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Member since: 17.10.2012

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    • More +
      25.02.2014 11:22
      Very helpful



      A great value dive watch, possibly the best value for money out there in terms of a 200m dive watch.

      The Seiko SKA369 / SKA369P1

      I'm a huge fan of Seiko, they are the brand which got me into watch collecting many years ago and still remain the centre of my collection, which stands at 30+ watches at the moment.
      They have a rich heritage, with over 130 years in the watch and clock making industry, and turned out their first wristwatch 90 years ago in 1924! Outside of Switzerland - the natural home and centre of watchmaking for two centuries - they are quite possibly the best known, highest quality and most highly reputed watch-house in the world.

      My collection is quite diverse, but just recently I've been very taken with dive watches, and the bigger the better thanks. Enter the Seiko BFK model.

      Collectors of Seiko like to give the various models (particularly the divers watches) nicknames to make them easily recognisable and more memorable. Browse a Seiko forum and you'll find the Sumo, the Samurai, the Monster... dozens of them.
      The BFK isn't the most original nickname, it stands for Big F..ahem. Kinetic.
      Why? because it's a big kinetic!

      A standard gents watch case (if there is such a thing these days) is around the 40mm mark. Divers watches, maybe 42mm.
      This, the SKA369, is a 47mm beast!
      Solid steel 'C' case, moulded lugs (so the bracelet flows into the case rather than a big gap), crown guards and a hefty 3mm crown mean this looks like a huge lump of metal - and it is.
      It tips the scales (with all the links in) at 225 grams - almost a quarter of a kilo!

      In a word? Mean!
      It's a good, solid utilitarian dive watch. It is designed to be used as a tool watch, so there aren't many delicate touches here I'm afraid, just a big, fairly ugly but utterly functional dive watch.
      The dial is dark blue, which means the heavy luminous pips which mark each hour stand out clearly - it's easy to read at just a glance. The hands are 'skeleton' style, with white frames but again, strong luminous tips (round marker for the hour, arrow for the minute) mean this is very simple to read, no clutter at all.

      A little gripe - the date wheel is pretty tough to make out. It follows the same colour scheme and is white text on a back background, but a black date wheel against a dark dial means it is a challenge to read sometimes, certainly with my eyes, anyway.
      The 120 click bezel is the 'pepsi' style, blue and red (15 minute decompression time marked out with a quarter of the bezel being red). A luminous pip marks the 12 o'clock/zero minutes position and a dotted minute track runs around the inner edge.

      This being a kinetic, there is a power reserve button on the side at the 2 o'clock position (more on that below) and the locking screw-down crown is in the standard 3 o'clock position.

      Seiko watches fall into four different categories.

      <<<Solar>>> Powered by light. These watches have a rechargeable cell beneath the dial which is kept charged by natural light.
      <<<Quartz>>> Battery powered. A small lithium or silver oxide cell keeps the watch ticking, and needs to be replaced when it runs flat.
      <<<Automatic>>> Totally mechanical, powered by wrist movement. A top-heavy rotor swings inside, moving every time the wearer moves their arm. The rotor winds a spring which in turn makes the watch tick. As long as it's kept lubricated, it should in theory run forever.
      <<<Kinetic>>> Exclusive to Seiko. This utilises a mix of quartz and automatic technology. It still has the top heavy rotor, but instead of winding a mainspring it harnesses the 'kinetic energy' and stores it in a rechargeable battery. That means instead of storing a day or so of power, as with an auto, it can store months worth of charge and never lose a second even if it's left still for weeks on end.

      This one uses the 'kinetic' movement, a fantastic innovation designed and patented by Seiko giving all the plus points of automatic and quartz together.
      It's the newer 6 months power reserve as well - the first generation watches only held a month in reserve. The power indicator button on the side will show at a press how much energy the watch is holding.
      I love these Kinetic watches since I have "quite a few" to choose from. It's nice that it's still keeping time if I come to it after days or weeks of it being sat in a box!

      High grade steel case and bracelet, none corrosive and hypo-allergenic, so there should be no negative reactions against the skin as with some of the steel watches of old.
      The glass is 'Hardlex', which is another Seiko innovation, a toughened mineral compound. It does scratch if you give it enough of a knock, but it shouldn't ever shatter. It's built to withstand plenty of abuse, obviously since the case is vacuum sealed and designed to take up to 20 atmospheres (200m) pressure.
      The bezel is a small downer. It's the same tough steel surround, but with an aluminium insert and quite a thin enamel paint over the top. It's very easy to scratch and scuff - I have replaced mine once already.

      Oddly enough, yes.
      Despite its bulk, the watch wears very comfortably. The strap is a fairly short-link so it does tend to mold to your wrist rather than hang off if it's loose or dig in if it's tight, and the case is gently domed on the back so it sits slightly off the wrist-bone.
      Yes it's heavy, but it really doesn't take much getting used to.
      It's deep, at 14mm off the wrist, but passes my 'shirt cuff' challenge, so its fit for work when I'm in a suit as well as a t-shirt.

      200m Water Resistant
      6 month Kinetic cell.
      Luminous dial.
      Power Reserve indicator.
      Push-Button deployant clasp
      Dive Suit extender (a small fold out section to lengthen the bracelet).

      As far as I know there are 4 versions of the BFK.
      SKA371 - Steel case, black dial, black bezel.
      SKA369 - Steel case, black dial, 'pepsi' bezel (blue and red)
      SKA367 - Steel case, yellow dial, black bezel.
      SKA427 - Black steel case, black dial, black bezel.

      I've currently got the black and pepsi versions, but I do believe firmly in collecting full sets... watch this space!!

      Nothing negative to report - the bezel coating is poor quality, but that's standard for a fairly low-end dive watch. The other option is solid ceramic, but watches with that tend to cost thousands rather than hundreds.
      Build quality is not just good, it's phenomenal considering the money - one of the best I've handled. Top quality steel, no gaps where the bracelet meets the case, nice lines despite being a big lump!
      Timekeeping is flawless. I don't think this has lost or gained more than a minute a month during my ownership.

      Price and availability:
      RRP of this model is £299. It's rare you'll find one discounted on the high street, but Amazon often have them up for under £200, and in fact Creation Watches recently had them on clearance at £138!!
      Expect to pay in the region of £150 or so for a new one if you shop around, maybe as cheap as £100 for a good pre-owned one of you're extra lucky!
      Thanks for reading. Kev.


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      • More +
        18.02.2014 22:18
        Very helpful



        Not bad, not good, just a mediocre shower gel that does its job.

        Lynx Africa
        It's been a long time since I used any Lynx products - through school and college they were a staple in our house, but they discontinued my favourite one (anyone remember Lynx Tempest?) and I just seemed to grow out of them.
        I've tried the shower gel before and been fairly happy with it, but I prefer moisturising shower gel like dove these days. Anyway, I was recently caught without anything else but this stuff, so this 'spare' was brought into play.

        It's a tall, slim oval shaped bottle with a slight taper. It's made of black plastic with a black plastic lid - similar to the stock photo but mine is the 'XL' bottle with a different top section, grey/silver push release as a cap.
        The shape is easy enough to handle, but the curved top section makes it near impossible to stand on its head (you know, when you get near the end you leave it turned it upside down).
        The gel is nothing like I remember - instead of quite a watery, flowing liquid it's very thick and very gooey, and quite uncomfortable to spread about as well to be fair, even with my Lynx ManWasher sponge thing (don't ask - X-mas gift!).
        The last time I used this fragrance shower gel, it was red. It's now green! I can't find reference to them changing it, but I'm almost certain they have. I suspect that's when the quality changed too.

        I must admit I quite like the smell of it. This is miles away from any of the other Lynx fragrances, being quite sweet as well as masculine. I've had a go of the Chocolate one and it's sickly sweet, this one is a bit more of a tangy, almost citrus sweet.
        The smell doesn't stay on my skin for very long, which I was disappointed with. I would have hoped a Lynx product would have had a bit of life, lingering a while after drying off.

        Simple enough, do I need to tell you? Ok, spread the gel about yourself, get it into a bit of a lather then rinse it off.
        As above, the gel is a bit thick for my liking. It comes out of the bottle easily enough but isn't comfortable to spread about and tends to settle in blobs when applied directly. When used with a sponge (sorry, ManWasher!) it's marginally better, but still takes a bit of work.
        Rinsing is fine, it comes off without any trouble and doesn't leave any slimy bits. One blast over with the shower head and it's done with.

        My experience:
        Frankly I'm a bit disappointed.
        It's not rubbish by any means, and was great value for money considering the bottle size, but it's just not as good as others on the market in my opinion. Dove and Gillette both do similar products which are much nicer to use and keep me feeling (and smelling) clean for ages afterwards.
        If the smell lingered a while and the gel was a bit thinner then I'd be a happy camper, but after this bottle is done and dusted I will be unlikely to buy another.

        Price and availability:
        Usually a 250ml bottle of this is £2/£2.50. This XL bottle (400ml) was reduced to £2 in ASDA which is the only reason I gave it a whirl. Good value, but in my opinion a sub-standard product.

        Not for me.
        That isn't a reflection on Lynx products in general, for the most part I think they are good quality, but this new formula 'Africa' isn't going to be a regular in our bathroom.
        The last Lynx product I tried was the 'Recover' shower gel which I recommend heartily, so don't take this review as me being negative on the brand.



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        • The World's End (DVD) / DVD / 52 Readings / 51 Ratings
          More +
          13.02.2014 17:21
          Very helpful



          Watch it!

          The Worlds End - movie only review.

          I was really looking forward to seeing this. From the first cinema trailer, it looked very promising! I picked it up on DVD last week and was quite impressed with it. For the most part...

          The Worlds End is the latest Simon Pegg/Nick Frost vehicle, released in 2013, and completes the 'Three Flavours of Cornetto' trilogy along with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
          Each movie from the loosely termed trilogy (none are connected) is a classic British made comedy horror with a different theme.
          Shaun of the Dead focussed on a Zombie apocalypse.
          Hot Fuzz was a loose serial killer/ murder mystery.
          The Worlds End is... is... well, let's see!

          Main Cast:
          Simon Pegg - Gary King
          Nick Frost - Andy Knightley
          Eddied Marsan - Peter Page
          Paddy Considine - Steven Prince
          Martin Freedman - Oliver Chamberlain
          Rosamund Pike - Sam Chamberlain

          TONS of Cameos, most notably;

          Pierce Brosnan - Guy Shepherd
          Bill Nighy - The Network

          In 1990, teenage Gary King and his four childhood friends, a band of misfits and ne'er-do-wells, finally end their lives of education (it's never explained, but hints at college - they are of a drinking age, after all).
          They celebrate by hitting the streets of their hometown, Newton Haven, and taking on an immense pub-crawl known as the Golden Mile; 12 pubs staring with The First Post and ending with The Worlds End.
          The night starts well, everything goes right for the gang's leader and obvious Alpha-Male Gary "The King" King, but his friends slowly start to flag. Peter and Oliver drop out early on, and by pub number 11 the group decide enough is enough, and all call it a night.

          Cut to present day and Gary is an utterly washed up mess. We meet him at some sort of a rehab centre, talking about his problems in a 'trust circle' with other similar looking characters - we don't find out until the very end why he's here or what this is exactly. It soon becomes clear that he traces his failings back to that one fateful night, and his inability to complete the one task he'd set himself - to reach The Worlds End with his friends, conquer The Golden Mile and therefore conquer the town of Newton Haven. As that fact dawns on him, his eyes gleam and he realises exactly what he has to do.

          In homage to the Blues Brothers, he sets about 'getting the band back together'! He tracks each of his old friends down and convinces them, by fair means and foul, to head back to their home-town for one last try at beating the pub crawl. All four of his one-time sidekicks are now great success stories with families, good jobs and happy lives, but they agree to come along for the ride - mainly to see each other, since Gary has become a bit of a joke to them.
          Once back in Newton Haven, they realise something isn't quite right. The town is exactly as they left it, but residents neither remember them nor interact with them and they puzzle over how they have become like robots. In the fourth pub Gary gets into a fight with a 'yoof' in the gents toilets and ends up knocking his head right off his shoulders - revealing that in fact the residents ARE robots!
          What follows is a bit weird. The group decide to continue the pub crawl (because it's what the robots expect) and leave peacefully in the morning, rather than dash for the car immediately and alert them, possibly putting themselves in danger.

          Each of the actors is flawless! From the henpecked husband (Pete) to Gary's rival for the romantic interest (Steven), each character is portrayed perfectly. There is enough screen for all of them, and equally there is enough dialogue to keep them all top of the bill as it were, which isn't always the case when you get so much energy tied up between 5 big actors.
          As the story unfolds we learn more of what has happened in the 20+ years since they were best friends and rifts, rivalries and powerful emotions become evident.
          Olivers sister, Sam (played by Rosamund Pike) is great as the subtle female interest, her character doesn't dominate the movie, rather provides a nice quiet sub-plot linking past and present.
          Comic lines are delivered coherently and timed to perfection - I had to watch it twice to pick up on some of the 'asides', but it is all so well written, very funny and totally believable, it just comes across as banter between the boys.

          Sadly, while the acting is top notch, the story isn't quite. The premise is good, the build up is great and the general story outline has some real potential, but I thought the ending was abysmal.
          From about the 1 hour 15 minutes mark it starts to get a bit thin, leaving half an hour of will they/won't they back and forth before the final climactic scene at The Worlds End. Again, this had limitless potential to be either a funny, touching or explosive finale, but I really hated the direction they took with it. Sorry that sounds a bit vague, but I would really be spoiling the end by going into any detail whatsoever.
          Maybe the ending I expected and sort of wanted would have been a bit cliché, and not befitting one of these off the wall comedy horror films.

          I think I've summed up my feelings pretty well, but to clarify, I think this was a superb film with an excellent pool of talent - every actor delivered 100% - just with a weak ending.
          Who knows, if it had the Hollywood ending maybe I'd be marking it down anyway for being too obvious and cheesy.
          As it stands, I was left with mixed feelings. Glad I'd seen it, mightily impressed with how much was done on a $20 million budget, and proud of how much UK talent we had representing us, but a bit deflated by the climax.

          Released July 2013 (cinema)
          Released November 2013 (DVD)
          109 minute run-time, so just under the 2 hour mark which appears to have taken over from the old 90 minute 'standard' length.
          15 rating, which is spot on for the bad language and, ahem, excessive alcohol consumption!

          I had in my mind 3/5 on the star rating for this, but the more I play it back in my mind the more I think that's a bit mean. A lot of people will love the ending; just because it wasn't to my own taste I probably shouldn't be too harsh.
          An 80% rating, 4/5 stars, is a bit more like it. I think for the work that went into the project (up to the last 20 minutes, anyway), it's deserving of that rate.

          Worth a watch, there are some great laughs in there and visual humour I have come to associate with these Pegg/Frost movies.



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        • ebay.co.uk / Auction / 47 Readings / 45 Ratings
          More +
          12.02.2014 12:38
          Very helpful



          It can be a treasure trove, a living wage or a waste of time. Patience is the key!

          Also known as fee-bay, the bay of thieves and other names not suitable to mention in such polite company!

          But it isn't all bad.
          If you know what you're doing e.bay can be a real money spinner and all it requires is patience, a little spare time and a blind willingness to wait in for the postman and in return make endless 'post office' runs!

          Aside from my day job, I seem to spend my life on e.bay. I love bargain hunting and enjoy the thrill of the chase, but I'm just as happy on the other end of the scale, writing a good detailed listing and watching the bids roll in!

          I've been a member of e.bay now for the better part of a decade, so if anyone is interested, here's a bit of a guide to how to save money and make money trading on e.bay...

          E.bay can be a buyers paradise. I'll say it again before the end of this review, but it's probably the biggest shop-window in the world, and you have access to it from the comfort of your favourite armchair!
          E.bay sales are split between a standard auction format and fixed price 'Buy It Now' listings.

          Buy it now listings are generally higher, but always check them out anyway - you will often get people who just don't want to wait the full course of an auction and fancy a quick hassle free sale, so you still might find a bargain. More often than not, though, BIN sales are professional traders (shops & dealers) who want full retail price out of a product. They might just be using e.bay as an advert for their stock - something to entice customers to their website or physical shop.

          Auction listings are far more common. They can start at any price the seller chooses, but often they will have a 99 pence start price, and they can run for 3, 5, 7, 10 or 30 days. You'll find that a 7 day listing at a 99p starting price is the most common - an item will generally find its market value in that time frame.
          When searching auctions, it's probably best to look at items ending soonest rather than items newly listed. Anything ending that day will usually have a few bids on it already, so you may get a good idea of how desirable it is and be able to gauge roughly what it's going to sell for.
          I'd better say it now - prepare for disappointments. Over 80% of the bids on an item go in in the last 60 seconds! It's not uncommon for a sale to attract no bids for days, then have a bidding war in the dying seconds to push the price right up. There are no set increments to bid as with a live auction either - an item can jump from pennies into thousands of pounds within seconds if two people place bids high enough.

          It's also worth remembering, you won't necessarily pay what you enter as a maximum price. If you're willing to pay £100 for something but the next highest bidder only goes as high as £50, you will win the item for £51. Your bids are entirely secret - only you know what you're willing to pay.

          Shill bidding can be a problem if you bid too early in an auction. If you enter your £100 bid right at the start, a friend of the seller (or the seller with a different account!) can gradually enter counter-bids in small increments - maybe £5 a time - until they are the highest bidder and therefore discover what you're willing to pay. They can then withdraw their last bid, leaving you to pay the maximum!
          For that reason alone it's worth placing a bid as late as possible.

          There are programs you can use known as 'sniper' software which will do this for you. You can enter your bid through that third party and it will automatically place your bid in the last second of the auction. That means it's impossible to 'shill bid' against you, and also removes temptation of going higher than you were prepared if you discover someone has outbid you.
          For example, I've paid double what a watch was worth after being outbid in the last few seconds of an auction. The rush of blood to the head and competitive spirit made me vastly overpay just so not to be beaten!

          Buying to make money:
          The above is a brief overview for anyone buying recreationally. If you're buying on e.bay with the intention of re-selling then this should help a lot.

          Buy the seller!
          You have to know what you're buying is on the level.
          e.bay have an excellent feedback system which will alert you to how trustworthy a seller is and how long they have been trading. Obviously all sellers have to start somewhere, but a new member with thousands of pounds of luxury goods for sale should start some alarm bells ringing.

          Know your product!
          That is the absolute essential. Pick an area you can specialise in and follow that - whether it's vintage clothes, jewellery, watches - whatever. Knowing what you're buying will mean you shouldn't get stung buying fake goods, and will mean you have a good advantage when viewing 'lazy listings' that don't contain much information. Again, I've had some incredible results on there buying watches with zero information on the listing, simply because I can tell from the photographs what it is and what it's worth.

          Source from overseas.
          I buy quite a lot of things in bulk from China, and I can recommend that as a good start. There is usually a 100%-200% margin to be made (double up or triple up) just buy buying in bulk and chopping it out individually, but there are two products I have shipped from Hong Kong which cost me slightly less than £1 per unit if I buy 20 or more, and command £4-£6 each over here in the UK - more still when sold on the high street or at craft and antique fairs. You don't need thousands of pounds of capital, a business could be started with maybe £100 and increase ten fold in year one alone just by following that one tip.

          Buy in bulk!
          Similar to above in some ways. Not everyone will want to separate items for individual sale - it means individual listings, multiple items for post etc. Much easier to lump it all together and let someone else do the work.
          I buy things like video games console bundles with a pile of games, then split it all up and sell separately. Or dvd and blu-rays. It's time consuming listing them all, but if you can make a quid profit on 100+ items, it's a weeks wages!

          Close to home = cheap!
          More for the big stuff this - job-lots, furniture etc.
          Set your search to 'nearest first' and see what pops up in the local area (>5 miles) for 'collection only'.
          Some sellers don't want to risk of posting an item, others just can't be bothered. That should be music to your ears! They have just advertised in the biggest shop window in the world, but reduced their potential buyers to a teeny tiny catchment area!
          I find that auctions in particular go for about a quarter of their 'true' value when listed as collection only. It all depends how many people share the interest in the local area, but I've had watches, jewellery, games consoles and furniture for next to nothing, just the price of petrol really.
          Another tip - there are often pallets full of books sold by overstocked charity shops for pennies!


          As an example, I read a story a few weeks ago about a lawyer who had quit their profession to trade on e.bay and was turning over £100,000 a year. Most people would read that and be amazed. I thought "They can't have been a very good lawyer..."
          Selling on e.bay isn't all people can build it up to be. There are lots of fees and if you're not careful they can eat up all your profits.
          A 'turnover' of £100k is achievable for anyone with the time and energy to put in, most definitely. However, less than half of that will be profit.
          Work on an average mark-up of 2x or 3x. That's about standard for a lot of items and is what trade is built on, buy for a quid, sell it for two. Instantly, then, maybe as much as half of that £100k is wiped out in stock costs.
          E.bay charge a listing fee for every item you list for sale - whether it sells or not. It varies, but can be free (100 items per week can be listed free if you start at 99p on an auction) or as much as a couple of quid.
          They also take 10% of the 'final value fee' - including any postage charges.
          Then if you accept payment via paypal (which 95% of listings do) you're hit with another 4% charge when the money is transferred through them.
          Basically, I figure you're giving 15% of your sale price back to e.bay, plus whatever it costs to post.

          So that £100k, minus 15%, minus stock costs now equates to (worst case scenario) around £35,000 in your pocket, maybe as high as £50,000 if you're making good margins (200%, or a three-times mark-up on cost price).
          Not an amount to be sniffed at, but I'd take a lawyers salary over that thanks!

          Selling to make money:
          Again, if you're not just an amateur seller clearing out the garage and want to make some money at this, then here's some help.

          Badly written listings don't bring a premium.
          If you expect someone to part with their cash, you need to craft a good listing. Clear, concise information in bite-sized chunks always works, even bullet-points of a products pro's and con's can help.
          Make sure you know your product and then covey that to the buyer. They need all the usual sales pitch to make them buy, but delivered personally from you. You'll only get one shot at it.
          Try to come up with a sale template that works for you, then just adapt it to fit every listing.

          The first bite is with the eye!
          Photo's are essential, so it maybe worth investing in a light box/tent or a reasonable camera. My camera is a cheap point-and-shoot that cost £50, but it does the job when combined with a professional light tent and halogen lamps. The full set of light box, tripod & lamps was just £30 (from e.bay, oddly enough) and makes my rubbish camera take photo's like a pro!

          Factor in your fees!
          The numbers are all their above in black and white - it's actually very slightly less than quoted, but work on 15% in fees and charges and you'll be ok. It just means that if you're looking to double up on your sales, you'll need to double the cost price then add a bit on (20% to be safe) to counter the slice e.bay take.
          Again, make sure you quote enough for postage so you won't end up out of pocket there. A little tip, it might be worth offering free postage and adding another couple of quid to your asking price - buyers like to think they are getting something for nothing!

          Don't sell yourself short.
          Tricky one this. Auctions attract the most attention, but buy-it-now listings guarantee you the price you want.
          If I'm selling bulk items individually I usually put them on a fixed price listing. They may take longer to sell, but at least you guarantee that you won't end up losing money.
          For individual pieces - let's say I've found a watch with a rubbish description and shaky photographs and won it very cheaply - I'll use the auction format. All it takes is to buy something with a bad description, take good detailed snaps of it and re-list with a detailed informative sales pitch and it's a sure fire way to make money.
          Likewise with things I've bought away from e.bay (car boot sale, charity shop etc). I will use the auction format and start the listing at the price I've paid - that way it's almost certainly going to run into profit, but at the absolute worst it will leave me on a break-even, not out of pocket.

          I've been an amateur e.bay trader for years now, and I've learned how to make it into a profitable exercise the hard way. Plenty of small losses, followed by a few small wins and now I'm trading there almost full time and have built up a strong reputation and have 1000+ feedback rating.

          e.bay has a bad reputation at times, but for those who know how to use it to their advantage it is an incredible strong buying and selling tool.
          Time and patience is all it takes to make a few quid, and if you have a strong interest in something (anything), especially collecting something, it can be a lot of fun too!

          The fees are high for what it provides, but sadly there isn't a viable alternative. Live auctions are good, but fees are just as high with a smaller audience. Other sites have tried to emulate e.bay (gumtree etc) but just aren't as big - they can't come close to the market share that e.bay have built up over the last 20 years (founded in 1995) and in this case size really does matter!
          Personally I think the fees are worth it considering the scope and reach e.bay have. I've bought and sold all over Europe, America and Australia - all without leaving my home town!

          Happy shopping, happy shoppers!



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          • 2 Fast 2 Furious (DVD) / DVD / 47 Readings / 44 Ratings
            More +
            09.02.2014 22:32
            Very helpful



            Worth a watch. Nothing else to say!

            2Fast2Furious - movie only review.

            This is probably my favourite movie from one of my favourite franchises.

            The Fast And Furious saga has almost come full circle now. Since its launch back in 2001 we've seen characters come and go and an epic story unfold from what was at its heart just a bit of messing about with fast cars.

            This, the second movie in the series, takes a bit of a step away from the first film. The original was a little grimy, a little bit seedy at its core showing a murky and illegal Los Angeles underworld with modified cars and street racing the main story.

            In the sequel we're still in the shadows of an illegal racing operation, but it all feels so much more glamorous and pressure free on the Miami coast that it plays out with a bit more fun. The high-octane action remains, but this is less of a cop-action movie and more of an all-out speed-fest.



            This is the only F&F film that doesn't feature Vin Diesel. He rides off into the sunset at the end of the first movie and doesn't reprise his role until Fast 4 (after a brief cameo in Fast and Furious 3: Tokyo Drift).

            Paul Walker: Brian O'Connor

            Tyrese Gibson: Roman Pierce

            Eve Mendes: Agent Monica Fuentes

            Cole Hauser: Carter Verone

            Ludacris: 'Tej' Parker

            Thom Barry: Agent Bilkins

            James Remar: Agent Markham

            Once again, there is a huge cast of bit-parts and minor characters, but the seven above are the ones central to the plot.

            Acting is excellent - not a single casting misses the mark here in my opinion.

            Our main characters bounce off each other well, though sometimes it's hard to watch them try to out-bloke each other with the streetwise, smooth talking Roman vying for the audience's attention over Brian's blonde, tanned, muscled 'All American hero' type. For the most part there is no scene-stealing going on, it's just fun camaraderie.

            Eva Mendes struggles a bit. She looks the part, but a few of her lines are read blankly rather than delivered thoughtfully. She is a bit wooden - but that might just be the script.

            For me, agent Bilkins (who we met in the first movie) is the big talent here. Gone is the stuffy FBI detective from the first film, and instead we're treated to a laid back, humorous and sometimes sarcastic 'seen it all before' cop happy to go with the flow and trust his subordinates rather than dictating rules and regulations like the first time around.

            Cole Hauser as Carter Verone, the villain of the piece, is an inspired choice too. I can only recall seeing him in a handful of big Hollywood movies before this one, but he oozes confidence and menace in equal proportion here. Terrifying, despite not being the typical looking baddie.

            It gets tough to watch when all three leading men are in a scene together - the too much testosterone from the title...look no further!

            The REAL cast:

            Once again, second to the human actors come the metal and rubber ones!

            There is always a good variety - this is no exception! A good selection of Japanese racers tuned to within an inch of their lives, American muscle cars and even a few Europeans in the mix.

            Brian begins the film with a Nissan Skyline R34, passes the middle of the film behind the wheel of a yellow Mitsubishi Evo 8 and ends it in a Yenko tuned 1969 Chevrolet Camaro! Roman kicks off with a beaten up 'destruction derby' car but quickly upgrades to a purple Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder and again, ends the movie driving some more American Muscle in the form of a 1970 Dodge Challenger.

            There is a race at the beginning featuring a Mazda RX7, Toyota Supra and a Honda S2000, then another excellent chase scene half an hour in showing off (amongst others) fleeting shots of a Dodge Viper, a Saleen Mustang, a 3-series BMW and a Chevrolet Corvette C5!

            What's the story?

            This follows straight on from The Fast and the Furious. Brian has aided and abetted a fugitive and so has to go on the run from the law himself.

            In the short 'prequel' movie (available with the special edition) we see him head East out of LA, entering races and winning money along the way in order to upgrade his car from a dusty Mitsubishi GTO 3000 to the Skyline he begins the proper story with.

            Once in Miami it takes no time for the local police and FBI to catch up with him, and he is made an offer: Go undercover to help local police catch untouchable drug baron Carter Verone, or face jail.

            He opts for the first choice, on the condition that he can choose his own co-driver. That turns out to be his childhood friend Roman Pierce, though sadly they haven't seen eye to eye ever since Pierce was arrested for running an illegal chop-shop stripping down stolen cars. There are bridges to be built fresh as the two work out whether each are to be trusted.

            Mendes' 'Eva Fuentes' is an undercover agent in tight with Verone for over a year, and it's speculated that she might have turned against the police and be assisting him evade arrest. She is the romantic interest, though she's not a vital character to the story - if she didn't look quite so nice we could live without her (sorry!).

            The main body of the story is a bit flaky. Basically Verone is having trouble getting his drug money out of the area so hires 'street racers' Brian and Roman to pick it up and deliver it to his private jet. Why he would need a couple of amateurs to drive his cash from point a to point b I have no idea.

            Aside from that, it's a decent story. There are some obvious holes, but it's just a good fun action movie rather than a deep-thinker. Everything gels and the plot plays out well, with a couple of tremendous race scenes and plenty of eye candy (the metal type!).
            The ending wraps it up well, I presume they hadn't yet decided to turn the franchise into a franchise - it's become a slow burning (sort of) multi-thread extravaganza pulling all the separate movies together.

            The car chases are done VERY well. There is one ridiculous stunt involving a car and a boat at the end which is laughably bad (the idea, the execution and the CGI!) but for the most part it stays true to its pedal-to-the-metal roots.

            Mostly rap music on this one, much like the first, which fits the film and the scene it represents very well. There is a bit more laid back R&B which suits the lazy Miami vibe, and some brilliant sound-bites from the movie itself.
            Ludacris puts in a decent showing with a couple of soundbites, a solo track (Act a Fool) and a feature on one of the Tyrese tracks.


            Not the best, not the worst.
            This is a very good action packed race/chase film, the acting is strong and the story is passable.
            It follows well from the first film, but it does suffer for the absence of Vin Diesel badly. Tyrese is good, but there is no substitute for Diesel as the fearless leader.
            Looking back, this movie works well as a stand-alone feature. Yes it ties in with the series, but until the 4th film each of the movies is actually ok to dip in and out of without any back-story or knowledge of where it's heading.

            A mediocre script is the only thing knocking this down a star. It had a big budget and plenty of talent, and it shows.

            107 minutes is fine for a run-time, it gives plenty of room to show some back-story, time to flesh out and build up our main story then a good half an hour of action at the end!
            The $76 million budget was paid back in spades - It took almost $240million back at the box office!

            As a slight aside, I used to collect 1:18th scale die-cast models, focussing on American Muscle and TV/Movie cars. There are around a dozen of the cars from this film recreated in 18th scale by Ertl (Joyride), who are a bit like the American version of Corgi. The models are perfect representations of the screen cars!

            4 stars from me.
            A good movie, surprisingly difficult to watch after Paul Walkers tragic passing but he should be remembered for roles like this. (he did a lot of his own stunts when shooting chase scenes!)



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          • Battle Royale (DVD) / DVD / 58 Readings / 56 Ratings
            More +
            02.02.2014 17:56
            Very helpful



            An essential view. This makes a lot of 'must see' lists and would make my top ten without hesitation

            Battle Royale (Movie review).

            What is it?
            Battle Royale is a Japanese movie released in 2000 and based on the incredibly vivid and engrossing novel of the same name, written by Koushun Takami.
            The movie has had a few (poor) translations, but frankly it doesn't get better than watching the original Japanese language version with English subtitles.

            It stars a cast of relative unknowns - the story requires a young cast, 15 years old approximately - so almost all of the faces are new to the screen. The main characters here are Tatsuya Fujiwara as Shuya Nanahara, and Aki Ameda as Noriko Nakagawa.

            What's it about?
            The premise is quite easy to grasp; 42 students, one deserted island - last man standing!
            Each year a class of school children are chosen at random by a closed, corrupt government system and placed on an isolated island. This year, class 3B of an un-named school are gassed unconscious while on a field-trip and wake up in the islands briefing room fitted with explosive collars - set to explode if tampered with or triggered by the overseer if they fail to co-operate.
            Once appraised of the rules, they are given a survival pack and a 'special item (be it a machine gun or a pair of binoculars) and set free on the island.
            They are encouraged to hunt and kill each other over the course of 3 days until only one is left, at which time the survivor is declared champion and the game is concluded for another year.

            The story unfolds quite quickly, within minutes of being released to the island the action opens up and it's kill or be killed. Some students immediately take on board the gravity of their situation and we see otherwise normal people murder in cold blood, friends killing friends and even suicide from the odd one who refuses to take part in the brutality.

            Obviously there are cliques and partnerships formed, close friends refuse to turn on each other and vain attempts are made to beat the system, but pressure mounts as the clock ticks towards a certain death.

            The two main characters go their separate ways for the most part, but are reunited around the middle of the movie. Their story is one of four or five key sub-plots running through the story, with groups scattered around the island following different goals - it would be a spoiler for me to go into too much detail!

            One superb snippet I can't keep to myself is the excellent character of Kawada. He's the class 'new kid', and as the story plays out we discover not only that he has competed (and won) before, he had prior knowledge that the class were to be chosen for that years Battle Royale. He is essentially a volunteer - willingly taking part in an effort to avenge the girlfriend he killed to win the last Battle.

            My Opinion:
            I don't always get on with subtitled movies, my attention can drift if it doesn't really grab me. This REALLY grabbed me!
            The story was utterly riveting, it captured my imagination straight away and left me wanting more.
            The story has been copied and bastardised now by lots of authors and taken off in quite a few movies (the recent two being the Vinnie Jones movie The Condemned and the obvious current comparison is The Hunger Games), but this was the original and definitely the best.
            There is talk of a Hollywood version - identical to this but American kids and in English language. As appealing as that sounds, I think they will actually ruin a near perfect film by trying to Westernise it.

            The reactions of the students when armed and sent out to kill each other are fascinating. It is totally believable, the choice of 'fight or flight' as they either cower away, hoping not to be discovered, or embrace their fate and become bloodthirsty maniacs.

            This is rare, but, I think the film is actually better than the novel in this instance. Even though the book gets into much more detail, I think the screen version captures the tension and emotion of the situation to a tee.
            There is a real genuine feeling of sadness when a name flashes up at the bottom of the screen when someone is killed, and the tally (21 boys, 21 girls) drops another number lower.

            Quite rightly, this is an 18 certificate. It features brutal, graphic violence and is essentially children killing children. There were campaigns to have the movie banned, but it made it through censors with a maximum age rating.
            Runtime is very close to 2 hours, with the DVD version clocking in at 114 minutes.
            It was an enormous success story (quite unexpected, I think) and despite a micro-budget of approx. $4 million it grossed over $25,000,000 at the box office and was a runaway success on DVD.
            The novel wasn't translated to English until 2003, by which time it had been out on DVD for a couple of years - that meant the novel was a pretty rubbish seller over here, but the Manga series (like graphic novels) have been a tremendous success.

            Price & Availability:
            Still has an RRP of £10, but currently there are new and used copies on Amazon with prices from £3-£5. Hard to track down a new copy on the high street, but very easy to pick up second hand on the cheap. Places like CEX have dedicated 'world cinema' sections.

            It wouldn't be fair just to say this is good for a foreign film, this is good full stop! It holds its own against big budget blockbusters through an engaging but coherent storyline and it leaves the recent pretenders to the throne in its wake, despite being ten years older with no budget to work with.
            A perfect five stars, this is heartily recommended to all!


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            • More +
              31.01.2014 12:22
              Very helpful



              Another 'win' in the Seiko column. Lovely watch.

              A treat to me from...well me!
              Santa forgot to bring me this at Christmas, so I took matters into my own hands and snagged myself one while they are still readily available in the shops.
              This is the Seiko Sportura Chronograph SNAE95P1. I've already had the same model in black & blue, model SNAF25P1, but I think the black and lime green looks ten times better! (the only thing in the favour of the '25 is that it wasn't a UK release, you have to buy them from Europe or America, so you don't see many about).

              If you've read any of my watch reviews in the past you'll know I quite like big and brash watches. Well, this is no exception!
              It's a 44mm diameter case in "black steel" (more on that below) with black leather strap, highlighted with lime green stitching and green dial detail. Nice!

              As above, it's a 44mm diameter case which is above average given todays watch trends (40mm/42mm is about average) but by no means unwearable. It's 11mm thick, so it does sit quite low on the wrist and passes my 'does it slip under a shirt-cuff' test!

              Features and functions:
              60 minute Split-second chronograph
              100m water resistant
              Sapphlex/sapphire glass
              Slide rule (pilot computer) bezel

              The case is high grade but lightweight none-corrosive stainless steel with a black coating.
              I have been unable to get to the bottom of just what the black coating is. I assume it's PVD, but Seiko have used powder coating in the past.
              PVD (physical vapor deposition) is much harder wearing. It is an electrical procedure where black metallic elements are actually bonded to the case, meaning it is extremely difficult to scratch or scuff - it means you have to really gouge deep into the metal for it to show silver. Most of the newer black case watches use this method, and I hope that this is one of them (especially for the price!). I suppose I won't know until I bash it against something. :-D
              Powder coating is just a thin coating of black powder which is sprayed over then baked onto the steel case. It's quite easy to chip and scratch, and wears off with standard wear. I've had those in the past and they look awful after a few months wear.

              The movement is quartz (battery powered), using the modern Seiko 7T63 alarm/chrono calibre. Easy enough to set, though I do prefer the 4 button versions of the 1990's - they are much more user friendly.

              The glass is a sapphire crystal, meaning it's very resistant to scratches. The Sportura watches I've had (this is the fifth) have all had sapphire glass - this being a sports/racing watch, they tend to use the tougher materials so it stands up to plenty of wear.

              A two-piece leather strap sets the watch off - it's made of two thick sections of leather held together with four rows of green stitching and bonded at the sides. It's slightly shaped so it wears more as a cuff than an open watch strap, and it's VERY comfy!

              Spell check tells me that's not a real word - I contest!
              The watch is very comfortable. Despite the size it's actually not too heavy, probably because it's on the light leather strap rather than a chunky steel bracelet.
              The buttons are easy to access while the watch is on, they are slightly fluted so the heads are fine to get hold of when on the go - even wearing gloves.

              My experience:
              To be honest I just bought this watch because I liked the style. I will rarely use any of the features, with the exception of the stopwatch perhaps.
              It's comfortable and stylish and attracts a good few comments when out and about.
              I have some reservations about the black steel. It looks excellent, but I'm a bit worried it'll rub off! If it is a PVD case then no worries on that front, but if it's a plated case I might end up disappointed, my watches do tend to attract door-frames and pebble-dash walls!

              The strap is perfect - it fits like a glove. The design means it wraps around the wrist comfortably without feeling stiff or awkward. Sadly, I had another model (SPC003) with the same style strap and it lasted less than 12 months, and was then a £70 replacement from Seiko!!! Fingers crossed this one fares a little better, because it's such a unique strap it will have to be another replacement from Seiko if ever it fails.

              Price and availability:
              RRP is £375, and I've seen this stocked at most high street Seiko dealers. Some places reduced it to £299 in the January sale, but not all.
              I have seen the model on the internet as cheap as £260 (Creation Watches) so they are out there on the discount sites despite being pretty new.
              There are red and a blue versions of the watch, but not UK standard models so you'll need to get online and have one shipped from overseas, again expect to pay between £250 and £400 depending who has them in stock at the time!!

              As with most of the livelier Seiko watches, this is likely to be a limited run. They don't sell in huge numbers so I would recommend getting one sooner than later if you like it - the last Seiko like this was a Velatura, which lasted a couple of years before being pulled from the catalogue and is now near impossible to source (trust me!) :-(

              I've not owned it long enough to comment on durability, but assuming it's a PVD case then this definitely one of the best watches I've handled in a long time. Accurate, smart looking and sturdy without being cumbersome.


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              • A Good Day To Die Hard (DVD) / DVD / 44 Readings / 44 Ratings
                More +
                04.01.2014 17:56
                Very helpful



                Worth a look, but go into it with low expectations!

                Die Hard 5: A good day to Die Hard was released in the cinemas at the start of Spring last year as one of the big Easter blockbusters. For one reason or another I never got round to catching it on the silver screen, and have just recently picked up the DVD.

                As a lifelong fan of the series I had big hopes for this, despite a poor critical reception. Reviews on release were mixed, but most settled on this being a mediocre action movie not worthy of the franchise.

                They were right.

                Die Hard is one of the best action franchises around in my opinion, and the series has evolved immensely over the last 25 years.
                The first installment in 1988 was very much of its time - an all American hero (disgraced cop, no less) shooting bad guys and dispensing cheesy one-liners. Die Hard 2 (1990) was more of the same in a different setting, a new baddie and another engaging, just barely plausible story, and Die Hard With A Vengeance in 1995 revitalised the concept by having John McClane chasing around the city solving puzzles while the baddie emptied the gold reserves.
                Die Hard 4 - Live free or Die Hard took 12 years to make it to the screen but was well worth the wait. It turned the franchise on its head and brought it bang up to date, having McClane battling cyber-criminals and using his head as well as his gun.

                Bruce Willis reprises hos role as John McClane
                Jai Courtney takes up as his son, Jack McClane
                Viktor Chagarin played by Sergei Kolesnikov is a corrupt Russian official and our main baddy
                Sebastian Koch plays Yuri Komarov, Chagarins ex employee turned snitch.

                What's it about?

                In a nutshell - as brief as possible with no spoilers!
                Set in Russia. Yuri Komarov is wrongly on trial and looking at the death penalty for "crimes against the state", but is in possession of a file which will incriminate state official Viktor Chagarin. Chagarin wants him imprisoned and discredited to protect himself.
                Jack McClane (working under an alias) is an undercover CIA agent who assassinates someone to get himself arrested, then offers to testify against Komarov in exchange for a lenient sentence.

                John McClane (unaware that his son as a CIA agent) discovers Jack is on trial for murder in Russia so heads over to lend his support.
                He arrives just in time to see a jail-break at the courthouse and his son Jack attempting to protect Komarov from a force of heavily armed militia trying to kidnap him (both sides want the info he has) and gets himself stuck in the middle of it.

                The movie is then basically a back-and-forth with both sides trying to retrieve the file/key stashed away by Komarov, culminating in a fairly spectacular showdown at the Chernobyl reactor site in Ukraine.

                Any good?
                Anyone hoping for another re-birth with the fifth movie is in for disappointment.
                The set-pieces are truly excellent, from gun-fights to car chases they occur so thick and fast it's a wonder the budget wasn't tapped out in the first half hour! Sadly, it seems that so much effort went into the special effects, any form of character development or back-story was forgotten.

                We already know John McClane, but there is virtually no introduction to the new characters.
                A two/three minute discussion between Komarov and Chagarin is about all the history we're given between two of our main characters.
                It's about the same for John's son. There are suggestions and alludes to an unhappy childhood (John McClane always working etc) but we don't really get a sense of history bubbling between these two. I'd say they are stand-alone characters thrown together in a badly conceived mash-up.
                The muscle/brains pairing of Bruce Willis and Justing Long in DH4 worked so well because they were totally different characters and utterly at odds. This new combination of muscle/muscle doesn't really work for me and I can only think it was done to pass the baton to the newer generation - prepare Bruce for retirement but still have an action hero to pin the Die Hard series to.

                The story was pretty good as it goes, certainly in keeping with the franchise, but it lacked any shocks or surprises and didn't carry much of a punch.
                All the previous movies have been over 2 hours long, comprising of a reasonable build-up, a good hour or so of action leading to a superb finale and then usually a bit more action and a FINAL finale beyond that!
                This one is a meagre hour and a half long, kicks off with action, follows with more action, then ends.

                Instead of a slow reveal of the plot, there is one simple plot twist and then it heads to the final gunfight with explosions and helicopters and near death experiences. Again, pleasing to the eye but not very mentally challenging and definitely not what you associate with Die Hard.

                The warmth and humour is something they seemed to forgot to include as well. Yippee Ki-Yay (Mother Russia!) makes an appearance, but any joshing between the characters is badly done and even Bruce's ice-cool cockiness and arrogance fails to push the right buttons in this one.

                It's a 15 cert, but not much here to shock or offend other than a bit of bad language, there is nothing gory or explicit.
                Run-time is listed as 98 minutes, but it's a little less on DVD at closer to 90.
                No extras or goodies on my single disc copy. Not sure if there is a special edition available.

                Price and availability:
                RRP is the standard ten quid ticket. I bought mine from Sainsburys for £5 and I've seen it second hand in CEX for a pound cheaper than that.
                Given the bad reception I think DVD sales were weak. Most places have it at a discount!

                Not awful, but an unfortunate slap in the face for what has been an utterly amazing series of films so far. This is by far the runt of the litter, and if not tied to the Die Hard name it probably wouldn't have even got a cinema release.
                Worth a watch if you have a free evening and nothing better then soaps on telly, but I wouldn't go out of my way to watch it.

                Sorry Bruce. Still a cracking action series, but this one missed the mark.


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                • Sega Megadrive / Games Console / 56 Readings / 55 Ratings
                  More +
                  01.12.2013 23:41
                  Very helpful



                  Not even close to cutting edge, but very playable and pure fun!

                  This might seem a bit bizarre, writing a review about a 20 year old console when the shelves have just been stocked with the new X-Box One and PS4 consoles, but believe it or not this is my current weapon of choice and I'm having a ball!

                  The Mega Drive has been around since the late 1980's - early 90's on our shores - and was Sega's first foray into 16 bit gaming following on from the 8-bit Master System. I picked up my first one in 1993 and recently bought my fourth!

                  The '16 bit' refers to the bit-rate of the processor. It's almost impossible for a layman like me to explain, but the bit-rate basically determines how many functions can be performed simultaneously.
                  With a games console, higher bit-rate means better graphics, since the programmers can use more pixels when designing characters, scenery and so on.
                  The 8 bit console games were generally very blocky looking and slow, the 16 bit models were (are) much faster and with far higher resolution. They might look cartoony now, but at the time they were beyond anything we'd ever hoped for!

                  So, the 1980's saw the start of the first real console war, with Nintendo and Sega the clear front runners sharing pretty even market share with their NES and Master System consoles. They were fun machines, a good distraction for an hour or so, but basically just the new kids toy.
                  The Mega-Drive hit the market and set about shaking that up. They appealed to a slightly more grown up audience with gory versions of the arcade smash Mortal Kombat, war games and flight simulators, but remembered their core audience with new kids platform games such as Alex Kidd and the award winning Sonic The Hedgehog.
                  The console sold in the millions! Retail on it was between £150-£250, which I guess is pretty much comparable to the current offerings around £400, but for a dedicated games console to sell so well at that time was an overwhelming success!

                  Initially it was against the Nintendo NES, the 8 bit console, but Nintendo were very close behind coming to the market with the SNES - an upgraded 16 bit version of their machine! Nintendo held exclusive rights to their Mario franchise and it took no time at all for them to draw level with Sega's sales. Sega answered back with Sonic, a character who became synonymous with the brand and easily rivaled Mario as a playable platform game.
                  Again, they were level-pegging and between them accounted for over 90% of games consoles sales (let's not talk about the neo-geo!)

                  Sega had Sonic, Nintendo had Mario.
                  For the most part, though, they shared titles. Independent games programmers and manufacturers couldn't afford to choose sides, they make a game and market it to anyone who'll buy it, so we end up with multiple versions of games on different consoles.
                  Graphically the Mega Drive probably edges it on most parts. The speed seemed much steadier with less freezing up and slightly better load times.
                  The 'first person shooter' genre was in its infancy back then, with Doom on the PC basically holding the market. The 16 bit machines weren't enough to handle Doom (even a stripped down version), but the Mega Drive had a few tricks up its sleeves there. Two awesome early first person shooters hit the shelves in the form of Bloodshot and Zero Tolerance. Much slower frame-rates than the PC games (obviously!), but they were both extremely competent games and helped shape the whole genre. Zero Tolerance was in fact the first game to use texture-mapping, enabling the environments to show damage.

                  Racing games were a HUGE market on this generation console, probably equal with platform games in terms of sales. From old school top-down racers where you control your car from above (Micro Machines was easily the best of these!), to arcade racers like Test Drive, to super complex F1 games requiring more than a heavy thumb on the accelerator button and right through to the quite new genre of combat-racing, combining a great race game with violence (Road Rash was the most accomplished there).

                  Side-scrolling Platformers were king back then, and got progressively better through the consoles like. Titles like The Simpsons, Earthworm Jim and Sonic really made you feel like you were playing an interactive cartoon!

                  The 16-bit system also saw the birth of the football game! Ignore World Cup Italia '90 (sigh) - the Fifa franchise starts HERE! Fifa 96 was utterly breathtaking, and drew the blueprint for the latest incarnations of the game.

                  Ease of use;
                  Simple. Plug a cartridge in the top (after blowing on the contacts to clear the dust!) and switch it on.
                  That is it.
                  The control pad is a nice rounded shape which sits comfortably with the 'd-pad' right under your left thumb and buttons A B C under your right. Most games are very simple affairs and easy to grasp even if they use all three of the buttons!
                  Lots of peripherals were available though, I quite like the feel of the old fashioned arcade joysticks when playing these games, so I've got one! It makes a simple control system even easier.

                  Hmmmm, tricky this one.
                  For half a decade this was cutting edge, but then the 32-bit Playstation came out and made this look totally out of date. (Sega did try to answer with the 'Saturn', but low advertising budgets, constant production delays and a unfulfilled pre-orders meant the Playstation outsold the Saturn 10-1).
                  In the late 90's, the Mega Drive was dead in the water. Low quality and outdated games didn't hold water when compared top the 32-bit machines.
                  A decade after its demise, though, it went through a bit of a resurgence. A company called BLAZE released a mini version of the Mega Drive with a slew of its best known titles already programmed into the console! Sales were only ok, but at £40 it's a great way to play retro games, and it takes the original cartridges!

                  Loads of different control pads are available. For beat-em-up games there are 6 button versions, there are various joysticks and even a mouse, to play point-and-click adventure games.
                  Light Guns were a really big deal at the time. Sega supports the Menacer, a multi-part light gun to be used as a pistol, rifle or shotgun blaster. A dozen or so titles were compatible (most on the Mega CD).

                  Mega CD: This was touted as an add-on, but was in fact a console in its own right, utilising laser technology to read games from CD's rather than a cartridge. Graphics were comparable to mid-low end PC's of the time, but sadly more went into the graphics that the gameplay - it was a flop!

                  32x: Now we're talking! This is an add-on with a whole new range of games using 32-bit technology! Finally we have Doom, along with dozens of other super high resolution games, on our 16-bit console. This was an utter showstopping moment in video games, though sadly short lived. The 32x came out in 1994 and was very quickly overshadowed by the Playstation. A few months earlier and this would have had an enormous impact, but as it stands this only sold about half a million units.

                  How does it look today?
                  Well, the games still have a certain charm, but there is no getting away from the fact that an average mobile phone can now support bigger and better games than the big black box.
                  I am a fan of retro games, so will happily sit down and play a few hours on the old titles. I have friends, however, who have downloaded an emulator to their PC and have every mega drive game in history at their fingertips for free.
                  So what is the appeal to own the console? Quite simply, playability!
                  If you've played a 4 player game of Micro Machines (two extra pads plug into the actual cartridge!) or spent a button-bashing afternoon on Mortal Kombat with a friend, then playing at a keyboard with a high resolution screen will never feel the same.

                  The console is big and cumbersome, the games are in huge boxes and take up a shelf that would fit three times the number of new games and the pads are also bulky and hard to store.

                  Thankfully, the BLAZE Mega Drive is a good compact version and slots just about anywhere, so I'd recommend that one to anyone looking to dip their toe back into retro gaming. Be warned though, it's not as sturdy. The control pads slowly work their way out of the ports and the slightest knock will crash/freeze your game, meaning you're starting from scratch! I've also had issues with mine when using the tall cartridges such as Theme Park and Road Rash, I suppose again because it's not quite as sturdy as the original the carts don't sit as low).

                  I love mine. I can happily spend the best part of a day jumping in and out of old games from yesteryear. This is not a console to take over your life (like 20 hour stints on GTA and Fallout on the x-box 360!), it's a box full of fun that serves as an entertaining diversion when you have a little time to kill.

                  Graphically it stinks.
                  A low res game console and a high res TV mean the games look even more dated than they really should, but there are still some welcome surprises in graphics, game-play and original ideas when you realise just how much our recent games owe to the old-guard.

                  If you have space, the Mega Drive makes a good addition to a game collection. It's totally ideal for a 'man cave' and also makes a perfect pick-up-and-play system for a younger gamer! Lots of fun, innocent and easy to play Disney titles back that one up too.

                  Availability and affordability;
                  There are loads of these consoles out there. They sold 40 million worldwide so let's say you're likely to find one if you want one.
                  e.bay is flooded with the original consoles in good working order, and they seem to sell for £10+ for a console and £1 and up for games. With around a thousand titles to choose from there are a good range of games out there, some common and some extremely rare.

                  The Blaze system retails at £40 (with 30 games built in) but I've seem them on Amazon for half that amount. Seriously, if you can't get £20 worth of fun out of that console then you're not even trying!

                  So the answer is: Yes, you can go back - you might not want to stay long though.


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                  • More +
                    18.09.2013 11:46
                    Very helpful



                    Very good value, looks posh but I won't mind if I lose or break it!

                    I've had a bad time of it with pens sadly.
                    I recall a red ink fountain pen leaking in my (WHITE!) shirt pocket in an exam at college, which put me on a bad start, but I then lost a very expensive one on a weekend away (a Mont Blanc Meisterstuck) and had another - a Waterman - burst in my carry-on bag on a plane journey to Greece!

                    After that I gave up on expensive pens.
                    I'm not overly bothered what I use to write with anyway, any nice ones I've had have been gifts and I've never considered spending more than a couple of quid on a stick with ink, but I do need something a bit nicer than a Bic for work, so I've recently treated myself to this little charmer!

                    Parker to me is a well established maker of quality pens. A glance at their website tells me they have been in business since 1888, so they know what they are doing!
                    I do remember at school and college that it was the pen to have - though obviously I've now had my eyes opened to ridiculously expensive ones - but put simply, Parker is a name synonymous with quality.

                    The Frontier is a modern but now discontinued line, still available through dozens of retailers but no longer directly from Parker themselves. It's a classic tapered design but what drew me to is was the quite fat body - it nestles comfortably in my hand, where lots I tried were too slim.
                    Available in lots of colours, I chose a pale blue version - partly because I wear a lot of blue, but also a nod to my beloved Man City. ;-)
                    The body is lightweight steel, sturdy and yet light enough that it's comfortable for prolonged writing. It's also quite long, which makes it feel top-heavy with the lid clipped to the top, so I tend to leave the lid aside when in use.
                    The nib is steel and very firm (the gold nibs tend to have some flex, making them easier to use) so it's difficult to find the nibs sweet spot, but after a week of use I've pretty much mastered this one.

                    This is a cartridge pen, but also comes with a reservoir inner that takes bottle-ink - far too much messing for me! I believe pen 'purists' like that option, but I want ease of use - it's nice that it accommodates both though.

                    I don't class this as a cheap pen, but neither is it expensive by any means. I paid £15 for mine and another £3 for a pack of cartridges which should last me several months!

                    Cleaning the fountain pen out is easy but time consuming, so I have given up any hope of using this as a multi-ink pen and will have to invest in another for red ink or just use a cheap ballpoint.
                    At the moment another Parker is looking like a good bet!



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                    • The Fast And The Furious (DVD) / DVD / 52 Readings / 52 Ratings
                      More +
                      05.09.2013 00:47
                      Very helpful



                      Great fun! Possibly a bit too real, but keeps the die-hard racers happy!

                      I recently reviewed the most recent of the franchise (Fast 6 - out on DVD this month...woo!) and it prompted me to go all the way back to the beginning and re-live the Fast and Furious experience.

                      The Fast and the Furious hit the silver screen waaaaay back in 2001.
                      The idea is painfully simple - an undercover cop infiltrates the world of street racing in order to identify and bring to justice a team of hijackers. Along the way, friendships and allegiances are formed and in the end our hero has to decide which side of the fence he falls on!

                      The star of the show was Vin Diesel (playing Dom Toretto), a 6 foot powerhouse with a voice like gravel which is easily as menacing as his muscles! He is our anti-hero, the bad guy we desperately want to root for.
                      Paul Walker plays the lead, Brian O'Connor (undercover name Brian Spilner) and is equally as believable as a star-struck testosterone fueled kid looking for a thrill in the underground racing world as he is playing the ambitions straight laced police officer trying to make detective.
                      To list the whole cast would be pointless - there are dozens of secondary characters but the screen comes alive when these two appear together.

                      Key cast (to re-appear in later films) include;
                      Michelle Rodriguez - Letty
                      Jordana Brewster - Mia Toretto
                      Matt Schulze - Vince
                      Thom Barry - Agent Bilkins
                      Ted Levine - Sgt Tanner

                      There are also cameos from such stars as Ja-Rule (Rapper who assisted with the soundtrack) and real life modifiers and street racers such as R.J De-Vera.

                      So the movie kicks off with a truck heist, the latest in a recent spate of them. Three modified cars driven with extreme precision take control of a truck and trailer on the move. The police (correctly) conclude that the hijackings are being carried out by thieves with links to the racing world.
                      Cut to Brian in a deserted car park pushing his new car to its breaking point. He loses control and struggles to control the resulting spin almost killing himself. We soon learn that he's actually practicing his skills in order to race against local celebrity of the racing scene, Dominic Toretto.
                      The race takes place, Brian loses the race along with his car but the police raid the scene, arresting every street racer they can grab. In the commotion Brian rescues Dom and is therefore instantly in his good books.
                      We then discover why.
                      Brian is the LAPD's undercover agent working with a local 'mod' shop, the owner of which is being investigated for receiving stolen goods so forced to co-operate.
                      Without wishing to post spoilers (difficult, given that the next 5 movies give you a decent idea of what has occurred!) Brian infiltrates Dom's gang so deeply that he has a hard time choosing a side - his allegiance to the charismatic Toretto (and attraction to the guys sister!) means he finds it difficult to see his guilt and bring him to justice.
                      Dom invites Brian to a legal racing festival out in the desert (Race Wars) to test his mettle as he tries to decide whether to fully integrate him into his team, but things take an ugly turn leading to a high speed chase down empty desert highway and a showstopping climax through the suburban streets of LA.

                      The Cars:
                      Probably the films best selling point were the cars on show. Instead of hiring someone to buy or build cars for the film they actually reached out to racers and modifiers through worldwide publications (I was a subscriber at the time to Redline and Max Power) asking car owners to come along and audition their cars! 99% of the cars seen in the movie were owned by people who belonged to the scene they were trying to replicate, so it added an infinite amount of realism.
                      This first film in the series was all about the LA racing scene, so most of the cars are highly tuned imports (mostly Japanese, but a few European models in the mix).
                      For example, Brian has a Mitsubishi Eclipse at the beginning and a Toyota Supra towards the end.
                      Dom drives a modified Mazda RX7 and a tuned Honda Civic, and his crew all drive similar beasts (Letty - Nissan 240SX. Vince - Nissan Maxima. Leon - Nissan Skyline. Mia - Honda Integra Accura. Jesse - VW Jetta)
                      It would have been easy for the crew to throw in a load of American Muscle as those US directors often do, but it would have lacked the realism.
                      As a nod to Detroit Muscle, however, Dom has a huge 1969 Dodge Charger that he's been working on. Raw power, zero maneuverability - but you just know we're going to see it in action at some stage!

                      Most of the cars shown racing had nitrous oxide canisters fitted for extra power. The movie was actually involved in a lawsuit for accidentally referring to the tanks as NoS thinking it was the correct chemical name and slang for the substance, but NoS is actually a copyrighted brand which was not paid royalties for its use in the movie so was forced to sue.

                      At the time I was collecting 1:18th scale diecast cars (Movie, TV and Music related) made by Ertl, who are Americas answer to Corgi. They turned out some magnificent replicas of around 15 of the movie cars which fetch a pretty penny these days.

                      To teenagers like me, stuck in a fairly dull 9-5 and looking for some excitement, this movie leapt off the screen. It gave birth to a new generation of modifiers and racers alike, though sadly, perhaps inevitably claimed lives.
                      Perhaps that's why it got such a frosty reception in the mainstream media, receiving rather mediocre reviews as critics blamed this movie )and others like it) for a lot of existing problems.
                      Average review scores were in the 4-5/10 range.
                      Despite that, it shattered box office predictions, taking all of its $38,000,000 budget back in the opening weekend and going on to claw in almost $150 million all told.

                      Street racing wasn't an entirely new concept, in fact street racing in its current high powered/high speed form has been around in a big way since the 1950's, but it was one that hadn't been glorified to this extent since the 1970's 'muscle era' with films like Two Lane Blacktop and the original Gone in 60 Seconds.
                      Naturally, a movie this centered around street racing courted controversy, lots of people - including police and politicians - campaigned to get the movie banned for the reasons above.
                      It should be noted that the sequel hugely exaggerated the action sequences, pacifying critics and making it far less likely that people would try to copy scenes.

                      The film was accompanied by a bang-up soundtrack with lots of Rap, Nu-Rock and R&B - always a perfect match for the on screen action. Ja-Rule (cameo performer) wrote and performed several tracks for the soundtrack.

                      Tech Spec:
                      The runtime is a perfect 104 minutes, bumped to 109 with the DVD only mini-movie which rolls this film into 2Fast 2 Furious.

                      Fast and Furious missed a lot of awards (despite a pile of nominations!), but amongst those it won were a 'Best breakthrough male performer' for Paul Walker, a Film Music award and a 'Best on-screen team' for Vin Diesel and Paul Walker!

                      My views:
                      This film wasn't life changing, but it had a huge impact on me in that time despite looking a bit cheesy now. It brought to life a scene I'd only ever really seen on paper and made it real enough to touch.
                      Looking back, I have very fond memories of F&F. It is the first movie I really immersed myself in, buying into the whole lifestyle and guaranteeing me as a loyal fan of the franchise for life.

                      Looking at it objectively, taking any emotion out of the equation and being critical of it as another Hollywood blockbuster, this still holds its own. Some of the acting is a bit hammy, but by selecting real people from the world they are attempting to portray and bringing their cars along too they give this film a grounding that most blockbusters can't even aspire to.

                      As long as they don't milk this sequel business (hang on, 6 with number 7 on the way??) I feel that this is destined to be a future classic with a cult following to rival Vanishing Point, Two Lane Blacktop or the more recent Drive.

                      A must for gear-heads, but with enough 'crossover' appeal to keep any action/thriller fan satisfied.



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                      • Cass (DVD) / DVD / 46 Readings / 45 Ratings
                        More +
                        06.08.2013 22:58
                        Very helpful



                        Worth a watch, especially if you want the real story behind Football Factory and Green Street


                        I was lucky enough to catch this at the cinema on release, and recently picked up the DVD copy for a second go. I say lucky because most cinemas didn't want to show it. Only around 60% of UK picture houses ordered a print of this, and what a mistake - this turned into the biggest grossing 18 rated British movie of 2008!

                        I suppose its success was partly down to the ongoing interest in this murky world, following on from reception Football Factory and Green Street received, but instead of being loosely based on the very real football violence scene this was planted firmly in fact and the events extracted directly from Cass Pennants autobiography.

                        The best way to describe the film is to tell the story of the protagonist himself. This is a brief overview of the events of his life as shown in the movie and DOES contain spoilers, though if you're watching the film it's likely you already know the bones of the story.

                        Carol 'Cass' Pennant himself is a very interesting character.
                        A Jamaican child born in 1958, put up for adoption at birth and brought up by an elderly white couple in a predominantly white area of East London. Despite being a large child - passing as an adult in his early teens - he was bullied quite savagely due to a combination of his elderly 'parents' and the colour of his skin. He was by no means a coward, but fought only in self defense and went out of his way to avoid trouble purely out of fear.

                        At the tender age of 14 (1972) he happened across a back-alley football gang fight between Wolves and West Ham United and was forced to get involved to avoid a beating himself. Declaring himself a West Ham fan he was immediately accepted into their gang of brawlers and history was made. With the backing of some of the most feared lunatics on the streets of London he found a confidence he never thought possible. He found a release in Saturday afternoon scraps that lifted him out of his miserable life and after a few years knocking heads he becomes the leader of the firm in the early 1980's.

                        While most of these skirmishes are kept firmly under wraps (and I promise you, they still happen now) and the gangs usually happy to stay out of the spotlight, Cass was disappointed at the lack of publicity his Inner City Firm (ICF) received in the newspapers and so went out of his way to promote them, in the same way the Hells Angels openly flout their membership/allegiance and rule towns by fear through recognition.
                        This led to the legendary creation of the business cards they carried - reading "congratulations, you've just met the ICF" (later to become "The Famous ICF"), which they scattered around the remains of gangs who opposed them and shoved into pockets of rivals as they lay bleeding.

                        Unfortunately for the 'famous' ICF, equally fearless Prime Minister Mrs Thatcher declared a war on football hooligans just about the time Cass Pennant rose to power, and being such a public figurehead for football violence he was one of the most obvious targets when the police started to drag them off the streets. A four year term in Wormwood Scrubs prison was handed down without a thought and that's that.

                        Inside prison Cass starts to reflect on his life and started his autobiography (the first draft, sadly it was confiscated and destroyed on leaving prison) and thinks about going straight and settling down. That worked for a while, but when a high ranking member of the ICF is attacked and almost killed he's dragged back into the underworld and back to the top of the firm to run things. A similar assault on his own life does nothing to slow him down, merely ignite the spark for revenge which will almost cost him his life for a final time.

                        A fellow inmate, a very shady character with a string of clubs, then offers Cass steady work as a doorman. Spotting an opportunity, Cass turns this from a low paying job offered as a favour into a very lucrative business, counting his fellow football hooligans as a private army who would do whatever he asked. A good number of these are brought in as doormen with Cass as the boss, just as on the football terraces, sub-contracting them out!

                        While working the doors, football violence took something of a backseat. Sadly, though, Cass made so many enemies over the previous decade+ while scrapping that it's not long before someone comes looking for revenge. In 1992 he is shot three times outside a club by an ex football rival. He survives but then has a life choice to make - revenge (and murder is the only comeback to an attempted murder), or walk away from the mobster life.
                        After an agonising decision, he decides not to retaliate and simply lets the would-be killer off the hook, turning his back on the criminal world and instead turning to the entertainment industry where he still works as an actor, advisor and recruiter for movies and documentaries.

                        The film was pretty good given the content. It was an eye opener but I previously read Pennants 2002 autobiography so to be honest I knew the story and knew where it was headed.
                        While it's a decent narrative, I do think the movie version paints Cass is rather a positive light. Yes he had a tough upbringing, but the guy is no angel. The order of events and back story shows Pennant as more the gentle giant than lumbering soccer thug - done of course because the audience has to feel some empathy for the hero of the story. The book gives a much better look into his darker side.

                        The acting was top drawer - guided by Cass himself (who takes a bit-part in his own story as a bouncer) the lead actor Nonso Anozie shows a full range of emotions and captures both the pure rage powered thug to thoughtful, caring family man.

                        For the most part this is low-budget British cinema at its very best. Total shooting, cutting and marketing costs were under £1million total which is nothing for a movie of this quality.

                        Aside from Paul Kaye and Tamer Hassan in small roles the acting talent is almost all unknown, with TV acting credits and low budget movies featuring on a few cast members IMDb pages but nothing huge. Great thing too, it kept the cost down and gave us 'blank canvasses' in terms of characters which I love!

                        A 108 minute run-time might be a bit much, but the story fairly whips along so it doesn't get dull.
                        It's most easily compared to Green Street, with some big similarities in the storyline and again relating to West Ham football club, but the huge difference is that this is a true story! Everything you see on screen is actual fact, and that gives this movie much more gravity than its scripted counterparts.

                        Overall 4 stars from me. A good film but too much left out (the negative bits, funnily enough!) for this to be a fully accurate portrayal and for me to give this the maximum.



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                        • Nokia 6500 slide / Mobile Phone / 34 Readings / 32 Ratings
                          More +
                          05.08.2013 22:39
                          Very helpful


                          • Reliability


                          OK, so not a smart phone, but it does almost everything you could need.

                          My super smart 'smart phone' went belly up this week.
                          I won't mention the brand name, but it's a large and rather well known one which has been nothing but trouble, and suffice to say I've never been moved by it enough to spend time writing a review on here.
                          Long story short, some moisture has got inside and the battery has swollen to twice its size. As water damage isn't covered in my insurance, I'm now stuck.

                          So, to the gadget drawer I headed to root out one of my old phones, and the only model I had the correct charger for was this little fella.

                          I got the 6500 (slide, not classic) in 2008 when it was quite new to the market. I'm not really bothered about having the latest and greatest mobile phones - I hate them to be honest, just need one for work so it's a necessary evil - but since I was getting a contract and it was free it would have been daft not to.
                          This was chosen because I didn't want a Blackberry and I'd had terrible luck in the past with Sony, so I suppose 50% brand loyalty towards Nokia and 50% stuck between a rock and a hard place!!

                          I'm 31 years old and remember (not too long ago) when no-one had mobile phones. NO. ONE.
                          It seems incredible to me how quickly mobile phones have
                          1) been brought to market from almost nowhere
                          2) become an essential tool as well as fashion accessory, and
                          3) developed from a chunky portable box to make phonecalls to what we have today - 6"x3" miracles from which you can control your life from the palm of your hand!

                          Sadly, while being amazing machines they seem to have made old fashioned things like 'conversation' and 'manners' a thing of the past - something that has been brought home to me since using this old Nokia.

                          This phone does ALMOST everything my smart phone did, but it's not nearly as engrossing or all-consuming. Phonecalls - the primary function, so I'm told - are obviously fine. The phonebook is easy to access and the speaker is crisp and clear, so no issues there, and it answers automatically when slid open. Texts work perfectly and if I'm honest I find the old predictive text easier to use than the new 'auto-correct' software built into smart-phones. Music is easy to upload and play, though storage is pretty poor with 1gig of memory on the SD card it comes with to handle everything. The headphones don't like to stay plugged in, mind.

                          My biggest problem with the modern smartphones is internet. Access on-the-go is a great idea, but it seems everyone I pass in the street is glued to their screen like a zombie, reading facebook or browsing the news or playing games. While I'm not quite that bad, it is easy to get carried away once online and spend half an hour doing nothing.
                          The 6500 provides the perfect balance.
                          Internet access is possible, allowing access to most full sites as well as many 'customised for mobile' sites, but it runs painfully slowly and only loads partials of web pages. It means access when necessary is entirely possible, but it's too much hard work to turn into a long session playing games or wasting time.

                          The 6500 has a decent camera, only 3.2 megapixels but with a specially commissioned Carl Zeiss lens for superb detail. I use my camera quite a lot so that's a big tick, though video is fairly rubbish even when turned to the shortest length at maximum quality.

                          The display is great and measures a little over 2 inches - more than enough for a text message and just about enough for the internet sites. Sadly the screen is pretty soft acrylic material which scratches very easily.

                          If I have a big negative for this phone, it's the battery life. It was one of the deciding factors when buying with a quoted standby time of 13 days, yet even with minimal use I end up charging this every couple of days, and it runs out really quickly if I have to make a long call.

                          Overall this was a brilliant phone in its day and is still entirely passable as a stop-gap now.
                          At first I was quite conscious that I was using an old phone, but now I'm used to the buttons again it feels like an extension of my arm. It's a bit fatter than my posh smart phone, but much smaller overall and quite a lot lighter - very comfortable in the hand.

                          Only a temporary measure for me, but I have to say you could do a lot worse than this phone regardless of your needs.



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                        • More +
                          25.07.2013 23:27
                          Very helpful



                          One of the nicer daytime fragrances around, especially in the summer.

                          This was a gift I received from my little girl for my birthday.
                          I was given the choice of any new aftershave since my supply was running a little low, and vaguely remembered this as a nice summery one I quite liked from a bottle I had as part of a miniature/tester set.

                          To be honest my wife was a bit reluctant to buy this given the price... it seems to be drastically reduced from the RRP which usually alerts her to a shoddy product, but I asked very nicely and it ended up on my prezzie pile after all!

                          I got the large 100ml bottle of aftershave which was £18 from Debenhams. Usually the RRP on that size bottle is close to £35 so it was a seriously good buy (good job I liked it after all really)!

                          The bottle is square and broad with a large acrylic screw top revealing a squirter underneath. It's made of green glass (unless it's actually clear glass and the liquid is green - I'll report back once I'm an inch into it!) and looks quite attractive. It looks light and summery.

                          The scent is actually not what I usually go for. It's initially very fruity with very powerful citrus tones, then quickly settles down to a very flowery smell which tends to last the day. With a good deep inhale there is some spice there as well - maybe that's what appeals to me - with either clove or some ginger there as a vague afterthough.
                          For a daytime aftershave it's about as refreshing as it gets, Flowery but not feminine, if that makes sense.
                          As an evening scent it's a bit light and breezy, I prefer something either very sweet (Hugo Boss 'Bottled') or something deeper and more powerful (CK Be or Sean Jean Unforgiveable) for an evening.

                          The Paul Smith lasts very well. I wear it to work and I'm quite active throughout the day, it does fade slightly by mid afternoon but I still get a little waft of it when I change in the evening.

                          Despite the price I don't see this as a budget fragrance. I've no idea why it is reduced by such a large margin but I'm not complaining, it's a very nice and truly unique smelling aftershave.

                          This comes in 30ml, 50ml and 100ml as well as miniatures in multi fragrance sets.
                          The 100ml is currently available at Debenhams for £18 and a couple of discount online shops for £20-£22. Full price is £42.50 for the Eau de Toilette and £35 for the aftershave but not many places have it listed for that.
                          This is usually one of the first discounted fragrances at Boots when they have an event on, but currently only the 30ml is on sale.

                          Daytime fave, but a bit tame for the evening.



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                          • More +
                            24.07.2013 23:40
                            Very helpful



                            Best racer on the console for fun factor.

                            Well a very rare two days off back to back with wifey at work and the youngster at nursery this week meant only one thing - blow the dust off the PS2 and pull one of the old treasures off the game shelf!

                            Truth be told I've grown a bit tired of my 360. I mean, it's great - graphics, game play selection of new titles yadda yadda... I just needed a change, so back in the box it went and out came the big black square of loveliness!

                            After a short session on Everybodys Golf (another classic, btw) I fancied a drive.
                            Now the PS2 was never short on racing titles and was home to such giants as Gran Turismo 4, Need for Speed (Underground - Most Wanted - Carbon), Midnight Club and Bomberman Kart (ok, scratch the last one). There was never a shortage of top class racers and it seemed every month another 90%+ score game popped up on the shelves.

                            None, however, can compare to Burnout Revenge!

                            It's not that the graphics were head and shoulders above the rest, or that it was any easier/harder to play than other titles, it was just pure fun. A racing game stripped down to its bare essence and rebuilt for pure enjoyment!

                            Who, what, when??
                            This was one of the later titles to appear on the PS2 generation consoles - indeed, it also appeared as a very early and now rather hard to find X-Box 360 title - being published in 2005.
                            Once again, the developers were British programming firm Criterion and it was published and marketed by industry giants E.A., quick to snap up the franchise as part of an Acclaim buy-out.
                            It is the fourth game in the series and basically cherry-picks the best of the previous titles to create the absolute Daddy of racing games!

                            The game is made up of ten different levels starting with 'Harmless' and ending at 'Elite' which are quite easily advanced through.
                            Every event you play awards star rankings up to a maximum of 5. A gold medal (first place in a race for example) awards 4 stars, silver awards 3 and bronze gives 2 stars.
                            On top of the medal rankings there is an aggression ranking - a 'fair' or 'good' ranking actually docks a star from your score, 'Great' means it remains the same, and an 'Awesome' rank gives an extra star.
                            Basically, a gold medal with 'Awesome' rank gives the maximum 5 stars. Easy enough on some events but near impossible on others!

                            The game is made up of several race types - this is the key to its longevity as it never gets repetitive. While some racing games can get a little boring and become a real slog (same game, different track. Yawn), this is a new game very race!

                            RACE: Exactly what you'd expect. 6 cars race around a set track through a town or city, first across the line wins!
                            GRAND PRIX: As above but a mini-league usually made up of three courses, points are accrued for your finishing position in each race.
                            CRASH: Very much unique to the Burnout franchise, Crash is a very simple game mode in which the player must simply use his car to crash into traffic and cause as much damage (financially!) as possible. Sounds a little dark but it's actually a lot of fun!
                            BURNING LAP: No opponents, just you on the track trying to set the fastest time. Great fun and extremely frustrating - one crash will usually be enough to see gold slip from your fingers!
                            ELIMINATOR: Another race mode where the car in last place is eliminated every 15 seconds. Fast and frantic trying to edge ahead of the competition.
                            TRAFFIC ATTACK: Another unusual but addictive game mode only found in the Burnout games. Simply nudge the back of same-direction traffic (known as 'checking') in order to keep your countdown timer full. 20 seconds on the clock, the game ends when it reaches zero.
                            ROAD RAGE: Just an open track where you are forced to use your car as a weapon! Nudge, bump, smash and shunt other cars into metal wrenching accidents to build up extra time. A set amount of 'takedowns' will earn you your gold medal.

                            Each game type plays vastly differently and so the game never seems to get dull.
                            However, if you enjoy a particular game-mode you can pick and choose events in different cities and rankings depending what's unlocked. I.e. the game doesn't have to be completed in order - level 2 opens up halfway through level 1, so you have the option to move straight up of plod along in level 1 unlocking goodies.

                            How does it look?
                            It looks gorgeous! The graphics are closer to the arcade style Ridge Racer etc than the 'driving simulator' Gran Turismo, but given the rather destructive and violent content I don't think it would work any other way.
                            The engine is the super common Renderware platform which is widely available across the industry. Still, it was designed for PC gaming but ported very well to consoles, so as you would expect it allows for some great detail and accurate graphics.
                            The scenery whips past at a rate of knots, but it's when you press the 'boost' button that the game earns its money - the scenery blurs, the car kicks forward a few inches on the screen and whether you're playing on a 14" portable TV or a full size projector screen, the sensation of speed is intense!

                            How does it sound?
                            The cars sound good, but we've all heard car noises before... they've had that down since Outrun hit the arcades back in '86!
                            These days, it's all about the soundtrack - and this game doesn't disappoint!
                            Featured here are a few classics, some (at the time) HUGE underground tracks and even a couple of exclusive remixes. Over 40 tracks feature in the game, and since not every song is going to appeal to every player, we're lucky that we can pick and choose - essentially building our own mixtape to drive to!
                            Mine is currently comprised of Fallout Boy, Asian Dub Foundation, Maximo Park and The Bravery - the latter with an INSANELY good remix of An Honest Mistake.

                            The cars;
                            There are 80 cars available including unlockables and downloadables. Most of those are available for any race, any mode and any level, but there are a few...ahem...unusual vehicles that are only for the 'Crash' mode. A mobile diner and a rusty pick-up might look cool, but you wouldn't want to race them against super-light super cars down the narrow streets of Rome!
                            Each city has a challenge sheet to complete (win a race without crashing, perform a special takedown etc) that once filled gives you access to a special vehicle. After many years of playing I've managed a very impressive.... Two. Of eight!

                            Which leads us to:
                            The game will keep you occupied for MONTHS! I've completed the main game in a few days, but getting gold rankings on every event, completing the challenge sheets and finding/performing each signature takedown will take forever!
                            I'm on my 5th or 6th run through and I have never gotten past 95% completion.
                            Multi-player will keep you going for a lifetime, it's excellent fun but it does need a large screen as the action gets a bit frantic.
                            Online is (WAS) incredible, but god knows if anyone still plays it online given the new stuff out there.


                            This is possibly my favourite racing game. If not, it comes a narrow second to GT and only misses out in terms of realism.
                            The action never stops, the visuals are really quite spectacular and the pace never lets up for a second! Honestly, given a few days with no commitments I could play this until my eyes bleed!

                            Burnout was good fun, Burnout 2 (Point of Impact) was better, introducing Crash. Burnout 3 (Takedown) was good but didn't have the playability factor of Point of Impact.
                            Revenge is where everything comes together. Not one game mode is a dud - there is no 'filler' and not one piece of programming wasted.

                            This now costs about £3 on e.bay for the playstation 2 (£20+ for the 'next gen' consoles). If you own the console, there really is NO reason not to own this game!



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