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The Good Life (1975)
It's aged BADLY
A sit-com revolving around the decision of suburban couple Tom & Barbara Good to leave "the rat race" and become totally self-sufficient, turning their posh semi' into a small farm along the way. Of course this leads to constant tension and humour with their utterly conformist neighbours, the outrageous snob Margo leadbetter and her long-suffering husband Jerry.
I remember how great I thought The Good Life was when it came out in the mid 1970s but that was 30 years ago and I was 11. Here and now, it's aged badly. All those enormous shirt collars, kipper ties, platform shoes and ghastly flaired "Rupert Bear" check trousers, plus the horrible garish 1970s furniture. Yuch. The Goods seem to be constantly on the verge of starvation and yet their house remains brightly lit & warmly heated and they seem to find enough to pay the mortgage & rates (Council Tax). As an adult I also find it really irritating the way Tom & Barbara seem to be constantly scrounging and sponging off their neighbours. They appear more "parasitic" than "self-sufficient". It's still amusing and Penelope Keith remains excellent (it made her a star) but it has lost a lot over the passing 3 decades. Yeah, it's worth watching but no way is The Good Life in the same league as Porridge or Rising Damp or Fawlty Towers or Some Mothers Do Ave Em or . . .
Jesus Christ, this is AWFUL
Without a doubt the (2003) "Dragnet" is THE worst US TV series I've ever seen, and I'm particularly pained to say that as the star (Ed O'Neil) starred in what I'd say was the best (Married With Children). it's a "cop show" blah blah, and it doesn't work. The original 1950s series was fine and so was the 1980s with Dan Akroyd but ONLY because it was done as a "parody". This is a 'serious' police drama but done in a 1950s format - and it stinks. I can't understand how anyone with a 3 figure IQ could ever have thought this turkey would sell, and I'm delighted to see it was cancelled. So, WHY is this rubbish now being shown (Oct 2005) on British TV ???????? 1 out of 10
Who Dares Wins (1982)
Terrific British movie
A few years ago I was walking up the horrendously steep "Spring Hill" in Lincoln and a middle-aged man passed me and stopped to ask for directions to Lincoln's Theatre Royal. I suddenly realised I was talking to Lewis Collins. For me that was quite a sad moment as I got the feeling he knew where it was and just wanted to be "recognised". Collins was a HUGE TV star from 1978 to 1980 and like ALL British kids at the time I wanted to be either Bodie or Doyle from The Professionals. I saw Who Dares Wins at the cinema and was enthralled by it. I really felt it would take lewis Collins to Hollywood and beyond but it wasn't to be and that's a shame. He would have made a perfect James Bond. Anyway, Who Dares Wins. It is a first class action movie and a fine tribute to our Special Air Service soldiers. The dialogue is sometimes "wobbly" and melodramatic but the exchanges between Richard Widmark and Judy Davis (as many others have said) are fantastic and the action sequences vie with ANYTHING you'll see from Hollywood. The photography direction and music are excellent too. As for the plot. The early 1980s WERE a very paranoid time. I well remember how nervous I often felt at the crazy pronouncements of Thatcher & Raegan who both seemed to be on a religious crusade against Communism and both seemed to believe a nuclear war was "winnable". If Gorbechov hadn't come along and the USSR had had an equally hard-line ideolgoue in The kremlin I'm not sure any of us would be here today, so the plot of Who Dares Wins isn't nearly as unrealistic as it might appear in 2005. It's a fine movie and it shows we Brits can still compete with Hollywood. By the way, I have an American friend who said he never realised Judy Davis was Australian, so her accent must've been spot on. 9 out of 10.
Sexy Beast (2000)
Move over Pacino, Kingsley is the Messiah.
Gal Dove (Ray Winstone) is a retired bank robber living quietly in Spain until his old boss the psychotic Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) flies out and "pursuades" him to do one last job. This movie is too long, it feels lumpy in places and the robbery itself is a bit of an anti-climax BUT it's worth watching for the blistering performances from Kingsley & Winstone. I cannot believe this is the same guy who played Ghandi and Itzak Stern in Schindlers List. Kingsley is pure genius and electrifies the screen every time he's on. His character is evil incarnate and the famous scene on the plane is a MUST see. I'm also chuffed to bits to see Ray Winstone, at last, getting the quality role he's deserved for so long. Like many people I saw his brilliant performance as a 22 year old in the prison drama "Scum" and thought he would be a 'star'. Glad to see it's happened Ray. As a gangster film this is NOT in the same league as The Long Good Friday or Brighton Rock but I'm giving it 8 out of 10 for 2 mindblowing performances from Winstone and Kingsley. Kingsley in particular should have got the Oscar. Even for an actor of his genius this was a career-best.
The Green Green Grass (2005)
I haven't felt so ashamed to be English since last Wednesday when Northern Ireland beat us at football. This show is AWFUL. I thought it would be bad but even my very worst expectations were surpassed, and then some. John Sullivan wrote the utterly brilliant Only Fools & Horses which - for more than 2 decades - was Britain's best loved sitcom and then he comes up with this trash. Boycie & Marlene, 2 of the characters from OF&H leave Peckham for a new life in the country and to avoid the infamous Driscoll brothers. Boycie's evidence "sent them down" but now they're out on a technicality and looking for revenge, apparently. I only hope they find the Boyce family, AND SOON. John Challis & Sue Holderness were both hilarious in the fabulous show which made them famous but this pathetic drivel doesn't even get off the starting blocks. They both seem to be struggling to remember their Boycie & Marlene characters and their son "Tyler" is played by a young actor who has about as much charisma as a whelk, and he looks like one too. There's no "soul" to this horrible show and it simply isn't funny. The only time I've even "smiled" so far has been when Boycie makes references to his mates the Trotters and that by the way is incredibly cheap of Mr Sullivan. Only Fools & Horses was SO successful because the audience didn't just care about Del & Rodney & Uncle Albert, we LOVED them and you just can't have Boycie & Marleen WITHOUT "the trotters" and their Reliant 3-wheeler. I'm prepared to bet anyone out there £100 that this show does not complete it's first series and then vanishes without trace. It should never have been made. 1 out of 10.
Prescription: Murder (1968)
Amazingly this isn't very good
I'm one of the millions of Columbo addicts all over the world and just watched this,the episode that started it all, on British Channel 5. It IS fascinating to think what sprung from this so-so movie and I can only marvel at whoever spotted the massive potential of "Columbo" and added all the little touches that make it such a marvellous & classic series. That said, this particular movie is not as good as the rest (except for the embarrassing final episode & the patronising British episode). If Columbo had been made as per the original 'pilot' it certainly would NOT have gone on for very long, or be watched and loved world-wide. In this film Lt Columbo is smartly dressed, drives a normal car, has a partner, doesn't talk about his alleged relatives and comes across as quite aggressive. There's also none of the cat-and-mouse chemistry between Columbo and "the villain". Watchable, but only for the novelty of seeing how Columbo started out.
It's going to be hard finding enough words about this rubbish to fill 10 lines, but I'll have a go. I understand Christopher Ellison (Burnside) is quite a talented artist & I'm delighted to see he appears to have returned to this profession because the guy cannot act to save his life. His entire 'range' consists of an (unconvincing) aggressive stare. He was awful in "The Bill" but then "The Bill" is trash full stop and I'm delighted to see this ghastly spin-off sank without a trace. Ha Ha. The "plot" to this dreadful series could have come from a particularly bad Australian soap opera and the cast was packed full of ethnic minorities, totally unlike the real Metropolitan Police. That obvious bow to political-correctness spoiled it for me right at the beginning and Ellison's dreadful acting kept it at bargain basement level throughout. Yuch. The only consolation is that this garbage is highly unlikely to ever be screened again.
Sea of Love (1989)
Top quality thriller
This movie is absolutely excellent and SO under-rated I can hardly believe it. The New York Police Department is trying to catch a serial killer whose victims are all men who've placed "lonely hearts" adverts with rhyming poems. Everyone thinks these crimes are being committed by a psychopathic woman so the NYPD place an "ad" of their own and 2 detectives (played by Al Pacino & John Goodman) pose as "lonely hearts" and try to snare the murderer. What elevates this film beyond the norm is the fantastic chemistry between Pacino & Goodman and the anguish driving Pacino's character. He plays a divorced detective who's probably lonelier than most of the people who place such adverts and falls madly in love with Ellen Barkin, the prime suspect. To say any more would spoil things so watch it for yourself, it's a great movie.
Harry's Game (1982)
Excellent and hugely under-rated British film
I agree with others who say Harry's Game is THE best movie made about the "troubles" in Northern Ireland. It is SO infuriating that we British often make excellent films which are handicapped by low budgets and criminally awful marketing & publicity. This is a perfect example. if "Hollywood" had made this movie (and I doubt they could) it would've had at least 2 A list stars, a multi-million dollar budget, and it WOULD have been a blockbuster. Ray Lonnen (Harry) is still best known as "dad" is a series of rotten margerine commercials. Nevertheless the sheer quality and intelligence of the film make it a great British movie. "Harry" is an SAS officer working undercover in Northern Ireland, trying to snare the IRA's top assassin. He's totally immersed in the culture of Ulster and none of his friends & colleagues have a clue who he really is. This film shows both the British & Irish Republican perspective, with none of the ridiculous laughable distinction between the "good IRA & bad IRA" which spoils EVERY American movie about this period. "I was never a bomber" says Richard Gere as a former IRA man in "Jackal". As if that makes a difference? There are no c**p lines like that in Harry's Game. The ending (which I won't reveal) is tragic and completely unexpected. Definitely worth seeing.
Law & Order (1990)
Dick Wolf is a genius. Every series he's made has been a gem, but Law & Order remains the "kellogs cornflakes" ie - original and best. It's almost as good as Columbo and makes other NYPD shows look pretty pathetic. Kojak, Cagney & Lacey & NYPD Blue eat your hearts out. I guess we all know the formula of L & O by now but it's still a winner every time. A crime's discovered, detectives (try to) solve the crime and then it's passed to the DA's team. The reason I love this show is it gives a GREAT insight into all the technicalities and "wrangling" that goes on, behind closed doors, in the legal world and it's also refreshingly honest. Sometimes the bad guys get away, sometimes the good guys screw up, just as in real life. I miss Jerry Orbach (R.I.P) and the new lady D.A. is not as good as Steven Hill but law & order remains a winner and I'm sure it'll be re-run many times in the future.