Thursday, March 30, 2006

Versus: Director's Cut

Another review DVD from , Versus is a tale of good versus evil…

There are 666 portals that connect this world to the other side. These are concealed from all human beings but there are some who notice their existence and some who are willing to open the door and try to gain the power of darkness. Somewhere in Japan exists the 444th portal, known as the Forest of Resurrection. It was a long time ago when the evil soul uncovered its existence and sought to claim its power for himself…

Despite the poor video transfer and limited extras package, this movie is actually worth watching. In fact I had to watch it more than once just to get past the budget affects and overacting but it has something - Yakuza, Zombies, a Vampire and lots of martial-arts. If you want a more in-depth view, with screen shots, then you can read my full review on DVD Lard.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Fantasy, Horror, Martial-Arts
My Rating: 5/10

Monday, March 27, 2006

Shadow Warrior - by Chris Bunch

This is an omnibus edition of Bunch's three Shadow Warrior novels - The Wind After Time, Hunt The Heavens and The Darkness Of God, which is why it's taken me longer than usual to get through. It also contains a new Joshua Wolfe short story called Backblast. This is set between the end of the Al'ar war and the events in Shadow Warrior.

Joshua Wolfe grew up on an Al'ar world and was trained in their esoteric fighting arts, only to be taken prisoner when the war started. Once free, he operated as a special-forces expert during the war until, on the verge of defeat, the Al'ar inexplicably vanished from the galaxy.

Now Wolfe makes a living as a bounty hunter come mercenary and still occasionally works for the Federation. On the hunt for a thief, he comes into possession of a Lumina, one of the rare Al'ar power stones, which leads him into a much larger game of power politics, a hunt for the last Al'ar and the revelation of a much more dangerous threat to the entire universe.

I quite enjoyed this book. There's lots of action, a decent plot, a fair smattering of sex and a good deal of violence. A bit like a steamy spy-thriller in space, the pace never really lets up and it kept me reading into the small hours.

Genre: Action, Science-Fiction, Thriller.
My Rating: 7/10

Friday, March 24, 2006

Enya, AC/DC, Meat Loaf and The Postal Service

Bit of a mixed bag this week, but that's pretty common for me…

Enya: A Day Without Rain

A very nice atmospheric and relaxing mix of tracks and great stuff for calming you down after a stressful day in the office.

  1. A Day Without RainA Day Without Rain
  2. Wild Child
  3. Only Time
  4. Tempus Vernum
  5. Deora Ar Mo Chroi
  6. Flora's Secret
  7. Fallen Embers
  8. Silver Inches
  9. Pilgrim
  10. One By One
  11. Lazy Days
AC/DC: Back In Black

Back to my roots here - a classic rock album from a classic rock band. Great, loud vocals from Brian Johnson and stonking guitar riffs from Angus Young. This is definitely one of their best albums and great music to drive to.
  1. Hells Bells
  2. Shoot To Thrill
  3. What Do You Do For Money Honey
  4. Givin The Dog A Bone
  5. Let Me Put My Love Into You
  6. Back In Black
  7. You Shook Me All Night Long
  8. Have A Drink On Me
  9. Shake A Leg
  10. Rock And Roll Ain't Noise Pollution

Meat Loaf: Bat Out Of Hell

The AC/DC album got me in the mood for more classic rock music and this is definitely one of the milestone albums of that genre. Written by Jim Steinman, most of these tracks are now legendary and seeing them performed live on stage by Meat Loaf is even better. I first saw him perform Paradise by the Dashboard Light on The Old Grey Whistle Test back in the 70's but we saw him at the SECC a few years ago and it was still an amazing show.
  1. Bat Out Of Hell
  2. You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth
  3. Heaven Can Wait
  4. All Revved Up With No Place To Go
  5. Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad
  6. Paradise By The Dashboard Light
  7. Bolero
  8. Bat Out Of Hell
  9. Dead Ringer For Love

The Postal Service: Give Up

A new band for me, got this from my daughter. This is the debut album of the band formed between Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) and Jimmy Tamborello (Figurine, Dntel). Mostly synthetic electronica but it works brilliantly to produce a great mix of dreamy, melancholic tracks with beautiful lyrics. Hope they do some more together.
  1. District Sleeps Alone Tonight
  2. Such Great Heights
  3. Sleeping In
  4. Nothing Better
  5. Recycled Air
  6. Clark Gable
  7. We Will Become Silhouettes
  8. This Place Is A Prison
  9. Brand New Colony
  10. Natural Anthem

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath Of The Dragon God

We're getting a few Region 1 discs to review from just now and this is the third I've had so far. They seem like a good DVD store with some decent pricing and the extra benefit of them selling Region 1 DVDs is useful too. Okay, plug over, this is the follow up to the somewhat ill-received Dungeons & Dragons, which had Jeremy Irons hamming it up good style. Here's the basic plot...

Over 1,000 years ago, the powerful mages of Turan defied Falazure, the Dragon God of Decay and Undeath, and brought death and destruction to the land. After a great battle the mages finally defeated Falazure and imprisoned him while also sealing his powers in a black orb. They then hid that in suspended animation to hold the dragon captive forever.

Now Damodar, after wandering the Earth for over 100 years as an undead creature for failing his master Profion and now hungry for revenge on the realm of Ismir, has found the Orb of Falazure and removed it from its protection. In so doing he has triggered events that will lead to the release of Falazure from his prison and that will bring about a new reign of terror on the world.

So, the rulers of Ismir send forth a party of adventurers on a quest to recover the Orb from Damodar while the Council of Mages seeks to discover how to put it back where it came from and so avert the raising of the Dragon God. And so the quest begins…

This DVD is a bit of a failure all round and, unless you're Dungeons & Dragons game fan, then it's best left for a last option rental. The movie is low budget affair and the DVD sound, video and extras package failed to impress but if you need more than that to convince you, then you can read my full review on DVD Lard.

Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
My Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit

I'm off work with a stinker of a cold so I thought I'd try and finish off the DVD review of this movie to save me from dying of boredom, having to stay indoors. It'd been put on hold for the last couple of weeks due to me falling over most nights after spending the day in our old work building lugging all the technology and computing kit down to be ready for shipping off to storage or the recyclers.

Anyway, this is Aardman Animation's much loved and multi-award winning duo of Wallace & Gromit starring in an all new comedy adventure and their first full-length feature film...

Wallace & Gromit have hung up their window washing cloths and are now the proud proprietors of Anti-Pesto, a humane pest control business and with the Annual Giant Vegetable Competition coming up in a few days, they're up to their ears in work and rabbits. Wallace is inspired to sort the rabbit problem out permanently by using his Mind-O-Matic device to brainwash the rabbits but it doesn't quite work out how he intended and soon a huge Brassica munching beast begins raiding the townfolk's beloved garden plots at night.

This is truly an excellent movie and it's well complemented by this DVD but if you need more than that, then you can read my full review on DVD Lard. Nice to see that the directors, Nick Park and Steve Box, won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year for it as well, especially against such other strong nominees like Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle and Tim Burton's Corpse Bride.

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family, Science-Fiction
My Rating: 9/10

Sunday, March 12, 2006

First Snow Of Spring

Woke up this morning to find the garden, and the rest of the area, under pretty deep snow.

We had planned to go walking today if the weather was good enough but the car is now snowed in and the roads don't look navigable so I guess it's a day in watching the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The last snow we got was back in November so I guess we had a snow free Winter this year.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Dino's, 99 Hope Street, Glasgow

Another Friday and we can't be bothered cooking so we decided to stay in town and grab a quick meal somewhere close to work. That turned out to be Dino's, a little Italian place in Hope Street.

It was still quite early so we got away with only a grumble from the waiter when he asked if we'd booked. Anyway, it wasn't that busy so we got seated okay and the service was pretty prompt. We shared a good sized portion of garlic bread, good thick Italian bread and lashings of garlic butter. Then Lorna had Lasgana and I had a Pizza Italiano, which was pretty tasty and covered with pepperoni, and all washed down with some red wine.

It is a pretty small place, less then 10 tables I think, and the staff were friendly enough even though the waiter's slightly overdone Italian accent got dropped occasionally as he moved among the diners. Still, the food was good so no complaints.

Cuisine: Italian
My Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Moby, Coldplay, Genesis, Kings Of Leon and Steve Vai

We were at our old office this week, breaking down the equipment so it was a great opportunity to listen to some more music. I'm not one for playlists - life's too short to spend time on stuff like that. Besides, a well produced album should be listened to in its entirety to experience the full story of the piece...

Moby: 18

This is the follow up to the amazingly successful Play and it follows much the same lines as that title - a relaxing and ambient mix of strings, keyboards and sampled vocals. Great stuff to lose yourself in.

  1. We Are All Made Of Stars
  2. In This World
  3. In My Heart
  4. Great Escape
  5. Signs Of Love
  6. One Of These Mornings
  7. Another Woman
  8. Fireworks
  9. Extreme Ways
  10. Jam For The Ladies - featuring Angie Stone and MC Lyte
  11. Sunday (The Day Before My Birthday)
  12. 18
  13. Sleep Alone
  14. At Least We Tried
  15. Harbour - featuring Sinead O�Connor
  16. Look Back In
  17. The Rafters
  18. I'm Not Worried At All
Coldplay: A Rush Of Blood To The Head

Another excellent album from Coldplay and a great follow up to Parachutes. A classic mix of melodic and hypnotic songs and a definite hit.
  1. Politik
  2. In My Place
  3. God Put A Smile Upon Your Face
  4. The Scientist
  5. Clocks
  6. Daylight
  7. Green Eyes
  8. Warning Sign
  9. A Whisper
  10. A Rush of Blood To The Head
  11. Amsterdam
Genesis: A Trick Of The Tail

This one takes me back to my youth. I was at the Trick Of The Tail concert at the Glasgow Apollo in 1976, which was just after Peter Gabriel left and Phil Collins took over lead vocals. The stage act was amazing for the time - lasers, inflatable flowers and they had the brilliant Bill Bruford supporting on drums. Pity the CD is so short but at the time it was released, vinyl could only manage about 40 minutes of music on an album.
  1. Dance On A Volcano
  2. Entangled
  3. Squonk
  4. Mad Man Moon
  5. Robbery, Assault And Battery
  6. Ripples
  7. A Trick Of The Tail
  8. Los Endos

Kings Of Leon: Aha Shake Heartbreak

One of my daughter's collection but very listenable to. Not a bad mix of modern rock music with good vocals.

  1. Slow Night, So Long
  2. King Of The Rodeo
  3. Taper Jean Girl
  4. Pistol Of Fire
  5. Milk
  6. The Bucket
  7. Soft
  8. Razz
  9. Day Old Blues
  10. Four Kicks
  11. Velvet Snow
  12. Rememo
  13. Where Nobody Knows (Bonus Track)
Steve Vai: Alien Love Secrets

There's no disputing that Vai is one of the world's best and fastest rock guitarists and this is full of his usual amazing guitar playing. There are some cracking tracks on here but Ya Yo Gakk and Kill The Guy With The Ball may only appeal to purists.
  1. Bad Horsie
  2. Juice
  3. Die To Live
  4. Boy From Seattle
  5. Ya Yo Gakk
  6. Kill The Guy With The Ball
  7. The God Eaters
  8. Tender Surrender

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Rule Of Four - by Ian Caldwell & Dustin Thomason

This is one of those books I picked up in the airport last year but didn't get round to reading until now. I'd already read Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and this looked like it could be a similar and enjoyable break from my usual intake of science fiction and fantasy...

It's Easter at Princeton and the seniors are scrambling to finish their theses. Two students, Tom Sullivan and Paul Harris, are a hair's breadth from solving the mysteries of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, a renowned text Italian that has baffled scholars since its publication in 1499. For Tom, their research has been a link to his family's past and an obstacle to the woman he loves. For Paul, it has become an obsession, the very reason for living. But as their deadline looms, research has stalled...until a long-lost diary surfaces with a vital clue. And when a fellow researcher is murdered just hours later, Tom and Paul realize that they are not the first to glimpse the Hypnerotomachia's secrets.

Suddenly the stakes are raised, and as the two friends sift through the codes and riddles at the heart of the text, they are beginning to see the manuscript in a new light—not simply as a story of faith, eroticism and pedantry, but as a bizarre, coded mathematical maze. And as they come closer and closer to deciphering the final puzzle of a book that has shattered careers, friendships and families, they know that their own lives are in mortal danger. Because at least one person has been killed for knowing too much. And they know even more.

Billed as the thinking man's Da Vinci Code, this fails to come up with the goods. The subject of the story, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, is in fact a real Renaissance text written in a mix of hybrid languages and scholars agree that it does contain a variety of hidden mysteries. But, while the authors artfully go about solving the deep level of complexity involved in the puzzles held within the Hypnerotomachia's pages, the story itself seems to concentrate heavily on life at Princeton, going into detail that simply alienates us common folk. On top of that we're supposed to believe that these young heroes have a depth of knowledge about history and the classics that would take most people many years to accumulate.

Then there's the pace. While the Da Vinci Code, for all that it's been slated by the critics, is an entertaining and fast-paced murder yarn with lots of tension and drama, this is way too slow. It was almost 200 pages in before someone copped it and then almost another 300 before some real action gets going and then that fizzled out pretty quickly. It goes nowhere and just seems to waffle on and on about Princeton and I suspect the authors would have liked to stay there.

Genre: History, Mystery.
My Rating: 4/10