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thereddragon

thereddragon
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Member since: 15.04.2009

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      27.07.2010 10:55
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      A good basic bargain microtower PC

      In September my games PC packed up in spectacular fashion, and I had to bite the bullet and buy a whole new one as the old one was really beyond economical repair. Being of extremely limited funds, it was hard to know whether I'd be able to afford anything capable of running current-day games, especially as I'm a custom content creator for The Sims 3 and therefore need a PC capable of running it with all the highest sim and texture resolutions and the highest poly 3D models. An intensive hunt through the budget desktop PCs on offer turned up this nice little microtower as probably the best bang for the few bucks I had. Having had several HP or Compaq PCs over many, many years (I even still have my oldest one, a Compaq Portable III 386 from the 1980s which I'd lovingly upgraded to a 486 and Windows 3.1, and is still in perfect working order!), I liked the brand and decided to settle on this product. It's sold as a 'Business PC', but if you upgrade the very basic onboard graphics it comes with by installing a decent graphics card of your choice, it's fine for games too. They come in a few slightly different configurations: mine has a dual-core Pentium E5200 processor running at 2.5Ghz, 2GB RAM (upgradeable to 4GB), a 320GB Serial ATA hard drive, a Serial ATA DVD writer with Lightscribe, and a built-in Integrated Intel Graphics chip. Thankfully it also has a PCI Express slot for you to upgrade the graphics, which you'll want to do if you want to run games on this PC, as the cruddy built-in graphics are not up to scratch. Equally thankfully, my NVidia GeForce graphics card survived the demise of the above-mentioned old PC, so I was able to put that straight in and get back to business. As well as the graphics slot, it also has a PCI 2.3 slot and extra drive bay space for an additional internal 5.25" drive (in addition to the DVD drive) and two internal 3.5" drives. It can come with an optional multi-card reader, which my particular PC didn't come with. The power supply is 300 watts. There are two USB 2.0 ports on the front and four USB 2.0 ports on the back, plus the usual standard input and output ports for keyboard, mouse, microphone and speakers/headphone, and an integrated Fast Ethernet controller. It also has a built-in sound chip, Realtek ALC662 High Definition audio, which I haven't found any need to upgrade as I find it fine for both my gaming needs and for watching DVDs or listening to music. At about 15 inches high by 16 inches deep and weighing about 10kg, it's a nice compact little size for a tower unit. It's finished in a matte black body with a glossy black bezel front, and comes with a matching black keyboard and mouse. It has a nice quiet power supply and fans, so it's not much noisier than a laptop, which I find fantastic as I like a quiet environment and don't like noisy PC fans roaring away, so that was another huge selling point for me! It was very easy to set up and use - once I'd installed my graphics card, it was just a matter of firing it up and going through the straightforward setup routine. My PC came with Windows Vista Business Edition with a voucher offering a cheap upgrade to Windows 7, which was not out yet for a month or two at the time I bought the computer. As the upgrade was only about £20, I went for it and am now running Windows 7 Professional, which runs fine on this machine. So, having now had it for a few months, I'm finding no problems and am very happy with how well it runs my games. Your mileage may vary as to how spec-hungry your games are, but my most up-to-date game is The Sims 3 with all of its expansion packs as of the date of writing this and patched up to the latest patch, and The Sims 3 is a real resource hog, especially on its maximum graphics settings, which is how I run it, but it runs fine. My next newest game is Dead Space, which also runs OK. Your mileage may vary with the newest and most demanding games, but a good spec graphics card should help a lot here. Aside from games, I also use this PC for graphics-intensive applications such as Photoshop, video editing and 3D modelling, and the performance is perfectly fine with no hanging about. If you're more of just a basic email, Internet and word processing type of user, you'll find this PC quick and far more than adequate, but it's good to know that it's capable of decent performance with more demanding apps as well. I haven't yet used the Lightscribe feature, which enables you to print labels directly onto your DVDs and CDs in the DVD drive rather than having to make labels with a printer, as I have not got around to buying the Lightscribe-compatible disks which you need to use this feature (it doesn't work with regular disks), but this is a nifty extra to have and I do want to make use of it for archiving my huge collection of old public domain movies which are in computer video format. All told, this is a decent budget PC. The only problem I've had with it at all, is a very minor one of the lettering wearing off of some of the keys on the keyboard. A shame, as the keyboard looks nice and of decent quality otherwise, but whatever their method of printing the letters and symbols onto the keys is, is obviously less than ideal - I wouldn't expect lettering to start disappearing from keys after only a few months use. That one hiccup aside, though, I've been very happy with this PC and feel it was good value at the £309 plus VAT I paid for it. Link to HP's Product Overview and specs page for this model: http://h20000.www2.hp.com/bizsupport/TechSupport/Document.jsp?objectID=c01711390 Also on Ciao as thereddragon and Helium as Esmeralda Draic.

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    • The She Creature [1956] (DVD) / DVD / 51 Readings / 49 Ratings
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      24.07.2010 10:34
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      Ridiculous movie good for an hour and a half's mirthful entertainment

      Starring: Chester Morris as Dr. Carlo Lombardi Marla English as Andrea Talbott Tom Conway as Timothy Chappel This Science Fiction offering from 1956 combines some of my favourite 'bad film' elements: evil moustachioed stage hypnotist, female half-human-half-monster, a really poor 'reincarnation' premise, terrible wooden acting, and lovely seaside location (Malibu in this case). It has a pretty good bad-film pedigree, having been directed by Edward L Kahn who gave us such 50's gems as 'Invasion of the Saucer Men', 'Creature with the Atom Brain', and what is actually one of my fave more 'serious' 50's Sci-Fi films, 'It: The Terror From Beyond Space', which I've heard is believed to have been the inspiration for the later blockbuster movie 'Alien'. Dr Carlo Lombardi, stage hypnotist and possessor of a superbly sinister moustache (together with such oily slicked-back hair that it positively radiates), strolls along the beach late at night impeccably dressed in suit, tie and hat. After frightening off a yapping stray dog simply by dint of his intense gaze, he goes on to find a strange large webbed footprint in the sand. We're given a closeup of his eyes as he looks around in some sort of furtively mysterious and meaningful way, before we then cut straight to the middle of some pleasant formal-dress house party. An older lady confides in one of the guests, who we learn is her husband: 'Dr Lombardi said something terrible is going to happen along this part of the coast tonight. Some visitation from the occult world!' 'Hmm, the occult world, eh,' hubby scoffs. 'Oh, really, you must meet him - he's wonderful,' wifey insists. Hubby goes on to recount wifey's history of having a penchant for quack occultists; 'Well, so long as it amuses you,' he finishes. 'No, seriously,' she persists, 'he puts this girl into a deep trance and takes her back three hundred years, and she tells about her previous life in England. I tell you, it's uncanny'. Sounds like this Dr Lombardi must be quite a talented guy, you think? We go off back to the beach, where we see Dr Lombardi enter and poke around in some shabby small beach house in which there is a dead man - Dr Lombardi shows no surprise or even interest in this scenario, just walks straight out again and continues on his stroll. Eventually he ends up at home, where he finds his beautiful young stage-act assistant sound asleep. He wakes her up with a creepy moustachioed kiss like a hairy and oily Prince Charming. 'You'll never leave me, you know,' he says confidently. 'As long as you're alive, I'll possess you.' 'You've taken my soul away from me', she berates him. We soon learn that he has been hypnotically regressing her back to a previous life in which she was a sea monster (I kid you not), and that under hypnosis she actually turns into her former monstrous self, complete with scales and spiky bits. As if that wasn't bad enough, we find that he has been doing this for the purpose of having her commit murders for him, one of which we learn was the dead man we saw earlier, while under trance. We see, via various interspersed scenes, that the police have been scratching their heads over a series of so far unsolvable murders that have been taking place in the area. Dr Lombardi has been making his 'she creature' commit them so that he can enhance his prestige by convincing people that he's a real psychic rather than the charlatan he is, that he can predict the future by 'predicting' these murders before they happen - and he has the convenient alibi of being elsewhere when they occur. How are the police ever going to work out that a centuries old female sea creature has been doing these murders, at the behest of some mad dude with a dodgy moustache? This movie is as awful as it sounds. The story is really stupid, the dialogue is really lame, and the acting as wooden as it comes (and with some of the characters, downright amateurish). Direction is so-so and the pace is pretty plodding. But, despite it all (or maybe a little because of it all), I found this quite enjoyable and compelling to watch. Its sheer cheesiness and the inclusion of so many of the silly elements I like to see in bad old films, made me want to stick with it. 'Dr Lombardi' was a satisfyingly unctuous and repulsive charlatan and I felt the actor played the part well, though without quite as much relish as I would have liked, and I would also have liked to have seen at least a bit of moustache-twirling, but no joy. Andrea the hapless unwilling she-creature looks lovely and vulnerable, as one expects such long-suffering victims of deranged madmen in these films to look, except of course when she's kitted out as the vicious sea monster. Special effects consist of a rubbery sea monster costume that looks much like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, only with boobs. In order to go travelling, the monster turns into a floating mist which looks even less convincing than the rubber suit. If you enjoy silly lurid cheesy 1950's Sci-Fi and/or monster movies, you'll probably enjoy this. I found it a fun time-passer and would probably watch it again. It was given the honour of being shown as Episode 808 of Mystery Science Theater 3000, which is what my copy is, and it richly deserved all the heckling the MST3K team dished out, which did greatly enhance the experience of watching this film. So if you find a copy of the MST3K version, it's well worth seeing that one, either instead of or in addition to the original film. Recommended as just a bit of good late-night no-brainer fun. Also on Ciao as thereddragon.

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        21.07.2010 12:27
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        Funky, naff, cheap 'n' cheerful fun

        Starring: Neil Morrissey as Noddy, aka Nick Oddie Michael Elphick as Inspector Cleaver Anthony Daniels as Priest Burt Kwouk as Chinese takeaway owner Daniel Peacock as Buzzer I think this may well be the silliest concept for a movie I've come across so far. Made in 1990 and starring a few reasonably well-known actors such as Neil Morrissey in his pre-'Men Behaving Badly' days, Michael Elphick, Anthony Daniels (best known for playing C3PO in the Star Wars movies), plus a short cameo appearance from Burt Kwouk (Cato from the old 'Pink Panther' films) and a brief role from Daniel Peacock of 1980s 'Comic Strip' TV series fame, I was surprised to find that I'd never seen or even heard of this film before. The story starts with a group of Satanist bikers carrying out a demonic ritual, only to be interrupted by a rival biker gang and murdered viciously. As a result, the demon that the first group were trying to summon, decides to take up residence in a nearby circa-1970s Norton Commando motorcycle that had belonged to one of the deceased. The haunted bike ends up at a second-hand bike dealer's, and our hero Nick Oddie, known affectionately to his pals as Noddy, can't resist this magnificent-looking piece of machinery despite it breaking his budget. He feels really chuffed with his new purchase - until, he starts to notice some increasingly disturbing quirks: it only wants to start at night, and it sometimes seems to start heading off in some direction other than where Noddy is trying to steer it. On his first night-time ride, as he cruises by a group of outlaw bikers riding in the opposite direction, the bike suddenly goes out of control and ploughs into the other bikes, knocking all the riders off. Noddy is horrified at this but doesn't dare stop, considering how angry the dismounted bikers are looking. Things go from bad to worse after the angry bikers track Noddy down at a local pub. While he's tangling with them, we see that outside, where the dreaded Norton is parked, it comes to life and trashes their bikes. Then it goes off, riderless, to commit more havoc. We soon discover that the bike likes killing hapless pedestrians and sucking their blood into its petrol tank. Well, what's a poor Noddy to do? This was a really odd little low-budget affair almost sort of reminiscent of a Troma film but with the quirky Britishness of something like 'Shaun of The Dead' rather than the more brash American style of Troma. It felt more like something from the 1970s than the 1990s, and had more the look and feel of a TV show than a feature film. Having never heard of it before, I'm not sure whether this was something that was ever released in cinemas or if it was a straight-to-video affair - it seems like the type of thing that might have been the latter. Apparently a lot of the actors and sets were recycled from the 1980s TV series 'Boon', a series I never got around to watching back in the day, but those who have seen the series might find the film has a familiar ring to it. It does look very, very cheap and it may be that the cheapness was intentional - the special effects are possibly the worst I've ever seen, and it may well be that that was what the filmmakers were trying to achieve, in order to make this a send-up of the 'bad horror film' genre. The special effects pertaining to the motorbike consist of making its headlight turn red when it goes into one of its bloodthirsty frenzies, and the headlight lens breaks itself up into jagged shards that are supposed to look like teeth so that it can commit cannibalism on its victims. There's lots of shots of the bike rearing up in riderless wheelies, which is supposed to look menacing, and later it sprouts some dodgy looking sharp spikes. There are also such charming special effects as Noddy's deceased friend Buzzer, one of the victims of the evil Norton, haunting him by metamorphosing into a talking turd in Noddy's toilet. Yes, I kid you not. There is literally toilet humour in this movie. The humour is very uneven throughout the film, but particularly funny is the scenario where Noddy decides to beg a local priest to help him by exorcising the demon. Obviously it's initially a bit hard to get the priest to take him seriously, but once the priest sees the bike display some of its evil behaviour, he's on the case. He turns out to be a really cool priest, what with riding a pretty impressive trike - yayy, biker priest - and his impressive collection of razor sharp shuriken-style 'throwing crosses'. The soundtrack is cheesy hard rock stuff as you'd hope/expect in a cheesy biker-themed film, including a closing-title song about 'she runs on blood instead of gasoline'. It sort of reminded me at times of one of my favourite bad biker horror movies, 'Psychomania' (1973) (if you like this genre, I highly recommend that movie - it's one I can watch time and again), and I wondered if maybe the makers of this film also liked that movie and were paying a bit of homage to it. The actors all seem to be enjoying their roles, even the bit-part ones, and it's fun seeing a young Neil Morrissey with long hair and ponytail, and the surprise appearance of 'Cato' as the surly owner of a Chinese takeaway called 'Fu King'. I also loved that they used a Norton Commando as the villain - back in 1990, the year this film was made, I had a boyfriend with the selfsame model, of 1972 vintage, and I/we loved it. What a great bike that was, although it leaked oil like a sieve. We got so much respect everywhere we went - one time while filling up in a petrol station, a middle-aged man walked by with his daughter of about 5 and said to her 'Now, that's a REAL bike, none of that Japanese rubbish!' Well, I like Japanese bikes as well, but there's nothing like a vintage Norton. Thankfully, ours was happy enough to run on petrol and it never killed passers-by and drank their blood (at least, not that we knew of...) Definitely one to bring out late at night, maybe post-pub, and just pack up all sense of credibility for a while. Not great or a classic, but a bit of good mindless fun. Also on Ciao as thereddragon.

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        • More +
          20.07.2010 14:18
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          Add more fun to your Sims 3 game!

          The Sims 3, the latest in the 'Sims' series of life simulator games from EA Games, was released in early June 2009 to great anticipation. However, the new release was disappointing to avid fans of The Sims 2 as it was notably lacking in basic content such as hair styles, clothing styles and household objects which even The Sims 2 base game had more of. The place to turn to find solutions for these dilemmas is, as always, the large collection of Sims custom content sites. Custom content developers soon discovered that this new iteration of the Sims was coded in a different way from The Sims 2 and that creating new content was going to take some time to figure out. At first, most custom content consisted of houses and community lots, as the building component of the game is the only one that remains the same. New community lots are especially useful, as most community lots that come with the game are 'rabbit holes'; that is, your Sims vanish into them and you are no longer able to observe them as they dine out or go out for drinks as you were able to do in earlier Sims games. Now, when you send your Sims to these lots, they disappear and you are simply presented with an empty floor plan and no Sims. In its unmodded straight-out-of-the box form, it is also much harder to create a Sim that looks like who you want it to look like than it was in The Sims 2. The applet 'Bodyshop' which came with The Sims 2 no longer exists in The Sims 3. Gamers now have to rely on the rather limited facial feature sliders in Create A Sim to try to achieve a likeness, as opposed to being able to create a face in Photoshop and then import it into Bodyshop as previously. Creating a true likeness is difficult because the default face in The Sims 3 is a large double-chinned 'pudding face' and this is very hard to defeat. If the person you are trying to represent has a moon face and double chin, you're fine. Otherwise, it's a problem. However, see below for two must-have items that have now been made by expert modders: Facial Slider Hacks (part of The Awesomemod, discussed below), which enables enhanced facial sculpting, and the CAS Texture Unitool which enables you to make custom facial overlays as well as clothing, accessories and all other CAS items, just like Bodyshop. As far as new clothing styles, hair styles and objects are concerned, creating and importing meshes (wireframes) for these items was found to be more challenging than in The Sims 2 at first, but thankfully various creators soon figured it out and now that the process has been streamlined, there's loads of great custom content of every type imaginable. Here are some great places for free Sims 3 custom content: 1. MOD THE SIMS (formerly Mod the Sims 2) http://www.modthesims.info/ I'm a creator at Mod The Sims (as 'EsmeraldaF') - it's by far the best Sims custom site I've ever come across and I find it absolutely indispensable. As well as quickly-increasing numbers of Sims 3 items, they also have a massive amount of Sims 2 content, worth a look if you are still playing The Sims 2. Moderation there is very strong, with strict quality control on what they will accept as uploads, so you are assured that the custom content you'll find there is of a good standard. In the Sims 3 subsection of their Downloads section, you will find a massive selection of Sims, clothing, hairs, makeup, accessories, houses and community lots, objects, mods, new worlds (neighborhoods), and other goodies. If you want to make your own clothing, accessories and face overlays, try their CAS Texture Unitool: http://www.modthesims.info/download.php?t=364926 . This brilliant tool gives you the functionality of Bodyshop, and more besides - you can also export and import custom meshes, and change categories, ages and genders of clothing, hair and accessories. You use this in a similar way to Bodyshop by exporting the textures of the item, working on it in Photoshop, re-importing it back in, and then saving as a .package file to copy into your game. The interface is not as intuitive or user-friendly as Bodyshop was, but once you get the hang of it, it's a godsend. It's really easy to use once you know how. You have to be sure you have Microsoft's .NET Framework 2.0 (Windows XP) or 3.5 (Vista/Win7) installed on your PC, or else it will crash when you try to save your work (as I found out the hard way!). It can also be used on Macs - instructions are on the Unitool's upload page. You also need the NVidia Photoshop plugin, as the files are in .dds format which Photoshop does not include (http://developer.nvidia.com/object/photoshop_dds_plugins.html ). As a creator myself, I've used it with great success. I've created clothing, face overlays, 'Hat hairs' (for regular hairs, use another of their easy to use tools, 'DABOOBS', to package your hair meshes and textures: http://www.modthesims.info/download.php?t=358682 ) (I should probably point out that DABOOBS stands for 'Delphy's Acronym Bending Original Output Barber Shop', Delphy being its creator), eyes, and all sorts of accessories with it. If you want to create objects, they also provide tools for packaging those. They're a bit techie and may look daunting at first, but again, once you get used to them, they're very easy to use. S3pe (Sims 3 package editor) will let you package them up (http://forums.modthesims.info/showthread.php?t=362412 ), and s3oc (Sims 3 object cloner) extracts the object from the game that you want to make a clone of, and then fixes your new package to enable it to be imported into the game (http://forums.modthesims.info/showthread.php?t=362413 ). I use these for creating all of my new custom objects. 2. MY SIMS 3 BLOG (http://mysims3blog.blogspot.com/) This amazing site consists of a huge updated-daily compilation of the best new items that the site owners have found across numerous custom content sites, with pictures and links to each item. They really work hard to keep up to date and provide you with thousands and thousands of quality items all gathered in one place - this site is absolutely essential! 3. MORE AWESOME THAN YOU (http://www.moreawesomethanyou.com) They have created a big mod called The Awesomemod which fixes many of the bugs in the game, allows you to turn off unwanted features, and many other useful tweaks, my three favourites being a Facial Slider hack which enables you to make the facial sliders travel up to five times further, the ability to edit your sims in CAS after you've created them and put them in game, and the ability to REALLY turn off Story Progression: http://www.moreawesomethanyou.com/smf/index.php/topic,15185.0.html. I use this mod myself, have had no problems with it, and would not want to be without it! 4. MISCELLANEOUS SMALLER SITES These are my pick of a few more sites that also provide quality Sims 3 content: Garden of Shadows: http://www.digitalperversion.net/gardenofshadows/index.php XM Sims: http://www.xmsims.com/sims3/ehtm/main/index.html All About Style: http://all-about-style.com/sims3.html Most sites require registration in order to download, but registration is free and so are all of their downloads. Also on Ciao as thereddragon and on Helium as Esmeralda Draic.

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          • Frankenhooker (DVD) / DVD / 45 Readings / 44 Ratings
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            19.07.2010 11:54
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            Young nerd tries to resurrect his girlfriend with unexpected results

            Starring: James Lorinz as Jeffrey Franken Patty Mullen as Elizabeth Shelley Louise Lasser as Jeffreys Mother Joseph Gonzalez as Zorro John Zacherle as Weatherman This is one weird and crazy film (well, as regular readers here may know, I rarely review anything other than weird and/or crazy films). Written and directed by Frank Henenlotter, infamous for equally weird cult films 'Basket Case' (1982) and 'Brain Damage' (1988), this quirky 1990 comedy-horror is fun and yucky at the same time. The story starts with a nice idyllic outdoor party scene in which we learn that Jeffrey and Elizabeth are a young couple in love and that the festivities are in honour of Elizabeth's dad's birthday. Dad blows out the candles on his cake and Elizabeth presents him with a surprise gift, a flashy new remote-controlled lawnmower. However, tragedy quickly ensues: Elizabeth makes the mistake of standing in front of the lawnmower with her back to it in order to demonstrate the remote control, the lawnmower lurches forward and, well, Elizabeth ends up in bits strewn all over the family lawn. Heartbroken Jeffrey, who we discover is a medical school drop-out who has an improvised home laboratory and conducts some pretty strange experiments, takes to spending all his time in there, working on a highly detailed life-sized sketch of all of the muscles, organs and nerves of the human female body, with a photo of Elizabeth's face pasted to the top of it. We soon learn that some parts of Elizabeth's body had never been found after the incident, mystifying the police and all concerned. We quickly learn why: Jeffrey had sneakily snatched them (including her head) and is keeping them in a vat of preservative. His plan is to resurrect her by finding her a new body and transplanting her head and other various bits of her he was able to retrieve. But how to find a suitable body? He decides to go to the bad part of town and invite a bunch of prostitutes to a private party, get them all doped up and unconscious with some knockout drugs, and choose the best-looking body of the lot. So he finds a willing group of hookers, takes them home and they party hearty. Unfortunately, Jeffrey's knockout drug doesn't have the desired effect - rather than putting them to sleep, it causes every one of the girls to explode. With a room full of assorted body parts everywhere, he freaks out, sobbing with remorse - but finally, steeling himself, he sets to work picking out the most undamaged parts from different girls, stitching them all together into a new body, placing Elizabeth's head on top. How's all that going to turn out? I quite enjoyed this goofy film which was, in its own oddball way, a fun take on the classic Frankenstein story. After Jeffrey Franken (Franken, geddit, as in Frankenstein) stitches Elizabeth together, his method of reanimating her is to offer her up on a pulley to a huge electrical storm raging outside, just as depicted in the original 1931 'Frankenstein' movie - sparks and electrical arcs everywhere, and everything going 'bzzzt, bzzzt'. When Elizabeth gets off of the mechanism and begins to try to walk, we see that she's wearing huge clomping platform shoes much like the original Frankenstein movie monster's boots, and when spoken to, she turns her head and growls out of the corner of her mouth in response like the original movie monster. I really liked how they paid such homage to that great classic film. Jeffrey comes across well as yer typical modern-day idea of a young nerdy mad scientist, playing the part with relish and it looked like the actor had a lot of fun playing him. He has quite a few unusual quirks, such as sticking a power drill into his head as a way of coping with stress, and he has a pet, if you can call it that, one-eyed brain that he keeps in an aquarium. I also enjoyed the actress playing Elizabeth, both in her sweet and wholesome persona at the beginning of the movie, and the monster she gets turned into - as the monster, she really is hilarious and I had quite a few laugh-out-loud moments. The other main actors are good too, ranging from Louise Lasser (an ex-wife of Woody Allen and a great comedy actress popular in the 60s and 70s, such as her starring role in a crazy 70s TV series that was a send-up of soap operas, called 'Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman') as Jeffrey's mother, to Joseph Gonzales as evil pimp 'Zorro', to a surprise short cameo from a childhood hero of mine, Zacherley (John Zakerle), who, made up as a ghoul, used to be the host of a weekly horror movie show I watched avidly when I was a small child living in Los Angeles. In this movie, he was in his customary ghoul get-up playing a TV weatherman, of all things, and it was fun seeing him again. The hookers are also all pretty funny (before they explode). This is obviously not a big-budget or blockbuster type of film, more an indy sort of look and feel, so don't expect impressive special effects or great cinematography. But the camerawork is quite punchy, and the special effects are imaginative, if not high budget - in fact there is a sequence later on where the other hookers' body parts all merge themselves together spontaneously into various really gruesome looking monstrosities and come to life, and these are effective enough to look disturbingly grisly and nightmarish. The directorial style is lively and it's a fast-paced movie. Although made to look somewhat cheesy, it's also very tongue-in-cheek, doesn't take itself seriously, and is a bit dark in a black comedy sense. Despite being pretty gruesome in parts, it's not very bloody, even when the hookers explode, so it won't satisfy the most blood-thirsty horror fans, but is more a crazy nerdy comedy with a horror theme. Highly recommended as one of those mad late-night movies for kicking back and curling up with a bowl of popcorn and some bevvies. Also on Ciao as thereddragon.

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            • More +
              17.07.2010 11:21
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              The Sims 3 finally gets less boring

              'Ambitions', released June 2010, is the second expansion pack for The Sims 3. And for the first time since The Sims 3 came out a year ago, it finally adds some worthwhile content to the game. I found the base game incredibly boring, with very little for the sims to do and nowhere for them to go aside from a few parks, libraries, gyms and other such uninteresting locations - there were few hobby items, and most of the community lots were 'rabbit holes', ie fake buildings that your sim disappears into and you are simply left sitting there blankly watching a progress bar showing the progress of whatever it is that your sims are meant to be doing in there. The first expansion pack, 'World Adventures' was a disappointment - basically all it delivered was the ability to send your sims on holiday, and while that added a small amount of interest, it soon became repetitive and the pack just didn't add enough to the gameplay or the content to be very worthwhile. As I mentioned in my review of it here, it was worth getting just for at least SOMEthing more for your sims to do, but a far cry from what gamers wanted. But now, with Ambitions, the developers have finally got back on track and given players some substantial content, both in gameplay and in new objects. I was not expecting much from this pack, as everything else released for The Sims 3 so far had been very disappointing, but was really pleasantly surprised when I installed this pack last weekend and for the first time since I bought The Sims 3, I've actually been playing the game and enjoying it! Prior to that, I mainly just created custom content (to upload on the Mod The Sims website) in order to try to alleviate my own boredom and that of other players by creating quirky content to try to make the game a bit more fun, but I didn't play much. But, finally, now there are things for your sims to actually DO, and most of the time you can now watch them do them as well, rather than disappearing into rabbit holes. This pack adds some good new content: -PROFESSIONS Your sim can now follow a 'profession' as opposed to just to having a job. There are some good ones to choose from - my self-sim is just starting out as an Inventor, and has to go to a new community site, the Junkyard, to rummage through piles of scrap to find useful raw materials. So far, she's made a rather Steampunk-looking decorative object called a 'Rotational Pull', and eventually she'll be able to make funky-looking robots called 'Simbots', useful items such as a 'Hygenator' which makes things instantly clean, and even a Time Machine in which you can travel through time. You can also blow stuff up. I'm looking forward to progressing in this career. Meanwhile, my sim-hubby has embarked upon being a Sculptor, and spends many happy hours working from home sculpting out of clay, wood, and even ice, and has just been recognised for his work and commissioned to create seven sculptures for a local organisation. And in the next best profession after Inventor, our sim-lodger has joined the Ghosthunter career. He gets to go out to haunted houses and scoop up pesky spirits with a sort of spirit vacuum cleaner, to the accompaniment of spooky music. This is quite fun to watch. And that's one of the great features about the new 'profession' addition to the game - you get to watch your sims carry out their jobs, rather than disappear into a rabbit hole. I think this really adds a lot to what was a very 'empty' game. The other professions aside from the three described above are: Architectural Designer Doctor Educator Firefighter Private Investigator Stylist (do makeovers of other sims) I'm looking forward to trying all of these out! -NEW COMMUNITY LOTS You get five new non-rabbit-hole community lots (referred to as 'Hangout Spots') which your sim can visit and interact with both the objects on the lot and other sims. These consist of: Consignment Store - sell your unwanted objects and inventions here, and buy second hand stuff. Fire Department - Your firefighter sim goes to work there, and you even get to see him/her slide down the pole. Laundromat - Yes, your sims can do laundry now, aren't you excited? You can also buy your own washing machine, dryer and/or clothesline, and laundry hamper, to use at home. Junkyard - Go here to buy scrap if you're an Inventor sim, or just want to have a go at fixing things up such as broken sofas and household appliances. My sim-self spends many happy hours here. Salon - You can go here for a complete makeover by a Stylist, or a tattoo by a Tattooist. My sim-self got a nice fish tattoo on her arm here, and our sim-lodger now sports a big purple 'WooHoo' symbol on his belly. -NEW NEIGHBOURHOOD, and ability to add new lots A new town, Twinbrook, comes with the pack. It's designed to be a 'Louisiana bayou' type of idea and looks really nifty, with houses ranging from old Southern mansions for the richer sims, grungy old shacks surrounded by swamp and fog for the poorer ones, and nifty stuff in between such as houses on stilts along the river. Twinbrook contains a pretty colourful and oddball mix of townies, including a large dysfunctional family, a family of survivalists who all dress and decorate their house in camo, an eccentric mother and daughter, three computer nerd roomies, a rock/blues star and a family of Cajun chefs. Most of the townies are really remarkably ugly, so much so that someone felt inspired to post a thread on Mod The Sims titled 'Twinbrook: Valley of the Hideous'?, a title that sums it up pretty well. Many of them are also covered in tattoos, and they seem to fight each other a lot when out on the town. And, extremely usefully, the game has now also been modified to allow you to place more lots in towns, like you could do in The Sims 2, rather than be restricted to what little is already there. I've now been able to import my self-sim's lovely beach house that I was using in Sunset Valley and place it on a nice riverbank location in the rich part of town in Twinbrook, which would not have been possible otherwise. So kudos to EA for finally figuring that out. -NEW OBJECTS Your sims finally have a few new toys to play with! There are objects relevant to the professions that you can buy to use at home and don't have to join the profession to be able to use. As well as the sculpting wheel and the inventor's bench that I've already spent many fun hours with, you can buy an architect's drafting table, a makeover station, a choice of two tattoo chairs, or even a fireman's pole for your own home if you feel you must. New toys include a trampoline your sims can bounce on (and fall off a lot), and a game called Gnubb in which they toss batons to knock wooden figurines over. And best of all as far as I'm concerned, a new chopper-style motorcycle called 'The Beast'! There are new household objects such as the above-mentioned laundry appliances, new beds, kitchen counters, tables, chairs, sofas, a music box (which comes with a gnome!), décor, and lighting items. There are also a fair few new Build Mode decorative patterns, especially wood flooring, marble floor tiles, and decorative ceiling tiles. Very useful are several new hairdos, always sorely needed as the base game came with so few, including a full-face motorcycle helmet as a 'Hat Hair', so if you ever wanted to make a sim of The Stig from 'Top Gear', now's your chance! The hairdos are mostly messy and/or funky, I guess in keeping with the funky new town, as well as including some much-needed short hairdos for men such as a sort-of Caesar cut - finally a few alternatives to all the bouffant or emo styles that came with the base game. No new clothes to speak of, though - just a few profession-related outfits. All things considered, this is a worthwhile expansion pack and I recommend it, especially if you'd been as totally disillusioned and bored as I'd been with the base game and World Adventures. It's given the game a new lease of life and I'm actually enjoying playing with my little simmies for the first time since The Sims 2. Here's hoping that subsequent expansion packs will continue to deliver. Also on Ciao as thereddragon and Helium as Esmeralda Draic

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              • More +
                15.07.2010 11:10
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                Cheap 'n' cheesy nerdy silliness

                Starring (both films): Toby Radloff as Harold Kunkle Virginia Scott as Helen Kunkle Heidi Lohr as Sally/Thelma Well, oppressed nerds of the world, this is your chance to vicariously strike back at your tormentors! 'Killer Nerd' (1991) and its sequel, 'Bride of Killer Nerd' (1992), are brought to us by Troma, prolific purveyors of the cheapest and silliest horror movies you're ever likely to find. (I've previously reviewed their 'Chopper Chicks in Zombietown' here, another real gem.) These offerings are as wonderfully cheap, funky and hilarious as ever. In 'Killer Nerd', we meet Harold Kunkle, uber-nerd. He's really terminally nerdy, both in looks and in behaviour, in every negative stereotypical way imaginable. With his bad teeth, taped-together glasses, pimples, greasy hair and very poor dress sense, plus no social graces of any description, he gets teased by local teenagers and children, who chant 'Nerd! Nerd! Nerd! Nerd!' at him, and he gets nagged by his well-meaning mother with whom he lives. He has a humdrum job where he works with Sally, the girl of his dreams. Sally is always very nice and amiable to him, so finally he musters up his courage and asks her for a date, but she turns him down (nicely). Dismayed, he goes home and watches TV, and sees an ad featuring a suave presenter, 'Slick Dick', promoting his set of tapes on how men can make themselves gorgeous and sexy and irresistible to women. Harold keenly sends off for the tapes and puts them into practice - we see him attend his local salon for a makeover and emerge with what's apparently supposed to be a snazzy trendy haircut ('Give me a rad 'do,' he requests in his whiny nasal voice) and outfit. Pleased with his new look, he decides to go out clubbing to try out his new persona, and having received some attention from the ladies, starts feeling more confident and makes his way over to Sally's house. But that turns out badly, not just for Sally but also for various of those who had chanted 'Nerd! Nerd! Nerd!' once too often... 'Bride of Killer Nerd', the sequel, I think is the much better of the two films. It seems more developed - the first one could be a bit slow and patchy but this one is more lively and fun. In this film, Harold is now living alone - well, sort of alone; he shares his house with the ghosts of some of his victims in the previous movie. These ghosts all talk to him and berate him for killing them. We follow him to work and see that once again, he's working at some humdrum job and being as nerdy as ever. In the next scene, we see a classroom of high school teenagers including Thelma, a super-nerdy looking girl with huge glasses, bad teeth with braces, and her hair in big pigtails/bunches. We see her geekily correct the teacher on a small point during his lecture, while the other students laugh at her. So, I think it goes without saying that she looks like an ideal match for Harold. (Strangely, she's played by the same actress who played Sally in the previous movie.) So, inevitably, Harold and Thelma meet, and they take an instant attraction to each other. Seeing that Thelma has a new boyfriend, some of her classmates decide to have a bit of fun by inviting the couple to a big party where the intention is to take the mickey out of them for everyone's amusement, sort of 'Carrie' (the movie) style. Well, as you may have guessed from the title of this film, at the party the humiliated Harold and Thelma snap and go all 'Natural Born Killers' on everyone's asses... I liked 'Killer Nerd' but loved 'Bride of Killer Nerd' - as mentioned previously, I found that they had developed the concept more in the second film. There was more going on, more characters with bigger roles, and more character development for Harold. I also liked the addition of a soul mate for Harold, who so sweetly shares in his mundane interests at first and then turns into a monster killer nerd as bloodthirsty as Harold, relishing their havoc-wreaking together. Both films are wonderfully cheesy. Troma is noted for making really cheap-looking films, and they probably are very low-budgeted, but rather than try to be as impressive as possible with what little budget they have, they really revel in their cheapness. Acting is terrible and amateurish, rather like a bad school play. Harold has just about the most annoying voice ever, too, and gets to recite such classic lines as "Roses are red, violets are placid, you screwed me over, have a face full of acid!" Funnily enough, having felt that Toby Radloff played the Harold character really convincingly, I later read in various sources that he's actually just like the character in real life - minus the killing sprees, however (I hope). Everyone looks like they got their clothes from a charity shop rather than a Wardrobe department, and the sets look like they just found some abandoned buildings in the bad part of town and used them. The direction looks totally amateurish (or like there wasn't any at all), the dialogue is terrible and the camerawork is more home-movie than blockbuster. Special effects are pretty much limited to fake-looking blood and such props as a stuck-on 'hatchet through the head' joke novelty. The murders are pretty silly, a bit more inventive in the sequel than in the original movie, such as a Psycho-style shower murder and a pretty dodgy castration, though the original movie had a nifty scene of a couple of Harold's tormentors meeting their grisly ends via remote detonation of sticks of dynamite strapped to their heads - which simply blow their heads cleanly off with no damage to their bodies, very realistic, eh? So, what's not to love? I love movies about nerds, and these are the best I've seen since 'Revenge of the Nerds' and 'The Gamers: Dorkness Rising' (which I've reviewed here too). I also love bad horror movies, so 'Killer Nerd' and its sequel combine the best of both genres. If you're a bad-movie connoisseur, give these fun movies a try. 3 stars for 'Killer Nerd' and 4 stars for 'Bride'. Also on Ciao as thereddragon.

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                • Shock Corridor (DVD) / DVD / 53 Readings / 51 Ratings
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                  13.07.2010 10:04
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                  Strange, sometimes surreal, hard-hitting drama

                  Starring: Peter Breck as Johnny Barrett Constance Towers as Cathy Hari Rhodes as Trent With its tagline of Euripides's "Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad", this 1963 movie is quite an oddity. Written and directed by Samuel Fuller, who made various other unusual and gritty films ranging from the great Film Noir 'Pickup on South Street' (1953) to the strange and controversial 'White Dog' (1982), this film deals with the experiences of a reporter posing as a mental patient so that he can report, from the inside, some dodgy goings-on in a certain psychiatric hospital. Fuller started out as a reporter himself, so this helps give the look and feel of the film a bit of a ring of authenticity. The style of direction makes it seem almost like a documentary, but it is one weird film, with many surreal moments and almost dreamlike in parts - a really odd mixture. It's in black & white and has a very 'dark' and dramatic look to it, much like a Film Noir. The main character is Johnny Barrett, played by Peter Breck who has an uncanny resemblance to comedian Denis Leary. Johnny is a very ambitious young reporter who wants to make a big name for himself. So he decides to fake a mental illness and try to have himself admitted to the afore-mentioned psychiatric hospital, hoping to find clues to a murder that had been committed there but that had only been witnessed by three inmates, all of whom have conditions that make them too out of touch with reality to be able to be credible witnesses. For some reason, Johnny decides that his particular mental illness will be that he has incestuous thoughts about his sister. He gets his girlfriend Cathy to pose as his sister and back up his story, though she's not at all happy with that concept. 'Caressing my braids, kissing them - what a disgusting story!' she snaps contemptuously at Johnny's boss about Johnny's story of how he'd lusted after his 'sister' as a child. 'What happens if they find out I'm not really his sister?' She berates Johnny for his deceit and ambitiousness in taking on this project: 'Don't be Moses leading your lunatics to a Pullitzer prize.' Despite these initial doubts, his tales of sisterly love do successfully get him admitted to the hospital and now he can set about trying to find the three men and question them - a hard task, as they are all very hard to communicate with. Little by little he starts to piece some information together, but at a cost: having to pose as a patient means he also has to undergo the treatment deemed appropriate by the medical staff, which includes such undesirable practices as shock therapy. As a result, Johnny starts losing it as time goes on. Can he keep it together enough to gather the information he needs and write his article? This is a fascinating film. It's weird, compelling, and holds the interest. I think it would have been considered a really hard-hitting and controversial film when it was released, though it seems a bit quaint now. But the overall feel of the film is quite unique, being a truly strange mix of Film Noir, semi-quasi-documentary and fantasy. Both the direction and the cinematography are superb, and the dialogue is snappy and hard-hitting. The acting quality is superb if rather OTT on many occasions - there's a lot of shouting in this movie. There are a lot of strange set-pieces that are sort of reminiscent of something out of David Lynch films, such as a seemingly gratuitous scene of Cathy performing a torch song and strip-tease in a night club in her evening job, which looks like something straight out of 'Blue Velvet' or 'Mulholland Drive', and which seems very out of character with her no-nonsense and straight-laced daytime persona, and then later she appears in Johnny's dreams, standing on his shoulder in miniature form wearing her strip tease outfit of lingerie and a feather boa, taunting him, like one of those 'little devil on your shoulder' scenes from old films and cartoons. More weirdness occurs in scenarios such as Johnny being befriended by a huge curly-haired bearded man-mountain calling himself Pagliacci who likes, as you may have guessed, singing opera - very loudly, in the middle of the night, when everyone's trying to sleep; and Johnny mistakenly wandering into a women's ward where he is immediately set upon by a group of sexy women patients who appear to be nymphomaniacs. 'He's mine. He's mine! He's MINE!' one of them repeats over and over in a breathy but robotic voice. 'Er, hello, girls,' Johnny says unsurely. They all approach and form a tight circle around him, wrestle him to the floor and attack - they appear to be biting him - while singing 'My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean' in girlish Marilyn Monroe type voices. There's also the odd way the film suddenly bursts into colour stock film footage on a couple of occasions to represent a patient's dreams. Possibly the weirdest set-piece is when Johnny encounters fellow patient Trent, a black guy who thinks he's white and that he's the founder and leader of the Ku Klux Klan. We first see Trent marching down the hospital corridor brandishing a picket sign reading 'Integration And Democracy Do Not Mix. Go Home, N*gger.' He sits down next to Johnny and cosies up to him, ranting about white supremacy, then spots a black janitor taking a drink from a nearby water fountain. 'Aha,' shouts Trent, 'Let's get him before he MARRIES MY DAUGHTER!' Trent rushes after the poor hapless janitor and it takes Johnny's utmost show of strength to tackle Trent and subdue him. In fact, many set-pieces such as the above, presented as specific kooky quirks among individual patients, seem to be symbolism for issues troubling society as a whole but personified here in a way that uses the characters as a mouthpiece for messages that the writer wants to deliver via this movie. They are not 100% successful but they are interestingly and thought-provokingly presented nonetheless. Despite the age of the film, much of it is still relevant. Recommended, as a strange, uneven but fascinating experience. Also on Ciao as thereddragon.

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                  • The Thing With Two Heads (DVD) / DVD / 50 Readings / 46 Ratings
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                    11.07.2010 11:56
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                    Really fun crazy lively Sci-Fi/Horror comedy

                    Starring: Ray Milland as Dr Maxwell Kirshner Roosevelt (Rosey) Grier as Jack Moss Don Marshall as Dr. Fred Williams Roger Perry as Dr. Philip Desmond I love this extremely silly 1972 comedy Sci-Fi. Co-starring distinguished British actor Ray Milland, known and admired for his starring roles in classic films such as his Oscar-winning role in 'The Lost Weekend' (1945), and star American football player Roosevelt Grier (billed as 'Rosey' Grier for this film), I can only think both of them must have really needed money desperately. However, be thankful that they did, because this laugh-riot really was worth it. With a tagline of 'They transplanted a white bigot's head on a soul brother's body!', this movie is not for terminally politically-correct viewers. How this absurd situation came about is as follows: Dr Maxwell Kirshner owns and runs a prestigious hospital doing ground-breaking experimental work in the field of transplants. He is dying of terminal lung cancer and, being a mad scientist type and an egomaniac, he feels that he must survive and that the only way of achieving this is to have his head transplanted onto a healthy man's body. He has already successfully accomplished this on a gorilla, which we are shown in its cage happily romping about with two heads, one the original and the other transplanted from another ape. With two heads, he can eat two bananas at once, so he's a happy ape. The next step is to be able to transplant human heads onto donor bodies: once established and any rejection problems sorted out, the other head would be removed. To this end, he recruits Dr Williams, a famed expert on rejection prevention, sight unseen. Dr Williams arrives to start work, but Dr Kirshner gives him a frosty reception - turns out Dr Kirshner is a nasty bigot, and Dr Williams is Black. Dr Kirshner unpleasantly tries to make up stories about there having been a 'mistake' and the position 'no longer being open', but finally agrees to give Dr Williams six months. So, to say that the relationship gets off to a bad start and that Dr Williams doesn't feel much sense of loyalty, is putting it mildly. Soon Dr Kirshner's physical condition deteriorates and it's time to take action. 'My genius must continue,' he declares. But how on earth can a donor be found? After weeks of intensive searching by the entire hospital staff, nobody suitable turns up. Finally, they try a widespread appeal for a Death Row prisoner willing to donate his body to a scientific experiment which will result in death about 30 days afterward. Rather than go to The Chair, the convict will at least have had another 30 days and will have served the noble purpose of contributing to science to help others. Big burly Jack Moss, just about to be strapped into Ol' Sparky, decides to donate his body to science. He gets transported to Dr Kirshner's hospital and the operation is carried out. But you may have guessed what sort of reaction the bigoted Dr Kirshner, who has now become comatose and kept alive on a life support system, is going to have when he wakes up and sees that he's been transplanted onto a big beefy Black dude... Well, what started off as a fairly straightforward Sci-Fi mad doctor tale, turns into wacky and zany action comedy. When he/they wakes up, Moss breaks out and goes on the lam, taking, of course, the unwilling Dr Kirshner with him, and now you need to suspend any sense of credibility that you may have had left after the previous shenanigans. We get one of the daftest (and longest) escape sequences complete with car chases and motorcycle stunts. With what appears to be the entire police force in hot pursuit, we see some of the most incredibly and laughably inept driving by what should be expert drivers as one police car after another crashes or flips over during the protracted chase. There's lots of silly dialogue to enjoy - as well as constant bickering between the two heads, we get such gems from Moss's girlfriend who warily asks, at her first sight of Moss with his transplanted 'companion', 'Honey, I know you don't like to answer a lot of questions, but - how did that happen?' 'I'll tell you about that later', Moss replies. 'This is Max - he's a doctor.' 'Nice to meet you,' girlfriend says. No reply. 'Does he talk?' she asks. 'Sure he does' says Moss, giving Kirshner a playful slap about the face. 'Don't touch me!' Kirshner growls. 'See? Works every time!' smiles Moss. Girlfriend then goes on to ask, shyly, 'Honey, I was wondering - um, do you have two of anything else?' Much laughter ensues (but her question goes unanswered!). Altogether, this film is incredibly fun and really compulsive viewing. I loved it. Production values and direction are very basic and low-budget-looking, and the acting among the supporting actors is just adequate, but Roosevelt Grier and Ray Milland, while never going to win any Oscars for this one, look like they had a lot of fun playing their roles and they both ham it up for all it's worth. The whole thing looks very tongue in cheek rather than showing any attempt at taking itself seriously, and it's a very 'feel-good' movie after the escape takes place. The film has much a similar feel to Roger Corman's more comedic horror and Sci-Fi films such as 'Bucket of Blood' and 'Little Shop of Horrors'. It's quick-paced with never a dull moment. The soundtrack is quite good, with some funky numbers and a joyful rendition in the car of 'Oh Happy Day', a big hit at the time, a bit reminiscent of Wayne and his Wayne's World pals doing their 'Bohemian Rhapsody' singalong in their car (though not so OTT in this film!). The car and motorcycle stunts were well done albeit a bit unbelievable and with camera booms sometimes visible, but what the heck. Special effects are basic and pretty much non-existent - there's really only the two-headed effect, which is OK but not overly convincing. It's available either on its own, as in the DVD shown here (mine is an old VHS tape so I can't comment on this DVD's extras, if any) or as a double bill on DVD with 'The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant', which came out around the same time. I don't recommend getting the double bill over the single film - 'The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant' is SO bad that even I hated it and can't bring myself to review it because it was so mind-numbingly boring and stupid in a bad way rather than a 'so-bad-it's-good' way, that I can't think of even one interesting thing to say about it in a review. So be warned. Break out the popcorn and beer for this one. Highly recommended as a bit of excellent pack-up-your-brains fun. Also on Ciao as thereddragon.

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                    • More +
                      10.07.2010 12:12
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                      Fun old-school vampire tales

                      *BLACULA* Starring: William Marshall as Mamuwalde/Blacula Vonetta McGee as Luva/Tina Denise Nicholas as Michelle Thalmus Rasulala as Dr. Gordon Thomas Gordon Pinsent as Lt. Jack Peters *SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM* Starring: William Marshall as Mamuwalde/Blacula Don Mitchell as Justin Pam Grier as Lisa Michael Conrad as Sheriff Dunlop This review covers the original movie, 'Blacula' (1972) and its sequel, 'Scream Blacula Scream' (1973). Although I'd heard of both of these films when they were out back when I was a mere slip of a girl, I never got around to seeing them at the time. I was vaguely aware that they were of the crop of 'Blaxploitation' films popular in the mid 70s, and assumed that they would be just silly. Having recently acquired copies of both films and watching them for the first time, I was surprised to find them actually quite good. Yes, there is some silliness involved, but they're not the lurid cheesy comedies I was expecting. They are played relatively seriously, with a good dose of humour thrown in at times, but with surprising poignancy as well, particularly from the lead character. In 'Blacula', the story begins in Transylvania in 1780 with a visit to Count Dracula's castle by African prince Mamuwalde and his beautiful wife Luva. Prince Mamuwalde meets with Count Dracula to ask his help in ceasing the slave trade, but meets with quite distasteful behaviour from Dracula, who not only disagrees that the slave trade should be abolished, but also tries to hit on Luva. Things don't go so well, and Mamuwalde and Luva prepare to leave. Instead, Dracula kidnaps them and bites Mamuwalde, turning him into a vampire. Drac tucks Mamuwalde up in a coffin and announces, 'I shall place the curse of suffering on you that will doom you to a living hell, a hunger, a wild gnawing animal hunger will grow in you, a hunger for human blood. I curse you with my name. You shall be: BLACULA!" He then walls up Blacula's coffin along with Luva, leaving her to starve to death. After the credits roll, we find ourselves in the present day. Two young interior decorators have paid a visit to Transylvania and bought a job-lot of musty old antiques from Dracula's castle, including the above-mentioned coffin. Our two young blades have their new goodies shipped home and eagerly begin inspecting. 'Hey, you know that chintzy bed we have in the guest room? What about this instead?' one dude declares, indicating Blacula's resting place. 'A coffin?' his pal says dubiously. 'Oh come on, it'll freak everyone out!' he says with relish. They set to work trying to break the big lock holding the coffin closed. Finally, success - but, the coffin lid begins opening by itself. Slowly and creakily, Blacula emerges from his torpor, and after two hundred years, he's hungry. After feasting on his two morsels, he has a little nap and then goes out for a walk. He ends up in a nightclub and sees a woman who is the image of his long-lost Luva, at a table with some friends. Intrigued, he befriends them. Meanwhile, the police are baffled by not only the mysterious deaths of the two interior designers, but also that one of their bodies seems to have mysteriously disappeared... I really enjoyed this film. I found the writing, direction and acting to actually be quite decent. As mentioned earlier, I expected it to be a cheesy, lurid and cheap film but was very pleasantly surprised. Production quality was not at all shabby, the actors were good and the casting of William Marshall as Mamuwalde was an excellent choice. He's an imposing presence, a tall, handsome and suave man with a rich, deep, very well-spoken voice. His background was in Broadway and Shakespeare, and it really shows; his portrayal of Othello was even praised by the Sunday Times (London) as 'The best Othello of our time'. He adds a real touch of class and raises the film to a higher level than if the star had been a more average sort of guy, striking me as a bit reminiscent of Christopher Lee as Dracula. Cinematography and soundtrack were both good quality with punchy, colourful camerawork and decent music, including a couple of live performances at the nightclub. Special effects are average - basically down to just adding a bit of blood, eye bags and sunken-cheek makeup when a vampire goes into feeding mode. And some good fangs, of course. All things considered, it was very watchable, held my attention, had some good comedy moments as well as much poignancy - you end up really feeling for Mamuwalde's plight, finding that he is a likeable and noble character. And, his sadness at the loss of his beloved wife and his increasing attachment for her modern-day lookalike, Tina, is really moving. In 'Scream Blacula Scream', we find Blacula once again revived from torpor, this time via voodoo by a young man who wants to use him to take revenge on some people he feels have double-crossed him. However, that does not go according to plan and the young man is dismayed to become a tasty snack for the freshly-revived Mamuwalde and subsequently turned into a vampire himself. The young vampire runs amok, wreaking havoc, and again, bodies pile up and the police don't know what to make of it all. Meanwhile, Mamuwalde goes on a hunt to try to find his old possessions and to enlist the aid of an attractive voodoo priestess to help free him of his curse. I found this sequel almost as good the original, a rare phenomenon in movieland. Again, it's atmospheric, nicely photographed and well played, with a good cast. As well as enjoying William Marshall back again as Mamuwalde, an added source of enjoyment for me was Michael Conrad as the police sheriff - if you used to love 'Hill Street Blues' as much as I did, he was the likeable sergeant who used to end his daily pep-talk to the boys in blue with 'Hey, let's be careful out there!' I loved seeing him in this film; he was playing much the same character, but a few years earlier. All things considered, I recommend these two films as an enjoyable late night's viewing of a couple of good old-school vampire stories (no modern-day twinkling pouting 'vegetarian' vampires here!). As displayed on this page, both films are available on one DVD and I highly recommend getting the double bill - if you like the first one, you'll not be disappointed by its equally watchable sequel. Also on Ciao as thereddragon.

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                      • I Drink Your Blood (DVD) / DVD / 36 Readings / 35 Ratings
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                        09.07.2010 13:26
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                        Hilarious old 'video nasty'

                        Starring: Bhaskar Roy Chowdhury as Horace Jadine Wong as Sue-Lin Rhonda Fultz as Molly George Patterson as Rollo Rabies-Infected Satanic LSD-Crazed Hippies! Best horror movie concept ever, or what? This cheapo 1970 horror movie is one of the most side-splittingly funny things I've seen in a long while. I think it was supposed to be serious, though. I mean, LSD-crazed hippie Satanists descending upon a small quiet country town in the middle of nowhere and terrorising innocent locals sounds pretty serious to me. It was produced by a guy called Jerry Gross, an apt surname considering much of the goings-on. We start out with dramatic footage of the above-mentioned hippies conducting a Satanic ritual around a bonfire in the nude, late at night in the woods. Their long-haired weirdo charismatic leader, one Horace Bones (I kid you not) gives a rousing pep talk to his followers: 'Let it be known to all the spirits that I, Horace Bones, was born into Hell! I am the first-born son of Satan!' His nekked followers gaze on him adoringly, and he pours some liquid substance into a large goblet. 'Let it be known, sons and daughters, that Satan was an acid-head,' he declares smilingly. 'Drink from his cup. Pledge yourselves. And together, we'll all freak out!' Everyone has a sip, and then they proceed to kill a chicken and pour the blood over a nude middle-aged Chinese lady member of the congregation. However, another member suddenly spots a frightened teenaged girl hiding behind a nearby tree, who has been watching the shenanigans. 'Who is that girl? Stop her!' cries Horace, brandishing the dead chicken. Two naked male hippies go off in pursuit, chasing the girl through the woods, while another tells Horace 'She's OK, she's just a local girl.' 'Local girl, MY ASS!' Horace shouts angrily. The two nude hippies catch up with the girl and have their way with her. She stumbles home afterwards and collapses in the main road of the tiny (population 40) country town. We next cut back and forth between scenes of the hippies enjoying themselves the next morning, cavorting about and playing pranks on each other and having a merry old time (mercifully now with their clothes back on), while the abused girl, in a state of shock and unable to speak, is taken home by her little brother Pete and attended by her family. When she recovers and is able to explain what happened, her Granddad tries to confront the hippies but they beat him up and force him to take LSD. Little brother Pete decides to get revenge for his sister and grandfather. It just happens that he helps out at the local pie shop, which the hippies have taken to frequenting for their lunch. There's a rabid dog in town and Pete decides to shoot it, take some of its blood and lace the hippies' pies with the rabid blood. Well, you can probably just imagine how all that might pan out. I didn't expect to enjoy this movie at all, never mind as much as I did - from the plot summaries I'd read, it sounded like a pile of crud and really stupid, and, well, it is. But, it is one of the most enjoyable stupid pile-of-crud movies I've seen. During the first few scenes, I thought 'Ho-hum...' but as it went along, it picked up and turned into really compulsive viewing. The acting and the story, as awful and hokey as they both are, actually do keep you watching and the whole thing is quite fun. I really liked it. Be warned that it's pretty gross, though, what with people getting maimed in all sorts of horrible and graphic ways, limbs being chopped off and so on. One of my fave gross scenes is when the hippies move into an old abandoned rat-infested house and have boisterous fun running through the house gleefully shooting rats while giggling inanely, then put loads of them on long skewers and barbeque them for dinner. Nice. The characters are actually well-drawn and are played nicely by a random collection of actors and actresses I'd never seen before or since. None of them came across as professional actors, and I think that gave the movie a bit of charm - much like 'Night of the Living Dead' where the actors were mainly made up of friends and neighbours of the filmmaker - so the characters seemed more like real small-town folks and real crazed hippies than polished actors. I particularly liked 'Horace Bones' - he came across as an authentic deranged Charles Manson type and was quite convincing and gave a wonderfully hammy performance. (Funnily enough, the actor who portrayed him was actually a serious dancer and painter in real life - this was one of only a very few film roles.) 'Rollo', another of the hippies, is hilarious after he becomes infected with rabies and turns into a totally demented axe murderer - his permanently goofy bug-eyed and frothing-at-the-mouth facial expressions have to be seen and it looks like the actor had a lot of fun playing that character. As you may expect, the direction, production and cinematography are all awful - it looks more like a home movie than a blockbuster. Actually the photography is not too terrible, but the crappy direction makes it look cheaper than it is. The soundtrack consists of tinny 60s-style music and bargain-basement sound effects. The special effects are fairly good for its day - cheap-looking but still pretty gory. I'm not as bloodthirsty as many horror movie fans and found some of the effects a bit yuck for my own liking, but true horror fans may find it rather tame compared to more graphic modern effects. This is definitely not a movie for children - it's very violent and contains nudity and some simulated sex acts. The movie is rated either X (the original version) or R (a later edited version) in America but apparently it's still unrated in the UK, having been originally released in the UK in the early 1980s as a sort of 'video nasty' and roundly criticised by Mary Whitehouse at the time. I'm not sure whether my copy is the edited or unedited version, but I would guess it's the unedited one, as it's very graphic for both violence and sex/nudity. Recommended as a late-night's fun viewing with friends (those with strong stomachs - keep the sick-bucket handy just in case!). Also on Ciao as thereddragon.

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                        • Lenovo 3000 C200 8922 / Laptop / 47 Readings / 45 Ratings
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                          08.07.2010 11:00
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                          Excellent quality robust budget laptop

                          I've had this laptop for over three years now and it's still going strong. I bought it as a desktop replacement in May 2007 when my PC's motherboard died and, discovering to my horrified surprise that it was a proprietary board specific to that one make of PC with no replacements available, had to start thinking about buying a new PC. I decided that I would like to become more space-saving and to buy a laptop to use as a desktop computer. Being in really dire financial straits, I was very limited as to what I could afford. Luckily, at that time the pound was very strong against the dollar and there were some good laptop bargains about. Good makes such as HP/Compaq and Toshiba had budget laptops at not much more than £300 plus VAT, so I had a good shoparound. Comparing several similar laptops in the £300-ish range, I narrowed it down to three and then finally to the subject of this review. What swung it for me was the features included, which were more numerous than others in its price range, and the brand, as I have always been an IBM fan since my very first PC, a second-hand IBM PS/2 back in the early 90s. For those who have either not heard of Lenovo or had vaguely heard of it and assumed they were just another oddball small make, Lenovo is now the laptop division of IBM - they are a huge Chinese company who have bought out the 'Personal Computer Division' of IBM and are continuing to manufacture their products. I believe there are still a few laptops being sold under the branding of IBM (the higher range Thinkpads) but most of them have now been rebranded Lenovo. So, with this laptop you are getting an IBM product and all the reliability that that entails, for a budget price, in my case, £289 plus VAT, which is amazing value for what you get. In true IBM style, this is a sturdy, chunky-looking laptop which will not be to everyone's tastes visually. It looks a bit old-fashioned, resembling my old IBM Thinkpad T20 that I've had for about five years and which was also no style icon in its day. If you insist on something that looks like a Sony Vaio or an Apple MacBook Pro, you will scoff at this laptop's looks. However, the trade-off is that it is built like a brick and may last pretty much forever. I've had no problems with this laptop aside from about a year ago when it suddenly freaked out and went into a loop of rebooting itself non-stop, and after much tearing of hair, removing the battery cured it and it's been fine since. So in over three years of continual daily use, a duff battery has been the only problem. It's a masterpiece of practicality over style. The features that decided me to buy this laptop over the others included an S-video output, which no other laptops in its price range had - this enables you to connect the laptop to a TV, so you can watch downloaded movies or stream videos off the Internet, on the S-video equipped TV of your choice. You also get four USB ports, a firewire port, microphone and speaker ports, a VGA output port, a multi-card reader, an Ethernet port, a built-in wireless receiver, and a DVD writer. It has an 80GB hard drive, a 1.73Ghz Celeron processor, and comes with 512MB RAM which is upgradeable to 2GB (I've upgraded mine to 2GB). It runs surprisingly speedily, much better than I would have expected from such a processor. Although it obviously isn't meant to be a gaming computer, especially with its lowly Intel 950 graphics chip, it runs all of my favourite older games that I still dip into from time to time, such as Deus Ex, The Longest Journey, and Dreamfall, like a charm, runs The Sims 2 with all of its expansion packs and about 2000 items of custom content creakily but still just about playably, and even runs The Sims 3 albeit at low resolution. The screen is 15.4" and has a bright good quality display for gaming and DVD watching, although be warned that its one and only stumbling point is that the maximum resolution is only 1024x768. I haven't really used it much on its battery, as it's a desktop replacement, but the battery life seemed to be average, about three hours, when new. So, this is a decent-performing piece of kit, and to this day it still astonishes me how cheap it was. One of my main resource-hungry applications that I use often is Photoshop, of which I have the older CS version, so I can't speak for the latest all-singing-all-dancing version, but that too runs fine on here with no hanging about. I've expanded it with an external USB hard drive for my worryingly enormous collection of old Public Domain movies plus a 2GB SD card that I keep permanently in the card reader to use as a backup device for all of my most important documents, and can say this has truly been a worthy desktop replacement for my needs. In addition to all that, as an utterly (and literally) shocking testament to the build quality of this laptop, last October I inadvertently knocked over a glass of water on my desk, the entire contents of which went straight into my laptop while it was on and running. I watched in horror as it shorted out and went black. I picked up the laptop and shook it out, to find water pouring out of it everywhere. Griefstricken, I put it on the floor on its side in front of the radiator to drain and dry out as much as possible, in the hopes of at least salvaging the hard disk so that I could retrieve its contents. A couple of hours later, it seemed dry and just for the hell of it, I tried powering it on. And - it WORKED. It had a few funny moments, with error messages about the USB ports, and I had to restart it several times, but finally, it went into Windows. And today, it's still working (touch wood) fine as ever (all the ports work, despite the error messages that one day which have never reappeared since), I'm still using it as my desktop replacement and am typing this on it. Now, if that isn't true robust build quality, I don't know what is!! I wouldn't suggest trying this out yourself, however! Being a three-year-old model, I don't expect it is still available new. But if you are in the market for a second-hand laptop and you see one of these going for a good price and all in good working order, I can unreservedly recommend this one.

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                            07.07.2010 12:18
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                            Worth getting at a discounted price for the 10 Year Anniversary items

                            The Sims 3 High-End Loft Stuff, retitled for some reason in Europe as 'The Sims 3 Design and Hi-Tech Stuff' apparently because (so I've read) us Euros don't know what 'Loft' means or it means something different here, or something, is the first Stuff pack for The Sims 3. Stuff Packs, as opposed to Expansion Packs, add some new items such as hairs, clothes and household objects, usually as a themed set, whereas Expansion Packs add significantly to the gameplay and the game's coding as well as supplying some new objects and hair/clothes. So Stuff Packs are smaller and cheaper then Expansion Packs. High-End Loft Stuff (or Design and Hi-Tech Stuff) is themed along the lines of modern, contemporary 'loft' style living, in the sense of those big open-plan 'loft' apartments in America which tend to be inhabited by trendy up and coming types who favour modern furniture and decor, and high-tech and gadgety appliances. So, we get such things as a nifty new selection of sleek, modern furniture, a massive improvement on all the dreadful stuff that came with the base game, a snazzy new computer, a new gaming console system, a slick stereo, an ultra-slimline TV and a sleek and modern treadmill to play with, and modern-looking decorative items. There are also a few, disappointingly few, new hairdos and clothing items, and none of them are anything to write home about - I would have liked to have seen a bigger and better selection of those. So all of this adds up to a chance to transform your simmies' homes into high-end ultra modern pads to impress their friends and neighbours. Is this pack worth it? For the most part, this pack is a bit sparse and disappointing, but I purchased it recently at £9.99, which I think is about half of its initial price when it came out in February, and find it OK value at that price. I do like the furniture and the new electronic gadgets, and am using many of them happily in my sim-family's home. But, even then, I could have found similar items that were just as good on the various sims mod sites for free, so it's somewhat of a 'meh' situation as far as that goes. But, what really swung it for me, was not the new items, but the 'Bonus' items EA decided to throw in as a sort of '10th Anniversary of The Sims' (The Sims 1 came out in 2000 - scary how times flies!) celebration, and those are really what motivated me to buy this pack and totally made it a must-have for me. The bonus items consist of conversions of the Sims 2 items Electric Guitar, Aquarium, and Vibrating Love Bed, together with the extra gameplay and animations that go with them. I am so pleased to have these items, as all of them were used extensively throughout my Sims 2 world, and they have helped add a bit more fun back into the pretty barren base Sims 3 game. So, as well as having a whizzily-decorated modern home, you can have a nice big aquarium full of the fish your Angler sim catches rather than a one-fish fishbowl as supplied with the base game, an electric guitar for the rockers amongst us rather than just the wishy-washy acoustic guitar of the base game, and the good old Vibrating Love Bed - well, no home should be without it and our sim-family's Hopeless Romantic lodger now has one and will, I'm sure, be putting it to good use soon. As there's not much to Stuff Packs, there's not a whole lot to cover in a review, and if it hadn't been for the 10 Year Anniversary Items, there would have been really pitiful little to say. But for me, and probably for most long-time Sims players, the bonus items make it well worth the £9.99, and I recommend it on that basis. 3 stars for the new items, and 5 stars for the bonus items. EDIT: I see, after posting this, that Dooyoo has it listed with the price now being £7.99, so even better value than when I bought it! Also on Ciao as thereddragon and Helium as Esmeralda Draic

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                            • More +
                              06.07.2010 16:45
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                              At least adds a bit more to a very sparse base game.

                              'World Adventures' is the first Expansion Pack for the 'The Sims 3' life simulation game. It was quite an odd idea to have a vacation pack be the first expansion for a Sims game, and the news was received with a lot of mixed feelings. Many players, myself included, would have preferred something more along the lines of the 'Nightlife' pack, one of the very first expansions for The Sims 2, which added more social interactions along with the ability to go on dates, go out on the town and party, and other fun stuff. The concept of simply adding holidays to an already lacking-in-content base game didn't sound so hot. So, is this pack worth getting? I do think it is. As well as the going-on-holiday bit, it also adds new objects, skills and various other bits and pieces, which do make it worth having. You get quite a few new clothing items and a few more hairstyles, both of which were sorely needed. The new skills of photography, martial arts, and nectar (wine) making, give your sims a few more things to do, which was very lacking in the base game. Your sim gets to take photos with a handheld camera, practise their martial arts skills on a dummy and a block-breaking stand before trying them out on other sims, and learn to brew and age 'nectar' with their own home grape-stomping barrel and nectar machine. There are also new character Traits to go along with these new skills. You also get a new supernatural, a Mummy. Though I still want Vampires, Aliens, Zombies and Werewolves as in The Sims 2, darn it! Bring back the alien abductions, I say! There are new decorative objects and a new vehicle, a scooter. Another good thing about some of the new objects is their mod-ability: I've wanted a motorcycle in the game, and hopefully it won't be long now before we see the scooter cloned by modders and some motorcycles created. The best new object, for me, is the cash registers - these are coded to generate a sim to stand behind them and sell items such as food, books and nectar (one type of item per cash register). They were made for the stores and cafes in the holiday destinations, but you can get mods that enable you to unlock these and use them yourself back in your home town in the creation of your own community lots. This way, you can create your own restaurants, pubs and so on where you can actually watch your simmies eat, drink and be merry like in The Sims 2, rather than having them disappear into one of the rabbit-hole lots that came with the Sims 3 base game. Also with this expansion pack, and also with one of the recent update patches to the base game for those who don't have World Adventures, you acquire a new Basement Tool that allows you to create true basements for the first time. So, on to the holiday side of things. Your sims have a choice of three new holiday destinations: Sim-world versions of France, China and Egypt. These are actually nicely-done - the scenery and the layouts of the three locations are very pretty and they capture the flavour of each country well, albeit in a cliched way. Background music also changes to a style of music associated with each country as well. In your travels, as well as meeting the locals you also meet other tourists, dressed in traditional 'explorer'-type gear such as safari-style suits and hats so they're easily identifiable from the locals. You can befriend fellow explorers and locals as well, and even marry them if you so choose. When you arrive at your holiday destination, you will start off at a Base Camp, which will either consist of camping out in tents or staying in a hostel. From here, you can go out and explore the sights, and at some point you will get an 'Opportunity' pop-up from one of the locals asking you to carry out a task for them. You can either agree, or cancel. In any case, at all three locations you will find that most assignments are to do with exploring a tomb of one sort or another. (Hence why the new Basement Tool that was added in the expansion pack!) This is where the RPG elements referred to in the title of this review kick in. Before going tomb-raiding, be sure to go to the local store and stock up on items such as tents, food and Shower-In-A-Can and put them in your Inventory, because you will need them. You will be descending one or more levels underground and your task may take more then one day; also, sometimes it can be hard to get out again and you don't want your simmie to die of hunger or to keep whining about needing to sleep or bathe. Progress through the tombs will be by solving puzzles that open big heavy ancient doors, or by diving into wells and surfacing in another area of the tomb, so be prepared for a long haul. Your goal will be along the lines of finding precious gems and other valuables, and discovering some ancient secrets. The gameplay of all this is quite fun, a lot of it is rather cute, and it's nice for your simmies to have some activities they can do after how bare-bones (and really somewhat boring) the base game is. The problem is that it is all very repetitive - the tomb-raiding is very similar in each country, and once one of your sim families explore and plunder a tomb, it doesn't reset - if you send another family there, they will find it already plundered. I believe there are mods that fix this non-resetting problem, although I have not tried them myself as once I've been to one tomb I haven't sent anyone else to the same one. But be warned, players have found this disappointing. Needless to say, with the addition of the Mummy as a new supernatural character, if your sim is unlucky (or lucky, depending on how you think of it), they may encounter a mummy when opening a tomb and be cursed. Sims can also sleep in a Cursed Sarcophagus and become mummies themselves! (This can be reversed by sleeping in a Blessed Sarcophagus.) Each country has activities specific to it: China is where you'll learn martial arts skills, and you can also buy (and set off) fireworks, and eat Chinese food. In France you'll learn nectar-making, be able to buy bottles of nectar to take home with you and wineracks to put your bottles in, and if you're ambitious, buy a nectar machine to take home with you as well, and in Egypt you can learn snake-charming and buy your own snake and basket to keep. All things considered, despite not being what players wanted in a first expansion pack and not adding a huge amount to the basic gameplay, it is worth getting. The holidays are quite fun, although the novelty wears off fairly quickly, and the new objects, skills and traits are a worthwhile addition. (As a modder and custom content creator myself, I also like how the new objects and animations make it possible to create more of a range of custom content for the game using some of the new features - the more the merrier!) Your sims can collect all sorts of neat stuff to take home with them, including maybe even a new husband or wife! Recommended, as a way to add a bit more to what was a pretty lacklustre and disappointing base game. Now I'm looking forward to the next expansion pack, 'Ambitions' - anything that has both robots (yayy robots) and tattoos hopefully can't be all bad! Also on Helium.com as Esmeralda Draic and Ciao as thereddragon

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                              • D.O.A. [1950] (DVD) / DVD / 114 Readings / 112 Ratings
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                                28.07.2009 11:04
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                                A real classic, one of the best Noirs ever

                                Starring: Edmund O'Brien as Frank Bigelow Pamela Britton as Paula Gibson Luther Adler as Majak Neville Brand as Chester No, this is not a review of the awful 'DOA: Dead or Alive' (2006), thankfully. This is the edge-of-your-seat film noir masterpiece from 1950, darkly directed by celebrated cinematographer Rudolf Mate and starring Edmund O'Brien as the unluckiest innocent bystander ever. Even if you're not an old film noir buff like I am, this movie is a must-see. The story is timeless, its horrific premise something that could happen to any hapless bystander in any era. I've seen this several times, from when I was a small child to the present, and it never loses it impact. This will suck you in from the very beginning, when mild-mannered accountant Frank Bigelow arrives at the local police station looking weary and dishevelled and announces 'I want to report a murder.' OK, that's pretty bad news but not so shocking to all of us moviegoers hardened by a life of modern flicks where murder is pretty much de rigour in everything. However, the following conversation ensues: 'Sit down,' says the homicide captain. 'Where was this murder committed?' 'San Francisco, last night,' replies Frank. 'Who was murdered?' 'I was.' Huh? Is Frank just some kind of nut? What can he possibly mean? It quickly transpires that the police have already been informed that someone called Frank Bigelow has been slipped a slow-acting poison by someone in San Francisco and has only 24 hours to live, and they have been looking for him. So, they are relieved that he has now brought himself in, and that he can tell them himself what happened. With time being of the essence, he begins to recount to them the many complex events of the past day. The story dissolves into flashback material of his intensive and determined hunt to find out who did this to him and why. His tragic scenario begins with his having been sent out of town to San Francisco on a business trip, joining some fellow hotel guests for drinks at a local bar there, and then feeling a bit unwell the next morning with what he at first thinks is just a hangover. When the suspected hangover doesn't shift, he visits a local doctor who discovers that Frank has somehow ingested what he calls a 'luminous poison', a lethal radioactive substance, and breaks the bad news to him that too much of it has already been absorbed into his system and that he only has a day or two to live. 'You've been murdered', the doctor sadly sums it up. In a state of shock, Frank sets out to try to find out how and why this happened, getting involved with lots of very dodgy situations and often dangerous characters in his quest for an explanation. He is able to determine that it was slipped into his drink at a jazz club attended by himself and some of his fellow hotel guests, but can not determine any idea as to why. Little by little he starts to put the pieces together, despite resistance and obstruction the whole way throughout the sleazy underworld his search leads him into, and more twists and turns than you can shake a corkscrew at. This is an excellent example of the film noir genre, with the darkest story imaginable and atmosphere so thick you could slice it with a knife, with gloomy sets and seedy bars patronised by dubious characters. Direction is superb and cinematography is in top Noir form, with effectively dramatic use of darkness and shadows. This is a black and white film that HAS to be in black and white for that true Noir look and feel. The one small thing that mars it a bit for me (and for many other movie buffs, from the comments I've read) is a misguided attempt at humour in the beginning of the film, when Frank stays at the San Francisco hotel and there is a big boozy convention in progress: a series of loud wolf-whistles was dubbed into the soundtrack each time an attractive woman walks by, as if this is a fluffy comedy rather than the spooky tragedy it soon turns into. Maybe this was a way of establishing a contrast between the light-hearted everyday situations Frank's life normally consists of and the really extreme stuff that happens next, but it tends to jar. Luckily, this is the ONLY flaw in the film, so don't be put off by it! Acting is superb on all counts, with really psycho bad guys (such as Chester, a specially deranged sadistic killer maniac who goes around referring to himself in the third person, played by the wonderful Neville Brand who is one of my all-time favourite bad-guy actors) and wisecracking dames: 'If you were a MAN, I'd punch your dirty face in!' is one of my favourite female wisecracks amongst the many that the once mild-mannered but rapidly toughening-up Frank receives. Edmund O'Brien is absolutely compelling in what is probably his best-ever role as the likeable, ordinary office paper-pusher who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and ends up the victim of extremely cruel fate. He seems born to play the part, and it's hard to imagine anyone else playing Frank Bigelow so well. A really poor remake was made of this in 1988 which, much as I like its star Dennis Quaid, is not worth seeing! For those who are not aware of it, 'D.O.A'. is the acronym for an American medical phrase often used by police, 'Dead on Arrival', hence the very apt title for the film. Recommended as a definite must-see, even for those who wouldn't normally watch old films. This is a real classic. My copy is not the same DVD as that depicted on this page, but is from a collection called '50 Dark Crimes Classics', in which there are no extras, so this is a film-only review. Also on Ciao.

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