Friday, 29 December 2006

Ultimate Avengers DVD Review

Santa was obviously wearing his geek hat this year; under my festive tree I found a brand spanking new laptop, all manner off comic bookery and the Ultimate Avengers movie DVD. So I was a very happy bunny. I quickly booted up my new computermotron, searched for a wireless network and promptly failed, so instead I shoved in the Avengers DVD and watched the whole thing, unfortunately I came away with very mixed feelings, let me explain why…

The film is roughly based on the first couple of story of story arcs from the Ultimates comic book, “Super-Human” and “Homeland security”, but for the sake of the film instead of having them run one after each other the stories are mixed up and intertwined. Which leads to an interesting combination of elements where we see Captain America stop a nuclear bomb during WWII then get frozen for 60 years, only to be unfrozen and then form the new super army “the Avengers”, an alien race attacking earth and Bruce Banner battling his inner Hulky demons. There is more too it than that, but I don’t want to spoil it too much for you now do I?

The voice acting and general story line are ok, but there is definitely room for a number of improvements. While I don’t mind the fact that two stories have been combined here, and actually think it makes quite a bit of sense to do so, there are a number of other changes that I’ not too pleased with.

The main issue I have is a general one, it seems that, while inspired by the Ultimates, a whole heap off this film is either watered down from the sources material of based more on the regular Avengers form the 616 universe. Tony Stark’s heart condition, the down playing of the violent relationship between Henry Pym (Giant-Man) and his wife the Wasp, and the smaller alien battle amongst many other changes may not be important to everyone, but if you know the Ultimates and Ultimate universe they will definitely bug you. I cant see the point of making this film specifically Ultimate, but then taking so much from elsewhere.
But as I said, there is a lot of room for improvement, but standing by itself the film is a fun if short little romp (always wanted to use that word, and it kind of works there. Hurray for me!!)

The animation and art style is in a similar situation to the story, good for most but with definite room for improvement. The general style is obviously that of the Ultimates, but with a cartoon network style sheen to it, this doesn’t really surprise me as literally animating the comic book would have not been easy at all, but a little more similarity to the book would not have been a bad thing at all. Also more time and effort and maybe even more should have been invested into the project as it seems to be lacking that extra quality you get from a lot of modern cartoons

Extras on the DVD come in the form of a trivia track running over the film, a doc on the making of the film and history of the Avengers feature, a brief look at the sequel and a reasonably funny look at some fan auditions for parts in the film. So not a bucket load by any stretch but what you get is good, interesting and quite informative.

So overall the DVD is quite good, not great but most definitely not terrible. it’s a good launching point for the series on DVD and hopefully things can only get better from here on out. The sequel is already out in America so I think I may have to use this inter-web thingy to try and dig out a copy.

Thanks to our Matt!

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Xmas Hell Part 3! - Must Have DVDs

There are only 4 days to Christmas and what better last minute gift than a DVD and so here is part , and this time I’m going too be taking a gander at some of the BETTER DVDs available this merry Christmas season. So that means none of the horrible animal computer animation films that have been doing the rounds or even POTC, their all too obvious, these are much more interesting!!

∑ Ren and Stimpy Season 1 and 2
For some reason my dad never liked me watching this as a kid, so the chance to own in a lovely DVD set is oh so very enticing!!! On three discs you get all of season 1&2, which means that there is over 400 minutes of cartoon fun. However; the extras are slightly lacking, with only a few commentaries included and a featurette or two. So not the great “collector’s box set” it could have been, but the cartoon is just so damn good you must buy it for everyone!!

∑ Serenity and Firefly
I’ll put this simply, if George Lucas had put the spirit that goes into these two wonderful things, I wouldn’t hate the new trilogy like I do!!!!
From the great mind of Joss Wheddon (he’s the guys who did Buffy, you might have heard of it?), comes what can only be described as a western in space. But add to that a level of wit, subtle comedy and emotion and you get a genuinely fantastic thing.
Get Firefly first and then Serenity, its just better that way, and the film tends to tie up a few loose ends from the series.

∑ Spaced series One or Two
This is what the guys who brought you Shaun of the Dead brought you before they brought you Shaun of the Dead. It’s the tale of two losers who, cast out on to the street, join forces to find somewhere to live. Which they quickly do and the “hilarity ensues”!!!
Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson are Tim Bisley and Daisy Steiner - two hopeless twentysomethings sharing a flat and pretending to be a couple. Joining them on their urban adventures are wine-swilling landlady Marsha, the rather intense artist who lives downstairs Brian, Tim's best friend and would-be TA soldier Mike, and Daisy's best friend, the air-headed Twist. Together they tackle the big questions that the 21st century poses: who are they, what they mean to each other and who should switch on the kettle?

∑ Black Books series 1-3
More comedy, this time from the crazy mind of Dylan Moran. Bernard Black (Dylan Moran) owns a small second hand book store, but there is a small problem with this situation of his; he hates the people, the customers and even the books, and so spend most of the time drinking wine and shouting abuse, and Bill Bailey, great performances and whole host of cameos and you get one of the best British comedies in recent times.

∑ The Ultimate Avengers Movie
The Ultimates is one of my favourite comics at the moment (when they release them that is), and this straight to DVD movie follows, roughly, the first season of this comic book.

Thanks to Matt Thomas for the last minute guide.

Monday, 11 December 2006

Xmas Hell Part 2: Book Ideas

If you can’t think of anything interesting to give to people during this festive period, a great but traditionally uninspiring backup plan is some kind off written word type literary fare, but usually that’s a big and dull silly idea. So I bring forth some GOOD ideas for books this Christmas-

• The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear; by Walter Mayer
Bluebear is a blue bear, but I’m sure that’s pretty obvious to you, and this book tells the tale of his first 13 ½ lives (he has 27 you see). Set in the mysterious world of Zamonia the tale marries all manner of different genres including fantasy, Sci-Fi and classic fairy tales. Despite weighing in at over 700 hundreds pages the book is about as easy to read as you could wish for and is beautifully illustrated throughout.
I randomly came across this when my mother brought home a big pile of books from the library, being a simple fellow it was the pictures that enticed me. Of course this lead to me reading the actual words, and they are, well, very good. It was one of those very rare books in this world that I couldn’t stop reading, any spare time I had would see me with my nose wedged firmly between its pages. So therefore I recommend it to you.
If you do like this, Moers wrote a second book, set in the same universe. Rumo is the tale of a Wolperting (it’s a bit like a dog), who armed with Dandelion (it’s a talking sword) will one day become the greatest hero in Zamonia. I am in the middle of reading it as we speak, and I have to say it’s a whole load of good.

• The Walking Dead v1-5, written by Robert Kirkman and illustrated by Tony Moore
Zombies are cool; everyone loves them at the moment, and rightly so. But one thing oft lacking with thee whole zombie hoopla is a good story to back it up. That’s where The Walking Dead comes in. The story is centred on a small-town police officer named Rick Grimes who, at the start of vol. 1, gets shot. We rejoin him sometime later in a hospital bed; he is alone, confused and for some reason in a world over run with those loveable scamps, the “un-dead”.
Now I know what you thinking, that sounds like a million other Zombie filled romps, however, what sets this apart from pretty much all the other stories out there is that this one concentrates more on the people involved and the lives that’s they lead, the human interaction. This allows the stories to be much deeper than it could have been, and therefore when the zombies do actually get involved it’s a much more shocking, as you generally care (or dislike) the characters involved.
The book is drawn by Tony Moore, and is black and white throughout, and to put it simply is quite beautiful, albeit beautiful in a “world full of flesh eating zombies” kind of way.

As it stands there are 5 (soon to be 6) trade paperbacks available, collecting up to issue 36 of the comic book. Obviously, start with vol.1 if you’re buying for someone who hasn’t read the books yet. Or if you’re feeling fancy a hardcover collecting issue 1-24 is also available.

• The Halo Graphic Novel (HGN), written/draw by various artists.
This is one, I have to say, that I haven’t actually had the pleasure of reading yet, but as it’s on my Christmas list, I think ill be allowed to write about it here.
The HGN is composed of 4 separate stories based in and around the Halo universe, and four completely different stories at that, ranging from a tale of armour testing to the story of how the people of New Mombasa fought against those evil folk the Covenant.
Each different story is presented in a completely different artistic style and looks incredible throughout,. Also the book comes complete with a gallery section with comprises of images from the halo universe from all manner of Marvel/ Bungie artists.

OK so that’s the three main ideas I have for you, but here are a few extra that might tickle your fancy.
• Marvel Zombies; Trade paper back/hardcover.
The title kind of gives it away, all your marvel favourites are hear in zombie form, and there hungry, so much carnage ensues. It’s silly but fun, and looks fantastic.
• Any thing by Edward Monkton.
Whether you plump for the Penguin of Death, the Pig of Happiness or even the Madness Hamsters you know you’ll be getting a small hardback book of sheer random greatness. Go here to learn more.
• The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and other Stories; written/illustrated Tim Burton.
A selection of poems telling the tale of a selection of rather “interesting” children, ranging from Roy the toxic boy and Junk Girl too Oyster boy and my personal favourite Jimmy, the Hideous penguin boy. The tales vary from being deeply the depressing to highly hilarious, but usually flit between the two. Oh and the illustrations are fantastic too.

Ok, I think that will be enough suggestions for you for now, if you still cant decide what too get your loved ones, I shall return shortly with some DVD suggestions.

Thanks again to the ever inspiring Matt Thomas

Monday, 4 December 2006

Xmas Hell Part 1! Game Help!

With the Christmas season now officially upon us, I was given the idea of writing a Festive Gift ideas list. Now there are two ways I could do this; I could either just copy what the big retailers out there think you should buy because it will make them lots off easy money, or I could do it the more fun way and point out loads off cool shit you have probably never heard but will make your life full off happy smiles if you listen to my pearls of wisdom and buy them all. In a Shaun of the Dead style….the second one.

Everyone loves playing games at Christmas, if you don’t your probably a Nazi or dead, so I think ill start there.

•Ticket to Ride: Ill start with one off the things I doubt you’ll have heard about. Ticket to ride (or “the Train Game” as it has affectionately become known as in my circle of friends). Basically the point off the game is to score as many points as you can this is done by collecting train cards and then using them to claim train routes across North America, the longer the route the more points you get. As well as that you also need to try and connect specific cities, which are usually stupidly far apart. The joy of this game come from its sheer simplicity, it’s the classic formula of taking only minutes to learn, but you’ll then constantly develop and change your strategy every time you play. Add to that the look your opponents give you when you build on a piece of track they desperately need, and you’ll soon see why this game has won all manner of game of the year awards and sold around half a million copies in around 2 years.RRP £29.99

•Munchkin: This couldn’t be more different to Ticket if it tried. It’s basically a card game where your character is battling through a dungeon inhabited with all manner of lovely creatures, and its your job to swiftly kill them with a big sword and then move on to try and kill more things until you reach the all important Level 10, when this happens you win. Doesn’t sound that interesting I hear you say? Well I did also forget to tell you its kinda crazy, the weapons range from your common all garden sword to the slightly more interesting rat on a stick and boots of butt kicking, you could end up fighting a potted plant with a chicken on your head and trust me never pick up a duck in a dungeon. I have played this game for hours on end, usually with the odd can of alcohol in easy reach, and can’t recommend it highly enough.

It’s not the easiest thing to pick up but when you do you’ll be throwing curses at each other, stabbing people in the back and generally acting like complete git to make sure you win in the most humiliating way possible.
RRP £14.99

•Villa Paletti: If I start by simply saying Jenga, you will get a vague idea of what sort of game this is. You use bits of wood to make a tower, but unlike Jenga, this game is actually pretty good.
In the tradition of a Jengaesque, you simply have to take the wooden poles from the lower levels and move them higher, making sure you don’t send the whole thing crashing. It’s a fantastic party game, and I know this after hours of rigorous testing in the many pubs of Cheltenham, usually with quite a few people staring at me as I search for a piece that can actually be taken out safely; of course once that happens you have to try and find a new home for it which is equally nerve shattering. You don’t know what fear is until you see the most ungainly, yet some how spectacular, tower nearly keel over in front of you as you take out a piece and then realise you now have to find a home for it. But of course that’s what makes it fun, so ignore Jenga and Tumba and all manner of other buildy type games this Christmas and buy Villa Paletti right now!!! Please?
RRP £19.99

So those are the three I would most recommend to you but there a few more I want to mention.

•Apples to Apples- Essentially the point of this game is to argue the toss with everyone until the dealer agrees with your opinion, and its great fun. I scientifically proved this on Boxing Day last year.
•Polarity- Make magnets balance in mid air and score lots of points, just won the first ever Science Museum Toy Award.
•Zombies- It’s got zombies in it, what more do you need to know about it!!!!! OK, a little more I suppose, you go round shooting lots of little plastic zombies while trying not to die. It’s basically every Zombie film you have ever seen but you control it, which is nice!

OK so that’s my game recommendations done, hopefully soon ill give you some Toy/Action figure ideas, a List of DVDS you must buy people this Christmas and then a random array of other stuff.

All Hail Matt Thomas

A Creepy Fairytale Review of Pans Labyrinth

Pans Labyrinth- It’s basically a grown up fairy tale!

I went into this film knowing very little about it; I had seen a trailer on my spangly new mobile phone but obviously that doesn’t give too much away, and I knew that a few of my very good friends were saying very good things about it, so when I went to see this film I was basically going in blind. I didn’t even know it was subtitled until I spoke to the ticket guy before we sat down (no ticket was actually involved though, just one of the perks of having friends working in a cinema!), and trust me subtitles are not a fun prospect with a hung-over head.

Anyway, onto more important things, the small matter of the film itself. Set at the end of the Spanish Civil War the story follows young Ofelia as she moves with her heavily pregnant mother to live with her new adoptive father in a remote part of the Spanish country side. Of course while there her father, Captain Vidal, is fighting off a whole bunch of rebels who refuse to give up on the war. To escape this side of her life Ofelia wanders the grounds of her new home and comes across an ancient labyrinth, at the centre of which she comes across a faun. This faun proceeds to tell off how Ofeila is actually a princess and that to regain her rightful status she must complete a number a fantastical tasks, and from here we enter a world of fairies and extraordinary creatures and events. While all this is going her father, and to counteract the fantasy world, the Captain is fighting a brutal war with the guerrillas. Obviously thats not quite all the story, but i'm going to try not to spoil too much of it for you, but if I do, I wholeheartedly apologise.

This is easily one off the best film I have ever had the pleasure off watching, it manages to be both genuinely beautiful, and darkly disturbing while marrying the two completely different worlds seamlessly. The horror of the war, which is often brutally portrayed, is then juxtaposed with the gloriously realised fantasy world into which Ofelia descends.

The acting is outstanding, especially the young Ivana Baquero who plays the lead. Sergi Lopez, who plays Ofelias’ father, Captain Vidal, is also excellent and is a very threatening presence when on screen. Special mention must also go to Doug Jones, who plays the Faun and the Pale Man; he spends all of his time on screen trapped in his two costumes, and gives such life and believability to the characters.

Its not easy to work out who this film is actually aimed at, but in many ways this is to the films credit, any film that is to be considered truly great avoids following cliches and stereotypes and therefore fits into no one specific hole, and that is a true sign of when something can be considered true art.

Another great review by Matt Thomas

Thursday, 30 November 2006

Pokemon Trading Figure Game: Next Quest Review

Ok, so today I’ll be taking a look at the brand spanking new Pokemon miniatures game, or to give it its full name; Pokemon Trading Figure Game: Next Quest. I shall be concentrating on the Flamethrower starter set (which consists off 4 miniatures, Red trainer, Charizard, Treecko and Meowth), but another more water based set is available.
I have been a fan off the whole Pokemon “hoopla” since day one, well I say day one, living in Britain generally means our day one comes about seven years after everyone else’s, but rest assured in terms off us old Brits, I was there at the start. Got Red on day one, Blue for X-Mas and all manner of games after that, so when a rep showed me these at the Toy-Fair in London in January I was pretty excited. Excited and impressed, which is probably more important? So after many months, and a long conversation with my boss telling her that “yes we do indeed need to sell these things”, they finally turned up at the shops backdoor. I’m pleased to say that I still love them….

Packaging ***
Our friendly neighbourhood pocket monsters come in the ever more popular clam shell pack which means all the appropriate boxes are ticked. They are clearly visible from all angles, look damn good on a shelf and are all safe and secure (you wouldn’t want to upset Charizard by damaging his wings now would you?) My favourite aspect of the pack though is how the mini-figs themselves are held down; each on them is clipped in to a small plastic tray, which in turn is held into the main packaging. This is a really cool little feature, as it lets you see one off the main features of the figures; they spin. So what I hear all cry, well trust me it looks cool and this will be pretty important later on.
As I said there are two starter sets available, the only thing that really differentiates them both in terms off packaging is a sticker that runs along the front base off the pack, proudly telling you which set you have bought, and a neat little picture of the main monster included. The back is pretty similar on both sets, giving you a little info about the game as a whole, what you get inside and what else you can spend your hard earned money on. Despite what sounds like a lot off similarities in the design, because all the monsters included are all so different, both sets manage to really stand out from each other when on display.

Sculpting; Treecko, Meowth, Red **1/2, Charizard ***
Now on to the most important part of this whole thing; the miniatures themselves.
And I’m pleased to say it’s generally pretty darn good.
Trainer Red (it’s blatantly Ash Ketchum), is the one human character you get in the set, and he is also the least interesting. But that is pretty inevitable when you see what else you get in the pack. In reverse order of greatness the monsters you get Treecko, Meowth and Charizard.

Treecko is sculpted climbing down a rocky outcrop type thing, and its perfectly nice, but its just not that interesting. I know that’s not the most detailed critique, but for me that’s where it ends, it good not great and certainly not the most exciting thing ever.

Things pick up a little with Meowth. Team Rockets favourite henchman (HenchCat?) is portrayed bounding toward you in all his playful cat like glee, and this comes out wonderfully in the sculpt. These guys are essentially based on the cartoon versions of the characters, and the transition from 2D to 3D is always a tricky one to capture, so it’s mightily impressive how faithful they remain to their source material, this is never more obvious than when looking at Charizard.
Charizard is posed leaning out off a mound? of swirling flame, and is my favourite of the set, might off mentioned that before, but I just wanted to make sure you knew this because he looks awesome. So overall, the sculpts are pretty darn good, this however could be a major stumbling block for the line, but more on that in the Value section.

Paint: Treecko, Meowth, Red **1/2, Charizard ***
These guys shouldn’t be the hardest things in the world to paint; essentially they are made up of large blocks off the same colour, without a huge amount of shading. This obviously stems from the design of the characters and the somewhat LOUD colour scheme that was chosen, oh the joys off kids’ cartoons!!
Meowth is the simplest off the lot. Only his eyes, mouth, hands feet and the tip off his tail require any work, and what you get is pretty neat and tidy.

Next up is Treecko, and just like Meowth, not a lot off detail work has to go into him, but what is done is as good as you could expect, all the lines are neat and colours match the character perfectly (or at least to my eyes anyway). He does gain a small advantage over Meowth when you take a look at the rock formation he is perched on, although rather simply done, there is a nice level off shading used on it, when a simple brown could have been thrown on, that extra step (when you consider how simple they could have kept the paintjob) is a very nice thing indeed.

The quality takes another step up when we get to Red/Ash. Here we actually get a level of small detail work, and for the most part what’s there is very good. The shading on the trousers is especially nice; however there are a few spots off spray paint on his jacket. But ignoring that gripe, it’s really well done.
As seems to be tradition we end on Charizard, and again I have saved the best to last.

Charizard himself is quite like the other monsters, not many different colours, and large blocks of those that are there, so why is he so good? Easy, those oh so lovely flames! Our “friendly” fire-dragon is surrounded by a ton of them and the way they graduate between the different colours and shades is very impressive indeed. Flame is always one off those things that can be a struggle to pull over well, so it’s good to see that even in this “cartoony” representation, care has been taken to make it look genuinely good.

Action Feature **
This next section is pretty pointless unless you actually intend to play the game. You see, the figures are attached to small plastic bases, and when on these the can be spun like some small tornado off monster based rage…? This is used to decided the winners in battle, so if your not playing, don’t read the previous paragraph…..oh too late, sorry!

Accessories ***
As well as the figs, in the pack you get spinny bases for each character, a two sided playmate, collector’s sheet, trainer cards and rule book. So basically every thing need for one player to get started in the game.

The Game/Fun Factor **1/2
The basic idea of the game is to try and get one of you pocket monsters to the other side off the board, and your opponents goal space. You can only move each monster so far, and should you bump in to an opponent the two off you fight. This is where the game turns into what is essentially a version of paper rock scissors with added dizziness. Each player spins their monsters and the colour that is being pointed at determines who wins the fight. Blue beats everything, purple beats white, if two whites are spun the most powerful attack wins, and should you miss, well everyone just laughs at you for the rest off the day.
It’s a really simple game, obviously aimed at kids, but I think it works well for the market it’s aimed at.

Value **
This is probably going to be the only really negative section off the review, and its all the fault off the praise I have been giving the stuff so far, confused? Well let me explain. As I said, I like the sculpts and paint and everything a whole lot, it really looks good. But because off this quality that has gone into the line, the price has to be knocked up. With a starter weighing in at £15 and the boosters £9, that’s a few quid too much for what they are trying to sell. Its meant to be a line the kids can easily collect, and at that price point I don’t see that happening.
As far as I know America hasn’t had the joy of the Pokemon TFG yet, so I can only hope that when they do, production goes up so that economies of scale (see I did occasionally concentrate at school) kick in and the price can drop a little.

Overall ***
I like this line a lot, and were it not for the high price point I would probably end up with loads off these guys littering my flat, but until there is a reduction I cant see this being the success it deserves to be.

Great Review by Matt Thomas

Thursday, 23 November 2006

Saw 3 Film Review - Cult Press

Directed By: Darren Lynn Bousman
Starring: Shawnee Smith, Tobin Bell, Bahar Soomekh
Running Time: 107 mins
Reviewed By: Alexia Weeks
Rating: * * *_ _

A strained effort to compete with the extremities of Hostel, the third in the Saw series has noticeably less impact than the previous two. Is it wrong to be able to say moderate torture no longer horrifies me? The movie landscape and squeamish storylines are reaching a stage where real life snuff movies wouldn’t be out of place.

What Saw 3 does have to offer is best looked at apart from the first two Saws or its grisly competition Hostel. In this third helping of Jigsaw and his ‘Seven-esque’ mission to brutally educate the world, we follow the trail of blood left by Amanda (Shawnee Smith) as she continues her work for John Cramer (Tobin Bell) who is literally at death’s door.

Rumours that fully grown men fainted in their seats at the cinema is an encouraging sign and suggests we’re getting a decent helping of blood and gore. Bless them, it does prove that the film has some worth and ‘hits the spot’ for horror fans. It’s clear which scene of the film caused this but don’t worry – no spoiler here!

Go watch it, but don’t be surprised if you feel let down by the regurgitation of the same ole ‘games’ and ridiculous amount of twists…

Special thanks to Lexi for a great review.

Sunday, 12 November 2006

Music: Top 5 UK albums you probably never knew about

1 - We May Be Skinny And Wirey - The Crocketts
Before they were the Crimea, the Crocketts were a brilliant underground country rock crazy thrash band, they put on great live shows, often covering classic songs such as Ring of Fire and recorded 2 great albums, their first album was my favourite. 'We may be skinny and wirey' is such a wonderful journey of music and toe tapping tunes its really painful to knew they never had much commercial success. Look out for 'Tennasie' 'Strong Guy' 'Bucket and Spade' & 'Will you still care'

2 - Stamina - The Junket
Another underground pop-indie-rock band from the 90's, the Junket was a three piece band with great rythem, bass and harmonies. Stamina was actually a seven track mini album, but every song is so unique and utter genius. Look out for 'the Engine Man' & 'Punk Mickey'

3 - Everything Picture - Ultrasound
Ultrasound were the Pink Floyd of the 90's, fronted by tall, obese singer/guitarist Andrew 'Tiny' Wood, whose voice was beautiful and he knew how to rock!. Everything Picture was a concept double album, probably the 90's was not ready for it as the band soon split up. The album was epic, one track was about 30 minutes of noise and news samples mixed in with fuzzy guitars and screaming. Key Tracks include 'Same Band' 'Stay Young' & 'Floodlit World'

4 - Captain - Idlewild
I'm sure the now semi-famous idlewild don't really like this album, again a mini album of epic thrash rock proportions. There was no way in hell after listening to this album would you think 'yeah this band can do pop songs really well'. Captain is about 25 mins of the most exhilarating head banging tunes you will ever hear. You have to listen to 'Last Night i missed all the fireworks' 'Self Healer' & 'you just have to be who you are'

5 - When do we start fighting - Seafood
Probably the best indie rock album i have ever heard, possibly the best album on this top 5 list. When do we start fighting boasts amazing soft harmonies, contrasting perfectly with the harsh dark bass lines with a hint of folk. Very hard to describe Seafood, they're just perfect. Look out for 'Splinter' ' Western Battle' & 'Desert Stretched Before The Sun'

All very 90's... but all very good! CP

Film: Borat

I've been a fan of Borat for a long time and hearing that Sacha Baron Cohen was turning his comic creation into a movie was just incredible. I thought it would be a movie that would never make it to the Cinemas and only survive on DVD but luckily for us the hype was intense and made the movie a 'great success'!

The introduction to the film sets the tone brilliantly, Borat introduces himself and takes us on a guided tour of his home town in Kazakhstan, we're introduced to his prostitute sister, his dear old mother, his larger than life wife, his envious next door neighbor and even the town rapist...

Borat is soon in the USA and conducting various interviews with people who should know better!, he manages to get under the skin of almost everyone, some don't take it and walk out while others keep their cool and endure his endless questions, these people clearly have the patience of saints.

Borat soon finds himself alone in a big city with no entertainment other than his TV, this is where he falls for the busty CJ of Baywatch fame, he sets off on a huge adventure to 'bag' him Pamela Anderson...

If you have watched most of the YouTube Borat clips from the movie you will find yourself disappointed from the lack of new material. The acting is painfully obvious in between genuine interviews and kills the genius of the film. Despite all this, the film is a must see. It defines a generation of self ridicule and don't we all feel so much better for it!.

7 / 10 CP

Friday, 10 November 2006

Music: Flaming Lips Live - Birmingham NIA

Flaming Lips, NIA Birmingham UK, November 9th 2006

The Flaming Lips are notorious for their shows, with a reputation for a psychadelic circus of performance. They didn't dissapoint with this new tour, promoting their latest album "At War With the Mystics", a funky yet assertive new interpretation of the epic rip roaring melodies we have come to know and love over the last twenty odd years. Opening the show in a suitably weird fashion were support band Deerhoof, a trio of bass, drums and lead guitar, playing a perplexing mix of de-constructed heavy metal ambiance, (including toddler like dance moves from the squeaky lead singer).

Although "The Lips" could be seen before the opening number, setting up equipment and so on it didn't prevent the entrance to the stage being theatrical yet down right trippy. With one side of the stage engulfed by dancers in Father Christmas suits armed with torches, Wayne Coyne rolled on to the stage and then the crowd in a giant inflatable aero ball, accompanied by sexy alien women, naturally. They started as they meant to go on, with twice as many giant balloons than usual. Due to the bands respect for Chandeliers at the previous nights venue, they had some left over. This little anecdote was taken from one of the many rambling monologues from the lovable hippy front man that interjected throughout the night. Covering topics ranging from the joyous discintigration of the Bush establishment to optimistic advise for troubled teens. However the sensory overload was more than enough compensation for sometimes tedious and cheesey speeches. Laser shows, puppetry sing alongs, giant glitter balls creating illusions of spinning stars and continuous streams of glittery party string being blasted at the audience left me feeling absolutley spoilt. The audience interaction was astounding, resulting in a mass Queen Kareoke during the encore, a booming cover of Bohemian Rhapsody including sing along words on the massive video screen backdropping the stage. This screen was used to display many of the bands videos, so even short arses like me had something to look at if the lips disappeared behind the crowd. Another example of how thoughtful and caring the band are towards their faithful fans.

Ultimately it has hard to say a bad word about the show as you get so much bang for your buck literally. My only complaint is that it was so jaw droppingly uplifting and crazy that my face still aches from smiling all night.

Review by Chrissy Mckenzie

Thursday, 9 November 2006

Gadgets: iPod Shuffle

I've had my brand spanking new iPod shuffle for about 3 days and I have to say I love it! I was determined not to give up on my ever decaying 3rd generation iPod, even after 2 battery transplants! But alas, it is now dead. It has lasted me over 3 years, so I can't complain.

I bought the Shuffle to help me walk to work in the mornings (and I love shiny things), and it works a treat! You don't even know it's there, the sound quality is great, it can go fairly loud too and the battery seems to last forever. The controls are very basic but very easy. It comes with a small dock which is very cute and syncs with your Mac (or PC) without any problems.

The packaging is just lush! It is done in the same style as the new iPod Nano's, with the clear plastic displaying it like it was a prize trophy in your cabinet, you almost don't want to open it.

The only thing that angers me is that they lump it together with old-school headphones, I would buy some in-ear headphones but I find for £25 they break too easily. Updating your tracks does take a fair bit of time, especially if you tell it to down sample your songs to 128kbps AAC encoding. Also it's so small, be careful not to lose it.

Can't complain, top notch product, amazing price and great value.

8.5 / 10 CP