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Datel Wii Wireless Microphone
That's part of the problem with wireless stuff, it can go wrong. This mic promises a lot and delivers not a lot. Cuts in and out whilst singing, far too sensitive and getting the distance right between your gob and the mic is virtually impossible. Mine went back.
The Police: Certifiable (Blu-Ray & 2 CD)
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There can't be many of us of a certain age who weren't into The Police in the 80,s. Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland were in a select group of "Supergroups" along with the likes of U2 and The Stones who dominated the charts with just about every song they released. It seemed they could do no wrong and then at the top of their game they were gone.That was in 1983 and despite never actually announcing they had split we all know that Sting went on to a very successful solo career and Andy and Stuart also went onto do other things.When asked if they would get back together and do another tour the reply was "We would have to be certifiable to do that", but they did, hence the title of this 1 disc Blu Ray and 2 disc CD package.The 30th anniversary tour covered 10 legs and 152 shows and this Blu Ray disc is one of the Buenos Aires concerts in Argentina at the River Plate stadium in early December 2007.By all accounts during the early shows the boys were a little rusty, but by the time this concert was recorded they were back to their best and anyone watching this Blu Ray presentation is in for a treat.Recorded with HD cameras this show is an hi def visual extragavanza, you could really only top it by being there in the crowd. From the very start you realise that this is a very special and lovingly put together package with no expense spared by the producers to get it right. Opening up with "Message in a Bottle" we first hear and then see Stewart Copeland behind a huge drum kit which, in Hi Def, is beautifully detailed. These days Copeland looks like a college professor with his round spectacles and thin face, but the amount of energy he puts into his craft is unbelievable and proves he has kept himself fit. Also looking superbly in shape is Sting who throws himself around the intimate stage with the gusto of a man half his 57yrs. Sting's voice has lost none of its uniqueness and despite the fact that he must have sung these songs a zillion times he keeps the crowd on it's toes with his enthuastic performance. In Hi Def it is easy to pick out the aged appearance of his guitar and we even see individual fingerprints on the fretboard. Andy Summer takes it easy on the stage and it is clear that time has taken its toll on him. Hi Def does no one any favours and despite not losing any of his ace guitar skills the same cannot be said for his waistline.The quality of this HD transfer is stunning and the new reference disc for my system (yes even better then The Dark Knight). The stage work featuring our heroes is bathed in high intensity studio lighting which obviously gives the boys a whitewashed appearance, but this transfer handles it brillantly and glare is non existent with no detail being lost. The contrast between the brightly lit stage and the warm glow of the huge crowd is a bit like watching the night/day terminator on a high altitude picture of the Earth, but nothing suffers in terms of picture quality and the detail of the individual crowd members just adds to the experience that you are there with them.With this being a musical concert different coloured stage lights are the norm, and what a treat they are to behold on Blu Ray. The stage is also back lit by two huge screens which shows the boys in action, and even this looks good. Blacks are inky deep and the 3D effect is in abundance.The 1080p video transfer is supported by a Dolby Tru HD 5.1 soundtrack that is literally out of this world. The subwoofer gets a real working over and although the audio is a little front heavy Stings vocal soundtrack remains stable and clear.Even if you don't like the Police or weren't around in the 80's ,and this is your first experience of them, this is a 5 star transfer
Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray Player
It took me a while to get over the demise of HD DVD having been one of those who thought it would win the format war with Blu Ray. Anyway having got my act together it was time to get with the program and update my ageing DVD collection to Blu ray and find something to play them on.
The Samsung came highly recommended by my AV buddies and they were right. A year ago a machine of this spec would have over £500. Profile 1.1 straight out of the box and upgradeable to profile 2.0 with an internet update, nice. It delivers great picture quality and imaging is razor edge sharp both on Hi Def discs and upscaled DVD.
The menus are user friendly and the remote nicely ergonomic to use. I would advise taking your time to set the machine up correctly because as with many large screen TV,s, it may not suit your individual taste straight out of the box. The 1500 comes with the default resolution set at 576P rather than 1080P so sort this out first otherwise your Hi Def images will have a soft jagged look about them.
The 1500 styling is also razor sharp with its blacker than black ultra slim profile ensuring it will look the part with your piano glass finished HDTV. All in all a very nice BD player indeed.
Kill Bill 1 & 2 (With Exclusive Artcards To )
One of these days Tarantino will bring this pair of movies out as one, but until that happens we will have to make do with this excellent package.
These are my two favourite Tarantino movies. A 4 hour story of murder, revenge, martial arts, swords and the 5 Point Exploding Heart Technique. Excellent. The story is all over the place but easy to follow and the whole lot is backed up with a brilliant musical score which fairly thumps along.
Be warned though it is not a movie for anyone who faints at the sight of blood, there is graphic violence aplenty but all in all it's a yipping yarn with a great ending.
The Blu Ray transfer is spotless and one of the best out there. This is a vibrant movie with reds and yellows being the dominant colours, however there are a few black and white sections to the movie, but non of the detail is lost and edges are wonderfully defined.
The best part of this Hi Def experience is without doubt the audio with a choice of Dolby D 5.1 and Lossless PCM. Both soundtracks provide a real workout for the subwoofer and the powerful backing music which is a mixture of original and 70,s tracks fairly shakes the room.
A real must own for any Tarantino fan.
There Will Be Blood
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There will be blood...is that a reference to the "blood" that drove the oil mining communities 100 years ago, the blood being oil. Well I'm not too sure about that and I make no great claim to have completely understood this film or its intentions, however I do recognise and appreciate good acting and a great script and this film has both.
Whether or not you totally understand the "why" of this movie you cannot fail to be utterly memorized by Daniel Day-Lewis's performance as Daniel Plainview. A man who starts out with the most honest of intentions, but who becomes corrupted and ultimately disillusioned with what he has created. Day-Lewis has made 4 movies since 1997 and you can see why as each performance takes so much out of him he needs a few years to recover between parts.
However for a true model of corruption look at Paul Danos' depiction of Eli Sunday. A self styled man of God whose sole motivation appears to be the gathering of wealth in the name of religion; a man who is willing to "do a Judas" and denounce god as "superstition" in order to get his hands on the money.
Wonderful performances from both actors and Day-Lewis's Oscar was fully deserved.
But what about the substance of the movie itself. Is it or will it eventually become one of the greats ? There is no doubt that it is a serious movie for serious movie watchers. I am a serious movie goer, my wife is not and she went to bed after 90 mins unable to get to grips with the "lack of plot" and "where is this film going." I would not dare say that she didn't have the intellect to stay with the movie for its 150 minutes (not if I know what's good for me), and even if I did it would not be true and would be an insult to other movie goers who also didn't get on with the movie. This movie is not for everyone, and for all those who saw the greatness it in, there will many who didn't get the point. I fall somewhere in between.
As a historical depiction of the oil boom in America 100 years ago and one mans part in it, then this movie scores 10/10. As a study in how money and power corrupts 10/10. As a movie that has the ability to hold the common man gripped to the very end 6/10 or perhaps even lower and this is probably why it didn't win the Best Film Oscar and "No Country for Old Men" did.
The Hi Def transfer left a lot to be desired in my opinion. The whole film had a graininess about it which meant it was little better than upscaled standard DVD. However colours and blacks were solid enough even if the edges were on the hazy side. There is little point in reviewing the soundtrack because this isn't a movie that is intended to test your 5.1 set up. However there is a standard Dolby 5.1 and lossless PCM audio track to choose from.
There will no doubt be considerable debate amongst movie snobs that anyone who doesn't think "There will be Blood" is a classic movie is talking out of the top of their head and doesn't understand what a great movie is. I would be careful about going down that line because ultimately it is the paying public that decides what flops and what thrives. "There will be Blood" is a movie for purists and is probably best viewed twice to start to understand its message. It will create as much debate as classics like "Taxi Driver" which is a film I hated and could never see the point of, but which in many peoples opinions is one of the greatest movies of all time.
A great set of actors, a superb script and an excellent director should make a movie that will stand the test of time. Let's see.
Sharp Aquos 46 inch LC46X20E HD 1080p Freeview Widescreen LCD TV
I have owned this LCD TV for a couple of months now and on the whole I have been happy with it.
Sharp has come under fire recently with regard to the picture quality of their larger sized LCD panels, and if you read some of the reviews in AV magazines you would be forgiven for thinking that Sharp have lost the plot completely. This is not the case.
I was given this LCD as a warranty replacement when my 42" LG broke down and initially I was a little disappointed as the picture it supplied appeared a little undercooked and lacking in "brightness", however after playing about with the extensive set up menus I was able to achieve what I was after. It is worth remembering that most large screen TV,s rarely come up to scratch straight out of the box, and setting them up properly is worth the time and effort involved.
Connected to a Blu ray player the Sharp performs very nicely indeed, with good quality black levels and 60HZ motion tracking ensuring a very sharp hi def image. Colour transfer is up there with the likes of LG and Sony panels, however this unit does not compete favourably with Samsung's series 8 LCD,s (my brother has one and I am jealous). But the Sharp is around £500 cheaper than the Samsung and in the current financial climate this is a consideration.
The unit has freeview installed, but this is of poor quality and not a patch on Sky or Virgin which both look excellent on the Sharp.
For a large panel LCD the Sharp is well worth the money and whilst not up there with the best of the best, it does the job very nicely.
Onkyo TX-SR606 7.1-Channel Home Theater Receiver (Black)
I have always thought that Onkyo AV equipment was of superior build quality and their range of AV amplifiers reinforces my belief that for the money they are hard to beat.
I bought the 606 a couple of months ago to support the latest HD audio sources available on Blu Ray discs and it has performed superbly. The 606 is capable of supporting a 7.1 system and whilst it isn't the most powerful home cinema amp out there, for the average AV set up it is more than enough to make the house shake. The 606 supports Dolby True HD and DTS Master Audio as well as the PCM lossless audio also offered on many BD discs. However it is not THX certified, but this isn't really an issue.
The set up menus are easy to follow and the unit also comes with a supplied Audessey EQ microphone that measures the distance of your speakers from your listening position and sets up the amp automatically. However I found that the auto set up tended to tone down the speaker output making it a little too quiet for my taste, so the manual set up was the way forward for me.
The unit is a big box of tricks and is reassuringly heavy. It's looks imposing sat under your TV and usually draws comments from people who are not AV o'philes.
If you are thinking of updating your AV amp any time soon The SR606 is definitely worth a look.
Logitech Harmony 555 Advanced Universal Remote
Things were getting out of hand. I had eight remote controls sat on a revolving stand in the middle of my coffee table and enough was enough, time for a universal remote.
I had read that some of these remotes could be programmed to carry out several commands at once, such as turning lots of devices on and off at once and changing channels at the same time. This sounded good and looking through the web Logitech's range of Harmony remotes looked to be best suited to what I wanted.
I finally settled on the Harmony 555 which is at the bottom end of Logitech's remote control range, but still appeared to offer everything I needed. The device duly arrived and I was struck with how ergonomic it looked, the buttons were of the rubber type and responded positively and the whole remote lit up in a lovely orange hue. But how would it perform.
The remote arrives with details of how to log onto Logitech's website and download the necessary firmware, you then create an account and list all the devices you wish to command with the remote.This is easier than it sounds because the website is very user friendly and it would appear that there is isn't a device out there that Logitech have missed from their 10,000+ list, you name the device and it will be there.
Once you have listed your devices you are then invited to create an activity list for each device, activities like switch on and off, change AV channels on the TV etc, so each activity is activated with the press of one button.
Once I had set up the devices and activities they had to be downloaded to the remote via the supplied USB cable, this takes several minutes but once this was done off I went to try it out. Did it work ? Well I would like to say it was all hunky dory straight out of the box, but not quite. No big issues but certain devices were taking up to 10 seconds to come on and others coming on straight away, this, I was later told, was a timing issue and I had to contact Logitech's helpline to sort it out.
If you are like me you will hate Helplines, however Logitech's is a joy to use. One free phone number to the Netherlands and you get through to an English speaking staff member who actually knows what they are talking about. No waiting, no piped music and even when the first guy couldn't sort it out and "upgraded" the issue I was forwarded straight to Canada (whether they can do this straight away obviously depends on the time of day here) and they sorted it in under 30 minutes. The helpline staff look at your devices and update your remote for you.
By the time I had finished everything worked great. I have had the remote for 12 months now and the only issue I have had was when I bought a new Onkyo AV Amp to go with my LG LCD TV. It transpired that the command codes to turn the Onkyo off were the same ones that turned the LG on (a rare occurrence I was told, but not one that even Logitechs expert staff could sort out). However I overcame this by pressing the "Help" button on the remote which, in essence, is a override button which enables you to carry out any command on its own, eg Switching off the TV. (I later got rid of the LG TV so that issue sorted itself out anyway)
I would definitely recommend the Harmony 555 remote for it's practicality, user friendliness and the quality of it's helpline.
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For some reason this movie was not that well received upon its release and I am not 100% sure why but I can hazard a guess, like many movies that will go on to achieve cult status, it is difficult to categorise.Achieve Cult Status !! Did I really say that, is this movie that good ? Well no it isn't on first viewing. It doesn't really work as a big budget Sci Fi blockbuster or a thriller (even though it does very well in both areas), where this movies scores is in the depth of the storyline and it's characters which is a rarity in Hollywood these days.
Danny Boyle is a brilliant director who refuses to sacrifice quality for the sake of saleability. He cares about the plot of this movie and the lives of the players and it is this level of integrity that pulls Sunshine out of the mainstream and towards cult status.
The story of our dying sun, 50 years from now, and the crews struggle to complete the mission to save it by dropping a massive bomb into a sunspot is hardly groundbreaking stuff, but when things start to go wrong and the crew start dying one by one (again hardly new material) we are able to see why the characters care so much about their mission and why they are literally willing to give up their lives to complete it.
The underlying message that runs through this film is one of sacrifice. The whole crew realise that they are expendable and the only thing that matters is dropping the bomb to save humanity. However some crew members are more expendable than others and this causes tension amongst our 8 heroes. Cillian Murphy is the physicist who is the least expendable crew member but the one who appears the most willing to deviate from the master plan and put everything in jeopardy. Chris Evans (flame from the Fantastic Four) is probably the most expendable but the character who is constantly reminding us that nothing else matters but the delivery of the bomb, and he is even prepared to commit murder to complete the mission.
There are echoes of 2001 A Space Odyssey and Alien in this movie, but without a hint of plagiarism and to truly appreciate the movie I would suggest a couple of viewings. This is a movie that takes itself seriously, and we all know that failure can swiftly follow if a director tries to claim moral high ground with the viewers, fortunately Boyle does not attempt to moralise his characters intentions even when one of them commits suicide over a mistake that costs another his life. Upon discovering this suicide Chris Evans character says "He took responsibility" and moves on without lamenting on the whys and wherefores.
When you think about the subject matter of this movie too much you realise the absurdity of it. The mere thought that Man could affect the course of a celestial body nearly a million miles across with a manmade bomb a little over a mile across is mere folly, but we are so wrapped up in the lives of the crew and their individual weaknesses as men and woman, that we barely notice the futility of their purpose for being where they are.
Sunshine is a superior Hi Def transfer and one if the best I have seen. The source material is clean as a whistle with deep blacks (doubly important with a space movie) and clear, solid and vibrant colours. The depiction of the Sun is wonderful and this is where Hi Def scores with excellent detail and no bleeding of the white hot colour of our star into the surrounding blackness of space.
The audio is also excellent with the DTS Audio Master soundtrack providing a wonderfully immersive experience without over doing the bass.Sunshine may well attain cult status one day and sit along side such classics as Blade runner and Silent Running. A wonderful movie and must own title,
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2 Discs)
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There is no doubt that Guillermo Del Toro is on a roll at the moment, what with Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth, it seems he can do no wrong. His imagination shows no signs of flagging either with the latest rogues gallery of creatures and monsters on show here.
The movie is well worth watching, and is as good as the original which is something in itself. I am generally not a fan of sequels, but Hellboy 2 is a worthy successor to it's big brother. Ron Perlman is on great form again and was made for this role, I also liked the german ecto plasam agent character, who was the perfect model of german efficiency and a great foil for Perlman's devil may care approach. I was glad that John Hurt made a cameo appearance at the start and without giving anything away I liked the first 10 minute prequel which really made us appreciate Hellboy's human side. I was stunned to find 80's boy band singer Luke Goss as the villain of the piece, but he played a similar role in Blade 2 and it would appear his transformation from 80's poster boy to Hollywood regular is complete.
The plot was OK as plot's go but this film wasn't really about following a plotline to it's conclusion and more about suspending disbelief and getting involved in a effects laden yarn. On that level it works well.
This is a very glossy hi def transfer indeed, similar in quality to the latest Indiana Jones offering, and literally jumps off the screen at you with the 3D effect in abundance. Colours are vibrant and stable with blacks in particular inky deep. I could not detect any hint of grain with all images carrying that polished look that should be the norm with digital hi def transfers these days.
The audio is more than up to the job and as you would expect with a movie release of this magnitude and the first 7.1 disc I have ever played on my 7.1 system. It did not disappoint. The DTS Master Audio soundtrack is involving and immersive, with the sub getting a great workout. Make sure the neighbours are out and pump up the volume.
A worthy addition to anyone's Blu ray collection.