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    • Lilya 4 Ever (DVD) / DVD / 32 Readings / 32 Ratings
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      08.10.2010 01:42
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      Challenging film that doesn't hold back

      Lilya 4-Ever is a film released in 2002, directed by controversial director and writer Lukas Moodysson of which this was his third feature film. By modern film standards, Lilya 4-Ever was done on a small budget of roughly £2,000,000 but it punches far, far above it's weight. This film is a film that doesn't need fancy effects and big blockbuster Hollywood actors to get the message home, which is a harrowing one and difficult to watch. Lilya 4-Ever is a truly striking piece of work, which stuck in my memory for a long time after and it has always stayed with me and in fact, has helped shaped the way I live today. I will elaborate later on this point but not many films can claim to have done that to me.

      Lilya 4-Ever is about harrowing nature of human trafficking and in particular, sex trafficking and sexual slavery in Eastern Europe. The film revolves around the story of Lilya, whom is played by Oksana Akinshana. Lilya is a teenager living in poverty in Eastern Europe, we don't know for sure exactly where but it's clear it's a former Soviet state.

      The film begins in a way that grabs your attention, with loud heavy rock music set against Lilya running towards a bridge looking as if she'd been beaten heavily. A somewhat striking beginning and a stark difference to Moodysson's previous films. The film then recounts the story of how Lilya got in that situation. She lives in poverty with her parents in an apartment block, a typical former Soviet concrete block where she is a normal teenage girl. Her parents then tell her they are emigrating to the USA but at the last minute tell Lilya that she won't be going with them and that she has to stay with her Auntie. Distraught, Lilya then moves into a worse flat and her auntie lives at Lilya's home. In her desperate situation, Lilya turns to a life of prostitution with her friend. As they go out, Lilya decides not to go through with it but her friend's father discovers cash on her friend and her friend then blamed Lilya for it. With her reputation in tatters, word spread around her school and she received lots of abuse on the streets etc. Lilya's life gradually becomes bleaker and bleaker. This part of the film isn't particularly fast paced and to be honest, the whole film isn't particularly fast paced but the way it is made and shot builds the emotion excellently and I found myself being very moved by it. The harsh landscape of where she lives, the dialogue between people more often than not rude and crime rife, it's all encapsulated extremely well by Moodysson without the viewer feeling confused at all.

      Through her life here, there are some glimmers of hope for Lilya. Firstly, a friend called Volodya, a small boy who is abused by his father that Lilya takes under her wing for instance but ultimately, her life is miserable and it gets worse as the film goes on. One day, she meets a man who she gets on with very well. They become boyfriend and girlfriend and Lilya feels happier with her life as a result. After a while, Lilya's boyfriend invites her to go over to Sweden to live there and get a job on a bar and live with him. Her boyfriend tells her that he will meet her in Sweden later and sends her on a plane, saying a friend will meet her at the airport. As she arrives, the boyfriend's "friend" takes her to an empty, squalid apartment where he locks her in on her own. From here Lilya is forced to carry out sexual acts all day and night for which she receives no money. She is completely trapped.

      Back home, Volodya commits suicide distraught that Lilya had left him there. As an angel, Volodya comes to Lilya to look over her. On Christmas Day, he transports Lilya to the roof of the apartment, and, in a moving scene, he gives Lilya the world as a present, but she simply finds it cold and unwelcoming. Lilya then tried to escape but she is brutally beaten by her pimp, but she then escapes again with the help of Volodya. Finally, and much to the distress of Volodya (who regrets having killed himself) she commits suicide herself in the continuation of the scene from the beginning of the film by jumping from the bridge. The film's conclusion shows Lilya and Volodya, now both dead, angelic and happily playing basketball on the roof of some building, safe from all harm the world can do to them.

      So, the plot is relatively straight forward. Lilya 4-Ever is an extremely realistic film, based loosely on a true story of a young Lithuanian girl and that is what makes the film so striking. The brutality portrayed by Moodysson is extremely brave by him and the film really benefits as a result. The star of the show though is Oksana Akinshina, who was only 15 at the time and only her second film. It's a quite incredible performance by her of amazing maturity that really brought the realism home. She was nominated for Best Actress at the European Film Awards and rightfully so. Indeed, all the acting performances are excellent. All the actors were rookies at the time but they all put in stunning performances.

      Another aspect that adds to the realism is that the film is spoken in Russian and it has subtitles. For me, this is much more preferable than dubbing English over the film as it often looks naff but the Russian accents and language add to the overall atmosphere really well. So real in fact is Lilya 4-Ever, human trafficking police departments use the film as part of training. Indeed, I watched this film as part of my course in International Security, where somebody from the U.K human trafficking centre showed the film as part of his lectures. I was so moved by this film that I decided to focus my studies much more on human trafficking and it was startling how much of a problem it is and how widespread it is across the world.

      Underneath the straight story of sex slavery so poignantly portrayed by Moodysson, is a deeper more philosophical message of life itself. The plight of the daily grind and how people throw their morals and values out the window come desperate times. Also, Moodysson portrays Lilya and Volodya as inherently good people with aspirations but everybody older than them are all bad and rude. The message being that society and the pressures of life suck the dreams, ambitions and hopes of people out and good people do nasty things as they are corrupted by society.

      So, evidently, this film isn't an easy film to watch. It deals with a very difficult and controversial subject that had long gone under the radar in the media and public at large. The images are often harrowing and some people won't like this film at all because of it, hence the 18 rating. This isn't a film to get your friends round with popcorn on a Saturday night after x-factor that's for sure. Those who like challenging films, foreign cinema and current affairs will find things to enjoy here. For me, it's a piece of modern film masterpiece. It's a film that has shaped the world we live in and has genuinely saved lives as a result, which is surely worth a 5/5 alone.

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      • More +
        05.10.2010 21:42
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        Released in 2006, this is a long overdue compilation of a true lyrical genius.

        Jake Thackray only released four full studio albums, though his career spanned across four decades. Despite only four albums, Jake had hundreds of songs as he toured the breadth of the country, mainly in small clubs. Jake can be compared to his hero, Georges Brassens, though he never received as much popularity as Georges had in France. His music style is very much in the French chanson style. In the 1950's,60's, 70's this style of music was extremely popular in France, though it never quite caught on in Britain as Beatles-mania hit popular music. Despite the French influences, Jake is quintessentially British and quintessentially Yorkshireman. This box-set is a collection of this long lost and almost forgotten gem of musical histories songs from 1967-1976. There are 98 songs in this box-set, spread across four CD's, containing all of his albums, making it a true treat for Jake fans and a great starting point for people curious about his music. Due to the sheer number of tracks, it would be silly of me to go through them one by one.

        Hailing from Leeds, Jake went onto teach English in France after he graduated, thus the French influence on his music. He possesses a voice full of character, a deep baritone voice that sounds rather dismal. In fact, if one heard him in the background he wouldn't sound very upbeat at all. However, Jake's key skill was undoubtedly his sharp wit and use of words. Across this box-set there are songs full of laugh out loud moments, sung by Jake in his trademark deadpan nature. Taken from the first song of the box-set, "Lah Di Dah", a song for bridegrooms:

        "I'll be nice to your mother, I'll come all over lah-di-dah,
        Although she always gets up me nose, (I love you very much.)
        And so I'll smile and I'll acquiesce, when she invites me to caress, her scabby cat;
        I'll sit still while she knits and witters, cross my heart,
        And I shan't lay a finger on the crabby old batface."

        His songs vary in subjects, though all have an acute observational touch to them of humans and of society, using cleverly arranged stories that is as funny as they are poignant. It takes a special talent to combine humour with seriousness in such a way Jake did and with lyrics many people could still relate to today, it's a bit of a small mystery as to why he never reached more fame. The height of his fame came when he was writing songs each week for television on the weekly news and some of those songs are included on this box-set too. Despite topical to the time and context for which Jake wrote them, they stand the test of time wonderfully and could quite easily be applied to scenarios today. For instance, The Ladies Basic Freedom Polka is a take on ladies who used to pinch men's bottoms in the fight for equal rights for women. Jake writes about it in such a wonderfully humorous way that despite the fact I wasn't around when this was happening, I was laughing out loud throughout the song.

        As well as his sharp wit, Jake was a superb guitar player. Playing live he had the characteristic stance of having his leg up on a bar stool or chair, which is the classic French chanson style. His huge hands managing to move around his nylon-stringed acoustic guitar with ease. On this box-set, you feel as if this is recorded totally naturally. There aren't any fancy effects, auto-tune and all the other gadgetry used today. Indeed, listen to any live performance of Jake and it sounds just like the albums because quite simply, he was such a flawlessly good guitar player and his voice is exceptionally consistent. In live performances, Jake was often accompanied by a double-bass player, of which is prominent on this box-set which go with the guitar and Jake's voice perfectly. As well as this, many tracks also have an orchestral feel to them. Jumble Sale for instance, features many strings which lifts the track to another level. However, also included in this box-set are alternate versions and a few demo's thrown in as well, as well as lots of previously unreleased tracks, including Jumble Sale of just Jake and his guitar, which gives the song another dimension. Those new to Jake will no doubt find most joy in the four albums included here, though those who like Jake will find plenty of previously unheard gems.

        One track particularly relevant to today's society would be "Famous People", which could quite easily be applied to the celebrity culture of today with great satire. In similar vein, "The Kirkstall Road Girl" is a chirpy song full of wit about a girl from working-class background now trying to make her life in the "high class social world". Featuring a bright and intriguing arrangement that bounces the track along though in-keeping with Jake's deadpan voice, is one of the top tracks on this compilation that still feels to relevant today.

        One of the stand out tracks of the previously unreleased tracks (featured across CD's 2, 3 and 4) would undoubtedly be "Isobel", which goes at a frantic pace where Jake is at his self-depreciating best.

        "I used to think that logarithms were things that scuttled about in attics
        And surds were little flowers with square roots.
        What boots it?
        Nobody else is loved so well by Isobel, by Isobel,
        Oh, nobody else is loved so well by Isobel but me."

        Isobel displays all of his wordplay into a wonderful love song full of laughs.

        Jake has an extremely distinctive voice and a distinctive style, which therefore may mean some people can't get into his music but with this compilation, priced at £13.93 on amazon at time of writing, they can get their hands on a comprehensive collection of his songs at a very reasonable price. In a world of endless manufactured pop-stars with over-produced albums full of auto-tune, they all seem to merge into a large, grey, mush. Jake Thackray left us in 2002 but left us all with a large collection of songs that are just as charming, relevant and funny today as they were in 1967.

        It's often said that if Jake was French he would be regarded as a legend in France but despite his passing in 2002, it isn't too late for his music to have a large affect on music in Britain too. Indeed, people ranging from Morrissey to Alex Turner have cited him as an influence and with this compilation you could discover this sadly under-appreciated figure of British music.

        "When I snuff it bury me quickly, then let carousels begin -
        But not a do with a few ham sandwiches, a sausage roll or two and "A small port wine, please".
        Roll the carpet right back, get cracking with your old Gay Gordons
        And your knees up, shake it up, live it up, sup it up, hell of a kind of a time.
        And if the coppers come around, well, tell them the party's mine, boys."

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        • Ikiru (DVD) / DVD / 35 Readings / 35 Ratings
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          29.09.2010 00:58
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          A gem of a film which inspires and beguiles.

          Ikiru was first released in 1952 and it hasn't lost an ounce of relevance and appeal since. Directed by legendary Japanese writer, producer and director Akira Kurosawa, the breadth in variety of his work with consistently fantastic quality is quite amazing, leaving behind a dazzling array of critically acclaimed films. By the time he came to make Ikiru, Kurosawa had already got a fine number of quality films to his name, notably samurai films such as Rashomon to touching stories such as The Idiot. The confidence and skill Kurosawa consequently developed is clearly on show in Ikiru, in what is a mature, creative, perceptive, thoughtful and emotive film likely to appeal to those film watchers who like to dig a bit deeper than Hollywood blockbusters.

          This is the fascinating thing with directors such as Kurosawa, he was completely untouched by the homogenisation of Hollywood and all the pressures Hollywood brought at the time. As such, Ikiru is a picture of not just a completely different film making culture but a completely different culture full-stop. Kurosawa, despite at this point a big name in Japan with a lot of critical acclaim, was still very much in touch with regular people, the fame didn't go to his head and he never allowed himself to be motivated by fame or money. Ikiru is a wonderful example of his non-compromising style working gloriously.

          So what is Ikiru all about? Translated Ikiru is "To Live", which is quite an optimistic outlook, contradictory to the DVD cover of a rather bleak scene of the main character, Kanji Watanabe in the rain on a children's swing. It's Kanji for what the movie hinges on throughout, his story. He is a veteran office bureaucrat in the city, spending endless hours at his desk with his life passing him by. He was so trapped in his existence, he didn't know otherwise. One day he then learns he has cancer and only has a while left to live, which is where things take a change. Watanabe goes in pursuit to find meaning in his life through various means in the face of a family that is unresponsive to him in general.

          After various outings, despite doing more with his life, Watanabe still feesl unfulfilled, until a chance meeting with a colleague inspires him. The colleague is young and enthusiastic, despite her working in a sweatshop factory, she views her work positively and sees her existence in life making toys akin to playing with all the children of Japan. Following his time with her, Watanabe sets on a path to find meaning in his own life through his job. Through sheer persistence, determination and pro-active working, Watanabe manages to turn a cesspool into a children's playground, breaking the bureaucracy he was once tied down so much to. He dared to question the authorities and as a consequence, he achieved something worthwhile that gave him meaning.

          Kurosawa then turns the film on its head in an extremely clever move. The next part of the film is Watanabe's funeral with all his work colleagues and family sat around trying to work out why he was so different before his death. Watanabe never told his work colleagues or family of his cancer. The workers slowly but surely work out he must have known he was dying and feeling inspired, vow to be like him. However, once they returned to the daily grind, it sucked all the life out of them again.

          Watanabe is a sad old man, jittery in his speech and his soul appears to be all but dead. This is played perfectly by Takashi Shimura, who puts in a stunning performance. His performance was recognised at the 1960 BAFTA's, where he was nominated as best foreign actor. The way the character is developed though is the key piece of genius. The more we may pity Watanabe, the more we may be annoyed by what he is like, the more it resonates with our own life and the more we realise how similar we are. Finding meaning in our life through the rat race of work and the seeming pointlessness of it all, it can be said Ikiru is a fine example of existentialism philosophy through the medium of film.

          The film has several themes. Coming out of post-war Japan, bureaucracy was rife and Kurosawa depicts what can be achieved if one attempts to achieve it, to push the boundaries and challenge the system. His sad depiction of what the government offices were like was quite a brave stance to take as he challenged the government head on, such was his non-compromising nature, he simply made the film exactly how he wanted, take it or leave it. He saw the bureaucracy stifling the country and the people and he portrayed it with a feel of beauty and poignancy with Watanabe's story. Secondly, the meaning in one's life. Man seeking meaning in their life, through all of societies pressures and the rat race of work. Living life to the full, as I say, existentialist in nature. Thirdly, we also see the lack of community portrayed. Kurosawa shows how despite the mad rush of a city, everybody seems quite lonely and unfulfilled. The revellers in the nightclubs to the office workers, they are all unfulfilled in secular lives and Watanabe's efforts in the community show how much better things can be if society and humans break down those secular barriers.

          Ikiru is a slow paced film, filled with long shots of bleak expressions on Watanabe's face. Indeed, Watanabe often doesn't say very much, such is the power in Shimura's performance the messages he sends are as clear as day without any dialogue. His pains and emotions are clear for us to see, both thanks to Shimura's exceptional performance and Kurosawa's superb film-making.

          For most people, the thought of a black and white film at a slow tempo about a man with cancer in Japanese (it has subtitles) which is fairly long is something they'd have no interest in. Give it a chance though and the charms of Ikiru may well suck you in. Those who are keen foreign film buffs will probably know Ikiru well but if you haven't seen it, you're likely to love it. Ikiru, despite being shot in black and white, is gloriously colourful in emotion and I struggled to hold back the tears.

          Highly recommended to those who love foreign cinema, those with an open mind and what to try something outside of Western films and those who love deeper, thought provoking films.

          "How tragic that man can never realize how beautiful life is until he is face to face with death."

          Ikiru is available on DVD from amazon for little under £8 and is classified as a PG.

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          • More +
            27.09.2010 22:26
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            A stunning album full of surprises against disturbing sounds

            Scott Walker is totally out on his own in the musical world, nobody compares to him and once you've listened to this record, you'll understand why. The journey to this record is a strange one as he began his popular musical career with the Walker Brothers, except none of them were called Walker and none of them were brothers, indeed Scott's actual name is Noel Scott Engel. Despite gaining a lot of popularity with the Walker Brothers, Scott threw it all away to pursue what he wanted to do and embarked on his solo career. After years of patchy work, some perfect albums, some dreadful ones too, a reunion with The Walker Brothers, Walker truly came into his own with the album "Tilt" in the 90's. The Drift, released in 2006 is his next big step.

            It's difficult to really describe in words The Drift to somebody who hasn't heard it before but perhaps you can imagine what a nightmare would be like in the form of music then you're half of the way there. The Drift is at times a truly disturbing piece of work which keeps the listener on edge throughout.

            The Drift took years in making as Walker perfected the music, often building his own "instruments" out of things like punching pork meat or perhaps scraping a metal bin on a large wooden box. Anything to get that perfect sound he wants. The results are well worth it, you can really tell that every second of this record has a purpose, every sound has been carefully constructed to create the atmosphere. Indeed, the musicianship on this record is often truly mesmerising. The skill involved is amazing, particularly in the heavy orchestral moments, which occur regularly.

            The Drift would fill into many genres without being truly definable. Avant-garde, experimental and art-rock have all been used to describe it and all of these are true but don't get anywhere near to describing what it is like. This record isn't for the faint hearted, those that like music to shock them, leave them baffled, uneasy and provoking many thoughts should love it though it is far from guaranteed. The Drift received many, many strong reviews from critics on release but due to its nature, never got any wide attention. This record does split opinion and really is only for those with an open mind.

            For fans of Scott Walker's work in the 60's, if you haven't heard "Tilt" then The Drift will likely be quite a shock. However, even in those four solo albums in the 60's that Scott produced, his development as an artist and his experimentation is obvious. The Drift comes at a time where Scott has really let himself go, really assured of himself and his ability, he has pulled off a remarkable piece of work.

            Through the disturbing and bleak music are the fragments of songs, the lyrics of which are difficult to decipher with his wordplay and use of sound. There's one point where buggs bunny, (or is it daffy duck?) butts in with "what's up doc, what's up doc" in the most demented voice you're ever likely to hear but somehow it all makes sense after a few listens.

            The Drift is a truly ambitious album that Walker has pulled off with complete aplomb. The thunderous, clunking music is skillfully produced and mastered. This record isn't a victim of the loudness war of modern production and is gloriously layered with lots of sounds and instruments to create a mesmerising and stunning piece of work.

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              27.09.2010 21:57
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              A delightful album likely to appeal to many different people.

              Truelove's Gutter is Richard Hawley's fifth full album and what a treasure it is. Whilst Hawley has a strong following, it's always been curious to me how little attention he has received over the years for his music. Possessing a rich and warm voice, Hawley is renowned for the beauty in his music, featuring many strings and wistful sounds of lap-steel guitars. Coupled with his excellent song-writing ability and you're onto a winner, Truelove's Gutter doesn't disappoint.

              The album opens with the lovely "As The Dawn Breaks", which is a soft and gentle song but very atmospheric and sets the tone for the rest of the album excellently. It relaxed me right from the off and this album is the type to put on on a Sunday afternoon and watch the birds through the window.

              The album then flows nicely to "Open Up Your Door", which has been used on a few adverts recently, which means you may recognise it. Much like the previous track, this track has an atmospheric feel. Mellow sound to it, it rolls through at a comforting tempo with lots of strings with an upbeat mood to the singing. Indeed, this is much like Truelove's Gutter all through, it is a very cohesive album, all the tracks flow together beautifully to form a true album. In an age of digital music, the art of the album has been largely been lost but Hawley proves all is not lost here.

              Ashes On The Fire is a very full sounding track, almost like a strong bass type sound, with gentle guitar over the top and light drumming creates a very warm sound, especially with the strings come in halfway through. The lyrical content is touching and poignant and delivered perfectly by Hawley in what is a gem of a song full of emotion and imagery.

              Next up is Remorse Code, which at nearly 10 minutes long can be quite a daunting prospect for some but such is the nature of the album, you hardly notice the same track has been on for such a long time as the whole thing flows so well. This track develops more and more over the 10 minutes to create a beautiful song again full of emotion as Hawley sings with with such sincerity and vulnerability. A vast array of instruments are used here and the effects used on the guitars create a very wistful feel.

              Don't Get Hung Up In Your Soul is a simple acoustic guitar based song with the gorgeous musical saw in the background creating such a wonderfully eerie yet warm sound. Hawley's lyrics and voice sing a simple melody and is very prominent against the music in a moving track. This leads to Soldier On, which has a haunting mood to it which starts off slowly but halfway through breaks into a glorious wall of sound, with some skilled guitar work ploughing through the middle of it. Despite the change in sound, it doesn't at all feel out of place in the album, it's a welcome and unexpected change.

              The album finishes with For Your Lover Give Some Time and Don't You Cry. The latter is over 10 minutes long and is a simply mesmerising track, with Hawley singing to his child. The track has lots of beautiful sounding instruments, including guitars, the musical saw and lap steel guitar to create a wholesome sound. Also featuring is the sound of a babies toy/ music box which gives the track a lullaby sort of feel, set against Hawley's vocal melody it creates a chilling and emotive track. For Your Lover Give Some Time is a vulnerable and sincere track by Hawley, confessing his wrong doing in a lovely track with a similar feel to Don't Get Hung Up In Your Soul earlier in the album.

              Truelove's Gutter will doubtless appeal to a large spectrum of people. Indeed, I'm in my twenties, my parents love Hawley and even my grandparents picked this album up and love it. A wonderfully atmospheric album full of beauty in excellent musicianship and skill, highly recommended.

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            • moviemarket.com / Internet Site / 55 Readings / 53 Ratings
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              21.08.2009 13:39
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              A good website with room for improvement

              Moviemarket.com sells posters, pictures and autographs of films, filmstars and other people in the public eye. They are based in California but have a base in Yeovil, Somerset too. They are purely an online retailer. That's the case in the UK anyway, not sure about the USA or other places.

              The quality of the pictures I found to very good. They are on thick photographic paper and look great. I got two 20x16" images from them and they look great framed in my room. I got James Dean and Diana Dors, both of whom have a large range to choose from on the website. The wbesite doesn't just have photographs on paper though. They also print things on canvas and posters too, including old and rare movie posters. I have been informed by a friend that the canvas she bought is also of great quality and looks great.

              The website has a very good range of things to choose from. Naturally, the more popular figures have a large range to choose from than the more obscure people. The likes of Johnny Depp and Marilyn Monroe have a wealth of things to choose from. It would be good if they had more of music stars though. I found the lack of Elvis things a bit strange. There are some things of Elvis on there but not a lot. So overall, the catalogue is patchy, for many people you'll find lots to choose from and others not so much. I do think this should and could be improved.

              The website is laid out well and it's easy to navigate around. It is free of adverts, leaving it free to browse around without any hassle. It is easy to search for things with a search function clearly displayed on top of the page. You can also look at what has recently been added to the website, this is easy to find also, under the search function. There's also the option of signing up to their newsletter which highlights special offers and new things that they have added. I haven't signed upto that so I'm not sure how good that function is, or whether they just use it to try and shift old stock no one is buying, I don't know.

              The prices for the pictures work like this:

              10x8" (25x20cm) £3.99
              14x11" (36x28cm) £6.99
              20x16" (50x40cm) £11.99
              24x20" (60x50cm) £15.99
              36x24" (91x60cm) £19.99
              Canvas print:
              20x16" (50x40cm) £59.99

              Old and rare official movie posters cost more though, which is to be expected.

              Postage is extra at £2.25 to the UK.

              The pictures came rolled up in a tough cardboard tube. There was little chance of them getting damaged in there. One gripe I have though is it did take a long time for them to arrive. From memory it took some 3-4 weeks for them to come, which I found annoying. I didn't recall getting a confirmation e-mail from them for my order either but I had a receipt for paypal so I knew I was safe, it just would have been nice for a) quicker delivery and b) a bit of communication.

              If you aren't satisfied with the items you can send them back for a full refund.

              You can pay by card (Visa, mastercard, American Express) through a secure link on their website or through paypal. There is no extra charge for using paypal.

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              • More +
                20.08.2009 19:35
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                Poor DVD

                The Jewel In The Crown is an unofficial DVD about the charasmatic singer, Morrissey. Morrissey's influence as an icon far exceeds the sales of his records, he is worshipped by his fans and it seems everyone has an opinion on him.

                This DVD tells the story of how Morrissey came to prominence with The Smiths and later into his solo career. Many people feature throughout the DVD making comments, such as Tony Wilson, Stephen Street and Vini Reilly. Strangely, this DVD doesn't feature Morrissey at all. His music is never on, non of his performances ever feature and he never appears in the DVD. This I found strange and somewhat annoying. Some pictures of him do appear throughout the DVD but this doesn't make up for his absence in general.

                The DVD concentrates somewhat on his solo career for the vast majority, which is slightly misleading to what the DVD description says. The DVD description seems to say that the story of his time in The Smiths would be a large part of the DVD contents but alas they're not. His transition into his solo career takes up a large chunk of the documentary, which is probably the best part of the DVD. It is interesting to hear what state he was in and what he was like to work with. It was interesting hearing how they would create some music with a clear verse and chorus in their heads and Morrissey would come along and sing the verse in the chorus and vice versa. Morrissey always keeps you on your toes.

                The people who do make comments do make insightful comments throughout about Morrissey about him and his career. I particularly liked the small details about how he acted, for example when he was found walking around his room with a blindfold on and a walking stick pretending he was blind, which I found amusing.

                The story takes you up to his comeback release in 2004 of You Are The Quarry, although it doesn't go into much depth about this album as it was made before it was released. An interesting section was detailing his downfall after the unpopular album of Maladjusted. It tells the story how he moved to Los Angeles and how he planned to 'disappear', which surely isn't true considering he did try to get record contracts.

                Morrissey is somewhat of an enigma, a mystery and any material that gains insight into his life is interesting to me. Stephen Street for example, the producer of Viva Hate, Morrissey's first solo album doesn't hold back and tells the whole story. He tells it interestingly and I learnt a few things. I wouldn't say it is groundbreaking, Stephen Street has been interviewed in various places before this DVD but his comments are a good addition to the DVD. Also interesting comments come from Craig Gannon, a former member of The Smiths detailing his time he was brought in breifly into Morrissey's solo career.

                The production of the DVD feels very amaterish. The graphics look very dated and looks like I could have done a better job of it using my laptop! Also, the narrator is set against music which I found annoying and sometimes I struggled to hear what people were saying because of this said music. The DVD just generally feels really amateurish which was disappointing. The splits between parts of the documentary are particularly amateurish, with a poor looking graphic appearing on the screen set against some odd, cheesy pop in the background.

                Extras on this DVD include his full discography, which looks lazily produced. Another extra is a quiz, which in principle sounds good but it turned out to be easy and it was produced very annoyingly. The font is odd set against a horrible looking background. There are 15 questions in total and it wasn't a great experience.

                Running at approximately 108 minutes, this DVD is to be avoided unless you are a completist of all things Morrissey, like I am. You won't learn a lot from it and I only watched it once, I don't think it has much replay value. A very disappointing effort. At £9 on amazon, this DVD is definitely not worth that sort of money.

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                14.08.2009 17:11
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                Forgotten Voices of the Secret War.

                Forgotten Voices are a series of books containing quotes from the soldiers who fought in those conflicts. Past editions of this book include Forgotten VOices of the Great War, World War Two, D-Day, Burma, Holocaust etc. One of the latest editions of the series is this one, Forgotten Voices of the Secret War.

                This book is done in association with the Imperial War Museum and is written by Roderick Bailey, introduction by Sebastian Faulks. Spanning 400 pages, this book is available in paperback or hardback at many different outlets online and on the high street. This edition tells the story of Britain's Special Operations Executive, the secret army set up in 1940 to help the resistance and carry out sabotage missions behind enemy lines all over Europe and beyond. Or in Churchill's words, to 'set Europe ablaze'.

                The book is essentially a collection of quotes from the secret agent veterans who fought on these missions. This book does not describe the missions they were on, if you are looking for a book to describe and analyse the missions these agents were on this is not for you. It is merely a collection of quotes from the veterans. It makes for great reading though. At the beginning of each chapter it does have a few paragraphs explaining relatively briefly the background to what the veterans will be talking about in the upcoming chapter so it's not as if you have to be a 'secret war' expert to understanding what is going on through the book.

                The quotes naturally vary in size. The writers draw on many sources, mostly from the Imperial War Museum archives to put the quotes together so it is understandable that they may have to cherry pick certain parts of what the veterans said to fit it into the context of the book. To me this is fine, it keeps the book flowing and you don't get lost. The range of different agents they used is impressive, there are numerous amounts of agents featured in the book who give their thoughts on their experience. Many of the quotes are funny and certainly poignant. The bravery these people had was really put across well in the book and this is certainly it's best feature. It stirred my emotions a lot and I found it to be inspirtional. Suddenly, my faulty internet connection didn't seem quite so frustrating as I read of a secret agent clinging on for dear life in a airplane, 'riddled with bulletholes'.

                It is important to say that this book doesn't just purely have agent's quotes in it. There are many quotes from civilians from the places they were fighting, which is a nice touch and adds another perspective to the whole thing. That said, I would have liked to have seen more quotes from civilians through the book as the vast majority of from the agents themselves. I can imagine it is very difficult to find people from the places they were fighting to interview though so I fully understand the reasons why this is.

                Also included are quotes from people coming up with all sorts of gadgetry for the agents to use on their missions, complete with pictures of said gadgets. I found this fascinating and the resourcefullness of the people involved is astonishing. For example fake vegetables were used to hide weapons in. Quotes on the inital agents training are also present and I liked the insight into this. It really struck me how cobbled together the whole operation was. One quote that summed it up for the training for me was "we were totally amateurish, totally one hundred percent amateurish and couldn't have been otherwise".
                Bailey did a great job in raising the voices of the training instructors and staff officers at headquarters. It is also good to hear from the unsung backroom people who invented the specialist weapons, pilots and radio operators back at home. I found it good to have a mix of different people involved included in the book to get a fair sense of perspective at all times.
                The book progresses from the training in a timeline, with quotes from naval, air and ground agents. It sums up with some pages dedicated to the aftermath where agents give their views on the war as a whole, and a few parting shots of the missions they were on. This I found to be a good touch and rounded off the book nicely.

                As I said, the book does have pictures. Pictures feature throughout the book and they are on the regular paper the text is on. This I found a little disappointing, I felt the pictures could have been more expansive and on better quality, glossy paper. The pictures that are there though are really interesting and add a lot to the book. It's good to actually see images of what the quotes are talking about.

                What struck me through the book is the sheer amount of places these missions were held. From Germany to Macedonia, there were numerous missions. This was something I had not fully appreciated when I did reading on the secret agents previously and it was good that all these locations were mentioned and used through the book too. Anyone remotely interested in World War Two will be interested in this book and willt ake a lot away from it. I'd say those who aren't as interested would still find this book interesting as the sheer human emotion that the agents put across is fascinating.

                At the back of the book there is a useful glossary for those terms you're not sure about and also an index. I found the index useful as if I read something in another book about a particular incident, I could look it up in this book and see what the agents said about it.

                Overall this is an insightful book packed full of quotes from agents, radio operators, civilians, pilots, training instructors etc, basically from every side of people involved in this dangerous missions the agents so bravely fought. A touching, emotive book which put many things in my life into perspective. Often humourous and always interesting, I found the book relied too much upon quotes to form the story. I did feel the book could have had more information on the missions they fought, some more background detail. Some background detail is in the book but more may have been better. It is a fantastic place to start for someone interested in the 'secret war' and it is definitely recommended to anyone interested in World War Two, or indeed, war in general.

                It never ceases to amaze me how remarkable these people were.

                I got the book from amazon in paperback for £4.85 which I found to be very good value. The RRP of the paperback is £7.99. The hardback has a RRP of £19.99 and is on amazon at £13.99. I highly recommend this book, just don't expect it to be a thorough story from the author of the 'secret war'. It isn't and it doesn't pretend to be, it's a book of quotes with some background and it's a great read.

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                  12.08.2009 14:29
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                  A good read for the holidays

                  Jo Brand has established herself has a talented writer as well as one of Britain's most loved comedians and this book, 'The More You Ignore Me' is her latest book. Spanning 320 pages, this book is a charming and very humorous story which had me engrossed throughout.

                  Jo Brand took her inspiration for the book from Morrissey fans and their devout loyalty, how going to a Morrissey concert is like a religious experience. Indeed, the title 'The More You Ignore Me' are Morrissey lyrics from the song 'The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get'. If you're not a fan of Morrissey don't let this put you off as it is a story of the characters in it rather than him. It doesn't focus on him throughout.

                  Brand uses her wit to write a very humourous book drawing on her past experience as a psychiatric nurse. The book is based around psychiatric problems which provide many humourous moments in a dark comic way. Based around a family in a small village on the English/Welsh border in the countryside, this book doesn't pull trees up for being groundbreaking but it's a good read nontheless. I would certainly recommend it for holiday reading as it's light-hearted but it kept me interested throughout.

                  The story is essentially like a teenage book but suited for adults. Therefore naturally this should appeal to many different people. Teenagers will like and and adults will too, both male and female. The book in general is very well written with laughs to be had on practically every page. It's not without a few faults though. There are a couple of instances where one minute a character is one age and then they're a younger age. This is just a simple typo/editing problem which should've been ironed out but it doesn't really affect the story in a serious manner.

                  I was engrossed in the story from the start, although the story truly gets going towards the middle. The beginning sets the scene really well and you get a clear image in your head of the chracters and place they live in. Brand paints a picture of the characters excellently well and her use of words is really great. Their are plenty of varied characters in the book, each adding another layer to the story and keeps you interested. There isn't so many characters that you are swamped with them and you start to forget them, there are just about the right amount to provide plenty of variation and interest. I found myself relating to some of them, which I particularly like in a book or film. Due to the psychiatric problems featured in the book, there are many twists and turns which are unpredictable which add to the thrill of the book.

                  The book is printed with fairly large print which make it easy to read but I got through it quite quickly. Like I said, it would be great on holiday but you shouldn't rely on this book to get you through the whole holiday. You could probably get through it after a couple of days lazing around the pool, it didn't take me too long and I'm not a particularly quick reader.

                  The book is a hard back and available at amazon for £7.49. I haven't seen this book in paperback yet which is a shame as it is easier to take a paperback on holiday rather than a hardback. The book is a bit bulky so the need for paperback is greater. Due to how quick I got through it £7.49 is a bit on the high side but this is obviously largely due to it being hardcovered.

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                  • Tread Softly Stranger (DVD) / DVD / 60 Readings / 58 Ratings
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                    11.08.2009 19:38
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                    A classic, gritty, British film excellently acted throughout

                    Tread Softly Stranger was released in 1958 and starred George Baker, Diana Dors and Terence Stamp. Tread Softly Stranger is a crime thriller with large doses of humour throughout the film which I loved.

                    Based on the play Blind Alley by Jack Popplewell and taken from a screenplay by George Minter and Denis O'Dell, Tread Softly Stranger is a marvellous film which was re-released on DVD in 2008. As I try and do in my film and book reviews, I'll try not to give the plot away in this review as much as possible.

                    Diana Dors plays a character called Calico and the producer, George Minter was so determinded to have Diana on the cast he delayed the filming for months until she was available. It's easy to see why too, Diana fills the screen with maervellous grace and confidence. She plays the part brilliantly, a sexy, high maitenence and glamorous lady with many tricks up her sleeve. Whenever I hear Diana's name mentioned, which isn't often but when I do this film is never mentioned, which is a shame because it is worthy of note.

                    Tread Softly Stranger also stars George Baker and Terence Morgan, who are brothers in the film. They differ in personality greatly which makes the story all the more interesting. Both play their parts very well indeed, emphasising their differences in character without being obvious about it. It comes across very naturally. In particular George Baker puts in a wonderful performance as a charming and clever gambler. Baker has a talent for acting with ease, he looks completely natural in his role which I love.

                    The support cast for the film also put in good performances, it is a generally very well acted film. Betty Warren in particular puts in a very funny performance. All the support cast I felt added something to the film, some more than others admittedly but there are no needless characters.

                    The film was filmed in Rotherham and the grit of this town is really put across in the film. The town looks grim, the factory the main source of employment and the place is generally dirty, which goes against the glamorous Diana Dors, which makes it all the more intriguing as a film. The camera work is excellent considering the time it was filmed. Close ups of faces and different camera angles all add to the atmosphere of the film really well. As the cover suggests, the film is in black and white. I personally love the feel that gives, it adds to the grit and gloom of the town and adds atmosphere around the film. Some people don't like black and white though I know, giving it a dated feel.

                    I've rated this film four stars because of the ending to the film was a bit abrupt for me. I felt they could've added a bit on as I was still engrossed in the story at that point. The film runs for 87 minutes so adding a bit on wouldn't have dragged the film on terms of time. That's not to say the ending is completely poor, it isn't, but it could have been improved in my opinion. That said, with it being based on a screenplay I guess they were working within certain boundaries. The story in general though is excellent, with twists and turns which kept me engrossed throughout. As a story, it is timeless and if it were released as a new film today with updated cast etc I would think it would do very well.

                    As well as the DVD, this has a small panflet inside which contains small but fairly comprehensive biographies on each of the leading stars in the cast. This is a nice touch. Being a Diana Dors fanatic, that section didn't tell me anything new but it is well written and will be interesting I'm sure for people new to Diana. I did learn a lot about George Baker and Terence Morgan.

                    The film is rated as a PG, which is fair. Young children probably wouldn't completely understand what was going on anyway.

                    Priced at £5.98 on amazon, it will forever be in my film collection as one of my favourites.

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                      11.08.2009 12:04
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                      Generally a good book that all Morrissey and Smiths fans will enjoy flicking through.

                      Mozipedia is just as it says in the title, an encyclopaedia of Morrissey and The Smiths, written by Simon Goddard. It's hardcovered and the cover does look very attractive with a lovely shade of blue.

                      The book is split alphabetically into things and people that are related to Morrissey and The Smiths. This includes songs and albums. Each item has a passage explaining how they are related and also a few interesting tidbits that I learnt a few things from. Some items are a lot larger in length than others, which is to be expected as some things affected Morrissey and The Smiths more than others. For example, New York Dolls, Morrissey's favourite band take up 7.5 pages, whereas Anthony Newley takes up little over half a page.

                      It is well written throughout, keeping the information concise but it still flows, it isn't just a series of points listed, it's nicely written in text. One complaint I do have is that he has left out a few things that really should have been included, such as Peepholism and Joe Slee. I found this to be quite a strange omission considering the book is well researched otherwise. Some of the passages could have been longer though but in general Goddard gets across all the basic information and load on top of that too to keep the die-hards interested. It is generally expansive, there are many items I didn't expect to see but they are there, slightly related to Morrissey and The Smiths but interesting nontheless. A nice addition are the passages on a few songs that were never released, they are quite interesting and well researched. Goddard draws on many sources, such as interviews and books. It is also obvious he was in contact with many people directly in touch with the Smiths and Morrissey, including producers and former band members.

                      Inside there is are four sections with pictures. There are lots of nice pictures of Morrissey and The Smiths as well as lots of pictures of different things mentioned in the book. There are many pictures on Morrissey's influences such as Shelagh Delaney and New York Dolls. This is a good touch and breaks the text up nicely. On other pages, there aren't any pictures but this is good as it doesn't clutter the pages up. Also, the text is on standard paper whereas the picture sections are glossy paper, making the pictures a much better quality. All the pictures are captioned which is good if you don't know what they are.

                      Overall, this book will obviously only appeal to Morrissey and The Smiths fans. I consider myself, being a fan, to be knowledgable on them but I did learn many things reading this. I found it was best to dip in and out on this book. I would pick it up, open at a random page and read something that takes my fancy. It is also good if for instance I'm listening to a song and I want to know a few more things about it, I can look it up easily in this book.

                      The book doesn't have tour information. For example it doesn't have lists of tour dates The Smiths and Morrissey have done and it has no information on the tracks played on the tours either. I feel this would've been a nice addition at the back of the book away from the main body of information. I would have been interested to know where certain incidents took place and what the most played tracks are for example. The book does however have a complete "mozography", listing everything he has ever released and the track listings on them.

                      I got this book off amazon for £14.99 which I felt was a reasonably fair price. I saw it in the shops for much more so amazon is probably the best place to get this.

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                        10.08.2009 19:40
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                        A great album, wonderfully orchestrated

                        Diana Dors was an excellent British actress who came to the height of her fame in the 50s. Diana was way ahead of her years in terms of her looks and her acting talent so she found success from a very early age, often lying about her age to get jobs in films. She went from strength to strength in the 50s with films such as Tread Softly Stranger and Yield To The Night gaining high praise. Comparisons with Marilyn Monroe dogged her all her life, these comparisons were harsh though as Diana was around before Marilyn and in my opinion, more talented both acting and singing.

                        Diana had an unsuccessful trip to Hollywood and came back to Britian a little red-faced. It was decided she would record an album and Swingin' Dors was the name of it. Originally released in 1969, Swingin' Dors was a lost gem until only two years ago when it was re-released on CD and vinyl. She turned out to sing in front large audiences in glamorous locations but unfortunately her popularity dwindled and at one point she was doing working mens clubs. It turned out to be the only album she released.

                        The Point Of No Return

                        This is a very upbeat and catchy track. It's beautifiully arranged by Wally stott and his orchestra, with plenty of instruments combining together to create a great sound. It's a cabaret style track, jazz/ pop sort of thing. On top of the music is Diana's beautifully immaculate voice. Great start to the album.

                        That's How It Is

                        This is a slightly slower tempoed track than the previous track. The orchestra is in fine form again, with a particularly nice bass and piano line throughout. I particularly like the vocal melody which suits Diana's voice perfectly. Like the previous track it carries on the album's theme of love, which is predictable but I don't mind since it sounds so good.

                        Let There Be Love

                        A decent track, the music slowly builds up to a loud but short chorus. There are some interesting lyrics in this, quite quirky things mentioned. In all honesty this is probably one of the lower points of the album but it's still well worth a listen. Diana's voice is in fine form again.

                        Namely You

                        I really like this track, I can just sense Diana is singing with a smirk on her face. A fairly slow track in terms of tempo, Diana's voice radiates that smirk across with a wonderful poignancy. Again Wally Stott makes full uses of his orchestra so produce a nice sound.

                        Imagination

                        This track as a swagger and confidence about it which sounds great. It's another fairly slow track but it works really well. This deals with heartbreak and loneliness which is a nice change from the previous tracks. Diana once again is in fine form, this isn't a very catchy track but it's nice and soothing and relaxing.

                        Roller Coaster Blues

                        This is a fantastic song with an atmospheric sound which really works well. If you took Diana's vocals away the music could sit alone by itself no problem. Diana's voice however takes the track to another level, the vocal melody is just lovely. The lyrics are excellent, conjuring up much imagery. Diana's voice again radiates a sweet but confident sound. The song finishes in a flurry which sounds great with the orchestra is full flow.

                        The Gentleman Is a Dope

                        This is simply one of my favourite tracks of all time. The music swaggers brilliantly, it's wonderfully written and played. With many instruments combining to make a catchy song. Diana sings wonderfully in this track, I can sense she is singing the words with an emotion. The lyrics I really love, she points out the gentleman's faults but she can't help but like him, a lot. The music twists and turns and ends with flurry which works really well.

                        April Heart

                        I really like the vocal melody in this track. Not particularly complicated, much like the whole album but it just sounds good. Diana's voice goes someway to making up for the simplicity of the melody, it's just lovely. The music plods along in the track and never really reaches the same standard as the better tracks on the album but it's nicely done all the same.

                        I'm In Love For The Very First Time

                        This track has a wonderful energy to it, with drums throughout banging but they aren't overpowering, they really compliment the rest of the orchestra well. The music as I say sounds energetic with Diana's voice bouncing along nicely. It's quite catchy and has some twists in it, which sounds good and makes for quite a varied track.

                        Crazy He Calls Me

                        A slow paced track, the vocal melody is certainly the most interesting part of the track for me. That said, the stripped down nature of the music is a welcome change from the rest of the track. A relaxing and soothing track, it's another good track on the album.

                        Come By Sunday

                        This is a bouncy and energetic track with a lovely sound. Diana's vocals sound very playful and sweetm it's a light-hearted track full of charm. A good track.

                        Tired Of Love

                        This track features another singer whom is male and to be honest I'm not sure who it is. Any help here would be appreciated! It really works though and makes for a nice addition to Diana's voice. This track sounds slightly subdued, different to the rest of the album. I mean subdued in a good way, it's difficult to put into words what I mean but it's as if she is whispering her message across. I like the melody throughout the track and it's a good end to the album.

                        The CD of the album is nicely packaged with doors you open to reveal a nice picture of Diana. It comes with a nice booklet with pictures of Diana through her life and a short biography which is a really nice touch. The CD is bright red, how the orignial vinyl was, to match her lipstick. The CD is in a sleeve similarly styled to what a vinyl record would be enclosed in. A word of warning though, the doors on the front of the packaging are stuck together with a small sticker. Take care taking this off as I'd imagine it could cause some damage if done brashly.

                        Swingin' Dors is difficult, very difficult in fact to find in shops and sadly never gets any attention at all. It can be found on amazon however, at £7.98, which is a fair price I feel.

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                        05.08.2009 19:56
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                        A wonderful album full of emotion

                        Richard Hawley is a solo singer/songwriter t from Sheffield. Formerly of Longpigs, Hawley came to public light when he played with Pulp. After several pieces of work with other artists such as Robbie Williams, Nancy Sinatra, REM and All Saints, Hawley settled down to begin his own solo career. Coles Corner is his fourth solo album which was recieved by critics very favourably and it's easy to see why.

                        The album has a lovely feel to it with lots of strings set against his guitar playing. A very beautiful sound. His voice is a soothing, deep voice which really works with his musical style. It makes for excellent listening and the tracks have a great atmosphere, with many tracks having a full sound with many different instruments being used.

                        Coles Corner

                        The album begins with the title track and it's a great choice for starting the album. The strings set the tone of the album straight away. It's a dreamy song, you can sit there and daydream to it. Hawley sings emotively and compliments the mournful, sad music. Lyrically he conjures up images to daydream to, it's a very good track.

                        Just Like The Rain

                        Slightly more uptempo than the previous track, Just Like The Rain was released as a single but hardly made a dent in the chart, in fact it topped at 94. This is a shame because it's an excellent track. Similar to the previous track it's very dreamy sounding with plenty of delicate strings set against Hawley's deep voice and delicate guitar playing. Quite catchy as it is structured like a typical pop song, with a lovely sounding chorus. Another great track.

                        Hotel Room

                        Carrying on the theme, this track is another dreamy sounding track. The delicate drums, bas and guitar make for a lovely sound. Not quite as good as the previous two tracks but it's well worth listening to. Hawley sings with emotion and feeling, his lyrics often iteresting conjuring up much imagery.

                        Darlin' Wait For Me

                        This is an intimate sounding track, Hawley realling opens his heart in this track. A wonderful blend of sadness and melancholy, this is a slow tempoed and soft sounding track. Another good track.

                        The Ocean

                        This is a very atmospheric track, lots of different sounds going on. Plenty of strings again, soft guitar, a nice soft drum line and some horns thrown in there too. This music really suits Hawley's voice perfectly. Another dreamy track, it builds up nicely to a beautiful last couple of minutes. Grea track, there's just so much depth to it.

                        Born Under A Bad Sign

                        This is a chirpy sounding track, with a strong bassline. It;s very catchy and it's a brilliant track. It's different to the previous tracks but not too different that it doesn't fit in. Wonderful lyrics, he sings with great sincerity this is a great track. The guitar work I particularly like too.

                        Sleep Alone

                        A track with a bouncy guitar line, set against more harnessed sounding bass, drums and vocals. It's an emotive song where Hawley comes across as a singer with tenderness and the heart of true romantic, not self pity or bitterness. A sad song, it's yet another good track.

                        Tonight

                        A slow and atmospheric song. The music echoes around behind Hawley's soft, deep vocals. A song full of emotion and feeling, Hawley puts his pain of heartbreak across very well in a poignant way. The lyrics are not as complex as his previous tracks but I think that is the point. It sounds as if he wrote this on the night he is talking about and just threw his emotions down on the paper. It works brilliantly. I love the bass that kicks in halfway through to add another layer. Great track.

                        Wading Through The Waters Of My Time

                        This is an intriguing track. If this is anyway possible, it's like a mix between Johnny Cash and Elvis. The music has a country/folk sort of sound, set with a vocal melody which does sound very Elvis like. Lyrically this is a good track, plenty of imagery to keep the thoughts springing up. A good track.

                        Who's Gonna Show Your Pretty Little Feet

                        A track where the guitar is barely heard, against Hawley's vocals. A slow track, it's as if he is singing to the baby late at night. It works really well. Certainly not catchy but it's a nice track and a nice change to the rest of the album.

                        Last Orders

                        The album finishes with another very atmospheric track with plenty of different sounds going on through the track. A dreamy track, it sounds as if it was recorded in an old church or something similar with the quiet sounds of a choir echoing the background around. Featuring no vocals, it's a great way to end the album with it's prominent piano.

                        Coles Corner is a beautiful album for daydreaming against. I find it good to put on whilst I am reading, or it's equally great listening to it when going for a walk. There's not a bad track on the album, it really is a fantastic album which should appeal to fans of many genres. I love it, my parents love it, my grandparents love it.

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                        • Yield To The Night (DVD) / DVD / 35 Readings / 33 Ratings
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                          05.08.2009 17:30
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                          Yield To The Night

                          Yield To The Night is a classic British film released in 1956. The film is notable for numerous reasons, which I will discuss in the review. Starring Diana Dors, Yield To The Night is a poignant, emotive and haunting film, telling the story of Mary Hilton who is stuck in prison staring death in the face after she murdered someone. I am a big believer of not giving much of the plot away so I will steer clear of plot details in this review. That said it is difficult to avoid it completely.

                          Many people have speculated as to what this film was based on. The obvious connections between this and Ruth Ellis, the last lady to be executed in Britain in 1955 are clear and surely have some truth in them. Diana Dors herself it was revealed only a few years ago that she was good friends with Ruth. One factor that certainly is similar to Ruth is Mary's reluctance to regret her crime. Yield To The Night is however undoubtedly based upon the novel with the same name, published in 1954, written by Joan Henry.

                          The film was met with fantastic reviews and is often cited as Diana Dors's finest work. A bold opinion as her filmography is vast but she is certainly fantastic in this film. Diana really encapsulates her character with great emotion and it really is a mesmerising performance. Diana fills a film screen with such presence and grace, she was a wonderful actress and it really shows in this film. It's also impressive how she wasn't afraid to take this role on, a fairly unattractive character for such a glamorous lady in the prime of her career. The film was entered into the Cannes Film Festival of 1956 which was a fantastic achievement and it thoroughly deserved it.

                          It's not only Diana that puts in a great performance in this film. The prison guards and the likes of Michael Craig also put in excellent performances. Really, they all support Diana as Diana really makes the film with her performance but they are certainly worthy of praise. In particular, Yvonne Mitchell puts in a great performance as a prison guard whom warms to Mary but stifles her emotion to upkeep her duty in her job.

                          Yield To The Night is filmed in black and white and it really suits the mood of the film. The dark atmosphere and moody scenes as Diana trudges outside with a very realistic performance of how a real prisoner would be, with her emotion zapped and a dead look in her eyes, similar to that of a POW. The camera work is excellently done, with close ups of Diana's face in particularly painful moments for her work brilliantly.

                          The film flicks back and forth from the prison and to the story of how she got there. I think this works well. The contrast of how her life was before prison to how it is in prison is a really poignant message. Throughout these changes in scenes, Mary is heard reciting a beautiful poem written by A.E. Housman and it really pushes the point home of her life coming to an end. A really nice touch and Diana's, soft, delicated voice really suits the poem perfectly in my opinion.

                          After Diana made the film it was revealed not long ago that she used to send letters to men in the position Mary Hilton was in the film, saying how much sympathy she had. For such a glamorous film star on top of her fame, she risked a lot by sympathising with these people but I think this says everything about the film. Diana was moved enough to do it anyway.

                          It's fair to say this film sent ripples throughout society and government when it was released and went someway to abolishing the death penalty. Not many films can claim they have genuinely gone someway to changing society for the better but this film can. Yet, despite this, this film is all but forgotten in modern times. I've never seen it mentioned on television or well, anywhere, other than a Smiths sleeve.

                          Despite being over 50 years old now, Yield To The Night still holds a poignant message for modern times as repeated debates of bringing capital punishment continue to rear their head. The impact it had in 1956 is obviously not going to be the same for somebody watching it today but it's still an important and relevant film.

                          This DVD doesn't have many extras, there's informaiton on the director and a picture gallery. The picture gallery consists of screenshots from the film and they are worth a view. For me, extras aren't that important on a DVD but in comparison to some of the lengthy and expansive extras on other DVDs this is light.

                          A poignant and emotive film combining excellent writing, excellent acting and excellent editing.

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                          • More +
                            05.08.2009 13:20
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                            A good museum

                            The Imperial War Museum North is located in Manchester/Salford/Stretford (depending on where you're from!) and it is exactly what it says in the title, a war museum.

                            On a waterfront setting, it's easily accessible by car both by travelling from the Manchester city centre or from the M60 ring-road. The museum is a few minutes away from Old Trafford football ground, which is difficult to miss so that's a useful guideline. It is clearly signposted around the area and it isn't difficult to find at all. For parking there is a large car-park on site. You have to pay to stay there but it's only a small charge and as you well see later, this is perfectly acceptable. For me it was anyway, I paid £3 which covered an ample time.

                            Luckily for me, I got a lift here with a friend who was also coming. With me being a mere pedestrian usually, I can imagine it is more difficult to get to as a pedestrian. I think the easiest way is going by tram to Harbour City, from there it will take approximately 15/20 minutes walk, which isn't too bad. Alternatively, buses run to the close by Trafford Park, I believe it's the 250 service that begins in Piccadilly Gardens. You could walk it from Manchester city centre but it would take just over an hour which is too much for many people

                            The building itself was designed by one of these swanky archietects knocking around these days and won't be to everyone's taste. It's a modern building with lots of metal and concrete. The archietect says he imagined the world split into sections and he put them together. The three main pieces symbolise the three areas of combat, land, sea and air. I'm not usually a fan of buildings like this but for this museum it didn't bother me too much. Maybe that's because the museum is fairly isolated in it's position and the buildings that are around are mostly modern too so it dosn't look out of place. It has good accessibility for wheelchair users.

                            The museum is free to get in, which is great. They don't thrust donation boxes in your face at every available opportunity either so it made for a great, cheap day out. So, now you can see why I didn't mind the small car-park charge, I mean they have to make some money from somewhere.

                            I found the staff to be friendly and helpful. Many of them are volunteers which often means they are passionate about the museum content, so they are good for information you may need and such like. The museum attracts a lot of school trips and from what I saw they were good with children too.

                            The museum has plenty for kids to keep interested in. There are interactive computer screens, things to smell, things to play with etc. When I was there many of them were having great fun trying to find these 'stamp stations' where they would collect different stamps on their card around the museum. That was a good touch and kept them occupied whilst the adults read some of the more complex stories and exhibits.

                            The museum is well laid out and is split into two sections, one of the main hall which remains at a constant throughout the year. The other half is a specialist area, the exhibit changes every few months. At the moment it's all about POW camps which I found fascinating. There are many stories of prisoners making cameras with scraps they found around the camp, escape stories, that sort of thing. There are lots of photographs from the prisoners that smuggled their handmade cameras around which is great and gives you a sense of atmosphere. Seeing their faces as they went through the motions of prison life, the emotion on their faces as they were about to be freed etc.
                            There were many items that were interesting, such as letters sent whilst prisoners were in the camp. There was particular poem there that was beautiful and poignant that I hadn't known about before and indeed, it seems google is non the wiser. Unforunately I didn't have enough time to copy it down but I found reading poems like this in the flesh really special. There are things like handmade radios prisoners made, uniforms, medals, paintings the prisoners painted, tools they used, etc. All have extensive notes accompanying them to keep you informed. The information boards around the museum are not overwhelming and are easy to follow, which is good for adults and children alike. Adults will have to explain to children along the way as well though.

                            The main hall is set-up in chronological order of different wars. The main areas as you would expect are World War One/Two. There is a wealth of information here and items worth looking and reading about. I was particularly pleased to see Bernard Montgomery's famous cap with both an Army and RAF emblem on there. To think that was worn by him as he creeped across the desert, planned D-Day etc in was a really special moment for me. The museum also has vehicles and large weapons dotted around to look at, which is a good touch. However, despite there being many items I can't help but feel they could have more in there. Ok, they are limited on space to a certain degree but I did feel they could fit more in somewhere. Particularly vehicles, especially compared to the Imperial War Museum in London, which has a wealth of vehicles.

                            The museum is very dark inside but the exhibits are lit nicely. They can't have the lights too bright in them to protect the items inside. The darkness adds to the atmosphere of gloom that is present in times of war. In the main hall, this atmosphere is added to with lots of sounds going on but they aren't annoying and too loud. They act as background noise which is a nice touch. The main hall also has films shown innotively on lots of different walls. When I was there it was a series of recollections about the blitz, different images were on different walls so there was a lot going on. You are surrounded by these images so it was a good experience and certainly different to simply watching a television. I liked this a lot, the film was very well made and I liked looking all around and seeing something different.

                            There is a cafe/restaurant on site and typical of most museums, it is quite pricey. The choice of food isn't great either but it's not too bad. Me and my friend managed to find lunch we liked anyway. The cafe/restaurant has good views across the water and from what I worked out, the new BBC building.

                            There is also a shop on site which is good. It has lots of books, DVDs, posters, bits and pieces, postcards, flags, etc. All the books are sold at RRP so it's probably best to buy them elsewhere but I found a book there I had never heard about before that I liked so I took a note of it. The World War Two posters are very good and would look great on a bedroom/study/even living room wall as a nice quirky touch. They are reprints of the orginial posters put up around Britain during that war. There are also lots of things that children would like, which depending on your mood that day, is either a good or bad thing!

                            Another nice feature of the museum is it has a viewing platform. You go up in a lift to a platform high up and it has good views of Manchester and the surrounding areas. It's good seeing the old buildings of the old industry that was once there, mixed with the ever growing areas of development in the Salford Quays area. It is a small charge to go on the platform, I can't remember exactly but it was definitely under a pound per person. When I say it is high up, it's hardly the CNN tower but it provides good views nontheless. It's easy to find at the entrance.

                            A good museum for children and adults. Not perfect but well worth a visit.
                            I've been to a a fair few military museums around the world and for me the Imperial War Museum in London takes some beating, this museum is not as good as that but certainly holds its own against other museums.

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