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Marvel Avengers Assemble
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If you don't already know Disney have completely messed up the UK release of the AVENGERS by accidentally NOT including any of the extras and using an EDITED version of the film rather than the one shown in cinemas.
DO NOT BUY UNTIL DISNEY RELEASE THE CORRECT VERSION.(Otherwise, just buy it from a well known US website, as the US version contains all the extras, is unedited and is REGION FREE!)
Disney have openly admitted to their mistake. Here is a statement from them:"Thanks to those of you who have let us know about an issue on the Marvel Avengers Assemble UK Blu-Ray release, which has a less graphic depiction," said Disney in a statement. "Unfortunately, another region's elements were inadvertently used to create the UK release which altered a scene in the film. We thank our fans their vigilance in recognising thisfor and apologise for the mix up."
Disney are even suggesting UK buyers purchase the US version:"We know that hardcore fans with Blu-ray players are probably going to end up buying the US release, which has the commentary,". "The American Blu-Ray is region-free."
Battlestar Galactica: The Final Season - Part 2 (4 Discs)
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Final seasons and final episodes of long running series are difficult to get right, even when they're planned (rather than just axed). Many have been good (e.g. Buffy, Sopranos, Gilmore Girls), some have been disappointing (e.g. X-Files, Alias, Millennium, Angel), but only a few have got it really right (West Wing, M.A.S.H). Galactica gets it spot on.Considering how many sub-plots and themes, and how much mythology had been built up over the years, finishing this complex and often bewildering series was always gonna be a tough job, but you can tell this ending was planned long ago, and it finishes off the series perfectly.
It took me a while to discover the new Galactica, having dismissed it as yet another second-rate just-for-geeks sci-fi series. But after hearing only good things I finally bought the pilot movie early last year, and was so astounded by the quality of the writing, acting and sheer drama of the story that I bought the rest of the series instantly and have watched it over several months. So, I'm not too bothered that they have released the first and second halves of season four separately, because, although shorter, they felt to me like two separate and distinct seasons, the first half having it's own surprise ending, and the second feeling more like 'season five' because of the break. I'm quite happy for this to be simply called the 'final' season, and to sit separately from the first half.
I hope, and tentatively expect, that Lost will end just as well as this did.
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Frank Darabont should become Stephen King's official movie adapter, and direct and write all of King's books. As with Shawshank and Green Mile, Darabont has made another perfect film version of one of King's tales, and proves he can handle suspense as easily as he handles drama. Darabont's version of the story (which inspired the Half-Life PC games, geeky fact-fans) is gripping and genuinely scary, although it's the human characters that end up being more frightening than the monsters, revealing sides of ourselves that we'd rather keep hidden. Darabont also adds a chilling new ending to King's short story that the author himself said he wished he'd thought of.
A must buy for any fans of King or horror films.
Battlestar Galactica: Season 4 - Part 1 (4 Discs)
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Don't buy this, it's only the first half of series 4. Wait until the full season 4 boxset comes out. This was just a shameless Xmas cash-in whilst season 4 was on a break.
Tomb Raider: Underworld
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By far the best looking Tomb Raider so far and Lara certainly looks her best. Eidos have made the most of the hi-def graphics the PS3 allows them, and the environments look stunningly beautiful and realistic. The PS3 has also allowed for much bigger areas to explore, giving you a real sense of the massive scale of the locations you find yourself in.
There's much more freedom of movement too, but without the need for silly gimmicks (as in some previous versions). Instead, Lara's existing abilities have just been expanded, so that she can utilise her surroundings more (and her grappling hook), and in a far more naturalistic way than before, so you get more of a sense of controlling a real person, rather then a bunch of pixels. There are still a few restrictions, locations where you think she should be able to get to, but can't, but what it lacks in freedom it more than makes up for in fun. But Tomb Raider is not a sandbox game, it's essentially a puzzle game, and so restrictions are necessary to allow the puzzles to work logically.
The puzzles and challenges themselves are also ingenious, some of which are so clever that you feel a real sense of achievement once you figure out what to do. You can tell a lot of effort went in to coming up with some of the more complex puzzles.
Overall, Eidos haven't tried to re-invent the wheel with this instalment, simply taking the strengths from the previous two (and removing the weaknesses, like the quick-time cutscenes) and improving on them, whilst vastly expanding the canvass thanks to the extra power of the PS3. This is possibly the most well-rounded of the recent TRs, and I hope the next chapter doesn't stray too far from this winning formula. Plus, I don't know why anyone would say this game is too short, because it's easily as long as, if not longer, than previous TRs.
If you haven't played a Tomb Raider game since PS1 days, because they started to get a bit rubbish, then you won't be disappointed (and if you've got a PS2, then you have to buy TR: Anniversary!). You get that real sense of isolation that you got in the originals, that you're out there on your own, hundreds of miles from civilisation without anyone to help or rescue you. The most recent TRs, since Legend, are easily as good as, if not better, than the originals and I really hope they continue in the same vein.
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The gameplay of Bioshock is like a combination of System Shock (its spiritual predecessor), Thief 2, Half-Life, Deux Ex, and Jedi Knight 2. This is not a criticism, since all of these games were excellent, and Bioshock combines many of the ideas and features of these genre classics to create something new, just not necessarily original.Bioshock's crowning achievement is in its storytelling, amazing visuals and characters, which makes it utterly compelling. It's not surprising that a feature film is in development, along with further sequels, as it's a story that just begs to be continued and expanded. And the plot twist toward the end is just genius.If you're an FPS or RPG fan then this is an essential addition, and for it's new budget price it's an unmissable bargain!
Watching the Watchmen
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If you're any kind of fan of Watchmen, casual or obsessive, this book is an essential companion. It basically tells the story of the comic's creation and impact on the comic world from the point of view of it's co-creator Steve Gibbons (merely referring to him as 'the artist' of the piece doesn't do justice to his contribution).
Along side the comic's biography sits an impressive and almost comprehensive collections of concept sketches, development art and Gibbons' entire original collection of thumbnails for the series. However, the thing that gives this book its real character is all the photos of the original notes, letters and scribbles from Moore and Gibbons, from when they were throwing around ideas and in correspondence to each other (along with many notes and sketches from other comic book legends). These give a more personal insight into the relationship and thought process of the comic's creators, their humour and a real sense of their character. Along with the story they also give you a feeling of what it was like to be working on a comic like this in the late 1980s, and how important a piece of work this was for the time.
It almost seems a little absurd that something like this hasn't been done before, and that it took the development of a feature film to bring it about, despite the ongoing appeal and popularity of the book. Rest assured, however, that this is no cheap cash-in on the film, but a genuinely enthralling insight into the creation of the 'greatest comic book of all time', and a work of art in its own right.
Far Cry 2 (With Exclusive Steelbook)
Two things you should know about this game. First of all, it's not a sequel to Farcry, and contains none of the themes, locations or characters from the first game. It was made by the same people, and that's it. They obviously couldn't come up with another title that contained the word "cry" (although the choices seem endless) to follow Farcry and Crysis, but clearly wanted to cash in on the famous brand name. That's not necessarily criminal, after all id Software did the same thing with Quake 2, but I was actually looking forward to picking up Jack and Val's story after escaping the island, so was a little disappointed. Oh well.
Secondly, it's a completely different type of game from Farcry. Sure, it's a FPS, but this is sandbox FPS, in a very similar vein as S.T.A.L.K.E.R, and so it's lacks the more linear direction of the first. Again, not a bad thing, but the problem with sandbox games (where you just follow one "mission" after another, with very little linking them) is that you can get bored with repetitive missions very easily, and there needs to be something else to motivate you to continue playing, such as a compelling plot, better weapons and new environments (which is what drove me to utter tears of boredom with the aforementioned Stalker).
However, so far Farcry2 has held my attention, in fact I've hardly been off it since its release. But unless the story starts to pick up a bit and the missions start to vary a bit more then I'm afraid sandbox fatigue may set in pretty soon. As for the graphics, they are pretty amazing, yet not entirely groundbreaking, and the effect that impresses me every time is the way the sunlight's rays are split by the trees, birds, clouds, etc. especially as sunset or sunrise. The real time lighting effects are among the best I've seen, and have set a benchmark for future games, and give a real sense of passing time (even though it's far too bright at night and the insomniac baddies spot you far too easily!). Oh, and don't even try to put the graphics settings to high, even if you meet or exceed the recommended requirements (unless you've got a state of the art machine). But you can run most settings on medium and still achieve a visually stunning game, and gameplay-wise it's way better than Stalker!
Griffin iTrip FM Transmitter Direct Attach (SE) (White)
I didn't honestly expect too much from this, but it was far worse than I could have imagined. The flat plus and minus buttons are horrible, and don't actually press inward properly, so you have to push hard with your nail before anything happens. Also, every time you turn it on it seems to choose a random frequency, which may be it's feeble attempt to find a clear frequency (which they never are), but this means you have to re-tune your radio each time you use it, which is just stupid and annoying.
It also stopped working altogether after about half an hour, which didn't bother me anyway since it was utter rubbish, so I sent it back.
My advice is to spend a little bit more and get one from a more reputable manufacturer!
Heroes: Season 2 (4 Discs)
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Season two of Heroes is a victim of the success of season one, where it's makers unfortunately became too wrapped up in trying to repeat the previous story's strong points and characters, instead of trying something fresh, which is what everyone enjoyed about the first (despite borrowing themes wholesale from Watchmen). There was no need to bring back Syler and Peter, and the rest of the cast, but because they were, in part, one of the reasons people watched the first series we see them all here again, shoe-horned into a new, but quite familiar plot (more prophetic paintings, more alternate futures, and Syler being oh so nasty for no apparent reason).
I just wish the makers had ditched all the main characters, since their interlinking stories had already been told, and started with a new cast (or perhaps concentrated on some of the more neglected characters form the first, like the telepathic policeman or the telekinetic child, along with a mostly new set of Heroes). We do get new characters in season two, but apart from the mimic girl, are all quite uninteresting.
Season (or Chapter) Three promises more originality, but I fear Heroes has already fallen into the same trap as many other series and is doomed to repeat itself until the ratings fail and it gets cancelled. Perhaps they should have left it at one season, and always be remembered as a classic, and original series.