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The Winds of War (1983)
A great mini-series - despite Ali MacGraw
I've just revisited this mini-series on DVD for the first time since I saw it when it was first screened on TV back in 1983, so my memory of it had been very vague and I'd forgotten pretty much all of it.
I'd also forgotten just how singularly dreadful Ali MacGraw is in this.
I've not read the book, but I have the impression that the character of Natalie Jastrow is supposed to be strong-willed, spirited, feisty and sexy. If that's the case then MacGraw failed on all counts.
Instead of being strong-willed, spirited and feisty, MacGraw's Natalie comes across as spoilt, petulant and generally obnoxious - constantly complaining, throwing hissy-fits and looking down her nose at people (both literally and metaphorically). And when she's trying to be all coquettish for the benefit of Sloate and Byron, her performance is about as sexy as a bad case of athlete's foot.
All in all a horrible piece of miscasting by the producers, and I'm not in the least bit surprised that she wasn't rehired for the sequel "War And Remembrance" (in which Jane Seymour's Natalie was a quantum leap improvement over MacGraw's portrayal). At least Old Bleary Eyes himself, Robert Mitchum, brings gravitas, presence and start quality to his role, even though he looks all of his (at the time of filming) 66 years and was really about 15 years too old and several trouser sizes too large for the character he was playing.
Looking beyond the presence of Ali MacGraw though, this classic mini-series is a great way to while away a week's worth of evenings in front of the TV, and the way in which historical events and characters are interwoven with the more personal story lines of the main fictional characters is very nicely done.
The sequel is even better (and longer), and I'm looking forward to starting on that soon.
Dead Men Don't Wear Rubbers (2001)
Plotted porn - with a safe sex message?
A "plotted porn" movie set in the 1940s. The costumes & hairstyles are nice and authentic, as are the sets and vehicles used - and the (very glamorous) female performers wear suspender (garter) belts and stockings in most of the scenes too, which is another plus.
There also seems to be an underlying "safe sex" message, both in the title and in the fact that all the male performers wear condoms in all but one of the sex scenes - though this always strikes me as a pointless exercise when they remove them for the "pop shot" and the female performers gobble up the result with such gusto.
This hardcore movie falls very much into the "couples" genre, and comes recommended to those who (a) prefer their porn with a plot (as opposed to just "endless humping"), (b) like to see the female performers wearing sexy costumes, lingerie and stockings and (c) are not put off by the presence of condoms in the hardcore scenes.
Its main drawbacks (common to a lot of hardcore porn) are the presence of tedious genital close-up shots and very unattractive male performers (one of is a spiv apparently modelled closely on the Private Walker character from the classic TV show "Dad's Army"), though with a runtime in excess of 2 hours, it represents decent value for money.
There are worse B-movies out there
I sat down to watch this film not expecting much, but I have to say that despite the Z-list cast and the over-use of the still (unfortunately) fashionable-among-filmmakers "wobblycam" (to the point where at times it's impossible to see what's happening or to whom), this wasn't a bad little zombie flick.
Aside from the aforementioned headache-inducing camera-work, the main weakness of this movie was the ending. It seemed like the scriptwriters suddenly ran out of ideas and just thought "okay we'll just wrap this up here". But the preceding 90 minutes were entertaining enough. If you enjoy the zombie sub-genre, check it out. Though perhaps rent rather than buy this one.
Root Into Europe (1992)
If you like "Minder" - you'll like this
Enjoyable, light-hearted mini-series in which George Cole basically reprises his famous "Arthur Daley" role under another character name, appointing himself as a "roving ambassador without portfolio for the British PM" and touring Europe with his "lady wife" to study European culture in the run-up to the launch of the European single market in 1992.
Constant statements like "after 1992, everything will be ..." date it somewhat, but it's nonetheless a fine piece of "archetypal Englishman abroad" comedy filmed on location around Europe and featuring cameos by the likes of Italian porn actress La Ciccolina and German sex shop magnate Beate Uhse playing themselves.
The Time Tunnel (2006)
Beyond belief that this wasn't commissioned as a series
I finally managed to get hold of this movie and watched it last night.
When I'd finished, I just could not believe that the networks failed to pick this up and commission a series.
But then again, considering all the sub-standard, mindless s**t that not only gets commissioned but keeps returning season after season ad nauseum - thereby speaking volumes about the collective lack of taste of TV execs and great swathes of the viewing masses at large - maybe it's not such a shock that this excellent remake (perhaps "reimagining" would be a better description) of the classic '60s show was shelved. Some things never change even after 4 decades (case in point: the original "Time Tunnel" was axed after a 30-episode single season, while the camp, puerile drivel that was "Lost In Space" ran to over 80 episodes across 3 seasons). These people wouldn't recognise quality television if it came up behind them and bit them in the backside.
But rant over! Back to the film itself. In the present day (2002), a secret offshoot of the U.S. Department of Energy has built an experimental Time Tunnel, but their meddling with time has created a "time storm" that's somehow rippled across history and caused subtle changes to the present (for example the U.S. now only has 49 states, and the New York Yankees baseball team have become the Boston Yankees). Only the team in the Time Tunnel complex have somehow been shielded from these changes, so only they can remember how things used to / "should" be. To prevent the changes becoming more serious, a team is dispatched back to the Battle of the Huertgen Forest on the border between Germany and Belgium in late 1944 to try and put things right. Disguised as a team of American GIs from that period, their mission is to find a man from the sixteenth century that the time storm has somehow picked up and dumped in 1944 (although exactly how and why this happened is never really explained), as it is believed that his displacement in time is somehow the catalyst for the unwanted changes to history.
I thought that this whole film was very nicely done. There are some cool state-of-the-art special effects and the Time Tunnel itself looks pretty awesome. The 1944 battlefield backdrop to the action, along with the uniforms of the German and U.S. troops, are also very realistic, and the combat scenes looked like something straight out of "Band Of Brothers" or "Saving Private Ryan": Very impressively crafted indeed.
There are one or two nice tributes to the original Time Tunnel series also: One of the central characters is again called Doug Phillips - although perhaps in a nod to 21st century political correctness, the original series' Tony Newman has now become "Toni Newman", one of two no-nonsense female members of the time-travel team. When Doug is initially brought into the complex, it's explained that the team would be "going into freefall" down into the main complex in some futuristic elevator (exactly as happened in the pilot of the original 1960s series) and the idea of the Time Tunnel accidentally lifting a person out of one past era and dumping him in another to cause mayhem there came straight from the original series episode "The Death Merchant" - then it was Machiavelli, this time round a young Medieval monk.
One way in which this version of "Time Tunnel" differs though is that while in the original series it was explained that history only happens once and cannot be altered - thereby essentially rendering the time travellers mere spectators to historic events - this time around we're told that history is fluid and CAN be changed, so the time travellers need to take great care not to upset the temporal applecart - definite shades of "Timecop" here. Also, while the original 1960s time travellers were lost in the temporal vortex and could only be bounced around from one era to another by the boffins back in the lab, here the team at the complex can bring the time travellers back with no problem.
The version of the film that I watched clocked in at 52 minutes. But according to this page on IMDb, it's 120 minutes long. This makes me wonder whether there are in fact two versions floating around out there??
But whether it's 52 minutes or 120 minutes - I would strongly recommend that anyone who enjoys a good time travel story or is a fan of the original "Time Tunnel" series should pull out all the stops to try and get hold of this film. It really is a must-see. And it's nothing short of a crime against the sci-fi viewing public that this excellent pilot was never followed up and made into a full-blown series.
Lame sequel to a lame sequel
Nothing new at all here - just more of the same old tired fish-out-of-water jokes and going-through-the-motions performances from all concerned.
The first "Croc" movie worked in 1986 because it was original, but when the 1988 sequel offered very little in the way of new ideas, the whole concept began to wear thin very quickly. They should have left it at that, because this third attempt made nearly a decade and a half later is just an embarrassment. No surprise that it bombed. I have to say though that Paul Hogan still looks remarkably lean and fit for a bloke of his age and deserves great credit for not letting himself go to seed like a lot of folks do. He could be an example to us all there.
I'm feeling generous so I'll give it 3 out of 10.
Accept it for what it is - and you might even enjoy it!
Well, I've just killed 81 minutes of a Sunday evening watching "Torque".
And I enjoyed it!
The chase scenes got more ludicrous as the movie progressed, finally ending up with a CGI orgy that bore little resemblance to real life (in fact it was pure arcade game).
The plot was also fairly predictable, drawing plot elements & ideas from movies as varied as "The Fast & The Furious", "Tron" and "The Warriors", with the ever-popular "bent cop" thing thrown into the mix as well.
But the chicks were seriously HOT, the dudes looked cool, Ice T was at his sneering, snarling baddest best and the heavy-metal soundtrack drove the film along at a great pace.
The 3.0 rating here doesn't do it justice and on balance I'd say that if you don't sit down to watch this expecting any sort of high-brow entertainment and enjoy seeing good-looking girls in tight biker costumes and some fast-paced action, you won't be too disappointed.
Timecop: The Berlin Decision (2003)
Not great, but worth a look if you like time travel stories
Time travel has always been my absolute favourite sci-fi sub-genre (with "post-apocalyptic" a close second) and so I actually shelled out my hard-earned cash last weekend to buy this movie.
I got round to watching it tonight and am writing this review with mixed feelings. The title "The Berlin Decision" and the cover blurb led me to believe that most of the story would involve the main protagonists travelling back in time to Nazi Germany, with that era being the focus of the film. I figured that would be the basis for a very interesting and exciting movie. Unfortunately though, the Nazi Germany part of the film takes up only a few minutes at the beginning of the film, and after that - just like in the Van Damme original "Timecop" - the characters spend most of their time in the movie's present (2025) and recent past (2002) ... in other words almost the present day now, which to me seriously reduces a movie's "time travel" feel (the same major beef that I had with the vastly over-rated "Quantum Leap" TV show).
I also thought that the whole thing was rather rushed - it tries to be too clever for its own good, and while it does throw up some interesting paradox questions, the plot moves at such a rapid pace that the viewer has little time to ponder them, and the whole thing just gets confusing and not a little messy in places. No attempt is made to explain or resolve any of the numerous paradoxes that arise, and in the end the best thing to do is just ignore them and try and get the best of the movie for what it is. Many potentially interesting questions arise that are left unanswered, such as what exactly was the "war" that resulted from the past being changed, and when Chan (the main character) arrives back in the alternate 2025 (in which his boss sports an eye patch and the female doctor a purple punk hairdo), what happens to his alternate self - the one who has presumably lived though the changed timeline? Is he somehow "displaced" by "our" Chan?? We never find out, and this fundamental question is simply ignored.
That said, this film does have a few positives. The time travel sequences back to the Old West and Nazi Germany are fairly interesting, if a little short. There's a fairly gruesome bit where one of the timecops arrives back in the lab fused together with his younger self and hideously deformed - a result of him having made physical contact with himself (in a continuity nod to the original "Timecop" movie, this was described as being a potential problem for time travellers in that film). And some of the martial arts sequences are pretty good, if you like that sort of thing.
Summary: Not great, but I've seen worse sequels and I'll probably dig this out again at some point and give it another go - maybe I've missed some of the subtleties.
Lost in Space (1965)
Utter garbage - words almost fail me
Even as a child when this series originally aired in the '60s I loathed and detested it: Cardboard sets, annoying characters (especially the freckle-faced kid and the horribly camp Doctor Smith), unintentionally funny monsters, pantomine villains (like the "space vikings"), dreadful acting, ridiculous storylines (of which "The Great Vegetable Rebellion", complete with carrot monster, was the absolute nadir) ...... the list just goes on and on.
For some unfathomable reason, this pathetic excuse for a science fiction show has proved over the years to be the most popular and enduring and well-known of Irwin Allen's four 1960s ventures into TV sci-fi, the others being the far superior (if also greatly flawed) "Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea", "Time Tunnel" and "Land Of The Giants". That to me speaks volumes about the collective taste (or lack of it) of the wider viewing public.
Jurassic Park III (2001)
I'm surprised by all the negative reviews this film has got on IMDb. I saw (and enjoyed) it in the cinema when it first came out, and last night I watched it again on TV, having forgotten parts of it from my first viewing 3 years ago. And once again I really enjoyed it.
I don't really like Tea Leoni at the best of times, and I found her prominent presence in this movie to be one of it's "minus" points. It it was a real shame that Laura Dern's character wasn't given more to do instead (like actually accompany the expedition, rather than just sit at home in the States with her kid and answer the phone).
But that aside, the other characters were fine - I even thought that the "brat" kid Erik was quite likable - and of course the dinosaurs were magnificently brought to life yet again. It was also nice to see some new dinosaurs like the spinosaurus, the ankylosaurus and (best of all) the flying pteranodons - focussing just on T-Rex and the raptors for a third time would have been "too much of a good thing". The story was a bit predictable I guess, but that said, it wasn't supposed to be a documentary or tax the brain too much. It's pure entertainment and in that respect it delivers.
As someone else pointed out, the ending was perhaps a bit weak - a skirmish between the U.S. Marines and the raptors would have made for an exciting climax to the film - but all in all I'd give this one 7 out of 10. If an extended version (click on "alternate versions" to see a list of deleted scenes) was to ever be released on DVD, I'd certainly buy it.