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The Good Life (1975)
It's aged BADLY
A sit-com revolving around the decision of suburban couple Tom & Barbara Good to leave "the rat race" and become totally self-sufficient, turning their posh semi' into a small farm along the way. Of course this leads to constant tension and humour with their utterly conformist neighbours, the outrageous snob Margo leadbetter and her long-suffering husband Jerry.
I remember how great I thought The Good Life was when it came out in the mid 1970s but that was 30 years ago and I was 11. Here and now, it's aged badly. All those enormous shirt collars, kipper ties, platform shoes and ghastly flaired "Rupert Bear" check trousers, plus the horrible garish 1970s furniture. Yuch. The Goods seem to be constantly on the verge of starvation and yet their house remains brightly lit & warmly heated and they seem to find enough to pay the mortgage & rates (Council Tax). As an adult I also find it really irritating the way Tom & Barbara seem to be constantly scrounging and sponging off their neighbours. They appear more "parasitic" than "self-sufficient". It's still amusing and Penelope Keith remains excellent (it made her a star) but it has lost a lot over the passing 3 decades. Yeah, it's worth watching but no way is The Good Life in the same league as Porridge or Rising Damp or Fawlty Towers or Some Mothers Do Ave Em or . . .
Jesus Christ, this is AWFUL
Without a doubt the (2003) "Dragnet" is THE worst US TV series I've ever seen, and I'm particularly pained to say that as the star (Ed O'Neil) starred in what I'd say was the best (Married With Children). it's a "cop show" blah blah, and it doesn't work. The original 1950s series was fine and so was the 1980s with Dan Akroyd but ONLY because it was done as a "parody". This is a 'serious' police drama but done in a 1950s format - and it stinks. I can't understand how anyone with a 3 figure IQ could ever have thought this turkey would sell, and I'm delighted to see it was cancelled. So, WHY is this rubbish now being shown (Oct 2005) on British TV ???????? 1 out of 10
Who Dares Wins (1982)
Terrific British movie
A few years ago I was walking up the horrendously steep "Spring Hill" in Lincoln and a middle-aged man passed me and stopped to ask for directions to Lincoln's Theatre Royal. I suddenly realised I was talking to Lewis Collins. For me that was quite a sad moment as I got the feeling he knew where it was and just wanted to be "recognised". Collins was a HUGE TV star from 1978 to 1980 and like ALL British kids at the time I wanted to be either Bodie or Doyle from The Professionals. I saw Who Dares Wins at the cinema and was enthralled by it. I really felt it would take lewis Collins to Hollywood and beyond but it wasn't to be and that's a shame. He would have made a perfect James Bond. Anyway, Who Dares Wins. It is a first class action movie and a fine tribute to our Special Air Service soldiers. The dialogue is sometimes "wobbly" and melodramatic but the exchanges between Richard Widmark and Judy Davis (as many others have said) are fantastic and the action sequences vie with ANYTHING you'll see from Hollywood. The photography direction and music are excellent too. As for the plot. The early 1980s WERE a very paranoid time. I well remember how nervous I often felt at the crazy pronouncements of Thatcher & Raegan who both seemed to be on a religious crusade against Communism and both seemed to believe a nuclear war was "winnable". If Gorbechov hadn't come along and the USSR had had an equally hard-line ideolgoue in The kremlin I'm not sure any of us would be here today, so the plot of Who Dares Wins isn't nearly as unrealistic as it might appear in 2005. It's a fine movie and it shows we Brits can still compete with Hollywood. By the way, I have an American friend who said he never realised Judy Davis was Australian, so her accent must've been spot on. 9 out of 10.
Sexy Beast (2000)
Move over Pacino, Kingsley is the Messiah.
Gal Dove (Ray Winstone) is a retired bank robber living quietly in Spain until his old boss the psychotic Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) flies out and "pursuades" him to do one last job. This movie is too long, it feels lumpy in places and the robbery itself is a bit of an anti-climax BUT it's worth watching for the blistering performances from Kingsley & Winstone. I cannot believe this is the same guy who played Ghandi and Itzak Stern in Schindlers List. Kingsley is pure genius and electrifies the screen every time he's on. His character is evil incarnate and the famous scene on the plane is a MUST see. I'm also chuffed to bits to see Ray Winstone, at last, getting the quality role he's deserved for so long. Like many people I saw his brilliant performance as a 22 year old in the prison drama "Scum" and thought he would be a 'star'. Glad to see it's happened Ray. As a gangster film this is NOT in the same league as The Long Good Friday or Brighton Rock but I'm giving it 8 out of 10 for 2 mindblowing performances from Winstone and Kingsley. Kingsley in particular should have got the Oscar. Even for an actor of his genius this was a career-best.
The Green Green Grass (2005)
I haven't felt so ashamed to be English since last Wednesday when Northern Ireland beat us at football. This show is AWFUL. I thought it would be bad but even my very worst expectations were surpassed, and then some. John Sullivan wrote the utterly brilliant Only Fools & Horses which - for more than 2 decades - was Britain's best loved sitcom and then he comes up with this trash. Boycie & Marlene, 2 of the characters from OF&H leave Peckham for a new life in the country and to avoid the infamous Driscoll brothers. Boycie's evidence "sent them down" but now they're out on a technicality and looking for revenge, apparently. I only hope they find the Boyce family, AND SOON. John Challis & Sue Holderness were both hilarious in the fabulous show which made them famous but this pathetic drivel doesn't even get off the starting blocks. They both seem to be struggling to remember their Boycie & Marlene characters and their son "Tyler" is played by a young actor who has about as much charisma as a whelk, and he looks like one too. There's no "soul" to this horrible show and it simply isn't funny. The only time I've even "smiled" so far has been when Boycie makes references to his mates the Trotters and that by the way is incredibly cheap of Mr Sullivan. Only Fools & Horses was SO successful because the audience didn't just care about Del & Rodney & Uncle Albert, we LOVED them and you just can't have Boycie & Marleen WITHOUT "the trotters" and their Reliant 3-wheeler. I'm prepared to bet anyone out there £100 that this show does not complete it's first series and then vanishes without trace. It should never have been made. 1 out of 10.
Prescription: Murder (1968)
Amazingly this isn't very good
I'm one of the millions of Columbo addicts all over the world and just watched this,the episode that started it all, on British Channel 5. It IS fascinating to think what sprung from this so-so movie and I can only marvel at whoever spotted the massive potential of "Columbo" and added all the little touches that make it such a marvellous & classic series. That said, this particular movie is not as good as the rest (except for the embarrassing final episode & the patronising British episode). If Columbo had been made as per the original 'pilot' it certainly would NOT have gone on for very long, or be watched and loved world-wide. In this film Lt Columbo is smartly dressed, drives a normal car, has a partner, doesn't talk about his alleged relatives and comes across as quite aggressive. There's also none of the cat-and-mouse chemistry between Columbo and "the villain". Watchable, but only for the novelty of seeing how Columbo started out.
It's going to be hard finding enough words about this rubbish to fill 10 lines, but I'll have a go. I understand Christopher Ellison (Burnside) is quite a talented artist & I'm delighted to see he appears to have returned to this profession because the guy cannot act to save his life. His entire 'range' consists of an (unconvincing) aggressive stare. He was awful in "The Bill" but then "The Bill" is trash full stop and I'm delighted to see this ghastly spin-off sank without a trace. Ha Ha. The "plot" to this dreadful series could have come from a particularly bad Australian soap opera and the cast was packed full of ethnic minorities, totally unlike the real Metropolitan Police. That obvious bow to political-correctness spoiled it for me right at the beginning and Ellison's dreadful acting kept it at bargain basement level throughout. Yuch. The only consolation is that this garbage is highly unlikely to ever be screened again.
Sea of Love (1989)
Top quality thriller
This movie is absolutely excellent and SO under-rated I can hardly believe it. The New York Police Department is trying to catch a serial killer whose victims are all men who've placed "lonely hearts" adverts with rhyming poems. Everyone thinks these crimes are being committed by a psychopathic woman so the NYPD place an "ad" of their own and 2 detectives (played by Al Pacino & John Goodman) pose as "lonely hearts" and try to snare the murderer. What elevates this film beyond the norm is the fantastic chemistry between Pacino & Goodman and the anguish driving Pacino's character. He plays a divorced detective who's probably lonelier than most of the people who place such adverts and falls madly in love with Ellen Barkin, the prime suspect. To say any more would spoil things so watch it for yourself, it's a great movie.
Harry's Game (1982)
Excellent and hugely under-rated British film
I agree with others who say Harry's Game is THE best movie made about the "troubles" in Northern Ireland. It is SO infuriating that we British often make excellent films which are handicapped by low budgets and criminally awful marketing & publicity. This is a perfect example. if "Hollywood" had made this movie (and I doubt they could) it would've had at least 2 A list stars, a multi-million dollar budget, and it WOULD have been a blockbuster. Ray Lonnen (Harry) is still best known as "dad" is a series of rotten margerine commercials. Nevertheless the sheer quality and intelligence of the film make it a great British movie. "Harry" is an SAS officer working undercover in Northern Ireland, trying to snare the IRA's top assassin. He's totally immersed in the culture of Ulster and none of his friends & colleagues have a clue who he really is. This film shows both the British & Irish Republican perspective, with none of the ridiculous laughable distinction between the "good IRA & bad IRA" which spoils EVERY American movie about this period. "I was never a bomber" says Richard Gere as a former IRA man in "Jackal". As if that makes a difference? There are no c**p lines like that in Harry's Game. The ending (which I won't reveal) is tragic and completely unexpected. Definitely worth seeing.
Law & Order (1990)
Dick Wolf is a genius. Every series he's made has been a gem, but Law & Order remains the "kellogs cornflakes" ie - original and best. It's almost as good as Columbo and makes other NYPD shows look pretty pathetic. Kojak, Cagney & Lacey & NYPD Blue eat your hearts out. I guess we all know the formula of L & O by now but it's still a winner every time. A crime's discovered, detectives (try to) solve the crime and then it's passed to the DA's team. The reason I love this show is it gives a GREAT insight into all the technicalities and "wrangling" that goes on, behind closed doors, in the legal world and it's also refreshingly honest. Sometimes the bad guys get away, sometimes the good guys screw up, just as in real life. I miss Jerry Orbach (R.I.P) and the new lady D.A. is not as good as Steven Hill but law & order remains a winner and I'm sure it'll be re-run many times in the future.
Portrait of Jennie (1948)
This is my personal favourite movie and the only film I would give a "10". I don't have it on DVD or video because I don't ever want to get "bored" with seeing it. Once every few years it comes on the TV and I take an afternoon off work and roar my eyes out. It is sheer perfection from start to finish and only gets better (and better) with time. Definitely the most haunting and poignant love story you will EVER see and I'm certain Claude Debussy would've considred it his crowning achievement to have his music used as the 'score'. It's almost as though he wrote it and then left it for several decades until Jennie came along. The "storm finale" and the scene where Eben spends the night with Jennie knowing she will vanish at any moment are beyond description. The English language simply doesn't have the words to convey such emotion. It's 56 years old now, but it will NEVER be eclipsed. Jennifer Jones was the most beautiful woman in the world and Joseph Cotten portrayed a tortured soul like no one else in the history of cinema. If it's ever on TV again, drop everything and don't miss this most perfect of all movies.
Bad News Bears (2005)
This is the worst film I have EVER watched in a cinema. It truly is god-awful & if I hadn't been with a couple of young nieces there's no way in hell I would have stayed to the (bitter) end. Yeah, I know it was made for children, but I used to be a kid too and I can tell the difference between good and bad children's entertainment. The knackered and utterly worn-out plot revolves around a hard-drinking ne'er-do-well character coaching a Little League baseball team of misfits and trying to do as little as he can get away with until a rival coach takes the p**s out of him, then he experiences a "conversion" and moulds the team into little champions. Yes, it sounds extremely tedious - AND IT IS! Every cliché' you can imagine is pumped full of embalming fluid and wheeled out again and again (and again). Whenever Hollywood runs a trailer for a movie - any movie - they always show the best bits, but even THEY aren't amusing and that should give you some clue as to the other 99% of this crap. Please, don't force your kids to endure this terrible film unless they're been very VERY naughty.
Power Play (1978)
A brilliant and massively under-rated film
This almost unknown movie remains one of my favourites. David Hemmings plays Colonel Narriman, a charismatic infantry colonel in a small viciously repressive country. For years he's tried to keep out of "politics" and ignore the horrors around him but finally he can't take it any more and is pursuaded to lead a military coup. To ensure success he reluctantly accepts the help of the officer in charge of the country's tanks, Colonel Zellar (played by Peter O'Toole). Their main enemy is the head of the secret police, a character with the hilarious name of BLAIR, played brilliantly by Donald Pleasence. I love the way this movie explores Narriman's mental anguish as conscience gradually overtakes duty and it racks up the tension wonderfully as the coup is planned and eventually carried out. I'm not giving the 'twist' away but rest assured the scene where Narriman finally realises he's been used is as good as you'll ever see. This is a genuinely scary film and perfectly portrays life in a country where the law is whatever the president says it is. Don't miss it!
Chilling, and yet a masterpiece
In a world where female directors ARE discriminated against and always have been it's a tragedy that this genius (Riefenstahl) destroyed her reputation by working for the Nazis. I've seen both the Olympiad films and they left me chilled, inspired, and ashamed of myself for being inspired by them. It is quite vicious and unashamed white-supremecist propaganda, but by God it's done well. I'm wondering if the so-called "olympic ideal" EVER existed now? Are the olympics about sport, or just a huge great marketing vehicle? Nowadays it's Coca-Cola & Nike; back in the 1930s it was Hitler and the Nazi Party. The 'message' of Olympiad is that National Socialist Germany is the highest evolution of human society and that Aryan supermen dominate sport. Riefenstahl did a brilliant job of presenting this case and I'm sure that to many people it seemed reasonable and seductive; but that was before Blitzkrieg and the Holocaust. It IS a wonderful film and Leni Riefenstahl was one of the most talented movie directors who ever lived, but let's never forget she was also a collaborator in this most evil of all regimes. My belief has always been that she knew exactly what Hitler was up to and happily took part because she never thought she'd be held to account for it. By all means watch Olympiad and be enthralled by it (just like I was) but remember, this is the devil's work - and it could happen again.
Vanishing Act (1986)
Just about the best TV movie I've ever seen
This is a truly excellent thriller which never lets up for a moment, racks up the tension wonderfully, and has a MONSTER of a twist at the end (which I won't reveal). Harry Kenyon (Mike Farrell) has a terrible problem. His wife Chris has vanished and suddenly up pops Margot Kidder impersonating her, just before the real Chris is due to inherit a fortune. He's trying desperately to get people to believe him, but no one will, especially the local chief of detectives (Elliott Gould). What the audience doesn't realise is that Harry Kenyon has a very (very) dark secret and the townspeople who refuse to believe him may know far more than they're letting on. This movie was good enough for a cinema release in my opinion and I promise you, it won't disappoint. 9 out of 10.
Sorry folks but this movie stinks!
I recently discovered that for a short while before WW1 Hitler and Lenin lived on the same street in Munich! They must have passed, or even known each other (?) Now that would be a subject for a play eh? This film however is one long yawn. The ending is brilliant, powerful and unexpected but the preceding 104 minutes do not make it worth-while.To my mind there was no character development at-all & no feeling of 'plot progression'. Noah Taylor is DREADFUL as Adolf Hitler. In his early years Hitler was scruffy, awkward and socially inept. Taylor captured that but utterly failed to show any trace of the charisma which this man clearly had right from the start. The dialogue is weak throughout and I was un-convinced that this "jealousy" of jews led to the holocaust. To define "Max" in one word? Boring! I paid £4 ($6.50) for the video and threw it in the trash.
Little Nicky (2000)
Brilliant, except for one enormous flaw
I would have given this film 10 out of 10, but I'm knocking 4 off out of sheer DISGUST at the shameless plugging of P******s Chicken. For Christ's sake, how did they get away with it? it's tragic because, other than that, it is hilarious. From the demon with tits on his head, to Sandler not realising humans can't crap in the street, to "Henry Winkler - covered in bees!" I laughed all the way through. it's hard to describe the movie in detail without wrecking the humour for people who haven't seen it but i can say it's very (very) funny, and Reece Witherspoon was delightful too. If only you can blank out the atrocious - and frequent - commercials for P*****s bloody Chicken, you'll love it.
Like most people on Planet Earth I'm a Columbo fan, but I wish this episode hadn't been made. It's a perfectly decent story, corrupt nightclub owner murders blackmailing journalist to avoid the police AND the mafia but then finds himself in even bigger trouble when Columbo is onto him. The problem is, Peter Falk. I really don't want to criticise such a TV icon, but it has to be said. He was 75/76 when this episode was filmed and, I'm sad to say, totally unconvincing. He just looked old and tired and seemed to be going through the motions. I'm sure that in 20, 30, 40 years from now people will still enjoy these classic shows, but it's high time for Mr Falk to throw away his raincoat, enjoy his retirement, and not make any more episodes. I'd hate to see the character become ridiculous and "Columbo Likes The Nightlife" came close to it.
Columbo: Fade in to Murder (1976)
Excellent. One of the best Columbo's.
Bill Shatner has long been hugely popular over here in England & is currently on our screens in a series of self-parodying cereal commercials. I've enjoyed everything he's done, except the atrociously bad "T.J.Hooker". Anyway. Back to 1974. Shatner plays Ward Fowler, a TV detective with a shady past, a dodgy present and an uncertain future. He solves all 3 problems by murdering his blackmailing producer in a staged hold-up. "Detective Lucerne" then finds himself dealing with Lt Columbo and they "work together" to solve the crime. The chemistry between Shatner and Falk is excellent throughout and they were re-matched in another episode 18 years later. William Shatner is a marvellously smarmy villain and quite magnanamous at the end when he's finally unmasked: "She was a blackmailer.I think, in this case, the murderer has the sympathetic part?" Well worth seeing. I'm wondering if anyone else noticed a similarity between William Shatner & Gene Hackman in this role? The 2 could have been interchangeable.
The Contender (2005)
Sly, you are a genius
This is the best TV show I've seen for a VERY long time. Every episode was riveting. Like all Sylvester Stallone's projects it was SO simple, but pushed all the right buttons, provided 1st class entertainment - and made a fortune. If I wore a hat I'd sure take it off in respect. The basic 'plot' was bringing together 16 of the world's finest Middleweight boxers, the only condition being none of them had ever got the chance to fight for a world title. One by one they fought each other until only 2 guys remained, and the winner received $1,000,000. Each one of these brave young men had an equal chance to be "the contendor". The drama in each installment was un-rivalled. Who can ever forget how "underdog" Alfonso Gomez picked the strongest opponent in the first episode - and won, or how Anthony (Mr Selfish) Bonsante got his just desserts in spectacular style, or the come-back of Peter Manfredo. Fantastic. Every one of these athletes (even Bonsante) deserved a million dollars and I admit I shed a tear or two when I heard what happened to Najai. He had a beautiful family.
Stallone & Sugar Ray made all 16 of these guys feel like stars and i reckon 99% of schoolteachers will be green with envy at how an actor and a boxer managed to bring out all this talent and potential in so short a time. Even though we all know who won I'd happily watch the whole show again. It was THAT good. My final thought, Sly, if you're reading, how about re-making the show next year with heavyweights? I give The Contendor 9 out of 10.
The Choirboys (1977)
Easily the worst film I've seen this year
My TV guide gave this movie 3 ticks (out of 4) and described it as a "gritty police thriller". They should be sued! The ONLY reason i stayed watching was that I couldn't believe how truly awful this film is, from start to finish. There's no plot and all the characters are unrealistic. Even James Woods and Robert Webber never seemed like real cops. It doesn't fit into any 'genre', except terrible. The 1970s sexism and the Japanese-American character (playing a racial stereotype) are plain embarrassing. I'm sure that all the actors involved in this rubbish (particularly James Woods) must cringe at every mention of it. To be avoided at all costs.
A Chump at Oxford (1939)
Stan & Ollie at their best. Hilarious.
What a lovely gentle comedy. Laurel & Hardy are down on their luck after spectacularly failing as domestic servants (with Stan in drag as a maid) and find themselves literally "in the gutter" working as road-sweepers. They accidentally foil a bank robbery and the grateful bank manager rewards them with the one thing they most dream of, "the best education money can buy". And so off they go to Oxford University, England where the students play a series of practical jokes on them until it's discovered Stan is really Lord Paddington, a brilliant academic who lost his memory several years earlier and vanished. Some of Laurel and Hardy's full-length movies lack the brilliance of their "shorts" but this is spot on throughout. Trust me, you won't stop laughing. Hard to believe this film is now 65 years old, but it still shines. The "Oxford" scenes were shot in Hollywood as we British were rather pre-occupied in 1940 and it's kind of poignant to reflect on the terrible evil that was loose in the world while this lovely film was being created. This movie is a wonderful anglo-American co-operation just like the military alliance which, thankfully, meant that comedy could continue. I recently heard Laurel and hardy described as two very gentle gentlemen, and that sums up my feelings. God bless them both, and long may their legacy continue to bring laughter. Look out for a very young Peter Cushing as one of the spiteful students.
OK, but one enormous flaw
The story of a conservative judge appointed to head US drug policy, intertwined with sub-plots involving his own daughter's drug-taking and the criminals actually producing narcotics at the other end, with a sub-plot of an initially innocent woman gradually taking over her husband's drug business. Most people seem to think this film is great. The reason I don't is because I've just seen the European version of Traffic, a TV movie made a year earlier, and it is SO much better. It's impossible not to make comparisons. Michael Douglas is excellent as always in the lead character and so was Peter Reigert (wasted in a small role) but that's about it. If only Catherine Zeta-Jones' talent could match her ambition. Her Welsh/South American accent is laughable. The worst aspect of this film is the superficial "Disneyesque" way it deals with Douglas' daughter's drug-taking. It's a joke. We don't see anything "nasty" and at the end she simply comes back to Daddy and gives up drugs. The Euro version really does show the filth and the squalor and the utter despair of a junkie as the young Oxford student drops out and descends into a life of thievery and prostitution to feed her habit. SO much more convincing. I'm annoyed by this movie because it was made later than the European version and had a much higher budget so it should have been better, and it simply isn't.
Air Force One (1997)
God Bless America !
Is this movie supposed to be a comedy? I laughed all the way through. It is hilarious. The "plot" concerns a bunch of 2 dimensional euro-terrorists with the obligatory thick accents taking over Air Force One, and the glorious US military coming to the rescue, led by the President himself who just happens to be a war hero from Nam. Sure, it's a slick Hollywood actioner and I remain a fan of Harrison Ford but this film is sheer CRAP, and I don't care how much hate mail I get for saying so! I honestly believe that if Julius Caeser had access to modern technology 1,900 years ago he would have made a VERY similar movie. With hindsight, if only they'd smeared the terrorists with boot-polish and made them wear turbans. Even better! Now compare this film with your REAL President, a guy who can't even eat a pretzel without falling over. One of my favourite Americans is the great intellectual icon Gore Vidal, God knows how old but still with a mind as sharp as a razor. He recently said: " We Americans are probably the only democratic nation in history that honestly believes its own propaganda, and that's kinda scary." Well said Mr Vidal. If ONLY Colin Powell had run for President this dreadful movie might, just might, seem slightly realistic, but you folks chose to elect and then re-elect Rain Man, so I hope you'll respect us Europeans having a jolly good laugh at it. I give it 3 out of 10 - and that's only because Harrison Ford was the star.
Stallone's worst movie.
Trust me. If you thought "Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot" was bad; this is worse. I sometimes wonder if the people writing my TV listings mag' are on drugs. They've given this rubbish 3 ticks (out of 4) and described it as "gripping" and "an excellent star vehicle". Truth is, it's plain awful. Rutger Hauer plays a freelance terrorist who murders an IRA contact in London and flees to the USA, offering his services to anyone who wants them. He's so dangerous that some English anti-terrorist expert assembles a team of New York cops trained to kill him. Hauer and Stallone (the hero) both put in good performances in spite of the rotten material and Joe Spinell (Willy Cici in Godfather 2) was excellent as Stallone's boss but the script is dreadful, the plot is even worse, and my DOG could have written the hideously dated "music". For a start, NYPD officers are not and never have been assassins. The IRA never in all its history used "freelance" bombers. Hauer's character (the near-perfect terrorist) leaves an unlocked case full of weapons in a girlfriend's closet and kills her, leaving behind a map with his last target circled. Hauer knows intimate details about Stallone and his team. HOW? There is, literally, no plot development at all. The whole movie feels like a pilot for a kids adventure series which was (thankfully) never picked up. I'm giving Nighthawks 3 out of 10, but ONLY because Sylvester Stallone and Joe Spinell put so much enthusiasm into their roles.