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Title: La Vita è Bella (Life is beautiful) Year: 1997 Director: Roberto Benigni (Subtitles) Intro: I've been a member of dvdsontap.com (now known as lovefilm.com) for a while now, and this has been waiting in my queue for ages. My boyfriend was a bit sceptical when i told him that it was a comedy about the holocaust (what i'd heard from a friend) but we decided to watch it anyway. I'd just like to point out that i usually wait a while before posting reviews of films that i have seen recently, but this one just made me want to tell as many people as possible about it, so i apologise if the review isn't up t my usual standard, having not had the time to digest the film properly. Plot: Guido, a jewish man, goes to the city to see his uncle, and discover the delights of city life. While there, he finds romance and excitement in the form of Dora. later, tragedy strikes and Guido and his son must find a way of escaping the horror that is a Nazi death camp. Overview: I was going to section this, but I'm not sure how without trivialising it. I hope you don't mind if i liberally abuse my usual structured style. Firstly i have to say that i have not seen a film like this in years. I have not cried at a film since i was seventeen, I though I'd grown out of it and become tired and cynical in my old age (!) but apparently i haven't - this had me weeping buckets. But then i suppose that's because it's not meant to. There's not a Spielberg-style manipulation here, I just found it almost painful to watch. Sorry, I'm getting carried away, I'd better start again. the film starts off innocently enough, with guido and his friend driving through Italy in search of his uncle. The early scenes, and the ones in the city are good, but not particualarly spectacular. I found the subtitles intrusive, because I feel that if i had known Italian the scen
es would have been even more funny. I say 'even' because if you're a fast reader there is a lot of appreciation to be gotten from the early scens. If not, don't worry because there is more than enough here to make the point that this is a lighthearted man with a heart of gold who has fallen in love. however, the coupling is not adored by everyone, and the earlier suggestions of anti-semitism come to the fore as guido and his son are shipped off to a concentration camp. the difference with this film though, is that, unlike 'Schindler's List' and other films attempting to show how bad the concentration camps were, this one actually succeeeds. The approach it takes is like no other film I've seen. Guido gets through the later part of the film by describing their occupation f the camp as a game. he has an explanation of everything which makes it seem like fun. This sounds like it's trivialising the whole situation, and I'm sure that in the hands of any other director it would be, but somehow benigni makes you feel in a way that films rarely achieve these days. It's hard to describe without giving too much of the plot away, but somehow the coping strategy of guido and the constant upkeeping of spirits despite what is thrown at him, makes this film more unbearable than any 'realistic' account of what went on in these places. The fact that someone would care so much for this child to be so unselfish in his attitudes and actions is incredible, and such an original approach. The first part of the film, despite featuring some slapstick comedy that i found to be a bit silly in places (i suppose a bit chaplinesque) was completely necessary as far as character development goes, something which i was a bit wary about from the start. The performances of the actors are hard to judge with a subtitled film i find, but did not find them bad in any way. loved the fact that benigni overplayed the cheerf
ul father role, making everything sound exciting, so that at times even i found myself believing him that everything was going to be ok. The scenery is gorgeous too. The part that struck me being the shot at the station as the train to the camp is pulling away. no pathetic fallacy for benigni: Life 'is' beautiful, even when perhaps it would be better for it not to be. Conclusion: What else can i say: the direction was superb, the script was entertaining at worst, genius at best, and at the end both my boyfriend and i were in tears (and he is really not one to cry at films). I would recommend anyone who has sat through histoy lessons thinking "yes the holocaust was bad, I'm bored now" to watch this film, and also anyone else. it moved me in a way i didn't think was possible with a film, and made me feel good about myself that i had been moved. what more could you ask for in a film? This is going straight in my top ten.
Title: Tron 2.0 Platform: PC Genre: Sci Fi First peron action game Developer: Monolith Price: £14.99 (Amazon.co.uk) Background --------------- The film tron was made back in 1982 by Disney (but let's not hold that against it) starring Bruce Boxleitner (of Bablyon 5 fame), Jeff Bridges and David Warner. It signified a landmark in filmmaking, being the first film to use computer generated imagery for a large proportion of the film. Due to the use of black and white cinematography and rotoscopic techniques, along with painstaking early cgi, the look of tron was, and still is unique. For those of you who have never seen the film, the plot is a computer programmer gets "digitized" into the inner workings of a pc by an angry control program. The film follows Jeff Bridges' attempts to escape and defeat said program with the help of Tron, a program written by his friend Alan in the real world. The game is essentially the sequel to the film that disney never made due to its relative lack of success at the time. Only a large cult following has enabled the game to go ahead. Interestingly, there are rumours abounding on the internet (esp aintitcool.com) that there is a possibility of an actual film sequel, but that disney are waiting to see how well the game sells before committing themselves to anything. Plot ----- The game is set 20 years after the film, with the player taking on the role of the young Jet bradley (son of Alan) working for the company Flynn inherited at the end fo the film. The company it seems is on the verge of a hostile takeover by FCon (Future control industries - sounds ominous don't you think?) and you must (after being digitized) work inside the various computer situations to stop them from basically owning th einternet. Basically the plot doesn't make sense, especially to those who have any sort of clue about computers, but suspension of di
sbelief can be a wonderful thing, and i was willing to overlook this. Unfortunately, due to the lack of depth in the stroy, i found i was unable to engage with it on anything other than a 'i need to finish this game' kind of level. Upon starting i was well up for total immersion, a la max payne, but the story simply doesn't have enough meat to it. The enemy characters are porrly fleshed out, so that i was utterly apathetic when defeating them at the end, and the supporting characters are few and far between. Gameplay ------------ I'll start with the sinle player as it's the one most people i reckon would buy the game for. There are basically three different elements: fighting, puzzle solving and light cycle racing. The fighting is very authentic, with disc combat being the most important. The controls (once they been reconfigured from the game defaults, which, frankly, defy all logic) are fairly intuitive, and once you get the hang of it it's very satisfying being able to deflect other programs' discs and then smack them in the head with a big spinny thing (maybe that's just me though?). There are other weapons that you can use, but i found that usually (on the easy setting anyway) that a disc was pretty much all you need, unless you need to go into sniper rifle mode. The puzle solving however, was a whole different kettle of sprouts. When i wasn't wandering around for ages, looking for the 'permission' to get into a certain area (basically a key which you must 'download' from boxes scattered around the place), i was falling into a giant chasm because the jumping puzzle was just too hard. When will game designers learn that platform jumping puzzles simply don't work with 3d fps? Light cycle racing though was entirely brilliant. Although i think it's hardly suprising since this aspect of the game is based on the part of the film that was supposed to b
e a video game, i found it to be highly enjoyable, and also really difficult! The concept is srt of a cross between racing and snake. On a grid, you must force your opponent to crash into the trail left by your light cycle, which takes the form of a wall. Although i wasn't very good at it, i did find the whole thing very addictive, and not at all frustrating as with some other parts of the game. Yet why have i only given the game 3 stars if i am such a fan of the film? Well, the problem with it is that it was at the same time both too easy and also too hard. Playing on easy mode, the only thing it seemed to make a difference to were the bosses, which in my opinion ended up being easier than most of the rest of the game, particularly the final challenge! The parts with simply a large number of enemies were far too difficult in my opinion, and playing on any other difficulty setting merely made it impossible for all but the superhuman computer geek to manage. The addition of unlimited saves though also made the game to quick to complete. There's no sense of avchievement when you know that if you die you only have to go back a few seconds. I found the same difficulty with Max Payne, but at least with that game you get an option to play a game with limited saves when you've completed the main game, but alas not with Tron. i also found the game a little repetitive. The puzzle solving was at best mundane, and at worse frustrating. After defeating the 20th enemy of the same type i was looking for something new, but that wasn't to come for at least another couple of levels. Especially when they started to say things like 'stop executing escape protocol!' - although that did make me want to kill them more! There is also a single player light cycle mode, in which you must complete certain races to unlock various grids, colours of cycles etc. It's mildly entertaining but not really worth buying the game for. The m
ultiplayer mode is also available ove the internet. This can either be combat arena, or light cycle grid. I couldn't get mine to work, but i have seen a friend playing it and it looked quite fun. One word though: Halo. Why would anyone want to play any other multiplayer deathmatch game? The mind boggles... Looks ------- One thing i would have to say is that the game developers must have looked at the film with a fine-toothed comb (yes, i know i'm mixing my metaphors, but please don't send that to Scott Adams people!). They've managed to capture the unique look perfectly, particularly the light cycle races. There's also hardly any slowdown, unless you're running a thousand other windows programs at the same time (it's perhaps one of those 'resource-hog' programs which feature in the game!). The action is smooth and flowing, as well as the scenery being very nice. The scenes range from the inside of a regular computer, to a PDA, to an 'internet city' which is a very nice change from the single location of the film, and an extension which has worked very nicely. Conclusion ------------- So all in all, I'd reccomend this game to fans of the original film and 3d fps games only. I don't think there's enough here to satisfy someone who doesn't like either, and i think if you are only a fan of one you would be disappointed. While the humour for computer geeks (the 'progress bar' in the internet city actually made me groan out loud! Yes, it's a place to drink.) may keep their attention for a while, it isn't really enough to carry a game, and i feel if more attention had been paid to gameplay rather than the look and atmosphere of the game, it could have ultimately been more successful.
I'm not a great fan of board games, since my boyfriend is a complete control freak and can't stand losing. He therefore takes them far too seriously. However, having played this game at a friend's house i decided to buy it as I had such a good time playing it. If you read the rest of the review you'll find out why... What's in the box? -------------------- 1 Board 1 spinny thing 1 Set cards lots of paper for writing answers on counters instruction leaflet Gameplay: ------------- Players take it in turns to be the 'reader' who has the card with the questions and definitions on it. He/she then reads out the question (which isn't really a question, but a word/title/abbreviation) according to which category their counter is on (this couldbe a film tile, word, obscure law, famous person or abbreviation) and the other players then write down what they think the answer is. For example, if the category is films, the reader might read out "The attack of Mad Fat Sheila 2" (not a title from the game, but one very similar to the one we had whilst playing the other night!). The other players write down a quick synopsis of the plot and give their answers to the reader. The reader writes down the correct answer and then reads out that and the 'bluffs' in random order, so as to conceal who has written what answer. The other players then must try to guess which is the correct answer. Players get one point if another player thinks their bluff was the correct answer, two points if they correctly spot the right answer, and the reader gets two points if no one identifies the right one. Players then move around the board and the first one to get to the end wins. There is also a rule about some sort of spinner which moves you back or forwards, but I didn't really understand that rule so we played it without and the game seemed to work quite well without this e
lement of luck. It will probably take about 2 hours to play with a decent number of people (between 5 and eight is ideal), so plan ahead. Is it fun? ----------- Actually, despite the rules being rather complicated and thus difficult to get the hang of, once it gets going the game is great. The secret is that all that has been provided are the tools of the game, how funny, rude or skillful you want to be depends on the players. You get the boring people who always try to imitate the right answer, the comedians who try to be funniest, and then people who just write rude words to be funny. The trick of the game is to account for this and thus the actual right answers are a real mixed bag. This means that picking the correct answer is more a skillful psychological deduction dependent on how well you know your friends than an attempt to 'figure out' the game. Conclusion: --------------- There isn't really a great deal more to say, other than that this a a really fun game. Its suitable for ages 13 and upwards in my opinion, due to the slightly adult nature of some of the definitions, and the complex rules. It can also be good as an ice breaker at a party as it makes for lots of laughs. So all in all I'd definitely recommend this one for christmas parties (although I know it's a bit late for that now) and other get-togethers. Hope everyone has a great christmas, and a wonderful new year, whatever you are up to!
Product: Knorr Sizzle n' Stir (Korma and Balti varieties) Price: Around £1.89 (although i got 2 for this price as they were on special offer) Serves: Two Intro: ------- I've tried many many curry-in-a-jar type efforts lately and have largely been disappointed. They are usually either too hot or too sweet, or too salty. I've never been able to capture that proper restaurant curry taste (although maybe it's more the alcohol-fuelled atmosphere that adds to going out for a curry than the food itself!). Packaging: ------------- The packaging is very different to normal products of this type, as it consists of two jars of sauce held together by a plastic wrapper. This is good because it avoids any problems of spillage (a la sachets) and it's secure so you're unlikely to find that they have separated in your shopping bag. It's also cool because the smaller jar is very cute (don't ask me why, i think I'm a bit strange) I have washed mine out and it is now awaiting a useful purpose. Product: ----------- The idea of the two jars is that you fry the meat (I used chicken breast fillets) in the richer sauce in the smaller jar, which contains special spices and oils, to give it flavour, then you cook it in the korma sauce in the big jar to give the curry sauce. Apparently this makes the curry "more authentic", since the meat willbe more infused with flavour than if you have simply cooked it in a sauce. So i opened the little jar, spooned it into the pan, and was rather surpised to find that it looked like what i can only describe as glitter glue. The oil was all shiny and it had all separated out, so i felt like decorating my christmas cards with it (the smell put me off!). however, it did smell tasty, and coated the chicken nicely. An advantage of this is that i didnt have to use any other oils, although i did suspect that there was more oil in there t
han i would have used without, making it rather unhealthy. The same went for the balti version, which looked and smelt identical. I think that in fact the spices are probably the same for each variety, and they just change the sauce in the big jar (aha! Knorr have been rumbled with their money-saving schemes!) Once the chicken was cooked through, i then poured in the korma sauce. This also smelt lovely, although it did look a bit odd (a bright yellow colour). The same with the balti, although that did at least look like something edible. So, now for the taste test. Korma: This was nice at first, having an authentic korma taste, although i did find it a little sweet (not in a "Dude Where's My Car?" kind of way...) and sickly after a while. I think that's due to the fact that I'm not a great fan of Korma. I did find the taste a little artificial though, as if too much sugar had been put in deliberately to pacify those who don't really like curry that much. It was definitely edible though, and people who do like Korma a lot would probably really like it (my boyfriend did). So, 3/5 for the Korma. Balti: Now this is more like it - a curry which is actually tasty and hot. Hard as it is to believe, finding a curry which is edible and spicy is nigh on impossible in the supermarket. most of them are either so hot you can't taste anything, or it will taste like it was only allowed to look at the spices before being put into the jar. But no, this curry was tasty, and just the right "heat". The spiciness wasn't off-putting, but simply added to the taste. It still had that artificial aftertaste though, so 4/5 for the blati version. Conclusion: ------------- The novelty value of the tiny jar might wear off after a while, so how does the end result compare to other curries in jars? Well, for the extra 30p or so, it's not that much better than others that you
can get (Sharwood's for example, are very good without all the messing about with separate jars) and the environmental issues of having separate jars make it a little dubious. however, the standard of curry was very good,a dn i did like the idea of frying the chicken is the "glitter glue" first as it made me forget that i was cooking convenience food. The taste was good, but again, not that much better than the others, even with all the hassle. So, if this is on special offer i would recommend grabbing a couple of jars, otherwise stick to the other kind. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all by the way! :o)
(apologies to those that have already read this review, I had a few compalints about it being in the dreamcast section so I've moved it here.) for those people who have never played any worms games, here's a quick guide to the basic workings of the game: in the basic game (the one played the most often), each player (either human or computer) starts off with a number of small cartoon worms belonging to his/her team, arranged randomly on a two-dimensional landscape. using various weapons (e.g. grenades, bazookas and other more comical varieties) and utilities (ninja ropes, parachutes), the objective is to kill the other teams' worms. the worms start off with a number of energy points (usually 100, but this is customisable), and different weapons will take off a certain amount of these, depending on how well the shot is aimed. a worm dies when it gets to 0. worms games in general: there are few computer games around with such a strong mix of playability and lifespan. puzzle games that you can keep coming back to tend to get boring after a while, and ones which are actually fun to play always seem to be over too soon. worms games however have none of these drawbacks. their strength lies in the different ways in which you can play. socially, the game is great fun. you can name your own worms, so that you can identify with them, getting justifiably annoyed when someone kills them, and triumphantly shouting when your team is victorious! it makes a change from the nerdy lan-networked games such as unreal which separate people rather than bringing them together for multiplayer gaming. alone, worms can be fun too, with earlier games offering battles versus varying skill levels of pc opponents, and single player missions offering something with a bit more strategy involved. the graphics have always been cartoony, never complex, which can make the games look a little cutesy, but also means that they aren
9;t heavy on system resources. Worms Armageddon: So, if worms is such a simple concept, how can so many versions be justified? And what does this version have that the others don't? Quite simply, in my opinion, Worms Armageddon is the pinnacle of the Worms concept. It extends the basic concept to become more challenging, and varied, without taking away the factors that made it so enjoyable in the first place. Modes: Multiplayer: This is basically the same as all the other versions of worms. With a few features added. There are new weapons (the homing pigeon being my favourite), new options (e.g. the water level rising and worms becoming "sick" in sudden death mode and it does look a little slicker. You are still limited in the number of worms you can play with at once, but this can make things more challenging. The landscape editor is a lot easier to use than earlier versions too. Mission mode: This mode has various missions which you have to complete (duh!), with various goals. Goals range from collecting particular crates, to killing particular worms, and the missions go form fairly easy to very hard quite quickly. I couldn't do these missions without a walkthrough from the internet, but I'm sure that there are people out there who could. Anyway, they are a great deal of fun when you do do them, and completing them can unlock secret options like more ammo for certain weapons, or making the worms bleed when they are hurt (Yuk!) Deathmatch: This mode is where you face harder and harder matches against computer teams to improve your rank. It starts off very easy, with eight of your worms against eight low-skilled PC opponent worms, but the number of your worms goes down, while the number of opponents and their skill level goes up. At the moment I'm ranked Hero, but I can't seem to win the match with just 2 of my worms and 12 worms of the h
ighest skill level! Anyway, it?s great fun watching your rank go up, and winning against all the odds. Training: This single player mode starts off with what it calls "basic training" which is basically an introduction to the game. It shows you some of the cool things you can do with the various weapons and utilities you might not otherwise have found out, and is required to be completed before you can get access to all of the missions. It's fairly easy though. Once basic training is completed, you can access the advanced training modes. These are; sheep racing, rifle range, artillery range, ninja rope training, and euthanasia. Sheep racing is fun to start with, but it's really hard. Getting a gold medal will get you a new weapon to play with, but this will only come with lots of practice. The idea is to fly a sheep around the screen collecting crates to accumulate time on the clock. The ore time, the better the medal. Rifle range, ninja rope training and artillery range are the same sort of idea, with gold medals getting you secret options. Euthanasia though is great fun. The idea is to kill as many little old ladies as possible with the various weapons at your disposal. While it might sound a bit bad taste, it's very funny and quite easy. I really liked this training mode as it made me laugh. A lot. Overall: As I?ve said, in my opinion worms games are some of the best games to be created for the PC, and Worms: Armageddon is the best of the lot. The customisable aspects of the game lend it an individual edge (you should check out my ?Withnail and I? sound scheme!) and the fact that the multiplayer version is just on the one PC makes it very playable as a social game. The only drawbacks I can think of are potentially the online multiplayer mode, which may have been superceded by other versions (e.g. worms world party, which I haven?t played), and the fact
that the graphics, being 2d aren?t what many modern gamers might expect. However, I just don?t see how worms 3d can be as much fun. For me, the cartoony Worms is the classic favourite, and they couldn?t really improve on it if they tried. And they have. All hail the concrete donkey!
I got an xbox for my birthday last year and was pretty pleased with it (Halo being in my opinion the best game ever invented). However, my main quibble was the price, given that it was, at the end of the day, just a pc in a box. I then spotted the DVD movie playback controller in HMV for £19.99. I thought this was very steep for a small thingy that plugged into one of the controller ports and a remote so I didn't get it (as well as the fact that i owned no DVDs at that point). The two things happened: 1) a friend explained to me that Microsoft weren't allowed to package the xbox with the DVD playing gadget since each DVD player must have a licence and that they needed to be sold separately for this purpose. 2) I won a DVD in a competition. Obviously the second one was the most important factor in making my decision, since a quick chat with a friend is unlikely to convince anyone that microsoft would avoid an opportunity to screw people out of money, but i digress... So, to cut a short story even shorter i bought one. Packaging: -------------- The packaging contains a small black thing with a infra-red reciever which picks up signals from the remote, and the remote itself. It's a horrid green colour, but fits with the xbox. It's impossible to open without scissors and a lot of patience/strength. Product: ----------- The small dongle thingy is fairly sturdy, although if you don't keep it attatched to the xbox it's easily lost since it's about the size of a bourbon biscuit! I tseems ot pick up infra-red signals fairly well, just like any other reciever built into a tv or other such device. The remote could be better though, although a good shape to hold, it feels very light and cheap. It has all the regular functions of a normal DVD remote though, and I've never had any trouble with it. The buttons are shapes relevant to their functio
ns and are all easy to press without catching the others (handy for someone with long fingernails like me). They also glow in the dark, so the remote is very easy to use if you've turned the lights off to make your own home cinema! Oh, and it only takes one AAA battery. Picture and sound: ---------------------- Using the RF adapter I've got for my xbox, the picture is slightly fuzzy, but I reckon that's due to a crap TV (which is over 10 years old) rather than the player. I've tried it with the RF cable and sound and picture quality are good. they aren't what you'd get with some sort of swanky new SONY DVD player for £300, but they aren't £280 worse. Overall --------- The only problem i've had with this is the choice of films to play on it! I seem to have hit a bad spot with my choices from Blockbuster of late, and as such the poor xbox has been subjected to such horror as "Just Married", although i did make up for it with the astounding "Equlibrum". I would recommend that anyone with an xbox on a budget, that doesn't already have a DVD player buy this, since it is a very standard DVD player for very cheap. It saves money on buying a separate DVD player, saves space and confusing wires due to the lack of having a separate machine, and therefore can be a very tidy addition to anyone's entertainment equipment. If anyone is thinking of buying an xbox, some of the packages in places like HMV offer a movie package with the concole, this DVD controller, a DVD and a movie tie-in game. While this may sound attractive, most tie-in games are pretty bad (e.g. spiderman) so i wouldn't bother unless you have convinced yourself that the game on offer is any good. Go for halo all the way!
You wake up face down on the bed, able to taste the many flavours of your pillow, with no idea how you got there... You feel like Homer Simpson, having to cajole your brain into doing anything at all: You: 'Brain, what shall I do to cure my hangover?' Brain: 'What? I'm asleep, this is all your fault, you're on your own with this.' You: Pleeeeeeese?! Brain: 'I've heard water is good' Not even water will stay in your stomach for longer than ten minutes (Brain: 'Mwah ha ha ha ha!'). Getting to some sort of semi-conscious state requires near-military planning and focus: e.g. 'if i drink a litre of coke, then eat a teaspoon of salt, inject myself with liquid carbohydrates and stand on my head to improve blood flow, i might just live to see Neighbours' Unfortunately you can't think straight and come up with crazy plans to cure your hangover -I think my best one has to be a computer game of scrabble to 'wake up my brain' (Brain: 'you utter utter bastard - oooh, triple word score!') your response to light would get you a part in Buffy, if it weren't for the fact that you're currently too ugly to qualify as a vampire extra... Everyone else suddenly looks extra healthy - as if they have suddenly discovered the elixir of life. They also remind you of this by constantly shouting at you and smiling at your agony. Enough jollity. Lets face it, we're not focusing on prevention here, since anyone with the foresigh to drink water before bed isn't drunk enough to have a proper hangover anyway, but I suppose i had better offer my wisdom on the subject as i believe I have discovered the best hangover cure of them all - Coke. (The liquid fizzy stuff, not the 'other' stuff!) It has to be fresh, from a can if possible, and ice cold. Don't worry about the fact that it will be painful, burning your throat
and making your eyes water, that's just the sugar and caffiene working their magic. If you can stomach it, drink as much as possible, wait half an hour, go for a walk and you will be able to face the world. If cannot face either of these prospects (especially as you are throwing up) then Dr Esther's expert diagnosis is that you are way too hungover to do anything and may as well spend the rest of the day in bed, because you aren't going to achieve anything useful that day. Water is overrated, it tastes horrid. If you can't take anything fizzy then drink squash mixed with water - something like ribena. this will give you the hydrating effect of water and also much-needed sugar. If you're going to work be careful of 'hair of the dog', it does work but if you were out late then you may still have alcohol in your system and going out half cut probably isn't the best way to improve your promotional prospects. mind you, however many showers you can bring yourself to have you're still going to stink of alcohol all day so perhaps calling in 'sick' would be a good idea! but the best hangover cure by about a zillion, squillion miles (that is a number, if you don't believe me try and count to it, you can prove me wrong if you don't get there...) is sleep. If you really are that hungover then just go to sleep. This has the advantage of letting your body repair itself, while giving you a resptie from the other symptoms. So, in conclusion here is Dr Esther's all-time hangover cure: On waking: 1/2 glass of water, drunk slowly (to prepare your stomach for the onslaught. 1 paracetamol (if you have a headache) 1/2 litre of coke (or lots of COLD cans) 1 cup of tea Something fried, something salty, or something sugary for breakfast. Fry-ups are ok, as are beans on toast, or anything with ketchup like scrambled eggs. A hot shower. Throughout
the day: Keep drinking coke to keep tiredness at bay and keep you alert. More paracetamol if necessary. Carbohydrate-rich lunch (a nice sandwich with mayo - yum!) Later on: An early night. Sleep really is the best thing to get rid of your hangover, particularly if you don't want to extend your symptoms into the next day. If you drink again tonight you really are screwed. Hope this is useful to everyone. I speak with the voice of experience. :o)
Now, before I start, I would like to point out that while I wouldn't count romantic comedy as my /favourite/genre of film, one of my all time favourite films is 'When Harry Met Sally'. So I'm not some sort of cynical mean person who can't stand 'feelgood' films. Therefore I hope you don't dicount this review as being unfair for that reason. Now, onto the review proper: Details -------- Title: Love Actually Dir: Richard Curtis Written by: Richard Curtis Starring: Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Martine McCutcheon, Bill Nighy etc... The Plot ----------- Love, Actually is a 'multiple storyline' film. This means that it follows the stories of lots of different characters, without necessarily intertwining them so that the film forms a coherent whole. There are eight different 'couples' all of whom are involved in some sort of experience to do with love. There is the Prime Minister falling in love with the tea lady, the father-son relationship, and the failing old marriage among others. The characters are all tenuously related, and the coincidental 'bumping into' each other forms many of the films links between its plot lines. But is it any good? --------------------- No. It isn't. It's really bad. It's REALLY bad. Sorry, just had to get that off my chest. The 'multiple plotlines' gimmick of this film is its strength (in the marketing people's eyes) but it's also its weakness. Following lots of different characters makes the film varied, and keeps the audience's attention (for a while), but it means that you can't get to grips with any of the characters. While the running time (over 2 hours) is excessive for a film in this genre, Curtis manages not to go into any depth with any of the storylines, reducing all of the characters to thin stereotypes,
and all of the storylines to predictable cliche. Hugh Grant does his usual turn as watchable English man, but in an utterly unconvincing Prime Minister role, Colin Firth is more serious, McCutcheon is (surprise!) a cockney, and Chris Marshall reprises his 'My Family' role as a likeable idiot. While the performances aren't dreadful, in fact there's nothing wrong with them, one gets the feeling that that's because the actors didn't have to do a great deal. Because the script gives no depth to any of the characters, there not being time for any background information, the actors simply have to turn up. They can't get into the roles and give them any real character because they simply don't get the opportunity. Now, I know Richard Curtis isn't known for his originality, or his depth, but I did like Notting Hill etc. Now while Love Actually isn't the same sort of film, i would have expected some sort of the same level of comedy. But that's pretty weak too. We have to resort to Hugh Grant being the Prime Minister dancing around number ten and getting caught by one of the staff. Oh no. How embarassing. To watch. All this aside though, I thought all of this in the first half hour. It really wouldn't have been so bad if the film had been a normal length. I really thought i was going to like it at first. Then the ending started. Sorry, endingS. There are 8 storylines. That means there are 8 endings. At least seven of them are happy. I'm sorry, maybe the producers and director thought that after being bored to tears by upper middle class English stereotypical arseholes people would be really entertained by seeing them all live happily ever after at tedious length. Maybe it's just me. But maybe it isn't. I've just heard they're releasing "Christmas is all around" (from the film) as a Christmas single in the UK. Someone
kill me now please.
(I know this review is PC-oriented, but the games are virtually identical, so I thought I'd review it here, rather than add another pointless category.) For those people who have never played any worms games, here's a quick guide to the basic workings of the game: In the basic game (the one played the most often), each player (either human or computer) starts off with a number of small cartoon worms belonging to his/her team, arranged randomly on a two-dimensional landscape. Using various weapons (e.g. grenades, bazookas and other more comical varieties) and utilities (ninja ropes, parachutes), the objective is to kill the other teams' worms. The worms start off with a number of energy points (usually 100, but this is customisable), and different weapons will take off a certain amount of these, depending on how well the shot is aimed. A worm dies when it gets to 0. Worms games in general: There are few computer games around with such a strong mix of playability and lifespan. Puzzle games that you can keep coming back to tend to get boring after a while, and ones which are actually fun to play always seem to be over too soon. Worms games however have none of these drawbacks. Their strength lies in the different ways in which you can play. Socially, the game is great fun. You can name your own worms, so that you can identify with them, getting justifiably annoyed when someone kills them, and triumphantly shouting when your team is victorious! It makes a change from the nerdy LAN-networked games such as unreal which separate people rather than bringing them together for multiplayer gaming. Alone, worms can be fun too, with earlier games offering battles versus varying skill levels of PC opponents, and single player missions offering something with a bit more strategy involved. The graphics have always been cartoony, never complex, which can make the games look a little cutesy, but also means that they ar
en't heavy on system resources. Worms Armageddon: So, if worms is such a simple concept, how can so many versions be justified? And what does this version have that the others don't? Quite simply, in my opinion, Worms Armageddon is the pinnacle of the Worms concept. It extends the basic concept to become more challenging, and varied, without taking away the factors that made it so enjoyable in the first place. Modes: Multiplayer: This is basically the same as all the other versions of worms. With a few features added. There are new weapons (the homing pigeon being my favourite), new options (e.g. the water level rising and worms becoming "sick" in sudden death mode and it does look a little slicker. You are still limited in the number of worms you can play with at once, but this can make things more challenging. The landscape editor is a lot easier to use than earlier versions too. Mission mode: This mode has various missions which you have to complete (duh!), with various goals. Goals range from collecting particular crates, to killing particular worms, and the missions go form fairly easy to very hard quite quickly. I couldn't do these missions without a walkthrough from the internet, but I'm sure that there are people out there who could. Anyway, they are a great deal of fun when you do do them, and completing them can unlock secret options like more ammo for certain weapons, or making the worms bleed when they are hurt (Yuk!) Deathmatch: This mode is where you face harder and harder matches against computer teams to improve your rank. It starts off very easy, with eight of your worms against eight low-skilled PC opponent worms, but the number of your worms goes down, while the number of opponents and their skill level goes up. At the moment I'm ranked Hero, but I can't seem to win the match with just 2 of my worms and 12 worms of the highes
t skill level! Anyway, it?s great fun watching your rank go up, and winning against all the odds. Training: This single player mode starts off with what it calls "basic training" which is basically an introduction to the game. It shows you some of the cool things you can do with the various weapons and utilities you might not otherwise have found out, and is required to be completed before you can get access to all of the missions. It's fairly easy though. Once basic training is completed, you can access the advanced training modes. These are; sheep racing, rifle range, artillery range, ninja rope training, and euthanasia. Sheep racing is fun to start with, but it's really hard. Getting a gold medal will get you a new weapon to play with, but this will only come with lots of practice. The idea is to fly a sheep around the screen collecting crates to accumulate time on the clock. The ore time, the better the medal. Rifle range, ninja rope training and artillery range are the same sort of idea, with gold medals getting you secret options. Euthanasia though is great fun. The idea is to kill as many little old ladies as possible with the various weapons at your disposal. While it might sound a bit bad taste, it's very funny and quite easy. I really liked this training mode as it made me laugh. A lot. Overall: As I?ve said, in my opinion worms games are some of the best games to be created for the PC, and Worms: Armageddon is the best of the lot. The customisable aspects of the game lend it an individual edge (you should check out my ?Withnail and I? sound scheme!) and the fact that the multiplayer version is just on the one PC makes it very playable as a social game. The only drawbacks I can think of are potentially the online multiplayer mode, which may have been superceded by other versions (e.g. worms world party, which I haven?t played), and the fact that the graph
ics, being 2d aren?t what many modern gamers might expect. However, I just don?t see how worms 3d can be as much fun. For me, the cartoony Worms is the classic favourite, and they couldn?t really improve on it if they tried. And they have. All hail the concrete donkey!
Don`t listen to the techie snobs around you, I`ve tried many many mp3 players, and come across many different opinions, after careful consideration though, I always come back to musicmatch. But anyway, before i get to the main bulk of the review, here's the science bit - concentrate! Name: Musicmatch Jukebox (newest version is 8.1 i think) System requirements: Pentium Class 300MHz processor or better, Windows® 98 SE/Me/2000/XP, 128 MB RAM, 50 MB hard drive space (400 MB recommended for radio usage), video display card, soundcard, Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 or later (Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5 required for use of Music Downloads, Radio or MX services). Features: MP3, WMA, WAV encoder, CD burner, music library, radio stations, volume levelling etc Where to get it: Free (basic) and paid (advanced) versions available at www.musicmatch.com Now down to the nitty gritty. Firstly MMJB has everything that media player and winamp (its main competitors) have, and more! The media library is well organised, and fully customisable. Like media player you can search in particular folders, or throughout your pc, for files to add to the library, and you can choose whther to add an item whenever you play it or not - a useful tool when you are looking at sound file son the internet and don`t want your library clogged up with things you`re never going to hear again. The track tagging tool is very powerful, and in the plus version you get a `super-tagging` option where MMJB will look up track info based on the filename. You can also add artwork, lyrics and notes to your mp3s with ID3 tags - they look very pretty displayed in the window next to the track name. The CD burning is good, having a less complicated interface than nero and media player, although i suspect it may be of slightly lower quality. The radio stations are ok if you have a fast connection, but can be very slow - although separating it by genre seems
to be quite effective and means you only get the music you want to hear. You can even get radio stations in the free versions, although track skipping is limited and there are a few adverts. The volume levelling tool is pretty much the same as in media player and very slow - but it works so i can`t really complain. Once you`ve got the bulk done, it only takes a few seconds to volume level another track you`re adding to your collection so it`s not a great hassle really. However, the main advantage of MMJB is also its downfall. The skins are all well-designed, and make the interface intuitive and easy. No skins suffer from the problems of media player ones, where you can`t see the buttons are supposed to be, or winamp, where the addition of user-designed skins can make it look ugly. The buttons are always clearly visible and easy to use, whether you want a large ugly player, or a small discreet one (there is a mini-player mode where just a few buttons are on show so you can pop it in the corner of the screen whilst doing something else). Visualisations aren`t its strong point either. Someone used to the hundreds of different visualisations provided by winamp and media player to download is going to be disappointed - there a just a few standard ones. Over all though - what MMJB lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. The problem with winamp is that it relies too much on the novelty value of being able to make your own skins - while MMJB reduces this number of customisable options to make sure that each and every copy is easy to use. What it lacks compared to media player in my opinion, is the ability to play other formats (avi, and mp4 for example), but it is marketed as a music tool - so that`s not really a disadvantage! I`ve been using this program for years, having tried the rest i always come back, and I`d recommend it to anyone - whatever the size of their music collection!
Title: Day of the Triffids Author: John Wyndham Pubished: 1951 I picked up ithis book in the library the other day simply as something to read whilst waiting for a friend in a coffee shop. As it turned out i got a lot more than the mildly diverting sci-fi that I was expecting! "Day of the Triffids" begins with the main character, Bill, waking up in hospital after treatment for a Trifid sting. Upon removing the bandages covering his eyes, he realises that he has had a very lucky escape. Most of the rest of the world has gone blind due to flashes of light from a meteor shower the previous evening. While the world tries to come to terms with the devastating effect that it has on their lives, some mysterious plants sieze their chance... The book focuses on Bill's attempts to simultaneously recreate some sort of life for him, and his companion (also not blind), whilst fighting the the ever-stronger army of triffids who are thriving on man's disadvantage. The action is fast paced and exciting, while the atmosphere created is dark and uneasy, without ever becoming depressing. Characterisation is perhaps a little weak, with the hero and heroine being very stereotypical characters in their quest to do what is right, yet when one remembers that this book was written more than 50 years ago, it's astonishing how such a strong female figure exists. Another thing which is amazing, considering the book's age, is that the book has hardly dated at all. Set in London and rural England, the only things which betray its origins are a few idiosyncrasies to do with cars, or technology. In my mind, the Triffids could have been attacking in modern day England, and it wouldn't have made much difference to the way that the book was written. It has such an easy-to read style that I read it cover to cover in two session - about 3 1/2 hours in total. Wyndham explores many issues in the book, without going in to t
hem in too much depth. Obviously the time period implies some sort of cold-war paranoia - the book is set in a world where the Russians are totally cut off from the rest and the world is on the brink of collapse due to overpopulation - and conspiracy theories abound, but the more interesting issues are those to do with the people and the actions they take towards the catastrophe. The blind are represented as little more than an underclass of humans, reliant on the sighted for everything. This I find quite disturbing, as i wouldn't like to think that I would lose my equal status to other people simply because i had lost my sight. The exception to this of course is the man who was blind beforehand, who is quite cheered up by everyone else being reduced to his leve, and having the superiority of experience over them. Another interesting feature of the novel is the way in which vairous people choose to deal with the catastrophe and make a new life for themselves. There are interesting discussions of morality and dogmatic beliefs, and which values it is appropriate to uphold in such circumstances, with various groups trying various different methods with different degrees of success. It would spoil it to detail them here though - yyou'll just have to get hold of the book! The lasting impression I have of the book though - is amazing. Maybe it is because I read it all in one go, but my mind keeps returning to the question - what if everyone were to go blind? How would society function? Isn't it amazing how much of society is so reliant on the rest and how little we know of what we take for granted most of the time? I couldn't stop thinking about this book once I'd read it - and I challenge anyone else to finish it with the same perspective on the world they had when they started, and not be scared of meteor showers!
Having read a few of the opinions on this subject, I feel I want to add my two bits. I know i've been rather prolific on this website of late, but browsing the site, I just didn't want to wait to offer this perspective on an issue which I fel is very important. Firstly a bit of background: The idea behind the NHS is that all should have access to free healthcare. The problem is a lack of resources. So as it stands we have the conflict between a human desire to provide what many think is a basic human right and a resource-allocation dilemma about who has priority access to treatment. As it stands, the NHS is available to evey person who is a UK citizen. It is paid for by taxation, graded according to earnings. The private healthcare system is run separately, it is significantly more expensive and is the reserve of those on a higher income. I will now outline many of the objections to the current system, and to free and private (oops, I almost wrote privet then!) healthcare in general. 1. I've never been ill a day in my life? Why should I pay for someone else's treatment? This is essentially a capitalist argument against the NHS. The individual would like to lower taxes so that he does not have to fund other peopl's treatment on the NHS. This may befelt particularly strongly by the rich and healthy, or by those rich people already paying for private healthcare, as they still have to pay the same amount of taxes. There's no simle answer to the question really, other than to point out that if they were to get ill, they would benefit from free healthcare, which is a risk open to everyone. It may also be useful to point out that they are being selfish, not considering what would happen to the system if everyone thouught in this way - those in greatest danger statistically are the group which is most unlikely to be able to pay for their own treatment, and should the system be changed to be more capitalis
t, these people would suffer greatly. 2. Should people who deliberatly put their lives at risk (i.e. smokers and drug takers) be forced to pay more? This is a good idea, and one which is very appealing in theory. While we may be comfortable helping those worse off than ourselves by paying taxes, we are not willing to subsidise the life-threatening actions of others. However, when one considers the practical implications of this point of view it simply becomes unviable to act upon it in any meaningful way. For example - how do you tell if a person is smoking r drinking sufficiently to damage their health? I go out on a friday night and have a few drinks, but i wouldn't expect this to ruin my chances of free and decent healthcare, and I don't think that it should. This leads me on to another point. how are we to decide when someone deserves treatment on the NHS if we are differentiating between those "good" and "bad" members of society? If one person smokes 10 per day and gets lung canceer, should she be refused treatment, what makes her different from a 1-a-day or a 50-a-day smoker, should we make a distinction between those too? In mymind, it goes against human nature to refuse health treatment to anyone, if you are offering it at all. Aside from the practical implications, there are several philosophical difficulties which make this unappealing, not least the reluctance to "play god" with people's lives. 3. We should get rid of one or the other, having both systems is just silly. Maybe from an ideological point of view, yes. But here is where the conflict betwen the human and economic arguments is most easily resovled. The system that we have at the moment is the one that is the most fair to all sides. The idealists are satisfied since free healthcare is available to everyone, and the richer people in the country have access to higher quality healthcare if they are prepared to pay for it
. It may seem unfair that thses people have access to higher quality care than those who are unabe to afford it, but remember that they still pay the same amount of taxes as the rest of the country, so in effect they are subsidising everyone else's healthcare, if they want to go private they are in effect paying twice, which seems to me a fair price to pay for getting preferential service - since others benefit. 4. What are the advantages and disadvatages of both systems? Well, the advantages of the NHS are obvious, free healthcare for those who need it and can't afford to pay, a nationally regulated (and therefore safer) and organised scheme which forms a coherent whole etc. However, the advatages of a private system are that efficiency and quality are improved due to the profit incentive. There's really no way to get around this, since private schemes motivated by money are always going to do better than the cash-strapped NHS, often used as a political tool rather than what it was originaly designed for. In conclusion then, a mixture of both private and public healthcare is probably the best way for things to be organised. While philosophical and practical problems abound with an all-encompassing free healthcare system, the thought of replacing it with a totally private one is unthinkable with the ideals we are used to in this country, and no access to private healthcare would disadvantage those who would be prepared to pay more.
Title: Igby Goes Down (2002) Director: Burr Steers Writer: Burr Steers Starring: Kieran Culkin, Ryan Phillipe, Clare Danes, Susan Sarandon, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman I was intrigued by all the reviews of this film saying that Culkin was actually able to act, that the "all-star cast" made brilliant performances, and that the script was hysterically funny. Alll I can say is that the reviewers were either paid (see my review on Empire magazine) or on some sort of mind-altering substance. Igby goes down is about a spoilt rich kid, Igby, with a dominating witch of a mother, a father in a mental institution and an older brother who is richer, better looking and more liked by everyone. Not surprising then, that he starts to rebel. Living with his Godfather's bit on the side in New York, Igby tries desperately to find some sort of meaning in life, attempting to go it alone, but ultimately failing. There are, I think, two main problems with this film. Firstly,it tries very hard to be cool. Sometimes so hard that it hurts. However, since its American, and therefore made to make money, the director/producer decided to take as few risks as possible. The casting is a clear indication of this - applauded for its "kooky" casting of Susan Sarandon, Jeff Goldblum and a Culkin, it was ignored that these are all well-known actors who are very popular in America, so it was more a well-judged publicity stunt to get these actors in the movie than a real ballsy move. Similarly the soundtrack annoyed the hell out of me. Maybe in America i sounsd cool, but anyone who has seen the Vodafone advert in the uK is going to be seriously pissed off. I reckon the producer simply came to the Uk last year, heard a load of songs on the radio which were played loads, and stuck them all into the film. The result is something which distracts from the fim, and reinforces the impression that if they had just tried a bit harder, they could have
gotten something which really worked. The second thing wrong with this film is more damaging. I'm not quite sure how he does it, But the Director (Burr Steers) manages to get through the entire film without creating any sympathy for the title character. The audience sees that he has a horrible life, with his Dad going mad, his mum being a bitch, and his brother being everything he is not, but his rebellion, somehow, doesn't seem justified in the face of all this. I'm not quite sure why, but when you see the him get expelled from the umpteenth school, seeing him getting beaten up in military school really doesn't seem all that unfair. I guess it's because he's brought it on himself. If Igby's character was actually more likeable, then maybe the film would work, the other characters are little more than stereotpes anyway, characters for the protagonist to have realtionships with, so the lack of sympathy for them matters less. I was trying to put my finger on why Culkin wasn't more likeable and came up with a combination of lack of screen presence, a bad script and bad direction. Pretty damning for a film that got such great reviews I know. But it's not all bad, watching the fim I get the feeling that it could have been so much better, if it hadn't been American. The ironic humour and stereotyped characters wcould have worked really well, but I get the feeling the writer and director really didn't know enough about this genre to write confidently, and felt that in order to appeal to enough people, had to do the usual thing of tacking on a cheesy hollywood ending so that the pedestrian audince could go home feeling satisfied. But I'm not going to go on about how I hate cheesy Hollywood drmatic arc type films, that can be saved for another day. Suffice to say that the writer of this also wrote "How to lose a guy n ten days" and we'll leave it at that. So overall, n
ot a movie I enjoyed. Which is a shame really, because the potential is there, it simply ultimately fails to deliver.
But I think mark and Lard are the best thing on radio 1! Mind you, that's not saying much. Catchphrases such as "can ye back off the mike a bit?!!" "I was 'avin a drink then!" and "Stop! Carry on!" are lost in the written word, but are pure magic when you actually hear them! I apologise. I haven't started this review coherently have I. Oh dear. Although that's probably quite appropriate since unless you listen to the show regularly you are unlikely to get any of the references and it won't seem to make much sense! Anyway, let's try that again shall we? Mark and Lard - The BIGGEST show on Radio 1 is firstly hysterically funny, secondly entertaining, and thirdly takes the piss out of all the other crap on radio1 - hurrah! Beware, if you are the sort of person who likes cheesy crappy pop you are unlikely to be amused by the antics of Mark and the boy Lard, who frequently denounce records, turn them off halfway through and make vomiting noises over those which really they don't want to be playing but are told to by R1 bosses. Other highlights are the listeners' texts and emails. When there was puzzlement over the lyrics to a Sean Paul record, a listener emailed in, stating it was in an old Jamaican dialect, translated as "I'm not Gay or owt", i nearly died laughing. The latest wine-tasting exercise has to be heard to be believed. I know this reviews might seem a little short on detail, but it really is hard to convey how funny these guys are in a written piece, I suggest anyone who is interested go to www.bbc.radio1/markandlard and listen to some of the past clips, they are hilarious! As well as the humour though, there are celebrity guests who actually have some credibility! While occasionally the show accomodates the likes of Kylie there are others such as "Jane's addiction" and "The Coral" who have
played amazing live sets. There is also the advantage that M & L get to choose some of their own records to play so, instead of the usual R1 rubbish, there's a chance you might get to hear something new and/or really good. But I suppose Mark and Lard aren't for everyone. Stereophonics lovers need not bother, and those who listen to wall to wall Dido and David Gray probably aren't going to get any of the jokes (not that they don't have a sense of humour...er...keep digging...I do like david gray, really, honest! bugger.) and some people might find them potentially rude and immature. But unlike Chris Moyles they don' deliberately try to piss people off, and unlike other shows they aren't laddish and crude, the worst they are guilty of is perhaps being a bit childish.
Hi, I just thought I would introduce myself and offer a perspective on my first day's experience of the site. Hi, I'm Esthersmile and I'm a student who lives in Worcester at the moment. I discovered this site by accident, but thought it was pretty cool. I've wrtten a few reviews so far, and also have been reading around, but I'm not a "churner" - I hope people find my reviews entertaining, informative and interesting. I will only ever review something which i know about, and have an opinion on, I don't see the point of offering something people have to trawl through, just to conclude that "I just don't know at the end of it. For this reason I guess my reviews might be classed as controversial, but in my opinion (there's that word again!) that would never be a negative thing to be described as! My first impressions of the site were that it would be useful when deciding whther to buy a product or not. It struck me that everyone benefits, the writers earn miles, while the readers gain valuable information. Then i realised that it was more complicated than that. There is an incentive to write good and trusted reviews, to read and rate others' in a reciprocal process, and a huge complex society has developed. I hope over time, i can become a trusted, positive member of this society and that people will come to associate me with good reviewing. So anyway, without boring you all to tears, here I am, hello, and hope to see you around in teh near future!