E4 – Misfits comedy review

Misfits, one of E4’s (Channel 4’s hip channel) new flagship comedy shows, has opened to pretty good success and acclaim this week. Early reckoning shows that the show drew in about 0.5 million viewers which ain’t half bad!

It’s about 5 chaps and chapettes who for some reason are struck by lightning and become endowed with super powers. Uh-huh. So, kinda like Heroes, a bit. We have a time-traveller and a mind-reader amongst others – which is all good. Actually, it’s pretty good yunno – it’s funny in all the right places, doesn’t take cheap swipes at the superhero genre and actually is very entertaining. Just one thing I would mention is that it’s definitely not for young uns – hence the 10pm post-watershed billing.

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Terry Pratchett's Colour Of Magic Logo

Hey! I know! This is a really old review for the color of magic, but I’ve not seen it till now, though it was released at least last year (2008), possible before, I could check it up on the old IMDB, but that’d be too organised. Instead, I’m going to review this Terry Pratchett classic as I’ve seen it, which is now. I’ve read the books, listened to the audio-books, and now I’m watching the TV/Film adaptation. By the way, the English is “the colour of magic” and I’m English, so there! :)

It’s not going to be the longest review because I’m not into that kind of guff that goes into a lot of reviews. I’ll be honest, I know my subject, I’m a keen reader of Pratchett and the first two novels in the Discworld series are very well known to me and close to my heart. There have, to my knowledge, only been two significant TV adapations, the first being The Hogfather, a piffle of an adaptation that, although diversionary, was almost certainly a very bad choice for turning into a TV/Film because it required too much pre-knowledge of the Discworld. As such it came across as a very weak half-joke. Not great for Pratchett fans.
However, this review is about “The Colour of Magic”, which is a TV/Film so incorporating the novel “The Light Fantastic” – the first two Discworld novels written by Terry and very rich in humor, humour and the many legs of the Sapient Pearwood suitcase.

Overall I think it comes across without too much splendour. The quality of the production is very, very high, I’m certainly impressed with the amount of effort put into it, I would simply suggest that it needs, absolutely NEEDS to be a Hollywood production with the cast and money that will truly enable it to become what it ought to be. I mean, look, it doesn’t need to be a Lord of the Rings (3 films, 4 hours each, fantastic BUT not THIS) but it does need a decent treatment. I love David Jason (actually, I love anyone with firstname/lastname variations that can be all turn-aroundy) but really he’s not best suited to this kind of production. Actually thought that Sean Astin was a very good Twoflower, almost because his performance is at least charismatic rather than actually being that brilliant. Christopher Lee as Death is inspired, in future books when Death gets more of a character that’ll be absolutely brilliant in my head as the voice of Death.

To be fair, if you’re considering buying the DVD or Blu-Ray of this I’d say: Yeah, go for it! Why not, the worst you’ll get is a poor adaptation of an excellent story, which at the end of it is still a pretty good fun story to spend your time with.

Overall score: 6/10. Seriously, if you’ve no idea then… you’ll have no idea. Please read the book, or listen to the audio-book. Don’t rely on TV/Film adapations of Discworld books to become your only knowledge of a genius like Terry Pratchett’s work.

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I feel really, really bad. I don’t know why but the media has made me feel awful? Why? Because I have no idea who Natasha Richardson actually is! I do now – she’s the wife of Liam Neeson. Er, no, I’m sure she’s a heck of a lot more than that but again, the media has done this to me. Help!

I feel very much that I ought to know exactly who Natasha is, I have to admit the name kinda rings a bell… and weirdly I do watch a fair number of films but still – no bells are ringing :(

I feel very much when a celebrity/star dies who is very well respected that I should go out of my way to try to look at their back-catalogue (so to speak). I’ve done the same with music stars, gone on from their deaths to get a few albums and respect that artist’s life. I intend to do as such with Natasha Richardson and check out her films. I have a feeling that she’s more of a stage star as well, which obviously I have no hope of being able to follow up.

Nathasha Richardson – I do apologise, I have no idea who you are but I thoroughly intend to find out.

I’m going to score myself a 2/10 for at least knowing who Liam Neeson is.

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A bird in dark settingI have to admit, I’ve never really been enrolled into the whole history of the Resident Evil series. I do seem to remember playing the original on the Playstation (is that right?!) but it may have been the second. Either way, it was good fun, part action, part adventure. Reasonably scary.

So when the fifth in the series came out (Oh, I tried the one on the Wii, that was AWFUL!) I had to get it… and I must say I’m really enjoying it! I know it’s standard practice to complete a game before reviewing but I’m not a massive, massive gamer. I play when I can and mostly that’s very casual but I’m trying my best.

The first thing that hit me is how gorgeous the game looks. I was, for some reason, expecting an “on rails” type game where there are hundreds of pauses and camera swings to divert your attention to the next thing. That it’s as free as it is somehow came as a shock and interacting with the environment on this game is a thorough joy. I don’t know whether it’s just me but the controls did irritate a fair bit, as did the odd bizarre camera angle… still, it’s kinda one of those things these days that people just *do* complain about.

The storyline is pretty good considering it’s a Zombie game to all intents and purposes. Oh, and it’s been ages since I’ve played a game with proper end-of-level baddies, how cool is that?! Your main ally in your pursuit, Sheva, is a bit bloody stupid I have to admit – you’re supposed to be able to get her to help you out more often than not but I just kept putting her into “cover” mode and that seemed to be for the best. There’s a need to conserve ammo that’s quite tricky for someone who’s not a confirmed FPS gamer, but the challenge seems fair enough really, rather than being handed everything on a plate. And the cool thing is that I hardly had to blow up a barrel at all!

I don’t think I’ve ever played a more cinematic game, though I’m looking to get Call of Duty: World at War, so we’ll see how long that lasts.

A very solid game, well directed, well executed and voice acted. A very intense and inclusive experience.

The game gets 8/10

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This is my first review of this quite bizarre and quite wonderful book, “The Master and Margarita”. I say wonderful even though I have no idea whether it truly is wholly so, but it’s almost irrelevant, right now I can happily report that it is quite wonderful to read, even though I can’t confess to be entirely enjoying it.

What I’m intending to do is review each separate bit that I read, partly as a way to give myself momentum to KEEP GOING with it. It’s hard work, believe me, it’s… well, I’ll explain why later. Anyway, hopefully doing the reviews this way gives it a chance since it is a book of changing moods, styles and stories. At this point, I’ve read 40 pages. The other reason to do it is it gives me a chance to think about books, stories, tales of mystery, in a different way. Makes me stop and think and disparate points rather than ploughing on and considering the tale only at the end. That’s otherwise what I do and it seems kinda daft.

OK, so, to the story. This being the first chapter of my review I need to give some background of the book. The Master and Margarita first drew me to it because of the wonderful cover of the book. It has a cat, a black cat, a bespectacled black cat… oh, I’m going to stop there BUT the cat is also smoking a cigar and playing cards. Fantastic! The novel is written by Russian Mikhail Bulgakov. It is a satire, by all accounts, and in my reading of it so far can be desperately funny and beautifully absurd. The book, by all accounts, has quite a weird history; apparently the first draft of the book was destroyed for dubious reasons, and the final draft was completed by Bulgakov’s wife after his death. Then, after its release was censored to hell, the devil knows why (that is a bad joke based on the first few bad jokes referencing the devil in the first few pages of the book). Obviously the version I’m reading is an interpretation into English and has been completed by two separate interpreters.

The book starts with a poet and a journalist discussing the former’s current employ by the latter to produce an atheistic poem about Jesus. At which point a “foreigner” arrives who starts to tell them about how he knows that Jesus did exist, and a chapter is devoted to a flashback of Pontius Pilate’s introduction to Jesus of Nazareth. It’s actually quite fun, the historical details, Jesus’ apparent words and actions are all rather interesting and the juxtaposition of the chapters is amusing and quite enthralling.

Then it starts to get a little odd. The “foreigner” starts to get all spooky and predicts the future. Only 35 pages or so in and actually I was quite attached to the poet and the journalist so…

… it’s quite weird when one of them is decapitated. End of story for the journalist. But the important thing is that the odd sequence of events that leads to the beheading is predicted by the foreigner. The poet, quite freaked out, starts to chase after the foreigner who is joined by another bizarre gentleman and… a big, walking cat.

Personally I’m finding the reading of it all quite difficult. Clearly there’s a fair amount of interpretation going on and it shows, frankly, in the way the humour in particular is interpreted. I have a feeling, and this is a good thing, that some of the humour has been either over-played or under-played. It’s silly in places and I get the feeling that it’s supposed to be, that the original is, but somehow it doesn’t work in English. The other major difficulty I have is that the names are also quite difficult to follow. I know, I’m a pathetic Englishman who can’t remember long complicated foreign names… but it’s true! I can’t! Especially when the characters also have Russian nicknames that are used intermittently.

Anyway, that’s where I’m up to. I’m happy to carry on, though I must admit it’s hard work. Loving the weirdness though :)

Cover: 10/10
Introduction to the story: 8/10
Story so far: 9/10

Overall, I’m giving the first 40 pages a very devilish 9/10

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Just sat down to watch the first few minutes of Live and Let Die… not quite sure why, was only really in the mood for a few minutes of it. But it’s all good, a great start to a Bond film, and (I believe) Roger Moore’s first Bond outing.

It starts with a series of deaths, a murder in the UN – death by high-frequency sound! The most hilarious the bloke who’s watching the funeral procession being led by a brass band.. turns out the procession is for him and he gets picked up into the coffin, then the band goes all JAZZ and it’s a street party. Ace. Didn’t actually get to the bit where Moore actually gets on screen but that’s not the point. I know how the rest goes and it’s a brilliant film, great debut for Roger Moore and the whole film’s very Bond.

Not to mention the title track sung by Sir Paul McCartney – a wicked bit of music, perfect for Bond though actually quite different. Amazing stuff.

I give the first few minutes of this film a very strong 9/10, though overall I think I’d temper it by saying that it’s not the best Bond film by any means and so overall the film gets 7/10.


A review of MSN Messenger

MSN People

Message away!

I’m not really into social networking, social bookmarking, social…ising. Anything really that involves me having to interact with other humans is not really something I do. Which makes it all the more important that my communication tool of choice really does the job well.

I use MSN Messenger. It might not even be called that, exactly, but I don’t much care either. Messenger is a Microsoft product, which doesn’t immediately mean it’s evil or that it’s buggy or that its Terms and Conditions forced me to give up my first born or the deeds to my eldest Stallion. Nope – it just means it works pretty much half the time and almost certainly contains a lot of functionality I’ll never use.

Personally I think out of all the instant online chat machines, Messenger is the best (out of interest, ICQ was the worst). It’s functional, it lets you have your own avatars, it’s quick, it lets you have privacy (I’m always in “appear offline” mode). Yeah – it’s a good product.

Appearance: 8/10 (It hasn’t ever changed much but personally I *like* that)
Functionality: 7/10 (It doesn’t do much, really, but what it does it does well)
Funk factor: 4/10 (It won’t do much for your street cred)

Overall I give MSN Messenger a healthy but not stunning 6/10

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I’ve used this site a few times and think it’s worth reviewing. It’s a pretty impressive service; basically it’s a website that has lots of takeaway restaurants signed up to it from which you can order your food, pay online and fill your tum!

The way it works is you put your postcode in (this is in the UK) and it comes up with a list of all restaurants in your area, you click through on one you fancy (from Indian, Chinese, Italian usually) and you basically get their entire menu. Click the items you want, go through and pay online, and BINGO! You’re done, now you just wait for your friendly delivery person to give you your food. Fantastic.

It’s a well thought out and designed site, the interface is easy to use, uses AJAX pretty well to add items to your “basket”, it’s cool. Personally I hate phoning restaurants because, well, firstly I don’t really like using the phone, and secondly because these restaurants tend to be staffed by people who have very strong accents.

I’ve used another site that does a similar job called hungry house – that I was less impressed with. After you’ve paid, the restaurant has to accept your order: Just-eat gives you an indicator and you basically keep the page open till it responds. Hungry house on the other hand emails you. There is a “login” area where you can see the result of the status… but it’s a bit irritating not to have the instant response.

Overall, good site, well designed, good inventory, yeah, a solid 8/10

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Google Chrome Reviewed

Google Chrome LogoAs a web developer I have to constantly be looking at new technologies, of course Google Chrome has been around for a fair while now but after the initial techy-geek pickup immediately after launch, I’m starting to see an increasing user base for this particular web browser and it’s about time I took the time out to look at it properly.

Speculation about Google releasing a web browser into the market had been around for years since it was confirmed and it was eventually released in September 2008. It launched with a pretty big “hoo-hah” and had zillions of downloads before the day was out. However, many skeptically (and probably rightly) suggested that a great number of these downloads would then sit as unused desktop items that your OS would kindly remind you should be tidied at regular intervals. There was, many said (and I was amongst them), no real room for a new browser in the market. Internet Explorer was going to be used by anyone who had no real reason to look elsewhere, whilst FireFox had the market of those who needed to look under the hood of websites. Safari had fairly recently been available to download for Windows users – and so what need was there for a new browser?

Chrome – the fast browser

In my use of Chrome one of the best things I can say about it is: Whoa! This thing’s fast. I don’t just mean at loading itself, although that is fairly nippy, but the actual rendering of web pages is very impressive. True, I must temper this with the confession that I have a silly number of “add ons” plugged into FireFox at any one time, but nonetheless I’ve never seen a browser render a page quicker. And it makes a difference you know, I never really thought about it but it makes the internet feel a heck of a lot slicker. I spend a decent amount of time in my job working out how to make the back-end behind websites process quicker, whilst at the same time ensuring that the front-end developers around me are also producing slick code and well optimised imagery. But all this work is heavily diminished if the browser itself is sluggish, and Chrome has pointed out (hopefully) to the big-boys exactly how it’s done. Yeah, I’ll call Mozilla’s FireFox browser a big-boy because it really is now.

Another feature of Chrome that I’m really impressed with is that each browser tab or window is (apparently) a separately running application, meaning that if one tab crashes, the rest doesn’t go with it. This might sound stupid but I’m sick of losing the dozen or so tabs I’ve got open with IE or FireFox, even if FireFox does offer to open them up again next time… and crash for the same reason :)

Speaking of tabs, I LOVE the way you can drag a tab outside the tab-line and it turns into a new window. That’s magic, that’s exactly what I wanted from FireFox, especially when you’ve got 2 monitors. The ability to create a new window from an existing tab is such a simple one but something I’ve genuinely missed having!

Chrome – the ‘meh’ browser

However, when trying to think of other positives, I’m kinda struggling. It’s not that Chrome’s doing much wrong, it’s just that I get everything it does, more or less, from either FireFox or IE. With IE I know I’m going to find the website I’m looking at (probably) looking as it was designed 1, with FireFox I know I’m going to be able to get the functionality expanded, that everything I already use it for works really well, and I can rely on its rendering engine to displays things exactly as programmed.

In terms of what it’s actually missing, there’s not a great deal, I’d suggest. The only thing I have noticed is a lack of internal RSS reader – a bit weird when you open up an RSS/XML file and have it load in the page like an HTML file (ie. tags invisible, content spewed).

Overall, I mean, I like Chrome. I’d give it a home, maybe in the garage, but I suspect there’ll be others who’d give it the couch, maybe even offer it a beer. But I just don’t care enough. Y’know?

Score: 7/10. It’s not its fault, it’s just a bit meh.

1 NOTE! I know perfectly well that IE renders things very poorly indeed. What I mean by this is that developers are pretty good at making sure that their websites work in the browser that 80% of people use. Sadly.

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A review of R2-D2 from Star Wars

I fell in love with good old “Artoo” when I was a nipper. Star Wars was released in ‘77, sadly two years before my time so I wasn’t able to see it at the cinema until it was released for the Special Edition in… er… 95 I think it was, with all the gooey CGI “updates” that weren’t needed. But that’s all history, point is I grew up as a child of the ’80s and as such Star Wars was all a kid could need. Along with He-Man. And Knight Rider and all that.

Artoo was my favourite, never before has a word-less beeper ever said so much in a single whistle to make you feel like, “Yeah, I’d totally be friends with him and rip the living p*ss out of Threepio all the time.” The way his little head swivelled. The way he’d let down his middle leg to set off on a trundle that’s clearly going to make him run into the side of the corridor (good camera cutting, Lucas!). The way he fell over when the Jawas zapped him with their little electricity gun. Good times.

You know, no other robot without any real means of mechanical expression can raise their eyebrow or roll their eyes in quite the same way Artoo could whenever “dweeb” Luke was talking to him (yunno, before Luke got all cool and had a robot hand and stuff).

So I say “Thank you!” Artoo. Thank you Kenny Baker (the mini-man inside the bot), thank you Ben Burtt (who did the whistles and beeps) and thank you to everyone who made Artoo the true star he is. Oh yeah, thanks George Lucas – I guess you did OK too.

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