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Venom PlayStation Move Gun
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This gun is quite large and has satisfying heft but benefits from good balance due to a deep handle and a trigger with a good early actuation. The trigger does feel like a sliding actuator but I don't think there is really any way around this. The grip is comfortable but better suited for a larger player. As a reasonably large adult male I found it perfectly sized. Smaller children would probably have difficulties.
Fitting the Move controller is easy and the device feels secure. The gun looks good in use and at this price I'd consider it excellent value for money.
Death Proof (Single Disc)
23 New from
Tarantino is one of those directors, sometime he's cruising on his 'enfant terrible' reputation, but sometimes he comes through, and this time he really comes through.
This is a really difficult film to review without spoiling the twist (it ain't subtle but it sure is good! Frankly that describes the film) but i don't think that any other writer/director would have come up with the role reversal that makes this film.
Fifteen minutes into the film you'll probably want to turn off, i did, the 'grindhouse' pretension of bad editing and poor film quality soon gets tiring, but fortunately tarantino realises that the viewer will tune this out as the film continues and it diminishes as the film gets past it's (somewhat extended) opening act and into the meat of the story. Bear with it, the second act has better and more engaging characters and an 'against your better judgement' feel good factor before you know it you'll be rooting for these people.
This film is petrol head porn, a 'top gear' 'silence of the lambs'; enjoy it for what it is and revel in it's idiosyncratic charm. This movie has it all, if yor into cars, car chases, car crashes, chick flick bonding, female empowerment or psycho killers tarrantino has made the film for all audiences. Sit back, disengage brain and enjoy.
Logitech Harmony 555 Advanced Universal Remote
If you've lost your TV remote and are looking for a replacement then this is probably not the handset for you, sure it has a huge database of devices it can control, but frankly if that's all you're after then you probably want something that works out of the box and that is not the case with this.
If on the other hand you have a pile of remotes to control up to 15 devices and a partner who is always complaining that they can't use the home cinema then this is the perfect device for you. The Harmony 555 will replace up to fifteen remotes and has a library of over 10,000 devices, these are set up using a simple web based interface and then downloaded to the handset via USB, between the comprehensive but uncluttered key layout and paging 4-way soft button screen all original functions are avaliable, infact functions such as direct access to specific inputs and screen ratios were avaliable from this device which are not on the original remote! Key and softkey setups are fully customisable within the software.
The really clever bit though is the 'Activities' based organisation of features, by setting up an activity the Harmony remote takes away the necessity to understand how a complex home theatre is set up inorder to access it's functions, when an activity is selected the 555 will switch on all the required componants (and switch off unneccessary ones that are on) and switch to a seperate, customisable control set specifically for that activity. All the functions for all the active componants are selectable and activity specific macros can be configured saving the necessity of switching between 'devices', for example in a 'Watch Television' activity the remote can turn on TV, AV receiver, Sky box and HDD recorder automatically, set the inputs for all devices (even where multiple source switches are used) and switch to a control set in which the volume and mute buttons control the amplifier, the colour buttons control Sky and FF/RW/Skip/Pause/Play/Stop buttons control the HDD recorder and all the options for the Sky program guide and TV picture functions are avaliable on soft buttons meaning that the user doesn't have to know what device is used for what function, the process is completely transparent, select 'Watch DVD' and the HDD and Sky turn off, the inputs on TV and Amplifier changed and the Play/Pause/Rew etc keys remapped to control the DVD player, no searching for remotes or switching devices required.
Naturally, this kind of simplicity in use indicates a great deal of sophistication in the setup and you do need to be methodical and have a good understanding of your home theatre system. Setting up this device is not a short job, the basics can be done in 20mins, but if you have a reasonably complex setup expect to spend several hours as you start to realise how powerful it can be and decide to ad more and more features.
Construction is good, styling is expensive and hi tec in appearence and the device feels well made although it does have a slight flex when pressing buttons at the far end. The buttons themselves are responsive and the matt grip finish on the underside is highly tactile.
In conclusion, this is the best universal remote I have ever tried, the activity based arrangement is hugely successful removing the necessity to switch between devices and meaning that the user only has to know what they want to do, not what devices and settings they need. In the past mutli device remotes have always been a compromise with convenience compromised to reduce the clutter, this is not the case here and for once I won't be keeping the originals closely to hand.
One of the problems facing speculative fiction is that the rate of progress we are currently experiencing can make the author's view of the future seem dated rather quickly, Heinlein's masterpiece (published in 1969) dosen't suffer from this failing in the slightest, other than a reference to a world war starting in 1987 the story, and the concerns he raises could have been written today.
As most people will have come to the book through the movie, let's dispose of this first. The book is very different, I enjoyed the movie and for an action film director Paul Verhoeven even made a good job of getting Hienlen's sociological ideas on screen, but unlike the book they were very much in the background. Many scenes from the film are drawn almost verbatum from the book, but charatures were combined or altered to suit the pacing and clarity required in the celuloid format while romantic subplots were added.
Starship Troopers the book is less a tale of action and adventure than an examination of a society through the eyes of one who is charged to serve and protect it Juan 'Johnny' Rico, defies his parents and, seemingly on impulse, signs up to join the military on a future Earth where citizenship and the highest levels of social participation are reserved for those who have performed military service. From Rico's perspective we learn the implications of his decision and, through basic training, combat and officer training learn of the society from which he hails and the history that lead to it.
Heinlein's vision of the future has attracted much critisism from those who view it as fascist, racist or utopianist or feel that he promotes militarism, a wider view of Hienlein's life and work will reject many such accusations against the man himself and as a stand alone work I feel that this book is easily defendable. He promotes a society, not of inherent equals but of equal opportunity. Voting is limited, not on basis of sex or age, but on the successful completion of non-manditory military service, those who do not choose to serve, or who fail to complete their term are still active members of society, indeed while careers such as politics and policing are reserved for veterens it is implied that civilians make up the majority of the business and wealthy classes. However the guiding hand on the tiller of this society is reserved for those who have actively defended it, risking their lives in the process. The point is even made that anyone who wishes to serve has a right to do so, those unable to actively serve in the military being found work of equal risk that they are capable of carrying out to gain their francise. The background to this system is explained as a breakdown of civilisation due to the acceptance of liberal values and a culture of rights without responsibilities, a view that can be heard echoed from many a news paper editorial today.
Heinleins military experience shines through, not in his descriptions of combat but rather the atmosphere of barrack and mess hall. The relationships between comrades in arms are compelling drawn by a man who knows what it can be like give out 'lumps' to a man you may willingly die for or beside shortly after. To me the book never glamorises the experience of war itself, but is rather a hymn to the men who fight it and the way that they survive the experience through mutual respect and co-operation.
"Everybody works, everybody jumps, everybody fights"
Bruce Springsteen: With The Sessions Band - Live In Dublin
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Having attended one of the shows on this tour, this disk was a must buy for me, but one thing that anyone should know before buying is that this may not be the Bruce Springsteen you're expecting. For this tour the Boss abandoned his usual guitar based rock to explore his nations musical roots with a mixture of American folk and gospal music with a big band backing. He did restyle many of his classic tracks for the live shows, but be aware this is not his usual show.
That caviat aside, this is a record of an amazing night of music, Springsteen himself is a consumate showman combining talent, energy and experience in a way that few, if any, can match, the change of style doesn't impede this at all and existing fans will enjoy a musical experience they might not normally have considered while anyone with a taste for this kind of music will be treated to a world class performer heading up what is probably the top band in it class.
The improved sound quality avaliable in Blu Ray is used to push the limits in this recording, the sound stage is incredably clear and detailed and the mix probably the best I have heard from a concert recording. Mixing so many instuments into such a balanced 5.1 must have been a mamoth job and one for which all praise is due.
Picture quality is arguably less important in a release like this, but the same care has been taken, picture quality is superb carrying a real sense of depth and colour is superb bring the stage lighting of the show to life in a way that I simply do not believe the more restricted colour palette of SD could realise. The only downside to this is that the pinpoint clarity of the disk does make it obvious when camera focus is not spot on and in a low light, high movement, live environment like this is is enevitable that occasionally shots will be less than perfect and on Blu Ray minor imperfections which would be unnoticable on DVD can be seen.
In conclusion, this was an excellent concert and has been given the best treatment currently avaliable. If you like Springsteen or American Folk or Gospal music it should be part of your collection, if you don't? Well, it should be part of it anyway! This disk really shows what a concert disk is capable off and provides a benchmark for future releases to aim for. Is it as good as being there? No, of course not! But it is the best option likely to be avaliable for some time.....
Dark City: Director's Cut
7 New from
If ever a film deserved a directors cut release it is Alex Proyas' 'Dark City'. The theatrical cut of this film was marred by a twist spoiling opening monologue and reveal that completely deflated the director's film noir styling. So pronounced was this that many fans would omit the first few minutes of the film when showing it to friends for the first time to save the surprise. Thankfully this directors cut fixes this injustice to the vision of the film.
The transfer of the film is excellent and the film benefits hugely from the detail and improved colour depth provided by the new format, Proyas has an eye for detail that borders on the obsessive and even minor connecting scenes have immaculate sets and lighting, this is a film to show off the capabilities of a good player and TV setup.
As for the film itself, it is an enjoyable yarn, a little slow paced by today's standards but highly watchable. Casting is excellent with Rufus Sewell and William Hurt ably carrying the film, Keifer Sutherland cast against type as a disturbingly off kilter doctor and Jennifer Connelly appears every inch the 40's matinee idol. Richard O'Brien as usual plays ... Richard O' Brien, but to be fair it is a part he plays very well and is never less than entertaining in the role!
I would recommend this film both for entertainment and spectacle, it will give your Hi Def TV meaning, but if you haven't seen it before, please try to avoid any spoilers or sinopses before watching and don't under any circumstances watch the theatrical cut before the director's cut.
Be Kind, Rewind
24 New from
I was really looking forward to this film, unfortunately after watching it my over whelming feeling could be summed up as 'was that it?'.Jack Black can be a bit of a 'Hit or Miss' star, sometimes great sometime just a guy pulling faces, this was the latter with neither Black nor Mos Def seeming able to carry the film. The script seemed to go nowhere, the charactures unengaging and the movie paradies, while providing an occasional chuckle were generally less entertaining than the childrens panto version of Spiderman in the 'Snowpatrol' video.
Technically, the transfer of the film to hi-def is well handled, but a crystal clear unengaging movie is still, an unengaging movie.
The Lost Boys
23 New from
For those of us of a certain age 'The Lost Boys' defined a decade and redefined a genre, initially a low key release release the film quickly gained and audience predominantly through word of mouth and had a sucessful theater run followed by cult status on VHS. This VHS success being helped by it's release just as studios started to realise the potential market for affordable movies to buy rather than rent. However, unlike the majority of movies, the enthusiasm for this movie has never gone away and like a good rock album it has passed down to the next generation(s) first on DVD and now Blu Ray.
It's hard to believe that it's been two decades since I first saw this film, Keifer Sutherland looks unbelievably young, and Cory Fieldman's wardrobe has looks jarringly outdated, but other than that it has aged surprisingly well thanks to a tight script, engaging story and a well balanced and talented cast, this film fit's the 'Buffy' generation like a glove (a testiment to it's influance on the newer show), but doesn't feel like the plot has become hackneyed or over imitated.
Picture quality varies, the impression is that this is due to a decision to shoot in lower lighting conditions with high sensitivity (and hence noisy) film stock rather than print or transfer quality issues as noise and grain appear and dissappear between edits in darker scenes, when the print is good though the picture quality is amazing, one particular shot of sunset over the Santa Carla Boardwalk (immediately before the Lost Boys attack the house) takes your breath away, unfortunately the variaton in quality tends to draw attention to the poorer sections in a way that was less obvious on DVD or even VHS with their attendant lower expectations.
On the audio side, the 5.1 soundtrack is well realised with environmental accoustics such as the echos of the gang's cave like lair reproduced very effectively, the soundtrack did strike me as being centered firmly on the screen, for example in the scene where motorcycles surround the house and the gang can be heard calling Michaels name I would have liked more emphisis on the rear speakers to draw the viewer into the scene, at the end of this scene when all noise suddenly stops the clarity of the soundtrack is revealed in the perfectly reproduced sound of dry leaves blowing across the yard. The rock and roll soundtrack of this film is one of it's strong points and this is handled well with a robust yet well balanced sound which never threatens to overwelm the action.
Special features are good including several deleated screens and a retrospective with Joel Schumacher and Richard Donner.
In conclusion, this film is a must have, if you don't already own it the buy the Blu Ray disk, no question, but if you already have the DVD you need to consider that is not a film that benefits hugely from the improved picture quality, for the reasons discussed above, although for the commited fan or completeist the special features will make a compelling argument to buy.
Lake Placid 2
8 New from
I wasn't expecting too much from this and yet still managed to be disappointed. The first film was a 'pop corn for the brain' reasonably fun monster movie with a good cast and passable script.
This sequel is truely dire in every respect, the script contains dialogue that even George Lucas wouldn't write, characturisation and developement is completely absent leading to unbelievable actions being taken by the charactures who appear totally indifferent to and uneffected by the slaughter of their friends and colleagues around them which probably explains the terrible performances of the actors. The (rare) familier faces in the cast CAN act (we've seen them do it) but frankly seem to have decided it's not worth the effort, honestly it would be hard to come up with a convincing argument to the contrary.
And on to the CGI, oh god the CGI.... Obvious, distracting, badly integrated into the scenes and strangely even used (jarringly) for a sea plane landing which surely could have been filmed live for less cost?? Frankly a man in a rubber suit would have been more convincing.
And what was with the rabbit?