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A good attempt at 'Spooks' style complexity.
I have only watched the first episode of the first series. I normally wait until the final episode of any series before putting finger to keyboard, but for some unknown reason I felt I needed to put in an early comment or two. Perhaps it was the bizarre comments of one of the reviewers on here, concerning 'police departments' that egged me on to write this.
Firstly, and probably my biggest issue with previous comments. I really don't think it matters much which police department is being featured in a drama. At the end of the day, it's the story that is important, followed closely by scripting. This drama has fast paced dialog, with facts coming at you at lightening pace, and more than once I had to press rewind on the remote in order to try to absorb the information being spoken. The fact that it was identity theft, for me, only made the whole thing more interesting, which is why I specifically sourced this box set, purely on it's subject matter...oh, and Keeley Hawes, who for me, could be the present generation Joanna Lumley! (sorry Joanna, that's not saying that you're not still a huge star and a most engaging orator...smiles).
The series could have been about murder, rape, corporate espionage, or perhaps just burglary, and it with this kind of script, and with the acting quality on show, it would still still have been interesting. It's good to see that Aiden Gillen is doing so well since his excellent performances in 'Queer As Folk'. I have a feeling his career is going to continue to move on upwards, and it might not be too far in the distance when his name will be a household name. As for Keeley Hawes, this lady surely has a huge future. Her performances in Spooks should alone have carved out an international movie career, and why they didn't have her play Lara Croft in the movies, I'll never know...her voice will always be the true Lara! On a more serious note, I feel sure Keeley also has a big future, as her beauty and speaking voice will land her international fame before too long.
Finally, just on the first episode, I can see that this was ITV's attempt to have a 'Spooks' of their own, and to some degree it works in that respect, although 'Spooks' is definitely the superior article, and focuses on an entirely different subject matter anyway. 'Identity' does succeed though, in bringing to ITV a more involved and complex story line, together with good acting, which I'm sorry to say, ITV doesn't generally compete with the BBC on. For those of us who like their stories more complex, this should certainly appeal. I really hope there's another series planned!
Roger & Val Have Just Got In (2010)
Many good points, well produced, but not a classic...
This is a difficult review to write as I want to give this series glowing praise, and in some ways I can, but something is holding me back. I have a feeling that one day I may see repeats and my appreciation will grow, but for this review I can only say what I feel now. The acting is superb, the dialogue is top notch, and the atmosphere is somehow homely and moody all at the same time. Even the plot content is above average. So what's wrong? It's not the lack of the belly laugh factor, because it's not intended to be that kind of comedy...it's far more of a dry comedy drama. It doesn't even work as cringe TV, because it never reaches the depths of cringe that shows like 'The Office' or 'Extras' reaches, which conversely makes them immensely funny. It's a really weird angle, that somehow works without you realising why. There is most definitely a subtlety that means there is a good chance that a lot of people, especially those with more mainstream tastes in entertainment, will not get. If this were a movie, then I'd expect this to play in the 'Art House' venues more than the local multiplex, but, with the possibility of it gaining word of mouth and becoming a sleeper hit, because audiences just started getting it!
When looking at the characters, I saw much that went on between them, going on in my own relationships. This was both cringing and heart warming. I saw the characters self indulge themselves with a self importance contained within the cocoon of their seemingly solitary existence outside of work, preventing them from getting a balanced prospective on their viewpoints and activities...but then, isn't that the same for all of us, if we're honest? This is what I meant by the cringe factor, as subtle as it is, because I saw things in their relationship, that I've seen in my own...and that makes that cringing feeling, even more uncomfortable. Maybe that's what holds me back from making this extremely well produced work, from being a classic...it's just too real to stomach? One thing for sure...at a time when good, well written sitcom's are almost a thing of the past, it is good to see that the flag of intelligent writing is still being flown, but I hope that while this was an extremely interesting watch, that the effort put into the writing in this series, could be transferred into something more mainstream, entertaining, and, dare I say it, more palatable. I would dearly like to see the Beeb return to the days of 'One Foot In The Grave', 'Men Behaving Badly', 'Waiting For God', 'Vicar Of Dibley' 'Keeping Up Appearances', and even some of the older classics like 'The Good Life' and 'Butterflies'. This series proves that the quality of the writing is out there, but that is needs to be more universally accessible. When will the current powers that be at BBC1 remember that it is the 'situation' in sitcom, and not ironically unfunny one liners that so many of todays's new comedies resort to. When will they realise that a situation is funny because of a combination of good dialogue, good plot, and good acting. There is usually one or more of those things missing in nearly every new comedy that comes along.
As a conclusion I would like to say that I enjoyed 'Roger And Val...' and looked out for it in the following weeks schedules, but probably will not miss it if a follow up series doesn't happen. I do however, have great respect for what they achieved. As a footnote, I am extremely glad to see Dawn French in something that is a huge improvement on the awful 'Psychoville', which to date, is the only box set I have given up on after just 2 or 3 episodes.
On Expenses (2010)
Oh wow...I wanted this to go on and on!
There's not a lot more I can add, that hasn't already been said, so this is really just a further endorsement of how good this was, and how you have to go out of your way to see it. An impeccable performance from Brian Cox, who is fast entering, if he hasn't already, that elite group of British actors, such as Burton, Bates, Olivier, Harris, Hopkins, Connery, Guinness, Mills, Howard, and, oh my...there's probably too many to mention, but nonetheless, a fine exclusive bunch of sheer class. Another standout performance, that hasn't been mentioned here so far, from another fine actor that has such great potential, was that of Neil Pearson, who was perfectly cast, and I really do hope we see more of him in high profile drama's like this one. A great biting and edgy script, and some wonderful comedic moments that had me smiling for hours after. This is a real treasure from the BBC, and I'm sure they will win awards for it. I'm also sure they will be rolling this one out from time to time, dusting off the covers, and allowing us to view it once again, if we haven't already added it to our DVD collections. This one will truly never date, and I had no hesitation in rating this a full 10! I too wished this had been longer, but then, maybe I'm just being greedy, and maybe it was perfect at the length it is...smiles
The Golden Compass (2007)
What did we expect!
Northern Lights (the non US title of the book), is an epic book all on it's own, even before you consider it's place in an even greater epic trilogy. It would have been an exception to the rule, if this movie of such an epic yarn, had been anything more than average. Do I listen to myself?...No, I don't, and like many other lovers of this trilogy, I was excited to see the 'LOTR' treatment applied to it. Unfortunately, despite considerable attention to sets and costumes, the overall ambiance was subdued compared to my enjoyment of the book.
I won't hark on about what was wrong, as most, if not all, has been said in previous 'user comments' on this site. Instead I will just credit the positives. A lot of the casting was excellent, including the lead role. I don't know if reference had been made to the excellent full cast audio book recording of the book (the unabridged non BBC version), but I was amazed at the closeness, without being a carbon copy, of the interpretation of Lyra. Several other roles can be similarly compared to that audio production, including Mrs Coulter and Lee Scorsby. I urge you not to bother with the BBC Radio 4 production of this trilogy, as unusually for the BBC, it fell well below par.
Here's my underlying thought. If you are going to attempt to recreate a piece of literature of such epic proportions, you cannot do it in under 2 hours of runtime. To have the respect of the people who had read the books, and movie goers alike, it needed to have flowed better, with more time for character development. It also needed more contrasting dramatic elements. For all of this, it needed to be at least 2 and a half hours long, and possibly even around 3. The argument against this, is probably going to be, that it was a movie aimed at the family, and then you have the job of keeping younger ones entertained, and that's the heart of why this movie is nothing more than yet another average cinema record of the key scenes from a great book. Despite many children reading the books, to fully appreciate all the levels contained within it, you needed an adult outlook. The movies completely missed these more complex themes...so why do they bother?
The Bill (1984)
The Bill is back to it's best!
I can honestly say that I have never missed an episode bar one, the episode with Honey in the casino about four years ago. During this time I have seen the highs and lows and yes some very 'soapy' episodes. I agree wholeheartedly with people who say it has been at a definite low from about 2002, maybe even a little before that, but even in it's more trashy period it retained my interest. I have cringed at many of the story lines from around 2002 onwards, but while a lot of silly stories were going on there were still some good characters. Gabriel Kent and Cathy Bradshaw were not one of these! I have to say that within the last half a year to a year the show has gone through a dramatic about turn and now more concentration on the very real pressures that the British police have to endure has ensured that an air of quality has returned. if you have stayed away for a few years then now is definitely a good period to return to it. There are characters that stand along side the best of the past, such as Gina Gold, Sam Nixon (gorgeous as she is!), DI Manson, plus there's still a crop of the old stalwarts such as the wonderfully flawed Reg Hollis. I hope the show's producers can keep this current good period going, and if they have to raise the ratings in future, to find a good solid talking point of a storyline, rather than resort to Tabloid style cheap ratings grabbers. These attempts to tempt people in may initially bring in a lot of people who like that kind of thing but they will lose many more of the more discerning audience. May this show go on and on...please!
Trial & Retribution: Episode #6.1 (2002)
It just gets better and better....
...everytimer Lynda La Plante puts pen to paper. Apart from the series 'Lifeboat' that failed to grip me from the start, everything else has always kept my interest from start to finish. Trial and Retribution has now, in my humble opinion, surpassed the level of excitement experienced in the Prime Suspect series however the production and cinematography was always better in Trial and Retribution from the start. The split screen work that was recently championed by the critics in '24' was in fact pioneered by Lynda from the first installment a good few years earlier and was a fundemental part of the storytelling. (to better effect than in 24!) This is largely due to Lynda La Plante's hands on approach, bringing her already proven writing skills (she is a very successfull crime thriller novelist) together with the added dimension of being able to play with images on o screen. You can never show more than one word at a time on the pages of a book but with split screen you show simultaniously two, three, or maybe even four elements of the story unfolding at the same time.
Storywise this is the most complex chapter of this series of usually one off two part, four hour thrillers. Without giving the storyline away it is firing on many differant fronts and it twists and turns more than anyother Lynda la Plante story that I can remember. I have never bee more gripped by a TV thriller, so much so that I did wonder what would have happened if it had received a theatrical release in the States as it is artistically strong enough and if you removed all the adverts coupled with some smart editing you would have something that would thrill in this age of very glossy but devoid of depth Hollywood thrillers.Please do not stop there Lynda! (as if she would!)
The Ninth Gate (1999)
Getting this all into prospective
Oh dear! We seem to have some very differing views here with no relation to movie or general intellect. I think that expectations are the cause of most peoples problem with this movie. This is either because we have a high regard for Polanski or Depp or it could be the hope that in an industry starved of good supernatural thrillers we had hoped this one would go a little way to rectifying this.
So what went wrong? For those veteran movie fans out there Polanski is probably one of the five leading directors of all time, up there with the likes of Hitchcock, Kubrick, Coppola, and Lean. I am sure many of you will argue this with choices of your own but you cannot argue with classics such as Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby, Tess, Repulsion, Macbeth, and a whole bunch of minor classics as well. Polanski is a victim of his own success and this being possibly his worst movie to date has left a lot of die hard fans a little disappointed and the rest wondering what all the fuss is about. Having said this, the ending is responsible for a lot of this and I can't help but wonder if the cutting room floor is responsible for what seems like a rushed finish to the film. All the hallmarks of Polanski however are here... awkwardness, unease, subtlety, unpredictability (only by watching the majority of his other films will you know what I mean by this) three dimensional characters, great score, lavishly designed sets and locations. If the ending had been better this would be a minor classic.
Depp gives his usual trademark performance but nothing can save the disappointing end.
For those of you who are under the age of thirty, you will only know the formula for a modern day thriller which creates pace and mystery through quick Camera shots disguising a shallow thrill by showing as little of the scene as possible through a series of micro flashes. The thrilling parts of real life are not like that and Polanski never attempts this cheap trick by modern day editors and directors. Instead he sustains a shot all the way through the scene often from an unusual viewpoint. His thrills come naturally out of a given situation relying on anticipation and the unknown.
It is a shame that the DVD for this film marks the only venture so far by Polanski to do a commentary. Maybe he will back track a little with some of his earlier films. I look forward with some hope to a Directors Cut for this film with say an extra half an hour. It must be on that floor somewhere!
One Night Stand (1997)
Forget the flaws, enjoy the experience!
I don't know what it is with films but some capture the mood for me and some don't. 'Leaving Las Vegas' didn't but this did. So why? The latter didn't receive half the aclaim of the first, but somehow despite 'Las Vegas' being the more technically perfect film 'One Night Stand' was more a more interesting study of Human relationships and how real life is.
I don't think I have seen a better performance from Snipes and Robert Downey Jnr leaves me stunned at why he hasn't been given more leading roles. Downey Jnr is up there with the best of them when it comes to ability and 'Chaplin' should have led to a continuous stream of top dramatic billing, A small but again thoughtful performance from him, never totally stealing the limelight but always there as the part demanded. There are only a few actors that leave me wanting more because of the insight they brought to the character, Pacino, De Niro, Duvall, Hopkins, to name some, but also, strange as it may be, based on the few decent roles he has had, Downey Jnr.
Figgis brings to this film a mood that captivates. The dialogue levels are appalling in places (sound recordists when are you going to learn its no good spending millions on a movie and people working their guts out if we cant hear the bloody thing!) and the story a little rushed at times. It could be compared, for those of you who are musicians, to recording a piece of Jazz or R & B Live in a studio and then quantizing the track so that all the notes and rhythms are absolutely in time, they then sound too mechanical. A little rough round the edges can often make the difference and ironically make the film perfect.
I had a problem with the ending and couldn't figure out why. Then it struck me, when you look at the two dinner scenes it was plain that the foursome only worked with the second arrangement and the end was inevitable thus the attempt by Figgis to make a twist was lost on an audience who were already half expecting that to happen at the first dinner scene, me included.
So flaws aside I still enjoyed this film immensely and certainly give it an above average rating.
On a a final note has anyone seen so many lowly parts played by such reputable British actors, namely Julian Sands, Amanda Donohue, and Ione Skye!
Groundhog Day (1993)
Hugely underrated !
If this film had been made four decades ago it would not have surprised me to see Frank Capra's name attached to it. This is ironic as one of his most celebrated movies, It's a Wonderful Life was also hugely underrated in its day and in fact was slated by some critics. The difference between these films is that Harold Ramis is not held in the same esteem as Frank Capra, at least not at present. In order for that to happen Harold will need to make a film of the same acclaim as 'Mr Smith goes to Washington'. Things could easily change.
Meanwhile 'Groundhog Day is an impressive use of imagination (whilst not perfect) and is one of those 'what if...' wonderfully quirky movies that you find yourselves talking and debating far more than even the most profoundly philosophical of deep thought provoking epics. Pure escapist fun and for once that does not mean some sci fi big budget action blaster.
Then there are the performances mostly good solid ones with a glorious subtle piece of acting from Murray, probably his best to date.
I could go on but I do not wish to hype it too much for those who have not seen it. I will admit one shameful thing....
I gave it 10/10 in order to raise it in the top 250. My true vote would be 9.5 out of 10 !!