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If you haven't yet heard of Marina and the Diamonds, there's a good chance you will in the future. Despite the name of the act, Marina and the Diamonds consists only of Marina Lambrini Diamandis (if that isn't a perfect name for a Bond girl, I don't know what is!) who was born in Abergavenny, Wales on 10 October 1985 and is half-Welsh, half-Greek. Marina has explained that the name of her act derives from that she is Marina and her fans are the diamonds - although it is also a play on her surname which actually means 'diamonds' in Greek. Marina has mentioned that she has a wide range of influences on her music such as Daniel Johnston, Kate Bush, Blondie, Patti Smith, Nirvana, PJ Harvey, Elliott Smith, Madonna and even Dolly Parton! As happens whenever a new artist appears, Marina's style has been likened to other artists - Kate Bush and Florence and the Machine are some of the easy ones for music journalists to compare her to. On a personal note, although every artist has their influences and inspirations, I have found that although some of the tracks on The Family Jewels may be reminiscent of certain artists, bands or musical style of them, Marina's music and style stands alone as her own and her talent, originality and passion shine through. I don't believe Marina and the Diamonds should be pigeon-holed into any given musical genre. Critics have had a tendency to call Marina as new wave pop artist but I believe she is more than just that. Her style ranges from keyboard based ballads to lively and fun new wave styled songs with a full backing band. Marina does not come from a musical background and has previously referred to herself as a DIY musician - explaining "I probably have a bit of a different sound because I don't really know what I'm doing". If she truly doesn't know what she's doing, this does not make itself apparent in Marina's music which sounds confident, polished and well-established. There are thirteen tracks on The Family Jewels and in all honesty despite me having some firm favourites on the album, there are no tracks that I don't like. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1 - Are You Satisfied? This track provides a bold start to the album with plenty of electric guitar, strings and keyboard. The song is quite a "bouncy" track with some strong vocals by Marina. I would say that there is an element of The Stranglers about the keyboard in the chorus although I can't remember which of their songs it reminds me of. The lyrics have quite a bit of rebellious attitude to them and all in all, Are You Satisfied? is a fine start to the proceedings. 2 - Shampain I love Shampain. It's simply a great track that has a real 80's edge to it. The style of this track is very reminiscent of the type of material that made The Eurythmics great in the 80's. One of Marina's talents is to use her influences without shamelessly stealing from them. The lyrics are well suited to the style of the music: Chorus: "Drinking champagne, made by the angel Who goes by the name of Glittering Gabriel Drinking champagne made of an angel's Tears and pain, but I feel celestial" Although some of Marina's music may hark back to the music of yesteryear, it remains fresh and enjoyable in today's world and market. 3 - I Am Not A Robot I Am Not A Robot is a fantastic song. It's quite simple compared to some of Marina's other tracks. That said, this song highlights some great lyrics and makes you wonder just how much of what is contained within is from Marina's personal experience. The song seems to centre on the desire - and possibly the inability to be accepted but allows for some lyrics that a majority of us can relate to and ring true: "It's okay to say you've got a weak spot You don't always have to be on top Better to be hated than Love, love, loved for what you're not" The music video for I Am Not A robot is (as is the case with the song itself) fairly simple. It can be found on the Marina and the Diamonds YouTube channel and is certainly worth a look/listen. 4 - Girls Girls is really bouncy (I hate to use that word repeatedly but it is applicable) track that just grabs you as soon as the beat kicks in. The song appears to be having a go at the way the media and the way they hound celebrities: "Girls, oh girls, wag your tails to the beat Of Girls Aloud, oh the journos in heat Write such good stories Oh their mothers must be proud Making money off our insecurity and doubt" 5 - Mowgli's Road There are animal sounds in the mix of this energetic and catchy song - which makes me think that the title is making reference of sorts to Mowgli from The Jungle Book. The lyrics don't exactly make a great deal of sense to me but that has never stopped a song being great. 6 - Obsessions I love Obsessions. It's one of my favourite tracks on the album. It starts off sounding almost sad, with Marina seemingly weighing up insecurities of a relationship: "Sunday, wake up, give me a cigarette Last night's love affair is looking vulnerable in my bed Silk sheet, blue dawn, Colgate tongue warm Won't you quit your crying? I can't sleep One minute I'm a little sweetheart And next minute you are an absolute creep" Artists and celebrities are only people in the end and it seems possible that Marina is drawing from personal experience in writing this song. I think each and every one of us has experience of heart-ache within a relationship - past or present - and I think that is why Obsessions will ring true with a lot of people when they hear it. 7 - Hollywood Hollywood was the first ever Marina and the Diamonds song that I saw/heard (I saw the music video). I saw Marina strutting about in a cheerleaders outfit and thought she was very lovely eye-candy but then something else hit me... This song was good and this girl was not just talent but talented! It must be said that on first listen, when Hollywood begins it might be initially be mistaken for the run-of-the-mill pop that populates the air-waves day in, day out. Once you have been listening to Hollywood for a few seconds, you'll begin to realise that the song is not only fun but is also a scathing point of view of America and the shallowness of that country. Chorus: "Hollywood infected your brain You wanted kissing in the rain, oh-oh Living in a movie scene Puking American dreams, oh-oh I'm obsessed with the mess that's America I'm obsessed with the mess that's America" This song is a firm favourite with our little girl Eva - who is almost 3 (correct at the time of writing this). There's a bit of the song that she loves in particular: "A fat security making plays for me Soon as I touch down in old L.A. He says "OH MY GOD! YOU LOOK JUST LIKE SHAKIRA! NO, NO! YOU'RE CATHERINE ZETA! Actually, my name's Marina" After seeing the music video for Hollywood several times, Eva asked me: "Daddy? Is her name Marina?" Pretty observant for a two-year old! Now whenever she hears the song, she repeats the line "Actually, my name's Marina" and giggles with glee so the song (and Marina and the Diamonds in general) seems to have the Eva seal of approval! 8 - The Outsider This is another great track that grows on you very quickly. It's another of Marina's songs that carries a definitive feel of the 80's about it yet has a depth that makes it more than just that. There are elements of The Outsider that make me wonder what it would be like if Marina were to compose and perform a James Bond movie title track. The only thing I could say is a marginal sticking point for me is that this song contains one use of "the 'F' word" - which is also the only swear word on the entire album (unless you count the word "bitch" as heard in Hermit The Frog - see below). Given that the album is not littered with swear words, I found it slight overkill that the CD case is adorned with one of those black and white stickers that says "PARENTAL ADVISORY - EXPLICIT LYRICS". Good God - it's not like it's an Eminem album! That said, as much as I like The Outsider, I would currently likely skip the track when Eva's little ears are in the vicinity - just in case she picks up "the 'F' word". It's hard enough for me to watch my P's and Q's around her! 9 - Hermit The Frog I really like this song although I can't really figure out what it's about. The lyrics are quite confusing and odd. Perhaps it's just a sign that you shouldn't always look for understanding or hidden meanings in songs and just enjoy them. There are parts of this song where Marina's vocals are a little Enya-esque. I consider that to be a good thing as I'm a fan of Enya and her music (did I just admit that?) and it also highlights once again that Marina has no set genre of music in her heart and soul. 10 - Oh No! Oh No! is one of the tracks on this album that I hadn't heard until very recently and was one of the reasons that I decided to buy the album! Oh No! Is an immensely catchy and fun song that appears to have the way that modern influences such as television and other media can impact impressionable minds - particularly that of younger girls and women in its sights. "If you are not very careful Your possessions will possess you TV taught me how to feel Now real life has no appeal" Chorus: "I know exactly what I want and who I want to be I know exactly why I walk and talk like a machine I'm now becoming my own self-fulfilled prophecy Oh, oh no, oh no, oh no!" 11 - Rootless While not my favourite track on the album, Rootless is still a fine song. It is simultaneously melancholy yet somehow quite chilled out. Once again, Marina gives a fine vocal performance on this song but the music is also the perfect accompaniment to it. This of course is the case for pretty much every track on the album. 12 - Numb Numb is quite possibly my favourite song on the entire album. The first I heard the album it came right out of nowhere and surprised me. The track sounds quite different from the pop songs found elsewhere on the album. On my first listen, I was beguiled by the song and Marina's haunting, Enya-esque vocals. The lyrics are also really fitting for a song in this different style: "I feel numb most of the time The lower I get the higher I'll climb And I will wonder why I got dark only to shine Looking for the golden light Oh, it's a reasonable sacrifice Burn, burn, burn bright" In all honesty, just reading the above lyrics cannot convey how nice Numb sounds. It is ethereal and haunting. I think it's a bit of a shame that this is the penultimate track on the album as I feel it would have been a perfect track to end the album with. However, it is a track I love - regardless of something as unimportant as its position in the track listing. 13 - Guilty Being the last track on the album, Guilty is as good a way to bring the album to a close as any. The track is more pop in style and speaking from my own personal thoughts, lifts you out of the calm that Numb put you in. I suppose the advantage of this is that Guilty provides one more aural kick to your senses and ears before the album ends. It is quite a dark song as far as the lyrics go: "I was dreaming something dark Hiding body parts A broken dog, a broken leg I left it cold, I left it dead Oh I'm a guilty one And know what I have done Yeah, I'm a troubled one And I won't be forgiven" However, Guilty is certainly lively enough to make you tap your feet and move - either consciously or subconsciously to the beat. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- So, you have probably gathered by now that I love The Family Jewels album. There's just something surprisingly fresh in the album despite hints of Marina's influences and the whiff of a bygone decade that was excellent in terms of its music if nothing else. My other half, Kate and I are going to see Marina (and the Diamonds) live in November and I am thoroughly looking forward to it. I don't know how it will compare to her performances on the studio album but I'm sure it will prove to be a great night out. Obviously, my ramblings won't allow you to get an idea of Marina and the Diamonds but there are always ways you can get a taste of her music. One way to do this is to go to YouTube and check out Marina's YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Marinaandthediamonds Hopefully this review will prove useful. I've not written one in a few years so apologies if I'm a bit rusty. Thanks for reading this review (ramblings and all). Best wishes, Derek.
It's been quite some time since I last penned a review, due to there not being enough hours in any given day to juggle an eleven month old baby (age correct at time of typing this), a demanding job and other daily trials and tribulations. Add trying to plan, let alone write a review to that list and you're talking about spinning a lot of metaphorical plates... However... Sometimes I come back out of the woodwork with a review that proves that I actually am still alive. Bloody knackered but alive. So... digression aside, "What wondrous product has proven itself review-worthy?" I hear you ask... SHADOW OF THE COLOSSUS (PS2) Yes, I know... I'm still old school, I'm afraid. I still haven't been able to save enough pennies to acquire an all singing, all dancing PS3 - but that's a whole other story that I won't go into here and now. The PS2 still has some truly incredible games on it that I would still keep in my collection even when I do (eventually) own a PS3 - therefore ensuring I never buy a 40Gb model which has no backward compatibility - so it'll have to either be a rare 60Gb model from eBay or the likes or maybe even the 80Gb version which Sony seem to be keeping away from European shores at this point in time... Yet more proof that Sony are dry-humping video game players on this side of the Atlantic. Okay... Rant over. Let's get back to the review. Shadow Of The Colossus (let's call it SOTC from this point on for the sake of my poor fingers) is an extremely unique game. In fact, it's one of those very rare games that is more than merely a game. It is an experience. THE STORY From the outside looking in, the premise of the game appears extremely simple and repetitive. You play a hero named Wander (who I have always thought looks slightly effeminate but that's by the by) who at the start of the game rides into a huge shrine on his horse, Agro (more on the Agro shortly). When he dismounts, he takes the cloak-wrapped body of a dead girl to an altar. As Wander takes the girl - named Mono - to the altar, he encounters several shadowy, human forms that materialise and seem to wish to attack him. When Wander presents an ancient sword that he carries, they disappear. Suddenly, a voice booms down from the heavens to Wander. This is the voice of Lord Dormin - who speaks in an intertwined male and female voice. Dormin is surprised that Wander has this sword. When Wander demands that Dormin return the dead girls soul to her body, thus bringing her back to life, Dormin states this is possible - but only if he can use the special sword to destroy sixteen huge beasts named Colossi that are found across the vast landscape surrounding the shrine - and so begins Wanders epic quest - and that of the player! So... you have to search out these Colossi that roam the landscape. How hard can it be? If they're huge (and some most definitely are!) they should be east to find, you may well think... However the landscape is also enormous! There are some factors that make the landscapes a little easier to traverse. The first being Wanders aforementioned horse, Agro. As well as being a means to cover more ground much faster than could be done on foot, Agro is also a character in his own right and is every bit the trusty steed that every ye olde-fashioned hero should have. The other benefit to finding your way around the landscape (apart from the map screen that can be accessed at any time) is the sword itself. If Wander raises the sword into the sunlight, the rays reflect back from it and depending on the direction that Wander faces, the beams may either be generally spread out or pinpoint into a beam of light that indicates the direction where the next Colossi you must find and defeat lies in wait. Before you begin to think this sounds far too easy, bear in mind that the beam of light may point you in the direction of the next enemy but doesn't take into account any hurdles that may stand in your way. Your path to the next Colossi will rarely ever be straightforward, with many obstructions such as hills, mountains, valleys, canyons and forests in your way. Another factor that adds to both the realism and difficulty of the game is that when Wander enters a darker area where the sunlight doesn't reach, the ability to use the sword to find your way in the direction of the Colossi is removed. PLAYABILITY The gameplay in SOTC is all in all a very fulfilling experience with a good learning curve. When you start a new game, the path to the first Colossi is full of little tutorial messages which let you get to grips with some of the basic manoeuvres such as jumping, climbing and rolling etc. When you get on Agro for the first time, again there are some tutorial messages that tell you how to control him from a slow trot to a full-speed gallop. When you have played the game for a little while, galloping around on Agro will be like second nature to you. When you take him full pelt into something such as a wall (accidentally of course!) or to a sheer cliff edge, he will rear up with an alarmed whinny. Thankfully, the game doesn't let you commit horseycide - although you can make Wander leap to his doom if you so wish... When you are up against each Colossi, you must try to think about how they can be defeated. As the Colossi are all different shapes and sizes, you must try to establish how to get onto them as well as finding out where their weak spots are. Some Colossi have one weak spot whereas others may have two or three - all of which must be stabbed with the sword in order to bring down their energy bar. Once all of their energy is depleted they are defeated (that rhymes... I'm a poet and I don't know it!). Their weak spots are virtually never on display (although you can usually use the sword to find the weak spots with reflected sunlight) - some Colossi have armour that must be depleted or destroyed - usually using the surrounding environment. Some Colossi have what appears to be fur or perhaps even grass on their bodies that Wander can grab hold of and climb. The Colossi are very enigmatic and leave the player questioning whether they are alive, machines or something else entirely. Every Colossi that you encounter is thrilling to fight and requires a different approach from the last to defeat. The sensation of "being there" is remarkable as you have Wander holding on for dear life as the Colossi tries to violently shrug you off. While some have said that each Colossi battle is nothing more than a glorified end-of-level-boss fight, I must point out that there are no levels within this game and as each Colossi is vastly different, the experience of fighting each one is unique, highly entertaining and thrilling. GRAPHICS The graphics in SOTC are nothing short of breath-taking - especially when you consider that they are being produced on a PS2. The landscapes are incredible to behold - equalling the beauty and scale of the Lord Of The Rings movies. The architecture is generally beautiful - with the design of the shrine, vast bridges and other monuments being fantastic. The landscape itself is so enormous that it is quite desolate in places. Rather than ever coming across as a limitation in the programming, it is undoubtedly deliberate in order to make the player feel alone in this strange and fantastic land. Often, there are nice touches to be seen on the journey - from lizards scampering around the ground and the occasional eagle swooping in from above before soaring off into the distance. There is so much I could tell you about how beautiful the graphics are but I wouldn't be able to cover it all here. There are eye-popping water falls and views from cliff tops. The draw distance isn't perfect but nine times out of ten you can see far enough into the distant horizon to marvel at the incredible world the game designers and programmers have created for your gaming pleasure. Wander is a finely animated and executed main character with convincing movements regardless of his actions - even when he is being tossed about like a rag doll whilst trying to hold on to a Colossi in the heat of battle. Agro is a life-like and utterly convincing digital interpretation of a horse. Again, he is very well animated and nicely detailed - right down to a mane and tail that blow in the wind as he gallops around. As I've said previously, the graphics are amazing and there is far too much attention to detail to mention here. Prepare for your jaw to suitably drop. SOUND The sound of SOTC is a perfect match to the brilliant visuals. If you are of the patient variety and watch the opening credits/sequence (which I recommend you do - at least once) you will be treated to incredible orchestral music which accompanies the astounding visuals seamlessly. As they say, first impressions last and my first impressions of this game were... WOW!!! During the game, music is kept mostly to when you encounter and fight the Colossi. In the heat of battle, the music becomes very dramatic and adds to the fear factor of falling off the Colossi when you are trying desperately to keep Wanders grip on the big, wriggling beastie! Out with the music score, the sound in the game is mostly ambient noise of the landscape. The sound of Agros hooves pounding the ground as he gallops is utterly convincing and adds to his realism. All of the other ambient sounds whether it be the wind blowing across the land, waterfalls or anything else for that matter all sound perfect and sound even better through surround speakers. If you want to chill out and relax, you could always sit Wander and Agro somewhere out of harms way and just listen to the sounds while you close your eyes and kick back... VALUE The game is challenging and very, very original. I can't say exactly how many of hours gameplay are in the game - as I think every player is different and plays at a different pace. Suffice to say the game will last you quite a while and be an incredible and unique experience while it lasts. It's difficult to say how to rate the games replay factor. I think it's likely to be a game worthy of returning to at some point in the future after its completion - if even just to remind you how much of an achievement the game actually is. What is not difficult to gauge is that this is a game that deserves to be in most game collections. I say most as it will probably not appeal to everyone but it's a game that my other half (AKA Katie) actually likes. She's not only commented how nice the game looks etc but has unbelievably picked up a joypad and attempted to start her new game herself! Sadly, she is utterly crap at it and now just watched my games from time to time (or should I say when I occasionally get a chance to play the PS2 when Kate and I are not tending to a teething baby*). Of course, Kate only has a passing interest in the game as "it has romance in it" - by that she means that Wander would risk his own life to resurrect Mono. MY CONCLUSION I started writing this review while I was still nearing the completion of Shadow Of The Colossus... My conclusion is now based upon having recently completed the game. None of my early opinions on the game that I have written above have changed and if anything, I love the game more than ever now that I reached journeys end. I was both excited about and dreading completing the game as I wanted to see how Wanders quest would end but in doing so, the game and experience of playing through without knowing what lay ahead would be over. Katie had long since given up on trying to play the game but still took great interest in it and ensured she was present as the end of the game loomed on the horizon. She stuck with me as my "gamers tourettes syndrome" kicked off every time a Colossi kicked, threw and stamped Wanders arse into oblivion. However, we both survived my Colossi related outbursts and found that as the game reached its finale, there were some big shocks and surprises in store. Obviously, I am not going to reveal any of them here. What I will say, however is that I think it safe to say that I have never felt so emotional when playing a video game before - and I have played a lot of them for pretty much most of my life. The ending of the game stunned both myself and Kate. I'm not entirely sure I understood it 100% but it was amazing. Another proof of how incredible both the game and its finale were is that Kate and I have spoken about it on quite a few occasions since its completion. Now... as you may have noticed, I love video games and movies. I drive Kate insane with my almost constant ramblings about games and films and yet, she has raised conversations about SOTC, my reactions to what was happening as the game reached its finale and how she viewed the events that had unfolded in the game. For Kate to speak about video games is practically unheard of but this is the power of the game - to capture the imagination of games players as well as people who don't. I spoke to Kate about the question as to whether or not we could ever be surprised if Hollywood ever decides to spew out a SOTC movie. What I would be extremely surprised about is if it can even capture a fraction of what makes the game unique and truly spectacular. Without the interactive angle of playing a video game, it is highly questionable how on earth anyone could make a movie of this work. I know someone who once told me that people who played SOTC thought of it as an almost religious experience. While I wouldn't go as far as saying that (probably as I'm not an overly religious person) I would say that it truly is an experience unlike anything else you will have played before or may again (although there are rumblings that a sequel may be in the works on the PS3). I'm sure SOTC will not appeal to everyone but I urge any games player to try it. If it's not your particular brand of vodka then fair enough but if it's for you then prepare for your jaw to drop and to fall in love with this game. I did. Many thanks for reading this. Derek.
I felt compelled to put this topic forward when I read recently that the ball is now rolling on a big screen version of The A-Team - possibly due out next year. This one was touted a while ago with people putting forward their dream casting for the all new A-Team... I didn't mind the thought of it originally but now that it's a step closer to becoming a reality I feel less sure that it's a good idea... and brought the question to mind: TV AND MOVIE REMAKES AND "RE-IMAGININGS: GOOD OR BAD?!? I thought it would be useful to include TV remakes here too as there are so many of them now. Sometimes they are old TV shows being "re-imagined" for a new generation. Of course, the same can be said for movies now - with shed-loads of remakes coming out on an almost constant basis. The problem is that a lot of these remakes are ultimately unnecessary as the originals themselves aren't very old. Hollywood seems to be under the impression that these remakes are justifiable as the originals may have been released at a point when the technology for special effects perhaps wasn't as advanced as it is today. The problem with this is that modern special effects are generally fantastic - although there are still effects today (CGI or otherwise) that can look awful. The other concern is that if the remake is deemed unnecessary by fans of the original - will it matter if the effects are good or not? Falling short of the "fan-boys" who may be up in arms that their childhood has been raped (this is often what they claim), I just generally shrug my shoulders and wonder why we are bombarded by remakes as often as we are. It seems like original ideas are extremely thin on the ground these days and Hollywood studios just seem happy to regurgitate existing movies. That said, I have seen some remakes that although arguably pointless are actually as good (if not better) than their original. Though needless to say, these are actually rarities. I suppose it may be fine to take a film from the 1940's, 1950's, 1960's and possibly the 1970's (depending on the original) and remake them but when we're now getting remakes of films from the 80's and in some cases even the 90's, is the remake bandwagon now out of control? ------------------------------------------------------------ Some of the films to undergo the remake treatment include the following: THE AMITYVILLE HORROR Based on supposedly true events (and subsequently the Jay Anson book of the same name), The Amityville Horror tells the story of George and Kathy Lutz who, upon moving into a house where an entire family was murdered (112 Ocean Avenue) begin to experience a haunting of an unprecedented scale. ORIGINAL VERSION (1979): Starring: James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger, Don Stroud and Murray Hamilton Directed by: Stuart Rosenberg REMAKE (2005): Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George Directed by: Andrew Douglas Remake better than the original? Perhaps not better but takes a different spin on the original. Changing some of the scenarios and characters slightly. This is isn't a problem as there are so many questions still hanging over the real Amityville Horror (some being as simple as whether it really happened or was just an elaborate hoax) that this doesn't detract from the film. In both films, the actual house is the main star - with its eerie eye-like windows lit from behind at night. The house was redesigned for the remake but was still great to look at (the original movie changed very little about the design of the real house). Both versions are worth a look though it's hard to determine whether or not one version is actually better than the other. You decide. ------------------------------------------------------------ THE FOG Co-written and directed by low-budget king of horror, John Carpenter, The Fog is a good old-fashioned ghost story. It tells the tale of a fishing town called Antonio Bay that is about to celebrate its centenary. What the inhabitants of Antonio Bay don't know is that 100 years ago, a rich man by the name of Blake wished to set up a leper colony nearby - as he and his crew were sufferers of leprosy. Conspirators decided this was unacceptable and during a terrible fog, lured their clipper ship - the Elizabeth Dane onto the rocks with a fire which acted as a false beacon for the sailors. All on the Elizabeth Dane drowned and Blake's fortune in gold was taken by the conspirators. The church of Antonio Bay was set up with this treasure and the remaining gold melted down into a large cross that was placed within the church. On the night of the centenary celebrations, a strange, glowing fog rolls into Antonio Bay. In this fog, are the vengeful spirits of Blake and his crew - who intend to wreak their revenge on the descendants of the people who were responsible for their deaths. ORIGINAL VERSION (1980): Starring: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, Tom Atkins, John Houseman, Charles Cyphers, Nancy Loomis and Hal Holbrook. Directed by: John Carpenter REMAKE (2005): Starring: Tom Welling, Maggie Grace, Selma Blair, Kenneth Welsh, Adrian Hough, Sara Botsford, and Cole Heppell. Remake better than the original? When I first heard that there was going to be a remake of The Fog I simply wondered: Why? Then, when I saw the trailer, I thought it all looked quite good - with some very scary looking dead sailors blatantly on display and the promise of some very good frights within. It all really added up to the fact that sometimes less is more - in Carpenter's original, the undead sailors weren't really seen full on. This was undoubtedly due to budget limitations and possible problems with make up. However, nowadays with the advent of CGI, you can show those vengeful spirits in all their hellish glory. If only Hollywood would realise that just because they can do this, it doesn't mean that they actually should. ------------------------------------------------------------ DAWN OF THE DEAD Now, don't ask me why but I've always loved a good zombie flick. George A. Romero is undoubtedly the master of the zombie flick. He's notably famous for his 'Dead' series. Namely: Night Of The Living Dead (1968), Dawn Of The Dead (1978), Day Of The Dead (1985), Land Of The Dead (2005) and most recently Diary Of The Dead (2008). The story of both versions of Dawn Of The Dead are very similar. It's the continuing story of America being overrun by a plague of flesh-eating zombies - caused by a terrible plague. Meanwhile, survivors of the holocaust take refuge in an abandoned shopping mall. Initially, they revel in the absurdity of their situation but begin to realise that while life as we know it continues to collapse outside, they are essentially prisoners in their unusual surroundings. With hordes of zombies waiting outside the mall and with the realisation that their supplies will run out sooner rather than later it is clear that their fight for survival is far from over. ORIGINAL VERSION (1978): Starring: David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger and Gaylen Ross Directed by: George A. Romero REMAKE (2004): Starring: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer and Kim Poirier Directed by: Zack Snyder It can't be said that George A. Romero doesn't have balls. Given that the previous year, the world had gone ga-ga about a little space movie set in a galaxy far, far away, Romero reminded the cinema going audiences that there was still plenty of room left for splatter-fests like this! The acting is ropey and wooden to say the least but don't we always endure that even in the lousiest of horror flicks just to see who is still alive and (almost) in one piece at the end? There's plenty to recommend as far as the gore goes - not least of all a show-stopping scene which involves helicopter rotor blades and the top of a zombies head. FOR REAL! The zombie was obviously a stunt man with a false top of the head but it gets whipped off by the rotor blades with only practical effects (no CGI back then!). I have no idea what on earth they must have paid that guy but I do know one thing... It wasn't enough!!! Remake better than the original? Arguably, yes - though that's just me giving my own personal opinion (which is what of course, this is all about). The acting is of a far better standard in the remake and although it does have some CGI effects, they are also backed up by lots of practical effects and plenty of gore. The great thing is that the CGI never stands out as that. There are still plenty of really genuine shocks to be had (the first time I watched this there were scenes where my mouth literally fell open in disbelief at what I was seeing). One of the big changes for the remake over the original is that the zombies now move very fast as opposed to shuffling around with outstretched arms etc etc. This was a move that deemed unpopular with both fans of the original and George A. Romero himself. I recall having a heated discussion with a friend about this point. They protested that zombies shouldn't move fast but should be slower and deliberate in their movements. I reminded them that in reality, zombies shouldn't move at all as (as far as we know) the dead don't have a habit of becoming reanimated and fuelled by the desire to eat human flesh. Hell... you decide! ------------------------------------------------------------ THE ITALIAN JOB For once not a comparison of an original and remake of a horror film! Can you believe it?!? ORIGINAL VERSION (1969): Starring: Michael Caine, Noel Coward, Benny Hill (yes, really!), Raf Vallone, Tony Beckley, Rossanno Brazzi, John Forgenham and Maggie Blye Directed by: Peter Collinson This extremely popular "crime caper" was a film that I am ashamed to say I hadn't seen until just a few years ago when it was shown once again on a bank holiday. The Italian Job is the story of Charlie Croker (Michael Caine on top form) - a mobster newly released from prison who is lured back into his old way by Mr Bridger (Noel Coward) who runs a criminal empire despite already being in jail. The story follows Croker as he assembles an odd-ball crew to help him carry out a daring heist in Turin. The target being gold bullion that is carried in reinforced vans and protected by an armed escort. The way they plan to do this is by causing a gigantic traffic jam and striking while the city is in chaos. The getaway from the scene is planned in great detail and involves the use of modified Austin Mini Coopers. The result is scene after scene of incredible car stunts and chases as the police try to catch the robbers - but fail due to the speed and size of the Minis allowing them to get into all sorts of incredible places during their escape - culminating in an incredible drive through the sewer pipes of Turin! The film is full of memorable quotes - including the infamous one where Charlie Croker is overseeing a practice run on blowing open the doors of the security van. However, the blast is much bigger and trashes the van they were using. Charlie Croker: "You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!" The film ends on quite literally one of the best cliff-hangers you will ever see. If you haven't seen this film then I won't spoil it for you. All I will say is this... "Hang on a minute, lads. I've got a great idea..." REMAKE (2003): Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Jason Statham, Charlize Theron, Edward Norton, Donald Sutherland and Seth Green Directed by: F. Gary Gray The remake is not so much a remake of the original film but a re-imagining, I suppose. There are a few character names that survive from the original - namely Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg) and (John) Bridger (Donald Sutherland). Unlike in the original, Croker and Bridger are friends in this film and plan a heist that is to be Bridger's last before his retirement. The gold heist takes place in Venice (presumably set-up this way so that there was an Italian connection in the film that made the use of the title The Italian Job make any sense) but does not go according to plan due to a member of the team double-crossing them and stealing the gold. The remainder of the film takes place back on American soil a year later as the team track down the traitor and plan to steal back the bounty that was originally theirs. Remake better than the original? Certainly not better (as the ending of the original alone makes it worth watching) but just... different. Don't get me wrong - it's still a very entertaining film and let's be honest... did you read the cast list? There are some very big-hitters from Hollywood in this film - and thankfully, they're all ones that can act! Good times! ------------------------------------------------------------ NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN Good god! please don't get me started on this one... This unofficial James Bond film (not one of the official MGM/United Artists/EON Productions films) is actually a remake of the official 1965 Bond film, Thunderball. It was made following legal wrangles over the writing credits and film rights to the original Thunderball by Kevin McClory. After years of battling Ian Fleming and United Artists in the courts, he finally got permission to act as executive producer in the remake of Thunderball - to be called Never Say Never Again. The title supposedly due to Sean Connery saying after Diamonds Are Forever (1971 - 12 years before he reprised the role of James Bond) that he would never play James Bond again. ORIGINAL VERSION - THUNDERBALL (1965): Starring: Sean Connery, Claudine Auger, Adolfo Celi, Luciana Paluzzi Directed by: Terence Young Bond is sent to a health farm by M - who feels 007 needs to shape up (is this actually part of a plot from a Bond film?!?). While trying to recuperate at the clinic, Bond is targeted for assassination and actually survives two attempts on his life! Believe it or not, the health clinic sub-plot is key to Bonds discovery of a SPECTRE plot to steal nuclear bombs by hijacking a bomber and crashing it into the sea. What can you say? It's another dastardly plot from yet another villain seeking world domination. Of course, I would never dream of ruining the ending for you - as you'd never be able to guess it anyway... *cough!* *cough!* *BOND WINS!* REMAKE - NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN (1983): Starring: Sean Connery, Kim Basinger, Max Von Sydow, Edward Fox, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Barbara Carrera, Bernie Casey, Alec McCowen and Rowan Atkinson Remake better than the original? Hell, NO!!! I remember I liked this film when I was younger as I saw it was James Bond and got excited. Only now can I see that it's a second-rate Bond film despite the return of Connery (who in all honesty was getting too old to convincingly play 007 by this point - ironically a lesson that wasn't learned by the makers of the "official" Bond films by the time Roger Moore's era came to an end) and some other fantastic and capable actors being in the cast. The storyline is very similar to that of Thunderball - right down to Bond being sent to a health clinic by M. However - given that Bond was now middle-aged and obviously not so young and dashing any more, it wasn't so unbelievable that M would send Bond somewhere to shape up. There are so many things that are (in my opinion) wrong about this film... not least of all the absolutely awful opening titles (no silhouettes and shadows of dancing, naked ladies... awww!!!) and a simply awful, awful, AWFUL theme song! However, I hate to say that Never Say Never Again does have a great line in it that I still think is spot-on. Bond is drinking at a water-side bar when Fatima Blush (What kind of name is that for a Bond girl to have? It's not even rude-sounding! Maybe if her surname was Bush it would have given us the titters we'd want!) water-skis up the ramp of the bar (really!) and lands in Bonds arms (really!)... Fatima Blush: "Oh! How reckless of me. I made you all wet!" James Bond: "Yes... but my Martini is still dry. My name's James." "My name's James"? Did they not win the rights to use the famous "The name's Bond... James Bond" line? I know I have an immature, in-your-endo... sorry... innuendo filled mind but surely if you wanted a good nudge-nudge-wink-wink line from Bond, I would have written it like this: Fatima Blush: "Oh! How careless (I've dropped reckless as it sounded naff) of me. I made you all wet!" James Bond: "Yes... Now how about I return the favour? The name's Bond... James Bond." Smut aside, the last thing I'll say about Never Say Never Again is that it was directed by Irvin Kershner - who most famously directed what is regarded by most to be the best Star Wars film of them all - The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Imagine going from the dizzy heights of making one of the best sequels of all time to directing this dross... However, he also directed a not-so-good sequel too: Robocop 2... Right... Rant over! Moving swiftly along... ------------------------------------------------------------ THE OMEN ORIGINAL VERSION (1976): Starring: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Patrick Troughton, Billie Whitelaw, Harvey Stephens, Leo Mckern and Martin Benson Directed by: Richard Donner The Omen tells the story of Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) - an American diplomat based in England - and his wife, Katherine (Lee Remick). When Robert is informed that their new son has died in childbirth, he is also told of another baby boy who has been abandoned and could be secretly switched in order to prevent heartbreak and trauma for Kathy. Reluctantly, Robert agrees to this - unaware that this other child - whom they name Damien is in fact the anti-Christ. As the story unravels, a sinister nanny named Mrs Baylock is hired by the Thorns and unbeknownst to them is fully aware of who and what Damien really is - and becomes a protector to him - willing to keep him safe - whatever the cost. There are lots of twists and quite a high body count in the film - none of which I will go into for those who haven't seen either version of The Omen. It's directed by Richard Donner who has directed so many brilliant and varied movies over the years - including Superman (1978), The Goonies (1985), Lethal Weapon (1987), Scrooged (1988), Lethal Weapon 2 (1989), Lethal Weapon 3 (1992), Conspiracy Theory (1997), Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) and the newly restored Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006) among many others. The other thing I simply have to mention about the original version is the orchestral sound track - composed by the late, great Jerry Goldsmith. With suitably ominous choral chants as well as lighter pieces, it is one of the most impressive and disturbing sound tracks you will ever hear. REMAKE (2006): Starring: Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, David Thewlis, Pete Postlethwaite, Mia Farrow and Michael Gambon Directed by: John Moore When I first knew of a remake of The Omen being made, I was torn between thinking "Why?!?" and being excited. I have always really loved the original version so tried to keep a very open mind regarding the new version. The storyline and characters are all more or less identical to the original version - and anyone who has seen the original will pretty much know all the directions that this film will go in - even before they happen. That said, when I first watched it in the cinema I thought exactly that on so many occasions... "Ah... This is the bit where such and such happens..." I felt really smug in thinking the film couldn't throw any curve-balls at me - but I was wrong. There are a few times when the thing you think you know is going to happen does happen - but in a slightly different way from the original. A few of these new surprises and frights admittedly come from sudden jump-scares - whether they be audio or visual. Is this version utterly pointless then? Well... No... It does have some interesting features that are worthy of mention. This version takes place firmly in todays world - emphasising how some of the dreadful things we have seen in recent years (9/11, the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and the Indian ocean tsunami) are being noted by the Catholic Church as fulfilling prophecies about the rise of the anti-Christ. This is an interesting spin that for obvious reasons wasn't in the original film. The other very interesting fact about this version of The Omen is its theatrical release date: June 6, 2006... 06/06/06... 6/6/6... Yes... You get the picture... Of course, there's no doubt this was a marketing ploy from the studio but in all honesty, a great one nonetheless. However, if what recent studies into "the number of the beast" carried out at Oxford University in May 2005 suggested that the correct number is actually 616. Ironically, the studio would have possibly still have had enough time to change the release date to January 6, 2006 but let's be honest... 616 just doesn't have the same ring to it as the old established 666. Remake better than the original? This is a strange one as it's arguable if this is really a remake, a reimagining or a retelling. I have to say it's actually no better or worse than the original. Perhaps the fact that it's more of the same served in a slightly different way will undoubtedly put some off. I personally enjoyed it so I would recommend it. Just don't blame me if you think it's awful! ------------------------------------------------------------ WAR OF THE WORLDS I simply had to add this one to the list! (The) War Of The Worlds is based upon the H.G. Wells novel of the same name. The story deals with an alien invasion of Earth from Mars and is one of the most famous science fiction novels ever written. ORIGINAL VERSION (1953): Starring: Gene Barry, Ann Robinson (No... Not THAT one!) Directed by: Byron Haskin This 1953 version of the film relocates H.G. Wells' story from England in the early 20th Century to southern California. When a meteorite crashes in the hills on the outskirts of the town, a famous physicist - Dr Clayton Forrester goes to examine it. It soon becomes apparent that this "meteorite" is in fact a pod carrying the first of many Martians sent from the dying world of Mars to vanquish our own Earth for their own. The Martians quickly build war machines which they use to cut through the primitive defences of man-kind. While the war machines in the H.G. Wells novel were tripods, due to difficulties in recreating them effectively, the war machines were completely different. Often referred to as being visually reminiscent of a swan and/or manta ray shape, these war machines appear to float (although reference is made during the film that they are carried on three invisible (presumably electric or another, possibly Martian energy source) legs. If you haven't seen this version of the film and don't think the Martian war machines sound very scary then you should definitely check it out. They are still actually very frightening (in a similar way to how the Daleks in Doctor Who are still genuinely fearsome) as they appear to glide over the landscapes - destroying anything that stands in their way. The sounds they make are also pretty terrifying - making all manners of hissing, clicking and humming sounds - especially as they prepare to let loose with their devastating heat rays... Run for the hills! The Martians are coming! REMAKE (2005): Starring: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin, Miranda Otto, Tim Robbins, Gene Barry, Ann Robinson (NO! Still not THAT one!!!) and Morgan Freeman (voice over) Directed by: Steven Spielberg When I read in Empire magazine (AKA "The Monthly Bible") a few years back that Steven Spielberg was due to direct a remake of War Of The Worlds, I got very, very excited about it. Being a fan of both the original film and a majority of Spielberg's work, I just couldn't wait. It was also reported that Tom Cruise was due to star in it, I felt happy enough about that as I actually think Cruise is a fine actor and is often underrated due to goings-on in his private life. Fast forward a few years later and upon release of the film, I ran out to the cinema to see it. The story this time is set in modern day New Jersey and focuses on one family's attempts to survive the invasion from another world. This particular family has its own particular issues pre-invasion that make it essentially more difficult for them at points during the film. Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) is a struggling blue-collar worker at the Brooklyn docks. He is divorced with two children - ten-year old Rachel (Dakota Fanning) and rebellious teen Robbie. When Rays ex-wife and new husband drop the children off with him for the weekend, it seems that it's going to be another relatively normal weekend - with Robbie giving his father lots of attitude and Rachel trying to diffuse the situation. When a huge wall cloud appears over the neighbourhood, lightening starts hitting one area over and over again a short distance away - the strange thing is that no thunder accompanies this lightning. When the lightning stops, Ray discovers that the power to the house is gone. Nothing works - the house phone, his mobile phone and even his wristwatch are all dead. Ray leaves the children in the house while he goes to the area where the lightning hit to see what is going on. En route, he finds that every car in town has broken down at the time of the lightning storm - and he is joined by an increasingly huge amount of townsfolk who congregate where the lightning hit. They discover a hole in the road - from where a massive mechanical tripod rises. It towers over the terrified and awestruck humans before unleashing a weapon (which I think can still be referred to as a heat ray) which simply vaporises anyone that it hits. Some have said this effect was cheesy but I don't think it is at all. It's a scene that chilled me when I first saw the film and has done on subsequent viewings since then. Remake better than the original? In my humble opinion, both films are terrific. Both filled with vastly different thrills and chills. Both films are faithful to H.G. Wells ending to the story. The 1953 version gets away with this much more - whereas I think Spielberg's version should have ended differently or possibly just built up to the end more. As it stands, the ending of the new film is the only thing I dislike about it. It's just too sudden and doesn't fit in with the amazing spectacle that precedes it. It is worth mentioning that at no point in the new film are the aliens mentioned as coming from Mars. In fact, we never find out from whence they came. I'll just be immature and suggest that they may have come from Uranus... ------------------------------------------------------------ As you can see, there are so many remakes that have been made that it is absolutely impossible to list them here (though I was going to try to add a few more to the list - including Planet Of The Apes, Rear Window, The Ring, True Lies and Vanilla Sky to name but a few - but as this op is already growing at an alarming rate, I decided to ditch them). Unfortunately, the trend seems set to continue. Some of the films that are being remade are already regarded as classics and will undoubtedly cause uproar from the purists and fans of the originals. Don't say I didn't warn you! Look out for these remakes that are incoming: Barbarella (1968) due 2009 The Birds (1963) due 2009 Conan The Barbarian (1982) due 2008 (The) Dambusters (1954) due 2008 The Evil Dead (1982) due 2008 (why remake this classic?!? Anyone other than Bruce Campbell in the role of Ash just isn't Ash!!! Why God?!? WHY?!?) Escape From New York (1981) due 2009 The Fly (1958 and 1986) due 2009 (great... a remake of a remake...) *** UPDATE!!! UPDATE!!! UPDATE!!! *** I'm currently in absolute shock about something I've just read over at www.aintitcool.com (for those of you film buffs out there that haven't heard of this site, go and check it out!)... That another unimaginable and wholly bloody pointless remake is on its way... SHORT CIRCUIT!!! In the name of God and all that is holy... WHY?!? I know I'm probably looking back on the original version of this (from 1986) through rose-tinted glasses but I LOVED it back then and own it now on DVD. I'm horrified at a prospect of a remake of Short Circuit. Why the hell don't they make Short Circuit 3 if needs be? My blood is now on a simmer... be prepared for it to boil some time soon! When I read through peoples opinions on this story at aint it cool, there were some people saying ludicrous stuff like if they could choose an 80's film to be regurgitated then with todays special effects etc, that film would be Ghostbusters!!! Christ!!! Shut up you idiots!!! Don't encourage the lazy squad in Hollywood to take another classic movie and trample over our childhoods!!! Yes - I know I sound geeky as hell now BUT when it comes to films like this that were important to me years back, I feel more affected. Would it really kill these lazy sods to WRITE SOMETHING BLOODY ORIGINAL???!!!??? Phew!!! Rant and update over... As you were... *** UPDATE ENDS *** There are also numerous reimaginings/remakes/retellings/rehashes of TV classics out there - including Battlestar Gallactica (which I haven't really seen yet but have heard great things about), Knightrider and The Bionic Woman among many, many others. If the trend for remakes continues down the road it's currently on then perhaps in a few years time, I'll blow the dust off this op and put it back out there as a reimagining... Until then, thanks for bearing with me and for reading this (what do you mean you just scrolled through it without reading it?!?)... Derek.
I'm back with yet another film review... This time it's another one of those action classics from the late Eighties... LETHAL WEAPON: DIRECTOR'S CUT DVD This version of the film has a longer running time than the original theatrical cut (117 minutes instead of the previous 110 minutes). This is due to the reinsertion of a few scenes - but more on them later. ------------------------- THE PLOT The story of Lethal Weapon is that of LAPD Detective Sergeant Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) who upon turning 50 (and suffering from a post-mid-life crisis) is investigating the apparent suicide of an old army colleague's daughter. As if these problems weren't enough for him, he is also given a new partner to work with. This partner is Detective Sergeant Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) - a burned out cop who lost his wife to a tragic car accident three years previous. Riggs is renowned for his violent behaviour, heavy drinking and is considered a suicide risk. All in all, he ticks all the boxes for characteristics you wouldn't a work colleague or partner to have. The mismatched duo has an unsteady start to their relationship - with neither of them fully trusting the other. Riggs is aware of what people think of him and his problems and voices this directly to Murtaugh: Martin Riggs: "Hey, look friend, let's just cut the sh*t. Now we both know why I was transferred. Everybody thinks I'm suicidal, in which case I'm f*cked and nobody wants to work with me or they think I'm faking to draw a psycho pension, in which case I'm f*cked and nobody wants to work with me. Basically, I'm f*cked." Roger Murtaugh: "Guess what?" Martin Riggs: "What?" Roger Murtaugh: "I don't want to work with you!" Martin Riggs: "Hey. Don't." Roger Murtaugh: "Ain't got no choice! Looks like we both got f*cked!" Martin Riggs: "Terrific." Roger Murtaugh: "God hates me. That's what it is." Martin Riggs: "Hate him back. It works for me." You can probably tell that although the story is pretty dark, there are strong undercurrents of humour in the script. Danny Glover and Mel Gibson have a nigh on perfect buddy-buddy chemistry and as the story continues, they go from mistrusting each other to becoming friends. The film is at times very loud and violent with (as you can read above) some very strong language. Speaking for myself, I don't consider any that gratuitous. In some ways, it actually serves the story very well. The villains in Lethal Weapon are drug dealers that are connected to the death of Amanda Hunsaker (following the discovery that her suicide wasn't actually suicide - and that she'd taken a cocktail of drugs that would have killed her even if she hadn't jumped from the building) - and are actually pretty nasty pieces of work (although not a patch on the bad guys that appear in Lethal Weapon 2 - but that's another issue for another review... watch this space) and have you cheering on Riggs and Murtaugh throughout the whole film. It's worthy of mentioning that the director's cut of the film gives us a different introduction to Riggs. He responds to a call where a sniper has taken shelter in a building next to a school and has been taking random pot-shots at children with an automatic weapon - downing three people including a police officer. This is obviously a fairly controversial scene given the seemingly never-ending trend for school shootings etc in America (and sadly situations here in the UK - such as the Dunblane massacre). However, in regards to this scene - it gives us a great indication about Riggs, his disregard for personal safety in an act that can only be described as insane... He walks into the school grounds with only a pistol - as children and school staff are being evacuated from the grounds. He then puts himself into the line of fire and taunts the hidden gunman. Martin Riggs: "Hello, Mr. Sniper, sir." Sniper: "Get away!" The sniper then fires several shots at Riggs - and misses. Martin Riggs: "I'm still here, asshole! Or do you only do kids?" Sniper: "Shut up!" This makes the sniper fire at Riggs again - and again he misses. This time however, Riggs fires back at the same time and does not miss... shooting the sniper dead. Riggs walks calmly out of the school grounds - just as the armed response SWAT units arrive. This scene adds another early piece of excitement not previously in the film and as such, it fits in perfectly. It's hard to believe the scene wasn't originally in the film. ------------------------- THE ACTING The acting in Lethal Weapon is superb. Danny Glover is convincing as a veteran cop who is struggling to deal with his turning 50. With his new partner who turns out to be a loose cannon on top of this, his use of the line "I'm getting too old for this sh*t" is very appropriate. Mel Gibson is absolutely perfect as the burned-out cop who feels he has nothing left to live for. His frequent disregard for his own personal safety and that of others around him makes him seem very dangerous. However, as he and Murtaugh begin to trust and respect each other, he begins to realise that he may well get through this dark point of his life. Gibson plays Riggs with a very sincere crazed look in his eyes that is very unsettling - and makes you wonder just what he is truly capable of. ------------------------- THE SPECIAL EFFECTS There aren't too many special effects within the film - unless you count the live-action pyrotechnics. There are enough gun shot effects, explosions and the like to make any action movie fan very happy indeed and give the viewer extra bang for their buck. ------------------------- THE SOUND EFFECTS The sound in Lethal Weapon is great. With the gun shots ricocheting around your surround speakers. Explosions rumble the floor in a satisfying manner. All in all - it's everything you would ask for from a big budget action flick. The sound of Lethal Weapon was actually nominated for an Oscar in 1988 - losing out in the end to The Last Emperor. ------------------------- THE MUSIC The music score for Lethal Weapon was composed by Michael Kamen. Kamen also scored Lethal Weapon 2, 3 & 4, Die Hard, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Die Hard with a Vengeance, License To Kill, Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, The Iron Giant, Frequency and X-Men among many other notable movies. Sadly, Michael Kamen died on November 18, 2003 from a heart attack, aged 55. Thankfully, he left us some great movie scores by which we can remember him. Lethal Weapon has a score that reflects the action on-screen perfectly. ------------------------- PRESENTATION The film is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic PAL on the UK R2 release. Sound options are: English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1 and Italian Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles available are: Arabic, Bulgarian, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish. ------------------------- SPECIAL FEATURES Sadly, there aren't really any special features to mention with the exception of a Cast and Crew listing. This is literally one static screen with the names of certain cast and crew members in text. All in all poor to say the very least. I honestly would have expected with a new cut of the movie being released on DVD that there would have been some great quality extras but there are none. Warner Bros have certainly dropped the ball on this count. ------------------------- PICTURE QUALITY The picture quality is really great. It's sharp and vibrant and makes the film look like it could have been filmed a lot more recently that 1987. ------------------------- SOUND QUALITY The sound quality is terrific in room shaking Dolby Digital 5.1. ------------------------- MY CONCLUSION I've always loved Lethal Weapon. This Director's Cut edition really adds some extra clout to an already excellent actioner. The only thing I'm going to criticise about the DVD is the lack of any extras that add value to the purchase. If however you don't already own Lethal Weapon on DVD, you could do worse than investing in this version. Many thanks for reading this. Derek.
After writing about lots of DVDs and video games, I decided it was time to do a write up on something completely different... THE HAYNES BABY MANUAL The Haynes... What? Baby what?!? Baby Manual... For those of you who are not very acquainted with Haynes manuals (much like myself), these are a series of books that are mostly aimed at car maintenance and repairs and DIY. The Haynes manuals are named after John Haynes (OBE) who wrote and published a manual on building an Austin 7 Special in 1956. Haynes Publishing was founded in 1960 and since then there have been manuals written on many different subjects. The baby manual is something very different though. It is aimed at new and expectant fathers with lots of great information about pregnancy, birth and babies from 0 months to 2 years old. The front of the manual puts the above information into a style that makes the baby sound like a car - which is actually quite amusing in itself: BABY - Conception to two years. All models, shapes and colours. The baby manual has been written by Dr Ian Banks and is mostly written with men in mind. It's actually quite refreshing to have a baby book written for men. When Kate was pregnant with Eva, she borrowed and bought so many baby and pregnancy books it made my head spin. She was almost constantly trying to make me read up on the pregnancy and birth before the baby was born - so that I knew what was happening when it all kicked off. If she wasn't asking me to read one of the books from end to end, she would approach me and say "Read this part... It's a chapter for daddies!". I tried to humour Kate as often as possible by reading some parts of the book but in all honesty, I found that I would quickly get bogged down with information overload. After Eva was born, Kate's brother bought me this book. Peter's into motors and what-not so he had spotted this book and obviously thought it would be useful for me. I can say that he wasn't wrong. It's a very straight-forward book to follow... The contents of the book are in headings that are mostly worded to sound like car-related information. Thankfully, there are usually plain-English definitions after them: -------------------------------------------------- * Chapter 1: Ignition (when and how to conceive) This section of the book deals with the conception of the baby. This is useful information for anyone trying to get pregnant before they actually get into the nitty-gritty with the sections on the pregnancy, birth and beyond... 1. Timing is everything: This section explains the pros and cons of being a younger, middle-aged or an older father. 2. Getting started: This section covers the ovulation process and explains pregnancy testing etc. 3. How to get there: This section explains the fertilisation process - which is very interesting. It's always nice to know what's going on behind-the-scenes. This also explains how the baby develops in the womb. For example, did you know? * At ten weeks, the baby is about the size of your little toe and has all the recognisable external characteristics of a human male or female. At this stage, the face is formed but the eyelids are fused together. The brain is in a very primitive state. * After three months the baby is as long as your little finger. * In the sixth month, the baby is longer than your middle finger and weighs up to 800g. As you can see, there's a lot of very interesting information that will really open your eyes to the procedure of pregnancy. There's a theory that a woman becomes a mother when she knows she's pregnant but a man only becomes a father when he first sets eyes on the baby when it is born. I'm not sure I agree with that theory. Speaking for myself, I was really thrilled when I found out Kate was pregnant - although I confess I was extremely terrified about the prospect of becoming a daddy lots of times during Kate's pregnancy! Whether or not the above theory actually is the case, there's a lot to be said for the old adage 'fore-warned is fore-armed'. There's certainly more than enough information to fore-arm any expectant father in this book. Other areas covered in the first section include: 4. Confirmation of pregnancy This section covers the pregnancy testing methods in a little more detail. 5. Impotence (erectile dysfunction) As you can probably tell, this section delves into the problem of erectile dysfunction including possible causes, medicines and drugs that can be used to counter it, diseases which may be the cause, diagnosis, prevention and treatment. There are also some avenues that can be contacted for further information on this problem. 6. Co-drivers (artificial insemination, IVF etc) This section covers big issues such as infertility and the options open to couples affected by this problem. This includes options such as assisted conception, donor insemination of sperm and donor eggs. Clearly this can be a devastating problem for some couples. This section also covers counselling and support options as well as other further information 7. One or two car family? This section covers the numerous methods of contraception which may be very useful information for couples who have just had a baby (or may be too late for others that are also in the same situation). Methods covered in this section include: The male condom, the female condom, oral contraception (the pill), intrauterine contraception device (IUD), intrauterine contraceptive system (IUS), hormone implant (for women), hormone injection (for women), the male pill, female sterilisation, emergency contraception, natural methods, vasectomy (male sterilisation). The above list is also backed up by a two page spread of all methods - some with possibility of user failure and the others with no possibility of user failure. Of course, as you can tell from the methods listed, the ratio between methods which can and cannot fail can be largely dependant on the longevity of the method (whether the method is temporary or permanent). -------------------------------------------------- * Chapter 2: On-board diagnosis (stages, monitoring and complications of pregnancy) This section covers much more information about the pregnancy itself and covers topics that are the things very few of us like to even consider as possible. Namely, pregnancy problems. 1. Introduction This section covers an introduction to pregnancy - listing some of the effects the pregnancy will possibly have on the woman - such as morning sickness (which in my opinion should be renamed morning, afternoon, evening and night sickness) etc. Other areas covered here are the stages of pregnancy and possible complications. 2. Eclampsia Eclampsia is a condition that can affect some women during labour. The disorder originates within the placenta and can cause problems with the circulatory system of both mother and baby. Thankfully, it is quite rare and is treatable if caught early on. 3. Ectopic pregnancy This covers the situation that can occur when the fertilized egg becomes implanted in an area out with the womb lining. Other areas covered here are symptoms, causes, diagnosis, prevention, complications, treatment etc. 4. German measles (rubella) This section briefly covers information about this viral infection. 5. Miscarriage This is a topic that (understandably) few want to think about. The areas covered here are an introduction, signs of miscarriage, causes, prevention, treatment and further information. It's worth mentioning that the reason I like the fact that this book is aimed primarily at men is that sometimes, we tend to forget the effects of miscarriage or the loss of a child can be equally as devastating for a man as for the woman. 6. Amniocentesis 7. Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) 8. Foetal heart monitoring 9. Ultrasound The above topics are covered later in the book. 10. Spina bifida This section covers an introduction, symptoms, causes, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of Spina bifida. 11. Stillbirth Another topic that we as a society find it very difficult to talk openly about. This section covers an introduction and causes for this awful scenario that can affect anyone. -------------------------------------------------- * Chapter 3: Pre-delivery inspection (preparing for B Day) This section of the book delves into the run-up to the birth of a baby. 1. Meet the team This section covers the medical people you will most likely encounter in the count-down to the birth. 2. Changing GP/Midwife. 3. Appointments. This section covers GP and midwife appointments which cost about £20 for each missed appointment. 4. Antenatal care and pain relief This section covers antenatal and pain relief such as hospital-based care, shared care, tests, pain relief, entonox (gas and air), Pethidine, epidurals and other methods. 5. The big push (labour and childbirth) This covers the options open for the labour and childbirth, planning ahead, labour, the real thing and something that I made sure I was clued up on before Eva arrived - the three stages of labour. 6. New baby This covers the moments after the birth of the baby. The sections covered here are: First impressions, incubators and jaundice, after care, fear of the unknown and hidden emotion (new fathers turning into blubbering wrecks and crying like a little girl when their new baby arrives). -------------------------------------------------- * Chapter 4: Running-in (child development) The topics covered in this section are well worth having knowledge about: 1. Getting back on the road This covers some of the changes that can occur when there's a new arrival in the family etc. 2. Parental Leave This covers paternity and maternity leave procedures etc 3. At home This covers areas such as the 'baby blues' which the book points out can affect men just as badly as it can affect women among other issues (such as the great question: Will things ever be the same again?). Other topics covered are better sex (There's sex after the baby arrives?!? Get out of town!!! Lies I tell you... LIES!!!), emotional burnout in both new fathers and mothers etc. 4. Cot death Cot death is covered later in the book. 5. Sterilisers This covers keeping bottles clean and hygienic - along with a visual guide to cleaning the feeding equipment. 6. Fuel and fuel additives This compares breast-feeding and bottle-feeding. 7. Nappies/diapers and skin care Disposable or re-usable nappies? This lists the pros and cons of both. There are also pictures here that show how to put both disposable and re-useable nappies on a baby. Useful information for a new daddy if ever there was some! Are you ready for nappy origami? This section also has pictures of (presumably simulated) soiled nappies to show the different colours and consistencies of baby poo in different babies (breast-fed vs. bottle-fed). 8. Teething This lists the types of teeth and timescale in which they should appear as your baby gets older. Also covered here are teething symptoms, causes and prevention. At the time of typing this, Eva is starting to teethe. I don't think it can be prevented - only eased. 9. Talking and bonding This explores the baby's language recognition and how you can help them develop good language and communication skills from a very early age. 10. Shopping This section explores the demand for and changes in shopping with a baby in tow. Areas covered include advances in shopping, parking, access, changing-rooms and toilets and much more. 11. Baby problems This section is very informative as it covers potential problems that can arise with a baby. It explains many interesting things that a majority of new parents would most likely not know. Areas covered include peculiar shaped head, soft spots in the skull (a very interesting little section), scurf on the scalp (cradle cap), hair, eyes, skin, spots and patches, ear wax and smelly discharge, swelling abdomen, vomiting, crying and sleeping, bed-time and lack of sleep (the latter being something I'm very familiar with these days!) so as you can see, there are lots of common problems covered within this part of the book. 12. Child development This part of the book has a list of what babies are sometimes capable of at certain points in their development - namely six months, one year, 18 months and 2 years 6 months. The lists cover such areas as movement and posture, eyes and responses, play and speech. It is worth mentioning that everything on these lists are only guidelines and are not indicative of problems with your own baby if they're not doing everything on the lists at the age mentioned. 13. Avoidable bodywork damage (accidents) This section raises the potential accidents that can befall babies and young children and makes you aware of how you can prevent such accidents from occurring. Accidents covered here include suffocation and choking, falls, burns, scalds and poisoning. -------------------------------------------------- * Chapter 5: Impact protection systems (safety on the move and at home) This chapter covers all manners of accessories for protection and moving your baby. Accessories covered include: 1. Moses baskets and cribs 2. Baby bouncers 3. High chairs 4. Playpens 5. Bath time 6. Getting from A to B with baby intact (buggies, pushchairs, car seats, baby carriers and travel cots etc) 7. Child protection at home This covers certain aspects of making your home safer for a baby or young child. Included in this section are cooker guards, electricity, safety gates and barriers, guards for heaters and fires, window locks, safety glass and film, medicines and dangerous chemicals, house fires, and sitting and playing. -------------------------------------------------- * Chapter 6: Routine maintenance (childhood ailments) This section covers how to deal with some general childhood ailments but also covers areas such as cot death etc. 1. General This section gives advice on how to deal with child-related emergencies. The first steps recommended here are: * Remain calm and confident * Do all you can to help but don't put yourself in danger. * Do not give the injured person anything to eat or drink. Other information given here are: Emergencies, getting help and further information. 2. How to deal with an emergency This covers the recovery position for babies and young children, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Obviously these are things you hope you will never have to give to your child but it's better to know this information and not need it than to need it and not know it. 3. Is your baby really ill? This covers some of the possible symptoms that may be indicative of your baby being genuinely unwell. Again, the book stresses that these are guidelines and if in doubt about your baby's well-being to call NHS Direct. 4. Taking a young child to hospital This mentions how to try to reassure a child if they have to be taken into hospital. 5. Antibiotics This section covers antibiotic facts and when to contact your GP. 6. Asthma This section carries information about asthma symptoms, causes, prevention, complications as well as treatment and self care. Other than the above information, other information given here refers to the following: 7. Bites and stings 8. Blocked tear ducts 9. Broken bones and dislocations 10. Bronchiolitis 11. Burns and scalds 12. Chicken pox 13. Choking 14. Cleft lip and palate 15. Cold sores (herpes simplex) 16. Colds and flu 17. Congenital heart disease 18. Cot death (sudden infant death syndrome - SIDS) 19. Cradle cap 20. Croup 21. Cuts and grazes 22. Eczema 23. Febrile convulsions 24. Gastroenteritis 25. German measles (rubella) 26. Head injuries 27. Heat rash 28. Hives (urticaria) 29. Insect bites and stings 30. Lice 31. Measles 32. Meningitis/septicaemia 33. Nappy rash 34. Nose bleeds 35. Oral thrush 36. Poisoning 37. Purpura 38. Roseola 39. Scabies 40. Shock (loss of blood) 41. 'Slapped cheek' disease 42. Sprains, strains and bruising 43. Blood in the white of the eye (subconjunctival haemorrhage) 44. Sticky eye 45. Umbilical hernia 46. Worms Apart from being a frighteningly long list of childhood ailments (and I'll bet there are loads of others not mentioned above), the sections noted above generally cover symptoms, causes, prevention, treatment and self care where applicable. -------------------------------------------------- * Chapter 7: Commonly-performed procedures This chapter covers commonly-performed procedures (both pre and post birth). As always, it is very informative and will likely give you lots of new knowledge that you didn't have previously. Information here includes the following: 1. Amniocentesis 2. Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) 3. Ultrasound 4. Foetal heart monitoring 5. Assisted delivery 6. Circumcision 7. Immunisation (very useful information as it can be very difficult as a new parent to know if you're doing the right thing or not in getting your baby immunised) Although at a glance it would seem that the information given here is all very medically worded, the book tries to side-step a lot of medical jargon and actually does a very good job in making the information as easy to understand as possible for us regular, non-medically-minded Joes! -------------------------------------------------- * Chapter 8: Fault finding charts The fault finding charts in this chapter are all extremely easy to follow and include advice on the following ailments: * Abdominal pain * Breathing difficulties * Coughing * Crying baby * Diarrhoea * Earache * Fever * Head injury * Infant rashes * Itchy rashes * Poisoning * Rashes with fever * Sore mouth * Vomiting in babies * Vomiting in children The information given in the charts is incredibly useful and is invaluable to all new parents. -------------------------------------------------- * Reference This section includes the following: * APGAR score chart This chart is used immediately after the birth of a baby (after 1 minute and again after 5 minutes). It is used to score vital information regarding appearance (colour), pulse rate, grimace (reflex irritability), activity and respiration. * Service history This is a part of the book where you can fill in the baby's details as well as other information that you may want to note - such as: * First smile * First laugh * First unbroken night's sleep * First tooth * Starts solid food * Weaned * Sits up * Learns to crawl * Stands with support * Stands unaided * First steps * First word(s) * Knows own name * Climbs stairs * Potty trained There are other areas such as medical records, immunisations, and contact details. * Dimensions and weights The dimensions and weight charts that allow you to chart the height and weight of your baby as he or she grows. -------------------------------------------------- * Contacts This a list of different contacts that you can get in touch with to discuss in further detail issues touched upon in the book. -------------------------------------------------- * Further reading A list is included of other books than are recommended to further your knowledge of your baby and/or young child. -------------------------------------------------- OTHER INFORMATION RRP: £12.99 EAN/ISBN-13: 978 1 84425 059 2 ISBN-10: 1 84425 059 8 From every sale of this book, 50p is donated to the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity. -------------------------------------------------- MY CONCLUSION: I cannot recommend this book enough. It is very informative and in my humble opinion is absolutely essential reading for both expectant and new fathers. That said, as the book covers baby development up to about 2 years, there is still a lot to learn from the book and obviously well after that point too. After all when I can honestly say that I am already aware that when it comes to being a parent, the apprenticeship is for life. It's quite nice when you can get some pointers from a book like this - even if you can tell the person who has written it has also had to feel their way too. The blind leading the blind it may be but it goes to show we are all in the same boat at the end of the day. There's comfort to be had knowing that Kate and I are not alone in the ups and downs of being new parents. Many thanks for reading this... Derek.
I thought it was time to write up another game review. This time, I thought I'd back track to one of the older PS2 titles available: SILENT HILL 2: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT I've been a fan of the Silent Hill franchise ever since I played the original game back in 1999 on the humble Playstation. Despite the limitations of the original Playstation system, Silent Hill was a very memorable and to be honest, scary experience. Silent Hill 2 was released on the then next-gen PS2 in 2001. With the prospect of better graphics and sound, I started playing Silent Hill 2 with some trepidation. Would this second game convey the same sense of out-and-out loneliness and horror of the first? Read on (if you dare) and I'll tell you... THE STORY In Silent Hill 2, you control a different main character called James Sunderland. When the game begins, he's in a very grubby public toilet where he is looking in a mirror. As he steps outside, we see that he is on the outskirts of Silent Hill. His reason for being there is that he has received a letter from his wife Mary - asking him to meet her at their "special place"... Silent Hill. Nothing too unusual about that - right? Wrong. Mary died three years before the time in which the game is set. Knowing full well that dead people can't write and send letters, James heads to the town of Silent Hill. As he witnesses horrific creatures through the misty streets, he begins to wonder if perhaps Mary is alive in the town after all. There are a few other people that James finds in the town. It appears that they too have been summoned to Silent Hill... but why... and by whom? Among the people he encounters is a young woman named Maria. James is startled by her appearance - as she bears a strong resemblance to his long-lost Mary - although her clothes and hair-style are vastly different to that of Mary - along with her personality. Is this woman Mary or someone completely unrelated to her and James? The only way to find out the truth is to venture into the desolate town of Silent Hill... GAMEPLAY The game is played in a third person perspective. Thankfully the in-game camera is generally unobtrusive to the player. You can walk around in the game - or run if you feel the need to (and believe me when I tell you that you WILL want to run). As the game unfolds, James will encounter many terrifying creatures from which he will have to confront and attack - or run from. As with the original game, James finds an old radio that appears not to work - but strangely gives off a static sound whenever a nightmare creature is nearby. This can be very unnerving when you know that there is something awful close to you that you can't actually see yet as it's shrouded in dense fog or dark, shadowy areas. In this sense, it's a game that will have your nerves jangling almost constantly. Whether or not you choose to play the game at night and with the lights off is entirely a personal choice of the player but suffice to say if they choose to play it in those conditions, they may wish to have some clean underpants nearby! The good news is that James will find weapons that will even the odds somewhat when entering into combat against the terrifying creatures that inhabit Silent Hill. The first weapon he finds is crude but effective (a piece of wood with some nails in the end) but there will be other weapons that you will find as the game unfolds - including the likes of a steel pipe, pistol, shotgun and a rifle. It's worth mentioning that should you return to the game after having previously completed it, you will be awarded another great weapon to dish out an ass-kicking to the monsters... a chainsaw! Anyone who's ever watched the Evil Dead films will know that a chainsaw is more than capable of disposing of enemies. If it's good enough for Ash, it's certainly good enough for James! Apart from facing scary beasties, there will be frequent sections of the game that will call upon the players' ability to solve puzzles and riddles in order to progress. Thankfully, this never gets in the way of the enjoyment of the game. If anything, it's quite good to get challenges set to give your old grey matter a work out. Both the difficulty of the enemies and puzzles can be made easier or harder - which will make the game accessible to lots of players. GRAPHICS The graphics within the game are unsurprisingly a major step up from the original Playstation graphics. The degree of detail is far more impressive too - although a lot of detail is lost within the swirling fog. The fog no doubt serves as a means to the programmers of the game to ensure it runs at a premium speed without any slow-down. The colour scheme and general appearance of the game conveys a real sense of dread and apprehension. Some of the areas that James must pass through on his quest are uninviting to say the very least. Some of the places unlikely to ever be tourist hot-spots include the like of a slaughterhouse and a prison morgue which is full of decomposing dead bodies. Certainly it's fair to say that a lot of this disturbing imagery will stay with you long after you've turned off the PS2 - even if you don't want it to. The characters within the game are all convincing and pretty realistic all in all. This helps make the game a more realistic experience. Sadly, this is a double-edged sword as the credible graphics also mean that the nightmarish creatures found wandering around Silent Hill are also convincing enough to give you goose bumps, make your skin crawl and generally be a pretty good laxative... SOUND The sound of Silent Hill 2 is excellent. The voice-acting (and script) of the game is actually very impressive and flows well. All too often we have seen and played games where the voice-acting is so totally wooden and unrealistic that you can never get into the feel of it, let alone get immersed in the plot. Thankfully, Silent Hill 2 doesn't suffer from this problem - and this allows the player to genuinely feel like they've been transported into this hellish other-world. The music within the game is fantastic also. It ranges from some gentle guitar pieces to some genuinely unsettling sounds that comprise solely of droning noises and many other unidentifiable sounds. This also is reflected in the game when you often hear terrible sounds that make you wonder if they're being made by some terrible creature that is lurking nearby. VALUE The value of the game is increased in the Director's Cut of the game which has another section of the story that can be played after you complete the main part of the game. This extra section lets you play as Maria and adds a little more weight to the story. Also the fact that the game has several different endings depending on how you've played the game increases the replay factor sufficiently. MY CONCLUSION Silent Hill 2 is a great game that may not be suitable for everyone given the disturbing scenarios shown therein. However, if you can stomach that element, you'll discover a great survival horror game. Although the combat isn't as fierce as in the Resident Evil series (which will always be compared with the Silent Hill series) the atmosphere of the game will have you on the edge of your seat - and without a shadow of a doubt have you jumping out of your skin at times too. This is a brilliant part of the Silent Hill franchise and is a game I'd utterly recommend. Perhaps one day I'll see you on the foggy streets of Silent Hill... Thanks for reading this. Derek.
Now that I'm back into trying to find some time to write reviews, it's been making me think about what is actually worthy of the rare time out I get these days... Well... After rediscovering it again, I'm here to give you my humble opinions on the movie FIGHT CLUB... Fight club is a complicated and at times somewhat disturbing movie that for whatever reason is incredibly watchable and will possibly drag you back (suitably) kicking and screaming for repeat viewings. I have now bought three different versions of Fight Club on DVD (the one disc edition, the two disc edition and finally the version I am going to review here - the two disc DEFINITIVE EDITION - which is now the only version I own). Is the Definitive Edition really definitive? Read on and I will do everything I can to give you an idea... ------------------------- DEFINITIVE EDITION??? There are a few versions of Fight Club available on DVD - from a single disc release and a previously released two disc edition... So what exactly makes this edition "definitive"? Well... This version is put forward as uncut on the back of the DVD cover. Is this true or just another attempt to milk more money for us loyal and at times gullible film fans? The uncut status is in fact true on this version of Fight Club. Any previous versions of the film available on DVD within the UK were cut further by our friends at the BBFC (I say cut further as the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) had forced some cuts prior to the films release) by around four seconds and by introducing shot substitutions in place of a few more graphic ones. On this version of the film, the BBFC have waived all previous cuts - so as I said, a more uncut version of Fight Club you simply cannot get. The info on the back cover states that the film runs for 133 minutes approx - though I have read it's actually more in the region of 133 minutes 22 seconds. Like the 22 seconds makes a difference but I like to inform - even if it's mundane and anally retentive of me! This version actually does include more extras for your money than the previously released versions (e.g. four commentary tracks instead of only one) but I'll go into those in a little more detail later... ------------------------- THE PLOT Where do I start?!? The main character is an unnamed narrator (Edward Norton) who is a slave to consumerism, working in a thankless job as yet another office drone. Another of his main problems is that he suffers badly from insomnia. His lack of sleep is practically destroying his life. Upon visiting his doctor and begging for help, his doctor advises him he needs normal, natural sleep and exercise. The narrator tells the doctor he's in pain - to which the doctor advises him if he wishes to see pain, to visit a testicular cancer survivors group. The narrator takes the doctor up on this and finds unlikely solace posing as someone who is also a cancer survivor - even though he has no illnesses. At this survivors group, the narrator meets Bob (Meat Loaf) who has had his testicles removed and has grown very large breasts due to the treatment he received. Of course, Fight Club doesn't always handle such topics delicately - as reflected in the words of the narrator (in the form of voice over) when we are introduced to Bob through him: Narrator: [V.O.] This is Bob. Bob had bitch tits. [Camera pans to a REMAINING MEN TOGETHER sign] Narrator: [V.O.] This was a support group for men with testicular cancer. The big moosie slobbering all over me? That was Bob. Robert 'Bob' Paulson: We're still men. Narrator: [Muffled with head between Bob's breasts - where Bob has pushed it] Yes. We're men. Men is what we are. Narrator: [V.O.] Eight months ago, Bob's testicles were removed. Then hormone therapy. He developed bitch tits because his testosterone was too high and his body upped the oestrogen. And that was where I fit... Robert 'Bob' Paulson: They're gonna have to open my pecs again to drain the fluid. Narrator: [V.O.] Between those huge sweating tits that hung enormous, the way you'd think of Gods as big. This is the sort of hard-hitting dialogue that Fight Club is full of. Uncompromising and unapologetic regardless of the subject matter. This is strangely fitting for a film like this. After all what would the point be of a (literally) hard-hitting film like this if it pussy-footed around the subject matter? After the Narrator finds solace through crying whilst between Bob's breasts, he sleeps soundly after battling against his insomnia for so long. The thing is, after finding consolation at the cancer survivors group, the narrator finds himself seeking out more at all manners of other support groups. His relief at these other groups is shattered when Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) enters his life. She, like him is a "tourist" at these groups in that there is nothing wrong with her but she's there regardless. The way she enters the narrator's life is quite tasteless but in fitting with the tone of the film: She swaggers into the cancer survivors group smoking a cigarette and with a huge exhalation of smoke asks: "This is cancer - right?" Once Marla starts showing up at the support groups, it takes away the narrators ability to cry - and therefore, his ability to sleep once again. What is hilarious is when the narrator and Marla argue amongst themselves about which groups they can share between them so that they don't clash. Narrator: I'll tell you... We'll split up the week - okay? You take lymphoma and tuberculosis... Marla: You take tuberculosis. My smoking doesn't go over at all. Narrator: Okay... Good... Fine. Testicular cancer should be no contest, I think. Marla: Well technically, I have more of a right to be there than you. You still have your balls. Narrator: You're kidding! Marla: I don't know... am I? Narrator: No... No! What do you want? Marla: I'll take the parasites. Narrator: You can't have both the parasites, but while you take the blood parasites... Marla: I want brain parasites. Narrator: I'll take the blood parasites but I'm gonna take the organic brain dementia. Okay? Marla: I want that. Narrator: You can't have the whole brain... That's... Marla: So far you have four, I only have two! Narrator: Okay! Take both the parasites. They're yours! Now we both have three... Okay... so it shouldn't be funny but somehow, it just is! It's sharply written and clever dialogue - even if at times it makes you cringe. The narrator's life takes a new and unexpected turn when, on one of his many business flights, he meets the very cool and enigmatic Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). The narrator has to call Durden (using a business card he has been given) to find a temporary place to live when he returns home to find his apartment has exploded and he is now effectively homeless. Narrator: Home was a condo on the fifteenth floor of a filing cabinet for widows and young professionals. The walls were solid concrete. A foot of concrete is important when your next-door neighbour lets their hearing aid go and have to watch game shows at full volume. Or when a volcanic blast of debris that used to be your furniture and personal effects blows out of your floor-to-ceiling windows and sails flaming into the night. I suppose these things happen. When living with Durden, the narrator strikes up a strange friendship with him - and in seeking out new alternative therapies, they get drunk and have a fight. This inspires them to open up their first (and no doubt very illegal) Fight Club - a place where men of all ages, shapes, sizes and from all walks of life get together to vent their frustrations of daily, modern life in a primal way... Bare-knuckle fighting. Anyone can come along and fight but Durden ensures all in attendance are aware that there are still rules to Fight Club: First rule: You don't talk about Fight Club. Second rule: You don't talk about Fight Club! Third rule: When someone yells stop, goes limp, taps out... The fight is over. Fourth rule: Only two guys to a fight. Fifth rule: One fight at a time, fellas! Sixth rule: No shirts. No shoes. Seventh rule: The fights will go on as long as they have to. Eighth and final rule: If this is your first night at Fight Club... You have to fight. The fights shown in the film are really pretty graphic and bloody. I don't think that they're in any way glamorised but are just shown in their brutal and primal forms. This of course may put a lot of people off the film. Those who do not like violence and blood in their movies will likely give this film a wide berth but as I have said, I don't think the violence is gratuitous - but is integral to the story. There is of course more to Fight Club than blood and vicious fisticuffs. Events spiral out of control as Fight Club goes nationwide - with word of new clubs appearing from state to state. Durden revels in the spread of Fight Club and takes it to its next natural level of progression... He and the narrator begin to recruit a sort of private army to cause mischief and mayhem across the country. This all leads up to Project Mayhem - where members are given specific tasks to cause low-level chaos - using what is effectively entry-level terrorism - from blowing up a coffee shop to setting fire to the side of a building to form a giant smiley face. Where will this all end? You simply must watch Fight Club to see. Just remember not to talk about it afterwards. You know the rules... ------------------------- THE ACTING The acting in Fight Club is top-notch - with not one bad piece of acting in the entire movie. Edward Norton is excellent as the nameless narrator. He is in now way glamorised - and you feel his frustrations with his insomnia and dull job. He is an everyman who is lifted from the normal daily drudge of life and placed into a bizarre and exciting situation. Brad Pitt is fantastic as Tyler Durden. He's a no-nonsense character who hates consumerism and other elements of our modern lifestyles with a passion makes this clear numerous times throughout the film. Tyler Durden: Man, I see in Fight Club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential and I see squandering. God damn it. An entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables. Slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars. But we won't and we're slowly learning that fact... and we're very, very pissed off. Helena Bonham Carter is perfectly cast as Marla. She's a deeply unhinged and unstable character which adds a new dangerous layer to the proceedings with the narrator and Tyler Durden. The question is this: Is she actually the sane one in comparison to the narrator and Tyler Durden? The other acting in Fight Club is fantastic. Even secondary characters such as Bob (played by Meat Loaf) is fantastic. It makes you realise that Meat Loaf is not only a great singer (well... I think so anyway) but he can also act. ------------------------- THE SPECIAL EFFECTS There are probably more special effects in Fight Club than you would at first imagine. David Fincher likes to show off fancy new computer generated effects in some of his films and Fight Club (followed by Panic Room, which he also directed) is no exception to this. The opening credits are a ride through the fear centre of the narrators brain and eventually out through his sweaty skin. Sounds bizarre? It is! Other subtle but clever effects are the camera panning through the trash deep inside the narrators desk side bin at work and panning into tiny little nooks and crannies of his apartment seconds before it blows up in a vast explosion. It's true to say that as these effects are highly visual, my merely attempting to put them into words here truly doesn't do them any justice. ------------------------- THE MUSIC The music forms an integral part of the film and in a way is almost a character in itself. The soundtrack was produced by The Dust Brothers - namely E.Z. Mike (Michael Simpson) and King Gizmo (John King). They were approached by David Fincher himself to put the score together - the end result of which is a very bizarre but strangely excellent soundtrack. It's very difficult to put pigeon-hole the style of music on the Fight Club soundtrack. It features a lot of sampled synth sounds - some very heavy and dark and others almost child-like and playful. I don't know anything else that The Dust Brothers have produced either before or after the Fight Club soundtrack but I like what they created for this film, own the soundtrack, listen to it from time to time - and always enjoy it. ------------------------- EXTRAS Bearing in mind this is the Definitive Edition of Fight Club there are differences from the previous editions. DISC 1: On disc 1, the notable difference from previous versions is that there are now four commentary tracks compared to the previous one. Commentary by David Fincher (Director). Commentary by David Fincher (Director), Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter. Commentary by Chuck Palahniuk (author of the novel) and Jim Uhls (writer of the screenplay). Commentary by Alex McDowell (production designer), Jeff Cronenweth (cinematographer), Michael Kaplan (costume designer) & Kevin Haug (visual effects supervisor). DISC 2: CAST AND CREW These are all text bios of several members of the cast and crew of Fight Club. When talking of recent movies by the director David Fincher and actors such as Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, they are slightly out of date already but to be honest, when you've scanned over them once, odds are you won't go back to them again. BEHIND THE SCENES PRODUCTION These extras let you change both the angles and commentary tracks on them. The production extras include: ALTERNATE MAIN TITLES: (1 min 36 secs) This lets you view four different versions of the opening credits with either the final theme from the film or an alternate theme. PAPER STREET HOUSE: (5 mins 32 secs) This lets you view the planning of the house on Paper Street in the film using a scaled model and the actual shoot on the sets. You can view the planning or the shoot individually or playing simultaneously side by side whilst playing different audio tracks. AIRPORT (2 mins 11 secs) This lets you view either the planning of the shooting of the scenes in the airport or the actual shoot. Again you can view them either on their own or side by side. This has the choice of three audio tracks that can accompany the visuals. You can also view the storyboards for this scene (8 pages). PROJECTION BOOTH (2 mins) This lets you view the planning and/or shooting the scenes of Tyler up to no good in the cinema projection booth. You can choose two different audio tracks to accompany the visuals and can even look at the storyboards here too (11 pages). The first drawing on these storyboards for the scene is amusingly graphic without showing everything... JACK'S CONDO (2 mins 52 secs) You can view scouting for the location and the shooting of the scene here - either on their own or side by side. You have the choice of three audio tracks for this scene. You can also view the storyboards for this scene here (23 pages). CORPORATE ART BALL (3 mins 57 secs) This shows the animated planning/storyboards and shooting of the scene where the members of Project Mayhem destroy the corporate art ball that goes on to destroy a coffee shop. The previsualisation is interesting as we get to see the untouched footage of the ball rolling and the touched up footage altered digitally. It seems such a simple scene when you watch the film but you find out here that the scene was a complete and utter nightmare to both plan and film. There are 12 pages of storyboards for this scene on the disc. VISUAL EFFECTS These extras delve further into the complicated special effects used in Fight Club: MAIN TITLE SEQUENCE (3 mins 5 secs) As the opening sequence takes us on a journey through the narrators brain and out of a pore in his skin, the effects needed for this are incredible. This sequence can be viewed with one of two commentaries. You can also view paintings that helped them put together the brain ride map (21 pages). MID-AIR COLLISION (4 mins 41 secs) This shows the pre-visualisation, shooting and an idea of the subtle but fantastic use of special effects for the frightening mid-air collision scene with a choice of two available commentary tracks. FURNI CATALOG (2 mins 23 secs) This showcases the incredible amount of effects that went into the scene that takes the interior of the narrators condo from the pages of a furniture catalogue and into the real world - that Edward Norton then walks through by the end of the shot. Pure genius. You can also view the storyboards for this scene here (9 pages). SEX SEQUENCE (2 mins 36 sex... sorry... secs) The bad news for anyone getting all excited in seeing either Brad Pitt's or Helena Bonham Carter's bits and pieces in their sex scene is this... It was mostly computer generated! Using state of the art digital recreation and body doubles, the effects team created a unique, bizarre, disturbing and yet beautiful sex scene between Marla and Tyler. There is only one commentary available on this extra - although there are also a few storyboards (7 pages) available here. ICE CAVE/POWER ANIMAL (3 mins 14 secs) During the therapy sessions, the narrator is encouraged to imagine stepping into a cave and meeting his "power animal". Upon entering this icy cave, he finds only a penguin - that says the word "Slide" before giggling and sliding off on its belly. We discover through the only available commentary for this extra that the penguin was recreated with CGI but is almost identical in its biology to a real penguin. Also, the breath that comes out of Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carters mouths is unused but recycled breath from Titanic (the breath that was seen coming from Leonardo Di Caprios character - Jack). You can also view the Ice Cave storyboards here (7 pages). CAR CRASH (3 mins 49 secs) This extra shows how the car crash in the film was created using mostly practical effects. It's a very interesting little sequence with two audio tracks available as well as storyboards (40 pages). PHOTOGRAMMETRY (3 mins 29 secs) This shows how CGI was used to create incredibly close-up, photo-realistic environments within the film. Ranging from a drop from a high rise building that goes beneath the streets to a garage in the basement to a really intricate view of the narrator's soon to be destroyed condo. There are 8 pages of storyboards to view here. GUN SHOT (3 mins 3 secs) I don't want to put any spoilers in this review so all I will say about this extra is that it showcases the scene where the narrator places a pistol in his mouth... and pulls the trigger... You're probably now screaming: "That's NOT a spoiler?!?" Trust me... The effect was at first going to be carried out by make-up wizard Rob Bottin (who created amazing make-up effects for such films as the Robocop trilogy, Total Recall Legend and Basic Instinct to name but a few) but after numerous tests, it soon became clear that this approach was not going to work. In the end it was a mixture of CGI and practical effects like blowing compressed air into Edward Norton's open mouth to blow his cheeks out in a violent movement. The end result is seamless and incredible. HIGH RISE COLLAPSE (4 mins 45 secs) This section shows how several high rise buildings were recreated and reduced to rubble using a blend of CGI and practical explosive techniques. ON LOCATION This small featurette is quite insightful but I had hoped for something at least half an hour long. This runs at a mere 5 minutes and 24 seconds. PUBLICITY MATERIAL This is where you find the promotional side of Fight Club - ranging from trailers and much more. There is a hidden 'Easter Egg' on this screen. Highlight the Main Menu button and push left. You will see a smiley face appear. Press enter and you'll be rewarded with a gallery of cynically presented Fight Club merchandise - including a stylish black clock on which can be read the deep and meaningful words of Tyler Durden: "THIS IS YOUR LIFE, AND IT'S ENDING ONE MINUTE AT A TIME" TRAILERS There are two trailers available in this section: U.S. THEATRICAL TEASER (47 secs) This teaser trailer sets the tone of the film perfectly. Dark and gritty but still without giving away much of an idea about what the film is actually about despite consisting almost entirely of shots from the film. U.S. THEATRICAL TRAILER (2 mins 30 secs) This trailer lasts for two and a half minutes and gives a little more information about what the film is going to be like - though it's all a bit... strange - much like the film itself. The latter parts of the trailer are accompanied by The Pixies song Where Is My Mind (which also kick-starts the end credits of the film) which fits in perfectly. THE 8 RULES OF FIGHT CLUB This is an alternative teaser which was ultimately not used in the original marketing campaign. It has been completed for the DVD under the supervision of David Fincher and sound designer Ren Klyce. TV SPOTS A collection of mini adverts no doubt shown on TV commercial breaks upon the release of the film - or at least once a few rave reviews from critics were put forward. US TV SPOTS There are 12 TV spots from the USA. Each of them lasts for 30 seconds and has its own title: "Getting Excited" "The Real You" "Friendship" "#1 Movie" "Undeniably Brilliant" "Friendship Revised" "Girl's Club Revised" "Raw & Exilherating" "Beyond The Limits" "What He Found" "This Is Your Life Revised" "Perfect Life" SPANISH TV SPOTS There are 3 Spanish TV spots which are all generally in English with Spanish subtitles. The only spoken Spanish is on the voice over segments of the adverts. Also the bar of soap that is placed down at the end of the adverts has the Spanish title of Fight Club on it (EL CLUB DE LA PELEA) instead of the English title. Again each of these TV spots has its own title: "Trailer Cut Down" "Getting Excited" "This Is Your Life / Review" INTERNATIONAL TV SPOTS There are 2 international TV spots: "Gods" "Girl's Club Alternate" PSA'S This is an interesting and rather amusing extra - in the shape of Public Service Announcements from Edward Norton and Brad Pitt... This being Fight Club however, the PSA's are not your usual bog-standard ones... JACK'S PSA (Edward Norton) "This is a non-smoking theatre - so please - no smoking. For the enjoyment of others, please refrain from conversation during the feature presentation. At this time, please turn off all cell phones and pagers... and remember... no-one has the right to touch you in your bathing suit area." TYLER'S PSA (Brad Pitt) "This theatre has been equipped with multiple emergency exits. They should be clearly illuminated at all times. In the unlikely event of a fire, please make your way through these exits in a calm and orderly fashion. Thank you. Did you know that urine is sterile? You can drink it. MUSIC VIDEO This is a music video of some cool Dust Brothers music from the film - 'This Is Your Life'. The video and music are every bit as cool as the movie itself. "We are the all singing, all dancing crap of the world"... Indeed. INTERNET SPOTS These mini-trailers for the film were up on the internet to publicise it. With a running time of about 30 seconds or thereabouts, they are all very cool, very odd and would no doubt have ramped interest and anticipation for the film. All five internet spots feature brief shots from the film mixed with shots of Edward Norton speaking directly into camera. All internet spots have an old film effect just to add an extra layer of oddness... "After Fight Club, watching football on television is like watching pornography when you could be having great sex". PROMOTIONAL GALLERY A collection of images regarding the film. Lobby Cards and Advertising (20 images) Press Kit (34 images) Stills (157 images) EDWARD NORTON INTERVIEW Sadly this interview is not in video form but is presented here in a 25 page transcript. ART GALLERY STORYBOARDS Well over 200 images can be viewed here which are every storyboard ever drawn for the film. VISUAL EFFECTS STILLS Lots of interesting photos taken of the visual effects teams working hard throughout the production of the film. PAPER STREET HOUSE Some great photos of the construction of the fantastically freaky and derelict Paper Street house. COSTUMES AND MAKEUP Some great paintings of the costume designs and even cooler (but slightly grotesque) drawings of the makeup plans can be viewed here. PRE-PRODUCTION PAINTINGS Some very impressive pre-production paintings and sketches that show the meticulous work and planning that went into the film can be viewed here. BRAIN RIDE-MAP The paintings and pre-planned sketches for the impressive and strange brain ride can be viewed here. DELETED AND ALTERNATE SCENES There are a selection of very interesting deleted and alternate scenes on the disc for your viewing pleasure CHLOE AND RUPERT MARLA'S PILLOW TALK COPIER ABUSE TYLER QUITS SMOKING / JACK QUITS WORK ANGEL FACE'S BEATING WALTER TYLER'S GOODBYE I AM JACK'S (WELL DEREK'S) LONG-OVERDUE CONCLUSION... Well... You've probably noticed that I like Fight Club just a little bit. It's a very strange film that I've mostly referred to in a very simple but appropriate way... It's a mind-f*ck. The atmosphere of Fight Club is so... grimy that after you've watched it, it leaves you feeling a little dirty... I can't quite put my finger on it so I apologise if that didn't make too much sense. Maybe it's the characters... maybe it's the locations within the film or even possibly the brutal and primal blood-letting during the fight sequences. Whatever it is, whether or not you feel somewhat soiled and in need of a long hot shower or bath to cleanse you after seeing the film, I can almost guarantee that you will return to Fight Club and watch it over and over again. It's worth mentioning that Fight Club features a twist in the tale that will probably not be one you saw coming. It will certainly change the perspective of pretty much the whole movie the next time you watch it - and will make you kick yourself for having missed the scattered clues throughout the film before the payoff is actually delivered. Anyway... Thanks for bearing with me for what was yet another unplanned epic of a review... Derek.
Here I am trying to think of where to start with this review of a film that I have now seen twice in the cinema... That film is JUNO. THE PLOT ETC... I saw it the first time when a group of friends and I went to see a film for a birthday treat. I wanted to see Cloverfield but the birthday boy had already seen it. Sweeney Todd was also sidelined in favour of Juno. I'd heard it was good but it wasn't really a film that appealed to me... or so I thought. When the film started I was sitting there with a closed mind to it all, wishing I was watching Cloverfield instead... The opening credits show Juno MacGuff (great surname, eh?) (Ellen Page) walking along a street drinking from an absolutely enormous carton of Sunny Delight. I immediately thought "Oh... Nice product placement already!". It turns out that the reason Juno is swigging from the bottle of "Sunny D" is because she's preparing her bladder for a pregnancy test. She walks into the store to buy what is actually her third pregnancy test - as in the previous test, the red plus looked more like a division sign and was - in Juno's eyes at least - inconclusive. The store clerk has humour as dry as the Sahara and gives Juno some funny but barbed comments. When she goes to use the toilet, she takes the pregnancy test which she hasn't yet paid for: Clerk: "You better pay for that pee-stick when you're done with it. Don't think it's yours just because you marked it with your urine!" Of course, as fate would have it, this third test is undoubtedly positive. Not that that makes the store clerk any more sympathetic... Clerk: "So... What's the prognosis, Fertile Myrtle? Minus or plus?" Juno: "I don't know. It's not seasoned yet." (Juno grabs some candy from a nearby display) Juno: "I'll take some of these. (Looks at pregnancy test) Nope... There it is. The little pink plus sign is so unholy." (Juno shakes the pregnancy test) Clerk: "That ain't no Etch-A-Sketch. This is one doodle that can't be un-did, homeskillet." This sets the tone for what is actually a heart-warming and funny film - despite it dealing with a very serious issue - under-age sex and teenage pregnancy. The father of Juno's baby is one Paulie Bleaker (Michael Cera). He's in a band with Juno and has been an admirer of her for quite some time. Their "encounter" happens in a chair... Which is a somewhat uncomfortable scene - as we see Paulie sitting in the chair (obviously naked) waiting for Juno. Her legs take up most of the foreground and after a few seconds, we see her underwear sliding down to her ankles as she steps out of them. Paulie is a nice guy but is a bit of a geek - despite running with the athletic section of his school (the running troupe makes many appearances throughout the film) and is mortified when Juno tells him that she's pregnant. When he asks her what they're going to do, she says she's going to "nip it in the bud" before their situation spirals out of control. This cavalier approach to having the pregnancy aborted is turned around when Juno visits the abortion clinic to have a "hasty abortion" carried out. Juno looks around the waiting room at the other women all waiting for abortions as they sit around nervously. This makes Juno realise that she can't go ahead with the termination. After speaking to her best friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby), Juno decides that she should put the baby up for adoption for someone who is "in need of spawn". They discover ads in the Pennysaver paper and discover a couple who seem in desperate need of a baby. Having broken the news of her pregnancy to her father (J.K. Simmons) and her step-mother Bren (Allison Janney), Juno tells them of her plans to put the baby up for adoption. Mark and Vanessa Loring (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner) are a professional, married couple who have been unable to have children. Following getting in touch with the couple to arrange a meeting with them and their lawyer, Juno and her father drive to their house to set the wheels of the adoption in motion. The couple seem deliriously happy but for the fact they have been unable to have a baby. Initial agreements are set up and Juno agrees to keep the couple informed as to the progress of the pregnancy and send them ultrasound pictures etc. Upon taking the ultrasound pictures to Mark, Juno realises that she has a lot in common with him (guitar playing and a liking for slasher movies) and an odd friendship is born. It's a relationship that you can't help feeling uncomfortable about as the film progresses as it makes you wonder where it's all going to end up. As the story progresses, we get to look into the relationship of Vanessa and Mark. Thus, we begin to realise that there could very well be trouble in paradise. Vanessa is a complete control freak and Mark is obviously living in fear of his youth escaping him. I don't want to spoil how the characters paths continue to cross and where their stories take them. All I can honestly say is that the end result is heart-warming, unexpected and a joy to watch. THE ACTING There isn't one bit of bad acting in the whole film. I initially worried that the whole 'teen speak' dialogue think was going to become annoying and seem artificial as the film unfolded. I'm glad to say that this wasn't the case - and that the way Juno and her friends speak actually seems very natural and adds weight to their character. Of course, this is a lot to do with the finely-crafted dialogue as written by Diablo Cody. Cody is in fact an ex-stripper - and has now been Oscar-nominated for her script. This goes to show you that you should never give up chasing your dreams. Ellen Page is a tremendous talent and is fantastic as Juno. Her portrayal is so good that from very early on in the film, you do really care about this sixteen year old girl who has found herself in a hefty predicament after her first and only sexual encounter. J.K. Simmons is brilliant as Juno's father. He's obviously seriously disappointed at her getting pregnant but clearly loves her and cares for her and her well-being. Simmons can be seen as the obnoxious but great J. Jonah Jamieson - the boss at The Daily Bugle newspaper in the Spiderman movies. Unlike his over the top portrayal of JJJ, Simmons plays Juno's father in an almost under-stated fashion. This shows that he is a very good actor who can emote perfectly quietly as well as in your face. Jennifer Garner is great as Vanessa Loring. You can sense the void that she feels with having no baby. It's hard for her as a control freak to have something so important as being unable to have a baby that's outwith her control. You simultaneously feel sad for her for this and frustrated as hell with her for her annoying aspects. Jason Bateman is very good as Mark Loring. You get the sense of fear from him that his youth has escaped him and he can no longer do the things he loves in life. Most of his cherished, pre-marriage possessions are either bundled away in a small room or in boxes that have been packed away. The spark that Juno brings back into his life on serves as another reminder of the person he was - and is no longer since his marriage to Vanessa. All other acting in the film is just perfect. Very natural portrayals that never once detract from your viewing pleasure of the film. THE MUSIC The music carries the indie-film edge perfectly with lots of music from Belle and Sebastian, Mott the Hoople, The Kinks, The Velvet Underground and The Mouldy Peaches (who Ellen Page apparently fought personally to have in the soundtrack). The soundtrack is quirky and somehow familiar - the very vibes that reflect the film perfectly. DID YOU KNOW? The director of Juno is Jason Reitman - the son of Ivan Reitman who directed Ghostbusters and other well-known films. MY CONCLUSION Juno is ultimately a feel good movie that will make you think about the risks teenagers take with sex and teenage pregnancy. It will also make you think about so many other issues touched upon in the film - such as abortion etc. There's certainly a lot to talk about with this intelligent little gem of a film. The second time I saw this film was with the old ball-and-chain (AKA Kate) as I really wanted her to see it. I knew deep down inside that she'd also love it. As we have a little bambino now, it's a semi-relevant film for us. When I watched the film for the first time, I was thinking about Kate and Eva. When the baby is born in the film (that's not a spoiler!) it took me back to being in hospital when Eva was born. It just seems like 4 months ago (correct at the time of typing)... *sigh!* Oh... It WAS 4 months ago! Anyway, too cut a short story long (as is my style), I recommend Juno. It'll remind you what it was like to be young (back through the mists of time) and make you feel relieved that not everyone's luck is as questionable as Juno and Paulie's. However, they are proof in the film that things can work out for the best in the end and there can still be a happy ending... Many thanks for reading this! Derek.
I've been wondering for a while now what I could write one of my next ops on... and when I noticed the topic for Freeview, I felt I had found an ideal subject to wax lyrical on... WHAT IS FREEVIEW? Freeview in its simplest form is digital television that comprises of many more channels than those found on regular terrestrial television in the UK (BBC1, BBC2, ITV1, Channel 4 and Channel 5). As Freeview doesn't offer any premium channels (though there are some receiver boxes that allow subscriptions to such channels) there is only one payment to pay - and that is when you buy your Freeview receiver box. The boxes are actually very cheap now and can usually be found from around about £20 upwards. Before investing in a Freeview receiver, it is advisable to check that Freeview reception is good in your area. Even if it is broadcast in your area, you may still have to upgrade any existing aerial that you have so it is a good idea to check first! To check that your area supports Freeview reception, go to: www.freeview.co.uk Once there, you click on the 'Coverage Check' tab and then enter your postcode and house number - it should then tell you if you can view Freeview in your area. WHAT CHANNELS ARE ON FREEVIEW? There are many more channels available on Freeview than on normal terrestrial television. You still receive your five normal channels (BBC1, BBC2, ITV1, Channel 4 and Channel 5) but there are lots of other channels that are good value for your money (especially for one low, one-off payment!) as well as some that aren't so useful or entertaining - but that will depend on the viewers tastes of course. It is fair to say that with the channels available on Freeview, there should very well be something for everyone. ENTERTAINMENT CHANNELS BBC1 - On air 24 hours a day, this is exactly the same as you would find on regular terrestrial television. BBC2 - On air 24 hours a day, this is exactly the same as you would find on regular terrestrial television. ITV1 - On air 24 hours a day, this is exactly the same as you would find on regular terrestrial television. CHANNEL 4 - On air 24 hours a day, this is exactly the same as you would find on regular terrestrial television. CHANNEL FIVE - On air 24 hours a day, this is exactly the same as you would find on regular terrestrial television. Now for the channels that aren't on regular terrestrial television! BBC Three - On air from 7pm - 4am. This channel has lots of great programmes on it from all sorts of comedy such as Little Britain and The Mighty Boosh (who I don't find funny... can anyone explain their appeal?!?) as well as lots of great drama, news, current affairs, music, arts and much, much more. Sometimes, BBC Three shows the next episode of a series (e.g. Heroes) right after the previous episode being shown on either BBC One or BBC Two. BBC Four - On air from 7pm - 4am. This channel is more cultured than BBC Three with a great mix of culture, arts, world cinema, science, history, business and current affairs. ITV2 - On air from 9:25am - 6am. This channel has lots of entertainment, drama, comedy and movies. You often get repeats of big ITV1 shows such as X Factor which can be useful for those who have missed the programme on its first airing. ITV3 - On air from 6am - 5am. This channel focuses mainly on drama. There is a fantastic mix of classic and contemporary dramas, movies and much more. Some if the classic dramas that are aired on ITV3 include the likes of Inspector Morse, Poirot, Prime Suspect and Quantum Leap. ITV4 - On air from 6pm - 6am. This channel is aimed mostly at men (which I didn't actually know until now!) with drama, comedy, movies and live sports. ITV2+1 - On air from 10:25am - 7am. This channel is ITV2 running one hour behind the normal ITV2. E4 - On air 24 hours a day. This is the sister channel to Channel 4 and specialises in comedy and drama. With series such as Lost, E4 show the following weeks episode right after the Channel 4 episode for those who can't wait a whole week for their next hit. E4+1 - On air 24 hours a day but runs an hour behind the regular E4 channel. More 4 - On air from 10:30am - 1:30am. This is Channel 4's "TV channel for grown ups". It features comedy, documentaries and other popular programmes - such as a repeat of Deal Or No Deal? shown earlier on Channel 4. Channel 4+1 - On air 24 hours a day but runs an hour behind the regular Channel 4. Sky three - On air 24 hours a day. This channel was formerly called Sky Travel and now features lots of excellent drama, travel documentaries and other great lifestyle shows. UKtv History - On air from 7am - 6pm. This channel as you would expect from its name specialises in historical documentaries. Virgin 1 - On air from 6pm - 6am. This channel has lots of great drama, comedy and movies. Nuts TV - On air from 9pm - 1am. The entertainment channel for men from the magazine of the same name. Covering topics such as sport, cars, music, comedy and much more. Dave - On air from 7am - 3am. This bizarrely named channel is the new UKTV entertainment channel that features lots of very popular series such as QI, Top Gear, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, The Catherine Tate Show and Bottom. Film 4 - On air from 3pm - 3am. Film 4 shows a wide selection of movies. The only drawback is that the films are broken up by adverts - however Film 4 used to be a subscription channel - so the fact that it's now free is great news for film buffs everywhere! Five Life - On air from 6am - 11pm. This channel features lots of great entertainment shows and documentaries. Five US - On air from 4pm - 1am. This channel features some of the best entertainment from America. Some of the great programmes shown on this channel include House, CSI Las Vegas, CSI Miami, CSI New York and classics such as Happy Days. There is also American sport in the form of NFL American Football and NBA basketball. CHILDREN'S CHANNELS CBEEBIES - On air from 6am - 7pm. CBeebies is aimed for preschool aged children. It features lots of popular children's programmes and interactive services to encourage learning in small children. Having a four month old baby with my partner Kate, I guess we have all of this good stuff to look forward to! Help!!! CBBC - On air from 7am - 7pm. CBBC offers drama, entertainment and news etc aimed at children aged between 6 - 12. CITV - On air from 6am - 6pm. CITV is aimed at children between the ages of preschool to nine year old. It features a variety of drama, factual, preschool, entertainment, comedy and animation. LIFESTYLE CHANNELS Not the area that I watch but always end up flying through whenever I go channel hopping. These include the following channels: Community Channel - On air between 6am - 9am. I've never spotted this channel but it's there according to the freeview website - so who am I to question that? It's apparently a channel that deals with community. I know very little about this channel - so don't know whether or not this is actually localised to your own area. Teachers TV - On air between 4pm - 5pm. This is a channel dedicated to those who work within schools. There are short programmes shown that relate to most subjects that are taught. And now the inevitable dull as dish-water channels! Why?!? Ideal World - On air 24 hours a day. A shopping channel that offers fashion goods, jewellery, gardening tools, housewares, health & beauty and much more (apparently)... QVC - On air 24 hours a day. The UK's leading shopping channel selling all sorts of stuff you probably shouldn't want to buy! Price Drop TV - On air between 8am - 1am. This channel sells items of a limited number - the price dropping until the item is sold out. The good thing (if there is one)? Every buyer pays the lowest, closing price on the item sold. Yay. Bid TV - On air between 1am - 8am. This channel hosts interactive auctions. Okay... NEXT!!! Gems TV - On air between 9:45am - 12:45pm. This channel sells gem stones and gemstone jewellery. Yawn. The Jewellery Channel - On air between 6pm and 9pm. You'll never guess what this channel sells... Right... That's the shopping channels dealt with! Which is the bigger question: Who actually watches / buys anything from these channels? Or: Just where the hell do they find the vacant, lobotomy candidates to babble utter shite about the dross they sell?!? Anyhoo... On to channels that actually are interesting and useful (though a more than a little depressing at times)... NEWS CHANNELS BBC News 24 - On air 24 hours a day. Up to the minute, breaking news from the BBC news centre. BBC Parliament - On air 24 hours a day. Unedited coverage of the House of Commons, House of Lords and Westminster. Good God!!! Come back QVC!!! All is forgiven. I agree with what Billy Connolly once said: "The desire to become a politician should ban you for life from ever being one!"... Well said that man!!! Sky News - On air 24 hours a day. Up to the minute and breaking news courtesy of Rupert Murdoch and his unbiased media empire... What do you mean my nose is growing?!? Sod off!!! Sky Sports News - On air 24 hours a day. Up to the minute and breaking news from the world of sport. World Of Sport? That was Dickie Davis... Wasn't it?!? MUSIC CHANNELS The Hits - On air 24 hours a day. The biggest and best names in music can be found here (and Britney Spears) 24 hours a day. Yes Sir!!! TMF - On air 24 hours a day. TMF (or The Music Factory to those in the know... like moi) plays all sorts of music to cater for most tastes. It also includes the likes of themed weekends, movies and much more!!! Speaking of things music related, I almost forgot to mention that freeview also includes digital radio channels that you can listen to (handy if you haven't got a DAB digital radio - and even handy if you do!). The list of radio stations available include some of the biggest and best - as well as other digital ones. Here's a brief list of channels available: BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 1 Xtra, BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio 5 Live Sports, BBC Radio 6 music, BBC Radio 7, BBC World Service, Heat, Kerrang!, Kiss, Smooth Radio, The Hits, Virgin, Heart, Real Radio and many others!!! The radio function is great but I often find it to be a bit wasteful of energy to have your TV turned on just to listen to the radio. Some radio stations offer onscreen information about the name of the show and DJ on as well as the name of the song and artist currently playing. That's all fine and well but possibly superfluous all in all. If you have a sound system hooked up to your AV equipment, why not just play the radio through the speakers and turn off the TV. Go on, go on, GO ON!!! BE GREEN!!! MY TYPICALLY LONG-OVERDUE CONCLUSION I know those of you who have actually braved reading the above drivel and are miraculously still awake to tell the tale having been asking of me throughout: "Yes!!! This Freeview malarkey has QVC so I'm sorted... but... IS IT ANY GOOD AND DO YOU RECOMMEND IT?!?" Well... To cut a short story long (as is my want)... Do I recommended it? You betcha! It's generally a win, win situation. You buy the box cheap as chips and as long as your area supports the freeview signal, you're laughing! Digital television (minus the really good subscription channels unless you buy a Top Up TV box) at a great price! What's not to like?!? Go and buy it now!!! Many thanks for reading this!!! Derek.
Well... here we are... the end of yet another year! Can you believe it?!? It's seems very appropriate that I noticed this topic and am writing this op on New Years Eve (or Hogmanay as it is called in my native Scotland - where I don't live now... *Sigh!*). Today is the most common day of the year to look back on the year that is about to end and reflect - whilst looking forward - and wondering what the New Year will have in store for us all. So... how was 2007 for you? For me it was a roller coaster of a year to put it very mildly. The usual ups and downs, I guess - though in hind-sight, there seemed to be more downs than ups. THE START OF ANOTHER ORDINARY YEAR... OR NOT!!! In January, my partner Kate and I found out that she was pregnant - and thus plans changed practically overnight. Obviously, given this news, the fact that I was living and working in Edinburgh and Kate was in Newcastle was a problem so in February, I moved down. Geographically, this made sense and was of course the right thing to do but was (and still is) quite difficult at times as most of my family and friends are still up north. As the months passed, Kate's pregnancy became harder for her to bear - with the arrival of morning sickness (they really should have called it morning, afternoon, evening and night sickness) etc. MONEY'S TOO TIGHT TO MENTION... The financial aspects were also a problem as when I moved to Newcastle, I took a temporary job which as it turned out was actually very temporary. It's not been a great year for jobs - with me having to take several temporary jobs in a row - which believe me is no great thing when you have a pregnant partner! LOSSES There were thankfully very few losses this year with all loved ones doing well at the time of typing this - and long may that continue. The only loss I can think of is the passing away of a friend of our family - the mother of one of my best child-hood friends. It was a huge shock and a sad loss for everyone who knew her but on the plus side of that, we are all the richer for having known her. She will never be forgotten. IT'S A GIRL! In between all of this, Kate and I decided we wanted to know if we were going to have a little boy or a little girl. When we found out we were definitely having a little girl, we were faced with an even harder decision... A name to give her!!! With a due date of September 21st slowly but surely approaching, we were struggling to settle on a name for the little one! Kate usually kept suggesting names that were wither ludicrously old-fashioned or just plain naff. September 21st came and went and still there was no baby! Eventually, in the wee hours of Monday, October 8th, Kate began to get feelings that labour was finally starting. The truth is that her labour didn't get underway in earnest until about 11pm on the Monday night. At a surprising 18 days late, Kate gave birth to our daughter, Eva Rose at 5:42am. She weighed 7lbs 6oz and was utterly perfect. Eva's now almost 3 months old already and Kate and I have already learned that when it comes to being parents, the apprenticeship is for life! Like anything else, there are good days and not so good days. THE COUNTDOWN TO CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR (AND ONE SCROOGE-ESQUE EX-BOSS... BAH! HUMBUG!!!) I've always been a person who loves Christmas and with Christmas approaching, 2007 was no exception to my ramped excitement levels for Crimbo - especially as it was Eva's first Christmas. Sadly my anticipation of Christmas and all the festivities was more than soured by the fact that I was fired one week before Christmas! I was gutted on so many levels, I can't even begin to say (but will try anyway!)... The job I'd been doing was in a print shop, working with Photoshop etc so for once it was a job where the work was actually of interest to me. I twice passed up a job that would have paid much better (given the print shop job was only paying a measly £5.52 per hour - national minimum wage - and by cheque!) which meant I was taking into account the job satisfaction versus the wage - at least for the foreseeable future. However, after a mere 8 weeks in the job, the boss saw fit to show me the door - with a lot of utterly poor reasons for doing so. To say I was (and to a lesser degree now, still am) angry about it all is a complete and utter understatement. I've now come to realise that this person isn't fit to run a company and in all honesty, the old adage works incredibly well here... She honestly couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery! Right. That's me given my last breath talking about my ex-boss and my lost job. At the end of the day, I know I have skills that were and would continue to be very beneficial to the company but that's their loss at the end of the day. Anyhoo... that's enough of that negative guff!!! It's almost the end of the year - and everything that's been and gone this year can just be chalked down to experience. Suddenly I'm feeling a little bit more confident that 2008 will be a year that will be positive all in all... God... I bloody well hope so!!! CONCLUSION I just want to conclude by saying this: MAY THE BEST OF YOUR 2007 BE THE WORST OF YOUR 2008!!! Have a really Happy New Year, everyone! Best wishes, Derek. :¬)
Im finding it very difficult to find the time these days to do pretty much anything that I want to do and tend to get it in the neck for being on the PC when I get a chance. However, I have been looking forward to writing this review for quite a while now and therefore I am bloody well determined to write it!!! What review is worth the heartache (and more earache) of the other half moaning at me? Drum roll please! POLTERGEIST - 25th ANNIVERSARY EDITION DVD ------------------------- Ive always loved this movie. The fact that it was written and produced by Spielberg (though not directed by him as he was prevented from doing so as he was directing E.T. The Extra Terrestrial at the time) instantly made me like it as Im a fan of most things hes directed. The directorial role went to Tobe Hooper who was most well known for having directed the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Quite an appropriate director for a Spielberg penned scare-fest right? The thing is it was always disputed that Hooper had full control of the direction of Poltergeist as Spielberg would head straight over to the Poltergeist set when he was done for the day on the set of E.T. Ive always thought that the entire film feels like a Spielberg movie right to its very core. Its hard to believe that Spielberg didnt actually direct the movie in any shape way or form. Its said that Spielberg would make a lot of the creative decisions and that Hooper would go along with them. I dont know if we will ever know exactly who directed what on Poltergeist BUT I will say that if Spielberg stepped aside and all of the directing was done by Hooper, then Poltergeist is without a doubt the best Spielberg movie he NEVER directed. ----------------------------------- *** DID YOU KNOW? *** ----------------------------------- Though the film was initially released with an R certificate in America, the film makers and studio managed to convince the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) to make it a PG. Following initial outcry after Poltergeist was given the PG rating, the MPAA decided to create a new rating the PG-13. ------------------------- THE PLOT The story of Poltergeist is actually a fairly simple, good old-fashioned ghost story. When Steven and Diane Freeling move into their new home with their children Dana, Robbie and Carol Anne everything seems perfect. Steven works the company that built the neighbourhood and things couldnt be better. However, their calm and tranquil lifestyle is turned on its head when a series of unexplainable events start to happen around the house. It all starts when Carol Anne sits in front of the TV that is displaying only static noise after all programmes have finished for the day. She appears to be conversing with someone but nothing can be heard by the rest of the family who are roused from their sleep upon hearing Carol Anne and witnessing the bizarre event. When the programmes end on TV the following night and the static fills the screen Carol Anne (who is sleeping in her parents bed alongside Robbie following a very violent thunderstorm) awakens and moves toward the TV screen. This time, we can hear very faint whisperings as there are some faint orbs of light seen through the static. Carol Anne reaches slowly out to touch the screen but before she gets a chance to do so, a misty, spectral arm jolts out from the TV and quickly dissipates floating around her briefly before heading in a straight line through the wall above the headboard of Steven and Dianes bed. As the energy passes through the wall, the entire room shakes as if caused by a very powerful earthquake. As Steven, Diane and Robbie sit bolt-upright in bed with fright, Carol Anne slowly turns around before declaring with a smile: Theyre here Indeed they are The events that follow start out innocently enough with the stacking of chairs in the kitchen and furniture being moved around seemingly of its own accord. However, things dont stay so light-hearted for long. A tree that is outside in the garden (that we are already aware that Robbie is scared of) smashes a huge arm-like branch through the window of the childrens bedroom and snatches Robbie and then goes on to try to eat him! Steven and Diane run outside to try to rescue Robbie leaving Carol Anne alone and terrified in the bedroom. Sadly, this is exactly what the supernatural presence in the house wants. We find out that the tree with Robbie is simply a diversion from its true focus: Carol Anne. Carol Anne looks on helplessly as the closet door swings open of its own accord. A bright, other-worldly light pours from the closet space and everything in the room begins to get sucked in through this portal to the other side. Carol Anne puts up a fight holding onto the bed headboard rail for as long as possible before she loses her grip and is sucked through to the other dimension. Having rescued Robbie from the possessed tree, Steven and Diane are distraught when they realise that Carol Anne cannot be found any where. Amid all of the chaos of the search for Carol Anne, Steven and Diane are interrupted by Robbie who having just narrowly avoided being eaten by a tree is even more hysterical. When his parents go to him to try to calm him down, they hear Carol Annes voice. Relief turns almost instantly to horror when they realise that Carol Annes voice is in fact coming from the speaker of their TV! There is nothing on the screen but static but Carol Anne can be heard calling for her parents and seems to be able to hear them. As Steven and Diane realise that there is no sign of their daughter and realise that they are the victims of a power far beyond their comprehension, they decide to call in paranormal investigators. WHO THEY GONNA CALL? NOT Ghost Busters! Instead they call in Dr. Lesh and her two assistants Ryan and Marty to try to help them end their supernatural torment and to get their missing daughter back. ------------------------- THE ACTING The acting in Poltergeist is just brilliant. Its one of those rarities where the group of actors and actresses (of all ages) have been brought together to play a family and do so with such conviction that you dont doubt for a second that they are a real family. This also makes it one of those films that doesnt come along very often where you not only care for the characters but also fear for their safety. The cast chosen for Poltergeist just work so well together. However, a fair amount of the original cast members have died since the release of the film. This of course is mostly down to the fact that these things happen but with the deaths of the two actresses who played the Freeling daughters, it didnt take long for the media to speculate that there was now a Poltergeist Curse which was hanging over the cast and crew of the production. Whether there is actually a curse associated with the film we may never know but it does highlight real misfortunes of some involved with the film. Steven Freeling is played by Craig T. Nelson and is very convincing in the role of a very loving father and husband. Craig T. Nelson has been in a huge amount of movies and television series. One of his biggest outings recently was a voice casting only but as Mr Incredible in the Pixar animation The Incredibles. Diane Freeling is played by JoBeth Williams was a fantastic bit of casting as the mother who goes to any lengths to get back her missing child. JoBeth Williams has mainly appeared in television series including successful programmes such as 24 (Day 5 5pm 6pm). Carol Anne Freeling is played by Heather ORourke. Heather appeared in some very successful TV series before landing the role of Carol Anne in Poltergeist including CHiPs and Happy Days. She went on to appear in both Poltergeist II: The Other Side and in Poltergeist III which was to be her final movie. Heather died at only 12 years of age from cardiopulmonary arrest and intestinal stenosis. Robbie Freeling is played by Oliver Robins who has made only a few TV and movie appearances outside of the Poltergeist franchise. He also starred in Airplane II: The Sequel and an episode of the Twilight Zone in 1986. His last screen appearance was in Poltergeist II: The Other Side. He is still alive and hasnt yet fallen foul of the Poltergeist Curse. He has written and directed some projects within the last few years. Dana Freeling is played by Dominique Dunne. Dominique had roles in many very successful TV series of the 1980s including Hart To Hart, Fame, CHiPs, St. Elsewhere and Hill Street Blues. She was also due to star in the sci-fi series V as the character Robin Maxwell but had only filmed a few little scenes before she was murdered by her then (ex-)boyfriend, John Thomas Sweeney. During a rehearsal of lines at her house with fellow V co-star, David Packer, Sweeney showed up as Dominique had ended their turbulent relationship earlier that evening. Sweeney dragged Dominique outside where he strangled her until she was brain dead. Five days later, her life-support system was switched off and a very promising acting career was ended at the young age of 22. At the time of her murder, Sweeney was 26. He was sentenced to 6 years in prison for assault and unintentional manslaughter but was freed after only two and a half years. Dr. Lesh is played by Beatrice Straight. She starred in a lot of television series including Wonder Woman and St. Elsewhere among others. Her acting brings a great deal of warmth to the film. She plays Dr. Lesh as someone who despite being very professional, cares a lot for the family she is trying to help. Beatrice straight died of pneumonia in 2001 at the age of 86. Its probably safe to assume that old age complications were the cause of her passing and not any curses. The boss of Steven Freeling is Mr. Teague and is played by the well known and recognisable James Karen. He has starred in far too many hugely popular TV series and films to list here. He is a superb actor and has the honour of being the character that reveals the awful secret as to why the Freeling home is being haunted by angry spirits. There are other lesser roles throughout the film and there is not one example of bad acting. The whole cast pulls together to bring to life a convincing, thrilling and chilling tale. ----------------------------------- *** DID YOU KNOW? *** ----------------------------------- The role of Carol Anne was almost given to Drew Barrymore. Heather ORourke ended up being cast as Spielberg wanted a child who was more angelic. However, Spielberg cast Barrymore as Gerty the little sister of Elliot in E.T. ------------------------- THE SPECIAL EFFECTS The special effects remain special despite being 25 years old due to the skill of the people at George Lucas effects company Industrial Light and Magic. As always, ILM come up with the goods in convincing us that the spirits haunting the Freeling home are real. Some of the effects may have been done differently these days if the film was made now with the age of CGI. However, part of the appeal of these effects is that they are still great despite being from a time when CGI was practically unheard of within movies. ILM created their effects The effects created by ILM include spectral images that seem mainly composed of light as well as an entire house that is sucked into a vortex presumably through to the limbo where the spirits are. Its nice to see good old fashioned practical effects created in studios that firstly dont actually look like theyve been created by someone and secondly stand the test of time considerably well like the film itself. ----------------------------------- *** DID YOU KNOW? *** ----------------------------------- The model of the house sucked in to the other-worldly vortex was about four feet across. It was laid on its back with the front door pointing straight up into a camera mounted above it facing down. The effect of the house being sucked from our world to another was created by the model being sucked through an industrial strength vacuum beneath the model with the aid of one hundred wires being pulled and being blasted by pump-action shot guns. The model took about four months to make and only two seconds to destroy. Thankfully, the effect was perfect and the results of this remarkable one-take wonder can be seen in the final film. ------------------------- THE MUSIC The music is especially worthy of mention as it backs the visuals up perfectly. The late, great Jerry Goldsmith composed the score for Poltergeist which has some very serene moments and some loud, heart-pounding points much like the film itself. Jerry Goldsmith played with our fears and emotions as much as any of the visuals. There are some very playful pieces of music which would fit into any family friendly film but when the spirits let loose with their anger, so Goldsmith let loose with his fantastically dark side. Jerry Goldsmith died in 2004 at the age of 73 following a long battle with cancer. He scored so many TV series and films with incredible music including The Waltons (really!), Gremlins, The Omen, The Twilight Zone, Alien, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (among other Star Trek projects), Rambo: First Blood, Poltergeist II: The Other Side, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Executive Decision among many, many more. As a film fan, I have to say I am really grateful to all the music Jerry Goldsmith has left for this and future generations that will watch the films and TV series he scored. ------------------------- PRESENTATION So this is the long-awaited 25th anniversary release of Poltergeist. The question is: Just how special is it? THE COVER Upon getting my DVD which Id ordered at a very decent £9.99 from play.com, the first thing that caught my eye was the very shiny and lovely cardboard sleeve that was around the main disc box. Whether this will always be a feature on this title or not remains to be seen. The cover on both the outer and inner sleeves are the same and feature a new and improved image that has always been on the cover of Poltergeist: Carol Anne kneeling in front of the television screen (with her back to us) with both her hands on the static-filled screen while a discarded teddy bear lies on the floor beside her. THE MENU Having owned a bare-bones version of the film that I bought across in Luxembourg when I lived and worked there, I had hoped for an all-singing, all-dancing animated menu. Alas I was to be disappointed. Theres only the image of Carol Anne in front of the TV (as seen on the DVD cover) tinted green as opposed to the usual blue this time accompanied by some of Jerry Goldsmiths great score. The options are simply: Play Movie, Scene Selections, Special Features and Languages SPECIAL FEATURES The special features are somewhat lacklustre for such an eagerly anticipated release of a classic movie such as Poltergeist. There is a documentary titled: THEY ARE HERE: THE REAL WORLD OF POLTERGEISTS which can be played in two separate parts or played as a whole. The two separate segments are: Part I Science Of The Spirits This part of the documentary is 15 minutes 30 seconds long and features opinions of ghost hunters, paranormal investigators, psychics and other experts on the subject that help back up the notion that there simply has to be truth behind paranormal occurrences. This first section also goes into new means that paranormal investigators use from the scientific to other new technologies. It also shows that they have to be sceptical until they find something that dispels the doubt Part II Communing With The Dead The second part of the documentary is 15 minutes 32 seconds long. This concluding part features more interviews with mediums, psychics and others who have the gift (and sometimes the curse) that is being able to communicate with the dead. It throws open lots of interesting questions about what may or may not happen to the human soul upon death and will probably make you think about it long after you watch it. The documentary is very nicely edited and is a very polished production but its such a shame that these are the only extras included. It would have been fantastic to have had some making of footage from 1982 and perhaps interviews with the remaining cast members now. However, it may have been too painful for them to go back to their thoughts on this with the sad absence of Heather ORourke and Dominique Dunne. PICTURE QUALITY Widescreen ratio: 2.40:1 The picture quality is fantastic given the age of the film. The picture has been digitally remastered. I used to own the widescreen video of Poltergeist which had a very nice picture transfer on it (as well as the original theatrical trailer and a tiny featurette both of which could have been added in this new DVD release). When I bought the previous vanilla DVD of Poltergeist, I was surprised and more than a little shocked to find that the picture quality was not as good as the VHS! The DVD transfer must have come from a different, slightly worse for wear print. The first thing I did when I got this new release was to play the start of the film on the previous DVD and then the same on the new one. I instantly noticed that the picture quality on this new release is definitely a hell of a lot cleaner with hardly any of the scratches seen on the previous release. The other noticeable thing was that although the previous release had a great widescreen of 2.35:1, this new release has a widescreen ratio of 2.40:1. This means that you get even more of the image in the new release. I noticed this from the point where the opening credits roll. On the previous DVD, some of the longer names in the credits were slightly off the edge of the picture whereas this problem is not on the new release. SOUND QUALITY Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 Although I have sadly not yet been able to hear Poltergeist in its new remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, I can say that this is a huge step forward from the previous release which only carried a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround soundtrack. Im certain that the 5.1 soundtrack will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. I cant wait to hear it in 5.1 one day but as my surround speakers are currently still at my parents place and Kate and I have a new baby in the house, I think room-shaking surround sound will be off the menu for quite some time. ------------------------- MY HISTORY WITH THIS FILM You have probably already realised that I love Poltergeist. It's definitely right up there with some of my all time favourites - but why? The first time I saw any part of Poltergeist was many, many moons ago - back when I had been given a small black and white portable television one Christmas... (What a sign of the times! Black and white television!) I for whatever reason had been awake quite late (I should imagine) and when I sneaked on my TV very quietly, I recall catching the end of the film. Of course, given my tender age and having only caught the tail-end of the film, I didn't quite understand everything I was seeing but I knew I was thrilled by the imagery even then - but don't recall being overly scared of it (maybe the impact was lessened by the small black and white TV picture). Years later, I purchased the widescreen VHS video of the film and watched and enjoyed it several times. The thing that has always struck me as being perfect in this film is the portrayal of a thunder storm. My childhood fear was (and to a lesser degree still is) thunder and lightning - following my being caught outside in a thunder storm when I was only five years old. Poltergeist features a child who is scared of the incoming thunder storm - only to be told by his father about counting from the point where you see the lightning to know if the storm is further away or nearer. This is such a realistic portrayal of a thunder storm (instead of the usual constant thunder and lightning that is found in so many other horror films) and a parental attempt to reduce the fear of it in a child. This parental instinct is now in me follwing Kate and I having our little girl almost one month ago (correct at the time of typing this). I am determined that whenever Eva witnesses her first thunder storm when she is old enough to be aware of - and possibly afraid of - that I will do everything possible to ensure my nervousness of the storm won't show and that I can be as supportive to her as Steven Freeling is to Robbie in Poltergeist. Yes, yes... I DO know Poltergeist is just a film BUT what I have said above proves that the portrayal of the Freeling family in the film is a very convincing and realistic one. This is the sign (in my book at least) of a great cast and great writing - when the family at the centre of the story doesn't reek of artificial and unconvincing dialogue. They just ARE a real family - who you can feel scared and worried about. Perhaps my liking for the film is down to the Spielberg connection. I generally love a lot of the films he has directed - and whether or not he did direct Poltergeist is somehow irrelevant. The fact that he wrote the story tells me that Poltergeist was still his baby and although the film is quite dark compared to some of the other projects Spielberg has been involved in, it certainly contains a lot of the Spielberg magic I have come to love so much over the years. ------------------------- MY CONCLUSION Okay Its not an amazing DVD offering as far as the special features are concerned. Whether or not Warner Bros will eventually release an even better version of the remastered edition of the film with more deserving extras remains to be seen. If however you love this film and want to get a new, cleaned up version with better picture and sound quality than youll have had before, then this release should be great for you. Many thanks for reading this spooky review Derek. P.S. Pleasant dreams! Mwah-ha-ha-ha-haaaaaaaa!!!
Ive been trying to get this review put together for quite a while now but things have been very hectic recently in that Kate and I became parents on October 9. Our beautiful little daughter is called Eva Rose and since shes currently with mummy and granny, it will now give me a chance to finally publish this review! So for your reading (dis)pleasure, heres my review of HAPPY TREE FRIENDS: FIRST BLOOD -------------------------------------------------- Let me first of all tell you some background information about the Happy Tree Friends themselves and tell you a little about the characters themselves: You may very well be asking Who or what exactly are the Happy Tree Friends? Happy Tree Friends is a cartoon that was created with Adobe Flash by Kenn Navarro, Rhode Montijo, Aubrey Ankrum and Warren Graff. The cartoons follow the adventures or more appropriately the misadventures of a group of extremely cute and cuddly animals who are the Happy Tree Friends. Okay so the kids will love this right? Well dont let the cuddly title or cute characters mislead you. These cartoons are not aimed at small children as they would be unsuitable due to quite frankly child-unfriendly images. The Happy Tree Friends: Overkill DVD boxset is a 12 certificate so is obviously not aimed at or suitable for children below that age (according to the BBFC anyway). The easiest thing to do at a glance is to compare Happy Tree Friends to the cartoon-in-a-cartoon Itchy and Scratchy from The Simpsons. In the Itchy and Scratchy show, those characters take great delight in mutilating and torturing each other in a fairly graphic manner (especially in that The Simpsons is generally on TV in the early evening when smaller children can and will watch it). While Happy Tree Friends does continue the trend of comic and cartoon violence of a fairly strong and bloody nature, the deaths of the characters are not usually caused by deliberate mutilation or torture but are usually accidents that occur. Of course, there are some exceptions of this rule and unlike Itchy and Scratchy, the deaths shown in these cartoons is usually more graphic and sometimes simply horrible even though you may end up laughing despite being grossed out at the same time! The characters being killed off in one episode will not prevent them coming back in another. In this respect they function very much like Kenny in South Park. The writers can unleash their worst on these cute characters but they will be back and waiting for another cruel and violent fate in another episode. -------------------------------------------------- THE CHARACTERS As I stated above, the characters that make up the Happy Tree Friends gang are mostly cute and cuddly animals that would have been perfectly child friendly if it werent for the violent spin contained within the cartoons. Some are cute, some are not so cute but theres something generally pure and endearing about most of them. Ill try to remember as many of the main characters below: CRO-MARMOT Animal type: Marmot Gender: Male Frozen in a block of ice, Cro-Marmot is still oddly capable of doing many things and interacting with other characters. In one episode, he throws a snowball at Giggles (see below) despite his being entombed within the ice! He wears only a little loin-cloth, carries a massive club and sports a somewhat grungy looking fringe. CUB Animal type: Bear Gender: Male Cub is a light brown bear cub who despite being under the constant eye of his father, Pop (see below), always gets himself into deadly situations. He wears a nappy and usually a little red and yellow cap that has a little propeller on it. Despite his very baby-like appearance, he wanders around like a toddler and as toddlers can do, often wanders into dangers that would be otherwise safe to older children and adults who know better. Cubs very young age is clearly not an issue that prevents the writers targeting him and killing him just as they do with the other characters. It would seem that if a character appears in Happy Tree Friends then they are fair game regardless of their age or gender. I suppose in some ways it is much the same as life in that anything can happen to anyone within the real world. It sucks of course but thats life! CUDDLES Animal type: Rabbit Gender: Male (although I personally always thought he was a she!) Cuddles is a bright yellow bunny rabbit who is decked out in little pink bunny slippers. He is one of the primary characters used within the cartoons and has had the most on-screen deaths within the franchise (with an estimated 44 deaths being noted!). DISCO BEAR Animal type: Bear (you knew that was coming didnt you?) Gender: Male Disco Bear is yellow in colour and has a huge, orange afro hair style. He is always decked out in (un)groovy 1970s clothing that would make John Travolta blush in Saturday Night Fever! Needless to say, Disco Bear is hugely into disco music. He growls about in supposedly seductive tones and strikes disco-esque poses. FLAKY Animal type: Porcupine Gender: Male Flaky is a bright red porcupine who appears to be one of the most easily scared characters. He always looks really nervous and looks around him in a very anxious fashion. Flaky lives up to his name due to the dandruff that is fill his quills. FLIPPY Animal type: Bear Gender: Male Flippy is a bright green bear who happens to be one of my favourite characters. He wears green camouflaged clothing and seems to be perfectly happy and loveable until something (whether it be the sound of a car exhaust back-firing or other characters covered in tomato ketchup in a café) inevitably causes him to have a Vietnam-style flash-back to battles he has fought in the past. At this point, Flippy er flips out and becomes a murderous psychopath who usually then goes on to kill all other characters around him in that episode. Scary! GIGGLES Animal type: Chipmunk Gender: Female Giggles is a bright pink chipmunk with a big red bow on her head and has a very girly attitude that backs up her girly appearance. She is likely named due to her giggling a lot at things she sees and does. Giggles has also had a lot of rather nasty on-screen deaths throughout the series which proves that the writers dont spare their characters a nasty exit simply because theyre pink and girly. HANDY Animal type: Beaver Gender: Male Handy is an orange beaver who is always decked out in a bright yellow work-mans helmet. He is very good at odd-jobs hence his name although ironically his hands are amputated (if theres a reason for this, then I havent seen it!). A lot of the odd-jobs that he wants to do are hindered by his lack of hands often resulting in a little show of frustration at this. Weird LIFTY AND SHIFTY Animal type: Racoons Gender: Male These two green racoons are twin brothers who essentially present the entire criminal element of Happy Tree Friends. They delight when stealing from other characters. One memorable incident involves them stealing a cow from Lumpy who gives chase until they commandeer a hot air balloon for a failed getaway. LUMPY Animal type: Moose Gender: Male Lumpy is a bright blue moose who looks in some ways not unlike Bullwinkle the moose from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. I personally think hes a character to himself that can be easily separated from Bullwinkle due to his appearance and character. Lumpy has one antler that is the right way up and another that is twisted into an upside down position. Lumpy is an exceptionally stupid animal and his stupidity is usually the cause of the deaths of other characters that appear within the same episodes of him. He is usually oblivious to the carnage he causes and is still lovable despite this. MIME Animal type: Deer Gender: Male Mime is a purple deer who has his face painted up in the usual mime fashion and usually never utters a word. His interaction with other characters is hugely affected by his silent demeanour most notably in episodes like the Halloween one where Mime knocks on The Moles door to trick or treat him. As The Mole is blind, he assumes there is no-one there when he cant see the silent Mime and closes the door again. NUTTY Animal type: Squirrel Gender: Male Nutty is a green squirrel who has a very unhealthy obsession with sweets and candy. He is has some assorted candies stuck to his fur (a lollipop and a toffee apple etc) which he sometimes pulls free of his fur and eats. When Nutty sees anything sweet, he goes into a mad, hyperactive laughing fit which is punctuated with all sorts of noises to show his utter delight. His desire for something sweet usually results in a sticky end for him or one of the other characters. PETUNIA Animal type: Skunk Gender: Female Petunia is a blue coloured skunk (as they are in real life of course NOT!) who wears a flower on her head and a pine tree car air freshener around her neck presumably to keep her skunky smells at bay. POP Animal type: Bear Gender: Male Pop is a light brown bear who is one of the few obviously adult character. He is the father of Cub (see above). He has an oddly old-fashioned appearance often wearing what appears to be a smoking jacket while he puffs happily away on his pipe. He always watches over his adventurous child and often tries to save his life resulting in his own demise (and sometimes that of Cub despite his efforts to keep him safe). RUSSELL Animal type: Sea Otter Gender: Male Russell is a pale green sea otter who is either an actual pirate or simply likes to dress and act as though he is one. Decked out with the usual gear that a pirate would wear (an eye-patch, jolly roger pirate hat and most strangely two wooden peg-legs) Russell is certainly one of the most odd characters on the show and that is saying something! SNIFFLES Animal type: Anteater Gender: Male Sniffles is a bluish-grey anteater who is can easily be regarded as one of the most intelligent characters in Happy Tree Friends. He is presented as being a very geeky character who enjoys all things to do with mathematics and science. His appearance is that of a total nerd too with thick glasses (which are joined in the middle with what appears to be sellotape) and a set of pens which seem to be in a pocket despite him not actually wearing a top. Some of Sniffles most memorable demises have been at the hands of a family of ants that he terrorises (as anteaters would do). SPLENDID Animal type: Flying Squirrel Gender: Male Splendid is a bright blue, heroic flying squirrel. He wears a Teenage Mutant Ninja/Hero Turtles style band over his eyes. He actually does have super powers like those that Superman himself has (i.e. flying, super hearing, super strength and the ability to fire lasers from his eyes etc). In the episode Better Off Bread, his baking of a loaf of bread in his oven is interrupted by his superhero rescue duties. When he returns to find his loaf of bread burned, he flies around the earth very fast until it turns the other way as seen in the original Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve Superman movie in order to ensure his bread remains unburned back home! Splendid stuff! THE MOLE Animal type: You guessed it! A MOLE! Gender: Male The mole is stereotypically blind. We never really see much of him as hes hidden behind his glasses and a thick polo neck sweater that hides the bottom half of his face. The part of his face that can be seen features a mole at the side of his nose. A mole with a mole? Okaaaaaaaay. A lot of the episodes are based on his blindness causing the sticky ends of himself or others. That said, there is an irregular episode called Mole In The City in which The Mole was drawn in a more simplistic and yet stylised way and appeared to be a secret agent of some sort. In this short, the mole on his face was detached and used to blow out the lock on a locked door. As you do! TOOTHY Animal type: Beaver Gender: Male Toothy is a bright purple beaver who lives up to his name due to his two, oversized and gappy buckteeth. He has a very cute and innocent look about him with his freckled face and large flat tail. Although he features quite prominently in the episodes, he sometimes takes a backseat role to some of the other characters. OTHER CHARACTERS? Any other characters are very minor and play mainly background roles. As you can see, there are plenty of characters within these little cartoons and thankfully most of them, if not all of them are likeable with only one or two being fairly unmemorable. -------------------------------------------------- -------------------------------------------------- This first DVD in the series has 14 episodes on it (each of which ends with a moral message that sometimes ties in with the exploits youve just watched on the screen and sometimes not!). They are as follows: 1. Spin Fun Knowing You Featuring: Cuddles, Giggles, Toothy and Lumpy Lumpy is having fun with Cuddles, Giggles and Toothy by spinning them on a merry-go-round really fast! What could possibly go wrong?!? MORAL MESSAGE: DONT FORGET TO FLOSS! 2. House Warming Featuring: Petunia and Handy Handy has made Petunia a new tree house. What could warm it up? FIRE!!! MORAL MESSAGE: SMILES ARE ALWAYS FREE! 3. Helping Helps Featuring: Giggles and Splendid When Giggles is in danger of being swept away by a tidal wave, its Splendid to the rescue unfortunately! MORAL MESSAGE: DONT FORGET TO STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES! 4. Crazy Antics Featuring: Sniffles Sniffles passes an ant hill and wants a snack but the ants are more than ready for him. MORAL MESSAGE: BUCKLE UP FOR SAFETY! 5. Havin A Ball Featuring: Pop and Cub What could possibly go wrong when Pop and Cub are playing with a ball? EVERYTHING! MORAL MESSAGE: EAT YOUR VEGGIES! 6. Water You Wading For? Featuring: Cuddles and Flaky Cuddles and Flaky go to a lake to swim but Flaky is nervous about the no swimming sign. Why is it there? Cuddles finds out big time! MORAL MESSAGE: DONT BREATHE UNDER WATER! 7. Nuttin Wrong With Candy Featuring: Nutty When Nutty runs out of candy, he notices a candy vending machine and gets himself into big trouble. MORAL MESSAGE: WASH BEHIND YOUR EARS! 8. Wheelin And Dealin Featuring: Lifty and Shifty The Happy Tree Friends are having a car race but Lifty and Shifty realise they are missing parts from their car. Whats their answer? To steal the parts from cars belong to their competitors whilst on the move! MORAL MESSAGE: LOOK BOTH WAYS BEFORE CROSSING THE STREET! 9. Pitchin Impossible Featuring: Petunia, Lumpy and The Mole Lumpy is running a stall at the fun fair. Knock bottles over with some balls to win a teddy bear! Sounds easy enough until The Mole tries and all hell breaks loose! MORAL MESSAGE: TAKE YOUR VITAMINS! 10. Stayin Alive Featuring: Giggles, Petunia and Disco Bear Giggles and Petunia are having a tea party with their teddy bear until Disco Bear shows up and tries to impress them with some killer moves! MORAL MESSAGE: AN APPLE A DAY KEEPS THE DOCTOR AWAY! 11. Treasure These Idol Moments Featuring: Cub, Flaky, Sniffles and Toothy What happens when a cursed idol falls into the hands of the Happy Tree Friends? Death and destruction should about do it! MORAL MESSAGE: IF FRIENDS WERE FLOWERS, ID PICK YOU! 12. Chip Of The Ole Block Featuring: Pop and Cub Pop is trying to relax on his hammock while Cub cuts the grass with the lawnmower Thats got to be a bad idea! This episode has quite a horrid fate for Cub so you have been warned! MORAL MESSAGE: PLANT KINDNESS AND GATHER LOVE! 13. Nuttin But The Tooth Featuring: Nutty and Toothy Toothy plays dentist to try to remove a rotten tooth from Nuttys mouth. Anyone who even remotely dislikes going to the dentist will find this episode hard viewing! MORAL MESSAGE: BRUSH AFTER EVERY MEAL! 14. Hide And Seek Featuring: Petunia, Toothy, Flaky and Flippy A game of hide and seek turns deadly when Flippy has another of his war flashbacks caused by a woodpecker! MORAL MESSAGE: AFTER THE RAIN COMES A RAINBOW! -------------------------------------------------- EXTRAS SMOOCHIES Smoochies are small semi-interactive animations that can be sent to friends via the Happy Tree Friends website a few of which are included on this DVD. They are worth a few watches as they are quite funny in a screwed up kind of way. These Smoochies feature ORIGINAL FORMULA This is the original cartoon that feature some of the characters in a very crude form but inspired the rest of the cartoons. TREE TALK ACTIVATION This is the episodes with crew commentaries over them whilst showing the original storyboards beside the finished episode. COLLECT THEM ALL This section has the bios and statistics for the Happy Tree Friends gang! Youll also find fun facts about the characters here. For example: Nutty has rabies! NICE! SPECIAL PRIZE INSIDE A hidden episode called WHOS LINE IS IT ANYWAY? Featuring: Russell the Pirate A fishing trip ends in disaster of course! YAR! MORAL MESSAGE: ADOPT A PET! POP CORN VIDEO This is the first episode Spin Fun Knowing You with some onscreen trivia but in all honesty, its only worth one look. After that, its a pointless extra. ASSEMBLY REQUIRED This section has the original drawings and designs for the characters that we know and many others that never made it into the cartoons. All the drawings have commentaries over them. This is actually really funny because the guys on the commentary are just laughing at how crappy some of the drawings were. That said, there are some really cool little sketches on display here. -------------------------------------------------- -------------------------------------------------- MY CONCLUSION: The Happy Tree Friends cartoons are simple but effective and will have you laughing guiltily to yourself while you think to yourself This is so wrong!. Given its fairly graphic cartoon violence and gore, the Happy Tree Friends cartoons are not suitable for young children hence why the DVD carries a 12 rating. Despite the fact that the episodes are funny, if you watch too many in one sitting, it doesnt take much time to get the feeling of too much of a good thing. In small, bite-sized portions, Happy Tree Friends is often hilarious but the more you watch, the more you run the risk of them outstaying their welcome. Check it out if you want some slightly gross-out laughs whilst watching some very cute little animals get mutilated over and over and over again. Just remember Bite-sized portions!!! -------------------------------------------------- Many thanks for reading this Best wishes! Derek.
Im back with another video game review Probably due to the fact that as Im due to be a daddy literally any day now* (* correct at the time of typing this!), Im grabbing my joypad for as many gaming jollies now while I still have the chance to do so! This is giving me chances to play games Ive bought but not yet played or completed as well as to revisit games that Ive not played in a while. So which game am I ranting on about this time?!? BURNOUT: REVENGE!!! This is the fourth game in the Burnout franchise and unbelievably manages to take what has featured in the previous games to the next level. To those who havent played any of the Burnout games, the premise is quite simple. It takes standard racing games and adds an absolutely terrifying sense of speed, danger and out-and-out recklessness! ---------------------------------------------------------------------- GAMEPLAY Players take control of many different types of vehicle. As Im not a petrol-head, all I can say is that some of these cars are extremely flash and fast sports cars whilst some of them are not so snazzy! The cars all handle differently and are different weights. The weight of the car you control will come into play in several different ways: The lighter your car, the easier it will be for a race rival to smash you off the road whereas naturally, the heavier grade of cars will be harder to push off the road and will allow the player to slam rivals off the road. The game also now allows the player to check traffic. That is, to shunt traffic that is travelling in the same direction into other lanes etc so that you can force these vehicles into rivals and to cause obstructions in front of them. Its worth pointing out that you can only check small traffic that is travelling in the same direction larger vehicles such as buses and lorries will still result in a nasty crash. All oncoming traffic also results in a crash so avoid it at all costs! The car the player controls can be propelled at frightening speeds with boost that is earned from checking traffic, smashing opponents off the road and driving toward and narrowly avoiding oncoming traffic etc. Boost can be activated by pressing the R1 button but is best used sparingly. The amount of remaining boost can be seen on a gauge at the bottom-left of the screen. Be careful not to crash though as doing so reduces your boost meter! Speaking of crashing, when you crash you can slow down time with Impact Time this allows you to have slight control over your wrecked car while it is flying through the air after a crash. If you are lucky, you might be able to slam your wrecked car into an opponents car as they try to pass you taking them off the road and earning yourself an aftertouch take down which actually increases your boost meter again! There are many different types of race to take part in which can usually earn the player a bronze, silver or gold medal which advances their rating. These are the types of races that can be played: CRASH: Crash events are a lot of fun even though the premise for them is slightly sick. Its as simple as this: Each crash event starts with a quick overview of a stretch of road that you must drive down and literally crash your car in a spot that will cause the maximum carnage or carmaggeddon, if you will. This can involve hitting a ramp and smashing your car into a busy motorway etc. If the pile-ups you cause are large, you will be able to detonate your car causing further damage and ramping up your score and hopefully getting a nice gold medal for your efforts! Its worth mentioning, however that its not always easy to get a good start as at the start of a crash event, you have a gauge (not dissimilar to power gauges seen in golf games etc) to determine if you will have a perfect, fast start. Get it right and youll scream off toward your goal Get it wrong and your engine may explode (accompanied by mocking laughter that is like the canned laughter heard on TV programmes like Youve Been Framed how embarrassing!) or you might just stall either way, youll be going nowhere. CRASH BREAKER: This is for all intents and purposes a normal race (whether it be a standard race, Road Rage or Eliminator) but with a twist! The twist therein is that when you crash or are slammed off the road by an opponent, you can use a Crash Breaker which is essentially the ability to explode your car at a point of your own choosing: i.e. preferably as an opponent is screaming past you thereby blowing them off the road! ELIMINATOR: I love these races! The premise is a simple one: You race against another five opponents but every 30 seconds, the car in last place will be eliminated by means of an explosion! This makes you battle harder to reach and stay in 1st place. Its exciting and very unpredictable especially when it comes down to you and the one remaining AI opponent! GRAND PRIX: These events normally consist of three races which follow on one after the other. Points are earned depending on the position finished: 1st Place: 6 points 2nd Place: 4 points 3rd Place: 3 points 4th Place: 2 points 5th Place: 1 point and finally 6th Place: No points (Should I have said Nil point as in the Eurovision song contest?!?) The points earned continue into the next race so if youve earned 6 points in each race, you will definitely win but if your performances arent winning ones you will have to fight a lot harder to win the Grand Prix! PREVIEW & BURNING LAP: These two events are fairly similar. The aim of them is to drive a specific car around one lap of a course within specified times to hopefully achieve bronze, silver or gold medals. I personally find these levels my least favourite although Im not sure if thats due to the strict times you have to beat or that theyre just not quite as exciting as the other events. RACE: This is a straight-forward race against five opponents who thanks to clever AI will do everything they can to slam you off the road in order to get in front of you. Thankfully, you will no doubt have the same plan in mind for them. These races can vary in length from 1-3 laps so youll have a fight on your hands for 1st place! ROAD RAGE: Road rage races put you up against limitless amounts of opponents who will be determined to shunt you off the road. For bronze, silver and gold medals in these events, you will need to take out a certain numbers of opponents. The problem is that should you crash or be taken out by another driver, when you continue the race, your car will have ongoing levels of damage and will therefore be totalled after a few wrecks. TRAFFIC ATTACK: This is a mode of play where you are up against time. When the clock counts down to zero, your car will explode and the game is over. The aim is simple: boost the remaining time by shunting as much same-way traffic. As always, buses and lorries should be avoided but smaller same-way traffic is fair game. The longer you last and the more traffic slammed off the roads will award you with the usual bronze, silver or gold medals! There are plenty of different modes of play within Burnout: Revenge that will give the game a lot of extra value as well as replay value. WORLD TOUR MODE: This is the main single player part of the game and will be the essentially the only part of the game to players who (like myself) are not playing online with other players. The World Tour mode is comprised of all the types of race mentioned above. You are gauged on your driving skills which takes the form of 1-5 stars being awarded for your performance. The ratings are pretty simple and are as follows: * (one star) - OK ** (two stars) GOOD *** (three stars) GREAT **** (four stars) AWESOME ***** (five stars) PERFECT The most stars you can accumulate for your race performance itself will be a four star awesome though this will be upgraded to a five star perfect if you earn a gold medal for the race. Should you earn a silver medal, your rating will remain a four star awesome and if you earn a bronze medal, it will be downgraded to a three star great. Earning no medal for the race results in a no star downer! All the stars are deducted from your current rank rating. When all stars have been deducted, you go onto the next rating. Earning high ratings and good medal results will unlock new events and cars so theres plenty of good stuff to motivate you to race hard and to win! There are lots of different environments to race through. Most of these are visually impressive and are based upon real places in the world: ANGEL VALLEY: Angel Valley is an scenic suburb of Los Angeles. Famous areas within this region include Sunset Boulevard. If you can take in much of the scenery as it whizzes by, youre going to crash! CENTRAL ROUTE: Based upon the Central District of Hong Kong, this area is full of tight and dangerous backstreets. Youll have to keep your wits about you if you want to make it through this environment in one piece! EASTERN BAY: Full of neon signs and high skyscrapers, this area is based upon Tokyo, Japan. ETERNAL CITY: Based upon Rome (if youre observant, youll even see the Colosseum!) this level takes you through some pretty hair-raising back streets of Italy! Mamma mia!!! LONE PEAK: Based upon several US National Parks, Lone Peak offers some fantastic East coast scenery. Pity youre far too busy trying to stay alive to take it all in. MOTOR CITY: This area is based on Detroit and is a highly industrial environment. Absolutely full of short cuts and roads that take you through ware houses and rail yards which can at times make it both one of the most confusing and yet challenging areas within the game. SUNSHINE KEYS: Based on dreamy areas such as Florida Keys and Miami Beach, Sunshine Keys is a racers haven of long highways, alleys and boulevards marked with palm trees. Perfection until you and your opponents tear your way through it! WHITE MOUNTAIN: One of my favourite areas, I think White Mountain should be renamed White Knuckle Mountain as it is absolutely terrifying! This course will take you perilously close to cliff edges that overlook very steep drops (sadly, you will sometimes get shunted off aforementioned cliff tops by annoying opponents!) and around some very scary mountain roads. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- GRAPHICS The graphics are of a very high standard with some excellent detail. The problem is that you wont get much of a chance to admire how nice the graphics are when youre playing the game as it moves so fast youll be keeping a constant eye on the road ahead. As the game moves at such a break-neck speed, it can be quite difficult at times to spot obstructions, oncoming traffic and even bends in the road until its too late. This isnt a massive problem as the more you play, the more you will be able to spot these hazards and take them in your stride. The models of all the cars in the game are very impressive as is the physics engine which kicks in when you crash your car ensuring the car folds and crumples in a frighteningly realistic way! Another thing that is true with Burnout: Revenge is that you will rarely laugh during the crashes as they are very convincing and as a result are at times quite sobering to look at. The frame rate of the graphics is so fast and smooth that it is at times difficult to remember that the game is in fact running on a trusty old PS2 and not a next-gen PS3! ---------------------------------------------------------------------- SOUND As with most games, the sound plays an important part. The sound effects for Burnout: Revenge are all generally very good with the usual engine sound effects and other sounds they convey the high-speed, adrenaline-pumping danger perfectly. Beyond that, the songs in this edition of Burnout are in my own humble opinion not as good as some that featured in this games predecessor: Burnout 3: Takedown. That game featured some famous bands such as Franz Ferdinand that I always loved listening to as I bombed about the courses. This game doesnt feature music that totally floats my boat. I guess at the end of the day, this is very much just down to personal music tastes but as a result, the soundtrack may not be to everyones liking. Whether or not you notice much of the music whilst playing the game is a different question altogether. Perhaps the adrenaline rush and the sound of blood pumping around your veins will block out the music that you dont like! ---------------------------------------------------------------------- VALUE Burnout: Revenge is a fantastic, fast and dangerous racer. Its certainly one of the fastest racers on PS2 and I defy anyone to discover otherwise. Its many modes of play should keep you engrossed for absolutely ages and the beauty of a game like this is that it still has a very high replay factor even once the game has been 100% completed (especially to those who can play it online). Its nice to see that although the PS2 has now been superseded and overshadowed my its successor the PS3, that it can still hold its own and still has some very high quality games on it that still are fantastically enjoyable. If you like any type of racing games and want one that is so fast, you will practically be able to feel the wind in your hair as you play it, then Burnout: Revenge is certainly worth a look! ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Many thanks for reading this. I think Ill go and grab a quick game of Burnout: Revenge now as just writing about it has my poor hands aching for my joypad! Derek.
Well Im back at last with another video game review. I had to write this now, while time allows as at the time of typing this, I am merely weeks away from becoming a daddy!!! As you can imagine, Im getting my games-playing jollies now while I still can and am not having to change cack-filled nappies! Anyway, as always I digress What game am I spraffing on about this time around, I hear you ask (well not really but humour me!)?!? GOD OF WAR II THE SPECIAL (2 DISC) EDITION!!! YES!!! Im back in hogs heaven (well video gamer/geek heaven) with the main man, Kratos!!! God Of War II was released by Sony Computer Entertainment in Europe on April 27, 2007 and Im pleased to say that having played and loved the first God Of War game, I didnt wait so long to pick up this title. For those of you who havent read my original God Of War review (Shame on you! Please go and read it now! When that baby comes along, Ill need all the 3ps I can get!) all I will say is that I LOVED it but what about this sequel? How does that rate against the almighty original? Read on and I will give you my honest opinion ---------------------------------------------------------------------- THE STORY Before I get into the story, let me firstly say that what follows is not a spoiler! As with the first game, the story in the sequel is great and I wouldnt want to ruin any of it for you! Secondly, I will add that Im not going to go into too much back story of the original game But I will say that this game follows on an unspecified time after the happenings of the first game. Having slain the God of War Ares, at the end of the original game, Kratos was elevated to the peak of Mount Olympus as the new God of War. There he sat on his throne watching the increasingly blood-thirsty mankind wreak havoc upon itself This game kicks off with Kratos fully armoured up and looking very God-like in his throne room. He is watching the Spartan army which has continued its conquest of Greece. During another vicious battle that is taking place in Rhodes, a Spartan soldier looks up to the heavens and addresses Kratos to advise him that another city is ready to fall. Athena then enters Kratos throne room to advise him of the growing anger among the other Gods with his continued assistance with his old army. Athena: Enough, Kratos! With every city you destroy, the wrath of Olympus grows. Soon I will no longer be able to protect you. Kratos: I need no protection! Athena: Dont forget that it was I who made you a God Ghost of Sparta! Dont turn your back on me! Kratos: I owe you nothing! (Is Kratos a closet Bros fan?!?) Athena: Then you leave me no choice Kratos then descends from Mount Olympus to Rhodes to physically assist his old army. Given that he is now a God, he towers high above the besieged city dwarfing everything. This is very reminiscent of the original game when we saw Ares doing exactly the same thing. It seems that in being blinded by his hatred of the Gods not releasing him from his torment, Kratos has become that which he hates the most. An eagle flies down from the sky and with an impressive electrical discharge shrinks Kratos back down to the size of a regular man. The eagle then flies across the harbour of Rhodes and lands on a massive statue that is the Colossus of Rhodes a gigantic statue of the Greek God Helios which stands astride the entrance to Rhodes harbour that at this point in the game is nearing completion with work men still finishing it off. As the eagle touches down on the statue, it emits more electrical discharge and brings the Colossus to life! With Kratos still shrinking down to the size of a mere mortal, the Colossus strides across the harbour toward the building that Kratos is in steeping on boats as if they were toys. With this enormous enemy approaching, Kratos suspects that this is all the doing of Athena. As Kratos battles the Colossus across the battle ravaged remains of the city, Zeus calls out from the heavens and offers Kratos help in the form of the Blade of Olympus a huge, magical sword used in battle by Zeus himself. Zeus advises Kratos that in order to win this battle with the Blade of Olympus, he must drain all of his godly powers into the weapon. Kratos weighs up his situation against this advice and does as Zeus says. At the end of the battle with the Colossus, Kratos receives massive internal injuries that are to prove fatal to him. As he attempts to get up, all of his armour falls away piece by piece exposing his battered mortal body. At this point, the eagle flies down from the sky again and transforms into Zeus! Zeus asks that Kratos swear allegiance to him but realising that he has been tricked, Kratos refuses immediately. Zeus then picks up the Blade of Olympus and drives it through Kratos chest. As Kratos dies, he gets taken back into the underworld of Hades. Before the evils of this hellish place can claim their prize of the fallen God of War, Kratos is saved by a Titan names Gaia. Gaia is the mother of the Earth and has been watching Kratos through his whole life. Restoring Kratos powers, Gaia tells him that he must seek out the Sisters of Fate as this will allow him to change his past and change his destiny. Gaia is also seeking revenge on Zeus as he led the Gods in a battle against the Titans which saw them all suffering eternal damnation in the depths of Hades. If youre worrying that Ive already laden this review with spoilers then worry not! All of the above happens within the first few moments of the game and actually heralds the start of another truly epic quest that Kratos must undertake. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- GAMEPLAY The gameplay is a joy once again. To anyone who has played the original God of War game, the control system will be instantly familiar and will have you in full flow instantly. For those who havent played the first game, I would whole-heartedly recommend that they play the original game first as its also stunning and will ensure that you have this sequel to look forward to! Its an arguable point that God Of War II gives the gamer more of the same but when you consider how amazing the original game is, that is definitely no bad thing! The gameplay has been tweaked a little from the original game but as the control system was nigh on perfect in the first game, there is very little to improve on in this game. Suffice to say that the gameplay in the game is just great from the very start in keeping with its predecessor. There have been some changes to things such as weapons etc. Instead of having the Blades of Chaos as in the original game, Kratos is now similarly armed with Athenas Blades. These blades were given to Kratos by (no prizes for guessing!) Athena when he was given the role of God of War after the defeat of Ares. There are other weapons that can be had along the way such as the Spear of Destiny and the Barbarian Hammer etc. There are new magic spells to cast in this game too. You will be able to unleash hell on enemies with the likes of Typhons Bane (a very useful long-range bow-like weapon), Cronus Rage (a devastating electrical discharge) and the Head of Euryale (which is very similar to the Medusas Gaze attack seen in the original game) among others. Instead of the Rage of the Gods meter seen in the first game, Kratos can now harness the power accumulated in the Rage of the Titans meter. It works in an almost identical fashion to the Rage of the Gods meter and can only be activated when the meter reaches the top. This can be achieved by knocking seven bells out of enemies therefore increasing the rage within the meter or by finding and opening a chest which contains yellow orbs that fill the meter up. Speaking of chests, the chests for upgrading your health (green orbs) and weapons or magic (red orbs) can be found scattered around as in the first game. Another familiar find scattered around the game are the chests that contain Phoenix Feathers and Gorgon Eyes which increase the meters for magic and health respectively. As in the first game, collecting six of these items will increase the relevant meters. Also ensuring the great continuity from the first game is the method with which you save your game. This is done with a Save Alter. As before, these are represented as a little area bathed in a glowing ray of yellow light. Once in the light, press the R2 button and Bobs your uncle. There are other new elements of gameplay which have been introduced in this game which keep things fresh and exciting. There were some great climbing sequences in the original game and there are more in this one! In this game, Kratos will be able to scale certain walls and grab ceilings etc There are other exhilarating moments when Kratos will fly on the back of a Pegasus or even a Phoenix! I would say that Kratos himself cannot fly but this wouldnt be entirely true. After a meeting with Icarus, he inherits Icarus wings which dont let him fly as such but do enable him to glide from large heights and to reach otherwise out of reach areas with the help of hot air currents (no the hot air doesnt come from me!). As well as Icarus wings, there are other relics that will be discovered along the way including the Amulet of the Fates which will allow Kratos to slow down time when he is near a Statue of the Fate and a Golden Fleece which can be used to deflect enemies magic back at them! ---------------------------------------------------------------------- GRAPHICS As in the first God Of War game, the graphics in this title are simply stunning! So much so that at times, its actually hard to believe that the game is running on a trusty old PS2 and not on an all singing, all dancing, next-gen PS3! The environments are massively detailed and convey a perfect sense of beauty, horror and scale depending on what part of the game you are in. It just simply ticks every box on what can be done right when it comes to video games. Its clearly a labour of love that has not been rushed and has got a lot of very, very talented people working on it without whom, the game would not be as amazing as it is. The frame rate within the game is simply brilliant with fluid movement and no slow down even when there are lots of enemies to kick the crap out of BUT there are some moments when Kratos turns a corner etc and the back ground has to move fast to keep up that I did sometimes notice a VERY MINOR glitch in the graphics system. It seemed that perhaps the PS2 simply cannot run at quite a fast enough speed at times. Dont get me wrong, given that the game is a PS2 title it is amazing that it is as technically superior as it is. The minor graphical glitch I mentioned only showed very occasionally and in no way affected the gameplay or the enjoyment of the game. Once again the character graphics are just great! The level of detail on them is incredible and the range of sizes from man-sized characters to some absolutely enormous ones is truly awe inspiring. The sense of scale is just perfect. I defy you not to be amazed (and yet somehow bricking it) when you first start fighting the Statue of the Colossus at the start of the game! Here are some of the monsters you will be up against in God Of War II if you think youre hard enough: UNDEAD SOLDIERS: They do what it says on the box, basically. Theyre soldiers, theyre dead no wait they were dead and now theyre undead and want a piece of your arse! Wipe them out All of them! SKELETONS: Yes!!! Reanimated skeletons in the good old-fashioned Ray Harryhausen style! They take a hell of a beating and can mostly only be killed (again) when you use a finishing move on them otherwise their bones just rise up off the floor again and resume kicking you into next week! HARPIES: These buggers were in the first game and theyre still a right royal pain in the arse in this one! These bird-like creatures have the bald heads of monstrous-looking women, long claws and the taste for human flesh. A hellish enemy that is made all the harder to kill due to their airborne attacks. GRYPHONS: These big, winged beasties have the head of an eagle and the body of a lion. They attack you in the sequence when you are flying on the Pegasus. The coolest way to get rid of them is to jump onto their back and hack their wings until the fall from the skies. Just remember to jump back onto the Pegasus! MINOTAURS: Another monster as seen in the first game and still dealt with in the same way. Half-man and half-bull, the Minotaur is a formidable enemy at around eight feet tall. Though you can still beat them down until you sit astride them and thrust your weapon through their chest (yes you still get a very satisfying geyser of blood!) you can also finish them off with their own weapon! GORGONS Half woman, half snake, all ugly. These creatures are quick, vicious and can turn you to stone with a stare. Wait a minute I thought they were half woman, half snake?!? That sounds 100% woman to me! CYCLOPS: No Im not going to make any one-eyed monster jokes! How smutty do you think I am?!? These buggers are big, mean and hard to hard to kill. CERBERUS DOGS: These hell hounds have three vicious heads and can spew out puppies which sounds all nice and harmless but these infants can quickly grow to the same size of the adult beast who created them almost instantly. Lets put it this way even Barbara Woodhouse would have had her work cut out for her with these buggers! Siiiii-iiiiit!!!? I think not! SIRENS: These were once beautiful women who were cast out into the wilds and now lead people to their deaths with their songs. They attack you with high pitched screams that have Kratos rocking on his feet with his hands over his ears. I think these characters must have been based on Girls Aloud or the Spice Girls or maybe they just cloned the talentless mess that is Victoria Beckham? SATYRS: These creatures are mixed breed of goat and man and are excellent warriors. They can quickly outnumber you and are extremely fast. As you can tell, there are lots of different enemies to keep you occupied and to ensure that your journey to find the Sisters of Fate will not be an easy one. There are many more enemies that I havent mentioned here but Im sure you will have fun finding them! Its worthy of mention that unlike in the first game, there are more boss battles spread throughout the quest. Some of the boss fights are absolutely incredible and are very different from the last so there is a great deal of variation. The bosses come in many shapes and sizes, and some are easier to beat than others. One boss that was a strange sight to behold was Clotho one of the sisters of fate. She is apparently a massive silk-work type creature who spins the threads of fate. Shes a massive fat grey blob with numerous arms and lots of breasts. I couldnt help but thinking when I was fighting her Bloody hell This things nothing but arms and tits!. Speaking of ladies breasticles, its worth mentioning that like its predecessor, God of War II features a few female characters with their bare chest either partially or fully on display oh and theres a completely nude woman seen lying down with a very attractive looking bare arse but as its not a real woman, Ill move swiftly on! Another thing shared by this game and the first nudity aside is that they are both pretty damned gory and are both 18 certificates. I suppose its really a worthy 18 certificate though but if you can handle the material within, you should really enjoy this game! ---------------------------------------------------------------------- SOUND I had high expectations of the sound in God of War II as the sound in the first game was top notch. I found very quickly that the sound in this game was also brilliant! There are so many things that once again make this so right. The general sound effects are very atmospheric and always fully convey what is happening on the screen and accompany it all perfectly. Voice acting is once again top-notch in this game. The worry with so many video games is that they can so easily fall foul of terrible voice acting who just sound totally cheesy and unconvincing. This is not a problem with the God of War series. Everything sounds just-so. There was one initial concern near the start of the game when Kratos used magic on enemies. The first few times he shouts out I AM the God of War! I will make you suffer! when magic is used and I remember thinking to myself Please dont have him doing this every time magic is used. This wasnt something that happened in the first game and thankfully, my prayers were answered in this one as Kratos stops shouting that line out after the first few times. However, he doesnt stop shouting full stop. I know Kratos is a very pissed off character and that he wont be up for resolving his disputes with Zeus and the other Gods over a cup of tea and a scone (that has just conjured up the most surreal image in my head!) but does he always have to shout? Perhaps if Kratos ever find himself out of work, he can take over from that annoying sod Barry Scott (who Ive just discovered is actually a fictional character used for advertising!) in the Cillit Bang adverts. I can just see it now Kratos: HELLO, IM KRATOS. I USED TO BE THE GOD OF WAR BUT NOW IM HERE TO TELL YOU ABOUT CILLIT BANG! ITS IDEAL FOR CLEANING BLOODSTAINS FROM UNDEAD SOLDIERS, MINOTAURS AND OTHER MYTHICAL MONSTERS FROM YOUR KITCHEN AND BATHROOM WALLS! TRY IT NOW! NEW CILLIT BANG *GOD STRENGTH* TO REMOVE ANNOYING GODS LIKE THAT BACK-STABBING SON OF A BITCH, ZEUS!!! GRRRRRRRRRRRR!!! Anyway now that Ive hailed a black cab back to Real Street, Ill move swiftly on towards the long-overdue end of this review Not long now Honest! The music in God of War II is perfect. Like the music in the original game, it rivals some of the best movie music and works perfectly with the visuals and is the best aural icing on a delicious audio-visual cake. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- VALUE My initial thoughts were on whether or not I would love this game as much as the original or if I would love it more I cant really answer which of these options is the case. Its a perfect continuation of the first game and if you have played and loved that then needless to say, you WILL love this. Its remarkable that a game this great is still on PS2 and is a perfect game to show what the PS2 has been capable of. If anything, this game being released on PS2 AFTER the release of the PS3 shows how confident Sony were that it could hold its own against the initial trickle of next-gen titles coming out for their new console. In fact, the game does so much more than hold its own. It actually serves as a perfect swan-song to the PS2 era as more eyes now turn to that consoles successor. The two PS2 God of War titles will still be worthy of owning and playing even to those who own a PS3 (please check that they are both compatible with PS3 first though as the backward compatibility issue has been a bit uncertain with some titles although I have heard that Sony are continuously updating patches which are letting more and more PS2 titles run on the PS3). Of course the word on the street is that when God of War III is released, it will be on the PS3 All I can say is that judging by how good the two PS2 games have been, I expect the third game on PS3 to be nothing short of utterly amazing. Ill be there Will you? After playing the original game followed by this one, Im willing to bet that Ill see you there! ---------------------------------------------------------------------- EXTRAS As Im reviewing the two disc Special Edition of this game, I thought I would mention whats on the disc 2 DVD. Apart from the fact that there are lots of unlockable extras to be had in the main game itself, there are loads of extras on disc 2! THE MAKING OF GOD OF WAR II CHAPTER 1 The opening chapter is a very interesting look into the Sony Computer Entertainments Santa Monica Studios in California. It follows around the director and producers of the game and is very insightful into the very stressful work that these highly talented people create. It almost makes you feel guilty for taking the game playing experience for granted! CHAPTER 2 Another showcase for the huge amounts of hard work that went into this game behind the scenes, chapter 2 focuses mainly on the art department and the level design people. Without a shadow of a doubt, the work these teams put into the game is responsible for a vast amount of the experience of you will have when playing it. From the designs of the characters to the look, feel and interactivity within the levels, this is very insightful stuff. CHAPTER 3 This chapter focuses mainly on how the team perceive the director of the game, Cory Barlog. It shows that although Cory is very demanding on the various teams behind the game, everyone knows that its all for the greater good of the game itself. It is mentioned that although the team is not perfect, the team does work. Theres no doubt that everyones opinion appears to be that Corys direction contributed greatly to the game. Having played it and loved it, I can only agree with them. CHAPTER 4 This chapter focuses on the E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo which is where companies take playable demos and trailers for their games to raise public awareness of the upcoming title. This shows just how unbelievably stressful the preparation for the E3 Expo was on everyone in the team. The director is playing the playable demo in a meeting with the producers and leads from all other departments. As hes playing it, he finds lots of bugs that he is obviously not happy about and the stress levels from all concerned are clear to see on everyones faces. As the E3 Expo approaches, there are huge amounts of problems that need to be resolved. This results in the teams putting in lots of overtime and effort to ensure the demos are up to the standards that they and gamers will be expecting. This chapter ends with the team at the E3 Expo and much to the relief of everyone involved, the crowds are flock in to play the demos and love what they are seeing. Its a relief to see this positive reaction even if youre not one of the people who has worked their arse off on the project! CHAPTER 5 This final chapter shows The Final Push To Alpha which is to get the game into what will be mostly in its final form before final tweaks make it presentable to the general gaming public. It also shows all the team getting rewarded for all their hard work with a big Halloween party which finally shows them all being relaxed and having fun for a change! ---------------------------------------------------------------------- INTERVIEWS VOICES OF GOD OF WAR II This is a really cool extra as it shows the voice cast recording their voices for the game! This includes TC Carson who lends his voice to Kratos himself, Linda Hunt who voices The Narrator / Gaia, Harry Hamlin who voices Perseus (the character he himself played in the classic film Clash Of The Titans) and Michael Clarke Duncan (Armageddon, The Green Mile etc) who voices the mighty titan Atlas! Its really something to see the mutual respect between the voice actors and the voice director. As the director and producers of the game hear their long-planned dialogue fleshed out with real emotion is also very insightful. GOD OF WAR II MUSIC As a very integral part of the whole God Of War experience, the music has to not only live up to what is going on onscreen but to compliment it. This is something that works perfectly with the game. This segment is very interesting as it tells us about the four different composers who made the score and also shows the live orchestra performing the score. The brass sections were recorded in London whereas the strings and forty voice choir were recorded in Prague! All of these elements when mixed with the synth tracks from the composers equals anything you could expect from a blockbuster movie soundtrack! WHAT IS TECH ART? This follows the technical artists who have to figure out new ways to create the new and demanding animation issues that are raised in making a game like this. One of the issues that this briefly mentions is how they created the feather effects for the Pegasus segments of the game. Its all very interesting and shows how many layers of knowledge and hard work went into this project. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- EXTRAS TRAILERS This has three trailers to announce the arrival of God Of War II. Press event, game share, E3. All three trailers show a mixture of game play and full motion video. ENVIRONMENTS This shows some incredible concept art of the scenery and buildings that are proposed to be featured in the game. CREATURES This segment shows lots of fantastic concept of the beasties that Kratos will face. The quality of the artwork is highly detailed and amazing to look at. The problem is that there are so many creatures that feature in Greek mythology that it was impossible to put them all into one game. This is probably a blessing as not only does it prevent this game feeling too full of different creatures but also gives the team behind this new ones to introduce in future God Of War games! TESTING THE GAME This is an incredibly insightful look into the world of games testing! I know Ive often thought about how great it would be to land a job testing video games but this shows that its not all about fun. Its a very responsible thing to do. This shows a handful of gamers who have been brought in to test an early level of the game. Everything they do is recorded both on a video camera and with tape showing how they actually played the game. If they all fail on a certain point, its regarded as being a problem that needs fixed. We then see points five months after the original test session and another final one a further five months ahead. The scariest thing is that the final game testing is done only about three weeks before a final version of the game is due. HALLOWEEN This is more footage of the team enjoying their Halloween bash. Its nice to see they still managed to fill in a little fun amongst all the hard work they did! PRESS EVENT This shows the game being projected onto a huge screen and presented to the salivating press. The great thing is when you hear the press people laughing and clapping when they see something on the screen that they like. HOW TO PLAY This is a little tutorial on how to play the game that is voiced over by the game director, Cory Barlog. Proof that this guy does over and above what is expected of him. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- SPOILERS Now, Im not going to go into details on this one!!! I will say that the headings for each section are as follows: Creating Kratos, Initial Concept, Lost Levels, Level Design, Creating Zeus, Combat System, Animation, Cinematics and Boss Concept Art. As you can see there is a lot of information to be had here and to be enjoyed at your leisure! ---------------------------------------------------------------------- SUBTITLES Here you can choose subtitles in foreign languages. Namely: French, German, Italian and Spanish. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- MY (VERY MUCH LONG OVERDUE) CONCLUSION: Youve probably noticed that I loved this game just a little bit. When I reviewed the first God of War game, I said: Bold, bloody, beautiful buy it!!! What on earth can I say this time? More bold, more bloody, more beautiful more buy it!!! DOH!!! Seriously though this is a fantastic game. It obviously wont be everyones cup of tea but once those nutters have all been rounded up, put into a rocket and fired into the sun, itll just be us sane folks left to enjoy stunning slices of gaming like this. If gaming gets much better than this, I havent found it yet. Enjoy!!! Once again, many, many thanks for reading this. Derek.
Co-created by X Factor judge, Simon Cowell, Britains Got Talent premiered on ITV1 on June 9 2007. It was not unlike the X Factor itself in that members of the general public who have talent (or so most of them would think at any rate) could attend auditions that were being held throughout the UK. The people auditioning were from all walks of life and of all ages from the very young to the very old. Age was no boundary as far as this competition was concerned. The countless acts were skilled in many, many different ways. There were singers, dancers, comedians and musicians to name but a few. The prizes for this talent search were impressive to say the least with the winner destined to receive £100,000 and to perform in the Royal Variety Performance in front of the Queen and the Royal Family. The good thing about this programme is that it didnt just highlight the minority of applicants that actually did possess a huge amount of genuine talent but also showed the annoying and sad people who actually believed that they not only have talent but had a chance of winning the competition! The show was hosted by the cheeky Geordie duo, Ant and Dec. I think that they were their usual funny selves. Some of the best humour was from when the camera cut back to Ant & Dec standing at the side of the stage very often making hilarious comments on the act currently making or breaking it on the stage. It certainly shows why they are as popular as they are. The concept of Britains Got Talent is a pretty simple one. All of the acts had to perform their routines at audition in front of the three judges. The judges in the UK version of this programme were: Piers Morgan: The former editor of both The News Of The World and Daily Mirror newspapers, Piers Morgan is extremely shrewd and doesnt mince his words. Ive never been a fan of Piers Morgan, always finding him to be a bit of an irritating arse but somehow, this also made him a great choice of judge for this kind of contest. Amanda Holden: This actress has starred in many well known television series including Eastenders, Cutting It and Wild At Heart. She is also well known due to her failed marriage to comedian Les Dennis and her subsequent affair with comedian/actor Neil Morrissey. She brought the emotional edge to the judging of Britains Got Talent which was a nice contrast to the other two judges the last of which being: Simon Cowell: Having co-created Britains Got Talent and having built a somewhat fierce reputation on Pop Idol and The X Factor, Simon Cowell was always going to be right in his element on a programme such as this. This competition gave him great opportunity to not only rip apart supposed singers but anyone else who was deluded enough to think they have even an ounce of talent. As has come to be expected, Cowell never beats around the bush when it comes to telling acts what he genuinely thinks of them. Sometimes hes cutting and very cruel but sometimes you just have to think Yeah! Simons right. Get off, you talentless muppet!. It was quite insightful seeing the three judges having to endure audition after audition, sometimes seeing some genuinely talented soul who they would put through to the next round but mostly seeing idiot after idiot who were just totally ridiculous and sad beyond belief. Once through to the next stage of the contest, the acts that had to re-perform in front of the three judges. The concept is quite a simple one in that the three judges sit at a desk beside each other and each of them has a button which can light a massive X that is suspended over each of them. If all three judges press their buttons and all three Xs are lit, the act must stop. Among some of the memorable and to be sadly honest, pretty appalling acts were: The sad middle aged (and then some!) man who cross dressed into some supposedly Kylie Minogue-esque get-up (encouraged by his equally freaky wife, no less!) and then danced (badly) to one of her songs! Just wrong, wrong, WRONG on so many levels! The woman who had three seats set up on the centre of the stage only to try to sit between her two cats whilst reading poetry. If you think this sounds awful and absurd then youre right! As the act Cat-alyst got onto the stage the unintentional comedy kicked off. The mad bat asked Ant & Dec to carry her cats onto the stage for her telling the judges I had to get somebody to carry my pussy for me (groan!). The audience applauded when they saw Ant & Dec and believe me when I say it was the only proper applause the act got. She then tried to read poetry to the cats but they kept hopping it and heading off. Leaving a red-faced Dec to collect the AWOL cats and bringing them back to their barmy owner. Hilarious and unintentional comedy. The act was unsurprisingly brought to a premature end when all three judges hit their buttons and lit their Xs. The woman then stood to make her case before sitting down again almost on one of her cats! One of the judges (I believe it was Piers) asked her: Are you sitting on your cat? Fantastic stuff but for all the wrong reasons! There was also a father and daughter act called Little Firewater and White Dove (AKA Brian and Melanie!). Brian was dressed in full Red Indian regalia while his daughter was dressed like a squaw. Their act was simply Melanie standing against a wooden board while her father threw knives at the board surrounding her Oh and the knives were on fire! The act was accompanied somewhat appropriately by the Johnny Cash song Ring of Fire Now the worrying thing is that while the duo were talking to Ant & Dec before they went on stage, Brian was saying that hed never been judged before and was really nervous. He was noticeably shaking and then stated his eyes were watering! Ant asked him What? Youre shaking? Thats not very good when youre about to throw knives! The watering eyes was accompanied by worried looks to the camera from Ant & Dec and Im pretty sure they were genuine looks of concern. I wonder why? The moments before the act was lightened up from the side of the stage when Dec asks cheekily: Did anyone order an Indian? Back on the stage though, things dont go so well when three of Brians flaming knives bounce off the board scaring the hell out of the judges, Ant & Dec and practically the whole audience and of course Melanie! The act was ended early by all three judges (though after Brian had lobbed all the knives as he was off target even without buzzers going off!). Piers says: We collectively had to bring that to a close before you had an ex-daughter! Brian then states What it is, is Ive never been so nervous in my life (in a deep Glasgow accent which makes him what? Big Chief Glesga Kiss? Simon quickly stops him in his tracks with: With respect Hiawatha or whatever your name is, we stopped you because we think you were about to murder your daughter! Unsurprisingly, the three judges didnt put this act through to the semi-finals! There was also Caroline Boyes who did had a pretty terrible act dancing in a so-so fashion dressed as Madonna complete with pointy breast cones! Now although I do try to honour my good upbringing by not judging a book by its cover, I have to be honest that dancing ability aside, she just simply didnt have the good looks to emulate someone as famous as Madonna. With a fairly warty face (Im sorry! If I didnt mention this point, I wouldnt be giving you one of the most blatantly obvious facts!) she couldnt have looked less like Madge if she tried! Despite being shot down in flames by Simon, Amanda actually said yes to her going through to the semi-finals which left the deciding vote to Piers. Piers also said yes and put her through to the semis although Im pretty sure he only did it to hack off Simon and this worked a treat! When she returned for the semi-finals, she had quite a nicely staged entrance as she danced to the Madonna hit Vogue whilst surrounded by male dancers. Shed barely started when Simon hit his buzzer! The audience made it clear what they thought by chanting Off! Off! Off! in time with the music! Amanda then followed Simon by hitting her buzzer but Piers sat through the whole act loving it (or pretending to hack Simon off again!) and said afterward that her dancing had improved and that she was clearly sexier than the real Madonna (which I believe was him clearly but subtly taking the piss!). Amanda told her that everyone was entitled to their 15 minutes of fame and that shed had hers and thats where it ends. Simon of course bit his lip and held back by telling her: Caroline, Im going to be honest with you. I thought it was a complete and utter nightmare! It was as bad as Ive ever seen. Youve probably broken three of those dancers backs. Im sorry but the idea of THAT being in front of the Royal Family We would deserve to be shot! The audience shouted for her to get off again but despite the fact the final decision rested not with the audiences or the judges, she didnt make it through to the finals. Phew!!! That was a close one!!! There was also controversy with a contestant named Richard Bates who was a pretty dreadful act singing along to a very cheesy sounding electric organ was ditched from the competition (despite being reluctantly put through to the semi-finals) when it came to light in the tabloid newspapers that he was on the sex offenders register. Dreadful stuff Of course Im not going to crack any Would you like to see my organ? jokes! Another act The Kit Kat Dolls a troupe of transvestites dancing and singing to the Pussycat Dolls song Dont Cha got pulled from performing when the same tabloids revealed that three of the members were prostitutes! Dont Cha? They do! Despite some acts being pretty much awful, it was still brilliant entertainment! Now for a little list of some of the more memorable acts that did in fact prove that Britains got talent! To name but a few (apologies to any great acts I dont name below!) and in no particular order of personal preference: Mike Garbutt: A brilliant comedy impressionist and comedian. Mike was carrying the torch from his father who had been a comedian on the club circuit for many years but is now a sufferer of Parkinsons disease. Mike wowed the judges with his pretty much spot-on impressions of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? host Chris Tarrant (and he is a very hard person to imitate!), David Beckham and Tony Blair to name but a few. He didnt get to the finals but I would genuinely like to think that well see him again as he is a genuine talent. Jack Reeve: This wonderful 79 year old won over the judges and the nation with his great tap dancing routine. Jack was struck down with depression when his wife died of Alzheimers disease after caring for her for ten years. He then decided that he would live his life to the full for himself and for the memory of his late wife and entered the competition. Having just watched his performance again, I was very touched by the man and his performance. After being buzzed out by Piers almost immediately, Amanda and Simon put him through to the semi-finals. Despite another brilliant performance in the next stage, he never made it to the finals but I hope hes aware that in the eyes of everyone who saw him perform, he certainly did himself and his late wife proud. Heres to you, Jack!!! Tony Laf: Tony was another heart-rending act who had the viewers (and Amanda) reaching for their hankies. After his brother died of cancer, Tony then took on the role of a substitute father to his children. Singing his own song Im Good armed with his guitar, Tony blew everyone away and proved that he IS good. Not only a good singer and musician but a very good person as Ant & Dec stood at the side of the stage along with his brothers children. When he tells the judges about his brother, he calls out the children onto the stage with him. What an inspiration this man is. Despite another great performance which saw him get through to the finals, he was pipped at the post. With any luck, well see more of this immensely talented man. He should definitely be given a record contract if he hasnt been given one already. Connie Talbot: Connie is an absolutely adorable six year old with an extraordinary talent. She is a fantastic little singer! She won the hearts of the judges (and had Amanda crying like a baby) with a wonderful and very emotional rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow without accompaniment! She was unanimously put through to the semi-finals where she sang a lovely rendition of the old Michael Jackson hit Ben. After breezing through to the finals, little gap-tooth-but-adorable-as-anything Connie sang Somewhere Over The Rainbow again but this time with musical accompaniment. Despite being an incredibly talented child, she was also beaten at the live final but should surely be a well known name in years to come. I had heard that she had been given a record contract so if you have genuine talent, you can win even if you lose the actual initial contest. Some of the things I found very emotional were the video clips of Connies parents talking about how much she loves singing and can even sometimes be heard singing in her sleep. Now if you dont find that little factoid cute then theres something very wrong with you!!! The Bar Wizards: These are two ex-barmen who have an amazing act with a flair show. What is a flair show? Well anyone who has ever seen the Tom Cruise film Cocktail might remember his and Bryan Browns characters tossing bottles back and forth to each other when preparing drinks? Thats a flair show. To be absolutely honest and to give credit where credits due, the Bar Wizards (Neil Garner and Neil Lowrey) are absolutely brilliant at what they do. They were dizzying when they were throwing bottles and cocktail shakers back and forth whilst catching bottles etc by balancing on their arms and bouncing them about. Theres really no way to put their act into words as its so very, very fast and impressive and most of all highly visual that nothing I can write here about it can do it the full justice it deserves. When they finished their act, they poured drinks in red, white and blue for the judges and Ant & Dec (the latter of whom jokingly complained that their drinks werent alcoholic!). Genius! Paul Potts: This incredible opera singer actually went on to win Britains Got Talent and its no wonder that he did. Hailing from Port Talbot in South Wales, Paul Potts entered the auditions looking very nervous and utterly lacking in confidence but surprised the judges by singing Nessun Dorma absolutely amazingly! All three judges were utterly blown away by this incredible audition and without a moments hesitation put Paul through to the semi-finals. The audience gave him a standing ovation and this Simon said about his audition: So you work at Carphone Warehouse and you did that? I wasnt expecting that one. This was a complete breath of fresh air. I thought you were absolutely fantastic!. Piers then added: You have an incredible voice. I think if you keep singing like that, youre going to be one of the favourites to win this whole competition. Amanda simply added: I think weve got a case of a little lump of coal here thats going to turn into a diamond! Paul Potts fought back the tears as the judges gave their opinions on his talent. It was certainly very emotionally charged. In the video shown before his semi-final winning performance, Paul Potts said of himself: My voice has always been my best friend. If I was having problems with bullies at school, I always had my voice to fall back on. I dont really know why people bullied me. I was always a little bit different. So I think thats the reason sometimes that I struggle with self confidence. When Im singing, I dont have that problem. Im in the place where I should be. All my life Ive felt insignificant. After that first audition, I realised that I am somebody. Im Paul Potts. Now if those words dont move you, then I dont know what to say. Its obvious that Paul Potts is someone who has had a very difficult life and has struggled through some very hard times to get where he is now and deserves every success as he is an immensely talented singer. Its also obvious that Pauls wife, Julie Ann is 100% behind him and is so supportive, believes in him and is simply is his rock. Paul raised the roof with a fantastic rendition of Time To Say Goodbye for the semi-finals. Decked out in a very smart tuxedo, he was every inch the amazing opera singer that he is. Returning for the live grand final, Paul gave another incredible rendition of Nessun Dorma that just absolutely blew everything and everyone away. Unsurprisingly, Paul stole not only the show but also won the entire competition. His prizes were £100,000 and to perform in front of the Queen at The Royal Variety Performance. As if that wasnt enough, he was immediately signed up by Simon Cowell to record an album. His album is called One Chance and goes on sale on July 16, 2007. I know a copy of it will be bought within our household and millions of others. If I could put a message to Paul Potts, it would be this: Well done, Paul. You have earned every single bit of success that has come your way and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the future. I hope all those people who ever bullied you and treated you wrong will realise how stupid they were! Paul Potts will also be touring the UK and although Im not really big on opera, I think I would really like to see him perform live. Anyway back to the review of Britains Got Talent and to my very likely long overdue conclusion Britains Got Talent should have been as mind-numbingly dull as every other talent show that seem to constantly be spewed across our television screens over the last few years but it was (for me at least) different as it did prove that while Britain does actually have millions of disillusioned people that think they have talent but dont posses any whatsoever (who are very entertaining but sadly for all the wrong reasons), there are a very small amount of people who actually do have immense talent. As this programme proved, this minority of wonderful people are in fact hidden across the country and are most likely like Paul Potts in that they will be doing mundane and boring jobs that may well prevent them from realising their full potential but as Paul Potts proved, if you have the drive and the ambition to back up your hidden talent, nothing can stop you. Many thanks for reading this op. Derek.