, who seemingly has lost all faith. This is a superb performance. I especially was impressed with his performance once ?insanity? began to set in. As he is on the run, you get a tangible feel for his panic, and the sense of relentless trials are obvious on his face. However the performance does highlight the will to survive that is inherent to this brave man.

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            • The Sims (PC) / PC Game / 2 Readings / 17 Ratings
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              02.08.2003 01:51
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              • "Uninteresting at times"

              I have always been interested in Simulation games, ranging from the abstract to the real; with games like Zoo Tycoon, Civilization III, Black and White, Sim City III, I have been able to sample a wide range of simulation games. It was therefore inevitable that I would purchase ?The Sims?. ?The Sims? is a slightly different game for me as most games I have played of this type have involved management of resources, economies etc; most f these games have been abstract and to a certain extent not quite real. However, ?The Sims? has its feet firmly planted in reality. There was no doubt for me that the quality of the game would be good as the makers of Sim City (Maxis) have produced this game, I was therefore expecting a clever and unique game?.. *****Gameplay***** I was initially impressed by the presentation of the game, and the idea that you don?t really ?save? games but open windows into the ?lives? of the occupants of the neighbourhood. The menu system is fairly intuitive although I did often find it difficult to find certain items when adding to my house. At times the game seems to be a ?race? to click something ? e.g. if your house is on fire, you have to click the phone and select ?fire department? ? at times I found you had to wait for another action to be complete before the more important action could be taken ? there was no way to priorities tasks. The screen presentation was good, and you are able to customize much of what you see. I immediately turned off all the walls and roofs, so that I could see the entire house without any problems. You are able to zoom in as well, but I tended to play the game zoomed out ? it was easier to control and made it easier to find an ?event? --Choose a house-- You are given the option to start in a pre-designed house, or totally build your own house. -The pre-defined house is perhaps the easier route to go on first try, as it contains mos
              t of the ?important? elements that you will require for ?living? ? i.e. a shower, a toilet, an oven. -Building your own house is far more difficult but perhaps is more fulfilling. You can choose from various different plots within the neighbourhood ? these are of differing sizes and vary in cost. In some plots you will find a ?shell? house and you have to add the interior elements as well as sometimes completing the building. In others you will just find a piece of land, you then get to build your own ideal house, and install all the mod-cons. As you build your house you navigate through many ?sub? menus searching for items such as walls, floors, ceilings, door, windows etc. Building is fairly intuitive and generally easy ? however be careful with your money as you will find that you often build a great house only to leave little money to install important items like toilets. Once the frame of the house is built you then get to add ?goodies?. Firstly it is important to install all the ?important? items ? these include beds, tables, chairs, sofa, fridge, oven, microwave, toilet and shower. If, after installing all this you can then add the ?luxuries? such as TVs, computers, book cases, music systems etc. You do somehow get attached to your house, especially when you begin to earn decent money and can begin to landscape the outside as well as buy expensive toys ? such as ?wide screen TVs?. I almost found this part of the game better than the ?looking after your Sim? part. Hint 1: if you have a two story house, make sure that you include a staircase. Hint 2: make sure you include a toilet ? your Sims will end up peeing everywhere if you don?t! Ewwwwwwww. --Occupy your house-- You actually ?design? your occupants before you design the house. You get to choose the setup of your family ? you must have one adult, but you can have many adults as well as children. Be cautious though, you initially do not have
              much money so you may not be able to afford a bed for all the family members! Each ?human? is essentially designed. You can set the level of certain personality ?traits? that directly effect the way they react in the ?real? world. Not only do these ?traits? effect the way they react (i.e. if you set up a messy person, then you?re going to have dirty dishes around the house) but it also decides the ?mood? of your person and what is important to them. The mood is generally effected by eight categories. These categories have highs and lows. E.g If you are hungry, then you need to eat. If you feel that the walls are keeping you in, then go for a walk. If your bladder is full, go for a pee. Each category has a bar graph to let you know the ?status? and each category has different ways to solve the problems. (e.g. you can eat in many ways ? snacks, pizza, microwave meal, main meal etc.) You have to essentially direct the person to do actions. Thus if you need to pee, then you have to click on the person and then click on the toilet ? you also have to click on the toilet again to ?flush?. Effectively you have to do everything for the person ? at times the person will do some actions while waiting for you ? but these tend to be passive actions such as sitting or sleeping. Trying to manage these categories is important as they all affect the mood the person is in, and this can have a detrimental effect on all aspects of your person?s life. One important part of the game involves upgrading your house. You can build extra rooms, buy better items, etc. However to do this you must have money. Now no one is going to give you money so you have to get a job. This can be done in two ways. You can get a job in the newspaper or online. Initially you can chose from two or three entry-level jobs, but assuming you are on time (not as easy as it sounds ? often it is difficult to manage time properly and you?ll find
              yourself still in a shower when you lift arrived!) ? you will get promoted and thus earn more money. There are also ways to improve your skills ? you can read books and gain knowledge that will assist you in work. Books can also help you learn important things that will help you around the house ? such as cooking (this won?t seem too important until you burn your house down while cooking). One important aspect of the game is ?relationships?. Just like in real life you will want to meet people and perhaps get married. Relationships both with friends and lovers will increase your happiness and therefore help them be successful. Relationships are perhaps the hardest part of the game; you can initiate conversations with anyone who happens to walk by. However, you won?t necessarily be liked. You chose what to talk about, and based on ?icons? that tell you the reaction of the person you can begin to find out what they like to talk about. Slowly you will begin to build friendships ? you must keep in contact with these people otherwise they will begin to lose interest in you! Eventually, with a lot of work you can get married (or have another person move in) ? on interesting part of the Sims is that you cannot get divorced ? you simply marry someone else!! However, once you get married you now have two people to control ? you can even have kids and have more people to control! Hint 1: make sure you have enough beds for the whole family ? your sims will sleep on the floor and become very grumpy. Hint 2: go to bed early and wake early ? this way you are likely not to miss the lift to work (or to school if you are a kid!). *****Graphics***** The graphics are generally good although nothing spectacular. You have the ability to choose many different styles for your house as well as your person. You can even import textures and faces to make the game more personal. The animations are very good and g
              enerally realistic ? the game is also censored, so that when your person goes to the bathroom or takes a shower, parts of them become blurred ? I found this part very funny! In this type of game the graphics are not really that important ? as long as they are functional, and things look like they should then they suffice. *****Sound***** I was a little disappointed by the sound effects. I thought the speech was funny at first ? the Sims speak in a sort of ?nonsense? language that is reminiscent of many cartoons, but this soon becomes annoying and I turned it off. Spot FX are generally good ? e,g, the TV has various different sounds depending on what you are watching. The radio plays real songs and even allows you to import some of your own MP3s. Hmmm could the Sims be a very abstract MP3 player? *****Conclusion***** I have played Sim type games for many years, and am used to the concept of a game that really doesn?t have a goal. Generally I do like these games, however with the Sims I really found it to be monotonous. Once you have played for a couple of days, you generally have done everything that can be done and you find yourself repeating the same actions over and over again! I thus became bored very quickly. I became annoyed that I had to do the same action over and over again ? surely I could ?teach? my Sims how to ?pee? so that I didn?t have to walk them over to the toilet every time I did this! I found the game to be a little too abstract. As long as you continued to click your person and direct them, you couldn?t really go wrong, but I often asked myself ?Why am I doing this?! I simply didn?t have enough to do in this game and really felt that I only had a half a game! How right I was?? *****Add-ons***** Many years ago I used to play Games Workshop games. Initially you bought a game that had the bare minimum to play, and then bought expansions sets to make the
              game more playable. After about 10 expansions, and 500 pounds you ended up with a pretty decent game. ?The Sims? uses the very same principle to make Maxis even more money. As the years go by, you are able to buy dozens of expansion packs for The Sims. There are many: -Hot Date -Vacation -Pets -Pop Star to name just a few. The idea being that each add-on gives you something else to do in the Sims World! Now call me a miser, but these items should be part of the original game and should not cost more money! Once you have a few expansion packs the game does become more fulfilling, but I still begrudge paying the extra moola?. *****My Advice***** Wait until a ?Sims: the full game with all the expansion sets? is available! You?ll save lots of money. *****And there?s more***** One aspect of this type of game is that you can download changes and add-ons for free ? there?s a lot of public domain textures etc. For instance there is a ?nude? texture which means that every person you meet will be in the nude! Oeerrr misses! Of course I have only been told about this one!

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              • Signs (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 11 Ratings
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                30.06.2003 20:30
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                M Night Shymalan has earned a reputation for movies that not only are convincing and exciting, but also are full of twists and surprising plots. With his hugely successful 'Sixth Sense' he perhaps added an element to movie making that has been missing since the movies of Alfred Hitchcock. With a slightly less convincing movie 'Unbreakable' Shymalan continued in a similar vein. So when I heard that 'Signs' was another Shymalan movie, I immediately expected a movie that was going to be full of twists and turns. What I did expect was a movie that continued the great storytelling abilities of Shyamalan, and so although I wasn't sure what to expect with the actual movie, I nonetheless was excited at the prospect??? *****Plot***** Graham Hess, a sincere and accomplished priest, loses his wife after a truck hits her. His life is totally shattered and the devastation causes him to lose his faith and leave the church. Buying a corn farm, he chooses a simpler life for himself, and with the help of his younger brother begins to raise his two children, almost isolated from his previous life. One morning, the brothers rush into the cornfields after hearing fearful cries from the children. They are startled to find a huge and impressive crop circle. The local police officer is totally mystified by the circle, and mentions that there have been many strange incidences all across town. Both the brothers seem shaken by the experience. Graham's son Morgan insists that aliens, in preparation for a future invasion, leave the crop circles. The brothers dismiss this but a strange unease seems to settle over the family. Soon this unease gets worse when the brother's investigate a noise outside. After circling their building, they glimpse something that seems strange and sinister. Although still refusing to believe in aliens, Graham does begin to consider the idea more plausible. Then suddenly their wo
                rst fears are confirmed as strange lights appear over Mexico City; this initially causes mere curiosity but as it becomes obvious that the intent of the aliens is malicious, it causes a frantic attempt to barricade the house and perhaps save all their lives? *****My Opinion***** Firstly it should be pointed out that this is a serious movie; many previous movies about aliens have been tongue-in-cheek, but this movie is based on many Urban Legends that are 'circling' the world today. Additionally this movie also really isn't about an alien invasion, although it does contain aliens. It is more about man's struggle to keep or regain faith in adverse situations. It hones in on the idea of religion and faith and how a trust can be placed on something that is intangible. It does have some suspenseful and exciting moments, but more often than not it is a retrospective movie that deals with a sad past that still continues to affect the present and ultimately the future. As expected it was another movie in which you really didn't know which way it was going to go; although the ending was highly predictable and too obvious, the road that got you there was pretty diverse. The movie never really gets into high gear, it plods along showing us the story gently and then speeding up occasionally with surprising plot twists. For me I felt this spoilt the feel of the movie a little as the tension was raised and then lowered; this meant that I really wasn't sitting on the edge of my seat for the ending. It is one of those movies that you have to think about afterwards; you will not get all the subtleties of the plot, or the hidden meanings until you have watched it many times. This does mean that it may well be a disappointing watch for many, but for those that enjoy enigmas, it really is worth watching several times. Symalan has continued to produce movies that are perplexing but well told; altho
                ugh the pace is off a little, the movie can still feel satisfying if it is watched with an open mind, and I suggest that you look at it from a spiritual standpoint. The movie showed a love that transcended the grave, but also transcended space and time commenting that perhaps there are hidden forces that bind us to fate. There were also hints that the aliens may actually be something entirely different - perhaps Angels? Mel Gibson, in a role that is so different for him, performs particularly well as the priest struggling with his own faith while trying to guide his family. His grief is evident beneath a soft and gentle surface and there is a hint of anger threatening to burst to the surface. His younger brother Merril (Joaquin Phoneix) is played well; his pre-occupation with the TV coverage of the aliens, and his fear at the dramatic change that is about to occur in his life is very obvious. This fear perhaps mirrors what most people would feel. The most surprising performance of the movie for me was Morgan (Rory Culkin) having seen him occasionally I really didn't expect any sort of performance from him, other than a comedic side element. However, this wide-eyed innocent boy, showed a hint of excitement and glee as his theories of aliens turned out to be true. Rory somehow managed to convincingly show this glee turning into fear as the boy realize the implications of alien invasions. *****Conclusion***** On the surface this is an average movie; it's the kind of movie that many people can take or leave. However, if you really concentrate and look below the surface and watch for the 'parallel' hidden story that is very spiritual and diverse, then you will enjoy the movie. If you are looking for a merely action oriented movie, then don?t watch this one.

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                • More +
                  29.06.2003 21:20
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                  With the exception of the Final Fantasy series, the PS2 disappoints when it comes to Role Playing Adventure games. However after recently seeing advertisements for Dark Cloud 2, I became interested and purchased the prequel Dark Cloud. Billed as a ?classic? it is fairly innovative as it combines two genres in one; firstly and most prominently it is a role playing graphical adventure game; but as you progress through the game, you find yourself building a town. This element is an essential part of the game as you will find clues, and further quests within this new town. *****Plot***** In a fairly good opening cinematic sequence we see a corrupt general summon a Dark Genie to enable him to conquer the western cities. The Genie succeeds in destroying most of the world, leaving no trace of the civilization. A boy name Toan survives, and it becomes his task to recreate towns and villages and save the inhabitants. Apparently, according to a Fairy King, the pieces of the villages and the inhabitants were not killed but were sealed in Atla spheres. These spheres are scattered all over the world, and Toan must find them and re-establish all the towns. *****Game Play***** The game play is relatively simple if somewhat monotonous at times. To be able to rebuild each village you have to find all the Atla spheres for that village. In each village there just happens to be a large dungeon. The dungeon is full of monsters, as well as relatively simple puzzles (such as killing a bad guy to find the key to a door). Although the dungeons are random, they are all very similar, involving moving from one room to another seeking the spehers. The battles are simple Hack and Slay battles, with the additional ability of being able to throw items to damage your enemy. You do find ?allies? throughout the game which allows you to change characters mid battle, giving a little more variety. The bosses are also a little more difficult
                  to beat, and simple Hack and Slay isn?t always the best way to beat them. As you progress through the game you will gain better equipment and weapons ? additionally you can add add-ons to your weapon to increase it?s power. Perhaps the most innovative part of the game is the weapon system. Each weapon can be upgraded ? as you use a weapon it effectively gains experience ? thus any add-ons you may have added to your weapon, become part of the weapon, allowing you to add more add-ons. This is a fun and novel aspect of the game, however beware, as you battle enemies, your weapons get damaged ? with enough damage they will break, and you will lose the weapon forever! Once you have found spheres you can start to rebuild the village; although this is not a Sim City type game, you can place houses, windmills, trees, roads etc wherever you like. Once you have built a house, you then have to find the owner and talk to them. They will then tell you what was in the house; for example one house will require a fence and a lamp, as well as an annex room and a dumbbell. Once all of these items are installed in the house then the owners will give you a special item. Thus it is important to constantly build the houses so that you gain all the best equipment. This is a fun aspect of the game, that does make all the endless hack and slaying worth while; it is great fun to see the world you are creating ? it also isn?t too easy at times ? listen carefully to the inhabitants as they will help you build the village just right. Placing a building too far from a gym, or too near a restaurant has a detrimental effect on the village - the villagers will let you know. Overall the game is well balanced ? the mix of village building and hack and slaying is good as it breaks the monotony ? it also somehow becomes addictive as you keep wanting to find the next piece of your village. Note ? the villages also provide many sub-games, such as fishing ? these make t
                  he variety of the game very pleasing. *****Graphics***** Although I am spoiled by having a high end PC that allows me to play some very spectacular games, the PS2 has the ability to produce some very pretty games. The graphics of Dark Cloud are very good, if somewhat cartoony. The world outside is perhaps the best as not only are the graphics excellent, but you get a feeling of satisfaction as you essentially have built this world. The characters are varied and interesting, and although the animation does lack a little at times, I generally was pleased with the folks I met. I was a little disappointed with the graphics of the dungeon ? while the dungeons looked dank and dark, there really wasn?t that much atmosphere in them. The monsters seemed a little out of place in the dungeons, making it feel like a game, rather than an adventure. The odd touch in the dungeons was very good, for instance I was particularly pleased with some of the water effects. Although the game is getting old, the graphics still look pretty good compared to many modern games ? only the likes of Final Fantasy X really improve over the graphics of Dark Cloud. *****Sound***** Unfortunately for me, Final Fantasy X has spoiled me where it comes to music; saying that the music in this game is generally pretty nice and atmospheric ? it is light and doesn?t detract from the game at all. They do change as the mood of the game changes, especially during battler ? but again this accompanies the game rather than distracting you. The effects are generally pretty standard, and nothing to write home about. Again, after playing a game on the PC with amazing effects such as wind and rain, I have been a little spoilt. I did find that the fighting effects were a little loud at times, but generally I didn?t notice them. *****Conclusion***** It is really hard to categorize this game. Elements of it do get boring
                  at times with their monotony, but this is broken up well by the ?building? aspect. Somehow it gives it an addictive quality as you rush through the dungeons to gain the spheres and add another element to the village. It is a large game, with over 50-60 hours of game play, and therefore will keep you coming back at times. It also has some replay value, as there is some randomness in the dungeons, and you also can control where you place trees, roads and buildings etc. I find it a fun game to play with the kids, as they enjoy the ?monotonous? dungeon bashing, whereas I enjoy the power of building my own little village. It has definitely whetted my appetite for PS2 games of this type, and once the Dark Cloud 2 goes on discount I will be buying it.

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                  • More +
                    27.06.2003 20:16
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                    The Final Fantasy series has undoubtedly become one of the most recognizable names in the computer gaming industry. From humble beginning, the series began to gather force when it transferred onto the Sony Playstation in Final Fantasy 7. With Squaresoft branching out in several ways, including a movie and a collaboration with Disney to produce Kingdom Hearts, I did wonder whether FF 10 would simply be another game similar to all the other FF games; basically I was expecting a game that was simply rushed out to meet the demand of the public. Was I right? *****Storyline***** My previous experiences have been with Final Fantasy 7. The plot was good but didn?t really draw you into the characters. From the very first minute of this game I was hooked. With a fantastic animated opening sequence (10 minutes worth) you are instantly transformed into an exciting and gripping story. You play Tidus, a Blitzball star who is about to appear in a Tournament game. The game play and the way it links to the cinematic inserts obviously form a major part of the game as you play an interactive part in the opening movie - not only does this give you a chance to get used to the feel of the game, it also makes it somehow feel more real as it draws you in straight away. In perhaps the finest opening movie I have ever seen on computer you begin to play in the Blitzball game; as you are about to do a spectacular move, the game is suddenly disrupted when an evil power appears and begins to destroy the world around you. Thus you are introduced to 'Sin' - the ultimate Final Fantasy bad guy, sin is more like a force than a being, and seemingly is impossible to destroy. Tidus, somehow managing to stay alive as the city is destroyed around him is sucked into the future and lands in the land of Spira. As you start to explore the world of Spira you begin to realize that there are links between Tidus's home and this new world. Tidus's fath
                    er, who seemed to constantly dismiss Tidus and often belittle him, disappeared 10 years ago. It seems that his father may actually have come to Spira, although not in the form that many would expect. Additionally, other characters in the game have links to both worlds. Final Fantasy X does have a typical 'save the world' plot that is predominant in most of these Roleplaying type games that are prevalent on the Playstation, but the overall story is less convoluted than ever before, and with the way in which the story plays out with the clever use of 'clips' that occur constantly, you always feel part of the storyline, rather than chases shadows that occurs in other games - in FF7 I felt that the plot was secondary as I flew around the world looking for sub-plots to happen - FF10 keeps you in the plot very well, there are a few sub plots but these don't detract from the overall plot. *****Main Characters***** In FF7 I found that there were too many characters, and while some of them were interesting I never was able to form any kind of 'emotional' link to them - I know that sounds sad, but it is important for a game of this type. The characters in FF 10 are far more rounded, and you do feel yourself getting an attachment for many of them. You often find yourself questioning someone's actions as if they were real, wondering what happened in their past to make them synical, or why are they hiding their feelings? Etc. This shows the attention to detail that has been applied to every character. The main characters are: *Tidus* Tidus, being the main character in the story is your typical Final Fantasy hero. A teenager who has obvious sporting abilities, he is unaware of his underlying talents and doesn't realize his importance. With a seething hatred of his father controlling him, he often doesn't seem to be able to control his emotions. His attitude is typical for a teenager, a co
                    mbination of boisterous fun with an arrogance that potentially will lead to trouble *Yuna* She is perhaps the most powerful character (potentially) in the game. She is able to summon 'Aeons' - these are powerful creatures that will assist in combat. Yuna is almost like a spiritual leader, often assisting villages in need of spiritual help. Following in the illustrious father's footsteps she seems destined for greatness. Beneath this we sense a lost little girl who is just looking for friendship and love. There is an obvious link between Yuna and Tidus, something more than friendship. *Wakka* Everyone knows a 'Wakka'. He is an upbeat guy who is always trying to put confidence in others. He is the captain of the Blitzball team. There is an underlying sadness in him as he has memories of a lost brother; this motivation leads him to be a Guardian for Yuna. *Kimahri* This is perhaps the most mysterious character in the game. Despite misgivings from his tribe, he has become a Guardian of Yuna. He is devoted to her, and guards her obsessively. This obsession is perhaps a little dangerous as it often isolates Yuna. *LuLu* LuLu is the mage of the group; although her fighting abilities essentially involve using a teddy bear to fight her magic is very powerful. She is perhaps the most cynical character in the group, and is obviously not happy that Tidus is within the group. She seems torn for her obvious love for Wakka's lost brother and the emotional ties she is gaining for Wakka. *Auron* The best fighter in the game, Auron seems to be Tidus's protector - however there is an underlying current that suggests that Auron also has a link to Sin. Auron is very sullen and almost seems to hate the role he has in the plot - he also is a character that appears in both worlds, in fact he is the one who ensures that Tidus makes it to Spira in the first place. <
                    br> *****Game Play***** Like all other Final Fantasy games the concept is very similar. Essentially you explore the environment (although there is a handy Red arrow to follow to ensure you do not get lost - this was a great addition and ensured that I stayed with the plot!) moving through cities, forest, water etc as you progress through the game. Along the way you are randomly attacked by many different enemies. Mostly these are fairly easy to beat, but occasionally you do meet various 'end of level' type characters that are far harder to beat and really require thought to win. The game play is far more linear in this game - you are able to explore wherever you want, but there is always the red arrow reminding you where you should be going - having roamed around the Final Fantasy VII world forever, I found this to be very useful. *****Battle System***** The fighting system is relatively easy and intuitive to use. It generally is turn bases, giving each character the option to Attack, use spells, use items, or use special abilities. Every character has their own idiosyncrasies, Tidus uses a sword, Wakka uses a ball, LuLu uses a teddy bear. Square Soft has dispensed with the Active Time Battle from previous games which meant that you could only attack once a 'meter' had filled up - this is replaced by a easier turn based system - this means that you don't have to think quickly - you can take as long as you want to perform your action - this does make the combat easier if a little less exciting. Final Fantasy X also introduced a great new feature - the ability to swap characters during combat - I would have liked the ability to use all characters in combat, but this does at least make a giant leap in the right direction. This new feature means that you are able to assemble the right team during combat rather than having to rely on pure luck. One of the most powerful characters is Yu
                    na - this is because she is a Summoner and is able to summon creatures to help you. This creature takes the place of your characters in combat, and usually is more powerful than your party. There is a timeline feature that shows the order in which the characters will attack - this is useful as you may be able to decide which enemy to attack first; this gives people who love strategy some added bonus! *****Sphere Grid***** Hmmm, hardened role playing gamers are in for a shock. FF X dispenses the traditional 'leveling up' providing a Sphere Grid to control this process instead. This becomes a mini game in itself! Experience Points are replaced by Ability Points (AP) - as you gain more Aps you gain Sphere Levels (SLvl). Additionally as you fight and defeat enemies you gain Spheres - Mana Spheres, Ability Spheres, Speed Spheres etc. When you move up levels you go to the Sphere Grid - each SLvl you have represents one move on the Spehere Grid. The Sphere Grid is essentially a maze; as you move around the maze stepping on 'circles' you are able to learn adjacent circles powers - some circles will be HP increasing circles, some MP increasing circles, some give more abilities, some give new spells etc. This Sphere Grid means you have to put a lot of thought into how you want your character to progress. There are many different routes you can take, and you have to be careful not to waste moves when back-tracking to an important spell you may have missed. This perhaps does give the player more ownership of his character, but it remains to be seen if this will be a successful change to the format. *****Overdrive***** I haven't included this in the Battle System as it really needs a little more explanation. (it is a major part of battles though). This seems to be an extension and perhaps improvement to the Limit Breaks available in previous FF games. In a si
                    milar way to Limit Breaks, the Overdrive attack is used after an 'overdrive' bar is filled. Each characters overdrive bar will fill in a different way - Tidus bar fills when he deals out damage, Yuna's bar fills when she heals someone etc. In a similar way to the Limit Breaks, the Overdrive adds 'super' attacks or abilities to your character. This is expanded as you have control of how well your character does these abilities - it may be having to press a button at just the right time, or press a combination of buttons, but depending on how well you do this, the ability is more powerful or less powerful. In a way I like this; as it is a one-off attack it shouldn't simply work each time - skill has to play a factor, and this addition relies on the skill of the player. *****Aeons***** Aeons are another subject that requires a separate heading rather than being lumped with 'Battle'. Yuna is a summoner, and as she progresses through the game and visits temples she gains more Aeons. Aeons are not quite the same as summoned characters in previous games - they actually replace your group, and are controlled by you. They have their own abilites, Overdrives and spells. They get more powerful as Yuna does. Essentially they are a summonable additional character that generally is more powerful than your main characters. However they only can appear in combat and do not form a part of the interactive part of the game. *****Mini-Games***** Final Fantasy is famous for the mini-games that it has. From snowboarding to riding Chocobos, each FF seems to introduce it's own type of game. Final Fantasy X introduces Blitzball. It's an underwater game of soccer, combined with basketball and American football. Potentially it is a fun game, but I found there were too many rules to read, and too much number crunching to do. Every action you do uses HP, every action requires skil
                    l - and then you have to compare this to the skill of the opponent, then you have to decide who to pass to, and calculate how many opponents you have to avoid etc. Although the game can be placed on Auto mode, there still seemed to be too much number crunching going on for my liking. Final Fantasy is also trying to break into the Star Trek business of creating new languages. Although not really a mini-game, FF X provides a language that you will encounter when talking to a certain tribe (Al Bhed). Essentially you have to find primers to allow you to learn the language and be able to talk to these people. I found this a little distracting and didn't really concentrate on it - perhaps next time I play the game. *****Graphics***** As you start to play this game you immediately notice how great the graphics are. The opening sequences are stunning, providing real quality in the graphics as well as in their story telling abilities. Some of the effects in the CG are amazing, from the way the water reacts to the way the characters show emotion (some emotions anyway). What amazed me more than anything was the way this transferred into game play. The graphics of the game are just as good. Gone are the static pre-rendered graphics of FF' replaced by a more believable 3-d environment (it does look like these are pre-rendered too, but they are amazingly well drawn.) The attention to detail within the game play is excellent. The spot effects like the waterfalls are stunning at times. The way in which the camera follows you gives the game a 'movie' feel at times (although there are a few glitches once in a while where the camera does confuse.). The animations of the characters and monsters is flawless, making the whole gaming experience excellent. What impressed me most was the way the game moved from interactive parts to movies almost flawlessly, this enhanced the story telling part of the game and
                    therefore enhanced the enjoyment. With over one hour of movies in the game this really made the game flow excellent. There were one or two occasions where I found the movie insert pointless, but this didn't detract from the game that much. One thing I found fascinating was the way emotions were introduced into the movie as well as mannerisms. Although these were not quite flawless they did help build the characters and somehow make you understand them a little more. *****Sound***** Not only does this game have great graphics but it has wonderful music. The opening piano music is probably the best I have heard on a game - it is haunting and beautiful. The sound really added much to the atmosphere of the game, and although the acting was a little wooden at times, the voices did add much to the characters again making the characters seem more real. I am really blown away by the music, it is amazingly atmospheric and really builds the mood well. The designers have really thought about the music in this game and have enhanced the overall game tremendously. *****Tutorial***** One of the most useful features about this game is the way it 'teaches' you as you go along. Rather than making you learn all the rules in one go it gently introduces new rules etc as you go along. My particular favorite is the way in which it teaches you combat. This is a clever addition to the game and taught even a hardened gamer like me a few tricks! On the downside, once in a while you are presented with too much information - when I first encountered the Blitzball game, I simply didn't have the energy to read all the rules; luckily I managed to wing it and win the game! *****Conclusion***** Having played previous FF games I wasn't quite sure what to expect in this game. Firstly and perhaps foremost this game provides perhaps the best multi-media gaming experience I have encountered. The makers have
                    concentrated on atmosphere and character while developing a great storyline that doesn't get bogged down with many sub quests. The flow of the game is excellent, bringing you along slowly giving you time to understand the plot and characters. This is perhaps one of the best games I have played on any format to date - it competes well with Ico as my favorite game ever. *****And now***** After this, Final Fantasy XI was released - this was only a web based game so I have no experience of it - however I have just found out that Final Fantasy X-2 is being produced - this continues the story from FF X - can't wait for this to come out.

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                    • More +
                      26.06.2003 20:14
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                      Well not only was April 11th my 21st birthday (again) but it also saw the release of the much anticipated second Harry Potter DVD; after a disappointing first DVD in which many of the added features were difficult to find, I wondered what the second DVD would be like. As this is a DVD review, I have written about the DVD extras first - you can find my full movie review below. ********DVD Extras******** It should be noted that I have the Region 1 (USA) version of the movie - from what I have seen the DVD extras are the same as the Region 2 (Europe) DVD The DVD Extras are far easier to get to in this DVD than the prior Harry Potter DVD. Most items are accessible quickly and easily with use of your controller. Each item is very well presented, with a few special effects, some sound effects and some Harry Potter music to accompany them. **19 additional/extended scenes** - you have the ability to chose which additional scene to view, or view them all; mostly these seem to be cut for time, although some are changed in the main movie (e.g. you do not see the Malfoys when Harry is trying to get to Diagon ally. There are a few more clips of Dobby, and a some more of the flying car. These scenes will probably only be of interest to Harry Potter readers as you can see some of the parts they cut from the book. **Crystal-clear** - this is a mix of back ground information, and allows you to explore several places from the movie including Dumbledore's office, Diagon Alley, and the Chamber of Secrets. These tours are quite interesting, and involve you choosing to move through each location, stopping to view certain items etc, and generally giving you background information - there's also an interesting documentary about the 'making of a set'. I particularly like the Diagon Alley part as you are allowed to explore shops that do not actually appear in the movie; although these explorations are only pseudo-interac
                      tive they are fun and help build the world of Harry Potter. **Interviews** - many short interviews with the cast; these interviews mostly focus on their characters and don?t get into any details about the actors themselves. While insightful at times they could have been a lot longer **An interview with author J.K. Rowling and screenwriter Steve Kloves** - this discusses the process by which the book was bought to the big screen 'YAWN' this was a little too boring for me. **Activities** - allow you to play a couple of games in the world of Harry potter. One, which allows you to sneak to the Chamber of Secrets, asks you some general knowledge questions about the movie plot; another is a frenetic charge through the forbidden forest - as you progress through the forest in the flying car, you have to choose which direction to move at the forks - apparently there are clues along the way - a little too fast for me and ended up being frustrating - the game is different every time you play it! **Visit Lockhart?s class** - look at many photos and memorabilia from Lockhart's office. Generally this is a bunch of still photos; not terribly interesting though. *****DVD ROM features***** There are some additional features than can be downloaded on your PC. Although you must install Quicktime and Realplayer to use these there are a couple of additional items on the DVD ROM. There is a good screensaver, an interesting Hogwarts timeline and a few other extras. Generally though some of the items on the DVD ROM are repeats of items on the Extras of the actual DVD. Overall the DVD Extras are good - you'll spend a couple of hours going through them and will find much of interest - I particularly liked the documentary on building a scene. The games are fun for kids and test your observations skills. ********The Movie******** For those who do not know about Harry Potter, I'll give
                      a brief description, for those who do - skip the next couple of paragraphs and go to the 'plot' section. **Background** In a mysterious world full of magic, wizards and wicthes, monsters and mayhem we find a magical school of wizardry. Harry, who thought himself to be a muggle - i.e. a human that has no magical power and is in fact unaware that there is magic in the world - finds himself attending the school of Hogwarts. The school is a place where children learn about magic; the environment is a huge castle that is inhabited by the students and also ghosts. Having been raised by his uncle and aunt after his parents were killed by a powerful dark lord, Harry was unaware of his heritage until his 11th birthday! Once he attends Hogwarts for the first year, he begins to realize how different and dangerous this new world is, especially after having a dangerous encounter with Lord Voldermort, the very wizard that killed his parents. **Plot** Although Harry was attending Hogwarts he still had to stay with the Dursleys (his uncle and aunt) during the summer; although they now allowed him a room of his own, rather than a cupboard to sleep in, he was still treated terribly. Harry yearned to go back to school, but was saddened as none of his friends had written to him during the holidays. Summer was almost over, and the Dursley's were throwing a dinner party for an important client. Harry was commanded to stay in his bedroom and not make any noise. Much to Harry's surprise and dismay, a house elf named Dobby is in his room; this elf is trying to persuade Harry to stay home as Hogwarts is very dangerous for him, but Harry will not have any of it.. Doby then causes trouble for Harry which ends up with Harry being locked in his room for good. Luckily for Harry his best friend Ron is very worried about Harry, and with the help of his brothers, he flies a magical car and manages to help Harry escape his pri
                      son. The same car comes in handy again when Ron and Harry cannot get into the train station that normally would enable them to catch the train to Hogwarts - instead they take the car and fly to the school. Their troubles are only starting. As well as meeting a 'self-loving' professor named Locheart, the school suddenly comes under attack as the 'chamber of secrets' is somehow opened. Pupils in the school are being 'petrified' by some strange monster and rumours bvegin to circulate that Harry is the one responsible. Harry, with his friends Hermione and Ron decide to solve the mystery especially as Harry is hearing strange voices that no-one else can hear - and thus starts the enigma that is 'the Chamber of Secrets' **Cast and performances** Harry Potter - Daniel Radcliffe has grown up considerably since the first movie. His acting has improved vastly as he seems to be 'Harry' rather than Daniel reading a script. He plays Harry with a stubborn determination that is clearly visible in some of the looks he gives. Hermione Granger - Emma Watson's performance hasn't really changed from the first movie. She is still articulate and good, although I feel she lacks a little passions and hunmour. Ron Weasley - Rupert Grint was not as good as in the first movie. His funny and very good performance has been replaced by a whining, almost cowardly portrayal that does not do justice to either the character or the actor. Albus Dumbledore - Richard Harris sadly was ill during the filming of the movie - it is obvious that he seems tired a lot, and this is sad as the character is becoming more important. It was a sad day when he passed away. Professor McGonagall - Maggie Smith is excellent as the Scottish professor. Her portrayal is a mixture of passion, strictness and humour and is almost exactly as I imaged her while reading the books. Gilder
                      oy Lockhart - Kennith Brannagh disappoints as the self-loving professor. Although at times there is a little sparkle, the character does not jump out at you in the same way as in the book. Hagrid - Robbie Coltrane is good as the grounds keeper giant. Much the same as the first book, this character is portrayed as a loving if what befuddled friend for our intrepid trio. Professor Snape - Alan Rickman is perfect for the role of Snape. While controlling his emotions, he manages to say a thousand words with his eyes as he shows his contempt for Lockheart and his burning hatred for Harry - definitely the best performance of the movie. Moaning Myrtle - Shirley Henderson plays this interesting and lonely character. While playing an important role, I don't quite feel that Shirley has captured the true feelings of Myrtle. Draco Malfoy - Tom Felton plays Harry's nemesis in the school; he is probably the most accomplished of the child actors, as his venomous words seemingly slip out of his mouth without any trouble. Lucius Malfoy - Jason Issacs plays the father of Draco. His character is played in a similar way to Darco, with an added touch of malice - although not seen much in this movie, I feel this character will develop more in future movies. Arthur Weasley - Mark Williams, who I recently saw in Red Dwarf, was excellent in this role. He shows a boyish enthusiasm for 'mundanity' that is perfect for this character. Mrs. Weasley - Julie Walters is also great for the role of this buoyant, high energy woman; her performance is excellent. Nearly Headless Nick - John Cleese will be disappointed that a huge section of the book was removed for the movie - this makes his character generally secondary for the movie and thus it is difficult to judge his performance. Vernon Dursley - Richard Griffiths plays Vernon with just the right amount of meanness. Although not an evil man, you can
                      tell his mind is more on material things than anything else. Petunia Dursley - Fiona Shaw plays Petunia well; again this character is only secondary to the plot and it is difficult to judge the performance. Ginny Weasley - Bonnie Wright plays this difficult role fairly well; I am unsure if it is the lack of passion shown, or the way in which the movie has made her a lesser character than in the book - whichever it is the character doesn't quite feel right. Dudley Dursley - Harry Melling plays Dudley as a typical overweight bully. His performance is good if a little shallow. **My thoughts** If you have read the books you will be a little disappointed in the movie. The movie seems to spend much time using the 'narrative' to explain the plot, instead of including all of the book - this means that it does get a little disjointed at times. Those who haven't read the book will enjoy the movie more than the first as it is more rounded, and the actors have now grown into their roles a little. It was definitely a very entertaining and action oriented movie; and although it was at times a little too complicated, is does remain fairly true to the books. It is far darker than the first movie with several parts that will probably scare small children - there are large spiders as well as a very large snake in the movie, so if you don't like these creatures don't buy this DVD! I feel that the movie doesn't quite capture the spirit of adventure that is inherent within the book; somehow it lacks a little of the excitement and intrigue, and the nuances of the 'suspects' and the way in which Harry deals with this isn't really shown in the movie. Overall I would say that at 16GBP for the DVD it is exceptional value. Not only are the DVD extras varied and detailed, but the quality of the movie is good enough to make this a great addition to all family DVD collectio
                      ns. **A note on the Special Effects** The special effects on the second movie were far superior to the first movie. In the first movie, the Quiddich game was obviously CGI; in this movie the game was far more fluid and exciting, and you really couldn't tell that most of it was computer generated - a superb improvement over the first. The monster seemed more believable than the first - the giant spider, which was not a CGI special effect was very effective and realistic - the snake was very scary, especially when jumping out of the water ?- one of my favorites was Hawkes - this Phoenix was spectacular and beautiful. Of course probably the best piece of CGI was Dobby the house elf. He really was bought to life in this movie flawlessly. You began to think of him as a character in the movie rather than an animation - excellent job. Pay particular attention to the detail in the first few scenes on the bed - watch the clever shadows, and the way in which the character goes unfocused while we focus on Harry - this really was an excellent animated character, nearly as good as Gollum in Lord of the Rings. **Final Question to those who have seen the movie and the DVD** I have seen the movie in the theater, and now the DVD; were some of the 'deleted' scenes actually in the original movie!!??

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                      • Ico (PS2) / Playstation 2 Game / 3 Readings / 12 Ratings
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                        25.06.2003 20:09
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                        Once in a while you come across a game that is so unique, so different and yet so full of quality that you wonder if the face of gaming will be changed. Ico is one of those games; produced by Sony, this gem of a game was not a big seller, in fact many will not have heard about it, but this game begins to show a glimpse into the future of computer gaming that promises to be very exciting. There have been some phenomenal trend setting games over the last few years; Final Fantasy 10, The Sims, Grand Theft Auto, Max Payne - all of these expanded the gaming world's experience but all still found themselves with limited appeal - i.e. Final Fantasy appealed to Role Playing game lovers, the Sims appealed to simulation game lovers. Ico is one of the first games I have seen that will probably appeal to most. What perhaps makes it stand out is the 'experience' of the game - although I have gained some attachment to other games, the way in which Ico almost makes you feel the pain of the central characters is amazing, I found myself totally immersed in the game. *****The concept***** Normally this section would be entitled 'The Game', but I feel that the 'game' is so revolutionary (in a very subtle way) that it really should be called a concept. The game concentrates on characterizations and emotions like no other. Removing the constraints of traditional RPG, adventure, puzzle etc games, it presents a living breathing world in which the characters can manipulate their surroundings to achieve a goal. Gone Is the 'point and click' 'pull the lever to open a door that leads to a button' type of game play; Ico introduces a more intuitive and far more interactive gameplay that requires much thought but leaves the player with much freedom. This interactive participation is far more convincing and thus more fulfilling. (There are buttons and the like, but they are used in a far more intelligent and subtl
                        e way). Ico, perhaps best classed as a fantasy, has an appeal that transcends normal games and becomes one of the most emotive games I have played; I challenge anyone not to become attached to the characters and their plight. Ico tells the story of a boy who becomes a sacrifice to save his village. He was chosen because he was born with horns. Ico is taken to a mysterious castle and imprisoned against his will. Ico though has a depth of character that will not allow him to give up and seek death, and thus our story begins as he starts to search the castle for a means of escape. Almost immediately he is plunged into danger - one of his first tasks is to save a young girl imprisoned in a cage - once he has set her free he encounters strange dark creatures that are intent on the young girls destruction. Essentially Ico has to attempt to escape the castle while protecting the young girl (Yorda); at times she is helpful, and at others she is totally inept. The story line is intentionally stark, leaving much to be questioned, and much to be found out. As you progress through the game, solving puzzles and moving through the castle, the story begins to gently unfold as the bond between Ico and Yorda grows. This type of minimalist game play was strange at first, but really began to make me get deeply involved in each task while building the drama and suspense. Be prepared to be surprised as the plot takes a strange turn along the way - subtly the plot hints at what will happen, and this begins to play on the emotions well as you begin to feel a sadness and foreboding that is intangible. Yorda is an enigma, and perhaps is the biggest puzzle of all. She is very isolated and unmotivated - you almost have to force her along through each puzzle. However she is also strangely drawn to the young Ico, whose energy and drive seem to be like a magnet to her. Although the game is seemingly simple - get Ico and the Yorda to the next section o
                        f the castle, the way in which this has to be done makes this game excellent. In many games you have a 'hero' who can do anything - Ico is similar to the traditional hero - however he has to ensure that Yorda is safe; this balances Ico's skills well and means that often the obvious way to solve a puzzle is not always the correct way - Ico has to navigate the obstacles and then find a way for Yorda, with her frailties and inadequacies to find a way through the puzzle too. Each character has their own abilities. Ico has great agility allowing him to climb, jump etc - however Yorda does have abilities that assist - she has 'magical' abilities that open passages that Ico cannot open - this is inherently linked to the underlying plot. At times Ico has to coax, or lend a hand to Yorda to get past some puzzles. The game makes you draw a balance between exploration (and puzzle solving) and the need to protect and guide Yorda - leave her alone too long and the creatures will attack her and spirit her away. This creates a link between the two children that permeates to the player themselves - this makes the game incredibly compelling and ultimately satifying and personal. I found a strange sense of almost 'maternal' instinct when I guided Yorda; taking her by the hand and moving her around danger gives you an incredible feeling that no other game inspires. It's amazing the feeling of accomplishment that you attain through playing this game. One aspect of the game that I initially thought was a design flaw is that the children speak different languages - I initially thought this was a problem of translation to the English speaking world, but realized that part of the skill of the game is the ability to communicate despite the different languages. Perhaps the best part of the game was the puzzles. They are all very well designed and require interaction with the environment. An example, the initial
                        sequence involves rescuing Yorda. She is trapped in a cage but is unreachable - you must climb up to the top of a tower and release her cage - however doing this isn't quite enough as you then have to jump on the cage to add just enough weight to break the chain that suspends the cage. Thus the puzzles are not simply a case of pressing a button, but require thought and interaction with the environment. As you progress through the game you gain an incredible sense of achievement. *****Graphics***** Initially, while watching the opening sequences I wasn't that impressed with the graphics; however I did feel that they were very atmospheric and detailed. Once you get into the game you begin to realize just how good they are. I was very impressed with Final Fantasy 10's graphics, but Ico blows this game away. What stands out is the presentation and attention to detail. It is subtle and doesn't show off, it just simply provides a 'real' environment that can simply be classed as 'grand'. The colors of the game are not overdone, giving the game a pleasant undertone - the walls and doors are excellently drawn and textures - they really give the feel of being in an old castle - from the stonework, to the clothes they wear, the graphics are well done. Perhaps the most impressive feature is the way in which the sense of scale is presented. You feel a depth and reality in the castle that is second to none - it's as if you are walking around a real castle. I am unsure how the creators have achieved this, but you really do get a feel that you are in a 'whole' castle rather than in a sequence of levels. The castle is simply splendid, ( having lived in Wales I have visited many castles), and somehow manages to capture the feel of a real castle. What perhaps makes the graphics stand out is the concept of WYSIWYG. If you can see a location in a castle, then you can get there - the architecture i
                        s true, i.e. if you look from a courtyard at a tower, when you visit the tower, you will be able to see the courtyard - this makes the game even more believable. The spot effects such as water, light etc are incredible. I have never seen such attention to detail paid to secondary graphics - again this provides an amazing feel and atmosphere that propel the game ever upward. The ripples in the water are particularly splendid. The graphics somehow meld well with the game play, rather than taking place of the game play - thus they enhance the game well. The animations of the characters is also very good. From the way the dark monsters envelop Yorda, to the simple way in which Ico holds Yorda's hand, it is obvious that a great deal of time has been spent perfecting the animations. As an example, the animations allow for joint reaction - thus if you fall from a great height, the body will react realistically - legs will tense or buckle - stunning work. (As an aside we did find the way Ico carries objects particularly funny at times, it looked like he was struggling with constepation!) *****Sound***** The sound in this game is very subtle; it has an almost esoteric feel as it pervades the game and the senses. With the soft and beautiful music accompanying the journey (occasionally), as well as the haunting and echoing voices, the same attention to detail has been applied to the sound. Music is used to highlight important emotions during the game and thus adds to the overall atmosphere. At times you are in total silence, apart from the movement noises and chatter of the main characters - this highlights the isolation the characters must feel. Spot effects are again well done - from fires to water trickling, they all enhance the environment giving it an uncanny realism. Footsteps adapt to the surfaces you walk over; environmental sounds do the say. The voices are very well played, although I must ad
                        mit I was very confused initially. The quality of desperation in the voices is well done and again adds to the atmosphere. *****Conclusion***** Although far from perfect this is one of the best games I have experienced on the PS2. The game is short and at times lacks save points, but these flaws do not detract from the game. Ico is a fantastic emotive journey through a real world; intellectuall y challenging at times, it sets the standard for intuitive, environment driven games. It raises the bar for all other games, and hopefully sets a standard that can only be good for the gaming industry. If you only ever buy one game, buy this one.

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                        • Gangs of New York (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 12 Ratings
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                          25.06.2003 04:17
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                          I am not particularly a fan of Martin Scorsese or the type of film he generally produces. With the exception of a couple of movies (Taxidriver for one) I generally don?t go out of my way to view his movies. However with all the hype surrounding this movie, and the general opinion that this is a great movie I had to watch it for myself. Settling down with my bucket of Pop Corn and my Pepsi that was large enough to allow everyone in the cinema to have a drink I began to watch the movie. As I begin to ponder the sweeping premise of the movie, I begin to wonder whether it will interest me or even captivate me long enough to finish my pop corn. With the upsurge of feeling of nostalgia for New York after 911, it was inevitable that a movie called ?Gangs of New York? which was almost a history of America, would be a huge success. What surprised me initially was the style and power with which the story was told, it almost instantly drew me in. *****The Plot***** From the opening scene we begin to see the way Scorcese is telling the story. In 1846 New York, we see Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson) cut himself while shaving; handing the razor to his son. As we watch the boy reach to wipe the blood away, his father stops him. This is a bold statement about the ties of blood, and how the blood spilt today should never be forgotten, in fact it should almost be revered. We find out that Vallon is a powerful leader of the Dead Rabbits, a sordid assortment of Irish immigrants. Armed with knives, forks, axes and any other implement that could pass as a weapon, we see the Dead Rabbits readying themselves for battle. Monk (Brendan Gleeson) is bribed to join the fray as the Dead Rabbits enter a battle against the Americans. These natives of America are proud of their American births and hate the influx of immigrants. Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a hardened veteran of these battles; this is exemplified by the glass
                          eye he wears almost like a trophy. In a scene that is both amazing in its lucidity but also horrific and frightening in its reality, we watch a beautiful white snow turn pink with the blood of the slain, as the brutal battle unfolds. As Bill finally battles Vallon, and kills him, the battle comes to an end, victory going to the Americans. Vallon?s son, Amsterdam, hides his father?s knife and St Michael medallion and then is sent away to school. This brutal and frighteningly real opening scene is superb. It immediately discards any romantic notions that may have lingered about the ?civility? of such battles. It highlights the anger and the passion that existed in a time of change, a time when America was being built. This one scene was enough to ensure that I would continue watching the movie. I was hooked, not by the brutality or the action, but by the alluring story that was unfolding. We move forward 16 years and find a lot has changed. Bill is still in charge, but to ensure his power is dominant he has allied with William ?Boss? Tweed (Jim Broadbent). Amsterdam has returned and ends up working for Bill; although he is reluctant to work for Bill, he does see this as an opportunity to revenge the death of his father. Scorsese has cleverly introduced us to the hatred that is brewing between the American (DiCaprio) born men and the immigrants. This however becomes secondary as the national Civil War becomes prominent, and most immigrants are given instant citizenship if they agree to join the draft. The tension between the Americans and the immigrants still exists, as the Americans still harass the immigrant as they leave their ships. You sense this is somewhat subdued, but feel it could boil over in an instance. As we see immigrants moving onto another boat to head south, we see the brutality of war as coffins are being unloaded from the same boat ? it?s almost like a cattle market as men walk on and coffins a
                          re brought off ? this is another powerful scene that comments on the way in which these immigrants were essentially used, and how the ?war? almost had a role in curbing the power and influence that immigrant could gain. In a strange parallel, we find both New York and America to be split. In a country full of diversity, different and diverse nationalities, and as Amsterdam says ?a million accents? I somehow wonder how a new powerful nation could ever be forged with so many differences and so much hatred simmering. This is essentially the central theme of the movie; how could so many different factions, all vying for power meld into one powerful nation? How could this new country avoid being torn to shreds by the inherent racism and hatred? The only real answer seems to be by blood and attrition??. *****My Opinion***** The power and success of the movie is a combination of many things. The attention to detail is incredible as Manhatton looks incredible. The atmosphere created is one of sordidness, dankness yet there is a little glimmer of hope, although it is somehow intangible. The feeling of depression is incredible, as you almost feel the pain of the city, the pent up pain that is one of anger and fear. This is one of the best sets I have seen in many years, it has the power of ?Gone with the Wind? and the antiquity of ?Diagon Alley? (Harry Potter), and yet it is more realistic than either of these, making the movie totally believable, almost transferring you back 150 years. The costumes are just as good, again highlighting the poverty that existed in early America as well as the diversity and character of gangs and of individuals; the costumes add spice to the movie, and build the characters well. I have never seen a movie where the costumes ?fit? the characters so well (with the exception of perhaps Oliver). The movie has a similar feel to Oliver as the set and the costumes transport you back to a dark history that re
                          ally is the foundation of America. The movie does not sugar coat anything, it tells the story as a brutal and hard one, and doesn?t romanticize it by creating lovable characters. This is perhaps the main strength of the story, as the brutality and blood almost forge a stronger America as hope begins to surface. It deals with the racism and to a certain extent the sexism that was very prevalent in the early foundations of society; this was and perhaps still is one of the biggest challenges that the American society will face, and although the movie gets a little superficial with its token ?black? guy and token ?woman? it does begin to highlight the way in which the developing factions treat minorities. What is most pleasing about the movie is that Scorsese lets the story tell the tale, with minimum special effects, the brutality shines through and leaves a lasting impact on the viewers. This ?bareness? is refreshing and although not new, seems to be isolated in modern day Hollywood. The acting is very good; tit is obvious that they enjoyed their roles and their place in such a good movie. DiCaprio and Diaz have a strange chemistry that works well, but somehow feels a little fake. With the work of class actors such as Broadbent, showing a strange pride combined with a corrupt mind, and perhaps the best performance coming from Brendan Gleeson as the burly Monk ? (did I surprise you there?) ? this character is a mixed bag; initially you just feel that he is a brute, but with the clever and subtle acting we see a strangely spiritual man emerge, and perhaps see the glimmer of hope surfacing. Daniel Day-Lewis, one of my favorite actors is also excellent. This role is almost as good as his one in ?My Left Foot? ? the characters seem to be similar, both showing exuberance and passion that at times is funny and at times is subtle and sad. Overall this is one of the best movies I have seen for a while. It is a compelling m
                          ovie that is more about attrition and anger than romance and love. It?s brutality is obvious, yet a sense of yearning and hope underlies it all. It is probably not suitable for younger children as it is stark and frightening, but it is an interesting portrayal of early America, and America that hadn?t found its feet. As an aside, this is the first movie I watched in which I put down the pop corn and forgot about it ? that?s how intriguing and powerful it was for me!

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                          • The Mummy [1998] (DVD) / DVD / 1 Reading / 10 Ratings
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                            20.06.2003 20:21
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                            Please note that I have separated the opinion into two parts - movie review and extras review - I originally posted a movie review on the VHS, but have updated this opinion for this DVD review. As this is a DVD review I have put the DVD Extras first?. *************Extras Review************* As you put the movie in the DVD player, you may be surprised that the movie starts - most DVDs present you with a menu straight away. This really is personal, but for me it didn?t really matter. Once you get to the menu, the presentation is generally good with some animations and sound. Like most DVDs there are multiple levels of menu, giving much to explore within the extras. I have the Wide screen version of the movie and was very pleased with the quality of the picture. It really enhances the experience of watching the movie. Add to this the Dolby Digital Sound and those with the best equipment will be in heaven. The extras included are quite diverse: **The making of the Mummy** This ?feature? is an interesting and quite lengthy documentary into the making of the movie. It has clips of the original movie, but mostly focuses on the special effects. It is a very interesting extra that perhaps may be of more interest than the main feature to some. **Deleted Scenes** I really don?t like Deleted Scenes ? if they were any good then they would be in the movie! There aren?t that many on this DVD and they do not add anything to the movie for me ? I?d avoid this section if I were you. **Visual effects featurette** If you haven?t time to watch the full ?making of the movie? feature, then this may interest you. These are snippets of some of the ?effects? that are shown in the longer movie. I guess this is interesting for some, but I?d advice everyone to watch the longer feature. **Feature Commentary** There are some insightful points about the filming and specia
                            l effects in this commentary, but I feel you have to be a ?freak? on extras to listen to this. I am not a lover of ?feature commentary? - personally I feel this information could have been presented in a shorter format for me - I turned it off very quickly. **Egyptology 101** This is a wonderful addition to the DVD that will be great for your kids. This element is categorized well, and allows you to look though 101 facts about Egypt. It is a great and useful resource for projects etc, but is also a nice addition that allows you to get more background information. **Production Notes** Not sure why they would put this on the DVD - these are notes about the production of the movie - I personally would have liked these on a separate ?booklet? or for one of the cast to have read them to me - too much work for me! **Screen Savers** A few screensavers for your PC that essentially show still shots from the movie - no animation is present so this is particularly uninspiring. **Mummy Game** Still laughing at this one - a simple game where you are the mummy - beetles fly at you and you can jump or duck - woohoo - very very poor game. **Full Uncut Version** Ummmmmmmmm couldn?t tell any difference here. I always wonder why they issue ?director?s cuts? or ?Uncut version? - I feel that if the movie needed all the ?extras? then they would have been in the final movie. **Conclusion on Extras** Overall I was satisfied with the extras - the ?Making of the Movie? was the best part, and the 101 facts was useful - the other extras I could take it or leave it. I was extremely disappointed with the DVD Rom features though. *************Movie review************* Throughout the years no other form of movie has captivated the audience quite in the same way as horror movies - whether it is the fear of the unknown, perhaps not knowing if
                            the movie could in fact become reality - or whether it is a fascination with the old b-movie, where the set is cardboard, and the acting is even more cardboard is unknown. From early on, when I used to hide behind the sofa watching Dr Who, and used to hide in a different room when Quatermass was on, I had a strange fascination with horror movies that was somehow sadistic. I am the guy that now laugh?s at some horror movies - for example I found the final scene in Hannibal very funny - most people were grossed out. horror movies move us in different ways; some are just funny, perhaps because they are unbelievable or unrealistic, whereas other mess with your mind as they seem so real, and perhaps could happen in real life. The mummy has been part of folklore for millennium, and formed the basis of many b-movies in the early 20th century. Perhaps inspired by early explorers that gained vast wealth exploring Egypt and then somehow died mysteriously due to a curse these movies become very popular if a little campy. Even today this fascination with mummy?s continues, ranging from serious study which hopefully will help uncover the mysteries of the body to the strange and peculiar, where people actually use mummy?s for fire wood, or aphrodisiacs! Stephen Sommers directs this adaptation of the classic movie the mummy. Using the latest technology and concentrating more on the live action rather than the horror, Stephen ensures that the audience is entertained. Obviously drawing from the original classics, Stephen has made the b-movie far more believable and realistic. ****the plot**** Imhotep, an Egyptian priest falls in love with the Emperor?s concubine - it is forbidden for any other man to lay hands on the Emperor?s lover. This forbidden love leads to Imhotep murdering the emperor with the help of the concubine - rather than face the Emperor?s wrath. She commits suicide, asking Imhotep to resurrect her. As he attempts to resurr
                            ect his lover, he is captured and buried alive in a sarcophagus with a copious amount of flesh eating scarabs. Thousands of years later, our intrepid heroes manage to accidentally resurrect Imhotep while excavating an ancient Egyption tomb looking for treasure. The resurrection has far reaching consequences as it threatens the whole world and not just out heroes. As Imhotep begins to kill victims and to use their body parts to enhance his decayed body, his power gets greater. Following an ancient prophecy, the ten plagues appear, including a swarm of locust, fire from the skies etc. Luckily for our heroes, he is scared of cats, as they are sacred; additionally his powers are not quite at their peek as the mummy hasn?t gained all the body parts to be fully restored. This gives our heroes chance to escape and formulate a plan to kill Imhotep. Meanwhile, Imhotep is collecting the organs of his lover from those he is killing, he requires these parts in order to resurrect her. Imhotep decides to use our English heroine as a sacrifice to facilitate in the resurrection of his lover and so our intrepid American hero attempts to rescue her?? ****The Movie**** The film draws on several classics. The style of adventure is similar to Indiana Jones, with our heroes facing many dangers (e.g. flesh eating scarabs), having to avoid chasms, fight skeletons and many other similar ?dangers? to Indiana - additionally, Indiana Jones is an archeologist, and both movies make use of ancient manuscripts. It contains a similar tongue-in-cheek feel to the Indiana Jones movies, perhaps realizing that ?The Mummy? as a horror movie doesn?t quite work so well. At times the movie is very fast paced and as is the case in most of these types of movies, our heroes barely manage to escape danger .. every time! The fighting is very reminiscent of many of the Jason and The Argonaut movies with similar combat against zombies and skeletons.
                            The movie adds a little more humor to the fight sequences and the animation is more realistic, but the principle is the same. This for me is a good thing as it is nostalgic, but also is very effective. The way in which the animations don?t quite mimic human movement give it a surreal feeling that is at times creepy. The movie attempts to add much humor, mainly with the battle between the hero and heroine. The interplay is quite funny as not only is it a romantic battle but also one of race; he is American, she is English. The interplay between the two is particularly interesting to me as I am married to an American woman! This is a very important element of the movie - without the humor intermingling with the action, the movie would have got lost. The comedic elements break up the action well and give you chance to relax a little and calm down. Generally the movie is interesting although it will never be a classic, the tongue in cheek humor goes hand in hand with exciting chases and fight scenes; the movie attempts to draw the audience in with loveable characters. Perhaps with the lack of major stars, or because of some wooden acting, this never really works and you end up watching the movie without really getting into it. I feel the director has drawn on to many different styles of successful movies from the past. He hasn?t added anything particularly new and thus doesn?t put his own stamp onto the genre - it simply becomes another fantasy action adventure that will disappear in the could have been better? ****The effects**** Undoubtedly the best part of the movie is the computer graphics and animations are excellent. Inspired by Jason and the Argonauts, the multitudes of undead that attack our heroes are well animated and add a realism that is unexpected. The animators ensure that each skeleton is unique, and although they are based on the same model they often do have different movements. The choreography is
                            also excellent, and involves a technique that uses real-life stunt men and transfers the movement to the skeletons. Add to this the comedic elements within the animations and you begin to realize that the effects stand above most ?horror? type movies due to the attention to detail. It?s a shame that the same care and attention wasn?t applied to the movie itself to make it more unique. The Mummy is also excellent, with some great animation and also some great make-up mixed with computer enhancements as he becomes more ?human??. What makes the animation excellent is the realism - the mummy looks believable, the movement is not jerky but is very realistic! At times you forget that he is part animation, especially when he is almost fully human. Some of the sand storms and whirlwinds are also animated, with screaming mouths. Again these are very good. Additionally, some of the effects with the plagues are spectacular, especially the fire from the skies. The effects draw from many of the early classics melding action and technology to produce great visual effects. The only downfall of the effects is that I felt that I was watching a movie on special effects - they almost made me forget I was actually watching a story! ****Acting**** I was pleasantly surprised at the charisma shown by Brandon Fraser. His performance was very professional and showed an ability to juggle between a serious and a tongue in cheek character. While there is much room for improvement, I generally thought he did well in this role. Rachel Weisz wasn?t quite as good in this role ? I felt that she held back and didn?t quite show the underlying power of the character ? her whimsical Englishness was good, but her intelligence didn?t shine through. ****Conclusion**** This movie was generally good, however without any blockbuster stars to add that ?movie star? quality, it really doesn?t have enough in it to make it a classi
                            c. The plot is a little weak and straight forward leading to an obvious conclusion. There are several funny parts but these do not really make up for an average movie. Although billed as horror, there really isn?t anything too scary in this movie and it will be suitable for most children over the age of 10. It is perhaps more in the league of an Indiana Jones movie making it a fun family movie. The movie did become a huge success spawning a second (and soon a third) movie in the series. With the addition of Wrestling star ?The Rock? the movie seems to be gaining a cult following. The second movie looks more rounded than the first with more battle scenes and a continuation of the great animations. I have to say first of all that my opinion of the Mummy is not fantastic. I didn't think much of it first time round but watched it again and enjoyed it more. The effects perhaps make this movie into a cult as they are spectacular and awe inspiring at times, however this doesn?t hide the fact that the movie isn?t that much better than the original b-movie.

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                            • More +
                              19.06.2003 20:08
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                              Coming from the era of Punk as I do, it is strange to see what it has developed into; what is now being branded as Punk is an entirely different sound and is something that is far more positive and less anarchistic than I would ever have imagined. On top of that, rather than the foul-mouthed, anti-establishment work of bands like ?The Sex Pistols?, you have a thought provoking and often a very intelligent rendition of this music. A perfect example of the new generation of ?Punk? is Good Charlotte. Their music is far more reachable than traditional Punk music, and for us older rock n roll people, is more akin to the heavier side of The Beatles, or the fast side of Led Zepplin. What is very prevalent in their music is the pain that these young men have suffered, and despite all of this, the powerful and positive message they portray through their music. They are, to a certain extent, anti-establishment, but more because of corruption than just for the sake of being different. Their music has worldwide appeal, particularly to the 13-25 age group, however even oldies like me can appreciate their music and enjoy it. The band is made up of five people. Benji and Joel Madden, identical twins are the leaders of the band, drawing on their own troubled childhood to produce cutting edge music. Having lived through an abused childhood, and also being abandoned at the age of sixteen led them down many paths, including a bout of alcoholism ? through thick and thin it is obvious that they have somehow found something positive in all this and with the help of God (From their album it is amazing to see how much God plays a part in their life) they have come through and bettered themselves. Billy Martin is the guitarist and Pault Thomas is the bassist. They also have an extremely shy drummer ? Chris Wilson ? for unknown reason he does not appear on any literature, and even during a concert seems to fade into the background. Billy and Joel
                              are the driving force for all the songs on the album; taking moments from their life they have produced some pretty deep and interesting songs ? here are my comments on some of the better songs of the album: *****A New Begginning***** A lot of people will skip over this section, but it an interesting cornucopia that introduces the band. It is an instrumental that starts out quietly and then as the rhythm increases begins to get louder ? this may only appeal to the older generation though, as I know my kids skip this one ? they hate me when I play it. *****The Anthem***** This is perhaps their most famous song in the USA, but from what I hear was not released as a single in the UK. It immediately sets out the style and angst of the bad as they comment that you don?t have to conform to society, but can be different ? it seems to be a song directed at those people who dare to be different, and get criticized for this. This is a typical sounding song for Good Charlotte (GC) that pulls no surprises and is essentially a fast paced yet lyrical track. It also has one of the most mis-heard lines of the whole album; many think that part of the song says: ?Another loser Anthem? whereas it actually says: ?Never lose your Anthem? *****Lifestlyes of The Rich And Famous***** Perhaps one of their most popular tunes, this song has a go at ?the rich and famous?. Essentially it is commenting on how society is multi-faceted, and that if you have money you can buy anything. It is very political, and is perhaps aimed more at an American audience, as it comments about a Mayor in the US who was a Heroine addict, but because of his riches was let off ? it also comments about a certain Basketball star who paid for ?Cochran? to get him off a murder charge. It comments on the anger of the youth as they see the abuses of their ?elders? and how this simply isn?t right. They also make a huge commen
                              t that many of the rich and famous couldn?t survive on the street ? the twins actually lived on the street for a short time and thus know what they are talking about. The song is probably musically one of the best; it is fast paced, but has a very melodic melody that is catchy and makes you sing along. The song is fairly heavy, but has an interesting beat that is just about perfect. This was one of the better songs of the album. *****Wondering***** Allegedly written about their dog, this is an interesting song that could be read many different ways. Taken literally it comments on how a dog will always be there for you, ready to go for a walk etc. The Dog?s unquestioning love and loyalty almost seems displaced at times especially when an owner doesn?t return this trust. On a different level the song is making a profound statement about love and relationships, and how often the love can be one sided, and while one person will give everything, the other will not. This is a very deep song if you really listen to it ? it is a mid paced rock song (I consider this type of music rock, or pop-punk, it is not as heavy as grunge rock, but is fast and pleasant). Heavy guitar is fairly prevalent, but as in most of their music, the production quality and the quality of their vocals seems to be very important to the band. *****The Story Of My Old Man***** This song is very powerful and emotive. It tells of the day their father left them, and how this affected them. This perhaps appeals to many kids (especially in America) as this is very prevalent. It is a sad statement on life and society. The lyrics are very straightforward, but very profound: 'Monday he woke up and hated life, Drank until Wednesday and left his wife, Thursday through Saturday lost everything, Woke up on Sunday miserable again.' This shows an immense amount of pain, but also a lot of courage as the twins t
                              ry and send a message to their audience. The song is perhaps one of the slower ones, and like many of the songs on the album has a very ?singable? tune. This song highlight the talent of the twins as it is a well made and well structured song. It is a combination of soft melodies and harder rock. *****Girls and Boys***** This is an interesting and popular song that comments on the way in which ?boys and girls? view relationship. It is interesting to see some young men commenting on how materialistic and shallow society has become, especially where relationships are concerned. They draw from their own personal experiences of their father to almost try and move people away from this materialistic way. The song itself is very catchy, and probably is the one that most people will dance too. It has a very catchy chorus, and a fast paced, interesting body to the song. I don?t think it is the best song of the album, but it definitely is a fun and popular song. *****My Bloody Valentine***** Like most songs on the album this song is deep yet straightforward. It tells a story, but has an underlying message. This song comments about obsessive love and how dangerous this can be ? in this case leading to murder. Again it seems to be talking directly to teenagers and trying to comment that sometimes you have to let go and move on through life. The song is one of the heavier songs of the album and may not appeal to most; it almost is a ?head-banging? song that is full of energy and passion. *****Hold On***** I recently took my daughter?s to a Good Charlotte concert. At one point Joel stood up to the mike and talked about ?suicide? ? he commented that it wasn?t worth it as the sun always rises and things do get better ? he reached out to his fans and told them to ?hang in there? ? I was amazed by this and gained an immense amount of respect for them. After this statement they began to sing the song ?Hold On? The song itself is again directed at the audience ? it comments that if you hold on and continue to work hard, and not get down that things can and will get better. In a similar way to REMs ?Everybody Hurts? it explains that although you feel you are the only one in pain, there are millions of people just like you. This is a very powerful and evocative song. The song isn?t particularly the best in terms of music; it?s a pretty standard rock song with a good baseline and interesting melodies; what makes it a ?stand-out? song is the content of the lyrics. *****Riot Girl***** This song is written for millions of girls that dare to be different. It sings about a girl who is free and is happy with herself despite the fact that she somehow causes trouble around her. Her main lot in life is to have fun and she will do anything to achieve this. The song is an upbeat rock song that is very fast ? it is one of the harder songs to listen to and doesn?t really have any deep meaning or message aside from ?Live life the way you want to? ? it also comments on the type of girls the band likes! *****The Young And The Hopeless***** This song is the title track of the album. It is very fast paced and will probably be one of the favorites of the album. It is an interesting song that comments that be positive about life; although you may think you have sunk to new lows, if you are not positive then life cannot get better ? it also comments that you must do this yourself and not rely on others. It has a very melodic chorus and generally is a good rock tune. *****Conclusion***** To an oldie like me it is very hard to define the type of music the band play. They can be classed as Punk as they are anti-establishment, but they do this in a positive way and as such are not like the traditional Punk band I am used to. They are a skillful band that produce some very thought provo
                              king songs ? they are definitely talented, and assuming they have good management and they manage to change and progress, I feel they will be around for a long time. I particularly like the way they care for their fans, and often go out of their way to thank their fans. This album is definitely a very good album, and even though I am old I will steal it from my daughter?s occasionally.

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                                18.06.2003 20:28
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                                I have always had a penchant for first person perspective shoot-em-up games. From the earliest days of Wolfesnstein, and its clones, up to the latest version of Doom, all have captivated me and ensured that I spent countless hours in front of the computer screen trying to kill just one more evil guy / monster. I had heard of the Medal of Honour series, but had never had the pleasure of playing them, and so this is my first exploration of this style of first person shooter, one in which is based in a real environment. I have always played these games on a PC, and as I have always had a powerful PC I have always been able to get the best out of the sound and Graphics. I was therefore a little hesitant to buy this on the PS2, as generally the capabilities of this machine do not compare to my PC. ****The Plot**** You are Lieutenant Patterson, an able officer of the Air Transport Corps. In the final months of WW2, with the Allies pushing back the Axis, and beginning the sequence of events that lead up to D-Day. (I note here that you are the a-typical super hero type dude, but this is a must ? now who could see a Bill Gates charging through enemy lines?) You didn?t arrive there with the main force, but crash-landed a plane in France, and despite heavy fighting and limited weaponry, you manage to fight your way back to the beach and join the forces that are embattled. Rather than take the easy option of having a rest, you decide to head back into enemy territory. (What a hero!) In a combination of classic first person perspective gaming, and mission based games you take part in the historic freedom of Europe. With the authentic settings, historical weaponry and many exercises in war subterfuge, such as the infiltration of a U-boat base, you begin to help shape the destiny of Europe?..almost single-handedly! ***The game play*** As with most games of the first-person shooter type, you are viewing the wor
                                ld through the eyes of your character. You are given some cross hairs which represent the direction in which you will shoot, information on the weapon you are carrying, the amount of ammo, your health and a compass. This sounds a little sparse, but this is actually refreshingly good as you can concentrate on the action and not have to worry about the statistics too much. If needed you can get a list of further commands e,g, you can contact HQ, or get more information on the mission, but if you?re like me, you?ll shoot first and then worry about the mission later on. The controls are pretty generic, giving options to move, duck, aim, jump, fire and zoom your rifle sight - they are fairly intuitive, but I did find some of the more complicated actions a little difficult to master at times, especially when in the middle of an ambush. Once you have moved through the excellent opening cinematics (well this is a combination of actual movie footage, news reports and some voice overs) you suddenly find yourself moving onto the beach on the coast of Normanty. This initial sequence is perhaps the most shocking and amazing, as bombs seem to explode all around you ? you get a strange urgency and a little amount of fear as you realize that the game could be ended before you?ve even fired a shot. The attention to detail within the first minute of the game is amazing, as the combination of graphics and sound build an amazing atmosphere that immediately makes you feel a part of the game. You are instantly immerged in the scenario. As you progress through the game you will find a difference in difficulty and quality of the scenarios ? not sure why this is the case, I wasn?t expecting this difference, perhaps the designers decided to let you have a ?breather? in some of the slower scenarions. Operation Market Garden is one of the best, and really makes full use of all your skills ? this is not just a matter of shootin
                                g, bu t requires a great deal of intelligent planning and in some cases hiding. The game is pretty big giving you six campaigns each with multiple levels. I would guess there is enough game play for about 50-100 hours of fun. The difficulty does increase as you progress, but I found that there weren?t that many situations which seemed impossible ? most, although requiring three or four turns, can be completed by most players. What perhaps makes this game most compelling is the attention to detail paid to the historical background. With many cut-scenes linking the scenarios together, you begin to realize how closely his game actually follows history ? I realize this may not be clear to many younger players, but for people who have an interest in WW2, it is very gripping. ***Graphics*** Although I have heard that the graphics on similar X-Box games are far superior, I simply cannot see how. The graphics are absolutely incredible. From the detailed and very accurate historical surroundings, to the explosions and animations of characters and weaponry, I feel this is the best graphics based game I have played. Perhaps it is because I was so immersed in the atmosphere of the game, that I missed the flaws but the key to graphics like this is believability ? for me the graphics made the game feel as if I was in the war. I didn?t notice any slow down in the game, particularly in the opening frantic sequences. The screens scrolled very smoothly, and the 3-d engine never failed to deliver the quality graphics. The detail of the enemies and friends was excellent, and once again raised the atmosphere of the game one more level ? the attention to detail in all aspects of the graphics was simply icredible. This game really pushes the limits of the PS2; the only other game I have played on the PS2 that compares is the Lord of the Rings:The Two towers game. I hope that this is the shape of future PS2 games.
                                ***Sound*** I was very surprised by the quality of music in the game. Almost haunting and often evocative, the music has an amazing ability to set the scene, and get you in the right mood for the combat ahead. The music was also very varied, and managed to get my heart pumping many times. I expected great sound effects, and got them. The explosions were realistic, and the clever use of the effects again made the game more compelling ? for instance, the way the explosions often drown out other sounds was an excellent ?nice touch? ***Re-Playability*** One thing that has always been lacking in games of this type is re-playability. I often find that once I have completed levels, I never really want to go back and replay the game. This game gives you ratings for each level, and this does give you a little incentive to replay the game. For me the game is re-playable as many of the levels can be ?conquered? in different ways, thus a perfectionist will want to complete the game several times to ensure every possible combination of victory conditions are found. There is also an incentive that if you get a medal in every level then you open up secret bonus. I have yet to replay the game, but will probably do so in the future ? the gameplay is intriguing enough to bring me back. ***Conclusion*** Although there are several other WW2 based shooters, this one does stand out head above any other. Although the plot and concept are not original, the overall atmosphere and gameplay make this an excellent game. It is a shame that there wasn't a multiplayer option, particularly as I have the ability to have four controllers connected to my PS2 (special hardware add-on). I feel that the atmosphere, and the team work that would be required would make this the ideal multi-player game (probably 2 players on one TV, or four players linked on different machines!) This game is very violent, and per
                                haps a little frightening, and perhaps is only suitable for adults

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                                  07.02.2003 20:21
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                                  Over the last few years I have been very impressed with the Baldur?s Gate series on the PC. Despite many serious flaws with the PC version, it remains perhaps one of the best RPGs to hit the PC and satisfies ardent AD&D fans with the attention to detail and the use of the third generation AD&D rules. Inevitably, a PS2 game based in the Baldur?s Gate world was released. The developers, realizing that the PC is the platform for ?serious? strategy and role-players, changed their strategy when developing the game for the PS2. On the PC, a thorough understanding of the AD&D rules, and the advantages and disadvantages of each class and race, really enhanced the game, giving it a true RPG feel. However, perhaps realizing that the PS2 audience was perhaps more inclined to forget about the ?nitty gritty? and really want to play the game, the developers changed the way the game was played. Interplay simplified many of the RPG elements to the game, leaving the player to choose simple advancement elements, and to choose weapons and armor, and produced a hack-and-slash game more akin to Diablo than the original Baldur?s gate. Perhaps aimed at a younger audience, Interplay made the game more dynamic and action oriented, rather than statistic reliant. Initially, choosing from three pre-determined characters, you have the choice to become a Dwarven Figther, a Magical Archer or an Elven Sorceress. Each character has varying skill sets, and this allows a player to choose from a hack type game play, to a fireball type game play. You are not offered any options to customize your character, and this is perhaps the first important distinction between the PC and the PS2 versions. One of my favorite parts of the PC version was the tweaking of my character to make him mine! Although the game professes to use AD&D rules, these are only loosely used. True AD&D gamers will know that sorceresses are not allowed to use armour, this game seems to forget this ru
                                  le! There are many other neglected rules in this game. The game play is perhaps where the game differs from the original series mostly. One (or two players) move through the environment and hack and slay through a multitude of monsters. You have an attack button, a magic button and a block button. You also have other buttons that let you drink potions during combat. The combat Is less tactical than the PC version and is more akin to Diablo. It is also probably more fun! Much of the game is linear, and includes you having to find people to talk to and find clues or quests. Initially you have to go down into a cellar. The first ?buxom? wench you meet is very well animated, including some wonderful jiggling breasts! The graphics in the game, ranging from the 3-d environments and the animated enemies, to the animation of the Non Player characters are very good! The PC version pales in comparison, again highlighting the fact that the PC version is a true RPG, whereas the PS2 version is more of an action game. Some of the spot effects are excellent. I particularly liked the ripple effect of the water, especially when my daughter and I did some synchronized walking in the water. Like most PS2 games there are a few glitches, but these are not that noticeable. The sound is impressive too. The music is very atmospheric, and tends to warn you when enemies are near by the tempo. The voices are well acted and add much to the game. The spot effects are also very atmospheric making the game a pleasant one to play. Controlling the game is also easy. The use of the controller is logical and easy. All the options you would require can be done from the controller, ranging from rotating the view, viewing the map, to attacking and casting spells (although this was a little tricky at times, especially when in the middle of combat). Generally this is a good game, that doesn?t have the depth of detail or length of the
                                  PC games, but more than makes up with the fun elements and graphics and sound. There are some parts that may not quite be suitable for younger children ? i.e. Jiggling breasts, alcohol use, blood and gore etc. but overall my daughter found the game to be fun. We especially enjoyed the fact that we both could control a character and this introduced an element that the PC didn?t have.

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