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2/10
"If..." only this was comparable
27 June 2009
"John Hughes' son wrote a high school drama! Wow!" I thought as I checked the flick's info here on IMDb, late on a Saturday night, having found myself watching the opening credits on BBC2.

I've just finished watching it, and sadly it was downhill from there on. Arguably you can't spoil a film this poor, but I'll leave the spoilers out of this review...

There's an awful lot of style over very little substance: unfortunately the style hasn't dated too well in the eight years since its release. As for the substance, the film tries to pose an interesting look at the nature of control in society through the microcosm of school-life; but beneath the shiny veneer, a remotely meaningful or relevant argument fails to materialise. Characters are painted in childishly broad strokes, falling into the kind of generic stereotypes the writer's father sought to question in Breakfast Club.

Director Kyle Cooper does a decent job keeping the pace up (perhaps relying a little too much on montages of information, which soon becomes a tiresome device, but at least pushes the story along), but his efforts don't sufficiently detract from the poor script and bizarre casting (how anyone is supposed to side with 'Maddox', when Blake Shields gurns and glowers his way through the part, I just can't understand), not to mention the numerous gaping plot holes (I'm all for creative license, but when the "bad guys" know the identities of the "good guys" making their lives a misery, but fail to act in any way to stop them, you really have to wonder why this script didn't undergo another few re-drafts before production - did Daddy even read it?).

I'm sure a younger audience might get some enjoyment from this film (and all power to them), but they're really better off sticking with Hughes Sr.'s high school output, and if the idea of school-time rebellion is what really appeals, the 1968 classic "If..." is a much more satisfying examination of the subject.
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Mad Men (2007–2015)
9/10
Victim of a backlash?
27 May 2009
I'm surprised by the number of negative reviews here. Sure, the show's been hyped to death by the media on both sides of the Atlantic, and inevitably it doesn't quite live up to the life-changing drama it's so often described at - but that doesn't make it a bad show. Despite numerous assertions to the contrary, performances by the cast are never less than good, and often superb: you have to remember how different the era was, how much more inhibited; and not hold it against the actors when their characters respond with stiff upper-lips or blushes where modern people would be much less inhibited.

Plot wise, it's hardly an intense thriller, and many episodes end seemingly without giving you any major revelations (certainly, compared with the likes of cliffhanger-per-week Lost and Heroes, or even Weiner's previous offering, The Sopranos, there's no big incentive to keep watching next week); but it's more about the holistic development of the characters and their relationships with each other, as time marches on and the up-tight 50s gradually give way to the progressive, liberal 60s. Most of the characters face unique, defining dilemmas which reflect the wider social changes of the era. Perhaps there are a few too many moments where we, a more 'enlightened' audience, are invited to scorn the naive ways of that earlier age, but make no mistake - Mad Men is not looking down its nose at its characters, but portraying them sympathetically, albeit era-specific-warts-and-all.

It's of course impossible to talk about Mad Men without mentioning how it looks - sumptuous; almost every detail is painstakingly recreated (there are a few small goofs, but c'mon, it's TV), which, combined with the top-notch performances, makes it easy to forget you're watching a show scripted and filmed this decade.

I can appreciate the criticism that the episodes individually aren't too fulfilling, but to dismiss the show merely because it doesn't awkwardly manufacture conundrums for the viewer to unravel, is like depriving yourself of food because it won't quench your thirst: better to think of Mad Men as a VERY long feature film, and supplement your enjoyment of it with thrills obtained from some other show.
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Phoo Action (2008 TV Movie)
7/10
Post-Mod Comic Silliness
3 November 2008
First things first - this is a silly show. It's full of lots of comic and film references, and the plot makes the Adam West series of Batman look gritty. But allusions to CBBC simply aren't fair - while it retains a lighthearted, fast paced cartoon style, the show is packed with in-jokes that require the viewer to know a thing or two about the genres it parodies.

It isn't elitist - you can probably enjoy the show without grasping the references - but I think it's fair to say the reviewer who felt it best suited to children's television hadn't picked them up.

As has been mentioned, it helps if you've read "Get the Freebies" and "Tankgirl" in particular, but there's loads on offer here even if you haven't.
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