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When it come to merchandise linked to films or TV shows the quality of an item that is mass produced can drop considerably, with the vehicles released by Corgi as part of the James Bond Range you know straight away that the vehicles themselves have good presentation and most importantly are accurate to what was seen in the film. Goldeneye was released in 1995 and marked the return of the Bond movies after a six year absence, in reality which was due to a legal wrangling over the rights of the films themselves. However the film itself was the first appearance with Pierce Brosnan as 007. As a move away from the normal brand of vehicles Bond drove a BMW Z3, controversial at the time and to be honest it doesn't get used much in the film at all except top be seen in Q's lab and driven down a road when Bond is in Cuba. However it is part of the Corgi collection, and I have to say that I am impressed with the details of the vehicle itself as the attention to detail is high and quite impressive to say the least. By this I mean the accuracy of the vehicle. The body paint colour of a rather fetching pale blue that borders a light grey is absolutely spot on as is the dimensions of the BMW itself and the replication of the angles of the easily recognisable BMW given the badge on the front has been applied in very good detail without any splashing of paint into the surrounding edges. Also in the early Corgi releases of this vehicle the car didn't have any passengers and was just simply a car with no driver and empty setas, and in the newly released or updated Directors Cut series two figures have been included in the car, James Bond and Natalia Simonova, both replicated in the correct manner that they were both dressed in the scenes that they travelled in the BMW in the single scene the vehicle was used so in some ways this is a far superior 1:36 scale vehicle with Bond in his sharp white shirt and suit with his companion in a red dress. Nice to see and shows the effort made yet due to the scale neither of the figures actually don't resemble the actors at all and look more like Ken and Barbie in a two-seater car open top car and you cant remove them from the vehicle so they are fixed there like a pair of crash test dummies! They are captured in a pose as well with Bond's hands on the bottom of the steering wheel driving and the Bond girl in a pose that doesn't make her look completely static. The headlights are stickers and don't really look that convincing at all, yet this is a minor thing as I wouldn't expect anything that immaculate on a model of this size. There I a splash of colour on the inside as well with the headrests and the sterring wheel just giving a nice break from the beige interior. Annoyingly it's also a left hand drive as well... not very British! It does have additional features as you can fire missiles from behind the headlights as was described in the film, yet I haven't actually taken this out the box since I bought it from Modelzone as I prefer to collect these and eventually put them all on display once I have a decent glass unit to present them with. Until then the box goes on a shelf, this isn't a normal everyday toy that a kid can play with as the quality of the car itself is impressive and the last thing any collector would want is to have this car chipped and dented, one thing that you do notice is that the tread on the wheels and the spokes on the alloys. This is by far the brightest and shiniest part of the vehicle and something that shows the vehicle off very well. Overall this is a good addition. Corgi has upped their game with the Directors Cut series and for a vehicle that was underused in the film has delivered an impressive model that shows the vehicle to a very high standard. As I said earlier this is a 1:36 scale model of the actual car and so the model is only 4.25 inches long and 2 inches wide. The presentation of the model in the packaging instantly connects this to the Pierce Brosnan era as he is shown on the box with the insignia of the film next to him. On the back of the box is a quite informative breakdown of the films story and the use of the vehicle in the story
Since the re-launch of Doctor Who back in 2005, the villains of the show seem to play a more integral part of the story than before. What I mean by this is the Daleks and Cybermen will always be used in the episodes, that's a given, yet it's the new characters that seem to raise awareness of the show itself based on their originality and a very good example are the Weeping Angels. These for me are right up there with the Daleks as the prime villains in Doctor Who, the Weeping Angels first appeared in the episode titled Blink, which ironically enough didn't really feature much of the Doctor in the story as he played a secondary part to the main character of Sally Sparrow. This was a David Tennant era story in his second season in the role. As with most franchises today the availability of action figures that are launched as an off-set to the show is nigh on obligatory and so we have a collection released that runs in parallel with the TV show, in this case the Weeping Angel is a very good example of what can be achieved with an action figure. I always tend to think that the scariness factor can be lost in translation when a figure is created as the moulding process simply loses the features and a factor of blandness is introduced. With the action figure of the Angel it's a different story completely, the facial features have been translated extremely well and the figure still has its ferocity and still looks scary with its sharp teeth and open mouth, similar to a vampire yet totally unique. As the character is effectively a statue that can move when a human blinks the legs aren't seen on this one and they are covered up by what looks like a long formal dress, okay if a statue is a statue then the legs are academic anyway, but from the sculpture there does appear to be the bending of a leg that can be seen through what is depicted as cloth, which touches the ground and has a rather nice rippling crease effect that does produce depth on what is only a 5" figure. With the figure being virtually the same shade of grey all over the joining of the clothes to what would in theory be flesh is difficult to ascertain, but that not really that important as you see the details on the body and the wings far surpasses any sculpting or painting issues anyway and so the individual feathers on the pair of wings can be seen in quite some detail to the extent with curvature create shadows under the wing and gives further depth. Articulation is limited as the bottom half of the figure is static and so it's only the arms and the head that move. The arms have the same directional movement as other figures in the range, they move at the shoulder, the elbow and the wrist and can be manipulated to produce some fantastic poses with hands covering the face or arms straight out in front. Additionally there is the ability to twist the arms at the bicep as well, so the arms can turn in or out. You would think that this does limit the sheer usefulness of the piece, yet this is truly a case of less is more as all the poses that you see this character do in the show can be replicated completely. The hair is centre parted and strands originating from the parting can be seen going down the side of the head. This does give some personality and when watching the episodes that feature the Angels, you are able to identify this one immediately so a connection can be made straight away. Although if you want to create a more precise set up then this as well as the other Angel figures will have to be bought in multiples rather than singularly. It was the same with Star Wars; you could never get away with just one Stormtrooper guarding Darth Vader, to make it like the film you had to have six at least! Unfortunately it's the same here and the ones available may have to be purchased multiple times to add some bolster. The detail of the piece is the thing that caught my eye, the story tells that these are living stone statues and so the stone effect is very good and most of all will convince the user, the other Angels in the collection look the same as this one does and even the ones with legs are up to the same quality as this which for the collector is quite re-assuring.
There are times that I like to eat out and eat well and Easter is always a time that I tend to meet up with friends for a meal, as a person who is regularly in the Chelsea area on a Saturday afternoon for the Football the invitation to join a few friends for dinner at The Big Easy was an easy offer to accept without pause or hesitation, after all this is a place that I have seen from the Bus when going down the Kings Road and a place that I have had a hankering to go to for a while as on the occasions that I have passed the place always seems to be busy whether it's a lunchtime or an evening. So the location of the restaurant is the western end of the famous Kings Road in Chelsea. An area that you can easily see a plethora of supercars simply travelling the road to what can only be perceived as showing off, after dark the whole area changes. The shops shut and the bars and nightclubs come alive and a younger clientele appear dressed to the nines for a night of clubbing to which the area has plenty to choose from. The Big Easy is situated right in the middle of this area, and for a restaurant that bills itself as an American BBQ, Crab and Rib-shack restaurant the size of the place is on the small side. However it is based over two floors and I recommend if you do visit to get a table downstairs as the atmosphere is better than upstairs where I have found its mainly families with young children, also the basement area has a small stage that on a Saturday night you may find that your table is right up against and the speakers are almost sitting on your table! As this is an American diner the theme is kind of a mix of surfing and Americana as the walls are decorated with items that add to the ambiance of the restaurant. The lighting is not the brightest either as it's enough to see what you are eating yet can easily be considered to be on the dark side. That was downstairs and upstairs is brighter by far. This is also where the bar is located and this area can get very busy, overall this is again a small area and the seating always goes quickly, it's interesting to note that the bar is used as a potential overflow area when the tables have reached capacity. Music is piped over all areas, unless a band is one downstairs. We had a table for four booked for 1930, however due to the Football game we attended we didn't arrive till 1945. We were met with stern faces as our table was about to be given away to someone else and we were labelling a non-arrivals! The problem is here that you are only given a two hour window in which to eat and drink and of course if you are late then either your time is reduced or an automatic cancellation is applied. In our experience upon arrival we did state that we had not received any phone call with regards to our pending arrival as the restaurant when booking said they would call to confirm we were still taking place, anyway we were shown to our table downstairs and felt that we had to order quickly as we were now up against the clock. The scope of food is amazing, from a whole rack of Ribs to Burgers and Steaks, I got the impression that the seafood was the signature dish as Shrimps, Lobster and Prawn were prevalent on most of the menu items with Combo's for two and a mix of meat and fish if needed. Not a big fan of Lobster as for me its always the Steak and the taste of the meat in the way its being prepared, needless to say that I wasn't let down by reading that all Steaks have been 35 day matured. From this I knew that the flavour was there and immediately knew that I had made up my mind. I like the food in this place, it serves a Double Cut Steak in various forms such as T-Bone and Rib Eye, and however the size isn't the issue as it's a hefty piece of meat in the region of 700gm which does fill the plate, the thing that gets me is the starting price - £23.90 gets the meat only with garnish. If you want fries or sauce or even a side then that's extra, so what starts of at £23.90 easily goes up to £35 plus drinks! With Jumbo Shrimp to start with, delivery of 5 big Shrimps on a plate with sauce and salad and the Steak as the main course, a few bottle of Budweiser bought my bill for me to a staggering £59 including service! Okay that's a lot of money in this climate at the moment and I wouldn't personally tend to go here regularly, but you do tend to get a decent sized portion with what you order, we were waiting around 15 minutes for starters and then a further 20 minutes for mains to be delivered which I thought was an acceptable time to let the food go down and talk amongst ourselves, as I said earlier we were now up against the clock and because of this we weren't allowed to have dessert at the table and advised that we had to sit at the bar if we wanted our last course, this was when we decided to pay and to leave. I would have thought that a little flexibility could have been applied as we were still in our reduced time slot, so the night ended on a down point. The quality of the food is very good and the Shrimps were tasty and succulent, the Steak cooked to how I like the meat when I ask for it to be well done and it was tasty and yet we felt like we were being rushed which I thought wasn't really fair and meant that we were unable to relax. Service wise the Waitress couldn't do enough for us on our visit and was checking up on us just enough to ensure that the drinks never ran dry and that our food was satisfactory, this was appreciated as some members of our party wanted additional sides and these were ordered and delivered with a quick turnaround without hesitation. I did feel sorry for her when she was speaking to us about our time limit as she wasn't being awkward, but did sympathise with us and was very apologetic in her approach. In the end we left at 2130 and went to a local pub to have a last beer, we didn't feel that we had relaxed as much as we should have and were quite disappointed with this. Okay we were late and we knew we had broken the agreement that is taken out when booking, however the restaurant could have been a little more flexible in their approach and this upset the people I was with as they go here once a month to eat so they weren't too impressed with the whole experience. As we left there was quite a few people outside smoking which made the place look even more busier than when we arrived, there were also black cabs pulling up as well and these were being taken very quickly, in fact over a space of 10 minutes we saw a steady influx of cabs coming and going, so I think its safe to say that it's a hotspot in the Kings Road. I had never seen a queue at the men's lavatories in a Restaurant till now, and was surprised that I was part of the assembled males waiting outside, in fact it was quite embarrassing as given the seating is quite tight on both levels the queue was starting to into the seating area, anyway the lavatories were clean and decorated brightly. With only two Urinals and a cubicle available for a place that could easily seat in the region of 150 people, I was a little surprised by this. Overall I do rate The Big Easy as a place to eat, but I do understand the level of service has dropped in recent months and even though I could probably see this on my visit with other customers I couldn't. The location of the place has disadvantages, these are painfully obvious such as the only way to get here is by bus or taxi as the place is nowhere near a tube or train station with Victoria being the nearest mainline station some 15 minutes away by bus. As most of the turnings off the Kings Road are residential the parking falls under permit holders as the area is made up of residential squares and terraces and therefore the area has been given a substantial amount of double yellow lines that immediately prevents parking in the vicinity. I did enjoy my visit as I enjoyed the quality of the food, however I wouldn't go at a peak time such as a Saturday again as its simply not worth the hassle as the place beyond capacity, I would rather go on a weeknight and experience the happy hour and a nice meal, on the flip side there was a good atmosphere and the band did get the place rocking.
One of the highlights I remember watching in the early eighties was Alec Guinness as George Smiley in the TV adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Having only really seen Guinness in the Star Wars trilogy, this bought home that the actor could do far more than give a kid advice about the Force! The series was full on to say the least and spread over six 30 minutes parts. It was great pleasure that I watched the new film and given the fact that Gary Oldman now plays the role of Smiley then it only raised the bar even further. The plot is simple, inside the organisation referred to as "The Circus" it has been determined that there is a mole, who is a double agent relaying information about British Secret Service to competitors. Smiley is bought back in from retirement to conduct an investigation on a number of people who are suspected of being the mole. What is interesting is how this is done and how the film deals with this is key to the sheer quality of the production. Set in the early eighties this can easily be seen a period piece as their isn't a mobile phone or computer in the film at all and this makes it a little harder for the audience to understand who is the victim and who is the bad guy and because of the lack of technology in the film manages to settle outside the comfort zone completely and turns the story into a rollercoaster rather than a flat road in terms of suspense. Oldman takes the role of Smiley and builds it to make its his own. Appearance wise he is grey haired and dressed in a manner that befits the Civil Service completely. He speaks like he was in private education and yet has manages to provide enough calm to ask someone to go "into the Lions den" for his country without remorse. Oldman's character is also hard done by as he has recently been retired at a moments notice and life has become rather hum-drum. This is nicely shown on screen as there are scenes with Smiley just at home staring at a painting on his wall. You get the impression he is lost in the world, until he is asked to return. From here on there are a number of flashbacks and the clever manner in which these are identified is simply the type of glasses that Smiley wears to determine if the scene is set in the past or the present. The cast of the film are in the majority British and also mainly male, yet Kathy Burke makes a screen presence with Smiley that shows how far she has moved on from Kevin and Perry. Other cast members include Mark strong, Colin Firth, Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch and John Hurt playing the part of Control, Head of The Circus. Also Tom Hardy must get a mention in his quite central role in the story as well. The cast have all been given equal parts in the story and all play a part, mainly because they are all suspects in the game. One thing that I though about when watching was that the film could unfold like an episode of Columbo, yet it doesn't by any means become one man trying to catch out the guest star of the show. This is simply put a story of a man whose good at his job being bought in to root out a problem. With the sheer lack of technology in the film means that a strong foundation of acting is achieved and so the tension and suspense automatically get upped a notch and as the film evolves there are strong emotions shown on screen whether regret, remorse for ones actions or even joy, which is something that is seen in this film on the rarest of occasions. Tension is something that Cumberbatch's character shows when in the archives retrieving a log for Smiley. This is pivotal to the story yet the set design is so detailed that you see endless rows of shelving and folders upon folders, which these days would simply be scanned if necessary. This dates the film somewhat yet the fashions of the day have replicated in quite a tasteful and not over the top manner that shows of the cuts of the suit and the colours such as beige as well as the rather sparse office layouts in well secured buildings in London that the passerby wouldn't even notice from the pavement outside. Its also the colours used that project a rather morbid office as well, not so much pastels as more colours in rooms that were left over from the seventies and have yet to be decorated, one party scene set at Christmas reminded me a lot of my school given the décor and the lighting. In some places it reminded me of a family wedding, yet this was the perfect reflection of a government office at the time the film is set. I'm not saying the plot is easy to follow as it does tackle a number of Taboo subjects at the time the film is set, yet the story and its natural progress manages to drop a smoke screen as the film grows and so the film has to be watched in detail to ensure you are getting the full facts of what is being shown on-screen and with the flashbacks being used to effectively muddle the story you do find that the flashbacks are cleverly used to move the story in whatever direction by what is seen in these to propel or twist the story for whatever needs as necessary. The story does go down to a granular level and it is quite shocking at points by the revelation that has been uncovered or even proposed, each of the suspects are fleshed out and what appears a simple piece of diversion can lead to a Pandora's Box of repercussions and so it can easily be said that this is a thriller of the old-fashioned variety, no car chases, tight dialogue. It does have a running theme of relationships throughout the film and so the repercussions are felt at the family level and we see how they are dealt with. I felt that it was better to see this on Blu-ray just for the colours used in the film, it does come over as a smooth piece of British cinema and this format does deliver the quality of the production and is a sheer joy to watch. Extras wise the tin-box version that I purchased has just the same extras as the normal Blu-ray box design yet the extras do give an overview of George Smiley as well as interviews with the cast and author John LaCarre, writer of the original novel which the film is based on, also included are Deleted Scenes and documentaries about the production of the film. A lot of information is contained in the extras and I would advise watching the film first before the extras as there are spoilers of the highest nature. Overall this is a highly entertaining film, there are no Bond-style gadgets and this is purely a spy thriller in a whodunit style rather than a mad man taking over the world and although the film has that claustrophobic feel and has an intentional dullness to it, it does have a wide scope in where the film goes and how we get there. The novel could easily be a basis for a forerunner to Spooks seeing as its set within MI6 and the premise is quite simple and the setting grounded yet the suspense the film generates is second to none, and while the pace is somewhat held back throughout the pressure builds as we reach the climax of the story. Be aware this is not a Saturday night blockbuster and on this occasion you will need you're your brain engaged to follow this film.
About 10 years ago a show called Firefly premiered in America, the show itself was a mixture of science fiction with a western twist and so this gave the show a unique feel and something that was fresh in its approach, to be honest if I was to say something that this was similar to then it was Blake's 7 with less hardcore science fiction and a lot more adventure and scope. However Firefly wasn't really given the chance to grow and was cancelled after only 10 of its 14 first season episodes, which is a shame as the series had a great premise to start off with. So as you can imagine the show has become something of a cult classic and to fans of Firefly the story was simply dropped without any endings. So a decision to make a film set after Season 1 was a brave decision to take and what has been produced has shown the executives that this was a missed opportunity. At the beginning of the film you are told how the Earth has been literally evacuated and new planets are discovered and terra formed, this leads to a civil war taking place between factions and causes some serious problems for the Alliance who believe they control the new colonies. The plot of the story is simple, the crew of the Firefly, a Serenity class vessel, are paid to perform "jobs" for people who pay them well, in fact they are mainly robberies yet the robberies are for items that are important rather than money as you get the idea that money is irrelevant in this society. And so the tasks the crew of Firefly are given are mainly to obtain tech rather than cash. When the Alliance take an interest in a member of the Firefly crew they find themselves caught in a middle of a game of cat and mouse and soon discover that River Tamm is a threat to the Alliance, however its unknown why and so Mal and the crew are in a precarious position with an Alliance operative called The Operator played by British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor whose job is to bring in River and her Brother. His role is good and Ejiofor delivers his part with charm, yet the early part of the film shows what a dangerous character he is. Leading the band is Mal, played by Castle actor Nathan Fillion, Mal Reynolds is a bit of a mystery man, a soldier who has a mysterious past that keeps haunting him. You are aware that his background is mysterious and with the early part of the film explaining the settings of why a western flavour is introduced you get a feel that the man can take care of himself. Fillion is a good actor, delivers the comedic lines where necessary and also manages to play the hero with gusto. He looks the part and being dressed in civilian clothes yet they have gun holsters being worn. Backing up the rest of the cast are the main stars of the TV show, it's nice to see them come across in this film and so the stories can continue seamlessly from the show. Unlike the early episodes of Star Trek, all actors in the main group play a part in the story, with the inclusion of Summer Glau as River Tamm, she and her brother Simon enter the story as new crew members who joined the ship under mysterious circumstances. The character of River Tamm comes into her own later in the film in quite a stunning, if not violent manner and as the story opens she slowly starts to become the focus, which was a good approach to take as it allows an evolution to take place that could potentially take the story into a second film. However this looks unlikely at this time. The film as a whole does deliver on all levels; this isn't a film that you have to watch all the Firefly episodes to grasp a grip on the story as this is all done throughout the first half of the film, in fact this can literally act as an introduction to the TV show. The scenes are presented in an interesting manner that allows the person watching to be part of the show, what I mean by this is the lighting and the set décor is substantially higher quality that makes it far more believable for someone watching this to believe that the story is set in the year 2517 and is off Earth. Obviously with a western flavour the locations are set in the desert and have that old style cowboy flavour to them as they are travellers and explorers using the opportunity to start a new life. This is shown to quite some extent in the film with sets that resemble something out of a John Wayne film, yet the attention to detail is always high. The film allows the constraints of a 45 minutes TV show to be eliminated completely as the film is just a minute shy of two hours and this is a good adventure film that allows the writers to expand the Firefly universe. With the film being watched in Blu-ray, the colours are rich and vibrant; this is especially evident in the scenes set outside a planets atmosphere in space as the star fields are dark and rich in detail with the vast planet being seen in the background giving the depth and luminosity to make the scene believable which is continued throughout the film and at no time drops in quality. Extras wise there has been no expense spared to bring the effort and work done to produce this film. A vast plethora of documentaries covering the making from script to screen are an utter delight to watch, as well as multiple commentaries and deleted scenes that in places do tend to show the frustrations of the original show being cancelled. A nice touch is the picture in picture service that gives you parallel breakdowns of the film whilst watching further information on that particular part in another window... fantastic stuff! Overall this is a good film, this isn't the nice cleaney clean film that delivers a moral to the younger viewers, simply put that as the film evolves it does have a lot of blood and gore is seen on screen. In fact the combat scenes are quite hard hitting and the characters have to be balanced out and so there is a price to be paid as the film approaches the end, and seeing that the characters suffer by different means is actually quite refreshing rather than seeing them survive "against the odds" by the inclusion of luck or the reset button being pressed. Not here as this gritty and rough by all means possible. No hand held laser guns, all use bullets, where as the spaceships have lasers, which are kept apart quite nicely. If you watch this film then I am sure like me you will be hooked on the show, if only for curiosity and the stupid decision to cancel what could have been something epic.
The end of the world is a premise that has been used over the years in cinema to good effect, whether it's used as a more cerebral approach or a more of action orientated film. If you have seen the films that are the original source material for the recent fashion of re-makes you may get the impression that the remakes aren't actually worth doing based on the grounds the original is better, with I Am Legend the remake rules have been rolled out in force. This being the third remake of the story, probably the best known version is the Charlton Heston film called The Omega Man released in 1971, a film that is considered to be a cult classic for its style and characters. However the latest version takes the same premise of a viral disease being let loose yet does the approach in a totally different and modern style reflecting a more brutal fashon of story telling. Will Smith plays the main character of Robert Neville, a Military man who as we discover is the last human in New York City, Neville's back story is explained in flashbacks showing the mass evacuation and the loss of his family in a helicopter accident. Neville remains in the city and attempts to find a cure for the disease that initially was a cure for cancer, but evolved into a viral strain that turns humans into nocturnal predators. Smith has no one to talk to except his German Shepherd that he uses as a friend as well as security. You see the man go through a lot of changes in an attempt to bring some normality in life, after all the worlds population has decreased by 90% and so loneliness is the only thing that Neville has. This is shown to quite dramatic effect when he is walking around the city hunting for food, vast stretches of New York lie empty and barren with the city caught in some horrific snapshot of emptiness. These shots are chilling in nature when they are shown on screen. Smith plays the part well, thankfully the approach taken is serious in nature and so we have a more mature Smith playing the main character of a Military scientist attempting to bring an end to this apocalyptic event. He is a man on the edge and so the majority of his dialogue is either aimed at his dog or at immobile objects that Neville has set up in shops to try and raise the levels of his day. This alone sets the bar and shows the audience just how far down the road the man has travelled. Every day Neville attempts to try and contact the outside world by means of Radio, you see a man desperate for some kind of response. The films take a suspenseful turn when one of the many traps that Neville has across the city successfully captures one of the changed humans and so Neville takes it back to his lab, this in turn brings him face to face with the beasts that he is trying to save. The film is clever in how it tells the story, the film opens with a number of sporadic flashbacks and you see how the world has been changed, interestingly the scenes in the flashbacks are powerful statements that show panic, chaos and desperation with what is happening. Whilst the scenes set in the present are empty and lonely, it is quite a chilling comparison that certainly delivers a message. I was quite shocked at the lengths that the US Military go to secure the city as a quarantined area, by destroying all bridges and paths that can be used as a way out and seeing as the film was set just a few years after 9/11 thought that this would still be fresh in peoples minds, in fact the scenes of chaos and destruction did just that for me and it was the first thing bought to my mind. This isn't a bad film at all, but given the subject has been done time and again before the film is somewhat diluted before it is even seen, obviously if you haven't seen any of the predecessors for this film then this film will deliver a high amount of entertainment and suspense that is perfect Saturday night viewing. However, if like me you have seen the films before then the films pace is something that isn't necessarily consistent till last third and even though the first third is basically setting the foundation for the story, the film itself does tend to grow and evolve with what it has to offer and by the end you'll see that it is something better than the usual Will Smith offering that Smith knowing he is the main man in the film tends to cocky and quite ignorant in nature, it is Smith that holds the film and for the better part makes the film his own and carries it of well, after all it's a "one man and his dog" show at the beginning. One thing I did notice was that there is still a lot of product placement in this post apocalyptic world and for me I found this quite distracting in nature as it just so happens that he drives a well known brand of car or drinks a premier beer! The special effects in the film are another aspect that is surprising and well done; these are seen throughout and used to the right capacity and to the right tone. The explosions are big and the sound is loud, which is how it should be with regards to the story, after all the film has the whole of New York to play with and the story doesn't necessarily go out the boundaries at all and even though the film is set in a citywide landscape the loneliness does make the film quite claustrophobic in nature. The use of music is done in the right places and so the vast emptiness is explored in virtual silence which on its own is powerful to behold on screen. As this is a Smith film and the level of production is high as expected with his films, the extras on the Blu-ray is expected to reflect that fact. Sadly the expectations I had were not met and the extras will leave you saying is that all that they could deliver from a film such as this? Probably the best thing on here is the Alternative Ending to the film which is more upbeat and understanding than the one in the film, an ending that could have had possibilities and something that should have been an option rather than the downbeat ending that I was left feeling quite numb about. The Alternate Ending can also be played as an option and it is watching the film with this to grasp the difference. Also included in the package is the production of the film and the efforts that Smith went to obtain the ripped physique he shows off with pride. But the documentary that I watched called The Science of I Am Legend goes through and matched the science of the film with reality; if it doesn't confuse you then you must have a PHD! The picture is crisp as you would expect from Blu-ray and the colours are rich and dark, even the more pastel colours in the film are presented very clearly. If you've read the books or seen the other films then you'll know the ending straight away and probably feel this is a cop out, however putting that aside then the film is entertaining and presented in a slightly different manner to some recent action films that seem to be rather thin on plot and story. It starts high and by the end seems to run out of steam where the use of the suspense has been overused.
It's hard to believe that this film was released back in 1994, okay it's been on the TV a multitude of times and edited in parts to be shown on TV earlier than the 9pm watershed, but the problem is that this film is addictive to watch and as you watch it you seem to become immersed in the story itself. Speed is a high octane old fashioned 20th century film that I still like to watch, the reason is simple. It's just fun, it tells the story of a Los Angeles cop, Jack Travers, who as part of the LA Bomb Squad, thwarting the plans of a bomber in a down town skyscraper, with the help of his partner Harry Temple free the hostages from a lift just before the bomb explodes and the lift plummets to the ground. Realising that the bomber is still in the building, Jack and Harry decide to give chase, in a stand-off situation with Harry having a gun at his head, Jack decides to even the playing field and shoots his colleague in the leg, the bomber appears to commit suicide. The next day as Jack goes to work a bus explodes just outside a coffee shop, nearby a phone rings and Jack answers it, it's the bomber and this time Jack becomes the hunted rather than the hunter as he is told that another bus will explode if his demands aren't met, the catch being if the bus falls under 50mph in speed then the bomb will go off. I did notice that the majority of the cast went on to bigger things after this film, for example Keanu Reeves plays Jack Travers. This for me was a revelation seeing him as the lead hero, okay so he had made Point Break before this one, but the character is totally different to his previous roles, cropped hairstyle, intelligent and experienced in his job. A complete flipside to Bill and Ted and his role in Speed would act as a foundation to his role he played The Matrix trilogy. At the start of the film he brash and cocky and once he has been "given" the task of the runner and problem solver the character tends to grow up quite quickly. Co-starring with Reeves in the film is Sandra Bullock, her role as Annie was carried over into the sequel which was good but as is always the case that the sequel doesn't quite match up to the original. Her part is more comedy relief and the introduction of her character is something that the film manages to build very quickly as her personality and demeanour is given to the audience on a plate right from her first shot. This was Bullock's big break and in the film she is the one who deserves to get this for her part. Also it's plainly obvious that she becomes the love interest. Thirdly we have the bomber himself played by veteran actor Dennis Hopper who acts his socks off throughout the scenes he is in; for the most part he is the protagonist in charge of the proceedings, finely homed and requires applying quite a bit of micro-management to get what he wants. Jeff Daniels plays Harry, Jacks colleague and although he is injured in the first part of the film he does come back into it as the partner that watches Jack's back and so the pair are split up. His reaction when Jack shoots him in the leg is priceless and although this doesn't set the tone at that point, you do get the impression the two are close in terms of their working relationship. The premise of the film is fresh and is extremely exciting to watch being played out, the emphasis is on mind games and the problems occur when either Jack or the bomber are trying to get the better of each other as the film plays out, this really does give the story a psychological edge that gives the film as a whole more dimension and basically makes the film interesting instead of one character being the single point throughout the film. The main character is not the only story in the film and the bus that the bomb is on plays a vital part in the plot itself as the claustrophobic area of the bus is used to some extent to convey the tension and also the emotions that the passengers are going through. With the bus being the point of focus for at least half the film the actions sequences are top notch and this includes the effort in trying to keep the bus at the required speed and also attempts to free the hostages, these are done in a clever manner which although diversionary in manner is something that the viewer watching will be sitting on the edge of their seat. The tension and suspense that is built up as the film steadily evolves is something that a lot of film makers could easily use as a reference to use and see as an example as to how an action thriller should be made. The story tends to take in a lot of Los Angeles and thankfully the action isn't as simple as the bus being driven around the same areas with different camera angles used, in fact the bus goes on motorways, fly overs and ends up at the airport, as the theme throughout seems to be movement and transportation. The climax of the story not only seals this but resolves a lot of issues in spectacular fashion and again shows what can be done if the thought processes are aligned. For me watching the film, it has to be a number of things that simply just bond to make this film something special to watch. One of these is the direction - Jan De Bont was a well-known cinematographer before Speed and here he takes the helm as director. I like what he has done; a lot of the shots are simple but complimented with angular shots that show the audience the entire situation, even managing to capture shots from under a bus or beneath a lift, the music by Mark Macina delivers a repetitive beat that is used at the right points and in the right places, this is effectively Jack's theme and is used throughout in the right places, I noted it was interesting that the music wasn't used in some scenes at all and this tends to elevate the scene even more and give it more strength. Lastly the opening titles are shown from inside the lift shaft where Harry and Jack start the adventure. Overlaid with a powerful opening score the film immediately gets the heart beating as this tell the viewer that this is going to be a rollercoaster ride. Okay this is a Blu-ray release and so the picture quality and definition are of the highest quality possible, sound wise the noise is rather chaotic, especially in the gunfights where I was ducking for cover as bullets seemed to be flying around the room with high intensity such was the quality of the soundtrack, surprisingly I had heard things that I hadn't done before like background conversation in the brief coffee shop scenes that bough the film alive. Documentaries on this release are the same as the VHS! This was made of a Billy Idol music video and a documentary about the making of the film, however additionally there are more extras that you would expect to have on the second disc including a breakdown of stunts performed in the film, and interviews with the cast and director that give some idea as to why certain decisions were made. With the obligatory deleted scenes and also a photo gallery included I was impressed and spent over an hour going through these and have yet to play the commentary as well. Overall this is a good film and a Blu-ray package that is worth buying, not only does the film work on many levels, with a good mix of action, suspense and a sprinkling of comedy as well. The film can easily be considered to be an edge of the seat thriller and definitely a film that breaks the mould, bottom line is that as soon as the titles finish then it goes up a gear and never really stops till the end titles have elapsed. A sure fire Saturday night winner! Just a shame the sequel that Reeves didn't want to be involved wasn't the same.
And so another reboot and another franchise is attempted to be revived with a new cast playing the same characters. With the last X Men movie being about the origins of Wolverine the franchise as it has evolved had really reached as far as it can without a drastic turn being taken to revitalise the stories and broaden the scope of the characters in the story. X Men: First Class simply tells the story of how the X Men were formed and the issues they come up against. It's never easy to jump start a franchise again and in this film the initiative of doing away with everything in the previous films and restarting fresh has been taken, literally by the bucket load. Whereas Wolverine was obviously the main focus in the previous four films, here it is slightly different as the main characters are a partnership, Charles Xavier and Eric Lensherr, both men have spectacular powers. Xavier is a telepath and Lensherr has the ability to control metal. When both men are approached and recruited into the CIA by one Moira MacTaggert . Xavier and Lensherr become recruiters themselves and seek out other mutants. Unbeknown to the CIA, both men have a darker desire and use this recruitment for their own purposes. The film covers multiple decades from World War II to the 1960's and so the theme throughout is domination and the film feeds off various parts of history as it goes along, beginning in the German camps in the War with a recreation of the first scene from the first X Men film to introduce Lensherr to the audience and an introductory scene to introduce Xavier, both are children in the scenes and what happens to them changes the way they are and shapes their personality. Of course to do this the film had to have the right actors. Playing a walking Charles Xavier is James McAvoy, he is young, floppy haired genius from Oxford. He looks the part and has that younger appeal that with a bit of concentration the viewer can see the actor aging and turning into Patrick Stewart over time. He is good in the role as the character is trying to keep things together throughout the film. Although one thing you do notice is that his lips seem to be redder than average for a man of his age. Michael Fassbender plays Eric Lensherr. He has the plan for revenge against Sebastian Shaw, the man who killed his parents in the concentration camp, he is "on full thrusters" bent in revenge and Fassbender's is shown using his powers to make those pay. I like the actor in this role and I can see why he is being mentioned for other roles as well. He has the screen presence as such that is the complete opposite to McAvoy and has more gravitas as well, meaning in some respects he has the better part. Of course as this is an origin story, the ability to introduce new characters is again grabbed and here we have the likes of Beast, although seen in X-Men The Last Stand, the character here is shown in his human appearance, played by About A Boy star Nicholas Holt, who is now grown up. In fact other than Xavier and Lensherr the cast of the film are quite young, and I suspect that this is a ploy to ensure more films can be made before they reach the age where they are unbelievable in the part. One actor who I was surprised was in the film is Kevin Bacon, playing Sebastian Shaw, he is obviously and easily identified as the villain very early in the film and throughout has the presence of a Bond villain in the style and class that he projects. He is the protagonist of the story and is a common enemy to the Xavier and Lensherr who are at the early stages in the film at a total loss to gather who they are up against and what they must do to eliminate the problems, and it is only in an attack that the battle lines are drawn and the cracks in a friendship begin to appear and this leads into the second half of the film. The film is set in the Cold War, the early 1960's when the politics and the scare tactics were at the peak culminating in the Cuban Missile Crisis, the film uses this in the plot and does so with style. That's not giving anything away as these are heavily shown in the trailer and the Take That video for their single Love Love. Throughout the film there is a slight nostalgic side to it as the vibe has that 60's feel to it and so the cut of the clothes, the style, hairstyles, cars and technology is represented to project that era and it works well. Even Shaw's lair has that Bond feel to it. The early scenes in the Hellfire Club are something to remember as a bevy of beauties in lingerie make a remarkable entrance to the club, which was surprising to see. The film isn't as heavy on special effects as I thought it would be, although the level of effects in the film can be described as subtle as the film reaches its climax the quality can be described as amazing to say the least, seeing sub surface vehicles being literally thrown around and a battle scenario coming into play escalates the films calibre higher than I expected given the fact that this is the fifth film in the series and because of that the film itself is far better than I expected it to be in the first place and would be quite happy to disregard the previous films in the series. You could easily say that this has had the "Star Trek" treatment given to it and the formula and script structure is very similar to the 2009 film itself as the two main characters become the focal point of the film and effectively this is our entry into their journey. There are a number of action sequences that do hold the suspense and throughout you see the sub-plots starting to come together as the film evolves and these are done extremely well as the various stories unfold and the mysteries are uncovered. However you cannot help but feel that without the rather embarrassing director and producer Bryan Singer having the final say that the film should have been better, as far as I am concerned this film is far better and far livelier than any of the X-Men films he has been involved in given that this has captured the tone of an era precisely and delivers a decent story. I got the film as a part of a Triple Pack, this means that the Blu-ray version comes with the DVD and Digital version. I am only interested in the Blu-ray version and have to say that the picture quality is sharp to the finest detail; in turn this means the sound is crisp and well balanced. Extras wise the film has a vast multitude of documentaries that cover the production and also the aesthetic look of the film. It is interesting to see the cast talking without their screen voices and so McAvoy talking in his parental Scottish accent is quite strange to hear regardless, especially if you aren't aware of his accent in the first place. Probably the best thing to watch are the deleted scenes, there are 13 altogether that as you watch them in order can tell that they weren't deemed to be anywhere but the cutting room floor. With the inclusion of the BD-Live that is an extra included on most Blu-ray discs you are able to connect to the Internet for additional extras, however I refuse to connect my player up on the grounds that I would break my usage allowance if I did and so I cannot comment on these at all. If you're a fan of the comics or the previous films you know straight away who turns into who and so on and so the end scenes may not be a surprise, however for those who are introducing themselves for the first time to the mutant world of X-Men then you find that this is a very good origin story with a good script and delivers a higher than expected level of entertainment. Marvel win again!
Green Lantern is a character that is published by DC Comics and is a member of the Justice League of America. The film that has recently been released is part of the ever growing trend that both Marvel and DC seem to be competing against each other with at the moment. This is a film that has been a long time in the making, since the less than expected returns of Superman Returns, DC has been somewhat cautious about releasing superhero films, with the Batman films being the exception to the rule given the high standard of the production. Green Lantern is an origin story that tells the tale of Hal Jordan becoming a super hero and is very close to the source material that the film is based on. I was fascinated that Ryan Reynolds was given the lead in the film, he plays test pilot Hal Jordan, a brash and cocky pilot that knows no limits or fear in how to get a good result for himself rather than be a team player. This is shown in the film mainly in the early part of the film when the aerial dogfight scenes show Jordan make the sacrifice of his wingman to prove a point against two unmanned drones that are being tested by the company that Jordan works for called Ferris Industries. When Jordan is grabbed by a strange green energy and transported to a crash site, it is here that he inherits a green ring from an alien called Abin Sur, a Green Lantern who has just won a battle in space against a force called Parallax. He is dying and the last thing he has to do is pass the ring onto a person who can be his replacement in the Green Lantern Corp. The story proceeds further with Parallax growing inside Hector Hammond as he was the person who performed the autopsy on Abin Sur and became infected. Ryan Reynolds plays Hal Jordan and for the most part plays the part well, he looks good in the costume and thankfully plays the role as straight rather than the comedy that it could have been done as, he has to make a decision with the situation that he is in and this is a heavy part of the story. Co-starring with Reynolds is a strong cast including Blake Lively playing the strong character of Carol Ferris, she is the owner of Ferris Industries. Although she is the love interest in the film it isn't as straight forward as that and while watching the film you tend to see that the characters don't actually stand out at all which given the cast is actually a shame. Peter Sarsgaard plays Hector Hammond who has a friendship with Jordan and Ferris which started at school. Hammond's father is played by Tim Robbins and the character of his son is deemed to be the failure as he is continuously compared to the successful Jordan and Ferris. This is the catalyst for Hammond's further demise as the film goes on. You also get to see the Green Lantern Corp in full force, as Jordan has been recruited and so has to be trained. In these scenes Jordan meets Sinestro, who is a character that is totally underused in the film. Played by British actor Mark Strong, Sinestro is a character that is pure military in nature and it is his decisions that the Guardians of Oa who oversee the Corp, agree to. He doesn't like Jordan at all at first as Jordan has to earn the trust of the entire Corp. The film has a number of issues, firstly the film is slow in peace and although the story is good overall, the film takes too many deviations and so the focus is lost. There are a number of scenes that are important in the film such as the opening scenes with Jordan and his Father at the airfield, however the issues are with pacing and the film doesn't move as smoothly as it should and comes across as more soap opera than anything else. Reynolds should feel that he has been let down by the script as it is quite boring in nature and generally feels flat throughout, it just lacks the dimensional feel that Iron Man or even the original Superman film had. The scenes that involve Green Lantern could have been mega, but due to a combination of poor scripting and special effects that look rather cheap which I think is because they are in a light green colour gives the film a rather disappointing feel to it considering the power that has been started the ring that Jordan has been given actually has. Extras wise there is a plethora of feasts to watch that cover the production of the film that shows the CGI based costume being created and the featurettes detailing how aspects of the film had to be included and why some were altered and also the legacy of Green Lantern. In all there are a good dozen to watch and in total last well over 90 minutes. Visually the Blu-ray version is crisp and as you would expect from the format and every scene is presented in glorious high definition as is the sound, but the soundtrack seems to have been drowned out or not used in the right places. The Extended Cut of the film is included with an extra 14 minutes and I think this is the reason as to why the film was bogged down, however the original release was what I watched originally and you can see my opinion from previous paragraphs. Overall, it's an okay film but it could have been better as it does look more like a TV movie than a cinema epic. I find it hard to believe that director Martin Campbell has delivered a film like this given his previous successes such as Goldeneye and Zorro. However the main problem here is the script, however it does tend to look better on a second screening and so maybe the film will improve in time.. I hope so as the character deserves more than this given the cast and the budget that has been spent making this film. I hope there is a sequel as it is needed to ensure the name of Green Lantern isn't damaged to the extent that it'll be another 10 years before another project is attempted.
When two major Hollywood studios such as Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox work together to make a film, then you know it is something that is worth watching. The Towering Inferno was a film released in 1974, which took the fashion of disaster movie to new heights in terms of action adventure movies. This became the hallmark of which further films of the genre were based with the now all too familiar multiple sub-plots coming together to give a bigger picture of the story. Bigger is a key word with this film as well as the cast that have been bought together contain a number of names that previously haven't worked together before, a good example is Paul Newman and Steve McQueen who play the Architect and the Fire Chief respectively. The story begins with Architect Doug Roberts being flown to The Glass Tower, a 137 floor structure that he designed and has been built in San Francisco. The first few minutes and the opening scenes give the viewer the sheer size of the building compared to the remainder of the skyline, upon landing he is met by the builder of The Glass Tower, James Duncan played by William Holden, together they travel down to Duncan's offices on the 85th floor in preparation for the opening dedication ceremony that distinguished guests will be attending at the top of the Tower. Elsewhere in the building a power overload has caused a spark and in turn has caused a pile of rags to catch fire, it's discovered by Roberts that this is due to sub-standard wiring ... and as the story unfolds we discover the same thing is happening in the whole building with disastrous consequences for the 300 people trapped on the 137th floor. The cast are unique for a film of this size, Steve McQueen taking the lead from Paul Newman with some ingenious negotiations that involved Newman's name being slightly higher in the credits but in second place to McQueen. It is these two who play tag with the story and even though the pair has exactly the same number of lines, it is McQueen who steals the film from Newman and takes the hero role away. The cast are a great mix; Robert Wagner, Richard Chamberlain, Faye Dunaway, William Holden and Robert Vaughan make their presence known on screen as does OJ Simpson in one of his early roles; however he does come over slightly wooden in parts of the film. That's not to say that the film is all about the dialogue as it isn't by any means at all, there are a number of sequences that involve Helicopters and Fire Brigade that are of a high calibre with regards to telling the story, this isn't a film where a good guy overcomes the bad guy at all, the villain here is the fire that has been started due to someone thinking cost cutting is a good idea and the bottom line is simply trying to survive the odds rather and the ultimate conclusion with how the obstacles are tackled are done very well for the time this film was made. As fire is the main theme running through the film, the scenes in which you see vast floors alight give the story an added dimension, all scenes that involve the flames and the heat look menacing and are frightening to say the least, I remember watching this film as a child and remember vividly that I was frightened out of my life when a lift opened and a person on fire walked out of it. At the time this was horrific for me to see, but as a grown up I can see the facial mask and understand the stunt and how it was done. But this is a film where certain characters will be sacrificed accordingly for the parts of the story where the characters pay a price for incompetence and seeing sets that 30 minutes before were immaculate and fresh go up in flames with Firemen attempting to rescue children seriously grabs your attention. The guilt is also dealt with as well, in an exchange of dialogue between Paul Newman and William Holden towards the end of the film, you see the two men discussing what has happened and how they played a part in the evening proceeding which in reality is the epilogue to the story itself, this gives some balance to the story and puts the blame on someone which I thought was refreshing as usually a disaster movie is based on a natural disaster like an earthquake or tornado, where here its different and comes down to human error. A building that is 137 floors in height gives the story a lot of scope to be set and so the film is not only based on the inside in various staircases and rooms but also on the outside where the external viewing lifts take people from ground level direct to the Promenade where the opening party is being held. The viewing lift gives the producers an opportunity to utilise an exciting sequence where 12 passengers can get to ground level, of course it doesn't go to plan and so McQueen as the Fire Chief is sent in to rescue the passengers with the help of a US Navy helicopter and some cutting gear, this is an intense scene on its own as the action takes place on the 110th floor. This is an Irwin Allen production and he has spared no expense to get this film created as the film is big in every way and the length of the film represents the epic sized proportions of the story, running at a total of 165 minutes in length the film holds the audience on the edge of their seats in every single way possible. The film was released well before the invention of computer created graphics and everything such as the explosions and the stunts have been done manually... so to speak. Although the template for The Towering Inferno was to be used again and again in most disaster movies from here on, so this gives a far more realistic picture of the incident rather than say a recent disaster movie such as 2012. The film has been released on DVD quite a lot over the years in various collections and runs and is simply inferior to the DVD version in every single way, get a Blu-ray copy as it is a real treat to watch given the better quality of the transfer giving a superior picture and the plethora of extras as well that, the quality of the transfer for a film that is nearly 40 years old is good but could have been better and isn't really consistent throughout with colours dropping in quality and dirt visible on screen, the black sky against the golden colour of the tower makes the shot look all the more impressive but the DVD copy isn't as sharp as it should be even on a player that can upscale the picture which having watched this on two machines certainly highlighted the issues even further, also the DVD copy is simply a bare bones disc without any extras at all which I consider to be quite offensive in some ways given the scope of the production. Just dont buy the DVD release. Overall I absolutely love this film and the rollercoaster ride of suspense it gives the viewer, however seeing it on DVD made me return it to HMV and buy the Blu-ray version instead to enjoy it again from a whole new perspective that really got me hooked. It isn't a film where you automatically assume that all the main cast will survive, they don't and the efforts that are done to steer the audience in one direction while the story unexpectedly veers off in another is simply great to watch as you are taken on a journey from start to finish that takes place over a single night. There is a fair amount of grief in the last few minutes and McQueen gets the last word, there is a message to be savoured that a building that is 137 floors high cannot be managed successfully should a fire break out and with 9/11 this was proved true to some extent as this is the closest that Hollywood has come to a real life disaster before its happened. With buildings like The Shard in London being built it does make you think about where this is leading. Respect has been paid to the services that are shown throughout the film and a dedication is shown at the beginning.
So the time of year is slowly approaching that gives us all the opportunity to start with a clean slate and regain our fitness, or in my case increase the levels I have strained to get to over the last year. Losing a little weight has made a difference to me in terms of a leisure perspective and so the exercises that I do down the gym are far more varied than before. For example for increasing my stamina I tend to go for as long as I can on the cross-trainer. At present I am up to 19 minutes in one hit and to do that I need the occasional slurp of fluids. I back off from using the communal water fountain on the grounds of hygiene and so tend to take my own supply with me, which led me to buy a Nike water bottle. I like the design of this bottle as it has grooved grips made from soft rubber on both sides that allow a tight grip and so therefore eliminates the slippage element when using this when exercising. The bottle is made from plastic and as such the design is flexible enough for it to be squeezed. On the rare occasions that I do take bottled water with me I tend to choose the sports cap that means the central part of the cap itself has to be raised from the locked down position to allow the bottle to be squeezed to drop fluids into your mouth. This is catered for in the bottle anyway as the bottle has a sports cap as standard. This is much better than the flip lid design and a lot less painful for your lips and gums as well. Filling up is easy as the sports lid simply screws on and off so it goes straight under the tap, the lid itself fixes extremely tightly in place, so not allowing the liquid inside to drip out. The bottle isn't a bad size at all to use and allows storage of 600ml, okay that doesn't seem that much at all, but this is larger than a standard Evian bottle and enough to keep going at least till the end of a work out. The size is also perfect for fitting into a cage on a bike, I tend to have a couple of these attached to the bike frame itself on a ride. Again the use of this is simple as the "squeeziness" factor means that there is no mucking about at all and it's a simple case of picking it up and using straight away without the need to pull over and stop which doesn't impact performance at all. I was thinking if the bottle size was increased to 1000ml in size, that would totally ruin the whole thing and means the usefulness of the object is less by the terms that it will heavier and larger in size and therefore it wouldn't be a viable object to have as a training accessory. I have to admit that it's hard writing this review as I am speaking about a bottle, it works in the terms that you fill it up and empty it then do that again. On that side it delivers, the seals are tight and I have had mine for just over three months and its still good condition, even though it has acquired some scratch marks over time. My previous bottles were also Nike as well and they lasted ages till I dropped it on concrete and the bottle itself cracked, however I have found this to be a one off situation as the bottle are pretty resilient to damage and can take stress pretty well. I admit I do train heavy and sometimes I don't feel I deliver I tend to throw the bottle either at a wall or floor, this was where I broke the bottle in the first place, but given the design changes of the design with the flexibility and changes over the course of the evolution of the design means the bottles tend to last longer and when unwanted the bottle can easily be re-cycled. They are safe to place in a dishwasher and I have found that they do need to be rinsed thoroughly as the taste of fairy liquid doesn't really agree with me and so highly recommend they are cleaned thoroughly. As they are so cheap they can be replaced quite easily and they do come in a range of colours as well. If you pay over £5 for this then you are simply paying for the Nike symbol, I paid £2.49 at Sports Direct and was very happy with what I purchased.
I've always said that things in the comic world happen for a reason and a Batman graphic novel called The Killing Joke had an immediate impact to DC and the characters linked to it. Originally released in 1988 to an audience that were still at the early stages of accepting graphic novels, the book itself has been re-printed a number of times to the extent that deluxe hardback printings of the book have been released, each printing showing the writing and artistic qualities of those involved. The plot of the story is simple, The Joker wants to see what it would take for a man to simply snap, or in his word "to have a bad day". The Joker is a character that has no boundaries and so you know straight away from the cover that the character is going to go full out to reach his achievements and this is the foundation of the story. A dark, twisted and quite disturbing tale that simply focuses around Batman and The Joker in their on-going struggle, by the end you do see that the two are the perfect match for each other and while the book itself has a number of stories that acts as sub-plots that are told in terms of flashbacks you get to see how different forms of madness have been dealt with by both men and how Batman keeps it under wraps while Joker decides to use this as a tool for his evil trade. The story that is set in the present is quite short in terms of pages, yet the added value here is the inclusion into the story of flashbacks to see The Joker in his previous life. Up until Tim Burton's 1989 film, you never really knew much about the green haired, chalk skinned villain except that he was the arch nemesis of Batman who like Superman's Lex Luthor kept making an appearance to be thwarted, well here it's a little difference as you witness how Joker became The Joker and the events leading up to the unnamed character falling into highly toxic chemicals. The background is fleshed out like never before as we find out that Joker had a pregnant wife, was living on the poverty line and was mentally on the edge. Desperate to protect his family he decides to assist in a crime that goes horribly wrong when he is set up as the target rather than the accomplice and so The Joker is born. It doesn't mean that Batman takes a back seat at all as the story heavily involves him in the rescue of Commissioner Jim Gordon who is being used by Joker as a lab rat to induce a state of madness upon him, the catalyst being Gordon's daughter, Barbara, who The Joker deliberately makes a target of to try and force Gordon over the edge. The story is dark and at times gory and bizarre as you get a ticket to go inside Joker's head, the scenes that can only be described as torture are graphic in nature, yet don't necessarily cross the line to become unnecessarily shocking in nature that the reader is repulsed. As you can imagine this is not the Adam West bright coloured Batman from the sixties, this is more of a psycho thriller and certainly not suitable for the younger reader at all given its approach and use of violence that gets a strong message projected to the reader. The artwork has to be seen in this book, the colouring throughout reflects the sombre and dangerous theme throughout the story; dialogue is sharp and doesn't follow a standard B-Movie script at all. The best way to describe it would be that there is enough going on to capture the reader from cover to cover to tell a story. Batman looks like Batman should do, big, muscled and has that presence that you know straight away that if you come face to face with that you are not only under-skilled but also in a lot of trouble. Quite correctly The Joker is the complete opposite, bright, colourful, and energetic and totally off the radar in terms of personality. His appearance is spot on with dark green hair and chalk white skin wearing the obligatory garish coloured suit, the one thing that I always notice is his stance and the manner in which he holds himself at an angle and is never really full upright, this is evident late in the story when he is face to face with Batman. The definition of other characters in the story has been done very well, Gordon being held against his will in a cage has a shocking impact as he is being treated like an animal and is stark naked as part of The Joker's torture methods. The story culminates in a disused fairground and this is the perfect setting for the climax. There are a few nice touches that have been added, on the first encounter when Batman is at the chemical plant you see Batman in the original 1930's uniform that fits in with the cover of Detective Comics when Batman made his first appearance. This gives the flashbacks depth and gives the story a wider scope than before and eliminates any boredom as well as it catches the audience's eye when the book is being read, also the Batmobile is an early model rather than a high performance model that was being used at the time in the comics when the book was released. I like the fact that these nods to nostalgia have been added as it does pay respect to previous renditions. The brief scenes set in the Batcave are good and give interaction between an unmasked Bruce Wayne and Alfred, Wayne's long term Butler, assisting with the investigation. Tragedy is a key word in the story and the fact is that the two main characters in the story have had that by the bucket load, this story adds Jim Gordon to that list as the experience he goes through can only be described as traumatic. In fact without spoiling the details this is something that the weekly writers picked up on and through the weekly publications the Batman stories were defined further to take into account what happened in this book. One good example is Barbara Gordon's character of Oracle in the Birds Of Prey comics and her inclusion in Justice League as a non-costumed character who makes up the minority of disabled characters in the DC Universe. This is truly adult reading and the fact this is aimed at the more mature audience means the story can be much darker than normal, in fact this is a 15 certificated publication. Not only because of the violence but also because of the swearing as well that is used in the correct places and gives a dose of reality that removes itself from the "nicey nice" approach that has literally been thrown out of the window. This is one book that the collector should have in their collection and one that repercussions are still being felt today, although the recent reboot of all DC titles has eradicated this from certain areas. It delivers everything that the reader would want to see in a Batman comic as this is about one man's path to find an answer that he will strive to find at any cost. Overall this is what I want to see in a graphic novel and can see after reading this a number of times that the story of this calibre has never been surpassed at all with a story like this that releases a plethora of taboo's in the name of entertainment.
Marvel continue to bring out more of their key characters and transfer them from paper top the big screen, in fact with Captain America this is the fifth film to be released. The original was a movie serial, two TV films in the late 1970's and a rather sun-standard yet strangely cult film in the 90's, needless to say that most failed in what they were trying to achieve. So when it was announced that a new version of Captain America was going to be made it was with interpretation and serious appetite whetting that I awaited the film at the cinema. To tell a story like Captain America, the production has to be to a high quality and good production. Here is no exception with a film that has a good strong cast as well as utilising a high calibre of special effects in quite a subtle manner the film is better than I initially expected. It tells the story of Stephen Rogers, a man who can only be described as a short and quite weedy man. He wants to join the Army and due to a long list of conditions such as Asthma and high blood pressure is refused point blank, all he wants to do is serve his country, and this is in the midst of World War II. So the film has its setting and to be honest as a period piece it works really well and the attention to detail is immaculate. When Rogers gets his opportunity to enlist, he takes it and discovers that he has been "volunteered" for a top secret project, one that will make him a super-soldier to fight against the Nazi's. Having seen Chris Evans in the Fantastic Four, I was always dubious that the actor couldn't pull off the more serious and far darker role of a action hero who isn't all mouth such as Johnnie Storm, in that film he was more irritating then anything else. Here he plays a kind of dual role, the Stephen Rogers before the change when the Super-Soldier serum is injected into his body and the new Steve Rogers after the procedure where the man is made into a lean, muscular fighting machine. Evans plays the character with a lot of gusto and energy, yet he is never over the top and to be honest its nice to see him get away from some of his previous roles in a part that is played in a more serious manner and less comedic. It's also safe to say that his appearance alters and okay it is by means of CGI that we see the weakling, but when we see the character transformed, is when the film really comes alive. As with any hero, there is always a nemesis and in this case the writers have stayed loyal to source and chosen the Red Skull. Hugo Weaving from The Matrix plays the Red Skull and we do get to see a lot of background to the character and who he is and how he came to get the position of head of the Hydra organisation. Weaving speaking in a German accent portrays the character with what I call 1930's serial villainy. It works and it works well as the character comes across as very dangerous. Backing up the rest of the cast is Tommy Lee-Jones as the gruff all-American Colonel, he is Rogers Commanding Officer and initially detests him, but by the end has respect for what Captain America has achieved. It's surprising how old Jones looks; I guess this is because Channel 5 seems to keep repeating the Men In Black far too regularly! Also Hayley Attwel plays Peggy Carter the love interest who is a strong woman on her own and this is shown quite early on when she knocks out a Soldier over a sexist quip. To link this in with the rest of the Marvel universe a character called Howard Stark, played by Dominic Cooper has been added. This is Tony Stark's father from the Iron Man series. I have to say one of the most impressive factors in this film is the small and weedy Stephen Rogers being shown on screen, effectively this was Chris Evans being shrunk down by computer special effects, it is convincing and shows what can be achieved if done correctly. It's also a film that bottom line is good against evil; it does have certain factors in the film that make it an action adventure film, but with serial qualities. The action scenes are always top notch and although the story is set on different continents across different times, the story is easy to follow at all times and never really confuses itself with a different franchise. It's also interesting to see that the actions sequences utilise air, land and sea rather than being fixed in one position and so the use of different types of transport including foot is used and used really well. This is evident in the early part of the film where Rogers has to chase an assassin and we see the full scope of his strength and what exactly he is capable off when placed in a situation. The battle scenes throughout the film are gritty and look dirty, by this I mean that it's muddy, grimy and looks like a warzone. The noises are loud and here the action is full on throughout, I felt some of these were a little rushed but as the film grows and the characters evolve, so does the size of the locations and the amount of action. In fact the climax of the film is claustrophobic in comparison to the previous sequences, yet I felt this was the correct approach to take rather than getting bigger and bigger to the extent it simply fails. The costume is always a talking point for any fan base and here you see Captain America in a number of costumes, from where he is on-stage, don't ask, to where he feels he has more to offer the world. All are loyal to what has been in the comic books and emphasise America, which is the focal point of the film, although London is seen a lot throughout. Overall this is a very good film that attention has been paid to the story and to the production, most of it was filmed in Britain anyway and Manchester doubles for New York, however you only find this out from the extras that cover all aspects of production from script to screen and covers the origin of Captain America quite well to ensure the viewer is aware of the provenience of the character itself. The commentaries are worth listening to as well as the director Joe Johnston tells you about the production and allows you to understand what he was trying to achieve. Add in Deleted Scenes and the obligatory advertisement for upcoming features such as games and other DVD releases then the package is something that can be watched again and again, and yes the picture quality is amazing. After previous failures with Captain America, this release sets things straight and gives the character what he deserves, part of the story is told in flashback and you just have to sit there and watch the film to understand it. It is good entertainment and for 2 hours and 4 minutes, will escort you away from the world for a good piece of escapism. There is an end scene like other Marvel releases and this leads into something special, in fact you'll know what it is if you have seen Thor, Hulk and Iron Man 2 as the last part is being used to set something else up.
Regeneration is a splendid thing if it's done correctly. A good example is Bluewater in Kent, situated just 1.5 miles from J2 of the M25 on the A2 towards Dover and less than 40 minutes from Central London by train, the shopping centre is more a celebration of retail than it is a shopping mall, yet its also a place that has a lot to offer any family or couple that go there, noting that its easily possible just to spend the day there and shop, eat and see a film without ever having to go back to your car. Built on a site of an old disused quarry, Bluewater has built itself to be the ultimate shopping experience, and even with the nearby Lakeside that has rapidly fallen behind in recent years the whole feel of Bluewater has a buzz about it. With 13000 car park spaces available and free to park, as well as its own Bus Station and a regular shuttle service to nearby Greenhithe railway station with direct links to Cannon Street or London Bridge, its safe to sat that Bluewater is well connected and in the 12 years since its opened in 1999 it has become well established as a shopping centre in the South East. I was surprised to see a designated coach area as well and was even more surprised to see a whole plethora of coaches park there as well, not a few but well over 30 whose companies had organised shopping trips to Bluewater. This is a good example of how busy it gets and even though the mall itself is well covered with CCTV, the car parks being regularly patrolled and a host of security available it does seem strange to have a Police Station on-site as well. All in all you do feel safe when inside, that makes you feel comfortable and also means that you are more likely to return. Its an amazing place to go to, the design of the place is good as it is triangular in nature with three separate malls meaning that unlike Lakeside or Westfield you cant really get lost, as you just keep walking round to you find what you want. Each mall has it own theme and its obvious on the plenitude of maps that are easily available to take in leaflet form or illuminated to seek whatever you want. My favourite out of the three being Thames Mall where the theme is the River Thames. Down the middle of the mall itself being a map of the Thames from source to estuary marking out towns such as Staines, Kingston and Putney as you walk along the silver line that has captured all the curves and bends of the river in it. While other features include poems carved in ten foot high letters in the spaces above shop entrances, seating areas that are made up of big leather chairs that swivel and are so comfortable that they hug you as you tend to await your other half to come out of a shop, especially useful as my other half seemed to take a trip to Narnia in one shop and left me outside waiting for just under 45 minutes - I believe these chairs are now called "The Widowers Row" as a lot of husbands wait here for their wives to return! It is light and airy as well, but can in the Summer get quite hot, yet you don't need a coat anyway as everything is indoors so its easier to relax and simply shop then having to worry about carrying a coat around with you. The vast range of shops are absolutely excellent, from High Street names such as H&M, WH Smiths to John Lewis, House of Fraser, Zara and the more designer shops such as Timberland and Calvin Klein. Interestingly the range of shops are somewhat higher than the ones at Lakeside, for example there is no Argos at all, which given Bluewater's emphasis on attracting people is something that means a shop like Argos would never be seen in a place like this. Its also a place that business will hold there flagship stores, by this I mean that no expense has been spared in making the shops the highest possible level they can be, whether its flashy with the window displays or even having events such as book signings at the two floor Waterstone's means that there is always something to see as the shop fronts are never really boring or in some cases static to look at, All Saints has recently opened up and the whole shop front consists of Singer sewing machines. Even the HMV that is considered to be small in comparison to other sites is constantly busy and this is one shop that could do with expansion as could Game, there are two at Bluewater ion both the upper and lower levels and both the shops have long queues, especially at the weekends or running up to Christmas where arriving as early as 6am means that a car park space is guaranteed, I talk from experience!! This is the place where we do all our Christmas presents in one hit, it just fits the bill, and yet we don't go at the weekend as Bluewater tends to stay open till 10pm on the run up to the looney.. oh sorry festive period so its even possible to go after work in some cases! It's more than shopping, there is a Cinema that comes into its own in the evening, with restaurants surrounding the entrance that means you can spend the whole day here. I suspect that was the ploy from the beginning anyway to grab your money, but the fact is that everything you'll ever need is under one roof. It even attracts people from around the area as well and Saturdays can see the TGI's or La Tasca get very busy with a pre-film meal and drink and it is a good atmosphere as well. In fact anything to do with food is catered for at Bluewater and the scope of variety is second to none when it comes to choice of food. A huge Food Court is located on the northern side of the mall itself, this has the obligatory McDonalds and KFC, but also caterers such as Battersea Pie that specialise in Pie and Mash as well as Shere Khan for Curry and Harry Ramsden's for Fish and Chips. Also a Pizza Hut restaurant as well, but I found the service here to be somewhat below standard in the past. As you walk around the chance to simply stop and get a Coffee is thrust upon you at numerous opportunities - Costa, Coffee Republic and Starbucks are usually situated at an entrance to the Car Park, convenient in some way as this means the Toilets are nearby as well and yet can be a pain as it becomes a social gathering point. On past visits I have seen the majority of these establishments simply run out of Coffee and food and having to close early whilst a run to the local cash and carry was performed, this was at 2pm!! I think lessons were learnt from this with the managers given the fact there estimations were blown out of the water entirely, although this was on the run up to Christmas so the expectation to stock up might not have been taken. Toilets and baby changing facilities have been set up as regular intervals as well, handy to get to and are spacious and clean. I did notice there were regular checks being made and the attendants were polite and well presented. I know its silly but I rate the state of the loo's as a benchmark to the establishment as it is the one place that the majority of people will visit, not everyone will go into the same shop throughout the day, yet almost everyone will go to the loo. If you just want to get away after you're shopped out then Bluewater does offer a number of ways to get fresh air. At the back of the Food Court there is a lake that recently has become a building site to have a castle and play area built next to it and while this is a great way for the kids to relive the boredom and burn of some energy there are also a number of trails that take in the area surrounding Bluewater and takes you away from the sheer business for a while, I have done a few of these and they can be nice and relaxing to walk along. Obviously you know that you're never too far away from the action, yet the tranquillity this offers is a nice balance to the hustle and bustle of the mall itself. There is a plenitude of wildlife here as you would expect and the moment you hear the birdsong simply takes you into another place, I recommend this entirely as the balance is off the scale that you are in the grounds of a shopping centre yet can sit on a bench and hear uninterrupted birdsong. This was only due to be Phase 1, Phase 2 was going to be a new residential area opposite in the other quarry areas that was going to be regenerated as well, whether that will go ahead is open to question given the current climate. I much prefer Bluewater to Lakeside or any of the Westfield's as this is high level shopping but on a simple basis that its attractive to be within and isn't simply a catchment of shop fronts, in this case each has an identity that makes it stand out from the rest. One interesting point is that the only thing stopping people from going to Lakeside as well is the Dartford Tunnel. Lakeside is positioned in the same area but on the north side of the Thames as Bluewater is on the south and it would be safe to say that the two have a little rivalry, however it was reported that plans for an underground train between the two was put forward, this would mean that people could park in Lakeside and get the train to Bluewater, I thought the idea would have worked to relieve the pressure off the tunnel/ bridge, yet the idea was immediately rejected by Lakeside. Overall, this delivers what I want from a place that I can go as "one-stop shop" as in all honesty I do get what I want whether its vouchers or even the designer shirt of my dreams, the whole place as different aspects such as a Christmas Market, and Ice rink that allows it to be flexible throughout the year whatever the occasion or event, and yet coming here you can see the impact that this can have on the local area, Dartford Town Centre being one victim that has had to raise its bar to compete as has Lakeside which has been totally refurbished.
When an actor leaves the main part of Dr Who there is always a changeover, this is called the regeneration and can be considered the writers dream inn terms of creation as you have another actor playing the part without the issues of continuity. When Peter Davison resigned from the part as the Fifth Doctor, a new actor came into play - Colin Baker. Baker was in my mind quite a loony in the Tardis, however I think the series still hadn't recovered from the loss of Tom Baker. But that is a whole piece in its own. Usually the manufacturers play safe and stick to the normal characters in their normal episode clothes, however once these standard figures have reached the peak of sale and are out of the way we tend to get some secondary lines that are usually one-off mouldings or special issues and are far better than the normal lines. The Sixth Doctor Regeneration figure is a good example of something different, something that in the series is a unique thing and an instant collector's piece. The figure itself is quite elegant and dressed in an accurate manner to that of Davison at the end of The Caves of Androzani storyline where the Fifth Doctor dies in the company of his companions and regenerates. Davison at the time was dressed in his usual series costume of long coat, red striped trousers with Cricket jumper and white undershirt. No sign of the leek on the lapel though! Baker was only seen in the last episode for about 10 seconds and delivered a handful of words (as in the title) with a freaky stare at camera before the credits rolled, yet the figure is accurate in looks to the extent that even the dirt and stains on the clothes are in the right position representing the scenes of the episode, he is again seen in the opening of The Twin Dilemma before he chooses the infamous red rainbow costume. Facially the figure resembles Colin Baker, with the curly blonde hair, the correct shape of the "perm" is a dead giveaway as to whom this is, however the face is a rather bland and it isn't clear as to what expression is being shown, but more importantly it does resemble Baker at the end of the changeover. There aren't any facial features on the figure, the skin tone is correct, for example there aren't any scars or stubble or even strangely any dirt as that is all focused on the costume anyway. there are the facial crinkles that run out diagonally from the side of the lower nose and looking at photos of Baker this is again accurate, sorry spot on! Even the profile is good and resembles Baker at the time and I have say that the people who have made the moulding and the cast have done a good job, it's the hair that is just as detailed as the style has been given a range of colours that reflect the high light of the colour of the Sixth Doctor hairstyle in immaculate detail, giving quite a scale o depth and given the size of the head on a figure of this size which is the standard for the series itself at 6 inches in height. The dirt, that was acquired in the show by the Doctor falling in mud pre-regeneration, and sheer dark blackness on the figures right side has to be mentioned as the whole costume is altered because of this and emphasises the story in which the costume gets these mud stains, these cover the entire right side of the figure and gives it an interesting degree of battle damage, something that is rare in both the TV series and action figures. The thing that is incorrect is that Baker is a slightly different height and build to his predecessor. He is in real life a little shorter and has a different stance, yet the figure is simply the same build of Davison! Okay I can see why this has been done, simply put this has Baker's head on a moulding of Davison with a few added black marks on the clothing. However even though because it is obvious that a shortcut has been taken, it doesn't affect the outcome, after all the male based characters in the Star Wars range were all the same height, so this is probably nothing except a collectors observation. However this is part of a range of figures and so to have them at different heights would be silly to look at and far too real life to be bought into a fantasy range. You might think that it's strange that a 38 year old man collects these; well okay I'll come clean. I'm trying to collect a few things in terms of collecting a pension, nothing major like spending a few hundred pounds on stuff but the odd thing that stands out that may become valuable in a few years time. The reason I say this is that I cannot see these figures being anything else than displayed. The episode it was based on was broadcast in 1984 and to be honest probably a lot of fans of Doctor Who in today's style wasn't actually born then so I get the idea the premise is for the collector to purchase. Pricewise this figure was £29.99 at the time of release and is currently going at over £40 on Amazon at the moment, so it's obvious this is a desired piece. This is part of an ever growing range that is growing to bring in more figures like this. Overall this is a good entry to purchase for anyone's collection.