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Scrubs: My Bad Too (2008)
The worst Scrubs episode ever!?
Quite possibly the worst, most tedious and uninteresting Scrubs episode I have seen (Seasons 1-7).
No funnies, no storyline to speak of, no anarchic comedy..... no nothing in fact. This is a poor poor episode and a series that is already fighting for life.
I got the impression the writers just couldn't be bothered putting a decent story together; and the main cast looked bored, going through the motions, probably realising the show was on the verge of being canned.
Season Six is when the decline started imo, even though there were still quite a few gem episodes scattered amongst a sea of averageness. But S7 so far, has been a terrible disappointment: which doesn't say much for my hopes with S8 & 9 Anyway, this particular episode should be buried and forgotten about: it's just too embarrassing & tedious to bother with 2nd time round.
Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
A Total Delight
I haven't read the books; and neither am I a big fan of rom-coms and other "girly-flics". So I approached this movie with some supreme caution, reluctance and even dread.
However, some 90 odd minutes later, I have to say what a joy it was!
Lonely Girl (Bridget): identity crisis, getting old before her time, a dreamer, but scared of getting left behind as a cranky old spinster.
Total Cad of the Highest Order (Cleaver, Bridget's boss): womaniser, lier, betrayer of naive women's hearts; handsome, a weaver of words and irresistible to Bridget.
Boorish Barrister (Darcy): lives in a suffocating world of vacuous, society, people, boring jobs, boring lives; and shackled to the most hideous wife-to-be imaginable.
All three are inextricably linked, yet who will Bridget ultimately find true love with?
Yes, this kind of story has been done to death, Yes, it had a very predictable storyline, Yes, it was dreadfully clichéd, Yes, it stretches realism hugely, Yes, it yet again gave a rather stilted & blinkered view of jolly old upper-middle class England, Yes, it had a very telegraphed ending.
But you know what? I couldn't care a jot!
For it was pure, simple entertainment: I cared not about any of the above; I cared not how the film didn't live up to the expectations of the book; and I really cared not whether a "plump" Bridget Jones could really hit it off with a two very handsome men!
Just take the film at face value and leave the cynicism on the doorstep.
My wife loved it, and I was very entertained by it, especially with its light humour & slapstick; and of course the rather feel-good ending.
For a person who prefers far more weightier genres & more thought-provoking scripts, I didn't think I would ever enjoy a rom-com. But on this occasion, I am happy to admit I was totally wrong! Bridget Jones, is a total delight.
The Actors (2003)
The actors in The Actors, failed to Act!!!
We saw this in a bargain basket at the local Asda: £1.50 for the DVD. reading all the hype plastered all over the cover saying how "hillarious" it is, and it also had a really good, established cast, we thought this must a great film.
So we bought, took it home, shoved it in the DVD player, sat back and waited for the funnies to begin.......and waited.......and waited.....and waited a bit more.
Some 90 minutes later, although it felt more like 3 hours, the credits rolled, and that was the end of that.
What a letdown - even paying £1.50 seemed a con. God knows what Caine, Richardson and Gambon were thinking when they said 'yes' to this tosh. And as for Moran: well much as I enjoyed Black Books, Shaun of the dead, and his comedy tours, I felt he was out of his depth in this film. He tried too hard playing for laughs, probably thinking that if retaining the characteristics from his Black Books character, would work here.
Sadly it back-fired. The gags fell flat after awhile, and then he became just an irritation. Which is a shame because I believe given the right part he could be a very good film/character actor.
Anyway, to sum up: the actors in The Actors, failed to Act!!!
Von Ryan's Express (1965)
A Train Too Far
An overlong WWII "prison escape" actioner, starring the singer-turned-actor Frank "My Way" Sinatra and stout, dependable Brit, Trevor "It will never work!" Howard.
Coming very much on the heels of the more famous "The Great Escape", Von Ryan's Express (VRE) is very much style over content compared to its more involving & character-driven bigger brother.
For Steve McQueen, we now have Frank as, Jo Von Ryan, an America POW encamped with a load of Brit POWs in deepest Italy. The first half of the film concentrates on the grimness & harsh reality spent in the sweltering prison camp, where living conditions are unbearable and the Italian guards (led by a wasted Adolfi Celi) brutal.
But, unlike The Great Escape, very little time is spent fleshing out the lead characters into people we can care about. Instead, director Mark Robson, just touches the edges with the usual stereotypical characterization that simply doesn't work at all.
Sinatra is your typical New Yorker with attitude, and Howard, is your typical British Stiff-Upper-Lipped cynic who doesn't like been told what to do by a Yank. And that's about it as far as characterisation before Robson, moves the film up a couple of gears to an all-out actioner.
Some of the action sequences are quite well done, even though the majority of the shots are taken on board a train on its way to Switzerland. But to me, Robson, fails to capitalise on turning each key sequence into something really memorable. He first sets a scene up, but then fails to develop it other than to resorting to a hamfisted shootout that's all over in a matter of minutes.
Compare this style to that of The Great Escape, when the sequences are developed and ratcheted up gradually, resulting in a very satisfactory pay off at the end of each one.
None-the-less, VRE does have its moments, but I think the choice of Sinata as the action hero just doesn't quite ring true somehow. Every time disaster strikes I keep on thinking he is going to grab the nearest microphone and burst into song with "My Way" or something.
Even the direction and script is only moderately well done, the cinematography is quite excellent, especially with some very good exterior shots of the Swiss Alps. The music, also, is quite useful, and helps pace the movie without drowning it too much in pathos, especially the rather shocking (by Hollywood standards)finale
That said, VRE still falls way short in the suspense & entertainment stakes of any comparable film of its era such as The Great Escape, Guns Of Navarone or the truly excellent Where Eagles Dare.
Dad's Army (1968)
....keeps marching on and on!
Dad's Army has been repeated on the BBC many many times over the last 30 odd years, and its easy to understand why.
The scripts were rich, simple, entertaining, inoffensive, gentle & above all, very very funny. Veteran writers, David Croft & Jimmy Perry, excelled themselves with this show, that lasted nearly 10 years from 1968 to 1977.
Of course, having a good script is all very well, but you need quality actors to make those scripts come to life. Step forward, then, a host of relative unknowns, thespians and bit-part actors.
Arthur Lowe (blunderbus,Captain Mainwaring), probably takes most plaudits and was certainly a very good versatile actor. It was felt back in the early days of Dad's Army (DA), that the sitcom was perhaps a little below his considerable acting talents. But like all good actors, he stuck with it through the first hesitant series and was rewarded with major audience ratings which would invariably lead to more and more episodes coupled with an appreciative following and critical acclaim that would bring its own rich rewards.
John Le Mesurier (the softly spoken Sgt Wilson), another experienced film and theatre actor with almost 100 films in his CV prior to taking on the part of kindly Sgt Wilson - very much everyone's favourite "uncle" figure.
Clive Dunn (Corporal Jones), surprised us all by looking considerably older for his part as local butcher, veteran WW1 soldier, Jones. He was only in his late 50s when he took on the part of a soldier who looked well into his 70s. But for all that he was perhaps the funniest and most endearing character of them off, especially when he went off on one his "Don't Panic" attacks, telling everyone to calm down, when in actual fact there was nothing at all to worry about!
John Laurie (the Scottish undertaker, Fraizer), had a very distinguished theatre career coupled with some major films parts during the early part of his career in the 30s and 40s. Again, like Lowe, it was felt Laurie had too much quality to be seeing doing something as apparently "lowly" as a sitcom. It was even rumoured that during the first couple of series he criticised the scripts and some of the actors around him for being "amateur". Although by Series 3, and a consistant 16 million TV fanbase, coupled with a better salary, Laurie soon changed his mind and genuinely began to immerse himself in the part.
Ian Lavender ("Stupid Boy", Private Pike). It was a very shrewd idea by Croft & Perry, to include a very young soldier into the mostly elderly Home Guard. Pike was very much the "Mother's Boy", a soldier equiped with a rifle, a bannet and a wooly scarf knitted by his mom and wrapped tightly round his neck to keep out the cold. Lavender, was perfect for the part. It wouldn't be far from the truth if the majority of the female TV audience of DA were mothers, grannies and aunts simply begging to look after this young, innocent young man fighting to protect his home and country alongside a bunch of pensioners. Of course his Captain, Manwaring, wasn't quite so sympathetic, and would often call him a "Stupid Boy" for behaving like a reckless teenager weened on too many comics.
Then of course there are the support actors such as the Cockney spiv, Private Walker (James Beck), the soppy vicar (Frank Williams) and the antagonistic ARP Warden (Bill Pertwee), who clashed with Manwaring and his rabble of pensioners throughout the lifetime of DA, often resorting to calling the Captain, Napoleon for his arrogant and amateurish behaviour.
There were many excellent episodes throughout the history of DA and many many more "very good" ones. Only rarely was there a poor episode, and these seemed to crop up during the last couple of years of the show, when one or two of the actors such as James Beck had died, leaving huge gaps that were never really successfully filled.
By today's standard the sfx and stunts, such as they were, were often very poor & obvious, but this was downside never really handicapped the show. Today's audience is far more sophisticated in its viewing habits than those of 20 or 30 years ago. But what is consistent through the decades is the quality of the stories and its endearing appeal that can only mean Dad's Army will be continually repeated throughout the decades as a piece of warm & friendly humour during the dark months and years of WW2.
Black Adder the Third (1987)
Majestic Comedy on a Regency Scale
Edmund Blackadder (Rowan "Mr Bean" Atkinson) is now butler to perhaps the most stupidist royal in English history, for this is now 1792, Regency England, King George is a looney in all but name, and his son, the Prince Regent (Hugh Lawrie) is the King-in-waiting and Blackadder is his servant.
Not only does Edmund have to look after the welfare of the Prince but also has to tolerate his own servant, the mouse-brained dogs body, Baldrick (Tony Robinson), who hasn't got two brain cells to call his own. Blackadder is not only frustrated with the fact that he, by his own admission, is wasted amongst this pair of backward imbeciles and tries to trick, threaten, bribe or steal as much money as he can so that he can seek an escape from this lifetime of drudgery.
We are treated to six wonderfully scripted episodes from Blackadder's diary and what a pleasure it is too (very mild spoilers):-
SENSE & SENSIBILITY.
The Prince Regent survives an assassination attempt by an anarchist. Disappointed by this recovery Blackadder suggests the Prince write a speech sympathetic to the poor of his land in order to win popular favour again.
To help his cause, Blackadder hires two very amateur but egotistical actors to train the Prince in being stately, civil but also compassionate to his people. However, the Prince is also very irritated with his butler and insults him once to often before Blackadder decides enough is enough and walks out, leaving the dopey Baldrick in charge. Moments later Baldrick learns that the actors are planning to kill the Prince behind his back. Can the dumb servent save the day without Blackadder?
INK & INCAPABILITY
The Prince wants to expand his mind and become one of the great intellectuals of the time. However, in order to do this miraculous achievement he decide to invite the great wordsmith, Dr Samuel Johnson around for tea in order for the Prince to review & patronise the Doctor's new book.
However, the Prince hasn't quite grasped the fact that the book is in fact an English dictionary. All the Prince is really interested in is if there are any juicy murders in it.
The arrival of the great intellectual is also a source of irritation to Blackadder, who has penned his own auto-biography crammed with "sizzling gypsies" and feels his own book is far more worthier than a tiresome dictionary. So the great Blackadder goes out of his way to mock not only the Doctor's book (which took him 10 years to compile) but also the Doctor himself. Irritated & impatient by these two buffoons, the Doctor stomps out in a huff, forgetting to take his dictionary with him.
When Blackadder learns that Baldrick has burnt the dictionary and there is no copy he panics and decides to follow one of Baldrick's "cunning plans" and rewrites the entire book. The only trouble is that he has only the weekend to write it before the Doctor returns with some of his most admiring friends all swearing bloody murder if the book is not returned.
DISH & DISHONESTY
Remarkably the Prince is on the verge of bankruptcy from a hostile Prime Minister, Pitt The Younger. The only way to avoid this embarrassment is to make sure all the serving MPs vote in favour of retaining the Prince and ignoring the PM.
To be sure of winning an overall majority Baldrick is made an MP but rather than voting for the Prince the dopey Baldrick votes the other way. Only the House of Lords can save the Prince from ignominy and Blackadder's luxury lifestyle off ripping off the Prince. So Blackadder decides to become a Lord himself and hopefully save the day.
AMY & AMIABILITY
The Prince is almost broke thanks to a total misunderstanding in how to play a game of cards for money. As a consequence the only way out is for the Prince to marry a wealthy lady called Amy. Blackadder arranges a blind date but the thickish Prince isn't all that bothered about charming the young girl with sweet nothings, all he wants is to give her some his "German Sausage".
Blackadder learns that Amy is a bit of a thicky herself and her father isn't quite so wealthy after all. The plan of marriage goes badly wrong and so Blackadder has no other choice but to turn to crime as a dashing Highway Man, in order to stave off the wolves(and squirrels) from the Prince's door.
NOB & NOBILITY
Much to the irritation of Blackadder, there is a new hero in town. The great Scarlet Pimpernel, who is saving the heads of all the French aristocrats from the chop as the peasants have revolted against their king.
Denouncing the Pimpernel Blackadder accepts a challenge from some of the Prince's friends. He has to sail to France, rescue an aristocrat and bring him home in order to win the bet.
However, Blackadder has other ideas of rescuing a Frenchie, and it doesn't involve sailing to the "hugely dangerous" country of France.
DUEL & DUALITY
The Prince really puts his foot in it by spending the night with the nieces of the greatest swordsman England has ever seen, the Duke of Wellington.
The Prince thinks the Duke is still at war and will thus never know. But Blackadder reminds him that the war with the French ended six months ago and put it about town that he will duel to the death with anyone who takes advantage of his two nieces.
In a panic the Prince offers Blackadder everything he owns if he will only fight the Duke instead of him. After some thought Blackadder agrees but to complete the masquerade they have to swap clothes and jobs in order for the deception to work.
Six great episodes, all superbly written and performed. The only slight disappointment is the absence of both Stephen Fry & Tim Macinnery. It is true they appear in an episode each here, but unlike Series 2 & 4 where they were regulars, this series somehow isn't quite so complete and thus the comedic jousting between Blackadder, Baldrick and the Prince is rather restricting and repetitive.
Apart from that minor grumble this third series is quality comedy, although I personally rank it third behind series 4 and series 2 respectively.
Take the Money and Run (1969)
One of Allen's best films from his early comedy era
Very much fresh off the stand-up comedy circuit Allen stretches his wings a great deal in this gag-a-minute movie that centres on a useless criminal who can't even steal gum from a gumball machine without something going wrong.
His character, Virgil Starkwell, is pretty much useless at everything, he can't play a musical instrument despite having his own tutor; he is no good at school;he can't get a decent job and he doesn't know how to date girls successfully. Its no wonder, therefore, that when his parents are interviewed in this moc-doc movie they disguise themselves in front of the camera for the shame their son as brought them.
This is Allen's first real movie that is nothing more than slapstick comedy, one-liner jokes, a lot of visual humour coupled with the tell-tale self-analysis of his life. He not only co-wrote the screenplay but also starred and directed the film and it shows too.
The acting is very better than the directing but the script is better than both. The film is uneven at times as Allen tries to feed us too many talky jokes and visual jokes at the same time. It seems as if he is afraid audiences might start to lose interest if he doesn't include at least one gag every few seconds.
However, it was a brilliant idea to turn this movie into a moc-documentary with a superb narration by Jackson Beck whose voice fits the slightly serious tone & mood of the film perfectly. This helps a great deal because the monotone narration acts a kind of picture frame to the lunatic goings-on within the film itself and helps bring a sense of control to proceedings.
Allen, the actor, is as you would always expect him to be. He portrays himself as the wimp all bullies dream about. Those trademark glasses and helpless eyes only make the Virgil character ever more realistic, charming & helpless that you simply cannot but cheer him on even though he is useless at almost everything.
This film is far better than the rather disappointing Bananas but lacks the maturity and writing sophistication of his latter films such as Play It Again Sam and Sleeper. I think between 1968 and 75 was very much Allen's slapstick era, and some would say he directed some of his best films before going all serious & morose by the late 80s and early 90s.
Take The Money And Run, is just another experimental vehicle for Allen to sharpen his considerable writing and acting talents while at the same time making himself well known through a large audience by using the kind of flat-line comedy he used during his stand-up years.
As I mentioned earlier what spoils this film is the reliance by Allen to cram as much mirth into every frame as possible without trying to develop the story just a little more so that we could absorb ourselves not just with the humour but also the characters themselves. Allen soon managed to get this combination just about right with Play It Again Sam and thereafter.
This film is very funny for all that. It doesn't propose to be clever or sophisticated, this is the birth of Allen Humour and for a lot of his fans remains one of their most cherished films of all.
Later with Jools Holland (1992)
Now This Is What I Call Music
In a media world full of fluff, triviality and mindlessly produced & manufactured pap-music, comes a polished diamond in a sea of plastic baubles.
"Later..." has been delighting a more mature & sophisticated music audience for a decade and long may it continue to do so.
Using a very standard but successful studio set our host, the very easy on the eye, Jools Holland introduces perhaps 3 or 4 groups or singers positioned almost adjacent to each other throughout the studio.
The set arrangement is complete with perhaps an audience of around 150 people in the mid 20s and above group, who seem to understand and appreciate fine music.
The choice of music is not themed, and neither does the show play "populist" music that would only really see light of day on MTV, Top of the Pops or children's TV programs where quality-music just isn't an option.
Instead the majority of artists are real musicians with a backing band who play real instruments. There are no over-dubs, no miming, no boy/girl bands prancing about like moron-fodder to a witless tune no one with even a iota of intelligence really gives a fig about.
Thus a typical show might open with a hard rock riff say Jeff Beck and then the next group will play some World Music, or Folk music or just a simple ballad before moving on to the next invited group on the show.
In all an artist will get to sing perhaps 2 or 3 songs in each 40 minute show, coupled with a brief but very informal chat with the lead.
All in all it makes for a very satisfying show that is easy on the eye as well as the ear. There are no fancy gimmicks, graphics, menus or other stupid video sfx here. Holland, is just a natural talent to host a show like this, and on a few occasions he actually gets his piano out and gets involved with a song or two from one of the bands.
"Later...." is a quality tv show, a cultural oasis in a desert full of averageness. If only it had a longer runtime rather than the 40 minutes it gets now.
Let The Good Times Rock (and Roll)
Overlong But Very Absorbing.
Zulu is perhaps one of Stanley Baker's greatest achievements in his relatively short movie career. So impressed was he with the real battle of Rorke's Drift between the indigenous Zulu warriors and the British Army during the reign of Queen Victoria, that he financed the entire movie project more or less on his own.
Baker not only produced but also starred alongside the young, fresh-faced Michael Caine. Baker plays Lt John Chard, Officer Of Engineers who marginally out ranks the rather pompous & arrogant Lt Gonville Bromhead (Caine).
Chard is very much a military man brought up through the ranks and therefore has plenty of military experience & tactical knowledge. However, his young rival, Bromhead is very much a blueblood, with a family tree full of colonels, captains & generals and therefore he assumes that he too will follow in their footsteps based purely on his standing & lineage.
The first 50 minutes of this film centres on this rivalry and as the film unravels further and the various battle sieges are played out under the command of Baker, we get to see Caine's gradual fall from grace as he comes to terms with the fact that he has no head for tactics or military command during battle conditions. And by the end of the film he more or less confesses that the battle of Rorke's Drift is in fact his first.
The battle scenes (and there are very many of them) are very well choreographed although the end result is less than satisfying. There are many shots of men being "stabbed" with spears under armpits or falling over covering bullet wounds even though there is no telltale holes visible on their tunics.
I also felt the presence of Jack Hawkins as a pacifist missionary pleading with Baker & Caine to hand over their sick & wounded before the attacks begin, was irritating. I don't doubt that there were missionaries during the real battle but somehow Hawkins didn't convince me at all, especially when it turns out they he is also an alcoholic and general trouble-maker (when the film was first premiered, Hawkins hated the final depiction of his character and didn't attend its opening).
The music is also exceptionally good, very much in keeping with the soul & vast presence of the Zulu army and their warrior-like chanting throughout the mountains encircling the small British Army at Rorke's Drift.
The film does seem to go on forever. There is a problem with the pacing from Cy Enfields assured direction. He develops the lead characters very well and the battle scenes are generally well done, but he also spends too much time identifying the support characters, which of course is always important but in this case he covers too much ground with too much talk and not enough action. And as a consequence the film out stays its welcome by about 20 minutes.
But for all that Zulu is a very good, film, totally absorbing at times, and both Caine & Baker do exceptionally well with their characters. Although to be honest Caine's rather snooty upper-class accent felt so awkward & grating because most of know that Caine has a trademark Cockney accent in most of his films.
Blackadder Goes Forth (1989)
A True History Lesson
This forth and final series is perhaps the best of all the Black Adder episodes; it is also more of a tragi-comedy than just plain old slapstick perhaps because at the time (1989) the events of WW1 were very much in the minds of a lot of people, whether it be surviving soldiers or relatives.
As such there was some controversy when it was first broadcast by the BBC for its apparent lack of respect to those who fought and lost their lives for the sake of freedom & democracy.
However, in retrospect, this isn't strictly true because even with Episode One there is a tangible shift in tone from previous Black Adder series. Yes some of the slapstick tomfoolery is still there, mainly at the expense of poor gormless Private Baldrick. But in addition a lot of the supposedly funny lines do have quite serious undertones, and bely the real truth of the sheer lunacy & farce that went on during the real war.
For those that know their 20th Century history, WW1 was seen as a complete disaster for all and sundry, especially for the British soldiers in the trenches, primarily because they were being commanded & told how to fight a war by the most repulsive upper-class morons that call themselves Generals that ever wore a uniform.
This was plainly represented by the bumbling fool, General Melchett (a wonderfully bemusing performance from Stephen Fry). Melchett simply has no idea of what life really is like for the troops on the front-line while he prattles on 35 miles behind the front-line in some safe palatial mansion where the most dangerous hazard to his life is whether he can unscrew a cork out of a champagne bottle without it hitting him in the face.
Melchett is a complete buffoon but only Captain Blackadder realises this; everyone else thinks the General knows what he is doing purely because of his rank & social standing. So it is no wonder that Blackadder wants to mutiny because it's a hard choice deciding who the real enemy is - the Germans or his own Generals.
General Melchett: Are you looking forward to the big push?
Private Baldrick: No sir, I'm absolutely terrified.
General Melchett: The healthy humour of the honest, Tommy. Don't worry my boy, if you should falter, remember that Captain Darling and I are behind you.
Edmund Blackadder: About thirty-five miles behind you.
This dark humour is wonderfully interwoven with the usual witty lines thanks largely to the writers, Richard Curtis and Ben Elton. It is typically anti-war but with good reason, as Blackadder declares in one episode:-
"with 50,000 men being killed every week who is going to miss one dead pigeon!"
The madness of this war also draws our attention to those very same front-line troops such as Blackadder, Baldrick & Lieutenant George. Their living conditions are disgusting & the fear of being shot or bombed out of their trench a very real possibility.
The humour is just an adjunct to the real horrors that are going on in their lives, and this is beautifully concluded in the very sad finale. No longer did the critics argue this series lacked any respect because come the final few minutes of Episode Six we were treated to the sad demise of all those soldiers fading into time and replaced by the infamous poppy fields that strewn Northern France.
Blackadder Goes Forth is far more intelligent than a lot of sitcoms; the writing and acting is exceptionally good, and also underpins the true human sacrifice the millions of soldiers gave to their King & country while the smug & arrogant Generals went home to more medals, honours and riches than ever before.
School children of today find reading about history boring & not very relevant. But thanks to this series I am sure young & old alike will find this far more interesting, absorbing, damming & shocking than any written word on the subject could ever say.
War Is Hell!