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since 25/04/2001


Holmes Place, Solihull 17/08/2002


Holmes Place, Solihull Imagine your quintessential, expensively branded, state of the art gymnasium in English Suburbia. What kind of clientele would you imagine frequenting it? A heady mix of bulgy-veined bodybuilders and the Peroxide Housewives of multi-millionaires who insist that their pink spandex leggings are the height of fashion and that regular gym visits are part of their "new fitness regime", formulated by a Swedish trainer named Sven. The staff are similarly pretentious and full of their own self-importance, while the equipment is better suited to the set of Doctor Who than a fitness centre. OK, so maybe I've exaggerated the stereotypical view most of us share of gyms and their members, but they’re not always the most inviting of venues. In the past few weeks, my views have been unequivocally changed due to the discovery of my local Holmes Place fitness centre, situated on the campus of Solihull College (that's the West Midlands to those not hot on their geography). Granted, the usually opulent and lavish Holmes Place club has been dumbed down slightly in this incarnation, with prices suitably lower than at more high profile franchises (see the op on the West Kensington branch for suitable proof). Despite this, the building is well furnished, airy and stylish and has all the hallmarks of a quality gymnasium (not that I've seen many). The biggest factor contributing to its diminished prices is the lack of a Swimming Pool on site. Me, I'd rather do without for the sake of a few ... 30/07/2002

REVEL IN THE SATISFACTION OF DUMPING SIMON COWELL Celebdaq, a strange little name. However, if you're up on your stocks and shares, you will know that it's a craftly little play on words using the American technology exchange, the Nasdaq. Only Celebdaq is FAR more exciting! Have you always wanted to try your hand on the investing markets but always been too prudish to risk your money? Are you a stocks and shares fanatic looking for a risk-free way to indulge in your money-spinning pleasures? Are you fascinated by the cult of celebrity and the tabloid press's daily character assassination? Or do you just have way too much time on yours hands, like me?! Well, if any of these are the case, then this website is for you. Run by the BBC, Celebdaq is a virtual stock-exchange, with celebrities as the stocks! Their daily fares on various tabloid newspapers and gossip magazines contribute towards their share price, as does the number of people willing to place their virtual money in them. Intrigued? Well, read on, my good friends... HOW TO PLAY All you have to do is register a few basic details about yourself, create a User ID and password and away you go! Celebdaq gives you 10,000 virtual pounds, and gives you an entirely free reign to buy and sell shares in whoever you like. As is true in the real world, the most money is to be made by buying a particular share at a low price, watch it escalate in price, and sell it at its peak. But, as is more often the case on the FTSE 100 at the moment, they're just as prone to dropping ...

Six Feet Under 21/07/2002


Six Feet Under My ears first pronged in anticipation, much like a rabbit caught in headlights, when I first read about this exciting new series in my Television Bible, Heat magazine. “From the makers of Sex and the City and The Soprano’s” it confidently exclaimed, knowing full well that those eleven little words would render several thousand (nay, million!) of the population into a nervous quiver at the very thought. Well, not quite, but when a new show is introduced amongst such illustrious company, this supposedly flailing era of American television doesn’t seem anywhere near as disastrous. HBO, the American Cable channel which has produced the aforementioned series, and this new one, seem to possess the proverbial Midas touch at the moment, single-handedly revitalising American drama with a new depth of imagination and magnificence. Sex and the City called out to all superficial young women (not to mention the ENTIRE gay population) and explored new bounds of sexual liberation (and deviance!), while the dark but unnervingly witty Soprano’s took the genius of Mafia depiction from the silver screen to its smaller, lounge-based counterpart. Add to this intriguing mix the information that Six Feet Under is created, and sometime directed, by the writer behind American Beauty, Alan Ball, and I’m almost thrown into an unbridled orgasmic frenzy at the thought of how good this series could be. “When is this magnificent new series on?”, I pondered, with diary in hand ready to cancel my busy ...

New Day Has Come - Celine Dion 08/07/2002


New Day Has Come - Celine Dion 1998 was by far and away the most successful of Celine Dion’s long career. From humble beginnings, singing songs penned by her mother, she became a local star in Quebec. By the mid-1990s, she had become the most popular female vocalist of the modern era, with her album “Lets Talk About Love” selling in excess of 30 million copies and the uber-ballad “My Heart Will Go On” becoming the soundtrack to the biggest movie of all time, not to mention a million and one wedding receptions. It seemed that, at least on a professional level, things could not get much better. However, her stage persona masked a personal struggle that had been slowly building for years; her husband and manager Rene Angelil, more than 20 years her senior, had been struck down with throat cancer, while her own futile desire to conceive a child was increasingly placing strain on a previously uninterrupted rise to world superstardom. A break was well and truly deserved. More than 3 years, and a baby son later, Celine has returned to the music industry revitalised, at ease with all aspects of her life and showcasing a collection of songs to prove it. A New Day Has Come heralds a return to form many predicted would never happen, and an album of tracks more diverse in style and range than we have ever seen from the Canadian songstress. With track titles like “I’m Alive”, “A New Day Has Come” and “The Greatest Reward”, this album sees Celine in jubilant mood, and in finer voice than ever. But, with diminished ...

England : Brazil (2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan) 21/06/2002


England : Brazil (2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan) Well, today was the time when the most depressing football cliche was spluttered forth by Des, Motty and Gary to plunge us into an even greater fit of depression than we thought was possible from a football match: "Well, it's all over for another four years". The young and largely inexperienced, but extremely unified England side could not match the might of the technically perfect Samba Boys, and so the heavy weight of national expectation was both too much and too premature to be justified once again. Not for 12 years since a nail-biting 3-2 victory over Cameroon had England played such an important World Cup fixture. Yet this one seemed to hold more gravitas, for some reason. Maybe it was because the opponents were Brazil, the self-proclaimed exponents of the most flowing football on the planet, and now sizzling hot favourites to lift the crown for a record breaking fifth time. Maybe it was because this time, there was a genuine belief that Becks and the boys could emulate Bobby Moore's side and lift the World Cup aloft once more. I don't know; maybe it was because I was only 7 in 1990 and didn't really understand what it all meant. 30 million people were expected to tune in to the match today; to put that into perspective, 31 million watched Diana's funeral, what is considered to be one of the biggest outpourings of public grief and national unity ever witnessed. Today had a similar air about it as millions gasped in desperation as Ronaldhino sent forth the (possibly) ...

Thinking It Over - Liberty X 19/06/2002


Thinking It Over - Liberty X You may not be entirely familiar with the name, but if you were one of twelve million people who tuned in to ITV’s massively successful programme “Popstars” in early 2001 or have switched on the radio in the past month, you will definitely have seen and heard from Liberty X. They are the five losing finalists from the group of wannabes that spawned the winning group, Hear’say. With those bunch of losers firmly placed in the “what ever happened to…” bracket of failed stars, Liberty X are the perfect replacements. Only a brave tabloid journalist would brand them “flopstars” now: with a gold-selling number one single (Just A Little) and this top 3 album under their belts, they look set to achieving a longevity that Hear’say were never afforded. The entire package of this group lets any detractors of the format from which they were formed see that Liberty X know exactly what they’re doing. Their image is sleek and sexy, a far cry from the casual, and on occasion asexual approach of Hear’say, pleasing their (somewhat diminished) army of largely pre-pubescent fans. The black PVC cat suits donned by Kelli, Jessica and Michelle will undoubtedly have been drawn to the attention of the vast majority of the male population, while the two male members Kevin and Tony have set many female hearts a-fluttering. With their vocal abilities scrutinized in front of millions, this is rarely a concern, and the musical approach is fresh and funky. Instead of sticking to a tried, tested and ...

Member Advice on Uni life in general 15/06/2002


Member Advice on Uni life in general Well, looking back on this opinion, the comments from some members exclaiming it to be far too early to judge university life have been proved uncategorically correct! I first wrote this opinion after just one week at university when, let's face it, I felt pretty shit. A grotty flat with austere furniture and basic decor a Juvenile Detention Centre would be proud of. However, 9 months on, I was a little bit upset, dare I say it, teary eyed, to leave my humble abode for the last time, take down my posters and pack away my books forever. The moral of this story; give things a chance. My enjoyment of uni gradually increased throughout the year, and although I will never be one of those hyper-independent people who spends as much time as is humanly possible away from their home and inevitably their parents, I felt a relieving sense of belonging come the end of my tenancy of Broadgate Park self catering flats. I do, however, stand by some of my well-observed tips about how to survive the everyday endeavours of living alone for the first time and coping with the struggles of adulthood - or in student terms - copious amounts of sleep and alcohol in almost equal measure. These are the points, with various revisions: Be yourself. A completely essential quality and one that will culminate in you eventually meeting people with similar personalities and traits. Do not try and fit in with everyone, all the time, it is simply impossible and you will get nowhere fast anyway. ...

About A Boy (DVD) 03/06/2002

STOP PRESS Hugh Grant Plays a Posh English Cad

About A Boy (DVD) Hugh Grant has been in the limelight for a good eight years now, and not always for the most positive reasons (Divine Brown anyone?!), but one thing has remained unchanged: he is still playing the thirty-something, somewhat jaded quintessential representation of middle-english man, usually somewhere between a rock and a hard place but with a heart-warmingly sentimental end to proceedings. About A Boy is no different in this respect to all its Brit-flick predecessors (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Bridget Jones spring to mind). It seems Hugh can play just one part. Bully for him that he plays it bloody well. Right, time to set the scene. Hugh Grant plays Will, an unemployed, responsibility-free serial dater who happens to live handsomely from the royalties of his dead father's omnipresent Christmas single. He whiles away his days watching Countdown, shopping at Sainsbury's and playing snooker, amongst many other banal pursuits. His uncompromising attempt to pick up his latest conquest takes him, somewhat disturbingly, to a gloriously observed single-parents group, humorously named SPAT (single parents alone together). After scanning the altogether glum and admittedly unaesthetically pleasing ensemble, he notices gorgeous blonde Suzy (Victoria Smurfitt) and duly concocts a make-believe son (Ned)and woos his latest subject. Will's inadvertant run in with Suzy's best friend Fiona (Toni Collette), an eccentric but ultimately depressive vegetarian and her ...

BBC1: Eurovision Song Contest 05/05/2002

Welcome to the liberace house of eurocrap

BBC1: Eurovision Song Contest Now, you might assume that the title to this op is a derogatory comment. Well, let me assure you, the utter frivolity, absurdity and downright campness of the Eurovision Song Contest, not to mention some of the mind-boggling awful entries from musical super-powers such as Lithuania and Bosnia-Herzogovina. Held every year since the late-1950s, Eurovision encapsulates all that is bad and good with the music industry all at the same time. On the one hand, it celebrates song-writers all across Europe and allows some of the unsung heroes of the music industry to share some limelight for a change. On the other hand, the song-writing talent on offer isn't exactly Bacharach or Lennon and McCartney. In fact, it doesn't even reach the heady heights of Boyzone or the Spice Girls. BUT! Let's not forget some of the musical talents that have spawned from Eurovision in years gone by.... * Celine Dion - this Canadian songstress burst to fame in 1988 with a performance for Switzerland that she has attempted to shrug under the carpet ever since. Her song, "Ne Partez Passez Moi" swept to victory. The rest is serial-balladeer history * Sandi Shaw - her plinky plonky, bare-foot, 2-man tent dress-wearing performance of "Puppet on a String" won for the U.K. in 1967. Sandi went on to have, well, 2 hits. * Who can forget the likes of Cliff and Lulu??! Cliff tried, and failed, twice to take home the Eurovision crown. Waster * The grand-daddies of Eurovision success stories, Agnetha, ...

Crossroads (DVD) 01/04/2002

Britney Spears in geeky virgin shocker

Crossroads (DVD) Now, as some of you may know, I haven't written on here for, oh, about 3 months, so this is extremely overdue! And for my first opinion back from hibernation, I think the world's most popular female singer's first forays into the movie world is a pretty big deal to write about. Britney has obviously picked a script that tugs at the heartstrings of the teenage girl population everywhere, plumping for a completely formulaic plot of 3 wayward friends reuniting after their high school graduation to fulfil their destiny, while having a hair-raising, heart-warming, eye-opening road trip across America. Believe me, if this wasn't starring Britney in the lead role of Lucy, no-one would be touching this flick with a 10 foot barge pole. But, as it is, her movie debut makes fascinating viewing, as much for our voyeuristic desire to see just if this girl can actually act than for our interest in the plot. The story goes something like this: * Three 8 year old best friends make a pact (and a box) that after their graduation they will uncover their time capsule and fulfil their childhood dreams. * They drift apart, and by the time they graduate barely even talk to eachother. Britney (Lucy) is a straight-laced, model student who becomes valledictorian, Mimi is a wayward loner and Kit is vain and popular. * Through some only-in-the-movies miraculous twist of fate, they reunite at the site where they buried their box of dreams. Mimi invites the others along to a road trip to ...

Jacob's Bakery Limited Twiglets 01/01/2002


Jacob's Bakery Limited Twiglets To someone who had never been exposed to the wonder that is Marmite, its appeal may appear somewhat limited. A brown gooey mess made from yeast extract. Those oh-so astute marketing strategists clearly hit the nail on the head when they exclaimed "you either love it or you hate it". The concept of Twiglets would probably induce the same confused wondering amongst outsiders as to its appeal. But if anyone has ever tasted one, and falls into the "love" category, they will know exactly what their appeal is. Just as America gave us Pringles (once you pop you can't stop!) the UK has given us Twiglets (one nibble and you're nobbled!). Once you've opened a bag, or in my prefered container, a 200 gram tube, you simply cannot stop until they're all gone! Twiglets are a wholewheat snack, a bit like a small, brown breadstick, coated in Marmite, to produce a wonderfully flavoursome and surprisingly low fat snack. While Pringles are unbelievably calorific, Twiglets contain just 12% fat and around 400 calories per 100 grams. That may sound quite alot (and compared to Lettuce it is!), but when compared to Pringles (537 calories/100g) and Cadbury's Dairy Milk (525/100g) then Twiglets suddenly start to look the most attractive option to those watching their waistbands over Christmas! I'll not lie; Twiglets, like Marmite, are an extremely acquired taste. They also have a particularly strong taste, so those mild palates might not take to its flavour. Their texture is also extremely ...

Gold - The Greatest Hits - Steps 10/12/2001

GOLD, Always believe in your...oops wrong one

Gold - The Greatest Hits - Steps Steps Gold. Sounds vaguely familiar to Abba Gold. And to a lesser extent, Gold: the very best of Perry Como (R.I.P). For my first opinion in (does some quick arithmetic) 53 days (ok that took quite a while to work out!), I thought I'd write about my favourite members of Planet Pop. The all singing (well except Lee) all dancing, all glittery Kings and Queens of cheese. First, a little background: - Steps are: H (Ian Watkins), Lisa Scott-Lee, Faye Tozer, Lee Latchford Evans and Claire Richards. - Steps had their first hit way back in November 1997, the now cringeworthy homage to line dancing that was 5,6,7,8. Went down in history as the biggest selling single of the 90s to never make the top 10. - Heartbeat/Tragedy spent 8 weeks in the top 10 before reaching the number 1 spot, and went on to spend a colossal 15 weeks in the top 10, selling well over 1 million copies. Has sold more than any other Bee Gees record. - They have now achieved 13 consecutive top 5 hits, a tally beaten only by the Beatles! - They are, sadly, no longer colour co-ordinated. Those day-glow yellow outfits really were something.... So, it seems that two things are clear. One, I am an extremely sad individual and two, Steps are possibly the greatest pop band since Abba. Debate it all you will, but no group since has kept such an impressive tally of hits and managed to get everyone declaring a Tragedy at every Christmas Party, leaving do or Bar Mitzvah across the country. So, with ...

Pop Idol 17/10/2001


Pop Idol Who is the ultimate pop idol? Robbie Williams? Elvis? Madonna? Tom Jones? Well, whatever your personal opinion, those lovely execs at ITV have once again taken it upon themselves to decree that the UK needs another "Pop Idol" to join the upper echelons of the music industry. Perfectly in time with the apparent waning in popularity of Hear'say, the creation of the first and greatest show in this genre, Popstars, and the poor showing of Soapstars (yawn), Pop Idol is a seemingly last ditch attempt to squeeze the last morsels of entertainment from the "search for a star" genre. Has it succeeded? Well, I've been pleasantly surprised, but then again I'm a complete pop-culture junkie so what would I know?! Pop Idol is hosted by light-entertainment duo du jour, Ant & Dec, who seem destined to become the Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson of the TV presenting world for many years to come. It won't be long before "Ant & Dec" becomes a Oxford Dictionary-accepted word. There is obviously a reason why they continue to work almost exclusively together: they have excellent chemistry in a light hearted, witty and completely watchable kind of way. The presence of official presenters on the show is the main contrast from the Pop/Soapstars shows, who used a smarmy voiceover to convey it's shows proceedings. Ant and Dec allow the show to flow more easily from one part to another, while providing some comic relief other than seeing the chronic singing abilities of some of the contestants. The ...

Bazuka Gel 21/09/2001


Bazuka Gel In my pre-pubescent years, before the perpetual head-screwing of puberty, I was utterly obsessed with sports. At 4 years old I wanted to be an Olympic swimmer. At 9, I aspired to be the next Linford Christie (would’ve been a rather large transition really!) and sprint to glory on the track. I even flirted with a career as a rugby player, but that was far too dirty for my liking! I eventually fell into tennis playing, and continued until a couple of years ago when teenage life caught up on me and I no longer had any aspirations to be a sports star. What does this have to do with Bazuka gel, you may be asking yourself? Well, for the 5 or so years that I played tennis, the constant gripping of the racket took its toll on my hands. On my right hand just under my little finger, a small circular area of hard skin had formed where I had gripped the racket for my ferocious double back-hands (that’s what I used to tell myself anyway)! Despite not playing tennis anymore, the hard skin, or callus, remained and began to become a little bit ugly, and so I decided to take action. My father had tried and failed with Bazuka gel, but his warts were of Godzilla proportions compared to my 5mm in diameter callus. I decided I’d give the gel a try; after all, it worked for that kid on the advert with verrucas didn’t it! I popped down to my local supermarket pharmacy and asked for my Bazuka, and was a little surprised when the lady said “that’ll be £4.95 ...

Scary Movie 2 (DVD) 17/09/2001


Scary Movie 2 (DVD) The tag-line to the sequel that was never supposed to be made was "MORE MERCILESS. MORE SHAMELESS". One along the lines of "LESS PLOT. MORE DISGUSTING SPOOFS" would probably have been closer to the mark. Each movie take-off, or spoof, is tied together by the thinnest of plots, and exists merely to allow these disgusting and often distasteful (but sometimes laugh-out-loud too) scenes to be acted out. The plot, although not really the focal point of the movie, revolves around the survivors from last year's "Scary Movie" going to college and consequently becoming involved in a school project to investigate sleep patterns which takes them to a old, haunted house for the weekend. The teacher is the quintessential Englishman and perennial bad-guy Tim Curry (remember Cluedo?!), and his upper class evilness is a breath of fresh air amongst so many slapstick performances. The film is regularly funny, often hilariously funny, if you don't take the jokes too seriously. The film was not written with the faint hearted in mind, and the more delicate of you will probably not find the physical, often gross humour to your liking and you will probably be offended. Take the 18 certificate as heed enough that the swearing and use of sexual content is plentiful. But, if you find physical slap-stick, projectile vomiting, toilet humour and other emissions of bodily fluids (I'll leave those to your imagination!) on a grand scale, then you will be heartily amused for the 82 minute duration, ...
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