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jonathanb

jonathanb

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3,000 very selective alerts in my inbox may suggest it's time for a return to Ciao. It looks a bit different round here, but I suppose that's what happens if you take a 3 year break.

Reviews written

since 17/12/2002

19

American Horror Story: Asylum (DVD) 16/02/2013

Gleefully Horrific

American Horror Story: Asylum (DVD) Contains a few low grade spoilers but nothing to spoil the main points of the story. Covers the series as broadcast on TV, so I'm unable to comment on any DVD extras. The Perils Of Being A Newlywed A present day couple of self-satisfied newlyweds called Teresa and Leo approach a huge tumbledown mansion in western Massachusetts, flirting relentlessly with each other. They go inside to look around while Teresa reads out information from her phone, revealing that the building is called Briarcliff Manor and was originally a tuberculosis clinic before becoming a church-run asylum for the criminally insane in 1962. 46,000 people died there and the bodies were disposed of via an underground tunnel called the Death Chute. The building is also rumoured to be haunted by a particularly sadistic serial killer called Bloody Face. Significant pieces of information? Could well be… The couple find themselves taken by the urges that often afflict newlyweds, but just as they’re addressing these on an old examination chair they’re disturbed by the sound of movement. They head off to investigate, but unsurprisingly this proves to be a mistake. Something rather nasty happens but we don’t learn how or why. In fact we don’t see Teresa and Leo again until near the end of the story, when all becomes clear. Instead we’re taken back to 1964 and introduced to a young Caucasian garage owner called Kit Walker. A group of “friends” visit him at work to try and borrow his gun and at the same time make ...

The Wizard of Oz, London 03/09/2012

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

The Wizard of Oz, London * I’m assuming a basic knowledge of the plot of The Wizard Of Oz. Otherwise I’d recommend the famous 1939 film, which is widely available for sale or rent. Alternatively, it unfailingly appears on a TV near you every Christmas * With consummate timing, I’m posting this review just after the show has ended its run at the Palladium and headed off on tour. On the positive side, if you don’t live anywhere near London then there may be a chance to see it at a theatre near you Off To See The Wizard A couple of weeks ago my family and I went to see The Wizard Of Oz at the London Palladium. We didn't realise it at the time but the show was nearing the end of its run, which perhaps explains why Mrs B found the tickets online for a not-too-astronomical price. Everyone in the family was keen to go except me, as the domestic appliances in our house seem to be working a rota system of self destruction and costing us a fortune. Eventually I conceded and am very glad I did, as the show was the best musical I’ve yet seen at a theatre. Mind you, by the time we reached the Palladium I was feeling a bit queasy. We’d arrived early so Mrs B made a beeline for the Liberty department store “just to look around”. Initially I intended to adopt my usual anti-shopping strategy of glazing over and trailing behind my family, pausing only to deploy the credit card and sigh loudly from time to time. Then I spotted the price tag on a lady’s scarf: £250. I was suddenly wide awake and followed my three ...

The Children (DVD) 19/05/2012

Suffer The Adults

The Children (DVD) Film-only review - BBC iPlayer version at that.This review contains a few low grade spoilers, but doesn’t give away much that a regular horror film viewer couldn’t guess.The Joy Of A Lesser Known Horror FilmMiddle-age is striking me down. Where once I was vibrant, thrusting and seemingly immune to illness, I’ve now had two episodes of ill-health within a few weeks, both requiring me to be within easy reach of a bed and / or bathroom. One of the few positives of this was the opportunity to watch several films including The Children, a 2008 British horror film directed by Tom Shankland and adapted by him from a story by Paul Andrew Williams.The film must have been on TV as it was listed on the BBC iPlayer, so while I’d never heard of it I thought the outlined premise was interesting enough to give it a try. This proved to be one of those nice (and rare) instances where a good film seems even better because you knew little about it beforehand. It certainly makes a nice change from the usual scenario of being disappointed by the reality of the latest over-hyped big release.Beware The Vomiting ChildThe Children opens as an old Volvo estate makes its way slowly through snow-covered woods, eventually reaching a large and isolated house for a new year’s family gathering. In the car are Elaine (Eva Birthistle), her husband Jonah (Stephen Campbell Moore) and their two children Paulie and Miranda. Also with them is Casey (Hannah Tointon), Elaine’s late-teenage daughter from an earlier ...

X-Men: First Class (DVD) 24/06/2011

I Dream Of Flying Weasleys...

X-Men: First Class (DVD) Warning: this review contains some spoilers Beware Of Flying Weasleys I realised I was losing interest in X-Men: First Class (XM:FC to its friends) when I found myself comparing it to the glorious, if tasteless, Team America: World Police. The latter film features a running joke around how every time Team America see off another batch of terrorists they leave a trail of destruction in their wake. They then can’t understand why they don’t get the thanks they feel they deserve and people are getting really naffed off with them. In XM:FC I mentally christened one of the characters Screaming Boy, although his name is apparently Caleb Landry, who was accurately described in one of the broadsheets as looking like “an unwashed Ron Weasley” (Harry Potter’s friend, for the uninitiated). Screaming Boy has the ability to scream very loudly and break things, glass a speciality, but he also realises that if he screams downwards he can use the power of the sound waves coming out of his mouth to make himself fly. Imagine you were at an event involving large quantities of glass or china when suddenly there was a weird screaming sound as Ron Weasley flew overhead. The sound waves would shatter everything remotely breakable and potentially cause all manner of accidents. He may well have been off to save the world, but if you were surrounded by chaos and shattered glass would you feel well disposed towards the X-Men? Getting The Heckups I’ve seen the Wolverine spin-off and the ...

The Complete Yes Prime Minister - Anthony Jay, Jonathan Lynn 06/05/2011

No, Prime Minister

The Complete Yes Prime Minister - Anthony Jay, Jonathan Lynn This is actually a review of the theatre play Yes Prime Minister rather than the book shown above. According to Ciao Support this site doesn’t run to reviews of plays, so they advised me to put it under Everything From A-Z. That struck me as a bit daft, so I’ve ignored their advice and gone for something that at least refers to Yes Prime Minister in the title. That does, of course, make a nonsense of the “specific criteria” section but I couldn’t post the review without entering something there. A Wild Night Out In A Tugboat For all its occasional headaches, there are definite benefits to having a teenage daughter. Among these is the fact that she’s now mature and sensible enough to be left in charge of her younger siblings while her parents head off for a wild night on the town. With that in mind, and knowing my fondness for the TV series on which it was based, Mrs B thoughtfully booked two tickets for the play adaptation of Yes Prime Minister on its first night at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. Not many people’s idea of a wild night out perhaps, but we’re out of practice. The children were quite happy to see us go – more or less shoved us out of the door, in fact – so we set off anticipating an evening of sophisticated yet humorous entertainment. A brief word about the theatre itself. It opened late last year with much local fanfare and it’s very nice to have a theatre about 10 minutes drive from home, as opposed to 40 minutes to the nearest alternative. ...

Transporter 3 (DVD) 01/12/2010

Travels With An Irritating Ukranian Woman

Transporter 3 (DVD) The Transporter films star Jason Statham as Frank Miller, who for the right price will take (almost) anything or anyone to anywhere. His clients are rarely members of the Salvation Army, typically sporting strong foreign accents, big guns and bigger henchmen. Miller is an ex-military man of few words, preferring to express himself through his superb driving and talent for duffing up baddies. Statham is a former male model and Olympic-standard diver. I doubt he would claim to be a great actor and he always plays pretty much the same character, but it's a role he plays well. As an accomplished martial artist and kickboxer he does all his own fight scenes and as many stunts as the film’s insurers let him get away with. Transporter 3 is not a bad film of its kind but it’s hard not to compare it unfavourably with its predecessors, so I will. Both of them, particularly the first, were tightly-directed models of no-nonsense action movies. The debut film had two directors, one of whom (Louis Leterrier) also directed the second. The third film has a different director and it shows. He’s credited as Olivier Megaton, which I couldn’t believe was a real name, but according to Wikipedia he was born Olivier Fontana 20 years to the day after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, so his choice of “artistic name” was influenced by that fact. Er, OK. Anyway, the film makes the mistake of trying to develop Miller’s character a little and to some extent the fight scenes seem to have been ...

Member Advice On Commuting to Work 08/10/2010

Cycling To Work - The Pros And Cons

Member Advice On Commuting to Work I’ve written this review based on my personal experience, but I hope it will also provide food for thought for anyone thinking about commuting by bicycle. Just over a year ago I changed jobs, going overnight from a miserable 50 mile commute by car round the busiest part of the M25 to working 4 miles up the road. As a student and in my early working life I’d often commuted by bike, and despite the intervening years and steady expansion of my waistline I felt that 4 miles still shouldn’t be too hard, especially as the route is mainly along wide, straight roads and doesn’t include any major hills. I don’t really enjoy cycling for its own sake but as a way of getting from A to B it has lots of advantages, especially during the rush hour when it’s not much slower than travelling by car or bus. The biggest problem is those pesky other people who will insist on using the road at the same time as me. I’m fortunate in that for most of my commute the roads are wide enough for traffic to get past easily. The largest and theoretically scariest vehicles tend to give you a lot of room, but cars vary tremendously. Most are fine but a few times one has come so close that I could easily have run my fingers along its windows, hopefully making a really horrible squeaking sound inside. Roundabouts can be challenging too and my journey includes several busy ones. I’m particularly vigilant when crossing them now, ever since I nearly found myself sitting on the bonnet of an inattentive Ford ...

Force 12 - James Stewart Thayer 26/09/2010

All I Ask Is A Tall Ship...And A Computer To Steer Her By

Force 12 - James Stewart Thayer So what would you do if you were a billionaire? My chances of having that problem are exceedingly sIim, but I suppose I'd go down the cliched route of big houses, wardrobes full of expensive clothes and several ludicrously flash cars. What I wouldn't do, however, is create the world's longest and most challenging yacht race and an almost completely automated boat in which to compete. Not even as a last ditch attempt to save the troubled business that had brought me my wealth in the first place. However, that's what billionaire Rex Wyman does in Force 12. His boat is the most automated vessel ever built and called, rather unoriginally, the Victory. Everything about it is computer controlled, from the adjustment of the sails to the way every event on board is streamed live onto the internet. On board are a small crew, but from a traditional sailing point of view they're all pretty useless. So what would happen if things went wrong? As if they would. Force 12 was James Thayer’s 11th novel and published in 2001. He was known as James Stewart Thayer for his first six books, but then dropped the middle name (Ciao seems to be a bit behind the times on that front). I’d never heard of him but came across the book in a box received from my father in law, a voracious reader who periodically passes on his "out" pile to my wife and me. I chose the book at random, but perhaps didn’t come to it in the ideal frame of mind having just read the first three Jack Reacher novels by Lee ...

Scrubs 18/07/2010

Scrubbing Up Nicely

Scrubs * This review gives an overview of the first eight (and a bit) seasons of Scrubs * I’ll call them seasons as that’s how the Americans refer to them, but of course everyone knows that they’re really called “series” * There are a few spoilers in this review, but hopefully nothing to spoil your enjoyment of the show if you haven’t seen it Scrubbing In Scrubs is an American TV show that first appeared in 2001. It was created by Bill Lawrence, a successful sitcom producer, director and writer, best known for his work on Friends and Spin City. The title refers to surgical scrubs, as in both the clothing worn by junior doctors and a derogatory name for an insignificant person. When it first appeared the format was ground-breaking, being principally a sitcom but also featuring surprisingly poignant drama and numerous short fantasy sequences. Scrubs is set mainly in the intensive care unit of Sacred Heart, a fictional teaching hospital, and begins when three of the main characters start work as newly qualified doctors. Cast John Dorian (“JD”) – Zach Braff JD is a talented, conscientious and sensitive doctor but is also immature and totally uncool. Despite his relentless dweebiness he still has a number of very attractive girlfriends during the life of Scrubs, which doesn’t quite ring true, but of course this is sitcom land. He also regularly drifts off into elaborate daydream fantasies, most of which are depicted on screen. They’re used in various ways ...

Dead Set (DVD) 06/11/2009

Dead Gory

Dead Set (DVD) Before reading: 1. Contains several plot spoilers. But you can probably guess what happens at the end anyway. 2. Assumes a basic knowledge of the Big Brother TV show and format. 3. Parts of Dead Set are pretty gruesome, so if you’re of a nervous disposition you may not even want to read the rest of this review, never mind follow any of the links at the end. Not Ideal Boyfriend Material How’s this for a nightmare scenario? You’re a lowly female member of the production team on Big Brother. No no, that’s not it. There’s more. Not long ago you were engaged in a passionate clinch with Danny, your new almost-boyfriend, for whom you’re in the process of trading in your long-standing but boring current model. Danny has now left the room on an errand for your mutual tyrant of a boss and while he’s gone a female colleague comes in. She fancies him too so you engage in some girly bitching, but are interrupted when the man in question returns. Apart from any social awkwardness he brings with him some other, unpredictable problems. Not only is he covered in blood but he’s also walking towards you in a rather unfriendly manner. This is a particularly impressive feat as he’s also dead. What’s more, he’s keen to eat you and your colleague at the earliest opportunity. Fortunately for you, but unfortunately for her, your friend is closest so Mr Dreamboat goes for her first, leaving you the chance to barricade yourself in another room. Not content with just the one victim ...

Ford Galaxy TDCi Zetec 2.0 01/10/2009

Can You Feel The Ford?

Ford Galaxy TDCi Zetec 2.0 I liked our last Ford Galaxy. It had a lovely 2.8 litre V6 petrol engine which was smooth, powerful and sounded great, although the average fuel consumption of about 24mpg wasn’t a plus point. Unfortunately, once it had covered 80,000 miles it seemed to embark on a programme of self-destruction. It never ground to a complete halt but developed several faults in fairly quick succession, culminating in the death of the air conditioning part of the climate control system. The Galaxy is like a mobile greenhouse and really needs air conditioning, so as a new unit would have cost almost as much as the car was worth my wife and I reluctantly felt the time had come to change it. Being the owners of three fast-growing daughters, two dogs and a Big Luggage habit whenever we go away, we decided to get another people carrier. We narrowed the choice down to a Renault Espace, a Citroen Grand Picasso, a Citroen C8 or another Galaxy. The Picasso was out fairly quickly, as although they’re supposed to be good there was an intangible something about it that we didn’t like and it felt a bit poky compared to a full-sized people carrier. We had a test drive in an Espace, which was great for half a mile or so until the demonstration car died a sudden and thorough death. I had already been wary of the Espace from what I’d heard about its reliability record and having seen it so effectively demonstrated we weren’t going to risk our money by buying one. That left the Galaxy and the Citroen C8. ...

Everything from 0-9 09/04/2006

Five Things...To Put Off For Later

Everything from 0-9 This challenge has been around for a while and was originated by Dakota196, so thanks to her for the questions. Her own version was a model of brevity and a fine example of sticking to the point. My version has neither of those qualities, so should you choose to accept this mission then best of luck to you. I hope you brought supplies and a pillow. Some of the points that follow have previously appeared in the guestbooks of various Ciao members, so to those people I apologise for plagiarising my own ideas and hope they'll indulge me again. ***FIVE THINGS I CAN DO*** 1. WRITE I flatter myself that I have a talent for writing, although it's sorely under-used. Whenever I do write anything I spend far longer over it than I should, as I hate to produce anything unclear or with poor spelling or grammar. I'm now, of course, looking forward to lots of people pointing out all the spelling and grammatical errors in this review. Perhaps I should add that I sometimes use poor grammar on purpose for (hopefully) comic effect. The perfect excuse. I've written a number of short stories in the dim and distant past that were well-received by the few people that read them, so I really should produce some more. I've even experienced the strange sensation I've heard real writers talk about where you enter an almost hypnotic state, the words just seeming to flow to the point that you want to keep going to find out what happens next. It's weird but wonderful, especially when you ...

Top 10 Songs of All Time 15/07/2005

Codpieces, Cliches and Polyester Slacks

Top 10 Songs of All Time Despite the category I'm writing in here, these are not necessarily my favourite songs of all time. However, they all have something about them that either grabs my attention or holds a particular memory. Most songs pass me by and are instantly forgotten and there are even fewer I can listen to twice in quick succession, but all these easily pass the "two consecutive listens" test. They aren't in any particular order and I should warn you that my taste is not in the least cool or trendy. Right, if you could just give me a moment then I'll adjust my polyester slacks, slip off my Hush Puppies and press on. 1. WHEELS OF STEEL - SAXON Apparently Judas Priest were considered the main inspiration for This Is Spinal Tap, the superb, much-quoted spoof documentary ("hey, rockumentary") of a heavy metal band. On the basis of this song, I think Saxon were robbed. Wheels Of Steel is a not a good song, but it's so bad that it always makes me smile. I don't know much about Saxon and that's how I'd like to keep it, especially if this is a good example of their whole body of work. It opens with a sustained chord, then it's codpieces and clichés to the fore as we launch into the grinding, repetitive riff that lasts for most of the song. Some of the lyrics are hard to decipher, but basically he's banging on about how his car (with it's, ahem, Wheels Of Steel) is jolly fast and makes him irresistible to foxy rock chicks. Saxon appear to have made a detailed study of the How To ...

Everything that starts with C ... 03/12/2004

Coffee, smelly cheese and a hair hole

Everything that starts with C ... I don’t know who created this challenge, but thanks to whoever it was. I'm not sure how you are supposed to rate challenges of this kind, but I chose excellent for the questions and because I enjoyed writing it rather than for the quality of my answers. 1. WHAT TIME IS IT? 9.30am. 2. NAME? Jonathan. 3. NUMBER OF CANDLES ON LAST BIRTHDAY CAKE? Didn’t have a birthday cake. Oh the deprivation. Sadly, my next birthday is not far away now and is a Significant one. Life begins, apparently. 4. HAIR COLOUR? Sort of mousy brown with a slowly increasing “hair hole” (thanks, lovely children) in the middle and receding tendencies at the front. I’m just hoping that a little island of hair doesn’t end up stranded at the front of my head. 5. TATTOOS? Well, I used to beat out a brisk tattoo on a cushion with a pair of knitting needles as a child…oh, I see. No thanks. I’d be that lucky bloke who fell asleep while I was having my children’s names tattoed onto my arm, then woke up to find that some comedian had added “this way up” to the middle of my hair hole. 6. HOW MUCH DO YOU LOVE YOUR JOB ON A SCALE OF 0-5? Tricky one. I manage the IT and admin side of several cancer clinical trials at an NHS hospital, but while there is always loads to do none of it is very exciting. However, my boss is great and the atmosphere usually relaxed enough that I can spend some time on Ciao if I need a ...

Terry's Chocolate Orange Bar 02/10/2004

Anyone For Chocolate Grit?

Terry's Chocolate Orange Bar It may seem an odd way to start a review of this particular product, but I should probably say that I am not a great chocolate fan and would far prefer to have some lovely strong cheese instead. However, I was challenged by Cate (Battiest) to attempt one of two reviews she suggested and decided to go for Terry’s Chocolate Orange Bars, mainly because they are not something I would have otherwise written about. Wish me luck. My main memory of Terry’s orange-flavoured chocolate comes from childhood, when for many years my sister and I received a chocolate orange each Easter from a Great Aunt. I remember the TV adverts from the time, with the tag-line that you could tap it, unwrap it and enjoy it. What a load of cobblers. Every year we both tried new and inventive ways to tap our chocolate orange in the right way to make it fall elegantly open like the ones on the telly. We never did manage it. “Smash it to bits then sweep it off the floor” comes closer. These bars are the latest variation on the orange chocolate theme and come in an attractive blue, orange and green packet. The wrapper is well-filled too, so you don’t get that problem with some chocolate bars where you pick up what looks like a big pack and find the chocolate inside only fills half of it. Inside the wrapper are six roughly Satsuma-sized and shaped pieces of chocolate attached to each other. Five of them have Satsuma-type indentations on them and the sixth bears the legend “Terry’s”, lest you should ...
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