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Not Going Out: Escape Room (2018)
I really think this should had been the opener as I found the first episode of series 9 disappointing.
Lee is given an Escape room adventure by Lucy. After his embarrassment in Thorpe Park for his previous birthday, Lee rather fancies something more sedate.
Unfortunately, Lee is handcuffed to a bomb, there is a ticking clock and he is trapped in the room with his dad, Lucy's parents, Anna and Toby. Worse for Lee, it should had been Toby who should be handcuffed to the bomb as the organiser of the Escape room has a grudge.
A thrilling and funny episode, some nice gags and a twist. I liked Geoffrey Whitehead making some Sherlock Holmes jokes as he once played Sherlock in a television series.
Oh dear, they really expected season two to be a formality!
The Nasty Bits finally make their debut concert and are a hit with the police arresting Kip Stevens on stage. This was after it was touch and go if Kip would even make it on stage after a drug overdose.
One of the A&R guys have popularised disco in the clubs. Good news for Lester Grimes as he stands to make money as it is an old song of his that is becoming a hit. Richie wants to do right by Lester to make sure he makes money rather than what the mobster in the firm, suggested; Send some guys to rough him up.
Richie is forced to become a FBI informant and keep a watchful eye on Corrado Galasso. Zak goes to Galasso hoping he would back him to wrest control of the company from Richie.
When one of Galasso's place is raided he thinks Zak is the grass but Richie thinks quickly to divert blame leading someone else to pay the price.
I thought Vinyl was a disappointing series given the talent involved. I am thinking Martin Scorsese than Mick Jagger here. The gangster story really got in the way, at one point in the final episode I thought they were going for a Joe Pesci line and vibe from Goodfellas.
There were great performances from Bobby Cannavale, Ray Romano and Ato Essandoh but the script was a let down.
Oh, Mr. Porter! (1937)
I used to watch Will Hay films as a kid but looking at some of them now, it really is woeful stuff. To think Oh Mr Porter is supposedly one of the better ones.
Hay plays Mr Porter, a wheeltapper at the start of the story with the joke being that he has little idea what a wheeltapper actually does.
However he gets a promotion and is sent to Ireland as the new station master at Buggleskelly station where he teams up with sidekicks Moore Marriott and Graham Moffatt. All of them are inept at running the station.
Mr Porter gets involved with One Eyed Joe who is supposedly regarded as a ghost by the locals who is haunting the place. This One Eyed Joe is a gun smuggler. The film is only enliven by a train chase as Mr Porter and his cohorts try to stop the bad guys.
Pretty feeble, a comedy of its time which has not aged well.
Knight Rider: White Bird (1983)
The plot is not much. Stephanie Mason is arrested by law enforcement officers for conspiracy. It looks like her boss set her up, even planting a false arrest record to diminish her credibility in front of the grand jury. Stephanie remains loyal to her employer, convinced he is not committing fraud.
What brings this episode some emotional heft is that Stephanie was engaged to Michael Long the man who Michael Knight once was.
Knight having seen an article of her arrest comes to her aid which rekindles all kinds of emotions in him. However he needs to protect her from the bad guys on their tail.
Throwing out Howard
Pearl has thrown Howard out of the house. Maybe she wants to teach the philanderer a lesson.
You would think Howard would be pleased about this. He can spend more time with Marina now and be up to all sorts of hanky panky.
Instead Howard pesters Clegg to persuade Pearl to take Howard back. Clegg is reluctant to do this as he is scared of Pearl but Foggy decides to make stand for Howard's right to return home.
This is the first episode of series 17 and is not the strongest start to a series. It is showing signs of looking tired and maybe is a series that is past its peak.
Peaky Blinders: The Company (2017)
Writer Steven Knight goes for some quite character moments in the finale of season 4.
As Changretta's men have infiltrated with Alfie Solomons men at the boxing match. Alfie and Tommy exchange some words at the changing room. Alfie leaves the match early and tells Tommy he is moving to Margate, indicating the fireworks yet to come.
Bonnie Gold wins his boxing match but the victory is bittersweet for Tommy. Luca Changretta appears to be on the edge of victory against the Shelby's but Tommy as always has a trick or two up his sleeve, as he knows Changretta has left himself exposed back in New York against other Italian families.
I was surprised that the Changretta story was wrapped up so early in the episode which left Tommy to deal with other dangling story threads. His own relationship with the untrustworthy Alfie Solomons had to be dealt with as well as dealing with the union agitators. For that Tommy decides he needs to run for Parliament.
The East (2013)
Fighting the power
In The East Brit Marling plays Jane, a former FBI agent now working in the private security sector.
Jane has been assigned to infiltrate an eco anarchist group called The East who expose corporate wrongdoing and are escalating their actions. They have given a pharmaceutical company a dose of their own medicine. A chemical company who is poisoning the local water supply, the group took their executives out for a swim.
The East is an inconsistent drama, verging on tedious at times. The anarchists often descend into bizarre behaviour as shown in the eating scenes. You lose any empathy with them and they just come across as over privileged rich kids, some with daddy issues than people having any real solidarity with ordinary folks who are victims of corporate abuse.
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
The director makes some visual flourishes such as using newsreel footage at the beginning, some scenes set in India and little girls playing hopscotch.
We even see a man get shot dead which is later revealed as the Harley Street dentist, Dr Morley killed in his surgery. He also happens to be Poirot's dentist and the police think his death is suicide after he gave a patient from India, Mr Amberiotis a fatal overdose.
Poirot sees links between Dr Morley's other patients. A wealthy banker Alastair Blunt, a yobbish blackshirt Frank Carter, the boyfriend of Dr Morley's assistant and Mabelle Sainsbury Seale, a former actress who toured India and had once met Blunt.
The film is a multi layered mystery which requires a long explanation from Poirot during the reveal. It is complicated but also in some ways nonsensical. The murderer has far from planned the perfect murder but rather take some outrageous risks.
Electric Dreams: Safe and Sound (2018)
Safe and Sound
The episode is a fusion of many current issues. Terrorism, racism, increasing government surveillance.
Foster Lee and her activist mother have moved east to an advanced technological society from their bubble in the west, which is more low tech. However Foster and others at school who do not have have a Dex (A handheld tracking and tech device) are treated as second class people, even viewed as terrorists. Those with a Dex look like people from the town where The Stepford Wives reside which deep down is a rather nasty, consumerist society, where you do not get something for nothing.
A fellow student helps Foster get a Dex illegally. The device has a tutorial voice who initially helps her but then inflames her paranoia.
This is a well constructed pacy episode that maybe simplifies its story a bit too much. The viewer immediately is suspicious of the voice from the device and its motives as you figure that the government is inventing scare stories to control the population.
Vinyl: Rock and Roll Queen (2016)
Rock and Roll Queen
This episode is as chaotic as Richie's life and with the police putting pressure on him to rat out on the mob now involved in his label, Richie's life is in some kind of freefall even though he has made another attempt to go clean.
Richie is fighting to keep the record label from going under but is pressured to release a 1950s compilation album. It does mean passing on some guy called Bruce Springsteen who might be dropped by his record label.
As we head for the finale, Zak discovers that it was Richie who stole the money in Vegas and beats him up. Richie tells Devon the truth about his involvement in the death of Buck Rogers.
I felt bored at times, because in some ways it just retread old ground. Lester feels let down by Richie again. The record label is in need of money. Eh, we have just invented disco.
Eat Locals (2017)
Jason Flemyng's directorial debut aspires to be one of those Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg/Nick Frost comedy horror thrillers.
However it falls short of the mark by not being funny or too horrific. It also has its share of some not very funny cockneys.
Young wide boy Sebastian has been requested to join the council of vampires as their is a vacancy. However some military units have been sent to kill them but a few of the soldiers want to take the vampires alive so their blood can be used for research purposes and they will get plenty of money in exchange.
The film is the army against vampires on an all night siege in an isolated farmhouse while Sebastian tries to escape.
The film has spirit and a sense of fun. It is hampered by its low budget and a ropey script.
A lightweight look at the classics
X-Rated: The Greatest Adult Movies of All Time is a rather flimsy look at the classic porn films from Deep Throat to the more recent output which tends to be parody films like that of Star Wars.
The documentary is presented by porn actress Chanel Preston is more interesting when it discusses the movies of the 1970s and 80s. We even get to hear from some of the performers from that era, Johnny Keyes and Georgina Spelvin. Sadly some of the stars from that era such as Jamie Gillis are no longer with us and not featured here although their behaviour is discussed. Some like Annette Haven have turned their back on the industry.
I did it find it amusing to hear modern porn stars talking in depth about movies such as The Devil in Miss Jones. I doubt they have even seen these classic movies never mind analyse them.
The film lost interest for me when it came to the recent era where the definition of classic porn is how many Adult Video awards it has won. It was interesting to see how many of these newer films use green screen and claim to have higher budgets and more shooting days at a time when the pron films are easily torrented. However the Star Wars parody was rather well done.
It was all rather gossamer thin which probably should had concentrated more on porn until the year 2000.
Rising Damp: The Prowler (1975)
Rigsby hears Miss Jones scream who thinks she has seen a prowler peering through the window.
Rigsby thinks it could be Philip or Alan. While Rigsby checks his money hidden under the floorboard he is interrupted by a plain clothes detective who invited himself into the house looking for a strange man in the vicinity.
The detective questions everyone, suspects Rigsby but then leave before taking one last look around the place. After all he now knows where Rigsby has hidden his money.
A wryly amusing episode as you know what the twist is going to be. Rigsby blames puts the fault of the rising crime rate on the permissive society as he suspects Philip and then Alan for being up to no good.
Knight Rider: Chariot of Gold (1983)
Chariot of Gold
KITT has a medical kit that can analyse blood and thousands of poisons but it comes across one it cannot recognise.
Bonnie meanwhile has been invited to be a of the prestigious Helios society, people with high IQs. Devon is a little disappointed to get only an honorary membership.
It is a member of the Helios society that was killed by a poison that KITT could not identify and the head of the society believes that several of its members have been targeted.
However with Bonnie being targeted by brainwashing and an attempt on KITT to reprogramme it, Michael Knight needs to stop some some high echelon members of Helios who plan to use their intelligence to commit a heist.
An interesting episode which is not the usual shady goings on in a small town.
Quacks: The Physicians Hernia (2017)
The Physicians Hernia
John is getting close but has not yet perfected his anaesthetic for surgical operations as Robert's accountant dies at the operating theatre.
Dr Hendrick, the royal surgeon finds he has a hernia he decides to go for the famous French surgeon Patrice Dupont who has performed countless hernia operations.
Robert who cannot stand the frenchman is ordered to be his assistant. Patrice is impressed by John's experiments nad has employs him as an anaesthetist.
Caroline wants to divorce Robert and run off with William. However William ends up giving Robert advice on saving his marriage as Robert confides in him that his marriage is in trouble. Meanwhile Mina gives an ultimatum to William that she cannot continue to pay his father's nursing fees forever, he proposes marriage to her knowing it is for convenience.
Robert helps Caroline to fulfil her medical ambitions begrudgingly. She notices that Dr Hendrick may not have a hernia leaving Patrice humiliated.
I thought Quacks was an uneven series, still trying to find its feet. Yet it has promise but really needed more laughs for a comedy.
The Marriage Counsellor
Mrs Gale has re-entered the lives of Edith and offers to help as a marriage guidance counsellor. After all she was on en Tasmania.
Phil just wants to take Edith away on holiday but she is too worried about her son and his crumbling marriage.
It seems Mrs Gale has played a blinder in conspiring to get Wendy and Roger to stay together but it is obvious Roger is rather far out of his mind.
I like John Cleese's portrayal of Phil but it is obvious this is not funny even as a comic drama.
Oskar Werner plays Harold Van Wick who after marrying his wheelchair bound wife, Elizabeth (Gena Rowlands) runs the family electronics company.
Harold has taken the company in new directions such as home security gadgets and digital watches. His mother in law Margaret Meadis (Martha Scott) is not happy with declining profits. The worldwide recession is no excuse and she wants Harold to step down as chairman. Harold has murder in his mind and plans to manipulate the cctv recording system he has installed at the house.
Columbo does not buy that the murder was a robbery gone wrong. Nothing was stolen and the intruder seemed to have cleverly sidestepped the security cameras.
This is a nice episode to see the talents of Oskar Werner who made so few movies. Most people would know him from Fahrenheit 451. I could understand his anger at his mother in law. Hasn't she seen Michael Winner's film Death Wish released in 1974? What else will send home security system sales soaring!
This gambit did not pay off
Gambit is a tepid and disappointing remake written by the Coen Brothers who have rendered it as a farce and an unfunny one at that.
Harry Deane (Colin Firth) is an art curator for nasty businessman Lionel Shahbandar (Alan Rickman) who has a low opinion of Deane.
Deane decides to cheat Shahbandar by getting his old art forger pal Major Wingate (Tom Courtenay) to fake a 'lost' Monet painting that has been discovered in a trailer in Texas. Deane recruits an accomplice from America PJ (Cameron Diaz) who is feisty and someone Deane becomes attracted to.
Firth goes back to the default posh English repressed nerd that he used to play in the moderately budgeted US co-productions before he won his Best Actor Oscar. Now he has got an Oscar there was no need for him to appear in such a movie. I guess he wanted to work with the Coens and look like Michael Caine.
Suite Française (2014)
The tunes of war
This adaptation of a newly discovered manuscript that was turned into a novel in 2004 is set during the German occupation of France in the 1940's. German soldiers were billeted in the homes of the locals in the village of Bussy.
Lucille Angellier (Michelle Williams) lives with her wealthy and domineering mother in law, Madame Angellier (Kristin Scott Thomas.) Each sunday they would stealthily collect rent from the tenant farmers on their land. Lucille's husband is away fighting, thought now to be a prisoner of war.
The Angellier household is joined by handsome, cultured German officer, Bruno (Matthias Schoenaerts) a musician before he became a soldier.
Both are attracted to each other in a village where the war has complicated things. Madame Angellier remains a patriot having little to do with the Germans but still sees an opportunity to make money. Some of the women sleep with the German soldiers in a village that was deprived of men. Some of the wealthy people in the village like the Viscount manage to carry on regardless by keeping their chickens, rooms and power. Others suffer especially as some of the villagers settle scores by gossiping to the Nazis by writing poisonous letters.
Lucille feels hell bent to help out one of her tenant family who is being harassed by a Nazi officer, willing to take risks.
This is a handsomely mounted film well acted by Scott Thomas and Williams. The story is not deep, Bruno is not regarded as a token good Nazi, he is willing to overlook the actions of what some of his fellow officers may have done in the past but his feelings for Lucille seems genuine.
Meet your Waterloo
Waterloo looks good with marvellous costumes and art direction. It looks epic with a cast of thousand at the battlefield. It just does not hang together well with a script that comes across as second rate.
The film starts with Napoleon in exile on the island of Elba when he returns to France and gains control with the French army remaining loyal to him. Napoleon then leads his troops to the battle of Waterloo where he is on the edge of victory against the Duke of Wellington until Prussian troops arrive to help the British army defeat him.
Director Sergey Bondarchuk has set out to make an epic but is really let down by the screenplay, maybe because his command of English let him down.
Rod Steiger gives an interesting interpretation of Napoleon. Despite his lapses into hysterical method acting, I always found him to be a worthwhile character actor. Christopher Plummer's Napoleon was a bit one note, he really does come across as a series of quotes.
Bastille Day (2016)
Michael Mason (Richard Madden) is an American pickpocket in Paris, thieving to make a living.
A case he steals goes off as it contained a bomb. Now he is hunted by the French police and a CIA agent based in the city, Sean Briar (Idris Elba.)
They uncover a conspiracy at play to blame Muslims for the bombing atrocities while anti fascist protesters campaign against police brutality.
The Take is a routine but underwhelming thriller. There are a few twists that involve corrupt cops but Elba is wasted as the maverick CIA agent who is frankly a bit dull.
The film also has too many British actors playing Americans, surely the producers could afford some genuine American actors!
Dull as dishwater
The first episode started off promisingly. A spooky supernatural drama with two suicides in the opening minutes.
The main character is Matilda Gray (Lydia Wilson) a cellist going on to better things professionally but her mother is one of the suicide victims. The other was a man in a creepy mansion who seemed possessed by some spirit.
Matilda finds newspaper clippings about a girl who disappeared in Wales 20 years ago. Is she the girl? Matilda goes to Wales to look for answers and ends up at the funeral of the man who jumped from the spook house, a house Matilda finds strangely familiar.
The series never lived up to the promise of that first episode. It never caught fire with the viewing public.
The final episode was disappointing. A crashing bore. We have cults, people behaving strangely, suspiciously, selfishly.
The series wanted to tread ground of some classic British horror tropes. There was a twist regarding Matilda but at the end, very few people cared about the series.
Columbo: Double Shock (1973)
It is nice to see sturdy actors who would go on to greater things such as Martin Landau who went on to become an Oscar winner.
He plays identical twins Dexter and Norman Paris who are estranged. One is a tv chef the other is a banker.
The victim is their wealthy uncle who is about to marry a nubile younger lady. Columbo suspect that one of the brother's killed the uncle as they each stand to inherit half of his fotune.
Like other Columbo episodes we know who did it. We suspect that there might be a switcheroo with the twins changing places. The actual reveal actually comes at the end which is unusual for Columbo but as always a smart defence lawyer would had got the culprit off.
Look out for a young Dabney Coleman as a cop. He would later appear in an episode of Columbo as a smart defence attorney.
I liked the fussy, loyal housekeeper who tells Columbo off for his dishevelled appearance and acting like a pig by dropping cigar ash on the floor. It is time someone told him off for his untidiness.
The trashy soap the housekeeper watches on television features a young Marc Singer.
Inside No. 9: La Couchette (2015)
What Pemberton and Shearsmith capture so well is the characterisation even before a word is uttered.
Shearsmith's, Maxwell is fussy, tidy wanting to go to sleep as he has an important interview the next morning. Pemberton's Jorg is a slob. Drunk, uncouth, loud.
They are just two of the passengers on a sleeper train travelling through Europe. A married middle aged English couple are on their way to their daughter's wedding in France. An australian backpacker is hoping to have a frisky time with a guy she has just picked up. All of them making noise, upsetting Maxwell who just wants a good night sleep.
Suddenly one of the passenger already in bed is dead as he drops out and lands on one of the passengers. We have not seen him before and the passengers are reluctant to stop the train as some of them know they will face delays.
What starts off as a humorous episode of a man being constantly disturbed in a sleeping compartment takes a disturbing twist with then another layer added on. Wonderful.
Invasion of the Bane
After Sarah Jane Smith's return in Doctor Who in 2006 with David Tennant's Doctor. Russell T Davies realised the potential for a childrens spin off series.
Almost 25 years after K9 and Company, Invasion of the Bane was a pilot that launched the Sarah Jane Adventures. It even included K9 in a cameo.
Sarah Jane is now investigating alien goings on. She is intrigued by a new company launching a fizzy drink which has become very popular.
Moving in next door is a teenage girl, Maria with her father who has recently split up from her mother.
At first Sarah Jane appears distant, but she meets up with Maria, her new friend Kelsey and a newly created boy, Luke at the Bubble Shock fizzy drink plant. A factory run by aliens and the drink is something not fit for human consumption.
There is a lot that is right with this pilot. It is fast moving, it has excitement, it is squarely aimed for kids but with just enough nostalgia to keep older Doctor Who fans satisfied. Some of the special effects were very good. It is noticeable that the black hole special effects sequence involving K9 was taken from the Doctor Who episode The Impossible Planet.
Some tweaks were made when the series properly launched with the character of Kelsey being replaced by Clyde.