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Italeri 1:72 Napoleonic War French Infantry
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Model company ITALERI has been producing kits of all ranges for many years and has a good reputation for quality products.
Included in the box are 48 unpainted plastic soldier figures in the small 1:72 scale depicting typical French Infantry of the Napoleonic Wars post 1805.
The soldiers are presented on a trio of sprues and come in 14 different poses. Many are either marching or firing their muskets, both kneeling and standing, while a sabre wielding Officer, Drummer and Eagle Bearer are also included as a command team.
While the models look highly detailed for their small size flashing is common on many of them although this is not too bad and should present no problems for the average model maker.
These soldiers would look superb when painted and ten different paint colours (sold separately) are needed for the job. Although no painting instructions are included on a leaflet inside, the back of the box has illustrations of the troops (examples from both the front and rear views) and the diagrams are self-explanatory.
Although plastic soldiers are still often regarded as toys for children - indeed these figures are suitable for anyone over the age of three years old - their quality is so good that they would be equally, if not more so, at home on the model diorama or wargames table!
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A couple of farm boys who have always been obsessed with flying, best friends Rafe McCawley (BEN AFLECK) and Danny Walker (JOSH HARTNETT) join the American Air Force and by 1941 have gained a reputation as excellent, if foolhardy, fliers. McCawley soon meets beautiful Navy Nurse Evelyn Johnson (KATE BECKINSALE) just before his request to aid the struggling RAF in the Battle Of Britain is granted by Squadron Leader James Doolittle (ALEC BALDWIN).
With McCawley away and soon posted as missing, presumed dead, love slowly blossoms between grief stricken Danny and Evelyn. When Rafe turns up unexpectedly several months later very much alive and determined to rekindle his relationship with Evelyn, he finds himself in an awkward love triangle and tension between the trio soon reaches breaking point.
Yet war is looming. Japan, crippled by embargos of essential raw materials imposed by America, decided to go on the military offensive, relying on Admiral Yamamoto (MAKO) and Commander Genda (CARY HIROYUKI TAGAWA) to devise a brilliant strategy - the destruction of the entire American Pacific Fleet as it lies at anchor in the shallow waters of Pearl Harbour.
American military intelligence analysist Captain Thurman (DAN ACKROYD) is convinced hostilities are imminent while President Roosevelt (JOHN VOIGHT) and Pearl Harbour naval commander Admiral Kimmel (COLM FEORE) also share his misgivings.
Then, early on a clear Sunday morning, hundreds of Japanese aircraft dive onto the peaceful island of Oahu to devastate the sleeping fleet and finally drag American into the Second World War.
PEARL HARBOR is actually a film of two halves. The first is primarily a romance, setting the scene and establishing the love triangle between Rafe, Evelyn and Danny. Certainly this will have action fans screaming at the screen, willing the slushiness to end and hostilities begin.
When the Japanese forces do finally attack the Harbour, things move up a gear dramatically. Director MICHAEL BAY loves his explosions and here he has them. Lots of them! The attack itself is truly spectacular to experience. We follow a torpedo from launch to its detonation against an American vessel, as well as a falling bomb all the way down to the deck of the doomed Battleship USS Arizona. Warships capsize, planes bomb and strafe in a superb blend of real and CGI footage. While at times it may feel a little too much like a computer game we are witnessing, it is at least very exciting stuff.
BAY, to his credit, also shows the Human loss in the aftermath of the attack and pulls no punches in depicting the horrors of war in traumatic hospital scenes and with trapped, drowning sailors.
Yet it says much for modern Hollywood when it dislikes anything which smacks of an American defeat, so the final part of the film depicts the famous Doolittle bombing raid against Japan. More poignant would have been a downbeat ending like with the classic TORA! TORA! TORA! - a film which gives a fairer and more historically correct depiction of the fateful Day Of Infamy.
PEARL HARBOR, for all its scope and epic feel, is sadly riddled with numerous inaccuracies which will undoubtedly confound students of history. These range from ignoring key characters such as Admiral Nagumo (who led the Japanese Task Force) to the actual length of the attack itself and even the colour schemes of the aircraft involved.
However, I believe the film was never meant to portray a true history lesson and BAY went for spectacle over realism. In this he certainly delivers!
Having had an interest in Military History for as long as I can remember, and the Napoleonic Wars in particular, I am always looking out for further books on the subject.
This one, BORODINO AND THE WAR OF 1812, has a slightly misleading title as it refers solely to Napoleons invasion of Russia and does not discuss British involvement in America during the same year!
CHRISTOPHER DUFFY has written an extensive and fact filled account of the campaign. He begins the book with a brief history of Napoleons rise to power in Revolutionary France and evaluates military tactics and weaponry of the Era. Then he discusses the opposing French and Russian forces and their respective commanders. This takes up the first 50 pages of the 208 page book.
We then come to the invasion proper when in June 1812 Napoleon assembles his largest army to date, around 450,000 French and Allied troops, and marches headlong into Russia in the hope of soon locating and destroying Tsar Alexanders army. He is disappointed and finds only a desolate country swept completely bare by the constantly retreating Russian forces . With the Russian High Command jealous and at odds with each other, the elderly but vastly experienced General Kutuzov is finally given overall command of the army and continues the policy of retreat. Finally, almost at the very gates of Moscow, Kutuzov decides to make his stand on prepared ground at Borodino.
Here DUFFY gives a good description of this large and complex Napoleonic battle. Aided by several maps of troop movements, he describes the heavy fighting around the now famous landmarks of the Bagration Fleches and Raevsky Redoubt, which changed hands several times throughout the day, and tries to explain the lacklustre performances of both Napoleon and Kutuzov during the bitter contest. While Napoleon was mentally and physically exhausted due to the harsh campaign, Kutuzov placed his command post too far to the rear for him to give effective orders.
While the narrative is realistic, some readers may feel confusion when the action at different parts of the field moves forwards and backwards in time in relation to events previously described, while there are several references to the 1863 American Civil War battle of Gettysburg which leads me to presume that DUFFY is an American himself!
The final portion of the book deals with various historical essays written about Borodino as well as how the battle has been presented in fiction and on film, the most famous obviously being WAR AND PEACE written by LEO TOLSTOY. Bringing up the rear is an interesting Appendix giving Orders Of Battle for the French and Russian forces involved.
CHRISTOPHER DUFFY has clearly researched his subject well and includes 16 pages of pictures (the majority being portraits and battle paintings) too, ensuring the book is a worthwhile read!
More Abba Gold (Restored/Remastered)
Abba - CD
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After the great success of ABBA GOLD, it was inevitable that there would be a follow up collection of the Swedish groups greatest hits.
Imaginatively entitled MORE ABBA GOLD, this CD contains twenty tracks and runs to just almost eighty minutes in length.
While many of the most famous songs are featured on the first compilation, this follow up features no fewer than seven international number one hits and features the first ABBA success, RING RING, released a full year before the group found fame with its EUROVISION SONG CONTEST win in 1974 with the classic WATERLOO.
As usual, Agnetha and Frida sing the lyrics while Benny and Bjorn play the music and most of the songs are in the quick, rather jolly tempo so common to the group. Notable exceptions include EAGLE and the rather haunting CASSANDRA, one of my personal favourites on the CD. Other highlights are OUR LAST SUMMER (memories of a long ago romance) and THE WAY OLD FRIENDS DO, which has a fine New Years Eve quality about it.
Along with the CD there is also a small booklet giving brief details of the songs listed and a nice collection of both colour and black and white photographs of the group.
All in all, this is a great collection of songs for ABBA devotees and those just wishing to listen to highly enjoyable music!
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In 1959, television Superman actor George Reeves (BEN AFFLECK) is shot dead in an apparent suicide. His mother Helen Bessolo (LOIS SMITH) is convinced that her son was murdered and hires private investigator Louis Simo (ADRIEN BRODY) to find out the truth.
Simo is currently down on his luck and barely scraping together a living. He has a strained relationship with his estranged wife Laurie (MOLLY PARKER) and son Evan (ZACH MILLS), who has taken the death of Superman very badly. Therefore the chance of gaining fame and a good pay cheque are just what Simo is looking for.
As he delves deeper into the murky world of the Hollywood film industry, however, Simo meets stumbling blocks at every turn and a string of possible suspects who may have murdered Reeves.
Could new lover Leonore Lemon (ROBIN TUNNEY), who erroneously believed that George was ready to marry her, be the culprit? How about his previous lover Toni Mannix (DIANE LANE), who had funded the struggling actor, ruthlessly manipulated him and jealously guarded him from other, younger women? There is also Tonis husband, the powerful and unscrupulous movie mogul Edgar Mannix (BOB HOSKINS), who obviously had his own grievances against Reeves.
Director ALLEN COULTER has created in HOLLYWOODLAND an old style thriller with a nice recreation of time and place. Much of the film is told in flashbacks and, at times, from Simos own imagination as he calculates what may have happened during the night of the shooting. This throws up some interesting red herrings and despite all the flashbacks the film is not too difficult to follow, while the cast give good performances.
There are some nice Special Features on the disc which, while not extensive, make for worthwhile viewing. They include the Featurettes Recreating Old Hollywood (over 6 minutes), Behind The Headlines (7 minutes) and Hollywood Then And Now (over 7 minutes), as well as a trio of Deleted Scenes running to 5 minutes in length.
Those who like plenty of action in their films will not find it here. As a character study which makes us think, however, the film works very well indeed and is highly recommended.
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In the sleepy town of Devils Kettle, popular cheerleader Jennifer (MEGAN FOX) has an unlikely lifelong friendship with nerdy Anita (AMANDA SEYFRIED) - known as Needy to everyone including her boyfriend, Chip (JOHNNY SIMMONS).
When Jennifers new favourite band Low Shoulder organizes a gig in the town, Needy reluctantly agrees to go to the event in the knowledge that her friend intends to score with the band members. During the performance a devastating fire breaks out and the building is quickly razed to the ground. Although the band, Jennifer and Needy all escape the inferno, several locals are killed in the blaze.
Worse still, Jennifer leaves with the band members in their van only to turn up several hours later at Needys house. She is covered in blood, ravenously hungry and definitely not the same young woman she was before.
Director KATHRYN KUSAMA has created a distinctively average horror thriller in JENNIFERS BODY. The two attractive main stars are fine throughout - I certainly had a soft stop for SEYFRIEDS girl-next-door look - but it is difficult to sympathize with many of the characters in the film when they do stupid things. This often includes walking (or running) alone into dangerous situations - unarmed to boot - or not calling the emergency services and ignoring things like screams and smashing windows in their own houses!
Despite all its faults and plot holes, JENNIFERS BODY is fairly enjoyable if we keep our brains firmly in neutral throughout the viewing experience and do not expect great things or new additions to the horror genre.
Special Features include a Gag Reel and 6 Deleted Scenes covering 14 minutes in length, while both the Theatrical Version (running to an hour and 42 minutes) and Extended Cut (including a further 5 minutes of footage) are included on the disc.
Top Trumps: Star Wars Episode IV - VI
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Fans of STAR WARS will naturally be delighted with this TOP TRUMPS Edition.
Featuring 45 personalities featured in the Original Trilogy of films, from the likes of Han Solo and Princess Leia to minor characters such as Lobot and Max Rebo, each card has a full colour photograph of the subject as well as playing statistics for a range of topics including Height, Strength, Intelligence and Battle Skills.
The cards themselves are glossy and nice to look at, while at the same time seem to be quite durable, making them ideal for intensive play as well as a nice collection for those wishing to keep them as STAR WARS Memorabilia in their own right!
The General (Buster Keaton) (Elstree Hill Collection)
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Southern railway engineer Johnnie Gray (BUSTER KEATON) loves his steam locomotive The General and Annabelle Lee (MARION MACK).
When civil war breaks out in America he, along with her Father (CHARLES HENRY SMITH) and Brother (FRANK BARNES), goes to enlist in the Confederate army. Unfortunately Johnnie is turned down flat as his job on the railroad is more important to the war effort than as a soldier. This earns the contempt of the Lee family, who believe Johnnie to be a coward and he is spurned by Annabelle.
Meanwhile Northern General Thatcher (JIM FARLEY) and his chief spy Captain Anderson (GLEN CAVENDER) hatch a plan to steal a Rebel train deep in enemy territory, then travel back to the Union lines while causing as much damage and disruption to the Southern cause as possible.
Anderson and his small group of spies successfully commandeer The General with Annabelle unwittingly still on board and the task of saving the day falls to Johnnie. Can he rescue Annabelle, steal back The General, thwart the Northerners and make it back to the Southern States alive?
Undoubtedly one of KEATONS most famous films, THE GENERAL is basically one long chase but proves to be a supreme textbook case of slapstick humour at its best. All the cast enjoy themselves immensely and MACK, in particular, is game for a laugh in everything the plot throws at her.
KEATON, who also Directed, does not waste a minute and whether clamouring around the train, hiding under a table (in a very funny scene) or inspiring the troops, ensures plenty of laughs are to be found.
There is also a climactic battle scene during a river crossing and despite being very tame by modern standards - and certainly even compared to the horrors shown in ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT released a mere four years later - KEATON still finds a humorous and novel way of dispatching a troublesome Union sharpshooter!
Unfortunately there are no Special Features on the disc but despite this, THE GENERAL is nevertheless a cinematic masterpiece and easily ranks alongside WINGS and METROPOLIS as one of my all-time favourite films from the Silent Era!
The "Lord of the Rings"
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Anybody who enjoys the Console game LORD OF THE RINGS - THE THIRD AGE will undoubtedly find this PRIMA Strategy Guide indispensable. While at only 176 pages it may not be as large as other game guide volumes, it is simply packed solid with useful tables and information.
The first section deals exclusively with the six party member characters who are recruited throughout the story, giving vital information on all their abilities and listing every single piece of equipment they may use. This is followed by brief summaries of guest characters - such as GANDALF and EOWYN who appear in cameo roles during major events - and provides information on their own unique skills.
Next, and taking up a good section of the book, is the comprehensive walkthrough section, a treasure trove of detailed level maps, quest solutions and battle strategies.
A section on armaments follows and here we have information on all weapons and armour each character can acquire and equip. Several pages on items and Elf stones are included which lists all their abilities and effects, too.
Finally we learn about every enemy type in the game, from lowly Goblin minions and Orc swordsmen to more impressive foes such as Mumakil, Ringwraiths and even the Dark Lord SAURON himself! Each has an individual picture and table describing their attack abilities, unit statistics and vulnerabilities.
As a welcome added bonus, there is also a series of 36 collectible strategy cards (ideal for quick reference) included inside the book which give an illustration and statistics on the front, plus attack and vulnerability listings of each monster and, for the player characters, a reference of each skill they can obtain throughout the game.
The book is nicely presented with clear and concise text, superb illustrations and well chosen game screenshots. It is assessable for game players of every ability, whether they are newcomers or veterans and as such it comes highly recommended!
Star Wars: A New Hope - Original Soundtrack (2CD)
Various - CD
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Anyone who has ever seen the 1977 film classic STAR WARS will immediately recall the equally famous musical score by JOHN WILLIAMS.
This double CD includes (almost) the entire soundtrack to the film, displayed here in chronological order, totalling 24 tracks and running to 105 minutes in length. From REBEL BLOCKADE RUNNER and ATTACK OF THE SAND PEOPLE to TIE FIGHTER ATTACK and THE THRONE ROOM, this is the music which has lost none of its excitement and appeal over the decades for film fans around the world.
Additionally, several tracks either include previously unreleased material or have never been available until now, the alternative version of BINARY SUNSET being one notable highlight. Plus, after a pause at the end of the first CD we are treated to special recordings of the MAIN THEME which makes interesting listening as we hear how the music changed slightly between sessions!
Also included is a nice 32 page booklet and, as well as including detailed information on the musical score, features several photographs from the film itself.
Unfortunately, even though the CD is described as the Special Edition, the music played during the Mos Eisley encounter between Han Solo and Jabba The Hutt is missing. This is extremely disappointing as I rather liked that particular suite!
Still, this is by far the most complete STAR WARS collection to date and as such comes highly recommended.