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Some you'll know, some perhaps you won't. All are recommended for a wild range of reasons. So far, these are the ones i love the most in this increasingly addictive genre.
ps - omissions are inevitable - let me know any classics i missed and i'll put them on
There is no order to the list. Best read chronologically or alphabetically.
There are some classics missing (Red Dwarf, Peep Show etc) simply because i didn't enjoy them as much as i do the ones on the list. I'm sure there are some others missing that i simply forgot (apologies).
Hopefully you can discover or rediscover a great comedy from reading this list.
Cheers for now.
The Castaway Cowboy (1974)
Exotic promise, flat result.
Never heard of this before? No, nor had i until recently. There's a good reason for that.
The premise sounds intriguing but the plot is ultra-predictable. The pace is heavy and slow with lots of shouty Disney voices and long, loud boring scenes of cows being rounded up.
Plot spoiler alert : Cowboy washes up in Hawaii. Ends up in house of widow and her young son looking for a father figure. Can you see where this is going? The widow runs a potato farm that is under invasion from pests. What kind of pests? No, not flies or birds - but cattle! But hey - guess who knows how to round up cattle and save the day? But he can't do it single handed..
Cue wacky scenes of Garner recruiting the Hawaiian locals to become cowboys. One of them even jumps on the saddle facing the wrong way! The film seems to think the Hawaiian locals are that stupid.
For a short film it really drags and feels more like a 50s western in tone than 1974 when it was made. You'd think Sergio Leone and McCabe and Mrs Miller had never happened.
The best thing about it is a brief, strange foray into witchcraft when the jealous villain of the picture hires the local witchdoctor to curse the cattle venture and Garner follows him to his voodoo style cave dwelling which feels like a Sinbad movie set.
For that (and the nice warm exotica opening theme) i bump up my review to 6 stars.
Otherwise i got so bored i watched the second half on fast forward and could still tell every single thing that was going on.
Shrek the Third (2007)
Promises much, delivers little
The weakest Shrek film. Feels like it was hashed together quickly with little development to the characters or plot.
I mean, this is Shrek. A massive film enterprise with all the resources and funding at it's fingertips. By part 3 it should be incredible. What the Shrek films do best, by definition, is to re write classic fairy tales and characters in a new modern and 'funny' way, right?
So it should be. But in this film - it fails.
Big example - and here is the spoiler - is this is the moment in the Shrek saga where we are introduced to Arthur and Merlin ! The 'Shrek' version of Arthut and Merlin should be an explosive and hilarious highlight in all of Shrek films. My god, it really isn't. Arthur (voiced by Justin Timberlake) sounds exactly like Fry from Futurama but with not even 100th of the quality of the jokes. Merlin (voiced by Eric Idle) turns up in a holographic blaze of promise but then is hardly in it at all after that. No character development, no banter between Arthur and Merlin. They go absolutely nowhere. The voices and the look of the characters do not even suit. It could have been so classic but it just isn't.
The whole film feels lazy and uneven. It meanders and splutters it's way heavily through the weak plot and never really gets going. Certain scenes are massively overwritten with too much dialogue, i was constantly distracted throughout.
The worst thing about the Shrek films is those moments when you feel they are trying too hard to be funny. This film is pretty much like that the whole way through.
This one's a tired old affair and no one feels like they are having fun. Thankfully, the 4th one was much better.
The Magic Ball (1971)
The cult kids TV show that no one told you about
Quintessential quirky English telly. Made in 1971, written and narrated by Eric Thompson of 'Magic Roundabout' fame (he did all the voices in the original). The animation is produced by Brian Cosgrove and Mark Hall who went on to create 'Danger Mouse', 'Count Duckula' and 'Chorlton and the Wheelies'. However the animation here is far more inventive and wild than those later shows, using a combination of mixed media - cartoon, painting, photography etc which at times resembles Terry Gilliam's Monty Python skits.
The show's premise is similar to that of another UK kids favourite - Mr Benn. There, Mr Benn enters the fancy dress shop, changes into a costume and is magically transported to whatever world his costume represents. If he dresses as a knight - he goes on to fight dragons etc. Here in The Magic Ball, we have young Sam inside his Aunt Mil's antique shop by the sea. With the aid of his trusty magic ball he is magically whirled away to the world of whatever curious object he picks up. Off on another adventure and back home again in time for tea.
13 episodes in series one, all different adventures ranging from encounters with Cavemen to Highwaymen, Princesses to Chimney sweeps, Chimpanzees, Cowboys and flying carpets.
It's a great 'lost' kids TV program, hugely underrated and forgotten despite winning two silver medals at the Venice film festival of children's films. It is also rather psychedelic and makes great after hours viewing for adults.
A cross between 'Mr Benn' and 'Jamie and the magic torch' is a fair way to describe it. A real treat and well worth seeking out if you like this type of thing.
A London loved and lost
Anyone who had a TV set in England in the 1980s will know Minder. A beloved series to many, a guilty pleasure to many more and a load of old codswallop to a few others. But hey, that's just horses for courses. The show ran like a backbone through British TV in the 80's. To watch it now is nostalgic and in some ways quite cosy viewing, but there is so much more to it than that.
First and foremost it is gloriously entertaining. Especially the first few series - hardly a duff episode, if any. The humour and delivery are consistent throughout, always with a variety of interesting characters who are all a bit like someone you know or knew.
The plots in general are reliably similar - i.e. Arthur (the wheeler/dealer businessman) ropes in Terry (the good hearted, odd job man/minder) to help out in his latest scheme, masquerading the job to Terry as something far less dodgy than it actually is. Thus, Terry lands unknowingly in hot water, fisticuffs ensue (as does the occasional bunk up with some dolly bird) but Terry usually comes up trumps and ends up saving both the day and Arthur - who more often than not ends up with egg on his face. A classic sit-com set up - but always so very enjoyable.
George Cole is a comic master. He cut his teeth in Ealing Comedy films, appearing in them since he was a youngster with the legendary Alistair Sim as his mentor of sorts. He even played the young Ebenezer in the classic 1951 'Scrooge'. In Minder, his Arthur Daley is one of the most memorable UK TV characters of all time.
Dennis Waterman is more the straight man if you like and brings with him all the rough diamond charm established in previous programs such as the brilliant 'The Sweeney'. Minder allows him far more room and air time to show warmth and stretch his comedy legs while losing none of the 'ard man who can be a bit tasty with his fists as and when required.
The show also features a whole host of UK classic and character actors, too numerous to mention. It's a real treat watching Minder, not knowing who will turn up, how or when. In fact that is one of the great things about Minder, it feels like a huge family of UK TV greats portraying with solidity, quality and often a tongue in cheek, a whole world of London that is sadly pretty much now gone.
Decades since it first aired, it is amazing already as a time capsule. For eg - in one episode i saw recently, Arthur drove his mustard XJ6 jaguar into a posh, residential square in Chelsea and swept straight into a parking space! There were no other cars parked, no yellow lines, no parking restriction signs, no speed bumps, no cctv etc. Oh how things have changed!
Not only that but he then offered to buy a bloke's Chelsea flat for £10,000! You couldn't buy a garage for that now, i kid you not.
So it serves now as a caper through a very real London of the time. Warm and light of heart, tough, gritty and almost bleak in places but always funny.
To anyone who wants to know what it was like in London in the 1980s, this would be an essential piece of your TV jigsaw. A comfortable addition to 'Only Fools and Horses'. In fact, put 'The Sweeney' and films such as 'The Long, Good Friday' and 'Babylon' into the pot and you are getting there nicely, my son.
More nostalgia than adventure - this is a film about dreams.
The site reviews of this film seem to be one extreme or the other. I can see both sides.
I'm sure that many felt disappointed in this movie because they expected a fun filled, family, Christmassy, period adventure film in 3D. It does come across that way from the marketing.
True it has all those elements, but what is unclear until you see this film is it is less of a family adventure movie and more a nostalgic look back at the glorious and magical days of early film. Particularly it is a biographical story about the great film pioneer George Melies.
If early film is not something that interests you, then you probably won't be 100% interested in everything this film has to offer. But beyond that there is still a wonderful world of magic, mechanics, childhood, wonder and dreams, all set in a bygone age, making 'Hugo' a real treat in it's own right.
Plus it's a joy to see a 3D film set in snowy, golden 1930's Paris rather than just 3D action blockbusters.
'Hugo' is brimming with Martin Scorcese's affection for the subject.Not just one of the world's greatest film historians, here he has brought the old world of film to life. Stories can be more powerful than text books.
In fact, my most magical moments of the movie were the scenes of Melies shooting his films back in the early 1900s. 'Hugo' allows us to revisit and re-experience these old treasures in a whole new light - now in glorious colour and 3D. You can trust Scorcese to get the accuracy of the details just right.
So this for me, is Scorcese's greatest magic trick in the film - breathing new life into old classics. I'm sure Melies would have approved and probably would have shot them in colourful 3D himself, had he had the technology back in 1900. 110 years later - Scorcese is doing it for him. I actually found this quite a moving tribute.
Also worth adding is Sacha Baron Cohen's character and acting were hilarious. Echoes of Peter Sellers in Dr Strangelove. Made me laugh out loud a few times. I put that in here because there are some negative reviews of him and i think those people may have missed the subtly, nuance and timing of which Cohen is a master.
So overall, expect less and get more. Expect a movie about film nostalgia and experience a movie about dreams, magic and the warming of the human soul.
Now i know what to expect of 'Hugo', i'm sure i will enjoy it even more on 2nd viewing. I'm sure others will too.