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Please note that this is a review of the film only. I do not watch bonus discs, director's comments/cuts or anything like these, therefore I won't comment on them in this review. Written by Uma Thurman and Quentin Tarrantino, and directed by Quentin Tarrantino, Kill Bill is a story of blood thirsty revenge that was released back in October 2003. ****Synopsis**** The Bride suddenly awakes from a four year coma. The wedding in El Paso was meant to be perfect, however it went horribly wrong and with husband gone and the loss of her unborn daughter there is nothing left and nothing to lose. Despite her ordeal the Bride has flash backs of that day and remembering who did what, she has one thing on her mind.......revenge. ****My opinion**** This is one seriously violent and 'messed up' film, but then given it is directed by Quentin Tarrantino, who is renowned for over the top violent films, this is to be expected. From the opening scene the over the top foul language, and blood flows all the way through to the end, and in some cases it is just too much. The blood baths through decapitation, slicing off limbs, stabbing etc. are very graphic and there were times when it was just too much and way over the top for my liking. The overall story line was totally unrealistic and I thought it lacked originality and depth, yet it kept my attention throughout. I was captivated and wanted to see how it was concluded. Whilst this film is not thought provoking, but then given the genre I guess it would have been naive to think it would be, I found that it did have me asking questions throughout, most of which were answered and I guess the remaining ones will be answered in Kill Bill Volume 2. In my opinion this film is very disjointed and whilst the story progresses at a fair pace it does keep jumping between the past and present, which I actually found quite annoying. I appreciate that this method 'fills in the gaps' and answers any questions the viewers may have as the story unfolds but, in my opinion, there are better ways this can be achieved. I also disliked the way in which the film moved from the main character telling a story to her being in the present. In addition a couple of other things that annoyed me about this film was the way it was split into different chapters and the amount of 'cartoon scenes', which did absolutely nothing for me. The one-on-one fighting scenes were simply awesome and Uma Thurman and co did an absolutely amazing job. The originality of the moves, the speed of execution and the choreography was mind blowing and made up for the lack of realism (not many people will immediately jump up after being stabbed, thrown through a glass table etc. and retaliate against the aggressor), but this lack of realism is the same in all similar films. Whilst the one-on-one battles were brilliant I think the group bouts were a bit of a letdown, and the 'main' one was particularly poor. The main group battle was simply ridiculous and lacked any realism whatsoever, and the outcome against so many assailants is just nonsense and the carnage and amount of blood was just too farfetched for me. I also found this battle too long and it got very boring and it got to the point where I was willing it to end and the film to carry on, and to make matters worse just when I though the fight was over a load more enemies turned up to be slaughtered. Clock watching during a film is not good since it is often the point of no return although this film did manage to recapture my attention before I got too bored. There were other scenes which could have been executed better and just weren't right, such as the aeroplane scene and the motorcycle scene. These two scenes in particular were pretty poor and with the technology available I would have thought the producers could have pulled something out of the bag with both of these. Personally, I think a sound track can make or break a film and the sound track to this film is simply brilliant. Every track and musical piece used was simply spot on and so was the timing of it which really enhanced the film and made for an improved viewing experience. So, would I recommend this film? With so many unanswered questions this is only half a film although I think it is very entertaining, even with its flaws. It isn't Tarrantino at his best and I can't see this ever becoming a 'classic' but it is definitely worth having in your DVD collection. Personally, I think this film is only suitable in certain circumstances. There are some films that are great any time and any place but Kill Bill is not one of these. If you like films that are deep, meaningful and thought provoking but don't like mindless violence, graphic blood scenes and foul Kill Bill definitely isn't for you, however if this statement does not apply then you may just like it. ****The main cast**** The Bride - Uma Thurman Vernita Green - Vivica A Fox O-Ren Ishii - Lucy Liu Elle Driver - Daryl Hannah Bill - David Carradine Gogo Yubari - Chiaki Kuriyama ****Other**** Run time - 111 minutes Certificate - 18 12 award wins, 41 nominations and a nomination for a Golden Globe
Please note that this is a review of the film only. I do not watch the bonus features, director's cuts/commentary or anything else apart from the main feature therefore I cannot comment on these aspects of the DVD. Written by Michael LeSieur and directed by Anthony and Joe Russo "You Me and Dupree" is a story about a long term friendship that was released back in August 2006. ****Synopsis**** Carl and Molly Peterson are two newly-weds looking forward to a long and happy life together. Having recently moved in to a new home in a nice area, both have good steady jobs and things are definitely looking sweet. However, their world is about to be shook up by Dupree, a lifelong friend of Carl. Having found out that Dupree lost his job and home, just so he could be present at the wedding, the pair start feeling guilty and let Dupree stay with them so he can sort himself out and get back on his feet. With Dupree starting to outstay his welcome and Molly wanting him gone combined with Mr Thompson (Molly's father) applying pressure Carl is starting to feel the pinch and paranoia about his position as 'man of the household' sets in. Will Dupree ever go? Will the friendship and the marriage survive this tough test? Does a name really make a man? ****My opinion**** Finding this film in the comedy section of my local DVD shop, and starring Owen Wilson, I was under the impression this film was going to be quite funny and whilst I knew it wouldn't have me in stitches throughout I thought it would make me laugh a bit. Unfortunately, it failed to make me chuckle let alone give a full on belly aching laugh so it was a bit of a disappointment. First impressions were very good and the opening scenes looked promising, however it did start to slide somewhat. The story line had loads of potential and with numerous ways the producers could have developed it I think the finished article lacked depth, thought and originality. Consequently, it is a bit run of the mill and very predictable, yet despite this "You Me and Dupree" is still enjoyable, entertaining and quite an endearing film that tugs at the heart strings in certain places. One thing I noticed whilst watching this film was the total lack of chemistry between the cast. The onscreen relationships were false and totally unbelievable, and I think the film suffered as a result. Some actors seem to "gel" and their performance on screen just works. Jackie Chan/Chris Tucker, Will Smith/Martin Lawrence, Vince Vaughan/Owen Wilson are prime examples of partnerships that worked, but the Owen Wilson/Matt Dillon and Matt Dillon/Kate Hudson combinations just don't and I found them to be flat. In my opinion, the only part of the film that looked believable was the Wilson/Hudson scene at the dinner table. Maybe Wilson should have been cast as Karl instead of Dupree? Other than in that one scene none of the cast seemed to "gel" and rather than a team working towards a common goal they came across as every man/woman for him/herself, and I think the film suffered somewhat as a result. Overall the acting is pretty mediocre and nothing to shout about. Owen Wilson definitely gives the best performance and is by far the funniest character. That said, the performance of Dupree is not Owen Wilson at his best, and he appears to have lost his "mojo" somewhat. Maybe it is the cast of fellow actors that affect how Wilson performs and if this is the case then I think he should stick to Vince Vaughan. I have never really warmed to Matt Dillon as an actor and I just don't find him funny. From his poor lack lustre efforts in "There's Something About Mary" to " I just don't find him entertaining to watch and it was no different in this film. Kate Hudson was watchable but all for the wrong reasons. Watching her prance around in her skimpy undies and seeing her light up the screen with her distinctive and heart melting smile definitely kept me hooked whilst she was on screen, but her actual acting performance in this film just didn't do it for me. In my opinion, she was brilliant in "How To Lose A Guy In 10 days" so her performance in this was a bit disappointing. Despite this I will definitely watch other films she is in/will be in purely because she is just so gorgeous. Seth Rogan's relatively small role of was equally un-inspiring. Whilst his role was not completely the typical "stoner and lazy bum" roles he is usually cast for it was not a million miles away. Seth really does appear to be a bit of a one trick pony and I don't rate him that highly. ****Would I recommend it?**** If you are looking for a laugh out loud film then this is not for you. If you are looking for a deep and meaningful film then this is not for you. If you are looking for a fast, high octane and fast action paced film then this is not for you. However, if you are looking for a simple and easy to watch film that requires no concentration then this is a film to consider. The acting isn't brilliant and die-hard Owen Wilson fans are likely to be disappointed with lack lustre performance but he does give the best performance by a long way and this film would be totally flat without him although watching the stunning Kate Hudson in little clothing does make up for it, so it's not all bad. ****Main cast**** Carl Peterson - Matt Dillon Molly Peterson - Kate Hudson Dupree - Owen Wilson Mr Thompson - Michael Douglas Neil - Seth Rogan Annie - Amanda Detmer ****Other**** Run time - 108 minutes Certificate - 12 One award and two other nominations
Written and directed by Shane Meadows "This Is England" is a violent film portraying the skinhead gang culture that was released back in April 2007. ****Story line**** The year is 1983 and Shaun ("Thomas Turgoose") has recently lost his father, which has made him in to a confused, angry and highly-charged child. School is not going well and Shaun finds himself the target of many bullies. After a particularly hard day at school Shaun meets up with the local "skins" gang consisting of Woody ("Joseph Gilgun"), Milky ("Andrew Shim"), Gadget ("Andrew Ellis"), Banjo ("George Newton"), Lenny ("Frank Harper") and Lol ("Vicky McClure"). Woody takes pity on Shaun, and despite Shaun's tender age, takes him under his wing and invites him to the join the gang, much to the disappointment of Cynth ("Jo Hartly"), Shaun's widowed mother. The gang use Shaun as their lifelike Barbie doll and turn their new recruit in to a smaller and younger version of themselves and a "mini me" is born. The gang continue their binge drinking, vandalising, terrorising, robbing, smoking and drug taking way until Combo ("Stephen Graham") descends on the gang. Unbeknown to the gang Combo and Woody go way back and Combo's plan for Woody and the group backfires somewhat as the group disbands and loyalties divide. Whilst Woody and his aides disappear back to the streets, Combo has bigger ideas for his newly formed gang and starts to influence his opinions on them. Things don't go smoothly as Combo's mental state takes a turn for the worse. Does the group re-unite with Woody as their leader? What happens to Combo? Is Shaun destined to be a skin for the rest of his life? ****My opinion**** After doing a bit of channel flicking I stumbled across this film on Freeview the other night and in the absence of anything else (television really has gone downhill) I decided to settle down and watch this offering that I had heard of but knew nothing about. Before the film started the commentators stated that "This Is England" contained strong language and scenes of violence that some viewers may find upsetting", and before the film commenced after every commercial break this message was re-iterated. From the opening five minutes it was clear that this film was going to be extremely violent and contain many profanities. Foul language is best served with emotion and there are times when this combination is required to give a bit of 'oomph' to the scene. However, there are times when foul language just isn't needed and this film contained many of those moments. Foul language has never really bothered me, although I did feel that there was just too much in this film. I appreciate this film was meant to depict what life was like in the eighties, and the general feeling around that time, but personally, I found the story weak, irrelevant, unrealistic and it didn't go anywhere. There was just no purpose to it and I really struggled to see what the point was or what the producers were trying to put across. After all, the skins made up such a tiny percentage of the population how could they truly portray what life was like? They were such a small minority and this film focused solely on them. What about the other groups in society? This film is purely one sided with a lot of bias and with no balance whatsoever. The time frame covered in the film was far too short and I didn't find it thought provoking or intelligent at all. It was just mindless drivel, although I did watch it to the end. I have to admit the only reason I watched to the bitter end was out of curiosity to see how the film was going to be drawn to a conclusion, and once it had finished I have to admit that I was very disappointed with such a poor ending. I actually felt quite cheated that I had wasted 101 minutes of my life watching such rubbish. The cast is a group of relative unknowns and overall the acting is OK, but then given the topic of the film and the way it panned out the cast didn't really need great acting skills for the roles. This certainly isn't the film that is going to bring any potentially amazing actors to the attention of the public, and consequently there were no amazing performances, no scenes that blew me away and no scenes that made me think "wow", which was quite disappointing given the emotive issues covered in this film. The soundtrack is weak and unmemorable, and sitting here writing this review after watching the film just two days ago I can't remember a single piece of music used. I think this goes to show the effect this film had on me. This film gets a big thumbs down from me and I think it is poor in every way and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone and I would suggest that any viewers looking for a violent film look elsewhere since there are far better alternatives out there to watch. ****Other**** Run time - 101 minutes Certificate - 18 A BAFTA film award, 7 other awards and 14 nominations
I do not watch any bonus features, directors' cuts, cut scenes or any other extras that are included on most DVDs. I only ever watch the feature therefore this is a review of the film only. Written by John Lucas and Scott Moore, and directed by Todd Phillips "The Hangover" is s stag party comedy that was released back in June 2009. ****Synopsis**** Doug is getting married in a few days and to celebrate his last few days of freedom he decides to organise a batchelor party to Las Vegas. Along with Phil and Stu, two close friends, and Alan, his future brother in law, Doug borrows a car and sets off. Where else to start the night than having the best view of the city, well the best they could get in their situation, on top of the hotel roof, where the obligatory "I love you man" and sentimental words are said before the drinking and partying begins in earnest. Thereafter its simply, "one.....two.....three...drink" Fast forward to the morning after the night before and three group members awake with sore heads and drinking wounds to find the hotel room trashed and the groom missing. Despite trying their hardest none of the remaining friends can recall exactly what happened or where they went but this didn't really matter since it was vital to find the groom and get him back safely for his marriage ceremony. Finding a missing person in Las Vegas must be like finding a needle in a haystack, however, the threesome, along with a some new found acquaintances, discovers clues that help to unravel the shenanigans that will, hopefully, lead to them finding their lost friend. ****My thoughts and opinion**** With Todd Phillips being of the production team of "Old School" which I found absolutely hilarious from start to finish I thought this would be the same and expecting my ribs to be aching, through laughing so much, after the film. Comparing this film to Old School before even seeing it did raise my expectations somewhat and it was going to take something special to meet them. Unfortunately this film didn't even come close. Looking at the story line there was plenty of potential there although I don't think the producers capitalised on this. The "drugging" of the group with a substance that could lead to very severe consequences by one of its members is a novel idea that could have lead to a fantastic film, however it didn't. Some of the scenes were also simply ridiculous. I agree there has to be a certain degree of unrealism, this is a Holly Wood film after all, but there are some scenes that are just so over the top and stupid it almost made me turn off. What is different about this film is the way it focuses on the day after the stag party and not the actual night itself. All other films in this genre, if you can call it that, primarily focus on the stag night. We are treated to little snippets of the night in this film but we have to wait until the end credits to discover everything. The jokes in this film consist of weak, juvenile toilet humour that is primarily aimed at males. There is nothing new, different or original and it has all been done before. The language is pretty foul, but this is to be expected, and I do feel it is a bit overused in a bid to make the film funny, although I don't think this works in this case. Despite not being that funny this film did manage to keep my attention (just) through to completion. The story rattles along at a fair pace and there is always something happening. In fact, I would even go as far to say it's pretty fast moving and, dare I say it?, action packed. Although I thought Zach Galifianckis was quite good, as was Ken Jeong (although I guess this is more down to his off the wall character rather than his acting ability) overall I thought the cast was a pretty poor bunch of uncharismatic guys who appear to be as much fun as a teetotaler in a brewery. I thought the main actors were totally miscast and I can think of several other actors of the comedy genre that would have done not only a better job but also provided more laughs per scene and given more on screen chemistry, I mean three of these guys are meant to be best buddies and all that although you wouldn't recognise this from their interaction. With many producers and directors of the comedy genre favouring actors they have worked with a many times in the past I can't understand why didn't follow suit and use the likes of Vaughan, Ferrell and Co. I appreciate there are other actors trying to "break" the movie scene and that these need a chance but if I was producing this film I would have used more recognised comedy actors to ensure the audience got their laughs. ****Main cast**** As you'd expect the cast list is huge, although the main ones are; Doug Billings (the groom) - Justin Bartha Phil Wenneck (Doug's friend) - Bradley Cooper Stu Price (Doug's Friend) - Ed Helms Alan Garner (Doug's future brother in law) - Zach Galifianckis Jade (Someone met on the stag night) - Heather Graham Mr Chow - Ken Jeong Tracy Garner (the bride to be) - Sasha Barress Melissa - Rachel Harris Mike Tyson - as himself All of the cast do an OK job although I feel Zach steals the limelight in a few scenes, but his performance is not what I would call mind blowing. The main cast is backed up by a good support cast although, once again, none of these gave really memorable performances. ****Conclusion**** This film was really hyped up prior to release and even after it had been screened for a few weeks it was receiving rave reviews. This, along with the fact I loved "Old School" which Todd Phillips had a hand in, meant my expectations were high and nowhere near met let alone exceeded. I would say that the Hangover is one of the most overrated films I have seen, which is a bit of a shame. A little less hype and a bit more of an open mind and I would have scored this film much higher than I have done. If you're looking for an out and out comedy the Hangover isn't it. Don't get me wrong, there are some bits that will raise a smile or even make you chuckle, but there were no belly laughs for me. Despite this, it is an entertaining film and one that I would recommend watching at some point although I wouldn't be in a rush to see it. ****Other**** Run time - 96 minutes Certificate - 15 Won a Golden Globe, 2 other award wins and 12 nominations
Wikipedia informs me that CIF actually stands for the "Canada India Foundation", and not the brand of cleaning products consumers have rammed down their throats at every opportunity. Hmmm, there's something not quite right here. Now then, if I typed in JIF I'm sure I would have got the answer I was looking for. That was the brand name that captured the hearts of nations. That was the brand name I grew up with and if anyone mentioned the word JIF then an image of a predominantly white bottle with a green lid would instantly appear. Well, that was the case until January 2001 when JIF was rebranded as CIF. Some say it was the result of streamlining advertising activities for the global market. Some say the name changed because many Europeans had problems pronouncing the name. Whatever the reason, it should have been left well alone. "If it isn't broke don't fix it", so what was the point? And it really is a stupid name. A previous house mate of mine used to shorten the STD to "Syph" and whenever we were in the supermarket the same immature joke about CIF cleaning cream followed by an immature giggle. Thinking about it, that's what I think the name of this re-branded JIF is - a big joke. ****In the Beginning..........**** In 1969 CIF, I mean JIF, was released in France. According to the marketing spiel it became a household name through the skater adverts which how scouring powders, which had historically been used for cleaning purposes, could scratch and cause damage, like a skater on ice. I'm afraid this was way before my time and having never seen the advert I am unable to comment on this. 5 years later, in 1974, JIF hit the shores of the UK and Ireland and, according to the same marketing spiel, it "heralded the end of scouring powders". CIF is currently produced by Unilever, the multinational company that produces several different brands in the food, home care, nutrition and personal care markets amongst others. The Unilever umbrella is far fetching and includes well known products, such as Carte D'or, Flora, Persil, PG and Hellmanns. Whether JIF/CIF is the brainchild of Unilever, or whether Unilever consumed the originator of JIF/CIF somewhere along the line I can't identify, but then at the end of the day I'm really not that bothered. ****Everything seems to be about the ethics**** In this day and age many consumers are concerned about how products are developed, tested and made and where they originate. From the environmental issues to testing on animals to the working conditions of the staff some consumers will let these factors influence their purchases. So, is Unilever and ethical company? Would you refuse to buy a CIF product, or any product under the Unilever umbrella for that matter because of the company's ethical stance? Putting "Do Unilever test on animals" in to Google produces pages of results that all state Unilever still tests some of their products on animals. Sites like caringconsumer.com, astrostar.com and pleasebekind.com are a handful of sites that are definite Unilever haters. The Unilever site itself doesn't deny testing on animals and states "Where some testing is required by law or it is currently unavoidable, we (Unilever) aim to minimise the number of animals used". Whilst this is unethical Unilever also states that "Since 2004 3 million Euros per year has been invested in a research program designed to produce in novel and non-animal approaches". So, the company claims to be doing something about it, but just how far has it gone and is this enough? On the other hand Unilever claims to be actively undertaking the "Cleaner planet plan" which is a program designed to tackle the environmental impact of laundry products. Unilever claim to have made powders more concentrated and in doing so "reduced greenhouse gases by 5% - 20%, reduced packaging by 10% - 20%, reduced CO2 emissions and saved billions of gallons of water". Quite a claim, but is it corporate tripe? Unilever's ethical stance and responsibilities can be found on the company website, so if you're interested just Google Unilever and you won't go far wrong. ****Enough of the company and all the corporate stuff, what about the products?**** Since its beginnings the CIF range has expanded and now consists of a large and varies range for numerous cleaning activities, and consists of CIF cream cleaners, CIF antibacterial cleaner, CIF multi action fizz, CIF bathroom cleaner, CIF power clean, CIF oven cleaner, CIF stainless steel and the CIF floor cleaning range. Whatever cleaning task that needs to be done there is a CIF product that can help, although it may not always be the best option to go for. I can remember my mother swearing by the JIF cleaning cream and it was the cleaning product of our household. Whether cleaning the stainless steel sink, the basins, the toilet bowl, the oven, the worktops JIF was the product used. In fact, you name it and my mother probably used JIF to clean it. From the transition from JIF to CIF and moving through the decades this product doesn't appear to have changed at all, other than the name that is. The cream is still the same consistency. It is a bit too thick to run out of the bottle when it is turned upside down without the lid on but thin enough to be squirted a few metres if the bottle is squeezed, which adds a bit of childish fun during the cleaning process. The lemon variety has a subtle hint of lemon (obviously) but there is still that unmistakable original "JIF" aroma that I find very nostalgic. The cleaning abilities of CIF, just like the JIF before it, are also the same which I consider poor by today's standards, and this is a big disappointment especially given the packaging's claim that this product, and I quote; i) Cleans garden furniture and barbecues. ii) Leaves a deep down clean and a brilliant shine iii) The formula cuts through tough grease and limescale. iv) Tackles the toughest cleaning jobs in the kitchen, bathroom and all around the home. v) Gentle on surfaces including enamel and vitroceramic Personally I find the above an absolute fallacy, however It is a good multipurpose cleaner for light marks, and to give relatively clean things that extra sparkle. It definitely is not man enough for tough stains and marks, let alone cleaning a barbeque grill. It is suitable for getting that dried on bit of tooth paste or soap off the sink, but if you want to get rid of the mould in the tile grouting or the lime scale build up on the hot tap forget it. This CIF product won't have any effect at all, although it will make the room smell nice and fresh. With the advancements in technology and research cleaning products are now strong enough to remove the most stubborn of marks, stains, lime scale attacks etc, but still remain friendly to the basin/toilet/sink/tap etc., but CIF has remained stagnant and stuck in the eighties. Don't get me wrong, retro is cool but not when it comes to cleaning products. In this day and age I expect something that will get the job done quickly, effortlessly with little fuss and make the item I am cleaning sparkle. Unfortunately, this CIF product doesn't cut the mustard and is far, far behind the competitors. I can remember the worst thing about using JIF was the rinsing process. It was an arduous task that required lots and lots of water and even more rubbing and wiping. Yet, no matter how long was spent on rinsing the cream there was always a scummy residue left behind when it dried (probably due to the tiny grains in the cream) and the process had to be repeated a second, or even a third time and it never seemed possible to get it thoroughly rinsed first time round. I have to say that this issue still remains with this CIF product, which is very annoying. Why hasn't Unilever tweaked the formula to make it easy rinse? After all there are alternative cleaning products out there that don't suffer from this issue. The CIF may not be harsh on stubborn stains but I find it is on the skin. I suffer from dry skin yet I never use gloves when cleaning with any product. Stupid I know, but I just find gloves such a faff and would much prefer to do without. I can use much harsher cleaning products than CIF and they will have less effect on my skin than the milder CIF does, which I find strange. Maybe there is some unique ingredient or something in CIF that doesn't like me but I find it dries my hands out, making them itchy, red and sore for many hours after use. This is just a quick warning to any of you who may have sensitive skin, or a skin complaint like I do. At £1.69 for a 500ml bottle CIF is relatively cheap but then given its performance in cleaning activities it should be. Currently this product is on offer at Tesco and can be bought for £1.00 up until 4 May 2010, but even at this ridiculously low price I don't think it represents good value for money. Being such a household brand getting hold of this CIF product, or any other CIF product in the range will not present too many problems. ****Recommended**** If you want a cleaning product to add a bit of sparkle to already clean surfaces (just remember not to let it dry otherwise it will take a lot of rubbing and buffing to get rid of it) and make the kitchen or bathroom smell nice and fresh this product is one you may like to consider, especially if you're a bit "old school" and were brought up with JIF. However, for any 'proper' cleaning tasks this CIF product just isn't up to it and there are far more suitable alternatives out there that will do the job not only better but also much faster with less fuss and much less rinsing, and because of this I just can't recommend this product.
Unless I am after something special or in particular, such as being ideal for sensitive teeth or having effective whitening properties etc. toothpaste is simply toothpaste. It is nothing more than a fast moving consumer product with many different brands, all of which are pretty much similar, I will favour either the cheapest, the one with multiple savings or the first one that comes to hand in a busy supermarket. I find there is nothing worse than reaching around the un-kept, dirty and BO stinking people who like to be in the way in my local supermarket. I'll be honest here and state there are only two reasons why I bought this particular tooth paste from this particular company, and these include; 1) I will review almost anything and I have never reviewed toothpaste before, although I have to admit that I have never really been inspired to or been so passionate about a particular type of tooth paste that I felt the need to. 2) I like a challenge and reviewing a bog standard product that, at first glance appears no different from many other types of tooth paste available, is quite a challenge. ****The packaging and advertising**** The consumer is spoilt for choice with this tooth paste since it is available in the traditional style metal tube or a hard plastic tube. Both tubes hold the same amount, which at 100ml is comparable to other tooth pastes. Without really thinking about it I grabbed the first Triple Cool tooth paste that came to hand, which turned out to sting my wallet a lot more than was really necessary. This review, therefore, is based on the tooth paste in the hard plastic tube. This tooth paste is liveried up in the corporate colegate colours of red and white, which is easily recognisable. In addition to this, the tube is supplied in a cardboard box, which I think is pointless, especially in this day and age when we are all encouraged to produce less waste and preserve the environment etc. the cardboard can be recycled, as expected, but it really is unnecessary and other than making the tooth paste easier to stack on the super market shelves I can't see that it serves any other purpose. It certainly doesn't offer any additional protection over and above the hard plastic tube. The hard plastic tube could be seen as a selling point of this toothpaste. I wouldn't call it a 'unique' selling point as there are many other types of tooth paste that come in these tubes. With a flat bottom the tube can be stood upright on a shelf, or in the cupboard which is great as it negates the need for a tooth paste holder. One of my pet hates is the tooth paste tube randomly lying on the bathroom window sill and this packaging stops this happening. If asked to think of a tooth paste I would instantly think of Aqua Fresh's three stripes and not Colegate, but this is down to the TV campaign of the cartoon family singing the highly catchy "I like red stripes, I like White.......Aqua Fresh is for the family". In fact, it is a tune I often hum whilst carrying out my twice daily teeth scrubbing ritual. I am struggling to think of any similar advertising Colegate has done, although I am sure they must have done some it just didn't make any type of impression on me. ****Extraction**** Obviously, the tooth paste is not extracted from the plastic tube by squeezing it. Instead there is a plastic cap that is pressed down and the tooth paste oozes out in constant stream, a bit like a dog having a...... well, I'll leave that to your imagination. This consistent stream of tooth paste controls how much is used and prevents over use that can be a problem when using traditional style tubes a bit heavy handed. The operation of this is also cleaner, and there are no crusty bits of tooth paste left around the rim of the tube. Despite the above there is still some wastage as it is difficult to get the last dregs of tooth paste out of the tube. This is not a problem with traditional tube as these can be flattened or cut open and the remaining dregs can be scraped out, a practice my mother always did when I was growing up. ****Once out what is this tooth paste like?**** This tooth paste consists of, you've guessed it, 3 different coloured stripes. There is; 1) A white one, which appears to be the 'normal' Colegate tooth paste 2) A light blue stripe, which appears to provide the 'minty' kick 3) A darker blue stripe, which is like the classic 'minty blue gel' of yesteryear. The consistency is the same as all other types of tooth paste. It is no thicker or runnier nor does it spread across the teeth any easier than any other tooth paste, so there are no real surprises there. ****The magic formula**** Contained within these stripes is sodium fluoride (which is the 'active' ingredient), hydrated silica, glycerine, PEG-12 (sounds like some movie rating), cellulose gum, sodium chloride (although there is no salty after taste), sodium lauryl sulphate, aroma (is that a smell?!?), sorbitol and aqua (good old H2O). For years dentists have been harking on about how fluoride is essential for oral hygiene as it reduces plaque acid, replenishes mineral loss and maintains teeth enamel, and this is drummed in to us from a young age. Too much fluoride is bad and can lead to fluorosis, which can only take hold during tooth development, in children therefore it is recommended they use a pea sized amount of the tooth paste and don't swallow it. Ever since I can remember I have always swallowed a small amount of tooth paste after cleaning my teeth, a habit that has followed me in to adulthood, and I never had any problems so I am unsure how big the risk of fluorosis is. ****What does this tooth paste do?**** Colgate claims this tooth paste provides a three pronged approach in oral hygiene, in that it; i) Strengthens Teeth ii) Fights cavities iii) Freshens breath There are many other tooth pastes that claim the same so there's nothing unusual or unique about the above, however, does this tooth paste live up to the claims? I'm sure it does, after all I am guessing that Colegate's laboratory team, or the team Colegate subcontracts the work out to have spent years carrying out scientific research, tinkering with the formula and tweaking it so the claims can be printed on the packaging. The million dollar question is "does this tooth paste do the above any better than its rivals?" Unfortunately, this is something that I will never find the answer to, although I'm not going to lose any sleep over it..... ****It's the taste**** Let's face it if a tooth paste is of the 'normal' type, i.e. without any special qualities, then it has to taste nice otherwise consumers won't buy it. The pink Sensodyne tastes absolutely foul but because it is "medically proven to be good for sensitive teeth" it sells. This tooth paste is very minty without being overpowering. Some minty products can be too much, and will blow the roof of your mouth off and provide a kind of "burning" sensation (for want of a better phrase) but this tooth paste isn't like that. In fact I would even say it is quite refreshing. The after taste is nice although it is short lived, but then given I am a strong believer in mouth wash I am not overly bothered by either the breath freshening qualities or the longetivity of the after taste of any tooth paste I buy. Once again I have t say that this tooth paste is no better, or worse in the taste department than many other tooth pastes on the market, many of which provide the minty kick without being overpowering. ****Availability and price**** Colegate is a market leader and widely stocked throughout retail stores of all sizes. From the large national supermarket chains down to the local corner shop you will find Colegate tooth paste everywhere so getting this product should create any problems at all. A 100ml of this tooth paste in a traditional styled tube currently costs £1.00 from Tesco, which isn't too bad. It is not the cheapest tooth paste on the market, but then given it is a premium brand it wouldn't be, but it is certainly not the most expensive. It is very middle of the road and represents value for money. A 100ml of this tooth paste in the hard plastic tube costs a whopping 90% more, i.e. £1.90, than its traditional counterpart which is just ridiculous. And to add salt to the wound, well in my case, I selected the hard plastic tube, which was definitely not good shopping on my part. At this price this tooth paste is not great value for money, and in my opinion the benefits of having a hard plastic tube over the traditional metal tube do not outweigh the additional cost. ****Would I recommend it?**** Personally, I think that this tooth paste is no different to many other tooth pastes on the market. It doesn't look and different, it doesn't taste any different nor does it do anything 'new' or 'exciting', and in addition that little spillage on the tie is still a nightmare to get out. That said, it is a good quality product at a fair price (providing you don't buy it in the plastic tube that is). However, tooth paste is a personal choice and I wouldn't recommend this tooth paste over and above any other minty flavoured tooth paste, unless it is exceptionally cheap (or on offer) or you can't reach any alternative without having to reach around one of those dirty, BO stinking people in the supermarket. If given the choice I would go for the Aqua Fresh purely for the TV advertising and the fact I can happily hum the song to myself. Humming the Aqua Fresh song whilst using a different brand just isn't right.
****General**** The Ristorante Pollo Pizza is made by Dr Oetker. The packaging is attractive and shows a large picture of the pizza, which actually looks quite appetising. One thing I noticed is that when my pollo pizza came out of the oven it looked exactly like the picture on the front of the box, which really surprised me since the cooked food product seldom looks "like it should on the packaging", but it did in this instance. The back of the box is completely covered in narrative writing, and at first glance I was expecting an information overload on the Dr Oetker brand, the company ethics, the pizza range etc. etc however on close inspection there is very little information given and simply states this pizza is "Richly topped with tomatoes, cheese and chicken breast fillet on a crispy, thin base" and then provides the extensive list of ingredients used. The reason it takes the entire back of the box to give this information is because it is repeated in 12 languages, suggesting this brand is exported all over Europe. As well as the expected chicken, cheese, salt, tomatoes, oils and fats, sugars and other ingredients this product also contains more potent things such as garlic, oregano, wine and vinegar. Although there are some powerful ingredients in this pizza they are quite difficult to identify (well I couldn't spot them but maybe my palette isn't as sensitive as it should be) and no one ingredient overpowers the others. The mix of ingredients is spot on and they all complement each other very well. In one pizza there is 756 kcal (38% GDA), 8.3g of sugars (9% GDA), 32.7g of fat (47% GDA), 10.9g of saturates (55% GDA) and 1.64g of sodium (68%). Everyone knows that pizzas aren't particularly healthy or good for you so the nutritional information isn't really surprising but compared to other pizzas this variety isn't that bad. The box states this pizza should be oven baked from frozen at 220 degrees celcius (200 degrees if a fan assisted oven) or gas mark 6 for 11 - 13 minutes. An alternative way I cook pizzas is to let them defrost and then put them under a low grill (to allow the base to cook) and then turn the grill up for a few minutes to get the cheese bubbling. At around £1.30 this pizza isn't the cheapest or most expensive pizza on the market and it is available from all large supermarkets. ****Thoughts and opinion**** I have to admit that I am not a fan of deep pan pizzas with stodgy and doughy bases, and much prefer a thinner base with a bit more crisp so when the box stated a "thin and crispy base" I thought this would be ideal. The base on this pizza is just far too thin and probably around the same thickness as Kettle Chip or some other similar type potato chip. Whilst I like my bases thin I do like a bit of substance to them and since the base of this had none, I was un-impressed and to make things worse I found the base broke up making the topping spill everywhere resulting in an unnecessarily messy eating experience. This is definitely not the sort of pizza to eat in front of a date. Personally I think the taste of this pizza's topping is very, very nice although I don't think it is aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but more of that later. The tomato base is sweet but not too sickly, the cheese is flavoursome but not too salty or strong and the basil is fragrant without being overpowering. The only real criticism I have about the taste is that the chicken is so lightly flavoured there is no distinct taste and seems to provide a bit of bulk only. That said, there is plenty of chicken on this pizza, which surprised me as finding the chicken pieces on many chicken pizzas is like finding a needle in a haystack, on the other hand finding a piece of sweet corn is like searching for that needle. I like a nice, thick topping on my pizza, especially cheese and if there is no stringy cheese that dribbles off the slices during consumption then, in my opinion, it is not a real pizza. The overall amount of topping is yet another major flaw in this pizza, which is a real pity given the taste. Whilst the cheese is in short supply the basil, on the other hand most definitely is not. This pizza is covered in lumps of congealed basil, which is simply wrong. This doesn't affect the taste of the pizza but it does provide soggy lumps of a horrible texture, which isn't too good. In addition, I think it makes the pizza look un-appetising. ****Would I recommend this?**** Overall I wouldn't recommend this pizza and since there are many alternatives on the market I would go for one of these in the first instance. This pizza is actually very tasty and contains a fair amount of chicken (and basil) but the virtually non-existent base, lack of cheese and other topping and congealed lumps of basil are just not good enough and you'll soon find yourself focusing on the negatives rather than the positives, well I did.
For those of you interested in Lindt (as a company), the history, the ethics, the products etc. I suggest you visit the website, which is easily located via Google, as this review is going to be solely about the Lindt Lindor egg, and more specifically, the one covered in red, white and gold foil. Compared to other similar chocolate egg type products, I refer to Cadbury's Cream Eggs and the like, the predominantly metallic red foil wrapper with subtle white and gold graphics is understated and quite plain which is stylish sophisticated and adds a touch of class which complements the Lindt brand perfectly. Personally, I prefer this understated look especially over the (in my opinion) garishly in your face colours of the Cream egg, which are not only dated but also look very gimmicky and quite tacky, although I appreciate this has become the "corporate colour scheme" and branding that consumers associate with Cream eggs, so it is going to be difficult to change it without a huge marketing effort which could potentially fail, like other re-branding efforts like the Marathon/Snickers to name but one. With a net weight of 28g and a price tag of £0.59 the Lindor egg is not only smaller but more expensive than many of its rivals, but this is generally the case with premium products and the consumer pays more but get less, although this is to be expected. After all you wouldn't go to one of Gordon Ramsey's restaurants, pay a lot of money and get a full plate of food would you? No, you'd get a tiny dollop of something very tasty in the middle of a large plate. In my opinion the extra cost is definitely worth it and I think it is great value for money. Whilst many may consider the smaller size a negative I have to pose the question, "is this such a bad thing?" Consumers watching their weight or with a small appetite are likely to welcome this size reduction, and after eating one of these eggs I have to admit that I was glad it was on the small side since the filling is a bit too rich for me and I found it got quite sickly. Like all foil wrapped eggs the foil either comes off very quickly and easily in one, or it is rips in to hundreds of tiny pieces and takes ages to remove, which is not only frustrating but I find, makes me want to get to the chocolate even quicker. Strange how there is never any middle ground with the unwrapping, oh well C'est la vie. Once unwrapped there is a distinct aroma of Lindt chocolate, which is totally unique and like no other chocolate on the market. There is something about this Swiss type of chocolate that make it so distinctive, although I can't put my finger on it. It is a wonderful smell that is simply divine and really gets the taste buds going. Once unwrapped a small tap and this egg splits in to two halves, making it ideal for sharing or consuming one half and wrapping the other up for later, providing the foil came off in one piece that is. Each half is filled with a smooth, rich and brown coloured praline soft centre, which smells and tastes fantastic, although I find that it can get a bit too sickly. One thing I did notice is that the inside of the egg isn't completely filled with the soft centre, and whilst it is not such a big deal since I struggled as it was, I did feel a bit cheated and I'm sure other consumers who can manage a whole one of these in one sitting would feel the same. The chocolate outer shell is the standard Lindt chocolate, which in my opinion, is far more superior than Cadburys. In fact, Cadbury's doesn't even come close. The smooth praline inside is also nicer than the insides of a Cream egg, which I find not only sickly sweet but sticky, messy and difficult to eat without it going everywhere, which really hurts sensitive teeth if it gets on them. In addition the whole concept of a yellow yolk surrounded by a white outer is pretty tacky. Eating a Lindor egg is not a messy affair, there are no stringy bits of inner filling to deal with and a tissue or bib is definitely not required. It is an egg that can be eaten in a respectable manner, any time any place without ending up with food all over your face and looking like a toddler who is learning to feed itself. Where the Cream egg is aimed at quite a large audience, I think with its smaller size, stylish and understated packaging, praline filling and inflated price the Lindor egg is aimed at a more sophisticated consumer. These eggs are also available in 100g bags and retail for £2.00, which overall is not too bad. In a bag there is typically 20 small sized eggs, which are a small and perfectly formed replica of the large variety. In my opinion these smaller eggs are the best way of purchasing this product. I agree the additional packaging is not great, it isn't environmentally friendly or recyclable and it is additional rubbish to dispose of, but the packets are definitely the way to go. As previously mentioned I find these eggs really tasty but they are just too rich and sickly, which ruins the eating experience somewhat, especially when I feel sick three quarters of the way through a large egg. Smaller eggs overcome this and having two or three eggs, enjoying the delights and having the ability to stop, and not waste any which is great. Unlike the larger egg the mini versions don't split in half, and being little bigger than a chocolate covered peanut it is simply a case of unwrapping and popping them until they become too sickly or the bag is empty, whichever comes first. Nutritional information on these eggs, and exactly what goes in to them proved to be sparse, although the back of a 100g packet stated that there is sugar, vegetable fat, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, milk fat, malt extract (barley), emulsifier (soya lecithin), flavourings. May contain traces of hazel nuts and almonds, which is to be expected given it is praline, although it should be pointed out for anyone with a nut allergy. The milk chocolate contains 30% min cocoa solids and 14% min milk solids Overall these are excellent eggs and I would definitely recommend them. Whilst I find the praline filling gets a bit sickly I have to admit that I don't have an exceptionally sweet tooth, so whilst I struggle I'm sure there are many consumers out there that wouldn't. I agree that these eggs are expensive but Lindt is a premium product and you really do get what you pay for. .
With so many different types available I find choosing white wine a difficult task especially when looking for something 'new and different', therefore I usually end up buying what I know I like which is a bit boring. Standing in the wine aisle of a local Tesco waiting for the other half to choose a 'new' bottle (although I knew for a fact we would end up selecting one of the normal brands we buy) I noticed a carton which, being amongst a sea of glass bottles, caught my eye. The carton was a Tesco value branded Vino De Mesa wine which, according to the carton is "An uncomplicated, light and refreshing white, with fruity apple flavours". Getting bored whilst waiting for the inevitable to happen, I put a carton in the trolley and with the decision made walked away to the checkout. ****Packaging**** This wine is only available in a carton, and since there aren't too many litre cartons of wine available spotting this product amongst the rows and rows of wine in glass bottles is not a problem, however if you still can't find it the corporate red, blue and white of the "Tesco value" brand is stamped on the top left hand corner. It is normal for Tesco value products to be packaged in a tin, box or carton that is solely red, white and blue and it is blatantly obvious that it is a value product. The packaging of this wine, however, is different. The value branding is discreetly stamped in the corner of the carton and the rest of the carton is liveried up in an attractive green grape colour scheme which is actually quite sophisticated. If you could only see the back and sides of the carton most consumers wouldn't even know that this is a value product, making it ideal for the label and brand snobs to grab a bargain product without jeopardising any reputation they think they may have. I should point out this carton is recyclable, and in my opinion cartons are the way forward and I think that all manufacturers should use them. A carton has many advantages over a glass bottle including; i) Cartons can easily be stacked on top of each other without the risk of breaking (the oblong shape also helps). ii) Cartons are smaller, lighter and easier and safer to transport than glass bottles. iii) Cartons are easier to dispose of than glass bottles since everyone has a recycling bin at home but very few have a bottle bank on their door step. In addition, you can fold a carton in to a small parcel to maximise bin space, which is something you can't do with a bottle. ****Nutritional information**** Whilst the carton is stamped with lots of useful consumer information, such as a brief description and sourcing, serving, storage, suitability for vegetarians and allergy advice, Tesco promise and unit guidelines there is no nutritional information or ingredients list at all. This is not unique to this wine, as nearly all wines omit the nutritional information, but in this day and age when food manufacturers are forced to let consumers know what is in their products I find it amazing the same requirements aren't imposed on alcohol packaging. Maybe it's not such a bad thing as I think I, along with many other consumers, would be horrified knowing exactly what was in the beverages. ****Taste**** Given the low price I was half expecting this wine to taste like cooking/throwing wine, or worse still vinegar, however, I have to admit that I was surprised by this wine and found it to be light and thirst quenching. There is a distinct taste of fruit, which is refreshing, but I found it made the wine seem like fruit juice consequently making it go down a bit too quickly for my liking. That said, this wine does have a 'dry' edge, which is sharp but not too harsh, so you're quickly reminded this is an alcoholic drink after all. At 11% it is not a very strong wine, which isn't such a bad thing given how quickly it seems to be consumed, making it an ideal drink for a quick 'pick me up' after work without too much of a risk of over doing it. There are 1.4 UK units per 125ml glass, so the ladies amongst you can enjoy 2 small glasses and the gentlemen just under 3 small glasses and still stay within the recommended daily units. ****Price and value for money**** At less than £3.20 a litre this wine is cheap. Cheap wine is fine but if it doesn't taste good then it is false economy and you'd be better off spending extra on something half decent. This is not an issue with this product since it tastes great and with such a low price represents excellent value for money. ****Would I recommend it?**** I have to admit that I took a punt on this product and it was an impulse buy. With so much wine for so little money it was worth the risk since if the wine was not good enough to drink on its own then it could be used as a cooking wine. "Fortune favours the brave" and I have to say that I have found an absolute gem in this product and it is a wine I can't recommend highly enough. It is dry but not harsh, fruity but not too sweet and very drinkable, although with a relatively low alcoholic content this is not such a bad thing. I am starting to prefer this wine to many of the more expensive and 70cl bottle brands we usually buy, which is great. I would not recommend this wine to the wine connoisseurs out there, but then true wine connoisseurs wouldn't be buying wine in the £3.00 - £5.00 per bottle region any way.
****Rollin' back the years**** The year is 1930, the radio (or wireless as I assume it was called back then) was blasting out "Pistol Packin' Papa by Jimmie Rodgers (surely everyone knows this classic?), the average house price was £590 (hmmmm.... If only my mortgage was as little as that), frozen foods go on sale to the general public for the first time (the beginning of convenience foods.....A slippery slope me thinks), Neil Armstrong, Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen make an appearance to the world (and we all know this led to the best Bond ever) and the depression is starting to get a hold. 1930 was definitely a busy year and perhaps the best thing to happen is the Brazilian Government approaching "coffee specialist" Max Morgenthaler in a bid to make a quality cup of coffee that can be made by simply pouring hot water over some coffee beans. The instant coffee product we all take for granted (supposedly) took seven long years to get going and Nescafe coffee was distributed to the masses (well the Swiss) on 1 April 1938. After a short time the product was released worldwide and it has been a continuous search to improve the quality, taste and aroma ever since. Nestle's website is full of their views on fair trade and what they are doing to achieve this, as well as their environmental stance on reducing wastage and packaging, reducing energy consumption and the carbon foot print etc. etc. The facts and figures quoted and their future intentions are impressive although the information is definitely rammed down the readers' throat somewhat. All this is all well and good but are they actually achieving these results and how do they compare to what other companies are doing? Although I appreciate the ethics is a totally separate subject. ****So what is an Espresso?**** An Espresso is a strong black coffee produced by forcing hot water and steam at very high pressures through finely ground coffee beans. The result is a relatively viscous, dark and strong coffee that is flavorsome and very aromatic. Whilst an Espresso can be drunk on its own it is often used as a base for many other types of coffee. The Espresso is made using the Arabica bean whereas 'normal' coffee is made using the Robusta bean. The Arabica is believed to be of superior quality, hence giving a fuller flavor and stronger aroma. ****Nestle, it's over to you...**** Nestle have, or so they claim, managed to replicate the authentic Espresso characteristics by pouring boiling water over some of the Espresso coffee beans, instead of blasting hot water and steam through the beans. ****How do I spot this Espresso over other Nestle products and other products?**** The jar is dark coloured and includes a photo of a cup of Espresso on it, which I think compliments the product perfectly. Personally, I think the jar looks understated but stylish and without any 'in your face' graphics or colours. The jar fits in with the typical Nestle coffee branding. As a result of the above the Nestle Espresso is likely to take a bit of searching for on the supermarket shelf, and it isn't a product that can simply be grabbed as you walk down the supermarket aisle. In some respects the marketing team has done a great job as the understated and stylish jar is likely to attract a certain clientele, but on the other hand the marketing team have done a poor job as the whole point of marketing and advertising is to get the product out there and noticed above everything else. I guess this is not such a big issue as I don't consider this product to be an impulse purchase. After all, how many times have you had a craving and thought "I could really do with an Espresso" and made a special trip to get some? No, I think this product is definitely a planned purchase which the consumer is going to search for. ****And in this jar there is.....?**** ....coffee beans, and Arabica to be exact. As you would expect Nestle Espresso is made from 100% Arabica bean so no surprises there then. Coffee beans and water, on their own aren't particularly 'bad' for you if you think in terms of calories, fat, carbohydrates etc. A single Espresso contains 1 calorie and a trace of sugar, fat, salt and saturates. Where this drink becomes a weight watchers nightmare is when you add the (obligatory) cream and sugar. Whilst I can do without the cream sugar in an Espresso is an absolute must have as I find it far too bitter without it, even though I have no problems with normal coffee. The concerns with Arabica beans are the high levels of kahweol, which elevates liver enzymes, and cafestol, which is said to lead to an increase in bad cholesterol (is any cholesterol actually good then?). Despite the above Arabica beans do have an advantage over Robusta beans in that they contain far less caffeine, up to 50% less, therefore if you drink Espressos in the same quantities and with the same regularity of normal coffee you can either take full benefit and drink the same amount as normal coffee and have less caffeine or drink twice as much as normal coffee and have the same caffeine hit. I find it strange that many people use the excuse "I need a caffeine hit" and order an Espresso over a normal coffee, but then I guess these people wrongly think that strong coffee is coffee with more caffeine. ****The smell and consumption test**** Upon opening the jar there is an instant aroma of coffee, which is to be expected. I have to admit I really like the smell of coffee but this is s bit too much for me and I find it quite overpowering, and the aroma intensifies once hot water is poured over the beans. I use the term 'beans' loosely since the contents of the jar resembles a fine, chocolate brown powder rather than the normal coarse beans found in a jar of normal coffee. The powder dissolves easily, requiring only a small amount of stirring, although this is to be expected. The final drink is more viscous and slides down the throat which is quite satisfying. As previously mentioned an Espresso is more bitter than normal coffee and the Nestle Espresso is no different, and requires a lot of sugar to remove the bitterness and make it drinkable. This Espresso is strong, as you'd expect, but once loaded up with sugar and if I am in the mood for it milk or cream (these are things I can either take or leave), it is nice but not as good as an Espresso from a coffee shop. Maybe an Espresso does need to be blasted with water/steam to really let the taste out, or maybe it Is more psychological (hearing the machine, watching the water being blasted through the beans, witnessing the steam and inhaling the full aroma) that makes a shop bought Espresso that much better, but whatever it is this Nestle instant Espresso just doesn't quite cut it in my opinion. ****What benefits does this drink have?**** All different types of coffee are full of antioxidants and over the years coffee, and its effects, have been a popular subject of scientific research. There are many different schools of belief and like everything in life, some rave about this 'wonder' product making some bold claims including drinking coffee may reduce the risk of diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases as well as certain types of cancer, including colon, rectal, ovarian and liver; and drinking coffee may prevent against kidney stones, gallstones and depression; and drinking coffee may lower the risk of gout and lessen after exercise muscle soreness, and some condone it. Whether the above is true or not or what effect drinking coffee, or this Espresso will have will totally depend upon the individual, after all we are all different and have unique reactions to specific things. Whilst I would like to believe the above claims and would like to think that I will be more healthy and live a fuller and longer life as a result of drinking an Espresso I am not holding my breath. I, and I'm sure there are many like me, drink coffee products for the taste and any other benefits are a bonus. Sometimes I drink them to excess, which I am sure is detrimental to my health in the short term although I'm sure there's no long term damage, but if there is C'est la vie. ****How much is this Espresso going to cost?**** A 100g jar of Nestle Espresso will currently set you back £2.00 from Tesco, although it is often on special offer. Compared to a normal jar of coffee it is very expensive and, in my opinion, not worth the extra. With regards to availability, Nestle is a well known and popular brand that is stocked in most retail outlets, from large national supermarkets to mini marts to convenience stores to garages, so getting a jar of this should pose no problems. ****So is this worth buying then?**** Based on the definition of an Espresso I can't see any way of creating an authentic Espresso by pouring boiling water on top of instant coffee beans, no matter how hard or vigorously you stir. I'm sorry, but in my opinion the only way to replicate an Espresso is to use a specifically designed machine that is capable of squirting the water at the required pressure. In my opinion this Nestle product is not an Espresso and I think it is no more than a gimmicky marketing ploy for those people who are looking to produce a specialist drink but do not have the machinery to do it. Personally I see an Espresso as an after meal 'treat' or something I drink on occasions when I am out, it is not something I drink regularly, and based on the small jars of the Nestle Espresso this product is designed to be used sparingly also. I agree that this product is flavorsome, fragrant and strong, but then given it is made out of different beans to normal coffee it should be. Whilst it is an ok drink it is nothing to write home about and definitely nowhere near as good as a shop bought, or machine made Espresso, so if you're expecting a substitute I think you are going to be disappointed, and because of this I can't really recommend it. If you're after a quick caffeine hit in the morning, or want an instant "pick me up" then I would recommend making a strong normal coffee containing Robusta beans. I would not recommend keeping a jar of this in the cupboard for this purpose.
****What is it?**** As most of you are aware Guitar Hero is a computer game that involves strumming along to different music tracks in a bid to earn cash (to personalise your characters etc.) and hit the 100% note streak. After buying and becoming addicted to the Wii version of the game I saw Guitar World Hero On Tour for the Nintendo DS and just had to give it a go. The thought of rocking out to a load of decent tracks whenever and wherever I wanted seemed a too good a chance to miss. With the Wii version being so good and a real hard act to follow I have to admit that I was a bit sceptical when buying this game, although any concerns disappeared very, very quickly. ****Songs**** The Guitar Hero On Tour Modern Hits for the Nintendo DS contains 30 tracks, which is considerably less than that of the consoles. However, when you consider the size of a DS cartridge 30 songs is actually quite impressive, although I still think the producers should have created a special cartridge that would hold the full suite of tracks available on the Wii. The tracks include songs like "Girl friend - by Avril Lavigne", "Two Princes - Spin Doctors", "Excuse Me Mr - No Doubt", "So What - Pink", "In Too Deep - Sum 41" amongst many others. The track list contains some absolute classics and, in my opinion this is one of the best track listings of any game of this genre I have played. It really is great and you'll soon be toe tapping, nodding and humming away. As identified by the above the tracks are spread across all genres and include pop, rock, indie and heavy meal. There really is something for everyone on this game. One thing that is noticeable about the track listing is that most people would have heard of most of the songs, or if you haven't you will recognise them once the tune starts. It is a game of "all killers and no fillers", unlike the console version where many of the tracks are actually not that mainstream or well known. A full track listing is available from many websites and is easily found by inserting "GH DS Track Listing" (or something similar) in to Google. ****Controls**** This game is played using the touch screen and a special fret button controller and it is impossible to play this game without it. Whilst the fret button controller can be bought with the game as a bundle package it is worth noting that the game can be bought separately so if you are buying the game second hand off Ebay or some other similar site ensure you get a controller as well otherwise you are going to be very disappointed. The fret controller consists of a black box that includes 4 different colour buttons and looks like the end of the "proper" guitar controller. I should point out that the DS version has 4 fret buttons, whereas full sized console versions have a fifth fret button that is used in expert mode. Whilst die hard gamers may see this as a disadvantage not having a fifth fret button doesn't bother me that much as I still struggle with four. The controller is used by simply sliding the DS unit on to the unit, with the GBA cartridge slot cover removed to allow the male connector on the unit to slide in to the GBA slot. It is then a case of securing the DS to your hand (using the handy strap built in to the controller), placing a finger over the fret buttons, grabbing the pick and getting ready to rock out to your favourite tunes. ****Game play**** The game play is the same as on all the other consoles in that you chose the song and as it plays coloured circles travel down the screen that represents the guitar note of the part of the song. To hit the note it is simply a matter of pressing the corresponding coloured button on the controller and strumming. The strumming is achieved by moving the pick (supplied with the controller) on the touch screen. With this game you'd expect that many of the console features would have been lost, but that does not appear to be the case here and just like the console versions some of the notes contain that all important "star power" that is required to reach those high scores. There are also times when you have to whammy notes, which without a whammy bar you'd think would be impossible. This is not the case and the developers have devised a cunning way to whammy the notes, which simply involves scribbling on the touch screen during the long notes. I think this is easier than using the whammy bar on the guitar controller on the console version. What is good about this game is the touch screen will pick up a strum regardless of the direction the pick is slid across the screen. In addition, multiple strums can be done without taking the pick off the screen which is very useful for those fast notes in expert mode. In fact, if you had to take the pick off the screen then I think the completing songs in expert mode would be unachievable. As with everything in life there are some downsides to this game and one thing I should point out is that to begin with, this was the most uncomfortable game I had played on the DS, period. Being strapped to the controller and the DS you will find your hands are forced in to an unnatural position, which unfortunately is required to play the game. I have the same issues playing the console version using the guitar controller however using the guitar controller you can actually stretch and move your hands and fingers to alleviate the pain. This is not possible with this version as any vigorous movements or stretching is going to lead to the controller becoming dislodged from the DS which will temporarily render the controller useless and stop game play. If this does happen then you will need to turn the DS off, push the controller in properly and reboot the game. It is not possible just to push the controller back in and carry on playing, as Nintendo doesn't allow "hot swapping" of peripheral items in the GBA slot, which is very frustrating. With your hands forced in unnatural positions at first you'll probably find that it won't be long before your hand is cramping up in pain, forcing a recovery break. With a bit of perseverance you'll soon find your playing sessions will get longer and longer between breaks so it is worth sticking with it. ****Graphics**** A game of this genre is all about the playability and the audio so, in the large scheme of things graphics shouldn't really matter. Despite this the producers have developed some awesome graphics. Whilst you're concentrating on the notes coming down the screen the band members will be in the background singing, strumming their guitars or beating their drums. Whilst the movements aren't in time to the music, nor are the mouth movements in time with the words but this is totally forgivable. The band members are 3D polygon rendered and look very good. Whilst I have never been a fan of customising computer characters I have to make an exception for this game and I admit it is kind of cool to see the band members with different instruments and accessories or dressed differently thanks to the cash you have managed to earn during the numerous hours of game play. Whilst the graphics are superb I do think they are a bit of a waste of time in all honesty. Playing this game I find I get so engrossed in the music and focus solely on the notes flying down the screen so pretty much everything else becomes a bit of a blur. ****Audio**** As previously mentioned this game is in a genre where the audio needs to be top notch, and once again the producers have really pulled it off. I admit I am usually the first to slate the audio quality of most DS games but I can't with this. Even with the DS' pretty poor speakers and audio ability the tracks sound just great. In public places or in noisy rooms in your own home headphones are an absolute must have to really get the most out of this game. In addition, you don't really want to annoy general members of the public going about their daily business. One thing I should point out when using headphones is that you need a controller with a headphone input jack since the controller covers the DS' own headphone jack. If you buy the bundle, i.e. the game and controller together, then you won't have any problems since you will be buying a "genuine" product. Care must be taken when you buy the game and the controller separately, like I did. The genuine controller is quite expensive and there are much cheaper alternatives available on Ebay for a fraction of the cost. I bought one of these cheap "knock-offs" from Ebay and whilst it worked perfectly it had no headphone input jack and I couldn't use it with headphones, which was a bit of a pain. Therefore, I ended up buying a genuine controller and a third party controller and in a bid to save a few quid I ended up paying out more than I really needed to. ****Difficulty**** Like all the Guitar Hero games across all platforms this version starts off very easy and becomes ridiculously hard, so it is something for gamers of all ages and abilities. In my opinion, this wide reaching audience is what makes the Guitar Hero series so good as the market is simply massive and very diverse. With the DS version missing a fret button it would be natural to think that this version is easier than the others. I am pleased, however, to say that it is still difficult and expert mode is exceptionally tricky. With the notes flying down the tiny DS screen at a fast pace, combined with small buttons and being strapped in to the cramped playing position this game is a real challenge. ****Longetivity**** Despite having only 30 tracks there is many, many hours (if not days) of game play in this game. It is very addictive and I find it generates the "I want to beat my last score and get that 100% note streak" attitude that demands you carry on repeating the songs over and over again until you finally get there. In addition, this game contains the "star rating" performance measure, like the console versions, therefore it is only natural to want to get the 5 star performances for every song to show your mates your superiority. ****Multi player**** The multi player features of this game are excellent, which I guess is to be expected. There are several things to keep you, and your friends entertained such as playing each song in a co-op mode with lead guitar and bass guitar working together over a wireless local connection or you can go head to head and have a "guitar duel" whereby you play and obtain these power ups to disrupt your opponents playing. There is plenty of hours entertainment in multi player mode and it is amazing how the "just one more song" or "just one more battle" turns in to numerous tracks and many hours later. With all that's going on, the developer even managed to get a decent visual engine going to accompany the notes running down the screen. The characters might not lip sync, strum or beat the drum in time to the music, but it's still cool to see them in full 3D and wearing your custom items earned, purchased, and selected. ***Price and availability**** The price paid will depend upon whether the game and the controller are bought together (i.e. a bundle) or whether the game is purchased on its own. At the time of writing the bundle can be bought from TheHut.com for £11.73 (which is significantly less than the RRP of £39.99) with free postage, which I think is an absolute bargain price. From my experience with TheHut.com the delivery times are a bit longer than most other stores but then it is free and waiting a couple of extra days doesn't hurt. In fact, I actually find it makes me want the game more and builds up the excitement somewhat. The game can be bought in isolation from TheHut.com for £9.73 (once again with free postage), so getting a controller for £1 is fantastic value, especially when you consider a genuine guitar grip controller from Gametrain.com costs £6.95 and a third party produced one will cost around £5 from Ebay. This game has been out a while so getting a copy will not present too many problems, and it is widely available from many retailers, including large national supermarkets, multi product stores (e.g. Argos), large electrical shops (e.g. Currys ) and specialist computer game stores, as well as from many online shops. There is a huge price differential on many consumer goods and this game is no different, so it pays to shop around for the best deal. It ever ceases to amaze me how some retailers can sell things for less than half the price of others. How does that work? ****Conclusion**** The producers of the DS version have done a fantastic job in getting Guitar Hero from the main consoles and transferring it to a portable handheld. Considering the game play, graphics and audio on such powerful systems and having to transfer that to something much less powerful must have been a daunting and challenging task but the producers have really pulled it out of the hat. The graphics are simply stunning, although they are a bit over the top and not really necessary, the audio is fantastic, the track listing consists of all well known songs (without any fillers), the game play is just like the console version and it provides hours and hours of entertainment, in both single and multi player modes. Whilst the experience on the DS is not as realistic or captivating as strumming a life size replica guitar, like on the console version, (and it would have been naïve to think it ever would be) the unique fret button controller, combined with the strumming on the touch screen, does add some authenticity and realism to the game. It also allows you to enjoy rocking out to your favourite tracks whenever and where ever you want. I must stress that headphones are a must have accessory so make sure you have a genuine controller, don't go and waste your cash on a cheaper third party produced one from Ebay like I did. The only real disadvantage of this game is the discomfort of an unnatural playing position or though you will find that this soon reduces as you get used to it and rack up game playing hours. That said, I have found that I still have to take regular breaks during extended game play to get the feeling back in my hand, as I now find I get numbness rather than pain. Overall this is a fantastic game and I can't recommend it highly enough, and whilst this particular version may not ever be a classic I think the Guitar Hero concept and controller will be and hopefully there will be many more Guitar Hero games in the future.
The Crank Brothers Speed Lever is a tyre removal and installation tool that is ideal for all cyclists. Whether you ride a mountain bike with big chunky tyres (although most of these can be removed and re-fitted by hand and without the need for tyre levers), a touring bike, a BMX, a hybrid or a fully fledged racer the speed lever will assist with the removal of all tyre types. Cycle tyre removal can be a tricky process, especially when dealing with exceptionally tight racing tyres with full wire beading, and usually requires the need for two (and usually a three) separate tyre levers. The speed lever is totally unique in both design and use, and all tyres can be removed with just the speed lever. Using the tool is simple and the tyre removal process simply involves; i) Hooking the plastic hook under the tyre bead ii) Extending the telescopic arm and clamping to the skewer iii) Turning the wheel so you are looking at it face on; and iv) Applying pressure and pulling the tool towards you using the skewer as a pivot point As well as removing the tyre the speed lever will help get the tyre back on once the inner tube has been patched or replaced. Installing the tyre involves; v) Putting a bit of air in the inner tube to give it a bit of shape vi) Inserting the inner tube in to the tyre vii) Putting the tyre back on the rim, by hand and then the tool As most of you are probably aware as the tyre goes on it gets tighter and tighter and you will get to the point where it is impossible to get the tyre any further without using some type of lever, and this is where the speed lever comes in. Simply turn the tool over and place the narrow hook over the tyre rim and use as detailed above. Whilst normal tyre levers can be used for this the Speed lever actually pushes the tyre back on the wheel without rubbing against the inner tube which could damage or hole it. It also stops the tyre sitting on the inner tube which is likely to lead to a 'pinch' puncture - a common occurrence when using normal tyre levers to reseat the tyre. Using the tool requires a certain technique, which feels odd at first but after a couple of attempts it becomes natural. There are loads of 'tutorials' on YouTube should you need it (some are quite good whereas others are totally useless but this tends to be the case with YouTube), although if you step back and think about it logically video demonstration should not be required. Some users will read about how good the speed lever is, buy one and dismiss it after the first use when they don't use the right technique and end up breaking it. Crank Brothers claim the speed lever is durable and robust and it is, to an extent. It should be noted that it is still made out of plastic and if you give it too much hard whilst using the wrong technique you will break it, without a doubt. This tool requires a bit of practice since it is not something you can simply stick under the tyre beading and give it the big heave ho because it will break. A weak point is the telescopic arm and pressure shouldn't be applied here, which to me is common sense but it appears many users still tug on this section and then wonder why the tool breaks. If you use the tool properly it is strong, robust and a lot of pressure can be exerted safe in the knowledge the tool will perform. I have never managed to break a speed lever (although I always use them properly) and I have had some very tight fitting 23mm racing tyres in the past. I have read some reviews stating the plastic hook is fragile and easy to break, although I have never managed to break one. The plastic hooks do wear out over time with use, which is to be expected, and lose their effectiveness (ultimately leading to replacement) but I have never actually managed to break a hook during use. Crank Brothers are so confident their speed lever is durable that they offer a lifetime warranty on the product and will replace it if you break one. I can't comment on the hoops you have to jump through to get a replacement because I have never broken one. Whether Crank Brothers will replace the speed lever when the hook wears out is something I have never tried and something I never will. At £5.99 the speed lever appears expensive but considering only one is needed, whereas multiple tyre levers are needed at a couple of pounds per time, I think it is actually very good value for money. Besides, the additional is worth paying since being stranded on the side of the road with a puncture, and being unable to remove your tyre because your levers are useless (and bent) is not much fun believe me. It was also an expensive (not to mention embarrassing) taxi ride home. The speed lever is widely available from all specialist bike shops (both online and offline), as well as Halfords so getting hold of one shouldn't create any problems. The speed lever is, without a doubt, the best tyre removal and re-seating tool I have ever used and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It does require a specific technique and a bit of practice to use it effectively, but it won't take too long to learn and it is so worth it. Just don't use one and dismiss it after the first attempt because you will regret it.
Radox is part of the Sara Lee "corporation" which is strange given that washing products and cakes/gateaux are just so diverse. Radok makes several different washing products to 'cake' yourself in including a wide range of shower gels, shower creams and bath soaks amonget much more. Firstly, I have to confess that the Radox nourishing shower cream is not my shower product of choice, although I do use other Radox products and find the muscle soak excellent for a wind down after a few hours in the saddle. Being an out and out Lynx man (apart from after shave where I do have more sophisticated tastes) I must admit that Africa shower gel would be top of the list, although there are those times when you have to make do and use something "not quite right" and for this I have to thank, or not as the case maybe, the tastes of Mrs yackers1. ****The packaging/bottle**** This Radox comes in a 250ml see through bottle. The bottle is leaf shaped although there is a flat bottom (obviously) where the flip lid is. Keeping the bottle upside down in this fashion ensures the cream inside is easily accessible and that there is no need for any frantic and wrist aching shaking to get the last drop out of the bottle. Most similar products use this arrangement, although my favourite and shower gel of choice does not, so it is nothing unique to this product. A few years ago many shower products contained a hooked end enabling the bottle to be hung on the shower rail, on the shower head or pipe, or any other place for that matter. The need for this feature seemed to disappear and this hanging hook was removed from many products, however, this Radox product has retained this hook, which is very useful. Another great feature of the bottle is the lid, or the way in which the lid operates. The excretion hole of the lid is tiny and almost non-existent unless pressure is applied to the bottle. Once the bottle is squeezed the hole will enlarge and the cream will squirt out. This feature is so great because it means that the cream would leak out if the lid is accidentally left open whilst you're in the shower. Another thing I noticed was the lid and lid hinge mechanism are tight helping to ensure that the lid remains closed when not in use hence preventing any unwanted leakages. With its floral design the packaging is definitely aimed to entice the fairer sex, although it does so very subtly. The design consists of drab and understated graphics. There are no loud and brash colours that scream 'look at me' and if actually looking for this product on the supermarket shelf I am guessing it would be quite a search. This is not helped by the drab colour of the actual cream, which I find strange given that other products in the Radox range are brightly coloured, such as the muscle soak, and are instantly recognisable. Radox doesn't appear to have any corporate or branding and I think this could be detrimental to the company. Once the shower cream has been used up the bottle (excluding the flip top lid) can be rinsed out and put in the recycling bin to be re-incarnated in to another useful product, so it is also environmentally friendly. ****The active ingredients**** The "unique selling point" of this product appears to be that it 'contains shea butter and ginger' as stated on the bottle. Personally, I find this a bit of a strange combination but then I really only associate ginger with biscuits and in preparing a good, strong home curry. Maybe many cosmetics contain the ginger? Maybe this highlights my naivety and ignorance of cosmetic products? I do find ginger a strange ingredient to use in the manufacture of beauty products since a common allergic reaction to ginger, if a consumer has one, is a rash amongst a few other symptoms. So is putting ginger in a product that is likely to be smeared over the entire body really that sensible. Shea butter is a natural fat found in the seed of the African shea tree that is extracted through the process of crushing and boiling. Whilst it has many uses it is widely used in cosmetics as it is claimed to not only deeply moisturise but also protect the skin. As well as its 'healing' and nourishing qualities shea butter is also used as a chocolate filling ingredient. Maybe this is how Sara Lee's business diversified in to manufacturing this product? Just a thought. This shower cream contains loads more ingredients including things like sodium lactate, coumarin, CI 19140, parfum and CI 14700 amongst much more, most of which I have never heard of before but they do sound very manmade and synthetic, that are probably in most shower gels, shower creams and the like. I do wonder if the CI numbers are the cosmetic equivalent of food stuff E numbers though. ****It's time to wake up and smell the coffee**** If you pop open the lid and inhale deeply your nostrils will be filled with a strong, sweet smell (although it is not sickly sweet), which is quite over powering. Whilst the fragrance is unique I think there is a definite resemblance of coconuts which is strange since no coconuts are harmed in the manufacture of this shower cream. If you take a more subtle approach, open the lid and let the aroma evaporate naturally the smell is less powerful but there is still an odour of coconuts. Given the potency of ginger I would have expected to recognise this 'ingredient' but it just wasn't there, although I guess this isn't such a bad thing. I found the rinsing process quickly diluted the smell and within a few short minutes after showering the smell had gone almost immediately. Personally, I didn't have a problem with this as the smell is far too feminine for my liking. Overall I would describe this product as lightly fragranced so if you like subtle scents or you want to ensure that nothing overpowers your perfume, body spray or whatever nice smelling product you may be wearing then this shower cream would be ideal. ****Lather me up, baby**** The Radox product is a light orange/peach and, for want of a better word, cream colour. I guess I could describe it as a dirty off-white but I don't think this is a good description for a cosmetic product. The cream itself has the same consistency as a moisturiser, which is to be expected given it contains shea butter. It is definitely not like any kind of shower gel. Applying the Radox feels exactly like applying moisturiser so applying it and then adding water to rinse it off just didn't feel right. One thing I did notice is that a little goes a long way, which is not surprising given the consistency of the cream. The Radox lathers up nicely although it does take a lot of water and a lot of rubbing to really get it going. For those of you who like the feeling of massaging body products in to the skin this is an ideal product since using this product properly is a time consuming task so if you are a 'get in get out' sort of person this is not an ideal product for you. ****Apres shower**** Once out of the shower and dried my skin felt, what I would only describe as, weird. My skin felt soft, that was for sure, although it also felt slippery and greasy, just like I had applied a really greasy emollient or some Vaseline petroleum jelly, which was pleasant in places but awful in others. I will let you make your own mind up of where this would and wouldn't feel so good. Luckily, well for me at least, this feeling didn't last that long and had virtually disappeared by the time I had got dressed. ****Suitable for all skin types?**** I do suffer from dry skin in places and suffer from very mild eczema so really harsh cosmetics are a no go area for me. That said I bought in to the bottle's claim that this Radox cream has "perfect PH balance" and that it gets "thumbs up from the skin experts" and thought that I would be fine, however this was not the case as I did get a rash in the sensitive areas where I am prone to get them. I regularly use the Radox muscle soak and I have never had any issues with that. Maybe I have an allergic reaction to ginger that I don't get when I consume it? I should reiterate that the rashes weren't severe and that they were short lasting but I was still affected nonetheless so it is something that should be considered if you have any skin complaints. It is a shame that Radox's "100 years of know how" has resulted in a product that I can't use. ****Availability and price**** Radox products are widely stocked and available from all leading supermarkets, convenience stores, mini marts etc. and in addition the nourishing shower cream seems to be a popular product of the Radox range that is stocked so getting some of this shouldn't be a problem. At around £1.60 for 250ml, or £2.00 for the 500ml bottle this shower cream is in the low to mid range price bracket and given that it lasts such a long time (because only a tiny amount is required) it is excellent value for money. Furthermore, this product can often be found on BOGOF promotions or other deals so it is often worth keeping an eye out. ****Conclusion**** Everything about this nourishing shower cream is feminine. From the packaging to the smell to the requirement to really rub it in to the skin, this product screams out "to be used for the fairer sex", and Mrs Yackers1 is more than welcome to it, especially given that I seem to have some adverse reaction to it. However, despite the above and on those occasions where the 'man of the house' has run out of a usual shower gel then I would actually recommend this as a backup if there is any lurking around the house. Whilst it may not look masculine or smell masculine (to begin with) it serves the purpose of cleaning the skin, which is the main thing. In addition, the smell will soon wear off so it will not interfere with your deodorant/body spray and aftershave, unlike many other cosmetic products which is good. Just don't expect to be in and out of the shower as quickly as you would with other shower gels though. (originally posted on Ciao under the name of yackers1)
****the search is on**** There are literally hundreds of different cases, sleeves and socks available for the i-phone and whilst many users will opt for vanity or individuality over functionality and protection I'm afraid I am the sort of person who will go for the latter. The only way to keep the i-phone looking like new is to wrap it up in bubble wrap and never use it, but what is the point in that? Obviously there is a trade-off between protection and functionality and compromises have to be made since having your i-phone in a totally protective case but still being able to get to it quickly to take a call, or use it to its full potential just isn't going to happen. ****The decision is made**** In my search I was after a case that was still going to allow me to use my i-phone but offer the maximum possible protection. It soon became evident that a silicon sleeve was the best option but with so many to choose from I admit I was stumped, however many hours research soon led me to the iSkin Revo 2 case. ****A tool for the task**** This case has been specifically designed for the i-phone, which is clearly evident as soon as you slip the i-phone in it. Getting the i-phone in the case is a challenge in itself and I found there was a bit of cursing as I had to stretch parts of the case further than I really wanted to in order to get the i-phone in. Once the case is on the fit is very tight and there is no sagging nor are there 'ruffled' bits anywhere, unlike other silicon cases I have tried. Putting an i-phone in a case is obviously going to increase the dimensions, the extent of which is obviously dependent upon the type of case. This case has made my i-phone about 40mm wider, 30mm longer and 10mm deeper, which is quite a lot but not as much as some other cases would add. I would be lying if I said I didn't notice the substantial increase in size but I soon got used to it, besides it protects my i-phone which is all that matters. Like many silicon cases this one consists of strategically placed holes that leave the speaker, camera lens and silent switch exposed, enabling all of these features to be easily accessible with the case on. The headphone jack and charging/docket socket are covered with a removable flap so these features can be used when needed, but are fully protected when not in use. The on/off switch, home button and volume controls are all fully and permanently covered whilst the i-phone is in the case. The removable flaps over the headphone jack and charging/docking socket are the best I have come across on any silicon case. The fit over the respective parts is tight but easily moved out of the way, and once you are finished the flap simply springs back to cover up once more. This feature is not unique to this case and is incorporated in many cases, however the flaps are usually fragile and fail to spring back in to place or they become disfigured with use and the fit gets looser and looser. I can confirm this has not happened with this case which is good. I must admit that I was a bit concerned when I saw the volume control, home button and on/off switch permanently covered as I thought these features would become redundant when the case is on. These fears were immediately alleviated as it is easy to get to all the buttons (due to the excellent fit of the case) and all are still responsive and do what is asked of them, so no sensitivity issues here then. An anti-scratch thin screen film is also included with this case, which is a nice feature although multipacks of them can be bought for a couple of pounds from Ebay or Amazon. The screen film is specifically cut to fit the i-phone screen and the fit is spot on. Installation, however, is another matter. Installation is supposed to be easy as the thin film is simply pressed over the screen and rubbed to make it stick and eliminate the air bubbles. No liquids, glues or solvents are required. I have put these films on many different gadgets including satnav systems, other smart phones and media players and this was the most annoying install I have ever done. No matter how hard I tried I could not get rid the air pockets. Some air pockets/bubbles are inevitable (unless you're very lucky and get it perfect) but I found loads once this film was installed. Needless to say it was promptly removed for a second try, which was unsuccessful and resulted in the film being thrown in the bin. The film is supposed to be able to be removed and installed several times but in reality this is not the case. When the film is removed you're going to 'dog ear' one of the corners and it will never fit properly after that. My only solution was to purchase an additional film which was not only much easier to install but the end result is fantastic. In addition to the protective film this case is supplied with a hard plastic protective screen that simply clips over the front of the i-phone. This screen is designed to protect the screen from dust, debris and scratches and it does this job very well, although the screen can't be left in situ whilst operating the phone which is a bit of a shame. The screen protector fits the i-phone screen perfectly, which since this case was specifically designed for the i-phone is to be expected, and there is a nice tight fit to ensure it remains in place. Even after several weeks use and much "screen off, screen on" action the fit is as tight as it was when I first got it and the screen hasn't stretched, contorted or been adversely affected by use, so a big thumbs up there. I am in two minds over the additional protective screen as sometimes it is a god send and other times it is very frustrating. During the times when you don't actually need to operate the phone, such as using it as an i-pod (where the tracks and volume is adjusted via the headphone switch) or using the i-phone as a satellite navigation device or GPS training aid (where you only need to see the display) the additional protective screen is fantastic. However, when you actually need to get to the phone relatively quickly, such as taking a call, removing the screen is a bit cumbersome which can waste time and ultimately result in you missing the call, which is most annoying. Whilst using the phone the screen can, supposedly and according to the manufacturer's instructions, be clipped securely to the back of the i-phone out of harms' way. Great in theory but this is totally flawed in practice. Whilst the screen can be clipped to the back of the i-phone it is not securely held as the silicon case makes for a very loose fit, and the screen often pops off the phone if accidentally nudged which is no good. In my experience you're far better off laying the additional screen down or simply holding it to ensure it stays safe whilst you're using the phone. The back of the case is ridged and textured around the perimeter to ensure the i-phone doesn't slip out of your hand whilst using it. Again, this is a great feature although it does bring with it another problem with dust. The ridges not only attract but also hold dust particles, fluff and a whole manner of other nasty things, which can make your i-phone look a right mess. Since I have a black case this problem is increased as black shows up every little particle/mark and blemish. This problem is overcome by wiping the case with a damp, lint free cloth on a regular basis. This is a bit of a pain but given the overall protection of this case I am more than happy to do this. Unfortunately I am unable to comment on how much this is a problem on the cases of other colours in this range. ****The ultimate in protection?**** This case doesn't offer the ultimate in protection but then no silicon case will, and for that you are going to need a hard case. That said a silicon case will protect from gentle knocks, scrapes and blemishes caused by general use but they are not going to protect the i-phone from heavy knocks, falls from great heights and any other 'one off and unfortunate' events that may occur. Personally, I find a silicon case is more than adequate for my needs but then I have always been careful with my mobile phones and have never given them too much hard, but then I guess I am lucky in that I work in an office environment. I have friends who really abuse their phones and then moan when their case doesn't do what it is meant to and write it off as useless. You need to appreciate this silicon case will not make your i-phone bomb proof, shock proof, water proof etc and that you still need to look after it. What it does do is ensure that your i-phone doesn't suffer from unsightly scratches and blemishes. ****Concealment**** Unless you are familiar with iSkin and know they are a manufacturer of i-phone accessories and can see the symbol on the back of the case it is extremely difficult to tell that this case is concealing an i-phone, which I think is one of its best features. I don't want every Tom, Dick and Harry (or any potential thieving scum) knowing I have an i-phone and with this case it looks like I could be using anything, meaning I use my i-phone anywhere and everywhere (well almost) safe in the knowledge my gadget is unidentifiable. I appreciate the i-phone is seen as a status symbol and many users want the world to know that they own/are using one so if you are one of these individuals this case would not be of interest to you. ****The financial damage**** The price of silicon cases varies greatly and I have seen them for as little as £0.99 on Ebay right up to around £25 and this case is one of the more expensive ones. In my experience you do get what you pay for although there must be a price where the product can't get any better no matter how much more you pay. I admit that I opted for this case because it was recommended by a mate and it has rave reviews. I paid £22.95 (including delivery) for mine and whilst I appreciate it is very expensive for what it is the protection is great, it has kept my i-phone clean and free from scratches and has done everything I want it to. Some may think I am mad to pay so much but given that a replacement i-phone is a minimum of £350 on PAYG I think this case is a definite investment. ****Would I recommend it?**** I think the Revo 2 is a great case and I would highly recommend it. Whilst it is not the cheapest silicon option available it is a superior product that fits very well, protects your i-phone from scratches and blemishes, conceals the fact you have an i-phone but also allows you to use all the features of the i-phone whilst it is in the case. The requirement to clean the case is a bit of a pain although it is a small price to pay for the protection you get. The additional hard screen can be awkward at times but you can always dispose of this if it is no good, after all put an anti-scratch protective film over the screen and away you go. The hard screen, however, does offer that little bit extra which I find ideal in specific circumstances.
Whilst looking for a black bread bin for our new kitchen (it had to be black and no other colour was suitable) we stumbled across a Brabantia bread bin in a local department store. It was the only black bread bin in that particular shop so it was put in the basket. I had never heard of Brabantia before but a bread bin is a bread bin right? There are many different styles and sizes of Brabantia bread bins, although the black one we bought is the roll top variety and measuring 173mm x 447mm x 260mm this bread bin is large enough to accommodate all but the largest loaves. It won't accommodate a French stick (unless it is cut up that is) but I have yet to find a bread bin that will, although I am sure someone will set me straight on this point. The bin is made out of thick aluminium and is of good quality. It doesn't bend or contort under normal use, unlike other metal bread bins I have owned, however it would be quite easy to disfigure it if you are a bit heavy handed, however under normal use you shouldn't have any problems with it. I find the weak point of many bread bins to be the hinge that holds the door. With age and use some of the hinges wear out quickly and allow the door to fall open (revealing the bread to the elements), with the roll top designs, or means you have to physically hold the door up when getting the bread out, with the fall front designs. Both scenarios are most annoying. I have to say that I have not experienced any such issues with this bread bin and the hinge is still tight and requires a bit of force to get the door open and closed again. If the bread is left uncovered and placed straight in the bin it will go hard and stale in a day or son, although I find this is the case with most bread bins since none of them offer an air tight seal that is 100% efficient. The way around this is to put the bread in a bag, squeeze the air out and wrap it up tightly before putting it in the bread bin. The bread will keep for a few days like this. I should point out that we only buy the 'fresh' loaves that go off quicker than the artificial packed bread as there are far fewer preservatives in it. Unfortunately I cannot comment on how long the more artificial bread would last in this bread bin. This bread bin is far from perfect and I have got a couple of issues with it. The first issue I have is there aren't any non-slip feet on the bottom of the bin, meaning the whole of the bottom of the bread bin is resting on the work top which could potentially scratch or mark it. In addition, my work top is quite slippery and I found the bin would move around when opening or closing the door, or if it was accidentally nudged. I have cured the problem with a bit of non-slip matting and this works exceptionally well but I think the manufacturers should have put non-slip feet on the bread bin in the first instance. The second issue I have is with the finish. Overall, the matt black finish is very good, looks stylish and compliments my kitchen perfectly. However, there are pin heads that have been left in the brushed silver colour. No other part of the bread bin is chrome or silver in colour so why were these left? Why weren't they painted to match the rest of the bin? This point may be a bit anal, but it just looks unfinished and given the cost of this bread bin it is poor in this respect. We paid £19.99 for our bread bin, which I thought was quite expensive, and this is meant to be one of the cheaper bread bins in the Brabantia range. Despite the relatively high price I am satisfied with this product and it does exactly what it says on the tin. It is large enough for our needs, the quality of the aluminium is very good, it is sturdy and durable and it is black, although I wouldn't recommend it over and above other bread bins. I have to admit that we wanted a black bread bin and this was the first one we saw and subsequently bought it. We didn't shop around for alternatives or better prices, therefore we didn't get the best product at the best price and took the 'lazy' shoppers option which I now regret, especially given that I have recently seen a larger and better made black bread bin in John Lewis for less money.