Reviews written by registered user

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111 reviews in total 
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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Unusual Combination, 30 November 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Here's an usual combination, we have a detective series crossed with the story of a chef opening his own restaurant.

Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter's Uncle Vernon) plays Henry Crabbe a Detective Inspector all set for retirement when he is shot in the line of duty. Thinking he is all done with that phase of life and ready to open his own restaurant named "Pie in the Sky" he is frustrated to find that his superior is still in need of his services and therefore finds a reason to question the circumstances of Crabbe's injury. Using the threat of his pension he persuades Crabbe to continue to assist him on the occasional investigation.

The mysteries aren't as complex nor as dark as most contemporary detective series which some will appreciate, and we also get a show dedicated to classic British food.

The mystery aspect gets shortchanged a little for a couple of reasons. The first is the length of the episodes which is comparable to a one hour American network show and there really isn't enough time to build up an array of viable suspects in that amount of time. The other reason although not as important is the attention upon the restaurant, its staff and their food. While a more complex mystery would be appreciated some of the enjoyment and certainly the uniqueness of the series comes from the food.

The series has some good performances, though the standout is certainly Richard Griffiths character and his performance, it's a far cry from other detectives and likely from other roles you may have seen him in before. In support Maggie Steed as Henry's wife Margaret and Malcolm Sinclair as ACC Fisher give strong supporting performances throughout the series.

For those that like there detective stories on the light side, this series is certainly to be appreciated. My one complaint would be that occasionally the balance between the mystery and the restaurant is off and the resulting episodes aren't quite as enjoyable as they could be.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Adequate but not my Favourite Christmas Special, 30 November 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The "Next Doctor" while perhaps an adequate episode, is for me the least effective and the least memorable of the "Doctor Who" Christmas specials.

The story has a familiar Christmas setting with shades of Dickens, from the Victorian setting to the orphans and the work houses, but it doesn't really seem to have the essence of the Christmas Spirit.

The performances overall are OK, David Morrisey is good as the next doctor but David Tennant is a little too subdued in my opinion.

The baddies for this episode just aren't inspired, we have seen plenty of Cyberrmen by now and the new Cyber creatures really do look just like guys in suits (harkening back to the classic series). Perhaps the biggest flaw lies in the lead antagonist Miss Hartigan. Her motivations while possibly working well to define the character do very little for the story.

As with most of the specials that would make up the following season I really felt the lack of a companion affected the formula and chemistry of the show, there were some strong guest stars who sometimes filled the companion role to a lesser or greater degree but it wasn't enough.

The "Next Doctor" seems to have all of the necessary ingredients to create a compelling episode but they just don't add up to what they could have.

Ponyo (2008)
Another Wonderful Miyazaki Treat, 8 September 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A wonderful traditionally animated film that is suitable for everyone including children from writer and director Hayao Miyazaki who was also responsible for "Spirited Away" (winner of an Oscar for Best Animated Feature), "Princess Mononke", "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind", "My Neighbor Totoro" amongst others.

Ponyo is the story of a 5 year old boy Sosuke who rescues and befriends a goldfish princess who has magical powers, following their meeting she longs to be human despite the dire consequences foretold by her father.

The host of talent attracted to the English adaptations of his films is testament to his incredible film contributions, for Ponyo the English voice cast included; Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Liam Neeson, Tina Fey, Cloris Leachman, Betty White and Lily Tomlin. Further the script adaptation was handled by Melissa Mathison and the producers included Kathleen Kennedy and John Lasseter served as Executive Producer.

As with virtually all of Miyazaki's films we get an ecological message, in this case the message is not surprisingly man's pollution of the oceans and our overall disrespect for nature, except for one short sequence the message is not emphasized and its also a message that is hard to really disagree with.

Although definitely suitable for all ages there is a storm sequence in the film might be a little frightening to some young children but I don't really think there is anything that would prevent a child from enjoying this film.

The hand drawn water colour and pastel like animation seemed very simple at first but once you are drawn into the story it seems quite appropriate and it is also artistically very beautiful if not quite as realistic as the approach he has taken in some of his other films.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A Solid Inspector Morse Mystery with a Stellar Cast, 27 August 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A trio of real estate financiers who have defrauded their investors of millions of Pounds are serving a 2 year sentence in a minimum security prison that is intended as a model for humane treatment of prisoners, but all that is upset when one of trio is murdered. In good mystery fashion we have any number of suspects with both motive and opportunity. There is tension between the police and the determined female prison governor (Diana Quick) as well as between the investigators as Morse (John Thaw) and Lewis (Kevin Whately) are joined by an ambitious young DS Cheetham (Steven Mackintosh) Not surprisingly for those familiar with the series we also find that Morse is attracted to the prison governor. In the course of the investigation all sorts of secrets are dredged up as almost has everyone has something to hide but which of these was the impetus for murder. With the standard 100 minute running time of "Inspector Morse" we have the opportunity to let everything play out appropriately and actually develop a mystery.

In addition to a well crafted mystery and a number of tense relationships we get a stellar cast which includes Sean Bean as the youngest of the three investment bankers and Jim Broadbent as a fellow prisoner whose case Morse was involved with indirectly 16 years earlier. In addition to these two big names who hadn't yet reached the level of popularity or success they would achieve we have a number of other recognizable faces including; Robert Pugh, Suzanna Hamilton, Richard Wilson and Jonathan Firth (brother of Colin) in addition to aforementioned and also highly recognizable Diana Quick and Steven Mackintosh.

This episode of "Inspector Morse" was directed by Antonia Bird who in addition to an extensive resume in British television also directed the films "Priest" and "Ravenous".

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Storytelling and Food, 30 July 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This above all else a fine example in the art of storytelling. This Danish film is based upon a short story by Karen Blixen (Out of Africa).

The film spends a great deal of its length recalling the stories of the protagonists and how they arrived at their present conditions. The performances are somewhat mannered and deliberate for the extended flashbacks but this is obviously intentional and reflects the bias of the narration.

For those who enjoy gastronomic depictions the feast in the later half of the film is quite enjoyable for its preparation, presentation and its consumption.

The performances are good, their are some beautifully photographed scenes, the feast is a sight to behold but above all this seems to be a film about storytelling.

Though the film is in both Danish and French the deliberate dialog should make the subtitles very easy for anyone to follow even those who dislike subtitles. The DVD includes an English dub but I would strongly urge anyone to watch it in its original form with the subtitles.

Winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1988.

The Van (1996)
Conclusion to the Barrytown trilogy, 3 July 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Colm Meaney returns for the third time in Roddy Doyle's 'Barrytown' trilogy as Larry the father of a Dublin family, he is currently unemployed and lacking prospects when his close friend Bimbo also loses his job. But Bimbo has a plan, the two will partner up to operate a chip van and take advantage of the upcoming 1990 World Cup when no one will have any time to cook, their enterprise will be known as 'Bimbo's Burgers'. Starting off with filthy rundown and engine less van they have their triumphs and their squabbles but always with their families close by.

It's a nice slice of life story about friendship, with some wonderful funny moments, this was the type of film Britain did so well in this era, no spectacular effects just a good story, a good cast and a solid production. The film also features music by Eric Clapton.

The Barrytown trilogy from Roddy Doyle also included "The Commitments" and "The Snapper". Both "The Van" and "The Snapper" were directed by Stephen Frears perhaps best known now for "The Queen" for which he received an Oscar nomination, he was also nominated for "The Grifters". While both of these films are definitely worth watching, the best of the three by far is "The Commitments" which was directed by Alan Parker.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Animated Justice, 22 June 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Justice League appeared for the first time in comic book form in the 1960's and has since gone through numerous incarnations and roster changes.

In this version of the Justice League tailored for the 21st Century we have; Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern (the African American John Stewart), J'onn J'onzz (Martian Manhunter although that name is never used) and Hawkgirl (a second female super hero).

The series builds somewhat slowly as the creators seemed uncertain about certain aspects such as the direction of the show and also as a televised animation series it remains limited both in terms of content and budget. In this context the animation is good but not what one will find on film. The content limitations are somewhat more problematic as despite the fact this is a story about super heroes no blood can be shown. Despite this the creators manage to find their voice and make the best of their limitations by making the series much stronger than it began.

While the show's vocal talents are good including Michael Rosenbaum and Phil Lamar, perhaps even more impressive is the roster of talent attracted for guest appearances. During the first season we have amongst others; Gary Cole, James Remar, Kurtwood Smith, Garrett Morris, Rene Auberjonois, Dennis Haysbert, Robert Englund, Xander Berkley, John Rhys-Davies, David Paymer, Eric Roberts, William Smith, Bill Duke, David Ogden Stiers, Virgina Madsen, Olivia d'Abo, Mark Hamill, Neil Patrick Harris, Michael McKean, Jeffrey Jones, Udo Kier, David Naughton, Ted McGinley, David Naughton, Steven Root, William Katt, Clancy Brown, Pam Grier, Dave Thomas, Danica McKellar, Richard Moll, Tom Sizemore, Patrick Duffy, Fred Dryer, Robert Picardo. While not a who's who of Hollywood we do have here some very recognizable performers, from both television and the sci-fi/fantasy genre's.

Special features are substandard, and include very limited additional information

Hitchcock Favourite, 22 June 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Story of a young woman (Teresa Wright) living in a small town with her family and looking forward to a visit from her favorite uncle (Joseph Cotten). The trouble is that she begins to suspect her uncle might be a serial killer known as the Merry Widow murderer.

The picture shows Hitchcock's great skill at developing suspense. While he would make many great thrillers over his career, this film stands out for me because it achieves this result without the fantastic locales or the spectacular set pieces of some of his later films.

Teresa Wright who would be nominated for three Oscars and win one in the two years leading up to this film is very effective in her role. Equally as effective is Joseph Cotten at is most sinister.

The strong supporting cast includes MacDonald Carey, Henry Travers (Clarence from it s a Wonderful Life) and Hume Cronyn.

The script that so effectively works at building the suspense in the small town locale was co-written by Thorton Wilder (Our Town).

As has often been cited this was reportedly Hitchcock's personal favorites amongst his own films.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Hollywood's Invasion of Normandy, 22 June 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Based on the novel of the same name by Cornelius Ryan this film tells the story of the D-Day Invasion from a wide variety of perspectives.

The film follows both the Americans and the British as well as the Germans. We also see both the commanders and the men in the field as well as all the different aspects of the invasion force.

The major stars included; John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Robert Mitchum, Rod Steiger as well as least another dozen well known names.

It is perhaps the huge cast or more accurately the large number of individual stories being told here that make it difficult to connect more closely with the film. Though this may have been necessary to demonstrate the scope of the invasion. Most of these individual stories are compelling as are the performances, but the sum of the parts ends up a bit too disjointed. So while this remains an impressive achievement that I recommend, the film falls a little short of my expectations.

The film marked as least the temporary return of the noted producer Darryl F Zanuck from a lengthy self imposed exile. This was also considered to be the last epic filmed in black and white.

Crazy Mama (1975)
2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
70's Exploitation Flick with Wasted Talent, 22 June 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A mid-seventies drive-in flick from producer Roger Corman that wouldn't likely warrant much notice but for the fact it's the second feature from director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs).

Typical story of the exploitation genre, begins decades earlier with family patriarch shot while being evicted from his farm in Arkansas. Flash forward to the 50's and Melba (Cloris Leachman) the farmer's daughter along with her mother (Ann Sothern) and daughter (Linda Purl) are evicted from their beauty parlor in California. Melba with family and hangers on (Stuart Whitman, Don Most) in tow decides they will return to the family farm and buy it back by initiating a cross country crime spree more in keeping with the 30's than the 50's.

There are elements here that hint at a talented director in the making but the budget and the material with which the film is saddled really keep this from being any more than a cheap exploitation flick intended for the drive- in's.

The film manages some of the sex and violence that one would associate with this kind of film but strangely they are both somewhat subdued by the odd decision to make this film for a PG rating. The laughs were not forth coming for me, perhaps the low brow approach would be more effective in an accommodating theater or drive-in. Either that or its directed to a different audience than I represent or its just outdated.

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