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The Machine (2013)
Good sci-fi romp massacred by the music
Sci-Fi is one of the most poorly represented genres in cinema... especially in the last 25 years.
All the other 'types' of movies have hundreds of titles to choose from so we don't see the same thing over and over... but not science fiction.
Sure there are plenty of science fiction films that have been made but they are almost all rubbish.
If you look at a list of top 50 sci-fi movies from any website (including this one) you'll find that there are almost non on the list that were made in the last couple of decades.
The Machine bucks this trend by actually being a very watchable story. Unfortunately it's not 'listenable.'
The incidental music sounds like it was ripped from an episode of The Equalizer. It's a bloody awful, over-synthesized noise.
That's why I deducted 2 stars from what would have been a worthy '9' star flick.
The whole grating 80's noise made the film too difficult to properly enjoy... although I did watch it twice because (without the torturous grind of the moog) it was an excellent story.
Enjoyable fantasy yarn...
I don't know how this six part fantasy-drama slipped past everyone. It was a decent and enjoyable romp through the afterlives of two seemingly normal people.
Maeve and Mark meet different ends and come together in a kind of semi-earthly limbo. They can talk to people they have never known but what is said is almost immediately forgotten. They can't communicate at all with anyone they knew during their lives.
Each episode wraps up nicely, although there is a six part story to keep track of.
The dramatic twists focus around the relatives and friends of the two deceased protagonists. The seemingly bad are actually revealed as good and the angelic have secrets to hide!
The chemistry between the leads seems a bit forced at times, but it's a minor quibble which didn't disturb the general course of events too much.
Like another reviewer (There are only two so far!) I watched all of the episodes back to back propped up on a pillow!
I was often wishing that they would have had fun with their abilities but the series takes itself quite seriously and there aren't any laughs to be had at all.
The crisp direction meant that each episode was over without me realizing that an hour was up, so despite the lack of humor, I still came out the other end satisfied and happy that I'd watched it all.
Äkta människor (2012)
Best Sci-Fi TV Program in years!
The reviews already posted are accurate and well reasoned. There's no point in repeating them.
I found out about this series whilst reading reviews on another similar program on American TV called 'Almost Human.' I mistakenly downloaded a few episodes of that and couldn't get past 15 minutes of the first episode. It was dire... I mean really puerile, infantile and deathly embarrassingly crappy!
But instead of stabbing myself in the eyes, I decided to give "Äkta människor" a try...
It's the best ten hours of Sci-Fi telly I have seen since New Zealand TV released "This Is Not My Life" a couple of years ago. Check that one out if you love sci-fi that is aimed for a focused, intelligent audience.
Watching Äkta människor is like reading an Azimov book.
If subtitles are too much of a hassle for you, then you won't like it... If you like guns and bombs and computer generated gizmos, then you won't like it... If you are an American currently enjoying the stupid 'Blacklist' or equally insulting 'Almost Human' then you won't like it... if you are under 25, you won't like it...
If you like thoughtful, intelligent sci-fi, you'll love it.
Bounty Killer (2013)
Mad Max... but better!
Only two reviews? Wow! This is the first movie of the year (2013) that hasn't annoyed me in some way.
The only way I can think of to describe this movie is to say that it's like being 15 years old and reading a really great comic book.
It's huge fun and all way over the top. Perhaps the frenetic pace and 'blaxploitation' style of cinematography won't sit easy with some... but for me it was the first movie of the year that I sat through without rolling my eyes at the stupidity of it... which is in a sense ironic because this caper is as daft as they come!
The film embraces every cliché of the 70's grindhouse era of B movies and comes through with a fun filled, classic romp.
Beverly D'Angelo and Gary Busey play small parts with relish and there are a few other faces you'll recognize, too.
Stick around for some bloopers during the final credits...
First rate fun!
Worthy drama of early WW2
"The Imitation Game" is about a headstrong and intelligent teenager, Cathy Raine, (played by one of Britain's national treasures, Harriet Walter, CBE), and takes place during the early stages of World War Two.
Defying her family and fiancé, she joins the short lived ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) to 'do her bit' for queen and country and also to escape the maddening boredom of her life at home. Her personality is caught between the Suffragette movement which gave women the vote and 'women's lib' which gave them an opinion to go with it!
She unwittingly gets transferred to Bletchley Park as a punishment for kneeing a publican (bar owner) in the nuts, where she is put on 'general duties.' But her quest to find out what she's been doing for the war effort leads her into trouble...
It's a BBC drama made in 1980 so you can expect a top notch cast and high production values. There are plenty of faces you'll recognize. The mournful piano melodies of Mozart keep everything together. Even 33 years on it still holds up very well.
It saddens me that there's just one review (mine) for this timeless and important piece of art and hundreds for some of the most forgettable dross on TV! Anyway, worth a watch if only to see Hyacinth Bucket in an army uniform!
Warm Bodies (2013)
Best (color) Zombie Movie I've seen
A wicked sense of humor elevates this movie but the other aspects are all strong, too. Evil monsters called 'The Bonies' are genuinely scary, the comedy is funny (and well hidden in parts) the drama and love story are convincing.
If you like 'An American Werewolf In London' then you'll like this.
My hopes were low... I don't like zombie movies and teen flicks just annoy me, but the opening narrative from the leading man soon had me in a different mood altogether.
Highly intelligent script, comedic timing and a superb direction are the icing on the cake. Much funnier than (the massively over-rated) Shaun Of The Dead.
The irony of R (Nicholas Hoult) looking at a magazine with Kim Kardashian on the cover with a confused expression on his 'Edward Scissorhands' face is priceless. But I have a feeling that it's intent will fly above the heads of it's intended audience.
...and finally, a shout out for the terrific sound track. Any movie that finds time for a classic Bob Dylan track (Shelter From The Storm) is all right by me, and there are another 20 or so audio clips that were all funny, appropriate and most importantly of all... NOT ANNOYING!
A Sense of Guilt (1990)
A Sense Of Guilt is a gripping drama which has aged quite nicely over the past 25 years. Although it was sent out by the BBC in 1990, it has a late 70's feel to it.
Trevor Eve is at his best here, playing the part of a writer, Felix Cramer, approaching middle age and suffering from writers block. But his other bodily functions work just fine as he launches into an intense affair with the 18 year old daughter (Rudi Davies) of his best mate, Richard (Jim Carter.)
She's on her way to Sussex university and is seemingly a well adjusted, smart teen falling hopelessly in love with a manipulative and altogether nasty piece of work played with skill and restraint by Eve.
Both these middle class families are a bit... complicated and have various problems outside this affair but when the young Sally gets pregnant the simmering tensions of fragile friendships are put to the test...
Sexy Evil Genius (2013)
Terrific play... engrossing film...
Why hasn't this movie gotten more reviews? (11 at the last count!) Well, it went straight to DVD, that's why. But that's a shame because it's a corker of a script and deserves a wider audience.
A capable cast leads the audience through a twisty turny plot involving the ex-lovers of Nikki, a 'sexy evil genius.' She gathers them together in a bar for mysterious reasons that she baits them with through their meeting... but nothing is as it seems and no-one can be sure whether or not she's telling the truth. Come to think of it, there are questions of 'the truth' about her ex-lovers too.
Key to the story is the question of her sanity, the veracity of which is cleverly shuffled throughout the dialog. What is real and what is imagined... what is believed to have happened and what has actually happened.
The state of Nikki's mental health (don't call her Nik!) would explain her motives but we never know what that is or what they are till the end.
The ensemble cast all help create an electric atmosphere but when Katee Sackhoff is let off her leash she steals it.
If you enjoyed the intelligent screenplay, brisk pace and edgy atmosphere of Glengarry Glenross then you'll get a pleasant evenings entertainment from this.
Life's Too Short (2011)
The Special (March 2013) is special!
(A minor spoiler foots this review.)
There are enough comments on here that do the series fair credit but this is a review of the special that aired in March 2013.
It's the best episode so far and is an hour long. Warwick Davis, a brief appearance by Gervais and Merchant, a splendid performance by Val Kilmer and the trio of England's supposed heroes of a past era of TV entertainment (Shaun Williamson, Les Dennis and Keith Chegwin) join forces with the brain dead secretary and dreadful accountant to deliver a laugh out loud treat...
...but the real screaming genius of this episode is Keith Chegwin. Why on earth he isn't signed up for more acting performances and comedy roles is anyone's guess, but in this episode of Life's Too Short he owns the whole show. His face can convey more laughs when it isn't even moving than probably any other actor working today. If he doesn't get some kind of a nod during the awards season then there is an injustice going on.
His teaming and timing with Williamson and Dennis is masterly and the three of them provide a showcasing of talent. There's more comedic genius in these three than there is in the entire casts of the all the dreadful situation comedies that have been churned out on TV in the last five years. I can think of no exceptions.
Also - Gervais and Merchant show that they have lost none of their ingeniousness when they are writing together... long may they run.
My only quibble was the way that our three heroes turned their backs on Warwick at the end... however it was a move that propelled the whole wrap up so I suppose I can't complain.
WPC 56 (2013)
Z Cars is on... Put the kettle on, love!
The beautiful Jennie Jacques plays the lead role of WPC Gina Dawson. Although the series revolves around her there are many intelligently woven threads in the plot that give all the other players a good chunk of airtime, too. None of them disappoint, either. Things wind up nicely after five episodes but there's still a little wriggle room for another series and I, for one, hope that their is.
After all the time and trouble that the producers, cast and crew went to, to get this right I'm surprised that this was aired just after lunch during the week where probably not many people got the chance to see it. That was an extremely irresponsible decision by the faceless suits at the beeb who think they know something about television.
The story is well paced and intelligently laid out. The details, language and props were first rate and appropriate. The cast, photography and script were also all top notch. This is intelligent television drama... something the Americans are becoming good at and which we Brits have rather lost our way on.
Much, much better than that dreadful garbage, Prime suspect.
Lo imposible (2012)
Made for Lifetime...
The 3 stars are for the effects.
Dreadful "Made for Lifetime" movie. Better suited to women on a Sunday night while husbands are watching the playoffs upstairs!
No time at all was spent on the actual tsunami build up. It just suddenly happens and then it's over. We are treated to about 5 minutes of CGI effects within the opening 20 minutes. The rest of this film follows people around who are looking for other people.
How anyone could believe that the gorgeous actress had ever had three kids... well, you get the idea.
If you like overly melodramatic slush then this may hold some appeal.
Just because it actually happened and/or is true to how it went down doesn't mean that 50 million bucks should be spent turning it into movie.
This movie is awful all round and badly managed from start to finish.
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Jaws 4, Grease 2 and now this...
A mushy script and an abomination of a story makes this the worst sequel of the last 25 years. Everything is wrong with this movie so there's no point in writing a list. Whoever read this screenplay and thought that this would appeal to anyone over nine years old should be banished from movie making for life. It's as if the producers had a meeting and took all the best parts of super hero movies... and burned them! There's a reason why Sally Field doesn't do movies and she shows off those reasons admirably in this filth. I'm a life long fan of Denis Leary but I'm watching his next professional move very closely. Is he going to perform a Steve Martin on his fans?
The Newsroom (2012)
Jeff Daniels is the good news!
Jeff Daniels keeps this from being dreadful. He's sublime as a powerful and sadistic, unfeeling news anchor. His screen time (and there's plenty of it) is great telly. The cast is talented and obviously there is much investment into production values. The stories that pertain to the news (although liberal in a loud and pompous way) are something to sail along with while Daniels is at the helm.
But that's where it ends.
The absolutely dreadful melodramatic dross that underscores this series makes it close to un-watchable. Feeble minded workers with feeble minded love lives and dreadful characters (that I hoped would get shot) ultimately wreck this ship.
There are so many examples of the stupidity of this show but here's the one I found the most repellent... one chap likes a girl but is sleepwalked into dating her room-mate. The room mate likes 'Sex In The City' so the chap who doesn't really like her decides to gen up on SITC by taking an open top tour bus which travels around New York telling all the insipid fans of the show how great having sex in New York is when you are getting old. The girl of his dreams gets emotional and just happens to come across this bus and unleashes a loud and annoying diatribe at all the CITC fans and wouldn't you know it... our hero hears it all and pops up to save the day.
Anyway - it's over now and hopefully there won't be any more!
Worth the suffering for Larry Hagman
I'm 52... well, I was when I wrote this! I remember not only that JR was shot but that it had made the staid and rather conservative 9 o clock news on the BBC! Thus was the impact that this show had on it's UK audience! A FICTIONAL murder had made headlines on the national news.
Fast forward to the internet age and a new (less patient and more sophisticated) audience!
First - THANK YOU for keeping the original theme music and the opening graphics which were identical to the original but updated with newer cameras and of course... wide screen!
Another nod to the past was the highlight of plush interiors and lavish exterior shots. The show is, well... beautiful! And of course so are all the people in it...
(Finally a thank you for including Charlene Tilton. She was too often overlooked in the original series' but I always thought she was easily the most, erm... 'do-able' bird in the nest!)
Unfortunately, all the new characters are pretty unlikable. By which I mean - I didn't care either way if they got screwed over or did the screwing over! Of course, with a younger demographic footing the bills for TNT it was written and marketed towards a more youthful television viewer. But that said, the brilliant TV series "REVENGE" had more of the Dallas 'feel' about it than this offering did.
But a salvage crew was on hand, lead by the masterful and simply wonderful octogenarian Larry Hagman. Thankfully he had enough screen time and managed to keep me hooked. (How is this man even alive?) Others from the original series were equally welcome and really, that's why I stuck with it.
The premise of this outing is a bit preposterous and there's pretty much no subtlety to the direction of the plot. But the cast are capable and do a great job... It's not them that fail to make this series happen.
There are basically two elements missing for me... first is the characters. I didn't like any of them! Young beautiful people mired in melodrama and self absorbed lust for themselves. Not attractive! Second was the lack of a decent story.
That said... If Larry Hagman returns for a second series, I won't miss a second of it!
Citizen Khan (2012)
Truly, truly horrible!
From the loud and overbearing laughter track to the insipid unoriginal script, this awful 'comedy' never takes off.
The sets are obviously scenery and the acting is downright insulting. How on earth this stuff gets made by the BBC is just anyone's guess. Certainly there is no serious selection process or editing of the writing. In addition; the characters are repellent and the viewer is insulted by the feeble generic story-line.
There have already been a couple of hundred complaints about it to the BBC from fun-hating Muslims but my chief objection to this abomination is that it's simply not funny. But it's worse than not funny. It's a throwback to American sitcoms of the early 70s that were written, made and on the air in a day.
If you like children' pantomime they you'll get a kick out of this. If you like comedy then stay well clear of this rubbish.
Great drama - not so great comedy!
The work of Kerry Godliman (especially) and Karl Pilkington save this short drama. But, naturally, the focus is on Ricky Gervais... and he, too, has moments of greatness here.
Unfortunately, for the most part, the title character is more annoying than affable. It's probable that this is even intentional. Derek doesn't need to trot around and the facial impediment is too distracting. In addition, a setback for the viewer is that we know the actor outside of this character too well and we can't escape from Ricky Gervais the man.
The fall in the pond is unnecessary and his wordy explanations to camera are also in need of a more pithy approach. It's unlikely that someone with Derek's personality would be so at ease with the documentary film crew. (Is it even necessary at all to film the program in this way?)
But that said; I love Ricky Gervais and despite my petty gripes, this is still masterful work. The music, direction and settings are perfect. Karl's office alone should get an award!
I hope the series gets made. I watched the pilot twice - the second time to study Godliman. She was absolutely perfect. My advice to Ricky (as an unqualified nobody who has done nothing of significance, ever!) is to dump the comedy in Derek and write a six part drama.
Better than Dexter!
This is 'Dynasty' or 'Dallas' for a new millennium. It follows a highly implausible plot which doesn't matter. The script, scenery and actors are the strengths of this show. There isn't even a weak link. If you like Dexter then you'll LOVE Revenge. I like Dexter but some of the satellite characters are simply annoying. Not so here.
Special kudos to Madeleine Stowe who is the bitch of the century! What makes her especially interesting is that we can read the vulnerability and fragile social tightrope she walks on behind those beautiful ice cold eyes! But it is Gabriel Mann and his phenomenal performance as Nolan Ross that keeps me tuning in each week. How this character even got written into the show is probably a miracle in itself but the show wouldn't be the same without it!
Maybe the most compulsive US network drama I've ever seen.
An annoying UK version of 'House.'
Hmmm... It's a (much needed, wink wink!) medical drama set in a hospital! The show is named after the 'brilliant' neurosurgeon who is a cynical, damaged but genius doctor who is constantly at odds with his colleagues and authority... Can YOU guess the name of the show? Well, you're wrong. It's called Monroe and it's an annoying copy of the US show House. But this time we have to endure an hour of a smug and antagonistic showoff who insists on telling everyone how good he is, rather than letting us find out for ourselves! If you can get past the awful British accents and the clichéd cast of supporting roles then you'll probably get stymied by the adolescent script and implausible story line...
One junior doctor says this to her boss at the end of an exhausting operation... "Coo - where did you learn to suture so fast!" Plenty of other annoyances, too. One patient buys his wife fruit knowing that she hates fruit because Monroe thinks it'll save their relationship, lots of students humiliated by their 'fantastic' God-like masters, scores of people in immaculate white coats whizzing importantly by and of course there is the fast walking conversations with people appearing from corridors to join in the fun. It's more like a well choreographed Andrew Lloyd Webber production...
It would be funny if it were a parody of House. It's rather sad that it isn't and that it actually got through the planning stages.
Outcasts - An insipid rubbishy soap opera on a space ship. It's just horrible and an embarrassing cringe-worthy concoction of stereotypical characters with about as much depth as the cast of Friends. What a tragic waste of money and a colossal let down for Sci Fi fans.
The script is so SO bad, you had better start slapping your forehead right now just to get used to doing it when you see this drivel. There are absolutely NO redeeming features in this shallow infantile and puerile disaster.
How any of this shambles ever got through the planning stages at the BBC is more of an interesting mystery to me than anything the idiots on the screen could summon up.
I weep when I see potentially good ideas in the Sci Fi genre get murdered like this. Stick with Blakes 7.
Terrific smooth drama...
The idea of taking a team of British actors and placing them in a crime fighting scenario in another European country can have mixed results. It worked with Maigret and it didn't work with Wallander.
It DOES work with Zen. Whether or not it adheres to Michael Dibdin's novels I don't know because I haven't read them.
Visually this series is a treat. The men are impeccably dressed and all look like James Bond! The stories themselves aren't going to win any awards but the journey is nonetheless an enjoyable and satisfactory one.
If you're worn down by the usual shaky-cam stupidity of most modern trashy UK drama featuring the hyper-melodramatic plot lines and scripts with the usual, overly used actors and you need a reassuringly glossy and understated look into a world of low key drama then Zen is for you.
Not masterfully intelligent but neither is it insultingly cringe-worthy.
ZEN is a thoroughly enjoyable drama and a refreshing change of pace.
Only three reviews?
This first rate slapstick comedy from the delightful Ms Hart now into its' second season. The joy of watching this is that everyone is a likable character even when they are not really supposed to be.
The 'round ups' at the end of each episode where everyone comes together to wave goodbye to the audience are a real treat.
If you are like me and find women simply 'un-funny' (which they are - especially when they are trying to be funny) then put those naughty misgivings aside and watch this show.
The general premise of the show is the 'on again, off again' flirtation between Miranda and the chef who works next door and the insane competitions between Miranda and her mental joke shop manager.
The cast of character actors are truly gifted and add great support to the madcap merriment of each episode.
The best new British TV comedy to hit the small screen in years.
The Walking Dead (2010)
This nosedives after episode three!
Oh, what a tragedy... Not that the world has been decimated by an unknown source. Not that the world is over run with scary and deadly 'walkers.' It's a tragedy that after three thrilling episodes of terrific action, this AMC TV production has nosedived into melodramatic mush.
It's as if, after week three, someone said "Hmmm. This is way too good for a TV production. Let's dumb it down for the teenagers and idiots out there!" Where as before there was action, drama, great characters and a riveting story line that included lots of scary bits, now it's just a bunch of argumentative and petulant idiots sitting round a campfire either arguing or crying.
What an absolutely wasted opportunity for AMC to do something great for a starving TV audience. SHAME ON YOU.
Downton Abbey: Episode #1.1 (2010)
(I'll edit this review as I see more episodes. There are seven.) It's 'Upstairs Downstairs' all over again! The new series, Downton Abbey, is bound to draw parallels from its' almost 40 year old inspiration but has so far proved itself worthy of the challenge.
Writer Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) has created interesting and likable characters without the need to submerge them into over emotional dialog and performances. Much of what is 'said' is done with body language alone.
Much of the first episode gets some of the family history, legal status and staff hierarchy details out of the way.
As you can expect the cast and acting is first rate and the photography, scenery and attention to detail is perfect. The script (so far) is not insulting or annoying... which is a pleasant surprise.
After being continually disappointed by the quality of British TV drama over the last few years with it's insipid devotion to a teenage audience it's very satisfying to be able to report that this one finally seems to be headed for an intelligent, discerning and adult audience.
Get your best china out, cut the crusts off those cucumber sandwiches, relax into the Chesterfield and enjoy! Sunday nights in front of the box are back!
This Is Not My Life (2010)
The best sci-fi series since the original Star Trek has begun...
I've only seen the first four episodes but if the remaining nine are similar then intelligent Sci-Fi lovers have finally found something to look forward to. Much better than the likable yet confusing 'Life On Mars.' More comprehensible than the silly melodramatic 'Heroes.' This TV series is from New Zealand so you'll have to be, erm... creative in how you get a hold of this series. I suspect that this will change, though, and world wide distribution will follow quickly.
This Is Not My Life is an absorbing sci fi drama featuring Charles Mesure, Tandi Wright, and Miriama McDowell. It is set in the future in a Utopian leafy suburb of Waimoana in New Zealand.
Don't let the fact that it's a TV program from NZ put you off. The production features some fine international heavyweights and UK viewers especially will enjoy this. The American fans of network TV are gonna be left wondering when the bombs and bullets are ever gonna start so they won't like this at all.
The script is top notch and you'll have to listen to every word because there is no exposition thrown out for an inattentive teenage crowd.
The clever placement of gadgets and gizmos are blended into the unfolding drama and not thrown in your face. The dialog is seductively menacing and at times chilling to listen to.
Pencils and paper are things of the past. The 'greenies' and tree huggers won! 'Carbon credits' for driving and flying are a privilege and you'll get a stern finger wagging if you go overdrawn.
The performances, direction and effects are universally solid. There was an annoying moment when the little girl was running down the hall away from her father and it was obvious to the dead that she was looking directly at someone and not where she was running, but maybe I'm quibbling.
I'll leave you to figure out the story for yourself... much like the lead in the story is having to do! If you are a fan of John Wyndham then you'll ease right into this.
My personal view is that if this standard of programming can sustain itself for the entire series then it will be as important for science fiction as the original series of Star Trek.
If it loses direction, gets sentimental or silly then it will be forgotten very quickly.
But for the moment I am for the first time in decades genuinely thrilled about watching science fiction on TV...
Role Models (2008)
Contrived yet witty...
Inspired by the real reviews on this website (not the obviously fake mail ins from the interns working at the film studios) I gave this a viewing.
The real star here is the script which is laugh out loud funny sometimes. The story is dreadful and everything about this movie is implausible but it still works because of the insane characters and superbly crisp screenplay.
I don't like the Sandler and Stiller type comedies because I'm British and we're above all that, right? But every now and then something in the mainstream film factory gets through that is worth a couple of hours of my time and this one was one of them.
It's not great movie making but it's a fun ride nonetheless.