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since 11/04/2001


Fallen (DVD) 22/05/2001

An original idea clumsily handled

Fallen (DVD) This is a bit of a strange movie. Alternating between lines of incredibly cheesy dialogue ("Everything's personal if you're a person") and scenes of great visual imagination (in particular the chase sequence where the bad guy doesn't run but simply moves through a line of people), "Fallen" is a really good action movie which looses a lot of its impact by trying to be something more profound. The acting is fine, although Gabriel Casseus turns in a somewhat bizarre performance as Denzil Washington's brother, Art. The main idea itself (Denzel Washingtom is a cop fighting against an evil fallen angel who can take over anyone's body) is used to good effect, particularly in the scenes where Washington attempts to confront Azazel in his various guises, with occasional tragic effect. Unfortunately, however, the dialogue is, as mentioned, a little on the patchy side and the addition of an ill-judged voice-over by Washington does nothing for the pace of the film. Add in Embeth Davidtz dry as dust, "Name of the Rose"-style witterings about the nature of the beast and Washington's thoughts on sin and redemption (not to mention his name, which was a nice idea in Calvin and Hobbes, but perhaps less so here) and you have a good action movie with a nice twist let down by its attempts to be more than that. Released : 1998 Director : Gregory Hoblit Cast : Denzil Washington John Hobbes John Goodman Jonesy Donald Sutherland Lieutenant Stanton Embeth Davidtz Gretta ...

Download Accelerator 15/05/2001

Small opinion on a small program

Download Accelerator Download Accelerator Plus is a reasonably useful piece of software, but no more than that. It's also got a bit of a flase name - it doesn't really speed up your downloads by all that much. Rather, as with Go!Zilla and other such programs, its primary purpose is to allow you to resume downloads that get broken for some reason (eg you lose your net connection). What this means is that say you have been downloading a bit of freeware for 20 minutes, there's only 1% to go and the site goes down. Instead of losing that 20 minutes you can re-connect when the site comes back up and Download Accelerator will remember what it has downloaded already and only download the last 1%. Which is nice... With the option to download from several FTP sites at once there is a slight increase in the speed of your download, but for most home users with 56kbps modems the impact on transfer speed is relatively negligible (I can usually get about 5k per second with DAP as compared to 3.5 to 4k per second without). Where there is a noticable improvement in speed is over faster lines - using a LAN I have seen my download speed increase nearly double, but as most people (in the UK at least) only use fast connections at work or university (where saving pennies on the phone bill is hardly a paramount consideration), it's not really a major plus. The front-end of the program is fine in a sparce sort of way and I've never had any problem with corrupted files or being unable to resume, but it's not ...

The Bear and the Dragon - Tom Clancy 09/05/2001

Fact filled fun with Uncle Tom Clancy

The Bear and the Dragon - Tom Clancy Tom Clancy is the world's top selling thriller writer, selling millions of copies of his novels in dozens of countries. So close to reality are his descriptions of espionage in the United States that questions were asked in Congress about who was leaking him information. His latest novel, The Bear and the Dragon, is 1036 pages of small print long. Having just finished the final page (and the preceding ones too, of course) I can tell you that I have learned the following vital facts: 1. Chairman Mao Zedung was a paedophile with a taste for 12 year olds. 2. American stuff is better than foreign stuff. 3. Abortion is very, very wrong. 4. Tony Blair says "old boy" and "chaps" when talking in private. 5. In order to convince a high-level Chinese secretary to betray her country to the Americans, buy her some Victoria's Secret knickers and bra sets. 6. The Chinese act like `Klingons'. 7. The best possible way for an American man to die is with a gun in his hand and a pile of his dead enemies at his feet. I know this gleaming pile of pertinent points because various American characters spout them repetitively through the book (with the paedophile thing, someone says it about every fourth line). What I don't know is why it took me over a thousand pages to learn them, or why I needed to know them at all. Clancy suffers from both of the major problems which effect successful, and generally older, authors. First, he pads his books to an unhealthy degree. ...

Stray Duck 08/05/2001

Bring a stray home with you tonight

Stray Duck I started using Strayduck about six months ago. The idea for those of you who haven't come across Strayduck before is that you dial in as normal for two weeks out of every three and then in the third week Strayduck divide the total of the minutes you were online in the first two weeks in two and you get that amount of time online on a freephone number. In case that wasn't the best description ever, here's an example : Week 1 (normal dial-in) : online with Strayduck for 600 minutes. Week 2 (normal dial-in) : online with Strayduck for 800 minutes. Week 3 (freephone dial in) : 700 minutes (600 minutes + 800 minutes divided by 2). To be honest, I expected the thing to fall apart in the third week, with the freephone number being unavailable or being an extemely slow connection. But that hasn't proven the case. So far I have actually ended up with more free minutes than I should have had. In the first free week I was supposed to have about 750 free minutes which I used. However, when I ran out of minutes the Strayduck launcher chucked another 80 minutes onto my free time. Can't be bad. The customer service is excellent as well. A couple of weeks ago I got my phone bill and noticed that I had been charged for a couple of hours when I was dialing in free. I mailed Strayduck to query it and got a reply within the hour explaining that they had checked their logs and I had dialed in to the freephone number. I got in touch with the phone company who ... 28/04/2001

Bet online without giving your credit card details For those of you who fancy a flutter on-line but don't want to drop your credit card details into the murky pond which is the internet, Austria's is an excellent introduction to the "joys" of gambling from home. Although there is an option to bet in cash, the real attraction is the fact that you can bet either with the sites own arena$, which you can convert into beenz, or - for those of you who collect beenz - with the popular(ish) web currency itself. Anything you win is paid back in the same currency (cash, arena$, beenz) that you bet with. Fortunately there is an option to put the beenz you win into your beenz account. Betting is, at the moment, available on the following sports : FOOTBALL ALPINE SKI-ING AMERICAN FOOTBALL TENNIS HOCKEY FORMULA 1 HANDBALL SKI NORD (what ever that might be). The odds are reasonable and are generally expressed in decimal form (eg a £1 bet at 1.20 gets you a return of £1.20, that is your £1 stake plus 20 pence winnings, there is no tax to pay). Combination bets are only available as roll ups (ie you bet on four games and they all have to win for you to collect) These obviously give you better odds but it's not possible to do the more complex bets available on British sites. The only other drawbacks (other than San Marino drawinf with Latvia :-)) are that (1) the site doesn't tell you when the games are to be played which can be a pain if you're waiting for some European game which ...

Hearts 24/04/2001

Edinburgh's Finest Team by far

Hearts The Early Years Heart of Midlothian Football Club (Hearts) were formed in 1874 by (to quote the club’s centenary history) “a group of young lads who frequented the [Heart of Midlothian] dance club”, initially playing at the Meadows in the centre of Edinburgh. In 1881 they moved to their present home of Gorgie on Edinburgh’s west side and were founder members of the Scottish Football League in 1890. Honours including the Scottish cup (first won in 1891) and the league championship (first won in 1895) were gained in these early years and the team’s first truly big-name player, Bobby Walker, came to prominence (going on to win a record 11 caps against England). Prior to the Second World War, however, Hearts were probably best known outside of Scotland for the fact that the entire first team joined up en masse for the First World War, with several players being killed in action. A memorial clock in the city’s Haymarket erected after the war still stands today and is the site of an extremely well attended service each November. The Fifties and Sixties Hearts, while never relegated out of the top division and one of the top sides in the country, never really achieved consistent success until the mid-1950’s, when under manager Tommy Walker, a team emerged which was to dominate Scottish football in much the same way that Hibs had in the late forties and early fifties. This success was partially due to the introduction of ...

Edinburgh Zoo, Edinburgh 23/04/2001

Watch out for that hill

Edinburgh Zoo, Edinburgh Edinburgh Zoo is situated on the west side of the city, easily accessible by bus from the town centre, or straight from the motorway from Glasgow. It’s not at all well sign-posted but the main entrance is hard to miss, set as it is in a large attractive looking building up some steps from the main road. This is easily the biggest Zoo in Scotland and worth a visit if you’re in the city for a few days, although I couldn’t describe the experience as an unqualified success and found certain aspects somewhat disturbing. Cost It’s not the cheapest day out in Edinburgh, but if you go as a family a special ticket is available for about £15, which I thought reasonable value for what is definitely a whole day of entertainment. Queueing is apparently a big problem in the summer, but it wasn't a concern when we visited, being in the middle of winter with baely a soul in the Zoo. One word of warning though – everything else in the Zoo is clearly designed with the intent of ensuring that you don’t leave with any money left in your pocket. There are unsightly vending machines everywhere, the shops are expensive and I would definitely recommend taking a packed lunch, since the food in the restaurants is appalling and costs a small fortune (you’ll spend considerably more than the entry fee to provide even a basic meal for a family of four). The Animals - the Positives The Penguins Edinburgh Zoo is world famous for its penguin ...

Championship Manager Season 00/01 (PC) 23/04/2001

Is this the most addictive game ever

Championship Manager Season 00/01 (PC) If you are a football fan, a management simulation fan or just like games that make you think, then this is the piece of software for you. On the other hand, if you like your games fast and furious, with constant action, state of the art graphics and realistic sound, then forget it. Championship Manager 00/01 is the latest in the phenomonally successful CM series from Eidos and Sports Interactive, stretching back to CM1 in the early 90s. To be honest this new version is not exactly a massive leap on from the last one, merely being the old game plus an update of the players and staff and a few tweaks and twitches to the game engine. What this means in real terms is that there are even more stats for the budding football manager to deal with. Which, as I said earlier, is fine if you like that sort of thing. I do and I've found the game to be easily the most addictive on the market, spending hour after hour wheeling and dealing in the transfer market; analysing tactics; and setting up training regimes. That actually is the only major drawback of the game - it's very slow on many systems, especially if you use the full database, and not exactly lightning quick even on PCs with decent specs. If the thought of taking Forest Green Rovers to the European Cup final fills you with joy, buy this game now - if it leaves you cold, leave it on the shelf.

Galaxy Quest (DVD) 23/04/2001

An intelligent parody, for once

Galaxy Quest (DVD) Right then, I'm a Star Trek fan, always have been, and I'm pig sick of the lame, dull and usually inaccurate spoofs of the series which seem to have infested every satirical TV show for the past ten to twenty years. In general, these consist of three half-witted comedy actors in ill-fitting blue tops and exaggerated bell-bottomed trousers doing crap impersonations of Kirk ("Speak-ing with en-or-mous pauses"), Spock ("Logical, captain") and McCoy ("He's Dead Jim") to the mad cackling of a canned laughter track. Really, it would drive you nuts. And now there's "Galaxy Quest" - where Tim Allan plays an actor who used to play the starship captain on the eponymous cult TV series a la James Kirk and he talks like...well, quite normally actually. Which is the beauty of the film, for anyone who has every watched an episode of Star Trek in particular. None of the obvious and by now so tired gags are used in the film. Yep, there's an alien science officer who lives his life by a strict moral code, but there are no cheap jokes about his appearance; there's a somewhat dour chief engineer who doesn't speak in a "humorous" ethnic accent; there's even a security guard extra who doesn't get killed in the first five minutes. Instead, there are subtle and affectionate digs at the genre as a whole – one quick example is Sigourney Weaver (playing against type as the blonde and busty first officer) who points out that she had no role in the original series other than to ...
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