8 Reviews
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Spearhead (1978–1981)
Worth another airing
21 March 2011
Must correct another reviewer's comment that 'Spearhead was axed after 19 episodes'. Technically that is the case, but only because Southern TV lost its franchise and everything they were making at the time was 'axed' in the same way; it was not just 'Spearhead'.

My memories of the series are that it was an honest attempt to do for the Army what 'Warship' did for the Navy - i.e. to present it in as realistic a manner as possible consistent with the demands of good TV drama and resource limitations. The cast were all excellent and some of them turned in absolutely heart-rending performances.

I suspect this series fell into the legal limbo of rights reversions and contract clauses, otherwise it would be out on DVD by now; shows with far less merit have already been dusted off and re-issued, and I'm sure there would be an audience for this one.
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In Justice (2006)
Beautifully balanced; a great loss.
5 December 2006
The best new series to come out of the US since 'The West Wing', and it gets cancelled immediately! The story lines are universally intelligent and thought-provoking and the characters multi-dimensional; what's more, the assembled talent of the cast is so beautifully balanced on the knife-edge between serious and comic that the show is constantly throwing up surprises. In short, there's nothing at all predictable about it, which is a joy in itself.

It's also a pleasure to have good strong female characters (Brianna, Sonia and Charlotte) and the occasional weak male (John). There's a whole lot more I would have liked to learn about these people, and I feel cheated of the chance to watch them develop and interact further. Let's hope a DVD release will not be too far away.
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Uncomfortable, but hopeful. (Beware, major spoilers within!)
19 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Watching this film is often not a pleasant experience, but then it isn't meant to be. The main protagonist, Tim, seems very passive - a sort of 'everyman' character, pushed around by life - whereas I wanted to slap both his mother and his father more than once. However as the film went on it became obvious that everyone had a good reason for behaving the way they did; everyone was harbouring a secret, and sometimes more than one. I don't agree with the other commenters who felt the ending was too neat; there was at least one major plot-line unresolved - i.e., what happens to Tim's relationship with Kyle in the light of Tim's new knowledge about his father?

The whole Tim/Kyle dynamic was beautifully done. Their immaturity in dealing with their feelings for one another worked superbly in the context of their ages. It also informed the darker thread of Tim's relationship with Matt, and if there's a standout performance in the film for me it has to be Kip Pardue playing against type as the tortured older brother.

The only quibble I have is that I couldn't quite see why Sigourney Weaver and Jeff Daniels, as the parents, would ever have been attracted to one another in the first place. They were both excellent, but somehow just failed to convince me that they ever were or ever could have been a married couple.

It's an uncomfortable film, certainly not a compilation of familiar clichés, but it has a lot in common with "Monster's Ball" in the way it stays in the memory, provokes thought, and ultimately gives one hope even for the most dysfunctional of relationships.
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Life on Mars (2006–2007)
In the best BBC traditions
20 January 2006
This series harks back to the best of BBC drama, and is cast and designed to perfection - although one or two anachronisms do creep into the script from time to time. As if the accuracy of the Seventies setting wasn't enough of a draw, however, there's also the 'mystery' element, the fascinating question of whether or not the other characters all exist in Tyler's imagination - and, if so, what they represent. It would be easy (and I suspect too glib) to suggest that Gene Hunt is a personification of Tyler's aggressive nature (I mean, as names go *Gene Hunt* seems a bit of a heavy clue - maybe too heavy!) but if that *is* the case then presumably the two of them will have to be reconciled in order for Tyler to recover from his injuries. The most disturbing aspect of this as a theory is that it would make the series concept a finite one and by definition preclude a second series, and I'm already a life member in the Gene Hunt Fan Club - I think he's one of the most delightful new creations to appear on British television in a long time.

With 'New Tricks', 'Jericho' and now 'Life On Mars', the traditional British cop show seems to have received a new lease of life in the last couple of years. This was long overdue, but it's a thrilling prospect that we now have a new generation of heroes to set against the Bergeracs, Taggarts, Regans, Barlows and Dixons of earlier times. And if we *are* heading for a new Golden Age of British TV I would like to go on record, here and now, nominating Gene Hunt as one of its brightest ornaments already!
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When I'm Sixty-Four (2004 TV Movie)
Simply the best
8 August 2004
This is quite simply the best single drama the BBC have delivered in years. Just when you thought they were dumbing-down and wasting the licence fee on makeover shows, they hit you with this beautifully observed and painstakingly constructed story of love in later life which gives clichés a wide berth and delivers honest and believable characters coping with the kind of situation that, frankly, just does not get enough exposure in the media.

Downtrodden Jim, reaching the end of his usefulness in the teaching profession, wants to experience 'life' before he dies. Unfortunately he's saddled with looking after his elderly father and it begins to look as if he's going to be exchanging one form of stultifying prison existence for another. Then into his life comes Ray, taxi driver and ex-football hooligan, who is serving his own life sentence, enslaved by a family who neither appreciate him nor have any sympathy with his ongoing grief for his dead wife.

The two men are opposites in almost every respect, but as they each begin to resolve their personal dilemmas and come to terms with homosexual longings they have suppressed for decades the viewer is on the edge of his or her seat willing them to succeed. By the time they reach the bedroom their tender clumsiness together has been so well established that no graphic details are necessary; we know they'll muddle through somehow.

Alun Armstrong is an actor of great depth and integrity and any project bearing his name is always going to be worth watching, but he's a revelation here; his sensitive and understated performance never once strays in the direction of camp parody. Paul Freeman, on the other hand, was a real surprise; not being familiar with his other work I had no idea what to expect but he made Ray a whole person, a man who at last found himself open to the adventure of falling in love. Nor was there a single member of the supporting cast who hit a wrong note anywhere, and the direction and production design were disciplined and - for want of a better word - sane. The whole tone of the play was matter-of-fact and sympathetic; "Hey, guess what, men *do* sometimes fall in love with each other." It may not always be tidy or convenient, but then nor is any *other* aspect of life.

Thank you, cast, crew, writer, commissioning editor and everyone else who had the foresight to be involved in this - but most of all, Mr Armstrong and Mr Freeman, thank you for making me believe.
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Blow Dry (2001)
Mordant Yorkshire wit combined with camp gay humour; see it!
1 April 2001
A tale about hair-dressing rivalries in a small Yorkshire town might not seem an obvious subject for a comedy, especially when one of the characters is a dying lesbian, but this is a movie with a huge amount going for it. An excellent ensemble cast features a rather subdued Alan Rickman, a deliciously arch Bill Nighy, wonderfully incompetent Warren Clarke and a very perceptive Natasha Richardson. There are faults with the writing - it's a bit uneven in places - and Josh Hartnett as Brian seems to have a real struggle with his supposed Yorkshire accent, but the end result is something quintessentially British that reads like an episode of 'Last of the Summer Wine'. It has mordant Yorkshire wit combined with camp gay humour, an odd combination which for some strange reason actually works.

If the plot developments are not exactly unexpected and the relationship between the young lovers seems rather superfluous, these are minor faults. It's not an excellent, first-rank movie - not quite up to the standard of 'The Full Monty' with which it has been compared - just good, solid fun. I particularly relished Bill Nighy's 'queen of the hairdressers' dumped unceremoniously in the wilds of Yorkshire like a slightly camp Withnail; it's a performance to treasure in a film I'll enjoy watching over and over again.

Don't let the reviews put you off; give this one a chance. I loved it.
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'Odd couple' relationship, funny and touching
29 November 2000
Warning: Spoilers
In 'Swinging Sixties' London a young woman tries to find herself by indulging in affairs which inevitably end in disaster - and childbirth. After several failed relationships, each of which adds to the population, she realises that there is one man who has always stood by her and loved her through thick and thin - her father's old manservant Savage (Harry Andrews).

It's a great 'odd couple' relationship and a real change of pace for Andrews who for once is not required to play the square-jawed hero. It's a funny and touching movie, now rather dated, but it stands up nicely as an artifact of its time; all those sophisticated settings and exotic foreign locations are eventually seen as empty and irrelevant when set against the values of home and The Love Of A Good Man.

If only real life was that simple!
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Confusing but fun, with great action sequences.
11 July 2000
Confusing plot with some moments of very dark drama and some of high farce. Charles Heung displays more humour than his ultra-cool bodyguard (Mr Dragon) from Wong Jing's "God of Gamblers" series would lead one to expect; here he's saddled with an ambitious wife and a career that's going nowhere. Leslie Cheung looks embarrassed at having to play a rebellious teen but he gives it his best shot - and he's always good to watch. The action sequences are excellent, with a street fight between rival gangs of cops the highlight. Meticulous period detail - although the cars look too precious to take such risks with! - and on the whole a great addition to any collection of classic Hong Kong movies.
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