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Iron Coffins: A Personal Account Of The German U-boat Battles Of World War II
Iron Coffins: A Personal Account Of The German U-boat Battles Of World War II

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Alarrrrmmm!", April 11, 2013
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"Alarrrmmm!" is a word no U-Boat crew member wanted to hear, especially when on the surface, but it was heard with terrifying regularity as the War in the Atlantic turned in the allies favor.

I have to admit that as a Brit I was curious as to what my own reaction to reading "Iron Coffins" would be. Sure, I've read lots of WWII history, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account, The Nuremberg Trial, Reach for the Sky, The Colditz Story, plus many, many more too numerous to mention, over the years. But as you can tell from the short list above, these were tales told invariably from the perspective of the Allies, because as always, it's the victors who write the history!

So I didn't really know what I would make of the story of a young WWII Offiziersanwärter (Officer Cadet), who rose to command his own U-Boats by wars end, especially as he started his career not long after the phase of the War in the Atlantic known to the U-Boat crews as "Die Glückliche Zeit" ("The Happy Time"), when, for seven long months during 1940 - 1941, German U-Boat Wolf Packs roamed the Atlantic practically at will, decimating Allied shipping.

The book is split into three main parts, "Years of Glory," "Above Us, Hell," and finally, "Disaster and Defeat." So even though the ultimate outcome of the story is never in doubt, it is clear from the chapter headings that the author is going to spare us nothing of the pride, elation, disquiet, fear, terror, and despair that he and his colleagues felt as the War progressed to its inevitable, and bitter end.

We first meet Werner as a fresh faced graduate from the German Naval Academy in Flensburg; he was 21yrs old, and had taken the first fateful steps in, hopefully, fulfilling the dreams of his father, who longed to see his son wearing an Admiral's Stripes! Much to his own surprise, he and many of his friends are assigned to the U-Boats, and as a young, and inexperienced ensign, he had something of a "baptism of fire." On the way to be refitted for its next patrol, his boat was almost lost with all hands due to mechanical failure - or could it have been sabotage? - then once on patrol he experiences his first "kills," and survives the first of the countless depth-charging's he would suffer at the hands of Allied warships.

Werner's writing style is straightforward, unfussy, and naturalistic; I found myself quickly drawn into his story, as he celebrates the skill of his Captain, the crew around him, as well as their sometimes astonishing good luck. We also get a taste of Werner's life away from the "front lines," as he partakes of many shore leaves between patrols, traveling to see his family and assorted girlfriends, as well as spending time with his crew mates in various Parisian "etablissements."

As the war progresses, changes in tactics, as well as advances in radar and sonar technology, mean the hunters become the hunted, and Werner's story becomes one of survival, at times against seemingly impossible odds. Werner's naturalistic prose brings home the mind-shredding terror of sustained depth-charge attacks, of being bombed and strafed on the surface by aircraft that appear out of the blue, crash diving before batteries and oxygen supplies have been replenished, only to be depth-charged again and again. The U-Boats were hunted remorselessly, so-much-so that towards the end of the War every patrol became the equivalent of a suicide mission, with sometimes the damaged and hastily repaired boats themselves posing as much danger to the crews as the Allied warships and planes above them.

But it is Werner's slowly dawning realization that the war is not going their way, that Germany herself is under threat, that is, for me, the most compelling part of the book. A proud and loyal member of the Kriegsmarine, Werner was desperate to believe the promises and assurances of his superiors, that the Wunderwaffen (Wonder Weapons) being produced in secret factories would deliver them from the Allies, and that his beloved Germany would be saved; there's no talk here of the Nazi's "Thousand Year Reich," just survival. In the end, Werner's pain and despair as he finally understood that their superiors had lied to them, had recklessly sacrificed the U-Boat fleet and their crews for nothing, was palpable.

After finishing "Iron Coffins" I started checking around for similar books, and discovered a lot a negative commentary online directed at the book, and the author himself, mostly based upon accusations that Werner inflated the successes of the boats he was on, and his own importance. I think it's safe to say that both sides inflated their successes and minimized their losses, either through the Fog-of-War, time, or for deliberate propaganda purposes. Did Werner portray himself in the best possible light, I don't doubt it, who wouldn't? Did I believe every detail of the book happened just as the author said it did? No; this is memoir, not "history." I'll leave it to the historians and academics out there to bicker and argue over every dotted "i" and crossed "t;" I found myself enthralled, saddened, and ultimately moved by Werner's personal odyssey, and for me that's what counts.

It's odd that a book Werner's harshest critics recommend, Steel Boat, Iron Hearts by Hans Goebeler, is similarly flawed, as the author appeared to have misrepresented himself to a quite startling degree! Mind you, that hasn't stopped me from downloading the book to my iPad! LOL!

Finally, after my initial reticence it was the two following passages that convinced me to read "Iron Coffins."

"...these were the flower of young German manhood... they were as a group unsullied by the cancer which afflicted the leading body politic. Because their leaders told them so, they believed that if they fought desperately, they might save their country from the disaster plainly grinding in from every side. They expected death, and most of them found it; but they fought hard all the same, and they carpeted the ocean floor with their bodies." Edward L. Beach, Captain, U.S. Navy (Ret.), 15th February 1969. (From the Foreword.)

"...this book belongs to my dead comrades, stricken down wholesale in the prime of youth. I hope it pays them the honor they deserve. If I have succeeded in handing down to the reader the ancient lesson that each generation seems to forget - that war is evil, that it murders men - then I consider this my most constructive deed." Herbert A. Werner, January 1969. (From the Introduction.)

Star Trek: The Complete Original Series (Seasons 1-3) [Blu-ray]
Star Trek: The Complete Original Series (Seasons 1-3) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ William Shatner
Offered by Expedited Warehouse
Price: $86.05
81 used & new from $67.27

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Boldly going Blu-ray!, January 1, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Star Trek TOS on Blu-ray is so easy to recommend it's actually embarrassing, but one of the more persistent and valid criticisms of TOS over the years is the lack of continuity between episodes, or even the 3 seasons themselves, and this is understandable, because even though much of the writing and set-ups are very sophisticated, these were simpler times. Other than daytime soaps - for some reason Peyton Place: Part One springs to mind! LOL! - there were no "story arcs" or grand designs, and given the economics of TV production at the time, it was easier to schedule, and then sell/syndicate a show, if it was in a simple threat/monster/problem-of-the-week format.

After years of watching the show in production and/or transmission order, I decided to do something different and watch the season episodes in order of Star Date, so, if you decide you'd like to play along, here they are...

Season 1: Where No Man Has Gone Before, Mudd's Women, The Corbomite Maneuver, The Man Trap, Charlie X, The Enemy Within, The Naked Time, Balance Of Terror, The Squire Of Gothos, What Are Little Girls Made Of? Miri, Dagger Of The Mind, The Conscience Of The King, The Galileo Seven, Court Martial, The Menagerie parts 1 & 2, Shore Leave, Arena, The Alternative Factor, Tomorrow Is Yesterday, The City On The Edge Of Forever, Space Seed, The Return Of The Archons, A Taste Of Armageddon, The Devil In The Dark, Errand Of Mercy, Operation: Annihilate! and, This Side Of Paradise.

Season 2: Patterns Of Force, Catspaw, The Gamesters Of Triskelion, Metamorphosis, Amok Time, Who Mourns For Adonais, The Deadly Years, Fridays Child, The Changeling, Wolf In The Fold, Obsession, The Apple, Journey To Babel, Bread And Circuses, The Doomsday Machine, A Private Little War, The Immunity Syndrome, I Mudd, The Trouble With Tribbles, A Piece Of The Action, By Any Other Name, The Ultimate Computer, Return To Tomorrow, Mirror Mirror, The Omega Glory, and, Assignment: Earth.

Season 3: Elaan Of Troyius, Spectre Of The Gun, The Paradise Syndrome, The Enterprise Incident, And The Children Shall Lead, The Empath, The Mark Of Gideon, Spock's Brain, For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky, Is There In Truth No Beauty, The Tholian Web, Wink Of An Eye, Whom Gods Destroy, The Lights Of Zetar, Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, Plato's Stepchildren, The Cloud Minders, The Way To Eden, Requiem For Methuselah, The Savage Curtain, Turnabout Intruder, All Our Yesterdays, Day Of The Dove, and, That Which Survives. The Season 3 set also contains two different versions of the original pilot, The Cage.

If you are reading this review, but have never actually seen TOS - is that even possible?!?!?! - be aware... MILD SPOILERS AHEAD!

The biggest downside to watching in the Star Date format is that it involves a fair amount of disc swapping; the first 3 episodes of Season 1, "Where No Man Has Gone Before," "Mudd's Women," and "The Corbomite Maneuver," are on discs 1, 2, and 3 respectively, and you then go back to disc 1 for "The Man Trap," and "Charlie X."

Watching by Star Date also throws up some interesting anomalies and juxtapositions. In Season 1 for instance, the transition between the hard Sci-Fi drama of "Where No Man Has Gone Before," and the comedic stylings of "Mudd's Women," thanks to the sly and playful performance of Roger C. Carmel as Harcourt Fenton Mudd, is pretty jarring if watched back-to-back! You then have "Court Martial," in which Kirk is, well, court martialed, for the apparent death of a junior officer, followed immediately by "The Menagerie parts 1 & 2," in which Spock is court martialed for hijacking the Enterprise and heading off to the forbidden planet of Talos IV!

The next three episodes, "Shore Leave," "Arena," and, "The Alternative Factor," all feature extensive location shooting which was done at Vasquez Rocks, about 40 miles north of Los Angeles. The most famous of these is "Arena," where Kirk has to engage the Gorn (huge lizard-guy) in hand-to-hand combat while Spock, McCoy and the rest of the crew watch helplessly from the Enterprise. Immediately following these are the episodes, "Tomorrow Is Yesterday," and what is considered by most to be the pinnacle of TOS, and possibly of all Trek, "The City On The Edge Of Forever," both of which have time travel as their central theme.

Then we have the strange case of Nurse Chapel's affections! In the Season 1, 7th episode, "The Naked Time," she professes her undying love for Spock, but just three episodes later in, "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" we discover she originally joined Star Fleet with the sole purpose of being reunited with her lost-in-space fiance, and love-of-her-life, Dr Roger Korby, soon to be exposed as having been somewhat upgraded whilst away! But never fear, dear Christine is back to pining for Spock and bringing him soup, while he slowly loses his mind, in Season 2's, "Amok Time."

Season 1 gets off to a fantastic start with "Where No Man Has Gone Before," and ends on a bittersweet, even poetic note, with the final words of the season spoken by Spock, "For the first time in my life, I was happy," although the episode itself, "This Side Of Paradise," is a huge amount of fun as Spock loses his inhibitions, and falls in love!

Season 2 starts out strongly with "Patterns Of Force," but by the Star Date given, the events of this episode actually take place between Season 1's "The Squire Of Gothos" and "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" Similarly the 2nd episode, "Catspaw," takes place between the events of Season 1's "The Menagerie" and "Shore Leave," the 3rd & 4th episodes, " The Gamesters Of Triskelion" and "Metamorphosis," take place between the Season 1 episodes, "Errand Of Mercy" and "Operation: Annihilate!" and finally the 5th episode, "Amok Time," actually takes place between Season 1's "Operation: Annihilate!" and "This Side Of Paradise." Note: Try watching "Amok Time" and "This Side Of Paradise" back-to-back... that's just weird!

In the second half of the season we have "I, Mudd," marking the return of Season 1's ne'er-do-well titular character, the much-loved "The Trouble With Tribbles," and, "A Piece Of The Action" - which includes detailed instructions on how to play the universe's most confusing card game, "Fizzbin!" - all played with an emphasis on extracting as many laughs and chuckles as possible from the audience! The last three episodes of Season 2, the superlative "Mirror Mirror," "The Omega Glory," and "Assignment: Earth," are "Star Date: Unknown," so I put them at the end of my list, although I guess you could watch them in any order you like.

And then we come to Season 3, home to what is arguably the absolute nadir of all of Trekdom, the execrable "Spock's Brain," and "The Way To Eden," aka, "Space Hippies!" But all is not lost, each season has its stand-out episodes and Season 3 is no different; everyone has their own favorites of course, but mine include the surreal western "Spectre Of The Gun," "The Enterprise Incident," "The Tholian Web," "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" featuring a scenery-chewing performance from, Frank "The Riddler" Gorshin, and "All Our Yesterdays."

Once again we have a couple of bizarre Star Date overlaps between seasons with the weak season opener "Elaan Of Troyius," and personal favorite "Spectre Of The Gun," taking place between Season 2's "The Immunity Syndrome" and "I, Mudd," with "Day Of The Dove," "That Which Survives," and the original pilot, "The Cage," being "Star Date: Unknown."


There are other oddities and plot elements that make you go "huh?" - but I'll leave them to you to find, that's part of the fun! - but as I said at the beginning of my review, this is embarrassingly easy to recommend; if you're a fan of TOS and have a Blu-ray player, buy it!!!

What you have on the discs are the original programs, cleaned up and color balanced to the point where some of the scenes look as if they were filmed only yesterday! You also have the new "enhanced" versions that have had the original grungy old model shots replaced by beautiful new CGI footage, including all the shots of the Bridge View Screen. From the main menu you have the option to watch the episodes with, or without the new CGI, plus you can even switch between them while you're watching the show, although I find that very distracting.


Some of the new FX shots are positively cinematic in scope. One of the most dramatic is the scene in Season 1's "The Galileo Seven" where the shuttle Galileo, with Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and a few disposable "red shirts" aboard, takes off from the planet they were stranded on in the hopes of making orbit and being rescued by the Enterprise. For various reasons the Enterprise had been forced to leave, and in an act of desperation Spock ejects, then ignites, their remaining fuel to act as a cosmic flare, hoping to draw the attention of the ship, before they plunge back into the atmosphere and burn up. The first time I watched this I was blown away; the Galileo is seen from behind, with plumes of burning plasma(?) stretching out behind her as she arcs around the planet in a low, tight orbit... beautiful stuff!!!


There's also a new lossless multichannel soundtrack that puts you right in the center of the action, although not at the expense of the all-important dialog, plus you can also watch with the original Mono soundtrack if that is your wish. Also included are a seemingly endless series of extras, interviews and commentaries for those that like that sort of thing; needless to say this all makes Star Trek TOS on Blu-ray highly, HIGHLY recommended!!!

Macally G-S350SUA Hi-Speed eSATA/FireWire/USB2.0 Storage Enclosure for 3.5-Inch SATA HDD
Macally G-S350SUA Hi-Speed eSATA/FireWire/USB2.0 Storage Enclosure for 3.5-Inch SATA HDD

3.0 out of 5 stars Looks cool, but isn't... "cool.", June 11, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
First of all I'll say I think these drive cases look absolutely fantastic, with a very clean Apple inspired - I'm sure! - industrial design. I'm a PC user so have no interest in the Firewire, but bought it for the eSATA/USB connectivity.

I currently have 2 of the G-Tech's but have just re-organized my system and needed an additional 2TB external drive; I have a spare Caviar Black so just needed a case.

As an aside Macally makes the G-S350SU eSATA/USB2 case but it contains a "Power Saving" routine that spins down the drive after a certain period of time and cannot be overridden; I'm a photographer and will be working from the drive, I don't want it spinning down or hibernating unless I say so.

The Pros: The drive looks fantastic and certainly doesn't look out of place next to the G-Tech's. Installing the HD was very simple, just open the case, put the drive into the carrier, slide it onto the SATA connections, then lock it into place with the four supplied screws; quite elegant actually! The case powers the 2TB Caviar without any problems.

The Cons: The case is noisier than the G-Tech, and there was a slight "buzz" in the background from the case itself; it wasn't just the sound of the drive spinning up or being accessed. To be honest this is not something I couldn't have lived with if I had to, but what killed it for me, as I hinted at in the review title, was the issue of heat dissipation, or should I say the LACK of heat dissipation!

I installed the drive, started transferring some data, then left for a couple of hours to run some errands. When I got back I checked on the progress of the transfer, and touched the case out of interest to see how "warm" it was; to my surprise the case wasn't warm, it was hot, VERY hot! I decided to put the drive into one of the G-Tech cases, and that's when I got a second, even nastier surpise... after opening the case I found the drive itself was actually too hot to handle!!! :(

After running the drive for 4-5 hours inside the G-Tech case, the case itself was no warmer to the touch than when I'd run the 1TB drive it came with, then just out of interest I put the 1TB drive into the Macally case and ran it for a few hours; while it was warmer than the G-Tech, it wasn't worryingly so.

This is one of the few instances where I've taken advantage of Amazon's fantastic Returns Service, and it looks as if I'm going to have to spring for one of the ruinously expensive G-Tech's! LOL!

All in all I'd say the Macally is a terrific case for the price, but if you're looking to put a 7200rpm 2TB drive in it you might want to think twice.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 14, 2011 12:15 PM PDT

Pelican 0940 Compact Flash Memory Card Protective Case
Pelican 0940 Compact Flash Memory Card Protective Case

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rock Solid Digital Media Case..., April 23, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is the second Pelican Digital Media Case I've bought; I've had the SD Card Case for over a year now, and when I recently bought a 7D which takes CF media, well, there was only one choice in protective cases for all those expensive CF cards! LOL!

The polycarbonate case has a "sculpted," heavy duty look about it that screams "quality," but it's not just about looks. The full-length hinge is shrouded, and on my SD version at least, shows no sign of wear or loosening after a year of constant use; the same goes for the heavy duty clasp/latch that closes the case with a positive and audible "SNAP!"

Closing the case compresses an O Ring that forms a water resistant seal; the cards are held securely in form-fitting neoprene trays which also protect against physical shock, and stop the cards from flying around inside if the case is dropped.

The case also comes with a spare tray that will take a PCMCIA card - kind of redundant these days of course, but you might find a use for it - and holds 4x CF cards. I'm using 16GB Cards, shoot RAW only, so that would be good for over 2000 images, which is more than enough for me.

This case is tough, good looking, practical, and reasonably priced... buy one, you won't regret it!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 4, 2013 2:21 AM PDT

Neewer® LCD Timer Shutter Release Remote Control for Canon for Canon T4i/650D T1i/500D XT/350D XTi/400D XS/1000D XSi/450D 60D 100D 700D and Pentax Hasselblad Contax Samsung
Neewer® LCD Timer Shutter Release Remote Control for Canon for Canon T4i/650D T1i/500D XT/350D XTi/400D XS/1000D XSi/450D 60D 100D 700D and Pentax Hasselblad Contax Samsung
Offered by New Harbor
Price: $14.96
4 used & new from $14.96

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ridiculously good value for money!!!, April 23, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I bought this for use with an XSi as I want to try some time-lapse photography without spending a huge amount of money in the process... I'm not sure if this is something I'll "get into" in a big way.

The device itself is pretty intuitive to set-up and use, in fact once I played around with it and figured it out I looked at the manual to see if I'd missed anything, and put it down thinking that if I'd gone to the manual first, I probably would have been confused as to how to operate it! LOL!

I haven't had the time to go out and take a time-lapse sequence yet - land/cloud/starscapes are my area of interest - but I did set my camera on my desk beside my computer the other evening with the timer plugged in, and let it take photos at varying intervals all night; I think it was running for 5hrs all told and it didn't miss a beat. I used it on Manual and Bulb without a problem; on Aperture and Shutter Priority it worked like a charm, activating the autofocus each time prior to the shot being taken.

The following should be of interest to those who want to utilize the Mirror Lock-Up ability of the XSi; if you do so with this timer, you will need to "take" two shots per photo needed for your sequence. This is because Mirror Lock-Up on the XSi is a two-stage process, the first press of the shutter lifts the mirror out of the way and locks it into position, and the second press actually takes the photo and drops the mirror back down ready for the next cycle. So, if you want to take a shot every 10 seconds with Mirror Lock-Up, you'll need to program the timer to take 1 shot every 5 seconds.

In fact I've just bought a 7D and the Mirror Lock-Up is exactly the same as on the XSi, so I'm assuming this is standard across the board for Canon cameras; not sure about Nikon etc.

For something this inexpensive the build quality is perfectly acceptable; I tend to "baby" my equipment and would expect to get a reasonable amount of use out of the product. Yes, the lack of an On/Off switch is something of an annoyance, but really, when it's not being used all that's being powered is the LCD display, and a couple of AAA's have got to be good for a year or so! LOL!

Based on the fact that the timer works flawlessly, and its low price, this is an easy 5 Star recommendation!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 16, 2011 8:35 PM PDT

Gary Fong Puffer Pop Up flash Diffuser for DSLR's CANON / NIKON / OLYMPUS / PENTAX (excluding Canon T4i)
Gary Fong Puffer Pop Up flash Diffuser for DSLR's CANON / NIKON / OLYMPUS / PENTAX (excluding Canon T4i)
Offered by CameraSpot
Price: $23.95
18 used & new from $11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Red-eye, begone!, March 16, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I rarely take flash photos with the pop-up on my camera, and don't own a hot shoe unit; all of my photos, indoors and out, are taken via available light, but I have to admit there's been the odd time when a flash would come in handy, for a bit of fill-in for instance. So I finally took the plunge and parted with my $20 or so for the Puffer, and I have to say I'm glad I did!

I paid close attention to the 1 star reviews, and was very aware of the issues that some people seemed to be having with the unit as far as its "build quality" was concerned, so when it turned up I wasn't exactly expecting anything particularly substantial. It's plastic of course, but not particularly "brittle;" I never felt that it was going to snap for instance, and it slides on and off my hot shoe without any problem whatsoever.

I found the easiest way to set it up initially was to put the "frame" onto the hot shoe, pop the flash, adjust the diffuser up and down in front of the arms 'til you find the sweet spot where the center of the flash and diffuser more or less line up, take the frame off, push the diffuser onto the ends of the arms, then pop the whole shebang back onto the hot shoe and you should be good to go!

Once I had it adjusted as accurately as I could I just left it assembled and threw it in my camera bag; it's slides right onto the hot shoe without any bother, as long as the flash is down.

A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words, so I've posted two photos, the black cat, and cropped in fairly tight to his eyes. I did want to show you "before" and "after" shots, but cats, or at least mine, never co-operate; as soon as the flash went off in his face he was out of there! LOL!

The photo was taken with a Canon XSi + 50mm 1.4 @ f2.8; I was fairly close, and am quite sure that without the Puffer the red-eye would have been absolutely vicious. All I can really say is that for me, the Puffer works, and with the exceedingly limited amount of use it will probably get, I still consider it to be terrific value for money.

Journey to the Far Side of the Sun
Journey to the Far Side of the Sun
DVD ~ Roy Thinnes
Price: $15.32
46 used & new from $7.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars See you in three weeks, August 26, 2008
"Journey to the far side of the Sun" is almost unique in SciFi films - fondly remembered from the last time I watched it, probably 20yrs ago on British TV - it's almost pure cheese, but sublime, magnificent, exquisitely produced cheese of the finest vintage!!! This is a B film that - no pun intended - reaches for the stars, that aspires to cinematic greatness, and the fact that it fails to reach those heady heights in no way diminishes it. For those who are familiar with the Anderson's live-action work, and who haven't yet seen the film, imagine a cross between UFO, Space 1999, and 2001 - A Space Odyssey. Yup, hard to imagine I know, but that'll give you SOME idea of what you're in for when you pop this "classic" into your shiny-disc player!

For years "Journey..." has been the Holy Grail of Gerry & Sylvia - Da da DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!! - Anderson's oeuvre. Released for the first time on disc back in '98 I believe, it's been, as far as I know, unavailable at least since I got my first DVD player in about 2002; I almost fell out of my chair when I saw that it had been re-issued at LAST!!!

Staring Roy "The Invaders" Thinnes, Ian Hendry, and Patrick Wymark, who comes off as a poor-mans Anthony Hopkins, it also features a good chunk of the "Anderson Repertory Company." Yes, Ed Bishop is there - sans UFO blond wig - along with George Sewell, Vladek Sheybal - he of the cadaverous countenance and Peter Lorre vocal stylings - Philip Madoc, Keith Alexander, and a bunch of others you would see wandering around in the background of just about any UFO, Space 1999 etc. episode. Plus, as an added extra, for Patrick Troughton/Jon Pertwee/Tom Baker era Doctor Who fans, there's a blink and you'll miss 'im appearance by the once and future "Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart," Nicholas Courtney, as a medical technician during a rocket launch. There's also a guest appearance by the wonderful Herbert Lom in a brief but pivotal role.

The basic idea of the film is great; an automated solar probe orbits behind the Sun for the first time, and brings back proof of the existence of an unknown planet, in exactly the same orbit as the Earth, to an astonished EUROSEC, the European space agency. The scientific and military potential of this discovery is incalculable, and the no-nonsense CEO of EUROSEC, "Jason Webb," played by Patrick Wymark, browbeats the board, made up of the other European spacefaring members, into accepting the need for a manned mission. That is until he drops the cost of the project on them, Three Thousand Million Pounds Sterling; after much politicking and arm-twisting he convinces NASA to cough up a measly one billion Dollars, which forces everyone else to fall into line. This allows said "Journey..." to proceed, but the mission then seems to fail in the most spectacular fashion, and it is during the resulting inquiry that the real adventure begins!!!

First, the good stuff; the main actors are more than serviceable. Wymark dominates the early part of the film as the head of EUROSEC, alternating between arrogant British smugness and scenery-chewing tirades, Thinnes and Hendry, as astronaut "Colonel Glenn Ross" and astrophysicist "John Kane" respectively, do all they need to make their characters believable in the context of the film. The fantastically, almost fetishistically, detailed models and miniatures of Derek Meddings and his team are a joy to see; no terabytes of CGI here, these are real, solid, they have a sense of weight, of mass, the way they move, but they are ALWAYS "models!" However in spite of this they do manage to pull off a couple of wonderful scenes; there's a shot of the ship in orbit with the sun rising over the planets rim that, given the technology available at the time, is astonishingly beautiful. Then there's a crash landing on the planet and its immediate aftermath that is incredibly well done, a wonderful mix of Meddings' model work and live action on full-size sets, with some incredibly eerie and atmospheric lighting effects and music! Then there's a scene that many other reviewers disliked, the main journey to the planet itself, where Ross and Kane are put into a kind of suspended animation, and you get a very dreamlike, expressionistic version of the trip and time passing; I thought that was exceptionally well realized!

And now to the bad; the execution just doesn't live up to the premise, from the recycled, and sometimes jarringly inappropriate, musical themes, to dear old Sylvies wince inducing "Century 21" fashions; dear viewer, if you are of delicate disposition try not to gouge your own eyes out after seeing what they forced poor Ian Hendry to wear for the "airport" scene when we're introduced to Thinnes' character for the first time!!! Then there's the aluminum foil spacesuits, the sometimes shaky model work, the F.A.B. groovy, "futuristic" cars and run-a-bouts that were recycled into UFO, and the most ludicrous photo-developing process known to man; this is so bad it's wonderful!!! And as for the ending, oh my GOD, what WHERE they thinking?! But hey, at least there're no Moonbase babes wearing silver micro-mini's, purple wigs, and glitter eye shadow!!!

And bizarrely, in amongst all of the above there's a much darker edge that moves the film away from purely kiddy-fare into much more adult areas. There's the brutal extra-judicial execution of a spy ordered by a snarling Jason Webb, and a scene where Ross' wife viciously taunts him about his "manhood" and their inability to have a child, that made me wince when I watched the film again after all these years.

Well, what can I say, I've watched this twice now since it arrived, it may be cheese, but it's wonderful! Highly recommended for Anderson fans, and lovers of the kitsch and the camp everywhere!!!

Doctor Who: The Complete Third Series
Doctor Who: The Complete Third Series
DVD ~ David Tennant
Price: $40.34
15 used & new from $20.80

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oi! Martian Boy!!!, January 20, 2008
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
After the crazy, wonderful, "Fan-TASTIC!" roller coaster ride of Seasons 1 & 2, with their "Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways" and "Army of Ghosts/Doomsday" finale's, it was almost inevitable that Season 3 would not be able to maintain the sheer excellence of what had gone before. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Season 3 is bad, not by a very long shot! You'll have noticed, I hope, the 5 Star rating, but to my mind at least, Season 3 didn't quite reach the same dizzying heights of 1 & 2, and the reason why is, I think, obvious... Rose Tyler.

Her development, from London shop-girl, to time traveler, explorer of the universe, and killer of Daleks, helped drive the stories in a new more mature, more emotionally fulfilling direction, and let's not forget the heartbreaking finale on the beach in Norway! No, Seasons 1 & 2 became the story of Rose - and Mickey, and Pete, and Jackie! - much as Babylon 5, when looked at from the perspective of the entire 5 year series, was the interconnected story of Londo and G'Kar.

So, after all this bleating and whining about Rose, is Season 3 worth getting? If you've enjoyed the first two, the answer to that question is a definite and unequivocal "YES!!!" The new season gets off to a rollicking start with the now customary "Christmas Special" called, "The Runaway Bride." For me "Donna," the titular Bride, played by Catherine Tate, is the reason this episode works so well. Walking up the Isle on her Wedding Day, she's inexplicably transported to the Console Room of the TARDIS whilst it's in flight; alternately yelling accusations and questions at the Doctor while barely stopping to hear answers she can't possibly comprehend, she's loud, brash, and obnoxious. Basically, she's the "Anti-Rose!" Her withering retort to the Doctor of, "You're just making it up, that's not even a real word!" when told that "this" is the "TARDIS" is typical of her approach, as is her repeated reference to him as "Martian Boy!" The episode also features the return of the robotic Santa's from "The Christmas Invasion," this time in the service of a far more dangerous and malignant master, or should that be "Mistress?!"

The season proper gets off to a good start with the first official episode, "Smith and Jones," which introduces us to the Doctor's new Companion, "Martha Jones," a medical student who gets caught up in the hunt for a vampire-style alien that's taken refuge in the hospital where she works. Played by relative newcomer Freema Agyeman, Martha is Book-Smart AND Street-Smart; so, once again we have a companion who's almost the exact opposite of Rose, but without all the yelling and verbal abuse dished out by Donna! With the entire hospital somehow transported to the Moon and taken over by the Judoon, a kind of intergalactic police force - "Judoon on the Moon" the Doctor quips as their ships land in the distance - Martha more-or-less accepts the situation and works with the Doctor to find the "alien" before the Judoon find HIM. They may be cops and technologically advanced, but they're not very bright; they're looking for an alien and if they find the Doctor first, he'll be clapped in irons and hauled off to a cozy cell on one of those Judoon ships for transport to who-knows-where!

Needless to say after being returned to Earth after many a close call, Martha can't wait for another adventure, so the Doctor whisks her off to meet "The Bard" himself in "The Shakespeare Code," where there's the question of those pesky Witches to be dealt with! Again, another fun episode with a very contemporary "Man Of Letters" played by Dean Lennox Kelly, who greatly admires Martha's "fitted" attire; but oh dear, what did/will the Doctor do to upset Her Majesty?!?!?! LOL!

So, Season 3 gets off to a very strong start, but as a whole, this is probably the most uneven season so far. All the stories and concepts are wonderful as always, even if a few of them feel somewhat derivative, which is not a problem in and of itself, just look at Season 2's "The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit" two-parter which gave us some great Alien-esque thrills!

For me, the most disappointing story of Season 3 was one I couldn't wait to see, "Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks." The story concept is great, possibly one of the most ambitious to date, unfortunately the execution fell very short indeed. To save themselves we saw the "Cult of Skaro" perform an Emergency Temporal Shift when the Doctor opened the doorway between Earth and Parallel Earth at the end of Doomsday, for one last time. We then jump to 1930's New York and the construction of the Empire State Building, and who should be behind the project but everyone's favorite homicidal pepper-pots. There're some truly wonderful visuals in this story; there's something about the 30's Art Deco look and the new blinged-out Daleks that's just perfect, and the production team did a great job of invoking the look, feel, and sound, of Depression Era New York.

From an army of untold millions the Dalek race had been reduced to just four. Teetering on the brink of extinction they came up with a radical, some would say "sacrilegious," plan to not only save themselves, but to breed a new Dalek army. Working in secret they kidnapped the destitute, down-and-outs, the homeless, the unwanted, and fused human DNA with their own. These Dalek/Human hybrids are empty shells, waiting for the spark of life to be introduced, and it's here that the Empire State Building comes into play. The building is going to be the conductor for a massive blast of Gamma radiation emanating from the Sun as part of an enormous Solar Flare, waking the new Dalek army. But Dalek Sec, the leader of the Cult of Skaro, has an even more extreme plan in mind; "The Children of Skaro" he says, "must once more walk outside the Shell!" He plans to physically join with a Human host, thus creating a true Dalek/Human hybrid, and a creature that the others will surely view as an abomination!

Didn't I say this story was ambitious?!?!?! When Sec let the others know what he intended to do I almost had to change my underwear, I was THAT excited! LOL! But oh, the horror... when the hybrid - which I immediately dubbed "Hat-Sec!" - was revealed, I was suddenly transported back to the bad old days of rubber monsters, cardboard sets, and cheesy FX! And even though the rest of the story, and it's final resolution, was excitingly, even thrillingly told, poor old Hat-Sec sucked the life out of it for me!

But hey, it's not all-bad, remember that 5 Star rating! From here on in the stories really start to excel, "The Lazarus Experiment" is Who's take on The Fly, and also served to introduce us to Martha's less than perfect family. "42" is an excitingly told "countdown to disaster" type tale, with more Alien-type thrills, a touch of Danny Boyles Sunshine, and even a smidgen of Event Horizon thrown in for good measure!

The last 6 episodes of the series are simply stunning, and are, quite frankly, worth the price of admission all by themselves! "Human Nature/Family Of Blood" has the Doctor on the run from a group of aliens who want to harness his ability to regenerate. Hiding out in pre-WWI England the Doctor "becomes" Human by downloading his Time Lord consciousness into a fob watch, and Martha is tasked with protecting him at all costs. The final lines of the episode, "They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old/Age shall not wither them nor the years condemn/At the going down of the sun and in the morning/We shall remember them," (from "For the Fallen" by Laurence Binyon, a commemorative poem written for those who lost their lives in WWI) is especially moving when seen in the context of the story.

The next story "Blink" barely has the Doctor or Martha in it at all, and yet is, without a doubt, one of the most imaginative, inventive, and scary episodes of all the new seasons to date... "Beware the Weeping Angels!!!"

This then leads us into the three-episode finale, "Utopia/The Sound Of Drums/Last Of The Time Lords," which is quite simply magnificent! A new/old favorite returns and travels with the Doctor and Martha to the End Of Time itself, where an even older nemesis is reborn! And even if the ending itself is somewhat weak, even contrived (as is Martha's almost immediate attraction to the Doctor), as many have said, this is still a worthy and emotional conclusion to the season!!! HIGHLY recommended... even with "Hat-Sec!" LOL!

Sexy Beast
Sexy Beast
DVD ~ Ray Winstone
Offered by SourceMedia
Price: $29.96
55 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I won't let you be happy, December 23, 2007
This review is from: Sexy Beast (DVD)
These words, "I won't let you be happy, why should I?" are spoken by "Don Logan," homicidal, sociopathic enforcer for London Mob boss "Teddy Bass," AKA, "The Man With The Plan." Logan is the central protagonist in "Sexy Beast," to "Gary 'Gal' Dove," a comfortably retired blagger - bank robber - living in Spain with his wife, and ex-porn star, "Deedee." When not hanging 'round the pool of their villa, Gal and Deedee spend time in bars and restaurants with another couple, "Aitch" - as in the letter "H" - and "Jackie." Aitch is another ex-blagger spending his twilight years soaking up the Spanish sun and living the good life... such as it is.

Gal may be an ex-criminal, a safecracker by specialty, but he's paid the price for one job too many, done his time inside, and he's good people. You can see that by the way he jokes around with the couples pool boy, "ordering" him to clean-up the place while he, Gal, lays around on his lounger, bemoaning the current state of "Dear Old Blighty" and its people, in a somewhat forthright, expletive laden manner! LOL!

The plot of Sexy Beast is as brutally straightforward as is its protagonists. Bass has worked out how to knock-off the most lucrative, most secure vault in London, outside of the Bank of England, and he wants - doesn't necessarily "need" mind you, but for his own reasons wants - Gal in on the job. Gal, as we know, is retired, unfortunately for him he's definitely wanted, and Don is dispatched to bring him back... one way or another.

The first time we hear about Don is when Gal, Deedee, Aitch, and Jackie, sitting in their favorite restaurant, discuss the phone call Jackie received from London letting her know he'd be flying out to see them shortly. Like "Kaiser Soeze" in The Usual Suspects, Don is a character of fearsome, almost mythic reputation, but unlike Soeze, there's no doubting the existence of Don; a real-life bogeyman, monster, psychopath, capable of acts of the most extreme violence in return for little or no provocation. As the foursome sit 'round their table, appetites suddenly gone, their hushed and plainly frightened tones tell us all we really need to know about Don Logan.

Next we see Logan being driven out to Gal's villa from the airport by Aitch and Jackie. They ride in silence, Don looks out the window at the passing countryside with the dead, emotionless eyes of a shark; Aitch and Jackie make sure they give Don no reason to talk to them. They pull up outside the villa, Gal nervously comes out to greet his unwelcome visitor, but Don is not happy, he doesn't like the heat, he's sweating, and he announces his displeasure to those present with a stream of profanity laced invective that would make a drunken sailor blush! (I watched this with a friend a while back, and his reaction to this scene was classic, the shocked look on his face said it all; "WHAT?!?!?! This is the guy who won an Oscar playing Gandhi?!?!?!" LOL!)

The film has a wonderful ensemble cast, but is dominated, and rightly so, by Ben Kingsley's terrifying, murderously savage portrayal of Don Logan, perfectly described in the Amazon Editorial above as, "human nitroglycerine;" everyone around him avoids making eye contact, as if he was a rabid dog. Ray Winston, as Gal, gives another one of his seemingly effortless performances of an ordinary bloke - no saint, but not "bad" either - who you'd buy a pint for if you met him down the pub. And a special mention must go to Ian MacShane as the mobster Bass, all hooded reptilian eyes and blank face, who's act of coldly executed murder towards the end of the film is just as shocking as Logan's frequent outbursts of hysterical violence. Kudos also to Amanda Redmond as DeeDee, Cavan Kendal as Aitch, and Julianne White as Jackie.

Sexy Beast comes from a long line of venerable British gangster films such as Michael Caine's original Get Carter, and the incendiary debut of Bob Hoskins in The Long Good Friday. So be warned, there's a rawness, and an in-your-face brutality about the film that you don't find in most US movies, especially in the script, the one exception I can think of at the moment is the NC17 version of Bad Lieutenant. (Also, American viewers may want to switch on the subtitles at least initially, 'til your ears become accustomed to the strong Cockney accents! LOL!) Needless to say, this one is HIGHLY recommended!

War (Widescreen Edition)
War (Widescreen Edition)
DVD ~ Jet Li
Offered by Surplus DVD Source
Price: $5.99
237 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Li and Statham go to War, December 23, 2007
This review is from: War (Widescreen Edition) (DVD)
Even though it had been almost universally slammed by the critics, and some of Li and Statham's more rabid fanbase, upon release, I still parted with my 8 bucks-or-so to see this in the theatre when it opened, and I have to say, I came away from the screening pretty happy.

You want action, we got action. You want T&A, we got T&A. You want Jet Li as Mr Supercool Bad-a** Killing Machine... well, he is. You want Jason Statham chewing the scenery, well, he does, but not to the same degree as in Crank. The film starts out as a fairly standard "revenger," with Statham's puzzlingly Cockney Federal Agent "John Crawford" out to avenge the death of his partner at the hands of uber-assassin "Rogue," nicely underplayed by Jet Li.

The two protagonists are as different as chalk and cheese; Crawford is a no-nonsense bull-in-a-china-shop, barging in with guns blazing, squinty-eyed, furiously chewing gum, or a toothpick, whilst snarling his dialogue into the faces of the bad guys. Rogue is "Ah-nalds" Terminator in human form, cold, calculating, and relentlessly unstoppable. In fact, he's so cool and bad-a** that he has his Teflon-coated titanium ammunition hand-made in Europe, and keeps one step ahead of the law by going under the plastic surgeons knife so there're no up-to-date photos of him in the police files.

Once you have the basic set-up straight, and are just sitting there waiting for Li and Statham to have at it, the plot suddenly veers off into unexpected territory; it would appear that Rogue has his own agenda, and this involves playing the Yakuza and the Triads off, one against the other. Exactly why he's doing this is ultimately revealed with a couple of twists during the final minutes of the film that I did NOT see coming. In fact one of these is SOOOO outlandish that it's going to have you either choking on your popcorn and soda spluttering "WHAAAAT?!?!?!" and will ruin the whole movie for you, or you'll just say "cool..." and roll with it. Now, for those of us of a "certain age" I can tell you that it's not as bad as the entire season of Dallas that turned out to be a dream while Bobby was in the shower, but it's getting up there! LOL!

A nice extra for me is that the film features Ryo Ishibashi, in a prominent supporting role as Yakuza crime lord "Shiro," who you might have seen in Audition, American Yakuza, and Suicide Club amongst others. He has some good scenes including a nicely choreographed, and satisfyingly bloody, sword fight with Li. Also watch for a very funny scene where hottie Devon Aoki, as Shiro's daughter, reprimands two of his subordinates, then demands that they fetch her a salad... with dressing on the side!

Just remember folks, this is a Jet Li/Jason Statham action flick here, we're NOT talking Citizen Kane or The Godfather! Forget the hype, don't go in with unreasonable expectations, just watch Li and Statham doing their thing, and you may actually give yourself a fighting chance of enjoying this one on its own terms!

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