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Scott & Bailey (2011)
Unusual British Crime Drama
There are a number of things that set this series apart from other British crime shows.
First, is the bizarre spaghetti western theme music.
The next is the way people react realistically to murders and police questioning. They are royally freaked out. Usually people react with the sang froid of James Bond. The acting by unknowns is excellent and convincing.
Next are the bad guys you want to personally strangle. They are not just the person who did it for some inscrutable reason. They are EVIL.
Next are the many teen actors, usually playing horrible brats.
Next is the improper behaviour of the lead detectives, and their squirming not to get caught. It is a Damoclean sword, threatening to cancel the series.
There is a very peculiar relationship with a young male policeman with an obsession for an elderly female one. She had a one night stand with him, but she does not want a relationship. I keep thinking his psychotic mood swings are a joke of some kind.
The episodes all thread together, with lots of foreshadowing and back references. The episodes of a traditional murder series are totally self contained.
There is no whodunit here. Pretty well the first suspect is the guy who did it. The problem is proving it.
My main complaint is sometimes there is boring filler dialogue that just wanders off for about 5 minutes at a stretch.
Wire in the Blood (2002)
There is a certain formula each episode follows. There are multiple scantily clad young women who get brutally murdered. There will be many scenes of hookers and trashy bar people. Police are rude to Dr. Tony Hill and refuse to work with him. They are gradually won over. People who are innocent are very rude to the police and refuse to co-operate for no apparent reason. Dr. Hill comes up with detail after detail about the perpetrator, without any more explanation of how he did it than Sylvia Browne, psychic, ever gives. The criminals are deeply psychologically twisted, far more so than any person you have ever encountered, even in the newspapers. There is a last minute dash to rescue some young woman being held by a psychopath. She is always rescued.
Despite this strong formula structure, the episodes are entertaining and surprising.
Benny Hill Goes to Absurdistan
The characters in this film are hideous, dirty, obese, malodorous and unkempt. The hero is a handsome gangly teenage boy. He is in love with a pretty, tomboyish but cruel young lady. The elders behave like characters in a Benny Hill movie. They pantomime extreme sexual attraction to each other, and spend a lot of time in non-consensual sex. The village breaks out into Lysistrata like war between the sexes over the male refusal to repair the water supply. They shoot each other. They lay vicious traps of various kinds for each other. Everyone sleeps with rifles and sets them off by accident repeatedly. I did not find this amusing. These people were psychopaths. At the end, boy gets girl, though I was not too happy about this. She had repeatedly abused him so badly, I hoped for a new love for him.
Hard to Watch
Dr. William Palmer poisons various members of his family and his friends in various schemes to get money. He is a gambler and spendthrift, always deeply in debt.
I started our rooting for Dr. Palmer, much as I rooted for Dexter, but I quickly came to hate him and his oily ways and willingness to betray the innocent. The show became harder and harder to watch. I had to take breaks. He was like a snake stalking victim after victim.
He destroys many sympathetic people whom you have got to know, something that does not happen in a traditional murder drama. This is based on a ghastly true story.
People had intuition he was out to kill them, but they were too polite to act on it. They allowed him to kill them.
Palmer is revolting. He pushes giant forkful after forkful of food into his face. He delicately dabs the corner of his mouth with a napkin. He has no conscience of any kind. He can always come up with a new plausible lie any time he is cornered. Like Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes he has a way of expressing disdain and contempt with his every utterance.
People, especially children, die so often in 1850, it is fairly easy for a poisoner to murder without coming to the attention of the authorities.
The film ends with a detailed autopsy, trial and hanging, so you feel properly revenged. Fittingly, he was betrayed with false testimony.
Technically, the image is fuzzy and dull. The image is square not letterbox.
The film does not put that gloss the way most period pictures do. The characters are not physically appealing. Their clothes are drab and hideous.
The many sets are so well done, you do not notice them.
an absolute treat
This is an absolute treat. It takes place in the 1920s in Australia. The detective is a wealthy flapper, who reminds me a bit of Diana Rigg in the Avengers.
The sets are lush. The music is fun. The costumes are opulent and eye- popping. The males are scrumptious and sexy. The characters are Dickensian in their eccentricity. Our heroine is a thoroughly Modern Millie. Her maid, Dot, is a terrible prude of a Catholic, who fears even electricity as wicked. It has a sexy crackle to it.
Unlike the usual convention, the detective is in constant peril. She uses all manner of devices to rescue herself including some impressive gymnastics.
The plot charges along at breakneck speed. It is so well done, I can't think of a single thing I think should have been improved. There might have been one anachronism. The maid finds what might have been some birth control pills under the bed.
The end of a era
This is the very last episode of Inspector Morse. It is quite depressing. Characters like Inspector Morse and Inspector Tom Barnaby become like family members. Colin Dexter, the writer of the novels, makes a cameo. There are about four murders. There are at least a dozen major characters. I found it unusually difficult to keep track of who was who, even when it was over. Some characters were memorable,
Meg Davies as Yvonne Harrison, a disgustingly sexual older woman.
Anna Wilson-Jones as Sandra Harrison remaining me of Samantha Bond.
Simon Hepworth as Simon Harrison the deaf bookstore owner.
Jesse Birdsall as John Barron a dashing Don Juan.
Aidan David as Roy Holmes, a teen cyclist.
Midsomer Murders: Second Sight (2005)
One of the sillier episodes, could be considered a parody.
This episode is unique in that the supernatural plays a major role. Both Barnaby and Scott start out as sceptics, but become believers. (I don't approve of injecting woo into realistic dramas. It leads the public astray and dresses them to be conned.)
It has a cast of eccentric characters:
A hermit obsessed with meticulously recording air pressure, who can make slot machines pay off.
A handsome young mad scientist who puts people in a Faraday cage and shocks them to train them to have second sight.
An insufferably vain, priggish, self-righteous vicar.
A baby, who, any time she cries, it portends doom.
A barkeep who has dozens of ways to rip off his customers.
The ending is so classically melodramatic. All that was missing was the pipe organ and the howling werewolves.
There is one special effect that is quite impressive. A truck crashes through the wall into a schoolroom.
Fun, Silly Romp
In this movie, Sherlock is 17, tall and emaciated with very bushy eyebrows looking quite unEnglish.
It is acted in a hammy sort of way, as if it were a filmed stage play.
There are plenty of eccentric characters besides Sherlock. All are given time to develop into individuals, even the evil henchmen.
The plot is quite James Bondian. The melodramatic villains repeatedly capture Sherlock, then either give him an escape test, give him a present, put him to sleep, present some elaborate charade, or just let him go. They never just shoot him. I could never figure out why they bothered capturing him.
There are lots of surprises, but that is mainly because the villains are bonkers.
Helen Chase as Aunt Rachel does a brilliant performance, I can't quite figure out what she did, but I instantly loathed her, sort of like Maggie Smith, but horrible. Some of her attributes include:
putting people down, subtly
excessive concern with social status, fawning over those with higher status
complaining that others are not considerate of her
continual references to her superior Christian virtue
Eva Griffiths, plays Charity, her spoiled brat of a child, who reminded me of a Pekinese. She was her mother in training.
The picture is cloudy, as if filmed at low res, and the frame is square, not letterbox. It was filmed in 9 TV episodes. 3 DVDs worth. This drags the story out a bit much. For example, the denouement takes an entire episode. It was stolen from the Wizard of Oz.
The "fight" scenes are amateurish to the extreme. You might see better in a high school play.
However, despite all its faults, it is entertaining and leaves you smiling.
Like a time machine to 1907
This is a story of a woman who lives in 1907 in Sweden, married to an abusive, philandering, jealous, alcoholic husband. It is although you took a trip through a time machine. Everything in the grim poverty seems completely real. It has none of that brand-new shininess that period pieces usually have were every building, piece of clothing, car and house is gleaming. She has 7 angelic children. This seems odd since neither of the parents are particularly good looking. An one point we are told we are now 5 years later. Yet the children, replaced by different actors, looked about 14 years older. That was the only time the illusion of reality was broken.
Her life is a grind, just barely making do by taking photographs and sewing. It has a surprise happy ending, but even that is snatched away by the grim realities of life in poverty.
The children are smug Christians, quick to condemn for breaking biblical commandments. They are quite obnoxious little Puritans.
So much goes on in the background. It bit like living in the neigbourhood.
The movie is made up of daily small events, one after the other, with a slow heavy pace.
My review gives no hint why the movie is so good. It the opposite of Hollywood, the opposite of contrived, the opposite of make believe.
Understanding the heart of a Nazi Bureaucrat
The film consists entirely of a meeting of high level Nazi officers planning exactly how they will exterminate all of Europe's Jews. On one level it is as boring as watching a meeting of the board of ConAgra plotting the more efficient slaughter of cattle. It is surprisingly easy to forget they are talking about the efficient murder of millions of people. They cloak everything in vague, undefined euphemisms.
All the characters are real people. The dialogue comes from a transcript of the meeting. In the credits they tell you want happened to each of them. All had some sort of unpleasant end, even if it were just being held in jail for years on charges of war crimes.
Why did these people collaborate with Hitler? They saw Hitler's absolute power, and did whatever they had to do to climb up in the hierarchy, which included pretending to despise Jews passionately. Moral people had no real choice but to get out of the country.
I kept expecting the kitchen staff to poison these villains, or blow them to bits. But no such thing happened. The movie had to conform with history.