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ND Audio and Moving Image (Radio & TV)
HND in Moving Image (Media, Film & TV)
BA(Hons) Media and Performance
Interests: Stand Up Comedy, Film, Theatre, Books, Hiking, GAA Sports, Drinking, Darts, other ethnic cultures.
Ireland AM (2000)
A refreshing change from the normal boring early morning lifestyle talk shows
I am not a big fan of early morning chat shows. I find it quite difficult to watch people so bright and cheery at 7 o'clock in the morning. Every smile and sarcastic line that is presented from the presenters makes me recoil in torment and I really want to hit him or her over the head with the sledgehammer. It was therefore quite refreshing to come across Ireland AM on TV3.
I began watching Ireland AM when I was unemployed after graduating. It became apart of my daily routine to wake at 7 A.M. and watch the entire three hours it runs for till 10 AM when I would go to the Job Centre in search of employment. During this period of unemployment I became very familiar with the lay out of the show and the persona that all the presenters took on. I also found myself becoming very fond of their attitudes towards certain topics. Since getting a job I do not have the time to spare in the morning but I make the point of watching the Best of Ireland AM at the weekends.
What I have found quite refreshing about this show is that the producers, presenters & researchers go above and beyond the call of duty to cover all topics of interest. Their attitudes are that of genuine encouragement and support for all pieces on the show. The mainstream interests such as sport and popular entertainment are naturally covered but with Ireland AM you can also count on the team presenting quirky and eccentric items that I guarantee will get your interest. There devotion to health items is particularly impressive. Health debates have ranged from ingrown toenails to breast cancer awareness. I find these exposes very interesting as in recent years in Ireland the focus has been on preventive medicine. Certainly Ireland AM can accredit themselves to this because they also answer peoples worries about health problems with professional experts invited to talk about illness symptoms and routes to diagnosis's and hopefully cures.
The presenters are great. They do not come across as stuck up middle class idiots but they are the kind of people you would enjoy a pint in their company. However it did take me along time to warm to Mark Cagney. I found his method of interviewing sometimes very irritating. His technique mainly consists of asking an interviewee a question and then answering his own question with his own opinion. This at times is very annoying. We know the man is very intelligent but his constant need to prove it every morning becomes tiresome. But I will admit he is brilliant at his job and he has many years experience in the media industry. What's more amazing is that his enthusiasm has never waned and he is very spirited especially when it comes to criticizing Irelands prejudiced attitude to all things that are different. He was accompanied by the stunningly beautiful Maura Derrane up until recently but she resigned and now he his accompanied by the equally beautiful Sinead Desmond. In the wings to help with the shows mammoth amount of topics is the ever happy Alan Hughes.
A great effort from TV3 to brighten up Irelands morning TV schedule and I hope it continues on for a long time to come. No major faults from me. It ticks all the boxes for me that are required for me to thoroughly enjoy a show. It has something for everyone and is really worth the watch on cold winter mornings. 8 out of 10.
Give My Head Peace (1998)
Not the best sitcom in the world but you could do a lot worse
Had you asked me in 1998 would this show been still running in 2006 I would have said definitely not. I would have said that the critic's constant criticism of the script and the acting would have been enough for Damon Quinn, Tim McGarry and Michael McDowell to fold their tents. But to my surprise the three writers who make up half of the Hole in the wall gang are still going strong.
Set in Belfast it documents the lives of two northern Irish families each representing the loyalist and republican sides. The republican family consists of Sinn Fein members Da & Cal, the long-suffering Ma and voluptuous daughters Dymphna & Emer. The loyalist side is made up of the P.S.N.I Officer (formerly R.U.C) Billy and his loyalist mad uncle called Andy. One day the police raid the republican household and Protestant policeman Billy falls in love with Roman Catholic Emer and they marry. This sets the scene for one of Northern Irelands most dysfunctional mixed marriages ever.
I will first point out that I do not go out of my way to watch this show but when I do sit down and watch I find it quite enjoyable and at times very funny. But I also find certain areas of this show very tedious which has lead to me developing a love hate relationship with the show. The loyalist characters like Uncle Andy, Big Mervyn and Red Hand Luke make me laugh till my sides are sore, simply because there is extra thought incorporated into all their characterizations. From how they speak right down to what they wear and how they walk has me stitches. The walk in particular is my favorite. It is a combination of a strut and a march. This is the side of the show I like and it is always a delight too watch. This is because they rarely need to name check politicians or continuously remind us that they are loyalists. When we see them we know outright where their political beliefs lie. But seldom do they ever play the political angle and their main comedy source is their ignorance to what is different. This invariably leads to them having better story lines and when they do get a great story line none of the actors involved of making the plot work.
The side I hate of the show manifests itself with the republican characters whose antics are just simply annoying. The scripts never change. The actors who play the characters, with the exception of Ma, are terrible and their characterizations when compared to their loyalist counterparts I consider to be very lazy. They constantly sell the nationalist/republican side and although I am catholic and from Ireland I find it really annoying because it is nothing we haven't heard or spoofed before. There is very little entertainment in it for me. Some would argue that the loyalist characters suffer from the same problems. Yes they are stereotypical but it is evident that they do it better.
Yes it is stereotypical and two dimensional but this show still has a large fan base throughout Ireland. It's inoffensive and full of daft story lines to keep the fans entertained. The critics hate it but the public can't get enough. I personally won't be making a note in my TV diary to watch it, but if push come to shove and there is nothing else on I could do a lot worse. 4 out of 10
This show has seen better days
Hollyoak's is the brainchild of Phil Redmond. Redmond has provided the British public with some of the best cutting edge drama in the last 30 years. Beginning with Grange Hill in 1978 he established what has now become a legendary national treasure depicting the trials and tribulations of teenagers in their G.C.S.E and A-Levels. He then created Brookside, which changed the story lines of British Soaps forever with its continuous devotion to depict gritty, real suburban live. A programme set in Redmond's native Liverpool that revolved around a community of adults. Then in the 1990's came Hollyoaks. This was Redmond's project to depict live of the twenty something's in Chester.
On its release in 1995 it was considered typical Redmond's style. Its depiction of real live issues was sometimes relentlessly hard to watch but in other areas it was terrifically funny. It's cast were wonderful with the emphasis was on a naturalistic performance. The writing was crisp and fresh and very inventive. It dealt in a very mature fashion with the issues depicted and its sensitive approach meant that the soap was held very high in both the public and industries eyes. But as the old cast began to move on and replacements were drafting in it became clear that the previous hard work was being replaced by glamour and over the top story lines. The new actors were looks friendly and not very talented and the acting descended from well thought out characterizations to populist acting. This consists of over the top performances throughout the episode. It is quite frustrating to see this considering whatever went before them were genuine actors and actresses. This is not helped by the over the top story lines. Since January 2006 there has been a kidnapping, incarceration of a rapist who then escapes and commits mass murder. It is now Sept 2006 and the big action packed story lines are still coming. This is not helped by the cheesy camera direction that is employed in some of the scripts. One particular sequence involved a tomato ketchup mustard shoot out involving two girls. This was shot to the style of a John Woo. Some people say this is inspirational but to me its just rubbish and it quite clearly pisses upon what Phil Redmond set out to achieve in 1995. What was a good British Soap full of characters that you would genuinely care for have now been forsaken for a more Americanised product full of whining wannabes.
In it's time it has tread some ground that has met Phil Redmond's brief of Realism. The most powerful storyline to date was the male rape of Luke Morgan. This was the last time that Hollyoaks generated such a response from the public. Many of whom welcomed such a topic that had until then been swept under the carpet as a taboo issue. Since then the cheese has been processed weekly and distributed on a daily basis. In the film The Insider the Christopher Plummer character says in relation to media " You will only be remembered for what you did last night ". If this statement is true I really hope Phil Redmond has another ace up his sleeve because at the moment it looks like Hollyoaks current mediocrity will be remembered. 4 out of 10
To be, or not to be a good film..........Not to be!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
When you put Hamlet into the search engine on the IMDb over 50 matches turn up. Which brings me to my first question does the world really need another adaptation of Hamlet ? My second question is " Does there need to be another adaptation that has a modern setting in Derry, Northern Ireland ". My answer to both is NO. But unfortunately Director/Producer/Cinematographer/screen writer and leading actor Stephen Cavanagh says yes. The result is these 93 minutes of excruciating bad acting that is accompanied by painfully bad cinematography that was the cause of giving me a bad headache. After seeing this it is becomes blatantly clear that every one on the production side of this film Mr. Cavanagh, Keith O'Grady, Richard Hughes & Ellen Factor (yes that is all that is credited) are so much out of their depth and very inexperienced to bring such a complicated text such as Hamlet to the big screen. I can safely say that William Shakespeare must be turning in his grave.
The story remains the same the twist is that Hamlet is now an avid filmmaker from Derry. Its cinematography style is a documentary style that is shot in a similar fashion to the Blair Witch project. To shot a very similar style to the Blair Witch Project was a suicidal move on behalf of the film makers because of the transparent amateurish attitude of the film makers that the chosen style of the Blair witch should make it appealing to audiences. This backfires badly and inevitability shows that the makers never fully thought out the consequences of shooting in such an elaborate style and the requirement of having one fully committed person who would take responsibility of being cinematographer. A consistent tone with accompany imagery would have been established and it might have saved the film from the fate of my review. Instead we have three untrained individuals. Therefore we attain three very different interpretations of the text.
The acting is okay. It does not help that the accents are of a heavy northern Irish dialect, which is sometimes very hard to decipher. The only real talent to emerge from the film is Simone Kirby. She is consistent in her portrayal of Ophelia. Cavanagh as Hamlet once again is another let down to a film that was already doomed. You get the feeling every time he is on the screen that he thinks he knows better about the text than anyone else. But his performance says otherwise.
Overall it is a terrible adaptation of a Shakespearean text. It is quite obvious from the outset that there were some serious delusions of grandeur on behalf of the Director/Writer/Producer/Cinematographer and lead actor Cavanagh. If he was to drop 4 out of the 5 positions he held then maybe he might have had some objectivity and the film might have been very different. He should also acknowledge that he is no Brannagh or Olivier and he never will be. A terribly bad product that gives independent Irish films a bad name. 1 out of 10.
Gracie's Choice (2004)
An average story boosted by an excellent performance by Kristin Bell
Gracie's Choice is about Gracie Thompson. She is a 17-year-old girl who at a very young age becomes a surrogate mother for her half brothers and half sister. To make matters even more complicated all her siblings have different surnames and nobody knows who their real father is. They live an itinerant life style with their mother. The mother Rowena is heavily involved with drugs and boasts two dependency problems. Her different boyfriends they move from town to town, from school to school and in their mother's case man to man. It is only when they move back to their mother's hometown and the introduction of their Christian grand mother that their unorthodox family situation begins to deteriorate. Their grand mother is a lovely woman whose Christian beliefs bring relief to her in times of trouble. She is totally unlike her daughter in every way but becomes an easy target for the desperate Rowena as she free loads on her. Gracie's attitude towards her mother changes during this period. Sexual advances that her mother's current druggie boyfriend is making towards her bring it on. A situation that makes her mother turns a blind eye towards because she feels that this man is the one for her. Of course this excuse and behavior is something that Gracie has heard seen time and time again. With the arrest of her mother and her subsequent incarceration we see Gracie comfortably take the reigns of her family, with the stability provided by them staying at their grandmothers Gracie without any hesitation or arguments decides to fight for her right to adopt her brothers and protect them from the every present threat of their real mothers return.
As far as these TV Movies go this is in my opinion definitely one of the better ones. Bearing in mind that it is based on a true story and many of the events filmed are invariably dramatized to appeal to the audience. What I really hate about these movies is the fairy tale tone that is applied to the overall presentation. Principle character is involved with some nasty people, a moment of clarity dawns on the principle character, a fight for their right to survive ensues, and the principle character wins. They all live happily ever after. I am sure the people who this was based on are now happy but that did not happen over the stroke of the judge's gavel like it did in this film. The story is very strong and credible up until the end and after seeing it I felt somewhat cheated.
The one aspect of this film I really did enjoy however was the performances of the leading actors. Anne Heche as Rowena is very strong and consistent but typical of the over dramatization that happens in the adaptations of true stories. Diane Ladd as the grand mother is also very strong but Kristin Bell who plays the lead character Gracie out shines both of these experienced actresses. I really disliked her as an actress before I saw this and I thought she was only capable of repeating her Veronica Mars persona (a show I utterly despise). But as Gracie Thompson she plays her trademark persona of being an independent young woman but she ingenuously gels the emotions of confusion, loneliness, fear, love, warmth and intelligence. This marks her out as being a mature actress for her age group. She really made me sit up and take notice and in this day in age where pretty so called actresses are a dime a dozen she not only walks the walk, but talks the talk.
Gracie's Choice will not be for everybody's taste but it is well worth the watch for the inspiring story alone. 8 out of 10.
Sickeningly Sweet at times but rare oddity from the world of Student Film making
Grandad is a product from the University of Salford Media department. To mention the University of Salford and Media department in the same sentence will immediately raise the eyebrows of many people in the Greater Manchester area and make them wonder what other pretentiously bad rubbish this place can produce. I know it did for me and that is bad considering I am a graduate from the same University and I am very aware of the rubbish that students can produce when given a budget. They immediately assume that the audience should sit up and take notice of their films simply because the directors and writers think they should. This ends up with self-pontificating crap that makes many wonder is University a worthwhile place to go and study the arts. However this is where writer and director Colin Spencer succeeds in many areas where a lot of student film makers fail.
Grandad tells the story of Vincent a teenager on the cusp of manhood who on the day he receives the results of his state exams which will dictate his future he has to bury his beloved grand father. To receive the results of your state examinations is a landmark day for any young person in any country. It is seen as a your final steps into adulthood and a process that determines your quality of life as an adult. The day you bury one of your grand parents is also a landmark day because for many it marks the beginning of the end of your childhood and all you have is memories. This is what is quite special about Spencer's script it fuses together one if not two events that everybody has in their lives at some stage and it is the perfect hook in the script to keep the audience interested in the central character Vincent and his conflicting emotions as he tries to keep in perspective these huge events happening in his life on the same day.
Gerard Kearns of the hit television show Shameless plays Vincent. This helps the creditability of the script immediately as Kearns is an astute actor whose role in Shameless gives him the adequate experience with dealing with adolescent emotions. Compare his performance to that of the others in and it is chalk and cheese and it becomes quite understandable why he is a professional actor and the others are not. The supporting cast are adequate for the script demands and although at times wooden and stereotypical they do create a good portrayal of a family trying to cope with the stress of a burying a loved one.
To me Grandad is sickeningly sweet at times but it is the performance of the leading man and the event depicted that will keep the audience from getting bored. Although it is a good short film Spencer's script has got some holes in it. The one that really annoys me is that because of the lack of speech I found myself guessing as to whom some of the characters where and not finding there out their proper identity. Certain aspects aren't fleshed out enough to make enough of an impact but I finally managed to figure everything out on the third viewing on youtube.
The director/writer Colin Spencer proves that he is more than capable to direct such themes with this short, although to make any snap judgments on his career at yet could prove me wrong, but I do think Spencer should have a good career in the industry. What really holds him back this short is that it is a student production therefore finding creditability and success on the major festival circuits was always very unlikely. The quality of the cameras used is terrible and this really detracts from the quality of the final film. With this short Colin Spencer proves that he deserves funding for other projects and I sincerely hope he does. A bright future in television directing might beckon for him if he plays his cards right in developing the appropriate projects that suit him. Grandad is definitely a very fine example of the rare talent that does exist in Britain's Universities and I hope to see more from Spencer in the future. 5 out of 10.
Agnes Browne (1999)
Most families will love it but....................................
Agnes Browne is a recently bereaved, stall owner and mother of seven children. With her best friend and fellow stall owner Marion Monks, she works hard every day to feed, house and clothe herself and her children. This has all to be done while still trying to pay off a ruthless loan shark called Mister Billy. She enjoys a pint and a singsong in the pub but when she has a rare moment to herself she likes to dance to her Tom Jones records.
Agnes Browne is another directorial effort from the wonderful Anjelica Huston and with her in the main role I would expect a lot better than what I received for my moneys worth. The problem with this film is that John Goldsmith's adaptation of Brendan O'Carroll's hit " The Mammy " is terrible and it plays to the worst kind of paddy whackery since Darby O'Gill and the little people. Goldsmith totally misses the point of the book and it is very obvious by surname alone that Goldsmith is not Irish and his comprehension of Irish humor is zero considering it has been more successfully demonstrated in different films by different writers. He totally leaves out the essential components that made O'Carroll's book so successful. " The Mammy " is certainly about a woman in 1960's Dublin fighting to bring up her kids, but the books more endearing feature is the respect that the children have for their mother. One example I can give is the relationship that builds between Agnes Browne and her eldest son Mark. In the book it demonstrates greatly that Mark's desire to get a job is not just to get out of the boredom of school but it is in necessity to provide for his family. The book also richly illustrates how Mark through careful observation of his mother gains her financial resourcefulness and how he thoughtfully gives back to his family. In return he receives the respect an adult would receive from his mother and siblings because of his willingness to accept adult responsibility at the tender age of 14. This kindness is also encouraged by his new boss and mentor Henry Wise a Jewish man whose fireside chats with Mark on his Sabbath encourage Mark to look to a brighter horizon and realizes the values of his mothers words. Great substantial stuff is replaced by mediocre trash by re-naming Mr. Henry Wise to Mr Ahern and cutting his influence right out and creating the rubbish loan shark Mister Billy. This is of course is to create tension and entertainment for the fickle international audiences. John Goldsmith should never have been hired to adapt this script.
Because of the script it is very hard to know what the supporting actors are like individually but I they gain my respect as they give heart and soul to characters despite the storyline. It is will great difficultly I will say that it is the first time I have had to badmouth Ray Winstone who I am a great fan of. His Irish accent is as bad as the script he may have played a relocated English loan shark. Anjelica Huston is good, not great, I think the dual duties of acting and directing may have got the better of her. Her role was a very hard one and I think she would have been casting a prominent English actress like Julia Walters or Emma Thompson in the role. Anjelica may have lived in Ireland in her youth but her compression of Irish Humour is as bad as John Goldsmiths. She misses a lot of great moments in both her direction and acting. Some of which might have saved the film from this reviewer's disdain.
To cut a long story short. I love the book on which this was based. On it's initial release I went to the cinema eagerly to watch it but hopes and anticipation were replaced by scorn and loathing for all American productions based in Ireland. Granted families will love this but what I am saying is instead of becoming another family hour movie on some television station, it could have been ten times better and more beneficial for us all. 4 out of 10
Coronation Street (1960)
As far as soaps go this is by far my all time favorite
Coronation Street is now nearing its 50th birthday and even today it remains one of Britain's most popular series. The reason for its continuous popularity is very simple. It has good story lines, humor and wit, drama and tension, colorful characters, excellent lightning and direction, simple locations and it evokes the majority's emotions on a weekly basis.
These things are very simple and most soap operas incorporate them but Coronation Street has the upper hand continuously because they juggle all them in every episode and there is never central focus on any particular theme it is all dealt with equality of division.
The star of the show is not the actors or the story lines but the characters. When people tune in they do not do so to watch Bruce Jones who plays Les Battersby but they do so to watch Les Battersby. Les Battersby and the other characters have become as real as the actors that are playing them and in most cases more famous. The characters are wonderfully written and in most cases portrayed by very talented individuals who seldom over act but are willing. They successfully cover a wide spectrum of human emotions and their acting ability should be honored considering that being an actor on Coronation Street could sometimes mean story lines that require 24:7 attendances on the set.
The story lines are very good also and they always have two to three separate story lines going at all times. But there will always be a major theme covered over a pro-longed period. At the moment they are dealing with Post-Natal Depression a topic that has been touched upon before in many soaps but not as vividly as it has been done in Coronation Street. Not only is it a hooking storyline but also it is very educational on it can manifest itself in different people and the adverse effect it can have on the families and friends that are involved.
Coronation Street has consistently been the publics favorite for many years because of it's down to earth approach to characters and story lines but it only loses out to other soaps because it has a reluctance to over do it with crime or natural disaster stories. It does from time to time have larger than life story lines consisting of serial killers or murders but these are few and far between. Unfortunately it's attempts to keep with up with rival soaps means that it is transmitted four times a week also means that this provides me with my only fault and this is viewers can be over exposed to heavy story lines and this can be quite daunting even for the most hardcore fan. Other than this I would say you could do a lot worse.
Fair City (1989)
Compared to the soap operas that are based in Great Britain and Australia, Irelands Fair City looks amateurish in it's execution. Set in the fictional town of carrigstown in Dublin City it charters the lives of its inhabitants in the area. Among them is the business elite consisting of Pub owners, a deli, and a restaurant called the Bistro plus other modern day business's you would expect to find in Ireland. Along with the owners of these premises we also meet there customers and between these places of business and pleasure and the citizens of carrigstown's homes we are given what the folks in RTE's scripting rooms think is their version of Irish life.
Fair City is of a very poor standard and in this day and age it really should not be tolerated. The acting is so bad that for many of it's cast it is first time on television, and for many more it will be their last. The problem lies in that many of the actors have been working in theater for many years that they are not able to relate to the camera. What maybe considered as consistent acting on the boards of Irelands national theaters can be considered as a wooden performance on television. What's worse is that you would expect that with time and experience that they might improve but it is never to be. The acting in this is so bad that the Fair City cast makes the cast of Hollyoak's look like Academy Award material.
The story lines that are crafted are sloppy and listening to the words it makes you wonder was it five year old that were let loose at the type writer. The story lines of course are supposed to reflect modern Irish therefore most of the men by the time they hit 40 will be on their third marriage have two children to two different women. We will show up at a wedding in pursuit of the bride whom we have discovered as the love of our lives. She'll die tragically in car crash but we will end up looking after the kids whom are beginning to get difficult because of their age and are seriously becoming an handful. But we will still find time to have a drink in a nightclub that is owned by one of Irelands most dangerous gangland leaders. But not before we have battled alcoholism, impotence, went bankrupt and paid our mortgage. After witnessing some of these story lines I only wish the lifestyle of the Irish male was as exciting. If for any other reason I would not half to sit down and watch this drivel called Fair City. Of course to be truthful most soaps are overly dramatic and that is the whole point to their existence. But other soaps while do it better by employing actors that are somewhat like their characters in real life and writing decent scripts.
I hate this soap with a passion. I find it is a real pity that a the majority of Irelands population are put off by it's crap acting and writing yet it is allowed to continue to run on television. Crap. 1 out of 10.
Disappionting effort from my Favourite Comedian
No one could argue that Billy Connolly has had a good career in regards to his stand up comedy career. It's just a pity that this DVD could well be his last. Recorded in the unfamiliar setting of a New York Theatre we watch Billy Connolly engage with his New York audience. We observe 90 minutes of old and new material some of it taken from his Live 1994 DVD. To be honest the performance is half hearted and only rarely attains glimpses of a comic genius working. I don't think it's got anything to do with material being unfunny but the energy levels normally associated with a Billy Connolly Stand up gig aren't there and we get the feeling that Billy Connolly is like every other person in their 60's feeling their age.
The crowd do not help matters. They are boisterous and noisy during the performance and Connolly appears to be having a really bad night with keeping his audiences attention. It does not help that right on at the beginning when he is just settling into the performance he is interrupted by latecomers to his show. At one stage this happening would have been the start to a great night. But instead of putting them down in his traditional way Connolly reverts to a skit about the theater being built on a Native American trail and that's why people are walking all over the place. It doesn't go anywhere. At times he makes a breakthrough particularly during the last story but it is sadly a case of too little too late. He has one great story about a party his roadies had on tour but it is really filled with ideas that amount to nothing.
They say comedians lose their edge when success comes their way and that is why many of them move into film and television and some would apply this to Connolly. But to be fair Connolly has proved them wrong with many of his tours and it is just a pity that this show was recorded in the aftermath of his hasty retreat back to the states after some unsavory comments about the late Ken Bigley. Maybe his confidence has taken a severe battering on account of this. This could well explain his decision to record the concert in New York and not in his native U.K. homeland. I need not remind fans of the outrage caused by his Bigley comments. So recording in an environment that is a first and looks to be boisterous and hostile probably prevented him in presenting his best performance. Or maybe he really is feeling his age. All in all not what I expected from my favorite comedian but has a few skits to entertain but not enough to hold my attention long enough. A disappointing 3 out of 10.
Knight Rider (1982)
1 out of 10. That says it all
I remember waiting for this show's weekly segment with such anticipation as a child in the Early 1980's. To watch Michael Knight and his partner and friend Kitt the car battle criminals for the foundation was such a thrill. Today I look at this show and recollect with embarrassment the reasons why I watched it. The reasons as a child as to why I watched this show were simple. It was fast paced, adventurous & suspenseful. But to top it all off it had one of the coolest cars known to man. A car that not only protected Michael Knight, but engaged in full conversations with him. Conversations such as Michael's masculine pursuits were held up to scrutiny in the conversations and if my memory serves me correctly most of these chats were about Michael's roaming eye and how every damsel would fall for him in each episode. The adventures were many and the explosions and fistfights were plenty. At the end of each episode we were all grateful that the west coast of America was safe thanks to one car and its occupant.
Today however I can't see the children even being remotely interested in talking cars or for that matter the occupants of these cars. Maybe this is because the technology that was our imaginations has become a reality today and there is now no need for these dated action shows. The imaginations of today are now enthralled by what could be the technology of tomorrow. Or is it that children and adults alike have had enough of the rubbish and unrealistic story lines. We don't care about a car that could never exist and if it did we would be able to afford it or worse it could become like the next DeLorien car. Have we had now had enough of the likes of Michael Knight a man whose stylish leather jackets and sun tan of the early 1980's would now be the object of scorn and pity. Today a poser like Michael Knight would be bottled and beaten and not tolerated and that is just what the feminists would do. In this reviewers opinion! Yes. Knight Rider is very much a product of 1980's kitsch. To watch a re-run like I have today meant blushing with embarrassment at the though that I once found the dialog funny and cool. The story lines are wholly unbelievable and the methods of preventing crime are totally ludicrous. What's worse is the fact that this show has had a stigma far worse than the dodgy fashion and plot lines. This is David Hasselhof a person that is still on the T.V. despite the fact he cannot act and when he tries it is just very embarrassing to watch. Granted I will admit it is very hard to upstage a talking car, even Marlon Brando would have great difficulty in that.
Maybe I am have become too cynical and not being fair to the show. But I am justified in my criticism in this review. If you want to reminisce about television shows from your childhood and have a warm loving tone when you do so, then you can definitely find better ones than this load of rubbish. I find that when me and my mates will discuss these shows the A-Team will always be referred to as our favorite where we will mimic characters and talk about particular shows. Whenever Knight Rider is mentioned we will stare at our drinks vacantly in the hope that someone will change the subject quickly. 1 out of 10
Dr. Phil (2002)
If every one used their common sense there would be no need for this show
Dr. Phil is another show in a long procession of talk's shows that set out to provide assistance in their private lives. The difference that separates Dr. Phil from the others is that Dr. Phil McGraw is genuine in his concern for his guests and he is more than willing to provide the answers and solutions to thee guests private lives but only on the grounds that the guests are willing to work not for him but there selves. This approach to his work guarantees that his guests are 100 percent genuine in solving their private problems and not just being another form of white trash entertainment that Jerry Springer presented in the 90's.
I am not one to watch these kinds of talk shows because of the idiots that are inclined to be on them and the problems that these idiots bring on themselves by dating serial adulterers or living with their interfering mothers. With Dr. Phil you get the opposite of the spectrum. You get good decent everyday people whose private problems might seem minor from an outsider's point of view. But with the aid of verbal description and hidden cameras we discover examples of sleep terrors that are having a profound affect on the individual suffering on them and how he or she can become a physical night time threat to the health of his or her loved ones. Dr. Phil's problem solving technique is very straightforward. He uses a tough love approach where he insists on the guest using their common sense to solve their problems. This leads to often-humorous quips from Dr. Phil regarding the pettiness of the couple's situations. In the areas of substance dependency Dr. Phil is more than willing to use all his powers with seeking the best professional help available to help his guests.
With a show like Dr. Phil's you can expect that you will be completely enthralled by some case matters or totally bored by others. That is one of my main three faults with this show. My second fault is that Dr. Phil pretends he cares but not before he markets his latest book. Every show produces another new book that relates to that days subject matter. Either Dr. Phil publishes a new book every week or he wants to clear his shelves of the books that did not sell before 2002 and the first broadcasts of his show. Finally there is my biggest hate and that is his ever-present wife Robin. Dr. Phil gives this woman too much credit in his shows which makes me ask the question if she is so bloody inspirational and genuine and he wants to promote couples working together why isn't the show called the Dr. Phil and Robin McGraw show.
Despite these problems I do find the show to be very interesting. One of my favorite shows was the episode on people who think they are cursed. This featured a lady who at a young age was exorcised by her father who was a Pentecostal minister. In the intervening years that followed this lady had had a run of bad luck. She believed that during the exorcism she was possessed by a demons and these demons were responsible for many tragic events in her life. When I was watching this I felt bad for this lady as it was very obvious that her childhood innocence had been shattered by her parents spiritual leanings. It made me feel that although I think at times life is bad but for others it's a lot worse and the worst part is that a show like Dr. Phil has to remind me of this I myself automatically acknowledge it. What's more this show teaches me that what might seem to be a huge problem can be simply solved by using common sense at that organ that god gave me called a brain.
I often see Dr. Phil as the cool uncle you would go to if you had problems and his attitude would be comforting. This is cool as I personally would not want him as a dad. The show is really good at times it can be quite boring but that depends on the problems that you the audience can relate to on a personal basis. It is however definitely the best of these kind of shows that offer help to troubled people. 6 out of 10.
In the Name of the Father (1993)
An addictive story with breath taking performances make for a quality film
In the name of the father is the story of Gerry and Giuseppe Conlon, a father and son who along with nine other innocents, were wrongly accused and convicted in relation to the Guildford Bombings in 1974. Gerry Conlon became apart of a group that were known world wide as the Guildford Four and Giuseppe became apart of a group that were lesser known as the Maguire Seven. In the Name of the Father is set during the time that relations between England and Ireland were most strained.
The film begins in 1974 Belfast and it immediately establishes Gerry's character as a tearaway. He is a tearaway for many reasons too many to list in this comment but it is evident that one of the reasons that he refuses to lie down and become like his father. His father Giuseppe is a likable man. A loving father whose hard work to provide for his family during a time where Catholics had no rights results in him developing severe asthma. When Gerry is blamed with his friends Paul Hill, Paddy Armstrong and Carol Richards for the Guildford Pub bombing, Giuseppe drops everything and goes to London to help his son. When staying with his relations the Maguire's he is also picked up and charged with them for being involved in Terrorist activity. They are found guilty and sentenced. Gerry receives life and Giuseppe get 14 years. While in prison the turbulent relationship between Gerry and his father worsens to the point where they are not speaking. Despite their natural stormy relation ship this situation is worsened by the arrival of Joe McAndrew who is the real Guildford Bomber. In McAndrews, Gerry sees the man who his father should be. A man that is a fighter and who does not take things lying down as opposed to quiet conservative Giuseppe who has turned his cheek all his life and has been repaid in bad health for it. But as time goes by and maturity sets in, Gerry revises his opinion on Giuseppe and discovers that he always will have a friend in his father. The final chapter sees Gerry discarding his troublesome persona in favor of one that is similar to his fathers and together begin to fight to clear their names.
This film was Jim Sheridan's first in relation to the situation that had engulfed Northern Ireland and to be honest it is his best so far. Sheridan once again uses an addictive storyline (father and son in miscarriage of justice) to further investigate the theme of father/son relations. Despite it's political setting and use of ethnic sides to tell the story what Sheridan wants us to asses is the relationship between Gerry Conlon and his father and how Gerry's resistance to become like his father leads to his downfall but it is through the worst part of his life that he gets to know his father properly. Through the claustrophobic atmosphere of their prison cell Gerry realizes that he has more in common with his father and despite past arguments Giuseppe becomes not only his father again but his best friend.
Day-Lewis is on form yet again with his performance and I have yet to see him in a film where he does not give a solid performance. This time he has the very strong support from Postlewaithe as his father Giuseppe. Postlewaithe is superb as the ill Giuseppe who never gives up hope. Emma Thompson is someone I have been very keen on. But in this film she delivers a spectacular performance and like Posthlewaithe it is worthy of the Oscar nomination they received and in both cases they should have won. Sheridan must also be praised for his script and direction of this film. He took a story that at the time was still sore on the minds of both the Irish and British people. It was also a time where the situation in Northern Ireland looked as if it would never stop and the films release could further the cause of fighting for both paramilitary sides. It did however make the world sit up and pay attention because every country has had at some time a severe miscarriage of justice.
If you want facts about the cases of the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven I suggest you don't watch this film. At the time of it's release it was heavily accused of not painting an accurate description of the case but the reality is that if you want details the film would not run at just over two hours but it would run for 15 years. I suggest you ask your local television stations to commission a Docu-Drama. This story is about the Conlon's. If I had faults with it I would say that my biggest hate of this film is the republican bomber Joe McAndrews. It is a very wooden performance that is down to bad acting and nothing else. He is too open about the whole affair which leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. If all Republican terrorists talked and acted like this the troubles of Northern Ireland would have lasted 10 minutes. There is a saying in Ireland that those who talk about it, no the least about it. On a whole it is very unbelievable. But despite this the film is very good, hard going to watch and very hard to walk away from without having some emotions evoked inside you. 8 out of 10.
The Field (1990)
A rich adaption of an Irish stage classic
John B. Keane's critically acclaimed play The Field, is the one play that 90% of the population of Ireland will know. They will either know the plot or have studied it for state exams. My own grandmother is 80 years of age and she dislikes any kind of media and theater describing them as pure noise. But when she hears that The Field is playing she will instantly take an interest not because of it's fame but the themes that are produced in this play are very important to her and her generation and many generation that followed her up until the late 1980's when Ireland slowly began to change into a European union state, with it Irelands ethnic identity began to disappear. We may still have the accent but our lifestyles and attitudes are very different in some cases evidently for the better, but more often then not for the worst. In the early 90's two films documented the Ireland of old, these were The Commitments a joyous look at young Irish people using their musical talents to broaden their horizons and The Field an unforgiving bleak look at the life of a headstrong farmer whose life begins to falter when a stranger arrives in his village. Arrival of the stranger symbolizing change. A change that could disrupt the harmonious existence of life in the little village long after this stranger has gone.
Bull McCabe is a poor Irish farmer that works a rented field. This Field represents everything that has happened in the Bulls life. His families blood is soaked in the field. He rents it from a local Irish Widow who the Field belonged to her late husband. All the Bull wants now is to own this precious land. He has worked this field for many years. He brings seaweed from the coast line every day and plants it on the grass to enhance it's fertility giving it the freshest looking grass. To look at the Bulls special field we know that it takes years to attain that result and what's more any dereliction in maintaining the field will result in the field acquiring the same unfertile status as the surrounding land. When The Bull speaks about the field there is no pride but it is replaced by a nostalgic tone. His nostalgic tones also produce a chilling portrait of a man who is willing to stop at nothing to protect the field that is dear to him. When the actions of his son lead to the widow selling the Bulls precious field at public auction. The Bull comes face to face with losing his field to an American.
Jim Sheridan's direction is magnificent and his script (totally unlike the stage version) is also brilliant. Playing the Bull is legendary thespian Richard Harris whose fiery temperament and personal beliefs match that of The Bull. Harris's reputation of being difficult and uncompromising attitude nearly cost him role. A role that was originally going to the late great Ray McNally who unfortunately died before filming commenced. Today I cannot imagine The Bull being played by anyone other than Richard Harris. His portrayal of The Bull McCabe is that of being a brutally uncompromising farmer. A farmer despite his evident aggression had vision and respect for the earth he walked on. A farmer who would kill for you if it was needed or kill you if the tables were reversed. For me personally this is Harris's best role because with every word and action on screen I see that Harris is truly immersed in the role of the Bull.
Sheridan is in my opinion is Irelands Best Director. He uses the theme of the relationships between Irish father and son in all his films. In this film we learn about a stubborn man whose materialistic desires and expectations of his surviving son lead to horrible catastrophic results that affect the a community. The son in this film is Tadgh who is played Sean Bean. Unfortunately with all Sheridans films the supporting cast who are always very strong are overshadowed by one performance. In this film Bean is very under rated. His portrayal of Tadgh is that of a loner who is uncomfortable with the expectations of his father The Bull. These expectations lead him to develop an eagerness to please his father and lift of some of the burden that these expectations place on his own life. Also in the cast is excellent Tom Berenger who portrays an eager yank whose only hope is for his ancestors town land to prosper with his investment in the Bulls field. Berenger's yank character is very similar to that of Tadgh. He has returned not only to see his ancestors home place prosper but he too is doing it to please his families expectations back in America. Both men are determined to succeed in their respective duties. Berenger captures exactly what we Irish dislike about Irish American's coming to Ireland and that is their naive approach to a country they know very little about. A mistake that Berenger's character makes with his airs and graces.
As an Irish Film The Field is the best by a long shot. The script is good, the cast are excellent but most importantly it succeeds in drawing you into it but the strength of the story alone. It has not been bestowed the same commercial success as Sheridans other films for one reason. This reason is that the film contains a lot of Irish traits such as attitudes to strangers, the churches stance on suicide and many hidden references to Irish History. To me personally this is not a fault of the film, but a fault of peoples ignorance to ethnic film makers who want to tell stories from their ethnic back ground. All together a very fine film full of very fine performances. 10 out of 10
Energetic, stylish and witty story about an Australian legend
Andrew Dominik's account of the turbulent life of Australian criminal Brandon " Chopper " Read is one of the best crime films of this millennium. It is funny, stylish, witty, well-acted, well scripted and very entertaining.
It begins in a bleak Australian Prison (where I believe Chopper spent most of his 20's incarcerated) for abducting a judge. Here we are greeted by a youthful chopper minus the weight and the beard. We learn that he is just as troublesome in prison as he is outside. He continuously picks fights with other convicts and these other convicts normally belong to bigger and dangerous gangs. He is always wanting to prove that he is bigger and better and more dangerous than every one else. This culminates in Chopper stabbing another prisoner which in return turns choppers friends against him. The section following this based in the prison provides a delightfully funny and insightful look into the mind that is Chopper Read. We find out that he seen as a parasite and hated by the general prison population. But he has a friendship with the wardens and the governor. In this part we witness one of the events that leads up to Chopper slicing his own ears customizing his head forever. On the outside of prison we also get to see another side of Chopper that is quite alarming. He is constantly angry and is prone to violence on petty whims and this violence does not stop with drug dealers, but other loved ones in his life feel the full brute force of it too.
Andrew Dominik's script and direction are superb and is one of the best from a first time director and writer. His experience before this involved music videos and certain scenes in this film reflected this. His handling of the violence brutally honest and at times very disturbing. However with his use of lights and crisp dialogue and stylish camera work we really get a good insight into Brandon Reads mind and we never leave that once the entire time we are watching this.
Eric Bana was an actor that I had never heard of before I had seen this film. I have read that it was on Chopper Reads own advice that Bana was cast. Bana is fantastic in the role of Chopper he gives it his all and he is not afraid to love the flamboyancy of such a notorious real life character. He is also not afraid to give 100 percent to the violence at the start of the film. He really gets into the skin of the character and to separate Eric Bana from Brandon " Chopper " Read. He has many fine scenes and his is backed up by a fantastic supporting cast who also give 100% to their roles.
Chopper is a great viewing for any one that has an interest in real life crime figures or just crime stories in general. It is not in the same vain as Scarface or Goodfellas but it is very entertaining and original. It is to be honest the kind of gritty and realistic film that I would expect from Australian film industry and it does not disappoint me.
The Big Yin Strikes Again
Recorded in July 1987 in the final stages of his world tour which covered England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Australia, New Zealand and America. It was on this tour that he actively pushed to become popular in the America and it was on this tour that he began re-styling his material. It was also the last tour that he played his banjo or guitar on. What we have here is a document that shows an end of an era, but the beginning of something even bigger and better for one of Britain's best loved stand up comedians.
In the 1980's any comedian that chooses to book the Royal Albert Hall in London on the basis of making 5,000 people laugh for a couple of hours would considered suicidal. The Royal Albert Hall had never been a place where comedians played before this and even after this mainly due to it's enormity. Plus an added factor was that The Royal Albert Halls regular clientèle would not have been comedy fans. Connolly had a fan base but his fan base was the complete opposite of the Royal Albert Halls. But another problem consisted that in Connolly's bid to win over America he had not been present in the U.K. to keep up his larger than life profile. Also there was the tabloid publicity that had engulfed him in the early 1980's, his marriage break up had made the front pages, and his present relationship with Pamela Stephenson of Not The Nine O'Clock News fame had also made him into good copy. Another interesting aspect of this show was that Billy Connolly was performing his first ever tour in a sober state. Despite all this Billy Connolly proved that he still possessed the same humor that had made him famous. He sold out every night at the Royal Albert Hall and from it he produced this Show that went on to sell in excess of 500,000 copies world wide and is still seen to be a very popular DVD of his today.
In the 90 minutes that this show runs Connolly tells us a selection of wild and wonderful stories. These range in mother care baby monitors, Ronald Regan, what really happened in the Khyber Pass, two naturalists in the plains of Africa and their methods of escape in case of a lion attack, a Glaswegian couple reminiscing their marriage through some of the notoriously turbulent times of the 20th century and my own personal favorite story is his advice on what to do in case you are ever caught masturbating. His Banjo pieces are irrelevant and do nothing for the piece. I have often heard Connolly being described as a fine banjo player and I have no doubt that he is and I have witnessed him playing in his travel documentaries but in this the Banjo pieces he plays are very half hearted and they seem to be exercises that ease him into the work at hand. He never played banjo again after this tour and from what I witnessed on this DVD that that may not be such a bad thing. Other than that this is really good show. Granted I will admit some of the stories don't grab my attention as much as what other ones do, but 80% of this video is hilarious. Another point I noticed about it that may put off people who are familiar with Connolly's later work might be put of by the slow start that this DVD has and the laid back style that Billy Connolly delivers in. But it is worth giving him a chance because the Connolly persona of later years is very much present in the stories he tells.
This DVD should be watched by avid Connolly fans but I think it will hold enough of an interest for people who are curious about Billy Connolly. 90 minutes worth watching if you interested enough. 8 out of 10
Brilliant look at marginalized lifestyle in Ireland
This is Irish American comedian Des Bishops first attempt to provide a realistic portrayal of a marginalized section of Irish society. In this series Des Bishop selects six jobs that are considered minimum wage in Ireland. He works at that job for one month where he must live within the means that a minimum wage can provide. He then recounts his experiences through his live stand up show.
I dislike Des Bishop and I hate his stand up comedy act. But I must give credit where credit is due. This documentary is fantastic. He could have made the documentary without his stand up parts being included and it would have worked, but he left them and it does work. Either format is acceptable and what's more both will work. Over the course of a half an hour we see how the other half live. For six weeks I watched Des Bishop become a staff member in a busy city center fast food outlet, a lifeguard in a water slide park and a porter in a luxury hotel. What we begin to see is how naive Des Bishop was when he undertook this task and over the course of six weeks he suffers from stress, poverty and some serious verbal abuse. Des Bishops comedic persona takes a serious battering from his work experience. In his live stand up work Des Bishop likes to present himself as the street wise working class white rapper whose finger is on the pulse. From this show we discover Des in reality is very far removed from his stage persona, and this is just one of the reasons why this show is very enjoyable.
A television show like this can educate the public and it successfully does. It reveals that a lot of workers who are in these jobs are not all students who have degrees in their midst, but a lot of the workers are full time workers who have families depending on their minimum wage salary. What is frightening and educational about this is that Des Bishop has only to keep himself with his wages and this is something he finds very hard to do from week to week. This situation automatically thinks of the workers that have families and how they might cope. Unfortunately this is something that is never fully followed up. We also see the horrendous verbal abuse that minimum wage earners receive. We get a first hand account of the racist taunts that our immigrant work force receive. In the segment where Des Bishop works in the Fast Food outlet we personally see a disturbing scene where the Asian workers are receiving racist abuse from drunken racist thugs. This is just another grand moment from a series that boast a lot of great television moments.
The Des Bishop Work Experience is a fantastic look at Ireland in the post Celtic Tiger era and it perfectly demonstrates the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. It is very different from other Irish lifestyle shows that depict everything is getting better but they always focus on the middle class. Des Bishop does the opposite and what he produces is the best Irish documentary series that Ireland has ever had. The only fault I had with it is that it was not long enough. At only a 45 minutes certain brilliant ideas are touched upon but never followed up. I fully believe had the producers been contracted to six one hour shows all these ideas would have been covered and more ideas would have come about. But this is not the fault of Des Bishop or the producers the blame firmly rests at the feet of R.T.E who ordered the series and the time duration.
This show will really appeal to an Irish audience therefore it will have no relevance outside Ireland however if a foreign student was doing a thesis on Irish society then they might do well to find a copy of this as it may come in handy. 9 out of 10.
Flawed but still good entertainment
Killinaskully is a light hearted, inoffensive romp set in the Irish Country side. Set in the village of Killinaskully it follows a cast of colorful characters (played mostly by Pat Shortt) whose lives center around the local pub. It success with audiences was already guaranteed with it's star Pat Shortt's swelling popularity due to his continuous touring of the Republic of Ireland over the previous ten years. Critics have slammed it, but the general public can't get enough. With two series and two Christmas specials this show seems to continue for a very long time indeed.
Which is very surprising considering if this was produced and broadcast in the UK a second series would not have commissioned. The first series when I look at it now consists of boring story lines, feeble scripts, poor acting on the supporting casts behalf and what's more the direction on James Finlans behalf is very amateur and uninspiring. The only person who keeps it all together is the star Pat Shortt. Like I have previously stated Pat Shortt had spent ten years touring Ireland, all the characters he played in his live shows have become iconic in Irelands comedy scene and therefore the audience naturally enough want to see them when he is on screen. But the success in Pat Shortts live shows is that he is a master of interacting with the audience dragging them on stage therefore the fun and frolics are duly shared with the audience. However in the world of television sitcom he can't do this therefore he has to resort to creating other non-established characters such as Jimmy, Timmy, Guard Dick, Dieter the German film maker and his girlfriend the local schoolteacher Ms. Fahy. With new characters and actors who are unsure of how Pat Shortt's style of comedy their performances are going to suffer. Also the added factor that none of them are comedic actors except for Joe Rooney also hampers the story. The scripts are badly written and the punch lines are feeble and weak. Sometimes they show promise but they are mostly let down by performance and direction.
The second series is a massive improvement. Director Eugene O'Connor takes the helm and presents Killinaskully in the visual style that it should have been presented in to begin with. He incorporates various angles and this the town land and Killinaskully becomes the oasis of lunacy that Pat Shortt had originally intended it too. The actors have developed very well into their characters. Their inclusion into the script with their own story lines gives them all more to go on. What I originally perceived as bad acting is in fact an inability to work with the poor scripting. The comedy is spread around this time and the characters really go with it. The scripts are also greatly improved and it seems that the writers have critiqued the first series very heavily and really have wanted to learn from their previous mistakes. The story lines are better this time. They are very adventurous and they really add to the lunacy of this tiny village. My favorite episode is the one where the priest organizes the drama festival. The sequence at the haunted house is very well done in all areas. Fantastic camera angles with fantastic sets fused with great acting makes it a stand out scene.
I may be harsh on the scripts, acting and in certain cases the direction, but to be honest I really enjoy this show. I love Pat Shortt's characters and their mannerisms mostly. Everything they say and do I can recognize from everyday life. While living in England I had the DVD's sent over to me and I cherished them as they were fun reminders of home. This series are definitely aimed at a rural Ireland audience and these people are easily pleased therefore there is nothing too taxing in the episodes. Critics have slammed it. This is not because any of the technical items that I have pointed at but because it is set in the countryside. Most of the critics are based in Dublin and their experience of life outside Dublin is very limited. What's more most Irish people know the Dublin wants all the success stories therefore it pains them to see Irelands first successful sitcom is based in the countryside. This is after fruitless attempts by RTE to produce a phenomenal successful sitcom, all of them set in Dublin and all of them failure. It is good to see that the ordinary folk of Eire don't listen to the critics. I predict Killinaskully is like a good wine and it matures with age. It is above all good family entertainment. 6 out of 10.
An abrasive comedy that is not for all tastes
Kingpin should be approached with the same kind apprehension that any sane person would approach any Farrelly Brothers film. Expect a procession of jokes at the expensive of the main characters, fused with an simple storyline and that's exactly what to expect from a Farrelly brothers film.
Woody Harrelson plays Roy Munson a washed bowler that had potential to be a professional Bowler but his dream comes to an end when he encounters Ernie McCracken, played to perfection by Bill Murray who ends up costing Roy Munson his bowling hand. Cut to mid-90's Roy is now an alcoholic, in serious debt. A chance meeting with Ishamel Boorg, played by Randy Quaid, an naive Amish man at a bowling alley leads to the pairs cross country trip to save both their respective futures. Along the way they met Claudia, played by Vanessa Angel, a tough talking con woman with her own mission. Together the three form an unbreakable bond and come face to face with their adversary Ernie McCracken.
I like my comedy to be intelligent, and Kingpin is one of the few movies of its kind that actually makes me laugh. It made me laugh when I first saw it in 1996 it made me laugh till I was sore and now ten years on in 2006 it still makes me laugh. The cast are brilliant and it's their talents that really keep this comedy from dating. Randy Quaid is always solid, Vanessa Angel is devilish sexy and cunning, Woody Harrelson is suitably vexed and Bill Murray reminds us all why he has remained Hollywood's main comedy actor long since all his peers disappeared.
Kingpin is definitely for an adult audience and it is worth watching some night that there is nothing on the television or at the cinema. Not for all tastes but damn it is good and it is one of the Farrelly brothers better films in my opinion. 10 out of 10
I can taste the salt water and smell the sea air.
When Peter Weir took on the mammoth task of adapting two of Patrick O'Brain's novel to make this film, he encountered the same expectations as any writer, producer and director would, especially when the film is guaranteed to be scrutinized by a well established fan base across the world. Not only had the film had it's bedrock fan base it also had the fans of it's two main star attractions. These were Peter Weir and Russell Crowe. The expectation of both of them were huge.
Peter Weir had made his name for himself in the mid 1970's and early 1980's by directing some of Australia's finest films such as Picnic at Hanging Rock and Galipoli. He along with Jane Campion, Mel Gibson and Geoffrey Rush be came known as the Australian New Wave. His career in Hollywood blossomed resulting in a C.V. littered with great films amongst them, Witness, Mosquito Coast and Dead Poets Society. His reputation was built on strong, moving story lines of men re-examining their existence through a events out of their control. Master and Commander: The Far side of the World has these very themes running through them. With a career already based on thorough examination of themes Peter Weir was the best person to adapt the novels and produce them for the big screen. Therefore his very best was expected with his film.
Russell Crowe's ascension from American B-movies and Australian Independents to Hollywood blockbuster had been nothing short of magnificent. Not only had he the success but in the wake he had left 4 memorable characterizations and three academy Award nominations and one win. But his arrogance and temper proceeded him and lost out on a second Academy Award through an incident at the BAFTA awards. Master and Commander: The Far side of the World was to be his follow up movie to this incident and every one wanted to see if this self proclaimed great actor was in fact a good as he said or would he fall flat on his face. On top of this there was the building pressure to nail the vision Captain Lucky Jack Aubury that the fans of the book had and of course the concept that the Late Patrick O'Brain had personally envisioned.
Master and Commander: The Far side of the world tells the story of Captain " Lucky " Jack Aubruy, Captain of the H.M.S Surprise and one of the finest naval officers of his times. Assisted by a loyal crew of officers and able seamen, he patrols the seas of the British empire and protecting the Kings ships from Napoleonic attackers. On the Admirals orders Captain Jack must track down The Acheron, a French privateer ship, which is looting British ships. Captain Jack pursues relentlessly pushing his crew to the limit against the advice of ships surgeon and best friend Stephen Maturin. Due to his persistence Aubury runs the risk of losing his crews respect and his friendship with Stephen Maturin. As the intensity builds Captain Jack Aubury must face the prospect of losing for the first time.
Weir and Crowe do not disappoint with this film. I found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable film. Weirs direction is flawless and as every bullet flies and cannonballs fly you can believe that you are on the deck with Captain Jack Aubury. He mixes the action with drama with precision and although the action sequences are spread out you never really see them as essential to the storyline until they actually happen. What is great about the storyline is as the chase goes on and the stakes become higher our anxiety grows with the ships crew. This is helped by the cinematography of Russell Boyd his camera work creates a claustophic look at 19th century naval life. His handling of the battle scenes is amazing and the result is that he won an academy award for his trouble.
Weir also handles his supporting cast very well there are a few fine performances from the younger crew members, but the under rated performance of Lee Ingleby as the doomed Midshipman Hollom whose ship life existence and fate brings a dark sinister tone to the film. Paul Bettany is also very effective in the role of Stephen Maturin. His character his the voice of reasoning in Jack's ear and his skill as a surgeon amplifies the patience he needs when dealing with Captain Jack Aubury.
Russell Crowe is fantastic as Captain Jack Aubury. He captures the essence of Aubury in all his magnificent glory. Underneath the decorated clothes of a celebrated Naval Officer lies a man institutionalized by the navy. Aubury is the Master and Commander of his ship. He knows every plank of wood and every nought in the HMS Surprise. His discussions with Maturin reveal he is a man that has never faced the prospect of failing and in his mind that is not an option and it never will be. He is conservative and very superstitious. All this is down the lifestyle he has chosen to lead. He is not an easy man to reason with as Maturin finds out. Crowe is very subtle in his characterization of Aubury, his manner is pleasant yet he speaks with a firm tone. He is very believable in the role and although it is forgotten about due to the amount a negative press Crowe had received at the time I think in years to come it will be fondly remembered.
All in all this film is quality viewing, the worst thing I could say about it is that it can drag at times but other than that it really is worth the watch. 9 out of 10.
Excellent example of the Big Yin
When a genuine British celebrity is given their own " An Audience With
.. " it is seen as a great tribute throughout the industry to the individuals. Over the years many well known entertainers have their own shows, but in recent years the standard that has been produced has been of very poor quality. This is why " An Audience with Billy Connolly " has become the gem of this series.
The concept is simple in this show a celebrity is honored and they spend the next 90 minutes sharing their professional and private life with fellow peers of the industry. In the audience this particular night are Bob Geldof, Paula Yates, Dennis Law, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Eric Clapton, Robbie Coltrane and Kenny Everett. These are just few of the people here. All of whom including the general public audience are privilege to watch first hand Connolly to emerge from his cocoon and fully re-invent himself as a stand up comedy. Before this he had created stories out of jokes. His embellishments on such jokes had lasted nearly 15 years but from this point on Billy Connolly moved into a new style social observations. Which lead to having a direct influence on many of today's comedians, particularly Eddie Izzard.
What makes Billy Connolly funny. Well I can only answer this myself. In this show what becomes blatantly apparent is that his naivety is responsible for a lot of the humorous situations he finds himself in. He hides his naivety by claiming that his naïve notions are bids to be an " Windswept and Interesting, intrepid voyageur ". For instance he joined the Territorial Army and he found himself parachuting out of the very first plane he had ever been in. Most memorably was when he left school and he went to work in the famous Glasgow shipyards he said "I joined the queue to become a welder without knowing what a welder was ". For the first time in his life Billy felt safe in these surroundings and he was surrounded by characters whose humorous storytelling techniques have become one of the most appealing aspects of his style. His natural regurgitation of stories from this era and everyday happenings have since become legendary and fused with naïve appearance they have provided him with powerful factor of likability which connects him to all walks of live across the globe.
My favorite part in this DVD is when he makes the celebrities squirm with nervous laughter when he comments on their social status in Great Britain. Many come from a working class background and they have been elevated to that of Show Biz personality because of their talents, making them no longer working class. When Billy say's to them that he is not talking to " them (celebrities) but the Working Classes at the back. The one they refer to in those political talk shows as the Ordinary People ". I love watching Bob Geldof laugh nervously and twitching in his seat knowing he has been caught out by Billy Connolly. A nice quaint comment on Connolly's behalf because of the social turmoil in Great Britain at that moment.
From my experience you either love Billy Connolly or hate him there is no in between, but for those of you curious to view any material of Connolly's for the first time, US comedian and actor Robin Williams has said " This was the best stuff I have seen of him, where he just talks to people in the audience. ". Definitely worth the watch.
Dylan Moran: Monster (2004)
Excellent example of a comedy genius at work
Dylan Moran is a poetic drunk who holds a grudge against the world that's having him. Everything and everyone gets his goat. Even the simple joys of life unleash that monster that swells inside of Dylan. His persona on stage makes you think that he is better of being left alone, but this is one of the essential ingredients and ironies of Dylan Moran's stand up comedy routine. He clearly makes it clear that he hates interacting with people, yet he feels the need to tell us his pet hates in front of an audience of up to 600 people.
The man himself is a mystery. Unlike Irish comedians like Tommy Tiernan & Ed Byrne when thay are on a television chat show, who would do a questions and answer section after their 10 minute slot, Moran just did his stand up. I know his professional career began in 1993 when he won the So You Think Your Funny competition at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Critical attention followed in 1996 when he won the Perrier Award. His first sitcom, How do you want me lasted for two series. Nothing else was heard from him till 2000 when he released his cult hit Black Books. Film appearances followed but I have never seen him do interviews and I think this is why I love this DVD. This is the closest you'll will get to a televised interview. However because this is his stage persona we'll never get glimpse at what the real man is like.
Filmed in April in 2004 at Vicar Street in Dublin. Moran's Stand up comedy is very well crafted. What gives it the power is his naturalistic delivery. It comes across that he is just picking these ideas and one liners as he speaks. He is also a master craftsman at working the audience. He makes the audience titter with nervous laughter continuously with his quips and well executed improvisations. This titter spreads like a wave taking everybody in the room with it. Then when you least expect it he hits you with the killer punch line. Not all his stories and observations have a punch line but he keeps everybody on their toes with seductive quips till he lands it carefully. Its like going to the pub with a couple of mates and the conversation you have with them is full of humorous quips till somebody levels the whole lot of you with the one liner to beat them all. That's what it's like at a Dylan Moran show. Topics of the night involve religion, children, rap, and culminates in his observation on how you can spot Irish people abroad.
A definite for any fan of surreal literate comedy.
Leave your brain at the door
Anonymous is another television Series that takes well known celebrities and puts them in situations that they normally would not find themselves in their everyday life. Presented by eccentric Irish comedian Jason Byrne, and over the course of six weeks we have seen well known Irish celebrities, some international Irish Figures like Samantha Mumba and Bryan McFadden but mainly national figures such as Kathryn Thomas and Des Bishop, swap their identities. The plot is simple, the celebrities are disguised heavily with make up, given a false name and background with which they use to trick members of the public. And that's about it really
In theory this show has a lot of potential to do very well, however it becomes a victim of Jason Byrnes comedic persona. Byrne is like a big child with ADD and a large part of his live stand up comedy performances are about victimizing the audiences. We would expect the antics that we see from the celebrities to come from Byrne. Of course this is amusing but by the 15th minute of the first episode it begins to dawn that this is what the rest of the series is about giving the celebrities the anonymity to act the idiot in Irelands capital.
I will however put my hands up and say that I did laugh on occasion and there was one episode in particular made me crack up consistently. This involved talking Irelands premier and most loved Irish speaker Hector O'Heochagan and transferring him into Paul Toomey a campaigner to abolish Irish Language. The irony is in real life Hector O'Heochagan is a fluent Irish Speaker, who just happens to one of Irelands most talented television presenters who is equally comfortable at speaking English and Irish at a professional level. In the course of the half hour Hector O'Heochagan puts across an intimidating argument as Paul Toomey and one cannot help feel that Hector O'Heochagan has heard these opinions from anti-Irish speaking people before. What really amazed me about his particular episode was the seriousness of Hectors characterization. It is very believable the only fault is that occasionally his upper middle class accent of Paul Toomey slips into to his broad Navan accent. Other than this particular episode was of a very high standard and unfortunately it was not matched again by any other participant. When I say that in theory this series had a lot of potential, this episode makes this theory a reality.
With the other celebrities I felt that their participation was very half hearted and their appearances on the show, particularly Samantha Mumba and Bryan McFadden is a bid to jump start a failing career, whilst Keith Duffy and Kathryn Thomas are just reminding us of their celebrity status, but with the likes of Des Bishop (Irish American comedian) & Hector O'Heochagan who have talent and who are genuine Irish celebrities whose own TV shows have enthralled Irish audiences I can never quite fully figure out why they chose to go on this show. Particularly when it lacks a proper agenda and structure.
All in all I am quite disappointed by the show. If another series is commissioned I will keep an eye out for it, but I expect it will be more same. I will give it a 2 out of 10 for Hectors effort, other than that I advise any self respecting fan of television to keep clear. If you do attempt to watch it's best advised to leave your brain at the door
Pauline Calf's Wedding Video (1994)
Dated, Flawed but still very entertaining
In the early 1990's British comedy had been going through a mass explosion of comedy talent. Eddie Izzard, Lee Evans & Frank Skinner had proved to be top rate comedians of the day but the serious likelihood of their conversion to situation comedy seemed remote. Re-Runs of vintage situation comedy were frequent, whilst the only memorable modern situation comedies of the time were Men Behaving Badly and Red Dwarf. This was hugely disappointing after the surge of Alternative Comedy throughout the 1980's. A lot of highly memorable situation comedies had surfaced but by the early 90's new sitcoms of the same vain seemed tired and dated. It seemed that there was a serious lack of comedy actors on television. But Steve Coogan and a host of other up and coming comedians put a permanent freeze on that thought. Since his first appearance on television Coogan has becoming a legendary comedy performer who has been likened to Peter Sellers
Coogan began his career by voicing the puppets in Spitting Image and began developing his characters while at Drama School in Manchester. But it was winning the 1992 Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival that he gained his first major bit of exposure to the public. Brief appearances on Saturday Zoo debuted the first televised appearance of angry drunk Paul Calf and his easy sister Pauline Calf. A nationwide tour followed and in 1994 Steve Coogan: Live'N'Lewd was released. By this time Coogan had began to debut what was to be his most favorite creation Alan Partridge on the show The Day Today. It was time to experiment with Paul and Pauline calf in the of Television.
The story behind Pauline Calf's Wedding Video is very simple. Her brother Paul cannot afford a wedding present for his sister who is marrying a dodgy Greek man called Spiros. So he decides to document the days leading up to the occasion with the aid of his every faithful friend Fat Bob. We meet the Groom, The Best Man, Pauline, The Brides mother, Paul's friends and the local police force.
At the time of it's release in 1994 the amateurish styles that would be consistent of an Amateur wedding camera man probably seemed very innovative and fresh that it won a BAFTA for Best Comedy Programme for it's effort. However I feel it limits the range of scenarios that any wedding can conjure up particularly a Calf wedding. At times the writing seems very amateurish mainly the wedding scene which ties up the loose endings. It is all too convenient and what's more it is not very funny and quite frankly very disappointing and not what I expect from Steve Coogan and company at all. I also think such a flaw would not have been so overlooked if they were making this today. Above all the biggest flaw is the one that nobody can do anything about. It suffers from all the great sitcoms also suffer from and that it has become now by 2006 very dated. It can also be viewed by serious comedy critics as very much a product of it's time. But these three flaws should not put you of viewing this program.
The Best Bits of the show are of course the characters. John Thomson is very believable as Fat Bob, Paul's ever present and ever suffering friend. One can only speculate that he puts up with Paul because he is madly in love with his sister Pauline. Thomson is a strong supporting character whose performance covers over the cracks in the rest of the supporting cast. Above all it's his very sensitive portrayal of a man wanting to be noticed by the woman he loves, but she only wants the things that he isn't. It might be worth pointing out that this kind of characterization in comedy was almost unheard back then and it only has become fully accepted through the release of the office, Extras and Spaced.
Of course John Thomson is one reason to watch this, but the star and main highlight is of course Steve Coogan. Coogans Paul and Pauline Calf will not be remembered with the same affection as Alan Partridge but they are essential staples in the works of Steve Coogan. It was with them that he sharpened his comic skills. We the audience watch them grow in mentality and physicality with every televised and live performance and this is the key to liking and understanding them. It is through this that we accept their severest of flaws such as Paul's drunken violence and Paulines casual attitude towards sex. Of course with Coogan everything is taken to extremes and some of the humor will not bode well with some viewers but this program will delight all Coogan fans
Another Bloody Classic
This program is definitely another program of it's time. In the late 1990's and the early part of the Millennium Channel 4 had what was it's most fertile time with regards to producing situation comedies for all tastes. Amongst them were That Peter Kay Thing, Phoenix Nights, Father Ted and Black Books. But through all this there came Spaced with its touching tale of two flat mates and their strange assortment of friends living within the same house in London. But this was not the only winning formula that they had in there. There was also the film/television/art/theatre references which were sometime very surreal but they tapped into the post modern world we live in and highlighted certain statements by media guru's that say that there isn't anything original anymore.
Tim and Daisy meet one another in a café whilst they are separately flat hunting. A mad scheme as posing as a professional couple helps secure a flat from drink fuelled landlady who turns out to be one their closet friends. Also living in the house is Brian an artist whose work displays Anger, Pain, fear and aggression. Then there is Tim's best friend from childhood Mike who is an army fanatic who has been kicked out of the reserve army for trying to invade Paris with a tank. Daisy's friend manifest herself in the form of Twist a fashion guru that works in laundrette. These wonderful characters are supported by their comedy contemporaries. We have Bill Bailey, Ricky Gervais, Michael Smiley as the brilliant Tyres, and Reece Shearsmith as an angry soldier.
Like Shaun of the dead Spaced is very well written. Pegg and Jessica Stevenson make an excellent writing team. Each episode is skillfully written and each holds a lot of memorable moments. My favourite episodes are Epiphanies and Help which features the wonderful character that is Tyres played to perfection by Michael Smiley. Another favourite episode is when Tim and Daisy act out a shoot out to escape the clutches of an angry mob. Certainly not been done before to such a devastating comic effect.
Also there is the director Edgar Wright who to my knowledge has cemented himself as one of Britains most talented television directors with his fast camera moves. With out his creative input to this show each episode would have had fantastic script but it's final presentation would have been very boring and it would not have been as interesting or exciting.
If you want a quality TV Show that reflects modern day pop culture of the late 90's and early noughties then this intelligent comedy drama is for you. If you don't then leave it alone well alone. Definitely a classic 9 out of 10