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The Wire (2002)
Quite simply awesome possibly the best TV show ever?
I'm lucky enough to have just discovered the Wire I caught the 1st series on FX in the UK and immediately had to buy all the box sets. This is without doubt the finest Police drama ever shown on TV and quite possibly the finest TV show ever. Rarely does a series come along without a single weak episode in its entire run, not a single weak performance. Even when considering great shows such as CSI, The Simpsons, X-Files, Frasier etc all had weak episodes or characters that weren't up to the standard of the rest of the show.
The shows subject matter is downbeat and dark, the drugs and corruption in the city of Baltimore, but the show also has some dark humour to it and is not without it's laugh out loud moments. All the characters are well aware of their absurd situation on both sides of the law. The show has moments of touching compassion as well as brutal violence, comradeship and betrayal in such a mix that it draw you in and makes you care about each and every character not just the main ones. Its a tribute to the show that it involves you so much you begin to worry about what will happen to the characters. As such it's impossible to wait a week for another episode and a box set is the only way to go.
I think the strongest feature of this show is how it makes you see the situation from all points of view. For example the character Bubbs is a drug addict and a petty thief but after being shown his world its impossible not to feel some compassion for him and his situation. His good side and his bad is there for all to see as are the police characters who are not all sweetness and light. While some characters such as Omar could be seen as an anti-hero to be lauded but then other points of view will be shown and you have to choose how you see the character - a predator feeding off the bigger criminals in a way sticking it to the man or nothing but another criminal the show makes no judgements but gives us enough to make our own.
Congratulations should go to everyone involved in this show its challenging, intelligent, entertaining, shocking and informing all in equal measure. My only problem with it is I wish they could have gone on a few more seasons but then again maybe the show would have weakened as it is like all the greats they've left us wanting more. 10/10.
Fun with some good action and shockingly a plot!
Jean Claude Van Damme stars in this action tale of a Legionere gone AWOL to sort out his families financial problems (by way of bare knuckle fighting of course). This is probably J C Van Damme's best film in terms of overall pace and plot although the dialogue and acting are still fairly clunky at times.
The action is good although I found the final fight rather disappointing, as the end opponent wasn't really that good and had some ludicrous side burns that just made me laugh (this movie is worth seeing to laugh at this guy alone). If this film had had someone with the presence of say Bolo Yeung who stared with Van Damme in Bloodsport it would have improved the movie no end as some of his opponents are a little bland. But to be honest thats just nit picking in what is a pretty fun piece of action cinema. Support acting is good Harrison Page as the manager with a heart and Lisa Pelikan as the hard up sister do well with little material. Deborah Rennard is OK as the hard nosed promoter super b**ch who just happens to look fantastic in the tiny skirts she is given to wear (does every fight promoter turn up to meetings in a bikini!?).
Overall there's not a lot to say about this movie if you like action films you'll like this, it's not ground breaking but it does what it needs to good action, reasonable plot and Van Damme's best acting performance to date. 6/10 Note - In the UK this is known as AWOL but it variously known as Lionheart and the full AWOL: Absent With Out Leave in other regions
Raw Deal (1986)
Not good, not good at all
Arnie was the action movie superstar of the 80's films such as Commando, Predator, Conan The Barbarian and of course the Terminator made him a global mega star. Raw Deal however was a misfire, even by action movie standards the plot and acting is laughable. The set up is the usual renegade cop against the evil crime overlord which should be a lot of fun but to many times this film descends in to unintentional comedy. Gunfights are poorly staged and thought out the sets look exactly what they are cardboard to be blown up cheaply, clichéd bad guys, poor script need I go on? Even Arnie isn't the presence he was in his other 80's films he must have know how poor this was going to turn out.
Poor script, acting, and unforgivably in a movie of this type poor action scenes 4/10
To long and too dull
Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap's Sam Beckett) and Kris Kristofersson (Blade, Pat Garett and Billy the Kid) star in this below average TV movie. It seems quite a lot of money (for a TV movie) has been thrown at this but the pace at times is down to a crawl and Bakula's character seems to have become head of Netforce with a total lack of any computer knowledge. It's dated fairly badly but all movies about computers do that look at Wargames or Tron! But it's main problems are down to a flabby script, pedestrian direction and lack of tension as for the ending i'm not even going to go there! Let's just say it ain't great, I gave this film a 4/10 as it's not a total lost cause but i cant recommend spending 2+hours watching this when there are better films out there. If you want a hacker movie War Games (Mathew Broderick) or Sneakers (Robert Redford, River Phoenix) are better movies in the same sort of area or for a more MTV friendly teen hacker movie then go for Hackers (Angelina Jolie & Tommy Lee Miller).
4/10 - If there's nothing better on a rainy Sunday it might pass the time but thats about all, we can only hope the Quantum Leap movie gets off the ground to save Scott Bakula!
Jumpin' Jack Flash (1986)
Born in a crossfire hurricane
In my humble opinion at 5.3 this movie is horribly underrated it's a fun, colourful, exciting hour and a half of a movie. Whoopi Goldberg plays the quirky and livewire Terri Doolitle a low level bank employee who gets involved in a dangerous spy game involving the CIA, British Secret Service and the KGB (made in the 80's the cold war was still in full swing).
Contacted via her computer (the computer geeks out there will love seeing this earlier version of the internet) by a secret agent codename 'Jumping Jack Flash' (Jonathan Pryce) Terri must use her street smarts and attitude to save the day against rogue agents, KGB the police and while not being fired from her own job.
The only drawback to this movie is it is quite profane those adverse to the occasional swear word should probably steer clear. It's similar in the level of language used to Beverley Hills Cop, so probably not one for the small kids. But fun for everyone else.
7/10 - Good honest fun probably Whoopi Goldbergs funniest movie and certainly no Sister Act thank god!!!
Vice Versa (1988)
Fun but it's no Big
One of the many 80's comedies to deal with kids ending up in an adults body (the genre that recently saw a resurgence with Freaky Friday etc) and it has to be said one of the best. Judge Reinhold was a good casting choice and he is pretty convincing but perhaps a bit to over the top and not as subtle as Tom Hanks in Big. Fred Savage is excellent playing older and he probably has as many funny lines if not more than Reinhold.
It's easy to be cynical about a film like this but if you watch it for what it is a bit of bright breezy escapism it succeeds in what it set out to do. Personally I'd recommend it most to 80's nostalgia fans or those looking for a fun film for the family as it's fun for the adults and the kids. For the 80's fans out there this is probably in 2nd tier of 80's films not a classic like Big, Ferris Bueler or the mighty Breakfast Club but certainly fun and a bit of a guilty pleasure like Mannequin etc.
6/10 - Funny, entertaining and doesn't overstay it's welcome.
To Catch a Thief (1955)
Engaging and stylish
To Catch a Thief is a pure piece of escapism set amongst the rich and beautiful socialites living in the south of France an ex jewel thief (Grant) must clear his name of a crime he says he didn't commit. When you look at Hitchcocks list of films this has to be seen as a lesser Hitchcock not as ground breaking as Vertigo or as suspenseful as Rear Window. But it is highly entertaining as it is a piece of escapism its easy to see in Grant's performance here why he was originally considered for the role of James Bond. Suave, cool under pressure and irresistible to women Grant has it all and in Grace Kelly also the prefect romantic partner.
The films moves along at a fair pace the opening 'chase' scene is superbly shot particularly when you consider the technology of the time. There is also a vertigo inducing finally as the cat burglar duels on the roof with his adversary. But overall there's not as many jumps and suspense as other Hitchcock movies and this seems to be more about style than content at times. But when a movie entertains as this does it's difficult to complain about that.
7/10 - Shows how good a director Hitchcock was that this can be considered one of his lesser films still an entertaining roller coaster from possibly the greatest director of all time?
Darker then I remember
Bryan Brown and Brian Dennehey star in this tale of an FX man hired to fake the death of a mob boss. But when the 'hit' is carried out was it really a fake? Our hero is left to find out using his FX skills to investigate.
I hadn't seen this movie for a number of years but caught it on TV a few nights ago and the first thing that struck me was how dark and serious this movie is in places. I won't spoil it but there are some surprisingly violent scenes and there are a couple of fatalities you just don't expect. Its a gripping movie and the suspense keeps up through out Bryan Brown makes an engaging and down to earth hero the FX tricks are pretty cool if a little silly at times. Brian Denehhey is as ever reliable in the supporting role whats surprising is that I didn't realise how little time Brown and Denehhey appear together on screen in this film.
The main cast returned for a sequel which was entertaining but not as good as the first.
Definitely worth a watch 7.5/10
Harlem Nights (1989)
Stylish, funny in places better than it's IMDb rating for sure
As I write this the film rates a lowly 4.9 on IMDb which is rather surprising as this isn't a bad film and I have to say Eddie Murphy makes a decent film in his first (and at present) only stint in the directors chair. He certainly got his casting spot on with a host of character actors in main roles and casting Richar Pryor alongside himself as the stars.
The film takes place in stylised Harlem of the 1930's as two small time crooks make a living running a night club but success soon brings the big time crooks calling can our hero's make it out alive and in profit? The film looks stylish and the direction soaks up the lavish elegance of the period and it's refreshing to see black characters represented in a period film as more than token characters. I think where this films slight problem rises is that it tries to bridge two genres the straight gangster movie and the comedy movie. Overall its a good film and I think it's a shame Murphy hasn't stepped into the directors role again.
Pretty good 7/10
Up Pompeii (1971)
Titer ye not
Spin off from the 70's sitcom of the same name this film spins out the same gags over an hour and twenty minutes run time and gets away with it but only just. Frankie Howerd is again Lurcio the roman slave in ancient Pompeii getting involved in the evil machinations of the emperor Nero (Patrick Cargill) and the evil Brutus and his henchmen (Lance Percival).
If you liked the TV series you'll like this is the basic rule here, to a modern audience I doubt it would play well, Frankie Howerds routine is very much of it's time and place. But its very entertaining some of the gags are sign posted miles away but Frankie's personality, playing to the audience and comic timing are what make this entertaining.
The movie feels too much like a stretched out episode to be a classic like many TV shows spun off into movies in the 70's (On the Buses, Rising Damp, Porridge etc.) but its certainly worth a look for Up Pompei or Frankie Howerd fans.
Mostly funny, occasionally hilarious 7/10