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The Winds of War (1983– )
7/10
A great mini-series - despite Ali MacGraw
3 July 2007
I've just revisited this mini-series on DVD for the first time since I saw it when it was first screened on TV back in 1983, so my memory of it had been very vague and I'd forgotten pretty much all of it.

I'd also forgotten just how singularly dreadful Ali MacGraw is in this.

I've not read the book, but I have the impression that the character of Natalie Jastrow is supposed to be strong-willed, spirited, feisty and sexy. If that's the case then MacGraw failed on all counts.

Instead of being strong-willed, spirited and feisty, MacGraw's Natalie comes across as spoilt, petulant and generally obnoxious - constantly complaining, throwing hissy-fits and looking down her nose at people (both literally and metaphorically). And when she's trying to be all coquettish for the benefit of Sloate and Byron, her performance is about as sexy as a bad case of athlete's foot.

All in all a horrible piece of miscasting by the producers, and I'm not in the least bit surprised that she wasn't rehired for the sequel "War And Remembrance" (in which Jane Seymour's Natalie was a quantum leap improvement over MacGraw's portrayal). At least Old Bleary Eyes himself, Robert Mitchum, brings gravitas, presence and start quality to his role, even though he looks all of his (at the time of filming) 66 years and was really about 15 years too old and several trouser sizes too large for the character he was playing.

Looking beyond the presence of Ali MacGraw though, this classic mini-series is a great way to while away a week's worth of evenings in front of the TV, and the way in which historical events and characters are interwoven with the more personal story lines of the main fictional characters is very nicely done.

The sequel is even better (and longer), and I'm looking forward to starting on that soon.
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6/10
Plotted porn - with a safe sex message?
18 April 2007
A "plotted porn" movie set in the 1940s. The costumes & hairstyles are nice and authentic, as are the sets and vehicles used - and the (very glamorous) female performers wear suspender (garter) belts and stockings in most of the scenes too, which is another plus.

There also seems to be an underlying "safe sex" message, both in the title and in the fact that all the male performers wear condoms in all but one of the sex scenes - though this always strikes me as a pointless exercise when they remove them for the "pop shot" and the female performers gobble up the result with such gusto.

This hardcore movie falls very much into the "couples" genre, and comes recommended to those who (a) prefer their porn with a plot (as opposed to just "endless humping"), (b) like to see the female performers wearing sexy costumes, lingerie and stockings and (c) are not put off by the presence of condoms in the hardcore scenes.

Its main drawbacks (common to a lot of hardcore porn) are the presence of tedious genital close-up shots and very unattractive male performers (one of is a spiv apparently modelled closely on the Private Walker character from the classic TV show "Dad's Army"), though with a runtime in excess of 2 hours, it represents decent value for money.
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Severed (2005)
5/10
There are worse B-movies out there
5 May 2006
I sat down to watch this film not expecting much, but I have to say that despite the Z-list cast and the over-use of the still (unfortunately) fashionable-among-filmmakers "wobblycam" (to the point where at times it's impossible to see what's happening or to whom), this wasn't a bad little zombie flick.

Aside from the aforementioned headache-inducing camera-work, the main weakness of this movie was the ending. It seemed like the scriptwriters suddenly ran out of ideas and just thought "okay we'll just wrap this up here". But the preceding 90 minutes were entertaining enough. If you enjoy the zombie sub-genre, check it out. Though perhaps rent rather than buy this one.
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Root Into Europe (1992– )
9/10
If you like "Minder" - you'll like this
30 January 2005
Enjoyable, light-hearted mini-series in which George Cole basically reprises his famous "Arthur Daley" role under another character name, appointing himself as a "roving ambassador without portfolio for the British PM" and touring Europe with his "lady wife" to study European culture in the run-up to the launch of the European single market in 1992.

Constant statements like "after 1992, everything will be ..." date it somewhat, but it's nonetheless a fine piece of "archetypal Englishman abroad" comedy filmed on location around Europe and featuring cameos by the likes of Italian porn actress La Ciccolina and German sex shop magnate Beate Uhse playing themselves.
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The Time Tunnel (2006 TV Movie)
10/10
Beyond belief that this wasn't commissioned as a series
28 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
**MINOR SPOILERS**

I finally managed to get hold of this movie and watched it last night.

When I'd finished, I just could not believe that the networks failed to pick this up and commission a series.

But then again, considering all the sub-standard, mindless s**t that not only gets commissioned but keeps returning season after season ad nauseum - thereby speaking volumes about the collective lack of taste of TV execs and great swathes of the viewing masses at large - maybe it's not such a shock that this excellent remake (perhaps "reimagining" would be a better description) of the classic '60s show was shelved. Some things never change even after 4 decades (case in point: the original "Time Tunnel" was axed after a 30-episode single season, while the camp, puerile drivel that was "Lost In Space" ran to over 80 episodes across 3 seasons). These people wouldn't recognise quality television if it came up behind them and bit them in the backside.

But rant over! Back to the film itself. In the present day (2002), a secret offshoot of the U.S. Department of Energy has built an experimental Time Tunnel, but their meddling with time has created a "time storm" that's somehow rippled across history and caused subtle changes to the present (for example the U.S. now only has 49 states, and the New York Yankees baseball team have become the Boston Yankees). Only the team in the Time Tunnel complex have somehow been shielded from these changes, so only they can remember how things used to / "should" be. To prevent the changes becoming more serious, a team is dispatched back to the Battle of the Huertgen Forest on the border between Germany and Belgium in late 1944 to try and put things right. Disguised as a team of American GIs from that period, their mission is to find a man from the sixteenth century that the time storm has somehow picked up and dumped in 1944 (although exactly how and why this happened is never really explained), as it is believed that his displacement in time is somehow the catalyst for the unwanted changes to history.

I thought that this whole film was very nicely done. There are some cool state-of-the-art special effects and the Time Tunnel itself looks pretty awesome. The 1944 battlefield backdrop to the action, along with the uniforms of the German and U.S. troops, are also very realistic, and the combat scenes looked like something straight out of "Band Of Brothers" or "Saving Private Ryan": Very impressively crafted indeed.

There are one or two nice tributes to the original Time Tunnel series also: One of the central characters is again called Doug Phillips - although perhaps in a nod to 21st century political correctness, the original series' Tony Newman has now become "Toni Newman", one of two no-nonsense female members of the time-travel team. When Doug is initially brought into the complex, it's explained that the team would be "going into freefall" down into the main complex in some futuristic elevator (exactly as happened in the pilot of the original 1960s series) and the idea of the Time Tunnel accidentally lifting a person out of one past era and dumping him in another to cause mayhem there came straight from the original series episode "The Death Merchant" - then it was Machiavelli, this time round a young Medieval monk.

One way in which this version of "Time Tunnel" differs though is that while in the original series it was explained that history only happens once and cannot be altered - thereby essentially rendering the time travellers mere spectators to historic events - this time around we're told that history is fluid and CAN be changed, so the time travellers need to take great care not to upset the temporal applecart - definite shades of "Timecop" here. Also, while the original 1960s time travellers were lost in the temporal vortex and could only be bounced around from one era to another by the boffins back in the lab, here the team at the complex can bring the time travellers back with no problem.

The version of the film that I watched clocked in at 52 minutes. But according to this page on IMDb, it's 120 minutes long. This makes me wonder whether there are in fact two versions floating around out there??

But whether it's 52 minutes or 120 minutes - I would strongly recommend that anyone who enjoys a good time travel story or is a fan of the original "Time Tunnel" series should pull out all the stops to try and get hold of this film. It really is a must-see. And it's nothing short of a crime against the sci-fi viewing public that this excellent pilot was never followed up and made into a full-blown series.
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Lame sequel to a lame sequel
3 September 2004
Nothing new at all here - just more of the same old tired fish-out-of-water jokes and going-through-the-motions performances from all concerned.

The first "Croc" movie worked in 1986 because it was original, but when the 1988 sequel offered very little in the way of new ideas, the whole concept began to wear thin very quickly. They should have left it at that, because this third attempt made nearly a decade and a half later is just an embarrassment. No surprise that it bombed. I have to say though that Paul Hogan still looks remarkably lean and fit for a bloke of his age and deserves great credit for not letting himself go to seed like a lot of folks do. He could be an example to us all there.

I'm feeling generous so I'll give it 3 out of 10.
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Torque (2004)
Accept it for what it is - and you might even enjoy it!
22 August 2004
Well, I've just killed 81 minutes of a Sunday evening watching "Torque".

And I enjoyed it!

The chase scenes got more ludicrous as the movie progressed, finally ending up with a CGI orgy that bore little resemblance to real life (in fact it was pure arcade game).

The plot was also fairly predictable, drawing plot elements & ideas from movies as varied as "The Fast & The Furious", "Tron" and "The Warriors", with the ever-popular "bent cop" thing thrown into the mix as well.

But the chicks were seriously HOT, the dudes looked cool, Ice T was at his sneering, snarling baddest best and the heavy-metal soundtrack drove the film along at a great pace.

The 3.0 rating here doesn't do it justice and on balance I'd say that if you don't sit down to watch this expecting any sort of high-brow entertainment and enjoy seeing good-looking girls in tight biker costumes and some fast-paced action, you won't be too disappointed.
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Not great, but worth a look if you like time travel stories
6 July 2004
Time travel has always been my absolute favourite sci-fi sub-genre (with "post-apocalyptic" a close second) and so I actually shelled out my hard-earned cash last weekend to buy this movie.

I got round to watching it tonight and am writing this review with mixed feelings. The title "The Berlin Decision" and the cover blurb led me to believe that most of the story would involve the main protagonists travelling back in time to Nazi Germany, with that era being the focus of the film. I figured that would be the basis for a very interesting and exciting movie. Unfortunately though, the Nazi Germany part of the film takes up only a few minutes at the beginning of the film, and after that - just like in the Van Damme original "Timecop" - the characters spend most of their time in the movie's present (2025) and recent past (2002) ... in other words almost the present day now, which to me seriously reduces a movie's "time travel" feel (the same major beef that I had with the vastly over-rated "Quantum Leap" TV show).

I also thought that the whole thing was rather rushed - it tries to be too clever for its own good, and while it does throw up some interesting paradox questions, the plot moves at such a rapid pace that the viewer has little time to ponder them, and the whole thing just gets confusing and not a little messy in places. No attempt is made to explain or resolve any of the numerous paradoxes that arise, and in the end the best thing to do is just ignore them and try and get the best of the movie for what it is. Many potentially interesting questions arise that are left unanswered, such as what exactly was the "war" that resulted from the past being changed, and when Chan (the main character) arrives back in the alternate 2025 (in which his boss sports an eye patch and the female doctor a purple punk hairdo), what happens to his alternate self - the one who has presumably lived though the changed timeline? Is he somehow "displaced" by "our" Chan?? We never find out, and this fundamental question is simply ignored.

That said, this film does have a few positives. The time travel sequences back to the Old West and Nazi Germany are fairly interesting, if a little short. There's a fairly gruesome bit where one of the timecops arrives back in the lab fused together with his younger self and hideously deformed - a result of him having made physical contact with himself (in a continuity nod to the original "Timecop" movie, this was described as being a potential problem for time travellers in that film). And some of the martial arts sequences are pretty good, if you like that sort of thing.

Summary: Not great, but I've seen worse sequels and I'll probably dig this out again at some point and give it another go - maybe I've missed some of the subtleties.
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Lost in Space (1965–1968)
Utter garbage - words almost fail me
14 June 2004
Even as a child when this series originally aired in the '60s I loathed and detested it: Cardboard sets, annoying characters (especially the freckle-faced kid and the horribly camp Doctor Smith), unintentionally funny monsters, pantomine villains (like the "space vikings"), dreadful acting, ridiculous storylines (of which "The Great Vegetable Rebellion", complete with carrot monster, was the absolute nadir) ...... the list just goes on and on.

For some unfathomable reason, this pathetic excuse for a science fiction show has proved over the years to be the most popular and enduring and well-known of Irwin Allen's four 1960s ventures into TV sci-fi, the others being the far superior (if also greatly flawed) "Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea", "Time Tunnel" and "Land Of The Giants". That to me speaks volumes about the collective taste (or lack of it) of the wider viewing public.
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7/10
Great entertainment
10 June 2004
I'm surprised by all the negative reviews this film has got on IMDb. I saw (and enjoyed) it in the cinema when it first came out, and last night I watched it again on TV, having forgotten parts of it from my first viewing 3 years ago. And once again I really enjoyed it.

I don't really like Tea Leoni at the best of times, and I found her prominent presence in this movie to be one of it's "minus" points. It it was a real shame that Laura Dern's character wasn't given more to do instead (like actually accompany the expedition, rather than just sit at home in the States with her kid and answer the phone).

But that aside, the other characters were fine - I even thought that the "brat" kid Erik was quite likable - and of course the dinosaurs were magnificently brought to life yet again. It was also nice to see some new dinosaurs like the spinosaurus, the ankylosaurus and (best of all) the flying pteranodons - focussing just on T-Rex and the raptors for a third time would have been "too much of a good thing". The story was a bit predictable I guess, but that said, it wasn't supposed to be a documentary or tax the brain too much. It's pure entertainment and in that respect it delivers.

As someone else pointed out, the ending was perhaps a bit weak - a skirmish between the U.S. Marines and the raptors would have made for an exciting climax to the film - but all in all I'd give this one 7 out of 10. If an extended version (click on "alternate versions" to see a list of deleted scenes) was to ever be released on DVD, I'd certainly buy it.
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Typical by-the-numbers 1960s World War II adventure
31 May 2004
This story is rooted in fact and was also clearly inspired by the then-recent box office smash movie "The Dirty Dozen" - even using one of its main cast members (Richard Jaeckel). However, it is very much a "poor man's" version of that film and has most definitely not stood the test of time very well.

It's typical '60s war movie fair that - like most of its contemporaries - largely glamorizes combat. The characters are all fairly stereotypical and poorly developed, the events are predictable and William Holden looks far too old to be leading a supposedly elite unit into battle - embarrassing shades of John Wayne in "The Green Berets". The music score is also lame and - once again - typical '60s fare. And like in many other World War II movies made in the '60s, the Germans are also shown using POST-WAR AMERICAN tanks.

Worse movies have been made, but this dated effort has little to recommend it to the discerning viewer. It's okay to vegetate in front of on a Sunday afternoon if you've nothing better to do, but otherwise don't waste your time.
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Ultimate Force (2002–2006)
The bald-headed bloke from 'Eastenders' kicks ass
24 July 2003
Dealing with the lives and missions of a small group of soldiers in Britain's most elite Army unit, the SAS, this is definitely one of the best British action / drama series for years. Although there's a definite nod towards `political correctness' in that this fictional SAS unit has a multi-ethnic make-up, plus a female member (in the real world, no women serve in the SAS), the series on the whole succeeds in striking the perfect balance between strong storylines, gritty realism, exciting action scenes, personal drama and the occasional touch of humor. The quality of the stories is also consistently good, and so far (after two series of six episodes each) I'd say that there hasn't been one single `weak' episode. Only perhaps the odd episode that's been `less good' than the others.

But last night – after watching the finale of Series 2 – I was left disappointed. Now I've never served in the military so I don't pretend to be an expert on these matters, but as a layman I've always thought that one of the series' main strengths is that it seems pretty realistic with regard to its portrayal of Army life and the kind of missions that UK special forces troops perhaps get sent on in real life etc. etc. However, the end of last night's episode left something of a bitter aftertaste, simply because the series' main character, Sergeant `Henno' Garvie (ably played by Ross Kemp of `Eastenders' fame) gunned down in cold blood his troop CO, Captain McElwaine, for no other reason than the latter had been shagging the wife of one of his men. The killing was done in cold blood and using a captured AK47 rather than Henno's own weapon to make it appear that the Captain had been killed by enemy fire – thus instantly transforming the Henno character into nothing more that a cold-blooded murderer. True, soldiers are trained to kill without hesitation if necessary. But I find it inconceivable that - given the (on the grand scale of things) relatively trivial nature of the Captain's `offence' - these would be the actions of an experienced, senior NCO in Britain's most elite military unit. And I found the actions of the rest of the squad (including their Colonel, who they'd just freed in a daring rescue mission) almost equally bizarre – namely dumping the (admittedly unpopular) dead Captain's body in a freezer full of beer and cracking jokes over it. Unbelievable. I hope that this is not the end of the series and that it will be back. Firstly because that last night's closing scenes notwithstanding, it's been such a great show up to now and secondly it would be a pity to end the whole thing on such a negative note – there definitely needs to be some character redemption!! Still – it's great that all six episodes of Series 1 are now available to buy on DVD, because this series is a must for anyone who enjoys hard-hitting action and / or military drama that pulls no punches.
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Friends (1994–2004)
Overrated garbage
8 July 2003
Possibly the most over-rated show in the history of television. And I can't understand all the fuss people make about Jennifer Aniston. She's really nothing special at all.

The whole "Friends" thing is definitely an example of "The Emperor's New Clothes" syndrome if you ask me. That such a load of old pony could get to be so popular speaks volumes about the collective taste (or lack of it) of the contemporary viewing masses.

I now brace myself for the inevitable deluge of derision from this show's legions of loyal followers. But that IS and will remain my honest opinion of it - overrated, annoying and extremely unfunny. 0 out of 10.
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8/10
Memorable, edge-of-the-seat stuff
2 June 2003
I bought this movie a couple of weeks ago on DVD. Last night I sat down to watch it and it blew me away. One of the best sci-fi / horror movies I've ever seen, and when set alongside more than a few so-called Hollywood blockbusters, provides ample proof that `bigger' isn't necessarily `better'. A lot of other pundits on this page have pointed out the obvious parallels with other post-apocalyptic and `zombie' movies, but so far no-one has mentioned the superb and unfortunately rarely-shown, never-released-on-video 1970 film `No Blade Of Grass' which also depicts a `post-apocalyptic' Britain. Anyone who's seen that movie will know what I'm talking about.

One thing that I liked about `28 Days Later' were the haunting scenes of a dead London. I love `dead city' scenes in my post-apocalypse movies, it is after all what it's all about! Here, this was apparently achieved by a clever mixture of computer effects wizardry and the good old-fashioned method of literally shutting down sections of the city (and also of the M1 motorway) for short spells at `quiet' periods very early in the morning to allow the requisite footage to be filmed. And the results are stunning. The scene of central character Jim standing on the bridge next to the Houses of Parliament in a completely deserted London is (for me anyway) up there on a par with Chuck Heston coming across the ruins of the Statue of Liberty at the end of the original `Planet Of The Apes' movie. The whole movie had me on the edge of my seat from start to end. The characters are strong, the story moves along at a decent pace and the acting by all those involved is superb. The `Infected' were seriously scary too, although I would have liked to have seen more of them in close-up, rather than so much fast-cut camerawork which unfortunately seems to be all the rage among movie-makers these days and can in some cases be quite headache-inducing. The only (minor) beef that I have with the story is that it was never explained why (apparently) millions died from the virus, yet (apparently) millions of others simply became red-eyed crazies out for blood.

The ending was also nicely up-beat, in contrast to the rest of the film (see the deleted scenes on the DVD extras for the much more down-beat alternative ending!). The vintage Hawker Hunter jet (with indiscernable markings) flying across the Lake District at the end was perhaps the one thing that really did betray the project's modest budget – obviously a state-of-the art RAF Tornado, a USAF F-16 or something similar would have been too expensive, as a result of which the makers had to resort to hiring a museum-piece 1950s fighter jet which resides (in real life) at Blackpool Airport! But that's a very minor quibble about an absolutely superb piece of BRITISH film-making that deserves to go down in history as a classic of its genre. Nine out of Ten!
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Rapid Assault (1997 Video)
B-movie, B-cast, B-production
19 May 2003
Warning: Spoilers
***MINOR SPOILERS*** My copy of this movie came as a free giveaway with a DVD magazine that I buy from time to time, and I figured that as they were actually giving it away it could only be a prize turkey. But I decided to watch it anyway, and perhaps because I sat down expecting 93 minutes of sheer cinematic torture and to be a witness to some diabolical crime against celluloid, my final verdict by the time it was over was that although it will by no means go down as a masterpiece of action movie history, it wasn't QUITE as bad as I'd expected or as my fellow reviewers at IMDB have made it out to be. Full of journeyman actors that you've never heard of, obviously made on a shoestring, and quite clearly inspired by bigger and far superior efforts like `The Rock', `Under Siege' and various Bond movies, the basic plot is nonetheless okay, even though it's not exactly original: A crazed terrorist and his gang take over an undersea base and try to hold the world to ransom with a terrible new biological weapon, and it's up to a couple of square-jawed U.S. special forces bods and the obligatory attractive female hostage-turned-heroine to save the day (clearly the budget for this movie was so tight that the producers couldn't afford an entire Special Forces team, which would have seemed far more plausible). All in all however, the storyline and the eventual outcome are just so predictable that the whole thing generates hardly any excitement or sense of anticipation at all. The only plot twist involves one of the two special forces guys changing sides, and the only really memorable scene is where the head bad-guy has an unfortunate lab assistant thrown into an airlock to serve as an unwilling human guinea-pig for the deadly bio-toxin. Implausibilities abound (entering and exiting a DEEP SEA base in scuba gear for example!!) and the whole thing is also a continuity nightmare involving liberal use of stock footage - the most glaring example of this being when we see Navy F-15 Eagles take off to intercept the terrorists' cruise missile, only for them to miraculously transform into Air Force F-16s as they approach and engage their target. The fat bearded guy who plays the Admiral co-ordinating the commando mission from back at the Pentagon is simply laughable and completely unbelievable in such a role. To summarise, if you sit down to watch this movie with low expectations as I did, then you might find it to be a relatively painless (if uninspiring) way to while away an hour and a half. Perhaps the fact that I didn't actually have to part with any money to see it also made me more well-disposed towards the whole thing. But memorable it ain't, and I'm in no rush to give it a repeat viewing.
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Mile High (2003–2005)
Bonking and bad language - give us more!!!
10 April 2003
This is a terrific new Sunday night soap. It's late-ish (10 p.m.) start means that it's able to get a lot "closer to the knuckle" than most soaps. Whereas in most soaps the sexual shenanigans are merely implied or taken as fact, in "Mile High" we actually see the protagonists 'getting jiggy' with each other, sometimes with next to nothing left to the imagination. A few of the sex scenes to date could even be classed as borderline soft porn. And the language has a tendency towards being fairly 'Anglo-Saxon' at times, with the "f" word cropping up numerous times in most episodes so far.

The characters are also for the most part quite interesting as well, the hard-as-nails purser Janis and the "camp-as-a-row-of-tents" gay steward Will being particular stand-outs.

It's not arty-farty cerebral fare by any stretch of the imagination, but it's great entertainment and the best possible way to see out the weekend on a Sunday night. Hopefully it will be renewed for a second season once this series ends.
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The Foreigner (2003)
Chronicles the sad decline of a once-great action movie star
2 March 2003
Steven Seagal has starred in some great action flicks down the years – but unfortunately this ain't one of ‘em. As other hacks have pointed out on this page, the plot is messy and incoherent and it's difficult most of the time to even work out who are supposed to be the `good guys' and who are supposed to be the `bad guys'. It borrows a major plot element from the movie `Ronin' from a few years back, namely a mysterious package that various mysterious factions are desperate to get their hands on and will walk over corpses in order to do so, and like that movie this one also has a European setting. The plot of `Ronin' was also a bit convoluted and confusing and required the viewer to pay close attention to what was going on. But the `The Foreigner' is far worse. It tries too hard to be intriguing and mysterious and in the process ends up as a complete mess. And then we come to Mr. Seagal himself. Okay, he's the on dark side of 50 now, but that in itself isn't necessarily a barrier to being able to carry off a tough-guy action role. For example, Clint Eastwood was older than Seagal is now when he starred as the hard-as-nails Marine gunnery sergeant in `Heartbreak Ridge' in the mid-1980s, but he carried off that role superbly and convincingly because he was lean, mean and obviously very fit. Seagal on the other hand has quite clearly gone to seed, allowing himself to balloon (as others have also pointed out here) to almost Brando-esque proportions and quite frankly looked laughable here. And then there's that annoying, headache-inducing `fast-motion, slow-motion' camerawork that unfortunately seems to be all the rage with movie-makers right now. Hopefully it's a trend will soon die out (that movie `The Matrix' has got a lot to answer for). In a nutshell – sub-standard and very typical `straight-to-video' fare and really only recommended for die-hard Seagal enthusiasts. 3 out of 10 (and I'm being generous).
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The Trench (1999)
5/10
Worth a look, but glad I didn't spend money on the DVD
14 September 2002
World War I has been very neglected by the movie industry, so that fact in itself makes this film slightly "unusual". While it's impossible to say how "accurate" this depiction of life in the trenches really is, to my eye the sets, the uniforms, the equipment etc. looked pretty impressive. However, I did have a problem with the gratuitous use of the "f" word, which all the characters seemed to use more and more as the film went on. I have nothing at all against "bad language" in a movie if it's in the right context, but swearing just for the sake of it just gets boring after a while - and more to the point, did young British men nearly 90 years ago REALLY say "f**k" all the time, as young men these days seem to? I would guess not. As a youngster I knew a number of old soldiers (elderly neighbours, great uncles and the like) who had actually fought in the First World War, and I don't recall ever hearing one of them use even mild profanities. So to my ear, much of the banter between the young soldiers in the movie seemed somewhat anachronistic. I also had a problem with the scene when the troops finally went "over the top" towards the end of the movie. Instead of marching across a devastated, shell-cratered moonscape which was typical of World War I battlefields, we had them marching across a very lush, green English field bearing not a single scar of war!!! This, and the complete absence of enemy troops in the movie (apart from the solitary prisoner brought back from a night raid) betrayed the film's low budget. A moderately interesting film that has you sympathising with the characters by the end, but I won't be going out of my way to give it a second viewing and I'm glad that I saw it on TV, rather than spending hard-earned money on the DVD. 5 out of 10.
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Citizen Kane (1941)
1/10
The Emperor's New Clothes
1 September 2002
We all know the story about the emperor riding butt naked down the street and all his loyal subjects chorusing "what a wonderful, splendid suit of clothes" - until some kid chimes in with the observation "but he's as naked as a jaybird"!! Well, for me "Citizen Kane" - along with that other overblown, overrated yawn-fest "Gone With The Wind" which was made a couple of years earlier - is one of those "emperor's new clothes" movies that has fed on its own myth and which most people seem terrified of slagging off for fear of being branded a philistine. Sure, it may have been a "pioneering" and "revolutionary" kind of movie in its day. But does that alone qualify it for the tag of "The Greatest"? I think not. The Wright Brothers invented the aeroplane. They were pioneers. They revolutionized transport. But a lot of others came along afterwards and did it much better. And so it is with movie-making. Citizen Kane and GWTW should be accepted for what they are - groundbreaking in their day, but twee and dated by modern standards.
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A milestone natural history series
8 August 2002
This series is truly awe-inspiring, besides being entertaining and educational to boot. The CGI graphics are so good that the creatures look completely real. And to the nay-sayer below who complains that `no human ever saw these creatures … blah blah … how do we know … blah blah … its like saying Thomas The Tank Engine is the real story of the British railway … blah blah' I say this: First if all, palaeontologists can tell a whole lot from fossils – everything from an animal's size and gait, right down to what it ate. Secondly, some of these animals (mammoths, sabre-tooth cats, woolly rhinos, giant elks) WERE seen by human eyes, and indeed cave paintings have proved to be another valuable source of information about these creatures. And thirdly, some of these creatures are so closely related to modern animals that it is possible to draw fairly sensible conclusions about what their social habits must have been like just by observing their modern relatives. Of course there's inevitably going to be an element of conjecture and speculation in a production like this, but at least it is educated, sensible and logical conjecture, and it's probably not far off the truth in most cases. My minor quibbles are pretty much the same as those already aired by other reviewers: I found it incredibly naff giving the sabre-tooth cats names - `Half Tooth' and `The Brothers'. Why not just call them Brian, Clive and Trevor instead? That would have been no more or no less silly. And some fascinating and truly bizarre prehistoric animals were completely overlooked or mentioned just briefly (the ancient horses being one example). But these are minor quibbles about an otherwise superb effort by the BBC. It gets 9 out of 10 from me.
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5/10
The Bum Of All Sequels
4 August 2002
Oh Dear, as if it wasn't bad enough casting Mr. Charisma himself Ben Affleck as the hero Jack Ryan (Affleck isn't fit to shine predecessor Harrison Ford's shoes, much less step into them), we also had the novel's bad guys - Islamic fundamentalists - transformed for the movie into politically much "safer" white right-wing extremists. Never mind the fact that Muslim extremists today present the most credible potential perpetrators of such an attack. It would never do to say so in these politically correct times, now would it??!! Because that would be racist!!!! So instead let's just make like ostriches and bury our heads in the proverbial sand.

The film is also displays a complete lack of continuity with the other Jack Ryan movies (this has already been dealt with extensively by other reviewers so I won't repeat the details). It's well known that movie-makers often treat their audiences like fools - so perhaps they figured that no-one would notice!! This movie would have been a whole lot better (a) with anyone but Ben Affleck (b) with Islamic extremists being portrayed as the (much more credible) bad guys (c) with continuity in line with the other Ryan movies or, failing that (d) creating another lead character to replace Ryan altogether and finally (e) eliminating the tiresome girlfriend character altogether (why is it that Affleck always has to be given some sort of romantic interest, even if it's of no relevance whatsoever to the main plot?). Stick to the first three Jack Ryan movies and pretend this one never happened.
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A lesser-known Vietnam War gem
29 July 2002
Warning: Spoilers
MINOR SPOILER WARNING!! Forget what the nay-sayers write about this movie. Despite its low-ish budget and the sometimes not-very-Vietnamese-looking Vietnamese (and I'm also sure I saw a Filipino masquerading as an American chopper pilot as well), this is actually a very good film when taken on its own merits. Some reviewers have said that this film isn't `realistic'. Do me a favour!!! I bet most - if not all - of those who say that this film isn't `realistic' have never been anywhere near a combat situation themselves. So how would they even know whether it's "realistic" or not??!! Plus the fact that R. Lee Ermey is a real-life former Marine Corps drill sergeant and Vietnam combat vet, so he basically plays himself in this movie (as he does in the much more well-known ‘Full Metal Jacket'). How much more `realistic' can you get??!! I personally found the combat scenes quite harrowing at times. True, there were some cliched moments – like when the character Murphy started going on about his girl back home, you just knew that he was going to `buy the farm', and when we found out that Short-Wave only had a matter of weeks left of his tour, we knew that he was history as well. But by and large I thought that the movie worked in all departments. Decent attempts were made at developing some of the characters, an attempt was also made to show that the Vietnamese weren't just all `bad' and the Americans weren't just all `good', the combat scenes were well executed (despite the occasionally dodgy incidental music) and pulled no punches, and on the whole it avoids degenetrating into the chest-beating, gung-ho nonsense of films like "The Green Berets" and others (except perhaps for when the helicopter pilots are whooping and hollering like sadistic schoolboys as they mow down scores of "dinks" with their machine guns and rockets). Some other wags on this page have also complained about the film having too much shooting and explosions. It's a war movie for God's sake!!! War involves lots of shooting and explosions!! My overall rating would be a very solid 7 out of 10. With a slightly bigger budget to iron out some of the occasionally cheap and tacky-looking interior sets and more Vietnamese actors and extras portraying the Viet Cong, plus of course better promotion, this movie could definitely have been up there with the likes of `Platoon' (which I've always considered slightly overrated), `Hamburger Hill' and `Full Metal Jacket'.
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Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1983–2004)
Television doesn't get any better than this
26 May 2002
I'm writing this 5 episodes into the first BBC screening of the new (third) series. After a 15 year break, I was sceptical that the old magic of this classic series would no longer be there. My fears were unfounded. This is British TV at its very best. The writing is as superb as it ever was back in the 80s. The six surviving main characters, the new seventh `lead' (replacing the late Gary Holton's character, as his son) and all the supporting characters are just excellent. Ten out of ten, no question. I'm taping the entire series and once it finishes I'm going to have a night in with a six-pack and watch the whole lot right the way through again from start to finish. Let's hope that the rumoured fourth series also comes to fruition.
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Sweeney 2 (1978)
5/10
Kipper ties and expendable Cortinas
14 May 2002
A slightly rougher and (in the last 15 minutes or so) more violent & gory spin-off from the TV series but with no DCI Haskins. Instead we suddenly have some bloke who looks like Sir Humphrey off `Yes Minister' playing Regan's & Carter's boss. The plot is a bit disjointed in places. Basically it's about a gang of `armed blaggers' toting gold sawn-offs and alarming '70s hairdos who jet in from Malta every so often to turn over some London bank. But then halfway through, the focus suddenly switches to some French-speaking `geezer' from Beirut in a hotel disarming a bomb in his room. He has absolutely nothing to do with the armed blaggers, but we stay with him for a good 20 minutes as George Carter dresses up as room service, takes him a large Scotch and ends up helping him disarm the bomb while all the other coppers have an impromptu booze-up downstairs in the hotel bar. No explanation as to who he is, where the bomb came from and what he's doing there, except for later on when Regan tells Carter `by the way' that `the geezer with the bomb' was with the CIA. And that's it!!! We're left to fill in the many blanks ourselves as the plot goes back to the expat blaggers living it up on Malta and planning their next `job'. We learn that they steal the exact equivalent of $100,000 in every raid - no more and no less. But again, absolutely no explanation is given as to the rationale behind this. Then there's Denholm Elliot's crooked Detective Superintendent who gets `sent down' for corruption. Early on we're told that he was Regan's ex-boss and that the two had been working closely for years, but I don't recall ever seeing or even hearing of the character in the TV series (although I can't claim to have seen every episode and it's been some years since I saw the programme so maybe I've missed something). Like its parent TV series and similar shows of the era (such as `The Professionals'), Sweeney 2 sticks two fingers firmly up at the PC brigade, and that's still very refreshing to see in this day and age, when programme-makers seem to be obsessed with tokenism, `inclusiveness' and not `offending' anyone. Despite its shortcomings and plot vagaries, this is an enjoyable movie for those with fond memories of a golden age in British television and '70s nostalgics in general. A bit of a mixed bag to be sure, but worth a look.
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6/10
Has it's moments - good and not so good
22 April 2002
Living close to one of Europe's largest American military bases, I've met a fair few U.S. Navy flyers, and none of them looked anything like Tom Cruise or Val Kilmer. Just regular blokes doing their day-job and not the square-jawed all-American hero types at all. Which is why I though that Owen Wilson was actually very well cast in this role. He was so, well – ordinary!!! The movie itself is standard Hollywood action fare. Pretty predictable stuff really, but fairly entertaining escapism nonetheless. As usual the bad guys (in this case the Serbs) are portrayed as one-dimensional thugs and all of them are lousy shots with a gun. Another reviewer on this page has said that he hasn't seen any action movie hero dodge as many bullets and rockets since Rambo back in the ‘80s, and that just about sums it up perfectly. And the American cause is (quite naturally because this is Hollywood) a noble one. The film has its share of powerful scenes – the F18 shoot-down scene and Wilson's discovery of the mass grave in the forest in particular. But it also has its share of silliness too, the rescue scene in particular being implausibly over-the-top, incorporating as it does a mixture of Rambo-style bullet-dodging, 007-style cliff-leaping stunt work, and the inability of several BMP armored vehicles and massed Serb gunmen to shoot down (or even hit) three hovering American helicopters at very close range.

The supposedly `clever' fast-zoom and CGI camera work is also headache-inducing at times, and really should have been toned down a bit. Unfortunately, this style of filming seems to be becoming increasingly fashionable and is often done just for the sake of it. And this film is no exception.

Overall I'd rate this movie as a good 6 out of 10. I won't be rushing out to add the DVD to my collection, but I might watch it again if and when it appears on satellite TV.
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