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The Tower (1993) (TV)
1 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
A high-rise tower-block becomes dangerous when the computer controlling it goes mad., 13 August 1998

This film brilliantly explodes the uneasy relationship we have with machines in our isolationist, paranoid, postmodern society. Actually, I'm lying: it's derivative rubbish. You can almost imagine the production meetings: "Hey guys - let's take the best bits of the best films and mix them all together to make the best film ever!" That must have seemed like such a good idea at the time…

Don't worry if you haven't seen this film - the plot is so familiar it will seem like you have anyway. It concerns a monumental tower-block (Hey! Just like in "The Towering Inferno" (John Guillermin: 1974)) with which the owners are seriously pleased - until it all goes terribly wrong ("The Towering Inferno" again.) It seems this tower-block is controlled by a powerful, state-of-the-art computer which, fed up with playing Minesweeper all day, goes bonkers (Anyone seen "2001: A Space Odyssey" (Stanley Kubrick : 1968)?) and decides to take over the control of the tower - and eventually the world. This is where Julie Christie comes in. Oh - sorry that's "Demon Seed" (Donald Cammell: 1977) No, this one is totally different. Here we have just one man who is pitted against the might of the computer ("2001" again) - played with an admirably straight face by Paul Reiser. This is a hideous bit of miscasting: Reiser, though a competent enough actor, isn't exactly lead material mainly because he's far too familiar - predominantly as a lightweight comedy actor, playing the intelligent one in the TV sitcom "My Two Dads"; and in films like "Sunset Limousine" (Terry Hughes: 1983), Cross My Heart (Armyan Bernstein: 1987) and "Crazy People" (Tony Bill: 1990 ) Herein lies the problem: is this being played for laughs? Unbelievably, it appears not. Reiser runs, ducks, types energetically on a computer keyboard , swims like Shelley Winters in "The Poseidon Adventure" (Ronald Neame: 1972 ), and rescues a cat like O. J. Simpson in "The Towering Inferno". Okay so I lied about the last two - but I eagerly await the sequel - and the point I'm making is that despite the corny lines, the clichéd plot and uninspiring special effects, Reiser works like a trooper to try to get you to care. Ultimately though, it's all in vain.

This film serves as one of those spot-the-originals, where the audience is constantly reminded of other - generally superior - films and as such provides moments of entertainment. They are only moments, though. With a little more care, this could have been a really good film - the idea is sound enough - but instead it inhabits that lonely middle-ground of mediocre films that are neither good enough to be taken seriously, nor bad enough to be worth watching. Generally, if it's three o'clock in the morning, you can't sleep and have already scrubbed the kitchen and bathroom , then I'd recommend you rediscover the joys of a good book rather than waste your time with this. Contains swearing. 2 out of 10

Like It Is (1998)
4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Enjoyable 'coming-out' tale set in the Blackpool's violent underworld., 8 August 1998

This surprisingly good debut from director Paul Oremland follows the story of bare-knuckle fighter Craig (impressively acted by British amateur featherweight champion, Steve Bell) as he abandons his violent life in Blackpool's underworld and finds love and disillusionment in London's gay clubland.

As with many debuts, part of the fun of this film is trying to trace Oremland's influences. There are heavy reworkings of the "Breaking Glass" scenario (1980: Brian Gibson), with the action of "Like It Is" relying on the same devices: the buying of records from particular stores in order to make a record enter the music charts (a hideously corny nineties style boy -band); the predatory boss-figure (played with worrying believability by Roger Daltrey); and the casual drug-taking. Elsewhere, the relationship between Ian Rose's record producer and the naive Bell reminds us of that between the Gordon Warnecke and Daniel Day Lewis characters in "My Beautiful Launderette" (1985: Stephen Frears) although, like all Oremland's 'borrowings' this is given a powerful nineties twist, concerning itself not with a racial divide between the lovers, but a cultural one in the macho, 'don't call me queer' stance of the Northerner and the 'glad to be gay' hipness of the Londoner.

This is a slightly awkward film but Oremland cleverly sidesteps the usual cliches that so often marr well-intentioned yet cringe-worthy gay drama. The performances of both Bell and Daltry are absolutely first-rate, whereas Rose is satisfactory even if I couldn't quite believe someone throwing up their life to follow him across the country after a one-night stand. Behr is just plain annoying -- although, it must be said, her character is anything but likeable, so how much of this lies with the actress herself is open to debate.

As a coming-out tale, "Like It Is" is a little too sugar-coated for my tastes: I found the reaction of Bell's elder brother, on finding out his predilections ("Thank God!") rather unbelievable -- as was Rose's telling him in the first place. Surely, as an experienced gay-man, Rose would have more sense than to go into a strange man's home and out his brother -- especially when the aforementioned stranger is standing between him and the door.

But these are minor niggles -- as a debut film, this is a highly enjoyable effort and well worth seeing. Contains swearing, drug-taking, nudity and sex scenes. 3½ out of 5.