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13 reviews in total 
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What Happened??, 10 July 2001

Over the years, Red Dwarf must rank as one of the most creative and original comedy series of all time. Series 1 to 6 (inclusive) are classics, with some inventive and very funny storylines... ....but series' 7 and 8??? Oh dear, what happened? Series 7 was inferior, but at least watchable... Series 8 is at times, horribly and embarassingly unfunny. Chloe Annett (Kochanski) is pretty good eye candy, but a comedy actress she most certainly is not - her timing and delivery is way off (compare it with Chris Barrie's and you'll see what I mean!).

Worse though is the overuse in Series 8 of special effects. It seems the producers were given a huge toy box to play with.. and boy did they play. The plot of each episode seems to have been contrived in order to use as many effects as possible - an example is the Cat's Tap Dancing routine with the Walkers - which is the most embarassingly bad scene ever in Red Dwarf!

Please, BBC, take away their budget and it may force them to write some decent comedy again!!

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Different but lacks depth, 3 January 2001

Plunkett and Maclean is nothing if not original. It would appear that some bright spark thought it would be a great idea to create a period caper movie in a modern style and then developed a story to fit. Unfortunately it would appear that this bright spark thought the originality of the initial concept was enough to carry the wasn't.

The basic synopsis of the film is fairly promising - a common criminal teams up with a more gentlemanly rogue to form a highway robbery partnership in 18th Century England. The reasoning for this collaboration is that the gentleman, Maclean (Jonny Lee Miller), can use his more aristicratic demeanor to target rich victims and the more experienced thief Plunkett (Robert Carlyle) can lead the robberies. Of course, at the start of the film, Plunkett is the more hardened criminal with little morality and little care for anyone but himself, whilst Maclean is the aristocrat who more than likes a drink and a healthier diet of gambling and women. That is pretty much were the characterisation begins and ends for the leads and despite the inevitable shift in their attitudes during the film they both remain fairly one-dimensional. Carlyle and Miller perform about as well as can be expected with the script they have been given and at times lift the film above its shortcomings. The supporting cast also outperform the script, particularly Alan Cumming as the foppish Rochester, who despite being a bit of a stereotype provides some well-needed entertainment. Liv Tyler does not have a massive amount to do in the film, but what she does do is passable, if a little lazy. The bad guy, Mr Chance, is played by Ken Stott and although his acting is fine, I never really took him that seriously...he seemed to have something missing.

This film manages to waste almost all of the potential of the basic storyline and fails to develop the characters in an interesting way. Plunkett and Maclean begin by disliking each other and only team up for mutual benefit. Inevitably however, the begin to warm to each other, but the viewer is not really given a solid reason why this is the case. The dialogue is extremely limited and the effing and blinding that appears rife in British films post 'Lock Stock...' is present.

As for the production design, its an admirable attempt to bring a period film into the 21st Century and at least it is not another tired period drama. The costume and set design works quite well, if a little artificial and although it is hardly realistic to 18th Century London, its certainly refreshing. On the other hand, the musical style does not appear to work - somehow the MTV score appears disjointed against the action and will probably date extremely quickly.

In summary, this is not an appalling film. It lacks depth, but there is enough action to prevent you nodding off, and its sufficiently different to warrant a viewing when you have little else to do. If you do not expect too much you will not be disappointed.

Les Miserables (1978) (TV)
12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Difinitive portrayals of the leading characters, 29 December 2000

This is a great story and for me this is the best screen adaptation of it. Although Geoffrey Rush puts in a decent performance in the newer film release (1998), Anthony Perkins' Javert simply cannot be bettered with his steely, cold personality and determination. Jordon also does well with the Valjean character, emitting a personality of pride and restraint in the face of adversity. The story moves on at a decent pace and provides good characterisation without too much lagging.

Overall this is a fine production and I personally find it vastly superior to the latest film incarnation with Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush where I didn't particularly like either of the portrayals of the leading characters, even though they were well-acted. This version may have the obligatory TV Movie feel to it, but it still manages to rise above its Big-screen counterpart.

40 out of 46 people found the following review useful:
Unique, Very Dark and Hilarious, 29 December 2000

British TV Comedy has a great tradition. We have the gentle sit-coms like Are You Being Served, The Good Life, Butterflies which seem to have gained a cult following in the US. Then we have the slightly more adventurous sit-coms like Porridge, Only Fools And Horses and One Foot In The Grave with their observations on real living that we can all associate with. We also have the sketch-type comedy such as Harry Enfield and The Fast Show which take characters we meet everyday and make them ten-times worse and funnier.

But every so often we British do what we do best and come up with something that simply removes all of the boundaries and is unique. The Goons, Monty Pythons Flying Circus, The Goodies, Not The Nine O'Clock News, The Young Ones....the list goes on. These programs often start off as small projects shoved onto BBC2 or Channel 4, but eventually they become part of our comedy heritage. However, its been a long time since we have seen something as unique and ground-breaking as this one - its simply the best and most original comedy series for over a decade.

If you are not British and your vision of British comedy is Are You Being Served and Benny Hill, prepare yourself for a shock because gentle slap-stick this is not. The League of Gentlemen is very, very dark - there's very little feel-good about this comedy - and it is extremely surreal, but it is also immensely funny. The series follows the exploits of the inhabitants of a small Northern village called Royston Vasey (the real name of Roy Chubby Brown, a particularly x-rated British comedian). The show gives Royston Vasey an almost mystical air, as if seperated from the rest of the real world, a place where anything can happen and the unexpected always does. The characters are cleverly worked so that despite their grotesqueness, you can still associate with them and in some cases sympathise with them. All of the main characters (even the women, in true Monty Python style) are played by three of the four writers (Gatiss, Pemberton and Shearsmith), and every character is an absolute gem. To tell you about the characters would spoil the fun of finding out for yourself. What I will say is don't expect any happy endings or moralistic enlightenment in this show, because there aren't any...but do expect shocks, things that will make you whince and some genuinely funny moments. Also concentrate through the opening credits as the camera takes you around the town, because there are some excellent visual gags in there.

This is a truly wonderful and original slice of British humour. It won't be to everyone's taste, but to those that appreciate this style of humour, you cannot get any better than this. I can see this being viewed as a classic in years to come - lets hope it awakens some new and innovative comedy writing in the near future... we've waited long enough.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Not brilliant - but unfairly blasted, 22 December 2000

I don't think that this film got a release in the UK, and I don't remember even seeing it available to rent on video. I've read the reviews given and I gather it took a bit of a caning from the US critics, but from the reviews provided by the general public it seems more to be a 'love it or hate it' type movie and the fact that a fair few seem to love it, touting it as the worst movie ever made seems a bit harsh.

I got to see this movie recently (on digital satellite in the UK), and I found it to be quite amusing. Its by no means a classic and is unlikely to ever be presented in a Top 100 Comedies list, but there's enough here to warrant a viewing at least. As a Brit I have absolutely no idea who Lewis and Clark were (although I can make an assumption having watched this movie) so the historical aspect is lost on me but I don't think that's particularly important or hinders the enjoyment of the film. In basic terms this film follows an expedition to be the first to reach the Pacific side of America.

The characters are sufficiently different to each other and the cast play their roles as well as can be expected. Perry's style is most definitely based on visual and facial expressions and he uses it well as the foppish Leslie Edwards. Farley plays the over-the-top lout with no graces which forms the basis of most of his roles and he provides a suitable complement to Perry's character. The leading lady (Lisa Barbuscia) is absolutely stunning although she isn't used a great deal. The rest of the supporting cast do their jobs well, providing an alternative target for the humour. The humour presented here is not particularly sophisticated, but the film has some funny moments while the rest is at least amusing enough to raise a smile and keep you watching - if you like this kind of humour that is. Its mainly slapstick and the dialogue is a poor-man's Blazing Saddles.

The first 15 minutes of the film gives you a reasonable idea of what is to follow, and if you hated it up to that point you probably are not going to enjoy the rest. Its one of those films that either strikes a chord with you or falls flat - if you are in the latter camp you will hate it, but that does not necessarily make it a terrible film.

Braveheart (1995)
5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
A decent enough film but a historical joke, 19 December 2000

I am a fan of this particularly period in English History and when I initially saw Braveheart I recognised that this whole story is a complete fabrication and bears no resemblance to the truth at all. But I didn't worry too much - surely everyone would recognise that this is just a film? But no - it seems that a lot of people have swallowed this drivel and think that its all true.

This film is not just a little bit inaccurate, its a complete and utter joke historically. Just because Edward I (or Longshanks as the film constantly refers to him) died nearly seven hundred years ago is not an excuse to assassinate his character and to depict him as a coward is a complete disgrace. Edward had another nickname apart from Longshanks - The Lion of Justice - now I doubt he got that from being a tyrant!!!! This film makes the classic mistake of judging historical events and characters by todays standards rather than the context in which they existed. The political and social environment of medieval Europe was a lot different to modern-day USA, and do not be thinking that the Scots themselves were averse to invading weaker countries - they attempted to invade Ireland while Bruce was on the throne under the pretence of 'helping' them (they lost!). Now, I have the utmost respect for Wallace, but to depict him as a moral crusader is way off the mark - he was certainly capable of acts of brutality and barbarism himself. The character of Robert Bruce is equally inaccurate - being depicted as feeling guilty over changing sides when in fact all of his actions were for his own gain - and this is a man who murdered another Scottish claimant to the throne in cold blood - hardly a nice guy!

The storyline and characters in the film are also terribly one-dimensional. Every single Englishman in this film is evil and cowardly - there are no good English people to create a conflict in the English camp that would have made things more interesting. The English, like all European and World powers have been guilty of their fair share of atrocities in the past, none of which I am proud of, but to cast us as complete villains is clearly racism. Also, the plot has far too many holes and the characters do not behave logically - for example a royal French princess (Isabella) falling for a common Scottish peasant (although in reality Wallace was not a peasant and Isabella was only a child when Wallace died anyway and she certainly never met him). Edward also behaves illogically - loosing arrows on his own troops and throwing a young nobleman out of his castle window. The barons in England were immensely powerful at this time, and the king could not just do as he pleased without repercussions. However, perhaps the best joke of all in this film is the suggestion that Wallace was the father of Edward III. Apart from the fact that Edward III apparently looked very similar to Edward I and every bit a Plantagenet, he was born about 7 years after Wallace died anyway. There are enough historical inaccuracies in this film to fill a book.

As a piece of cinema this film is highly entertaining, if a little simplistic in plot. The battle scenes are exciting (although not accurate re-enactments of the battles they represent) and the story interesting enough to keep you watching. So, watch it and enjoy - but please treat it as a work of fiction, as apart from the names of the characters this is clearly what it is. History has always contained more exciting stories than fiction ever could - but the fact that the scriptwriters of this film needed to be so economical with the truth tells its own story - Wallace's life, although historically important, wasn't that interesting at all in reality.

29 out of 30 people found the following review useful:
Definitive Blackadder, 14 December 2000

To many who watched the ongoing saga of the Blackadder family at the time of release, this is the best Blackadder series of them all - and they have a very strong case. Although this is not my own personal favourite (I prefer the original series), this second installment is a superb piece of comedy.

The time-period moves on approximately sixty years to Elizabethan England and follows the story of Edmund Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson) - the great-grandson of the original slimy Blackadder. This time Edmund is not a Prince of the realm but a Lord in the court of Good Queen Bess (the wonderful Miranda Richardson). Tim McInnerny continues in the role as Percy and he threatens to steal the show throughout. Percy's character is built on from the first series, being given a more child-like and innocent personality to go with the lack of brain cells, and this combined with McInnerny's fantastic performance gives the comedy an added dimension and direction. The Baldrick role (Tony Robinson) is also reprised, but instead of the street-wise peasant with the cunning plan of series one, we get the first incarnation of the Baldrick character we are now more familiar with - dirty, smelly and incredibly stupid. In this series it works, because now Blackadder himself is significantly brighter and more refined than his ancestor and this time he's armed with a razor-sharp wit. The characters do complement each other well, but the close-nit group of the first series is now missing with Blackadder resenting and mistreating his sidekicks throughout, but this is used well for comic effect.

The supporting cast is also excellent and the characters they play are brilliantly written. Elizabeth herself is portrayed as a spoilt little school-girl, complete with screams! Richardson plays this role superbly and with hilarious results with the queen being highly unpredictable and volatile. Elizabeth also has a couple of loyal sidekicks, Nursy (Patsy Byrne) the woman who weaned her as a child, and Melchett (Stephen Fry), her advisor. All of these characters add weight to the comedy, and are sufficiently different to each other to provide alternative directions in comedy.

Although Blackadder does have a basic goal in this series - to marry Elizabeth and become her consort - it does not drive the plot as much in this series as it did in the first. The plots for each episode however are still extremely entertaining and contain the basic premise of Blackadder getting into a desperate situation that he must get out of - with the aid (or hindrance) of Percy and Baldrick. The stories are well-thought out and the comedy a good-blend of dry-wit from Blackadder and farcical situations. The stories are well scripted and contain some excellent supporting characters played memorably by the likes of Rik Mayall (of Young Ones and Drop Dead Fred fame), Ronald Lacey (Raiders of the Lost Ark) and ex Dr Who Tom Baker.

This series of Blackadder successfully alters the main character into the intelligent and dry cynic, because it does not do so at the expense of the other characters and the plots. Ben Elton's influence however is evident with the supporting characters being of the less intelligent type, aluding to things to come in the next two series where these characters becoming the main target for the humour. Blackadder II works so well because it is the stories that drive the humour with the dry-wit as an added bonus - things were about to be reversed.

Like the first series this is a classic of comedy and well deserves its standing as, arguably, the most popular Blackadder series. The first and last series of Blackadder could not be further apart in terms of humour and subtlety - this series fuses both styles to create, perhaps the definitive Blackadder.

9 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
Blackadder becomes a Snake, 14 December 2000

This was one of the most eagerly awaited television series in British TV history. After the success of the excellent Blackadder II the British public waited with baited breath for the next installment in the Blackadder dynasty.

The series moves the time on to the Regency period with the Blackadder family having fallen on bad times, moving out of the aristocracy and into the lower-classes. Blackadder serves as a butler to the prince regent and as in the first series, Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson) has a goal that drives the plot for the series - the obtaining of money. This goal is well chosen as the time-period represented is during the industrial revolution where the common man, for the first time, could become rich.

The character of Blackadder that moved from the slimy incompetent of the first series to the intelligent and dry character of the second successfully, is taken one step further and becomes simply bitter, arrogant and cynical in this series (continuing into the fourth series). Where Blackadder's dryness complemented the comic style of Blackadder II, here it serves as the main thrust of the comedy. Of course he needs a target for his sarcasm and the ever-present Baldrick serves part of this role. Unfortunately, Tim McInnerny's superb Percy character is not present in this series, with the actor making an appearance in only one episode about the Scarlet Pimpernel. His replacement in the stupidity stakes is the inferior character Prince George (Hugh Laurie). George simply represents another target for Blackadder to abuse, made slightly more interesting by the fact that George is the master and therefore Blackadder cannot openly belittle him – instead needing to be sly about it. Laurie gives the role a good stab, and at times he pulls it off remarkably well, but at other times his character is a simple and oafish bafoon.

Although the main stories for each episode are reasonable, they are pale comparisons to the previous two series. Somehow, the characters compliment each other less well and the all important atmosphere seems to be missing – there simply is less spark.

Blackadder III lacks the subtlety and clever scripting of the first series and the superb characters of the second. The sarcastic humour presented here is developed and honed in the final series Blackadder Goes Forth – and therefore Balckadder III seems lost in the middle. Having said that, a poorer Blackadder series is still very funny and superior to most comedy series so it is still worth watching and owning on video. The trouble is, it had a lot to live up to and it will inevitably be compared to the others.

50 out of 56 people found the following review useful:
The Original and Best, 13 December 2000

This is the first, and in my opinion, the best of the Blackadder series - although the second installment runs a very close second. This series, in retrospect, is often dismissed as less funny than its successors and this may be due to its different style and sense of humour. This comparison unfortunately causes the viewer to miss what makes this series such an excellent piece of comedy writing and production.

The whole series centres on Edmund (Rowan Atkinson), the son of the younger of the two princes who in history were murdered in the Tower of London, allegedly by Richard III. In this take on history, where real history is dismissed as being rewritten by Henry Tudor, the princes were not murdered and Richard Duke of York grows up 'to be a strong boy'. The first episode of the series lays the foundation, explaining how Richard III dies, how Edmund's father becomes King and also the important, accidental, foretelling by three Witches (a clever alude to the witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth) to Edmund that one day he will be King. The rest of the series follows Edmund in his attempts to realise this foretelling.

Edmund's definite goal throughout the series, which forms the basis of the subsequent plotlines, gives it a direction perhaps missing in the following series, and it also gives his character more depth. Blackadder (as he names himself), in this series, is significantly different to his persona of the subsequent time-periods - being slimy, selfish and not particularly bright. There is a definite bond between the main characters, Blackadder and his sidekicks, Percy and Baldrick (excellently played by Tim McInnerny and Tony Robinson respectively) and although Blackadder treats his underlings with contempt at times, they collaborate as a team throughout in a series of 'cunning plans'. Baldrick is indeed the intelligent character of the group, the man in the know and his character has much more depth than his smelly and stupid character of later series.

Each plot in the series follows a similar pattern - Blackadder getting himself into a situation and having to get himself out of it. The humour presented is more subtle, relying more on the use of visual comedy, language and historical satire than on blind sarcasm. Many of the gags are implied and expect the viewer to work out the meaning as opposed to ramming it down their throats. Additionally, the script contains a number of lines that cleverly misuse Shakespeare for added effect, a classic example being Richard III calling for 'my horse, my horse my kingdom for a horse' in the style of someone calling for his dog. The supporting cast all play their part superbly, particularly Brian Blessed as Richard IV, the maniacal war-monger who hates his slimy son and fails to get his name right. The late, great Peter Cook also makes an appearance as Richard III in the first episode.

This series must be watched out of context with what followed. It was not written for the popular market, being first screened on BBC2. Watch it, laugh, then watch it again to catch some of the gags you missed the first time. Comedy written this well is unfortunately extremely rare, and to dismiss it without appreciating its aims does not do it justice. This series not only shows Rowan Atkinson at his very best, but also the writing of Richard Curtis (and Atkinson) and it is an overlooked classic of British comedy.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A Definitive Example of 90's Brit Humour, 11 December 2000

The one thing that sets this comedy series above other Ben Elton inspired comedies, such as Blackadder The Third and The Thin Blue Line, is the satirical look at the futility of WWI. Elton is one of Britain's most talented stand-up comedians, and he is also gaining a reputation as an author. However, his sit-com writing is one-dimensional and lacking either subtlety or plot, despite his early series which showed some promise (The Young Ones and Blackadder II).

The humour of this series revolves around the Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson) character, a sarcastic and arrogant know-it-all. The targets for his razor-sharp wit are a number of characters with varying levels of stupidity. His two main vehicles are Baldrick (Tony Robinson) who represents stupidity from the lowest and uneducated of society and George (Hugh Laurie) who represents stupidity from the other end of British society, that is, the in-bred public schoolboy. These two characters are equally thick, with Baldrick given the added dimension of poor hygiene, and George the naivety of a child. The humour generally follows the moronic utterings of these two victims and Blackadder's inevitably sarcastic response.

The humour becomes more interesting and satirical with the comments on the crazy tactics employed by the WWI generals and the attitude towards the file and rank soldier (ie they were dispensable commodities). General Melchett (Stephen Fry) s clearly based on Field Marshall Haig, the Commander In Chief of the British Expeditionary Force in WWI, who's attitude was 'if we have one man standing and they have none - we will have won'. Melchett, unfortunately is portrayed simply as a maniac, rather than an ignorant aristocratic British general with no regard for his troops. The WWI satire is delivered mainly through Blackadder's sarcasm rather than through the other characters, but having said that the points on the madness that was the Great War are well-made. The series finale is very powerful and well executed and leaves an excellent moralistic message rarely seen in comedy.

On the whole, in comparison to the first two series of Blackadder, the plots and humour are less sophisticated and subtle in this series. My only conclusion is that Ben Elton exacted a larger influence as the Blackadder series' progressed (regressed?), with Richard Curtis' more subtle humour taking a back-seat. Unfortunately this series is very representative of popular British comedy in the 1990's with the sarcastic put-down being the basis for many sit-coms, with Birds of a Feather being a good example. If you like that kind of humour then you'll like this.

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