- Premium reviews
- Express reviews
- Reviews rated
- Ratings received
I have recently received this phone as a replacement for my work handset so I thought I'd give it a review after a few months of use. My employer is not known for spending money on phones despite being a national company with a large corporate contract so I expected to be underwhelmed. Build: The 1661 is best described as an entry level phone, indeed I read somwhere it can be bought for £5, so it goes without saying it has limited features. My handset is black but I am unaware if they do any other colours though black is appropriate enough. The build is entirely plastic and lacks anything resembling quality. The fascia has context sensitive shoulder buttons, the obligatory budget green/red buttons and a four way rocker switch to navigate the menu system. Special mention must be given to the keypad which especially fiddly and slippy and generally unpleasant to use though it still beats some of Nokias earlier abhorrations. On the whole it seems sturdy enough. Interface: The phone uses the tried and tested icon driven interface that Nokia led the way on and is extremely simple to follow, even for those with limited or no knowledge od mobile phones. In context the menu key gives access to 10 icons representing folders with each containing sub folders for the area of the phone you need to access such as ringtone or call volume. Everything follows logical steps and is clearly labelled. The software is Nokia's proprietary Symbian S30 series which was used on the majority of their phones in one form or another until very recently. Features: The main features of this phone are really the calling and texting as you would expect. The call quality is reasonably good and audible though lacks real clarity. Texting tends to be irksome due to the poor keypad. A FM radio is included which is accessed through the supplied headset though I found the quality to be poor. There some rudimentary games included: Sudoku, Beach Rally and the Nokia favourite Snake. The phone also includes a handy torch which I suggest you shine into a deep black hole to see if its vast enough to toss this handset into. Spec: Form: classic Dimensions: 108 x 45 x 13.55 mm Weight: 82g Volume: 58.00 cc (cm3) Display and 3D Main display - Size: 1.8" - Resolution: 128 x 160 pixels - Up to 65,000 - TFT Summary: Extremely basic and underwhelming phone of the lowest order from an established manufacturer who really ought to know better. But then again they have produced a functional phone which retails for less than the cost of PAYG top up voucher! If you don't care about style and simply need a basic phone to stay in touch it's worth considering but for me, even as I received it free (including all calls), I felt like I had got a bum deal.
Desperately need a kettle to replace my old behemoth which is always shorting out I trawled everywhere looking for a suitable replacement. A kettle is a kettle you might say but I am a little fussy and wanted something in stainless steel to compliment my black gloss kitchen tiles. The Kenwood SJM280 retails in Argos for just under £50 but is currently a very reasonable half price which is a big consideration when shopping in hard times. Shall I buy a £25 kettle or a £50 one for the same price? You do the math! The Kenwood is brushed steel around the body with the top, the bottom and the handle being black plastic. The whole thing looks very sleek and minimalist and I was impressed by the weight, or lack of it, coming in at just 0.835kg. The separate base unit is small and has a long cord which can be shortened by the integrated cable tidy for neatness. There is a dual water level window so the kettle can be placed either way around on a work surface which I think is a thoughtful touch. Inside is a covered element and a mesh filter in the spout for limiting limescale though I always filter mine before every boil. What most impressed me about this kettle was the quietness, at least relative to my previous one which sounded like heavy duty machinery despite its quality. The power rating comes in at a hefty 3kw which although not particularly eco-friendly allows the kettle to boil its 1.7 litre capacity quite swiftly. Using the window gauge 2.5 cups takes just over a minute at 1.02 and the max of around 8 cups is around 3.17 minutes. Summary I have to say it seems a little odd to be impressed by a kettle but there you go. Considering it is currently at half price in Argos it is worth serious consideration. 5 stars for me without question! PS why is there installation, sound and picture quality on a kettle in the quick ratings??!!
This film had a great deal of drama surrounding critics calling it challenging and obscene, words I like to hear. I believe that boundaries are there to be pushed and pushed until they break. Clearly a lot of people are put off by European cinema despite some great releases but here is one reason why perhaps. The film centres around a maniacal German surgeon who is obsessed with conjoined bodies, indeed he decorates his clinically pristine home with artwork of the subject. In the opening scenes we are made aware of a siamese triplet he has created from dogs buried in his lawn and we get the idea where this film is probably going. Dr Heiter is clearly bonkers and has the vision of creating a human centipede using three unwilling guinea pigs he kidnaps to realise his demented fantasy. What gave rise to the controversy surrounding the film was that the people were joined mouth to anus and their intestinal tracts joined as one allowing food to be eating by the first and excreted by the third. I believe there was some promotion stating that the theoretical surgery was anatomically correct! Despite the interesting possibilities I could not get into this film at all. The premise was good but the acting was absolutely dire, probably the worst I have seen in a long, long time. The two American ladies played by Ashley C Williams and Ashlynn Yennie are terrible. They over pronounce their lines and have strange pauses in the timing, you want them to be operated on! Their co-prisoner is a Japanese man played by Akihiro Kitamura who is streets ahead in terms of screen prescence practically making them invisible. Worst of all however is the lead Dr Heiter played by the incredibly wooden Dieter Laser who virtually floats around the set making no impact at all. His interactions are mundane and clinical, like his character, and he shows virtually no emotion through his botox face to whole time he is on screen. The worst thing thing about the whole experience for me was that I felt compelled to watch the film despite it being boring just to see the outcome of the human centipede. I could write paragraphs about imagery and ethics but at the end of the day this is a film about sewing mouths to arses. Cast: Dieter Laser Ashley C. Williams Ashlynn Yennie Akihiro Kitamura Andreas Leupold Peter Blankenstein Summary: Promised so much yet failed to deliver despite some key moments. It did win several awards however so someone must see merit in the work. Give it a try if it's on TV but do not rent or buy.
Being a big tech fan I was well aware of this beast before it arrived, following Twitter trends and tech journals in anticipation of what looked to be the best possible Android phone so far. As I owned the previous model, the Galaxy S, I did wonder how much more of an improvement they could visibly make to justify what I assumed would be a heavy price tag. The specifications on paper looked very good indeed, the pedigree was there and now all it needed was something of a wow factor, something to make it stand out for the crowd. Where I went wrong with this phone was expecting a reinvention of a modern classic that would hold its own for a long while yet. Samsung however took what was the, in my opinion, best Android phone on the market and made every single thing better. First Impressions: Out of the box and in the hand the ramp in screen size is evident though it still feels comfortable to hold and its light too. I popped off the back to put my sim in and gasped at the flimsy rear cover which is more or less about the strength of an After 8 mint paper. This does feel cheap in all honesty, I would have preferred aluminium coated black to match the handset but I suppose this saves weight and lowers the profile. The fascia is all glass bearing the Samsung logo, front facing camera and earpiece at the top and a physical home button and two touch sensitive menu and back buttons.The glass is tough and although a finger print magnet retains an effortless smooth feel to allow fingers to glide over its surface. To the right is a power button and volume keys are on the opposite side. The phone connects and charges through a micro USB port on the bottom edge, the top having a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. The rare has a speaker at the bottom and a 8Mp camera with dual flash at the top. It is bigger than it's predecessor but still as comfortable. Power On: It's fair to say that first impressions are above what I expected with bright, vibrant colours contrasting against deep blacks. It looks impressive and despite build quality reservations, expensive. The typical Android greeting and first time user wizard see a swift and effortless run through detailed basics to get your phone up and running in no time. The screen itself is lush and a joy to behold with pin sharp resolution and a speedy, responsive touchscreen of the capacitive variety. Home screens flip effortlessly through and going in and out of the menu is equally fast. Given the dual core processor this is no surprise but basic functions shouldn't challenge the phone anyway. The 480*800 resolution is a little shy of Apple's Retina Display technology but given the much larger display area and the stunning colour reproduction I would say it eclipses the iPhone 4. User Interface: The S2 uses Samsung's proprietary Touch Wiz interface, here in version 4.0, to skin the Android experience. Seven home screens are available by default which can in turn be customized with shorts and widgets. The screens can be switched between with various effects and if you wish you can use a 3rd party app from Android Market to completely change the appearance of your phone. The menu gives a 12 icon series of screens with shortcuts to various apps which again can be added to from the Market though it is tempting to simply fill your phone with various junk items you will probably never use. Settings is the one you will probably access the most as it gives detailed system information, security and access to all the connectivity parameters such as wifi and GPS. You might want to make a desktop shortcut on your home screen for this one though the Android drag down menu gives limited access to these settings. Camera: The rear sensor is a high quality 8Mp supported by a good flash for excellent pictures. Auto zoom, touch zoom and face detection are some of the features supported and if you delve in the menu there are a great deal of advanced settings to tweak. Samsung has included it's own photo editor though Photoshop is available as a free app along side many others both free and paid. The video capture has also been upped from the 720p on the S to full HD at 1080p and the quality is very good indeed. Playback is smooth and colors are faithfully reproduced. I imported a 30 sec clip onto my iMac and on the HD screen 5 times larger it still looked excellent. The front facing camera does a decent job of video calls and is ok for some fun apps but it is vastly inferior to the main sensor. The bundled media player is very good for watching your shoots and also plays DivX and Xvid formats if you want to import digital movies onto the phone or a SD card. Calls: Well it makes calls and sends texts too. It does this largely very well but this is always going to be network/area dependent and to be honest this is a major convergence device so it's all about media and internet for me. When I have a reception the call quality is always crystal clear so I have no complaints. The numbers: The Processor is a dual core ARM Cortex-A9 and runs at 1.2Ghz though it can be over clocked by those with root access and sense of devilment. RAM is 1Gb and is supplemented by 16Gb of storage on the handset itself which in turn can be boosted by a Micro SD up to 32Gb. Control freaks will be pleased to know that you can exceed this limit with some tinkering! The display is Super AMOLED Plus has a resolution of 480*800 and is covered in tough Gorilla Glass. The 8Mp camera has a LED flash and shoots 1080p video at 30fps. (That's good) Connectivity gives wifi 802.11 a/b/g/n, GPS, Bluetooth 3.0 It ships with Gingerbread 2.3.3 though 2.3.4 is available. Being a geek I have 2.3.5 on mine. Any kind of messing with your phones system to make permanent changes WILL void your warranty and if done incorrectly or carelessly turn it into an expensive paperweight. Verdict: Top class phone with top specifications inside. The slimline body is plasticky but the display is awesome, turn it up to full brightness and you need sunglasses! Killer 5 star phone for me.
Right. I am going to be bold and say that the iPhone is no longer relevant thanks to the ever improving Android handsets. As an Apple fan and iMac owner I doubt anyone will surpass them for design and build quality but I strongly believe that the Andorid platform is better and stronger. A strong platform requires a phone capable of doing the operating system justice and this means doing all things equally well, consistently and better than its rivals. Samsung have delivered with the GT i9000 Galaxy S. In terms of general specifications the S hits hard with an ARM processor clocked at 1Ghz which is complimented with a generous 512Mb or RAM with a choice of either 8 or 16Gb of internal storage. Memory can be supplemented with a micro SD card upto 32Gb. What makes this handset a delight though is the 4in Super AMOLED display banging out a resolution of 480*800 and it looks simply sensational. Colours are bright and vibrant, particularly greens and yellows, and even turning down the brightness does little to dull the experience. The capactive touchscreen is responsive and thanks to the hardware everything seems to fly along nice and quick. Build The body of the phone is slimline and feels good in the hand. It feels quite substantial despite only being 9.8mm in depth and the majority of the mobile is simply screen area. It's fair to say that the design whilst nice is slightly cheap feeling and the plastic is a major departure from the prestige of the Apple and HTC models. The front fascia features a physical home button and touch sensitive menu and and back buttons. The sides hold volume controls and a power button, the majority of interaction being handled by the touchscreen. Camera The camera has a 5mp sensor and is capable of shooting video at 720p. As always the best shots come from the best conditions so bright sunshine or good ambient light is useful but the lack of a flash kills most low light shooting. The front facing camera is VGA quality for video calling and may be useful in some apps though it seems to be a feature that isn't actually in demand. Interface Typically Android is very simple to use though my first transition from standard interfaces was troubling. A few moments and things make some sort of sense and a few hours later it seems natural and perfect. The system basically comprises a series of desktops as with a PC which each contain a series of customisable icons and widgets. The menu within shows all the apps and gives access to the system settings and items such as the gallery which houses media. The Galaxy S comes with version 2.1 Eclair or 2.2 Froyo but 2.3 Gingerbread is available with an update through Samsungs Kies software. The 2.3.3 official update is the very latest but you can go to 2.3.4 if you don't mind the chance of bricking your phone through error with a custom download. Battery The typical smartphone battery struggles to hold throughout a normal day and the same almost holds true here. The lithium ion 1500 mAh source lasts me the whole day with moderate to heavy use though gaming or GPS will kill it mid evening. If you are desk bound a dock would be an idea and I always keep a charger in my car for top ups. Tech spec Processor 1GHz CPU Speed Memory 16GB/8GB+ MicroSD(Up to 32GB) Display / Size 4.0" WVGA(480x800) 16M SUPER AMOLED mDNIe(Mobile Digital Natural Image engine) Samsung Android 2.1 (Eclair) Connectivity Bluetooth technology v3.0, USB 2.0 FS, Wi-Fi 802.11n, GPS Design Main color : Ebony Gray Type : Full touch bar Network HSUPA 900/1900/2100 EDGE/GPRS 850/ 900/1800/1900 Camera 5.0 Megapixel AF camera Self Shot, Action Shot, Add me, Cartoon Shot, Smile Shot Video HD Video Player & Recorder (1280 x 720) @ 30fps codec: DivX, XviD, MPEG4, H.263, H.264, WMV, VC-1 format: 3gp(mp4), AVI(divx), MKV, FLV, H.263Sorenson Samsung Apps / Android Market Various applications downloadable Social Hub Integrates SNS, email, and calendar accounts Battery (Standard) Li-pol, 1,500mAh Talk time: 2G/803 min, 3G/393 min. Standby time: 2G/750 hrs, 3G/576 hrs. Music Music Player with SoundAlive 3.5mm Ear Jack MP3/AAC/AAC+/eAAC+/OGG/WMA/AMR-NB/AMR-WB/WAV/ MID/AC3/IMY/FLAC/XMF Android Browser Flash Lite3.1, RSS reader Android Samsung UI Multiple Homescreens Hybrid Widgets Sensor Multi-touch zoom, Light sensor, Accelerometer sensor, Proximity Sensor, Digital Compass Additional Applications Layar Reality Browser powered by Tele Atlas Swype, Write & Go ThinkFree Aldiko e-book Conclusion The Galaxy S is a fantastic phone and even in light of recent dual core and 3D releases remains one of the best smartphones on the market. I have no reservations at all in giving it 5 stars and as said the screen is a real delight. Give it a try.
Introduction: Sony Ericsson have a bit of a dodgy track record as far as I am concerned and this seems to be backed up by a string of complaints regarding build quality and reliability. Nethertheless I have still had a few SE handsets over the years and they do occasionally produce some great examples. Currently pushing the newest phones in their Xperia range (the Arc and the Play) they still have some premium handsets to choose from that now fall into the 'mid range' price category. One of these is the Xperia X10 which on the face of things is a very impressive phone. First Impressions: This phone is large. There is no escaping that but this is due to being dominated by a huge looking 4in high quality capacitive touchscreen. Three physical buttons sit beneath it for shortcut, home and back functions respectively. The top of the phone has a power button, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a micro USB port secreted under a cover. To the right hand side are volume buttons and a dedicated camera hotkey. The phone is quite weighty but has a very solid feel and this denotes the great build quality. The rear casing is sculpted to a gentle curve which fits nicely in the hand and apart from branding contains just the camera and accompanying 'light'. OS: Initially shipped with the ageing Android 1.6 Donut, subsequent software updates have brought this up up to version 2.1 Eclair. This was supposed to be the last firmware upgrade available with many users dismayed at the lack of 2.2 FroYo support on the flagship handset but it is now officially confirmed that the newest version of Android, 2.3 Gingerbread, will be released in Q3 of this year - possibly at the beginning of August. SE use their own software as an overlay of Android but anyone who has used the open source platform previously will find it both familiar and logical. A big feature of this handset is the Timescape app which aggregates messages with social media such as Twitter and Facebook into a 3D rotating tab showing the latest details and updates in a flashy graphical representation. Similarly, Mediascape aggregates photos, videos and music, cataloging them in groups for fast access. It is more functional than Timescape but still a good way to handle media. Recent software updates have also brought into play some features that were missing such as HD video recording (well 720p) and multitouch which is par for the course these days on high end phones. Camera: Sony Ericsson have a tendency to incorporate some excellent hardware as far as optics are concerned though some may say they should concentrate more on the phone itself. The sensor itself is a 8.1mp one which takes excellent pictures, particularly when there is good ambient light. A host of software features include face recognition, smile detection, geo tagging and touch the focus. A stack of in-menu technical options are available but what I must mention is the LED flash that doesn't actually flash! The LED is essentially a light that provides a fixed point of illumination and needs to be turned on and off as required. Whilst the lack of a flash option is puzzling the light does a fairly good and is very bright. The camera also captures video at WVGA resolution at 30fps going up to 720p with continuous auto focus. I found footage to be of good quality with decent image stabilisation and not overly sensitive to noise. Colour representation is good but perhaps slightly muted and when I outputted media to my 40in LED I was impressed by the overall standard. Display: The screen is the crowning glory of this handset and it looks excellent. A resolution of 480*840 gives a sharp, vivid look which shows off pictures and video very well, including fast moving footage. The screen is capacitive and has an excellent level of response and precision though the glossy finish is highly prone to finger marks. At the time this was probably one of the best displays on the market and it still holds its own but can't match the newer AMOLED screens which are stunning. It is also worth noting that it is hard to see in bright sunlight. Battery: The 1500 mha battery is powerful but sadly the phone is more powerful meaning frequent charging is obligatory. Light use will see you through the day but data intensive tasks and GPS will kill it dead in no time meaning you need to keep a plethora of chargers at strategic points to maintain use. Switching off non essentials such as bluetooth and wifi will ease the pain but most people want to use the full functionality of their handset. Perhaps the 2.3 update will address power management? Ease of use: Generally the Android OS is well thought out and quite logical though does differ from the more basic (easier?) systems such as Symbian used on Nokias. Messages tend to be held in feeds rather than having traditional in and out boxes but the majority is icon driven for apps and self explanatory headings in the menu sub system. You may find your first Android phone a little alien but within the first few hours everything just seems to make sense. The physical dimensions of the phone don't make it hard to hold and the contoured back is comfortable. Buttons are sensibly located though I personally prefer the power point to be on the bottom of the phone. Everything feels quite sturdy and entirely functional though I do feel the camera hotkey is slow to respond, as is the accelorometer when switching between portrait and landscape modes. Tech spec: Dimensions 119 x 63 x 13 mm Weight 135 g with battery Operating system (upgrade to Android 2.3 in late Q2 early Q3 2011) Android 2.1 (upgraded from Android 1.6) CPU 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon Memory 384 MB Storage 1 GB NAND Flash in phone, up to 32 GB on microSDHC memory card Removable storage micro-SD (up to 32 GB supported) Battery Rechargeable and replaceable, Li-Po 1500 mAh (BST-41). Data inputs Touchscreen (limited multi-touch), Accelerometer, Digital Compass, Proximity and ambient light sensors, Headset controls Display 4.0 inch touch screen, Hardware 16M Colors, 65,356-colour. (480 x 854 pixels) (245 dpi, 0.39 Megapixels) FWVGA TFT Rear camera 8.1 MP with Auto focus, Face recognition, Geo-tagging, Image and video stabilizer, Smile detection and Touch focus, Video WVGA (Android 1.6), 720p HD (Android 2.1) Connectivity Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP microUSB 2.0 3.5mm audio jack aGPS Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g Summary: A very good phone which at the time was the flagship handset for Sony Ericssons Xperia range. Today it is still great though would benefit from the imminent software upgrade. Display, camera, media and social networking are all top drawer as is the stunning display. The only downside is the appalling battery life which is only remedied by crippling functionality. Addressing power issues and finding a replacement, more powerful battery would make this a 5 star phone. As it is, it's a very strong 4 stars.
Black Swan is an intense psychological journey following a dancer who constantly strives for perfection and the toll it takes on both her body and more importantly her mind. Natalie Portman stars as Nina Sayers, a talented and highly committed ballerina who trains relentlessly to be the best dancer she can possibly be. In a very competitive dance company run by Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) Nina goes all out to prove herself as the perfect choice for Leroy's reinterpretation of Swan Lake, looking for the role of Swan Queen, playing both the white and the black swan. Smothered by a menacingly protective mother played really well by Barbara Hershey, she becomes increasingly more detached as she struggles to prove she has the dark abandon to play the black swan as well as the pure, perfect white swan which echoes her skill and technique. Embarking on a journey of unnerving self abuse and competing against her apparent duplicitous rival Lily (Mila Kunis), Nina spirals out of control as the two personas of the Swan Queen begin to mirror her life and then chaotically merge with dramatic effect. Impact: Natalie Portman provides a subtle frailty to the role which consistently increase in impact as her world falls apart. The obsessive maternal figure really holds in the childlike innocence of Nina which we see start to fracture as the black swan persona emerges and crosses over into her life. Portman is stunning throughout and her portrayal of Nina is driven home in scenes of self harm and bulimia which are at juxtaposition to her once innocence. Black Swan is effectively a contemporary remake of the classic ballet and the transformation mirrors the characters complexities. Wether this film is a traditional tale of good versus evil, a social observation or an insight into mental illness, I think it is best to take what you will from the experience. To me it was a harrowingly realistic look at how mental health can decline, shaping a persons view and their interactions with the world. In the identifiable context of visual perfection and peer pressure it is also very relevant to 21st century life and expectations of success. I have heard reports of the film being dark and depressing but this is too simplistic an argument. The close parallels with the original ballet make Black Swan both beautiful and tragic, like the ballet this film is taking you on a journey. Obviously the subject matter appears dark but like intelligent cinema you have to look a little bit deeper to appreciate the true enchantment of the characters. Cast: Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers Mila Kunis as Lily Vincent Cassel as Thomas Leroy Barbara Hershey as Erica Sayers Winona Ryder as Beth MacIntyre Benjamin Millepied as David Ksenia Solo as Veronica Kristina Anapau as Galina Janet Montgomery as Madeline Sebastian Stan as Andrew Toby Hemingway as Tom Sergio Torrado as Sergio Development: Essentially this film has been on the table for over ten years as a basic concept but without structure and a script. Director Darren Aronofsky spoke with Portman over many years about doing this film, having previously studied ballet for a number of years only quitting to take up acting. Portman had already mentioned that Mila Kunis would be a perfect partner for the film. Portman spent a year in training prior to the beginning of filming working out 5 hours a day. She incorporated ballet for three hours, plus cross training, stretches and swimming - doing a mile every day. The regime was intense and the already petite star lost over 2 stone and became a very competent dancer appearing in all the shots herself. And when she trained for a year, it was exactly that - 7 days a week and 5 hours at a time. Kunis trained with Portman for six months prior to the film. Performance: Natalie Portman is utterly mesmerising as Nina and could have carried the whole film herself. The fluid sense of change as she becomes increasingly more disengaged is truly compelling. Mila Kunis is also excellent as the sultry and provocative Lily and the two have excellent on screen chemistry. A special mention should go also to Barbara Hershey for her role as Nina's psychotic mother who truly menaces as she tries to keep her in a childlike state of innocence. Nina's room is full of cuddly toys and her mum helps to dress her in a way that is uncomfortable if not quite incestuous. Keep an eye out too for Wynona Ryder as the faded primadonna Beth MacIntyre who lives up to her quirky image and injects some real venom into Nina assuming the role of lead dancer. Portman recently won the Best Leading Actress category at the Baftas for her role in Black Swan and this is entirely justified. Several other categories were also nominated and there are possible wins at the Oscars this year including Best Actress, Best Director and Best Picture. Summary: Visually stunning and beautifully acted, Black Swan is one of the best films I have seen for a long, long time. Don't be put off by the fact that the story is centred around ballet as this is all about inner conflict and stress dynamics. You don't really need to be familiar with the story of Swan Lake either but it's worth a Goole for a better insight. I was lucky enough to see the Russian Ballet perform Swan Lake though it can be inaccessible to those unfamiliar with stories through the medium of dance. It is slightly confusing I admit! The film however is truly excellent and will be part of my collection soon.
Having been stuck with a good but frankly old school CRT set I have been busting to upgrade my TV for absolutely ages. However recently my wife's 'there's nothing wrong with it' approach started to soften and in the end we are both big gadget fans anyway. So we started to look for an nice LCD. We looked at a lovely 32" Samsung set which was superb but my wife wanted something bigger than that so I found a LG 36" which was equally nice. Strangely my wife said she wanted something bigger still (no metaphors here) and hiding my excitement we settled on going for a 40" which would give the best balance of image quality and size relative to where we wanted to position it. Still not entirely satisfied she then said that we may as well upgrade the screen quality to LED for the small difference in money, about £100. Consequently I am chomping at the bit now to get it ordered and dispatched! Finally the day arrived and it was here, in a huge box. When you are in the store looking at the 60" set don't buy it unless you live in a huge open plan warehouse or it will totally dominate the area. Still we wanted a nice focal point and I think the 40" was just about right. Out of the box: Not much in there really. A huge high gloss black screen and a weighty glass base with stainless steel trim. Assembly was a simple 5 minute job and then it was time to mate it up to the other kit. A variety of cables were included, the most useful being HDMI converters, and the remote with accompanying AAA batteries. No standard HDMI cable though I noticed but not a big issue. Set up: As with most sets these days the installation pretty much takes care of itself. Once I had connected my PVR and Blu Ray switching on the set presents the first time installation menu. I chose the set up language, the home over shop option, digital channels, terrestrial broadcast and then the process is underway. The graphic states to allow 15 minutes but the reality is less than half of that. Soon after everything is ready to go and you can enjoy your new TV! Options: There are a huge amount of settings to play with for those who really want to tweak their set to exacting specifications but I left the colours on the default levels. The main areas to look at are Setup, Tool, Link, EPG and CH list. Setup and Tool are the main sub menus that give the greatest variety of setting adjustments, primarily installation settings, screen options, colours and environmental options. Personally I chose to use advanced power save mode which reduces the brightness of the set to save energy although LED sets are very economical to run anyway. The Aquos also has an ambient light sensor which automatically adjusts the screen brightness according to environmental changes such as turning off the room lights. Link refers to Aquos Link which is a system that supported Sharp peripherals can directly communicate with the TV so for example you can operate a Blu Ray player with the TV remote control. It's a nice little touch though obviously limited in comparison to dedicated unit remotes. EPG and CH list allows you to modify the way that information is presented on screen and set up preferences to timed scheduling. Impressions: This TV looks absolutely gorgeous and the high gloss finish is lush. The black bezel is outer finished on the side with silver to compliment the stand. The lower part of the bezel has a clear glass edge which features illuminating touch sensitive buttons that respond nicely to a slight press. The actual screen is very nice and SD channels look good depending on which channel you are watching. They tend to broadcast at 576i though some still seem to be better quality than others but the standard is high. The integrated Freeview HD tuner gives access to the 4 currently available HD channels namely BBC One HD, BBC HD, ITV 1 HD and CH4 HD, all of which look fantastic. I have to say that I think that the BBC ones tend to be ever so slightly better. The Sharp Aquos is marketed for it's unique extra pixel technology which adds yellow to the traditional RGB sub matrix giving a much broader range of colour reproduction. This does seem to make a difference in scenes where there is a great range of colour for example in Larkrise to Candleford where there is a lot of yellows, golds and browns in the country scenes. The full HD 1920*1080 is truly brought to life however when using Blu Ray media. The quality of the images are totally stunning and so much clearer and more precise than any images I have seen previously. I didn't think there would be much difference between LCD and LED but there absolutely is. They're not poles apart but when you are spending a lot of money on a big item such as a TV the you should get the best you can afford. I am certainly very happy we chose LED. The sound is equally good with loud and clear tones across the range. You may want to mate it up to a surround sound system or the Sharp soundbar but I have found it more than capable. There is no distortion in the sound when you really want to crank it high for the big blockbusters. The digital amplifier is mated to 2 x 10w speakers and a 15w sub woofer. Technical Specification: General Width 99.3 cm Depth 27.5 cm Height 65.9 cm Weight 19.5 kg Enclosure Colour Piano black and mirror front with silver frame Product Type 40" LCD TV Series Aquos Dimensions With stand PC Interface VGA (HD-15) Video Interface Component, composite, HDMI, SCART HDMI Ports Qty 4 port(s) Power Power Device Power supply - internal Display Technology TFT active matrix Features Optical Picture Control (OPC), AQUOS LINK, USB MP3 playback, USB JPEG photo playback, DivX movie playback, X-GEN panel, USB Media Player, Quattron Quad Pixel Technology, USB DivX HD movie playback, ECO picture control (EPC), film dejudder, Smart AV Mode I Diagonal Size 40" - widescreen Display Format 1080p (FullHD) Resolution 1920 x 1080 Enhanced Refresh Rate 100 Hz Connections Connector Type 4 x HDMI ( 19 pin HDMI Type A ) ¦ 1 x SCART ( 21 PIN SCART ) ¦ Composite video/audio input ( RCA phono x 3 ) ¦ Component video input ( RCA phono x 3 ) ¦ Headphones ( mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm ) ¦ Audio line-in ( RCA phono x 2 ) ¦ Digital audio output (optical) ( TOS Link ) ¦ VGA input ( 15 PIN HD D-Sub (HD-15) ¦ Serial ( 9 PIN D-Sub ) ¦ USB ( 4 PIN USB Type A ) Slot Provided Common Interface slot Audio System Speaker(s) 2 x right/left channel speaker - built-in - 10 Watt ¦ 1 x subwoofer - built-in - 15 Watt Output Power / Total 35 Watt Sound Output Mode Stereo Remote Control Type Remote control - infrared Digital TV Tuner Digital TV Service Freeview HD Summary: Absolutely superb TV with excellent design and build quality. The colour reproduction and image clarity is simply stunning making viewing a pleasure. There is a comprehensive and intuitive menu system which is easy to navigate and offers endless amounts of tweaks to fine tune your set to your requirements. If you are still not sure of the jump to three dimensions (too early for me) then this set provides one of the best consumer experiences available. Expect to pay in the region of £650 for this model but shop around as I have seen it priced at over £1000.
Law Abiding Citizen is a story about a family man whose life is torn apart by intruders who kill his wife and daughter and leave him for dead. He is pushed over the edge when a cocky young lawyer makes a plea bargain against his wishes allowing one killer to escape with a light sentence in return for testifying against his accomplice. Ten years later the man's vengeance is realised in a series of extraordinary events that leave the lawyer racing against the clock to find out who is behind the carnage. This could be seen as a tale of good versus bad which is a story as old as time itself or it could be a more serious piece of cinema that looks at the criminal justice system and exposes it's flaws. What makes this a good film is the fact that an angry man seemingly kills a lot of people and blows stuff up and that is the best way to approach it. Everything is dealt with at a good pace with plenty of action and the characters are strong. The complexity of the thread is at odds with what is essentially a very simple story and that is why I think this film works so well. Gerard Butler (who I like) is great as Clyde Shelton and brings a menacing intensity to the role of the grieving husband and father. Jamie Foxx (undecided about him) plays an equally good counterpart as the ego led lawyer and the two have some genuine chemistry. Butler's accent slips occasionally and there are some laughably stereotyped supporting characters in the mix but the cast is pretty cohesive. Everything looks fantastic in high definition with some dark moody sets and some truly vibrant colours in the open. The panning heli-cam looks great and the explosions are glorious. I think this is a case of the bigger the screen you have the better. You don't need the effect to draw you in but everything just looks so much better and you really have a great anti-hero in Shelton. I was a little annoyed that my disc had some slight issue with lip synch at places. Although only a fraction out it is disappointing to see in a finished product. Most probably this is not a widespread problem. The film is rated 18 as there is a considerable amount of violence and some of the scenes may be disturbing to some people. I think this relevant, in context and not overly gratuitous. Some may disagree however. It's an unpleasant subject but the end result is enjoyable. Cast: Gerard Butler as Clyde Shelton Jamie Foxx as Nick Rice Bruce McGill as Jonas Cantrell Colm Meaney as Detective Dunnigan Viola Davis as the Mayor of Philadelphia Regina Hall as Kelly Rice Leslie Bibb as Sarah Lowell Michael Irby as Detective Garza Gregory Itzin as Warden Inger Annie Corley as Judge Laura Burch Michael Kelly as CIA Operative Bray Roger Bart as Brian Bringham Christian Stolte as Clarence J. Darby Richard Portnow as Bill Reynolds Josh Stewart as Rupert Ames Special Features: Law in black and white - Behind the scenes / The justice of the law abiding citizen Preliminary arguments - Visual effects / Trailers Summary: Clever and explosive, Law Abiding Citizen is an action movie to make you wince, jump and then clap. Great fun.
I searched for this film in the reviews just to see what comments were left and was surprised to see no-one had reviewed it. I suspect if you have seen it you probably turned it off. For those who haven't seen it let me explain why... Serbian Film transcends previous attempts at provoking controversy by simply trampling over every film that ever tried to shock you. All the marketing keywords like gritty, raw, shocking and gruesome are just not suitable to prepare you for what is in store. I previously reviewed (sort of) 'Grotesque' which was a film I turned off for a moment before continuing, and that film was savage enough for me to think horror could go no further. I was wrong. Horror generally breaks down into two categories, gore and psychological. The blood and guts thing has been well explored and with great commercial success but you are left wondering just how much worse it can get. In terms of psychological horror a good scare is great but difficult to achieve whilst maintaining critical credibility. So where to go with this film then? Serbian Film takes acts that are grossly unimaginable and yet manages to graphically realise them leaving a dreadful sense of horror that is hard to fathom. What is depicted is not only vile but scarring. I have seen a lot of web references to various horror films which say 'don't watch because you can't unsee it' as some sort of marketing hype. With this film it is very true. And don't think I am hyping this film, this is a direct warning to give it a miss. The plot centres around a retired porn star who is offered a chance to make a lot of money in a groundbreaking new film. Having falling on hard times he needs to accept to support his wife and son. Unfortunately the job evolves into something much darker than he ever expected and he tries to back out. The rich architect of the plan has no intention of losing his star, at any cost. Themes are not intimated towards but rather explored to the full, disregarding decency and taste. Examples include misogynistic violence/humiliation, rape, murder, incest, paedophilia and necrophilia. You did read that right. Everything portrayed is uncompromising and as such, horrific. I don't like censorship but this goes way beyond acceptability. It shouldn't be available really and anyone expressing these sort of ideas would be considered dangerous to the majority of sensible people. Obviously this is not suitable for anyone save for media/psychology students (perhaps) and psychopathic sex offenders. *Edit* I should probably mention that the UK version has over 4 minutes of cuts which is a considerable amount as it addresses solely explicit scenes. The unrated version is available online if you must. Leave well alone!
I spend a great deal of time complaining about DAB - The poor infrastructure, broadcasting at narrow bandwidths, signal inconsistencies... When it's good it very good but when it's bad it's absolutely awful. I think the general public will be quite alarmed when the analogue signal is discontinued completely unless some improvements are made. DAB+ brought some technical improvements theoretically though anyone owning the original standard DAB radios would need to upgrade their sets, quite annoying for early adopters of the new technology. I'm not exactly singing the praises of DAB at the minute which is odd considering that this is the fourth radio I have in my house so far excluding DVB boxes. The Pure Sensia however brings some new tricks to the table and it does with a great deal of style too. Pure are a British company founded in 2002 who make DAB radio sets for worldwide commercial sale and are innovators in the industry. You'll find that many low priced generic brands borrow a certain amount of style from the Pure branded radios. The other Pure radio I currently use is The Bug which is a design collaboration with Red or Dead designer Wayne Hemingway and well worth a look for it's quirky presence. The Sensia: The Pure Sensia is a beautifully designed unit available in four striking colours: Red, Black, Silver and Yellow. The coloured accents are banded around the centre of the unit with the speakers being a typical black with a fabric covering. Unusually the radio itself is a rugby ball shape with a separate stand that allows the radio to be tilted forwards and backwards. The centre of the unit is dominated by a high quality 5.7" full colour touchscreen TFT display which provides access to the interface. Here you have access to the settings such as volume and preferences with the option to choose your audio source. Radio is available via FM, DAB or Wi-Fi giving a massive choice of listening options to suit every taste. FM and DAB are very familiar but Web radio is probably a new concept to many people, especially casual listeners. The benefit of Wi-Fi, together with a broadband connection, is a simply huge collection of radio channels from all over the world which can be organised by location, alphabetically or by genre. To be clear, the term worldwide really does mean everywhere. Initially we listened to stations in Japan, Chile, Israel, Pakistan and Russia, all with crystal clear audio with no fluctuations in quality. We were very impressed. A big selling point of the Pure Sensia is the ability to utilise apps for internet based services such a localised weather forecasts, RSS feeds, Facebook and Picasa. Facebook for example can be used to manage up to ten accounts so you can monitor status updates and see the latest gossip, the app running simultaneously with your chosen station. The touchscreen is bright, clear and very easy to use. Simple touches and swipes are all that are required to flick between apps and stations and windows can be both minimised and maximised much as you would when using a PC or Mac. A similarly stylish remote control is included for basic functions though obviously you need to be interacting with the unit directly to get the best from it. The control is RF based as as opposed to the usual IR so you don't need to be pointing straight at it to use it, or even in the same room. There is also a 3.5mm headphone socket, USB and an input for mp3 players. Technical spec: Digital, FM and internet radio Flow technology for internet radio, listen again programmes, podcasts, PURE Sounds, and media streaming from a Wi-Fi-enabled computer FlowSongs service enables you to buy music direct from your radio. FlowSongs is currently exclusive to UK customers as a public beta 5.7" 640 x 480 pixel TFT colour touchscreen 30W RMS of class leading audio Radio station slideshow via Wi-Fi and broadcast DAB Apps for Facebook, Twitter, Picasa, RSS feeds and more Input for iPod/MP3 player Takes an optional ChargePAK E1 for up to 10 hours portable listening. (Based on DAB listening. Other functions may vary.) RF remote control 30 digital radio presets, 10 FM presets and unlimited internet favourites Easy-to-use tone or radio alarm (mains power only) Sleep timer 3.5mm stereo headphone socket Upgradable via Wi-Fi or USB Impressions: Visually impressive the Sensia also provides quality audio from all sources. For FM and DAB the aerial has to be physically extended though it does lean backwards at a strange angle so it can't be place flat to the wall for some reason. I find that I almost always choose to use the Wi-Fi mode which is quick and stable and doesn't require the aerial at all. The only requirement is that your router is powered on and you have entered the security key. The dominant screen is very striking and looks vibrant displaying station information and apps. The main apps I tend to use are the RSS feeds which I have linked to the BBC news site for the latest headlines, Facebook and weather. The screen is fairly responsive and you soon get used to the required sensitivity much as you would when perhaps trying a new mobile phone. The big selling point for me is the Web based radio due to the phenomenal amount of choice there is. I found a great Swiss station that plays Christmas songs all day, every day of the year which was nice over the festive season. The other benefit is that when using a broadband connection you are not affected by atmospheric conditions regardless of where in the world the station is broadcasting from, something that you just can't say about DAB in the main. Compared to other radios I have looked at and listened to the Pure Sensia is streets ahead of the competition scoring high in all areas. The contemporary design, strong audio quality and fantastic touchscreen make this a class leader and coming in at around the £180 to £200 mark it an absolute bargain. As with all technology you will find it attracts dust and the screen will need regular wiping to maintain the glossy facade but that is the limit of any negativity and to be honest if that's all I can come up with then it is a startlingly good product. Conclusion: Uber stylish piece of tech that fits in with high end electronics products despite the low price. Brilliant colour screen screen provides easy access to a mulitude of features on what is a clear five star product.
With hi spec cameras becoming more accessible, phone cameras now capturing in high definition and running their own image editing apps you have to wonder what on earth is the point of owning an actual compact camera. Unless you have a camera with wi-fi and GPS for geo-tagging and direct uploading to social network sites the fact is they are virtually redundant. Of course there are still people who fear the ubiquitous mobile and the endless advances in converging technology, like my mum, who struggles with text messages though managed to change her traditional ring tone in the 'A Team' theme? I believe the compact digital camera is always a holiday essential, you can never have too many pictures of something you save all year for. The handbag is also a place where you could perhaps dump it for impromptu portraits and funny moments. So unless you are an avid photographer who always carries a camera of some sort the compact is really a back up plan for your main device. With the Olympus FE-25 we have a smallish form camera that carries a distinguished brand name with strong heritage. Of course bearing the name Olympus does not automatically define a great product but you would think it was a good starting point. The FE-25 is an entry level camera with a 10Mp CCD sensor and a 3x optical zoom. The plasticky body alludes to the low cost and the rear LCD is small at 2.4" but the unit feels comfortable and balanced in the hand. The internal memory is a non-existent 19Mb but it accepts Xd cards up to 2Gb and possibly higher though the 4Gb card I tried wouldn't work. This may be addressed with a firmware update but as flash memory is so cheap it's simple just to have a spare card. There are several shooting modes notably the night scene but they are all variations on a theme and do not give quality pictures without some tweaking and reshoots. Tech heads are not really catered for with device with only some low level functions such as ISO adjustment and white balancing and these are presets. Performance: Essentially, like any cheap digital compact camera, the Olympus FE-25 is capable of taking very good pictures in the right conditions. Quite how you quantify what these 'conditions' are is the problem you face. Bright, ambient, sunny light gives nice pictures on occasions but then some will be inexplicably dull or lacking definition. The darker environment can give some nice moody shots but others could be best described as 'grey'. The chances of getting consistently premium quality shots is more of a lottery. The menu system is simple to navigate and logical in nature but constant alterations to settings or frivolous use of the preview screen will take its toll on the batteries. Unfortunately this is the killer blow for this camera. Unless you are prepared to walk around with a huge rucksack filled to the brim with AA's you will soon become annoyed at the constant reminders of the cameras imminent demise. Initially I played with the settings, took 4 pictures and then complained loudly as it died. The use of good quality rechargeable batteries will remedy this but be prepared to carry a couple of sets. Full Spec: CCD Size (inch) 1/2.33 No. of effective pixels (mega) 10.7 megapixels Removable memory xD-Picture Card Internal memory (MB) 19MB Recording file format JPEG Recording image size (pixels) [max.] - [min.] [4:3] 3648x2736 - 640x480 [16:9] 1920x1080 Lens focal length *2 (mm) 36-108mm Aperture range f3.1(W) - 5.9(T) Zoom (Optical / Digital) 3x / 4x [12x] Focusing System CCD contrast detection AF mode iESP/Face Detect Focusing range (Normal / Macro /Super Macro) [Normal] W0.6m-∞/T1.0m-∞ [Macro] W0.1m-∞/T0.6m-∞ [Super Macro] 0.05m f=7.4mm(focal length fixed) Sensitivity (Standard Output Sensitivity approx. ISO) ISO100/200/400/800/1600/AUTO Light metering system ESP Exposure compensation ±2 EV in 1/3 EV steps Shutter speed (sec.) Auto: 1/2-1/2000 (Candle Scene: Longest 4 Sec) White balance Auto, Preset (6 types) Shooting modes Portrait, Landscape, Night, Night+Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cusine, Documents Movie (pixels) [AVI Motion JPEG] 640 x 480 (30 fps/15 fps) 320 x 240 (30 fps/15 fps) Still image edit functions Resize, Trimming TFT colour LCD monitor 2.4-inch Flash functions Auto / Red-Eye Reduction / Fill-in / OFF Selftimer Available Power supply AAx2 Dimension (W x H x D)mm 92.8 x 62.2 x 29.1mm Weight (g) 116g Summary: This should be a good camera in principle but it fails to deliver on many levels. The heavy drain on AA batteries is appalling and will leave you feeling fleeced unless you use rechargeable ones. The other flaw is the bizarre nature in which picture quality is dictated. It is so utterly random that even Stephen Hawking would have trouble explaining it. The best course of action is shoot hundreds of pictures and hope to get fifty good ones which is at odds with the power drain. Olympus has failed with this one I'm afraid.
The iTunes App Store is a great place to find both free and paid for apps for your Apple device and has a huge catalogue across several genres. Currently numbering in excess of 300,000 apps, iTunes is streets ahead of other application providers with only Android's Marketplace offering any tangible competition. Angry Birds is a fun puzzle/action game that is available on iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad and must be running at least iOS 3. Personally I am playing on my iPhone 3GS running iOS 4 and as many smartphone owners will be aware, the heavy feature set tends to be at detriment to battery life. The title has consistently rated high in the app charts for some time and is available in both lite and full versions. The simple but bizarre story involves green pigs which have stolen the birds eggs which is why they are so angry. The birds seek revenge by dive bombing the pigs to destroy them via a catapult. As each bird has specific strengths from splitting into 3 attacking birds to simply exploding, the pigs sensibly build shelters to protect themselves. Shelters are built from wood, glass and stone and some of the more anxious pigs wear protective helmets. Smashing the shelters and destroying all pigs allows you to progress to the next level. The lite version of Angry Birds is free to download and provides 12 levels using a variety of different birds. A star rating is used to determine your level of accomplishment with 3 stars being the highest you can achieve. The requirement is to destroy all pigs though you do not need to achieve a 3 star rating to progress through to the next level. I played the lite version extensively going over the levels repeatedly to get a 3 star rating, improve my score and simply have fun. The replay value is very strong and the 12 levels are a good introduction as to what expect in the full version. Angry Birds in the full version (59p) has 195 levels across 4 worlds: Poached Eggs, Mighty Hoax, Danger Above and the Big Setup. A bonus level called Golden Eggs makes unlockables available. There are also more birds in the full version with extra skills which are not present in the lite version. Presentation wise the graphics are fluid and sharp with good contrasting colours. The sound effects of tweeting birds and pig grunts are rather surprisingly not repetitive and the soundtrack is suitably jolly. Controls are simple touch gestures and the physics appear very realistic making progress quite easy. That's not to say you will sail through the game with perfect scores! The simple gameplay and slick presentation makes the game very appealing and actually quite addictive. The iPhone and Touch have great displays and the game is well suited to these devices, I imagine the iPad HD version will be excellent. Owners of the iPhone 4 also have the benefit of an update for Retina support. The fact that Angry Birds has achieved over 7,000,000 downloads for the premium version is testament to both it's success and the quality of the finished game. The game has gone on to be developed for other operating systems including Android, Symbian and Palm. Not sure if there are any plans for a Blackberry version but this is certainly a big triumph for the Developers Rovio. Just recently and with very good financial timing is the new Angry Birds Halloween version. Perhaps we will see a festive version before too long? Summary: Super engaging puzzle game which is fun, addictive and at times frustrating. Download the lite version to trial the game but as the premium retails for such a reasonable 59p it's an obvious upgrade. Prepare to charge your handset even more frequently than you thought possible.
I am a bit sure on how exactly to review this title. Obviously film critiques are very individual and subjective but you still have an obligation to convey what the work brings to the viewers experience. The key markers are usually the quality of the plot, character development, directorial decisions and cinematography. This is my view as an amateur with no pretense of ever being anything more so. With this piece of work from Japanese director Kôji Shiraishi these requirements barely apply as there is little in the way of any kind of story and almost no character development. Kôji Shiraishi has previously made films which come under the more traditional Japanese horror genre with a strong supernatural element, reminiscent of folklore. No real plot? No character development? I know what you are thinking, either the film is terrible or I have completely misread the whole thing and missed the point entirely. Let me first say that Grotesque, as you may guess from the title, is not so much a film but a voyeuristic experience and one you are unlikely to forget in a hurry. Those easily offended or disturbed should look elsewhere with immediate effect. There is a term bandied about promoting the likes of Hostel as 'torture porn' where there is an almost sadistic intent on unsettling the viewer. If you have seen Hostel and it's many clones you will know these short bursts of brutality have the most direct effect in what is already a disturbing context. Grotesque differs from these films in that the sadism is almost relentless for the majority of the film and the little time away from the horror does nothing but heighten the experience of disgust. Essentially the 'plot' involves a man kidnapping a couple and subjecting them both to sexual degradation and horrific and graphically portrayed torture. This provides the entertainment and the lack of any real story led the BBFC denying the film certification effectively making it illegal. I have no desire to research into the motivation for this type of film from a directorial standpoint but my impression is that this an experiment to probe what the viewer can tolerate if not understand. This is almost a pointless exercise in a mainstream environment but it may appeal to fans of the sub genre and those with a darker, perhaps kinkier interest in sadism. It must be advised in the strongest possible terms that is a film which cannot be viewed passively due to the extreme graphic violence, sexual abuse and relentless disregard for humanity. I will not make any reference to the acts carried out within the film as it would serve no purpose and I hope I have been sufficient in describing the horror you may experience. I watched the original Japanese version which had no subtitles and believe me they were not required save for a couple of short scenes. Even then I got the impression these made the film more disturbing, giving an almost abstract art to the composition of Grotesque. Summary: Full on sadistic torture of a couple which is realistically portrayed. The film is not so much 'in your face' as forced down your throat prior to your head being completely torn off. Subtle it is not and it is hard to recommend it on any merit at all. It will appeal to some but to very, very few of you.
Rhythm based games are very popular at the minute and one of the early innovators of the genre was the hugely popular Guitar heroes series published by Red Octane. The series uses either a wired or wireless guitar peripheral with which you strum a sequence of notes whilst holding down coloured 'fret' buttons. Essentially it is mimicking the action of a real guitar so you can participate in set full of famous popular songs. You require no musical ability whatsoever to join in the fun though you need reasonable dexterity and quick thinking. Choosing from a set of pre-designed avatars you are able to participate as the guitarist in a band environment and play to a discerning crowd who will raucously cheer you on or boo should you fail to make the grade. Consistently good playing will reward you by boosting a rock meter which when fully charged allows you to acquire bonus points as you blister away at a lightening covered fret board. Playing through chapters unlocks new chapters and hence new songs. This progress also unlocks features such as clothes and new guitars for your chosen avatar which you purchase with money you have earned from previous gigs. Songs are individually rated with a 5 star system and you need to complete songs with a flawless performance to get maximum points. The game keeps a record of your highest score and the longest note streak you played without making a mistake. Some of the lengthier songs can be quite demanding! This Metallica edition features motion captured performances of the band to animate their avatars and they really look great. The lengthy setlist features 28 classic Metallica songs and 21 from their favoured and influential bands including System Of A Down and Motorhead. The whole presentation of the game is very slick and the graphics are pretty sharp on the Wii though obviously pale against the more powerful HD consoles. Metallica fans are rewarded with lots of info and concert footage and this will pretty much appeal to most rock/metal fans. The setlist also covers the band's lengthy career so you get early classics from Kill 'Em All up to the latest releases. The mechanics of the game are unchanged and will be instantly familiar to those who have previously played the games. If you are new to the series it is easy to pick up with a practice mode enabling you to break down individual songs into their component parts such as verses and solos. The beginner level is very basic and the easy very forgiving. The difficulty really cranks up on the medium setting and the learning curve is almost vertical on hard and expert. There is even an expert plus level if you have the drum set allowing you to add an additional double bass. Anyone who can pick up this game on the easy level will have a great time playing it and the fun increases with friends as you mock and pick at their technique. I walk around the room like I am onstage, shouting and pointing at imaginary fans. It is a really immersive and fun game with a very high replay value. One thing I would say is that the difference between easy/medium is way different from medium and above. The hard and expert levels are insane and all but the elite will be booed off stage in no time. I play on both easy and medium aiming for long streaks of notes and 100% scores. Anyone who can play above these levels is a legend and I salute them. Summary: Awesome guitar game with a great set list and slick presentation. Unleash your inner rock god/chick with Guitar Hero: Metallica. Jack Daniels and smashed TV's are optional. [Edit] Sorry I forgot to mention that there is the choice of playing bass too! Set List: Metallica Tracks All Nightmare Long Battery Creeping Death Disposable Heroes Dyers Eve Enter Sandman Fade To Black Fight Fire With Fire For Whom The Bell Tolls Frantic Fuel Hit The Lights King Nothing Master of Puppets Mercyful Fate (Medley) No Leaf Clover Nothing Else Matters One Orion Sad But True Seek And Destroy The Memory Remains The Shortest Straw The Thing That Should Not Be The Unforgiven Welcome Home (Sanitarium) Wherever I May Roam Whiplash Alice In Chains - No Excuses Bob Seger - Turn The Page Corrosion of Conformity - Albatross Diamond Head - Am I Evil? Foo Fighters - Stacked Actors Judas Priest - Hell Bent For Leather Kyuss - Demon Cleaner Lynyrd Skynyrd - Tuesdays Gone Machine Head - Beautiful Mourning Mastodon - Blood And Thunder Mercyful Fate - Evil Michael Schenker Group - Armed and Ready Motorhead - Ace of Spades Queen - Stone Cold Crazy Samhain - Mother of Mercy Slayer - War Ensemble Social Distortion - Mommy's Little Monster Suicidal Tendencies - War Inside My Head System of a Down - Toxicity The Sword - Black River Thin Lizzy - The Boys Are Back in Town