Share this page on

blue Status blue (Level 3/10)



No member profile available. The person you are looking for is no longer a Ciao member.

Reviews written

since 13/10/2009


In The Name Of The King (Blu-ray) 15/04/2010

Derivative Lord of the Rings knock-off

In The Name Of The King (Blu-ray) My trusty dictionary defines the term `masochism' as follows: "Gratification gained from pain, deprivation, degradation, etc., inflicted or imposed on oneself, either as a result of one's own actions or the actions of others, esp. the tendency to seek this form of gratification." If ever an example of masochism in action were required, I would provide it in terms of someone who would willingly sit down in front of the TV and give up two hours of their life to this utterly horrendous movie. Honestly, how do projects like this even get off the ground? Who pitches ideas like this? More importantly, who approves them? I could perhaps understand if this was some straight-to-DVD effort with a budget equal to my annual salary (which is what you usually expect of a Uwe Boll film), but this is clearly a serious, ambitious production with big name actors like Burt Reynolds, Jason Statham, Ron Perlman and Ray Liotta. Admittedly, all of these guys have appeared in their share of stinkers over the years, but you'd think one look at the script would have been enough to turn them away. I can only assume the producers threw some serious money at them to get them onboard, and I hope it was worth it, because this is the sort of film that kills careers, children. Jason Statham plays Farmer, a (you guessed it) agricultural engineer living the simple life with his family until one day a bunch of evil people come in, kill everyone and kidnap his wife. Gathering together a rag-tag ...

Under Enemy Colours - Sean Thomas Russell 05/04/2010

Sharpe at sea

Under Enemy Colours - Sean Thomas Russell Usually I'm not a huge fan of naval fiction. Detailed descriptions of mizzen masts, jib booms, topgallants and bowsprits are, at best, enough to send me into the kind of stupor normally reserved for shellshock victims and McDonalds employees. But after receiving Under Enemy Colours from a friend as a part of a misguided (and very late) birthday present, I thought I'd give it a go, and I must say, I'm quite impressed by Sean Thomas Russell's debut work. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, the book charts the adventures of Charles Hayden; a half-French, half-English Lieutenant serving in the Royal Navy. Though a competent officer, his lack of family connections mean the prospects of advancing his career are bleak at best. However, an offer by the First Secretary to serve aboard a troubled warship in return for reporting on her dubious captain soon see him clambering aboard the frigate HMS Themis. Needless to say, his job is far from easy, and he soon finds himself dealing with a mutinous crew, sullen officers and a captain unwilling to engage the enemy. It's hard to fault Russell for his historical detail. Clearly the man knows his stuff when it comes to the business of sailing, and more importantly he seems to know just the right amount of information to include without bogging the story down in technical details. The battle scenes are well handled and surprisingly tense, for example when the Themis is trying to overtake a French transport before she reaches the safety of ...

Call of Duty 5: World at War (Xbox 360) 05/04/2010

War is hell

Call of Duty 5: World at War (Xbox 360) You know, I sometimes catch myself wondering what it must feel like to have a brother like Barack Obama, Muhammad Ali or Chuck Norris - someone so incredibly successful and respected in their field that nothing you could possibly do with your life would ever measure up. Now I realize I only need to ask the nice people at Treyarch how it feels having to compete with Infinity Ward. As everyone who's ever played First Person Shooters will know, the Call of Duty series has had a somewhat checkered history, alternating between creative brilliance and formulaic tedium over the past several years. Then Infinity Ward had a stroke of genius and brought the series bang up to date with Call of Duty 4. Game critics the world over proclaimed it (rightly so) as the best thing since 3D graphics, and COD4 has since gone on to be more popular than breathing. Publishers Activision promptly demanded a sequel. When they were bluntly informed by Infinity Ward that a sequel would be anything but prompt, and that rushing a game through development with no regard for quality rarely results in blockbusting sales, Activision turned their eye on Treyarch, who were brought in to helm World at War. But how to create a sequel to one of the most popular FPS's of the past decade... With World at War, Treyarch certainly did their level best to go one better than their Infinity Ward brethren, throwing in top-notch graphics, an impressive voice cast (Kiefer Sutherland and Gary Oldman, no less) ...

10,000 B.C. (DVD) 05/04/2010

Cliched, overblow and just plain silly

10,000 B.C. (DVD) It's no secret that Roland Emmerich isn't exactly a purveyor of high cinematic art, with his previous `achievements' including Independence Day, Godzilla and The Day After Tomorrow. In recent years however he's taken his parade of mediocrity into new territory with the release of 10,000 BC - a prehistoric epic about one man's quest to be reunited with his kidnapped lover after she's stolen away by evil Egyptians. At least, I think they're Egyptians. Frankly, it's hard to tell since nothing about this film makes much sense, least of all the plot. There's some kind of spiritual pap included about the main character being the Chosen One who will free his people and overthrow an evil god who has enslaved humanity, but it's all smothered in so much clichéd dialogue and cheesy special effects that it's just impossible to take seriously. There are so many ludicrous moments in this story, it's hard to know where to begin. Running through the African plains one day (yes, the main character manages to WALK from the Arctic Circle to Africa in a matter of days), our hero D'Leh falls into a pit trap because... well, it just happens to be there. Rather than get impaled on one of the countless spikes at the bottom, he falls unconscious and wakes up a few hours later with rain water sluicing down on him. Nearby, a ridiculously huge sabre toothed tiger lies trapped under a pile of tree branches (how it managed this is never explained) and is about to be drowned by the rising water. ...

George Foreman 10099 Family Health Grill 01/04/2010

It's good to grill

George Foreman 10099 Family Health Grill This was my first real experience with health grills, and overall I'd have to say I'm quite impressed. The grilling area heats up quickly and is big enough to fit five or six decent sized burgers on, making it a handy backup if you've invited all your friends over for a BBQ but the weather isn't cooperating. The overall unit feels solid and durable. No rattles or wobbles anywhere. The controls are simple and easy to use. A simple on/off button, a temperature control and a digital timer provides a handy means of controlling the unit without having to stand over it. Still, for best results you'll want to keep an eye on things, since grilling meat is more a matter of judgement than following strict timetables. My only real criticism is the temperature control, which seems unusually delicate and unresponsive, as if it doesn't really do anything. Maybe if the temperature control was integrated into the digital display, it would be better. The grilling pad is also a bit of a pain to clean even with the scraping tool supplied, but I suppose that gripe applies to any grill of this kind. Take my advice and soak it in warm soapy water straight after use - if you wait until the grease has congealed, you'll be in for a long night. Apart from that... well, it's a grill - what more can I say? I'll make those Sunday morning fry-ups a little less dangerous, and if you enjoy well cooked food that's relatively healthy, then you could do a lot worse than go for this. ...

Frost/Nixon (DVD) 25/03/2010

Compelling drama

Frost/Nixon (DVD) You know, Richard Nixon has always been something of a mystery to me. Coming from a generation that never experienced Watergate and the resulting political fallout first hand, certain aspects of this enigmatic man were lost on me. What little I knew of him came via his less-than-flattering public image - a sullen, aloof and paranoid loner, mooching around the White House with unshaven jowls and a sweaty brow as he imagined his enemies plotting to derail his road to greatness. Thus, I came into Frost/Nixon as a bit of a blank slate, and in many ways, I'm glad I did. In 1974, in the wake of the Watergate scandal and threats of impeachment, Richard Nixon becomes the first and only President in US history to resign while still in office. Absolved of all wrong-doing by his successor Gerald Ford, he retires to a life of virtual obscurity on the West Coast. But the wilderness doesn't sit well with the former President, and he soon begins a public relations comeback effort. In steps David Frost, a lightweight but massively ambitious British talk show host notorious for his playboy lifestyle, who manages to hammer together a deal to interview Nixon about his life, his Presidency and, most importantly, about Watergate. Believing Frost to be a lightweight on the political stage rather than a serious investigative journalist, and seening an opportunity to rebuild his reputation, Nixon agrees. What follows is a verbal and intellectual battle between the two men as they ...

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PS3) 24/03/2010

The best of its kind - awesome

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PS3) Modern Warfare 2 is quite simply the greatest first person shooter ever made. There, I said it. And I said it without reservation or a trace of doubt. Normally I hate when people gush all over a game just because it's new and popular, but in this case, I can't help it. No matter which point of view you look at it from, whether it be sound, graphics, gameplay, storyline, characters or multiplayer options, Modern Warfare 2 is a triumph of gaming. It's no secret that the first Modern Warfare was an excellent game, reinvigorating what had become a tired series of WW2 shooters and turning it into something that was both relevant and compelling. It didn't hurt that its multiplayer mode was one of the most balanced, imaginative and addictive experiences in years. The task of trying to follow this up with something that not only equalled it, but surpassed it in terms of quality was nothing short of Herculean. But they did. Modern Warfare 2 is set several years after the events of the first game. Despite your best efforts, ultranationalists have seized power in Russia and have elevated Imran Zakhaev (the baddy of Modern Warfare) to hero status. A brutal attack on a Russian airport frames America for the crime, resulting in both countries coming to blows. Before the world degenerates into WW3, it's up to you and the other members of an elite multinational counter-terrorist force to find the guy responsible and lay the smackdown on him. It's a fairly simple setup, but ...

Frankie and Bennys 24/03/2010

Decent food at a decent price

Frankie and Bennys Menu – Italian American food – pasta, burgers, sandwiches Appearance – Welcoming. Obviously it’s Italian American themed, so the walls are wood panelled and covered with old black and white pictures of famous Italians. Period music also plays for atmosphere. Most places have an open kitchen which is a nice touch. Service – Usually pretty good. Waiters are polite and helpful, though a few I’ve encountered didn’t seem to swing by very often to ask about drinks or bills, leaving me to go to the counter and ask for someone to come round. Food – As with the decor, Italian food features prominently. Plenty of pasta, bread and sandwiches. On the American side, you’ve got burgers and BBQ ribs galore. The food I’ve had has all been tasty and well prepared. Sandwiches and burgers are all generously proportioned, and come with the usual assortment of coleslaw, fries and dipping sauces. The steak was a little overdone for my taste, but well seasoned. The risotto was a surprise – very creamy, bags of flavour and cooked to perfection. Being Italian, it’s also quite vegetarian friendly, which is always a plus when you’re wife is vegetarian, pregnant and very hungry! Overall – As with most chain restaurants, there are no big surprises. Good tasty food that won’t blow your mind, but also won’t blow a hole in your bank balance. 8/10. ...

Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Edinburgh 24/03/2010

Great burgers, but they come at a price

Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Edinburgh Menu – Burgers, obviously. Location – West end of George Street, Edinburgh. Appearance – Modern. The outside is chrome and plate glass windows. The inside is minimalist, very little decoration. The restaurant is very long in proportion to its width, which creates the impression of being small and intimate when it’s actually quite spacious. Service – Efficient. You’re given a menu when you sit down, but you order at the bar. The food doesn’t take long to arrive. Food – Obviously it all comes down to the burgers. There’s plenty to choose from on the menu, and you can customise your burger with extra ingredients to suit your tastes. The meat is thick and tasty, far removed from anything you’ll get in the fast food outlets. Each burger comes on a toasted bun, with salad and mayo as standard, and a glass bottle of Heinz ketchup – always good. Most of them tend to be heavy on cheese and sauce, so eating them can be a precarious business. The only down side is that you have to pay extra for chips. When you consider that most of their burgers are in the £8 – 10 range, plus drinks, you could be talking a fairly expensive meal. Overall – Great food. Slightly expensive but worth it. 9/10. ...

The Lost Symbol - Dan Brown 23/10/2009

Excellent, page-turning mystery thriller

The Lost Symbol - Dan Brown The world went crazy for The DaVinci Code a few years back. For a few months, water coolers were alive with talk of the Holy Grail, Rose Lines and hidden symbolism. But with mass appeal comes the inevitable backlash from self-proclaimed literary experts spouting accusations of poor writing, flimsy characterization and falsified research. Then, suddenly, everyone who had pretended they loved and understood Dan Brown’s work now had to pretend they hated it, because God forbid people would actually form their own opinions about books instead of following the group consensus like a flock of marginally self-aware sheep. Anyway, the upshot is that these days, proclaiming yourself a fan of Dan Brown generally renders you about as popular as Osama Bin Laden dressed in a Nazi stormtrooper uniform. The Lost Symbol, Brown’s latest entry in the Robert Langdon series, therefore had a bit of a mountain to climb if it was going to win back public approval. The book kicks off in Washington DC. Robert Langdon has been invited by his old friend Peter Solomon, a 33rd Degree Master Freemason, to deliver a lecture in the Capitol Building. But all is not as it seems, and Langdon soon learns that the invitation was a ruse, that someone has taken Peter hostage, and will only release him if Langdon can find and decipher a mysterious pyramid hidden by the Freemasons long ago. The pyramid is said to point the way to a treasure powerful enough to change the world. Accompanying Langdon is Peter’s ...

Indiana Jones - Raiders Of The Lost Ark 21/10/2009

An absolute treasure

Indiana Jones - Raiders Of The Lost Ark Raiders of the Lost Ark is quite simply the best adventure movie ever made. To properly explain why this is, I’ll need to take you back in time for a bit of a history lesson. In the 1930’s and 40’s, adventure serials were all the rage. America was in love with the notion of intrepid adventurers fighting their way through steaming jungles, trap-ridden tombs and hordes of evil enemies in search of priceless treasures. In many ways, such stories harkened back to even older fantasy legends of sword-wielding heroes exploring lost dungeons, fighting dragons and evil wizards – they dealt with the classic theme of a person on a quest, a journey, forced to overcome many obstacles to reach their goal. Still, all things change. By the 1950’s, Cold War paranoia began to bite and the adventure story fell by the wayside, replaced by monster, science fiction and disaster movies. Gradually cinema audiences forgot about them. But one person who didn’t forget was a young writer named George Lucas. He had been wanting to make an adventure story for a long time, and in 1973 he wrote The Adventures of Indiana Smith. It was a rough draft to be sure, but it was a beginning. Four years later he happened to discuss his ideas with Steven Spielberg, who loved it and eventually signed on to direct. Thus, in 1980 the world was finally treated to Raiders of the Lost Ark. The film begins with arguably the greatest intro of all time. It’s 1936 and Indiana Jones, armed with his iconic fedora ...

Voyager - Diana Gabaldon 20/10/2009

Jumps the shark

Voyager - Diana Gabaldon You know, I once courted a comely, fair-haired maiden named Outlander. She was fun to be with, a little verbose at times and prone to doing silly things if she wasn't carefully managed, but overall we had a good relationship. But times change and people change with them. Now here we are a few years down the line, and she's gained fifty pounds, pushed out several increasingly ugly and ill-tempered children, and spends her days rambling endlessly about things I have no interest in. And so I sit now in a corner, between bouts of drinking and quiet sobbing, wondering where it all went wrong. Well, I can tell you exactly where it all went wrong - right here, in Voyager. Problems begin almost immediately with the revelation that Jamie hadn't died at the climactic Battle of Culloden, but had in fact spent twenty-odd years as a prisoner and a fugitive before eventually piecing the shattered fragments of his life back together and moving on. But of course, such peace and prosperity can't last long, and in steps Claire, ready to tear everything to shreds once more. Soon the dynamic duo are back together, and busy fending off pirates, crocodiles, zombies, witch doctors and vengeful enemies from the past while journeying half way around the world to pre-Revolutionary America to rescue Jamie's captive relative. I only wish I was making this stuff up. Now, I have nothing against continuing storylines using familiar characters, or reuniting long-lost friends and enemies ...

A Breath of Snow and Ashes - Diana Gabaldon 20/10/2009

Now is the winter of our discontent

A Breath of Snow and Ashes - Diana Gabaldon Traditionally my reviews of Gabaldon books tend to be long, wordy affairs analysing in depth their plot, dramatic strengths and weaknesses, while interspersing my observations with colourful metaphors and amusing remarks. Not so in this case, partly because I'm aware of the inherent irony of using long reviews to criticise books for being longwinded, but mainly because every precious second of my life I waste thinking or talking about this God-awful book is time that I'll never be able to get back. Yes, I've finally finished A Breath of Snow and Ashes. It took a lot of painful slogging, blood and tears, but it's done, and I never want to speak about it again. What? You want to hear about it? Oh, all right then, but frankly I don't know where to begin - I feel like a Capri Sun with all the juice sucked out of it. This book has simply drained me - intellectually, emotionally and physically. Okay, breathe... Right, the year is 1773 and the fires of unrest and Revolution are springing up all across Colonial America. Claire, Jamie and co are still struggling to survive on Fraser's Ridge, while at the same time dealing with political intrigue, betrayal, war, violence, rape and kidnapping. As usual. That's about as deep as I care to go with this one. If I was to try to accurately convey the full scale of this book's plot, I'd probably exceed the Amazon word limit four or five times over. Part of the problem with ABOSAA is the ridiculous, melodramatic, ...

Drums of Autumn - Diana Gabaldon 20/10/2009

Slipping fast

Drums of Autumn - Diana Gabaldon The Outlander series and I have a bit of a love/hate relationship, much like the relationship between an obsessive-compulsive eater and McDonalds - I know it's bad for me but I feel oddly compelled to keep going there. On the one hand, I admire the spirit of what it's trying to accomplish and genuinely appreciate when it gets things right, as is the case with Cross Stitch and Dragonfly in Amber. However, as my review of The Fiery Cross proved, I find myself increasingly disgruntled with their bloated length, rambling plots and unlikeable characters. Thus, it was with some trepidation that I started on this instalment. Weighing in at a hefty 1200 pages, Drums of Autumn certainly ticks my first box of annoyance. Still, it breaks with the traditional Outlander formula in that it divides its story more or less equally between Claire and Jamie in the past, and her daughter Brianna and Roger in the 1970's. Brianna has made a disturbing discovery about her parents and resolves to journey into the past to protect them, while Roger also learns the truth and soon sets out in pursuit of Brianna, Benny Hill style. Meanwhile, Claire and Jamie have decided to make a new life for themselves in colonial America, presumably because there was nothing interesting left for the author to write about in post-Culloden Scotland. God forbid they would choose to live somewhere that isn't teetering on the brink of rebellion and war. This two-pronged approach to the story is quite effective as ...

WWE - The Self-Destruction Of The Ultimate Warrior (DVD) 19/10/2009

Car crash TV - Exploitative, manipulative and totally compelling

WWE - The Self-Destruction Of The Ultimate Warrior (DVD) The Ultimate Warrior is one of the true enigmas of wrestling. With his wild hair, huge muscular physique, frenetic ring entrances and high impact wrestling style, he was the ultimate example of Vince McMahon's vision for professional wrestling. His rise to fame in the late 80's was meteoric, and by 1991 he had won WWE's world heavyweight championship from the iconic Hulk Hogan. In the same way Hogan had taken the torch from Andre the Giant, so the Ultimate Warrior was to carry it through the 90's and perhaps beyond. However, Warrior's career was mired in controversy, from back-stage arguments to contractual disputes, legal actions, steroid abuse and personality clashes. The WWE hired and fired him no less than three times, each time trying to recapture the magic of his first run, before they parted ways in 1996. He surfaced again two years later for a brief stint in rival organisation WCW before finally calling it a day and retiring. As is common practice for retired wrestlers, WWE has put together a documentary charting his career. Normally such things tend to be a bit of a love fest, with past and present wrestlers and industry insiders gushing about how great the guy was to work with and how much he achieved in the ring. But with ongoing bad blood and Warrior refusing to participate in the DVD, it was obvious that this one was going to be something a bit different. And here we have it - The Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior. What's interesting about this ...
See more reviews Back to top