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X-Files: Complete DVD Collection Box Set
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for me personally, The X Files was, and still is, the finest series ever. it encapsulated much of what people (particularly Americans) were feeling about governments, cover-ups and the paranormal in the early 1990's when it was first broadcast. its engaging without resorting to pyrotechnics and action sequences. you could see its influence in the 1990's with all the merchendise, rip-offs and the fact the postman could whistle the theme tune!
the first three series' are almost flawless. the first, introducing us to the characters and certain themes which carry on through the entire series, while the second series lays out a much more expansive and ambitious front in the form of the Mythology story arc which will continue through to the very end (Scully's abduction, the Colonisation story arc). overall, it was the creative story telling that really engaged viewers. highlights from the first few series include the chilling Tooms, Beyond The Sea featuring (arguably) Gillian Anderson's finest performance to Darin Morgan's hilariously off-beat Humbug and the epic multiparter Anasazi, Blessing Way and Paper Clip.
another of TXF's strengths was creating some brilliant characters - Mulder, the believer on a personal mission to uncover the truth; Scully, the sceptic; and their by-the-book boss, Skinner; everyone's favourite double-crossing Ratboy Krycek and Cigerette Smoking Man - one of the best villains in TV history.
some later series' suffer in quality (series 7 in my opinion is really bad) and some of the 'monster of the week' episodes begin to tire as the writers ran short on ideas (there are only so many stories you can write about ghosts and monsters...) but i always felt the Mythology episodes carried TXF through.
some fans have slagged off series' 8 and 9 because the John Doggett character. i have to disagree with the criticisms. he's a great character and adds a new dimension to the series while other old reoccuring characters (Skinner, Krycek) step into centre stage, series 8 is a real favourite of mine.
while the Mythology story arc was great, it was also a weakness - for the casual viewer, it was tough following such an elaborate story. TXF didnt always provide the usual plot cues as most TV dramas usually would. the viewer had to work out what was going on themselves as the writers refused to patronise the viewers, and this alienated some viewers and fans (what the hell was a viewer suppose to do if they missed *that* crucial episode?!). this DVD boxset should redress this injustice by compiling everything series 1-9 and the 1998 'Fight The Future' blockbuster film altogether. its engaging and tough, but one of the most intelligent and rewarding series' ive ever known.
Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath
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unlike the PC version, you DONT need C&C3 to play this game. it works seperately.
the game itself is really good. in terms of the armies, there are now 2 additional sub-factions for each of the main sides (GDI; Nod; and Scrin) making it 9 armies to pick from.
sadly the story campaign is pretty short however, which is the main criticism and it only involves the Nod factions meaning that it restricts the purpose of the extra sub-factions which is a shame. at least you can use them in the skirmishes and in online games though!
the control system has been greatly improved since C&C3. its pretty similar, but the vital addition of the 'Command Stick Interface' makes life much easier (you hold Left Trigger and use the analouge stick to pick an action/menu represented on a 'circle'). as a result, ive found this game really enjoyable and less frustrating to play than C&C3 (as much as i really liked that as well, the controls was a real issue).
the exclusive Kanes Challenge mode is a nice addition. it makes up for the fact the GDI and Scrin armies have no storymode, but is repetitive as all 9 factions have exactly the same missions to play through.
overall, its excellent. the short story mode is the main criticism, but the new control interface is excellent, and its great to see it carry over to Red Alert 3. C&C fans should definately buy this.
Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars
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im a massive C&C fan, and having played both the PC and 360 versions, i have to say that the PC version is better.
the game as a whole is great. the story is involving, its great to have an extra new army in it (the Scrin), and the game is just really addictive! it combines pretty much all the best bits from previous C&C games, and adds to it many new and great things as well, from the support powers to the ability to upgrade units and garrison buildings, which all adds more depth to the C&C universe.
the bad side, is that the controls can be frustratingly fiddly compared to the PC, where you obviously have a mouse and a keyboard instead. it sounds a small gripe, but in actual fact it makes a fair difference on harder difficulty settings. online, i guess everyone else is in the same boat, so you wont be disadvantaged per se.
its also annoying that the Intel pages have been removed - on the PC version you would pick up bits of Intel if you achieved certain objectives which gave you in depth information about characters, units and the story generally! it made the game more interesting and gave the player more background to enjoy. again, its a small gripe, but its something i miss.
overall, an excellent addition to the series. its difficult to play on an XBox pad, but you get use to it (its still not ideal though). i guess thats my only real complaint. excellent game. well worth getting if you're a strategy fan.
Assassin's Creed (Classics)
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on my first play, i quickly got bored of the game. after a few months i made another attempt at it and got really into the game! given the effort and time, its a pretty good game.
after a while, it does admittedly get repetitive - you essentially go from location to location doing the same things over and over, and the story trails off a bit toward the very end. the fight system is relatively simple and hopefully the sequal will improve on it making it more in-depth.
graphically the game is excellent, and just roaming about amongst the townspeople. theres also a fair bit of fun in running about assassinating people randomly for fun (like GTA) or just completing the optional missions (helping townspeople, collecting the flags, pick pocketing) or just getting into fights with large groups of guards (it feels like Jack Bauer of the 12th century!)
overall, its a decent enough game. in many ways it lacks depth and variety which is a real shame. definately worth the cheap price though. its not disgracefully bad, there is definately fun to be had, but its hardly revolutionary.
Tomb Raider: Anniversary
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My relationship with the Tomb Raider series was relatively brief. I loved the original i had on the old Sega Saturn (triangle tits!) and played the sequel on the playstation but hated it. After that i also played very briefly the 3rd one and that put me off for good.
The reason i bought this remake was purely because the original was absolutely amazing and an absolute classic. I wasnt disappointed. The best thing is that the game isnt just a conversion with nicer graphics, but the game is remade properly. The game is different, yet hasnt lost all the best bits of the original. If anything its deeper and more engaging! there are many new puzzles, and areas which incorporate Lara's new grapple/rope into it.
graphically its not great compared to other 360 games, but i suppose its to remain faithful to the fact this is a remake of an old 32bit game (from 1996). its not mind blowing, but for its purpose it works really well. the controls can be a slightly fiddly (especially old school gamers like me who never played Tomb Raider on analouge) but you get used to it.
Honestly, this is a game everyone should own. Old fans will enjoy it because its different yet retains the goodness of the original, and new fans will enjoy it for the same reasons! Stunning first game, even more stunning remake.
24: Redemption Extended Version - Collector's Edition (2 Discs)
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Seriously, i dont see the point in people posted reviews up here despite not having seen the programme or heard the album etc, its pointless. Heres my verdict:
Redemption hasnt wetted my appetite for season 7 anymore than before i saw it. Its understandable in a way seeing as its supposed to be a standalone but after so long since season 6, i was hoping for more and it seemed a bit anticlimatical in some ways. Im still looking forward to season 7, but purely because of the trailer and nothing to do with redemption.
It looks fresh in the context of 24, being set in africa, but it mimics many an action drama's set in africa. Hotel rwanda for one. The scene where jack takes on the rebel militia was great, but alot of everything else was very cliched and i predicted virtually everything that happened ages before it actually happened! Without spoiling it too much for people who havent seen it: The classic landmind/sacrifice setpiece; the idiotic member of the escapee school kids who goes back for something and ends up costing a likeable character their life; the blackmail bit at the end involving jack and tramell; the cowardly un peacekeeper; the underground hideaway that is *nearly* discovered before a loud noise distracts the rebel away; the two rebel soldier brothers and how the younger one gets owned by jack and then the older one attempts revenge but fails miserably... I could go on, but all of that i predicted would happen.
Overall its pretty average. It owes alot to many story plots on africa, military coups, child soldiers and westerners doing 'the work of god', as tramell puts it to carl benton early on. Nice to see jack back in action, but even though its new material, you cant help but think you've seen it all before...
The Verve - CD
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while i understand the excitement of a new album from The Verve, i just dont see the point of posting a 'review' based solely on a few live tracks or the single, as good as it may be, which at this point in time, is seemingly all there is on here! the translation of music from record to live and vice-versa is very different and unrepresentitive of the other.
some reviewers were heralding 'Forth' as a return to the fuzzy space-rock of 'A Storm In Heaven'. other reviewers have also mooted it to be very Urban Hymns'-esque. i can safely say that this album is NOT 'A Storm In Heaven' Pt 2. on balance its closer to 'Urban Hymns', but is also most definately NOT 'Urban Hymns' Pt 2. its very much a mix of The Verve, both early and later day.
there are definately nods to the bands' early material. the broody opener Sit & Wonder and further in, Noise Epic wouldnt sound entirely out of place on their debut all those years ago, albeit more polished compared to the sheer raw scuzziness of it. lead-off single Love Is Noise is immense - catchy, epic and punctuated with lashings Nick McCabe guitar. it will no doubt become one of those definitive Verve tracks.
the piano-backed Rather Be follows proceedings and sounds very much like the little sister of Sonnet. similarly Judas is of a similar mold though combining aspects of Richard Ashcroft's solo material (namely Brave New World) to 'Urban Hymns'-era Verve. while inoffensive, it also doesnt stand out in any particular way. Vallium Heights is another unimpressive track that meanders along without making any lasting impression.
Numbness is halfway to being a great track. its testiment to McCabe's ability as a guitarist, but its very much like a dog on a leash, it threatens to explode into an amazing epic, but never quite does. its a decent track, but i felt it was a missed opportunity. Columbo is much darker and much better, the 2nd half of the song is reminiscent of Make It Till Monday. another highlight on this album. i suspect this will sound amazing if performed live! the slow-burning closer Appalachian Springs builds and builds slowly, marshalled perfectly by the rhythm section, McCabe's perfect guitar licks and Ashcroft's hushed but urgent vocals before exploding into the mother of epics.
overall, the album has its flaws. certain tracks stray too closely to the less thrilling moments of Ashcroft's solo material but these are redeemed by moments of brilliance. Love Is Noise, Appalachian Springs, Sit & Wonder and Columbo are all sit up their with The Verve's finest moments. while the bands future remains unclear, this album will serve as a fitting legacy should they split up in the near future.
Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust
Sigur Ros - CD
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alot of music journalists proclaimed this to be their 'pop album' - the one that will propel them from cult-band to mainstream stardom. listening to this album, im unsure. the first single 'Gobbledigook' sounds bloody weird compared to the songs that usually blast moderate sized bands into arena-sized venues. its undeniably Sigur Ros, but also very different compared to previous material. following hot on its heels is 'Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur' - an optimistic, massive stomper of a song, and the delicate acoustic-based 'Góðan Daginn'. either of which would have looked out of place on 'Takk...'
as with any Sigur Ros album, there are 8 minute+ epics here too. the orchestra backed 'Ara Bartur' is a movie soundtrack in-waiting while the slowbuilding 'Festival' will probably go down as a real fan favourite while 'Fljótavík' and 'Illgresi' punctuate the album with some mellow lamentation.
its a strong album. not as amazing as '( )' and 'Von', but its still bloody good! its debut position at number 5 in the UK album charts should hopefully mean that Sigur Ros will finally get the recognition it deserves. great album, by one of the most under-rated bands in the world. ever!
The Hollow Of Morning
Gemma Hayes - CD
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three albums into her career, and there is little deviation from the template of her previous albums. however while any other artist would languish down a creative cul-de-sac from 'singing the same songs', Gemma Hayes manages just fine.
her strength is her ability to sing simple lyrics such as 'im beginning to forget you/i hope that it's alright' ('At Constant Speed') and 'you never fully leave me but you, you never fully stay' (This Is What You Do') and convey her emotions exactly to her audience.
she may be singing the 'same old songs', but she does it really well!
Greatest Hits: The Cure
The Cure - CD
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while most casual fans will be more than happy with the choice of tracks on this compilation, it paints a woefully skimpy picture of The Cure and their career. but i guess that is the nature of 'greatest hits' and such compilations.
its also important to note that The Cure have traversed so many different genres that its almost inevitable that when a compilation is released so far into their career, that the choice of tracks will not even come close to representing accurately the musical cameleons that are The Cure.
'A Forest' is still as cold and spine tingling as it was on first release. 'Inbetween Days' ushered in their mature pop sound after the whimsical (and poor in my opinion) 'Lovecats'. 'Just Like Heaven' is still pop-perfection, 'Lullaby', despite lyrics about being eaten by spiders, is still glorious while 'Pictures Of You' has lost none of its anguished charm.
the 'hits' that have been omitted however, are most notable. 'Letter To Elise', 'Charlotte Sometimes' (a personal favourite of mine), 'Killing An Arab', 'Fascination Street' and 'Jumping Someone Else's Train' would make this collection much more complete.
this collection is a decent start for beginners, but there is much more to The Cure than this.