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The Sopranos: 46 Long (1999)
46 Long - The better 1st episode
This does a much better job (than the pilot) of establishing the characters of The Sopranos as well as establishing what will be the look and feel of the series for it's duration. We see the already full formed characters such as Paulie, Pussy and Chris in action, doing what they do best, making calls, collecting debts and generally wheeling and dealing in their own inimitable fashion.
Every character in episode 2 is already the fully formed finished product, and the writing and acting is superb.
Immediately gone is the comical style and (most of) the ill advised artful camera angles of the pilot, any comedy flows naturally from the drama, such as the magical moment where Livia bounces her friend off her car bonnet (Nancy Marchand's twisted and addled delivery of all her scenes is awe inspiring and every time she is on screen we know we're in for a treat).
What we see here though is a proper hook for the casual viewer. An episode that will make people (who have not watched before) watch again. There's genuine tension and peril with the conflict between Chris and Brendan and Junior, as well as Tony and his mother. This episode is raw, angry, aggressive and rich in character development.
It's already a perfect example of The Sopranos we know and love.
Oh, and of course what fully formed episode of The Sopranos would be complete without Tony beating Georgie the barman with a telephone receiver? We have lift off.
Taken 2 (2012)
A bit disappointing
As a fan of the original I went in to see this with a fairly open mind, having read no reviews and seeing it within a few days of the UK release. There are a number of disappointing aspects to this sequel, but the most general one is the script. From early on in the film, the dialogue being spoken by the actors sounds quite awkward and clunky. The set up / premise of the story is good but the way the action unfolds seems very rushed with very little of the attention to detail or use of Bryan Mills (Neesons) information finding skills that entertained us in the first film.
The first film has far fetched aspects but Taken 2 takes these to new levels. As other users have pointed out, the actions of Mills daughter Kim stretch the film's credibility to snapping point. Without wishing to be disparaging about a fictional character, I don't buy that she would be able to do ANY of the things we see her do (apart from perhaps making out with her boyfriend), running across rooftops letting off grenades, driving through the town like the world's greatest stunt driver (who obviously was the one really driving) when she's still struggling to master a reverse park on her driving lessons? No casualties there by the way.
The villains of this film are bumbling buffoons who cannot be taken seriously. These Eastern European sex traffickers we are expected to believe have the martial arts skills of Bruce Lee on speed, yet don't have the mental resources to realise that Brian Mills is not someone to be left alone, and able to then free himself and make phones calls with a pocket device that a blind bat with a bin bag on it's head could find with a quick, non invasive body search.
Seriously, did his kidnappers learn nothing from the previous film? I know they didn't have first hand experience of what a slippery character Brian Mills is, but the fact that he capped pretty much everyone he came into contact with, should provide some clues as to how to handle him. You don't leave him on his own - ever! Some particularly clichéd lines were used to try and justify not killing Brian or his wife at various points, and these were almost comical, sounding more like dialogue from Austin Powers movies that Dr Evil might speak, or from Bond movies of old.
The film is a 12A (UK). I think the first film was a 15 and there was a more hardened version that was an 18. This immediately creates a problem. Much of the violence in Taken 2 is either watered down or suggested and not seen. Yes, lots of people get shot but it's very throwaway action when compared to the first film. A scene where a character is about to get viciously sliced by a knife, because of the film certification, we know will have no pay off, something will stop it happening. Not that I crave any of this, but the whole film has a general weak feel with regards to the violence. Also the villains themselves are no where near menacing or 3 dimensional enough for us to really care what happens to them.
There's an awkward and unsatisfactory ending involving Kim's boyfriend, a barely established character, which is in keeping with the rest of the film. Running at just 90 minutes I think another reason the film suffers is it doesn't have enough time to establish situations, characters or reasoning.
The focus on Brian Mills family as integral characters throughout is perhaps another mistake. We didn't have this in the first film and it was better for it.
This in a nutshell is something that could be billed as 'a violent revenge film with a child friendly film certification'. There in itself is a statement that doesn't sound right but that is what we have, and that should paint a fairly good picture of what to expect.
The Sopranos: Pilot (1999)
So, it's the pilot and if you know what's coming up after this, it does rather pale by comparison to the rest of the series but then, it is a pilot. More light hearted, wacky, more odd cinematic camera angles, a very different narrative style to the rest of the series but, even by the half way mark of this pilot it starts to resemble what it is to become, Tony's Looney Tunes Cartoon accent has begun to fade in places and we can almost forget we're watching the 1st episode. It took me a while to give The Sopranos a chance. It was an episode of season 3, the first one I saw in full, that made me want to see it from the start. That was back in 2001. I often think the more comical narrative of this pilot which was probably the subject of many of the early Channel 4 trailers was what put me off for the first few years. That, and the then close resemblance to the then recent film Analyse This. As a first time viewer though, you should not be put off. Within a few episodes you'll see why this is now considered by many as one of the greatest TV shows of all time.
Happy Families (1985)
I wish I could see this again
Ahhhhhhhh. I was about 11 in 1985 when I saw this and still at Primary School, at the time I was mourning the end of The Young Ones - this gave me my fix until Filthy Rich and Catflap came along the following year. Reading some of these IMDb reviews has been very nostalgic and has helped to bring back some of the memories from it. I remember Stephen Fry as the doctor, he was playing a doctor in an advert as well at the time so I think he got a bit type casted that year and this was the first thing I'd seen him in. I remember the French artist model character after reading her mentioned on here. I can still remember the theme music which I loved at the time and the tapestry title sequence. This was being shown roughly around the time of "Girls On Top" the ITV sitcom with French and Saunders in and I was a fan of both. This was very much advertised as a Jennifer Saunders vehicle (although French was in it) and it displayed her talents well. French and Saunders got their own series about a year later and it wouldn't be until Absolutely Fabulous that she went off and did something this individual again. I remember Happy Families had me in hysterics and there was some very close to the bone humour. As I said I was 11 at the time but my sense of humour has been fairly unchanged by time (I'm now 30!) I would really love to see this get repeated. Lets hope it does.
Remember those Look-In stories?
This film was so much like the old "look in" (uk kids comic) comic strips which told the story of a pop star or groups ascent into success.
I think it was Peter Kay who said the Tina Turner one had the first picture showed her being born and the parents saying "its a baby girl we'll call her tina" the next frame says,"Ike please don't hit me" and the 3rd and final frame which shows her singing "I'm your private dancer". Its hilarious how they have badly condensed a good rock and roll story in a way only American TV can.
Incredibly bad continuity throughout and surreal to watch. It inspired me and my mates to get drunk and make our own version with a camcorder, we managed to condense ours down even more to about 10 minutes, its far more entertaining and probably more accurate(!) (Its called Hysterical, The Jeff Leppard Story).
The original needed lines like this!
"Notice anything different about me?" "Your hair?" "No Its not my hair!" "Whos hair is it then?"
Nick of Time (1995)
There was nothing else on, glad there wasn't
Saw this on TV on a Sunday night where nothing else was on offer, and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. I thought I would have heard of it if it was any good and I hadn't. If you get a slight feeling of de ja vu watching it, its because its not the first film where christopher walken is involved in a plot to assasinate a governor. The last time was in The Dead Zone (1983). There are a few very similar scenes but its altogether a very different film. Walken excels at playing the baddie, in the same way he did in films like Things to do in Denver When You're Dead and True Romance. Johnny Depp is great as well as the poor guy roped into the conspiracy to kill a top politician. Hes an average joe whose daughter is kidnapped and held hostage and threatened with execution if Johnnys task isn't carried out. Theres just enough twists and suspense to keep you interested and follow this through to the end, although I was a little disappointed with some elements of the ending, without giving much away, you will spend most of the film wondering who, in the end, lives or dies. From a certain point on the film sets a pace which tells you that anyone is potentially in the line of fire and no character is indispensable when it comes to stepping up the suspense. Quite a short film compared to many, at just 90 minutes but its about the right length and does what it needs to do, with an OK script, although with a few oddly placed characters (shoe shine man may have been miscast)and Johnny Depp and Christopher Walken lighting up the screen this film free wheeled through an hour and a half of my evening and left me wondering why I missed out on it first time round.
The 51st State (2001)
This is a baaad film and I don't mean bad in the good way
Having read various varied comments on this I just wanted to add my fuel to the fire of the debate about it. I saw this about a year ago when it was at cinemas and felt ashamed to be british after leaving the cinema. The script I can agree is probably what lets this film down the most. I am all for swearing in films! Many films would suffer without the swearing thats sprinkled liberally throughout ie Pulp Fiction, Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, Trainspotting, but hang on, those films are good films, you can't rescue an appalling script and bad direction by making every other word the f word. Also in many ways this film is like a vulgar live action cartoon, many of the situations being so impossible to suspend belief and watch that they border on science fiction, in a film which doesn't seem to know what it is. I'm sure Samuel L Jackson regrets appearing in this film, possibly before shooting ended he was on the phone to his agent looking for loopholes in his contract. I just found this film annoying on so many different levels. It was an insult to my sense of humour, full of daft and crude lines and visual gags which were supposed to emulate the humour of films like lock stock, pulp, and snatch but completely fell flat. I love vulgar and crude jokes. I am such an easy person to please when it comes to that type of humour yet they achieved the almost impossible by missing the mark. I don't remember laughing once. I groaned a lot though. I can only assume meatloaf was bottom of the list of choices to play the baddie, after every other credible actor had been offered the role with the script and the found the only thing they could laugh at was their fee. I would advise against watching this film out of morbid curosity as after watching it it's more than likely you will feel disillisioned with the british film industry, samuel l jackson and robert carlyle, for allowing themselves to be associated with such a load of rubbish. avoid.
I'm Alan Partridge (1997)
After waiting 5 years this was far from a disappointment! The writing and performances are superb especially between Alan and anyone who hasn't met him before. The "Hamiltons water breaks" flop corporate job of this series was for Dante Fires whose lax security became the target of alans own lampoonery ("unnnnbelievable") until he went one joke too far and they locked him outside the gates. The result of which was Alan trying to climb over a metal fence and piercing his foot with a spike. After returning from hospital, like a true pro he goes ahead with the corporate speech which is punctuated with the most realistically staged pain induced vomitting I have ever seen! (To audience: "You know that feeling when theres nothing coming up?") There are so many other great scenes which will probably be remembered as classics, like when Lynn spills Sunny Delight all over Alans precious James Bond video collection and "they're ruined". Alan meets his dopelganger and male hetrosexual soulmate for life in Dan Mooney (owns Kitchen Planet, 10,000 square feet of sheer kitchens) who turns out to be too good to be true when Alan discovers he and his wife are "swingers" which in Alans sexually retarded world is unthinkable, thereby ending their perfect friendship. His way of dealing with this is as ever hilarious. Despite having a different timeslot on Radio Norwich on a show called "Norfolk Nights" we still get to see the front stabbing banter between Alan and his arch enemy incased in glass Dave Clifton. As usual Dave usually gets the better of him especially when Alan decides to start a rant about Archers, The Archers, and Jefferey Archer and he wishes he had never started. The last 2 episodes were a bit disappointing! It looked as though they had run out of energy and not surprisingly when you look at the high standard of the rest of the series. Episode 5 was only partly saved by seeing Alan doing Air bass guitar to Gary Numan music in his static caravan and his ill chosen banter and lack of flatulence control ("when I raised my legs then, something happened that was unplanned") in the presence of two female tax inspectors. All in all a good note to finish on, and bound to be remembered as a classic along with Series 1.
The Office (2001)
What can I say about this that hasn't already been said? I will be a big show off here and point out that when this first came out in early 2001 there was only me and one other bloke going on about how good it was to our work colleagues (where we worked anyway) and saying,"you gotta watch it you'll love it" subsequently nobody listened until various people accidentally tripped over it being repeated on uk play 6 months later and went round saying have you seen the office yet? To which me and my mates bored response was yeah good innit. Come the far less superior 2nd series and EVERYONE is now singing its praises and I now find myself telling them to go get the dvd to see the first series as a lot of them didn't catch on till the hype of the 2nd one, and in my opinion although the 2nd series is great, it is not a patch on series 1. I felt a lot of the dialogue and action was there to over emphasise things we already knew, ie david brent is a sad man, dawn fancies tim, tim fancies dawn, nobody likes david brents jokes. I thought there were too many moments where you cringed without laughing, like in episode 1 when david tried his stand up act to welcome the new intake of staff ("who was at the coventry conference?") and his jokes all failed. He was met with a fairly unrealistic silence which was overdone to the point i would not believe it, which sounds nitpicky but when you see how on the nail series 1 was at realistically capturing the aftermath of a misfired joke or remark perhaps you get the point. To be fair they had a hard act to follow and a very high standard to maintain and considering that they have still done great, especially since a lot of the overdone stuff seems to have appealled to the new following of viewers it has, and I still love it. I just hope series 3 if it comes isn't even more dumbed down, as I have found the 2nd series to be. To finish on a positive note my favourite scene from series 2 isn't the silly dance david does for comic relief or his bernie clifton impression - its the seminar where hes asked to speak and it all goes badly wrong, the crowning punchline being when the woman turns off his ghetto blaster playing simply the best by tina turner and he walks back in to say,"no don't turn it off until i've... just don't do that again". Like, as if he'll be asked back for her to get the chance....