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since 13/10/2005


The Orange Shop 04/10/2007

Seeing Red with Orange Shop Online

The Orange Shop I've been 'in the market' for a new mobile phone ever since, well, I read down the list of specifications on the Nokia N95; compared it against my trusty Nokia 2650 flip-phone and... Yeah, it was like comparing a Swiss Army Knife with a teaspoon. This was about three months ago and far from the craving fading with time, distance and the whole 'unlocked handsets cost twice as much as the average desktop PC' business - my condition worsened. Until, eventually, after serial number-crunching that'd make even the most creative of creative accountants weep, I figured out there was no way I could afford an N95. Either by contract or outright, they were just too expensive. So I set my sights a little lower - at a handset that had everything, in my opinion, that the N95 had and I wanted - just without the 3G, GPS extensions and 5mpx camera - an LG Shine. This was a good start. I'd done my homework; clarified all of the elements that made me both disappointed in my old handset and greening around the gills with jealousy over the N95; made myself a checklist of 'wants' (expandable memory, Bluetooth, media capable - video, image, mp3 tone); things I was prepared to compromise on (lens, 3G, GPS, mpx resolution), knew exactly which Plan I wanted to go for and off I went to buy myself a Porsche instead of a Ferrari. I wished I hadn't. This rest of this service review relates to the ONLINE Orange Shop. I have visited Orange Shop branches in the past for top-up vouchers and ... 29/08/2007

Premium Products for Paper-Round Budgets When I was a teenager I suffered from a series of skin allergies, irritations and infections. Initially this declaration doesn't seem very relevant to a service review of the online discount cosmetics retailer Magic Make-up Ltd. The thing is it's very relevant as the irritations weren't caused, but were certainly assisted, by my choice of make up brands. Because, well, at thirteen you don't really think about allergies, consequences and if a foundation powder'll give you the model looks of a well-stung beekeeper. You just think about colours! Colours! Tubes, pencils and pretty boxes full of pretty colours. However one dermatological wake-up call, the knowledge that my favourite teen brands of Miners, Cover Girl and Rimmel (all bought from the local market for 50p a product) were persona non grata unless I wanted more antibiotics and being told, in no uncertain terms, that unless it was a brand so far out of my paper-round powered price range I could never wear make up until my skin had matured and its oil chemistry had settled down. Well, that sort of thing doesn't stop a teenaged girl. We've got appearances to keep up, don't ya know! To cut the rest of this very long story short, I learned at a very early age that if I wanted an item of make up that wasn't going to completely foul my skin up - I saved for it. I'd watch my friends all run off to the market with their pocket money every weekend, or I'd go look at the earrings while they cooed themselves silly over the ...

BeneFit Range 22/08/2007

Behold the Most Feminine Cliche

BeneFit Range Benefit is part of the international LVMH group - which also owns Dior and Givenchy's cosmetic brands and the luxury luggage brand Louis Vuitton. (Which is enough financial spec to make a girl feel a little less guilty about forking out £13 for a lipliner!) Though, really, if you want to know why Benefit and Urban Decay often share the extra Advantage points deals at Boots - it's the LVMH connection. And it was through one of these deals that I discovered the wonder, the fabulousness and the outright girly kitsch of Benefit. Let's just get this straight - I'm an Urban Decay kind of girl. Always have been, always will be. I was using their little pots of glittery eyeshadow and metal eyeliner bottles way back when my peers were embracing Too Faced's range of kitsch-packaged action, and decrying me for my lack of fluffy pink blushers and body bronzers. One look at the dazzlingly fifties cheesecake designs put me right off - I was sticking to, and by, my polished metal tins that wouldn't get me chucked out of a nightclub. Times don't change and, in my case, neither do people or friends as I was doing some Christmas shopping in Manchester - with the same couple of schoolfriends - we went into Boots. I was about to make a beeline for the Urban Decay stand when one of them remembered something I'd said over lunch about needing some body powder for an evening out. "You have to try this," she said. "Just a little bit, it's sooo light! It's just fabulous!" and thrust this ...

Blades Of Glory (DVD) 21/08/2007

BOOM! Go Figure.

Blades Of Glory (DVD) I readily admit, when I went to see BLADES OF GLORY at the cinema I was expecting a ringside seat for the most disastrous attempted-comedy of 2007. The concept was high - two male Singles figure skaters forced to become a Pairs skating team. The cast an overrated bunch of US exports - WILL FERRELL, JON HEDER and WILL ARNETT - lifted from TALLADEGA NIGHTS, ANCHORMAN, NAPOLEON DYNAMITE and ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, respectively. And to cap it all, BEN STILLER doing the work behind the scenes for a producer credit. BLADES OF GLORY had 'bad movie' written all over it. It promised nothing less than 90 minutes of unintentionally self-ridiculing garbage, as the best of 21st century American comedy flaunted their pretensions to the genius of ANIMAL HOUSE yet again. And I'm too much of a sucker for a blasted ego, or ten, to let it pass me by. Imagine my disappointment when I found this film to be funny. Really funny. Genuinely 'roll around on the ground' hilarious. I had to go back and see it again, twice, just to make sure. And yep - it was still funny, so I resolved to buy the DVD. - SYNOPSIS - Banned from Singles competitions for life after a fracas on the medals podium, ice skaters Jimmy MacElroy and Chazz Michael Michaels exploit a loophole that will see them return to competitive figure skating - by forming a Pairs team. But can they put their differences aside to win? - DVD CONTENT - Outtakes Trailers Photo Galleries (six) Deleted Scenes Music video - Bo Bice: ...

Shaun Of The Dead (Chart Driver) (DVD) 03/08/2007

Undead Before Wicket

Shaun Of The Dead (Chart Driver) (DVD) I did a fairly good job of avoiding SHAUN OF THE DEAD when it was released. Being a big fan of horror movies in general, and disappointed by other comedy films that've previously embarked on an agenda to mock the genre (DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT, anybody?). I thought I'd give this one a miss and rewatch EVIL DEAD 3: THE MEDIEVAL DEAD to get my round of horror humour in. Now I wish I hadn't ignored SHAUN OF THE DEAD on the face of its initial publicity and release hype because it's funny. It's very funny. And, unlike a lot of spoof/comedy horror movies, SHAUN OF THE DEAD is funny because it's made with an informed affection for the horror genre and whole lot of surreal eccentricity. So, where I was expecting a British SCREAM for zombie movies, where the rules are pre-written and the action is delivered in a pre-ordained sequence, but with enough style and celebrity cameos to make the non-horror movie crowd feel less like they're slumming it with a B-movie - what I actually got was a very British zombie movie. Colour me impressed! - SYNOPSIS - Shaun (SIMON PEGG - HOT FUZZ, SPACED) is an uncomplicated bloke whose life seems to be governed by a list of unwanted complications. Still working in the dead-end job he's had since university; under pressure to give his best friend and flatmate, Ed (NICK FROST - HOT FUZZ, HYPERDRIVE) the push and to buy flowers for his mum (PENELOPE WILTON - CALENDAR GIRLS, BLAME IT ON THE BELLBOY). Absolutely the last thing Shaun needs is ...

The Quatermass Experiment (DVD) 10/07/2007

Quatermass Live, Experienced Again

The Quatermass Experiment (DVD) If you didn't spend the night of April 2nd, 2005 hiding under the dining room table with a packet of chocolate digestives and an aged relative - you weren't there. You didn't experience the cross-generational collision of 1950s science-fiction reconstructed, re-enacted and delivered with twenty-first century aplomb. Basically, you missed THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT: LIVE on BBC Four. You know it. You're ashamed of it. And now you're looking for the DVD to make up for it. Good for you! QUATERMASS began as a weekly science-fiction serial - created by the late NIGEL KNEALE - in 1953. As each of the original episodes were performed and broadcast live, and no one thought to commit them to film archive at the time, few of these early examples of science-fiction on television survive. Fifty-two years, six STAR WARS movies and nine seasons of THE X-FILES later THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT: LIVE presents one question: Can 'live' science-fiction television work anymore? Or have we all gone soft and become addicted to elaborate visual effects and CGI post-production techniques in the two generations that've gone by since the original QUATERMASS sent small children running for cover. The answer to that question is, with a brilliant cast of theatre actors and military-scale precision in cutting between cameras - yes. And they should do it again. And again. The first dozen times to prove it wasn't a fluke, and the next dozen times because the QUATERMASS stories are that ...

Tricity Bendix LYRIC55M2 08/07/2007

Seeing Eye to Toast

Tricity Bendix LYRIC55M2 It took me twenty years and a moderately dangerous incident with a stir-fried pea and a hob gas jet to convince my parents that maybe, perhaps, either we needed a new cooker or a direct hotline to the army's bomb disposal unit. They agreed and commenced negotiations with the Ministry of Defence, while I left them to it and hit the shops. You see, my family were rather attached to their pie-baking, pan-heating, bomb-in-waiting for one reason - the ancient device possessed a most mystical property, missing from most modern free-standing gas cookers: an eye-level grill. Now this might not seem to be the most important piece of equipment in the world, but in a family where the last person under 5'5" tall was some generations back, possibly during the Norman Invasion, being able to see the contents of your future bacon sandwich before it burns or your back packs in has always been a must-have facility on every cooker we've owned. Unfortunately, that means we've owned the sum total of three cookers in sixty years. Eye-level grills falling out of favour around the time of the fully-fitted kitchen; only to fall further into the no man's land of kitchen equipment roughly about the same time as cooker hoods made their grease-catching debut. My wander around the shops in town - driven by blind faith in the existence of the lesser-spotted eye-level grill - didn't help. I found agas and ranges and dual-fuels and slot-in, waist-level gadgets that barely came up to my knee! ...

Layer Cake/O.S.T. 07/07/2007

Layer Cake Makes for Exceedingly Good Listening

Layer Cake/O.S.T. I used to think soundtracks couldn't survive outside of the context of the film; that you had to have seen the latter to consider it worthwhile buying the former. That was until I wrapped my ears around the LAYER CAKE: ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK a couple of years ago. Soundtracks, as a rule fall into two categories, the dire 'songs from and inspired by the movie' compilation or the accessible-only-to-film-fans 'original motion picture score'. Rarely are the two combined, and rarely do the two make it through the soundtrack edit without chunks of dialogue from the movie being slotted in by producers eager to replicate the movie's atmosphere in audio - OCEAN'S 11 soundtrack, I'm looking at *you*. These are mastering flaws worth mentioning as the LAYER CAKE soundtrack avoids them all. It's a textbook example of soundtrack production. Short score sections - by ILAN ESHKERI - sandwich recognisable nineties chart tracks, eighties ubiquities and dance mash-ups. The score sections are dropped in as-is without truncation or abbreviation and, mercifully, without chunks of dialogue from the film mixed in - if all you want is the music, all you're going to get is the music! ILAN ESHKERI's core themes - particularly the soundtrack's sixth track 'DRIVE TO THE BOATYARD' - seem to be drawn from the same action-rock trough as MARK MANCINA's SPEED score. But, unlike MANCINA's, they aren't regurgitated with little variation or permitted to roam squealing guitar chords across ...

Acer Aspire 9303WSMi 24/06/2007

Aspire to Mediocrity

Acer Aspire 9303WSMi What follows is a tragic love story that lasts less than ten days from start to finish. It was the meeting of two, seemingly perfect, partners that began with a flurry of heated desire and ended in acrimonious rantings. ACER ASPIRE 9303WSMi, I loved you once. Why did we fall apart so quickly? The answer to that is: WINDOWS VISTA. But we'll get to that later. I've owned several ACER laptops over the years and found the brand to be completely reliable. The after-sales staff at the ACER helpdesk have always been professional, efficient and well-informed. And the products themselves, regardless of my misgivings (as a perpetual hardware upgrade-a-holic who never forgot the day she built her first PC) about integrated boards being a tool of Lucifer and his demonic maintenance-approved technicians, have never broken down on me: ACER are so reliable that I've only upgraded for improved screen quality and increased processing power, twice, in the last seven years. And I can state now, if I didn't value ACER's product durability and after-sales service I'd be typing this on an iBook after the week I've had! Let's start at the beginning; my trusty ACER ASPIRE 1300DV was looking the worse for wear. Its inability to play DVD+R disks was curbing my ambition to watch Doctor Who from the safety of a pillow fort. The 128mbs of RAM weren't as fast as they used to be for browsing the web on remote and it didn't render the graphics for HALO 2 as clearly as my sparkly-new DELL ...

Pirates of the Caribbean (At World's End [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]/Original Soundtrack/Film Score) - Hans Zimmer 12/06/2007

But why's it all gone rum?

Pirates of the Caribbean (At World's End [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]/Original Soundtrack/Film Score) - Hans Zimmer The soundtrack for PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END could have been a three-hour dirge of overly-orchestrated fussing, I consider my ears fortunate that HANS ZIMMER sliced the whole thing down to an hour for the CD merchandise release. Now, I'm not a mean-spirited person and I have more than a few of HANS ZIMMER's soundtracks to prove I'm a fan. It's just, poor HANS, dear HANS! Try as he might, he's not a good inheritor of other composers' work. This, generally, isn't a bad thing - see STANLEY KUBRICK's shafting of ALEX NORTH's score in favour of posthumous contribution by JOHANN and RICHARD STRAUSS (their brother Levi was unavailable for comment) amongst others for 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Great idea, excellent soundtrack and probably the most work those guys've seen since the mid-19th century. It also managed to set a trend for the sequel, which is where my argument goes up a few gears. The score for PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END is the final musical chapter in an alleged trilogy, that began back in 2003 in the hands of KLAUS BADELT with PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL. BADELT's score served up a taut set of themes and thundering action-scene orchestrations that were as obscenely infectious as the film itself. I'd be sitting on the bus humming away to it for twenty minutes before I'd notice my player was out of power or someone'd elbowed my earphone plug out of the socket. That may appear purely inconsequential and ...

Jaguar [TV Advertisement] 10/06/2007

Because You're Gorgeous

Jaguar [TV Advertisement] JAGUARS are beautiful cars. The XK model in particular has been known to induce severe bouts of drooling every time one shoots past my clapped-out VAUXHALL Astra on the motorway. They're not exactly affordable cars - for people in six-grand Astras - but they are something reasonably attainable to set your heart on. There being a gulf of difference between a sixty-grand brand new Jag and, say, a FERRARI which runs at a price you can't count in pounds and have to give up trying to calculate in your lunch break when you forget to carry the five on the seventh mortgage you'd need. This is all very practical, very aspirational, the sort of heartening stuff advertising executives want to hear. The problem is, I don't want a JAGUAR anymore. I spend my coffee breaks fixated on PORSCHE to penny jar calculations instead and this is, in no small part, the fault of the recent 'GORGEOUS' campaign by JAGUAR. -- THE PITCH -- Several JAGUAR XK cars glide around tree-lined avenues and discreet tropical spaces while obscurely beautiful people do obscurely beautiful things. Then a silky, rich American voice-over informs you of how 'gorgeous' everyone is in a style of semi-poetic verse that should get a dance beat behind it and be turned into a new riff on SUNSCREEN. -- THE PROBLEM -- Wedding a car, or any form of commercial product, to a lifestyle is hardly the best idea in the world. In some instances lifestyle reinforcement is a good thing. All parents like to think of ...

Ultimate Force - Series 1 - Episodes 1 To 6 (DVD) 07/06/2007

Double-Tapping Class Act

Ultimate Force - Series 1 - Episodes 1 To 6 (DVD) Both BBC and ITV have their own particular crosses to bear when it comes to the subject of military-centric programming. The BBC gave us DAD'S ARMY (and goodness knows, many of us wish they hadn't) and ITV gave us that towering pillar of soap and artillery: SOLDIER SOLDIER. For anyone who remembers spending most of the nineties wishing a war would break out just so ROBSON & JEROME would get off the telly and out of the charts, you'd be forgiven for wanting to avoid ULTIMATE FORCE as, initially, it seems to come from the same 'CORONATION STREET with guns' style of conceptual programming. ITV, Saturday night, 9pm - a day later and it would've taken the same slot as the first two seasons of SOLDIER SOLDIER too. Add to this ominous portent, the casting of ROSS KEMP - determined to break with his EASTENDERS image as a hard-man with a pub by becoming a hard-man with a gun and you already have a noxious cocktail that is deserving of your total avoidance. Except, it isn't. A fair few black cats have crossed its path in terms of scheduling and promotion and the Damaclesian Sword of SOLDIER SOLDIER hangs over its head; ready to drop the second ROSS KEMP considers humming a few bars of UNCHAINED MELODY. That said, for what it is - and what you might have missed by avoiding it - this is probably the best action-based TV show since THE PROFESSIONALS. Praise indeed, yes? However, it is praise with one vital caveat - from season three onwards ULTIMATE FORCE begins to pall. The best ...

Sweex Pacific MP3 Player 512 MB 512 MB 06/06/2007

Sweex as Honey

Sweex Pacific MP3 Player 512 MB 512 MB I keep meaning to write more tech reviews. What always happens is I buy a product; give it a good hammering for six months in the name of 'use', then forget whatever I had to say about it unless it's exceptionally good, or outright terrible to live with. Fortunately my little SWEEX PACIFIC 512MB MP3 PLAYER is exceptionally good. Unfortunately it seems to be an offline bargain buy as several online outlets are now listing it as a 'deleted' product. So let's start at the top: Twas a few nights before Christmas, and all through the house, your humble reviewer was not in the best of moods. My iPod Shuffle 512MB was in the process of doing something all products under the iPod brand eventually do after eighteen months of careful ownership - dying. Yes, its little hard drive was creaking and its tiny power cell was giving up the good fight. Sadly, it decided to do this when I was right in the middle of a 5k run programme on the gym treadmill. Cue me thinking the treadmill was primed to explode; hitting the panic switch and almost breaking my foot on the dismount. I was not happy. iPods, I now know, do not die well. They expire with all the mechanical creaks and groans of Jeremy Clarkson punching a hole through a wall with a V12 Ferarri. Fortunately it was a freebie, unfortunately I had less than twenty-four hours to find a replacement before I needed to be on a long flight for a family gathering. Naturally, given the way the iPod Shuffle had departed its electronic ...

Chanel Eyes Eyeliners La Ligne De Chanel, Eyeliner Duo 02/06/2007

Block Party for Retro Ladies

Chanel Eyes Eyeliners La Ligne De Chanel, Eyeliner Duo The one make-up product I use every day is my eyeliner. I put a lot of this down to the practicality of an eyeliner pen/pencil - one won't take up much bag space and a thin line of it on each lid rids me of the need for mascara (which is a blessing in either a sticky summer or a doubly sticky nightclub) - but I have to put a lot of my eyeliner use and abuse down to playing with my mum's eyeliner pans as a child. Which is where CHANEL LA LIGNE DE CHANEL comes in. Several years ago I asked my mum why she stopped wearing make-up and the answer was simply that the products she used weren't made anymore: Foundation pan sticks, loose powder, jars of uncompressed power eyeshadow and blocks of eyeliner. So, when she'd used up everything she'd bought and couldn't buy any more - she just stopped wearing make-up, even though it was something that gave her a great deal of pleasure. Make-up is as much a comfort thing as it is about putting on that little dab of colour that makes you look great, if you're not comfortable with using the style of the products you're being sold - it's a waste of time buying them. With this in mind I was determined my mum was going to have a box of retro classics make-up for her sixtieth birthday last year and I knew the one item that was going to cause me the most trouble would be the eyeliner blocks. Once upon the 1950s when Elvis was in and The Beatles were doing their O-levels, eyeliner came as a solid block in a little metal tin. Preparing ...

The Impressionists (DVD) 01/06/2007

Monet for Nothing

The Impressionists (DVD) The term docu-drama is curse. It's the fly in the soup of two genres as it invariably fails to inform the viewer (as a documentary should) or entertain the viewer (as a drama should). Usually presented in a CRIMEWATCH reconstruction style with new performers playing the mute roles of famous figures from history, while a narrator with the vocal chords of an elderly geography teacher recounts the story - oh, what fun! Docu-dramas rightly deserve some bad press for the untold suffering they've caused to millions of viewers on a post-SONGS OF PRAISE Sunday night slot. However, in recent years the docu-drama has received an injection of creativity and funding that is slowly pulling the genre out of the hole dug for it by the likes of MICHAEL WINNER'S TRUE CRIMES. And at the vanguard of this reinvigoration is the BBC with 2006's THE IMPRESSIONISTS. THE IMPRESSIONISTS was a docu-drama mini-series consisting of three one hour long episodes with a lofty premise that was bound to put even the most determined viewer to sleep: The Birth of the 19th century French Impressionist Movement, AKA The Life and Times of Claude Monet. Are you feeling sleepy yet? I was. To my knowledge Claude Monet never once blew up a caravan or attempted to put a Robin Reliant into space, so I failed to see the point of the BBC making a documentary about him when they could be off giving BBC TWO enough cash to turn a Hilman Imp into a submarine. On the other hand, my mother adores Monet and as my ...
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