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Shadey (1985)
Most peculiar - you might just enjoy it but you won't know why.
27 May 1999
This is a bizarre little English film centering around the exploits of a bizarre little man who has the ability to transmit telepathic film images from his mind. A number of dodgy looking characters wish to exploit this ability and it's not exactly for the common good. The eponymous Shadey is reluctant to help but is coerced through the obvious ploys of force and bribery. The baddies (or are they goodies, it's difficult to tell) finally get their way after agreeing to pay for Shadey's longed for sex change operation.

There are some genuinely funny moments in this film as well as a couple of quite shocking ones. Antony Sher, Katherine Helmond and Billie Whitelaw are all as excellent as would be expected and the support cast endeavour to be either solid and likeable (or not, depending on their status as goody or baddy) or instantly forgettable. The plot twists are quite clever and the script rather charming but I get the feeling that it all could have amounted to so much more.

If you come across this film in whatever television guide you read you might like to give it a chance - even if just for curiosity's sake. Also to see how delightfully ladylike Antony Sher looks in the closing scene.
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Wonderfully surreal, bizarrely humourous and sod all to do with vampires.
6 January 1999
This is no ordinary musical. The plot is simple enough: Maxwell Randall (the Green Baize Vampire) is six times world snooker champion and Billy Kid is the cocky young upstart looking to steal his crown. Add to them T.O. (The One), Billy's wide boy manager, the Wednesday Man, to whom T.O. owes a large gambling debt, and Miss Sullivan, a trouble making journalist, and there you have it (apart from two sets of hangers on who make up the chorus). Basically, Maxwell wants to set up a grudge match (the loser will never play professional snooker again), the Wednesday Man tricks T.O. into accepting the challenge by assuring him that Maxwell will not be "at his best", and Billy finds that he has been set up to lose.

What makes this peculiar film work is the stark, to-the-point direction of Alan Clarke (responsible for such hard hitting productions as "Scum" and "The Firm") the rock/opera influenced music of the highly respected composer George Fenton ("The Madness of King George", "Cry Freedom", "Gandhi" etc.) and the clever scripting and original lyrics of Trevor Preston. Take into account three wonderfully tongue-in-cheek central performances from Phil Daniels (Billy), Alun Armstrong (Maxwell) and Bruce Payne (T.O.) and you have the ingredients for what I am quite happy to admit is my all time favourite film. There are those who may say that Clarke, Fenton, Daniels, Armstrong and Payne must have taken leave of their senses to agree to do such a downright weird project in the first place (I have a feeling that at least one of the above might even agree with those detractors) but I can't see anything wrong with a musical about snooker that includes references to Bela Lugosi and arcade games, has characters tangoing about and shooting snooker balls into pockets with the help of a revolver and basically, sends itself up with obvious glee.

I'd be the first to admit that the three lead actors have all done a great deal more admirable work than this. I've seen Alun Armstrong in countless stage productions and he never fails to impress. Bruce Payne was nothing short of breathtaking in Steven Berkoff's "Greek" and Phil Daniels as Alex in the RSC's "A Clockwork Orange" is still one of the most outstanding performances I've ever seen from any actor, on any stage, anywhere. However, I will always remain particularly fond of the off-the-wall characters that the three brought to life in this wonderful film and I don't care what anyone else says, I think it's just great.

If you haven't already seen "Billy the Kid & the Green Baize Vampire" you'll be extremely lucky if you ever do. It was first shown on UK television in the mid-eighties and has, I think, been repeated just once. Zenith Productions sold the rights (or whatever it is they do) some time ago and, search as I may, I've been unable to locate it. I'm just grateful that I had the forethought to tape it when Channel Four showed it all those years ago and only hope that my VCR never gets hungry and chews it up!

My enthusiasm for this film probably does no more than give it a one woman cult following but if there are any more odd little "BTK..." fans out there, please add your comments; it'd be comforting to know that I'm not alone.
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Megan Follows IS Anne Shirley & Jonathan Crombie IS Gilbert Blythe
30 December 1998
For those of us who have loved L.M. Montgomery's books as both children and adults every depiction of them is very closely scrutinised. This Kevin Sullivan production is the only one that has come up to scratch, which isn't surprising as earlier attempts have failed abysmally (one even had Diana played by an insipid blonde!).But with faithful scripting, inspired casting, excellent direction and beautiful camera work, there is simply nothing negative to be said about this show. Sullivan sticks very closely to the original book and all the characters, from the central ones right down to those we hardly ever see, such as silly Ruby Gillis and spiteful Josie Pye, are superbly and sensitively observed by the actors portraying them.

I have read and re-read many favourite books but never before have I found myself imagining the characters as the actors who played them on screen - especially having read the books at least twice over before seeing any production of them. The highest complement I can pay to the cast of Sullivan's "Anne of Green Gables" is that any previous images I might have had of these much loved characters were wiped out of mind by their wonderful depictions of them. Richard Farnsworth, Colleen Dewhurst, Schuyler Grant, Jonathan Crombie and Patricia Hamilton were all brilliant. As for Megan Follows - well, what can I say? She is a truly wonderful actress (not only on the strength of this performance) and no one could ever match her portrayal of Anne Shirley.

One last thing - if there are any fans of "The Kids in the Hall" reading this watch out for Bruce McCulloch as Fred Wright... you'll fall out of your chair! (And Dave Foley has a cameo in the sequel).
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Entertaining, tongue-in-cheek and superbly acted.
29 December 1998
Although this wasn't strictly a comedy, John Cusack's performance gave me the impression that he could really make us split our sides if he chose to. He's a first class dramatic actor but this film gives us a glimpse of his humourous side and his undestated style would be perfect for the type of sophisticated humour that we on the other side of the pond really appreciate.

I could wax lyrical about Dan Ackroyd and Minnie Driver as they also put in two fine performances but there is too much to say to be dwelling on the support cast. The music was brilliant from beginning to end and I especially liked the little bit of "business" between Cusack and Driver when she answered her front door just as The Specials began to sing "You're Wondering Now". In case anyone was wondering why she said "You can't come in" in a faux West Indian accent I shall let you in on the reason. This track (the final one on The Specials' brilliant first album) begins with someone knocking on a door and a voice saying "You can't come in". So there you go, a useless little piece of trivia for you.

Special mention must go to the scene in which Cusack stares at the baby and the baby stares right back. Just listen closely to the lyrics that David Bowie is singing at that point. It's a sincerely beautiful moment in a rather dark, violent film.

If anyone reading this can get a message to John Cusack please tell him this. On the London stage in recent years we've had Dustin Hoffman, Steve Guttenberg, Stockard Channing, John Malkovich, Kevin Spacey and Nicole Kidman. I would love to see Cusack follow their lead as he's one of the finest actors (British, American or otherwise) that I've ever seen. And if he could possibly bring James Spader with him then my theatre going life would be complete.

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003)
You don't have to be a teenager to enjoy this show.
29 December 1998
BTVS is by far the best drama show to travel across the ocean from the States in a helluva long time. It cleverly combines horror, comedy, drama and romance to great effect. The writing, directing and acting are all top notch and it never takes itself too seriously. You get the sense that the actors sincerely enjoy doing the show and this shines through in the performances of every one of them.

For those of you reading this in the UK, if you don't already know, BTVS has just started on BBC2 on Wednesday evenings. If you've not seen it already on SKY then give it a go, I'm sure you won't regret it.

Just one last thing - Not only is Juliet Landau beautifully chilling as Drusilla but her London accent is spot on; she's right up there with Robert Downey Jr ("Chaplin") and Gwyneth Paltrow ("Sliding Doors"). As a Londoner might say "Stroll on sister!" - the girl done good.
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More useful as a travelogue than a movie
10 December 1998
First let me say that I can think of no community in West Kerry who would treat a retarded person in the despicable manner depicted in this film. The behaviour of the characters merely reinforces age old stereotypes of Irish peasants as thugs and half-wits. Added to this a remarkably tedious plot and you have the ingredients for a complete waste of time.

However, I can highly recommend "Ryan's Daughter" for no other reason than an opportunity to see some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. But better still would be to visit Kerry and see it for yourself.
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A tense thriller that is not (despite popular belief) impossible to follow.
8 December 1998
I would like to reiterate what "Anonymous of Derby, England" said about this film (20th November). The fact that so many people have complained that they "didn't get it" is proof that our brains are being atrophied by so many movies that do all our thinking for us. I had no trouble in following the plot and found the fact that I actually had to concentrate and think things through quite refreshing. Okay, so a lot of the stunts were a bit far fetched but what does it matter when they were so entertaining? After all, it is only a movie; nobody expects us to believe that these things could really happen any more than they expect us to believe that King Kong really existed or that there's a Volcano ready to errupt in L.A. Besides, with the inspired casting of David Schneider as the train driver, Brian de Palma must have had his tongue in his cheek for at least some of the time. He's created a masterful boy's own adventure story, an original "ripping yarn" and that brilliant comic touch added to this perfectly.

"Mission Impossible" is a visual and cerebral treat. Tom Cruise is excellent as Ethan, Vanessa Redgrave makes a superb villian and Jean Reno is watchable in ANYTHING he does. The only weak link is Emmanuelle Beart, who did a good job of looking beautiful but very little else. What a shame Kristin Scott Thomas couldn't have taken a more central role; she makes the gorgeous but bland Beart look like a waste of space.

I give this 8 out of ten and it would have been more if it wasn't for Beart's character.
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Labyrinth (1986)
I wish someone had handed me over to the Goblin King when I was a kid!
7 December 1998
Cool film! Way too good for children. Jim Henson, as ever, is the absolute master of every kind of puppetry known to man or muppet.Particularly adorable is the little punk worm who invites Sarah to "Come inside and meet the missus"... very cute. The plot has all the essential elements of a good fairy tale with the added bonus of a heroine who manages to get through all her trials and tribulations without squealing feebly or fainting into the arms of any poxy bloke. David Bowie is wonderfully sexy (despite the fright wig) and his natural humour shines through although his character does a pretty good job of being spiteful and menacing. I get the feeling the he really enjoyed making this film. The soundtrack is excellent and "As the World Falls Down" is quite hauntingly beautiful ('though I have to agree with an earlier reviewer that the ballroom sequence in which it was played did slow the action down a little - but it was a visual feast).

All in all, a beautiful film with a wonderful cast of creatures and humans. Makes me miss Jim Henson's talents lots but at least we've still got Brian (his son). My friend's three year old now has a crush on the Goblin King (I dread to think how that's gonna shape her life!).
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Richard III (1995)
One of the worst Shakespeare adaptations I've ever seen!
2 December 1998
From the moment Ian McKellan (one of my all time favourite actors) began the famous opening speech in a ridiculous Winston Churchill drawl, I was appalled. Half way through the speech, which should NEVER be delivered to an audience, he wandered off at a tangent, omitting essential details about his plan to set his brother up as the murderer of King Edward ("Plots have I laid. Inductions dangerous / By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams / to set my brother Clarence and the king / In deadly hate the one against the other." etc). When the action moves on to Anne's "Set down your honourable load" speech at her husband's funeral we find that there's no one else to set down anything as she's alone in a morgue. I mean, I'm all for changing things around a bit, trying something different, but there's a limit to how much people should muck around with the few stage directions that Shakespeare indicated. Next, and most heinous of all, the language has been screwed up. Example, Lady Anne is supposed to say "Foul devil for God's sake hence and trouble us not / for thou hast made the happy Earth thy hell / filled it with cursing cries and deep exclaims." The lines that the excellent Kristin Scott-Thomas is compelled to deliver are "Foul devil for God's sake hence and trouble ME not / For YOU have made the happy Earth YOUR hell" etc. It is an insult to Shakespeare and to the intelligence of anyone watching this film to assume that we won't understand the original language.

It was at this point that, in danger of being unable to overcome the desire to put my foot through the screen, I switched of this terrible production. I tried switching back a few times (I know the text well enough to just "dip in" without losing the plot) but the film's total lack of respect for Shakespeare continued to make me see red. Although it's years too late to actually see the stage production, if you want an idea of the respect and love with which this play should be treated, I suggest you read Antony Sher's brilliant Richard diaries "The Year of the King". The preparation of the RSC's excellent production of this masterpiece is a far more compelling read than sitting through this bastardised film version.

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Knocks spots off "The Full Monty"
1 December 1998
From the moment the opening credits began to role I knew that I would enjoy this film. It's fast paced, wittily scripted, brilliantly filmed and non-stop hilarious from beginning to end. It appears to be a send up of the whole gangster mentality but manages to be disturbingly realistic at the same time (I know - I've met characters like many of those depicted). The violence may seem over the top but is more in the "Tom & Jerry" mould than a typical big screen gore-fest. What's more, it's never dwelt on but simply adds to the overall effect of extremely dark comedy.

The acting, especially from Nick Moran (Eddie) and PH Moriarty (Hatchett Harry) is top notch and Vinnie Jones is a revelation. Having seen him from just a few rows back on the football terraces, I've known for years that the man has a certain presence that demands your attention - even when he hasn't got another player's vitals in a vice-like grip! It's great to see that this has transferred onto the big screen where, yet again, it's difficult to keep your eyes off him, no matter who else is on the screen. Admittedly the role of Big Chris hardly stretched him but it's a start and it remains to be seen whether he'll ever tackle something more challenging (one of Shakespeare's many clowns would be interesting). Anyway, enough about Vinnie.

The almost surreal humour of the film was brought to the fore in the barman's scene (played by Danny John-Jules of "Red Dwarf" fame). It was hard to know what to pay most attention to: the subtitles at the bottom of the screen or the scene being played out behind it. The overall effect was quite literally shockingly funny and for those not well versed in Cockney dialect (yes -it is an actual dialect) it's worth seeing again until you've mastered the language and can enjoy the full effect of the action.

With a body count more akin to a Jacobean tragedy than a Hollywood blockbuster, and the black wit and class acting to match, "Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" reminds me of Danny Boyle's early days directing for the Royal Shakespeare Company before he went on to bigger and better things ("Shallow Grave" & "Trainspotting"). I'm sure he and his regular crew of writers, camera men (sorry, should that be camera persons?) and actors would be proud to have made a film such as this, which I hope those who were involved would take as a compliment.

Well, that's about it, I s'pose. All I can say now is.... "It's been emotional".
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