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Pan's Labyrinth is a Spanish language movie, written and directed by Mexican born Guillermo del Toro, who's other directorial work include Hellboy and Hellboy II. The movie, also known as El Laberinto del fauno in it's native language, has been a massive success worldwide, and was nominated for 5 oscars, of which it went on to win 3. The movie was first released in 2006, and the DVD was susequently released the following year. A 2 disc dvd set has also since been released, with additional extras.
The movie centres around a little girl named Ofelia, who moves to the country with her pregnant mother, to live with her new step-father during the post-civil war era in Spain. As her evil stepfather, Captain Vidal, struggles to overpower the Spanish Marquis, querilla fighters who oppose the new Spanish regime, Ofelia finds herself drifting between a magical fantasy world and the harsh realities of the real world around her. Whilst her mother grows increasingly sick, and her step-father's cruel behaviour escalades, Ofelia escapes to the surreal fantasy world at every opportunity, to complete a number of tasks given to her in order to become the immortal princess of the underworld, as the legend goes.
Ofelia ..................... Ivana Baquero
Carmen Vidal ......... Ariadna Gil
Captain Vidal ......... Sergi López
Mercedes ............... Maribel Verdú
Fauno / Pale Man ... Doug Jones
I don't often watch sub-titled movies, as I find myself missing half the movie whilst trying to keep up with the sub-titles, but on this occassion, having heard so much good things about the movie, I dedided to give it a go. I was very impressed with the movie, and found myself engrossed in the plot from start to finish. I personally found that on this occassion, the sub-titles has no negative effect on the film, and after just a short while viewing, found that I'd almost forgot about the normal 'hassle' of the sub-titles.
There are 2 basic plots to the movie. In the real world, Ofelia's cruel step-father, Captain Vidal, hunts down the rebel fighters living in the woods surrounding his home and barracks. And the other plot of course is the surreal fantasy underworld that Ofelia often escapes to. Both plots are thoroughly engrossing, and full of exciting and often tense scenes. I personally found the real world story to be better than the fantasy one, simply because I felt that we didn't get so see enough of the fantasy world, and if anything, the majority of the movie is actually set around the running battles between the Spanish army and the rebels, and about the ailing phealth of Ofelia's pregnant mother.
The fantasy world scenes are great, and the characters are wonderful. I feel that it's just a shame that we don't get to see more of them. The real world is very honest and often brutal, with no holding back with the brutality in many a scene. There is a stark contrast between the fairytale fantasy of the film, and it's sheer brutality, which is evident throughout. The movie may seem like a children's fantasy from the outside, but let me tell you that it most certainly isn't. The movie has a certificate rating of 15, and I would certainly recommend that it is not shown to children.
The film has an excellent cast, although I'd never actually seen or heard of most, the performances throughout were quite superb. Ofelia, played by Ivana Baquero, was brilliant in the movie, and is certainly an actress destined for a great future. Her portrayal of the painfully sad Ofelia is special, and her pain comes across on screen to great effect. My favourite performance was by Sergi López, who played the dark, heartless, brutal Captain Vidal. I found his performance to be completely mesmarising, and so much so that it was difficult to know what to expect next from him, each time he appeared on screen.
If the movie does have a weakness, it is probably in the ending. This isn't a great weakness, but I just found the movie to be over somewhat abubtly, and toughtt that the ending could have been slightly better. This did not in anyway ruin the film, as it has so much more going for it. The movie is very much a dark fantasy, maybe not quite what you would expect from the movie poster or dvd covers, but certainly is a movie that keeps you watching with anticipation throughout.
Overall, I found the movie to be excellent, although I do wish that there would have been more emphasis on the fantasy world, without taking nothing away from the rest of the film. The mocie was thrilling, suspenseful and often very thought-porovoking. Don't be put off by the sub-titles, like I very nearly was, this is a great film that has something for everyone, and is a movie that I thoroughly recommend.
The movie can be bought as a single disc dvd for just £3.99 on Play.com, however if you are a special features fan like myself, then I would thoroughly recomment the 2 disk spedial edition set, at £7.99, also on Play.com, for a wealth of additional extras.
- Main Language: Spanish
- Available Audio Tracks: Dolby Digital 5.1
- Sub Titles: English
- Director's commentary
- Introduction by director
- Guardian interview at the National Film Theatre
- Director's notebook
- Storyboard and notebook video prologue
- Storyboard / thumbnail comparisons
- Format: Anamorphic, PAL
- Language Spanish
- Subtitles: English
- Region: Region 2 ( DVD formats.)
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
- Number of discs: 2
- Classification: 15
- Studio: Optimum Home Entertainment
- DVD Release Date: 12 Mar 2007
- Run Time: 119 minutes
Teething pains are a common problem with babies, as any parent will know, and whilst there is no way to completely stop the pain suffered by the young ones, there are certain means of soothing these pains available. One very effective way I have discovered is Calgel Teething Gel. There are many other effective remedies also available, from other gels, powders and liquids, but from a personal point of view, Calgel seems to be one of the more effective methods on the market.
My little boy is nearing a year old now, and his little teeth have started popping through. He is currently going through the worst bout of teething pains he has had yet, and on many occassions he can get all hot and worked up because of the pain. I have found that applying a little Calgel to his dummy most certainly has a very soothing and calming effect on him. Calgel is also very effective at relieving pain caused by mouth ulcers, which babies can also be subject to, or any other form of broken skin in the mouth area.
Calgel can also be applied via a dummy, clean fingertip or cotton bud, by rubbing on to the affected area of the gum, however I find applying to the dummy to be the easiest method. The application can be repeated after 20 minutes if needed, up to a maximum of 6 times a day, and should not be given to infants under the age of 3 months. I find the effects of Calgel seem to last for quite some time, so a maxmium of 6 applications a day is plenty.
Calgel Teething Gel contains two active ingredients in Lidocaine Hydrochloride and Cetylpyridinium Chloride. Lidocaine is a local anaesthetic which helps to relieve the teething pain. The antiseptic in Lidocaine can also prevent affected areas in the mouth from getting infected, and can help these areas to heal. Cetylpyridinium is a mild antiseptic that kills bacteria, and helps to protect and heal sore or broken skin in the mouth area. Calgel has a numbing effect on sore areas of the mouth, including the gums, for babies, very similar to the effect that the likes of Bonjela has for adults.
We have tried many different methods of pain relief for our little boy, including teething rings and Ashton powders, both of which have been effective to a degree, but both of which he seems to have lost interest in. Calgel has been the only method that he readily accepts, and certainly has been one of the most effective forms of pain relief.
Calgel comes in 10g tubes, and can be bought for around £1.67 in most supermarkets, however the cheapest place I have found to sell the product is boots, at just £1.27.
A home cinema system is a must for any true movie enthusiast, looking to re-create that cinema feel in the living room. Whilst nothing beats the cinema experience for movies, a good home cinema system goes a long way to enhancing the home movie experience. I have the Samsung HT-Q20 home cinema system in my house, and whilst it's certainly not the best system available on the market, I find it does a pretty good job for the price.
The Samsung HT-Q20 is almost a complete home entertainment system, since not only does it offer a dvd player with 5.1 surround sound, but it also has a built in radio tuner, plays audio CD's and has a USB slot for MP3 player compatability. These features were key in my decision for purchasing the system, as it basically meant that there was no need for me to purchase a separate Hi-fi system, which I also needed at the time. I bought the Samsung HT-Q20 nearly 2 years ago now, for around £160 at the time, which felt like money well spent, and whilst the system has been very good in the main, it's certainly by no means faultless.
The system looks great, as you would expect from a Samsung product, and comes in a sleek, matte black design with a metallic silver lining throughout the range of items. The home cinema system consists of a DVD player, 5 speakers, a sub-woofer and the remote control. Set-up is fairly simple, the only hassle involved is basically the positioning and set-up of the speakers, but once this is done, it is ready to go. Where surround sound can be complicated, is getting the system to work on all entertainment systems in the home, from the digital box, to the dvd player, to the games console. To get all these to work on the system, means making sure that all are somehow connected, and I found that I had to do a lot of research online to be able to do this.
The DVD player is excellent, playing a wide range of different formats. As well as regular DVD's, it also plays blank media DVD's, both + & - formats, including re-writeables. Obviously this depends on the brand of blank media used, but in my experience, most top branded media works fine. As well as DVD's, the system also plays music CD's, which is a great bonus, and also features Jpeg playback too. This is another great feature, meaning that it is possible to create a media DVD / CD containing pictures, which the DVD player is able to playback as a slideshow on screen. I am now able to view all my digital photos that are backed up on DVD, on my tv screen.
The DVD player also has a built in FM radio tuner, and comes with a small aerial that can be plugged into the back of the player, and has up to 30 preset channels available. Another very useful feature on the DVD player is the USB host, which allows for MP3 player to be connected to the system, and listened to through the surround sound. This is a great feature which is compatible with many makes and models of MP3 players, which are listed in the manual, but on the downside, it is not compatible with any Apple Ipod's.
The Dolby Pro Logic II 5.1 surround sound consists of the 5 speakers and the sub-woofer. The speakers, 2 for the front left & right, 2 for the back left & right, and one for the center, are small, but very effective and clear. Unfortunately they do not come supplied with stands, which are an additional extra cost unless you have other means of placement for the speakers. The DVD player has a number of pre-set effects in the audio set-up for the sound quality, including cinema, music, stereo etc. There is also the option to manually configure the audio set-up, but this is more for experts. The Sub-woofer sits next to the DVD player, and creates the bass effect on the audio, meaning you can actually feel the sound as well as hear it.
Set-up of the speakers is fairly simple, once you have identified which speaker goes where. The cables connecting the speakers can a bit of a hassle, and difficult to hide, especially for the back 2 speakers, however the system does feature a way to get around this. The Samsung HT-Q20 incorporates a wireless facility for the speakers, which would mean that the speakers can be positioned and connected without the use of the wires. The downside to this is that an additional wireless ready kit needs to purchased and connected to the DVD player, and at around £100, the Samsung SWA-3000 wireless adapter barely seems worth it. Positioning of the speakers is very important to get the full effect of the surround sound, and information on the best settings for home cinema systems is readily available on the internet, and is well worth looking in to.
The Samsung HT-Q20 home cinema system is a nice piece of kit. There are many better systems available on the market, and being 2 years old now, there are many newer too. Although saying this, the Samsung HT-Q20's sound quality is excellent, and it does have many great features. The Samsung HT-Q20 is not widely available anymore, due to it's age, but can be found priced at around £120, which is at the cheaper end of the home cinema system market, and for this reason can still be considered a very good buy.
Apple's Ipod Shuffle is probably the smallest and lightest portable music player on the market. Being so small, it has many advantages, but also a few disadvantages too. At just 41 x 27 x 11 mm in size, and weighing in at a mere 15 grams, the 2nd Generation Ipod Shuffle can literally fit into any pocket imaginable, and being almost as light as a feather, means that it almost goes un-noticed whilst in the pocket. The obvious disadvantage to the size is that it can be too small at times, and misplacing the Ipod is a common problem in my household. The Ipod is also very durable, and has been subjected to many a fall, and the odd chewing by my little boy, yet still works perfectly and looks almost new.
The Ipod Shuffle looks very stylish, and comes in a range of brilliant metallic colours, including silver, pink and blue. It has a circular control panel on one side, and a clip on the other. The control panel is supposedly 'thumb-friendly', however I do often find it slightly difficult to navigate, purely due to the minute size of the Ipod. I feel that the controls are better suited for ladies thumbs as opposed to larger mens thumbs! The controls have a large centre button for play & pause functionality, and has smaller buttons on the surround for skipping back and forwards between tracks and to control the volume. The on / off switch also includes the shuffle option, which allows you to switch between normal playback as per the music library, or to allow the Ipod to randomly shuffle between tracks.
The 1Gb verion of the Shuffle can hold around 250 songs. This is adequate for me, however 250 songs to many people is not that much. there is also a 2Gb version available at a slightly higher price, and as you can imagine, this can hold up to about 500 songs. When fully charged, the Ipod Shuffle allows up to an impressive 12 hours of audio playback, however this does decrease through the life of the Ipod as you would expect. The Ipod can be charged via USB, using the mini Ipod dock that comes supplied. The Ipod does not include a mains charger, which is slightly disappointing, however these are very cheap to buy and are widely available. I would also recommend purchasing a proper Ipod docking station, as these can also charge the Ipod as well as play music out loud using it's external speakers.
The audio playback on the Ipod Shuffle is excellent, as you would expect from any of Apple's Ipod range. Playback is crystal clear and skip-free, no matter how much movement the Ipod is subject to. The Ipod comes with a set of earphones, and are of good quality, although some people may feel the need to purchase better quality and better fitting earphones. Filling the Ipod's music library is done using the supplied Itunes software. I personally don't find this software to be the most user friendly. It's not a difficult software to operate, it actually uses a very simple drag & drop format to compile music lists, however I do find that it is very easy to lose songs and to make a mess of existing music libraries. Once installed, the Itunes software can be regularly updated, as can the Ipod's internal firmware, which is importnant to keep the Ipod running optimally and free of any bugs.
Having owned my Ipod Shuffle for some years now, I've often wondered whether it would be worth upgrading to a newer Ipod, but have always decided against. I enjoy listening to music on my Ipod, but I personally don't feel the need to be able to watch videos on it, and I certainly don't need up to 30Gb of memory to hold my music library. My Ipod Shuffle has only 1Gb of storage capacity, which is not a whole lot, but I feel is enough. So for me, I feel that the Ipod Shuffle caters for all my needs, and that is why I am more than happy with it, and i would certainly recommend it to anyone with similar music needs.
The Apple Ipod Shuffle 1Gb version is available for around £32 currently, whilst the 2Gb version is available for aroung £45.
The second series of the brilliantly disturbing Mighty Boosh first aired in July 2005, after the massive and somewhat unexpected success of the first series. Despite consisting of 2 episodes less than the first series, the second was just as popular and confirmed the show's standing as a legendary cult series. The series 2 DVD was released as a 2-disk set in February 2006, as was a box set containing both of the first two series, including special featues from both.
Howard Moon ....... Julian Barratt
Vince Noir ............. Noel Fielding
Naboo .................. Michael Fielding
Bollo ..................... Dave Brown
Various ................. Rich Fulcher
The second series of The Mighty Boosh moved away from the 'Zooniverse', and instead sees Howard Moon and Vince Noir set up their own band, with the aid of Naboo the Shaman and Bollo the talking ape, all from the comfort of their own flat. The hapless pair find themselves in a whole new series of adventures, as they go in search of fame and fortune. They find themselves kidnapped by the mythical, and extremely horny Yeti in 'The call of the Yeti', battling demonic Grannies in 'Nanageddon' and end up on a desert island in 'The Nightmare of Milky Joe'.
1. The Call of the Yeti
2. The Priest and the Beast
4. Fountain of Youth
5. Old Gregg the Funky Merman
6. The Nightmare of Milky Joe
The second season of The Mighty Boosh took the show to a whole new level. With a lot of expectancy due to the first series, the second doesn't disappoint one bit. It is a shame that there are less episodes in this series than the first, but the content quality more than makes up for this. Each episode is brilliant, and with more hysterical and superbly crazy characters, the series is a must see. Some of the ingenious creations from Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding include the Betamax bandit, a creature made entirely of old video tapes and Old Gregg, a deranged 'Merman' with his 'Mangina'.
The Mighty Boosh is certainly not for everyones liking, and needs to be given a chance to be understood. The humour is very unique in this show, and can be quite disturbing at times, and so will not be to everyones taste. If you enjoyed the first series of The Mighty Boosh, then you will love this one. The second series includes all the magic and mayhem of the first, and more.
Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding are once again the brains behind the second series of The Mighty Boosh, as with the first. They are once again brilliant as serious jazz-mad Howard Moon, and 70's throwback Vince Noir. They are accompanied from the first series by Michael Fielding, brother of Noel, as Naboo the Shaman, and also by Dave Brown as Bollo the talking ape. Rich Fulcher is also once again hilarious as he returns to play a number of various brilliant roles.
As well as all 6 episodes from the second season, the DVD also includes special features a plenty. The extras include audio commentary on all 6 episodes from Julian Barratt, Noel Fielding and other cast members. The pilot episode of The Mighty Boosh is also included as are 2 featurettes, 'Boosh Publicity' and a making of series 2 feature. A photo gallery, out-takes, deleted scenes and a music video are also included as a part of the comprehensive special features on the 2 disk dvd set, as is a short film entitled 'Sweet'.
The Mighty Boosh Series 2 is a superb addition to any dvd collection. There may not be as many episodes in this series as there was in the first, but there are additional special features that more than make up for that. This dvd is currently available for £9.97 on Amazon.co.uk, and in my opinion is a must have DVD.
We bought a MAM Crystal Soother Saver before our baby was born, purely since we wanted to make sure we had everything we needed for when the time arrived, and thought we might get some use out of it at some point. However, we put the Soother Saver away when we bought it, and pretty much forgot about it for a long time .. big mistake. If I knew then what I know now, I could have saved myself weeks, if not months of restless nights.
My little one, when about 4 or 5 months old, went through a period of constantly losing his dummy during the night. This meant that either myself or my partner were getting up anywhere from a couple of times a night, up to maybe as much as 7 or 8 times a night, just to pop the darn thing back in his mouth. We were beginning to think how much of a mistake it was to have ever given him a dummy in the first place, but found that by now he couldn't live without it. My partner then remembered about the MAM Crystal Soother Saver that we had bought, and went to dig it out from the bottomless pit that was the baby's cupboard. We decided to give it a go that night, as we didn't really have anything to lose. Our lives have been changed since that night.
The MAM Crystal Soother Saver is designed to attach a dummy to a part of a baby's clothing, meaning that it is always in reach should the baby lose it. It has a specially designed clip on one end, that means it can literally be attached to almost anything from clothing to a car seat to a pram or pushchair. The other end is a flexible ring, made from an elastic rubber, that is designed to fit around nearly all dummies that are available on the market. The clip and the ring are attached in the middle by a fabric string, about 6 inches in length. The Soother Savers are available in both pink or blue colours, and are available in most baby equipment retailers, normal priced between £2 - £3.
The MAM Crystal Soother Saver worked almost instantly for us, the baby worked out very quickly that he was able to find the dummy quickly and easily. Apart from the odd occassion where he might have rolled over onto the dummy, we barely had to get up at all to help. The Soother Saver is also great for out and about, meaning that the dummy never falls to the ground, and never gets dirty. He is now nearly a year old, and we find that the Soother Saver is constantly in use, whether it be in the cot at night time, or in the pushchair around the shops. He have realised just how important this little thing is, and find that we really couldn't live without it these days.
The Mighty Boosh is one of the most unusual comedies to ever be shown on tv. Wacky, crazy, often quite disturbing, but always brilliantly funny, the show is written by and also stars comedians Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding. The Mighty Boosh began life as a theatrical show, before moving on to become a radio series on BBC Radio 4, and finally in 2004, the show was commissioned to appear as a tv series on BBC Three. The show has been a massive success, and has developed a large cult following, whilst going on to win many awards through it's life.
Howard Moon ......... Julian Barratt
Vince Noir ............... Noel Fielding
Bob Fossil ............... Rich Fulcher
Naboo .................... Michael Fielding
Bollo ....................... Dave Brown
Dixon Bainbridge .... Matt Berry
The Mighty Boosh series one DVD was released in 2005, and includes all 8 episodes of the hit series, on a 2 disk set. Set in Bob Fossil's Zoo, the Zooniverse, series one is set around the adventures of Howard Moon and Vince Noir, both as workers in the run-down zoo. Whilst Vince accepts his daily routines, caught up in his own little 70's mindset, with no care in the world other than his own hairstyle, Howard despairs at the thought of working at the zoo for the rest of his life, and longs for something better. Whilst constantly being humiliated by the chores set to them by owner Bob Fossil, Howard and Vince set off on a number of adventures that sees them travel to and explore some of the most mysterious places on the planet, and beyond.
The first seaon of the show sees Howard and Vince travel to many mysterious destinations, including the Arctic Tundra and Limbo, and also find themselves in Ape Hell and exploring deep within the undergrowth of the Jungle Room. As well as resident zoo members owner Bob Fossil, Naboo the Shaman, explorer Dixon Bainbridge and Bollo the talking ape, the pair also come across various other weird and wonderful characters, including the ice demon Black Frost, Tommy Nookah, and Charlie the pink bubblegum to name but a few.
The first season of the Mighty Boosh was superb, it was a show that I had not seen the likes of before, but certainly wasn't a show that I adhered to immediately. The Mighty Boosh is definitely a show that needs to be given a chance, and to be understood, to be enjoyed fully. The humour in the show is brilliant, but does take a while to understand. The storylines and characters created in this show have to be seen to be believed. I often wonder how such a show can be so successful and so funny, and I believe it's firmly down to the comedy genius of Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding.
Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding are the brains behind The Mighty Boosh. From the magical characters, to the storylines, to the humour, the entire show is created by them. As well as that, it's their characters in the show that stand out as the most funniest of all. They are well supported by Noel's brother Michael, as Naboo, as well as Rich Fulcher and Dave Brown, who complete the comic group who collaborate on each and every episode.
As well as all 8 episodes from the first season, the DVD also includes a number of special features. There is commentary available on 4 of the episodes, Bolla, Tundra, Electro and Hitch by Julian Barratt, Noel Fielding and Rich Fuller. There are also 2 great features on the DVD, Inside the Zooniverse and History of the Boosh, as well as Boosh Music, out-takes and a picture gallery.
With up to 4 hours worth of brilliant screen-time, The Mighty Boosh Season One is a DVD that I would highly recommend, and with Amazon.co.uk now selling it at a bargain priced £8.98, it would be a crime not to own it!
One thing I have learnt during the first year of parenthood is that a baby's routine changes constantly, or certainly that was the case with my little one. Cow & Gate Good Night Milk helped me during one such difficult phase I was faced with at around the 6 month stage. After a couple of months of relatively peaceful nights, the baby began waking at night wanting an extra bottle. At the time, he was being well fed in the daytime, and we were happy that he was getting all that he wanted. After speaking to a friend, I was recommended to try using Cow & Gate Good Night Milk for the final feed of the day. Since we had always used SMA baby milk from when he was very young, we were a bit hesitant to mix his milk, but thought we'd give it a go to see if it helped.
From the very first night that we gave the baby the Good Night Milk, our problems were solved. The milk worked a treat. The Good Night Milk is much thicker than normal milk, hence making it much more filling. And certainly for my little boy, this was enough to fill him up for the night, and give him a good night's sleep. He had no problems in taking the new milk, and didn't upset his stomach in any way. What I did find we had to do was to buy faster flowing teats for the bottles, since the thickness of the milk made it difficult for him to drink through his regular teats.
Cow & Gate Good Night Milk is a follow-on milk, and is suitable for babies from the age of 6 months. It is a specially formulated thicker milk that is designed to help settle a baby during it's bedtime routine. The milk is different to most follow-on milk, as it contains prebiotics, which are special nutrients that help support a baby's natural immune system. The milk contains extra iron and vitamin D for a follow-on milk, and is free of gluten and low in sodium. Cow & Gate Good Night Milk should not replace your baby's regular milk, but instead should be used with the main milk.
Cow & Gate Good Night follow-on milk is available in 400g cartons, which are well designed with an easy-peel foil sealing. the lid can easily be opened with a single hand, and has scoop leveller build into a corner of the box, which I find really handy. I was very impressed with the deign of the box, it made making up bottles far easier, and could practically be done almost entirely single handedly. The powder should be used within 4 weeks of opening, which is plenty. I would definitely recommend the Good Night milk to parents who may be experiencing similar problems with their little ones.
The Cow & Gate Good Night milk is generally available for £4.98 in most supermarkets, however is currently on offer at Asda for £3.
When it comes to paint, in my experience Dulux always comes out on top. For quality and sheer range of beautiful colours, I must say that I have yet to come across a brand that betters Dulux. The Dulux brand has been a household name in the UK since the 1950's. Made famous by it's traditional Old English Sheepdog mascot, Dulux in now renowned across the world as a leading paint manufacturer, and is widely used in such countries as South Africa, Canada, Australia, Germany and Malaysia to name but a few.
During my recent re-decorating project, the living room, I decided to try the Dulux Once range of paint, and opted for the Natural Calico colour in Matt Emultion. The Dulux colour guide in-store at my local Homebase was very useful, displaying Dulux's vast array of colours, nicely arranged, and with many colour scheme ideas. I have to admit, I don't like choosing paint colours, as to this day I have yet to see a colour in print look the same as it does on the wall .. I'm not sure why this is, but that's just my own personal experience.
The obvious advantage to using Dulux Once paint is that you only supposedly need a single coat to finish. The obvious disadvantage is that it is more expensive. A 4.5l tub of the Dulux Once paint cost £29.99 at Homebase, which was double the cost of a regular 2.5l tin. So the Dulux Once did work out slightly dearer, but not by much. In reality, I found that there was very little to choose between the Dulux Once and the regular range, so for ease of use I went of the Dulux Once, since a single coat is far less work than two coats. However, I did find that a single coat wasn't always enough. The living room walls were previouslya terracotta like colour, and since the Natural Calico is an off-white, I found myself having to touch up many parts of the walls. Possibly had my new chosen colour been darker, there would not have been a need to touch up, but thi is certainly worth considering when buying a light coloured paint.
The finish was, as always, superb. The colour is beautifully natural, and I couldn't be happier. I also found that the thickness of the paint meant that there was very little splattering of paint, and so kept mess to a minimun when painting. A 4.5l tub claims to cover 9m2 per litre, and I found myself using about a tub and a 1/4 co completely paint my living room, which is a decent size. I was very impressed with this, and this was evident with the amount of coverage I was able to paint using a single rollers worth.
Dulux Once is most definitely a paint that I would recommend, and I will certainly be using the range again for future decorating. I firmly believe that there was better value to be had using the Dulux Once range compared to the regular range, and the qualtity of the finish is most certainly second to none.
21 is a movie directed by Robert Lukeric, and was released earlier this year. The movie start among others, a relatively unknown Jim Sturgess in the leading role, along with Kate Bosworth (Blue Crush, Superman Returns), Kevin Spacey (Seven, LA Confidential) ans Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix, Assault on Precinct 13). The film is based round the casino game of Blackjack, or 21 as it's also known, or more precisely the art of 'counting cards' in the game. Counting cards is a method of tracking whic cards have been used in a game, in order to calculate the odds of winning at a particular table.
Ben Campbell (Jim Stirgess) is a brilliant and highly intelligent college student, who needs to find $300,000 in order to realise his dream of attending the prestigeous Harvard school of medicine. Ben's extraordinary maths ability is noticed by college professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey), who manages to tempt Ben into joining his secretive after school club, who's objective is to make money through the game of Blackjack. Ben is taught the art of counting cards by Micky, and the other five students in the club, including the beautiful Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth). Ben sees the club as an ideal way of raising the funds he needs to attend Harvard.
Ben's world is turned upside down, as he finds himself flying to Las Vegas with the club, every weekend, and soon finds that the skill of counting cards comes naturally to him. Ben begins to bring in the money like never before, and life couldn't be better for him as his relationship with Jill begins to blossom, and he enjoys a new partying lifestyle in Vegas. Ben's skills at Blackjack however have not gone un-noticed, as the casino's head of surveilance, Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne) begins to monitor his game play. Ben soon finds his wonderful new lifestyle abruptly brought to an end, and possibly his dreams of Harvard extinguished.
I found this movie to be very entertaining, and whilst it wasn't one of the best movies I've seen, certainly made me feel it was a film worth watching. I have quite a keen interest in casino games myself, so possibly the film seemed more appealing to me than to others without the interest. Nevertheless, I believe that there is enough going on in this film to keep even non-casino fans happy. The film is reasonably paced, with a nice mix of tension and excitement. There are also a few nice twists in the movie, that adds to the quality of the film.
Jim Sturgess plays the part of the brilliant student, turned Blackjack supremo, Ben Campbell, and despite not having previously seen or heard of him before, I though his performance was great. Kate Bosworth was her normal sexy self as his fellow student in the team, but the crown performances for me come from the old pro's Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne. I have a high admiration for both these actors, and their performances in this film are up to their normal high level. Kevin Spacey is great as the college professor, and brains behind the club. A man leading a double life, who also posseses a very nasty streak. And Laurence Fishburne is also supeb as the mean, unforgiving head of surveilance and security, who does a really great job as the movie's bad guy. I found a few of the other cast members, in particularly the other club members, to be highly annoying, but overall the cast were outstanding.
There is a really nice contrast between the club's normal life, as students in a cold, snowy Boston college, and their other life under new identities, in the sunny, exciting Las Vegas. How the movie continually switches between the two is very good, and portrays the thrills of the game of Blackjack to a whole new level.
This is a really good film in my opinion. It may to be to everyone's taste, but it is definitely a movie I would recommend giving a go. It's certainly worth the DVD rental charge for a Friday nights viewing. I certainly found the film to be highly entertaining. The movie has a certificate rating of 12.
Having recently been eligible for a free phone upgrade through my network provider, I opted for the Sony Ericsson W910i walkman mobile phone. I have owned several Sony Ericsson phones over the past few years, and have become quite a big fan of their phones. My tariff is reasonably low, so I wasn't eligible for a top of the range model without having to pay something towards it, so the W910i seemed the better choice of an average range of free phones I was offered.
For pure looks, the W910i is a joy to look at, and in my opinion is up there with the best of them. The W910i is a slide phone, and it comes in a super-slim, sleek black design, with a smooth, smart metal outer-frame. When closed, the phone displays a nice brushed aluminium circular navigation panel, which is easy to use, and a vast improvement to the joystick control on my previous Sony Ericsson phone. The call answer & cancel buttons are also displayed on the face, and the walkman controls are smartly placed both on the front and on the side on the phone, making use of the walkman extremely easy. The phone slides smoothly and elegantly with a puch of a thumb, to uncover the number pad, that has large, well spaced keys. The phone has a large, bright, 240 x 320 pixel, high-resolution display, which is very impressive.
The phone has a number of great features, many of which are standard, and some of which were new to me. The W910i has a 2 Megapixel camera with a 2.5x digital zoom, which is adequate, but by todays standard where some new phones include cameras up to 5 megapixels, is no better than average. Don't get me wrong, the camera takes a decent picture, but the problems become evident if you wish to enlarge the picture for printing purposes etc. It also has a very average video recording capability. The phone incorporates 3G and also HSDPA, which basically allows for faster internet access and makes the phone capable of high-speed downloading, ideal for music downloads. The 3G and HSDPA also allows the phone to have a video calling feature, not that this is something that I regularly use.
The W910i's strongest attribute lies with it's walkman, since the phone is designed as a walkman phone. And it doesn't disappoint. The audio quality of the Walkman 3.0 music player is nothing short of superb, with a fantastic bass frequency enhancement feature thanks to Sony Ericssons Megabass feature, the phone comes alive to the beat of music. The Walkman 3.0 music player is fully-featured, meaning you can create and manage playlists, shuffle, and has music controls allowing you to equalise, and alter music settings such as bass etc. The W910i also has a nifty new feature called the 'Shake Control', basically allowing you to shuffle to a new track simply by giving the phone a little shake. This feature can be turned on or off, since this may not always be convenient if you were to take the phone out with you for a jog for instance, but nevertheless is a nice little feature.
The phone comes with it's standard Sony Ericsson headphones, which are fine, however for a greater music experience, it's adviseable to purchase a set of quality headphones, such as Sennheisers or Sony's. The phone also allows you to use a Bluetooth headset, which is great, but does not come supplied with the phone. Again, another optional extra. The phone also comes equiped with an FM RDS Radio, as you would expect, and has a PlayNow feature that allows you to purchase and download ringtones direct to the phone. The W910i has a measly 35Mb of internal memory, but comes equipped with a 1Gb Micro memory stick, but can also support up to 4Gb should you wish to upgrade. The phone comes supplied with a Sony Ericsson software CD, which is very useful, as it enables you to rip music from CD's to the PC, and then organize and transfer them onto the phone. The software is good, and very easy to very easy to use.
The phone also comes packed with any standard features, as you would expect, such as a sound recorder, personal organiser, animated wallpaper etc. The phone's 3D Java games also has a nice little added feature, in that the phone can be turned on it's side to play these games, with the navigation panel acting as the direction pad on the right, and with control buttons situated on the left, very much like a mini portable games console, such as a Nintendo DS .. different and fun.
From my own personal experience, the Sony Ericsson W910i has very little wrong with it. The only fault I can attribute to the phone is that, very much like my previous Sony Ericsson phone, the K810i, is that text messaging is very slow on the phone, and I find that the words appear error strewn since the phone fails to keep up with my texting speed. This is very much annoying, but not a major problem. The phone obviously could be better, but then this is a Walkman mobile phone, the Sony Ericsson Cyber-Shot series are designed for camera use. However, since having the phone I have done some research into it online, and have come across many reviews and reports of this phone having a more serious fault, in that many people have experienced their phones freezing or shutting down unexpectedly, and on a regular basis. Like I have said, this is not a problem I have experienced personally, simply what I have read from others.
Overall, this is a great phone. It looks great and sounds great. There are better camera phones available on the market, but certainly not many walkman phones, probably none in this price range. It has a lot of fun features, and enough memory to cope, with the memory stick supplied. This is a mobile phone and a fully-functional mp3 player in one, there's no doubt about that. This phone has as many features as mosy mp3 players on the market, and sounds just as good. I would definitely recommended this phone for music lovers, but bearing in mind the fault mentioned above, it could also be seen as somewhat of a risky but.
- 3G with HSDPA & video calling
- 2 megapixel camera with 2.5x digital zoom
- Video camera
- Display: TFT LCD, 262,144 colours, 240 x 320 pixels
- Walkman® music player (MP3, AAC formats)
- FM radio RDS
- MegaBassTM enhances bass frequencies
- TrackIDTM tells you the name, artists and album of any song you're listening to
- PlayNowTM lets you buy and download top ringtones
- Polyphonic ringtones / MP3 ringtones
- Sound recorder
- Messaging: SMS, MMS, Email
- 3D Java games
- Animated wallpaper
- Web browser, RSS feeds
- Personal organiser functions
- Memory: 35 Mbytes plus Memory Stick MicroTM support (up to 4 Gbytes)
- Connectivity: Bluetooth, USB
- Flight mode (offline mode)
- Vibration alert
- Size: 100 X 50 x 12.5 mm
- Weight: 86g
- Quadband plus 3G (UMTS 2100)
- Talktime: 3.5 hours (3G) - 9 hours (2G)
- Battery standby: 350 hours
The Sony Ericsson is available for free as a contracted phone through most network providers, however as a pay as you go phone, it is generally available between £110 - £120.
Released in 1973, Westworld is a futuristic thriller, written and directed by renowned and top selling author, Michael Crichton, better known for his Jurassic Park work. The movie stars among others, James Brolin (The Amityville Horror), Richard Benjamin and the late Yul Brunner (The Magnificent Seven). Westworld was the first major movie to introduce CGI, which was used in several scenes during the film.
Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin) and John Blane (James Brolin) are two friends who decide to take a holiday at revolutionary new, high-tech, futuristic amusement park, Delos. The park is made up of 3 zones, the old west, medieval Europe and pre-Christian Rome, where guests can come to live out their fantasies in the zone of their choice. Each zone is enhabited by robots, made to look life-like and to function like human beings. Peter and John decide to visit the WestWorld zone, and live as comboys for the duration of their stay. They both begin to enjoy their stay, as they drink at the local bars, start fights and shoot dead the robot cowboys, safe in the knowledge that the robots cannot return harm.
However, things start to go wrong in the park, and the park technicians begin to notice malfunctions in the human-like robots behaviour, as they begin to harm some of the guests. When a guest is killed by a robot, the resort's supervisors shut down the power only to find that this has had no effect of the robots, who begin to run amok and cause havoc. When John is shot by a robot named The Gunslinger (Yul Brunner), Peter flees only to be pursued by the relentless android, hell-bent on taking his life. Peter, faced with a themed world full of crazed, malfunctioning robots, must fight for his life and find a way out of the park to safety.
Yul Brunner is his old fantastic self as the demonid, terminatoresque robot, on a mission to kill, The Gunslinger. I have always been a big fan of Brunner, and despite being in a muted role, his performance in this movie is one of my favourites. I have never been very impressed with James Brolin, I have always found him to be very boring in most of his roles, however to be fair, his role in this movie doesn't require him to produce anything special anyway. Richard Benjamin is one I am less familiar with, but does very well in this movie as the terrified holidaymaker, fleeing for his life. Each of the many actors and actresses in this movie, who perform as robots do so in great style, and perform much more admirally than some of the shambolic CGI characters that can be found in some of todays blockbuster movies.
Westworld is a great film, and has always been a great in my eyes since the first time that I saw it. Yes it does look dated, it's 35 years old, but for sheer suspense and drama, it's up there with the best. The story is very original, and the character of The Gunslinger has gone on to influence many cult characters in many movies since, including Michael Myers in Halloween. I believe that the movie has been very successful, due to it preying on unrealised fantasies of many red-blooded males .. I mean who wouldn't want to spend a week as a cowboy, in a realistic Wild West town, being able to fight and shoot to kill, with no fear of getting hurt (well, that was the idea of the park anyway)! That coupled with the first ever on-screen Terminator, makes this a movie with so much appeal and originality, which will live on for a long, long time.
In 1976 a sequel to Westworld was released, called Futureworld, with Yul Brunner returning as The Gunslinger. This movie, however, was a bit of a disappointment in my opinion, and never lived up to the original. There is also a re-make planned for Westworld, that is due for release next year. There is no mention yet of who the director or leading actors wil be, however this is a movie I will be eagerly awaiting. i just hope that this re-make will be done well, and done properly, and will hopefully do the original justice. The potential is definitely there for a blockbuster, however many re-makes done over the years have been butchered time after time .. a feat that I hope will be avoided with this movie.
Westworld is a great movie, but one that will not suit everyone. I feel this movie is definitely going to be enjoyed more by the male population, because my girlfriend looked at me silly when I put this film on .. she certainly had no interest in watching it. I would hope that the age of the film will not put people off, because if you sit down and start watching this film, you will begin to realise very quickly just how good a film it is, and how quickly you will be drawn in to the plot.
This is a classic sci-fi thriller, and one that I would recommend very highly to fans of the genre.
Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares is a great show, and in my opinion is one of the best programs on tv at the moment, although this isn't difficult as the quality of programs being broadcasted at the moment is very poor. Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares is broadcasted on Channel 4, and has done since the series first aired in 2004. The show has since gone on to make 5 series, all of which have been excellent, and I genuinely can't remember a poor episode being shown in any.
Ramsay's kitchen Nightmares is a reality documentary show, that sees celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay visiting struggling restaurants throughout the country, and how he attempts to help the failing restaurants avoid certain closure. He does this in a manner of ways, from changing the menus to altering the decor, but ultimately by teaching the head chef's he is confronted with to cook .. properly. During many of the episodes that have been shown, a 'Re-visited' follow-on show has been broadcasted the following year, where Gordon Ramsay returns to the retaurants he has previously visited to find out if they have in fact improved, and stuck to the advice given to them.
There is never a dull moment in the Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares shows, as with nearly every episode, Chef Ramsay is faced with a stereotypically, obnoxious, 'head-up-his-own-@rse' (Ramsay's own words) chef, who fails to accept his own faults and lack of abilities. This is almost a recurring theme throughout the series, and often leads to many heated disputes and confrontations, of which there is always only one winner. To be fair to Ramsay, he never seems to back down, no matter what size the opposing chef, and there was also an episode where he even stood up to an irrate, knife-wielding chef .. stupidly maybe, but nevertheless he did.
I often get annoyed with many of the restaurant owners and chef's in the shows, as Ramsay's methods are pretty much textbook, and he basically preaches the same points in each and every show. With every restaurant he visits, Ramsay always simplyfies the menu, introduces new dishes using fresh, local ingredients, as opposed to frozen foods, and where need be, will update old looking, dated decor. What annoys me about the owners and chef's is that had they bothered to watch the show before asking for Ramsay's help, they would know exactly what to do, and how to improve, and so wouldn't need his help in the first place. It often baffles me why this is never the case.
The success of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares has spawned the creation of an American equivilent, called just 'Kitchen Nightmares', but in which Gordon Ramsay also appears. This series is just as good as the British version, if not better. The chef's he has to deal with over the pond are often more arrogant and headstrong than their British counterparts, which often leads to even bigger rows and confrontations. His methods are much the same in this version, the only difference being that there is obviously a larger budget involved in the show, since a make-over of the restaurants involved is always included.
I like Gordon Ramsay a lot, he is honest, and always tells it like he is. He can come across as arrogant himself, but he is not, this is simply the way he is. There are some occassions where I believe he may have treated a chef harshly, and it is easy to see how these chef's do often boil at wave after wave of harsh critisism that is thrown ay them. But despite this, he is definitely a man to be respected, and who undoubtedly knows his stuff. The number of restaurants he has saved from certain closure, and turned into profit making businesses is proof of that.
I can't recommend this show enough, if you can handle Gordon Ramsay's ways, then this is a great way to spend the evenings viewing!
The Strangers is a movie by debut director Bryan Bertino, and has been released this year. Starring Liv Tyler (Armageddon, The Lord of the Rings) and Scott Speedman (Underworld, XXX), the movie is a violent thriller, which is supposedly inspired by true events, and has a UK certificate rating of 15.
A couple, Kirsten McKay (Liv Tyler) and James Hoyt (Scott Speedman), return from a wedding reception to the secluded Hoyt's family home, both upset from an arguement that had occured earlier that night. As the couple sit down to discuss the row, they are both startled to hear a knock on the front door, in the early hours of the morning. As they open the door, a strange woman stands in the doorway, asking for a person, whom the couple have never heard of. They explain that the person doesn't live there, and the woman wanders off into the dark. Confused and a little startled, James sets off to get a pack of cigarettes for Kirsten.
Whilst James is away, the woman returns to the house, but this time she is not alone. The knocking on the door begins again, and gets louder and louder. Frightened, Kirsten tries to contact James through her mobile to no avail. As she witnesses a man standing in her window, wearing a sack for a mask, a terrified Kirsten tries again to contact James, only to find that her phone has disappeared. She soon realises that she is not alone in the house. James returns soon after, and what ensues for the couple during the remainder of the night, is a battle for survival, with no means of escape. The strangers' game has begun, and the couple must find a way to survive the terrifying ordeal, until help can arrive.
I thought that this was a very good movie, however I was also left somewhat disappointed at the end. This film is packed full of suspense, and delivers a good psychological thriller, that is made even more terrifying by the fact that it is claimed to be inspired by true events. I felt that there were some genuinely scary moments in the film, but there was also definitely something missing .. an explanation. I understand that the fact that there isn't an explanation, is supposed to add to the suspense of the film, but it did leave me a little disappointed. It left my girlfriend, however, shaking with fear at the end, and made me double check the locks on the windows and doors before bed.
Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman star as the terrified couple, struggling to survive the ordeal, and I thought that they were very good. I have not seen much of Scott Speedman before, but I was quite impressed with his ability. Liv Tyler is an actress who I am a fan of, and in this role we see a very different side to her acting ability, one that has not been seen before. Despite not seeing or hearing much from the 3 strangers, played by Kip Weeks, Gemma Ward and Laura Margolis, they still manage to do a great job at basically being scary. This is largely down to the freakish masks that they wear for the entirety of the film.
Whilst there is some violence and gore in the movie, the majority of the film is based on suspense, and there most definitely a lot of that in the film. I always find that the scariest movies are the ones containing psychological fear, and this movie does just that. There's probably no greater fear than knowing that there is someone in your house, but not sure where. This is the reason that we see it happen often in movies, but it always seems to work if done right, and in this case it is done really well. Also with the movie supposedly based on true events, just doubles the drama and suspense created in the film.
Despite the movie claiming to be inspired by true events, this is not exactly the case. During research into the origins of the true events that launched the film, I found that very little of the events in the movie are actually based on true events. This disappointed me a little, but not enough to ruin the film. I think that the sheer fact that the words 'What you are about to see is inspired by true events' are used at the beginning of the film sets the movie up to be even more terrifying than it already is, and in my opinion, it doesn't really matter if this is true or not.
This is a good film, which probably could have been a little better, but nonetheless I thought it was a good film. If you want to be scared, believe in the film as being inspired by true events, and you will be. I would definitely recommend this film, especially if you like a good, suspenseful, thriller / horror.
The True Events
There are apparently two events that have been combined to inspire the movie, although whether this is true or not is up for debate. The first is an event that the director Bryan Bertino experienced as a child, when a stranger came to his home asking for someone that wasn't there, and later learning that a number of empty homes in the neighbourhood had been broken into that night.
The second true event that supposedly inspired the film, occured on April 11th, 1981, in a small town called Keddie, in the northern Californian hills. In a small cabin resort, 3 bodies were found bound hand and foot, and stabbed and hammered to death. The bodies were that of a mother, her son and his friend. The bodies were discovered by the mothers daughter, who had been staying in the next cabin, no more than 15 feet away. Every wall in the cabin was covered in blood, as was all the furniture, however not a sound was heard to come from the cabin throughout the night. The case remains unsolved, and a mystery to this day.
There is also a lot of suspicion that the events are based on the Charles Manson murders, and it is easy to see why after watching the film, however this theory seems to carry less weight then the above events.
I try to avoid giving my baby boy any form of medicine as much as possible, but as most parents wil know, sometimes it's a must. He is 11 months old at the moment, and for the last couple of months has been going through his teething period. Not only is this obviously painful for him, but it also distrupts his sleep .. and how babies need their sleep. I was advised by a friend that they had used Medised, and had been very effective at relieving some of the pain that their baby had been experiencing, so after much research into the product, I decided that it seemed safe enough and so I decided to give it a go.
We have been using Medised for our little boy for a few months now, only in extreme circumstances mind you, and I have to say that it really has helped him to cloud out some of the pain he has been experiencing. I only tend to give him a dose during bed time, to help him get the good night sleep that he needs. I like to give him half the recommended dosage to begin with, and only give him the other half if I feel he needs it. An advantage that Medised has over many other infant pain relief medicines, is that it can be mixed in with the baby's milk, so there's no need to mess about with spoons or syringes, which often leads to more of the stuff ending up all over the baby's face as opposed to in their mouth.
Medised is designed as a pain and fever relief for infants and children, it also helps to give the baby a restful sleep and to ease breathing. Medised should only be given to babies from 3 months on, and should only be give to babies younger if recommended so by a doctor. The syrup is strawberry flavoured, which helps the baby or infant to take to it. Medised contains Paracetamol, for pain relief from teething, sore throat, headaches and high temperatures caused by colds and flu. It also contains Diphenhydramine, which is present to clear blocked and stuffy noses, and to help with restful sleep.
Instructions and dosages are clearly stated on the box, and Medised also has a website for attitional information, with an faq page for concerned parents. Medicines for babies is alway an important topic, rightly so, especially when there have been occassions where some medicines have been taken off the shelves for health reasons. Parents have a right to be concerned. Medised, from all the information I have gathered, seems to be one of the safer medicines on the market, and one that is recommended by many experts. I have to say that my little boy has not experienced any side effects from Medised, apart from the stated drowsyness which helps the baby off to sleep, and it most certainly has helped him to settle and relieve pain when he has needed it the most.
Medised is generally available in 100ml and 200ml bottles, with the 100ml bottles starting from around £3 a bottle, and the 200ml from around £4.50. The bottle comes with a safety twist cap, which I find hard to open at the best of times, so should my little one ever get hold of a bottle, I'd be pretty confident the he wouldn't be able to. I would definitely recommend Medised, although I would also recommend that all parents do a little research into the product, as with any infant medicinal product, just to make sure that it is suitable for them, and that they are happy to give it to their little ones.