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Jojoborne

Jojoborne
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Member since: 11.03.2011

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      07.03.2014 12:13
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      Another great bath ballistic from Lush

      Lush Twilight Bath Ballistic

      --

      I haven't reviewed a Lush product since last autumn but as many of you know I do love Lush. Many of the ladies on Ciao have been kind enough to leave me some very nice comments in the past saying that it is nice to see a man reviewing a Lush product. I think more men should try Lush products as they are fantastic and all natural. I could spend hours just smelling their stuff.
      One of my favourite products is the bath ball or ballistic and this review concentrates on another one of those.

      --

      The Product

      --

      The Twilight ballistic smells wonderful and looks pretty much the same as your usual bath ball. It is a light pink in colour and has a few stars stamped into the mould; hence the name twilight I suppose.

      The ball smells absolutely wonderful and again I could spend hours just sniffing it and be quite happy doing so. We have a box in our bathroom with about ten to fifteen Lush products in at any given time. My girlfriend initially used this one and the pictures I will be using are from her experience. I then used one myself and the thoughts are my own.

      At 200 grams the Twilight ballistic is one of the bigger ballistics and this is apparent when you see how tight the standard Lush packet is on it. You can smell the lovely aroma right through the packet and when you rip it open it is even stronger.

      Lush promote this ball as smelling like a night-time malty drink and as a lover of Horlicks, Ovaltine and also cold malt extract drinks I must say it doesn't really conjure up that impression for me. The strongest smell that comes through is another one of my favourite smells, which is lavender. It also contains ylang ylang, which comes through. There is a slight hint of malt, which I'm not sure, is supposed to be malt or caramel, as the ingredients say it contains both. The ball also contains Tonka oils, which always conjures up visions of the old classic metal toys but I never seem to smell any old delivery trucks or tanks; of course I jest and in all honesty I am not sure what Tonka oils smell like.

      --

      The Experience

      --

      Placing the ball into the bath it begins to fizz and bubble as you would expect due to the bicarbonate of soda and the citric acid. The colour is a lovely vivid pink which begins to turn into a deep purple and then a blue due to the inner side of the ball being blue in colour as opposed to the initial pink.

      There is also a small but steady burst of glitter for added effect. This really didn't do anything for me and just settles in the bath after you drain it. It is not however that difficult to clean up and although some of it ends up on your skin it is not a big problem.

      The ball fizzes to an end after about five minutes and the smell is lovely. The whole bathroom is filled with a lovely lavender smell. It makes for a very relaxing bath.


      The feel on your skin is one of smoothness and softness and you really feel like you are getting a nice nourishing clean as well as a lovely smelly experience. My skin felt lovely and cleansed afterwards and the smell stayed on my skin for two or three hours. It is a great feeling to sniff your arms and still smell lavender as you lie in bed.

      Cleaning the bath afterwards was not a problem and the residue washes away quite easily. You do have to make sure you clean the bath properly as you will find bits of glitter here and there if you don't but, again, it is easy to clean away.

      --

      My thoughts

      --

      I would definitely recommend this as one of the better bath balls that Lush have made and would definitely use it again myself.


      Lavender is one of my favourite smells and if you are looking for a relaxing bath then this is a real treat.


      We have a fan in our bathroom and it negates condensation but I will say that if you have a bathroom that gets very hot then you should watch where you store this bath ball. As with a lot of the bigger sized balls and ones that contain numerous ingredients, this Twilight ball is liable to become soft when exposed to heat or condensation, which may cause it to become misshapen or even crumble.


      I purchased this bath ball ballistic from the Dutch Lush store in The Hague where I live but I also order from the UK and purchased from the Birmingham Lush at Christmas when I visited the UK this year. I added this in case anyone wondered about the Dutch writing on the ball's packet in the pictures.

      I love this product and it really does smell dreamy. Just the smell of the room that it is in before you even use it is enhanced. I never have to use an air freshener in my bathroom. My girlfriend likes to sit and read a book in there because of the Lush products making smell so nice and the Twilight ball is among them.

      --

      Ingredients

      --

      Sodium Bicarbonate, Citric Acid, Cream of Tartar, Lavender Oil, Tonka Absolute, Ylang Ylang Oil, Sodium Laureth Sulfate , Cocamide DEA, Lauryl Betaine, Coumarin, Benzoin Resinoid , Linalool, Perfume, , Iridescent Glitter (lustre silver), Colour 42090, Colour 17200. Colour 14700, Colour 45410

      As with all Lush products the ingredients used are natural ingredients and no artificial additives or preservatives are used in any way, shape or form.

      --

      Lush website Summary

      --

      The Twilight bath ballistic is promoted on the Lush website as a lavender and Tonka oil bath ball.
      The website describes it in the following way;

      '' As Twilight dissolves, it turns from the colour of the setting sun and gets darker, turning your water a shimmering deep purple to call to mind the night sky. The fragrance has been designed to induce drowsiness: lavender is a soothing, mind-clearing fragrance, used in aromatherapy to treat insomnia and aid restful sleep, while benzoin and Tonka call to mind a milky caramel malt drink.''

      This bath ballistic cost me three euros.

      I give the Twilight bath ball ballistic four out of five stars.

      ©Lee Billingham

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      • More +
        17.02.2014 09:25
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        Something different from the pop diva.

        Sophie Ellis-Bextor - Wanderlust

        --

        Wanderlust is the fifth studio album from Sophie Ellis Bextor.

        I suppose you can't really do a review on one of Sophie's albums without mentioning the fact that she is the daughter of Janet Ellis, a Blue Peter presenter from the eighties. So there you go, that is my 'Here's one I made earlier' sentence for this review out of the way.

        I suppose most of you will be more familiar with Sophie Ellis Bextor now due to her time on 'Strictly Come Dancing'. She gained a lot of popularity and some new fans from that show.

        I must admit I was looking forward to hearing this album as I like Sophie Ellis Bextor. As a big fan of Ellie Goulding, Marina and the Diamonds, Charli XCX and artists of that nature, I kind of like a pop song every now and again, especially when it is synth driven as I grew up with and still listen to a lot of eighties bands and the electronica genre is still up there as one of my faves.


        I was however, in for a surprise as Sophie has changed tack for this outing.

        The synth driven pop beats have been swapped for a more gothic sound and there are more ballads than you are used to on Sophie's albums but I'm glad to say that it works really well. The album was seen as a new direction and a wander away from the path of Electronica based pop.

        The album reached number four in the UK charts and number one in the Indie charts. It sold just over ten thousand copies in its first week of sales. On January fourteenth of this year Sophie played a special gig to promote the album at Bush Hall in London. The gig was very well received and had some very positive reviews. The album was released digitally and on CD in the UK, Holland and Sweden on the twentieth of January, the day before the gig and then went on mainstream sale on the twenty-seventh of January.

        Wanderlust has been received quite well and has had mainly positive reviews but some negative ones as well. One critic said that Sophie sounds like a nine year old girl. All I can say is that she should stop hanging around with nine year olds who sound like thirty year olds; utter nonsense and a very silly comment to make, although it is her opinion of course, however ill-informed it might be.

        --

        Wanderlust - Total track time: 40.56


        Track One - Birth of an Empire

        -

        The opening song bursts on to the album with a beat that could be described as Turkish or music from a similar country. Sophie's voice is so distinctive that there is no mistaking her for anyone else and as soon as she starts to sing on this track, you're comfortable if you're a fan. The first thing that becomes apparent though is the different vibe to the overall production of the track as opposed to earlier albums. The pop and synth vibe have gone and you just feel that an album of ballads is coming. I will say that Sophie has the voice for it and the first song is pretty enough to open the album well. The orchestra behind the track is vibrant and strong enough to carry it off. Track time: 3.50

        'Something close to love, but more mysterious, I'll hold you in the shadows of my arms. Always close to love; more victorious, can you feel this empire being born? The pull of where you're from is far too strong.'


        Track Two - Until the Stars Collide

        -

        A nice enough second track but for me it is just a little too soppy. I may change that opinion after I have listened to it a few more times but very doubtful. There are some nice touches in there again from the band and orchestra in the guise of 'Dirty Pretty Strings' but it doesn't have enough impact for me to make it a stand-out track on the album. Track time: 3.40

        'Everybody knows the demons come and go .To have regrets is only human, but I just can't escape the memories of mistakes. Round and round instead of moving on until the stars collide.'


        Track Three - Runaway Daydreamer

        -

        As this track kicked off it reminded me of a Dan Black track. I must admit that I liked this track from the start. Sophie's voice fits the beat and vibe of this song perfectly and I could just imagine watching her live singing this in a small venue and being captivated by it. She really has got a very unique and lovely voice. Runaway Daydreamer was the second single release from the album and was released on 21st January 2014, which is the same day as her sold-out live show to promote the album at Bush Hall in London. Track time: 4.00


        'When I close my eyes I'm on the other side. I'm like a hurricane along the track. I see the landscape's wild from here inside my mind, beyond the walls which always hold me back.'


        Track Four - The Deer & The Wolf

        -

        The Deer and The Wolf is more like a traditional pop song than the previous three tracks but it is still without the synthesiser sound that we are used to from Sophie. What this track does have is a perky upbeat feel and a bubbly melody that carries it along nicely. Sophie sings quite high on this one and is complimented by a deeper male backing vocalist. The whole track is accompanied by a belting riff that you can't help tapping your foot to. A track that has the ability and promise to grow on you over time. Track time: 3.54

        'On and on in all my life; agree to disagree; under the surface it's universal; the opposites degree. We're only in tune when we're chasing the moon, but under the sun I'm hunted just like you.'


        Track Five - Young Blood

        -

        What a beautiful track. It is haunting in its melodious decadence and Dirty Pretty Strings are on fine form as is the piano that smoothly pelts through the track and finishes it off nicely in a solo piece. This is another track that I liked instantly and I will definitely be listening to this one more in the future. Young Blood was the first single release from the album and was originally available as a free download from Sophie's website in March 2013. It was officially released as a single in November 2013. It reached number thirty-four in the UK charts and number three in the Indie charts. If you really want to hear how beautiful this song is then just pop your headphones on and it really becomes mesmerising. Track time: 4.28

        'It's all okay, you give me young blood, it's coursing through my veins. It's real love, here inside my heart it's crystallised; like it's framed in time and never tainted.'


        Track Six - Interlude

        -

        This track really does feel like an interlude. It seems like it has been plucked out of a musical. It starts off like an old scratched record playing with a static like drag to the back-beat. Sophie enters the track and I can imagine her standing in a pretty fifties frock in a very Judy Garland-like manner. Not really a track I will be listening to a lot, if at all. Thankfully it is the shortest track on the album. Track time: 2.33

        'Oh it's clearly plain to see the sun is breaking through the clouds. I'm falling through a dream. I remember how to love, but I forget what it was, It echoes and toys in my mind.'


        Track Seven - 13 Little Dolls

        -

        Little dolls bursts onto your speakers after the melancholy nature of the last track. There is a little synthesiser here but more in the guise of an electric church organ that sounds like it is fighting with a Tetris game. It's one of the more upbeat and urgent tracks on the album. The back-beat is quite psychedelic and pumping but the track still maintains the gothic element of the rest of the album and once again has that church organ sound to it that reminds me of many TV shows from the sixties and seventies. Track time: 3.33


        'Because the pendulum will swing, whenever night arrives. 13 dolls are wandering from grandma's house tonight and I'll never be around. I'm cursed and I am blessed, It's all that is less.'


        Track Eight - Wrongside of the Sun

        -

        The album reverts to its more ballad like offering with this next track but it is a beautiful song and Sophie sounds excellent on this track. The first verse builds up nicely into the chorus and the band bursts in with it before a slowing down into the second verse. This track is essentially a love song and the lyrics are left open to interpretation. Sophie's voice is again excellent and the uniqueness of it fits this song really well. Dirty Pretty Strings provide the orchestral part of the track again. Track time: 3.51

        'But together we wander through our blame but he didn't know, all we wanted for our love
        Was a chance to let it grow.'


        Track Nine - Love is a Camera

        -

        Another track that could feasibly fit into a musical but the way it is produced belies that fact. I quite like the vibe to this one even though it is a strange little number. It reminds me of a song that is being sung from a circus side-show or something of that ilk. The electric guitar and piano gives it that carnival feel and is reminiscent of a mandolin. The end to the track is a bit of a comedy of errors and it all comes crashing down into a crescendo and ends like the strings of a harp finally cracking under the pressure. Track time: 4.13

        'So the story goes, she lives alone. The company is framed in monochrome; she keeps them alive long after they've died. No one ever knows until they're gone.'


        Track Ten - Cry to the Beat of the Band

        -

        Sophie's voice is crystal at the start of this track and the chorus is performed by a backing choir, which works really well. The choir in question is the London Bulgarian Choir and they do a great job. There is a lot of sampling in this song and the piano plays a pivotal part. The track is a mix of beautiful vocals, heavy guitar riffs and the choir blending in with Sophie gives it a real epic feel. It also has that carnival type feel to it. I can imagine that this may be a future single release from the album. Track time: 3.39

        'Never have I felt so cruel but something had to give. Killing this deceitful love's the only way we'll live. He's gonna cry, cry to the beat of the band. Break to the clap of the hands.'


        Track Eleven - When the Storm has Blown Over

        -

        The final track on the album is an out and out ballad and a little disappointing for me because I wanted the album to go out with a bang. It is a beautiful track but I wanted the album to end with more bite. The acoustic guitar that plays throughout is nice enough and Sophie's voice is again beautiful. Track time: 3.32


        'Like a wound that never heals, all the sorrow you can't conceal. You're the actor that won't pretend; when the storm has blown over we'll start again.'

        --


        The Band

        -

        Drums: Jackson Ellis-Leach

        Bass - James Ahwai

        Keyboards - Christian Gulino

        Guitar - Neil Jones

        --

        My Thoughts

        -

        Overall Wanderlust is an album worth listening to and there are a few tracks that will grow on me over time and I daresay it will be the same for anyone who listens to it. For some of the ballads you need to be in the mood for that type of song at the time but all in all it is a decent album and produced quite well.

        I will say that if you're expecting Sophie's usual offering then you may be slightly disappointed because it really is quite different from her usual electronica driven pop sound. After her last album Sophie left her record company (Universal) and maybe had a complete change and direction in mind. Working with record producer Ed Harcourt and signed to EBGB's recording label (her own label), she originally came up with the idea of moving away from 'dance' for a while and making a concept album and was toying with the idea of only having six or eight tracks on the album and even thought about having one continual track. That was obviously scrapped in the end and Wanderlust was released with eleven songs.

        The album does still contain a pop sound in a sense but Ed Harcourt's influence is probably something to do with the Indie sound being more prominent. There is also a folk feel to it and a gothic resonance that underlies the whole thing.

        Sophie has a massive following in Russia and Eastern Europe and due to her success on Strictly Come Dancing she now has a mature audience to add to the younger disco loving pop fans. This in mind she has produced a mature album and had the tenacity to record in at the Bulgarian Embassy in London with the Bulgarian Choir. You also here the orchestra taking on an almost Balkan feel and some tunes that wouldn't be out of place in the Carpathian Mountains in Romania. So although it may be a new direction for her music it is also a shrewdly calculated effort.

        Sophie is a family driven woman these days and has three children with her husband, Richard Jones, the bass player from the band 'The Feeling'. This comes through on the album and a lot of the lyrics are about love and stability and the trials of life. Sophie has a tattoo of the word 'Family' and I get the feeling that the whole team on this album must have felt like a family during the recording process.

        For me the album feels a little too safe at times and I do prefer her headier electronica and something with more of a bit of get up and go about it. It is a nice album though and I may yet listen to a few of the tracks again but I have other things that I would rather listen to. That is not a negative slant on the album but just a truth in the fact that I listen to a lot of music across a whole lot of genres. I may add some of the tracks to a Sophie play list along with some of her pop stuff and that way I will hear some of them again.


        It is refreshing to see an artist make a change and a lot of the times it works but sometimes it fails miserably and although Wanderlust is not a roaring success, it is by no means a failure either. It is a more mature album from the woman who was always known as a disco-diva and who has since actually murdered the dance floor in the true sense of the word. I daresay future albums will contain some electronica but I think Sophie may have found her niche for this stage in her life.

        You can pick it up at all good record stores and online at the usual suspects. The album is priced at between eight and seventeen pounds. It is also available as a digital download.

        I give Wanderlust three out of five stars.

        ©Lee Billingham

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        • Escape Plan (DVD) / DVD / 44 Readings / 42 Ratings
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          12.02.2014 11:14
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          An expert in escape is thrown into an escape proof prison.

          Escape Plan

          --

          Although I have many tastes when it comes to movies such as directional and actor favourites, art house and plot driven films, sometimes I like to indulge in a good old action film that doesn't take too much brain power and entertains while relaxing; and no one does it better than Stallone and Schwarzenegger. My favourite genre movies are escape or prison break movies, so when Sly and Arnie teamed up to film 'Escape Plan', I knew I would love it no matter if it was a success or not. Of course, movie critics would pan it before it had a chance and it would be dead in the water before it broke even.

          I personally loved it and thought it was well made and had a decent plot, but even if that was not the case it stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, so anyone other than those who have had their happy chip removed could not fail to like it.

          --

          The Premise (or should I say Plan)

          --

          Ray Breslin (Sly Stallone) was a lawyer whose wife and daughter were killed by an escaped convict that he sent to prison three years earlier. After this incident Ray dedicated his life to finding weak spots in every maximum security prison. He would enter a prison under-cover and find a way to escape. He would always have a code that he could give the prison warden should things go wrong or in the event that he could not escape. He also had a team working for him on the outside who knew exactly what he was doing.

          Ray takes on what he thinks is a high-paying job for the government, which involves going to a newly built and presumably escape proof prison. The government want to prove that not even Ray can escape their prison or at least prove to them that they indeed have an escape proof prison.

          Ray's induction to the prison does not go as planned and when he gives the code word to the warden it is rejected and he is told that the powers that be want him locked up there forever.
          Ray needs to escape to find out who set him up but it is not going to be easy and he will need help.

          --

          Direction and Actors

          --

          The movie is directed by Mikael Hafstrom a Swedish born movie maker. You may have seen other films he has directed, most notably 'Derailed' starring Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston and '1408' with John Cusack and Samuel L Jackson, which was based on the short story of the same name by Stephen King.
          For the most part the film is well made given the scope that he had to work with; which I won't give away here as the location of the prison is one of the movies reveals. The camera work is fluid and tight and works well within the space of the prison.

          The plot is not a bad one either and was written by Miles Chapman who wrote the story and the screenplay. The screenplay was co-written by Jason Keller although he was credited as Arnell Jesko. This screenplay was a massive step up for Chapman whose only credit to this point was the screenplay for 'Roadhouse 2'. Keller has written screenplays for 'Mirror Mirror', the Julia Roberts movie and 'Machine Gun Preacher', starring Gerard Butler. How much of an influence Keller had on Chapman's story in the screenplay writing is open to speculation.

          Sly Stallone does a great job as Ray Breslin and it is great to see him on the big screen again, especially pairing up with Arnie. They play off each other well and their screen presence alone is enough to make you want to watch. That said the story is quite good and flows along nicely. There are too many Rockiesque grunts from Stallone (not that it would matter if there was) and you, as always, want the character to prevail.

          Arnold Schwarzenegger is his usual dead pan self and although many people will groan and moan that he can't act he still has that ability to make you smile and believe in him. Some of his one-liners are still cool in a funny kind of way and some of the tongue-in-cheek dialogue with Stallone works really well.

          Whatever you think of these two actors they are still a box office draw and they always make fun, action-packed movies.
          Jim Caviezel plays the prison warden Hobbes and does a relatively good job. He's just the right side of creepy to pull you in to his performance without being dramatically over-the-top.

          Vinnie Jones also appears as Hobbes tough head guard 'Drake' and again his role may be predictable but it is what we all want to see.

          --

          My Thoughts

          --

          I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and I don't care what all the haters of Sly or Arnie think because as pure entertainment it does what it says on the tin and that's all that matters. If you're going into it thinking that you don't like them or they can't act then you are destined to not like it from the get go so why bother at all. Watch it with no expectations and you will enjoy it. If you're a Sly or Arnie fan or indeed both then you will probably love it. I like them both and as a fan of Escape films I give it thumbs up.


          I give Escape Plan four out of five stars for entertainment value.


          ©Lee Billingham

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          • Red Road (DVD) / DVD / 34 Readings / 32 Ratings
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            05.02.2014 09:54
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            A story of loss, revenge and a struggle to put life back together again.

            Red Road

            --

            I knew absolutely nothing about this film before I watched it, which is actually how I prefer it to be honest. It was released on Tartan video, which happens to be one of my favourite distributors due to the fact that they release a lot of controversial films or at least films that a lot of companies wouldn't have the bottle to put their name to. I originally started to like and collect Tartan movies when they first started releasing Japanese and Chinese extreme movies and then became a bigger fan when they started to support independent film makers and stuck a middle finger up to the Mary Whitehouse's of this world.

            Red Road definitely falls into the category that any Tartan fan is used to. It is gritty, thrilling, suspenseful and damn right daunting in its grimness.

            It won't be an easy film to watch for a lot of people. It is not gory or extreme in that sense; it gets to you on an emotional level.

            I found it gripping and at the same time somewhat depressing in its ferocity, but I think that is what director, Andrea Arnold was aiming for in the audience's response.

            Red Road is a no nonsense film that tells it how it is and will provoke thought long after the end credits role or at least it will if you have any morals or a soul.

            Let's take a look at the plot and here I will strip this down to the bear minimum so as not to give anything away as it really would spoil the whole film.

            --

            The Premise

            --

            Jackie works as a CCTV operator. Each day she watches over an area in a Small Scottish town that includes a place called 'Red Road'. Jackie likes to think that she helps protect people and with numerous cameras around the town at her disposal, she spends hours zooming in and out, looking for potential trouble so she can alert the police.

            One day a man appears on her monitor, a man she thought she would never see again, a man she never wanted to see again. Surely this man should still be behind bars for what he did. Jackie starts to follow him by way of the cameras and her life becomes consumed by him. She starts to track him on foot and even begins to move in the same circles as him.

            But what did he do? Why is Jackie so hell bent on watching his every move and what will happen when she finally confronts him where he lives on the Red Road.

            --

            My Thoughts

            --

            As I mentioned earlier, I have purposely left the premise section a little light in order to not give away any spoilers.

            While I was watching the movie I thought did he rape her? Is she out for revenge? Did he kill someone she knew or loved? Was he in prison for rape or murder or both?

            Then as I watched I was intrigued by what she was doing and believe me what she does do is at first silly, then foolish and then unbelievable, but it all pans out in a way that you wouldn't quite expect. It is one of those movies that you should definitely watch on your own as it asks a lot of questions morally and it also gets you thinking. It's definitely not a film for the family and definitely not for children. At the risk of the idiot who told me, last time I made that quote, that the certificate tells you it is not for children, contacting me again, I obviously mean that the people who do let children watch fifteen and eighteen certificates (and they do exist) should not let them.

            It is a gritty Scottish drama and contains lots of foul language, sexual content to quite an extreme extent and is quite damning in its openness. The sexual scenes are quite pornographic and you do actually see an erect penis which is not that common in mainstream film.

            The whole feel of the area she watches over and the estate on the Red Road is one of dread and misery. It really is a bleak place and has a dismal haze hanging over it. Jackie's story is very sad and depressing and all this leaves you feeling rather weighed down by it all.

            Andrea Arnold wrote and directed the film and she managed to create this whole feeling of emptiness, loss and the daily trudge through life that some people are forced to endure. The way the CCTV cameras are used to build the story is very effective and you find yourself eagerly following camera to camera with Jackie to see what she sees. It is a brilliant debut for the then first time director.

            Many people will play on the fact that because the director is female she has viewed it from a female perspective and therefore tried to make it a triumph against man, but that is not the case at all. Both the female and lead characters are vulnerable and also capable of being the dominant figure. It is also not a bra-burning women's lib fest either and I don't think Arnold ever intended it to be.

            The bigger question that this film raises is the one of just how invaded can our privacy be? It does conjure up a vision of some bored camera operator peeking into people's bedrooms of an evening and getting off on it. As crude and unsavoury as that might sound it is very much a reality and is likely to happen up and down the country on numerous occasions. You might want to recheck that bathroom window next time you step into the shower ladies.

            Arnold was asked to direct this movie by a company called 'The Advance Party' from Denmark. She was asked if she would be interested in directing a movie that would be a part of three movies all based around the same characters. Each film would have a different director but the characters would remain the same throughout the three films. This was the brain child of Gillian Berrie, Lone Scherfig and Thomas Jensen. In a discussion with the Dane Lars Von Trier, a Danish film director and screen writer the four of them came up with the idea of following the same characters over three films that were all made by a different first time director. Red Road was the first in 2006, followed by Donkeys in 2010 and the third film is stuck in pre-production. Advance Party is actually the name given to the concept of the three films and rules were drawn up and sent out to each director.

            Kate Dickie plays Jackie and I thought she was brilliant. She trained at The Royal Scottish Academy for Music and Arts and has had a distinguished career in both film and television. Most of you may recognise her from 'Game of Thrones' as Lysa Arryn or as the character 'Ford' from 'Prometheus'. I knew her from the brilliant 'Somers Town' and she is also a cast member of the TV series 'The Escape Artist'.

            I loved her in Red Road and thought she played some pretty extreme scenes really well. It can't have been easy to play this role and some of the scenes were very tense but she managed it with some skill. She may not be in a movie with a two hundred million budget and will not win an Oscar for this role but it is every bit as good as anyone whose role was nominated for one.

            Tony Curran plays 'Clyde', the man that Jackie starts to follow. He's a letch and make no mistake but you start to think that maybe Jackie has got something wrong and that maybe he's not all bad; even so I still thought he was a disgusting letch. Curran plays the part well and it is a believable portrayal too. Curran is another actor who has had a broad and extensive film and TV career.

            Martin Compton also plays a good role as 'Stevie' and is possibly even more hateful and disgusting than Clyde. You may or may not recognise him from 'The Disappearance of Alice Creed' alongside Gemma Arterton.

            I am eager to see the second film 'Donkeys' to see if the characters from Red Road are followed and to see what happens to them. I hope you do get to find out what happens to Jackie after the first movie.
            Most people probably won't like this movie but I thought it was accomplished for such a small budget film and I ended up enjoying it even though the subject matter was somewhat harrowing at times.
            The film runs for one hundred and thirteen minutes and is an eighteen certificate. It is filmed in Scotland in Glasgow, Strathclyde and Barmulloch.

            I give Red Road three and a half stars out of five.

            ©Lee Billingham

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              30.01.2014 13:58
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              A few reworkings and covers from The Boss

              Bruce - Springsteen - High Hopes

              --

              I've been a Springsteen fan for many years and have seen him live on numerous occasions all over the world.

              'High Hopes' is his eighteenth studio album but more importantly for me it is the one hundred and thirty-fifth album of my Bruce Springsteen collection. I collect live albums, rare bootlegs and unreleased material as well as the official releases in case you were wondering. On January 15th this year, Bruce announced that from now on all of his live shows would be recorded and be available for download after each show. My cassettes and vinyl live bootlegs now become a part of my Bruce nostalgia; sad in one way but also very cool.

              I was a fan of the original 'Born in the USA' and by that I mean 'the' original that ninety-odd songs were penned for, which was originally titled 'Murder Incorporated'. It contains much better material and was sadly dumped for the more commercial effort after Springsteen wrote 'Dancing in the Dark' to prove to his manager that he could write a top ten hit if he wanted to. I mention this because I always measure new albums against the Murder Incorporated unreleased material, which I rate as some of Bruce's best work and seeing as this album has been touted as Bruce's best unreleased and re-worked material then I guess it is very relevant.

              Since this review is for the product of the week at the time of writing, I will refrain from doing my normal added biography of the artist in question and in doing so, avoid risking the wrath of the God of 'No long reviews at any cost because we can't be bothered to write long reviews and if you do it makes us look bad and long reviews are just long'. Sorry I couldn't resist that and in response - short is just short or at least lacking in effort and seeing as this is a review about Bruce Springsteen it is a very relevant comment; Just ask Rob Aniello who collaborated with Bruce in getting this album together. Bruce never compromises passion and the story he wants to tell to fit into any politically correct pigeon hole; and believe me Bruce always has a story to tell. Many will say this album is a sell-out or an attempt to plug the hole in-between albums but I disagree. Bruce doesn't need to do that to progress. I see it as more of a thank you to fans. While it may not be a Springsteen album in the sense that it is all new material and a story from beginning to end, it is still obvious that it has been put together with some thought. In the past, Bruce has been accused of over-writing and having songs that are too long when finished, but the simple fact is that they were that long because that is how they turned out and that's what they evolved into from that first initial idea.

              My only criticism is that in producing the tracks and mixing them the way they have, they have taken away some of the raw energy of the tracks and the very heart beat of the E-Street Band, which becomes drowned and almost suffocated by the bells and whistles of the recording studio's technical influence.

              Bruce picks up his bus pass this year and at sixty-five is still one of the hardest working people in the music industry. While still touring with Wrecking ball he got in touch with Rob Aniello and told him of his idea about putting together an album of covers, previously released tracks that have been re-worked and old demos that he wanted to bring to life. While on his way to Australia for the Australian leg of the tour he detoured to Los Angeles (it was actually the day before) and he ended up working almost sixteen hours around the clock. He even posed for the album pictures and put together the concept of the album. Rob Aniello said he has never seen anyone at that age work so hard before and still have that much passion and attention to detail. Let's not forget that Bruce had to fly top Australia the next day and play a concert to thousands of eager fans. It speaks volumes of a man who has been at the top of his game for over four decades.

              So onto the album and believe me I feel uncomfortable not doing a biography of the great man for you to read first; but seeing as that would probably run to over ten thousand words I will stick to the album for my sanity and yours.

              The album was released on January 14th 2014and went to number one all over the world. It gave Bruce his eleventh number one album in America, which raised him above Elvis Presley to put him third on the all-time list behind The Beatles with nineteen and Jay Z (yes I said Jay Z - I know, I don't get it either. I couldn't name one Jay Z album and was shocked to find out he had had twelve number one albums), but fair-play to him.

              --

              High Hopes - The Alnum

              --

              Track One - High Hopes

              High Hopes builds up a tempo at the start with a tapping drum and snare, which is joined by a raucous acoustic guitar. It is almost like the pulse of train and builds momentum as it goes. Bruce's rasping voice bursts in with the first verse before the chorus hits, tempered by an upbeat horn section. The roots rock fell intermingles with a bit of folk and more traditional rock and you don't quite get how catchy it becomes on first listen. High Hopes made its first appearance on the brilliant 'Blood Brothers' EP. It is also the first official single to be released from this album and hit the charts on November 25th 2013. It is a cover of the Tim Scott McConnel l song. Track time: 4.56

              'Coming from the city, coming from the wild. I see a breathless army breaking like a cloud. They're gonna smother love, they're gonna shoot your hopes. Before the meek inherit they'll learn to hate themselves.'


              Track Two - Harry's Place

              Another track that needs to grow on you and written by Springsteen features the E-Street Band and also Tom Morello who replaced Miami Steve van Zandt (Little Steven) for part of the Wrecking Ball tour (including Australia) while Steve was busy filming a TV series. The track also includes the Atlanta Strings. For me it is great to hear Clarence Clemons (May the big man rest in peace) rasping out that fantastic saxophone. This track reeks of sleaze and that metal tang of American rock that is so vivid you can almost see the track in your head as it plays. The chorus sounds like Bruce is screaming through a loud-hailer, which gives it an even more rough-edged sound. Add to that the raw sound of Morello's guitar and it is a heady mix of rock and steel. Track time: 4.03

              'You need a little shot of something to improve your health. A taste of that one little weakness you allow yourself. You're looking for the key of that box you locked yourself in. Just step up to the line and be one of Harry's friends.'


              Track Three - American Skin (41 Shots)


              A song that has always sent shivers down my spine. The song alludes to Amadou Diallo who was wrongly shot by police in New York. Diallo was wrongly mistaken for a serial rapist (51 rapes) by four New York City cops who worked for a special street crime unit. Diallo was scared and made his way up some steps to get help. He produced a wallet from his pocket and in the dark one of the officers opened fire shouting 'Gun!' In the melee one of the officers tripped on the steps and fell backwards, which caused the other three officers to think he had been shot. They fired a total of forty-one shots; nineteen of them hit Diallo. The four officers were acquitted, of course!

              Springsteen penned the song and played it live in 2000. He controversially played it at New York Madison Square Gardens and the police fraternity tried to ban his tour (unsuccessfully). The live version was originally released on 'Live in New York City' and the original studio version on promo CD in 2001. Bruce has also dedicated this song to Trayvon Martin, a seventeen year old who was shot by a security guard. The security guard was also acquitted.

              For me, the arrangement of the song on this album is too soft. I prefer this song when it is raw and live as it carries so much more heart and passion. It is still an amazing track though and I defy anyone to not become moved once they are familiar with the case.

              The '41 shots' lyric that starts the song is now done in that supressed loud-hailer technique and for me it distempers the meaning a little, although it is still very haunting. The way the bass ambles along at the start with the snare and the melodic keyboard to create that sad sound still gets to me every time I hear it. The lyrics are also really sad and I have cried on numerous occasions thinking about poor Amadou. Now that's a song! Track time: 7.22

              I still think it one of the most poignant and important songs that Bruce has ever written.
              '(41 shots) (41 shots) (41 shots) (41 shots)

              '41 shots, and we'll take that ride, cross the bloody river to the other side. 41 shots, cut through the night. You're kneeling over his body in the vestibule, praying for his life.

              Is it a gun, is it a knife. Is it a wallet, this is your life. It ain't no secret (it ain't no secret). It ain't no secret (it ain't no secret), no secret my friend - You can get killed just for living in your American skin.
              '(41 shots) (41 shots) (41 shots) (41 shots)
              '41 shots, Lena gets her son ready for school. She says, "On these streets, Charles, you've got to understand the rules. If an officer stops you, promise me you'll always be polite and that you'll never ever run away, promise Mama you'll keep your hands in sigh'


              Track Four - Just Like Fire Would


              After the sad and dark subject matter of the previous track 'Just Like Fire Would' fairly jumps onto the speakers and is a high-tempo upbeat bouncing track that lifts you out of your melancholy mood. This is another cover from an Australian band 'The Saints' and their track 'All Fools day' from Nineteen eighty-seven. The orchestra beat and more so the strings section fit in really well with the tempo. This is a very jolly and triumphant track and is more reminiscent of Bruce's typical studio albums of the last decade, especially 'Working on a Dream'. The horn section sounds like something out of a cavalry and it is almost sickly sweet in its intentions, but very enjoyable all the same. Track time: 3.52

              'One night in a motel room, eyes cast like steel. I drank the wine that they left on my table; I knew the morning was too far. Just like fire would, I burn up, just like fire would. Just like fire would, I burn up.'


              Track Five - Down in the Hole


              This track slows the whole thing down again and we begin with what sounds like an industrial clanging of heavy machinery in the background. Bruce's wife Patti Scialfa's haunting tones accompany this before Bruce's voice comes in and again it is recorded in that subdued loud-hailer technique. On this track it actually works and it is a nice touch when mid-sentence it changes into Bruce's full vocal. I like this track more than I thought I would at first and I think it will really grow on me. Mid-way it saunters into a roots and folk blend that also fits the track really well. Track time: 4.56

              'Radio's cracklin' with the headlines. Wind in the phone lines. The sun upon your shoulder. Empty city skyline. The day rips apart. A dark and bloody arrow pierced my heart.'


              Track Six - Heaven's Wall


              It wouldn't be a Springsteen album nowadays if it didn't have a gospel like song on it and this is no exception. Starts like something out of an episode of 'fame'. The track as a really heady beat and it kicks along at some pace. The strings are again sounding like they belong but for me the chorus is too repetitive as is the norm when Bruce does this type of song. Even though it is not lyrically brilliant it is quite infectious and may yet grow on me. Morello's guitar sounds cultured and free and is one of the stand-out parts of the track. This is a cool track but not one of my favourites at the moment. Track time: 3.47

              'There was a woman waiting at the well, drawing water 'neath a desert sky of blue. She said "He'll heal the blind, raise the dead, cure that sickness out of you. Come on men of Gideon, come all men of Saul. Come all sons of Abraham, waiting outside heaven's wall.'


              Track Seven - Frankie Fell in Love


              Frankie Fell in love has more of a Bruce vibe to it than most of the tracks on the album. This is what Bruce does best and the track hasn't been technically dampened to death. We have lyrics to listen to hear and not the repetitive chorus of the last track, which is a welcome relief. The lyrics could be deemed as cheesy but when Bruce does cheesy, he does it well. This is the shortest track on the album and frankly (no pun intended) a bit of good old fashioned 'rockin' fun. Track time: 2.45

              'World peace's gonna break out. From here on in we're eating take out. She ain't gonna be cooking for the likes of us. Somebody call mama and just tell her....Frankie fell in love.'


              Track Eight - This is Your Sword


              Frankly this song reminds me of a track that belongs on the soundtrack of a Robin Hood series or movie. Good old raise your mug to your friends type fodder. It is almost too nice in its joviality and not a track I will be listening to again. The lyrics are uplifting and the music is upbeat and runs alongside them nicely. It just reminds me of the Pogues do Sherwood Forest a little too much with the bleating pipes and big band-like drums. Thankfully it is the second shortest track on the album. Track time: 2.49

              'Now this is your sword, this is your shield; this is the power of love revealed. Carry it with you wherever you go and give all the love that you have in your soul.'


              Track Nine - Hunter of Invisible Game

              This is a track that starts out semi-upbeat and then slows down into the first verse. It is reminiscent of Bruce ballads from the nineties and a nice enough song. Bruce is in no rush with this song and his husky voice sounds as good as it ever has. For those who still choose to claim that Bruce can't sing, give me a call when you've released your eighteenth album and I'll compare you to him. This track has a nice melodious back-beat and the strings are again haunting in their beauty. The chinking acoustic riff that plays throughout gives it that lift and accompanies Bruce's dulcet tones really well. Track time: 4.39

              'Through the bone yard rattle and black smoke, we rolled on. Down into the valley, where the beast has his throne. There I sing my song and I sharpen my blade. I am the hunter of invisible game.'


              Track Ten - The Ghost of Tom Joad


              The Ghost of Tom Joad is the title track from the album of the same name. I loved that album and I was lucky enough to see Bruce playing solo acoustic at the Royal Albert Hall on the Tom Joad Tour. On that night this song was haunting and echoed of the Albert Hall's acoustics like a wraith that was bidding to envelop us all. Sadly this arrangement has tried to rock the track up and in my opinion is nowhere as near as good as the original. I appreciate the fact that Bruce wanted to change it up and that that is what this album is all about but it is just too steeped in soft rock glamour of the Bon Jovi type that is apparent in the massive guitar riff in the chorus. The end of the song is mind-numbingly irritating and what the attempt at the scratching guitar was used for is beyond me. At one stage I expected someone to bellow out 'I wanna know what love is'. One of the reasons I love Bruce is because he is not afraid to experiment and I have seen some really surprising reworks of old songs at shows that were a joy to behold but for me, this version has killed a classic song that is much better in its original form. Don't get me wrong it is a well-produced track and testament to Bruce's skill at reworking a title but for me it is one step too far for one of my favourite tracks. Track time: 7.29

              'Well the highway is alive tonight. Where it's headed everybody knows. I'm sitting down here in the campfire light, waiting on the ghost of Tom Joad.'


              Track Eleven - The Wall


              This track is another ballad and a pretty one at that. This is more than likely a track that will grow on me. Bruce said that this track was inspired by a visit to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington with his wife Patti. Bruce has penned songs about Vietnam throughout his career and the words are always heart felt and passionate. This track is no different and it is a subject that Bruce will always find a place for in his work. The backing singer's vocals are haunting and Bruce sounds in fine fettle. It is a lovely song and it was penned from the very soul of this caring man. Track time: 4.14

              'On the ground dog tags and wreaths of flowers, with ribbons red as the blood. Red as the blood you spilled in the Central Highlands mud. Limousines rush down Pennsylvania Avenue, rustling the leaves as they fall and apology and forgiveness got no place here at all. ...here at the wall.'


              Track Twelve - Dream Baby Dream


              I was kind of hoping that the album would end with a massive track but that is sadly not the case. It's another semi-ballad and back to the repetitive lyrics of Heaven's Wall. It is just too repetitive for me and doesn't close off the album in a way that I would have hoped. The acoustic guitar, piano and strings again give it a haunting pulse but it is a song that I just can't take to. The synthesiser gives the track too much of a put-together feel. It is a cover of the band 'Suicide' and when you hear the original it again becomes clear that Bruce can really alter a track. Track time: 5.02

              'Come open up your heart. Come on and open up your heart. Come on and open up your heart. Come on dream on, dream baby dream.'

              --

              Amazon is selling a special edition of the album. The special edition comes with a DVD of Bruce and the E Street Band's live performance of the Born in the U.S.A album live in London at the Hard Rock Calling Festival at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on June 30th 2013.

              --

              Springsteen's own words on the album

              --

              Following is a press release in Bruce's own words about why he wanted to record this album.
              I was working on a record of some of our best unreleased material from the past decade when Tom Morello (sitting in for Steve during the Australian leg of our tour) suggested we ought to add "High Hopes" to our live set. I had cut "High Hopes," a song by Tim Scott McConnell of the LA based Havalinas, in the 90′s. We worked it up in our Aussie rehearsals and Tom then proceeded to burn the house down with it. We re-cut it mid tour at Studios 301 in Sydney along with "Just Like Fire Would," a song from one of my favourite early Australian punk bands, The Saints (check out "I'm Stranded"). Tom and his guitar became my muse, pushing the rest of this project to another level. Thanks for the inspiration Tom.

              Some of these songs, "American Skin" and "Ghost of Tom Joad," you'll be familiar with from our live versions. I felt they were among the best of my writing and deserved a proper studio recording. "The Wall" is something I'd played on stage a few times and remains very close to my heart. The title and idea were Joe Grushecky's, then the song appeared after Patti and I made a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. It was inspired by my memories of Walter Cichon. Walter was one of the great early Jersey Shore rockers, who along with his brother Ray (one of my early guitar mentors) led the "Motifs". The Motifs were a local rock band who were always a head above everybody else. Raw, sexy and rebellious, they were the heroes you aspired to be. But these were heroes you could touch, speak to, and go to with your musical inquiries. Cool, but always accessible, they were an inspiration to me, and many young working musicians in 1960′s central New Jersey.

              Though my character in "The Wall" is a Marine, Walter was actually in the Army, A Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Infantry. He was the first person I ever stood in the presence of who was filled with the mystique of the true rock star. Walter went missing in action in Vietnam in March 1968. He still performs somewhat regularly in my mind, the way he stood, dressed, held the tambourine, the casual cool, the freeness. The man who by his attitude, his walk said "you can defy all this, all of what's here, all of what you've been taught, taught to fear, to love and you'll still be alright." His was a terrible loss to us, his loved ones and the local music scene. I still miss him.

              This is music I always felt needed to be released. From the gangsters of "Harry's Place," the ill-prepared roomies on "Frankie Fell In Love" (shades of Steve and I bumming together in our Asbury Park apartment) the travellers in the wasteland of "Hunter Of Invisible Game," to the soldier and his visiting friend in "The Wall", I felt they all deserved a home and a hearing. Hope you enjoy it,

              Bruce Springsteen

              --

              My Thoughts

              --

              Although I still have a massive Springsteen collection it just doesn't feel the same to me when he releases a new album now. I don't get that excited feeling that I used to and High Hopes is by no means one of his best, so did little to heighten my enthusiasm. I do like the idea that he has tried to give some of the tracks a rehash and give them a proper studio feel but for me it was a mistake on 'The Ghost of Tom Joad'. I suppose if you take it at face value and listen to it as a studio produced track then it's fine, but I just can't help feeling that it has done an injustice to the original; but that is just my perspective and it is still produced with some skill; although I still don't get the attempt at scratching with the guitar riff. Likewise with '41 Shots', it just didn't contain anything new for me apart from the fact that it was glammed up a few notches and I prefer my Springsteen raw and on the edge.

              Over all it is still some new Bruce stuff to listen to or at least some old Bruce that has been renewed in most cases but I would have still preferred a new album of completely new material. As a collector of his bootlegs I can get many rehashes and some of them live and raw or in demo form, which in a way is much better than the studio glossed efforts of this album.

              I will always praise Bruce for whatever he does and even though I wasn't keen on the Seeger Sessions stuff it still had that Bruce quota of skill, passion and hard work and if nothing else proved that Bruce isn't a one trick pony like many of the cynics who have only heard Born in the USA might think.

              High Hopes is a nice enough listen but I don't think it will go down as one of his top ten by a long shot.
              I know one thing, since my good friend first played me 'Thunder Road' and I first heard 'Incident on 57th St' Bruce has been a part of my life and I think he always will be. When I get to that crossroads at the end of my life I hope to find Bruce there, leaning against that post. He will look up and smile and handing me his guitar he'll say 'Fancy learning how to make it talk'.

              I give High Hopes three out of five stars.

              ©Lee Billingham

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              • More +
                27.10.2013 09:50
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                A good quality product that backs up its claims by the looks of it.

                Higher Nature Fish Oil Omega 3 Capsules

                --

                I've got news for you boys and girls. Fish oil isn't just fish oil; at least in the sense that the standard cod liver oil tablets you buy off the shelves are way lower in quality than this Higher Nature version.
                What we don't realise is the fact that we are told to eat more oily fish as it is good for us and contains Omega 3 fatty acids, which are good for the skin and helps the body's immune system repair itself, but this can be deceiving because we should also not eat more than two portions of oily fish a week because they contain harmful stuff as well. The harmful pollutants in fish are known as PCB's and dioxins and too much of them can negate any good that we have achieved from the good oils.

                Good quality fish oil supplements such as this Higher Nature capsule are scrupulously screened for pollutants and have been quality checked and assured.

                The major element of a quality cod liver oil capsule or omega 3 capsule is the quantity of EPA and DHA that they contain. EPA is the essential ingredient that you should look for when purchasing EPA. DHA should be there to a lesser extent or preferably not at all.

                EPA and DHA are pre-formed fatty acids; this means that they're ready and available for use without treatment, as they're already made from ALA, the parent essential fatty acid. EPA & DHA are important for a healthy heart and arteries, eyes and flexible joints. They also play a massive role in the function of our brain and its ability to send messages to the right parts of our bodies and at the right time. EPA and DHA are also important during pregnancy and breast-feeding and aid both the Mother and her growing baby. The reason I mentioned that it is best for DHA to not be present is that although it is a good essential oil it ends up having a negative effect on the EPA and if there is too much DHA it will render the EPA useless. So a higher quality capsule or oil will contain either pure EPA with no DHA elements or a much lower quantity of DHA than EPA. Clinical studies have shown that the more EPA there is compared with DHA in a supplement, the more effective the supplement will be over time.

                Higher Nature Fish Oil Omega 3 capsules provide natural levels of EPA and DHA as nature intended and have not been chemically enhanced or watered down to create a mass produced and therefore cheaper, money making product. A lot of the cheaper capsules on the market are pharmaceutically refined and do not contain some of the essential components like carotenoids and tocopherols plus fish oil's other natural components, including carotenoids and tocopherols. Standard fish oils also contain vitamins, such as A and D and are therefore not really safe for pregnant women. Higher Nature does not contain these vitamins.

                These capsules feed the body the essential nutrient omega 3 EPA, and then this in turn replenishes the vital essential fatty acids your body needs to return to the correct balance and helps your system deal with any imbalances you may have and thus radically improving overall mental and physical health. I suffer from a chemical imbalance after I was diagnosed with HVS after a series of traumatic events. This is the reason I am giving these capsules a go in the hope that I can realign my system in a manner of speaking.

                Higher Nature capsules have been obtained from wild sardines, anchovies and mackerel (not cheaper, more polluted farmed fish). The fish used have been caught in the clean seas off the Pacific and Indian Oceans. These fish are carefully pressed and the oil centrifuged and filtered, to produce a rich, tasty golden oil, which is pure and untainted. It is not further processed, modified to concentrate particular fractions, or deodorised. Every batch is fresh by testing for oxidation. The oxidation process ensures that there are no pollutants or rancidity in the fish.

                My Mother has always suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and I have sent her some of these capsules. She actually started taking them weeks before me and she says she has noticed a small improvement already in her aches and pains. I am hoping that the capsules will have a similar effect with me but it is too early for me to tell yet as I only started them a few days ago.

                --

                The Science Part

                --

                In the 1980s, omega-3 essential fatty acids hit the news in a big way because of a discovery by Danish researchers involving the Inuit's living above the Arctic Circle in North America. Two things interested scientists about the Inuit's: one was their unique diet, and the other their health. The Inuit diet is rich in cold-water fish and the fat of whales and seals. From such a massive fat intake, and a comparative lack of fresh fruit and vegetables, the scientists expected to find high levels of heart disease among the Inuit people. Yet the Inuit's have unusually low levels of heart disease and very low levels of rheumatoid arthritis as well.

                When the scientists looked more closely at their diet, they discovered that the fish eaten on an almost daily basis by the Inuit people contains large amounts of omega-3 fatty acid EPA. Further research has led to a consensus amongst scientists that a diet high in EPA fish oil - especially cold-water varieties such as salmon, sardines and mackerel - significantly reduces the incidence of heart disease.

                This led to the extraction of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil supplements, to make it easier for people all over the world to include these essential nutrients in their everyday diet. So that is how the massive boom in fish oil supplements got started; we have the Inuit people to thank.
                What is EPA exactly?

                The proper term or word for EPA is eicosapentaenoic acid. I'm sure you will all agree that EPA rolls off the tongue a lot easier, hence the fact I have used it throughout the review. This is a nutrient extracted from omega 3 fatty acids, the "good fats" found in oily fish such as sardines, salmon and mackerel. It is well known that modern diets, with their heavy reliance on processed and fast food, lack these important nutrients and that is why suppliers in the supplements trade decided to make omega 3 oil capsules. Unfortunately, as already mentioned, some of them cut corners and sell us inferior quality products.

                Essential to life and good health, omega 3, and in particular EPA, is believed to be of particular importance for eye and brain function. Extensive clinical studies over the past thirty years using omega 3 fish oil suggest that it can be used to treat successfully a wide range of illnesses including depression, M.E, bipolar disorder, Huntington's, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome , OCD and Schizophrenia.

                Ultra-pure EPA, the most important of the omega 3 fatty acids, is found in pharmaceutical grade omega 3 fish oil. Higher Nature make ten gallons of pharmaceutical grade omega 3 fish oil to make 1 gallon of clinical grade Pure EPA, which makes it the highest quality and most pure fish oil on the market.

                --

                What does EPA do exactly?

                --

                Low levels of EPA are associated with a slowing of brain activity, owing to a hardening of the phospholipid layers, which slow cell signalling. This decreased communication between brain cells can lead to symptoms of depression and all sorts of disease. Taking EPA can reverse this harmful process by increasing the amount of phospholipids in brain-cell membranes and the membrane fluidity. This has a positive effect on neurotransmitters and enhances electrical messaging in the brain. As a result of extensive clinical trials, EPA has been found to be beneficial for: Lowering cholesterol, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, many OCDs, low moods and mood swings, heart health, Huntington 's disease and in children it was shown to heighten levels of concentration and lower hyperactivity in children with ADHD and ADD.

                Most children today are not getting anywhere near enough Omega 3 in their diet and research shows that this can lead to poor health and problems with concentration, behaviour and mood.
                All children need a regular and adequate supply of EPA, Particularly for healthy brain function. Pure EPA is therefore an excellent option for children as not only will your child get all the EPA that he or she needs, they will only have to take one or two capsules a day to get it.

                Most other fish oils on the market are much weaker and so your child would have to take as many as 5 or 6 capsules a day to get the same effect and the results would not be as evident as if they were using the Higher Nature capsules.

                EPA has been clinically tested on people with depression. It is now widely accepted that certain types of depression are linked to a deficiency of long-chain fatty acids in the brain, such as EPA. Doctors from all around the world, who have performed clinical trials using Pure EPA, found that depressed patients who received a daily dose of 1 gram of EPA for 12 weeks experienced a decrease in their symptoms, such as sadness, anxiety and persistent melancholy.

                The capsules are also suitable for both vegetarian and Halal diets.

                --

                Final Thoughts

                --

                There are many quotes about Higher Nature Fish Oil Omega 3 capsules on the internet and many forums discuss their use. Some of the quotes are as follows:
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                "The most effective fish oil I have ever taken."
                ''I have stopped aching in a few months''


                ''I no longer feel like each day is too much too handle''

                These are just a handful of the hundreds of quotes online and I can tell you that it fills me with hope that I may have actually found a supplement that actually does a person some good and actually does what it claims it can do. Only time will tell but for me it can't do any harm to try them and see.

                On hearsay and information available, these capsules seem like the real deal and from what my Mother has said I am willing to give them four out of five stars, which I am hoping will turn to a five once I have used them more myself.

                You can buy them online at most good pharmacies or health stores. They are relatively cheap at thirty capsules for 2 pounds and 60 pence, Ninety capsules for 6.20 and one hundred and eighty capsules for eleven pounds.

                I give this product four out of five stars which would be a five if I had used them for a lengthy period and seen the results for myself.

                ©Lee Billingham

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                  26.10.2013 21:11
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                  A lovely smelling soapy Christmas treat

                  The Body Shop Merry Cranberry Wrapped Soap

                  --

                  As you all know, I have reviewed quite a lot of soap and bath products in the past because my girlfriend got me a little variety basket of soaps, which she made up herself from various soaps from Body Shop and Lush, amongst other places, especially for me one Christmas, as a little side present, as she knows I'm a sucker for lovely smelling soaps and bath stuff.

                  Since then I like to pop into Lush and Body Shop once in a while to treat myself. One of the soaps I purchased recently was this cranberry soap as it was going at a reduced price.

                  The bar is slightly smaller than your average soap bar and is not intended as a long usage product. It is more of a 'pamper yourself once or twice kind of bar. The way I use soap there wasn't much of it left after the first use as I like to get up a really good lather and a good second covering of my body after rinsing off the initial lather. I think if you used it conservatively it would last a lot longer and you would probably get a few good uses out of it.

                  The bar is shrink-wrapped in thin cellophane normally which is easy to remove and you don't find yourself with soap stuck under your nails after minutes of hacking away at the wrapper. This version is done up in a dainty little Christmas offering that I found endearing because I am also a sucker for anything Christmassy.

                  The bar feels quite soft compared to a lot of bars and the smell is definitely a unique one even considering that cranberry based products are made across the board in the soap and toiletries industry,; although probably not as much as some of the more obvious fragrances.

                  As many of you will know by now I love having lovely natural smells in my bathroom and fruity soap or shampoo/conditioner is one of my favourite aromas. This bar of cranberry soap is absolutely gorgeous on the old nostrils. The cranberry really comes through and is well evident as soon as you wet the bar; you can actually get a really strong idea of the smell even while it is still in the wrapper. As I already mentioned, I love a good lather and this bar didn't disappoint on that score. It built up rather nicely and I could happily just sit there and take in the scent for minutes on end. The bar is not that big so once it becomes wet it can be a tricky little bugger to keep hold of but I can forgive it that as it smells so damn good.

                  Holding the bar to your nose, you really do get a lovely smell of cranberry and it is so fresh and revitalising. It makes the bathroom smell really nice when you're bathing and even when it is just sitting on the side of the bath. The bathroom smells strongly of cranberry when you're using the bar and this lasts for the duration of your bath. You can still smell it for a while afterwards but it doesn't seem as strong as some of the other soaps in the range, such as the lemon or strawberry for example. It does smell sweet and gorgeous though and it is nice just to have a sniff now and again as it is not over-powering in a strong perfume kind of way. However, you can smell it on your skin for quite a few hours afterwards, which is rather nice. It also does have that added Christmas type feel to it.


                  I found the bar to be quite pleasing in every way and I also felt that I got a good clean from it. I wouldn't say that it had any moisturising properties as such but it did leave my skin feeling cleansed and the smell of the bathroom afterwards was delightful. The only disappointing thing for me, and it is not a biggy, was that it wouldn't really give me much of a second use as there wasn't much of it left after two good coverages of my body, but as I mentioned earlier on in the review I don't think it is meant as a lasting product and is relatively cheap, so buying another one would not really be a massive problem. Saying that, for the average user it would probably go a long way. One good thing about it is that it is a hard based soap so it won't melt down to nothing if you hold it under hot shower water or accidently drop it into your bath. I tend to demolish soaps because I use quite a lot with each body coverage and with this bar smelling so good I probably used even more than usual. It can also feel quite sticky when you first rub it onto your skin but this tends to fade if you rub it in properly. I found that parts of my body that I hadn't reached so well or rubbed the soap in as well felt stickier than the parts that I had massaged well. This feeling soon goes away when you rinse off, so it is not a big problem.

                  The bar is a lovely deep claret colour and has the body shop logo etched into the top surface. There are some small particles of gold glitter running throughout, which are intended to celebrate the festive period and to glitz the bar up a bit.


                  The bar over here in Holland costs three euros and I believe it is two pounds in the UK. So it is not too bad a price if you like treating yourself now and again on the simple things in life. I actually picked up three bars for three euros on this occasion. You can also pick up lots of other fruity flavours, which I intend to do. I have some in the basket, which I will no doubt review as well. This bar was a Christmas special and I must admit the smell rather does remind me of Christmas time in a way. I also had a hot mug of cranberry tea with honey to heighten the experience and also had a cranberry candle on the guy. I might do it all again nearer Christmas and throw in a minced pie or two as well.

                  I can't wait to smell the bathroom up with lovely smelling fruit soap from The Body Shop. Maybe they will fight the Lush soaps and I will end up with a soapy battlefield of wonderful smells gone by.

                  All Body Shop soaps are made under strict conditions and they pride themselves on the fact that they are not tested on animals. Most of the ingredients are touted as being natural and to a certain extent they are; although they read like a chemistry book if you don't know what you're looking at.

                  --

                  The ingredients are as follows:

                  Tetrasodium Etidronate (Chelating Agent), Phenoxyethanol (Preservative), Methylparaben (Preservative), Butylparaben (Preservative), Ethylparaben (Preservative), Polyurethane-11, Isobutylparaben (Preservative), Propylparaben (Preservative), CI 17200 (Colour), CI 14700 (Colour), CI 77000 (Colour), CI 15850 (Colour), CI 19140 (Yellow 5 Lake) (Colour), Sodium Palmate (Surfactant), Aqua (Water) (Solvent/Diluent), Sodium Palm Kernelate , Glycerin, Sorbitol , Palm Kernel Acid, Parfum (Fragrance), Butylene Glycol , Vaccinium macrocarpon (Cranberry Extract; the important one) (Natural Additive), Polyethylene Terephthalate (Film Former, Hair Fixative), Tetrasodium EDTA (Chelating Agent).

                  I suppose if all the 'Cs' were 'Es' we would be harping on about E-numbers and how harmful they were but in this soaps case the C-numbers are just colourings and add to the soaps look.
                  The soap doesn't leave any residue or scum in the bath once empty and, as mentioned, it leaves the bathroom smelling wonderfully fruity and fresh.

                  I give this soap four out of five stars for the smell alone. It is cheap, good value and a really pleasant addition to anyone's bathroom.

                  ©Lee Billingham

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                    23.10.2013 00:02
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                    one for fans of Joy Division, The Joy Formidable, Leonard Cohen, Springsteen and Nick Cave

                    The National - Trouble Will Find Me

                    --

                    The National are a band that has been bopping quietly along since 1999. They have a cult following in their native America and also a European fan base. They are easily recognisable for their deep and mesmerising sound and the equally deep and melancholy sound of lead singer Matt Berringer. Berringer is a baritone and when he does go deep he reminds me of Nick Cave, the Bad Seeds front man.

                    Trouble Will Find Me is the bands eighth studio album and their first for three years. The name National has no meaning according to band members and was chosen for that exact reason. The bands lyrics are equally as baffling at times and many interpretations have been made about their songs.

                    Berringer is the lead singer and the other four members consist of two sets of brothers. Brian and Scott Devendorf and twins, Aaron and Bryce Dressner. Scott Devendorf plays the bass and Brian the drums. Aaron Dressner plays the guitar and keyboard while his twin plays the lead guitar.
                    I didn't really have any preconceptions of the album so here is what I thought about it:

                    --

                    Tracks

                    --

                    Track One - I Should Live in Salt

                    -

                    A nice mellow track and a subtle opening to the album. An acoustic guitar heads the intro and Matt's voice kicks in nice and crisp. Slow to get going but when the chorus kicks in it is a breath of fresh air. The whole song seems to lift with it, as does Matt's voice. A little on the high side for his baritone voice but he sounds good and the backing vocals are good too. There's a wailing guitar solo half way through which fits well. Not a bad start to the album.

                    'Think about something so much. You should know me better than that. Start to slide out of touch. You should know me better than that. Tell yourself it's all you know. You should know me better than that. Learn to appreciate the void. You should know me better than that. I should live in salt for leaving you behind.'

                    Track Two - Demons

                    -

                    Matt's deep voice opens this track and we have the Nick Cave sound that I was talking about. Sorry
                    for comparing but you really can't help to notice the similarity. I don't mean this as a slight as I think Nick Cave is great and Berringer is by no means trying to copy him. It is simply the deepness of his voice when he sings low that makes the comparability inevitable. Not a bad song and the band sound cultured on it. It picks up three quarters of the way through and I think it will grow on me after a few listens.

                    'Passing buzzards in the sky, Alligators in the sewers. I don't even wonder why. Hide among the unbelievers. Huddle with them all night long. The worried talk to god goes on. I sincerely tried to love it. Wish that I could rise above it. But I stay down with my demons.



                    Track Three - Don't Swallow the Cap

                    -

                    Another Springsteenesque vibe at the start of this one. A nice little ditty if not an epic. Flows along nicely. The female backing vocals go well with Matt's voice, which is not so deep on this one.

                    'I'm tired, I'm freezing, and I'm done. When it gets so late I forget everyone. I need somewhere to stay. Don't think anybody I know is awake. Calm down it's alright. Keep my arms the rest of the night. When they ask what do I see. I say a bright white beautiful heaven hangin' over me.



                    Track Four - Fireproof

                    -

                    I think this song is a gem. A real mellow song but very involving and my favourite track on the album so far. I like the acoustic guitars at the start of the track. They blend together well, as does the snare and Berringer's voice when it enters. A simple effective chorus. Reminds me of a Springsteen track lyrically and ambience wise. A haunting track.


                    'You're fireproof. Nothing breaks your heart. You're fireproof. It's just the way you are.'



                    Track Five - Sea of Love

                    -

                    This song gives the listener an insight into the reasoning behind the band being likened to Joy Division. The rasping guitars coupled with the haunting synth and Matt Berringer's deep voice melding it all together is very reminiscent of the aforementioned group. Quite a catchy chorus and one that grows on you.

                    'Jo I'll always think of you, as the kind of child who knew, this was never gonna last; oh Jo you fell so fast. Hey Jo sorry I hurt you, but they say love is a virtue don't they?

                    Track Six - Heavenfaced

                    -

                    A nice slow piano or electric piano intro to this track. The first verse is dominated again by Matt's sultry tones. The second verse is accompanied by the snare and the beat picks up a little before surprisingly slowing down again. Matt's voice raises a few octaves for the chorus. Nothing explosive about the chorus but it is a likeable song.

                    'How completely high was I? I was off by a thousand miles. Hit the ceiling, then you fall. Things are tougher than we are.'

                    Track Seven - This is the Last Time

                    -

                    The intro to this one is dominated by a bass riff. It's another slow starter with the drums kicking in in the second verse again. This time however, the song does gain immediate momentum. You do kind of wish it would explode into life a little more but it's not lacking in a dull way. It is a slow song but it is done well and it does have more kick than a standard ballad. It changes tack at the end and almost merges into a surreal tune from a soundtrack or score.

                    'Oh, when I lift you up you feel. Like a hundred times yourself. I wish everybody knew, what's so great about you.'



                    Track Eight - Graceless

                    -

                    Graceless starts with a much more upbeat tempo with the drums playing the lead. Another simple, yet effective song. I like the dulcet tones of the synth behind the drums. It all flows along rather nicely.

                    'Graceless. Is there a powder to erase this? Is it dissolvable and tasteless? You can't imagine how I hate this. Graceless.'


                    Track Nine - Slipped

                    -

                    A synth blending into a piano and guitar at the start of this track. The Nick Cave deepness is back and at times it reminds me of Leonard Cohen. Another slow track but I like the lyrics and it is another relaxing tune.

                    'I'm in the crush and I hate it. My eyes are falling. I'm having trouble inside my skin. I tried to keep my skeletons in.'

                    Track Ten - I Need My Girl

                    -

                    Great use of the electric guitar to open this track. Another simple little ballad of a track and easy to listen to. I like the way the synth slowly starts to build in the background midway through verse two.
                    'I'm under the gun again. I know I was a 45 per center then. I know I was a lot of things, but I am good, I am grounded.'


                    Track Eleven - Humiliation

                    -

                    At five minutes and two seconds long, Humiliation is the longest track on the album. This track has a nice beat to it, without the drums being too heavy. It's almost a one verse track with no discernible chorus to speak of. There is some nice use of backing vocals in the latter part of the track.

                    'If I die this instant, taken from the distance. They will probably list it down, among other things round town.'


                    Track Twelve - Pink Rabbits

                    -

                    An Elton John like piano intro opens this track and Matt is higher on the scale again. In keeping with most of the album, we are treated to another slow song but it is a nice song and I always feel that this bands slow songs are better when Matt Berringer doesn't sing too deep and in this one he doesn't.

                    'It wasn't like a rain; it was more like a sea. I didn't ask for this pain, it just came over me. I love a storm, but I don't love lightning. All the waters coming up so fast, it's frightening.'

                    Track Thirteen - Hard to Find

                    -

                    This is probably the slowest track on the album, which is OK, but I was kind of hoping to end with a bang. I don't like the back-drop to this track as it is a little grinding. There is a piercing synth chord constantly hissing at back of the track and it is rather off-putting.

                    'If I try you'll probably be hard to find.'

                    --

                    My Thoughts

                    --

                    As I said at the opening of the review, I wasn't expecting anything at all from this album one way or another. I have to say it is something you can sit down and relax with. I would class it as an easy listening album, but one with some culture and the maturity of a band who has been at their craft for long enough to know when something is worth doing or not.

                    It is not a stand-out brilliant album but it is not a dull one either. It is definitely worth a listen and I daresay that if you are a fan of the band it will be utterly favourable if not just for the fact that your favourite band has released thirteen new tracks.

                    I think I will give certain songs a listen from time to time. I like 'Fireproof' a lot.

                    If you're expecting some heavy rock tracks from this American Indie band then you'll be disappointed. It is primarily indie based but most of the songs are slow paced but that is how the band intended them to be. I may feel differently when I have given it a few more listens or heard the tracks on my headphones, but for now, this is my first impression of the album.

                    Fans of Joy Division, The Joy Formidable, Leonard Cohen, Springsteen and Nick Cave will probably like this album and indeed this band.

                    I would give the album three out of five stars.

                    ©Lee Billingham

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                    15.10.2013 10:15
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                    A mature new offering from a steady band.

                    Beacon by Two Door Cinema Club

                    --

                    Beacon is Two Door Cinema Club's second album and was released in the spring of 2012. Their first album 'Tourist History' was released in 2010 and won the Choice Music Prize for album of the year in 2011.

                    The band hail from Bangor and Donaghadee, County Down in Northern Ireland.
                    The band is headed by Sam Halliday on vocals and lead guitar, Alex Trimble on vocals, rhythm guitar, beats, synths and Kevin Baird on bass and backing vocals. They formed in 2007 and have been gaining fans ever since.

                    Halliday and Trimble were already friends in comprehensive school and came across Baird through mutual friends. They formed a band at sixteen called 'Life Without Rory' and entered the local school band contest. They came last! Most people would've been put off by this but not these guys and the rest is history.

                    Trimble programs all the bands beats and drum sounds and the band have no official drummer, which is quite unusual although not unique. For recording albums and on tour they use session drummer Benjamin Thompson.

                    So let's take a look at their second album, Beacon.

                    --

                    Track One - Next Year

                    -

                    An upbeat opening to the album and quite a lively track, with some psychedelic guitar vibes thrown in. The vocals are clear and crisp. The whole track is driven along to the fast pace of the drum beat. Some eighties style synthesiser play throughout the track. Reminded me of 'The Flaming Lips' at some points. Trimble is obviously very busy on this track with beats, synth and guitar heading the track.

                    'Maybe someday, you'll be somewhere, talking to me, as if you knew me. Saying, I'll be home for next year, darling. I'll be home for next year.'

                    -

                    Track Two - Handshake

                    -

                    A synthesiser starts off this track and again is reminiscent of many eighties bands. The base is also prominent. Then the track kicks in with some really raucous guitar play from Trimble.

                    'She said the devil will want you back and you'll never find love in an open hand. Shut your eyes, so you see under, and know you'll always have this if you stay this man.'

                    -

                    Track Three - Wake Up

                    -

                    Good harmonizing and crisp vocals from Halliday and the boys on the third track of the album. However, the main crux of this track is the rhythm guitar of Trimble. It fairly whines through the track and is supplemented by his synthesiser and programmed beats. Thompsons drum beat is the spine of the tune. The guitar solo on this track is superb and fits really well.

                    'Tell me you'll feel better, when you're sleeping through the day and I'll tell you how you missed it when you wake.'

                    -

                    Track Four - Sun

                    -

                    Some Mumford and Sons vibes in this track. As well as synthesiser there is a horn section backing to this track and it fits quite well. I like the chorus to this one. Halliday's voice is very clear and strong on this track and Trimble and Baird on good form. There is a brilliant guitar riff and solo from Trimble yet again. The second single release from the album.

                    'Over and over, many setting suns, I have run, I have waited for the rain to come. When through that mist, I see the shape of you and I know, and I know, that I'm in love with you.'

                    -

                    Track Five - Someday

                    -

                    Love the rhythm to this track. The beat is fast and upbeat and again the lead guitar is the general force behind this one. It simply blasts onto the speakers from the get go. The bass beat and rhythm guitar meld into one funky track and Halliday is again on top form. This track has a bit of a Simple Minds vibe to it.


                    'There is no time for wasting any time. This is the end of the line, the definite sign of what we will be someday.'

                    -

                    Track Six - Sleep Alone

                    -

                    I already knew this track from having a remixed version with Ellie Goulding's 'Starry eyed'. A cultured track and one with a great beat and rhythm. The first single to be released from the album. A great pop-like chorus with an indie sound. This track was also included in season four of 'The Vampire Diaries' and appeared on the football game Fifa 13.

                    'And I may go to places I have never been to, just to find the deepest desires in my mind.'

                    -

                    Track Seven - The World Is Watching (with Valentina)

                    -

                    Things slow down at the start of this track but you feel that it won't stay that way for long. The track does then come to life with the chorus exploding onto the speakers. Halliday is backed on the chorus and throughout the track by Valentina.

                    'Look into your heart; are you happy? You could be the one to set me free and with your hand in mine we will run to a place that knows no one.'

                    -

                    Track Eight - Settle

                    -

                    Probably one of the stronger tracks on the album and destined to become a crowd anthem when played live. Everything fits together nicely on this track. The vocals are again faultless and the guitar, bass and drums smash along at a relentless pace.

                    'Cause I can see, I can see, all the things arresting me. But I control, I control.

                    -

                    Track Nine - Spring

                    -

                    The guitar intro to this song is great, especially when Halliday's voice comes in over it. Another nice build to this track as seems to be a feature with this band's music. You can feel the rise in the track before it lets go again for the second verse. You just hope it will explode into the next chorus. In a way it does as the guitar wails into full flow. I like this track.

                    'What did I say? I cannot say I remember, but every word seems so absurd my love.'

                    -

                    Track Ten - Pyramid

                    -

                    This is one of the weaker tracks on the album for me when it first starts but still not a bad one. It just didn't seem like it was going to get going and then the whole song is saved by Trimble's guitar, again! Has that Simple Minds vibe in the guitar sound again and also a little Johnny Marr.

                    'We have seen what lies beneath the earth. Everything that has ever been and will become.'

                    -

                    Track Eleven - Beacon

                    -

                    For me, this song seemed out of sync with the rest of the album when I first listened to it, but then the guitar kicks in and it sounds brilliant. I am certainly a fan of Alex Trimble's guitar. A nice way to end the album as after the last track and the intro to this one I thought the album was ending on two weaker tracks, but not so in either case.

                    'The beacon that is calling me. The light that never dies. Reflections thrown above the sea. Casts shadows in the sky.'

                    --

                    My Thoughts

                    --

                    A thoroughly enjoyable album that doesn't take itself too seriously. Halliday has a good, soothing voice and Trimble's guitar sounds fantastic; as does his synth work. I would describe Two Door Cinema Club as a tidy band; something to listen to without having to keep switching past tracks or unlikable songs.

                    I will definitely be listening to it again a few times. I already knew the band but never really got into them or listened to the first album. I may go back and give the first album a try after listening to this one.

                    I would recommend the album for at least a listen to anyone, but fans of eighties synths and bands with unique guitar sounds like Simple Minds, The Smiths or The Cure will probably like it. Fans of Mumford and Sons and other easy listening indie bands will also appreciate it.

                    I give Beacon three and a half stars out of five.

                    ©Lee Billingham

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                      09.10.2013 15:20
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                      Life in this notorious prison was anything but a vacation. Shame the film doesn't portray that!

                      How I Spent My Summer Vacation

                      --


                      I thought I would give this a watch as I wanted to see what Mel Gibson was like these days. I don't tend to give to much thought to the media comments about people because ninety-nine per cent of them are false and conjured up to fill space in the respective magazines or newspapers, but Gibson seems to have had a hard time of it in recent years whether undeserved or warranted.
                      Before I talk about the movie let's do the usual and go over the story-line.

                      --

                      The Premise

                      --

                      The movie begins with a compelling police chase at the US-Mexican border after a bank robbery. Two criminals are being chased and one is bleeding to death on the back seat. Both are wearing clown suits. A narrator cuts in to tell the audience what is occurring and we realise that the narrator is also the driver of the car.

                      Mel Gibson's character known as 'Driver' or a character with no name finds himself in 'El Pueblito', a prison that is set up like a village where prisoner's families can join them to live. He finds out his partner is dead and the corrupt Mexican border police have taken his two million dollars (not exactly his as he stole it). After a few anxious moments (not really that anxious) he befriends a kid (Kevin Hernandez) who is living in fear thanks to his relationship with the kingpin of the facility who is relying on the kid for a liver transplant after it is found that the kid shares the same rare blood type. The kingpin also took the kid's Father's liver in the recent past. After bonding with the kid and his mother, Driver tries to worm his way into the circle of the kingpin and his henchmen family in order to get his money back and save the kid's life.

                      --


                      My Thoughts

                      --

                      Firstly, this movie is not to be confused with the stylish nineteen-sixty seven movie of the same name with Robert Wagner. I wish it was and did hope when I heard of the Gibson movie that it was going to be; sadly not. The Wagner movie was only a TV effort but it exuded class and was head and shoulders above the movie I am reviewing here. This movie was also released as 'Get the Gringo' in the U.S.

                      The opening scene to the Gibson movie was promising and the car chase along the U.S/Mexican border was well shot, so the first five minutes of the movie was OK. Then for some reason the next twenty-five minutes really grated on me and I almost turned it off. Gibson's narration seemed out of place at times and some of the attempts at humour were really lame. The movie does pick up a little after that and it kept me interested enough to see it through until the end; just about.

                      The Mexican prison 'El Pueblito' was a real prison in Mexico that was shut down after a riot similar to the one in this movie. The director Adrian Greenburg, who was directing his first movie, researched the prison and heard a lot of stories about it. Some of these stories he incorporated into the movie. He has also been quoted as saying that the humour in the movie was added to play-down some of the more violent scenes.

                      My opinion is that the humour was out of place and didn't mask or play-down the violence but trivialised it and made it too tame.

                      El Pueblito was an experiment which was run by the Mexican authorities. It was meant to integrate inmates into normal society by making them feel part of a community. In the movie it is mildly antagonising and Gibson looks like he is staying at a really bad holiday camp. In reality he would have had to watch over his shoulder every second and would not have slept or even eaten. In the movie he steals money in order to buy cigarettes and food to survive, but this would not have happened. He is the only white man in the prison in the movie and sticks out like a sore thumb. He would've been watched like a hawk and probably have been dead within weeks.

                      But before I get slammed for comparing reality to fiction, one of the things you know I hate, if you read my reviews, I will add that I am not saying this from a point of 'Oh that wouldn't happen in real life', I am merely pointing out that the movie displayed it in a really weak way, especially as Greenburg was going for realism and researched the real prison.

                      I think the prison in the movie should have been made to look more intimidating and scary. I didn't ever feel that Gibson's character was ever in any real danger, even when it was telling me he was on screen. I wanted to feel bad for him, even though he was a career criminal. I wanted to feel frightened by the prison and on the edge of my seat, but I wasn't.

                      Gibson for the main part played the part of Driver quite well but the moments for me when he slipped into Riggs territory (The character from the Lethal Weapon movies) were totally out of running with the rest of the movie. The only time it bore any relevance was in the scenes with Kevin Hernandez who played the young boy. In fact the one-liners and comedic quips that Gibson is known for are lost on this movie. It doesn't know whether to be funny or serious or both and ends up being neither. The humour may work with a charismatic cop who is thirty years younger and makes the ladies swoon but this character is meant to be a hardened life-time criminal, who is locked up in one of the most notorious jails of our time and it just does not fit.

                      I happen to like Mel Gibson regardless of some of the stupid things he has supposedly done. We all make mistakes and everyone deserves a second chance. I just don't think this is the movie (or was ever going to be) to put him back on the map. I'm sure the women will still love the cheeky smile and handsome rugged looks but let's not forget that Gibson has made some good movies and can act; it's just that this movie doesn't really showcase his skills.

                      Kevin Hernandez plays the part of the kid with real skill and is going to be a promising actor when he grows up. Some of his scenes with Gibson are funny and probably the only humour in the movie that actually works. He is also in some of the more tense scenes in the movie when the boss of the prison inmates seeks him for a liver transplant.

                      Dolores Heredia also does a good job in the movie as the kid's Mother.

                      Overall, the direction was well executed and the storyline was not bad. The acting was good for the most part too but for me the realism of the movie lets it down. I love prison films and one rule when making these movies is to make them realistic and hard-hitting. People have to feel scared and feel the oppression and claustrophobic limitations of the walls in a prison movie or it just doesn't work.

                      Granted that this prison was set up as a village where visitors and families could come and go and you could but food and cigarettes from shops set up in the prison, but it was also a prison full of guns and drug addicts and drug taking was rife. You do see that in the prison but it is not driven home enough and is not intimidating enough to bother or trouble the viewer. I would go as far as to say that if the prisoners or prison guards from the actual prison saw this movie they would have to visit hospital to have stitches in their splitting sides. I don't mean that to sound too harsh on the director or film crew as it is not total dross and they did make it quite well for what it is, but it will never find the upper levels of any ratings table for best prison movie.

                      There is one scene that is well directed and it is a shoot-out scene that
                      is filmed with slow motion cameras. The problem with it is that it is too much like a Tarantino shot. It is done well and Tarantino by no means owns the right to be the only director to shoot these scenes but he does it so well that you have to be on your game if you are going to follow suit. Greenburg does a good job with it but for me it is out of sync with the rest of the movie. It is almost as if a guest director appears for that scene; namely Tarantino.


                      The movie tries to pass itself off as film noir but in that sense it fails miserably. There is a certain kind of atmosphere to it but it is more 'Miami Vice' than 'White Heat' to be honest and won't be winning any awards in cinematography. I suppose that to be fair to the production crew, they were never going to get a much better result out of the budget they were working with, which was twenty thousand U.S dollars.

                      If you're looking for a mildly entertaining movie to while-away an hour and a half, then maybe this is what you are looking for. If you're expecting a raucous, hard-hitting prison movie then I would give it a miss because you will be disappointed. It's a no-brainer and I suppose it just about manages to do what it says on the tin; however ill-informed that label may be.

                      I would rate this movie as mediocre at best and give it two out of five stars for the acting and a good first effort on directing a movie.

                      ©Lee Billingham

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                      • Broken (2013) (DVD) / DVD / 54 Readings / 53 Ratings
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                        25.09.2013 18:11
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                        A tour de force in British film-making

                        Broken Film and DVD review

                        --

                        When I came to watch this movie I did not know a whole lot about it, which is the way I like it. I did know that it starred Tim Roth, who I am a fan of and in my opinion is one of the most underrated actors in Britain and Cillian Murphy who I also like a great deal. I also knew that it was a British made film and ninety per cent of the time you can't go wrong on that score. The fact that it was a BBC production made it even more tempting to watch as the BBC still make some of the best movie and dramas in the world, regardless of some of the other trash they make.

                        The one thing that I took away from this movie was an unexpected surprise and that was the brilliant introduction of a new actress named Eloise Laurence, who I cannot say enough about in this movie. The girl is a talented actress and I later found out she sang the songs to the movie score too, which are absolutely brilliant. I have also since found out that she is the daughter of Larry Lamb (Eastenders and Gavin & Stacy).

                        The movie is also set in North London and as an Arsenal fan of many years and one who travelled to Highbury and Islington on a regular basis; this was another reason to watch it as I know the area well.

                        Before I wax lyrical about Eloise's performance and this brilliant gem of a British film, let's take a look at the storyline.

                        --

                        The Premise

                        --

                        Eleven year old Skunk (Eloise Laurence) lives with her father Archie (Tim Roth) and her elder brother Jed (Bill Milner). Their Mother walked out on them years ago and they have an au pair, Kasia (Zana MarjanoviÄ++) living with them. Kasia is seeing a local teacher called Mike (Cillian Murphy) who Skunk has a bit of a crush on. They live in a typical suburb of North London. The area they live in is quite nice, apart from the Oswald's house that seems to bring down the whole look and reputation of the close.

                        Living across the road from them is mentally slow young man named Rick Buckley (Robert Emms, who likes nothing more than washing his father's car over and over. Skunk likes to talk to him and counts him as a friend.

                        One day she witnesses Bob Oswald (Rory Kinnear) brutally attack Rick and beat him really badly. Rick is taken to hospital but the police are also called as Oswald's daughter said he had raped her.
                        Skunk is a type one diabetic and as to watch what she eats and also inject herself regularly and write down her blood levels.

                        After the attack on Rick, Skunk's life starts to spiral out of control as she starts High School and is bullied by Oswald's daughters. A new boyfriend she has recently met suddenly has to move away and her brother is acting strangely. Her Father is also behaving weird and the au pair and Mike split up.
                        Rick arrives back home for the weekend on leave from the mental institute he has been placed on and Skunk pays him a visit. What she finds will change her life and everyone around her forever.

                        --

                        My Thoughts

                        --

                        I cannot say enough about this gem of a film. I absolutely loved it and Eloise Laurence's performance has to be one of the highlights of 2012.

                        It is essentially a coming of age drama and Mark O'Rowe's screenplay is based on the book by Daniel Clay. It is common knowledge that both the novel and film were loosely based on 'To Kill a Mocking Bird', the famous novel by Harper Lee and having read that novel myself I can see the comparison, although it is not the same in a stamped literal sense.

                        The movie was directed by Rufus Norris who has appeared as an actor in a handful of films but found himself behind the camera for the first time on this venture. All the actors have said that they felt at ease on this movie and that Norris had a good rapport with the actors. The direction itself on the whole is pretty slick and well done. The film plays out in a lot of flashbacks or to be more specific the viewer seems to get future flashes and then we see the moments that lead up to those events.


                        The cinematography by Rob Hardy is also beautifully crafted and the still scenes look good. I liked Hardy's work in photography on the film 'Boy A' and he continues in that ilk in this film. The direction is flowing and some of the camera switches are seamless. Norris had a vision and he sold it to the viewer in a way that was both refreshing and intelligent.

                        Skunk is a great character and Eloise just plays her perfectly. This young girl lights up the screen and is so believable in the part. I think some credit has to go to the director Norris as he made everyone feel so relaxed. Let's not forget this film was Eloise Laurence's first film; in fact let's dwell on that for a while because her performance deserves some analysing. This girl is so obviously a natural and in interviews she has said that she felt totally at home on set and that Norris was considered a friend. He used to shout cut half way through a take just to tease Laurence about her performance. The most important part of her performance for me is the fact that she is believable. It seems effortless on her part but make no bones about it, it is not easy and many young actresses, especially first time ones, would have struggled in this role. Add to that that she sings the title and ending tracks on the film and it is plain to see that this young girl has a massive future and successful career ahead of her; let's hope so anyway.


                        Robert Emms is superb as the mentally disturbed Rick Buckley and desereves a mention. He had to film some awkward and shocking scenes and he did a really good job. Anothe rcharacter that is portrayed so believably in the film and a fine performance.

                        Tim Roth does what he does best in the movie and that is that he plays normal so well. For an actor with such a brilliant repertoire in his arsenal he can play plain pretty well. The good thing about Roth though is that even when he is playing normal you feel that there could be something lying dormant just underneath the skin of the character. He plays Skunk's father, Archie with aplomb and just the right mix of tired and boring mixed in with angst and obvious frustration at the cards life has dealt him.
                        Roy Kinnear also does a wonderful job playing the horrid Bob Oswald. You may or may not recognise Kinnear from his recurring role as tanner in the James Bond movies 'Quantum of Solace' and 'Skyfall'. His role in this movie is so far removed from those roles that it speaks volumes about his versatility as an actor. He plays a character who has lost his wife and been forced to bring up three girls on his own. He has sadly turned into a foul-mouthed, violent and angry man and unfortunately this has rubbed off onto his daughters.

                        Cillian Murphy, as many of you will know, plays evil and slimy really well but in this movie he fetches somewhat of a forlorn character in school teacher Mike. After his split with the au pair Kasia he finds himself in limbo but still manages to do the right thing by Skunk as the film plays out.
                        The movie score contains original songs that are actually sung by Eloise Laurence as mentioned earlier.

                        This is one of those movies that can grab you and draw you in. It is one of those movies that make you feel it is about something without actually being about anything. Of course that is just a clique but this film has that feel. It is actually about a hell of a lot; it is about growing up, being grown up, childhood and the loss of it, love, loss, longing, hurt, anger and loneliness.

                        It is a film made for and made by people who care about film and people who care about what happens to the characters within a story and wondering what will become of the characters long after the end credits have rolled.


                        Everything about the film, the direction, the score, the look and feel, the acting and the storyline are brilliant and any film lover will love this movie. A little gem of a film, and well worth watching in my opinion. We may have an abundance of gritty or hard-hitting dramas in Britain but this film is better than some of the more run-of-the-mill efforts. Many of you may have read my 'This is England' movie series reviews and my 'Somers Town' review and watched the Shane Meadows movies. You will also know what a fan of them I am and I can safely say that this movie is right up there with them.
                        Broken was the winner of 'Best Film' at the British Independent Awards in 2012.
                        I could give numerous reasons as to why someone should watch it but by far the biggest reason is for the amazing debut from Eloise Laurence.

                        I recommend it to anyone who likes a good, British, gritty drama with some substance to it.
                        Broken runs for ninety-one minutes.

                        You can pick the Broken DVD up on Amazon for 11.99 and on eBay from between five and twelve pounds.

                        The DVD contains a trailer and interviews with cast and crew.

                        I give Broken five out of five stars.

                        ©Lee Billingham

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                        • Django Unchained (DVD) / DVD / 59 Readings / 56 Ratings
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                          21.09.2013 11:46
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                          A brilliantly crafted movie with some top acting performances and a great soundtrack.

                          Django Unchained

                          --

                          Quentin Tarantino has done it again. A lot of people criticize him for stealing old or obscure movie ideas and remaking or rehashing them. This may in fact be true in most cases and indeed this one, but boy oh boy he does it so well.

                          Django unchained is slick, gritty and stylish. It is brilliantly directed and the acting is top draw. The soundtrack is also outstanding.

                          I always know that I am going to be superbly entertained by a Tarantino movie but I am still also pleasantly surprised each time.

                          --

                          The Premise

                          --

                          Somewhere in Texas in the year 1858, several male slaves are being driven by the Speck Brothers, Ace and Dicky. Among the shackled slaves is Django (Jamie Foxx), sold off and separated from his wife, Broomhilda. The Speck Brothers are stopped by Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a German dentist and bounty hunter. Schultz asks to buy one of the slaves, but while questioning Django about his knowledge of the Brittle Brothers, for whom Schultz is carrying a warrant, he irritates Ace who aims his shotgun at Schultz. Schultz quickly kills Ace and leaves Dicky at the mercy of the other newly-freed slaves. Since Django can identify the Brittle Brothers, Schultz offers Django his freedom in exchange for his help in tracking them down. Track them down they do and after executing the Brittles, Django partners with Schultz through the winter and becomes his apprentice. Django learns how to fire a gun properly over the next few months and Schultz quickly realises that Django is a natural.


                          Schultz explains that, being the first person he has ever given freedom to, he feels responsible for Django and is driven to help him in his quest to rescue Broomhilda. Upon first learning of her name, Schultz tells Django the tale of the mythical German valkyrie, Brünnhilde. He is pleasantly surprised by the ex-slave's wife's name and soon becomes fond of Django.

                          Django eventually collects his first bounty, keeping the handbill as a good luck charm and to remind him how it all started. In Mississippi, Schultz uncovers the identity of Broomhilda's owner, lvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), the charming but dangerous owner of Candyland, a plantation where slaves are forced to fight to the death in boxing matches called "Mandingo fights." Schultz does not think that Candie will give up or sell Broomhilda on a whim, so he devises a plan to purchase one of Candie's prized fighters, purchase Broomhilda on the side, then disappear before the deal is finalized. Schultz and Django meet Candie at a club in Greenville and submit their offer. Schulz poses as a man looking for a prize fighter and Django is the trainer who knows a good fighter when he sees one. Candie invites them to Candyland. When they arrive they tell Broomhilda of the plan and Schulz claims to be charmed by her and wishes to make her part of the deal when he buys a boxer.

                          All would have gone well were it not for Candie's oldest servant, Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), who sees through the ruse and forewarns Candie.

                          What happens next is the stuff of legend; the legend that is Django!

                          --

                          My Thoughts

                          --

                          I loved this movie and thought every actor involved was superb. The direction, as expected, is conducted with the polished genius of a director who knows what he can do well and does just that.

                          I am not a massive fan of westerns but did love the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns that were made so famous by Ennio Morricone's famous soundtracks and the brilliant performances from Clint Eastwood, Lee van Cleef and in 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly', the excellent Eli Wallach. So when I heard that Morricone was going to be on the soundtrack to Django and knowing what I know of Tarantino's directive skills, I knew it was going to be stylish and brilliant.

                          I was also aware of the original Django movies, directed by Sergio Corbucci and starring Franco Nero as Django, which one had to take with a pinch of salt as they were so bad that they were good and ended up with a cult following and were probably responsible for the Sergio Leone films being made. The original Django is still hailed by many as being the greatest Spaghetti Western ever made.

                          Tarantino, as usual, put his own mark on the story and the feel that he creates with the soundtrack and the look of the movie really is a skill that he has honed to perfection.

                          The colour of the movie is right, the sound is bang on and the cinematography from director of photography Robert Richardson is breath-taking. The movie was shot mostly on location in Wyoming, USA.

                          The movie was made on an estimated budget of one hundred million dollars and to date has made one hundred and sixty-five million and that is not including DVD sales.

                          Tarantino knows how to pull a good cast together and make them gel so that the story and its characters appear to be seamless. His movies always have that flow to them and Django is no different. He uses his famous rotating camera shot in a dinner scene and the camera flows around the table as different people speak. He did this in Reservoir dogs too and it works. It is not a coincidence that Tarantino won the best original screenplay Oscar for this movie as again some of the dialogue and one-liners in the movie are great and also what we have come to expect from this great director.

                          Jamie Foxx is Brilliant as Django and the role shows a still young actor who has matured by the bucket load in recent years. It is a solid performance from Foxx and his screen presence strengthens throughout the movie, just as his character does. Django is a man on a mission and the steely grit and determination to get his wife back and to rise up out of slavery is embedded in the steely glint of his eyes. Another great performance and one that deserves much credit.

                          Christoph Waltz has likeability about him. Even when he is playing a nasty character you cannot help being drawn in by his charm. 'Inglorious Basterds' is an excellent example of this and of course another Tarantino movie. Waltz plays the enigmatic Schultz and he works well on screen with Foxx. They fit together well for two unlikely companions and the dialogue between the two flows along nicely. I like Waltz and I hope he continues to appear in good movies because he has a great skill as an actor and he also deserves every credit he gets. Waltz won a best supporting actor Oscar for this role.

                          Leonardo DiCaprio plays the despicable Ivin Candie and boy does he play him well. I used to find DiCaprio irritating; the baby-faced gigolo that looks like a spoiled kid and exuded more arrogance than the king of arrogance at the annual arrogance games. After one excellent role after another I slowly changed my opinion of him and no matter how he may or may not act in real life, on screen he has matured into one of the best actors out there. He plays Candie with a skill that a lot of actors couldn't have pulled off. You hate him and you want to hate him and he in turn makes you hate him and that is testament to an actor who has the ability to draw you in.

                          Kerry Washington plays the role of Django's wife Broomhilda von Shaft. Some of you may recognise her from 'The Last King of Scotland' or 'Lakeview Terrace' with Samuel L. Jackson. This incredibly beautiful actress plays Broomhilda with a subtlety and a certain nuance that belies the fact that she is a black slave girl working for the horrible Candie.

                          Samuel L. Jackson, a veteran of Tarantino films by virtue of his performance in 'Pulp Fiction' and 'Jackie Brown' plays the aging butler come confidante, Stephen. As you would expect, this much loved actor plays the part well and this sarcastic character with ideas above his station is one of the highlights of the film. I love this self-proclaimed, cooler than cool actor and I bet he is a joy to be friends with in reality. It is not a massive part in the movie but the role he plays is important and he does it well.

                          I thought the soundtrack was superb. It has that Delphonic type feel to it like Jackie Brown but somehow manages to make it fit this western.

                          The Django theme song performed by Luis Bacalov and Rocky Roberts is superb. It reminded me of Elvis singing in a fifties western and made me chuckle at first and then made the hairs on the back of my neck stick up. The brilliant 'Un monument', which was written and performed by Morricone gives the movie that Spaghetti Western stamp and takes you back in time. I might actually get a hold of the soundtrack so I will save my thoughts on it for the soundtrack review.

                          Quotes

                          --

                          Django: [upon being asked his name] Django. The D is silent.

                          -

                          Django: [to Big John Brittle] I like the way you die, boy.

                          -

                          Calvin Candie: Your boss looks a little green around the gills.
                          Django: He just ain't used to seein' a man ripped apart by dogs is all.
                          Calvin Candie: But you are used to it?
                          Django: I'm just a little more used to Americans than he is.

                          -

                          Dr. King Schultz: Anything else about Mr Candie I should know about before I meet him?

                          Leonide Moguy: Yes, he is a bit of a Francophile. Well, what civilized people aren't? And he prefers Monsieur Candie to Mr Candie.
                          Dr. King Schultz: Si c'est cela qu'il préfère.
                          [Whatever he prefers]
                          Dr. King Schultz:?
                          Leonide Moguy: He doesn't speak French. Don't speak French to him, it'll embarrass him.

                          -

                          Dr. King Schultz: [aiming .45-70 rifle at fleeing Ellis Brittle] You sure that's him?
                          Django: Yeah.
                          Dr. King Schultz: Positive?
                          Django: I don't know.
                          Dr. King Schultz: You don't know if you're positive?
                          Django: I don't know what 'positive' means.
                          Dr. King Schultz: It means you're sure.
                          Django: Yes.
                          Dr. King Schultz: Yes, what?
                          Django: Yes, I'm sure that's Ellis Brittle.
                          [Schultz shoots Brittle off his horse]
                          Django: I'm positive he dead.

                          --

                          DVD

                          --

                          Released on 20th May 2013

                          Region 2 (For UK and Europe)

                          Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 2.40:1

                          Certificate 18

                          165 Minutes or two hours and forty-five minutes

                          Released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

                          Product ASIN: B009VI6330

                          Can be purchased on Amazon for seven pounds and also be purchased on Blue-ray and in numerous special editions.

                          Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain "Remembering J. Michael Riva: The Production Design of 'Django Unchained,'" the "'Django Unchained' Soundtrack Spot" and a peek at the Tarantino XX Blu-ray collection. The Blu-ray also has "Reimagining the Spaghetti Western: The Horses and Stunts of 'Django Unchained'" and "The Costume Designs of Sharen Davis."

                          --

                          Summary

                          --

                          The first thing I should mention here is that this movie is definitely not for Children (and for those of you who find it a must to message me to say that the 18 certificate tells you that, I can only reiterate that a sticker on a box doesn't stop children watching it, nor indeed do a lot of parents stop them), as it is full of blood and guts as you would expect from a Tarantino movie these days. There is one fight scene in particular which is very graphic.

                          A lot of people will criticise this movie for the blood and body count but I say boo hoo, go and watch something else, you have a choice. The violence in the movie is not gratuitous in the fact that the time it is set in would have spawned events like this but that said, Tarantino is having fun with it and that is how it should be viewed as a bit of mindless fun. It is essentially there for effect and in that sense it works because it is very effective.

                          So, do not let the young ones near this movie.

                          I would recommend it one hundred per cent to any Tarantino fan as it is a must. To anybody who likes a bit of fun or mindless shooter-up violence, it is also a movie to watch. For the regular cinema goer it may be a bit too much and for the conservative viewer, I wouldn't bother if I were you.

                          It is a brilliantly crafted movie with some top acting performances, a great soundtrack, a throw-back to the old Spaghetti Westerns and a damn fine piece of entertainment. I love it and people can have their opinions for sure but they won't change my mind on it as I think it is destined to become a cult classic.
                          It may be controversial and contain some raw violence which may put a lot of people off, but Django gets five out of five stars from me.

                          ©Lee Billingham

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                          • Oblivion (DVD) / DVD / 58 Readings / 57 Ratings
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                            10.09.2013 09:24
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                            A sci-fi movie that's easy to watch.

                            Oblivion

                            --

                            I have had the opportunity to watch Oblivion for some time now but for one reason or another have not got round to it until now. The reason for me watching Oblivion was the fact that I went to the cinema to watch 'Elysium' recently and that sort of put me in the mood.

                            I knew that Oblivion starred Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman and I knew it was sci-fi based but I knew little else, which as I always say, is a bonus for me because I like to keep my knowledge of a movie before I watch it down to a minimum.; in fact I very rarely watch trailers unless I am in the cinema.

                            A lot of things are said about Tom Cruise, the cocky little upstart from 'All the Right Moves', the romancer from 'Cocktail' and the even cockier kid from 'The Color of Money'. Inevitably he has drawn criticism for his involvement with the Church of Scientology and his public divorce from Katie Holmes and her subsequent bad-mouthing of the church and Tom's ways. For my part, I don't give a damn about Tom Cruises private life; it is none of my business or anyone else's for that matter. I don't care what anyone says or thinks either because I like Tom Cruise in a movie. In answer to some of Cruise's critics Oblivion is his twentieth movie to gross over two hundred million so you can read into that what you will.

                            So before I talk about my thoughts on the movie, let's take a look at the story.


                            The Premise

                            --

                            The story follows Tech 49 Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), who is one of the last drone repairmen stationed on Earth. Through narration Jack tells us that it is the year 2077 and that earth was nearly destroyed sixty years ago, during a war against a race of alien invaders known as Scavengers, which are referred to as 'Scavs' in the movie.

                            The Scavs destroyed the moon, causing massive earthquakes and tsunamis. Large parts of the earth were left inhabitable and the survivors had little left. Many starved but some went to ground and survived under bedrock. The Scavs then launched their invasion to try and kill off the last inhabitants of our planet. They were only defeated by the use of nuclear weapons which, understandably left three quarters of the earth destroyed.

                            The remaining humans moved to a large space station called the "Tet," a massive space station that orbits the Earth, which is powered using energy harvested on Earth by giant ocean-borne power stations that generate fusion power from seawater. This was run by some of the remaining big-wigs and scientists. The rest of the population was moved to Titan, one of Jupiter's moons were humans made a new home.

                            The Tet sends out robot drones that search the land around the power stations and it is Jack's job to maintain the drones along with his partner Victoria "Vika" Olsen (Andrea Riseborough). There are still some remaining Scav bandits left on Earth who in order to live will do their utmost in destroying the power stations. Jack and ViKa receive their orders from Sally (Melissa Leo), their mission commander, who is stationed on the Tet. Jack flies recon and repair missions to the surface, while Vika supervises from Tower 49. Vika is essentially Jack's eyes when he is on the ground. Tower 49 is a huge structure that rises three thousand feet above the earth (that is taller than any building we have now on earth, including the world's tallest building. On top of the structure is the landing pad for Jack's super futuristic helicopter type aircraft and a futuristic house complete with a swimming pool with a see-through bottom that looks down on three thousand feet of air.


                            Vika wants everything to run smoothly as the two of them are due to leave Earth and join the other survivors on the Tet in two weeks before moving onto Titan. Jack and Vika had their memories wiped five years earlier for security reasons and to help them concentrate on the job of maintaining the drones and the security of the power stations. Jack has recurring dreams about meeting a mysterious woman at the Empire State Building before the war - which was before he was born. Jack keeps a secret retreat in a forested area he sometimes visits that is full of old vinyl records and a record player and any other things he finds of use, especially books.

                            Jack is eventually comes into contact with the leader of the Scavs on earth, Malcolm Beech (Morgan Freeman) and after a ship crashes and he finds the woman from his dreams in the wreckage he realises that all is not what it seems.

                            --

                            My thoughts

                            --

                            Firstly I will say that I really enjoyed this movie and I thought it was well made. I thought it was better than Elysium and even though the story has come under some criticism, I rather liked it. Sci-fi movies are sometimes accused of being too far-fetched but in my opinion anyone who thinks that shouldn't be watching a sci-fi movie in the first place. The times that I have heard someone utter the words 'Oh, that wouldn't happen', makes me cringe. Fiction is meant to be about things that can't or wouldn't happen, that's why bit is called fiction; it is fictional and therefore made up.

                            The story is taken from the original idea and graphic novel by Joseph Kosinski. This talented chap also wrote the screenplay, produced and directed the movie.
                            Direction wise I thought it was pretty crisp and flowed along nicely. The script was simple and concise and it was not hard to follow at all. I think the simplicity of it is what makes it an enjoyable experience.

                            I've already mentioned Tom Cruise and how he is perceived in the media but I like the bloke and thought he did another great job in this movie. I think since Cruise has grown up and matured he seems to be able to pull an audience and he knows when to underplay a scene. A lot of action or adventure movies nowadays have forgotten the art of subtlety and they each try and out-do each other with action scenes that are over-played. 'Man of Steel' is a perfect example of that and some of the fight scenes were ludicrously over-done and you couldn't tell what was going on most of the time. Tom Cruises recent films, including this one and 'Jack Reacher' have a really nice subtlety about them and the fight scenes aren't too in your face that you can't get to view them properly.

                            You hear Morgan Freeman before you see him of course and that silky voice fits straight into the movie. It is not a massive role but when he does appear he does well.

                            The two female roles are both played well. Andrea Riseborough as Victoria is both appealing and irksome at the same time, the character that is, not the actress. She plays the part so well and bounces of Cruise intelligently.

                            Olga Kurylenko plays Jack's wife and again is a good fit on screen with him.

                            The twist in the end of this tale also makes for great viewing and puts an interesting spin on developments and it is with this twist that they should have really ended the movie, but instead we had to have the favoured Hollywood ending to tie everything up in case anyone goes home and does themselves in after not being able to live with the more fitting and truthful ending.

                            The last five minutes of the movie is really out of sync with the rest of the story and I would've preferred the harder truth ending where everything doesn't tie up so neatly and to be honest so up-chuckingly perfect.
                            I would still recommend this movie if you're a fan of Cruise or indeed if you just want to watch a movie with a difference that isn't trying to be too clever and is still clever enough to provoke some thought.

                            I give Oblivion three stars out of five.

                            ©Lee Billingham

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                            • More +
                              25.08.2013 13:24
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                              A good toothbrush but good be better battery wise.

                              Philips Sonicare Rechargeable Sonic Toothbrush HX6711/02

                              --

                              Teeth are a bit of a touchy subject for me. When I was eighteen I had to have a tooth removed to make way for a wisdom tooth that was pushing everything over to one side. My dentist could not remove the tooth. His exact words were 'I am thirteen and a half stone and I cannot shift it'. He decided to cut it in half and remove it in two parts. I swear I could feel my jaw breaking as he applied pressure. I had to have eleven needles as it was such a long process. I suffered an allergic reaction which resulted in my beautiful white teeth being discoloured. Looking back in hindsight I should have sued really but I was eighteen and just wanted out of there. I am still not afraid of dentists though and never was.

                              The reason I tell this story is to give reasoning as to why I purchased the Philips Sonicare Rechargeable Sonic Toothbrush HX6711/02. I am an avid cleaner of my teeth and even though I am never satisfied with how they look I am always aware that they are clean because I brush so much. I purchased the Sonicare because I had read so much about how electric toothbrushes clean a lot better than a normal brush.

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                              The product

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                              Looks wise it is exactly what you want from a toothbrush; I describe it as 'toothbrushy' looking. The design is quite sleek and it is easy to hold and handle. It is however, rather a noisy little rascal, so if you're not a fan of a certain Dustin Hoffman movie I would keep well away.

                              Now to the products downfall: the battery life. It seems as though the manufacturers have been really clever here. They offer you a twelve month guarantee but the batteries are built to last just over twelve months and even the most rigorous of brushers will have a hard time wearing out before the guarantee runs out. I have this vision of robots at a testing plant testing away as to the longevity of the battery. It seems Phillips have worked it out rather nicely, from their prospective at least.

                              It can be a real downside if you have purchased new heads for the brush, which are quite expensive. They're maybe not as expensive as some electric brush heads but they are still a fair amount, especially when the battery runs down at the slightly after twelve month mark and renders everything useless.

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                              Performance

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                              The electric toothbrush holds up quite well when it comes to ability to clean. As with most reach-based brushes you are able to poke it at almost any angle and reach areas of the mouth that standard brushed can't. Add to this the electric driven brush heads and you really can get a good clean. My mouth always felt really clean and fresh after using this product. I especially like the feel an electric toothbrush gives you when brushing over the top of teeth. It gets at pesky bits of trapped food really well.

                              The applied toothpaste gets driven it to the gaps in your teeth and the oscillating heads whirring motion sends into places you wouldn't normally get with a normal hand driven tooth brush.

                              The general setting on the brush is set for two minutes with a further thirty second burst for extra whitening. The extra burst is called clean mode. The first two minutes is meant for plaque removal and the thirty seconds for removing any unwanted stains.

                              Most people make the mistake of using an electric toothbrush as a replacement for arm and hand movement; or to put it in simple terms they're being lazy. By far the best way to use this brush is to still apply the brushing motion. This way you get the normal clean with the added rotation of the brush heads on top for a really deep clean.

                              You can also use it to clean your gums and tongue as it really isn't abrasive at all.
                              I think it is one of the better brushes on the market but takes it's self out of the top sellers table because of the battery life.

                              The average price online is 29.99 but remember this is an average so you can find them at quite an expensive price and also a little cheaper.

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                              Features

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                              Smartimer--Two-minute timer helps to ensure dentist-recommended brushing time.

                              ProResults brush head--Two contoured brush head sizes.
                              Two Contour Brush.

                              Quadpacer--Interval timer.
                              Travel charger--Multi-voltage, compact travel charger.

                              Speed--31,000 brush strokes per minute.
                              Battery type--Lithium ion rechargeable battery (Which although recharged dies indefinitely after twelve months).

                              Operating time (full to empty)--Full charge should provide 20 two-minute brushings.

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                              Final Thoughts

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                              I would recommend the ability of this brush to anyone because it does do a good job but I would have to say that over all I would advise against buying it because of the battery life. It really does seem like a very sneaky way of getting you to buy a new brush.

                              I suppose at the end of the day it depends how you feel about it because a new brush every twelve months or so isn't so bad but the problem in as far as this product is concerned is the fact that you can buy electric toothbrushes that last a lifetime.

                              I give it three out of five stars based on a good cleaning performance but let down by the battery.


                              ©Lee Billingham

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                              • Apple iPod Earphones / Headphones / 45 Readings / 40 Ratings
                                More +
                                22.08.2013 12:55
                                Very helpful
                                (Rating)
                                4 Comments

                                Advantages

                                • Reliability

                                Disadvantages

                                A good lightweight, good quality earphone

                                Apple iPod Earphones

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                                I own a couple of pairs of Apple iPod Earphones and I must admit that I find them to be of a really good quality and really comfortable to wear.

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                                Choice and Price

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                                My last pair of these was a freebie, which is always a good thing. My girlfriend went to a seminar at work and for attending, everyone was given a two gig Apple 4th generation iPod. I sold the iPod on eBay for a nice profit but kept the earphones, so double bonus. These particular earphones I swapped for the mediocre pair on my old trusty Phillips MP3 player. You can pick these earphones up for next to nothing on eBay, Amazon and a multitude of other online sites. The price ranges from between three pounds and twenty pounds. The obvious way to obtain a pair is with an iPod but I recommend getting a pair on the cheap and replacing your standard MP3 earphones.

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                                Fashionista qualities

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                                For those of you who like your headphones to be stylish (I know you exist), I suggest sticking to Skullcandy ear buds or for those of you who just have to be noticed, the full head sets. The Apple earphones are nicely made and very trim and sleek. They come in standard white but you can get them in different colours but this usually means buying a custom iPod, which can be expensive. You can purchase different colours cheaply but must be aware that most of them are poor quality rip-offs.

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                                Comfort and Durability

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                                I find the Apple earphones to be really comfortable and have never had any discomfort from wearing them. This is great for me and I shall explain why: I wear earplugs in bed because I am a light sleeper and the slightest thing wakes me up. Over the years this has caused my ear holes to widen slightly and when wearing other earphones I have problems with them staying in my ears; or at least one side falls out, which over time can become increasingly irritating. I have never had this problem with the Apple earphones. I have heard other people complain that after lengthy wearing of these earphones they suffer earache or pains and discomfort as they feel too tight. Maybe because my ear holes are a little wider it compensates for this fact and makes the Apple earphones a perfect fit for my ears? I don't know if this is true but, as I said, I have never had a single problem with them comfort wise.

                                I have a pair that I have been wearing for two years now and they are fine. They are not made of industrial plastic or anything so drastic or durable but they are made of a pretty strong plastic and should last anyone over a year at least.

                                The lead is a little short on this pair but it works both ways really. I don't like leads that are overly long as they get too tangled and in get in the way and are quite frankly a little dangerous. They are the perfect length for walking or having the iPod with you about your person. The only reason I say the lead is a little short is because if you move around a lot or stretch for something then they are prone to be pulled out of your ears. I am an artist and like to sit with them on while I work and sometimes I will reach for something or forget and get up quickly and they are ripped from my ears or my MP3 player is pulled from the table and is left hanging in the air.

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                                Sound Quality

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                                I find the quality to be really good. Like I said, I swapped these for the original earphones on my MP3 player and you can really tell the difference in quality and sound. I used to have my old earphones in and the MP3 player's volume would be turned up full. With the Apple earphones in I can have the sound down a lot lower but the music still seems louder because the quality is much higher.


                                I have heard people complain about the bass when they have their music loud but I think that is more down to the machine they are using than the headphones. I can turn my MP3 player up full and the bass isn't distorted. If I plugged them into my laptop or my music system however, then I daresay that the power would be too much and the bass and sound quality would become distorted; again that is down to the machine and not the earphones or arguably the earphones not being built to withstand such sounds.


                                I find everything to be crystal clear on these earphones and because they are not plugs and aren't embedded into my eardrum, I can still hear outside influences such as traffic, which is very important. Although I will admit that I don't wear them outdoors anymore after a very frightening experience last year. I will give this a short mention as I feel that everyone should be safety conscious when wearing earphones or headphones.


                                I was trundling along on a tram last year with my MP3 player on, with the old earphones (plugs) in and I got off and walked to a crossing. The lights were on red. There were too lanes with two sets of lights. The first set came on, so one lane was free. I looked and there was no traffic coming in the distance. The second set of red lights came on a second later and I looked again and then smiled at the woman to my left. She stepped out and I naturally went to follow. I then saw her face contort in fright and she stepped back. My instinct kicked in and I stepped back as well. Just as I did, a car screeched past, with the tyres wailing and smoke absolutely filling the air. The door handles brushed my thigh on my right leg and the shopping trolley in my hand was smacked up into the air. The car came to a stop about fifty yards away. The driver shrugged his shoulders at me and sped away. I could have gladly strangled the idiot. Someone said he was on his phone or looking down and didn't see the red light.


                                Anyway, even though it was his fault it made me realise how stupid it is to wear earphones while crossing a road and I will never wear them out walking again. Sitting on the tram maybe but I will take them off before I get off the tram. I have included this as a lesson to us all because it was certainly an eye opener for me and I was with milliseconds of death or being paralysed. Still makes me shudder now. So please people, think about what you're doing while out with earphones on or in.

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                                Final Thoughts

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                                I would recommend these earphones to anyone because they are relatively cheap and have a great sound. There is no distortion or tininess, again depending on the machine you are using them with, and I find them really comfortable to wear. They may not be as brilliant as some of the high-end earphones on the market but they aren't as expensive either.

                                I give Apple Earphones four out of five stars.


                                ©Lee Billingham

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