- Premium reviews
- Express reviews
- Reviews rated
- Ratings received
My wife bought me the Philips BDP3000 Blu-ray player for me a few Christmas's ago from Sainsburys using a combination of her vast collection of Nectar points and cash. It was originally selling for around £120 and Sue had bought it at a point when it had dropped by about 1/3 of its original selling price as newer models were appearing in store. It is quite wide (about 20 inches) and comes in black.
Blu-ray machines are still relatively new on the market and offer at least 4 times the image quality detail of a standard DVD, and Sue bought it because she had heard positive reviews online and because it was a good make at what was at the time a reasonable price - I will however mention that we have bought a couple of Technika Blu-ray players for other family members for half the price offering at least the same quality.
It was only a matter of months after first using the Philips product that we began to have problems with it. Blu-ray discs have in fact developed over recent years and many include additional content in a new file format that the BDP3000 did not support. From memory this was either evident on my Blu-ray Star Trek or The Day After Tomorrow which I bought from Sainburys and returned for replacement the same day thinking the disc was faulty because it wouldn't play. When the second one didn't work either we decided to investigate only to find that in fact the Blu-ray player which was supposed to be new was in fact out of date and needed a firmware update that we had to do using a USB memory stick with downloaded content that we had found off the internet, and it was a real relief when the DVD ran without any further problems.
We do not use the player much and so it came as a shock when we bought the Disney DVD Bolt for our 8 year old to watch on our main TV only to find that rather than playing the film as you would expect it decided instead to skip and play the ending half way through and the middle - you've guessed it, at the end. Again, we thought that it was a DVD fault until we found that it worked perfectly on our other daughter's Playstation 2 that we borrowed to check it out.
Experience of this machine is that it really isn't worth the money and recently when family members have tried using it, had found other faults including a new one - a blank screen. I can only assume that we have just been unlucky with this particular unit.
The machine has USB and LAN ports as well as HDMI and surround sound connections. It also has a few buttons on the device itself although it is 99% controlled using a reasonably sized remote control. It does have additional features which I could mention, but as my experience is not good of its basic ones it would be inappropriate.
I would not recommend this player.
It was about 3 Christmas's ago when Sue and I first became interested in the Xbox 360 when her son visited us and decided to buy one for himself that he linked to our TV for a few play sessions on a game that had been released only a few days earlier.
Sue and I never got to use his Xbox, but it was enough to make us think about it and how useful it might be for ourselves and our two girls so a couple of week later we went out to buy one from Argos. It was on sale for around £140 (from what I recall) and what was the deciding factor between Argos and the other shops we had considered - including Game was what games were included and how much extras one would be.
The Xbox came with a wireless controller and Forza Motorsports 4 which would be one of few that I played for month on end until I finally relented to the fact that it was becoming a little boring. It did not include an external hard drive but we found that some of the games would benefit from being saved externally so we bought a second hand one from Game that literally plugs into the side (or top depending on how you lay the Xbox) very simply by unclipping one of the sides.
The Xbox can be played either with or without internet connectivity although having an Xbox live gold account gives you a great deal of additional functionality on many Xbox 360 games that allows you play with / against other gamers around the world. You can also go online to download trailers and demos and install games using Xbox points - which are not the same as the ones you gain by unlocking parts of your Xbox game or winning a trophy.
The Xbox can be wired to your router / modem or for an additional £60 can buy a wireless adaptor that plugs in to the Xbox.
Last Christmas we decided to "improve" our system by buying the Kinect which is a series of cameras that in our case sit on top of the TV that watch your movements and try to digitally monitor them into the actions of your Mii. However, our experience so far has been limited and we have in fact not used the Kinect for at least 6 months - partly because we own very few games that work with this new feature.
In the last year our Xbox received a massive update from Microsoft which has changed many of the menus that are available. The main reason for the update was to allow gamers to have an improved gaming experience but from a personal point of view just annoyed us especially as we had just got used to the original menus!
Like most systems before use you will need to set up your Miis and additionally an Xbox live account - which requires a credit card that we did not appreciate.
Graphics on the system are good and there are a wide variety of games available although new games all seem to be between £36 and £50 so we tend to buy only specific ones at full price such as Modern Warfare or Batman and buy many others second hand or when they have been out a while and the price has dropped.
Game control is very good although replacing batteries can sometimes be awkward as they stick inside the lip of the battery pack and need a little encouragement to get them out - we tend to use rechargeable batteries as standard batteries became too expensive.
Although our 8 year old plays on the Xbox 360, games for her age are not so easy to find but she is as capable as us at accessing all the controllers buttons - in fact more so.
There are many versions of the Xbox available and the main difference is the amount of storage that is included. For most gamers large hard drives are not essential although the more space the better as unused space does speed up the game loading process.
My favourite games are the Tiger Woods series and Battlestations (Midway and Pacific), my wife's are Batman games and our elder daughter loves the Modern Warfare series. We may not have played the Xbox much in recent months but it will be well used at Christmas and is a system that I can seriously recommend. There are 2 main colours - creamy white and black and ours is white.
There are far too many systems on the market but are available from £140 upwards of £200 from Amazon so it is more about the size of hard drive and number / type of games you want to be bundled with it.
My DVD collection that I built up over many years numbers in excess of 300, many are sets or themselves collections but among them are a number of films that I love because they are just totally stupid, funny or outrageous including the four Black Adder series, Hot Shots and Airplane 1 and Airplane 2.
Airplane 2 ticks the box for being stupid, funny and outrageous and still a film I love to watch either on TV or on my DVD player. The copy I own was released in 2001 by Paramount Pictures and was originally released in 1982 on VHS. Both Airplane films feature Ted Striker (Robert Hays), Elaine Dickinson (Julie Hagerty), Captain Oveur (Peter Graves) and his crew First Officer Dunn and Navigator Unger.
The Airplane films are the ultimate in disaster movie, in this the sequel it features the maiden flight of the lunar shuttle Mayflower One which is taking passengers to the moon. Ted Striker has been in a mental asylum after the previous disaster which he averted and learns of Mayflower One's flight and that it is danger because of using low grade materials in its design. He escapes the asylum and manages to acquire a seat on the shuttle where he plans to use Elaine his former girlfriend to persuade the crew to abort the mission. Striker has already flown the shuttle in test flights and following law suits had been forced into the asylum to prevent him speaking out against the shuttle design.
Unknown to the crew, they have a bomber on board who has been shopping at the airport and that airport security is rather lax.
So, the crew set off on their mission not knowing that their computer system is also faulty and would prevent them from making repairs by removing them.
It would fall on Striker aided by Steven McCroskey (Lloyd Bridges) the Air Traffic Controller and Commander Buck Murdock (William Shatner) the commander of the moon base to find a way of regaining control of the shuttle and landing it - and to prevent the bomber from destroying the shuttle. However, Striker and Murdock have a love-hate relationship since The War in which Striker's entire fighter squadron is destroyed over Macho Grande and things do not run smooth.
There are lots of silly moments including how the shuttle launches and Murdock's opening of doors by saying shushhhh in the same way as the doors of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek, and in fact Murdock seeing it through his telescope.
It is a very good film to watch with lots of oddities throughout which are hysterical. It is available through Amazon for £3.95.
Robert Hays Ted Striker
Julie Hagerty Elaine Dickinson
Lloyd Bridges Steve McCroskey
Chad Everett Simon Kurtz
Peter Graves Captain Clarence Oveur
Rip Torn Bud Kruger / Ronald Reagan
Chuck Connors The Sarge
Stephen Stucker Controller Jacobs / Courtroom Clerk
Wendy Phillips Mary
Sonny Bono Joe Seluchi (The Bomber)
William Shatner Commander Buck Murdock
Raymond Burr Judge D.L. Simonton
John Vernon Dr. Stone
Lee Bryant Mrs. Hammen
David Paymer Court photographer
Rick Overton Clerk
Louise Sorel Nurse
Leslie Nielsen Dr. Rumack
Directed by: Ken Finkleman
Produced by: Howard W Koch
Written by: Ken Finkleman
Music by: Elmer Bernstein, Richard Hazard
Cinematography: Joe Biroc
Editing by: Tina Hirsch
Among my collection of CDs is Queen's Greatest Hits I II & III also known as The Platinum Collection which is a triple CD with silver coloured cardboard outside cover.
I purchased the CD many years ago from Tesco for around £15 and there are several variants of this on the market including re-releases in 2006 for £30 and 2011 for £20. My copy is the original which was released in 2000 and is available from Amazon for £26.99 - available for free super saver delivery if you don't mind waiting a few days for it.
For anyone to say they haven't been inspired by at least one Queen song in one way or another is probably lying and although I don't own many Queen tracks, Bohemian Rhapsody is one I do own (original vinyl) and I have listened to many of their songs on TV and at various homes where it creates a very welcome atmosphere and for 2 years while at Polytechnic one housemate was very much into the group.
The CD comprises of Greatest Hits I and 2 with Greatest Hits 1 featuring their early work including anthems such as We Are The Champions and Somebody To Love, and Greatest Hits 2 featuring the track The Show Must Go On which was extremely thought provoking bearing in mind that it was written when Freddie Mercury knew he had very little time left before his untimely death in 1991 and there final song released on Freddie's Birthday - These Are The Days Of Our Lives which was filmed in black and white to hide signs of his dwindling health. CD 3, Greatest Hits 3 is a mixture of tracks that includes the remaining band members singing their songs with the likes of George Michael, Elton John and David Bowie, tracks featuring Freddie Mercury singing solo and by Brian May.
Queen have been part of our lives since Bohemian Rhapsody first appeared on Top Of The Pops in 1975 and their music is still with us 21 years after Freddie's death.
The set features many of Queen's best known hits many of which have appeared as strange videos such as I'm Going Slight Mad, where Freddie where's a bunch of bananas on his head, Breakthru where they perform on the back of a train and I Want to Break Free where the band dress as woman for a really odd performance.
It is difficult to finger what makes this band so unique and why their music lives on today. It is clear Freddie Mercury's voice definitely had a massive impact on today's music and without a doubt legendary guitar solos by Brian May are stunning and I have never found any tribute band that can recreate them. There is not one track on this triple album that fails to inspire emotion and is one of the best albums I own.
This album is available in separate parts from the likes of Amazon, HMV and Play.com and despite the cost is an album that is still a welcome addition to my collection.
Greatest Hits 1
Another One Bites The Dust
Fat Bottomed Girls
You're My Best Friend
Don't Stop Me Now
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Somebody To Love
Now I'm Here
Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy
Play the Game
Seven Seas Of Rhye
We Will Rock You
We Are The Champions
Greatest Hits 2
A Kind Of Magic
Radio Ga Ga
I Want It All
I Want To Break Free
It's A Hard Life
Who Wants To Live Forever
I'm Going Slightly Mad
The Invisible Man
Hammer To Fall
Friends Will Be Friends
The Show Must Go On
Greatest Hits 3
The Show Must Go On (Queen & Elton John)
Under Pressure (Queen & David Bowie)
Barcelona (Freddie Mercury & Monserrat Caballe)
Too Much Love Will Kill You
Somebody To Love (George Michael & Queen)
You Don't Fool Me
Heaven For Everyone
Las Palabras De Amor
Driven By You (Brian May)
Living On my Own (Freddie Mercury)
Let Me Live
The Great Pretender (Freddie Mercury)
Princes Of The Universe
Another One Bites The Dust (Queen & Wyclef Jean)
No-One But You
These Are The Days Of Our Lives
Thank God It's Christmas
Included within the CD case is a booklet detailing facts about each track, photos of the record sleeve each track was on, photos of the group and of the stars performing with them on the 3rd CD.
Group comprises of Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon
Light Years is one of many compilation albums featuring sons by the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) which is a double CD released in 1997 by Sony Music Entertainment (UK) and on sale through Amazon for £7.85 with free delivery if you are willing to wait a few days.
In terms of tracks it has a very good combination that is split evenly across both CDs featuring work from their beginnings in the early 1970's (10538 Overture and Roll Over Beethoven) to their last real group album Balance of Power released in 1986 - a later album was made (Zoom) featuring only their founder members Jeff Lynne and Richard Tandy.
Normally album tracks are copied from various albums but in this case apart from one track (Secret Messages taken from the LP of the same name) they are either 7 inch single or edited 7 inch single versions.
ELO have been one of my favourite groups since I first heard their music back in the late 1970's and until the early 1990's I had been collecting all their original vinyl works on 7 and 12 inch singles and LP including duplicates / variances on coloured vinyl or re-released on different records labels. They began their career on the Harvest (EMI) record label before moving to United Artists and then to their more familiar record label - Jet. They later transferred to Sony, CBS and Epic.
The group itself disbanded in 1986 due to issues on royalties, with Jeff Lynne becoming a well-known record producer in the USA and many band members forming ELO Part 2.
I have always enjoyed their music and it would be difficult on this album to pick tracks but years ago my dad's radiogram blared out to the double A sided single Confusion/Last Train To London and with a little help (with string and weights to prevent the arm jumping) - Shine A Little Love from the album Discovery. Similarly, no ELO compilation album would be complete without Hold On Tight or the likes of Mr Blue Sky.
Light Years is also called The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra because it features all 29 of their UK hits and was produced to tie in with the 25th anniversary of the group's formation - 1972.
This is a wonderful album and one I am proud to own.
Turn To Stone
Four Little Diamonds
Last Train To London
Ma Ma Ma Belle
Rock 'N' Roll Is King
The Way Life's Meant To Be
Can't Get It Out Of My Head
Don't Walk Away
Don't Bring Me Down
Mr Blue Sky
Sweet Talkin' Woman
Shine A Little Love
Ticket To The Moon
Illusions In G Major
All Over The World
Here Is The News
The Diary Of Horace Wimp
Across The Border
Hold On Tight
Wild West Hero
Getting To the Point
Roll Over Beethoven
The group consisted of Jeff Lynne (lead guitar and vocals), Kelly Groucutt (vocals/backing vocals and bass guitar), Richard Tandy (keyboards), Bev Bevan (percussion/drums), Mik Kaminski (violin), Melvyn Gale (cello), Hugh McDowell (cello)
I have been a fan of Star Trek since I was first introduced to the original crew of the USS Enterprise 1701 on what was probably its second re-run of all their episodes. So when Star Trek The Next Generation appeared on screen as a TV programme that would in fact last 7 series I had been extremely sceptical as it was like I was a traitor to the memory of Captain Kirk and his motley crew.
It came as a complete surprise when I sat down to watch the first episode "Encounter At Far Point" (2 part) and extreme sense of disappointment at their final (2 part again) episode "All Good Things" in which it appeared all episodes in between could quite simply have been in vain.
Star Trek Nemesis (sometimes referred to as Star Trek X) is the final film made by the Star Trek The Next Generation Cast and like all their other films I found it enjoyable to watch with a good story.....
The USS Enterprise E is en route to Betazed where Commander Riker and Counsellor Deanna Troi are to be married when they pick up a positronic energy signal emanating from a planet near the Romulan Neutral Zone. Meanwhile the entire Romulan Imperial Senate are assassinated when they fail to accept an offer from the Romulan military to invade the Federation by a green thalaron radiation mist. The Enterprise investigate the energy signal and find it to be an early version of Data known as B-4.
The Enterprise receives orders to conduct a diplomatic mission to Romulus when Starfleet learns that there has been a military coup led by a Reman named Shinzon. This is remarkable as Remans are regarded as inferior and have used them as slave labour. Jean-Luc Picard finds on arrival that in fact Shinzon is his clone that had been made many years earlier when the Romulans had intended to use him as a spy.
Shinzon has constructed a heavily armoured warship named Scimitar with undetectable cloaking devices, an arsenal of weapons and virtually impregnable shields. The Enterprise crew discover signs of thalaron radiation on board the Scimitar and later Picard is captured by Shinzon who reveals he is dying from accelerated aging from his cloning process and in fact needs Picard's blood to survive. Shinzon transports B-4 from the Enterprise which he had planted for the Federation to discover and does not realise that in fact Data has replaced B-4.
Picard escapes from Shinzon and attempts to disable the Scimitar, realising that in fact he will have to face his clone to save the Earth and any attempt at peace negotiations with the Romulan Empire.
This is a good film and it was sad that this would be the last mission of The Next Generation Crew. Acting as usual from the crew is good and special effects are excellent.
The film is rated 12 and running time 112 minutes.
My copy comes with a cardboard outer cover and contains 3 hours of bonus material including 7 deleted scenes.
Special features are:
Commentary by director Stuart Baird
Exclusive documentaries: New Frontiers - Stuart Baird on directing "Nemesis", A bold vision of the final frontier, Red Alert! Shooting the action of Nemesis
Widescreen version enhanced for 16:9 TVS
Directed by: Stuart Baird
Produced by: Rick Berman
Screenplay by: John Logan
Story by: John Logan, Rick Berman, Brent Spiner
Starring: Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard), Jonathan Frakes (Will Riker), Brent Spiner (Data), LeVar Burton (Geordi LaForge), Michael Dorn (Worf), Gates McFadden (Beverly Crusher), Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi), Will Weaton (Wesley Crusher) and Tom Hardy (Shinzon)
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography: Jeffrey L Kimball
Editing by: Dallas Puett
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Release date: 13 December 2002
Would I recommend the film? Well, as a Star Trek fan who loves Star Trek and Star Trek The Next Generations it has to be unequivocally yes, because I love all their films and their TV episodes. I grew up on sci-fi and Star Trek films are interesting and exciting for me. It is not only the story but the fact you learn to think of the main characters as part of your distant family.
A New World Record is among the first albums I bought back in the late 1970's on vinyl and on many occasions the tracks Telephone Line, Rockaria!, Livin' Thing and Shangri-La would be heard blaring out from my dad's old radiogram through next doors walls and half way down the street as in those days it was not uncommon to share my music being the caring person that I am.
For many years the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) was the one band I loved listening to and I bought all their albums, 7 and 12 inch singles and anything else I could get my hands on including imported box sets, various coloured vinyls (LPs, singles and even a picture disc). This later extended to VHS, DVDs and of course CD albums which although offering superior sound quality to me are no match for the odd crackle and constant tending of the record deck to change tracks or turning to listen to the opposite side.
I grew up on this music and many of their tracks appeared regularly on the radio so it was not surprising that some found their music inspirational and indeed modern groups copy or use part of numerous ELO tracks to form a song enjoyed by many youngsters today.
ELO were known as a classical rock group and this album features some quite heavy guitar tracks together with harmonies, much lighter pop music and significant amounts of instrumental work that form the majority of tracks such as So Fine, Mission (A World Record) and Shangri-La. In fact, a local TV music programme of the time (RPM) used part of So Fine as its opening theme.
A New World Record was written and produced in 1976 and includes some of ELOs greatest hits appearing on many compilation albums but many other tracks are just as inspirational and appear to an extent on their following album Out Of The Blue released a year later. Like many of their earlier albums it was released on the United Artists later and quickly superseded by Jet Records before it too was taken over by CBS and Sony.
ELO broke up in 1986 with Jeff Lynne the group leader becoming a successful record producer and many of the group forming ELO Part II although I have very little of their work.
A New World Record is an album I enjoy listening to even today and when we are on a long drive I quite often will copy tracks from this album as part of my own unique CD because it is quite easy and enjoyable listening.
The group consisted of Jeff Lynne, Bev Bevan, Kelly Groucutt, Richard Tandy, Mik Kaminski, Hugh McDowell and Melvyn Gale.
Album tracks: Tightrope, Telephone Line, Rockaria!, Mission (A New World Record), So Fine, Livin' Thing, Above The Clouds, Do Ya, Shangri-La
It is available from Amazon in CD format from £2.93 and is also available for download for £4.49. This is a clasic album well worth listening to.
It is not that often when you can say that your Christmas shopping spree turns in to one that actually benefits you but with Christmas fast approaching my wife and I were out yesterday buying some of the vast quantity for our family. My wife decided that she was intent on a No7 gift set from Boots so whilst in there, we had a look for gifts that we thought would be both useful and well received.
Whilst looking I noticed the Wilkinson Sword Hydro 5 that was well packaged and selling at £10 which included a razor that had blade installed, a carriage to hold the razor and a further pack of 4 blade cartridges.
Since shaving many years ago I have always relied on Gillette except for a brief period while at Polytechnic when I had used a Remington electric one, and more recently (last week in fact) when I had decided to be brave and try out a razor from Aldi that was a fraction of the price of Gillette. Aldi's shaving system proved to be a disaster and my face was left rough, covered in red blotches and painful so would certainly not recommend their blades.
I did however need a cheaper way of shaving. Gillette blades for my Mach 3 were expensive and their life span was diminishing almost on a weekly basis from what used to be around 3 weeks per blade to 1 - if I was lucky and at £2 per blade this wasn't acceptable. So at £10 for a new razor which had 5 blades I at last had a chance to try a different system which was at least on a par price wise with the Mach 3.
I opened the Hydro 5 this morning which has a smooth action and although I did need to go over some areas more than once it did leave my skin smooth and there was a noticeable improvement reported by my wife as she started fondling my face with her hands. There were still some red blotches around my face but it is too early to determine whether they are new or a result of the Aldi razor that I had used the previous week but certainly it felt far more comfortable than the Gillette Mach 3 even when I had put them in the razor for the first time. In fact, my skin still feels smooth some 6 hours after using the new Hydro 5.
It is far too soon to tell whether these blades last as long as the Gillette Mach 3 but the early signs are good and replacements cartridges are priced similarly to those of the Mach 3 - on sale at Tesco for £8.49 (4 blades) or £14.99 (8 blades) so even if they don't last any longer they give a much smoother result.
So what makes it better? Well, it has 5 blades against the 3 of the Mach 3 and has a self-lubricating strip that helps to prevent skin drying out as it cuts. It also has a system that tells you when you should replace the blades - when the holes of the gel reservoir are all empty, which hopefully won't happen for a while.
Gillette does offer the Fusion range which I have tried (a converted blade was included with a set of Mach 3 cartridges several months ago) but to me is no match to the Hydro 5. Fusion blades are more expensive than those of the Wilkinson Sword product selling for £18 for a set of 8 at Tesco, but are not as effective despite Gillette claims that they are the most technological blades they have manufactured.
I have no doubt, that my conversion to Wilkinson Sword is long term and my experience of the Hydro 5 with its 5 blades will not be unwise.
Our TomTom One Classic is nearly 3 years old and was brought from Tesco a matter of days before its first use which had been to locate the Travelodge that we had booked close to the M4 near Heathrow for an overnight stay prior to the funeral of one of my wife's uncles that was only a short distance from the hotel.
My previous satnav had met its maker less than a year before that and I had some amusing tales including driving into Cornwall along what the satnav had considered open fields and the more amusing idea that there was an M7 linking Plymouth directly with Coventry..... I'm not sure what the highways people would think of that - perhaps I had my own private road! Its predecessor's most annoying feature however was found when taking one of my former wife's sons to Cambridge to look round the University when I pre-programmed the route and after setting off decided to make a slightly quicker route on to the A38, and for the next 30 or so miles it insisted that I turn round and go the right way!
We bought our TomTom (or Tommy as we like to call it) for around £80 and there was quite a lot of thought involved in our decision both on cost and model between a number of TomTom's, Garmin and the odd Binatone system and this wasn't helped by the shelf display. As we have found on many occasions when we look or are interested in an electrical device Tesco staff are as useful as a chocolate teapot or lead balloon and in fact when we eventually chose the TomTom the salesman had no idea of the contents inside the box, nor was he willing to open it to check - leading to us spending an extra £20 unnecessarily on an adapter to plug in to the mains (yes we did take it back for a refund but that was not the point, they should know what they're selling).
The TomTom comes with in-car charger, USB cable, manual and mounting bracket. However, the main reason we needed to charge the phone at home was that when we first bought it my Peugeot 406 had a dodgy cigarette lighter socket which was more than a little temperamental. In fact on its first usage, the TomTom would have exhausted the charge after about 2 and a half hours, so knowing the majority of the route decided to switch it off with about half and hours charge remaining with the hope that it would recalculate when it was switched back on.
It is used very sparingly and in fact it sleeps most days in one of the drawers of our Xsara Picasso and has been out on less than half a dozen occasions - including another funeral (this time East Sussex) and to find my son-in-laws new house. We have however discovered a real problem with the TomTom - it doesn't like the windscreen or side windows of our car and we have found on several occasions that we have to hang it out of the window to pick up the satellite signals before we can fix it to the mounting bracket.
Compared to its predecessor TomTom is quite handy in picking up speed cameras although it does appear to pick up the odd imaginary one that it suggest is located near to Plymouth on the A38, and doesn't seem to understand the important aspect - which direction the camera is facing!
We had intended to use our satnav for our recent driving experience in Florida and had updated it with new downloaded maps of the UK only to find that it wasn't capable of using the massive maps of the USA - so although disappointed at leaving our friend behind we luckily were given a hire vehicle with built in satnav anyway.
Charging our TomTom is no longer a problem as we have 2 separate cigarette lighter sockets in our Xsara Picasso and we have the USB cable that we can plug in to our PC or to a plug that allows it to be charged directly from the mains.
Our TomTom has built-in maps of the UK and Ireland and additional maps can be purchased online of Europe - and Canada for about £30 (prices available on their website www.TomTom.com).
Like all satnavs controls are all done using its touchscreen. You can set your home location either using postcode or from satellite positioning. The Navigate To allows you to set your destination based on postcode or street address and town, and by changing setting you can show view various extras such as McDonalds or KFC locations and you can further change settings between night and day modes which dims the screen. It has a 3.5 inch screen and is available from Amazon for £79.99. This model was released in March 2009. You can add points of interest such as restaurants, petrol stations, railway stations, cashpoints and even post offices. You can also amend routes to avoid motorways or for shortest / fastest route.
You can, for additional cost buy an RDS-TMC traffic receiver (if not already built in) that allows you to view and holdups that may be present along your route so can in theory give you the opportunity of altering your route.
We may not use our TomTom very often, but we are certainly happy to have it. In reality, it seems TomTom is far more useful to prevent us getting lost on our way out of locations than getting there - such as on a trip to Cardiff where we were totally lost trying to head back to the motorway. It is certainly useful and I can definitely recommend it to you.
Can it be improved? Well there are newer models offering additional functionality but to me the only problem is its ability to pick up satellite signals through tinted glass.
When it comes to Star Trek films The Undiscovered Country which was the last one featuring the original USS Enterprise crew to be made is pretty much unknown and in 21 years since it was released I cannot recall ever seeing it listed on any TV channel.
It is very surprising for such a well know brand, especially as it has the best storyline of any of those featuring the original cast and is throughout the film pretty obvious to see prejudice and the different perspectives existing in society - this time between the Klingon Empire and The United Federation of Planets that is represented throughout by Starfleet. It is also commonly known as Star Trek VI as it is indeed the 6th film produced by Paramount Pictures.
I grew up on Kirk, Spock, Scotty, Uhura, Bones McCoy, Chekov and Sulu, so it is not surprising that I love all 6 of their films and that I have developed a love (in most cases) for this type of science fiction although I found it impossible to enjoy the newer Enterprise TV series, Deep Space Nine or the newer first 3 films of the Star Wars hexology.
The Undiscovered Country is a very enjoyable film which I originally bought on VHS as part of the full box set and later on DVD as part of a rather expensive DVD and magazine subscription to the full Star Trek The Next Generation collection which included all ten films that had at the time been released - not only was this expensive but from memory took at least a year and a half to complete. In terms of features my copy includes Theatrical and Teaser Trailers. It is rated PG and runs for 109 minutes.
The Undiscovered Country has a pretty good story line..... The Klingon moon of Praxis is the Klingon homeworld's key energy production facility explodes as a result of years of over-mining of resources and in so doing destroys their ozone layer. As the result of the explosion the USS Excelsior captained by Hikaru Sulu is on a scientific mission near to the neutral zone and in fact he is enjoying a cup of tea as a shockwave hits the ship. Despite the Klingons being a warlike race and an unnatural peace existing between them and the United Federation of Planets. With that in mind Sulu takes the unprecedented step at attempting communication with the Klingon homeworld to offer aid which is initially rejected. Sulu however discovers that in fact very little remains of Praxis.
After the Klingons have had time to reflect they realise that they can no longer continue with their hostile footing Starfleet orders the USS Enterprise under command of James T Kirk to escort the Klingon chancellor Gorkon's ship to Earth where negotiations are due to take place to end hostilities. Kirk however is rather put out to do so as the Klingons killed his son, David. He does however reluctantly agree and invites Gorkon aboard the Enterprise where he is to be Guest of Honour for a dinner party. Gorkon is joined by his chief of staff General Chang who is opposed to the truce. Later that night the Enterprise fires photon torpedoes at the chancellor's ship disabling its artificial gravity and 2 crew beam aboard and assassinate Gorkon. Kirk beams across with McCoy with the intent of saving Gorkon's life but fail in the attempt, and are promptly arrested by Chang for high treason.
In fact, as we are later to learn it is part of an elaborate plot by Federation and Klingons to prevent a truce being agreed and the trial of Kirk and McCoy that follows is purely for show and their sentence predetermined - they are sentenced to life imprisonment on the penal asteroid Rura Penthe.
Meanwhile Gorkon's daughter (Azetbur) is elected as the new chancellor. Spock who now commands Enterprise must very quickly establish the facts behind the assassination and rescue Kirk and McCoy. The Enterprise crew will also need to head for Earth to prevent a second assassination and be reunited with their former crew member now commanding Excelsior.
This is a very fitting end to the crew I knew and loved once more combining to save civilisation from total disaster and well worth watching.
The film was released through Paramount Pictures in December 1991. It is available from Amazon for £4.75 DVD or £6.99 Blu-ray although there are many versions available on the site that are from various re-releases.
Directed by: Nicholas Meyer
Produced by: Ralph Winter, Steven-Charles Jaffe
Screenplay by: Nicholas Meyer, Denny Martin Flinn
Story by: Leonard Nimoy, Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal
Starring: William Shatner (Kirk)
Leonard Nimoy (Spock)
DeForest Kelley (McCoy)
James Doohan (Scotty)
Walter Koenig (Chekov)
George Takei (Sulu)
Nichelle Nichols (Uhura)
Kim Cattrall (Valeris)
David Warner (Gorkon)
Christopher Plummer (Chang)
Rosanna DeSota (Azetbur)
Music by: Cliff Eidelman
Cinematography: Horo Narita
Editing by: Ronald Roose
My wife and I have owned our silver Hotpoint RFA52 Iced Diamond fridge freezer for some 4 years since we purchased it and apart from the odd surface dent from its many knocks during our house moves has changed very little in operation of appearance. In saying that very little has changed with price either - it was around £300 when we bought it and can still be found online for around £250 today although it is a little difficult as it has been superceded by newer models or should I say the same one with an S or P added to the end.
The RFA52 is 174 x 54.5 x 58cm with total storage capacity of 8.3 cubic feet, with a top fresh storage section volume 150 litres and lower frozen food section of 80 litres. We took quite a while to decide on this item and we kept swinging between Beko models that were cheaper and a few others that were by other manufactures within the Hotpoint's price range but it was the colour (which matched our washer dryer) and the mix of fresh to frozen storage capacity that proved decisive.
To be honest, going on previous experience, once you buy a fridge freezer it will last years - in fact one I owned lasted about 11 years, so unless your requirements change it won't need changing for a while. We have never had an issue with our freezer and I can't actually recall changing the dial from the 3.5 it's on now.
Our criticisms of the fridge freezer are the lack of fresh food space, number of times the salad drawer falls off, constant trickle of water at the back of the top section and the fact it isn't frost free! It proves how much are shopping habits of changed as when we first had the fridge freezer we needed more frozen space and had plenty of fresh available, now part of the week is spent cramming everything in to both!
It is a quiet machine and hardly notice when it's on. Defrosting the machine's freezer section is time consuming and rarely done. Two of the freezer drawers have ice trays built into them, which is quite handy. The fridge section has 3 shelves one of which sits on the fresh produce compartments and it is difficult manoeuvring them to the right position because of where the shelf supports ridges are placed so it has become a "you will fit" exercise rather than placing the food in the fridge section as we'd like. The fridge door like many contains space for 3 4 pint milk bottles and there is a section at the top for eggs etc.
Whilst we can certainly recommend the Hotpoint FRA52 for its longevity, alas a frost free one beckons.
Titanic opened on the bug screen in December 1997 and was an immediate success and it was several years later before I decided to purchase the film - in fact the DVD cost me just £3 from Morrisons. The film however is in 4:3 display format and not the 16:9 widescreen that we are now accustomed to, and in fact was released originally on VHS. Apart from various languages and subtitle options it only has interactive menu, screen access and original theatrical trailer which apart from the latter are pretty much standard features on newer versions.
My first interest in Titanic was in terms of the ship itself and on how and why it sank. In many ways albeit for the appalling loss of life it did lead to ships sailing with enough life preservers and boats for the entire ship and not for roughly 1/3 as was on the Titanic on the night it sank which was still in excess of the minimum standards of the time.
My interest had been further fuelled by the rather twisted hope in watching Titanic at home that just for once Leonardo DiCaprio would let Celine Dione fall from the stern of the ship rather than saving Rose! It is certainly a very good film with several plots intermixed throughout. My wife and I also managed to find time during April 2012 to visit our local Vue Cinema to watch the 3D version of this film which was my first experience of 3D and subsequently followed that August by my first experience of 4D! If anyone is interested in buying the 3D version (if and when available) it was a good attempt at recreating a 2D film in 3D but there were many moments when the wrong things were at the forefront of the screen.
When I buy DVDs I like them (normally) to have a really good plot, however a great many are a result of already watching the film at the cinema or on tv. This was an exception as I had heard lots of good things prior to purchase about the film but had been waiting for the price to drop - but not by as much as I got it for! As soon as the opening scenes ran this film was captivating and being honest wish I had bought earlier.
Although the film is set amidst an historical event - the sinking of the White Star Line RMS Titanic at 4.20am on 15 April 1912 in the North Atlantic (some 450 miles from New York her destination and at a depth of 13,000 feet) the main characters of the film are fictional. In fact of the 2,244 passengers and crew on board Titanic 1502 died.
To me there are 3 main plots in the film:
A love story that develops between Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) and Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio)
The exploitation by Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton) of the wreck of Titanic in a search for the prized treasure - The Heart Of The Ocean
Why did Titanic sink?
Many of us already knew that Titanic sank on that fateful day after hitting an iceberg and that it was believed a massive gash had been made on the side of the ship that led to thousands of gallons of sea water penetrating the ship and that the ship was fatally flawed in its design by bulkheads not reaching ceiling levels allowing water to travel from one end of the ship to the other. What I hoped to understand by watching the film was how the lookouts took so long to see the iceberg - and it is still a mystery even to experts. ïOE
Brock Lovett is searching for a rare (fictional) blue diamond owned by the French King Louise XVI which was recut into a heart shape after his execution and lost to history. During his search for the diamond Lovett finds an evocative portrait of a young woman wearing what appears to be the stone on a necklace from a safe on-board the ship. With his funds exhausted the portrait is screened on tv and viewed by the now 100 year old Rose. She and her daughter are helicoptered in to Lovett's salvage ship and as she sees images of the Titanic and her own image drawn by Jack she tells the story of her great love adventure.
Rose reveals that she was travelling with her widowed mother who was intent at marrying Rose to Caledon Nathan Hockley a rich aristocrat to keep herself in the high class lifestyle she had been accustomed to. Meanwhile Jack is basically a pauper moving from job to job and winning his 3rd class ticket through a game of poker only minutes before the ship is due to sail. Jack takes with him his best friend Fabrizio De Rossi. Rose however is not happy at marrying Hockley who is rather arrogant and self-important and wants to rebel. After leaving Southampton Rose realises that her life is about to be rather different to what she wants and decides to climb on the stern of the ship with the intention of jumping into the ocean and is rescued by Jack. She finds him to be a really talented artist and willingly becomes a nude model for his work.
Hockley hears of Jack's exploits at rescuing Rose and invites him to join them for dinner in 1st class to show him how the upper class live and sees Jack as the scum of the Earth. When he later learns that Jack and Rose are seeing each other he orders his valet Spicer Lovejoy (an ex Pinkerton constable) to keep Jack away from her - this he does by chaining him to a pipe on the lower 3rd class deck as the ship hits the iceberg and begins to flood.
As water takes hold of the ship Rose attempts to rescue Jack seconds before disaster. As they attempt to escape the flooding Rose and Jack find that the 3rd class passengers have been locked below deck to allow the 1st and 2nd class passengers time to prepare for the lifeboats. Eventually, they manage to make their way to the top deck to find most of the lifeboats have already been launched. Not wishing to leave Jack, Rose refuses to get in one of the last remaining boats and decides to take her chance knowing her chances are slim at best.
As the ship heads for the bottom the Captain is seen at his wheel as the sea smashes through the glass windows and as the musicians play on the ship breaks in half and Rose and Jack head for the bow hoping to dive into the ice cold water of the North Atlantic at the last minute.
Titanic survivors are later rescued (4 hours later) by the Carpatheia which include Rose, her mother and Hockley. Rose however hides from them both and the older Rose tells how Hockley loses his fortune some years later in the 1929 Wall Street Crash and kills himself. The older Rose also has a secret - she has been holding on to since the ship sank, she has in fact had the missing diamond.
Would I buy it? Without any doubt I would although it is more than likely that I would opt for the Blu-ray version. It is the sort of film (like Star Wars) where every so often you just want to sit down and re-watch the film. Acting throughout is good although some parts as the boat sink are far from believable. After watching this film I can definitely recommend it and it doesn't matter to me that I know the plot or the ending.
Titanic is the winner of 11 Academy Awards and distributed through 20th Century Fox (outside USA), Paramount Pictures (USA). It is rated 12 with a running time of 194 minutes - yes a very lengthy film! It is available through Amazon in many different formats including DVD, 3D, Blu-ray and with single or multi discs ranging from £2.99 to £21.99 (new). In fact as I delved deeper into the wonders of Amazon I found what resembles my copy being sold for the ridiculous price of £34.99 from one of their many sellers! What was also unusual is that they don't all have the same DVD cover.
Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson
Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater
Billy Zane as Caledon Nathan "Cal" Hockley
Frances Fisher as Ruth DeWitt Bukater
Gloria Stuart as Rose Dawson
Bill Paxton as Brock Lovett
Suzy Amis as Lizzy Calvert: Rose's granddaughter
Danny Nucci as Fabrizio De Rossi
David Warner as Spicer Lovejoy
Jason Barry as Thomas "Tommy" Ryan
Kathy Bates as Margaret "Molly" Brown
Victor Garber as Thomas Andrews
Bernard Hill as Captain Edward John Smith
Jonathan Hyde as Joseph Bruce Ismay
Eric Braeden as John Jacob Astor IV
Bernard Fox as Colonel Archibald Gracie IV
Michael Ensign as Benjamin Guggenheim
Jonathan Evans-Jones as Wallace Hartley
Ewan Stewart as First Officer William Murdoch
Jonathan Phillips as Second Officer Charles Lightoller
Mark Lindsay Chapman as Chief Officer Henry Wilde
Ioan Gruffudd as Fifth Officer Harold Lowe
Edward Fletcher as Sixth Officer James Moody
James Lancaster as Father Thomas Byles
Lew Palter and Elsa Raven as Isidor Straus and Ida Straus
Martin Jarvis as Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon
Rosalind Ayres as Lady Duff-Gordon
Rochelle Rose as Noël Leslie, Countess of Rothes
Paul Brightwell as Quartermaster Robert Hichens
Simon Crane as Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall
Gregory Cooke as Jack Phillips
Craig Kelly as Harold Bride
Liam Tuohy as Chief Baker Charles Joughin
Terry Forrestal as Chief Engineer Joseph G. Bell
Kevin De La Noy as Third Officer Herbert Pitman
James Cameron also has a cameo role as a praying man in the film
Directed by: James Cameron
Produced by: James Cameron and Jon Landau
Written by: James Cameron
Music by: James Horner
Cinematography: Russell Carpenter
After receiving critical rebuke to my review of Gladiator (Blu-ray) I have added new sections to the beginning which I trust explains why I put so much emphasis on plot in this and many other of my film reviews.
To me, without a good plot no matter how great the stars, acting in general or scenerary is no-one will be interested in watching and certainly won't be interested in buying it. Taking that fact, some of my best loved films have a good plot but at times second rate acting - such as Star Trek or Star Wars which are equally lavished with what can easily be described at times as devoid of any. In this respect, a film review merely adds to what has already been detailed by the plot and adds a personal recommendation......
Gladiator is well acted throughout this film by the whole cast and its locations that are based on the Roman Empire around the year AD 180 are very believable and in context with that period. The way it is portrayed makes the audience part of the atmosphere as if you too are in Ancient Rome and seeing first hand the turmoil beset on the main character Maximus. Throughout, this film is believable and in fact does have some historical relevance as Commodus is indeed murdered (albeit in his bath) but does not kill his father. I have watched this film many times both on tv and DVD / Blu-ray and without a doubt the part that gets me every time is when the film ends and Maximus is carried from the arena by Senator, gladiators and Romans alike. This is truely a great and memorable film that is well worth buying. Gladiator is also Oliver Reed's last film as he dies shortly after the film is made.
I bought the 2 disc Blu-ray special edition a few months ago for £7.50 as part of an order placed with Amazon.
It stars Russell Crowe as General Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Northern regions and loyal subject of the aging Emperor Marcus Aurelius who intends to leave Maximus in temporary charge of Rome (when he dies) with the intent of returning power to the Senate. The Emperor's son Commodus however has other ideas and after murdering his father issues orders to execute Maximus, and his family. Maximus manages to escape but arrives home too late to save his wife and son and he is later found unconscious by passing slave traders who take him to North Africa where he is bought Proximo a former gladiator.
Maximus befriends gladiators Juba and Hagen and they survive tournament after tournament until they make it to the colosseum where they are to part of a series of deadly battles performed for the rather bored Emperor Commodus. Maximus however proves however that history may not be totally accurate as he shows that the other side could just as easily have won them! Hiding his identity from Commodus he believes he is intent to continue his life as a gladiator in the arena.
Commodus however wants to learn more of this new but well respected gladiator and enters the arena and Maximus is forced to remove his helmet. Stunned by what he finds, Commodus wants to order his death but is prevented from doing so from the extent of public support for Maximus. Instead Commodus intends to pit him against the undefeated Tigris aided by a streak (or ambush) of tigers. After fighting off the tigers and Tigris, Commodus fears a rebellion, ordering the imprisonment (and execution) of Senator Grecchas one of many in the Senate opposed to the rule of Commodus.
Maximus' former servant arrives to tell Maximus that his army is poised at the gates of Rome and awaiting his order. However, Commodus learns about the plot and is intent on killing all conspirators including all gladiators that stand in his way. Commodus however has his own plan for removing Maximus once and for all - by defeating him in the arena. To even the odd he mortally stabs Maximus and orders him to be strapped into armour and led out to the waiting hoards. Despite his injury Maximus eventually kills Commodus and gives control back to the Senate as he had promised Marcus Aurelius.
This is a great film full of intrigue and a great deal of sadness. It is also very vaguely based on historical fact although Commodus did not kill his father but was murdered in his bath and not the arena. This is one of my favourite films and compulsive viewing throughout.
The Blu-ray has the following features:
Theatrical Version (with Audio Commentary) - 155 minutes
Extended Version (with introduction by Ridley Scott and Audio Commentary) - 170 minutes
The Scrolls of Knowledge: U-Control
Visions From Elysium: U-Control topic marker
Visions from Elysium topic portal
Strength and Honour: creating the world of Gladiator with over 2 hours of new content
Aurelian Archives: image and design
Abandoned Sequences and Deleted Scenes
Gladiator is rated 15 and released through Universal Pictures. I would highly recommend it as part of your DVD or Blu-ray collection. This film won academy awards in 2000 for best picture and best actor (Russell Crowe).
Full cast details are as follows:
Russell Crowe as Maximus Decimus Meridius: A morally upstanding Hispano-Roman general in Germania, forced into becoming a slave who seeks revenge against Commodus.
Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus: The twisted son of Marcus Aurelius
Connie Nielsen as Lucilla: Maximus's former lover and the older child of Marcus Aurelius
Djimon Hounsou as Juba: A Numidia tribesman who was taken from his home and family by slave traders
Oliver Reed as Antonius Proximo: An old, gruff gladiator trainer who buys Maximus in North Africa
Derek Jacobi as Senator Gracchus: One of the senators who opposes Commodus' rule.
Ralf Möller as Hagen: A Germanic warrior and Proximo's chief gladiator who later befriends Maximus and Juba during their battles in Rome.
Spencer Treat Clark as Lucius Verus: The young son of Lucilla.
Richard Harris as Marcus Aurelius: An emperor of Rome who appoints Maximus, whom he loves as a son, with the ultimate aim of returning Rome to a republican form of government.
Tommy Flanagan as Cicero: Maximus' loyal servant
Tomas Arana as General Quintus: Another Roman general and former friend to Maximus.
John Shrapnel as Gaius: Another senator who is in close correspondence to Gracchus.
David Schofield as Senator Falco: A Patrician, a senator opposed to Gracchus. He helps Commodus to consolidate his power.
Sven-Ole Thorsen as Tigris of Gaul: An undefeated gladiator who is called out of retirement to duel with Maximus.
David Hemmings as Cassius: Colosseum and arena announcer.
Giannina Facio as Maximus' wife
Giorgio Cantarini as Maximus' son
By far the 2 most loved electrical items in our home are the Beko DWD 5410 W dishwasher and our tumble dryer. We bought the dishwasher 2 years ago from Currys for approximately £250 and part funded by my wife's mum who had been staying with for a couple of weeks while on holiday. It is still available from AppliancesOnline.co.uk for £189 plus delivery charges and despite being upgraded to the 5411 is still a great machine. It comes complete with hoses. Components are still available from the like of Amazon and includes new motor and spray pump, lower spray arm and replacement wheels. You can also view the manual online at a variety of locations.
The machine fitted easily in the back of our car and my wife and I carried it in to the house and within minutes had it connected up the water and waste supplies.
It has 5 settings on the machine each of which is displayed on the front to the right of the main dial and between it and the main power on button. In reality, of the 5 available programmes we only tend to use one - programme 4 which, offers the best economy option for us - about 1 and a half hours. Certainly it offers a quick rinse which lasts approximately 30 minutes but is not for washing soiled dishes and there are extended programmes and higher temperatures. The machine is rated AAA, so is highly energy efficient.
The dishwasher has power on / off, start and display lights for salt and rinse aid although being in a soft water area the use of salt is relatively low - in fact I don't recall buying a new bag since we bought the machine.
The bottom rack has a container for cutlery and plate rack can be folded down for washing the larger items and if necessary the top rack can be raised slightly or removed completely.
I very rarely buy Beko products as to me they tend to suggest cheap and cheerful, but in the case of the DWD 5410 W it is a great machine and would recommend it to anyone.
We have owned our White Knight 77AW condenser tumble dryer for at least 2 and a half years. For 4 years we had been in rented accommodation and had purchased a Hotpoint washer dryer for our first rental which was a small 2 bed flat and a little cramped. Added to the lack of space, our washer dryer was rather expensive on electricity and water bills were rather high too. So, about a year after moving in to our second rental - a 3 bed terraced house we decided to buy a tumble dryer. We still had the washer dryer but now demoted it to its washer function only.
We bought our White Knight from Very for approximately £200, and still available for that amount from Amazon or Currys for £189 plus delivery. It holds 7kg loads and is my wife's favourite electrical item despite having an energy rating of C. It certainly had a bearing on reducing our energy costs in comparison to the dryer function of the Hotpoint which was just burning electricity.
The tumble dryer has a water collector (bottle) towards the top of the machine which holds several litres of water. The dryer can also be drained in a similar way to a washing machine from a pipe at the back of the machine. It is free standing and there is opportunity to use mounting kits if necessary. The machine will stop however if the water collector is full and an indicator light will display on the front of the machine.
There are 2 cleaning requirements on the machine - the fluff compartment which sits inside the door of the machine (preferably cleaned after each load) and the condenser which can also discolour and hold deposits of fluff (which needs cleaning every 6 months).
The maximum timing of the machine is 120 minutes but very rarely do we need to use it for more than 40 minutes as the spin of the washer removes a great deal of water.
As well as the timer, the tumble dryer also has 2 temperature settings - high and low. There is a guide on the machine indicating timings and setting for most materials although in our case these are excessive due to the amount of water removed by the spin cycle of the washer.
The machine is extremely light, comes with manual and it is possible to change which side the door opens from.
This is a great machine and well worth the money.