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since 22/05/2009


Day Of The Dead (DVD) 04/07/2009

The Dead Will Have Their Day!

Day Of The Dead (DVD) I was a big fan of Romero's 1978 zombie classic 'Dawn of the Dead' so was expecting to enjoy this when I first settled down to watch it several years ago. In all honesty, I threw up after I'd seen it and felt thoroughly depressed. Why, you might ask, have I then rated it as excellent? Well, I'm nothing if not a trooper. Undaunted by nausea, I decided the film deserved a second viewing. I can't say how glad I am that I usually give things a second chance. The film had changed drastically in my eyes. (Though I was still squinting a bit when zombies ripped out entrails with gay abandon). The film takes place some time after the zombie plague described in 'Dawn of the Dead'. The human population we see has been reduced to a small group of soldiers and scientists bunkered down together in an underground storage facility in Florida. The scientists are desperately working on some method of eliminating the zombie plague or controlling it; the soldiers have lost all patience with scientific endeavour and seem more intent on eliminating the scientists themselves. The soldiers are led by the brutish Captain Rhodes who has newly assumed leadership when we join the events of the film. The scientists are nominally led by Dr. Logan, known behind his back as Dr. Frankenstein, a title freakishly apt when we see what exactly he's been doing in his laboratory. The main characters of the story are Sarah, a focused, strong-minded research scientist, and John, the stereo-typically ...

Burt's Bees Milk & Honey Body Lotion 14/06/2009

Oh, for a land of Milk and Honey (Body Lotion)...

Burt's Bees Milk & Honey Body Lotion My Burt's Bees Milk and Honey Lotion is in a slightly different bottle from the one pictured- the bottle itself is yellow plastic with a white lid (the sort you press down on one edge to raise an opening), with a pale yellow label, red and black lettering and a picture of a cow on the front. It is 8 fl. oz. (236 ml) and 98.25% natural. It is not tested on animals. The bottle contains 90% post-consumer recycled material and can be recylced again with #2 plastics (that came from the blurb on the bottle by the way, I have very little idea what any of it actually means but I think it's good). I paid exactly £12 for this from an upmarket gift shop and I think that's around what it costs if you buy it directly from the website. Here is a list of the ingredients as they appear on the label: water, sunflower oil, vegetable glycerin, coconut oil, stearic acid (vegetable fat), beeswax, fragrance, glucose (sugar), xanthan gum (natural thickener), tocopherol (vitamin E), orange wax, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, sucrose stearate (sugar emulsifier), sodium borate (natural borax), honey, milk powder, beta carotene & vegetable oil, rosemary leaf oil, glucose oxidase & lactoperoxidase (natural preservative). The lotion is paraben free and phthalate free. The lotion itself is quite liquid and creamy; a very pale yellow in colour that is sort of reminiscent of the Taylor's English mustard I remember when I was young. It rubs in very easily to skin and absorbs quickly without much of ...

The Fog (DVD) 14/06/2009

Perhaps it's time to leave town?

The Fog (DVD) 'The Fog' is a 1979 horror film directed by John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing, Assault on Precint 13, Starman). It stars Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, John Houseman, Janet Leigh and Hal Halbrook. It begins with a eerie story told around a campfire by an old and grizzled sailor to a group of young children. The story is of a ship, the Elizabeth Dane, which sank a hundred years ago just off their small Californian town, Antonio Bay. As the film begins the town is just getting ready to celebrate its centennial year, but spooky things are happening in the Bay and Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) has just discovered a rather unsavoury secret about the towns forefathers that puts a grisly spin on the festivities... This film suffers a bit from splitting the main action between two heroines. Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau) is the owner of a radio station and mother of a young son Andy (Ty Mitchell). She hosts the station's nighttime show and is witness to a mysterious glowing fog that appears to have a life of its own. As this fog rumbles in she is completely cut off from the rest of the town, including her son. Elizabeth Solley (Jamie Lee Curtis) is a young hitchhiker drawn into the strange events of the town by a chance encounter with Nick Castle (Tom Atkins) and in the climax of the film joins some of the town's key characters as they try to shelter in the church. The film has some genuinely scary moments and an unsettling concept- that murderous figures travel ...

The World At War (Box Set) (DVD) 13/06/2009

Superb documentary that has never been rivalled

The World At War (Box Set) (DVD) The World at War was first broadcast in 1973 and ever since then has stood as the benchmark for Second World War documentaries. Composed of archive footage (mostly black and white) and interviews with some of the eyewitnesses from both sides of the conflict, it avoids the annoying modern trend in documentaries of repetition and pointless and/or endless reconstructions that cannot capture meaning or emotion. It will never be bettered in the sense that it was made at a time when enough people were alive and well enough to be interviewed about events. It is also narrated by the excellent Oscar-winning Laurence Olivier, whose sparse narration has just the right level of sombre gravitas to provide a fitting frame for the events the documentary relates. It's a very thorough, comprehensive series. There are twenty-six original episodes and this box set also includes eight special presentations and a three hour 30th Anniversary disc with includes previously unseen interviews and retrospective interviews with the original production team. This is a breakdown of the eleven discs of the boxset: Part One Disc One (204 mins approx) The Making of the Series- filmed shortly after completion of the series, the story of the production process. A New Germany: 1933-1939: Hitler's rise to power. Distant War: September 1939- May 1940: The 'Phoney War' period in Britain. France Falls: May-June 1940: France, unprepared for modern warfare, succumbs to Nazis. Disc Two (209 ...

In the Heart of the Sea: The Epic True Story That Inspired "Moby Dick" - Nathaniel Philbrick 06/06/2009

Excellent gripping account

In the Heart of the Sea: The Epic True Story That Inspired "Moby Dick" - Nathaniel Philbrick 'In the Heart of the Sea' (2001) is a gripping, harrowing, non-fiction account of the whaleship the Essex, sunk in 1820 in the South Pacific by a huge sperm whale. It was the inspiration for Herman Melville's 'Moby Dick'. I have always had a weakness for historical non-fiction which deals with the exploration of the sea, shipwrecks, real-life Robinson Cruesoes or perilous voyages, so this account, which to some extent deals with all the above, appealed to me deeply. However, in my opinion this work is set apart from others in the same literary cannon by the high standard of research that went into it and the intelligent way it is recounted. I have to admit that I was so hooked by it that I read it in one sitting, testament to the compelling subject matter and fluid, readable style of prose. It begins with an eerie preface, describing what the crew of the whaleship Dauphin found as they sailed their way up the Chilean coast, and then backtracks by a look at the home of the Essex, Nantucket. In one chapter Philbrick provides a brief history of the island and its connection with the whaling industry, providing along the way a sense of the resilience of the islanders. It also places the events into some historical context, useful for those readers with little idea about the time of the events. The interesting way this introduction is written means that I was not impatient to get through it to the 'story', but became genuinely caught up in what Philbrick was writing. ...

Witness (DVD) 06/06/2009

Gripping, Compelling and Haunting

Witness (DVD) 'Witness' (1985) is a film directed by Peter Weir (Dead Poets Society, The Truman Show) that manages to be both a gripping thriller, a slow-burning romance, and an intelligent foray into religious beliefs and tolerance. Rachel Lapp (Kelly McGillis) is a young Amish widow attempting a visit to her sister with her young son Samuel (Lukas Haas) in tow. Delayed at a train station, Samuel accidentally witnesses the murder of a cop. Reluctantly the Amish pair are drawn into the modern 'English' world of which they want no part as Samuel is required to identify the murderers. Part and parcel of this modern world is the streetwise detective John Book (Harrison Ford) whose casual approach to all the things that horrify Rachel illustrates the gulf between their two cultures. As the film goes on Book is in turn reluctantly immersed in the Amish world. Through his eyes the audience begins to learn more about the Amish way of life: their beliefs, their moral convictions about right and wrong, their forbearance in the face of outsider's curiosity and insults, and, most touchingly, their strong sense of community. A tentative romance begins to burn between Rachel and Book, hampered by the gulf that still lies between the two very different lives they are used to leading. The climax of the film is Book's violent world crashing into the calm peace of the Amish in a tense showdown. The film is stylistically very similar to Weir's later film 'Dead Poets Society' (1989) and also ...

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Bronte 01/06/2009

The lesser-known Bronte sparkles

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Bronte When I first decided to read 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall', I wasn't expecting much. I had already read Anne's first novel, 'Agnes Grey' and quite frankly hadn't been impressed, especially when compared to the intellectual might of her sister Charlotte (Jane Eyre, Villette, Shirley, The Professor) or the passion of Emily (Wuthering Heights, more poetry than you could shake a stick at). I had decided internally that Anne must be the inferior writer of the family and only really published so she could keep up the family hobby, so to speak. Which just goes to show how wrong I can be. The novel is written in the form of letters and diary entries. It begins with Gilbert Markham writing to the husband of his sister offering to recount the events of twenty years ago, when the mysterious widow Helen Graham arrived to live in the hall of the title with her young son Arthur. The form of the letter is fairly quickly forgotten (until the end of the novel) and becomes to all intents and purposes just a device wherby the reader is treated to Gilbert's first person narrative. Through his eyes the reader experiences the first early encounters between Gilbert and Helen and their inintial aversion, how despite himself Gilbert becomes infatuated with the private, strong-minded Helen, and witnesses the gradual softening of Helen to his advances. Of course the path of true love never does run softly and it has been obvious from the beginning that Helen has a secret. The reader's curiosity is ...

Bringing Up Baby (DVD) 31/05/2009

Classic screwball comedy

Bringing Up Baby (DVD) 'When a man is wrestling a leopard in the middle of a pond, he's in no position to run'. How true. Incidentally, I also find a stroll rather cold without a gun, but let's leave personal habits out of this review. If you've never seen Bringing Up Baby it's likely I've just confused you no end. And possibly scared you. But those who have seen this inimitable 1938 gem and treasure it know that it is literally full of quotable lines and pricelessly hilarious scenes, and will presumably forgive me the indulgence of utilising a couple of favourites for the purposes of this review. Quite simply this is a timeless screwball classic which zips along merrily and never lingers too long for the humour to get stale. Both leads give excellent performaces. Cary Grant plays the put-upon bewildered professor with just the right balance between stoicism and exasperation. Katharine Hepburn is the fast-talking, cheerfully eccentric society girl who collides into all his carefully laid plans. Personally I find enjoyment in the knowledge that Cary Grant was reputedly petrified of the leopard- watch for the expression of speculative worry in his eyes whenever it comes near him. I also like the animatronic leopard the studio briefly used in a scene (presumably when the real leopard either wouldn't sit still or got a little chewy)- it's so wholly unconvincing I think Grant and Hepburn deserve huge kudos for keeping their faces straight. The only thing that slightly niggles me about this ...

BeneFit Playsticks 30/05/2009

Make-up in a hurry

BeneFit Playsticks I've been relying on this product for the past three years or so and can honestly say that it's not just because I'm too lazy to hunt out an alternative. Of the others I've tested I have never found a concealer/foundation that gives as good a coverage or matches the convenience of this twist up stick. I literally just throw this in my bag and let it fend for itself in the inevitable chaos in there and it always comes out fine which is a testament to the sturdy construction of this little stick. It comes in nine shades, of which I use 'Jax' because it's the best match for my pale skin. It is slightly pricey for such a small thing, but I've found in the past that one Playstick, applied everyday, can last up to six months so I feel it is a good investment. On the whole the coverage is excellent and can be built up or down as you wish, but occasionally it can look a little powdery so on those days I blend it with a very small amount of moisturiser on my face. Overall, the Playstick has been invaluable to the preservation of my sanity and, perhaps more importantly, my bags. ...

Dawn Of The Dead (DVD) 27/05/2009

Zombie Heaven, Shopping Hell

Dawn Of The Dead (DVD) If you find yourself grinding your teeth while shopping as seemingly endless hordes of mindless, gormless shoppers drift aimlessly in your way and dither in the aisles, you may want to stop, remind yourself of this seventies classic and thank your lucky stars that however annoying these shoppers may be, they have as yet expressed no inclination to eat you. Dawn of the Dead is always going to hold a special place in my heart, and not just because it keeps things in perspective for me when the entire human race seems intent on throwing themselves into my path and lingering there with intent. I first saw it when I was a kid and it's been in my conciousness ever since. It's the winning combination of eerily cheerful music, black humour, sharp social commentary, and the best collection of individualistic zombies ever committed to film. Some modern opinion will always criticise this film for its grainy amateur appearance and cast, but I am of the opinion that this is part of what makes this film so special, part of why it can get under your skin and linger in the memory so long. In a sea of recent CGI-riddled horror productions that are here today, forgotten tommorow, a film that has clearly been lovingly hand-crafted has shambled through the test of time and eaten the competition. Priceless. ...
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