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I give this a 20!!
I saw the first series way back when, and found it amazing. I have only just revisited series 1 on DVD, and it was then that the true value of this show truly hit home.
Lesley Sharp!!! Everything she does is excellent, but in this series, as reluctant medium Alison Mundy, she is truly breathtaking. Her clear blue eyes mesmerize, and her pain is palpable. There are a large number of unsung English actors, and she is one of them. Well supported by Andrew Lincoln (of "Teachers" and "Love Actually") this is Sharp's show. I could not take my eyes from her whenever she was on screen. And comparing this show with Ghost Whisperer is like comparing lobster with chicken nuggets.
The story lines are gripping, engaging and even believable. Andrew Lincoln's character is drawn into the world of the medium with reluctance and skepticism. I liked both characters, but often was disappointed with them also. But I was never, ever bored, not even for a minute.
Some British TV is very good - some is awful, I'm sure - but "Afterlife" is so outstanding it takes your breath away.
Beautiful Kate (2009)
I saw this film over a week ago, and it still stays with me, almost haunts me. Tex Perkins' soundtrack was perfect, and like the images, will hang around you for days, perhaps weeks.
The subject matter is not pretty, and may be confronting to many, but in my experience it is not terribly unusual or unexpected, given the remoteness of the family farm. Accolades must go to the cast - Ben Mendelsohn, Bryan Brown, Rachel Griffiths (deliberately dowdy in this)and the amazing Sophie Lowe as Kate. The Flinders Ranges in South Australia also has a major role, and performs well - beautiful, remote, dangerous and overwhelming, a bit like the underlying secret which gets addressed during the course of the film.
This is the story of a family secret, hidden (but not forgotten) for 20 years, and the final revelations are stark and shocking. The cinematography and editing are truly inspiring, and I was thrilled to see such a fine piece of film-making. Top credit however must go to Rachel Ward - Director, writer (adapted from the novel)- as this is her movie, and she deserves every one of the awards that this movie is sure to receive. As a piece of art - which it is - this film will move you, even if it makes your skin crawl, or you find yourself wriggling in your seat. For the experience alone, this film is worth seeing.
Easy Virtue (2008)
Stephan Elliott is Back!!
I loved this film!! Young American beauty marries into stiff-upper-lip-aristocratic-but-newly-poor-lineage. Perhaps the concept underlying the conflict in this film is somewhat anachronistic, but I was reminded of the stir in the Royal family when Diana and Sarah F joined them in the early 1980's - not so anachronistic after all.
This is a romp of a film. The script is wonderful, the acting superb, and I wasn't bored even for one second. Fans of Kristin Scott Thomas may be shocked by her playing an older woman - with grey hair and facial lines! - but play it she does, and wonderfully. She spent much of the movie holding her face in a controlled fake smile, and she and Colin Firth have some of the best lines in the whole movie. Add to that Kris Marshall's Furber, the butler, who sees all, and eventually comments upon it after one too many glasses of champers.
Hats off to Stephan Elliott as Director. He gathered a wonderful cast to make an equally wonderful film. After "Welcome To Woop Woop", I was not prepared to forgive him, but forgive him I have.
I enjoyed this experience mostly because I could sit down in the theatre and forget what was going on in the outside world for a couple of hours. It takes a good movie to do that.
Nobody but the Danes could have made this!
I watched this movie on late night TV because Nikolaj Lie Kaas headed the cast; he is always astounding, and gives such rounded, often so-believable-it's-painful, performances. Then on to the screen walked Nicolas Bro (as Anker, the serial wedder) and I knew this would be a film worth staying up late for. Bro can walk that fine line between comfortingly believable nice guy and crazy nut job, so that one is forever questioning judgements formed about his character's true motives. His physical size alone is at once both reassuring and threatening.
There are layers to this excellent, but dark story which are still emerging for me. Kaas' character is drawn into a search for how his beloved sister, disabled from an earlier suicide attempt, could have suicided on her wedding night to the (decidedly creepy) Anker. So many times I wanted to scream at Kaas 'Go home - you really don't want to be going there!!' as he relentlessly pursued the truth about his sister's death.
I was always aware that Nikolaj Lie Kaas' parents had each suicided, and so this film would have been a necessary, and perhaps cathartic experience for him. I hadn't known that the Danes were a death-denying country, but perhaps this is a feature of all Western countries, as we go about kidding ourselves that we're happy, and that we'll surely live forever! Death and death-denial are favourite subjects of mine, so this film spoke to me at a deeper level than it may for other viewers.
Don't let the subject matter put you off. This is a truly remarkable film, and is worth seeing, just for the performances alone.
The Last Detective (2003)
'The Last Detective' is again being shown on ABC1-TV in Australia late on a Saturday night. I reckon this is at least the third showing of some episodes, and I'm still watching them. So, what does this mean? If I can watch anything for the third time and still be entertained, then it's well written, well acted, and probably quite unique.
Peter Davison is perhaps best well known as playing Dr Who in the first half of the 1980's. As 'dangerous' Davies, he walks a fine line between being a hero and being a loser. Mostly he manages to squeeze into the hero role, much to the derision of his work colleages, DC's Pimlott and Barrett. PC Davies is an old-fashioned copper who would like an old fashioned life, but between being given the soft cases by his boss, DI Aspinall, and being given the shove by his bitchy wife - well played by Emma Amos - his life is usually one long uphill climb. Peter Davison handles this role with the skill we have come to expect from him.
Whist the scripts verge on the comedic, genuine light relief is provided by Sean Hughes as Mod, Davies' mate and confidant.
Mod: What do you call a dozen rabbits walking backwards?
Mod: A receding hairline.
After which follows a discussion about whether a bunch of rabbits can be called 'hares', since hares are completely different from rabbits.
Gentle, but addictive and entertaining.
Party Animals (2007)
"This Life" in politics
This series is made for the 20 & 30 somethings out there who like their stories to be laced with a little sex, deception, politics (which often = sex + deception), nice bodies, fresh faces, bars, booze, and some dabbling in illicit substances. Now, my 20, 30-something days are far behind me, but I love this show, even only having seen the first episode.
Like "This Life" of 15 or so years ago did for the law profession, 'Party Animals' gets inside the lives of a handful of (mostly quite young) researchers and would-be lobbyists attached to Westminster in London. The behind-the-scenes goings on seem hard to believe, but believe it you must. This is just a tiny window into the workings of the British political system, like hiding backstage to see what goes on behind the scenes. So much responsibility seems to be in the hands of the very young, most of whom have to unwind with alcohol, drugs and sex, and of course this frequently adds further complication to already complicated lives.
The cast are attractive, and all more than competent in their respective roles. The script is quick and sharp, and altogether this series is worth a look.
This TV film surprised me. The first half hour or so looked so much like melodrama that I found myself distracted by conversations with family members. The main characters - husband and wife, Michael and Stephanie - seemed elusive, and even a trifle stereotyped. Wrong!!! This is a story of domestic violence, but the full story, the real story is not fully revealled until the final 2-3 minutes, and what a story that is! What we see, what we're given during the exposition of the film is not the whole story. We're given mere pieces of flash-back, and nothing truly adds up or makes sense until the final dramatic scene. I was then quite shocked by my own judgements about the characters, obviously formed from my personal prejudices.
The lead roles are skillfully crafted by both the writer, Alison Hume, and by the two lead actors, Robson Green and Saira Todd - Todd in particular walks a fine line in her performance as the ambitious, but edgy and wounded wife. In looking back, her Stephanie gave away a lot of 'truths' throughout the film, but which were easy to overlook, but obvious in hindsight.
This film shows scenes of domestic violence, so is not for everyone, but it's definitely worth a look.
Friends & Crocodiles (2005)
Perhaps I'm Going off Poliakoff...
I can usually appreciate a good Poliakoff TV drama, but this one left me cold and even disinterested. I normally enjoy Damian Lewis's work as well, but his rather detached Paul left me not caring at all about what became of him; the quirky and enigmatic smile became irritating and more importantly, conveyed nothing at all. I felt that Jodhi May held the whole thing together; she seemed to have been written as the point-of-view character through whose eyes we see the ebb and flow of Paul's life, whilst at the same time we observe her rise and rise in the business world, something the self-sabotaging Paul could only envy.
Poliakoff generally sets his stories against a backdrop of historical social and political change. In 'Friends & Crocodiles' the social change covers the time from the hedonistic 1980's to the bursting of the dot com bubble. For me, I felt somewhat irrelevant as a viewer as the narrative dipped in and out of events in time. I believe that Poliakoff was too ambitious in attempting to create a cohesive story covering this time span in only 110 minutes of screen time. The reasons for the shortness of story-telling time may well have been financial - or whatever - but for me, this movie just didn't work, and in the end I didn't care what happened to any of the characters.
I really, really love Stephen Poliakoff's work, but I hope 'Friends & Crocodiles' remains the sole exception.
Gideon's Daughter (2005)
I just love Poliakoff - apart from 'Perfect Strangers' which bored me immensely. I found 'Shooting The Past' to be breathtaking, but 'Gideon's Daughter' occupies a different space altogether. It's about a lot of things - celebrity, grief - expressed and unexpressed - forgiveness and redemption. It's also about love and friendship, and a place where the two overlap.
I watched Bill Nighy closely throughout, and for me he never put a foot - or a hand, or a glance, or stare - wrong. Equally as exquisite was Miranda Richardson as Stella, the divorced woman whose son has died, and whose ex-husband (played by David Westhead) cannot let go of the need to 'right' a wrong.
In a way, this film is about nothing at all, and yet it encompasses so much that I'm finding it difficult to review. Don't expect to understand it all - I didn't, but that could be my short-coming. But I loved it so much I want to see it again and again. I just hope others love it as much as did I.
It appears I'm one of the few who found this TV series - called "The Gil Mayo Mysteries" in Australia - to be addictive and entertaining. No, it's not "Dalziel and Pascoe", but perhaps it's more 'The Last Detective' with a twist. However you define it, it's an acquired taste, and obviously not everyone's cup of tea. Whatever, I love it, and am saddened by the news that a second series is not to follow.
On the surface, the combination of wise and droll boss, with pretty, but quirkily-dressed side-kick, accompanied by klutzy young Welsh dude and cyber-nerdy-girl-trouble-shooter seems a trifle familiar, and even clichéd. Heck, I love a good cliché, so long as it's well done, and for me, this series is well done. It's improbable, yes, but I don't watch TV for reality - if I want reality I can step outside my front door.
I enjoy it for that which is expected - like Mayo's fastidious attention to correct grammar and pronunciation, or the next 50's hair style of Alex's (who in their right mind would go to such bother just to go to work?), or Mayo's daughter's next indication that she's more an adult than anyone else in the story? You'll love it or hate it, but one should see it just for the experience alone.