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      17.09.2011 15:24
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      An iconic album!

      Michael Jackson - Off the Wall Review

      Off the Wall was released in 1979 and was the fifth studio album from the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson. The album was produced with the assistance of Quincy Jones and signalled the first real step away from Motown that Jackson took as a solo artist. Predominantly featuring a new mix of pop, soul and R&B, Off the Wall was very well received by critics and fans alike as Michael Jackson began to develop into the worldwide commercial success he was. Of the ten tracks featured on the album, four or five are instantly recognisable and widely regarded as classics and while there is a small amount of album filler, the lesser-known tracks on Off the Wall certainly contain some hidden gems deserving of equal praise.

      The album opens with Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough, an instant introduction to Jackson's new sound as more of a pop artist. The track is simple yet catchy and the slightly repetitive chorus works perfectly in moulding the track into one of Jackson's iconic songs. Rock with You is a much more soulful and ballad-like track and features an excellent vocal performance supported by a very simple backing track that really gives the song a smooth and relaxing feel. Track three, Working Day and Night, is a very catchy song that may have originally been seen as a filler track but - with it being used effectively during live performances on a lot of Jackson's later tours - has become quite well-known to die-hard fans of the King of Pop. Get on the Floor is the first of two filler tracks on the release but really helps accentuate the track that follows, and the album's title track. Off the Wall is widely regarded as one of Jackson's greatest hits, and for good reason. Great lyrics, an excellent vocal performance and the perfect mix of pop and soul helps Off the Wall become the staple of the album and the best indicator of Jackson's change in style. Girlfriend follows, and despite not being as well-known as some of the other tracks on the album, is certainly a hidden gem that could easily be regarded as a classic had Jackson not have gone on to be so much more successful. Its light and bouncy sound is supported by smooth and upbeat vocals to produce a very good track in the middle of the album.

      She's Out of My Life is one of the most emotional songs Jackson has ever performed and, despite being more well-known for the performance he would accompany the track with when on stage, Jackson delivers the track beautifully. At stages the track is almost spoken instead of sung and this adds to the uniqueness that you can expect from a Michael Jackson album and the technique is used perfectly. The slow and downbeat sound of She's Out of My Life is followed by I Can't Help It which counters the sadness of the preceding track with much more energy and pace and also acts as an excellent prelude to the very energetic ninth track on the album, It's the Falling in Love, which despite probably being a filler track is very well performed and certainly important to the overall feel of the album. Off the Wall closes with its tenth and final track, Burn This Disco Out. Very similar to Off the Wall, Burn This Disco Out has a very pop sound and features an excellent format of bouncy verses and bridges that build to the energetic choruses and though probably one of the lesser tracks on the release, it fades out to bring a very good close the album leaving you wanting to listen again and again.

      Off the Wall signifies an important stage in Michael Jackson's exceptional career for the transitional move he made from Motown to Pop. And while Jackson still allows his roots to shine through on the album, his new sound transcended him to new heights and made Off the Wall and worldwide success. The vast and varying amount of woodwind support playing behind Jackson's voice in a lot of the tracks gives the album a huge boost and really adds to the overall upbeat and bouncy nature of Off the Wall.

      Still widely available in a variety of formats, Off the Wall can be picked up in stores and online on CD for prices ranging from £3 to £10. Of course, it is now available to download via MP3 format for just under £1 per track on amazon.co.uk and iTunes and, somewhat amazingly, there is still reasonable demand for the LP versions of the album, the original format of Off the Wall.

      Overall, I cannot recommend Off the Wall highly enough, and while it is certainly not my favourite Michael Jackson release, I very much enjoy its overall feel and the excellent combination of varying styles; particularly the title track and She's Out of My Life, my personal favourites on the album.

      My Rating: 7/10

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      • Batman Begins (2 DVDs) / DVD / 40 Readings / 37 Ratings
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        16.09.2011 19:07
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        7.5/10

        Batman Begins - Film Only Review

        Introduction

        Batman Begins shot onto screens in 2005 and instantly became a worldwide success; moving away from the light and comical approach of the movies from the 90's, Batman Begins received critical acclaim and subsequent box office success for it's much darker portrayal of the caped crusader. Director Christopher Nolan's fresh twist on a classic figure not only appeased fans of the comic book series from which the movies were born, but also enabled the franchise to branch out and reach a new audience seeking a darker and more thrilling movie.

        The Story

        The film acts a prequel to the previous releases in the franchise and gives a deep insight into the character of Bruce Wayne as well as the creation of his alter-ego, Batman. Opening with a flashback scene of a young Bruce Wayne playing in the garden, only to fall down a bat-infested well, the seeds of the character's psychological trauma are instantly planted before we move to a more recent series of scenes showing the death of Wayne's parents, his inner struggle as he grows up travelling the world as an unknown and returning to his home in Gotham City. Another seed is planted to help explain the development and birth of the Batman persona as we see Wayne training in a variety of extreme elements and rituals to hone his skills and accustom his mind to becoming capable of both defeating his own fears and instilling fear in those he wishes to fight.

        Upon returning to Gotham City and finalising his transition into the Dark Knight, he begins to tackle the criminals running rampant in his home town with a great deal of success. But when his former mentor reveals his true colours and his plan to destroy Gotham, Bruce Wayne and Batman must co-exist to help save the city, his empire and his best friend...

        The Cast

        Christian Bale stars as Bruce Wayne/Batman and it is this movie that solidified him as a mainstream actor and propelled his career to new heights. Bale has a well-renowned ability and determination to delve deep into his character and his intense commitment to both the role and the movie is shown on-screen as he perfects the characters of both Wayne and Batman excellently, whilst also managing to effectively distance himself from recognition in other roles. Despite certain similarities between Bruce Wayne and Bale's role as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, both in appearance and lifestyle appearances, he manages to be unrecognisable to fans of both movies as being the same actor; as his intense and committed portrayal of Bruce Wayne and Batman is so believable.

        Co-starring in Batman Begins is Michael Caine, as butler Alfred, who is excellent and very memorable despite not really being a prominent character in the film. Gary Oldman stars as Jim Gordon, the well known commissioner from the previous movies, and Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes, Bruce Wayne's best friend and love interest. Liam Neeson and Cillian Murphy fulfil the more sinister roles on the film as evil mastermind Henri Ducard/Ra's Al Ghul and psychotic doctor, Jonathan Crane, respectively.

        The Good

        The movie is a welcome break from the traditional themes and approaches that Batman movies took in the 90's and I personally really enjoyed the darker and more sinister styling Christopher Nolan brought to the film. Christian Bale is excellent in his dual role and easily, for me, solidifies himself as the best Batman to date. Michael Caine is flawless again as the witty butler Alfred and the pacing of the movie is excellent from start to finish.

        The Bad

        While it is difficult to criticise such a well-received and successful film, my only problem would have to be the fact that there was no real "bad guy" character for Batman to fight against. While Liam Neeson and Cillian Murphy were excellent in their sinister roles, the lack of an iconic enemy to Batman decreased the plausibility factor somewhat in persuading the audience that there was a genuine threat to Batman.

        Conclusion

        All in all Batman Begins is a huge success for multiple reasons. The change in theme and approach allowed the movie to stand alone as an excellent alternative take on the Batman character, as well as create a new modern day franchise, and the excellent acting from Christian Bale and the supporting cast helped to win over new and old audiences alike. This, coupled with the excellent story-telling and direction of the film, has resulted in Batman Begins - and the sequel The Dark Knight - grossing hundreds of millions and ultimately saving the Batman character from the doldrums it was left in by the 1997 flop Batman & Robin.

        A must-see movie for fans of the Batman films, and highly recommended to those who haven't necessarily cared about the franchise to date as the completely different take on the story and character will leave you pleasantly surprised, I'm sure.

        My rating: 7.5/10

        (Appearing on ciao.co.uk under as mrolympia19 and dooyoo.co.uk as ebc90)

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          13.09.2011 21:20
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          7/10

          I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!!

          Foo Fighters - Wasting Light - Album Review
          Wasting Light is the first studio album released by the Foo Fighters since Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace in 2007. During the course of their multi-year hiatus from the recording studio, the band line-up changed slightly with the addition (or re-addition) of former band member Pat Smear; now contributing as a core member of the band full-time for the first time since 1997. Wasting Light features a variety of styles but all stay loyal to the rather unique sound the Foo Fighters have become so synonymous with. Legendary frontman Dave Grohl (lead vocals and rhythm/lead guitars), joins Taylor Hawkins (drums and backing vocals), Chris Shiflett (lead and rhythm guitar), Nate Mendel (bass) and Pat Smear (lead and rhythm guitar) for this electrifying album and the spearhead for the Foo Fighters' worldwide return to the rock world.

          "Bridge Burning"
          Following a simple yet catchy opening guitar riff, the first track on the album quickly bursts into the powerful first line "these are my famous last words"; superbly performed by Grohl who again screams the lyrics down the microphone whilst somehow managing to enunciate with crystal clear clarity. The chorus of the song is powerful yet calm in a strange blend that only seems achievable by the Foo Fighters; making track one an exciting introduction to the album and an understandable favourite, 7.5/10.

          "Rope"
          You've barely managed to catch your breath after the end of Bridge Burning and you are immediately hearing the equally catchy opening guitar riff of Rope, the second track on the album and first single release from Wasting Light. The verses are quite subdued, the bridge more upbeat with intermittent exclamations from Grohl signalling the step up the song is taking before the powerful chorus bursts into life. Rope is a song I thought I would grow to love, and while it is very good, I never did quite see it as one of Foo Fighters' best tracks and I think there are at least two better songs on the album. 6.5/10.

          "Dear Rosemary"
          Casual foot tapping and slight head-banging is unavoidable from start to finish with Dear Rosemary. Great lyrics and an even better flow to the song that quickly builds to the crescendo of hard rock that is the chorus. The vocals, guitar and drumming combine perfectly in this song and the chorus is undeniably brilliant. 8.5/10.

          "White Limo"
          White Limo is similar to Rope in the sense that it is a very popular track that I never quite got. While being excellent in showing the different musical styles the Foo Fighters can venture into with high levels of success, it is slightly too "heavy metal" for me in the verses and choruses; which mostly feature incoherency that you really struggle to piece together lyrically. The bridges are the best part of the track but unfortunately this is one I frequently skip. 5/10.

          "Alandria"
          Alandria switches back to the Foo Fighters' more traditional sound and is certainly more than just filler. The bridges and choruses are truly excellent lyrically and features brilliant vocal work from Dave Grohl which seems to be far more prominent than the guitar riffs than in other tracks. Very, very good. 7/10.

          "These Days"
          For me, the next five tracks represent the "album tracks" on Wasting Light and the filler that I have, so far, almost always skipped over. These Days is probably the best of the album tracks, and while the chorus is quite catchy I do find the verses a bit too repetitive. 5.5/10.


          "Back and Forth"
          Back and Forth is a good track for letting the music do the talking. With good guitar riffs and a very catchy "solo" towards the end from Shiflett and Smear, the track is certainly worth a listen but is, again, skippable. 5/10.

          "A Matter of Time"
          Deep into the filler tracks now and A Matter of Time is probably my least favourite track on the album. It just seems a bit lacklustre and half-hearted when you compare it to the first four or five tracks on the album. 4.5/10.

          "Miss the Misery"
          Miss the Misery is an interesting track as, for me, it takes a bit of a step away from the usual sound of the Foo Fighters and is very much a rock ballad. This is probably the dark horse on the album and a nice change of pace from a lot of the other tracks. 5.5/10.

          "I Should Have Known"
          A very calm opening that always reminds me of Oasis (for some reason) and it is not until halfway through the track that it becomes a bit heavier. A bit of a strange song but good nonetheless. 5/10.

          "Walk"
          The final track on the album, Walk, is an emphatically good finale to Wasting Light and probably my favourite track. Great lyrics and great pacing make the track very special and captures all of the various styles the Foo Fighters excel at. Quite an inspirational and uplifting track that builds to a very powerful ending; brilliantly performed by Grohl vocally. 9/10.

          The abupt end to Walk brings a fitting end to the album and the latest release from the Foo Fighters. While not the greatest studio release the band have produced in terms of an all-round package, it is my favourite in terms of some of the individual tracks that are featured. Dear Rosemary and Walk are easily my two favourites, while Bridge Burning joins them in becoming certainties for the bands next greatest hits release. The album keeps the core and traditional sounds of the Foo Fighters whilst also highlighting the development of the band through some slightly different sounds in Miss the Misery.
          The album is easy to obtain in stores and online with the CD ranging in price from £8 to £16 in stores and £5 to £18 online. I highly recommend Wasting Light to any and all rock fans and particularly recommend the first half of the album and Walk, the last track, to existing fans of the band. A solid album with some explosively good tracks throughout.

          7/10.

          (Also appearing on ciao.co.uk under the name mrolympia19)

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            13.03.2011 18:39
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            5/10

            I won't lie, I'm a much bigger fan of Cheryl Cole than her music so I'm not quite sure why i donwloaded her latest album, Messy Little Raindrops. After hearing her first single release from the album, Promise This, and being quite impressed, I felt the same sort of pattern would emerge as with her debut solo album. Upon hearing Fight For This Love, i downloaded 3 Words only to be largely disappointed with the majority of the tracks. With Messy Little Raindrops, however, I have found a fair few tracks that I enjoy listening to.

            Track Listing
            1. Promise This
            2. Yeah Yeah (ft. Travie McCoy)
            3. Live Tonight
            4. The Flood
            5. Amnesia
            6. Everyone (ft. Dizzie Rascal)
            7. Raindrops
            8. Hummingbird
            9. Better to Lie (ft. Augusto Rito)
            10. Let's Get Down
            11. Happy Tears
            12. Waiting

            Of the 12 tracks that form Cole's latest album, I have found that I have a 50/50 split opinion. I have found that Promise This, The Flood, Raindrops, Hummingbird, Let's Get Down and Happy Tears to be tracks i like with the remaining six (particularly the three tracks featuring other artists) to be ones I do not like so much and frequently skip. The tracks I like tend to be more ballad-like and I think that Hummingbird, The Flood and Raindrops feature the best vocals on the album and seem quite complex songs.
            Understandably, the album is widely available online and in store and prices range from £50 to £15, with amazon.co.uk offering the album for £7.99. Overall I think that Messy Little Raindrops is certainly a step up from Cheryl Cole's first album, 3 Words, and particularly enjoy listening to The Flood and Hummingbird. I would highly recommend the album to all Cheryl Cole fans and suggest this album over her first album for those who are unsure about whether to buy an album or not.

            5/10. ..

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            • Goodfellas (DVD) / DVD / 40 Readings / 39 Ratings
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              20.02.2011 14:12
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              Get the special edition

              Goodfellas was released in 1990 and has been widely touted as one of the best gangster movies to hit the big screen since the sensational Godfather movies in the 70's. Starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta, Goodfellas boasts a very strong cast line-up and combines an excellent blend of comedy and drama as we see, through his own eyes, the story of Henry Hill (Liotta). The movie opens with a brief introduction to each of the characters as we see a young Henry Hill join the lower ranks of the mafia and slowly begin earning both the trust of his superiors and a reputation as being a good earner. As the film develops, we see Hill form deep friendships with Tommy DeVito (Pesci) and Jimmy Conway (De Niro) and move deeper into organised crime and climb the ranks of the mafia family. As Henry becomes more and more involved, his personal life begins to crumble and his involvement in drug trafficking begins to stem his addiction to cocaine.

              Goodfellas is an excellent movie. The combination of gripping performances from the three leading actors and some excellent scenes of both dialogue and action produce an all-round masterpiece in the gangster movie genre. Liotta is superb, and has clearly prepared for the role well as we see his slow self-corruption take a hold of his mind as he becomes paranoid and scared for his life. De Niro is, as expected, excellent as the leader and looks and sounds every bit the part of the menacing gangster. Joe Pesci is in the best form of his career as the short-tempered but hilarious Tommy and contributes to nearly all of the film's comedic moments.

              This one-disc DVD version of the movie does not contain much in the way of special features or additional material; with only production notes and a trailer being included alongside the normal scene selection and interactive menus. Play.com currently stocks the DVD at £4.99, with amazon.co.uk offering an identical price. While the DVD will likely be slightly cheaper on eBay, I would highly recommend buying the 2-disc special edition version of the film as this contains more special features for only a slightly higher average price of £5.75.

              Verdict: Highly recommend the film, but get the special edition. 5 stars for the movie, 3 stars for the DVD contents.

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                19.02.2011 16:48
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                9/10

                THE LORD OF THE RINGS - DVD BOXSET REVIEW

                == Introduction - From bestseller to box office hit ==

                The Lord of the Rings is a series of books written by J.R.R Tolkien as the follow-up to his earlier novel, The Hobbit. The three volumes were developed into films in the early 2000's; experiencing worldwide success to the level where The Lord of the Rings trilogy probably sits close to the original Star Wars films as being amongst the greatest film trilogies of all time. The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring is the first of the three films and was first released on DVD in 2002, with The Two Towers and Return of the King following in 2003 and 2004 respectively. Several editions have since been released and this box set combines all three films in a fantastic 12-disc presentation packed with special features and excellent extended editions of the three movies.

                == Background ==

                The Lord of the Rings movies chronologically follow the battle for Middle Earth and the quest to destroy the One Ring. After being secretly forged in the fires of Mount Doom by the evil Sauron, the ring has the power within it to give the bearer unnaturally long-life, unlimited power and the potential to rule the world. After inheriting the seemingly forgotten ring, Frodo Baggins is informed by Gandalf the Grey that he must embark on a journey to Mordor, and destroy the ring and end Sauron's attempts to return and take over Middle Earth. The Fellowship of the Ring is created; combining a team of consisting of Man, Elf, Dwarf, Wizard and Hobbit to escort and protect Frodo in his quest to return the ring to the fires of Mount Doom.

                Amongst the Fellowship is Aragorn, a mysterious ranger and unknown heir to the throne of Gondor. Aragorn, along with Legolas and Gimli, soon become separated from Frodo, and his loyal friend Sam, and soon find themselves at the centre of a series of epic battles; attempting to protect to innocent cities of Middle Earth and quell the huge armies of both Sauron and the evil wizard, Saruman. After following Frodo and Sam along their path to Mordor, the mysterious creature Gollum reveals himself and vows to help the young hobbits to Mount Doom. As a previous bearer of the one ring, Gollum is haunted by his power struggle and battles with his own mind as he secretly attempts to lead Frodo and Sam into danger and take back the "precious" ring.
                Can Frodo finally end the power struggle between good and evil for the ring, and end Sauron's reign of terror over the lands of Middle Earth for good?

                == Cast and Characters - The inhabitants of Middle Earth ==

                Elijah Wood - Frodo Baggins
                Ian McKellen - Gandalf
                Viggo Mortensen - Aragorn
                Orlando Bloom - Legolas
                John Rhys-Davies - Gimli
                Sean Astin - Samwise Gamgee
                Christopher Lee - Saruman
                Sean Bean - Boromir
                Dominic Monaghan - Merry Brandybuck
                Billy Boyd - Pippin Took
                Andy Serkis - Gollum
                Liv Tyler - Arwen
                Cate Blanchett - Galadriel
                Bernard Hill - Theoden
                Hugo Weaving - Elrond
                David Wenham - Faramir

                == Movie Overviews - One ring to rule them all ==

                This special edition box set boasts extended edition versions of each of the three movies in the trilogy which gives the avid fan an excellent opportunity to see more to the movie than previously shown in both the theatrical version and original DVD releases. The "extended edition" tag is no casual title bestowed upon the movies to simply garner more revenue despite giving only a snippet of unseen material. In actual fact, all three films are extended by at least one hour with both extended scenes and completely unseen material. Not only will these please avid movie fans, but also those who have read the Tolkien books; with a lot of the additional material allowing the movies to delve deeper into the books with scenes that were originally cut for the theatrical releases.

                === The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring ===

                The trilogy begins with The Fellowship of the Ring. The film opens with a scene explaining the history of the ring before introducing the viewer to the Shire and its inhabitants, the Hobbits, as well as Gandalf. The key themes to the film involve the hobbits meeting Aragorn as he protects them from the haunting Black Riders, the forming of the Fellowship, the battle between the Fellowship and the creatures from deep within the Mines of Moria, the breaking of the Fellowship and the beginning of Frodo's inner conflict as he comes to terms with the task bestowed upon him.

                The Fellowship of the Ring is an excellent opening to the trilogy with a lot of the metaphorical groundwork being set for the later stages of the story. While not all of the detail from the respective book is transferred onto the screen, the film successfully outlines the history of the ring and brilliantly develops the key characters in preparation for their more individual and specific roles in the Two Towers and The Return of the King. While the first film lacks one of the large-scale battles that became one of many factors that contributed to the success of the movies, it does give an excellent primary insight into the main characters and the strength of the ring.

                I particularly enjoy the scenes involving the hobbits attempting to escape the terrifying Black Riders as they flee the Shire and being their quest, as well as the introduction of Aragorn and the battle at the end of the film as Boromir tries to protect Merry and Pippin from a horde of Orcs. 8/10.

                === The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers ===

                The Two Towers directly follows on from The Fellowship of the Ring and picks up where it left off with Frodo and Sam continuing on their journey to Mordor. The first half of the film sees Aragorn, Legolas and Gimili tracing the steps of the captured Merry and Pippin; following on the heels of the Orcs holding them captive. Eventually, they become embroiled in the first major battle in the trilogy in the battle for Helm's Deep. The key themes in the film involve the epic battle, as well as the return of Gandalf, the falling of Isengard, the development of the character of Gollum and introduction of Faramir (Boromir's brother) and the realm of Gondor.

                The Two Towers features excellent special effects for the battle scenes at Helm's Deep and really follows the inner torment of Frodo's mind, as the ring begins to take a hold of him, very well. Again, there are a few fairly important themes from the book that are not included in the film but this does not detract from the quality of the film and the excellent development of the story. The film is split into three stories; chronicling Frodo, Sam and Gollum's continuing journey, Merry and Pippin's captivity and Aragorn, Legolas and Gimili's involvement in the battle for Helm's Deep.

                My favourite scenes in The Two Towers include the introduction of Gondor and the character of Faramir, the development of Aragorn's path to the throne and, of course, the action-packed battle at Helm's Deep. 8/10

                === The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King ===

                The Return of the King again follows directly on from the previous film. Before the film starts, we see an introductory scene showing a flashback to Gollum's earlier life as a hobbit; where his friend finds the ring only for Gollum to kill him and take the ring into the mountains. Again, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli find themselves preparing for battle as they journey to Gondor; trying to summon an army capable of quelling the amassing Orc armies all over Middle Earth. Gandalf and Pippin travel to Minas Tirith to try and stop the city falling under the misguided leadership of its steward. Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam finally make their final approach and arrive at Mordor...

                The Return of the King somehow manages to out-do The Two Towers in terms of epic battle scenes and non-stop action; with the same principle of multiple stories being told at the same time again being utilized excellently. This film also contains the most additional material with an extended run time of over 4 hours!
                The third and final instalment in the The Lord of the Rings trilogy is certainly The Return of the King; with its great storytelling and epic battle scenes combining to present an all-round package that ends the trilogy perfectly. My favourite scenes have to be the return of Faramir to Gondor, Aragorn's ascent to Kingdom, Frodo and Sam's Orc disguises and, of course, the climax of the trilogy in Mordor. 9/10.

                == Acting and Performances - Heir to the Best Actor throne ==

                The Lord of the Rings is quite unique in the respect that Director Peter Jackson took the decision to deliberately avoid casting top Hollywood stars; this decision not only helps boost the character development across the three films but also makes the films even more impressive. There are a lot of characters, understandably, across the three films and almost all of the performances are exceptional.

                Elijah Wood delivers consistently good performances through all three films and I particularly enjoyed his presentation when showing Frodo's conflict and mental torture. John Rhys-Davies is excellent as the dwarf, Gimli and is frequently involved in delivering the small levels of comedy during the three films. Andy Serkis is perfectly cast as the creature Gollum; providing both the physical movements for the CGI-based character as well as the unique voice. My favourite performances, however, comes from Ian McKellen and, most of all, Viggo Mortensen. McKellen's portrayal of the wizard Gandalf is terrific and he really contributes to the success of the films with his superb presentation of such a unique character; he looks and sounds the part and is grippingly believable in the role as the all-powerful and wise wizard. Mortensen's performances as the character of Aragorn are easily my favourite. The combination of modesty and power displayed in his performances makes the character even more likeable than would have been had he taken the much simpler route of portraying a typical "hero" character. Mortensen's ability to captivate the audience both in battle and during calm, dialogue-heavy scenes is exceptional and he certainly delivers the performance of his career to date in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

                In terms of the supporting cast, my favourite performances came from David Wenham and Sean Bean. While Bean only appears properly in The Fellowship of the Ring (excluding additional scenes in the other two films), his performance as Boromir is excellent and he portrays the combination of good and evil excellently as he battles his emotions and finds himself torn between protecting the ring-bearer, Frodo, and taking the ring for himself. David Wenham (Faramir) is an actor I particularly enjoyed watching in The Two Towers and The Return of the King. I found his character very intriguing and actually felt more sympathy for him than Frodo; enhancing how impressed I was with Wenham's performance.

                == Special Features - Precious and plentiful ==

                The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition box set contains 12 discs; with four discs allotted to each film. The four discs for each film include two discs for the extended versions of the relevant film and two discs filled with bonus materials and special features. The special features are mesmerising, with hours upon hours of material provided combining audio commentaries, various documentaries, featurettes, music videos and much more.

                === The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring ===

                * Adapting the book into a screenplay and planning the film
                * Designing and building Middle Earth
                * Storyboards to pre-visualisation
                * "Weta Workshop Visit" featurette
                * "Atlas of Middle Earth" featurette
                * Interactive map of New Zealand
                * Art galleries
                * Audio Commentaries
                * Guided tour of wardrobe department
                * Footage from early meetings
                * "Bringing the characters to life" featurette
                * "A day in the life of a Hobbit" featurette
                * "Principal photography" featurette
                * "Scale" featurette
                * Behind the scenes gallery
                * Cast photos
                * Sound design demo

                === The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers ===

                * Adapting the book into a screenplay and planning the film
                * Designing and inspiration for locations in Middle Earth
                * Storyboards to pre-visualisation
                * Art Galleries
                * Sending actors to battle - preparing for sword fighting
                * Principal photography
                * Digital effects and "Massive"
                * Behind the scenes galleries
                * Cast photos
                * Post-production feature

                === The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers ===

                * Introduction from Director Peter Jackson
                * Introduction from Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan
                * "JRR Tolkien: The Legacy of Middle Earth" documentary
                * "From book to script - forging the final chapter" documentary
                * Abandoned concept: Aragorn battles Sauron
                * "Designing Middle Earth" documentary
                * "Big-atures" documentary
                * Costume design documentary
                * The Peoples of Middle Earth gallery
                * The Realms of Middle Earth gallery
                * "Home of the Horse lords" documentary
                * Middle Earth Atlas
                * "Cameras in Middle Earth" documentary
                * Production photos
                * "Weta digital" documentary
                * "The Mumakil Battle" interactive feature
                * "Editorial: Completing the trilogy" documentary
                * "Music for Middle Earth" documentary
                * "The end of all things" documentary
                * "The passing of an age" documentary
                * "Cameron Duncan: The Inspiration For Into the West" documentary
                * "DFK6498" short film
                * "Strike Zone" short film

                As you can see, the special features that are included across the 6 discs of bonus materials are huge. Although I have so far been unable to watch every item on the above lists, I have seen most of the major special features with my personal favourites being the "Abandoned Concept" feature; something that was both highly interesting and very new to me, the cameras in Middle Earth documentary and, most of all, the "Massive" documentary which details the creation of the Orc armies we see on-screen in The Two Towers.

                == Pricing and Availability ==

                As already noted, there have been various DVD releases since the films were shown in cinemas at the turn of the millennium, with 4-disc and 6-disc box sets preceding this mammoth extended edition box set. While blu-ray versions of the films have now also been released, I do not see me ever replacing this box set due to the sheer volume of special features and the already-impressive visual presentation on the DVD's.
                This 12-disc box-set originally retailed for between £45 and £75 and at the time this was viewed as being excellent value. Now, the box-set is available online at both amazon.co.uk and play.com for £17.99; representing excellent value for money and only £1.50 per disc! I am yet to see this particular box set in some retail stores such as HMV, with the smaller collections and the individual DVD releases being featured more prominently on the shelves.

                == Conclusion - My Thoughts ==

                Overall, The Lord of the Rings is an excellent trilogy of films and certainly a rival to the original Star Wars trilogy. I won't attempt to debate which of the two universally-popular series of movies is the better as I feel that they are far too different to even justify a comparison. I do, however, feel that The Lord of the Rings is a revolution in modern-day film and I find the huge collection of acting talent involved in the movies most impressive. The fact that Peter Jackson has been able to take a previously unknown set of novels and make them instantly successful movies worldwide with a relatively unknown cast is superb; with both his own directing career and the careers of many of the actors featured in the three films being boosted beyond belief.

                I would highly recommend The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition box-set to all. For those who have not seen the films, this is an excellent box set as you will be able to see the additional materials to get a more in-depth insight into the stories as well as surely enjoying these wonderful films. For those who have seen the theatrical or original DVD releases, I would particularly recommend buying this box set due to the inclusion of the previously un-seen footage and extended scenes. I was overwhelmed by how much depth and detail the additional scenes added to the story of all three films and cannot recommend this collection higher!

                == Box Set Details ==

                (Source: Amazon.co.uk)

                * Format: PAL, Widescreen, Subtitled
                * Language English
                * Region: Region 2
                * Number of discs: 12
                * Classification: 12
                * Studio: Entertainment in Video
                * DVD Release Date: 10 Dec 2004
                * Run Time: 681 minutes

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                • Apple iPod Earphones / Headphones / 40 Readings / 37 Ratings
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                  16.02.2011 23:05
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                  Accept no imitations!

                  Apple's products have brought revolutionary change for the past ten years in the electrics market; none more so than the iPod. The huge range of portable music players that are available today provide a perfect product for all potential users; those who want lots of music, those who want lots of movies, those who want lots of pictures, those who want everything! With so many shapes, sizes, designs and colours to choose from, so many options and so many more for each option, it is easy to be overwhelmed by Apple and it's products. But through all the differences, through all the latest gadgets and crazes and through all the madness, one thing has stayed the same. One thing that can join all of the products together and remain consistently resilient, efficient and integral to all Apple products. That one thing...is the Apple iPod earphones.

                  This resiliency and efficiency has become much more clear to me recently. After unfortunately losing the original earphones I received with my iPod Nano a couple of years ago, I went down the route of minimal expenditure for something I thought would be indifferent in the grand scheme of things; at the end of the day, as long as they work...they're good, right? Wrong, the £3.99 I spent to replace my original earphones provided me with a product that caused me nothing but annoyance. The Apple-impersonating earphones I bought appeared perfect, with a variety of removeable mesh ear pieces being provided so that everybody can find the most comfortable fit for them. In reality, the mesh ear pieces did nothing but act as a spring; no sooner had you put the earphones in your ear, they would be popping back out again. When my replacement earphones "unfortunately" broke, I was again on the look-out for some new ones. I bit the bullet and bought official iPod earphones. It was only now that I was in a position to realise how superior the original earphones are.

                  On face value, the earphones are simple and plain. A white plastic coating around the end of the wire extending outwards into the circular mould that surrounds the small speaker to be placed inside your ear. There are also "L" and "R" letters on the left and right earphones respectively so that you can ensure maximum comfort at all times. This simplistic design, however, is what gives these earphones the edge. Without any intricate extensions, attachments or mesh to get in the way, the earphones slide easily and comfortable into position in your ear and, more importantly, stay there. No longer do I find myself cursing and giving up on listening to my music for extended periods due to inferior earphones constantly falling out of my ears.

                  There is also a marginal superiority with Apple's iPod earphones (compared to my experience with two other competitor's products) in terms of sound quality, too. While the sound coming from the earphones is not prevented from being audible to others around you, there does seem to be a more clearer quality to the audio and this is something I have noticed particularly when switching back to the original earphones.

                  Pricing is a key factor in the arguments against Apple's accessories; with the original earphones no exception. While prices have dropped slightly since the first few iPod products were released, stores still sell the earphones for prices ranging anywhere as high as £24.99. Amazon.co.uk is currently selling the same earphones, however, for an impressive £4.36; representing great value for money.

                  In conclusion, I genuinely feel that, in this case, the originals are best and Apple's iPod earphones cannot be bettered. I do, however, think that paying top price for these earphones is not worthwhile but anything up to the £10 at today's prices represents a good buy and will certainly be a worthwhile investment in comparison to cheaper imitations.

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                • The Grinch (DVD) / DVD / 28 Readings / 28 Ratings
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                  15.02.2011 20:59
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                  A Christmas classic

                  The Grinch - DVD Review

                  Now I know it's way too early to be seriously thinking about Christmas, but after clearing a few things recently I came across The Grinch DVD and, for some reason, felt compelled to watch it in the middle of February...

                  The Grinch is a movie-remake of both the cartoon release from the 60's and the original story by Dr Seuss entitled "How The Grinch Stole Christmas". Released in 2000, The Grinch closely correlates to the original versions of the story; but with added attention and interaction with Whoville and its occupants, The Who's. This light-hearted Christmas comedy was a great success upon its release at cinemas early in the new millennium and continues to be a family favourite ten years later.

                  A heavily made-up Jim Carrey stars as the green, Christmas-despising Grinch and delivers an excellent performance that is certainly the biggest contributor to the film's success. His comic face contortions and over-acting are perfect for the character and he frequently delivers great one liners and jokes that make you laugh every time. The remainder of the case is relatively unknown to this day with Taylor Momsen co-starring as Cindy Lou Who; the small girl who sees a little more to The Grinch than meets the eye.

                  The film does feature an excellent narrative voice-over from Anthony Hopkins, who begins the tale as the film opens and we see Whoville and The Grinch's mountain for the first time; and then pops up frequently throughout the film to continue the narrative.

                  In terms of special features, The Grinch contains a series of outtakes and interviews, deleted scenes, cast biographies, trailers and featurettes, music videos and a whole host of other fun activities which really adds to the DVD's value for money.

                  The DVD is currently priced at £3.29 on amazon.co.uk and prices can range anything up to £10 in stores. The Grinch appears to be a Christmas film for the ages and one of the few modern day movies that can be regarded as a classic. A personal favourite of mine, and one I don't think I will ever grow too old for!

                  Some of my favourite quotes from The Grinch:

                  "if you utter so much as one syllable, I'LL HUNT YOU DOWN AND GUT YOU LIKE A FISH!...if you'd like to fax me press the star key"

                  "Even if I wanted to go...my schedule wouldn't allow it"

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                    14.02.2011 16:31
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                    9/10.

                    == MICHAEL JACKSON...THRILLER ==

                    == Introduction ==

                    Thriller is said to be the track that will define Michael Jackson's career, and the namesake album contains several songs that must certainly come close to being regarded as his all time best work. Released in December 1992, Thriller contains nine tracks that at the time solidified Jackson's status as the King of Pop; such as Billie Jean, Beat It and Human Nature.

                    The album features collaborations between Jackson and some other top artists, including Paul McCartney, and received worldwide acclaim; reaching the number one spot in countries all over the world and multi-platinum status across 4 continents.

                    == Track Listing and My Thoughts ==

                    === 1. Wanna be Startin' Somethin' ===
                    "I said I wanna be startin' somethin', you got to be startin' somethin'"

                    The album opens with this fast-paced and catchy track that, while not being one of Jackson's greatest hits, is instantly recognisable and features great vocal skills. A great upbeat song to start to the album, 6/10.

                    === 2. Baby Be Mine ===
                    "I need you night and day so baby be mine"

                    A slower track that has ballad-like verses with a great 80's feel to it. The chorus is very catchy and really makes the song for me with a great instrumental backing, lyrics and vocals. 6/10.

                    === 3. The Girl Is Mine ===
                    "Every night she walks right in my dreams"

                    The Girl Is Mine is an excellent duet with Paul McCartney featuring great lyrics and a very smooth and soulful backing track. The song is very slow but still upbeat and the collaboration between the two artists seems very natural and this produces an excellent track. The track ends with a spoken word conversation between Jackson and McCartney which adds another level of uniqueness to the song. 6/10.

                    === 4. Thriller ===
                    "You start to freeze as horror looks you right between the eyes, you're paralyzed, 'cause this thriller"

                    The first of the big guns on the album and possibly the biggest song of Jackson's career for a variety of reasons. This track is unique in so many ways and is very difficult to describe. Luckily for me, it probably needs to explanation with it being one of the most well-known tracks of all-time. The eerie pop song features excellent vocals, great lyrics and an excellent rhythmic beat that combines to make the song addictive, overwhelmingly catchy and superbly good. 9/10.

                    === 5. Beat It ===
                    "Beat It (Beat It), no-one wants to be defeated"

                    Beat It opens with the guitar riff - courtesy of Eddie Van Halen - that defines the song and develops into the high energy track combining powerful vocals and a catchy underlying beat that has helped establish Beat It as one of Jackson's most recognisable and popular hits. 8/10.

                    === 6. Billie Jean ===
                    "Billie Jean is not my lover; she's just a girl who claims that I am the one"

                    For me, Billie Jean is a track that I feel can easily rival Thriller as being a track that can epitomise Jackson's excellent career. As well as being one of the songs that really put him on the map, it has successfully stood the test of time and is frequently heard on radio stations and in clubs worldwide. Unbelievably catchy with great lyrics and an excellent vocal range beautifully performed by Jackson. 9/10.

                    === 7. Human Nature ===
                    "Looking out, across the night-time, a city winks a sleepless eye"

                    Another big track that really helps to explain why this album became so popular. Human Nature is excellent from start to finish and the amazing high notes that precede the chorus and the verses alike are beautifully performed by Jackson in what has to be one of my favourite tracks from his career. 8/10.

                    === 8. P.Y.T (Pretty Young Thing) ===
                    "I want to love you, pretty young thing"

                    A song that can stand alone as one of the greats but is somewhat overshadowed by the top tracks featured earlier on the album. Very upbeat and catchy throughout. 6/10.

                    === 9. The Lady In My Life ===
                    "I will love you more each day, 'cause you will always be the lady in my life"

                    A very slow ballad to end the album, featuring beautiful lyrics and all round excellent performance vocally. The song combines simplistic and soulful tones during the verses with a more upbeat chorus that work together greatly to produce this terrific end to the album. One of my personal favourites from Jackson's lesser-known releases. 8/10.

                    == Critical Acclaim and Sales Records ==

                    From its original release through to the present day, Thriller has garnered exceptional critical acclaim worldwide with it being heavily regarded as a defining release in the music industry and forever a legacy and tribute to Jackson's musical genius. Upon its release in 1982, The New York Times recognised the album's importance in both reaching racial equality and developing Jackson's career, noting that "it is as hopeful a sign as we have had yet that the destructive barriers between white and black music may be breached again" and "most important of all, it is another signpost on the way to Michael Jackson's own artistic fulfilment". Over the years, there have also been numerous statements regarding Thriller as being an album that changed the music business.

                    Thriller has set many records since its release nearly 30 years ago. As of 2010, it is quoted as having sold between 63 and 110 million copies worldwide. As well as going multi-platinum in over a dozen countries - including 11x platinum in the United Kingdom - Thriller also continues to break records with an estimated 130,000 copies still being sold in the United States every year.

                    Re-releases of the album through special editions over the years have also boosted sales figures and helped re-introduce Michael Jackson's music to older fans and open it up to younger fans and the new generation. Upon Jackson's untimely death, sales figures were also widespread with many hundreds of thousands of copies of Thriller and his other releases being sold as well as Jackson setting the record for being the first artist to receive one million downloads in a single week. With the 30th anniversary of the album's release approaching in 2012, expect to see another surge in sales and popularity again.

                    == Pricing and Availability ==

                    Thriller has been widely available since its release and has transitioned from vinyl records to compact discs (CD's) to downloadable MP3 content with ease and with increasing popularity. The CD is still as popular in record stores across the world and retails for between £3 and £20 depending on availability and the selected store. Thriller can frequently be found in HMV as part of a 3 for £10 offer along with many other Michael Jackson releases and is currently priced at £4.52 on amazon.co.uk.

                    Due to the vinyl records becoming something of a rarity today, they have recently been found to have an ever-increasing value. Immediately after his death, vinyl copies of the album were selling on eBay for hundreds of pounds with a signed copy selling for many tens of thousands. Today, signed copies appear to be highly sought after and still extremely valuable with many thousands being a minimum expectation when being put up for auction; something worth noting if you happen to have a copy and did not realise it's true value.

                    == Conclusion ==

                    It is unbelievable to think that Michael Jackson has been gone nearly two years and it is a great tribute that his releases continue to move from generation to generation with equally high regard. It is equally shocking when we consider the fact that Jackson was only 24 years old when Thriller was released; I struggle to think of any performers who can even stake even half a claim that at such a young age they were able to not only produce such unique and well-received music, but also a defining piece of musical history and a legacy that will continue to hold, surpass and break records for as long as they exist.

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                      13.02.2011 00:01
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                      5.5/10

                      Weetabix Minis - Chocolate Crisp Product Review

                      - INTRODUCTION -

                      Weetabix, the central product produced by Weetabix Limited, was first invented in Australia in the early 1930s and have since become a global market leader with the manufacturing plant in Kettering currently exporting to nearly 100 countries worldwide. Over the years, the original Weetabix product has become synonymous with providing long-lasting energy throughout your day with the phrase "somebody's had their Weetabix this morning" frequently being heard following someone carrying out some form of impressive action. In recent years, the product range featuring the Weetabix name has expanded; with Chocolate Crisp being one of three flavours to currently form the "Weetabix Minis" range.

                      - THE PRODUCT -

                      Weetabix Minis - Chocolate Crisp are one of three flavours currently available in the "Minis" range; along with Honey and Nut Crisp and Fruit and Nut Crisp. All three products in the minis range come in 450g boxes and all boast the wholegrain carbohydrates that have become a staple of all the Weetabix products. The Chocolate Crisp minis contain 82% wholegrain wheat, with the chocolate chips contributing 12%. The rest of the product is comprised of flavourings, salt and iron.

                      The chocolate crisp minis are understandably different from the original Weetabix in terms of taste, but are also very different in terms of texture, too. Whereas original Weetabix can sometimes be frustratingly brittle and crumble at the slightest touch, the chocolate crisp minis are substantially tougher. The wholegrain wheat seems much more fortified in this product which creates a much crunchier texture. When adding milk, the minis do not soften up much either; this means that there is quite a lot of bite to them and I personally found this to be a bit of a negative. Upon adding more milk, the minis do soften up more and so this alleviates the problem if you do not like your cereal to be too crunchy.

                      The chocolate chips inside the minis are very similar to those you would find in a chocolate chip cookie or biscuit and have a very rich and distinct chocolate smell. When tasting the minis dry, the chocolate chips actually taste quite synthetic but when mixed with milk the taste improves substantially and aligns itself with the pleasant smell.
                      Nutritional Information

                      The chocolate chips in this product add a nice dimension to the original Weetabix taste and the positive aspects of nutrition are not sacrificed to bring this addition to fruition. A typical 40g serving will provide 28.4g of carbohydrates, of which less than a third are formed from simple sugars; meaning the large majority of the carbohydrates are complex carbohydrates that will digest slowly - providing that long-lasting energy we turn to Weetabix for. The minis are very low in fat, despite the addition of chocolate, with only 2.1g per serving. In total, a typical serving provides 155 calories. This will be increased with the addition of milk but - when using low fat or skimmed milk - the protein and carbohydrates added by the milk will also contribute towards maintaining your energy stores.

                      The following is a full nutritional breakdown of the Chocolate Crisp Minis 9per 40g serving):

                      Energy (Kilojoules) 655kJ
                      Energy (Calories) 155kcal
                      Protein 3.8g
                      Carbohydrate 28.4g
                      (of which sugars) 8.6g
                      Fat 2.1g
                      (of which saturates) 1.0g
                      Fibre 3.8g
                      Sodium 0.03g
                      Salt Equivalent 0.07g

                      - PRICING AND AVAILABILITY -

                      Weetabix Minis are stocked in most large supermarkets such as Asda, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Somerfield and Co-op as well as other independent stores across the UK. Prices range significantly from store to store but the cheapest I have been able to find the products are around the £1.75 mark in Asda; who are also currently promoting the products in a 2 for £3 offer in most of their stores. As already stated, the minis range are all stocked in the 450g size and currently do not have any other sizes available.

                      - FINAL THOUGHTS AND CONCLUSION -

                      Overall, I think that the Weetabix Minis range has been quite hit and miss. While I do think that the Chocolate Crisp minis are certainly the best of the three available flavours in the range, I do think that there are a few negatives. Firstly, I find the texture of the minis are little too tough which puts me off slightly. I also think that the minis get quite bland after eating the first few in the bowl, despite the nice flavour of the chocolate chips. As a result, I have frequently used the minis as more of an accompaniment; adding a small number of them to my usual bowl of original Weetabix.

                      I think that the pricing of the Chocolate Crisp minis can be a bit off-putting, with the relatively small box size being priced higher than some larger boxes of wheat cereals. While Asda's current offer does improve the value for money aspect slightly, I do not consider the minis to be a regular on my shopping list and instead buy them occasionally and use them sparingly.

                      In conclusion, Weetabix Minis Chocolate Crisp are a nice change to the long-standing staple of the Weetabix product range and have a very nice chocolate taste. I would recommend that you try the product once but I personally don't think I could justify a recommendation to buy them consistently and frequently; in saying this, I give this product my first "undecided" rating in the recommendation field.

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                      • Diet Coke / Soft Drink / 34 Readings / 33 Ratings
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                        10.02.2011 11:13
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                        Diet Coke > Coke

                        As a child, when having the opportunity to have one of the many fizzy beverages available to us, I would always declare that "Diet Coke is horrible"; insisting there was an obvious and significant taste difference between Diet Coke and its more sugary counterpart, the original red Coca-Cola. That must have been a child thing, most likely being that I, like many other kids, saw the word "diet" as being equivalent to "not as fun", "uncool", "weak". In actual fact, Diet Coke is far from being a weak product compared to the original and, now that I have tried it, can say that there is very little in the way of a difference in taste. As an added benefit, and as the name suggests, Diet Coke is better for you, too!

                        Diet Coke is now one in a long line of products that have been released by Coca-Cola over the years and has also been repackaged and re-released in a range of different variations and flavours in recent times. Despite this, it still appears as though the original two, Coca-Cola and Diet Coke, remain the market leaders with many millions of customers echoing this theory.

                        The major difference between Coca-Cola and it's diet counterpart is that Diet Coke contains very little in the way of sugar and calories. In actual fact, Diet Coke appears to contain nothing in terms of the usual "enemies", carbohydrates, sugar, fat and calories. In a 500ml bottle of Diet Coke, there are only two calories. Despite this great feature, the beverage does not, to me, sacrifice any of the great tasting features that the original product has; giving those who want to watch their caloric intake or reduce their kid's sugar intake a great-tasting drink without affecting their goals.

                        In terms of pricing, bottles and cans of Coca-Cola products - like all others- have increased significantly over recent years. Before Jamie Oliver's healthier schools project changed the menus of school dining rooms, I can remember the Diet Coke in the bottle vending machine being priced at 70p and the cans being 50p. Today, bottles are priced anywhere up to £2 and cans up to £1.20. The lower end of the price ranges are around the £1.20 and 75p mark but this is limited to certain discount stores.

                        Overall, and having taken on a more intelligent outlook with which to base my opinions on products compared to when I was very young, I can honestly say I prefer Diet Coke to the original drink. While there is a marginal difference in taste between the two, I think the vastly reduced sugar and calorie content in Diet Coke completely counters any minimal reduction in the quality of the taste and I would highly recommend this product to all!

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                          07.02.2011 14:29
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                          8/10

                          Russell Brand returns to the stand-up stage with his 2009 tour, Scandalous. Directly following the "Manuelgate" scandal where Brand and Jonathan Ross were subject to intense media scrutiny following supposedly offensive behaviour towards Faulty Towers' Andrew Sachs. As a result, Brand bases a lot of his material on the scandal with hilarious consequences. Brand's unique comedy style candidly approaches the sensitive subejct matter with both honesty and humour; with his efforts in picking faults and holes in the media's vast array of criticisms providing excellent entertainment.

                          The DVD was filmed at London's O2 Arena during Brand's sell-out tour and released in November 2009. Whilst the majority of the show is based on the scandal involving Brand and Ross, some new topical issues are present and discussed/ridiculed excellently. The crowd interaction in this show is excellent, with Brand frequently commenting and trading remarks with some fans in the audience, which adds another dimension of hilarity to the hugely successful tour. The DVD runs for around 90 minutes and, while it is full of great moments and entertainment, I think it could have easily been a bit longer and there was undoubtedly some material that didn't make the final cut.

                          Scandalous is by far Brand's best stand-up DVD yet and he really feeds off the larger audience very well. In terms of pricing, Amazon currently offers the DVD as new for £5.93 with Play.com offering a similar price of £5.99. In stores, expect to pay anything up to £20. Overall, I would highly recommend this DVD to any fans of Russell Brand, 8/10.

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                          • The Specialist (DVD) / DVD / 31 Readings / 31 Ratings
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                            06.02.2011 17:46
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                            7/10

                            Sylvester Stallone stars as Ray Quick in "The Specialist", a film about an ex-secret service explosvies expert who now plies his trade as an undercover assassin working secret and lucrative assignments for the rich. When May Monroe (Sharon Stone) contacts Ray regarding a job offer involving taking out the mafia family behind her parents' deaths, a long and sinister trail of events unravels putting Ray, May and the entire mob family in great danger. Along the way, Ray also realises his evil ex-partner (James Woods) is working against him for the mob.

                            The Specialist, released in cinemas in 1994, features slick yet powerful action, explosive drama and a strong story; combining to produce an excellent movie that will be enjoyed by all. Stallone gives a great performance as the tormented Ray Quick and Sharon Stone is excellent as the traumatised, yet very suspicious, and vengeful May Monroe. Eric Roberts co-stars as Tomas Leon, son of mob lord Joe Leon (Rod Steiger), the sly and brash up and coming mobster who makes sure he gets everything he wants.

                            The DVD is available both online and in retail stores, however I would recommend buying online for two reasons. Firstly, the DVD may take a while to find in stores with many stores stocking minimal quantities. Secondly, online stores such as eBay and Amazon are currently selling the DVD for prices ranging between £3 a £6. In terms of special features, The Specialist contains minimal extras; with a trailer and production notes being the only notable additions to the film itself.

                            I would highly recommend The Specialist to all action/drama fans. The film has a lot more depth than a lot of action films and has a strong story and excellent performances from the entire leading cast. Overall, I give the film a 7/10.

                            On a side note, look out for the quite irrelevant yet hugely-entertaining scene that takes place on the bus near the start of the film; featuring Stallone beating up a group of punks disrupting the other passengers.

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                              05.02.2011 18:28
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                              United!

                              Manchester United's shirts have undergone fairly major transformations every year for the past 4 years in comparison to the days of only a slight secondary colour change being a factor with which to differentiate between 3 seasons' of kit. Following on from the unveiling of the home strip featuring the classic blood red colour that has been synonomous with Manchester United Football Club for decades, the 2008-09 kit was released in white, one of a handful of colours that seem to have been on rotation for use as the official away colours over the past 20 years. Featuring the (then) recently-acquired club sponsor AIG's compaby logo as the centrepiece, the simple yet sharp-looking shirt is both elegant and effective.

                              The predominantly white shirt features a very nice blue and red combination around the neck and collar area, with the traditional club badge and Nike logo featuring on the right and left (respectively) sides of the chest area. The shirt is very, very light, and with Nike's latest dry technology incorporated into the weaving of the shirt fibres, even the most tight-fitting of styles of shirt provide excellent air flow around the body and significantly reduces the effects of perspiration over the upper body.

                              Upon its release, this shirt retailed for between £40 and £50. Now, the shirt can be purchased - after some searching - in stores for around the £20 mark and is more freely available in various online stores for a similar price. eBay also has quite a few second-hand shirts available (mostly in size: L) ranging in price from £5 to £15, depending on a variety of factors from numbering to condition.

                              Despite being over three years old now, the shirt somehow manages to avoid the appearance of an old or out-dated look and is a must for any Manchester United fan looking to collect shirts and show their undying loyalty to the Red Devils.

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                            • Jerry Maguire (DVD) / DVD / 22 Readings / 21 Ratings
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                              05.02.2011 17:18
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                              A great film

                              Jerry Maguire was released in 1996 and stars Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger and is an excellent comedy-drama about a top football agent who, after a overwhelming emotional meltdown, realises the morals of the industry are totally wrong and strives to make big changes. After spending all night writing a memorandum documenting what changes need to be made to bring longevity and morality to his agency, Jerry Maguire (Cruise) distirbutes his suggestions to all staff at his workplace; needless to say the founding principle of "fewer clients, less money" is ridiculed and rejected by all and, subsequently, Magurie finds himself unemployed. Now, with an opportunity to implement his new-found ideology into his work, he starts from scratch and goes into business for himself. With only one client, Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.) - an energetic, outspoken and unproven footballer, the odds are stacked against Maguire and the pressure becomes immeadiately apparent. With the help of his one employee - and love interest - Dorothy (Zelwegger), Maguire begins doing all he can to promote and improve his one client and successfully take on the agency giants who are constantly trying to outsmart and out-do him.

                              The film features a great combination of comedy, drama and romance as Maguire desperatly tries to make any money he can whilst incorporating a far less greedy and unethical approach to conducting his business than he had previously adopted. The acting is very good and the interactions between Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr. are terrific. While there are a few minor plotholes, the film provides light entertainment and an excellent, thought-provoking story.

                              The DVD is widely available in stores and online for prices ranging from £2.95 (Amazon) to around £15. There are a decent set of additional special features included with the film; including an audio-commentary, a making-of featurette, cast interviews and a documentary looking at the character of Bob Sugar in the film. While not of the highest quality and being very underwhelming, the special features are quite in-depth and do add to the value for money.

                              Highly recommendable to all looking for light-entertainment that can make you laugh and cry as well as inspire you. 6/10.

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