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Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971)
Love vs. Logic
As the 1960s become the 1970s in London, England, a successful male doctor and divorced, female recruitment consultant both try to maintain a relationship with a self-centred younger man.
Fascinating period piece, exploring the reality of the late sixties 'free love' ideal - she loves Bob, he love Bob, Bob loves... well, nothing substantial, as it turns out. Mixing in ghastly 'of their time' friends (ex-hippie-types Alva and Bill and their dreadful kids), Sunday, Bloody Sunday is at once both dated and contemporary - set in a time of economic chaos and dealing with a taboo which, in 2009, still seems at least unsettling. Jackson and Finch are brilliant, apologetically yet furiously settling for all the crumbs they can get from their cool younger lover, although under Schlesinger's direction, Head is much less successful - whilst he captures Bob's egotistical nature, there's no counter-balance of charm, leaving the viewer wondering exactly what is either Alex or Daniel really see in him.
Ground-breaking story-telling then, and all kudos to Gilliatt, Sherwin, Janni, Schlesinger and Peter Finch for bringing this grown-up picture of early 70s contemporary life to the screen.
Law and Disorder (1958)
Percy... you're at it again!
Percy Brand is a congenital con' man who, despite his best efforts, can't quite manage to keep out of jail for very long. However he is able to keep his son in blissful ignorance, pretending that for each 'stretch' inside he has really been working 'overseas'. In cahoots with his sister Florence he keeps this subterfuge up for years until one day he discovers his son has begun work as an assistant to the very judge who has repeatedly sent him down!
Nice, sophisticated and fizzily paced little comedy with Redgrave obviously enjoying himself as the genial jailbird, finally deciding to go straight only to be lured back for one last con' (involving French sailors, sharks and illicit brandy), Hickson in typically hilarious form as his accomplice in duplicity, and Morley and Jeffries doing what they do best. Hunt it down if you can.
Yield to the Night (1956)
"...for the night is already at hand and it is best to yield to the night"
Found guilty of murder and sentenced to death, a young woman lives out her last days under the watchful eyes of a small group of prison wardens.
From its edgy opening sequence as the camera furtively tracks Dors' determined and resolute steps towards the killing, to the devastating final image of a smouldering cigarette we suspect will still be burning after the executioner has pulled his leaver, Yield To The Night is an extraordinary exploration of the reasons and repercussions surrounding a premeditated murder in mid-fifties Britain. At its heart is a performance which, over 50 years later still resonates with depth and naturalism. Even as we have witnessed her coldly and repeatedly shoot another woman to death, under the expert direction of J. Lee Thompson, Dors enables us to feel sorrow for the killer Mary Hilton and even if we can't condone the deliberate taking of her victim's life, we can at least realise that Hilton is also somehow a victim of circumstance. Dors doesn't put a foot wrong from beginning to end and the fact that she didn't receive domestic and international award nominations for her performance is in my opinion as puzzling as it is unforgivable, especially when one considers what were the celebrated performances of the time (Virginia McKenna, Audrey Hepburn and Dorothy Alison were BAFTA nominated that year). Could it be that the British and subsequently Amercian studio systems were unwilling to accept Dors as the intelligent and talented actress she so obviously was? Certainly the marketing and promotion of Yield To The Night in the US supports this premise - retitled Blonde Sinner, with lurid posters ridiculously emphasising Dors' sex symbol qualities and carrying the ludicrous and tacky tag-line "The Man-By-Man Story of a Lost Soul".
Flaws? Yes - as written, Jim Lancaster, whilst handsome and initially charming just doesn't allow the viewer to believe he could be the reason for Mary's actions. Undoubtedly less to do with Michael Craig's performance than with the character being undeveloped in general. However, overall Yield To The Night is a powerful film that will linger long after the final credits have rolled, and now it is finally available in DVD should become essential viewing for all British cinema fans.
21st Century Take on 1970's Classic
As a huge fan of Terry Nation's cult classic from 1975-77, I was keen to have a look at how the scenario (deadly virus decimates the population, leaving a small, disparate band of survivors to face the catastrophe and its immediate aftermath) would be introduced in 2008.
Essential to any series 'opener' is to quickly establish core characters as they react and cope with events around them, and to a certain extent this is dealt with effectively in Episode 1 - Graham's Abby (so brilliantly played by Carolyn Seymour in 1975) recovers from the viral fever only to find her husband dead and son's whereabouts unknown. Mostly Graham is given believable dialogue, although she is forced to deal with another, not very convincing character who even after only a few days seems to have calmly thought the whole thing out and found himself unmoved and philosophical about the rooms full of dead children all around him!
Chatak Patel's Najid is an interesting character idea, and the scene in the mosque when he woke up was chillingly effective. Elsewhere, Beesley's evil Tom Price, Rhys's two dimensional Al Sadiq and Joseph's Greg Preston all seem a little pantomime, so will need to be fleshed out much more if they are to become believable.
Early days then, although the rush to bring all characters together at the close on that suspiciously empty motorway seemed extremely contrived (in 1975 things took considerably longer!).
Last thoughts - was the elderly Volvo station wagon a nod to the original 1975 series opener, and what the hell were the producers up to in killing off Freema Agyeman's character so early in the piece?
When a 4 year old girl goes missing during day at the beach, her parents fear the worst. Eleven years later, the little girl's mother spots a teenager and is instantly convinced the girl is her missing daughter.
A fascinating premise is poorly realized here, as although Torn contains two captivating central performances from Aird and Walker, they are horribly let down by clichéd writing, implausible plot devices and underdeveloped supporting characters. Kotz is particularly ill-served by the double-conceit of having to play a character so utterly dis-invested in events and revelations at home whilst also having to convince us of his bland and unconvincing 'affair' with his co-worker, whilst Walsh fares little better, being called upon only to look either miserable or drunk or both.
Some of the histrionics and lines of dialogue opening certain scenes are shudderingly clunky, and whilst well-acted by Aird, all of the confrontation scenes between her and Kotz fail to convince simply because Kotz's character is so underwhelmed by it all.
The all too few scenes between Aird and Walker are electrifying, however, and give a sense of what this story could have been with a better script and stronger/more interesting characters, plot-turns and characterizations.
Freedom Radio (1941)
The Resistance Within
In the months leading up to Germany's invasion of Czechoslovakia, Hitler's own doctor gradually realises the Nazi's oppressive regime is wrong and must be opposed. His resolve is strengthened as he witnesses his wife and brother-in-law blithely embrace National Socialism.
Rather nifty and extremely stylish little mid-war British propaganda piece, fascinatingly mixing cut-glass accents and 'stiff-upper-lip' acting styles with Nazi uniforms and thuggery. Though all scenes are studio-bound, this actually lends itself to the clinically oppressive atmosphere, as the viewer watches characters apparently walking late-night Berlin streets, or steering a motor launch along a canal, or watching a train pass, all the time knowing that they are confined under a sound stage roof.
Freedom Radio contains an array of delicious performances, particularly amongst the supporting players - Martita Hunt as a duplicitous alcoholic, eyes flashing as she takes revenge on an innocent neighbour; Raymond Huntley's oily senior Nazi officer determined to outfox and destroy any resistance; the beautiful John Penrose's captivating portrayal of Otto, a young man seduced and corrupted by the Nazi regime. We even see a brief, early appearance by Joan Hickson over 40 years before Miss Marple! Try and track this down if you can - a must for all fans of British pre- and inter-war film and long-gone British character actors alike.
Into the Blue (1997)
When a woman he has just met disappears on the island of Rhodes, Harry's innocence is doubted. But as he begins to examine the woman's past he realizes his closest friend could be involved in murder.
Robert Goddard is a solid and reliable British writer of clever and complex mysteries. However this adaptation of his novel Into The Blue as a vehicle for John Thaw is disastrous from word go. Embarrassingly miscast, Thaw struggles with accent and intent as he blunders from one scene to another, and he is horribly betrayed by a great clunking script and ghastly supporting actors - Ba is particularly awful as Harry's reluctant sidekick.
Find Goddard's original novel and avoid this turkey at all costs.
Poppy Shakespeare (2008)
Sniffs and Dribblers
Following her mother's suicide, N has been in and out of care most of her life, from foster care, through 'children looked after' services to mental health inpatient and outpatient services. Resolutely determined to remain an outpatient at a mental health day centre, her day-to-day existence is challenged by a new patient, Poppy Shakespeare... whilst all other outpatients are hell-bent on avoiding discharge, Poppy wants nothing else.
Skirting the line between stark realism and the heightened, farcical world of, say, Lindsay Anderson, Ross and Williams' film is a roller-coaster ride through a dystopian mental health care system in 21st century Britain. By not being explicit about the reasons for Poppy's apparently enforced attendance at the day centre, the cause and effect of mental illness diagnosis is blurred. By heightening the depiction of the care givers and mental health professionals to exaggerated, satirical degrees, the cycle of discharge-collapse-readmission-rehabilitation is distorted to nightmarish proportions.
Naomie Harris is great in the title role, charting the slow, distressing decline of someone determined to fight the system, but at the heart of Poppy Shakespeare lies an astonishing performance by Anna Maxwell Martin as N - she doesn't so much play her as 'be' her, creating a character so utterly believable and compelling that the viewer is both repelled and mesmerized in equal measure as we watch N deftly circumnavigate the system, always to her own advantage, always ensuring she remains within it.
Kudos and applause for all involved.
The Dying Gaul (2005)
"Ere ceased the inhuman shout which hail'd the wretch who won"
A charming but duplicitous film producer offers a gay writer a million dollars for a highly autobiographical script, providing he changes the gender of one of the characters. Struggling with the implication of this compromise, and still grieving for his recently deceased partner, the writer embarks on a friendship with the film producer and his wife. However, when the producer and the writer become sexually involved, a twisted psychological game begins.
Based on Lucas's own play, The Dying Gaul is a deeply disturbing examination of the cause and effect of betrayal and desire, clouding the definitions of predator and victim - each character is guilty of manipulation, of deceit, even cruelty, and Lucas cleverly plays with the viewer's sympathies. That this creates a hugely compelling and extremely unsettling story is in part down to the performances of his three leads - Scott deftly coats Jeffrey's steely, uncompromising centre with snake-like charm and seductive banter, whilst Sarsgaard brilliantly captures the fragile determination and bewildered desperation of someone living with grief. Perhaps the most challenging character in the doomed triangle is Clarkson's Elaine, and a lesser actor would have missed all the subtle nuances and shades that help us see why Elaine follows her chosen path. We SHOULD feel sorry for the betrayed wife, but that would be too easy here. In Clarkson's hands, Elaine's actions and motivations are both ghastly and deeply moving. Why neither Clarkson nor Sarsgaard were acknowledged or recognised for their work here is a mystery.
This is not a film for those who need to be bludgeoned with simple explanations of the why and wherefore, but those who enjoy challenging, thought-provoking and slightly obtuse explorations of the human condition will be greatly rewarded here.
A Little Masterpiece
In the future social status is governed by genetic make up, where the elite are those with all physical and psychological faults, defects and imperfections removed pre-insemination. Amidst this society, one man attempts to achieve his dream, even though he was born naturally and has a genetic disposition towards heart disease.
Bewilderingly overlooked at first release, Niccol's film is a wonderful blend of script, design, cinematography, score and performance. All credit to Sarah Knowles and Jan Roelfs for creating such a stark, clinical yet incredibly stylish environment - the use of iconic 20th century automotive designs (Rover 2000, Citroen DS, Studebaker Avanti) as Gattaca's vehicles is a masterstroke. Niccol's achieves just the right level from each of his actors - amidst so many horrible career performances, Law is brilliant here (as he was in Entertaining Mr. Ripley), whilst Hawke creates a compelled and compelling hero. Finally Michael Nyman's score weaves itself through the plot beautifully, at once both gripping and deeply moving.
Hugely recommended both as a stylish and subtle piece of sci-fi and as a dramatic, cleverly constructed thriller.
The Devil's Tattoo (2003)
A group of eco-warriors occupy a disused oil rig scheduled for demolition. It's not long before murder and madness erupts...
A great idea rendered unwatchable by a cast of dummies and a script seemingly written by a ten year old. Once again, the producers and director have opted for pretty or handsome faces instead of talented actors. Good actors can usually make something of bad scripts, but bad actors always fail... Worst of a bad bunch is Jaason Simmons who gives a performance of such shocking ineptitude I got the uncontrollable giggles every time he spoke, whilst other cast members are forced to repeat cheesy lines like 'I've got a really bad feeling about this' again and again. Unwatchable tosh of the worst kind.
Panic Room (2002)
There's No Place Like Home
On their first night in a new home, a newly-divorced woman and her feisty daughter are terrorised by burglars.
A simple, 'old-as-the-hills' plot is given some nail-biting new twists in this hugely atmospheric, extraordinarily shot thriller from Mr. Fincher. Foster is superb as ever, creating a deeply believable mix of vulnerability, bewilderment and toughness in Meg Altman (Kidman's loss was our gain, methinks), and she's matched at every turn by Stewart as her disapproving and resourceful 12 year old daughter. Whittacker and Yoakam add rich layers of pathetic good and menacing evil (although Yoakam is a little self-serving in the 3 DVD set commentary, if you ask me). Only Leto hits a wrong note, giving a deeply overplayed and caricatured illustration of over-acting.
The Beginning Of The End?
When two participants in a particularly disturbing case resurface in Sara's life, what was set in motion during her abduction and entrapment in the desert comes to an emotional conclusion...
So we bid farewell to one of CSI's more interesting characters (and by default, one of CSI's more interesting actors). Whatever the reasons and machinations of Fox's decision to depart this hugely popular TV series, her departure cannot but leave a gaping hole. Amidst her airbrushed and artificially enhanced colleagues (Petersen notwithstanding), Fox always managed to provide a spikey, compelling edge to proceedings. The beautifully orchestrated 'slow-burn' development of the Grissom-Sidle relationship was a series highlight - a combination of the slow-tease, and an ultra-classy double-act between Petersen and Fox (all kudos to the writers too). In combination, it's almost as if we can't quite remember when it really all began (the first episode Fox appears perhaps?)... regardless, an exquisite combination that will be sorely missed as the series progresses.
Here's hoping Jorja Fox finds other projects that will reward both us and her... here's hoping Sara Sidle lays hers ghosts to rest and returns refreshed to irritate and enthrall. Fingers crossed!
To Catch A Killer
In the late sixties, California is rocked by a serial killer who apparently embarked on an elaborate process of communication, using codes and cyphers to tease and taunt all those involved in either investigating or reporting the killer's alleged crimes. As time passes, the Zodiac case has a profound impact on a detective, a journalist and a newspaper cartoonist.
Based on an allegedly true story, Fincher chooses to offer up a sprawling and episodic 'reconstruction-style' account of the case over a number of years, switching emphasis from one character to the next as all attempts to crack the case and reveal the truth are thwarted again and again. With harrowing depictions of the serial killer's crimes, and a meticulous attention to period detail, 'Zodiac' often reminds of Richard Fleischer's 'The Boston Strangler' (1968), and certainly the obsessive determination of police and journalists alike, and the challenges of investigating a crime across state and county jurisdictions are brilliantly realised.
However, at over 158 minutes, Fincher's narrative, and the performances of his lead actors frequently fail to keep the viewer engaged - Ruffalo is a challenging actor to watch, and pairing him with Edwards as the two primary detectives assigned to the case brings this into stark relief. Edwards is a natural and unassuming performer, whilst Ruffalo 'acts' at all times, delivering his lines in the same, soft, mumbling and frequently unintelligible voice he uses in most of his films. This style works brilliantly in, say, Kenneth Lonergan's 'You Can Count On Me' (2000), but here, as so much verbal information being given to the viewer is key, we are often left wondering what was said. The same applies (although to a lesser extent) to Downey Jnr, whose investigative journalist is usually speaking from behind a cigarette clamped between his teeth. All very realistic, given all are playing 'real people', but pointless if the script cannot be heard or understood, especially as every actor seems to be battling against intrusive incidental sound effects such as type-writers, telephones or traffic. Gyllenhaal fares better as the geekish, and apparently not very good newspaper cartoonist who is gradually drawn into the investigation to the point of obsession, while Sevigny is quite captivating in the minor role of Gyllenhaal's girlfriend/wife.
In the end, whilst 'Zodiac' is a fascinating and clever exploration of a real crime and its consequences in 60s and 70s America, it's hardly the gripping thriller it was marketed as, and given that we are being asked to follow and digest over two and a half hours of information relating to the investigation, holding the viewer at the mercy of actors who 'method mumble' whilst imparting this information is unforgivable.
28 Weeks Later (2007)
No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No,
Set during and after the horrific events of its predecessor '28 Days Later', this follow-on film finds another group of survivors besieged and overcome by the infected, with only one man (Carlyle) managing to escape. Weeks later he is reunited with his teenage son and daughter who (fortunately) were on holiday in Spain during the initial outbreak. However, although initially assumed dead, they discover their mother also survived the attack and despite being 'infected', has no symptoms of the rage...
After the minor brilliance of 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later is utter garbage, riddled with enough plot holes to sink Cunard's entire fleet! It reminded of Alexander Finbow's awful '24 Hours In London' (2000) in its ineptitude on so many levels. Where do I begin? Given that Carlyle's character's wife had apparently returned from the dead AND the fact that he had an all areas pass, did not someone in the US military perhaps suspect he might use his pass to visit his (completely unguarded) wife?? Once the new outbreak kicks off, when a large number of civilians are placed in a secured area for their own protection, shouldn't someone within the US military have perhaps first checked that the area actually was secure i.e. that the back door was locked? Given that those infected with the rage become blood thirsty, raging zombies with not too much intelligence, how come one of the key infected characters is waiting for our teenage heroes in a pitch dark underground station on the other side of town from the initial new outbreak? Given that the corpse inside the pizza parlour is in an advanced state of decay, how come the pizza in the box on the back of the moped looks pretty fresh? And finally, how come no-one notices that 'teenage' Tammy is being played by a 27 year old woman??
A sorry post-script to Boyle and Garland's first film, and despite the door being left open for a third film, let's hope it never gets made.
Summer's Lease (1989)
An Innocent Abroad
When Molly Pargeter rents a villa in the Italian Tuscan hills, what should be a carefree holiday isn't quite as expected. Her raffish father finagles his way along for the ride, her priggish husband is sending secret postcards to his mistress, and when Molly finds a cryptic note hidden in the villa, she begins to question the whereabouts and well-being of the villa's owners. Nothing is quite what it seems amongst the locals and ex-pat's... and then a body is found.
Wonderful adaptation of John Mortimer's novel, full of brilliantly captured performances by a host of British and Italian character actors (Treves and Leach are outstanding) and a star turn by an apparently ailing Gielgud, all mischievous twinkle and cunning. Against this backdrop, Fleetwood cleverly underplays throughout as Molly, a delightful study in self-effacement and quiet tenacity that will eventually lead to catharsis.
Although perhaps not for some, the leisurely pacing really adds to the overall atmosphere. A minor British TV classic!
The Forgotten (2004)
Moore is struggling to come to terms with the death of her young son Sam in a plane crash 14 months before. Using photographs and possessions, she keeps the memory of Sam alive. Yet her life begins to unravel when one day both her husband (Edwards) and therapist (Sinise) tell her she never had a son and is suffering from delusions.
The Forgotten is heavy on atmosphere and occasionally packs a scary punch, but eventually creates so many plot holes, the viewer is forced to systematically reduce their expectations. All credit to Moore for bringing some credibility to the story, and the rest of the cast is fine (Roach is particularly effective here), but in the end too many questions are left unanswered.
Hildes Reise (2004)
What Hilde Wants, Hilde Gets
When a struggling and solitary cabinet maker learns of the death of his former lover, he is forced to reconsider his feelings and all he considers important. Is the dead man still manipulating all around him from beyond the grave?
Bitter-sweet exploration of the stages of grief, as two men, one willing, the other begrudging, accompany the deceased's ashes to scatter them on the French coast. Although the premise is simple, it is expertly handled by all concerned, led by two beautifully placed performances from and Finger and particularly Stokowski, who expertly crafts a man with such repressed and buried emotions that when the barriers are broken, the consequence is very real and very moving.
Perhaps the conclusion is a little too neat, but it's worth the ride
Clapham Junction (2007)
Abandon All Hope All That Enter Here...
Over a two day period a series of interconnected events impact a disparate group of Londoners.
Occasionally brilliant, often shocking and ultimately depressing exploration of contemporary urban gay sexuality and the resultant array of societal attitudes across age and class. In part influenced by the horrendously brutal murder of Jody Dobrowski on Clapham Common in 2005, Elyot creates a host of deeply unpleasant characters as the main focus of his exploration into homosexuality, its surface acceptance and ever-present homophobia across all social strata's today.
Whilst astonishingly frank in its depiction of casual, anonymous sexual encounters in public toilets and open spaces (Clapham Common, Hamstead Heath) and the contrast between being 'out' versus being closeted and covert, Elyot falls back on the clichéd and contrived device of 'the dinner party' to enable a host of views to bubble up to the surface. Perhaps it's the environment Elyot knows best so finds it easiest to write about, but it's still hard to gauge what his intention is with his moneyed and privileged group of diners are they intended as a representation of middle class views and behaviours? In addition, why is practically every character either unpleasantly selfish or irritatingly naïve? It may well be that the well-heeled dinner party set do have these views and opinions, but if they are so singularly unpleasant, how can we care? It's difficult to determine exactly what Elyot is trying to say with Clapham Junction that homophobia is still real and in consequence very dangerous? That the general view is that gay men can be universally accepted but only if they behave like the wealthy, urban, heterosexual upper middle-classes? That heterosexual people don't have any kind of secretive, covert sex life? No, straight people don't go cruising for anonymous sex in toilets or parks, but that's only because they don't need to.
Elyot paints a deeply depressing picture in Clapham Junction, which may in part reflect the truth, but he fails to find any counterpoint. All is bleak, all is dangerous - hatred, bigotry and prejudice prevail. The minor strand of the young black boy playing his violin in the face of intolerance and persecution only serves to crack the nut with a hammer - we've already learnt that it takes bravery to be who you are in the face of adversity (witness the deeply unsettling, painfully honest encounter between Theo and Tim), so why bludgeon the viewer with this message a second time? The closing scene is gratuitous in light of all we have witnessed before.
Shergold and Elyot are well served by their actors, with Treadaway and Mawle in particular offering spectacularly honest, real and brave performances their plot-strand is perhaps the most challenging, the most unsettling but ultimately the most truthful story, and this time the concluding lack of hope is in proportion and understandable.
Moments of brilliance then, from all involved, but in the end Clapham Junction is deeply flawed and devoid of any shred of hope. Is that all there is?
A disparate group of specialists investigate alien activity occurring around a spacial rift centered in Cardiff in South Wales...
Flashes of utter brilliance jostle with moments of complete nonsense in this offspring production of Doctor Who... more adult than its parent show, it ricochets between ingenuity and banality within a blink of an eye. Barrowman is the personification of charm and charisma as Captain Jack Harkness, heading up the gang of alien hunters, and for the most part he is well served by his accomplices. On top of this, every episode offers a deliciously creepy set of happenings for the team to investigate.
Upsides? Barrowman himself, Mori's compelling subtlety as Tosh Sato, showcase set-pieces of rejuvenated Cardiff, fantastic story-lines...
Downsides? Clunky, 2-D and distracting relationship between Myles' Gwen and Gorman's Owen characters; David-Lloyd's desperately annoying and repeatedly incidental character Ianto; the two tiered cast dynamic (Myles, Barrowman and Gorman are obviously higher status than David-Lloyd and Mori)...
So much better, so much more enjoyable than what was already a great first season. Somehow darker, sexier, funnier and more compelling as Harkness and Co. continue their investigations into what comes and goes via the rift across Cardiff. Ongoing highlights are the relationship between Gwen and fiancé Rhys - Kai Owen is brilliant in what could have been a pretty thankless role; Owen's chilling predicament; the complete rejuvenation of Ianto's character, so irritating in Season 1, so hilarious and lovable in Season 2; the relationship between Ianto and Captain Jack; Martha's cool 3 episode guest appearance...
Role on Season 3!
Männer wie wir (2004)
Bezaubern and Entzückend
The goalkeeper of a small-town German soccer team is forced out of the closet, and as a result embarks on an odyssey of revenge and self-fulfilment...
Delightful comedy-drama, exploring homophobia, prejudice, intolerance and definitions of masculinity all amidst the heightened world of competitive 'Fußball'. Occasionally simplistic and hackneyed, never-the-less 'Männer wie wir' is packed with delicious performances and set-pieces, with the concluding football match an absolute gem. Standout performances have to be Brückner's charming 'everyman' Ecki, the wonderful blend of bathos and pathos from John, Berkel and Hübner, and especially Zacher's utterly convincing portrayal of the alcoholic ex-player Karl.
The finale will have you cheering.
Another Time, Another Place (1958)
"On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Polperro..."
Whilst on assignment in a very 1950s-looking WW2 London, a plastic-haired US ace-journo' (Turner) and an impossibly baby-faced Cornish ace-journo' (Connery) are lost in the throws of a torrid affair, despite the disapproval of colleagues (stiff-upper-lip Longdon, laconic James). However, even as declarations of undying love are uttered, dark clouds loom in the form of Turner's newspaper boss and erstwhile lover Sullivan, and Connery's shock disclosure that he has a wife and child tucked away in his native Cornish village. When Connery is killed in a plane crash, a devastated Turner makes a pilgrimage to his native Cornwall where her path crosses that of his wife and child...
Risible weepy, serving as a star vehicle for Lana and an early showcase for the handsome young Connery, both of whom fail miserably to convince. Turner seems to possess only three facial expressions, even when trying to stay upright in her stilettos as she totters round 'St. Giles' (actually Polperro) - witness her horribly 2-D efforts to comfort Martin Stephens after his nightmare. Meanwhile Connery's description of his Cornish fishing village birthplace is delivered in such a rich Edinburgh brogue as to be quite giggle-some.
So often the case with British cinema of the 40s and 50s, it's the support players who steal the show - Glynis Johns' is a beautifully judged and modulated depiction of a woman recovering from grief. Her resolute kindness, generosity and warmth make her reaction to the final reel revelations all the more believable. Sid James shines as a world-weary American journalist trying to juggle loyalties, and Stephens' post-nightmare scene is desperately convincing.
Sadly however, excellent support playing, and beautiful location shooting are just not enough to save this overwrought turkey.
Bleak House (2005)
Sheer brilliance at work here as Dickens' multi-stranded plot is woven into a magical TV production. Bleak House works on every single level, and certainly left this viewer alternately gripped or moved, as Davies rolls out the parallel stories of the Jarndyce wards and their companion Esther Summerson, and the slow, horrible destruction wrought on Honoria Deadlock.
Casting is absolute perfection, right down to the minor characters, and Chadwick, White and Rhode James have enabled the most delicious characterisations from every player. Maxwell Martin is delightful as Esther, making her totally believable and real - there isn't a trace of 'acting' in sight, so luminous and real is she. As Honoria Deadlock, Anderson is astonishing - post-X-Files, she has once again proved herself as one of the most versatile female actors around (reference also The House of Mirth and The Mighty Celt). Her ability to convey such intense emotions - grief, panic, terror - hidden behind a composed countenance is sublime. However, singling these two out in no way lessens the performances from other cast members - each in turn creates an incredibly believable character.
So one of the BBC triumphs of the decade, and unmissable in every respect!
When a tsunami capsizes a luxury liner, a small band of supposedly disparate passengers struggle to survive...
Horrible remake of the 1972 classic, complete with interchangeable young brunette women, bland heroes (and heroics), annoying child and VERY little else. The script is beyond bad - this viewer felt sorry for the actors having to spout such crappy lines, and the casting choices are quite shocking, with utterly forgettable female characters and only Dreyfuss (hopefully being paid squillions for this garbage) offering a smidgeon of characterisation. It actually made me feel nostalgic for the tawdry 2005 TV remake... a repellent damp squib if ever there was one. AVOID!
No Kidding (1960)
Hickson Steals The Show (Again)
A married couple (Phillips and McEwan) inherit a large old house, and quick as a wink, decide to turn it into a holiday home for rich kids. As the different children, and assorted staff descend, so the couple have to cope with adolescent yearnings, drunken domestics, troublesome teens and a busy-body alderman determined to secure the building for her own...
A strangely lack lustre effort from almost all concerned, with clunky juveniles, an intensely irritating McEwan, an unusually subdued Phillips and a shocking lack of pace. Only Irene Handl's delicious turn as the officious Miss Spicer, and Joan Hickson's gloriously bombed cook inject any interest. Most famous now as Agatha Christies's Miss Marple, it is indeed a crime of cinematic history that Hickson wasn't regularly nominated for best supporting actress gongs throughout her career. An unsung heroine of British moviedom if ever there was one, if you ask me!