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Play for Today: Abigail's Party (1977)
Season 8, Episode 3
10/10
A '70s classic that is both hilarious and cringe inducing at the same time
20 August 2019
This '70s classic is set in an ordinary suburban home where Beverly, and husband Laurence have invited new neighbours, Angela and Tony, round for drinks; also invited is another neighbour, single mother Sue, whose fifteen year old daughter, Abigail, is having a party. At first just Beverly is there, then Laurence returns from work; it soon becomes clear that he will have to pop out for work and to get some beer... these early exchanges make it clear that Beverly is the dominant partner. While he is out Angela and Tony arrive; she seems eager to agree with any suggestion and he is distinctly taciturn; the drinks start to flow. Soon after Sue arrives, a more reserved character who clearly feels uncomfortable. As the evening progresses, and more drink is consumed tensions start to simmer and finally snap.

This TV play is still a delight over forty years after its first broadcast. Its characters may be slightly exaggerated... but only slightly. There are plenty of laughs to be had but it is also painfully embarrassing to watch at times. The cast does a great job bringing their characters to life. Most memorable is Alison Steadman's portrayal of Beverly; a delightfully over-the-top personality who is cringe inducing... the way she insists on topping up drinks and nit-picking at her husband. Tim Stern is solid as the hen pecked husband, a snob who believes himself to be cultured but let's things slip when he shows off his beautifully bound copies of Shakespeare only to claim they are unreadable. Janine Duvitski is fun as the mousy Alison. John Salthouse is great as Tony; a character who seems to be very uncomfortable and may be seething with rage just under the surface, something that is often expressed without a word. Finally Harriet Reynolds impresses as Sue; the most normal character who can in some ways be seen as a viewer avatar as we feel the discomfort she feels as the others perform around her. The way we stay almost entirely within one room adds to the sense of claustrophobia; we may want to get out but we can't. Overall I'd definitely recommend this; it may be embarrassing at times but it is also very funny.
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8/10
A charming female led slice of life
19 August 2019
This charming film is centred on Jane Marks, a woman is about to undergo liposuction, and her three daughters. These are aspiring artist Michelle, whose husband isn't very supportive; Actress Elizabeth who is worried that she isn't sexy enough to get an important role; and eight year old Annie, an adopted African American girl who wants to fit in with her white family.

It might be said that this film doesn't have much of a plot; it is more of a snapshot of a family's life while the mother is in hospital. Each of the four main characters has their neuroses which lead them into various situations; in the case of Michelle and Elizabeth that means getting involved with other people; in Michelle's case somebody much too young for her. The film answers some of the questions raised but leaves others open. The cast does a really fine job making their characters feel real. There are plenty of funny moments, sometimes with a touch of danger such as when Annie floats face-down in the pool in a way that worries people who worries she has drowned... something I recall doing when about that age! Overall I'd say that I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected and would recommend it to anybody wanting a good female led drama with touches of comedy.
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8/10
Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges impress in this character driven crime story
19 August 2019
As this story opens a young man, Lightfoot, steals a car; elsewhere a man walks into a church and starts shooting at the preacher. The latter escapes and is picked up by Lightfoot. It later emerges that the preacher is an ex-bank robber who the press nick-named Thunderbolt after he use a 20mm anti-aircraft gun to access a vault. After that job the money was hidden behind the blackboard in an old school house... unfortunately the whole school house has gone. Thunderbolts old friends believe he took the money, which is why they are after him. After a variety of near misses they finally catch up with Thunderbolt and Lightfoot demanding the money. Shortly afterwards Lightfoot suggests the repeat the robbery.

This film is a fun blend of a buddy movie, a road movie and a heist movie with a strong emphasis on the characters. The story isn't rushed; instead we get to see the protagonists' friendship develop as they encounter a variety of difficulties. Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges are on great form in these roles; their characters have a great chemistry. George Kennedy impresses as Red Leary, somebody Thunderbolt knew from his time in Korea; a character who is genuinely menacing. Geoffrey Lewis is solid as the fourth member of the gang although his character is the least developed. There are plenty of moments of amusement, some hilariously bizarre, there are also exciting moments and a degree of poignancy. Writer/director Michael Cimino does a really impressive job bringing the story to the screen; utilising some great Montana scenery in the process. Overall I'd certainly recommend this to fans of the two leads or anybody who likes a character driven crime drama.
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7/10
Fun action sequel with Jason Statham
19 August 2019
After the events of the previous film hitman Arthur Bishop has faked his own death and retired to Rio de Janeiro where he lives under an assumed name. Unfortunately for him he is tracked down by people working for Riah Crain. Crain is an old friend turned enemy who wants Bishop to assassinate three people for him. Bishop manages to get away and move to an island off the Thai coast. Once again he is found; this time by a woman, Gina Thornton, forced to work for Crain. They fall in love then Crain's goons grab Gina and tell Bishop that if he doesn't take the job Gina will be killed. These hits will entail going after one man who is in an island prison off the Malaysian coast; another who lives in a secure penthouse in Sydney and finally a man who lives in a cold war era bunker in Bulgaria... then there is the problem that Crain might not keep his end of the deal.

This film might not have a complex plot but it does serve to deliver a succession of exciting action sequences. This action is nicely varied with Jason Statham dispatching henchmen with knives, guns, grenades and his bare hands... there are a lot of henchmen that need dispatching! The main targets are each unpleasant in their own way so few viewers are likely to think Bishop is wrong to kill them to save Gina. Jason Statham is on fine form as Bishop; a fairly typical roll for him which should please fans. Jessica Alba is solid as Gina, getting in on the action a few times. Michelle Yeoh was somewhat underused and sadly took no part in the action... something that I'm sure will disappoint her fans. As is often the case in such films we are treated to a variety of stunning locations. Overall I'd recommend this to fans of good mindless action.
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Super Dragon (1976)
6/10
Super Dragon
18 August 2019
This Taiwanese martial arts film is centred on five martial arts experts who work for an escort union. It is there job to deliver valuable merchandise. Unfortunately a number of recent jobs have not gone to plan and the items they were transporting were stolen... the only explanation is that there is a traitor in the organisation. Once again they are intercepted by thieves but after a confrontation one of them agrees to help identify the traitor. Later they are joined by a woman who is convinced that one of them killed her father; she is determined to have her revenge.

I wasn't expecting too much from this film but it wasn't too bad. The central plot is solid enough and serves to deliver plenty of excuses for enjoyable martial arts action. It is clearly a fairly low budget film; the locations aren't very varied and given the fluctuating light levels at times no film was 'wasted' reshooting anything that didn't look good. The cast did a solid job as far as the action was concerned; as the version of the film I watched had been dubbed into English. Strangely the original music had also been replaced in places... this was blatantly obvious as parts of the soundtrack from 'Star Wars' were used! Overall I'd hardly call this a must see film but it is fun enough and as the action isn't that brutal it can be enjoyed by younger viewers too.
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Mean Streets (1973)
9/10
A slice of life film amongst gangsters in '70s New York
18 August 2019
Charlie works for his uncle, a member of the mob in New York, collecting debts. He is seeing Teresa, a woman his don't approve of because she has epilepsy and is friends with her Cousin 'Johnny Boy'. Johnny is a lot of trouble; he owes large sums of money to various loan sharks, most notably Michael Longo. He keeps promising to pay the debts but always has an excuse on pay day; Michael is rapidly losing patience and pressuring Charlie to ensure his friend pays. If that weren't enough; Johnny is the sort of person who deliberately riles those around him but can't take any criticism.

If one is expecting the high level of violence of some of Martin Scorsese's later films one might be disappointed; this does contain some violence but not that much. Instead we are treated to a slice of life film centred on various New York low level criminals. Harvey Keitel does a fine job as Charlie; a character who seems too decent for his line of work. Robert De Niro stands out as Johnny Boy; the character is impossible to like as he is so obnoxious but he is utterly believable. Amy Robinson also impresses as Teresa; the only major character who doesn't appear to be involved with anything illegal. The way Scorsese films the action, makes it feel as if the viewer is moving amongst real people. It could be argued that there is no great plot but to my mind that just served to increase the feeling that these were real people. Overall this is definitely worth watching if you are a fan on '70s cinema or of De Nero, Keitel or Scorsese.
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7/10
An action packed fourth instalment in the 'Underworld' franchise
16 August 2019
As this film opens we learn that humanity as discovered the existence of the two non-human species, vampires and lycans, and set about eliminating both. Selene, the vampire Death Dealer, and Michael, the vampire/lycan hybrid and cryogenically frozen. Twelve years later Selene escapes and is united with a girl named Eve who turns out to be her daughter. She is wanted by individuals who believes that she holds the key to their research. The action that follows will see Selene return to the lab where she had been frozen and confront numerous super-lycans to save her daughter.

After missing the third film, which was a prequel, this film sees a welcome return of Kate Beckinsale as Selene; she does a fine job in the roll providing quality action scenes... as well as looking great in her tight fitting costume! The Story is solid enough; it provides some good twists and lots of thrilling action. Stephen Rea and Charles Dance add a touch of class as the Dr Jacob Lane, the films main antagonist, and a vampire elder respectively. I also liked Michael Ealy's performance as Detective Sebastian, a policeman who helps Selene, and India Eisley is solid as Eve. On the down side the CGI isn't the best and the way guns seem to be able to rapid fire a near infinite amount of ammunition without reloading is too silly. Overall I certainly wouldn't call this a great film but it is definitely worth watching if you enjoyed previous Underworld films.
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8/10
A really fun space opera
15 August 2019
One night in 1988 Peter Quinn's mother dies and then he is abducted by aliens... not a great day. Twenty six years later he is roaming the galaxy as a thief known, if only to himself, as Star Lord. He steals a mysterious orb and soon everybody is after him; some because there is a bounty on his head others because there are those who want the orb for the power it holds. The soon crosses paths with bounty hunters Rocket and Groot; a genetically engineered racoon-like being and a walking tree, and Gamora, an attractive green woman who is after the orb. They are all arrested and while in jail form an unlikely partnership; they are joined by a fifth member, Drax, who wants revenge against Ronan, the being who murdered his family. They manage to escape but there troubles are far from over; Ronan wants the orb as it holds the power to destroy those he opposes. Few people they approach can be trusted and much of the time they don't trust each other... it will be a miracle if they can save each other let alone the galaxy!

When I saw that this was a Marvel film I initially thought it might be yet another superhero film; it isn't. Instead we get a space opera which is full of action, humour and some fine lead characters. It may not be quite as high camp as 'The Fifth Element' or 'Jupiter Ascending' it is in that ballpark with over-the-top villains and exotic aliens. The plot might not provide too many surprises but it does give exciting scene after exciting scene. The characters are great; I particularly liked Groot; despite his very limited vocabulary. The cast does a fine job; this includes those we see and those who provide the voices for the animated characters. The special effects are top notch; they make the animated characters fit seamlessly into the live action and provide spectacular backdrops to impressive action. The use of music from the '60s and '70s was fun and nicely justified by the fact that Quinn had a tape of his mother's favourite music... of course the idea that he could play it for over twenty years without it being chewed up is perhaps the most unlikely part of the film! Overall I'd say this is a really fun sci-fi romp that can be enjoyed by anybody who enjoys the genre but doesn't take it too seriously.
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Nacho Libre (2006)
8/10
Very silly, but also very funny
15 August 2019
This Jack Black comedy sees him playing Nacho, a young monk working as a cook in the remote Mexican monastery/orphanage where he was raised. As a child he dreamt of becoming a luchador, wrestler, but this is forbidden as such activities are seen as a sign of vanity. He regularly goes into town to get food for the orphans and one day he is robbed by a street thief, Steven. Shortly afterwards he sees champion masked luchador Ramses being mobbed by fans... he has a plan. He persuades Steven to become a tag-wrestler with him; if he wears a mask the monastery won't find out what he is doing. They aren't very good at wrestling but still they get paid so continue, determined to get better and turn professional so he can buy a bus for the orphans and thus impress the attractive Sister Encarnación.

Not surprisingly this film is very silly; thankfully it also provides lots of laughs. Much of this is physical with fights that are funny but still feel like the characters are wrestling and some hilarious training scenes. Jack Black is hilarious as Nacho; his put-on Mexican accent is so ridiculous it is funny rather than offensive. Héctor Jiménez is equally funny as his wrestling partner Steven. The rest of the cast are solid although their characters are mostly not comically. The story doesn't deliver any real surprises but it does serve to deliver the laughs. Overall this may be fairly light weight but I'd recommend it to anybody wanting a good laugh and little to cause offence.
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Yes Minister (1980–1984)
10/10
One of the great British comedy series
14 August 2019
This classic BBC comedy is set in the fictitious Ministry of Administrative Affairs. Following an election, and change of government, Jim Hacker finds himself the minister in charge of this department. Working with him are civil servants Sir Humphrey Appleby, the permanent secretary and Bernard Woolley his Principal Private Secretary. When he arrives he is keen to get things done and has ideas for reforms... it isn't long before it becomes obvious that the civil service will try to block his plans by finding reasons they can't work or, if they really want to stop him, Sir Humphrey will tell him the plans are 'courageous'. Over the course of three series he gradually learns to play the game... at least within certain limits.

This series may have first aired almost forty years ago but not only is it still funny the issues being talked about often feel as though they could be present events. The cast does a brilliant job bringing their characters to life; most notably the three main cast members, Paul Eddington, Nigel Hawthorne and Derek Fowlds as Hacker, Sir Humphrey and Bernard respectively; their scenes together are a joy to watch; especially some of the longer speeches where some technical point is discussed in a way that is both funny but also feels real. Part of the genius of the series is that it is never clear which party Jim Hacker is a member of; I always assumed he was on the left of the Conservative Party but when I mentioned this to my mother she said she always assumed he was on the right of the Labour Party. Overall I would definitely recommend this to anybody interested in the workings of British politics or just wanting a good laugh.
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8/10
Martial arts action as Jet Li fights corrupt cops in Paris
13 August 2019
This martial arts action film sees Jet Li playing Lui Jiuan; a cop from China who has flown to Paris to help Inspector Jean-Pierre Richard bring down a powerful Chinese gangster. He has no idea that the Richard is highly corrupt. He has plotted to kill the gangster and frames Lui for the murder. He manages to acquire evidence of what happens before escaping. Richard has just about every cop in Paris searching for Lui, who seeks refuge in a restaurant run by Uncle Tai. By coincidence while here he helps Jessica, a woman forced into prostitution by Richard, who was present at the murder. She agrees to confirm what really happened if Lui can rescue her daughter.

If you enjoy lots of martial arts action but prefer not to read subtitles or endure dubbing then this is probably the film for you. There is plenty of martial arts action throughout the film; sometimes it is one on one, sometimes it is two on one, sometimes it is a few on one and in one fantastic scene it is Jet Li versus an entire roomful of police who just happen to be undertaking a martial arts class! These fights all look very real with the absolute minimum of CGI or wire work. These scenes also lacked excessive editing so they look like real fights not a succession of intercut moves. As well as lots of martial arts there are also good shooting scenes and a couple of explosions. The story might only be there to justify the action but it is still solid enough and the obvious coincidence of who Lui and Jessica meet can be forgiven, as can the various clichés. Jet Li is on great form as Lui, certainly it is one of his best English language roles. Bridget Fonda is solid as Jessica and Tchéky Karyo impresses as Richard. The rest of the cast are solid even if most of them are there to be beaten up or killed by Jet Li! Overall I'd definitely recommend this to fans of martial arts films... it is pretty violent at times but that goes with the genre.
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Red Sun (1971)
8/10
Red Sun
13 August 2019
It is 1870 and Japan has sent an ambassador to the United States; having arrived in San Francisco he and the two samurai accompanying him are now crossing the country by train. As the train crosses the desert bandits led by two men; Link Stuart and Gotch 'Gauche' Kink rob the train. During the robbery Gauche kills one of the samurai, steals a ceremonial sword intended to be given to the president as a gift and betrays Link, leaving him for dead. Link is then forced to work with Kuroda Jubei, the surviving samurai. If they don't retrieve the sword within seven days Kuroda will commit hara-kiri; but not before killing Link. He is also determined to kill Gauche on sight... Link wants to question him so he can get his cut of their stolen money. As they travel Link tries to lose Kuroda; they face Gauche's men; pick up Gauche's girlfriend Cristina, who isn't keen to go with them; and face hostile Comanche warriors.

Westerns and samurai films often contain similar plots so it is hardly surprising that somebody had the idea of combining the two. While it may be a bit of a gimmick it leads to an entertaining film. Link and Kuroda are an unlikely partnership so it is almost inevitable that this also becomes a buddy movie as they gradually grow to respect each other. As with most buddy movies there are quite a few laughs along the way. Charles Bronson and Kuroda Jubei are both on good form in these roles. Alain Delon is decent enough as Gauche although his character could have done with more screen time. Ursula Andress is solid as Cristina. The action is good, with shootouts and the use of Kuroda's samurai sword. The sword use is done in a way that makes in acceptable for a man with a sword to beat a man with a gun. The Spanish locations work well as a fill-in for the US South West; while watching I was unaware that it was filmed on another continent. Overall I wouldn't call this a classic western but it is an interesting twist on the genre which I'd recommend to western fans.
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Gomorrah (2008)
8/10
A realistic look at the Neapolitan underworld
12 August 2019
When most people think of the mafia they think of American mobsters or Sicilians; this film tells of a group even more dangerous... The Camorra on Naples. Rather than having a conventional narrative we get glimpses into the lives of various people connected to crime in the city. Marco and Ciro; a pair of wannabe gangsters who operate independently and think they've hit the big time when they find a Camorra weapons stash; Don Ciro, a timid middleman who delivers payments to the families of gaoled gang members; Pasquale, a tailor who works at a factory controlled by the mob and Totò a thirteen year old grocery delivery boy who gradually gets caught up in the crime, amongst others. We see who the Camorra has its tentacles everywhere; drugs, weapons, fake designer goods and illegal disposal of toxic waste. The crime is profitable and the various subgroups are more than willing to kill to keep control of what they have already or to take what they want from others.

This film is far from being a feel good story; it never glamorises the criminal lifestyle but instead shows how it ruins the lives of those it touches like a cancer eating away at the society. Nobody here is seen living the high life. The way it is filmed with hand held cameras on real locations give the film an almost documentary feel; as though we are there with real gangsters not seeing people act. The actors all do a good job at making their various characters seem real. There are plenty of shocking moments even when one has been primed to expect something bad to happen. Perhaps the biggest shock is that all of this is happening in a modern European country not somewhere less developed. Overall I'd definitely recommend this to people interested in the subject; just don't expect any laughs or thrills... the violence is sudden and brutal not exciting.

These comments are based on watching the film in Italian with English subtitles.
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Midnight Run (1988)
9/10
An unlikely buddy moving featuring a bounty hunter and the man he must bring in
11 August 2019
Jack Walsh is a bounty hunter tasked with finding Jonathan "The Duke" Mardukas and bringing him back to Los Angeles. The Duke was a former Mafia accountant who has skipped bail and Walsh will get $100,000 if he completes the job on time. It doesn't take him long to find The Duke in New York but getting him back will not be easy. He claims to be terrified of flying so they end up travelling overland in a journey that will involve travelling by train; bus and various cars, some stolen. It will also take them to Chicago, Amarillo, Flagstaff and Las Vegas as they try to avoid various characters determined to stop them; these include the FBI, who want The Duke to testify in another case; the mafia who want him dead and a rival bounty hunter who just wants the reward.

This film is a lot of fun; it provides a solid story, good action, interesting characters and plenty of humour. The humour is entirely down to the characters and the situations rather than any obvious gags. Robert De Nero and Charles Grodin are great as Walsh and The Duke; they have a fine on screen chemistry even when their characters seem to hate each other. There are also solid performances from Yaphet Kotto as FBI Special Agent Alonzo Mosely; John Ashton, as rival bounty hunter Marvin Dorfler; Dennis Farina, as mobster Jimmy Serrano; and Joe Pantoliano, as Walsh's employer Eddie Moscone. The action is nicely varied with fights, some shooting, car chases and the near-obligatory exploding helicopter. The film still feels fresh after over thirty years. The nature of the protagonists' journey gives the feel of 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles' with guns added to the mix. The only slight negative point is that the constant swearing makes it unsuitable to younger viewers who might otherwise enjoy it. Overall I'd certainly recommend this, especially if you are a fan of De Nero, road movies or action films with just the right amount of comedy.
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9/10
The disturbing film of the Pink Floyd Album
10 August 2019
The Wall tells the story of Pink; a burnt out rock star who has retreated into himself. Told in a non-linear fashion we see how he is effected by the loss of the father he never knew in the war; cruel teachers; a wife who leaves him; the adulation of his fans and too many drugs and finally how he grows to see himself as a fascist demagogue.

This is a far from conventional film; there is a minimal amount of dialogue. Instead the story is told through the images we see and the music of Pink Floyd. The images are a mix of conventional live action shots of Pink's life; images of war and animation designed by Gerald Scarfe. This is sometimes tragic and sometimes brutally disturbing. The scenes we see perfectly match the music; adding something to what isn't there on the album in a way that makes it hard to just listen without recalling the imagery. The animated sequences demand separate mention; they are creative and shocking in a way one doesn't expect in western animation; they contain a sense of bleakness, brutality and even flowers that border on pornographic! Overall I'd say that this is a must see for fans of Pink Floyd and for those looking for something different who don't mind being disturbed.
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7/10
Saving 'problem' kids with the help of Dylan
10 August 2019
This film tells the story of LouAnne Johnson, a former US Marine who becomes an English teacher. When she applies for the job she is quickly offered the task of teaching the 'Academy Class', something she is led to believe is full of high-fliers... she soon discovers it is for students other teachers find too difficult. At first she has no idea what she has got herself into but determines to win them over. Some of her ideas, such as teaching students some karate moves prove unpopular with the school but gradually they grow to respect her as she shows that she cares about them and structures her lessons in a more interesting way than the curriculum suggests. It isn't long before they are reading poetry and comparing the works of Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas. There are other problems though and she helps various students outside class; sometimes successfully but not always.

I found this to be an enjoyable film; Michelle Pfeiffer is on fine form as LouAnne and those playing her students are solid even if some of them are obviously too old to be at school. Inevitably there are plenty of clichés... it is little surprise that her class of unteachables turn out to be intelligent and thoughtful when given a chance. One would also believe that she spends her entire teaching day with this one class; there is no mention of them doing other subjects... it would be interesting to see if her inspiration encouraged these students to try in other subjects. Thankfully these weren't issues that bothered me while watching, they only came up as I thought about the film later. Overall I'd say that this film is inspirational and worth watching despite some flaws.
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Mama's Angel (2016– )
8/10
An interesting Israeli mystery that will frustrate many viewers
10 August 2019
This ten part Israeli series is centred on the search for the killer of seven year old Kfir Tamir whose body is found near a monument to air force heroes on a hill overlooking the Tel Aviv suburb where he lived. Suspicion quickly falls on an Ethiopian boy who had recently vandalised the monument; he is arrested and the senior police officer is convinced he has the right man. The Scene of Crime Officer is less than convinced; especially when a second body, that of a young woman, turns up.

Over the course of the series we see how the crime effects Kfir's family, the wider community and those close to the accused. While the police continue to focus on one suspect the viewers is given other characters to consider.

Since this series is centred on the murder of a child it won't be for everybody; while there are obviously disturbing moments I enjoyed it. The central mystery is interesting and keeps the viewer guessing. Social issues as a major part of the story concerns how the Ethiopian community is viewed by others in the area and one possible suspect, Amnon, has clear mental issues. There are some weak points; I can't believe the initial search of the crime scene could be so mishandled even with the chief SOCO away at the time and the senior police officer was far too fixated on one suspect. Despite these quibbles the story kept me gripped from start to finish. The cast did a solid job; most notably Tom Hagi who played Amnon and Vered Feldman as Na'ama Saddeh the SOCO. The ending will definitely frustrate many viewers; it didn't bother me but that might just be because I'd already read that others were disappointed but not why. Overall I'd still recommend this for fans of the genre.

These comments are based on watching the series in Hebrew with English subtitles.
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7/10
Decent action; okay story; weak ending
9 August 2019
As this film opens Anthony Fait and his crew of thieves target a vault full of safety deposit boxes; they have been hired to find a box containing black diamonds, anything else they find they can keep. They manage to find the black diamonds and, with some difficulty get away. A lot of people want the diamonds and soon after Fait gives them to his friend Archie for valuation they are stolen again. Shortly afterwards he receives a call letting him know that his daughter has been kidnapped and she will be harmed if he doesn't hand over the diamonds, which he no longer has. Amongst the people looking for the stones is Agent Su of Taiwanese Intelligence; he ends up working with Fait and his crew as they search for the stones and his daughter. As the story nears its conclusion it becomes apparent that the black diamonds aren't mere jewels.

If you are looking for lots of action then this film may please you; we get numerous fights, shooting, a great chase sequence involving a quad bike racing up stairs and jumping between roof tops; not to mention exploding helicopters. This action is pretty impressive as one would expect in a film starring Jet Li. However if you want a strong story then you may be disappointed as it is merely okay; something to explain why our protagonists have to get into the action. Then there is the ending... it all turns very sci-fi when we learn the power the black diamonds contain. If that weren't enough we get a ridiculous auction where the diamonds are sold for a relatively tiny sum while bids are still flooding in! Another weak point is the inclusion of Fait's daughter; precocious kids getting the better of kidnappers aren't cute they are irritating. The cast is decent enough; I liked Jet Li's performance as Su, even if his Hong Kong films are better; rapper DMX was solid as Fait, when he wasn't getting emotional with his daughter; Anthony Anderson and Tom Arnold provide some good laughs. Overall I certainly wouldn't call this a must see film but is you don't mine clichés and just want some brain-in-neutral action with a few laughs thrown in it passes the time nicely... more than worth the thirty three pence I paid for the DVD.
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The Lion King (1994)
10/10
A Disney classic
8 August 2019
In the African savannah King Mufasa, a lion, rules over the Pride Lands. He explains to his son, a young cub named Simba, that one day he will be the king... but before that he has a lot to learn. There are dangers, even for lions. The greatest danger comes from Simba's Uncle Scar; an embittered lion with a Machiavellian streak. Scar wants to rule but to do that he needs to rid himself of Mufasa and Simba... he has plans. One day Scar's plan works; Mufasa is dead and Simba leaves the Pride Lands believing he is to blame for his father's death. He grows up learning to take things easy with new friends Pumbaa and Timon, a warthog and meerkat. Scar now rules the pride with the help of the hyenas. When Simba learns of how bad things have got in the Pride Lands he will have to decide whether to continue the easy life or fight to make things better.

This film is definitely one of Disney's classics; it has a fine story, some great characters and catchy songs. Simba is a decent protagonist even if the plot demands that he isn't too strong early on and Scar is a great villain; as are his trio of hyena acolytes. Given the film's 'U' certificate I was surprised at how dark it is in places; some scenes might disturb younger viewers as characters are often in real danger. The voice cast is very impressive; notably Jeremy Irons, as Scar, James Earl Jones, as Mufasa, and Rowan Atkinson, as Zazu the hornbill who is Mufasa's majordomo. As one would expect from Disney the animation and character designs are all really good. Overall I'd definitely recommend this for all but the youngest children and adults alike.
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The Blue Lamp (1950)
9/10
Classic British police drama
8 August 2019
This 1950 film shows the changing face of crime in post war London. Gone are the days when criminals followed certain rules and respected the police. Instead there are young up and coming crooks who are quick to resort to violence. The story is centred on veteran copper PC George Dixon and his protégé PC Andy Mitchell and young crooks Tom Riley and Alf Lewis. Their paths first cross as the police investigate a missing seventeen year old girl, Diana Lewis, who is now with Riley. The two crooks rob a jewellery store then later rob the cinema where Diana works. As Riley exits he is confronted by Dixon and shoots him with a revolver. It is soon a murder case and everybody is looking for the killers.

While this film is clearly set in a long gone world the story still feels very real thanks the almost documentary-like way it is told. The film takes its time introducing the various characters and their everyday lives. This also serves to introduce the modern viewer to the different lifestyles and attitudes of the time... I don't imagine many modern films would feature a 'good copper' who wasn't too concerned about a report of a husband beating his wife. When the fatal shooting occurs it manages to be shocking even for viewers that know it happens. The cast is solid; most particularly Jack Warner who impresses as Dixon and a young Dirk Bogarde who is menacing as Riley. Overall I'd say that this is a must see for fans of early post war British cinema or of classic police dramas.
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It Follows (2014)
8/10
A chiller with a sexual twist
7 August 2019
Jay Height is an attractive nineteen year old college student whose life is changed after a casual sexual encounter. Shortly after they have sex the boy chloroforms her. She wakes to find herself tied up and he explains the situation to her. He tells her that a being, who can appears as anybody known or unknown, will start to follow her. This person walks slowly but will won't stop coming for her; if it catches her it will kill her. The only way for her to escape is to pass it on to another person by having sex... however if that person is killed it will start going after her again. Only people being followed or who have been followed cab see it. Jay manages to get her friends to believe her and they try to help her escape but wherever they go it will surely find her.

This is a superior chiller. There are surprisingly few shocking moments, most notably the sight of a previous victim in an early scene. Rather than relying on a large body count and gory deaths we get a near constant feeling that something is about to happen. The way the threat is passed from one potential victim to the next; like a game of sexual tag is interesting thanks to the moral dilemmas it raises. The fact that the entity that follows is always referred to as 'It' reinforces the tag similarities even if here the person tagged is followed by It rather than being It. The cast does a fine job; most notably Maika Monroe who is great as Jay. Director David Robert Mitchell does an impressive job keeping the tension high without resorting to jump scares and violent scenes; this is helped by Rich Vreeland's atmospheric score. Overall I'd definitely recommend this to horror fans looking for something different.
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9/10
Train to Busan
7 August 2019
Seok-woo is a workaholic fund manager living in Seoul with his mother and Su-an, his young daughter. She is desperate to see her mother, who lives four hundred and fifty kilometres away in Busan. Eventually her father agrees to take her and together they board the train to Busan. As the train prepares to depart we are introduced to a few other characters; a man and his pregnant wife; a pair of older women; a school girl and her boyfriend a wealthy business executive; a homeless man who keeps saying 'everybody is dead!' and a girl who is behaving strangely. Soon after the train sets off this girl attacks a train attendant... it is clear that she was infected with something that causes extreme violence. It isn't long before more and more become infected and survivors are barricading themselves in the remaining safe parts of the train. If that weren't enough it is clear that the infection is affecting people throughout South Korea.

I really enjoyed this South Korean zombie film; it provided tension from soon after the start right to the final scene. The zombies are more like those infected in '28 Days Later' than classic slow shuffling ones some people might not be keen on that but I think so long as they are scary all is good... and these provided the scares. The film nicely establishes rules that these particular zombies follow. Inevitably there are plenty of gory scenes, but nothing too excessive, and it isn't entirely obvious who, if anybody, will survive. The key characters are introduced well and fairly quickly; they include a good cross section of society and both heroes and cowards. Setting the film in the confined space of a speeding train adds an extra danger as there are limited places for survivors to hide safely for any length of time. The cast is solid and make us believe in their characters; similarly the special effects are pretty impressive. Overall I'd say that this is definitely a film to watch if you like zombie movies.

These comments are based on watching the film in Korean with English subtitles.
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8/10
A '70s classic
6 August 2019
This film is centred on Bo Darville; known to one and all as 'Bandit', his CB handle. He has accepted a job that requires him to drive from Atlanta, Georgia to Texarkana, Texas and return with four hundred cases of Coors beer in exchange for $80,000. The drive itself will be hard enough but taking Coors east of Texas is considered bootlegging so he will have to avoid the law. He will drive a Trans-Am while his friend Cledus, known as Snowman, will drive the truck loaded with beer. Shortly after they start the return journey, Bandit pick up Carrie, a young woman in a wedding dress who has decided not to get married! This proves to be a problem as her intended father in law is Sheriff Buford T. Justice and he is willing to chase them across state lines to get her back.

I remembered enjoying this when it was on television back in the eighties so thought I'd watch it again when I spotted it on DVD... I was pleased to find it still feels fresh and provides lots of laughs without anything really offensive. The story isn't exactly deep; it is just a good excuse for a prolonged chase; lots of stunts and some witty dialogue... and that is just fine! Burt Reynolds is on top form as The Bandit and Sally Field is a lot of fun, and very cute, as Carrie... these two have a great chemistry. Jackie Gleason also impresses as Sheriff Justice and Jerry Reed is solid as Snowman. The film contains many impressive stunts; including car jumps and numerous crashes. Overall I'd say this is good clean fun that can be enjoyed by anybody who wants a good laugh and plentiful car based action.
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Dragonwolf (2013)
4/10
Solid action let down by some poor acting and a weak story
5 August 2019
This martial arts action film is set in a city called The Devil's Cauldron were might is right and only the strong survive. Mozart and Julius are two such survivors; they have looked on each other as brothers since they met as children but now they are mortal enemies; the reason... they have both fallen in love with the same woman. As the film starts the trying to kill each other; we learn why via a series of flashbacks.

If you enjoy martial arts action this film delivers many fine fight scenes as well as a fair amount of brutality... unfortunately these scenes are linked by a story that isn't really strong enough. The acting is very mixed; I thought Kazu Patrick Tang was pretty solid as Mozart; Johan Kirsten was okay as Julius and Macha Polivka was good enough but underused as Mary, the woman who gets between them. I liked Guk Srisawat's performance as Umiko although she felt like a character who had wandered in from another, probably better, film. Many secondary actors were distinctly poor. At times it felt as though the makers had seen other, better, films, notably 'Sin City' and 'Kill Bill part One' and decided to combine them with little success. Overall I'd say that this film has its moments but overall it was a bit disappointing... probably best watched with a few friends and several beers.
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Goodfellas (1990)
10/10
One of the great mob movies
5 August 2019
This film tells the story of Irish/Italian mobster Henry Hill; from the early days when he worked for mobsters as a teenager in the 1950s, through the sixties and seventies to his arrest in the eighties. We see the ease with which he slips into this world; the rewards and dangers it brings. During this time he works with fellow mobsters James Conway and the psychotic Tommy DeVito; he also marries Karen. While Henry isn't a killer he isn't unaware of the violent side of their business.

This is often described as the greatest mob movie; I can't say that but only because there are other very well-known mob movies that I have yet to see. The story is gripping from start to finish; there are moments of humour which frequently turn to extreme danger in the blink of an eye; this is usually due to Tommy's hair-trigger temper. The violence is usually sudden and bloody; as a character points out they don't waste time talking before they waste somebody. The cast is brilliant; Joe Pesci stands out as Tommy, it is hardly surprising that he picked up an Oscar. Ray Liotta and Robert De Niro are great as Henry and James; also particularly notable are Lorraine Bracco as Karen Hill and Paul Sorvino as "Paulie" Cicero, the mobster Henry works for. Overall I'd say that this film is a must see for fans of the genre.
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