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Blue Heelers: Hunted (1998)
Worst episode in 5 years of episodes
I rarely bother to write reviews, but this episode has been eating at me since I saw it. I really like Blue Heelers, and I accept its imperfections, but this goes beyond imperfection and on into travesty. Fiction calls for the willing suspension of disbelief, but to accept this episode, one must also give up the desire for accurate characterization in both the regular characters as well as the supporting players. Maggie--rock-solid, sensible, cop-to-her-core Maggie--goes from stupid mistake to ridiculous blunder to inexplicable behavior from the outset. She gets everything wrong, in the most un-Maggielike way. And there's a killer determined to kill the only witness to the murder he committed, yet somehow, even though he's explained all this to Maggie, he doesn't feel any great need to kill her as well though he has several opportunities. And it finishes off with a death that's supposed to be heroic, or poignant, or touching, but manages to be mostly stupid, unnecessary and clichéd. You'd think a 10-year-old had written this mess.
Top-notch soap opera parody
I've been binge-watching this since I found it; it's almost like an obsession. The Braithwaites seem to be a normal middle-class family, mom and dad and three girls, and then Allison Braithwaite wins a huge amount of money in a lottery and all hell breaks loose. Allison is a very nice, decent woman who just wants to do some good with the money, but the same cannot be said of her husband and daughters. Conflict necessarily ensues. In an unusual move, the writers haven't made the huge cash windfall the source of the family's problems, which were there all along--the money just brings all the turmoil to the surface. The cast is excellent. Peter Davison, long a staple of British comedy, goes above and beyond as David Braithwaite, Allison's obnoxious, greedy, self-centered husband. If you like satire, parody, and black humor, you should be entertained by the Braithwaites.
The Man from Snowy River II (1988)
A ghastly mistake
The original movie, Man From Snowy River, is one of the best I've seen, nearly perfect. A Lady and the Tramp storyline in two senses--rich girl/poor boy, and ability vs. bloodline. The sequel, however, is not only a shameless attempt to capitalize on the good name of the original but also a ridiculous, overblown Disneyfied mess best summarized as "Rambo Meets the Black Stallion." Without the charm of The Black Stallion. The young hero comes back from a 3-year absence, and suddenly he's Superman on horseback; in the original, good film, he was real and believable, but sadly reduced to a caricature in the sequel. I've hardly been as disappointed in a movie, and at times this thing made me quite angry--they missed hardly a cliché. Brazen audience manipulation--do studio heads think that all you have to do with a horse-loving audience is put pretty horses in front of them, to make them happy? A mess of a movie.
Good old boy is forced by circumstances to become a good man
I saw the movie when it came out, and I think perhaps it plays much better if you live in a rodeo state (I'm in Texas) so the audience really understands what's going on. They used real rodeo performers, too, like Leon Coffee, and that's the sort of detail the average movie-goer wouldn't notice. As to the movie in terms of plot, it's fairly predictable--hometown boy makes good and saves the day--but the subplots are what make this a good, underrated movie, I think. You have a hero who's almost an antihero till he's forced to grow up and take on a normal man's responsibilities; i.e., caring for his aging father. You have a young widow with a recalcitrant son, basically a good boy who needs a strong masculine role model. You have the dutiful daughter who stayed home and took on the care of her father, even though she's married and has a life of her own. The acting overall is very good. Scott Glenn is a charming scamp, and he has a flair for light comedy. Cate Capshaw--well, she could be better. Ben Johnson is excellent. Mickey Rooney does a star turn in a cameo role. And look for the old TV western character actors from the 1960s. It's a decent movie with very good moments throughout, very honest moments, too. Maybe it didn't play well in New York or Los Angeles, but in Nacogdoches, Texas, the theatre was SRO.