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10/10
Don't Miss This Superb TV Show
22 October 2006
Forget any preconceptions you may have about the old Battlestar Galactica TV series from the late 1970s. In this ingenious adaptation of the original series, we have a few new fresh angles (Cylons, originally created by humans, have evolved into 11 separate human models of which there are many duplicates). As before, it's basically a chase story - following the destruction of 12 human colonies by the Cylons, what remains of the human race begins a search of the galaxies for the 13th colony: Earth.

Nothing about Battlestar Galactica is predicable. The sometimes labyrinthine plot takes a standard human race in peril format and builds in new levels of paranoia, several very complex story threads and sometimes almost Shakesperean character arcs. There is also several surprisingly effective and mysterious quasi-religious elements weaved into the whole thing which make Galactica fresh and completely unique.

Finely acted and produced, this series is consistently suspenseful and dramatically rewarding. Edward James Olmos brings gravitas to the role of Adama and Mary McDonnell is excellent as the new President of the human race. Watch out too for the marvellous James Callis who plays Gaius Baltar, a traitorous surviving genius as well as the various versions of the sixth Cylon (beautiful Tricia Helfer) who, especially in the version visible only to Gaius Baltar, is particularly enigmatic and complex.

This is seriously good television and I genuinely envy the first time viewer about to discover this fine production for the first time. Just watch the excellent pilot and prepare to become completely addicted.
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Maverick (1994)
3/10
Jodie Foster Is Great Comedienne. Who Knew?
12 April 2006
There's one main reason for tuning in to this loud and bawdy version of the TV show 'Maverick' which originally ran from 1957 to 1962, and that's Jodie Foster. Heaven knows what she's doing in this typically confused confection helmed by veteran hack director Richard Donner but she's a godsend to the movie as a female shyster of dubious reputation, complete with batty eyes and dodgy southern accent ('most gentlemen enjoy my Southern'). There's absolutely no doubt Foster is a terrific actress. Oscars for 'The Accused' and 'The Silence Of The Lambs' as well as grounded performances in genre pieces such as 'Panic Room' are sufficient testimony to that fact. But we rarely see her doing comedy and, on the basis of this performance, she should lighten up more often. As with her dramatic performances, she has great instinct and fantastic timing. With more than a hint of Irene Dunne (another superb comedienne), it's a great pity she's not paired with someone who has better comic abilities than Mel Gibson.

This movie has the dubious honour of containing one of Gibson's worst performances. He's much better in dramatic roles ('Year Of Living Dangerously', 'Gallipoli') where he can't show off rather than the action-comedies that he seems to prefer. Unfortunately, he just can't resist these buddy pictures and the cronyism is complete with Richard Donner on board who panders to Gibson's worst instincts. Gibson mugs and apes his way through this and there's no one behind the camera trying to tone him down.

Donner is clueless. He seems to think that simply populating the cast with recognisable faces from other similar western TV series is inherently funny. Proof of his lack of subtlety is Danny Glover's embarrassing and completely unnecessary cameo. Double-take, followed by triple-take - apart from being totally humourless, I'm surprised we weren't treated to flashing subtitles saying: 'hey look, it's Danny Glover!'.

Luckily Gibson's scenes with Foster have a certain amount of frisson to them (as if Gibson momentarily seems to understand that he's dealing with a professional). Also, on the positive side, James Garner (the original Brett Maverick, fact fans) manages to get through it all without embarrassing himself (although he has one or two dodgy moments).

This is an undemanding enough waste-of-time if you can stomach Mel Gibson at his worst and a Director about whom David Thomson memorably said: 'Mr. Donner has made several of the most successful and least interesting films of his age. And one doubts it's over yet'.
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6/10
Cut To The Chase
18 October 2003
MATRIX RELOADED is an acquired taste. Hollywood has programmed us now to expect our sequels to be bigger, faster, louder but this one starts off slow.

There's some interesting stuff involving an assault on a tower block and some upgraded Agents but then we're forced to suffer nearly 45 minutes of new age and pseudo-religious exposition that offers no real expansion of concepts already introduced in the original. This is topped by a badly mis-judged love scene between Neo and Trinity inter-cut with footage from what appears to be a huge underground rave which had the audience I saw the movie with laughing out loud! Not, I think, what most people were expecting.

Pulses start to quicken in a scene in which the Oracle reappears and Neo faces an army of Agent Smiths but this sequence, whilst technically ambitious, seems a little mechanical and lifeless (some of the CGI work here is a bit obvious). At this point I was yearning for the movie to start acting and feeling more like the original.

Thankfully, help is on hand with the introduction of a character called Merovingian and his duplicitous wife Persephone. An amusing and charmingly played scene in a restaurant could have been lifted straight out of the first movie being at once witty, frustratingly enigmatic and with that distinctive threatening undertone that characterised the early scenes in the original.

Things then shift up a gear with a well choreographed fight scene between Neo and Merovingian's henchmen followed by the most impressive thing in the movie: a balls-out freeway chase scene that has to rank amongst the most exciting and stunning action sequences ever put on film. This juggernaut of a sequence takes no prisoners. The Wachowski brothers really strut their stuff combining fantastic stunt-work, special effects and their own distinctive camera-style to devastating effect. It's worth the price of admission on it's own and is the sequence that stays with you when the movie is finished. It's timely arrival makes you realise the first movie was not a flash in the pan and you immediately forgive this sequel for it's ponderous start.

The rest of MATRIX RELOADED, whilst not without interest, never really recovers it's stride once the freeway chase is over (it feels like the movie has climaxed) and has the same problem of all middle parts of a trilogy: a sudden and abrupt end.

Purists will no doubt agree with me when I say no one does this stuff like the Wachowskis and this has their stunning visual style stamped all over it. Having now seen the film a few times, I can say it does stand up to repeated viewings but, once seen, it's that terrific middle section you wait for during subsequent viewings.

MATRIX RELOADED is definitely a much better film than the third part of the trilogy, MATRIX REVOLUTIONS. I was expecting REVOLUTIONS to mean revolutionary whereas it actually seems to mean revolving constantly whilst going nowhere. Unfortunately for this trilogy, MATRIX RELOADED is as good as it gets.
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GoldenEye (1995)
8/10
Pay Attention, 007
2 June 2002
Whilst Sean Connery's interpretation is rightly regarded as the definitive James Bond, GOLDENEYE is worthy of recognition as the movie that dragged what was a tired, bedraggled franchise kicking and screaming into the '90s and it's one of my favourites of the series. Pierce Brosnan gets the chance to show us all why he was producer Cubby Broccolli's preferred choice to replace Roger Moore (Brosnan had to back out in 1986 due to contractual obligations for the TV show Remington Steele) and we finally get a Bond that has the dangerous glint in his eye that so endeared us to Connery in the first place. Brosnan looks good, he moves well and he can deliver those zingers. Sean Connery may not be gone completely from our minds but it's easy to forget him for a couple of hours with Brosnan on-screen.

Director Martin Campbell knows exactly where to point the camera for maximum effect and the fast-moving fluidity of the editing gives the whole thing a marvelously kinetic shot in the arm. The action sequences fairly crack along and there's barely time to drawn breath. The late Maurice Binder would probably weep in sorrow if he could see how perfectly Daniel Kleinsman has produced typically Bondian lush visuals to back Tina Turner's terrific rendition of the title song (written by Bono).

The story (by Michael France) has a little more depth than usual and the supporting characters are not just stock-in-trade caricatures (Robbie Coltrane's Valentin Zucovsky and Gottfried John's General Ourumov being just two examples). Famke Janssen is delicious and steals every scene she's in as sexually voracious hit-woman, Xenia Onatopp. And whoever thought of casting Judi Dench as M is definitely on to something - she's only in one scene but it's a cracker. My only slight concern is with Sean Bean as the main villain who is outshone by his hench-woman and just isn't in the same league as Blofeld or Goldfinger.

It is a sad fact that, during Brosnan's tenure, many of the Bond stalwarts both behind and in front of the camera are now deceased (Cubby Broccolli, Vic Armstrong, Desmond Lewellyn, Maurice Binder to name a few). I guess this is understandable when you consider just how long these films have been going now. CASINO ROYALE (2006), directed again by Campbell and starring Daniel Craig as Bond is the 21st Bond film in a production cycle has been continuing for over 40 years.

Let's hope they keep making them as good as this.
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Doctor Who (1963–1989)
Classic British TV
9 January 2002
DOCTOR WHO is rightly regarded as a British TV classic and is something of an institution to anyone above the age of 20 who can remember chilly winter Saturday evenings sat with the entire family watching the tales of this intergalactic busy-body which regularly presented some of the freshest, imaginative and often downright frightening science-fiction drama seen before or since.

Running from 1963 (on the day of the Kennedy assassination) to 1989, DOCTOR WHO is the tale of a mysterious time-travelling individual known simply as 'the Doctor'. His MO is to battle evil wherever (and whenever) it exists accompanied by an ever-changing (and mostly inter-changeable) series of companions. The Doctor's time machine (the Tardis) is bigger on the inside than out and outwardly resembles a London 1960s Police Box (the chameleon circuits becoming 'stuck' on a previous trip to Earth some time before we joined the Doctor on his adventures). As the series progressed, the Doctor became less mysterious and we gradually learnt a lot more about his background and his home planet (Gallifrey) as well as his race of fellow Time Lords.

It was the intention of the shows creators to have many of the Doctor's adventures taking place in historical settings but, following the debut of the massively popular Daleks (mutant creatures encased in protective pepperpot-shaped mobile devices) the series placed ever-more reliance on the attraction of alien creatures and monsters to create tension and danger for the Doctor and his team. The mold was therefore cast and, throughout the life of the show, the audience was treated to a dazzling array of alien marauders of all shapes and sizes including Cybermen, Sontarans, Silurians, Sea Devils, Yeti, Ice Warriors and, of course, Daleks.

The series often shamelessly (but usually effectively) borrowed entire plot lines from classic literature and movies as varied as FRANKENSTEIN, THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, Dracula and assorted Shakespeares and Sherlock Holmes. The show was also famous for its shaky production values, creaky effects and cliff-hanger endings, yet the writing was often imaginative and a wonderfully endearing quality of whimsy and eccentricity combined with a strong air of moral responsibility permeated the show throughout.

One of the many imaginative quirks of the programme was the ability for the Doctor to regenerate at times when he is close to death. This interesting and effective device partly explains the series longevity as it paved the way for the central character to be realised by seven different actors (William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davidson, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy respectively), each bringing their own unique interpretation to the role.

Two movies were made in the 60's with the Doctor (Peter Cushing) pitted in both cases against the Daleks (which at the time were at the height of their popularity) and a further 'movie' (actually shown only on TV) arrived in 1999 after the main series had been cancelled with Paul McGann in the central role.

16 years after being axed, the show was revived by the BBC in 2005 with Christopher Ecclestone in the key role accompanied by a charismatic assistant played by Billy Piper. The shaky sets and dodgy effects were gone, some money was devoted to the series (for the first time) and a healthy dose of post-modernism added to the mix. Even the BBC seemed unprepared for the great popularity of the new series which illustrates how under-appreciated the strength of the basic format is.

It is to the everlasting shame of the BBC that their archives no longer contain many (mainly black and white) episodes that were purged in the 1970's due to the mistaken opinion at the time that they would never be watched again and had no commercial value. The video market that has erupted since the mid-1980's has shown how short-sighted this decision was and DOCTOR WHO (along with many other classic BBC series) has lost many of the best earlier stories for ever. Occasionally a missing episode or some lost footage has turned up wrongly labelled or in the hands of a collector somewhere and the discovery in 1992 of all four episodes of the classic 'Tomb Of The Cybermen' from 1967-8's fondly remembered 'monster season' reminded us just how good some of this lost material was.

Although most regular viewers have their favourite Doctors or seasons, few would argue that the classic period ran from it's start in 1963 to 1977, mid-way through Tom Baker's occupation as the Doctor. Fans relentlessly debate the issue of which are the best stories but few would argue with my selection of the following as classic DOCTOR WHO, although some of these have missing episodes. The Dead Planet (1963), The Tenth Planet (1966), The Evil Of The Daleks (1967), The Tomb Of The Cybermen (1967), The Ice Warriors (1967), The Web Of Fear (1968), Fury From The Deep (1968), Terror Of The Autons (1971), The Daemons (1971), Day Of The Daleks (1972), The Sea Devils (1972), The Three Doctors (1972), The Ark In Space (1975), Genesis Of The Daleks (1975), The Pyramids Of Mars (1975), The Seeds Of Doom (1976), The Talons Of Weng Chiang (1977) and Earthshock (1982).
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Good Neighbors (1975–1978)
Well Thank You Very Much, Jerry!
7 January 2002
Neither as acerbic as FAWLTY TOWERS or ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS or as radical as THE YOUNG ONES, THE GOOD LIFE remains cosily stuck in a middle-class time-warp but happens to be blessed with terrific scripts (by Bob Larbey and John Esmonde) and extremely strong characters, played to perfection by the four principle actors. Originally airing 1975-1978, the series managed to maintain a very high standard despite a slight air of exhaustion that crept into the fourth final series. It was decided to quit while they were ahead, at the peak of the series popularity, with a final episode filmed in front of the Queen.

The basic set-up concerns Tom and Barbara Good (Richard Briers and Felicity Kendal) who decide to opt-out of the rat race and try self-sufficiency in Surbiton. On this slender premise hung all kinds of imaginative plots farmyard animals (and their excretory processes), generators, rotary cultivators (and contraptions of all kinds) as well as political machinations in the local music society headed up by the formidable Miss Mountshaft (often referred to, but never seen).

As the series progressed, the plots tended to depend upon situations guaranteed to cause maximum embarrassment to the Goods social-climbing fully paid-up member of the white middle-classes neighbour Margo Leadbetter (played marvellously by Penelope Keith). Margo's husband, Jerry (Paul Eddington) maintains just the right amount of total resigned bemusement throughout.

Stand-out episodes include 'The Windbreak War' (a feud erupts over the positioning of Margo's windbreak), 'A Tug Of The Forelock' (Tom and Barbara go into domestic service...for Margo), 'Silly...But It's Fun' (the Christmas 1977 episode in which Harrods fail to deliver Margo's Christmas), 'Mutiny' (in which Margo plays Maria in the local music society's production of The Sound Of Music) and 'The Thing In The Cellar' (Tom installs a methane generator which runs on something that comes out of pigs).

It's easy to forget the critical approval and the public appreciation the series gained during it's initial tenure, along with the fame that greeted the actors (especially Penelope Keith who memorably appeared on the Morecambe & Wise Christmas Show, the ultimate accolade at the time).

THE GOOD LIFE easily ranks up with the best TV comedies ever produced but, unfortunately, it is not remembered with quite the same fondness as DAD'S ARMY, STEPTOE & SON or the magnificent FAWLTY TOWERS. What is needed is some repeats to correct this shameful oversight.
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Chinatown (1974)
10/10
I Don't Get Tough With Anyone, Mr. Gittes. My Lawyer Does.
31 July 2000
Of all the movies produced by Robert Evans during his tenure in charge of Paramount in the early-mid 1970s, CHINATOWN is the one for which I think he deserves the most credit. Evans, either by design or serendipity, brought together Robert Towne's superb screenplay and Roman Polanski's confident and polished direction to create a magnificently accomplished tale of avarice and treachery. The oppressive heat of a 1937 Los Angeles summer drought seems burned into the celluloid, thanks to John A. Alonzo's immaculate cinematography and there is also strong production design from Richard Sylbert. Jerry Goldsmith contributes a haunting and evocative score.

Jack Nicholson plays Jake Gittes, a medium-rent private detective specialising in matrimony cases, who is duped into investigating a racket involving murdered water Commissioner Hollis Mulwray. Gittes concentrates on Mulwray's emotionally disturbed widow (Faye Dunaway) with whom he becomes emotionally involved and her powerful father Noah Cross (John Huston), a Machiavellian figure who is hiding a horrible secret.

Dunaway and Huston are great (possibly career-best) and Nicholson has not yet reached the excesses of his (admittedly entertaining) scenery-chewing style on view in such movies as THE SHINING and THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK. Polanksi has taken the typical 1940s film noir (which we are used to seeing in black- and-white) and updated it to lush colour, making it richly evocative of the period during which it is set yet, at the same time, curiously modern even by todays standards.

CHINATOWN completely deserves it's reputation as one of the key films of the 1970's which earned that particular decade its well-deserved epithet as the outstanding period for the production of intelligent and challenging cinema.

Real fans should also look at the belated sequel, THE TWO JAKES (1990) and, especially, Curtis Hanson's homage, LA CONFIDENTIAL (1997).
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Anaconda (1997)
1/10
Hiss Off
14 May 2000
A real Anaconda will eat the odd goat once a month and spend the rest of its time avoiding all contact with the human race. Never let it be said that Hollywood will allow realism stand in the way of the next dumb horror movie. In ANACONDA we are asked to believe a CG snake decides to stalk a boat full of assorted idiots and pick them off one-by-one. My sympathies are with the snake. I'd be pretty annoyed if a bunch of noisy, vacuous and unpleasant characters turned up uninvited and started stomping around ruining MY neighbourhood.

Completely bereft of believable plot or believable characters this turkey starts off daft and gets more ridiculous by the minute. Two hours after the film has started, following a lot of shouting, hissing (and wishing the makers had given us the benefit of subtitles for Jon Voight's ridiculous accent), the only conclusion you can reach is that,after this and THE SPECIALIST, someone should really sit Director Luis Llosa down and have a loooooong talk...

Technically accomplished, but basically a complete waste of time for all involved (including the viewer).
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Aliens (1986)
9/10
Strap Yourselves In...
7 March 2000
What impresses me most about 20th Century Fox's ALIEN series is that the studio has strongly resisted the temptation to churn out mindless brain-dead sequels until the law of diminishing returns kicks in. All four films have, to date, provided refreshing variations on a theme in each case directed by visionary film-makers, even if the results have sometimes been a little flawed. Sigourney Weaver has wisely bolted her career to this series and has consistently offered us a dynamic and compelling portrayal of a woman facing her personal demons, illuminating each episode with a level of complexity unheard of in the genre.

Most fans of the series will not argue over my choice of James Cameron's first sequel as the stand-out offering, especially when presented in it's extended version. The no-nonsense direction, a tight well-developed screenplay and great production design (on what was quite a low budget for a film of this size at the time) makes this the ride of the century.

Ridley Scott's clinical, cramped and claustrophobic original is also extremely impressive with some incredible production design and art direction.

That ALIEN 3 and ALIEN RESURRECTION lag behind is not a reflection of the films themselves rather than of the very the high standard set by the first two entries. If you can ignore such comparisons, they are not without interest and deserve re-appraisal. ALIEN 3 (directed but disowned by David Fincher) is a dark, moody, angst-ridden film with an almost mythic element completely ignored by it's original audience. The special version re-cut for DVD is worth looking at but the whole thing has the unmistakable smell of studio interference about it.

ALIEN RESURRECTION is a bit of a curate's egg. If you buy in to the grim humour, it's an interesting development of the first three films and Weaver is delicious, clearly having great fun playing a clone of herself.

However, ALIENS is the star of the quartet - if ever the words 'adrenaline' and 'rush' belong in the same sentence, it's here. This movie is like a theme park thrill and it leaves you breathless. Enjoy the ride.
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10/10
Inside The Padded Cell
6 March 2000
With a plot and characters straight out of a lunatic asylum, this deliciously daft and frenzied comedy has palaeontologist David Huxley (Cary Grant) trying to recover a valuable dinosaur bone which has been stolen by the dog of potty heiress Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn). There are also leopards, circuses, assorted aunts, big game hunters, judges and doctors, all of them certifiable.

Hepburn can sometimes appear cold and remote but she pitches her performance perfectly here with just the right amount of eccentricity and a strong dose of tomboy enthusiasm thrown in for good measure. Grant looks completely bemused and affronted throughout. He's the only remotely normal person in the movie and all be can do is watch on in completely bewilderment as the situation gets more and more hair-brained.

With such a richly comic set-up from screenwriters Hagar Wilde & Dudley Nichols and such polished performances from the cast, all Director Howard Hawks has to do is point his camera, stand back and film the ensuing chaos.

Rightly considered the consummate screwball comedy and cruelly under-appreciated in it's day (Hawks was fired from the studio and Hepburn labelled 'box-office poison' by distributors following it's disastrous performance), BRINGING UP BABY is surprisingly modern and seems to improve with age being as fresh and sparkling now as it was when first released.

An interesting homage appeared in 1972 in the shape of Peter Bogdanovich's WHAT'S UP DOC? but it only served to illustrate that you can't improve upon perfection.
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9/10
Malick's Heavenly War
4 March 2000
This film is unlikely to be appreciated by audiences reared upon a diet of dumbed-down Hollywood action fare. However, if you're prepared to sit down and watch THE THIN RED LINE with no interruptions and give it the attention it deserves, you'll be rewarded with one of the most intelligent, poetic and stunningly beautiful films you're ever likely to see.

Director Terrence Malick's films are alive with a sense of pure cinema with every frame delivering such detail and richness that you could swear you were there. The only other person capable of bringing such an immediate sense of time and place and sheer nuance of film (although in a completely different way) is David Lean, another major league craftsman.

Here, again, Malick uses his customary voice-over device although this time as a means of vocalising the abstract thoughts of the various soldiers as they struggle to make some sense of the conflict. It's an interesting approach which allows the audience to identify with the characters in a far less superficial way than in, say, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (the film THE THIN RED LINE is most often and most unfairly compared to). Malick is also not afraid to take time to illustrate the continuing natural backdrop to the carnage. Mother Nature almost seems to be occupying a pivotal supporting role as a detached observer on the sidelines, calmly and inscrutably watching the chaos develop.

It's a measure of Malick's complete disinterest with the normal conventions of Hollywood that actors such as Lucas Haas, Vigo Mortensen, Jason Patric, Mickey Rourke, Martin Sheen and Billy Bob Thornton all spent months in Queensland Australia and the Solomon Islands filming roles that ultimately ended up on the cutting room floor. Blink and you'll also miss major marquee players such as John Travolta and George Clooney. The stand-out performances come from Jim Caviezel and, especially, Nick Nolte.

Nolte just seems to be getting better and better as he gets older and his portrayal of tyrant Colonel Tall is something to see. I have never seen anyone express such an impotent sense of rage, anger and fury than Nolte does here. It's a fantastic performance from a real pro and it's a mystery to me why he didn't get an Oscar.

John Toll's pristine cinematography and Hans Zimmer's wonderfully evocative (Oscar-winning) score are other strong elements. The unusual music and visuals contrast so well that Malick sometimes fades out the noise of the shouting, explosions and guns, an effect that only serves to heighten the emotional power of the experience further.

You won't see a more beautiful film about the horrors of war. Movies like this make the task of trawling through the weekly diet of dumb formulaic junk served up by Hollywood almost seem worthwhile.
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Heat (1995)
10/10
A Modern Crime Masterpiece
4 September 1999
This movie promised so much. A powerhouse cast including De Niro and Pacino together on-screen for the first time and director Michael Mann's abilities as a filmmaker very much in the ascendancy, how could it possibly deliver? Well it does, in spades.

Pacino has the showier role of Vincent Hanna, an instinctive career detective and Pacino pitches it just right without being too flamboyant. De Niro is Neil Macauley, the cool and chillingly collected head of a gang of professional thieves. Much is made of the contrast between the problems with personal relationships that both are experiencing but De Niro is also grappling with a psychotic gang member, a slippery businessman whose bail bonds he has stolen along with the heat he fears is 'just around the corner'.

Mann's taut and muscular direction makes the most of the LA locations and the grimly professional action scenes only bring even more depth to the multi-layered and detailed plot. Two scenes in particular remain in the memory: a casual encounter between cop and criminal in a coffee shop (the only scene between Pacino and De Niro) and a botched bank raid of such ferocity that will have the hairs standing up on the back of your neck.

Incredibly well directed and acted and almost mythic in places, HEAT is a definitive work in the crime thriller genre.
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10/10
More Powerful Than You Could Possibly Imagine
4 September 1999
Who'd have pegged Irvin Kershner as a likely candidate to take over George Lucas's trashily popular STAR WARS franchise? Luckily, the decision was made and Kershner turned in what is, by a long stretch, the best of the series. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is a breathless chase movie but, unusually for this series, plot is allowed to intrude on action and the actors seem to have suddenly found some character. The whole thing is infused with a wonderfully dark operatic quality, greatly assisted by the rich and imaginative visuals. Movies like this need a good hissable villain and Dave Prowse and James Earl Jones as (respectively) the body and voice of Darth Vader turn him into a truly frightening nemesis (rather than the cardboard cut-out he is in the other films), all of which serves to give the whole enterprise a weighty centre that was completely absent from its predecessor.

A grand and sweeping addition to both the STAR WARS canon (and sci-fi cinema generally) before the disappointing plunge into 2-dimensional characters and cuteness that was 1983's RETURN OF THE JEDI and the flashy CGI emptiness which became the trademark of the series by the time the trilogy of prequels ended in 2005.
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