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Walter Issacson's compelling treatise of Albert Einstein strikes a great balance between the man and the science. The reader is taken on a journey through the life and mind of the greatest physicist who ever lived. His science, philosophy, relationships, family and career are all in this book. And Einstein's most salient theories are well presented to the layman. Overall a captivating read.
Red Dwarf: Back To Earth - The Director's Cut (2 Disc)
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Red Dwarf suffered a major blow after series 6, when the show lost half its creative talent with the departure of Rob Grant. I vividly recall sitting down to watch the first episode of series 7 on its debut broadcast, only to be bitterly disappointed with what I saw. Series 8 defined an ever so slight return to previous form, aided somewhat by the return of Chris Barrie as the inimitable Arnold J. Rimmer.
Apart from a few rare moments in the latter half of the third episode in this new 3-part series, there is barely a funny line or joke. The cast appear awkward and uneasy (although these symptoms are clearly visible in series 7 onwards) which comes as no surprise with the poor script they have to deliver. It's sad, because had Grant remained on board, things surely would have turned out differently, indubitably for the better.
Alas, 'Back To Earth' is far from a revival of this once great classic cult comedy, but instead, it merely serves as the final nail in the coffin - RIP Red Dwarf.
Kaspersky Internet Security 2010 (3 User Licenses)
So I've been duped by McAfee into buying their rotten security software for the past two years now. McAfee 'Total Protection' is an expensive, mediocre, and power consuming piece of software. I wouldn't have minded its voracious RAM and processing consumption had it kept my PC safe from harm.
After finally getting up off my backside to shop around, I decided to invest in Kaspersky's Internet Suite 2010. It easily lives up to the acclaim. It has a very light footprint which means even one of my antiquated PC's runs smoothly and efficiently whilst Kaspersky does its job in the background, and believe me, it does its job well. Its firewall scored 96% on Matousec's stringent 'Proactive Security Challenge', while its anti-virus came runner-up (second only to Bit Defender due to a higher price tag) on 'Antivirus Software Review'. And so far it has not let me down.
The only minor drawbacks are that the virus database updates seem to take an age to download, and full system scans really eat up processing power. Other than that top marks.
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I first watched 'Traffic' upon its release in 2000, and had I reviewed it back then, I probably would have awarded it a maximum of two stars, possibly even one. I just didn't get it. The plot seemed trite, prosaic, incoherent. The protagonists and script, banal and uninspired. I soon lost interest after the first hour or so, but managed to stick it out to the bitter end.
Nine years on I decided this evening, with extreme reluctance, to give it another try. I could not believe I had misjudged this film so badly. The characters are incredibly realistic and superbly acted by all the cast, most notably the performances given by Del-Toro and Douglas. The story isn't at all confusing providing you pay reasonable attention, something which I obviously failed to do nine years previous when I was a young whippersnapper with a predilection for mindless fast-action movies. And it succeeds seamlessly in tackling a serious issue which afflicts many ordinary people around the world without becoming preachy, histrionic, or sentimental.
In a nut shell, 'Traffic' is a stark exegesis of the damage which drugs inflict upon the individual and family, the inordinate power and corruption of the dealer, and the ostensible futility of those in the middle fighting the war on drugs.
The Great War Box Set (7 Discs)
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This documentary about the Great War is absolutely outstanding. I first began watching it within days of finishing the 'The World At War', which having been so exceptional, had put doubts in my mind about 'The Great War' series living up to the same superlative standard. To put it bluntly, I was not disappointed. It becomes instantly apparent from the very first episode just how much this documentary inspired the makers of 'The World At War'. As such there are numerous resemblances, most notably the interviews with the ordinary soldier, whom provide a unique and harrowing perspective of the carnage of trench warfare.
Each episode has a duration of about 40 minutes, is presented chronologically from episode 1 to 26, and is a joy to watch. It is superbly scripted, and is narrated flawlessly by Sir Michael Redgrave in conjunction with equally impressive voice actors. The video footage is excellent considering the rudimentary nature of its source. There is also an extra disc with 'Voices From The Western Front' lasting about 55 minutes, 'The Finished Fighter' lasting about 12 minutes, and a 64 page viewing notes booklet. The only drawback is that there are no subtitles.
Put simply, this is broadcasting at its zenith.
The World At War Box Set (11 Discs)
The World At War remains the most definitive and comprehensive televisual account of the second world war.
This DVD package includes all 26 episodes from the original 1970's broadcast, plus additional footage:
- The Making Of The Series - (45 minutes approx)
- Secretary To Hitler, From War To Peace, Warrior - (102 minutes approx)
- Hitler's Germany: The People's Community 1933 - 1939, Hitler's Germany: Total War 1939 - 1945, Two Deaths Of Adolf Hitler - (232 minutes approx)
- The Final Solution Part 1, The Final Solution Part 2 - (216 minutes approx)
- Commemorative 30th Anniversary Making Of The Series, Experiences Of War - (189 minutes approx)
Plus DVD Extras:
- Imperial War Museum Photo Gallery- Biographies- Brief History of The World At War- Episode Summaries- Speeches/Songs- Newsreels/Maps
The World At War, despite covering the most salient military aspects of the war, is not on the whole a military documentary. As noted in other customer reviews, this documentary covers political and personal aspects of the war experienced by ordinary civilians and soldiers, leading up to, during, and after the war.
As noted by others, the quality of production is second to none. The makers were passionate and committed to providing the best coverage of this epic period in world history, and they indubitably succeeded.
There is, however, one major flaw with this current DVD edition which I feel cannot be omitted from this review - it contains no subtitles, which is both very surprising (especially as the free 'World At War' episodes issued by the Daily Mail contained full subtitles for each episode) and disappointing for what is otherwise an impeccable boxset.
Touching the Void
Upon completion of this book you will still be wondering just how Joe Simpson survived this terrible ordeal. All the odds were against him. And after receiving his injury at such an early and hazardous stage of the decent, it's all too easy to think that Simpson should have gone down in the history books as just another victim of mountaineering disasters. Death defying is the only way to summarize this journey that Simpson eloquently depicts. No review can do justice to this great story that must be read first hand. It's one of my favourites. And you'll be hard-pressed to put this book down once you've picked it up.
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I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a balanced review of Sir Winston Churchill. Best succinctly provides an objective and detailed account of Churchill's life, equally expounding both the man's virtues and accomplishments, alongside his foibles and failings. Consequently, this biography succeeds in neither fawning nor debunking Churchill's legendary status in history.
Folk Rock Pioneers In Concert (2CD)
Steeleye Span - CD
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The 5 star rating I've given this CD is for the music, performance, and sound quality. If truth be told, I bought this CD for my dad who has been a long time Steeleye Span fan from when they first began in the 1969. I know it's very uncool to like the same music as your parents, but this band really is that good! The singing by all members is great, especially Maddy Prior who has such a rich voice, and instrumentally the band perform impeccably well. I possess many live albums of other bands, and few sound as good Steeleye Span. Fortunately the sound mixers knew exactly what they were doing, because they've managed to capture this live performance beautifully. You'll know what I mean when you hear the crisp clear audio and dynamic bass.
Personally I much prefer this live CD over the studio recordings, because it sounds more vibrant, energetic, and just as tight, which is a testimony to the great rhythm section and talent of this group.
Bioshock is by far the best game I have played on the Xbox 360 to date, and indeed a very long time. The graphics are gorgeous, and will have you gazing in awe from start to finish, often distracting you from the task at hand. The creepy sound effects and period music create a palpable and spine-tingling atmosphere. The plot and voice acting are amongst the most gripping and authentic I've come across in video-gaming, and I would go as far to say on par with the likes of groundbreaking RPG's `Mass Effect' and `Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic'. Incidentally, the plot is so captivating that a Bioshock movie is currently in the process of being commissioned. No doubt that will end up being a retched pile of sputum like every other game-to-film conversion that has gone before.
Anyway, back to the game. The conventional weapons in Bioshock are the standard melee weapon in the form of a the wrench, and several firearms including a magnum, tommy gun, shotgun, grenade launcher, chemical thrower, and crossbow, all of which can be fed various ammunition types which are tailored to inflicting more damage on a specified enemy. The use of a camera allows you take pictures, or as the game calls it "research", which provides damage bonuses against increasingly robust foes. Unlike just about every other first person shooter, the melee weapon remains a valuable and powerful weapon during the entire game thanks to clever upgrades that are available upon your journey. And this feature is not merely exclusive to the wrench, because firearm modifications subsequently become available which allow you to improve the rate of fire, damage, and ammo capacity of a weapon. Alas, there are only a limited number of upgrades to go around, so one must choose prudently which weapons and features to enhance.
Then there's more unconventional means of attack and defence through the use of `Plasmids'. Plasmids allow you to do such novel things as distribute fire, electric or even a swarm of bees from the palm of your hand. Then there's telekinesis, or enraging your enemies to turn upon themselves and annihilate each other. These sorts of attack are both fun and easy to execute, and work well alongside conventional weaponry. Just as conventional weapons require ammunition in order to be used, plasmid attacks similarly require energy called `EVE', which can be found scattered throughout each level inside hypodermic needles, which you then must inject into your arm.
There is also some other neat little challenges, such as hacking gun turrets, vending machines, health units and so forth, which result either in reward or reprisal depending on a successful or unsuccessful hack.
I could go on and on about this game, and in some ways I already have. Bioshock has everything any first-person shooter has to offer, and more. I can hardly wait for the sequel.