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Reviews written

since 11/11/2000

110

Formula 1 2000 - World Championship Review (DVD) 16/10/2001

Not A Great Season Not A Great DVD

Formula 1 2000 - World Championship Review (DVD) With the 2001 Formula One season having drawn to a close, petrolheads like myself are forced to look for other means of getting our F1 fix. For the first time, the season review of Formula One has been released on DVD, allowing for a far more extensive season guide than has been produced before. In raw terms the difference is noticeable immediately - the VHS season guides typical feature around two hours of footage; the 2000 season DVD has 255 minutes of digital material. Each race can be viewed independently from the main 'Super' channel, incorporating track views, on-board cameras (OBC) and shots from the pitlane. Alternatively, the interactive feature allows you to flick between shots either from the main 'Super' channel or from an alternative trackside view, an OBC, the pits or the data stream. It's a great concept but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The menu system is very confusing, forcing you to begin by selecting either the interactive or continuous method of viewing. But this screen blends away to the next menu before you get a chance to select an option, leaving only the outline of the previous menu and no way of telling which option you are choosing. A scene guide for each race is provided but it doesn't seem to work - you very rarely receive the shot you want having chosen it. When moving between scenes as you watch the race you are forced to watch the 'Super' footage before moving onto the next scene, instead of being allowed to flick back ...

Swordfish (DVD) 15/09/2001

Gratuitous

Swordfish (DVD) Sometimes a single word can adequately sum up every aspect of particular film, and “gratuitous” fits the bill perfectly in the case of Swordfish. It oozes visual decadence, a heady blend of sexuality, a slick storyline and immensely stylish presentation. You can’t help but like it. The plot is a roughly chopped cyber-crime / terrorism mix – Hugh Jackman is cast as a previously imprisoned hacking genius, dug up by ice-cold semi-philosophising terrorist John Travolta, aided by the partially clad Halle Berry. What results is a large quantity of fairly unsurprising action sequences and some more eyebrow-raising plot twists. The film screams, “From The Producers Of The Matrix,” at you in more ways than one. Not only is it actually emblazoned across the various Swordfish adverts, but within fifteen minutes of the highly gripping introduction we are treated to the oh-so-impressive ‘bullet time’ effect made famous by the 2000 blockbuster. Focussing this time on a bomb blast rather than a few rounds of fire, the action slows to a crawl as the camera whips around 360 degrees in the much-celebrated fashion. Almost as deeply satisfying as it was the first time. From the tense high of the tightly scripted introduction the film falters slightly, the tempo dropping noticeably to accommodate the flashback narrative, especially in the lethargic first meeting of Jackman and Berry. When Travolta steps in things truly pick up – he ...

Ralf Schumacher 09/09/2001

Not The 2002 World Champion

Ralf Schumacher There are two reasons why Ralf Schumacher will not win the Formula One Driver’s Title in 2002. The reasons are Michael Schumacher and Juan-Pablo Montoya. Put quite simply, I do not believe Ralf Schumacher is fast, tough or clever enough to defeat them. The indications throughout Ralf’s debut season in 1997 for Jordan Mugen-Honda were that he was not capable of attaining the same astonishing performance levels as his brother. Certainly he lacked his brother’s ability to adapt to Formula One driving extremely quickly: while Michael won his first Grand Prix within 17 races (Belgium 1992), Ralf was still being outclassed by his almost equally inexperienced team mate Giancarlo Fisichella by the end of 1997. The other, more conventional, barometer of Ralf’s ability is his podium finish at the 1997 Argentine Grand Prix, but this is misleading. High attrition played a major role, as did Ralf’s attack on Fisichella, punting his team mate out of the race on lap 25. Fisichella made his superiority clear with an excellent drive ending in unfortunate retirement in Germany, plus a fine second in the drenched Belgian Grand Prix. Ralf, meanwhile, inadvertently came close to destroying his brother’s title chances by causing a pile-up at the European Grand Prix, and finished 12th in the championship with 13 points to Fisichella’s ninth place with 20. Ralf remained at Jordan to be joined by 1996 champion Damon Hill, though the ...

The Sun 31/08/2001

Appealing To The Lowest Common Denominator

The Sun Why do people read newspapers? Newspapers, one would expect, are supposed to be a source of news - i.e. information pertinent to the wider world in which we live. Broadly speaking, we expect several basic items from a newspaper – reporting of important events domestically, internationally or locally; analysis of current events within relevant contexts; and editorial perspectives and opinions. That, basically is what a newspaper should contain. So why do people read them? We read them primarily to become informed so that we might form opinions, thoughts, ideas and political stances. Journalism can never be objective, but we expect there to be at least some attempt to uncover factual detail surrounding whatever is deemed newsworthy. The final phrase – “deemed newsworthy” – is crucial to both the question posed and the wider issue of what is wrong with The Sun (that being the focus of this opinion, if it were not plain enough from the title). Exactly what constitutes news, and how far does this have a bearing on what makes newspapers sell? What might be deemed newsworthy can vary immensely from person to person, but the exceptionally high sales figures of The Sun suggest strongly that their view of what constitutes news is shared by more people throughout Great Britain than any other newspaper. And herein lies the problem. The Sun, as many writers in this category have remarked upon, actually contains very little that can be ...

Sky News Interactive 30/08/2001

News Is Not Their Strong Point

Sky News Interactive The chief problem with Sky’s own 24-hour news channel is the distinct lack of news. In each 30-minute news programme, only around half is given to news items. Given the time taken up by the quarter-hourly advert breaks, each news programme ends up with little more than 10 minutes of news, hardly good enough for a 24-hour news station. The actual quality of journalism is disappointing when compared to the opposition. Many of the on-location journalists come across as distinctly amateurish and bring little real insight and depth to the coverage, leaving you anxious to flip across to BBC News 24 to find more enlightening information. Live interviews often descend into pointless, unhelpful squabbles, the producers of the programme apparently unable to grasp that news programmes such as theirs are there to report the news, not debate it. Sky are beginning to make greater use of the possibilities of digital TV than their rivals, as you would expect them to. The interactive feature is handy for providing an instant glimpse across the headlines, at the lead story, at the weather, and at another area of interest such as showbusiness. The narrative bar along the bottom of the screen during the normal news programmes, as seen on other satellite (but not terrestrial) news channels, is handy for following news items when, for whatever reason, you cannot hear the television (which is often in a busy living room). I find the scheduling of programmes on Sky News to be ...

Williams 24/08/2001

The Masters Of Victory

Williams The first thing that anyone who knows sod-all about Formula One will tell you about the sport is that Ferrari are the greatest team ever to grace the tarmac. Not so. That accolade belongs, quite clearly, to Williams. Let's begin by getting the rather crude statistics of the matter straight. Up to the end of 2001, Williams have participated in 23 seasons (beginning 1978), McLaren 35 (beginning 1966) and Ferrari all 51. Respectively, they have taken the following driver's and constructor's titles: Williams 7 and 9, McLaren 11 and 8, Ferrari 11 of each. Therefore it can be seen that Williams have won 30.4% of driver's titles available to them, and 39.1% of potential constructor's titles. McLaren have 31.4% and 22.8%, and Ferrari have won 21.5% of each title. Interestingly, other measures show that, while Williams lead the way in constructor's title victories, McLaren have a slight edge in terms of individual race victories and points scores. Percentage of Grands Prix victories (Correct to end of 2000): McLaren: 130 wins from 509 races = 25.5% win ratio Williams: 103 wins from 428 races = 24% win ratio Ferrari: 135 wins from 636 races = 21.2% win ratio Average points scored* per race (Correct to end of 2000): McLaren: 2481.5pts from 509 races = 4.88pts per race Williams: 2031.5pts from 428 races = 4.74pts per race Ferrari: 2513.5pts from 636 races = 3.95pts per race [*When considering average points scored the variation in points systems over the ...

Kimi Raikkonen 23/08/2001

Is The Hype Justified

Kimi Raikkonen The comparison between Kimi Raikkonen's arrival at Sauber in 2001 and Jenson Button's drive for Williams in 2000 is quite a valid one. Both are relatively young drivers who have arrived in Formula One bypassing the conventional route through F3000 - Button drove only a handful of F3 races, Raikkonen 10 rounds of Formula Renault. Both arrived as something of a surprise - Button got his seat after Alessandro Zanardi's abrupt decision not to contest the 2000 F1 season, Raikkonen elevated to Sauber after both Pedro Diniz and Mika Salo left at the end of 2000. And, interestingly, both have been tipped as future world champions, along with which comes the inevitable comparison with the great Ayrton Senna. But is this any more justified for Raikkonen this year as for Button in 2000, who in 2001 is clearly struggling with the ghastly Benetton? Firstly Raikkonen's background: He karted extensively from 1988 to 1999, enjoying some high-profile successes in the latter part of his karting career*. His Formula Renault CV is quite astonishing - 1999 winter series champion winning all four rounds and 2000 champion despite only contesting 10 of the events, winning seven. It was this impressive record in single-seater racing that attracted Raikkonen to Peter Sauber at the end of 2000 when Sauber was seeking to bring new life into his team with two fairly inexperienced drivers. Raikkonen would be partnered by Prost refugee Nick Heidfeld. With one F1 season to his credit and the ...

Clockwork Orange (DVD) 20/08/2001

The Book Is Barely Better

Clockwork Orange (DVD) To say that the book is better is not reason enough to discourage you from seeing this film - it is very good, far better than anything released over the past twelve months and certainly worth renting. The notoriety of “A Clockwork Orange” is probably more than enough to reel potential viewers anyway, and while Stanley Kubrick’s film interpretation is not quite as fulfilling as the original Anthony Burgess novel it is not disappointing. Far from it - this is a gripping, shockingly magnificent film. The film was originally withheld from British screens by the director himself, distressed after a rape was committed mirroring one of the film’s more distressing scenes. Its’ reputation as a violent film is not undeserved, but it is worth pointing out that the bulk of the violence passes after the first 20 minutes - the ramifications of it are the real subject matter. And it is on this point that the film falls ever so slightly short of the book. Burgess’ message - that a person may choose evil, but cannot be forcibly prevented from doing so - is occasionally indistinct and only really becomes clearer in the final scenes. Book to film conversions often falter on the grounds that a person’s perception of how the world described in the book might appear in reality, but I personally thought that Kubrick’s interpretation was so bold and imaginatively stylised - given the restrictions of early 1970s special effects - that ...

Trouble 21/07/2001

Unfunny Garbage That No-One Wants

Trouble Trouble encapsulates everything that is perceived to be wrong with satellite television – cheap, unfulfilling entertainment that no-one is interested in, repeated far too often. Trouble really does plumb the depths of modern entertainment, scraping the barrel almost to the very bottom, only really superior to the so-bad-it’s-hilarious Men & Motors. The vast majority of programmes on Trouble are situation comedies, visibly created on a tight budget, lacking in imagination and often so similar it is difficult to tell when one has finished and another has begun. They more or less adhere to the same recipe: Ingredients (creates one half-hour show): One handful of unknown actors, preferably wooden and devoid of any talent Script pasted together from ridiculous situations and gut-wrenchingly obvious moralisation Humour: A mix of predictable punch lines and half-forgotten Simpsons jokes that aren’t funny any more A dash of girl-power sentiment, preferably delivered by the fattest female actor Random court scene 86 hours of canned laughter Garnish: One virtually unknown B-list American domestic celebrity, to cameo Method: 1. Roughly familiarise the actors with the script, but not long enough so that they become familiar with their characters. 2. Discard the humour. 3. Fold in the girl power. 4. Insert the court scene the second it becomes vaguely logical (or not, if the case may be) 5. Smother with canned laughter. 6. ...

Meet The Parents (DVD) 10/07/2001

Nothing Amazing, Just Good Fun

Meet The Parents (DVD) I haven't got any major complaint with this film at all, it's very funny but not in any way outstanding. Good to see once or rent once but not really worth buying. The film concerns the efforts of Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) to gain approval from his future fioncee's father (Robert De Niro), with the central comic twist being that her father is a former CIA agent who uses his extensive knowledge of psychological profiling, lie detecting and surveillance to investigate Greg for anything unpleasant. Greg, by a combination of incompetence and his attempts to impress the parents, causes a succession of dramatic catastrophes, eventually falling out of favour with the parents entirely. Most of the humour is drawn from Greg's attempts to fit in with the family, and tragic failure to do so. The confrontations with De Niro provide the film's high points, especially when his easy-going, laid-back exterior gives way to a harsher, more sinister and menacing side with which he intimidates Greg. Best of all, De Niro executes his characters' more naive moments brilliantly, reading appalling poetry to his deceased mother and failing to understand the subtle meaning behind "Puff The Magic Dragon." De Niro excels, Stiller is functional and occasionally very funny, but his girlfriend *** only irritates. Partly through her lines, partly through her stiff, inflexible demeanor, it's difficult to warm to her at all, making Greg's plight seem a little pointless. This aside, the ...

Formula 1 Circuit, Nurburgring, Europe 23/06/2001

Season Mid Point

Formula 1 Circuit, Nurburgring, Europe The concept of the "European Grand Prix," arose in 1983, to add another European round to a calendar that already features more races from our continent than all the others combined. With other, more exotic locations making strong claims for calendar slots - notably China and Russia - it may not be around for much longer. As it has been held almost exclusively at the German Nurburgring since 1995, its' claims to validity are already dubious at best. Few complain because the Nurburgring is a good circuit, which very often provides excellent races. It may not be a patch on the might 14-mile, 172-turn old Nurburgring circuit, but since its reintroduction after two sterile races in 1984 and 1985 the racing has been great. Michael Schumacher drove out of his skin to win in 1995, pretty much sealing his championship win in the process. Jacques Villeneuve took his first ever win in 1996, and followed it up with another in 1997 after the leading McLarens retired agonisingly from the lead due to Mercedes engine failure. Hakkinen had his revenge with a stunning drive to trounce both Ferraris in 1998, but he and fellow championship rival Eddie Irvine were made to look foolish by the wet-dry conditions in 1999, when Johnny Herbert took an opportunistic final win and first (and only) for the Stewart team. Schumacher finally took his maiden win in a fairly low-key 2000 race made processional by rain. Hakkinen again struggled for pace in the rain. Other rounds of the European ...

Air China - CCA 01/06/2001

How To Find God The Hard Way

Air China - CCA There has got to be a better of getting to China than this. Of the many dometic and international flights I have been on, Air China have been the worst carriers I have ever flown with. Last week I took two long-haul flights (10.5 hours each) and two internal flights (2 hours each) during which I found the conditions aboard the plane to be very poor and, most alarmingly, the standard of flight well below average. On a short flight from Beijing to Nanjing we were due to land in perfect conditions, yet for no apparent reason the pilot threw us onto the ground with a sickening thud as sparks flew up from the wings. I have been on planes landing in the middle of the night in pouring rain which have still been smooth. Whoever piloted that particular flight required a lot more practice. The long-haul flights were generally better, altough on my return the entertainment system was not working (better that than the undercarriage I suppose...). Airline food is rarely gourmet cuisine, but aboard Air China it is especially bad. The bread is sweet (God only knows why) and the drinks warm. You don't even get those lovely, hot, lemon-scented facecloths! Air China have one of the worst safety records for commercial flights in the world. If that's not enough to put you off, everything else should be.

Real Player 8 Basic 30/05/2001

Good But Not Perfect

Real Player 8 Basic Real Media (www.real.com) are responsible for some of the most useful and frequently used PC utilities, not the least of which is the video and audio playing utility Real Player. The 'Basic' release of Real Player 8 is available free of charge and is definitely worth getting even if there are a few problems with it. Most people who have used the Internet for a while will have already come across this programme as many video and audio sections on web sites are broadcast via Real Player. Real Player allows you to view downloaded clips of video or audio, streaming clips transmitted across the Internet and live broadcasts of radio stations or even interactive TV channels. The extent to which you will find Real Player useful depends largely on the bandwidth available to you. On my standard 56kbps connection at home I use Real Player only for viewing / listening to clips I have downloaded separately, or occasionally listening to streaming radio channels if the connection is good enough. Streaming video is not yet feasible over a 56kbps connection, at least not to any acceptable standard. When I come to university and plug in to my LAN connection, however, the difference is outstanding. Radio broadcasts are picked up with ease even from more remote parts of the world, never skipping to any noticeable extent. Streaming video is a little more vulnerable although I can watch the BBC news programmes (www.bbc.co.uk/news) very well in a quarter sized screen, usually with very ...

Damon Hill - Damon Hill 28/05/2001

The Final Verdict

Damon Hill - Damon Hill The son of twice World Champion Graham Hill, Damon's career lasted from 1992 to 1999 and yielded a Championship win in 1996, 22 Grand Prix victories, 21 pole positions and 360 points. Though this appears an impressive enough record from 115 starts, many have rightly claimed that the performance advantage he enjoyed at Williams from 1993-6 was largely responsible for his good fortunes. But how far is this true? Beginnings ----------- Hill's path to Formula One originated with an interest in motorbike racing, and only in 1983 did he try his hand at car racing. His early introduction to Formula Ford 2000 in 1983 was a touch over-optimistic and he struggled before stepping down to FF1600 the following year. In 1986 he began the first of three years in Formula Three, reaching third in the 1988 season. He then began three years of Formula 3000, with many impressive race-leading performance in 1990 which were invariably thwarted by mechanical failures. He made his Formula One debut for the Brabham team in 1992, a once-great marquee now deeply uncompetitive and in their death throes. He made his first appearance at the fourth round of the season in Spain, replacing the last female racing driver in Formula One - Giovanna Amati. Hill was the first of Brabham's drivers in 1992 to actually qualify the hopeless chassis, though this took until the ninth race of the season in Britain. He finished 16th, four laps behind winner Nigel Mansell in the Williams-Renault. The ...

Nurofen Caplets 27/05/2001

Completely Useless

Nurofen Caplets If you're suffering the minor symptoms of a cold, headache, stress or likewise, it's wise to aleviate your suffering by taking some pain-relief tablets. There are a huge variety available over-the-counter, and I strongly recommend you buy something other than Nurofen. The reason for this is simple - it doesn't work. I often get headaches when I forget to clean my glasses and give myself eyestrain, and usually a small dose of paracetemol relieves the tension in no time. I've tried Nurofen for this purpose a few times and it had never had any impact whatsoever. When using Nurofen to combat minor inflammations, such as swollen gums or toothache, again I have noticed no major benefit. Given the relatively high cost of these tablets I expected them to quite effective, but was very disappointed. What is worse is that Nurofen, like any other pain relief tablet, prevents you from being able to use certain other forms of medication, such as paracetemol, for four hours. Which means you have to endure the suffering of whatever symptoms you have for another four hours until you can take something that actually works. Perhaps Nurofen combats more mild pains with greater success, but anything more trivial than a headache really isn't worth bothering with. It may prove to be ideal for easing menstrual pains but not being female I can't offer any useful comments on that. If you do find Nurofen eases whatever pains you have then you'll certainly appreciate it's ...
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