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21 reviews in total 
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9 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
No real characters, no real drama, 19 January 2008

Tali-Ihantala 1944 tells the story of the climactic final battles of the Finnish-Russian Continuation war. The official, polished story, the kind you would expect some veterans organization to approve: the major events of the battle are shown in chronological order. We see the action of infantry, tanks, long range recon patrols, artillery, air force, and different levels of command. All soldiers and officers behave well and correctly, there is no bad behavior or cowardice whatsoever.

This is one of the films major problems: the clean and tidy behavior of the troops is very likely historically inaccurate and false, but it is also very bad drama. We see endless orders, discussions and briefings without any conflict or tension between the characters. And the cast is huge: most people have only one or two scenes, they come and go without anyone developing any real character (Olli Ikonen perhaps comes closest as General Major Vihma). You cannot develop much compassion to these fighting and dying men when you don't know anything about them. The dialogue is poor: people describe the tactical situation in a textbook manner, and most attempts at more casual conversation fall laughably flat. "So, you receive your baptism of fire now!"

The obvious budget limitations have been commented by other reviewers. This film is a failure, recommended for fans of T 34 and KV tanks.

18 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
Battle of Neretva: a peek into a lost classic, 25 June 2007

It is sad that the most widely distributed version of this Yugoslavian war epic "Bitka na Neretvi" is the 102 minute version edited and dubbed in USA by Commonwealth United Films. This version, known as "The Battle of Neretva" has been shortened by a full hour. It looks a bit like a long trailer, offering samples of what is obviously a big scale, melodramatic giant of a film, like "The Longest Day". At times the re-editing looks like it has been made with an axe, some dialogue being cut from the middle of a sentence.

I have just seen, however, a longer Commonwealth version: 127 minutes, 25 minutes longer. This is a far superior version, professionally edited into a coherent, well flowing narrative. It seems that the 102 minute "stub" has been edited from this. I can only imagine how much deeper the characterization would be with the 40 minutes still missing from the original. The Italian and German versions are longer than this 127 minute version, and they have been released on DVD. Still, for anyone preferring an English translation, this could be the best version around. Sadly it only seems to be available on VHS.

12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Praise the Hog, 10 May 2007

The previous commentator needn't worry any more: all 8 episodes of Big Breadwinner Hog have been released on DVD. Tough gangster stories have been in fashion for years, and this release should please any friend of "Get Carter" and those Guy Ritchie movies. Many classic 60's shows have disappointed me, but the Hog has stood the test of time well: I consider it one of the very best 60's TV dramas.

I've never heard of the writer/producer Robin Chapman before. After seeing this and his earlier gangster saga, Spindoe, I am really impressed by his work. He manages to write violent and tough, yet theatrically literate and intelligent drama. In fact his background is in theater.

Big Breadwinner Hog (Peter Egan) ignites a gangland war in a big city, just like Spindoe before him. He is a violent mod, full of arrogance and energy. The series gives just about equal time to the desperate misadventures of the drunk ex-mercenary Ackerman (Donald Burton). On top of the criminal hierarchy sits the methodically minded sadist Lennox (Timothy West). All three give good performances (Burton may be on the verge of overacting), especially Timothy West is magnificent.

The clashes of these three personalities make for some exciting and entertaining viewing. The show is infamous for its violence, and the characters sure bleed more than in other British (or American) TV shows of the time. There is, however, dark humor as well. In fact the victim of the famous acid attack provides the comic relief in the next episode! This mixing of humor into the darkest moments should be something familiar to modern viewers.

All in all, Big Breadwinner Hog is a great show. Unfortunately it is a bit cheaply produced compared to shows like The Saint. If you can overlook such trivialities, I strongly recommend watching it. I wonder if others enjoy this as much as I did?

"Spindoe" (1967)
12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Before "the Hog" there was Spindoe, 30 March 2007

Recently released on DVD as a double bill with the infamously violent "Big Breadwinner Hog", its predecessor "Spindoe" is quite a tough gangster drama as well, and a convincing example of Robin Chapman's writing talents.Spindoe is actually a spin off from the academic crime buster drama "The Fellows", starring one of its top villains.

In some introductions to Spindoe he is described as a "brash Cockney gangster", but McAnally's character really isn't like that. He is an original combination of a nervous accountant/family man type and a violent criminal mastermind. In the opening scene of the series Spindoe gets out of jail. While trying to regain his old kingdom he acts as a catalyst for a gang war masterminded by the Lucifer-like boss of the North, Mackleson (great Richard Hurndall). A loyal thug (Glynn Edwards) and a private eye (Patrick Sewell) join Spindoe, offering him help that he doesn't deserve.

Unlike some thoroughly cynical gangster dramas trying to maximize toughness, there are also sympathetic and idealistic "good" people in Spindoe's world. They act as a contrast against which all the cheap and violent acts seem more shocking. This is a show with some excitingly complicated plotting, outstanding acting and dialogue. In fact most of the hard nosed characters occasionally break into long, poetic monologues. Unfortunately the production values of Spindoe aren't quite as good. It looks like one of those early b&w episodes of Callan, with far more camera crew equipment visible in the shots. The equipment shadows shaking wildly over the actors are a bit distracting at times. But that means nothing to a tough gangster drama fan.

Wet Job (1981) (TV)
7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
An unfitting revisit to a classic series, 19 October 2006

This is a one-off "reunion" play made some 9 years after the end of the series "Callan". Edward Woodward and Russell Hunter from the original show appear, along with George Sewell as the guest star. The creator of Callan, James Mitchell, is credited as the script writer.

This production looks like a student job from some early 80's film school, with the directors 14 year old brother responsible for the music. I am not exaggerating. The production values are so poor, they are way below the average standards of 1981 British television. The script is weak and contains some embarrassingly clumsy dialogue. The original novel was written by James Mitchell, yet i suscpect he never wrote the awful screenplay for this. After all, his scripts are of a different class. The screenplay for the movie "Callan" he wrote just 7 years earlier is great. Well, maybe he wrote this sick or busy or something. The direction is clumsy and the music deserves a special mention as one of the worst soundtracks ever.

I feel sorry for the stars. Woodward and Sewell sleepwalk through the film, Hunter at least tries his best. His scenes with Woodward sometimes actually work, and they are the only reason for watching this lackluster turkey. The actors playing the new Hunter and his replacement-Meres are utterly forgettable. The original Meres is written off with a clumsy joke.

I am sorry if i sound pessimistic and dreary, I wanted to like this, but this really is an extremely poor movie. I would like to know the full story behind this failure. What on earth was going on with Mitchell? I recommend all friends of the Callan series to consider the final episode from 1972 to be the end to the saga. Skip this.

5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
What should we do next?, 18 March 2006

This was such a great disappointment. We follow a group of soldiers trying to make it to their own lines in a hurry, but they sure rest a lot. Most of the time they rest, and fill the 87 minutes with card tricks and endless, hollow chatting about life back home etc. The characters seem to be outlined with just a couple of personal traits each: this guy wants smokes and performs card tricks. This guy is religious and has scruples. At times the narrative gets stuck so badly, it is actually quite comical.

Sure, technically all the gear is OK, the explosions and bullet hits look real. Modern war films are like that. But there is nothing here that hasn't been done better somewhere else. I give it two extra points for the rather honest humanist message.

8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
A solid Yugo, 14 November 2005

I consider my taste in movies to be quite traditional (i like stuff like Lord of the Rings), yet i have completely enjoyed the two biggest Yugoslavian war films, The Battle of Neretva and this. Partizani is a big scale war adventure about Serbian partisans and Nazis exchanging blows in 1941.

A triangle drama between the rebel leader (Rod Taylor), a reluctant nazi (Adam West) and an upper class chick (Brioni Farrell) is woven into the story, but it never gets in the way of the action. And there is plenty of it, involving planes and tanks. The equipment is unfortunately wrong, but the tanks manage to look a bit Wehrmacht.

I really liked Rod Taylor in this movie, he is aged but not tired. He carries the simple warrior role with his charisma. Adam West is more wooden but adequate, and Brioni Farrell is competent and never annoying. The musical score, involving a bit of Mikis Theodorakis, is good and sentimental in an Ennio Morricone way.

This is a high class, big budget film that shouldn't disappoint any friend of war adventure. Better than mediocre Hollywood, and one of the best to ever come out of continental Europe.

Bus 174 (2002)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Warning, possible frustration, 5 April 2004

Bus 174 has obviously moved lots of viewers, and cannot therefore be considered a big failure. I have to warn, however, that if you expect an exciting depiction of the events of the bus 174 hijack, this film may be a bit of a disappointment. This is, in fact, a documentary about the social conditions of Brazil, reflected in the short life of the hijacker.

Especially in the first half of the film relatively little of the hijacking is shown, compared to background stuff and interviews. The footage of the drama itself is very interesting and tense, but it is repeatedly, and often, cut with very long bits about, for example, prison conditions in Brazil. Thus the tension of the dramatic kidnapping is largely lost.

I understand the need to talk about Brazilian problems. If the backgrounds of the Bus 174 incident had been shown in the beginning, and then the hijacking itself, not cut into annoyingly short bits, this film may have worked better for me.

Hero (2002)
fight after fight after fight, 9 September 2003

At beginning this film seemed stunning: massive sets, rapid action. Beautiful swordfights. Then there were more swordfights. Then there was a plot twist and more swordfight...more twists...more i was sort of hoping for the story to move along. No, the same people went through even more duels which lead to...more duels. At this point i was feeling unpleasant. The characters were as one-dimensional as in hardcore porn films. The loud visual style was rapidly getting self repeative and boring. The only way for the characters to accomplish ANYTHING was...duelling with swords. I couldn't believe the same people who were putting down Matrix 2 were praising this unending cavalcade of increasingly pointless fight scenes. This is one of the most superficial films i have ever seen...sure, it has a message: "Building large nations is more important than peace". Oh yes, and "calligraphy and sworsmanship are alike". Now that you have heard these pearls of wisdom, you can forget this flick unless you like endless swordfight porn.

2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
No laughs, either, 19 August 2003

In "No cure for cancer" Denis Leary hammers some points to his viewers: He has used all the drugs there are. He loves to smoke. He hates people who whine about having it hard. This may sound great to people who agree with him, but to me Leary seems to lack an important comedy element: jokes. For example, at one point Denis Leary tells us that he hates people who whine about having a hard childhood, and they should "shut the f*ck up". This is one of his most cited pearls of comedy. I'm not kidding. Beside the lack of jokes and ideas, what irritates me about this irritated man is the way he constantly underlines the fact that he has had a really tough life and he is really rock'n'roll. He actually sounds like some damn Bon Jovi he so much hates. By the way, did you know that Denis Leary is a LIBERTARIAN? Imagine him whining "Boo-hoo, i don't wanna pay my taxes, governments are the cause of all evil"..shut the f**k up.

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