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With a resumé of around 20 famous films including the likes of 'Forrest Gump' and 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit', you could be forgiven for renting out this video on the prestige of its director ( Robert Zemeckis ) alone. However, this film perhaps is more akin to Zemeckis' less revolutionary films such as 'Death becomes Her' and 'Romancing the Stone' - because while 'What Lies Beneath' is a harmless piece of hollywood pulp fiction it is ultimately a rather underwhelming experience. The story follows a middle-aged Michelle Pfeiffer who after seeing her only child leave for College begins to experience supernatural events in her house. Her husband, Harrison Ford, is a hard-nosed sceptic, obsessed by his work and irritated by his wife's insistence on the truth of her experiences. That is roughly about as much as can be said about the plot without spoiling the 'twist'. Yet, saying that, I found it to be one of the most predictable movies in a long time - even to the extent of being able to say certain lines before the actors themselves. While it does have a reasonably creepy atmosphere that naturally stems from large empty houses and a traditional horror-movie score of incidental music, I found the shocks and surprises far too few. Mostly it was far too transparent to really keep you on the edge of your seat. It starts off as a rather formulaic horror/thriller movie, and you keep in mind that there may be some intelligent twist, other than the rather obvious one that it seems to be leading to - but ultimately you would be disappointed. The only surprise in the ending is the depths to which the standard plummeted - from a quiet, rather slow film it seems to sink in parts to some ridiculous 1980s zombie film. That said, it's not a dire film. While it's not going to amaze anyone, it's harmless unobjectionable fluff. Michelle Pfeiffer does impressively well to make the most out of
the rather drab script, and it's nice to see she's still got a spark about her. Harrison Ford fits quite happily into a fairly undemanding role, and his performance while not one of his best is sufficient to keep the ball rolling. There are parts that will make you jump, there are parts that unintentionally will make you laugh. But at the end, I found it to be a film that over-all simply made me sigh: A film of this standard that takes itself this seriously seems surely out-of-place in the modern box-office. Surely we can expect more that this? I have found many films genuinely frightening before - 'What Lies Beneath' is most certainly not one of them. If you're following the careers of either of the two main stars, or are in need of an undemanding film, then by all means consider this - but if you're interested in being genuinely frightened by an intelligent, moving masterpiece then like the rest of us it looks like we're going to have to keep waiting. The truth of the matter for me is that what actually lies beneath the gloss and promise of a modern horror/thriller film, is a high-budget B movie that suffers from a dire lack of innovation, whose main redeeming feature is justifiably pushing Michelle Pfeiffer back onto our screens.
About a month ago I changed ISP to BTinternet, lured by the promise of completely free internet calls, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for £15. Expensive perhaps, but it's uses soon become apparent when you no longer have to wait until 6.00 to continue your all-important internet work. I thought that although it was steep, bearing in mind the saving you're going to be making, it's still worth it. It's taken me about a month to realise that it probably isn't. Basically, the service I've received is categorically the worst I've experienced - be it from the numerous free ISPs I've tried, or my former subscription-based ISPs. Yes - the phone call is free. However, you do need a BT line - it's not an 0800 number, but instead is a new number that only BT recognise as being free. And you can only pay for subscription via a credit card - switch etc not accepted. Even if you are elligible, as I was, it doesn't take long to work out that minus the free-call gimmick, attractive though it is, that BTinternet is an otherwise substandard ISP. It's often very hard to connect at all: 'The Computer you are dialling is not answering' or 'The computer you're dialing in to does not respond to a network request' - and then when you do connect, your connection speed is estimated sometimes as low as 4,000bps. However, even when you are connected you often realise that neither the internet nor the email works - and after a minute or so of getting frustrated you get disconnected anyway. And if it does work, it's slow. Very, very slow. Not to mention the occasional random disconnections that you'll endure. The mail server also seems dodgy - if your trying to send anything larger than about 100k then the chances are the server will time-out before it completes. So there you go - connection to BTinternet is fraught with difficulties that make the £15 per month really hurt. And then there are t
he extra facilties. Like...err... it has a News server. But hardly wide-ranging - and the groups are severely limited by a maximum header number so sometimes you won't even be seeing half of the messages that may be available on other news servers. Or the webspace - that's fine.. only it's 10mb. Not over-generous then. Basically the main problem is connecting. Paying £15 a month to connect at 4,000bps, a 10th of my last ISPs average connect speed, and then to be disconnected is infuriating. However, once again for me the fact of the free calls alone means that I'm forced to consider staying with them, whereas in normal situations if an ISP had provided me with this sort of service I wouldn't hesitate to cancel. Typically, having written this opinion in notepad all ready to paste into Dooyoo, I find that though miraculously I've connected at 46,600bps, I can do nothing - can't check my mail, can't reach any websites. Well done BT... another fine mess you've got yourself into.
My thoughts on bullying have changed dramatically over the past 10 years or so. As a child, I was bullied... but who wasn't? Having a father as a teacher or a teacher as a father never helped me to fit in, and, like most victims, I was an easy target. Of course, like any victim of bullying, I spent a lot of my school life completely dreading getting on the school bus. And when I joined the Sixth form, I was keen to also join the pupil-run scheme to mentor those complaining about being bullied. And that was probably the first time that new ideas began to come into my head. This is going to sound pretty nasty for people who have been bullied, and I in no way wish to belittle the problems faced by countless childrens every day - but I'm afraid to say that I think to a large extent bullying is natural, and even to a certain extent it may actually be beneficial. I can honestly say, with my hand on my heart, that despite the anguish and suffering I encountered at the hands of bullies, if they hadn't been there then I would be a very different individual now, and probably a 'less favoured' sort of individual. I grew up in a loving family, in very rural countryside - I was educated in a very small primary school with about 40 other kids. Whether I like it or not, the first years of my life were very sheltered. If somehow, the bullying that I encountered could have been switched off, then to this day I would consider myself to be sheltered. Bullying hardens your skin up to a point - and I really needed to know what people could be like. As shocking and unpleasant that it was, as much as I dislike the people who did it to me, objectively, coldly I can say that in some way I am glad. Bullying is what kids do. From certain points of view everyone is a bully - who has never called anyone a nasty name in primary school? It's part of social etiquette - in order to get along with friends you improve your self-esteem by picking on
people - you poke fun on people you find funny. People can be united in their picking on someone. And going back to the student mentoring scheme - I was quite appalled. For, while there were some normal, victimised kids getting treated in appalling ways by fellow students - in the two or three cases that I monitored quite closely, I am afraid to say that the phrase 'It's not your fault - there's something wrong with the bully, not you' was often completely wrong. One particular child literally came running after being called a fairly tame name. This child, basically, had a persecution complex which fuelled people's reactions to him. What can you do with a child who flinches if you tell him to shut up? Can you really scold those that said such cruel words to him? There were kids I saw who just had no understanding, no empathy or social awareness - and I was one of them. It is useful to fit in - you don't have to pretend to be someone you're not - but there are certain easily-affordable social graces that would reduce bullying by far, that certain kids have no interest in learning. I just had no interest in such matters. As far as I was concerned, the bullies were wrong - I'd been told they were cowards, and that I was fine as I was. Rubbish. I made no effort to get on with anyone. Now, of course bullying can go far too far. An ordinary child, when becoming a bully, is fairly harmless - and that is part of growing up. However, there are violent, disturbed, genuinely malicious kids out there who exaggerate the normal 'victimising' instincts to dangerous levels. And the only way to tackle this is come down as hard as you can on those kids. I think that rather being absorbed in the sob-stories told by self-inflicted social outcasts finding it hard to fit into a standard social situation like I was, we should be focusing on the violent bullies - I don't mean the odd thump - I mean getting beate
n up etc. I am ashamed when I think of how much teacher-time I wasted by telling on people who called me a rude word, claiming it was bullying - and to think I was upset if they told me to ignore it! Of course - shame on me, while I was whinging about nasty words and being tripped up, there were gangs of kids intent on causing people genuine physical harm getting away with it. The danger is when kids who are really getting seriously bullied think that such extreme bullying is part of growing up - but a distinction needs to be made somewhere, and as it stands I think that the whole ethos behind tackling bullying severely lacks such a distinction.
I was probably 14 years old when I first got my key-finder keyring, and so, I was probably a couple of weeks older than that when I decided that my £5 that was sent to Innovations may well have been better spent on something else. Like anything. Well - these things work. Don't get me wrong on that. You whistle, and the dear little blighter will bleep at you. Or you clap, and it'll respond, wherever it is in the room. And here comes problem number one - sometimes it's 'ears' are muffled, because it's been buried under something and its sensor it blocked. So, it will show you where you keys are, so long as your keys aren't buried somewhere, hard to find, lost etc - or providing it's batteries haven't run out. Useful. Secondly, the gadget is remarkably indiscriminate. I spent several days of my school life with friends whistling at me, clapping at me - normally in awkward situations such as exams. Brilliant. But the bleeper goes off all the time, for any sort of noise really so long as it's loud enough. Someone coughing next to you can remind you were your keys are. So to a certain extent it works too well. It's lightweight, it's visually quite unoffensive, with a white body and a little red light that flashes when it beeps. But predominately, it's a piece of gimmicky trash that holds a certain novelty appeal for a certain limited amount of time.
I bought my brother a sensor-pen for his last birthday, but being curious ended up opening it myself and having a good play with it before packing it back into its box. And I was quite pleased with myself. OK, it's a gimmick, but it actually works. Basically, it looks like an ordinary pen, and works like such - but in the top of the lid is a small but very bright red light. When you receive an incoming call to your mobile phone, this light on your pen will flash. This is great for situations like the library, or meetings with the boss etc. However, how useful is this when most phones have a vibrating function? Well, it still has it's benefits. You can have the phone in a desk-drawer, and be writing away with your pen and be alerted to the silent ringing. If you phone is in a thick-coat pocket, you may not hear it's ring nor feel it's buzz, but with your sensor pen sticking out of your pocket you'll probably still notice the call. It also claims to be able to detect secret CCTV cameras in hotel bedrooms - and while the thought of waving my pen in all the corners of my room, 007-style, watching for the red flash, is vaguely appealing - whether it actually would be of any practical use ever, ever at all, in your entire life, ever, is a different question Unfortunately, it has to have it's limits. It picks up any call within 5m or so. So on the train, it flashes to alert you that someone two seats behind you has just received a call. In terms of practicality it's fine - it writes just like an ordinary pen, and seems to be refillable with an ordinary ballpoint refill. It takes fairly standard watch-type batteries, it doesn't weigh much more than an ordinary pen. Basically, it does what it says on the tin - it will alert you to calls to your mobile phone if your phone is within 5m from you. If you think you need such a facility, then get one of these - because they do work.
Being quite sceptical about mobile phones, I finally accepted their usefulness 2 years ago and bought one - and it appears that I hit the jackpot first time, because my Orange Boxed & Ready is still going strong. Basically, you're provided with the phone itself, plus line rental - and you're given 15 free minutes each and every month - all this for one price. That means that if you don't use up your 15 minutes each month ( and yes, they do roll-over ), then you will never see a bill from Orange in your life! If you do go over your 15 free minutes then you'll be billed - but the prices for calls are standard, and while you may find a few deals that give you cheaper calls this is certainly not poor value. This year, for 15 months ( special offer ) with 15 free minutes each month, it cost me £79.99. The phone that I bought in the package is very run-of-the-mill. It can receive and send text messages, but that's about the limit of it's technical prowess. No vibrating, no custom ring tones. Just a straight forward, easy-to-use phone. Orange has great network support, and even roaming around the valleys of Devon & Cornwall there's almost always a fairly good signal. This phone suits me perfectly, because I don't use it a lot, and most of my calls are incoming. However, if you use a phone a lot then the primitive handset and free talktime each month will both begin to wear a little thin, and you'll be stuck wondering why you didn't go for a different phone with cheaper calls. And so in summary, this is a simple basic good value package so long as you don't want a hi-tech gadget phone, or so long as you don't need to use your phone constantly.
OK, one of your first lessons in university, if you haven't already learnt it, is that money matters. But hang on... not too much. You can stop ferreting around in dustbins right this minute, don't wear your coat inside to save on heating. It's not that hard OK? Firstly, you get a loan - you all of this whether you spend it or not, so you're gonna have to pay it all back too. The easiest way to save money is unsuprisingly just monitoring what you spend. My top tip is have two bank accounts. I have one high-interest account with no cheque book, no switch card etc - that's where all my proper money goes, all my student loans etc. Then I have a separate current account with low interest, but that has the cheque book etc. I worked out roughly how much I spend in a week, and set up a standing order from my big account into my current account. From then on, I never carried my big account cash-card with me, and that meant I ONLY had access to the money in my current account - ie £50 a week or whatever. This means that if you see something you rather like, you CAN'T just go and buy it, unless you also rather like the idea of not eating for the rest of the week. Of course, in emergencies you can dig out your other cash card and get out money, but so long as you don't have day-to-day access to large amounts of money you'll find it pretty darn tricky to spend large amounts of money. Be economical... buy economy products. It's really not that bad, seriously. You can have a special item if you want - if you can't stand economy bread you can buy normal bread, it's no sin - so long as you gear your trolley towards economy or basic rather than Dolmio and Sharwoods. It's pretty simple, don't buy stuff you don't need - this will actually suffice. As I mentioned earlier, you don't have to reuse toilet paper in order to survive. Addictions tend to costly, so beware of cigarettes, alcohol etc
- so to are cars, so get onto two wheels to save a bit of cash. University can be the greatest fun you've had since primary school - so don't ruin it by counting your pennies too much - use your common sense, buy cheap products, avoid extravagancies, buy second-hand books from your SU store. Worry about money when you come to paying BACK £10,000 worth of loans, not when you've just RECEIVED it! Good luck... and don't sell your mum... yet.
When I first arrived on the internet scene, the first search engine that was shown to me was Altavista. And what a mistake. No, I could not make head nor tail of the results - I failed to see why lesbian college orgies had anything to do with the geography of river deltas. And I didn't know how to find what I wanted. So off I skipped to the likes of Yahoo, who welcomed me in, guided me hand in hand leading me to the relevant sites. And now, several years on, Altavista is my first stop when I'm looking for something - and it's even set as my homepage. The reason is, while the results naturally don't always seem to be particularly relevant, this is the most easily customisable search engine I've come across. To ensure a word figures in each of the results, stick a + sign directly in front of it. To make sure a word doesn't appear, use the - sign. And to make sure a phrase appears word for word, then stick it in speech marks. Hence my 'river delta geography' that came up with numerous bestiality sites, interspersed with adverts from Amazon for books about rivers could evolve into +"river delta" +geography -sex -lesbian -buy -shop which of course can give you great results. If you're fed up of getting consistently irrelevant results, then Altavista is the way to go, providing you're fairly at ease with the whole internet environment. As I said, it's not the ideal site for a first-timer. However, it is infinitely customisable. It has an online translator which is as good as any I've come across, and specific searches for pictures, sounds etc. Generally, Altavista seems to be the most versatile engine that I've tried. But, there seem to be some useful functions that is lacks. For example Google.com will, alongside the title, display the paragraph in which your desired words appear. This means that you have more to go on than just the title. Altavista howeve
r merely shows the title and the introduction, which doesn't always give away enough information. Anyway, with the customisable 'boolean' searches, it's still just about easier to find what you're looking for - so it's always going to be my first port-of-call.
After reading some of the practically and bizarrely anti-agriculture opinions here, I felt I had to throw in my thoughts No, I'm not a farmer, but I've grown up in a farming community and now live in a small city. I feel there is a town / countryside divide in attitudes - but I feel that the stereotype of country bumpkins and Old MacDonalds is as detrimental as the stereotypes of towny middle-class brats. What is needed is empathy and understanding of the case in point, and in THIS case, as farming and foot and mouth are blatantly rural affairs I feel that it's those from the countryside or farming communities who can understand the matter to the highest degree. And don’t forget, it’s not just people in the cities that pay taxes - we all do. **FARMERS ARE NO MORE NOBLE / IMPORTANT THAN ANYONE ELSE** A certain opinion here mentions how farmers are no more noble than say teachers. To a certain extent I would agree with that - but one cannot deny the importance of farming. Farming IS the countryside - farming IS the nation's supply of food. Of course, farmers want to make money - no one ever denies that - a farm is a business - but such a crucial business should be supported more openly than it currently is. I know farmers who, thanks to the various agricultural crises in recent years are now operating basically at a loss, yet who consider it their duty to carry on. I'm not talking about extensive middle-classed farms in East Anglia, I'm talking about a farm on Dartmoor that has passed on from father to son for generations. The heritage of the farming industry, the service they provide - surely this counts for something? The entire farming community is mostly treating with ignorance and injustice - I'm not advocating supreme rights for farmers - but I do advocate proportional support. **THE FOOT AND MOUTH OUTBREAK** - There is no need to slaughter the animals: Foot and Mouth is
an horrific disease that can affect any cloven-hoofed animal, and is excruciatingly painful for the sufferer: Severe ulceration occurs, and liquid-filled blisters appear on the hooves causing lameness; severe ulceration and blistering of the tongue and lining of the mouth making it impossible for the animal to eat. This leads to weight-loss, stress, abortion, low milk output. After a matter of days, the blisters rupture leaving raw unprotected skin patches that can become very easily infected. If you’d like to read more about the symptoms / solutions / precautions for Foot and Mouth, I can recommend the guide found here: http://www.nfu.org.uk/info/guideorg.asp Yes, there is a vaccine which is used when the disease is geographically very limited that can help control an epidemic but apparently cannot actually effectively treat an infected animal. There is also an argument used by some that claims that the vaccine makes the meat inedible, besides the obvious costs of vaccinating all the infected herds. These claims are in addition to the obvious cost of vaccinating an entire nation’s worth of livestock. There is also the problem of public confidence. Confidence will be boosted once people can feel that all the infected animals are destroyed, and all meat is 100% clean, even though it may have been safe to eat in the first place. Slaughtering and destroying the animals is a way of starting from scratch. North America hasn’t suffered any substantial Foot and Mouth epidemic since 1929 due to quarantining and the slaughter and destruction of infected animals. -It’s the Fault of the Farmers / Intensive Farming: Some have claimed there to be a link between farming methods used and the spread of the disease - they have claimed that intensive farming initiated the epidemic. As we have seen, the numerous measures taken by farmers to protect their livestock or inhibit the disease is often simply not enough - e
specially bearing in mind that the disease can be carried by the wind depending on the climatic conditions, and even a flock of birds can spread it. The disease was first identified in an abattoir in Essex - this is not linked to intensive farming as such, as obviously all animals due for slaughter end up in an abbattoir. It should be noted that extensive farmers who become contaminated or are worried about contamination often resort to more intensive methods ( confining the animals ) in order to protect their animals. The most dangerous outbreak is on Dartmoor where relatives of mine own a farm. By the nature of Dartmoor, in most places the animals are basically allowed to roam free - the most extensive farming the UK can accommodate - yet by their free range nature the animals pose a greater risk of spreading the disease. **FARMERS DON’T DESERVE OUR SUBSIDIES** Farmers have got a bad press recently. After being encouraged to compete with European markets on meat they took to the animal feed that was at the root of the BSE crisis, as recommended by the government. They are reprimanded for spreading damaging chemicals on their crops to limit pest and disease damage, yet when they refrain from doing so, thus elevating market prices phenomenally they are reprimanded by consumers for charging ridiculous prices. They are reprimanded for supporting fox-hunting by the cheapest method, yet are reprimanded for appealing for an increase in taxes providing for increased subsidies allowing for fox-proof fencing etc. Is there any way a farmer can actually win? I can see that someone living in inner-city Manchester,sitting in an accountants office from 9 to 5 every day might not understand completely the lives of traditional country farmers - and I don't say this with the intent to be patronising. We cannot expect such people to be able to empathise with a 58 year old Devonshire farmer who works on a farm that has been in his famil
y for 100s of years, yet who is steadily losing money and has no where to turn. We all need a little help from time to time, so for pete’s sake, lets get off our high-horses and stop judging these people. Lend them a hand in times of need. Don't belittle their struggle or their obvious distress, for while every profession has it's ups and downs, surely none can compare to the sequence of devastating blights that the farming community has had to suffer. Thank you for reading..
Cannabis... perhaps the most misunderstood drug that exists? But notably, misunderstood by its users as well. The primary reason is that the biological effects of cannabis don't seem to be too clear - the medical profession is divided; some GPs wishing to prescribe it to patients, others wishing for a total ban. It's short-term effects as a recreational drug seem to be relatively harmless, and in certain situations beneficial. 'Mellowing out' and generally being relaxed is practise that many people find difficult, so should we be restricting their options for doing it? Alternatively, terminally ill patients have praised it's effects, and once again who are we to deny them that right? It also seems clear that legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco cause significantly more damage than smoking cannabis - but this alone does not necessarily point to the current ban, rather that perhaps extra precautions should be taken against alcohol etc. Inhaling anything into your lungs, be it tobacco smoke, cannabis smoke, or jo-stick smoke is damaging to the bronchial tissue inside your lungs and can lead to respiratory illness if done frequently enough. A misnomer exists as to whether it is addictive; it is. That is a medical fact. Not in the same way that nicotine is, but in the same way that gambling is. It's a psychological addiction. As with any addiction it is a bad thing; but with other addictions such as gambling or even the internet we are given responsibility to monitor it ourselves - so once again, are we being denied free will? Are the government in some way impinging on our rights by denying us the right? I do happen to believe that cannabis is normally the first drug that people try, and hence often does lead onto harder drugs. But I think the same is true of tobacco - how many cannabis smokers haven't smoked cigarettes first? Having a nation who are stoned, relaxed, happy does seem more
appealling than the nation that starts fights at 11:15 every night from the effects of alcohol. But as to whether either is objectively appealling... Being mellow can be great. But often I've failed to get through to my friends who just had a smoke purely because they're too mellow - they have no motivation or desire to do anything - and so if it's relaxing effects are detrimental to every day life, getting jobs done etc, then it's another string to the opponents bow. The reason why I don't have a problem with cannabis, is because it's not legal. This means that people do it out of the way of people who don't like it, so there's rarely passive-smoking. Because it's illegal, it's expensive - so people are naturally restricted as to how much they smoke it. The friends I have that smoke it have to be careful - they go off to a private room - which is great. If I want to join them, I do - if not fine. That's not a choice I get with cigarette smoke. This is a strange position for me to hold, admittedly - both condoning the ban to a certain extent, yet also condoning the smoking to a certain extent. This is quite a touchy subject - especially as many people consider it cool and unconventional to support cannabis without really knowing the facts of the matter. There are potential dangers to the drug, undeniably, and from my experience a lot of it's smokers seem to be quite ignorant of this - yet all that needs to be done is a bit of public education - to clear up the blurry information. Whether legalisation is actually the way to go is dubious - there is too much of a lack of awareness from both it's supporters and protesters. The appeals of cannabis smokers for legalisation don't ever seem to be completely persuasive - drink drivers would mostly appeal for an increase in the legal alcohol limit, pedophiles would appeal for a slackening of anti-abuse laws - but when objective non-smoker
s voice their opinions, GPs, scientists, then I think we can start to take the debate a little more seriously. More research, less ignorance on both sides, and THEN we'll be able to make a rational decision.
Having seen the young star of the film Jamie Bell scoop Best Actor in this years BAFTA awards, attention is refocusing on last year's home-grown masterpiece. The film revolves around an 11 year old boy, who despite the 'traditional' attitudes within his mining family, pursues a talent that he discovered - that of dancing. The 2 hour film follows him from reluctantly attending boxing lessons, to auditioning for the Royal Ballet yet in between there is an inspiring mix of themes and storylines. The film investigates what it is to be a family, as the boy's mother had died several years earlier, and the story charters the atmosphere within a struggling family unit. The father and brother of Billy Elliot are in the midst of the increasingly active miners strike of 1984. Most of these subplots fit in beautifully with the over-all story, yet there were one or two that seemed a little unecessary - a homosexual love interest didn't seem to add anything for example. Although Jamie Bell did do well as the young ballet star, being as convincing an actor as dancer. However, the real awards I feel should go to Julie Walters, the boys dancing instructor, and Gary Lewis challenged with the diverse and emotional role of Billy's father. The soundtrack, mostly comprised of lesser-known T-Rex songs to which the character of Billy dances to, is perfectly suited to such a film, with the one exception of the closing credit track of Stephen Gately's. There is, unsuprisingly a lot of dancing in this film, and seeing Billy Elliot completely lose himself in the rhythms of a song like 'We Love to Boogie' or 'Cosmic Dancer' rarely loses its interest. This film excels in what it sets out to do, yet that motive has been shared by so many Northern England films within the past few years. The typical storyline, 'local boys makes good' has been done to death in films such as 'The Fully Monty'
and 'Brassed Off' all set against a not entirely representative background of the northern working class. However, this film is a lot deeped and more intense than such films, and would have to be placed on top of that genre of films. When the US are exporting glossy high-budget films like 'Hollow Man' and 'Vertical Limit', it's reassuring to see that the Brits can sculpt a moving character-based film with mega-billions of dollars to spend. While it won't win any awards for innovation, this is a must-see film that is poignant, sensitive and a treat to watch.
Well how many people haven't seen the film 'Gladiator' yet? As one of the years highest grossing films, surrounded by media hype and sensationalist reviews most people have considered it their duty to check out this film - truly one of the epics of our generation in any sense of the word. The central story revolves around a Gladiator, fugitive from his caesar, who fights his way to vengeance in this two and a half hour film. While the story isn't exactly deep, and is fairly traditional Hollywood fair, it is in the same Hollywood manner quite eclectic - there is violence and action in the film, romance and sordid love affairs, and a few moments of quite tense drama. What will stay in my mind for this film are the effects - completely mind-blowing. The special effects artists have gone about in recreating the city of Rome including a breath-taking representation of the Roman colosseum in which much of the action takes place. You can get a real feel for what is must have been like to live in that era and to fight in their battles. Seeing Roman soldiers form the strategies you were always told about in history lessons, seeing a colosseum full of baying roman citizens - it's all quite amazing. However, I never thought it to be a great film. Firstly, I disagreed with some about the quality of the main actor, Russell Crowe's acting. He seemed to me to be struggling through-out, trying to get to grips with an accent that wasn't his own, and generally seeming to be a bit upstaged by some much more commendable performances from the likes of Joaquin Phoenix and Oliver Reed ( who coincidentally died before finishing this film, leaving the special effects crew to digitally stitch his face onto a acting double in his remaining scenes ). For some reason, while Ridley Scott clearly has an eye for cinematic impact, he also seemed to want to make this film into something it wasn't. The pretentious 'dream' shot
s of waving fields of wheat and storm clouds felt completely out of place. But anyway, this film is basically fun. Parts of it are graphic ( unecessarily so some would argue ), parts of it are a little slow- but in general it is an undemanding glossy Hollywood film, and so long as you anticipate that fact you can't go wrong.
So you're new to university... rather unsure about what to expect...wanting to gradually get used to your environment, no shocks, just naturally get to know the place. Well tough. To welcome you to university you'll have a week full of the most indiscriminate socialising ever, together with some of the most important things you'll need to do at uni for a long time. No pressure there then. From a 'responsibilities' point of view, you should always know where you stand. Collect all the bumpf that you get and write down all the things you *have* to do. Various registrations, NUS, College, Uni - picking up your loan cheque, collecting your timetable etc. This will make things a lot easier - you can see what you have to do and when you have to do it. There'll be a lot of secondary things that you'll need to consider doing as well. There's normally a Fresher's Fair of some sort where the various societies gather and try to get a registration fee out of you. Be careful - try just to go for clubs that actually interest you, otherwise you may have lunatic third-years pestering you about why you're not attending the Sci-Fi society budget meetings. From a social point of view, you've basically got to jump in head first, like you do in any strange situation. Don't hang around with a mate from your old school. Get down the bar and just chat to anyone. The chances are within a few weeks you'll have forgotten them, but in the short-term nothing is better at soothing during the step between living with your folks and living in a hall of residence than surrounding yourself with other people in exactly the same situation. Do anything you can to be social - stoop as low as you like, even go to the bar quiz or kareoke. You'll never need to again, but just during the first week. Sample everything that doesn't cost money. Sample most things that do, depending on your budget. Basical
ly, Fresher's week is a laugh. So long as you remember what you have to do, the only way you can go wrong is if you sit quivering in your room while would-be mates dash around town with complete strangers having the time of their lives..
Anyone who has ever clicked onto www.bookbrain.co.uk knows how useful it can be. In fact, it was the first bookmark I installed onto my parent's computer when they began to use the internet. Basically, it's a price comparison website that searches about 15 online bookshops for the book that you require. Thankfully it includes several important factors in the comparison, such as delivery time and postage costs. When you search for a book, bookbrain will provide you with possible versions with intricate details about each, so you can search in particular for example for the 1997 paperback edition of a certain book. The interface is simple and intuitive - the comparison page is clear and you can move straight onto the relevant page at the final online bookshop where you can make an order. All this bodes well for a consumer website. However, there are a few things that you should perhaps note. Firstly, it is purely for books, and while there are other comparison engines such as www.shopsmart.com and www.kelkoo.com that offer a wider service it sometimes makes you wonder what bookbrain has that they don't. Bookbrain suffers from a problem that many comparison agents have - accuracy. Often the delivery times are a bit wrong, and sometimes even the edition just isn't the one that you asked for a comparison about. That said, if it's just book's you're after, then you can't really go wrong. It may not search the rarer less commercial sites, which is a pity, but with a range of 15 sites to choose from the chances are that it will have most books.
With her second feature-film ( the first being 'I Shot Andy Warhol' ), director Mary Harron brings out a vaguely disturbing pseudo-psychological horror-cum-thriller, 'American Psycho', focusing around, unsurprisingly, an American psycho. Adapted from the novel by Brett Easton Ellis, this screenplay was named as one of the must-see movies of 2000. Set in the 1980s, the film follows one of the leaders of a high-flying gang of smooth-talking, wealthy executives to whom comparing business cards and appartment prices is a integral part of life. So to is admiring women in the classic chauvenistic way, yet Christian Bale's character, Patrick Bateman, takes this banter several steps further. The director contrasts the excessively precise mannerisms of Patrick Bateman, his charm, his rows of suits, his personal hygeine, with the brutally energetic way in which he takes his victims - and this contrast really seems to work. But this film doesn't really hide anything, and rather than trying to be profound and intelligent it seems content at fulfilling your expectations albeit in a convincing and satisfying way. From the outset you have a clear idea of the plot, because it's in the film's title - although Christian Bale is more suited to the lead part than the original plan of Leonardo DiCaprio, I would've preferred to see a bit more subtlety. It's almost as though you can watch this film and end up believing that you can always identify a psychopath because they always act in the same way. A lot of it is somewhat predictable, but one wonders whether anything more or original can be done within this genre. There is a sort of twist - but it felt a little cliched and predictable. Although supporting performances are good, there's little for them to do. Names like Willem Dafoe and Reese Witherspoon pop up in the credits, yet the story is carried nearly entirely by Christian Bale. The gor
e sequences aren't mind-blowingly graphic, and the trick of focusing on the murderer rather than the victim during the killing scenes is used without fail. There are a few sex scenes, which don't seem to add more to the plot apart from those admiring Bale's body - whereas the violence never seems gratuitous. There are some funny moments, exclusively irony though. It's unlikely that this film will actually scare you - it's more disturbing if you've never really become aquainted with the stereotype of a psychopath and so this film is new territory - but for the rest of us we simply recognise the Jekyll & Hyde style plot and hold our breaths for something to set it above the rest... and for me, this defining element never really emerges. What you're left with is a pretty standard yet well executed horror-film - a film that starts of running along the tracks of every psychopath film ever made, but drifts into a more psychological atmosphere in the closing scenes. The performances are good, but nothing too impressive - the music gives a little too much away and any incidental music that draws attention to itself has dubious efficiency. All in all, a reasonably satisfying film, undemanding, uninvolving, but done simply and sucessfully.