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I have always dipped in and out of love with the game of golf. It can give so much - from verdant walks, quality time with a friend or relative, good exercise and the satisfaction of hitting something a long way! However for those things not to be consistently ruined by poor shots, lost balls and inconsistency you need dedication and practise, two things that have never sat easily with me! Luckily, although Tiger Woods PGA tour 11 certainly requires a keen hand eye coordination and some practise, it certainly lacks many of the frustrations of the real game and yet is accurate enough to make you work and giving enough to have you believe that you really are pretty damn good! (Just don't step out onto the real course to shatter the illusion!) The graphics: Excellent throughout, with great course detail, zoom-ins and sound effects that enhance the overall experience. Gameplay: This is the real winner as the game allows you to hold the controller as you would a golf club and rewards a complete and smooth swing (as far as the technology allows of course). The motion plus adds some heart-beats that appear if you have hit a particularly good shot or are about to attempt a shot that could, for example, leave you with an eagle put. Unlike the Wii Sports Resort golf game, there are very few unrealistic hole in ones or holed shots from long irons. The in-game commentary is so American and produces some inevitable chuckles - especially the interaction between the male and female commentators. The game actually is rather physically tiring after a few consecutive rounds. Oh, and the true-view option where you actually see the view that your golfer would is a real revelation. The aim of the game: While there are many quick play options, surely the most satisfying is to play as yourself and build your talents and bank account, wardrobe and golf bag up by playing in the PGA tour events and getting prize money, points (which can be exchanged for skill points in various categories - power, spin, accuracy and recovery). This is fantastic and durable as it takes a long time to get to the top! If connected wirelessly to the net, you will also get added bonuses and money for longest drive on a given hole, etc. Internet play: Good option, but some people get such ridiculous scores, that it is highly likely that they've found a cheat that I haven't - not bitter honest :). Value: Superb. If you have motion plus and are in any way a golf fan. Get this - it is the closest game to the real thing that I've ever come across, there are no stuffy members or infuriatingly slow people in front of you either, which is a huge bonus!
Well well. When i saw that my former classmate at St Clement Danes school, Katy Brand had made a TV show I was obviously intrigued. When I heard that it was based on celebrity impersonations, I thought 'wow she'd better get that right.' When I finally got around to watching an episode, unfortunately I saw that this couldn't be wider of the mark. From her awful Lily Allen gig - I mean, it's bad enough that there IS a Lily Allen, without our TV show hosts having to remind us of it -, to her weird and frankly embarrassing Kate Winslet pastiche, I couldn't even sit through a whole episode. It started off bad and got so bad that if the remote control battery had expired, I'd have hurled the control at the screen to break the telly - anything to rid my living room of the abhorrent garbage that I had selfishly subjected it to. Doing impersonations is an art that very few can master and fewer still master in a way that would justify them having a TV show. By taking the p*ss out of celebrity culture, all Brand is doing is reminding us of its ugly face and ironically the only people who would watch this tripe are probably those that are the butt of its jokes. If your viewing standards are poor enough to suffer an episode of this can I recommend you check out - El Dorado lost episodes, Hollyoaks, the best of Neighbours DVD and Strictly Come Dancing. Come on Katy, you were relatively witty at school - raise the damn bar.
'Why didn't you get a BlackBerry?'. This coming from my Dad, who's in his 50s not only made me feel out of touch, but also a little paranoid. Suffice it to say, that when set up with email, address book and all the features I needed for my phone - which really aren't many - I was very happy with my decision. 'Too many people have BlackBerrys' and 'iPhones are for show-offs', I told myself. Months went by with little to no issues, apart from the Nokia email client, which when abroad seems only to work with roaming Contract WAP settings and not the wireless. Turning off the 'sync while roaming feature' renders it impotent. It may be that I don't understand, but my understanding was that 'roaming' describes the use of the contract service provided wherever one may be, thus utilising chargeable services abroad...Never mind, that's for another day. On to the product itself. Looks: Sleek, slender and has a rather charming look that almost reminded me of those amazing calculator-fitted casio watches every self-respecting 10 year old had in the mid '80s. Nice size screen. Functionality: Uses the Qwerty keyboard which for me was a revelation as I see predictive texting as a total pain in the ass - although, I no longer get to chuckle as I type my sister's name (Anna) and it comes up 'bomb' and other such cheap laughs...The applications, alarms, calenders, organiser etc are all easy to use and useful, and the phone's alarm works even when you turn the phone off - a useful battery saver when travelling. Problems: As I mentioned, at the beginning all was fine, but recently things have taken a strange and infuriating turn. The wireless internet WAN finder has disappeared from the home-screen and no matter how many times I confirm that I want to see it it disappears. Periodically my email account is no longer recognised on the email client and other such strange anomalies. It may be that it has picked up a virus, in which case it's hard to level blame at the phone, but still a major pain in the butt. Overall: Happy I got it, but time for a change.
Hailing from the beautiful Islay in the Western Isles of Scotland, Laphroaig or, phonetically "La-froyg", is an extremely flavoursome, peaty, kelpy whisky that offers superb value for money, but, rather like Marmite can illicit wildly differing opinion. In my own, single-malt loving opinion, Laphroaig is best thought of almost as a distinct drink from your every-day single malts as I am certain that even if you love it, there will be days where you reach for a Tallisker or a Jura or whatever else you have stashed in your liquor cabinet. Now, onto the whisky itself; on the nose it has an extraordinary scent that combines the seaweeds typical to the Western Isles, with a dash of not overly sweet honeydew melon that offsets the saltiness of the kelp scent perfectly. There is a medicinal undertone that almost reminds me of iodine - which might go some way to authenticate rumours that Laphroaig managed to overcome abolition laws by masquerading as a disinfectant - as another reviewer has noted! On the palate, Laphroaig's peaty goodness really comes into its own, filling the mouth on initial contact with wave after wave of delicious, earthen charm that transports the drinker immediately to the place of origin, assuming you have visited the isles. The aftertaste is strong and peaty with a musky oak of a counterbalance that provides a satisfying, lingering sensation of refined drinking. Easily up there in terms of the best of the Islay whiskies - all of which have some charm unique to the area, Laphroaig is certainly not the whisky I would recommend to novice drinkers, but after becoming accustomed to the whiles of whisky it is not to be missed.
Description: Verdant, juicy and flavoursome Thai prawncakes without the rubbery texture! Ingredients required: 450g cooked, peeled and de-veined king prawns. 1 bunch spring onions, diced half packet fresh coriander, roughly chopped two tablespoons Nam Pla (fish sauce) 1 1/2 inch cube ginger, finely sliced 1 clove garlic 2 teaspoons lemongrass (from jar) 1 teaspoon tamarind paste (from jar) 1 red chilli chopped To fry: 3-4 tablespoons Toasted Sesame Oil white flour to coat Instructions: Put all of the above into a blender, making sure the end result is nice and blended, but retaining an aspect of texture to it. Remove from blender (or if using a handheld one, scrape off any remnants) into bowl. Set aside. Now, cover a chopping board with generous topping of white flour. Separate blended ingredients into small balls - I like to make them about 1 1/2 cm thick, with about a 5 cm diameter. Take 1 ball and flatten into a patch of flour, coating both sides, until non-sticky and nicely shaped disc. Repeat for each ball. Heat about 3 tablespoons of the Sesame Oil in a non-stick frying pan and place half of the flour-coated discs in the sizzling oil. Fry lightly - about 3 mins each side until nicely browned. Set aside on a plate and, adding more oil if necessary, repeat with the rest of the discs. Serve with some sweet chilli dipping sauce and noodles. Delicious.
Not being in the style of my usual choice of reading, Rohinton Mistry's 'Family Matters' was my holiday wildcard and it was a decision that I would not live to regret. Centred around an extended family in India's sensory explosion of a city, Mumbai, 'Family Matters' follows an elderly man, Nariman whose health is deteriorating as he is beset by Parkinson's Disease and relies upon his step-children to look after him. At the beginning of the novel he is with brother and sister Jal and Coomy, the later a firebrand of a woman who resents her circumstance and plots to have her stepfather evicted and sent to the care of her sister - Nariman's blood-daughter Roxana, and her family, in their tiny two-room flat - the same flat on which Nariman spent his life savings on so they could have "a place of their own"and raise her family in peace. Much of the book follows that sister's husband, Yezad, who works in a Sports shop and is going through something of a spiritual maelstrom. His character elicits myriad emotions and is a tour de force of Mistry's imagination and, one suspects, experiences. As Nariman's exit from Coomy and Jal's care is manufactured in hilarious circumstance in collaboration with a neighbour whose fascination with DIY is not matched with talent and he moves in with Yezad, his wife and two sons, the real meat of the book begins to evolve. We learn much about Yezad's family - the monetary struggles that the new occupant exacerbates, the way one of his sons extorts money from his school-friends to help out, slipping the proceeds into the housekeeping, unbeknownst to his father, who at the same time is taking betting advice - to initial success from an eccentric neighbour - a middle-aged spinster who gambles on the lottery based on the numerical interpretation of her weird dreams. A whole host of brilliant supporting characters including an emotionally damaged simpleton colleague of Yezad, his boss with a deep love for his city - said boss's horrible wife and a violinist who likes to remove her clothes to practice add real weight to the book's authenticity and compare favourably with the wonderful characterisation of Haruki Murakami. Bubbling away underneath all the weird and wonderful goings on, the family rows and the beautifully woven relationships between the characters, is the ghost of Nariman's past - his ex-girlfriend and true-love, whom, under duress from his family, he was forced to leave in favour of a more suitable arranged marriage. The resentment of this is largely what drives Coomy's bitterness towards her stepfather. Nariman's remembrances of this time and doomed love are beautifully scribed in asides. As Nariman's health deteriorates and Yezad is forced to re-evaluate his life and expectations, the plot turns to his attempts to convince his boss to run for local election, freeing Yezad up to become manager of the store. Things take many a strange turn and by the book's end, Yezad has become ultra-religious and his sons are at odds with this remarkable about-turn. 'Family Matters' is a wonderful, passionate and evocative portrait of an Indian family that I can recommend wholeheartedly to anyone and everyone. You'll laugh, you'll get angry, you'll cry and you'll think. What higher recommendation is there?
MY EXPERIENCE OF THE MOVIE The first time I watched 'The Big Lebowski' I was drunk. I flitted in and out of what may pass for consciousness and the flitting gave way to full on lack of consciousness way before the ending - cue strange dreams of 'upskirting' at a bowling alley. Based on this experience it would be more than remiss to judge the film, so I made sure I was sober the next time. This may possibly have been the best decision revolving around a film I have ever made and am likely to ever make. I have now seen the film dozens of times and each time gleaned something new. If ever there was a film that could match or even surpass the quotability of 'Withnail & I'... "A coward you are Withnail, an expert on bulls you are not" - anyone? ...then this is that film. Barely a moment passes without providing the viewer with enough fuel for a lifetime of re-quotes. CASTING AND ACTING Sam Elliot's turn as 'The Stranger' adds a real western charm as he functions as the narrator and also something of a mysterious watchman to the films bizarre and mundane proceedings. Bridges himself pulls out all the stops in adopting the character as an extension of himself, and I can't think of him now without associating him with a dressing gown, a spliff, whale music, Creedence Clearwater Revival and of course bowling. Alongside Bridges, John Goodman is incredible as 'Nam vet and faux Jew Walter who once 'dabbled in pacifism' and looks after his ex-wife's show dog. His craziness and strange observation of Jewish rituals, despite having divorced his Jewish wife and not being of Jewish descent add a wildly entertaining and hilarious edge to proceedings. As their sweet, feeble and hilariously oblivious friend Donnie, Steve Buscemi - a staple of Coen Bros films (who always seems to meet a sticky end!) is his usual understated best. He continually annoys Walter as he butts in with inappropriate comments that reach hilarity levels as he confuses a conversation about Lenin with John Lennon and pipes up with 'I am the walrus' several times, before Walter bellows at him to let him know his mistake. Something of a tragic figure, Donnie continues the Coen Bros film trend of Steve Buscemi being killed off in every movie. Julianne Moore's performance as feminist artist Maude who wishes to be inseminated by The Dude as well as John Turturo's hilarious turn as Latin bowling pederast Jesus are further casting treats. PLOT What's the film about? Dude's rug getting soiled and him wanting it replaced. That and bowling. Basically, some goons burst into The Dude's house and pee on his rug, demanding to know where the money is. An error has been made as it is clear that The Dude is not a wealthy man. This error revolves around him sharing the same surname with another Jeffrey Lebowski - a disabled man, who is something of a fraud, but still has some substantial assets. The Dude then gets involved with this man, first taking a replacement rug from his house and then, after the rich Lebowski' s trophy wife is 'kidnapped' The Dude is contracted to find her. Capers, complications and much hilarity ensues as Walter joins the fun and The Dude meets some weird and wonderful Coen characters from porn tycoon Jackie Treehorn to Maude and 'The nihiilist' and a weird friend of Maude's with as The Dude so aptly puts it 'a cleft asshole'. The plot and its crazy subplots arise from such a simple premise. A rug getting peed on. Therein lies the genius of the brothers Coen. This, in my opinion is them at their comic best. Sure, 'Fargo' is a great film too, but 'The Big Lebowski' is where the laughs are at. They are not the kind of cheap laughs that you later regret having given, either, but rather those that you'll carry with you and repeat at inopportune moments no doubt, throughout this crazy tombola called life. Seek this film out and be sure to give it at least 2 viewings before making your mind up, especially if you are less than sober! Just remember, sometimes there's a man... The Dude abides.
Rodrigo y Gabriela - S/T Label: Rubyworks, 2006 Nationality: Mexican I have scarcely been so pleasantly surprised and left so disconcertedly open-mouthed by an album as I was by this unlikely Mexican pair. With a background in thrash metal, betrayed as much by their passionate, aggressive classical guitar-playing as by their brilliant take (cover is the wrong word) on Metallica's 'Orion' these two defy categorisation. You will hear only guitars, including the percussive effects skilfully created by slamming palms on the same instruments. Played as fluidly as one could dream of and with as much passion as well. It is definitely worth seeking out the special edition, as it comes with a fantastic bonus DVD in which the effervescent pair give a tutorial and we learn some background information about them to boot. As well as creating something inspiring and eminently listen-able this pair of cyborgs, part human, and part guitar have created something truly special. Music - punk in attitude it may be, but it is free, unrestrained music.
Winterfylleth: (UK) The Ghost of Heritage Label: Profound Lore, 2008 Nationality: English My appreciation of English black metal has never been very high - of course Caina, Lyrinx and to an extent Wodensthrone have come along and changed that and now we can safely add Winterfylleth. Formed from members of the aforementioned Northern clan Wodensthrone and doom bludgeoners Atavist, Winterfylleth's own brand of black metal is forged from components including the early styles of Agalloch, Ulver and Skyforger and blended with the black metal of Ukrainian hordes Hate Forest and Drudkh. The song writing is a real forte, most notably the sixth magnificent track, complete with resplendent guitar hook - suitably entitled Defending the Realm. The percussive element at times chimes like a blacksmith's hammer and Anglo-Saxon village life springs to life and the smell of hot metal on stone steams through the speakers along with that of horse and hay. The mood is one of angry pride and lament at times lost to the industrialised, globalised Mac-world we live in now. After a rawer and promising demo, which I confess to only having tracked down after this release, and this highly accomplished debut full-length, Winterfylleth must concentrate hard on becoming the pride of English black metal and one of the scene's leaders - a feat which they are more than capable of fulfilling. A little more work on making inspired songs and Albion will have its leaders.
Virus: The Black Flux Seasons of Mist, 2008 Nationality: Norwegian Virus is the new vehicle of expression for Czral (Carl-Michael Eide) of Ved Buens Ende and Aura Noir fame - just three years after he fell (or was did he jump?) from the fifth floor of a building in Oslo and after 18 months of operations and rehab. For those of you lucky enough or old enough to remember Ved Buens Ende's masterpiece in the late '90s Written in Waters, which while taking great inspiration from the Norwegian black metal scene was infused with the emotional power of Michael Gira's Swans and the adventure for which Arcturus are known. Virus is rather less metal than this - well in fact it really isn't metal at all, rather a unique fusion of the technical mastery of Voivod, the vocal style of a less theatrical Arcturus and the composition of Talking Heads. Aside from these references, the band list such disparate artists as David Bowie, Nurse With Wound, Paco de Lucia, Leonard Cohen and Darkthrone as favoured listening and the immense web of sound that beguiles and stimulates in copious servings. The album as you might gather from the description of their endeavour is not an immediately gratifying listen and it rewards repeated listens with a more comprehensive understanding of where the band is coming from. However, Virus are an elusive entity that thrive on keeping us on our toes. Long may it continue.
Belphegor: Bondage Goat Zombie Label: Nuclear Blast, 2008 Nationality: Austrian What we have here is something of a concept album from Austria's most demented of sons. The concept here is none other than the infamous father of S & M and faecal play Marquis de Sade! Despite the somewhat ludicrous album title and artwork, which might suggest pastiche rather than creative genius, this is an excellent black metal assault on the senses in the vein of Marduk's mid-period albums and EPs, (ie when they still made great music). The fact that they decided to make a concept album illustrates the confidence of the band and this confidence flows through the performance. Although a tad vulgar and obvious for my taste there is no denying that Belphegor are at the height of their powers although the parameters within which they tread will always limit their development. I'm sure they don't care one bit! One to switch off and go insane to.
Italian horde Forgotten Tomb are rather a 'Marmite'-esque band in extreme metal circles. Their overt attempts to brand themselves as depressive and suicidal can provoke mockery and spite from the 'trve' brigade, but nobody can dispute their unique ability to forge memorable songs and conjure a truly bleak vision of misanthropic despair. They have penned several excellent albums and this has to be up there with the best of them. Rather like Greerk titans Rotting Christ, they have, in latter years, gone through a more rock-based and softer period. Rotting Christ have managed to get this out of their system, Sentenced never did, and I can only hope that Forgotten Tomb will manage it. 'Love's Burial Ground' is certainly the best place to start for anyone who is yet to sample the unique, bleak beauty of FT and I would have no hesitation in recommending the bulk of their catalogue to open-minded extreme metal fans.
I came across the book before the film and while I did find great enjoyment in the book and can wholeheartedly recommend it as a page-turning bona fide vampire horror classic, by no means is it as wonderfully idiosyncratic as the film. Seeing as though I rate the film as one of the decade's best - this is by no means a criticism aimed at Mr Lindqvist, as his prose and character development, plot-lines and pacing are all top-notch and of course his ideas and characters were essential in the film's birth. The book itself is far more typical horror fare than the film, with some truly gruesome scenes and a much more blatant expose of the paedophilia that was very much swept aside in the film. I can only recommend this whole-heartedly to horror fans and believe that readers who come to this after the film, will enjoy it and even gain more respect for the movie after seeing how unique and distinct its vision is from the book's.
After reading the fantastic book by John Ajvide Lindqvist, I had the usual reservations about seeing a film of a book. Would the director capture the characters? Would the atmosphere be there? Would the story be missing vital components? In this case, the answer to all questions is no, because the film supersedes the book on ALL levels. Rather than trying to replicate the book, the film takes a totally fresh perspective on the story and drags the whole thing down to earth, by focussing more on the aspects of mundane Swedish suburbia, the gritty, grey realism, the bullying of central character Oscar and his fragile self-esteem, the way his mother prefers to bury her head in the sand than confront Oscar's problems with bullies and the beautiful development of his relationship with the dark, mysterious and strange girl next door. It would be unthinkable to finish this review without a word on the performances of the two young actors Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson who play Oscar and Eli respectively. Plucked out of total obscurity for their roles, after watching the film they are so intrinsically linked to the characters that it was almost impossible to accept the US actors including the ineffable Chloe Moritz in the inevitable (and for once not totally redundant) US remake. It will be interesting to see where their careers go from here. It is testament to the vision of director Tomas Alfredson that 'Let the Right One In' is that rare beast - a horror film that utterly transcends genre boundaries and stands alone as a truly ingenious, multi-textured masterpiece that can be unreservedly recommended to everyone.
The superb Nintendo Wii console motion plus controller attaches easily and satisfyingly to any Nintendo Wii remote controller to heighten the levels of accuracy and precision during gameplay. The Nintendo Wii motion plus system facilitates the accurate simulation of many sports manoeuvres, in-game twists, turns, impacts and jolts, thus leading to a more realistic gaming experience. i have thus far used it to great effect in Tiger Woods Golf, Table Tennis on Sports Resort, and Fifa. I know it can seem daunting and rather annoying to keep shelling out for extras for the Wii, but this is one accessory gadget that is absolutely worth the small expense. The extra physicality the motion plus brings to the Wii is a really attractive prospect and an idea whose simple genius is matched in practical use. Many games would feel naked and stark without the motion plus, so for under £15 it is really a no-brainer.