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Friday, January 10, 2014

It's Elementary....

This weekend, we will see the final episode in the current series of Sherlock, on BBC1.

I love this series.  In true, BBC style, it has very high production values, is well shot; the stories are great (even if there are glaring plot holes) and the acting is sublime.

I take my (deerstalker) hat off to Benedict Cumberbatch, for his portrayal of the famous detective, and Martin Freeman is excellent as his sidekick, Watson.

With the third series wrapping up; and with the announcement that there are plans for a forth and fifth series, I thought I'd ask the question - modern or historical?

There's been a sort of renaissance with Sherlock Holmes, as not only have the Beeb done their bit; but Hollywood has also got involved; albeit with the historical setting and costume.

Robert Downey Jnr (he who wears an Iron suit) along with Jude Law, resurrected the character in a couple of big screen outings.  Now, these were great fun, lots of bang for your buck, with the wit and charm all included.  But - is this better than the high-brow, clever scripting of the Sherlock we've been watching on television?

Is it better, or just different?  Maybe they're both as good as each other, but to be taken with different points of view.

The dark, mystical, on-the-spectrum character; played by Cumberbatch, or the frivolous, comical and less serious version; as played by Downey Jnr?

Personally; I prefer the television version, for no other reason than it is just brilliantly written, acted, directed and produced; and there is depth of character and light humour in equal measure.  What more can you ask for on a cold, dark, winter night.

Here's the trailer for "His Last Vow" - Sunday 8:30pm on BBC 1

Now, dear reader.  It's over to you...

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Monday, December 02, 2013

Review - Saving Mr Banks

Walt Disney.  A name associated with cartoon mice, ducks, dogs and everything in between.  He was also the man who virtually dragged the story of Mary Poppins onto the big screen.

P.L. Travers, the author and creator of the magical nanny, was adamant that a man who had never, at the time, made a live-action film, was not going to add sparkle to her story.

Over a 20 year period, with annual requests to sell the rights, Walt Disney urged and encouraged her to sign them to him.  After all, he had promised his daughters that he would make the film.  Finally; with her agent explaining that the money was running out, she took a trip to California, to work with Disney, the Sherman brothers and the rest of the team, to create the film she would approve of.

Tom Hanks inspires as Walt Disney; the first time the film-maker has been portrayed as a main character in a film.

Emma Thompson, who has previously played a nanny (Nanny McPhee) is just superb as P.L. Travers; her vitriol about Walt Disney and his team really help to show the type of person she was.

It's the flashbacks (almost a film within a film) that shows her childhood, as she grew up in Australia.  Her father, played by Colin Farrell, was a huge part of her life; they had an lovely relationship, which never falters.  It wasn't until she reached the age of 20 before she came to the UK and re-invented herself.

Admittedly, the film got off to a slow start, but - spit spot - it soon shook itself into shape, and with the regular flashbacks, and wonderful acting of Annie Buckley, as the young author, not to mention the Sherman brothers (played by Jason Schwarzman and BJ Novak) we were soon hoping the film would be made (which, of course it was).

The locations were just fabulous; even some filming in Disneyland (they shut part of the park for a couple of days in November 2012).  Paul Giamatti was great as the driver; in fact, I think it was, in part his character, Ralph, who helped to seal the deal!

Top Tip - stay through the end credits.  P.L. Travers demanded that all the meetings were recorded.  You'll be able to hear some of the actual audio recordings; and realise just how fierce she really was.

Directed by John Lee Hancock (last film directed "The Blind Side", which was nominated for best film at the 2010 Oscars), this is definitely one to see - you'll be tapping along and maybe humming as they "go fly a kite".

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Review - Robbie Williams - Swings Both Ways

The new Robbie Williams album "Swings Both Ways" is a tour de force, including some great name stars to sing-along-a-Robbie.

His current single "Go Gentle" is just lovely, and the Jungle Book favourite is so well done, with Olly Murs.  You can see it in the video below.

Michael Bublé, Lily Allen, Rufus Wainwright and Kelly Clarkson also lend a hand, which show what pulling power our Robbie has, when it comes to putting an album together.

None of the tracks are duds.  He works each one, reflecting their mood with a charisma and charm, and the richness they deserve.  I particularly like "Little Green Apples" with Kelly Clarkson, and "Soda Pop" with Michael BublĂ©.  "Minnie The Moocher" and "Puttin' On The Ritz" don't disappoint.

This album became the 1000th Number One album in the UK, last weekend, and whilst it is unlikely to remain there (due to a certain One Direction launching their 3rd album), it is no surprise it came straight into the top of the chart.

Over the years, he has entertained, surprised and delighted fans, all over the world, and this (along with Swing When You're Winning) in my humble opinion, are his best work.

This video is taken from The Graham Norton Show, on BBC1, on November 22nd.  It is a pure demonstration of his, and Olly's, showmanship.  I guarantee you'll be smiling all the way...

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Review - Blaq

Follow me on Twitter.

We hear and read it all the time.  Twitter - a social media monster, that has taken the world by storm, and in my opinion, beats facebook every time.

It's quick.  It's succinct.  It's in the moment - quite literally.

There are many desktop and mobile applications to manage your Twitter feed, but today I'm concentrating on one that, again in my opinion, is the best of breed, on BlackBerry 10.

Originally developed for the PlayBook, the team re-designed and re-built the application from the ground up, for BlackBerry 10.

First of all , it's native.  That means it's been built specifically for OS10 and not ported across from Android.
It up dates in real-time - there's no need to refresh, it will just do it.

When you first run the app, it launches in Help mode, leading you through the various features.  It's a nice touch, and you can access it again via Help in the settings menu.

The active frame (the minimised window) doesn't show recent tweets, but it does update if you receive a mention or direct message.  There's colour-coding for the different streams, so it's easy to see at a glance.
With BBM integration, you can share tweets with BBM contacts.

There is auto-completion of Twitter names, when adding to a tweet, which is more fulfilling than doing it on the native Twitter app.

Blaq can host multiple accounts, which are easy to switch between, so if you have more than one; i.e. for personal and business use, then you'll like the way this works.

Using simple gestures, you can access your Mentions, Direct Messages, Favourites and Lists.  You can also see a view of all your tweets that have been re-tweeted.  A nice touch.  There isn't a Connect view, and you can't see which of your tweets have been "favourite'd"!

A killer feature, for me anyway, is the ability to schedule tweets.  By accessing the settings icon, you can set the date and time for the tweet to be published.  If you have more than one, you can view a list of the scheduled tweets.

You can see previews of images in the tweets, and select them to open in full size.  From there you have the option to share it, save it, or even set as a wallpaper.

In the settings menu, you have ability to change the font size as well as the frequency with which the timeline is updated.  Note, when open, the timeline automatically updates - you can watch it do this as tweets flood in! However, when minimised to the active frame, the more often it refreshes in the background, the greater the drain on the battery.  The lowest you can set is 5 minutes, and the longest is an hour.

For each account, you can set the notifications individually.  This is one area where I find Blaq weak.
Mentions and Direct Message notifications tend to be late, so I have the option turned off in Blaq, and just use the native Twitter notifications.
It's also possible to set if you want the timeline to show your last read tweet, or to start at the latest tweet.

It goes without saying that you can post photos from the app, either directly from the camera, or by selecting an image from your library.

All in all, this is my "Go To" Twitter app.

Blaq is available for all BlackBerry10 devices, and is just £2.00.  Well worth it, if you as me.

You can find Blaq in BlackBerry World.

NB - After I wrote this, there was an post on CrackBerry about some upcoming changes.. all good stuff

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Review - Money Plus

Money makes the world go around, the world go around, the world....

Oh, OK.  No singing, but money is the subject of today's post.  Or rather, the management of money.

I like to be in control of my finances, and even if there isn't much of it, I like to record where it's going.  This is where Money Plus comes in.  Initially designed and built for the BlackBerry PlayBook, the developer jumped straight on the BlackBerry 10 and launched an app soon after release.

I've been using it on my Z10 since the day it was released, and haven't regretted it.
As a "Built for BlackBerry" application, you can rest assured this has been designed and built to the highest quality for BlackBerry devices.

It allows you to set up accounts (in multiple currencies if you so desire) and then set categories and payees to record your payments and income.  You can also make a note against the transaction, so you can remember what it was for.

The developer has been quite proactive in getting regular updates, with bug fixes and new functionality, and is very responsive to questions.

A recent update included location based transactions, so when you add a transaction, it automatically displays a list of your recent payees at that location.  This is a feature that builds up over time, as you "teach" the app where you are when you make the payment.
It also "remembers" the category for the payee, so entry of information is quick, as you only need to enter the amount.

It's also has the ability to tag the transaction as either "New" or "Cleared" so that you can see what is still pending.

I like the fact that the information is stored locally, and I can set a password if I want to.  I can also move the saved file to the cloud; like Dropbox, as a back-up, but that's my choice.

It's possible to filter the transaction list, so you only see the accounts you want, or the categories or payees you want; making it easy to see at a glance, where you've been spending your hard earned cash.

Updates are coming to set up regular payments, reducing the need to enter recurring payments each month, and that will be a welcome feature.

As you can see, this is a feature rich application, and whilst it's not free, at just £1.50, this is an app that is definitely worth the investment.

Money Plus is available in BlackBerry World and is compatible with all BlackBerry 10 devices and the PlayBook.

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