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Rio: Reinboo Geeto (2011)
Rio - Rainbow Gate
This is rather a strange series; on the one hand the stories seem the sort of thing children might enjoy; the heroine has to take part in several fantastical games, on the other hand it is set in a casino and no opportunity to show off the cleavage of the many buxom characters is missed. Rio is the star dealer at the Howard Resort Casino which is a little strange as she seems to bring luck to the clientèle. She holds one of thirteen 'gate cards' and over the course of the series takes part in a series of games to win the remaining cards and be named 'Most Valuable Casino Dealer'. As the series progresses things get a bit darker and it looks as though Rio has been defeated and her boss has lost the casino. As the series concluded the story was neatly wrapped up but a short post credit sequence suggested that there was a further threat thus the possibility of a second series; presumably that will depend on how many people watched this time.
After the first episode I wasn't sure if I'd bother watching the rest of the series but it grew on me; sure the story is fairly basic and the fan service is somewhat excessive but the cast is likable and things get mildly tense later on. Of course realism is not the series strong point but it wasn't meant to be; if it was there wouldn't be a flying casino and the heroine wouldn't spend most of her time in the casino with a child who is far too young to be there! The animation looks good although I'm not sure why they chose to give the characters shiny breasts.
Predator 2 (1990)
A predator is hunting in the city of Los Angeles
In 'Predator' Arnold Schwarzenegger and a group of elite commandos found themselves up against an alien predator in a remote South American jungle this time it is Danny Glover and some cops against a predator in the city of Los Angeles. It is a hot summer and the predator has been drawn to the war between rival drug-gangs which the police are struggling to deal with. Glover plays Lieutenant Mike Harrigan; a tough cop who realises that something strange is going on; a group of heavily armed gangsters are wiped out by something that doesn't appear to have been armed. He is determined to get to the bottom of it but is ordered to stay away when federal agent Peter Keyes appears on the scene. Inevitably the predator strikes again and it isn't long before one of Harrigan's team is killed and he won't be the last. The slaughter continues until Harrigan confronts the predator in a fight that only one of them will survive.
After an enjoyable first instalment this sequel is a bit disappointing
it isn't bad; just not as good as the first. Danny Glover is a good lead but doesn't have the presence of Arnie. This problem is even greater for the rest of the protagonists; the first film had the likes of Carl Weathers, Bill Duke and Jesse Ventura while here we have Rubén Blades, Bill Baxton and Maria Conchita Alonso
and the last of these is the toughest! Gary Busey is pretty solid as Keyes even if his character is a little cliché. They try to make up for the lack of tough characters with some fairly forced comedy. If you can ignore the flaws there is a lot of over the top action; most of it fairly bloody and it does build nicely on the events of the previous film even if there are no returning characters. Overall this is an okay action film that fans of the previous film will probably enjoy; just not as much.
The tide turns against Caesar
Caesar has pursued Pompey's forces to Greece but things aren't going to plan. Pompey refuses to engage in battle; instead he rallies more and more legions. Now the numbers are in his favour and Caesar is on the run. He sends word to Mark Antony, ordering him to bring the 13th Legion to Greece but his old friend is concerned for his own safety and doesn't mobilise his forces at least not until Atia lets it be known that she is pleased that he hasn't supported Caesar. Away from the military side of the story Niobe's sister is concerned about her husband's disappearance; more so when Pullo tells her he has heard he was killed because of gambling debts a story she doesn't believe. Pullo is also tasked by Atia to take her son Octavian so that he can be with a woman for the first time.
This was another enjoyable episode; throughout there was the question of whether Mark Antony would obey Caesar's order; James Purefoy is great in the role, especially in the scene with Polly Walker's equally impressive Atia
he is coarse and she is devious. One couldn't help feeling a little sorry for Octavian and his mother criticised him for still being a virgin before ordering Pullo to arrange for a woman
an awkward time for a young man! This did provide some laughs too when Pullo was told the he would not be availing himself of the brothel's services. While there isn't any real action in this episode it ends with the 13th crossing a tempestuous sea which suggests there may be some soon when they get to Greece
if they get to Greece.
This Czech police drama is centred around would be film maker Roman Kadlec; he has repeatedly failed to get into film school so his police officer father invites him to start working for him filming the aftermath of traffic accidents. He hasn't been working long when his father is killed by a hit-and-run driver. Roman is determined to help bring the person responsible to justice and persuades the elite Serious Crimes Unit that his recordings could be very useful to them. Indeed they are and soon he is working with them on other cases even though he has yet to finish basic training. This means he is frequently told to say in the car on certain operations but he inevitably becomes involved. As the series progresses and the team solve a number of cases he finds himself becoming attracted to fellow team member Nikola Bárdyová.
This was an enjoyable series; it is just a pity that there were only seven episodes that said knowing that it was a short series increased the possibility that one or more major character might not make it to the end. This was particularly true in the tense penultimate episode where the team members take turns acting as bait for a serial killer who is preying on hitchhikers. The slight blue tinge to much of the show adds to the atmosphere as does the somewhat basic appearance of where the team works; they may be the Serious Crime Squad but there are no gleaming offices for them. The characters are interesting; Roman provides us with a good introduction to the team's world as the viewer learns what is going on just as he does; Krystof Hádek does a fine job in the role. The rest of the cast is impressive too; Vica Kerekes is ideal as Nikola; attractive without being unrealistically glamorous. Overall I'd recommend this to anybody who likes police dramas and fancies something a little different.
These comments are based on watching the series in Czech with English subtitles.
Jian guo da ye (2009)
The Founding of a Republic
This film tells the story of China from shortly after the end of the Japanese Occupation in 1945 when Mao Tse-tung, chairman of the Communist party met with Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek to discuss the future of the country, through a bitter civil war till the founding of the People's Republic of China and the retreat of the Nationalist it the island of Taiwan.
Given that it was made by the Chinese State and dedicated to the 60th anniversary of its founding it is not surprising that it shows Mao in a better light than he is viewed in the west
that isn't the problem with the film; the problem is that it is just too stodgy. There are lots and lots of scenes with people just talking about things that aren't all that interesting at times; perhaps these are more interesting to people who know more about the history of China. The film was further let down by some very misleading packaging in the UK; the DVD cover boldly announces "For the first time in one epic film: Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen"
they may all have appeared but in cameos so minor it would be easy to miss them. There is not much in the way of action and the majority of what there is features sepia tinted footage of unknown foot soldiers rather than protagonists. The cast do a decent job; Guoqiang Tang was particularly good as Chairman Mao; of course it helped that he looked rather like him. On the plus side the film was more even handed than I expected; while Mao was obviously depicted as the good guy the Nationalists weren't shown as the villains they might have been. Overall I found this to be a bit disappointing but certainly not enough to regret watching it; I wouldn't particularly recommend it unless you are particularly interested in this period of Chinese history.
As we reach the end of the second season of 'The Young Montalbano' Salvo is getting ready to move to Genoa with girlfriend Livia; inevitably he will have to solve one last case first. This case involves the death of a young woman who at first sight appears to have fallen asleep while driving and gone over a cliff. Not surprisingly things aren't what they first appear to be; she has an apricot stone lodged on her throat but there are no other apricots in her car and it is unlikely that somebody would each just one especially when it turns out she was allergic to apricots! The woman was a model and immediate suspects include her boss who was also her ex-boyfriend, a neighbour who was obsessed with her and her current partner who is a heroin addict. While this is going on Livia starts to think that Salvo doesn't want to leave his beloved Sicily; he assures her that he is going to move as soon as the case is over.
This episode provided a great ending to the second season; the case wasn't overly convoluted but equally the killer wasn't too obvious. While the mystery of who killed the girl is interesting and takes up most of the episode the real interest is whether Salvo will be moving away this part of the story is well handled and ends with the effective, and somewhat shocking, use of real life events. Along the way we get some amusement as Catarella reads out his 'Ode to Montalbano' and see Salvo gradually moving Mimi into the lead as he will be in charge of the station when Salvo leaves. The cast does a fine job; Michele Riondino is great as Salvo Montalbano and it was nice to see a bit more of Sarah Felberbaum as Livia. Fabrizio Pizzuto was on top form as Catarella and Alessio Vassallo and Beniamino Marcone were effective as Mimi and Fazio respectively. Overall I'd say this was one of the best episodes of the series; I just hope it isn't the last we'll see of 'The Young Montalbano'.
These comments are based on watching the episode in Italian with English subtitles.
An enjoyable action film
As this retelling of the story of the Battle of Thermopylae opens Dilios, a survivor of the battle, narrates as we learn how his leader Leonidas grew up learning to be a fighter before growing up to become the King of Sparta. We then learn how King Xerxes of the Persians sends a messenger to Sparta demanding that they acknowledge his supremacy Leonidas responds by kicking the messenger down the well! He knows that if he is to prevent the destruction of Sparta he will have to face Xerxes superior forces; the oracles forbid going to war at that time but he takes a force of three hundred warriors to a pass known as the 'Hot Gates'; here a small force will be able to hold off a superior attacker. Soon battle is raging as wave after wave of Xerxes' forces attack Leonidas' small band of Spartans. Back in Sparta Gorgo, Leonidas' wife tries to rally support to send the rest of the army.
If you are after historical accuracy this may not be the film to watch; however it might inspire viewers to learn more about the events which can't be bad. If you want action this film has lots of it; much of it is fairly bloody but it isn't too disturbing thanks to the stylised way in which it is presented. The action is exciting and fairly non-stop once the battle has begun. The use of CGI is effective and not too obvious. The cast do a decent enough job with the material; although most of them just have to shout a lot and fight even more. On the downside the Spartans, who we are meant to support, come across as a bunch of proto-fascists; this is especially true in the opening scenes where we see young Leonidas taken from his mother and brutally forced to becoming a warrior whose greatest honour would be to die for Sparta. Overall I enjoyed this more than I expected and would recommend it to somebody after a film with lots of action.
Transporter: The Series: Chimera (2014)
Frank works with the FBI to retrieve a chemical weapon
This episode sees Frank working in Chicago where he is to recover a chemical weapon from Louis Tien; a Triad gangster operating from a factory situated above a Chinese restaurant. It won't be easy though; all the simulations his team have run end in failure. An opportunity presents itself when Pamela Wolfe, the FBI agent he is working for, informs him that a buyer is flying into town to acquire the weapon. She arranges for the man to be detained at the airport so Frank can take his place. Of course things don't go according to plan; the man escapes and calls the driver who is taking Frank to Tien. Frank manages to deal with this problem but there are other things to worry about; Tien will expect payment and Frank doesn't have the ten-digit code for the buyers account and it appears that there is a traitor in the FBI who wants to use the weapon to 'make America a better place'.
People hoping for some action should be happy with this episode; it starts with an impressive fighting sequence as it appears that Frank is going into Tien's restaurant and trying to get to the factory
we see this several times and each time Frank fails in a different way
it turns out these are actually computer simulations. It doesn't matter that they are simulations as they are exciting fights
I could have done without the cheesy commentary though. Later on we get a good fight within a moving car followed immediately by two cars trying to run each other off the road. Once Frank is into Tien's facility the tension rises further especially when we learn that one of the FBI is a traitor. As the episode reaches its conclusion there is a nice twist regarding the identity of the traitor in the FBI. Overall this is a fairly solid episode with some good action.
Full Metal Panic! (2002)
Solid action anime with some laughs along the way
Protagonist Sousuke Sagara is part of Mithril; a quasi-military organisation that undertakes counter-terrorism operation. He is given the task of protecting Japanese school girl Kaname Chidori who unknown to her is being targeted by a terrorist organisation. This mission means that Sousuke must go undercover at her school where the other students think he must be obsessed with the military thanks to his behaviour and his guns which they assume to be replicas! Eventually Kaname learns what is going on and gets caught up in the conflict between Mithril and a terrorist organisation lead by a thoroughly unpleasant character named Guaron. Over the course of the series Sousuke and his comrades will get into several battles with Guaron's forces that will involve fighting in giant mechas known as 'Arm Slaves' and we learn just what is so special about Kaname.
This well-known series is a lot of fun; early on there are plenty of laughs to be had; mostly as Sousuke has no idea how to behave at school or around Kaname. Later on the humour drops off as the drama and action increases. The main cast isn't too large which means we can get to know the character's fairly well. As well as Sousuke and Kaname, Kurz Weber and Melissa Mao, Sousuke's comrades, provide some good laughs and Guaron is an impressive villain; bad without pantomime excess. The animation nicely combines standard 2D animation with some decent 3D and all the main characters are pretty distinctive. Overall a fine series that nicely combines action and comedy; well worth watching.
These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
Midsomer Murders: A Dying Art (2016)
The art of murder
As this episode opens wealthy landowner Brandon Monkford is holding the grand opening of his new woodland sculpture park; it doesn't go according to plan as he is found murdered on one of the sculptures. Inevitably there are plenty of suspects; he was planning to close a business run by his daughter and her partner, his wife was involved with another man, a local artist is upset that his work wasn't selected for the park, another sculptor claimed that he hadn't been paid, a group of villagers objected to the park and there was a surprising beneficiary in Brandon's will. As the investigation progresses more murders take place; each involving the placing of the victim on the sculptures. A sketch book is found that appears to show each of the crime scenes but it isn't obvious who it belonged to or whether the artist was the killer or merely provided the inspiration for the killings.
This was an enjoyable episode featured the inventive murders one might expect in this series; each fitting in with the episode's artistic theme in a macabre way. There are more than enough suspects; some of them delightfully unpleasant in a way that makes one pleased when they become the latest victim! The cast do an impressive job; most notably Ramon Tikaram who plays the unpleasant sculptor Lance Auden, David Bamber who plays Mrs Monkton's lover, Saskia Reeves who plays the Monkton's maid and Adrian Scarborough who plays her husband; an unexpected beneficiary of the will. When the killer is revealed it won't surprise viewers who subscribe to the theory that it is always somebody who appears to be a pleasant person and is played by somebody familiar! That said the killer's motives aren't far-fetched when we learn the details. Overall a pretty good episode that sound please fans of the series.