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8/10
An impressive 'all-CGI' sci-fi
17 July 2019
This sci-fi film is set in a future where most life on Earth has been wiped out following a meteorite strike which brought with it 'phantoms'. These phantoms consume the life-force of those they touch. Aki Ross has been infected by a phantom but survived, with the help of Dr Sid. Now they are searching for eight spirits which they believe will stop the phantoms. These spirits are to be found in eight different life forms; as the film opens Aki is looking for the sixth, a plant, in the remains of New York City. She ends up being rescued by a military unit lead by Gray Edwards, with whom she was once romantically involved. Not everybody agrees with Dr Sid's theories; most notably General Hein who wants to use the powerful Zeus canon to destroy the Phantoms... something Sid is certain with make matters much worse.

I have not played any of the Final Fantasy games so can't say whether this captures the feel of the franchise... but as a movie in its own right I thought it was surprisingly good. Even after almost twenty years the CGI looks great. The story is solid and there is a genuine sense of danger; characters one would expect to survive don't always. The monster fights are impressive; they have a PG 'Starship Troopers' feel to them at times... something I do mean as a compliment. The character designs are really impressive; it may be obvious that they are animated but the characters feel real. They are helped by a high quality voice cast which features many well-known actors. I enjoyed the way supernatural elements were intertwined with more conventional sci-fi. On the down side some of the humour seemed a bit forced; thankfully there wasn't too much of it. Overall I'd definitely recommend this to fans of sci-fi action.
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Tatort: Borowski und das Fest des Nordens (2016)
Season 1, Episode 1,025
7/10
Borowski and the Festival of the North
16 July 2019
As this episode opens Roman Eggers goes to the home of his ex-wife and children for the first time in six months but is not welcome. He then returns to the flat he has been living in; here he is seen by another woman; she clings to him despite his protestations. He then hits her with a blunt object and she dies... Borowski and Brandt are soon on the case. Initially they don't know the identity of the woman and although there are some finger prints at the scene they aren't on record. They disagree about possible motives. As the episode proceeds there is another murder, linked by fingerprint evidence.

This is a fairly downbeat episode; the killer is fairly normal, albeit with obvious anger issues, and the murders are fairly brutal. They also have a realistic feel; so no inventive murder methods or convoluted motives. There is also a strained working relationship between Borowski and Brandt; this isn't helped by the fact that he appears to be drinking rather a lot and she has recently changed her medication. While this may make the story more 'gritty' it isn't as much fun as when they get on better. Eggers might not be a very nice person, even before we see him commit murder, he isn't totally unsympathetic. The cast, both regulars and guest stars, do a solid job. Overall a solid story.

These comments are based on watching the episode in German with English subtitles.
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Cinderella Nine (2019– )
7/10
Cinderella Nine
15 July 2019
Arihara Tsubasa is disappointed to learn that her new school, Rigahama Municipal High School, doesn't a baseball team let alone a girls' team so she sets about creating one. It won't be that easy though; not only will she have to find enough other girls willing to play, she and those she recruits will have to find somewhere to play and persuade the school that such a club should exist. Then the team will have to learn the required skills before they can find another team to play against.

This might not be a classic series but it is rather fun and is certainly inoffensive. The plot is typical of a school girl club anime as the characters struggle to be allowed to form their club then it becomes a typical sports anime as they practice and face their first opponents. The characters are likeable and it is fun watching them gradually come together as a team. The animation is solid enough although occasionally a series of stills are used in what should be a dynamic moment. The ending is a little rushed as we get two episodes devoted to one game and are then just informed of the result of the next match. Overall it isn't a must see series but it is a pleasant way to pass the time.

These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
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Ashes to Ashes (2008–2010)
9/10
A solid follow up to 'Life on Mars'
14 July 2019
'Life on Mars' saw modern Manchester cop Sam Tyler returned to the 1970s after an accident; this series sees London cop Alex Drake returned to the eighties after being shot. She too ends up working with DCI Gene Hunt, who along with Ray and Chris, has been transferred south. As Alex had been studying Sam Tyler's case she has some idea what is going on, believes that this world isn't real and thinks that once she does what she has to she will wake up in the present and be reunited with her daughter. As one would expect she is horrified by Gene Hunt's methods as they get involved in a variety of cases. She also realises that in the unlikely event that she really is back in time she might be able to save her parents. She also looks into what happened to Sam.

Anybody who enjoyed 'Life on Mars' is likely to enjoy this although there are obviously some major differences; most obviously the fact that the action has moved to '80s London and Sam Tyler, as well as WPC Annie Cartwright, are no longer present. Keeley Hawes does a fine job as Alex Drake, a character who is far more knowing that Sam as she knows much about what happened to him; this knowledge does lead to some good laughs without lessening the sense of danger key characters face. Philip Glenister's return as Gene Hunt is the highlight of the series; he is as un-PC as ever. Dean Andrews and Marshall Lancaster also make welcome returns as Ray and Chris and Montserrat Lombard is a fine addition as WPC Sharon 'Shaz' Granger. The stories nicely incorporate various '80s news events as well as a great sound track from the time. Without going into detail; the series has a fine conclusion that answers most questions about the Gene Hunt, Alex and the world they inhabit. Overall I'd certainly recommend this to fans of 'Life on Mars'.
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9/10
An underrated classic from Disney
12 July 2019
This Disney animation is set in early twentieth century France where a wealthy Parisian woman who has decided that her cat, Duchess, along with her three kittens, Berlioz, Marie and Toulouse will inherit her wealth. They are to be looked after by butler Edgar and he will inherit when they are gone... but when he overhears this he decides he can't wait so slips sleeping pills into the cats' food and drives them far into the country. When they awaken they have no idea where they are but passing alley cat, Thomas O'Malley, offers to help them return to Paris. Along the way home they get into a number of scrapes as well as meeting a pair of helpful geese and O'Malley's friend Scat Cat and his jazz playing associates. While this is going on the cats' friend Roquefort, a mouse, and Frou-Frou the horse learn what happened and Edgar realises he has left potentially incriminating evidence in the countryside.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this film but since Disney rarely disappoints I decided to give it a go. I'm glad that I did as it was a lot of fun. The story provided plenty of laughs cute characters, excitement that shouldn't be too scary for younger viewers, a touch of romance and a villain who is more comical than fearsome. The story moves at a good pace and at just under eighty minutes doesn't overstay its welcome. There are a few songs of which he jazz number 'Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat' was easily the most entertaining. There are plenty of amusing moments; my favourites involve Edgar and two hounds he has trouble with in the countryside. The animation is really good with beautifully detailed backgrounds and fine character designs. The voice cast do an impressive job of bringing the characters to life. Overall I'd say this is well worth watching for fans of Disney or of animated films in general.
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Insurgent (2015)
8/10
A solid follow-up to 'Divergent'
12 July 2019
This film opens five days after the end of 'Divergent'; Jeanine has declared martial law and placed the blame for the massacre of Abnegation on Divergents. Tris, Four and others who survived have found sanctuary with Amity Faction but must move again when Dauntless forces loyal to Jeanine turn up. They manage to escape and find themselves amongst the factionless. They then continue into the city and reunite with other free members of Dauntless at Candour Faction. While this is going on Jeanine acquires a box containing a message from the city's founders... to open it she requires a Divergent who rates extremely highly in each of the five faction tests. Not surprisingly the person who is most likely to achieve this is Tris. Jeanine issues an ultimatum; either Tris surrenders to her or she will cause people to die.

I enjoyed 'Divergent' so was keen to watch this; I was not disappointed. It might help that I never read the books so aren't bothered by its failure to stay close to the original story. The film is packed with action from start to finish; some of this is 'real world' with obvious dangers and some takes place in simulations which appear to be no less dangerous but allow the impossible to seem possible in spectacular ways. The special effects are very impressive throughout. The cast is solid; most notably Shailene Woodley who is great as Tris... and looks stunning with a pixie cut! Theo James is good as Four and Kate Winslet is suitably unpleasant as Jeanine. I liked how the film gave us a look at the lives of two more factions, Amity and Candour, as well as showing the factionless as more than just future homeless people. There are of course some flaws; one still has to suspend ones disbelief to accept the faction system and there isn't the sense of danger I'd like... since Tris is the protagonist I never suspected she might get permanently harmed. Overall though I'd say I enjoyed this film as much as he first; it may not have been the most original film but it was more than just sufficiently entertaining. On the strength of this I won't waste too much time before watching 'Allegiant'.
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8/10
Exciting if flawed war action
11 July 2019
This film is set towards the end of the war in the Balkans and US Navy navigator, Chris Burnett, is feeling disenchanted with navy life. This war doesn't feel like a 'real war' to him as he flies high over a landscape where he isn't really sure who is good or who is bad. Then on Christmas Day he is given a photo-reconnaissance mission. He and his pilot see something slightly off their assigned flightpath and head into airspace that is meant to be out of bounds. They are shot down. Once down Burnett heads to higher ground to get a radio signal but his injured pilot is murdered by Serb forces. Burnett is then pursued through hostile terrain by Serb forces, including a non-uniformed sniper who is determined to be the one to kill him. Back on the carrier his CO, Admiral Reigart, plans a rescue mission but is ordered to stand down by a NATO admiral as it is feared entering Serb controlled areas could endanger the fragile peace process.

If you are looking for realism this is probably not the film for you but if you are happy to watch an action/adventure film it is a lot of fun. Early scenes establish the key characters then the mission features some thrilling flight-shots, particularly as they try to evade surface to air missiles. Once on the ground the murder of the pilot quickly escalates the tension as it makes clear that being taken prisoner and waiting for the peace treaty to be signed isn't an option. The pursuit through rugged territory includes some shocking moments; most notably when Burnett stumbles upon a mass grave. Most of the special effects are impressive although a couple of explosions are obviously CGI. While the film is undoubtedly exciting there are several obviously unrealistic moments; notably Burnett surviving a ridiculous amount of heavy weapons fire; surviving running through a minefield and bullets hitting near his feet as he runs down a hill where the shooters are on the other side of the hill. We then get the cliché of the rescue mission being suppressed. Perhaps strangely none of this really bothered me at the time as I was caught up in the excitement. The cast is solid with Owen Wilson impressing as Burnett and Gene Hackman does the expected good job as Reigart. Overall I'd definitely recommend this to fans of action films.
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Goodbye Iowa (2000)
Season 4, Episode 14
8/10
A matter of trust
10 July 2019
After the events of the previous episode Buffy returns to her friends and tells them of Professor Walsh's attempt to kill her. Then Riley turns up; he has difficulty believing her claims and is more than a little disturbed to find Spike with her. Meanwhile Walsh's body is found and Project 314, having escaped from the Initiative, has killed a child. The injuries initially point to the Polgara demon captured by the Initiative so both Buffy and the Initiative search for it. As time passes Riley starts acting as though he is suffering from withdrawal symptoms; to find out what he might be withdrawing from Buffy and Xander enter the Initiative.

While we have seen Project 314 before this episode gives it a proper introduction. It becomes clear that this creature, dubbed Adam by its creator, is an amalgam of human, demon and robotic components... a modern day Frankenstein's monster. While it is too soon to say whether Adam will prove to be a good 'big-bad' we get a good introduction and so far he seems interesting... even if the fact he has a floppy disc slot makes him amusingly old fashioned when viewed now. Away from the action Willow and Tara's friendship is developing and Anya is amusingly possessive of Xander. We also see that the demon community isn't impressed with Spike's activities with Buffy. Overall a solid episode which raised as many questions as it answered while setting things up for future episodes.
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Divergent (2014)
8/10
A solid 'young adult' dystopia
10 July 2019
This, the first film of three, is set in a world one hundred years after a cataclysmic war. Chicago is effectively a city state and as far as anybody knows there is no civilisation beyond the city. Society is divided into five factions to which people join based on their character type. These are Abnegation, the selfless who are also the governors; Amity, the kind who farm; Erudite, the intelligent; Dauntless, the brave who form the police/army; and Candor, the honest who serve justice. At sixteen people are tested to see which faction best suits them before making the choice as to which they join. Beatrice "Tris" Prior, the daughter of Abnegation parents, is one such youngster but her tests are inconclusive... she is 'Divergent'; one with strengths in multiple areas. She is cautioned that she must hide this as Divergents are considered dangerous. The next day she joins Dauntless and begins her training; if she does badly she risks failure and being declared factionless but if she does too well she could be identified as Divergent and killed... if that weren't enough she learns that the leadership of Erudite is planning to overthrow Abnegation.

From the moment the world is described it is clear that the viewer will need to be able to suspend their disbelief... the idea that almost everybody will fit into one of the five described factions and Divergents will be rare seems unlikely. However if you can accept that the film is rather fun. The story may not provide many surprises but there are plenty of exciting moments as Tris and her fellow Dauntless recruits undergo initiations and training. There is also frequently a sense of real danger. Tris; as played by Shailene Woodley, who impressed in the role, is a fine protagonist and other key characters are solid too. The film has high production values with a realistic look and impressive effects. Some have compared this to films like 'The Hunger Games' but while there are some similarities I didn't really think about them at the time. Overall I thought this was as solid addition to the young adult dystopia genre... you certainly don't have to be a teenage girl to enjoy it. I'll certainly be watching the other films in the series.
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3:10 to Yuma (2007)
9/10
A solid western remake
9 July 2019
This western, a remake of a 1957 film, is centred on two men. One is honest rancher, Dan Evans, a man who is in financial trouble and fears losing his ranch and letting down his family. The second is Ben Wade, the leader of a band of gangsters, who is captured after a raid on a stagecoach carrying railway wages. Needing the money, Evans volunteers to be part of the group escorting Wade to the town of Contention where he is to be put on the 3:10 train to Yuma. It won't be an easy journey; they will pass through territory occupied by renegade Apaches and have to face members of Wade's well-armed gang who are determined to set him free.

Having enjoyed the 1957 version of the film I was interested to see how this would compare... I think it compares well. The story might be relatively simple but that doesn't lessen the film. It provides several impressive action set pieces; from the stage coach robbery at the start to the gunfight in Contention as Wade's gang try to stop Evans getting him to the train. Despite the impressive action it often feels character driven as we learn more about Evans and Wade. Both are interesting although Wade is slightly more so as there is a degree of ambiguity about the character... he is an unapologetic villain but can be kind at times. The cast is impressive; particularly Russell Crowe and Cristian Bale who are on great form as Wade and Evans. Overall I'd definitely recommend this to anybody who enjoys westerns.
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7/10
A fun animation set in a hotel for monsters who fear humans
8 July 2019
This film opens in 1895 as Dracula is planning to open a luxury hotel where monsters can stay free from the fear that human mobs will burn then, stake them or otherwise harm them... it also means his baby daughter, Mavis, will never have to see a dreaded human. The action then moves forward to the present day and Dracula is about to throw a hundred and eighteenth birthday party for Mavis. She is keen to see more of the world but Dracula has plans to make her change her mind. Then things go wrong... just as the guests arrive a human turns up. He is Jonathan Loughran, a twenty one year old backpacker. Dracula quickly disguises him as a monster so other guests won't think the hotel is unsafe... that is the least of his worries though; Mavis likes him!

There were elements of this film I really liked; the central characters; particularly Dracula, Mavis and Johnathan are a lot of fun. Similarly I liked the child-friendly portrayal of classic horror characters; Dracula, Frankenstein (actually the monster not the scientist), the Mummy and the Werewolf... along with their families. There were plenty of laughs to be had; even if some were a little crude for my tastes. The animation was very impressive even when watched on a small television although it is clear that many shots were designed to make use of 3D in the cinema version. The character designs are good and the voice cast do a fine job bringing them to life. Overall I'd say this is a fun film for fans of computer generated animation... it's not up with Disney/Pixar but it passed the time nicely.
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8/10
We Never Learn: Bokuben
8 July 2019
This anime series in centred on Yuiga Nariyuki, a high school student who needs to tutor three girls if he is to qualify for a university scholarship. The girls are each very successful in one area but for one reason or another wish to concentrate on the subjects they are weakest at when they go to university; against the advice of their teachers. Luckily they are all hard working. Inevitably over the course of the series romantic feelings develop.

As this was released the season after the not dissimilar 'The Quintessential Quintuplets' I thought they might be too similar for this to stand out; thankfully it is different enough. The characters are all likeable and even though it is clear from very early on that it will be a harem show it doesn't become too 'ecchi'. The characters are all likeable with distinctive designs and the animation is solid. The story involves the sort of escapades on expects in such series which means when it is over it may be forgotten in the crowd of other series but while watching it is a lot of fun so overall I'd definitely recommend it to fans of the genre.

The final episode doesn't wrap up the story but promised 'To be continued'. According the Wikipedia the second season will start in October; I'll be looking forward to it.

These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
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10/10
A western in the spirit of Peckinpah
8 July 2019
Following a bank robbery which left two people dead the robbers flee town, pursued by Josiah and his posse. One of them is gunned down as they leave another dies shortly afterwards. This leaves three of them, Henry Charlie and Little Joe, in rough terrain without food or water. Then they come across a remote house; home of the god-fearing Tildon family; George and Ada and their teenaged daughters Charlotte and Florence. When the gang force their way into the house tensions quickly rise as the family fear for their lives and the girls' sexual safety. Things get even more tense as Florence appears to get closer to Henry. As the story progresses secrets are exposed and opinions on the characters change.

I hadn't heard of this western till somebody I know recommended it, pointing out it was currently free on Amazon Prime. I decided to check it out and am really glad I did. I was gripped from the opening till the end. It must be stated that it is very violent at times... I can imagine many people giving up in the shocking opening scene when a woman is sprayed in blood as the woman she was talking to is hit in the head by a stray bullet during the robbery. That isn't even the most shocking or brutal moment in the film. There are more violent scenes; many which come as a real surprise. There are also revelations about past events which are disturbing. The scenes in the house prove to be suitably claustrophobic while those outside show a ruggedly beautiful landscape which emphasises the remoteness of the setting. The cast does a really fine job; most notably Francesca Eastwood who is brilliant as Florence; a really magnetising presence. Overall I'd definitely recommend this to fans of the genre; although from other reviews it is clear one will probable love it or hate it but are unlikely to feel indifferent about it.
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Drive Angry (2011)
7/10
Over the top excitement as Nicolas Cage escapes from Hell to save his granddaughter
7 July 2019
John Milton has escaped from Hell in order to save his baby granddaughter from a satanic cult which plans to sacrifice her on the night of the next full moon. His daughter had been a member of the cult until she realised its leader, Jonah King, was evil; he later murdered her. Soon after Milton's return he helps waitress, Piper, get away from her abusive fiancé. She turns out to be as tough as she is sexy. Together they head from Colorado to Louisiana meeting assorted violence on the way. Milton is being pursued by 'The Accountant' one of Satan's lieutenants who is to take him back to Hell; then there are the police who Milton and Piper for the shooting of two Colorado State Troopers and final King and his cultists who wish to unleash Hell on Earth.

Clearly this film is far from subtle; just about every detail is an exercise in excess... that is what makes it so much fun even though it is clearly not a 'good' movie. The opening scenes make it clear just how violent the film will be as Milton shoots a man's hand off with a shotgun before doing shooting off another man's leg and killing a third. It isn't just the violence that is excessive there is also some gratuitous sex and nudity... Milton even kills numerous cultists while 'on the job', much to the woman's dismay! The story is good trashy fun and the characters are just right for such a film. Nicolas Cage is solid as Milton; Amber Heard is fun as Piper; Billy Burke was delightfully over the top as King and William Fichtner stood out as The Accountant. The driving scenes, in a series of classic American muscle cars are joy to watch. The special effects were a bit poor at times but that might have been deliberate to give the film a retro feel to match the retro story. Overall I'd recommend this to fans of over the top, slightly trashy, action movies... it might not be a good film but it is a fun film.
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Tatort: Borowski und das dunkle Netz (2017)
Season 1, Episode 1,015
7/10
Borowski and the Darknet
7 July 2019
This episode opens with a man in wolf mask entering a gym and shooting three people; including the head of the local police cybercrime unit who appears to be the main target. Borowski and Brandt lead an investigation that sees them working alongside two young members of the cybercrime unit. This investigation will see them probing the dark net to identify both the killer and the person who hired him. While the investigation is progressing we also see the killer as he prepares to go after his next target.

While this wasn't the best episode of 'Inspector Borowski' it was still rather fun. The identity of the killer might not be hidden but there is still a good mystery concerning the identity of the person who hired him; this throws up several suspects and keeps the viewer guessing right till the end as impressive misdirection points to one suspect then another. There is some humour in the episode; I particularly liked how the personal assistant on Borowski's phone behaved more and more like 2001's HAL. As usual the cast is solid with good performances from regulars and guest stars alike. Overall a solid episode which fans should enjoy.

These comments are based on watching the episode in German with English subtitles.
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Scream 2 (1997)
8/10
A horror sequel that lives up to the original
6 July 2019
Two years have passed since the events in 'Scream' and a film, titled 'Stab', which recounts those events has been released. Two people are murdered at a screening in the town of Windsor... perhaps it is no coincidence that Sidney Prescott, the young woman at the centre of the first film is now attending Windsor College. Inevitably the media, including Gale Weathers, descend on the town and Sidney finds herself the centre of attention again. Also arriving in Windsor are Deputy Dwight "Dewey" Riley and Cotton Weary, a man who'd spent a year in jail after Sidney's accusation that he'd killed her mother. Once again a killer wearing the distinctive 'Ghostface' mask starts killing people close to Sidney. As the death toll mounts the finger of suspicion points at various people; including Cotton and Sydney's new boyfriend.

In the first 'Scream' film much was made of the killers following genre rules. This is followed up with discussions of rules for sequels and arguments over whether a sequel can ever match the original... I think this one might even if it inevitably lacks the original's shocking opening. Instead we get the most self-referential opening I can think of with characters watching a shot-for-shot remake of the original, with different cast obviously... this turned out to be a great hook as it reminded the viewer of that film and them propelled them into the sequel. As one would expect there are plenty of fairly gruesome deaths and lots of tension. The central cast are solid; most notably Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox who are great as Sidney and Gale. The identity of the killer isn't too obvious; I'll admit I was convinced it was somebody who turned out to be innocent. Overall I'd say that if you enjoyed the original you should check this out as it is as good and has plenty to add to the story; if you've yet to watch the original you should definitely watch it first.
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9/10
The Helpful Fox Senko-san
5 July 2019
Salaryman Kuroto Nakano leads a tiring and stressful life with long hours. When he finishes work he returns to an empty apartment. Then one day when he gets home he is greeted by what appears to be a young girl... with fox ears and a tail! She explains that she is actually and eight hundred year old demigod and she has come from the spirit world to help relieve his stress. She cooks for him, tidies his apartment and even lets him fluff her tail... something she finds mildly embarrassing. Strangely Kuroto has a feeling that he has met Senko before but can't remember when. Over the course of the series Senko meets Kuroro's neighbour, Yasuko Koenji, an aspiring manga artist who assumes Senko is a cosplayer. They are also regularly visited by Shiro, another fox spirit Senko's age and occasionally by the much older, and rather seductive Yozora.

This is one of those series where not much happens but leave you with a warm feeling inside. You don't need a stressful life like Kuroto to sympathise with his initial situation and understand why Senko makes him happy. Senko is an utterly adorable character and it is refreshing that there is nothing sexual about her relationship with Kuroto... his desire to stroke her tail is because it is soft and fluffy. There aren't too many characters and all of the main ones are likeable and fun to watch. The animation is good and the characters have distinctive; the fox demigods are particularly cute. Overall I'd definitely recommend this to anybody wanting a feel good anime series.

These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
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9/10
The Rising of the Shield Hero
5 July 2019
Naofumi Iwatani is an ordinary Japanese boy until he finds himself summoned to a fantasy universe to become one of four 'Legendary Heroes' and fight an upcoming threat. The others being summoned from three parallel universes. They all seem to be familiar with the world thanks to games they have played; Naofumi has no idea what is going on. Each hero is skilled with a specific item; the others are proficient with sword, spear and bow... he just has a shield. It soon becomes clear that many view the shield hero as useless and things go from bad to worse when he is accused of trying to rape the princess who had been working with him. Shunned my everybody he must train alone; he later earns enough to buy a demi-human slave, Raphtalia, and an egg that hatches to give a being that looks like a giant bird but talks and can transform into a girl, who he names Filo. With these companions he trains and must face a variety of threats... both monsters and human.

The 'regular people caught in a fantasy world' genre is pretty crowded so a series has to do something interesting to make it stand out... I think this succeeds. Typically the protagonist would be powerful and popular but having him despised by almost everybody makes an interesting change. While this means early episodes are fairly downbeat they feature enough drama to keep one interested. When Raphtalia and Filo join the story things get more jolly thanks to their upbeat personalities. The story provides plenty of action with a good variety of threats and some nice twists. The animation is of a high quality and the characters are suitably distinctive. Overall I'd definitely recommend this to fans of the genre although I'd caution that certain themes may bother some viewers.
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Ocean's Eight (2018)
7/10
A distaff heist movie
4 July 2019
Debbie Ocean, the estranged sister of Dannie, is released after five years in prison and her promise to the parole board to avoid crime and criminals doesn't last a day. During her time in prison she has been planning a major heist... she plans to steal a neckless worth a hundred and fifty million dollars during a gala event at New York's Metropolitan Museum. To do this she will have to assemble a team and, with the help of former partner Lou Miller, sets about recruiting people with the required skills... this includes an unwitting actress who is to wear the jewels. As the day of the job approaches it becomes clear that Debbie plans to use the job to get her revenge on the man who put her behind bars.

In some ways the idea of having an all-female heist crew might be seen as a gimmick; perhaps it is but I found the story to be a lot of fun and the characters were likeable. As one would expect from an Ocean's film the plot provides few real surprises; there are some twists but it would be more of a surprise if there weren't. What matters is that the story kept me interested, it also provided plenty of laughs. The cast includes plenty of well-known actresses; notably Sandra Bullock, as Debbie; Cate Blanchett, as Lou; Anne Hathaway, as actress Daphne Kluger; and Helena Bonham Carter as fashion designer Rose Weil. The supporting cast is solid too. There are plenty of cameos from famous people playing themselves which may please some people; to be honest I only knew most of them were there because of the cast list. Overall I'd say this might not be a must see but it is well worth a watch if you enjoy slick heist movies.
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8/10
A creepy classic from horror master John Carpenter
3 July 2019
As this film opens an elderly priest dies shortly before he was due to see his cardinal; in his possession is a key. This is passed on to a new priest; it unlocks a door to a basement which has, for several hundred years contained the imprisoned Satan! The priest believes the ancient evil is about to escape so invites Howard Birack, a professor of quantum physics, and his students to help investigate. The students are sceptical but strange things start to happen; homeless people, acting like zombies gather outside and whenever they sleep they experience the same dream which may be a message from the future. It isn't long before the danger is clear to them and they are fighting for their lives against an evil that is now inhabiting the bodies of those killed.

This film might not be Carpenter's best known or his scariest but it is still well worth watching. For the most part it eschews obvious scares in favour or a sense of creepiness. Later on there are more gory moments; aided by impressive physical effects. I really liked how the story combined a religion based evil with the ideas of quantum physics. The cast are solid; most notably the excellent Donald Pleasence, who plays the priest and Victor Wong as the professor. As is often the case those playing the students are a little old for the roles but they perform well enough. Some may find the early scenes a little slow but for me they served to gradually raise the tension as we learn more about the evil in the basement. Overall I'd certainly recommend this for fans of Carpenter's other films or those who enjoy 'religious horror'.
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8/10
I Saw Ben Barka get Killed
3 July 2019
This French drama opens with the body of Georges Figon, a former crook, being discovered in a Paris apartment. It turns out Figon is to be our narrator despite his death. He tells how his death will be declared a suicide and of his part in the disappearance of Moroccan dissident Ben Barka. The action then jumps back a year and we are shown how Figon had been recruited by people saying they wanted to make a film about colonialism and that is to feature Barka as an adviser. They go on to recruit an established director and invite Barka to meet them in Paris; here he is arrested and never seen again.

When I sat down to watch this I didn't realise it was inspired by real events; this didn't affect my enjoyment of the film though. It is an effective thriller that just becomes more interesting when one learns it is based on a real mystery. The opening immediately grabbed my attention and the late Georges Figon made a fine narrator. His commentary added a touch of film noir to proceedings as well as occasional humour. The film has a real feel of the era with a slight, but not excessive, graininess and slightly faded colours reminiscent of films make in the sixties. The use of some archive footage is effective and reminds viewers of the historical context of events. The cast is solid; most notably Charles Berling and Simon Abkarian who play Figon and Barka respectively. Overall I'd definitely recommend this to anybody wanting a solid drama set in an historical context... after watching I felt both entertained and educated.

These comments are based on watching the film in French with English subtitles.
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Tatort: Taxi nach Leipzig (2016)
Season 1, Episode 1,000
9/10
Taxi to Leipzig
2 July 2019
This episode, shown in the UK as part of 'Inspector Borowski' opens with Rainald Klapproth, a taxi driver's, inner monologue as he thinks about the people he transports. He then phones his ex-girlfriend on her birthday; it is clear the call isn't welcome. She informs him that she is getting married the next day. We then see Borowski attending a police conference which he clearly finds boring; afterwards he and fellow officers Charlotte Lindholm and Sören Affeld find themselves in Rainald's taxi. Affeld pesters him to put on his seat belt and he snaps... he quickly kills Affeld and restrains Borowski and Lindholm. It is clear that they are in for a long night as they try to develop a rapport with Rainald and learn more about him.

If you are hoping for an episode where the police investigate a crime to discover who did it you will obviously be disappointed but if you want a very tense episode you should love it. The confined space of the taxi provides an impressively claustrophobic setting. The tension is always there but there are moments when it increases dramatically as one or other of the police officers tries to extricate themselves from the situation. While there isn't too much actual violence there is a constant feeling violence might occur. This means at times the episode feels more like a horror film than a police procedural. There is even an allusion to 'Little Red Riding Hood' with Charlotte's choice of jacket and the sighting of wolves. As the episode progresses, and we learn more about Rainald's past, his character becomes more sympathetic. I liked how the story was divided into chapters giving insights into what characters are thinking. The cast is on fine form; most notable Axel Milberg, Maria Furtwängler and Florian Bartholomäi as Borowski, Lindholm and Rainald; the three people in the taxi. Overall a really taut episode that fans of the series should enjoy.
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Revenge (II) (2017)
9/10
Suspend your disbelief and enjoy the ride
1 July 2019
As this thriller, from writer/director Coralie Fargeat, opens Jen and her wealthy, married boyfriend Richard fly to a house he owns deep in the North African desert. They enjoy a night of passion but she is shocked in the morning when she sees two men with guns outside the window. It turns out they are Richard's friends Stan and Dmitri who arrived a day early for a hunting expedition. That evening that all have a pleasant time together but the next morning Stan rapes Richard while he is away. When he gets back she demands that he call the helicopter to take her home; she also threatens to tell his wife... things now turn very dangerous for Jen; she is chased to a cliff-edge and Richard pushes her over. Somehow she survives, with serious injuries. The three men go to retrieve her body but upon realising she survived determine to hunt her down... if she is to survive she will have to turn the tables on them.

If you can't suspend your disbelief, a lot, you won't enjoy this. Characters carry on after sustaining injuries that would almost certainly kill let alone incapacitate them. If you can get past this you are in for a treat though. The film is very taut and at times shockingly bloody. Just the right amount of time is spent introducing the characters before things get nasty. Thankfully not too much of the rape is shown although the run up to it is disturbing. Once Jen is pushed over the cliff and the hunt begins it gets pretty gruelling. We don't just have the required deaths; there is also the sight of Jen cauterising her wound and another character pulling broken glass from his foot... I confess I had to look away during the latter! When gory things aren't happening we are treated to some fantastic shots of the desert on Morocco. The dialogue is fairly sparse; just enough to establish what is going on, we don't get characters giving speeches before trying to kill each other. The cast do a fine job; particularly Matilda Lutz who is great as Jen making the character believable in what should be an unbelievable situation. Overall this certainly won't be for everybody but if you enjoy the genre it is a real treat.
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6/10
Why the hell are you here, Teacher!?
1 July 2019
These comments are based on watching the censored version of the show on Crunchyroll.

This series is centred on high school student Ichiro Sato and his teacher Kana Kojima. Over the course of the series they find themselves in a variety of awkward situations... usually involving him accidentally grabbing at her clothes and pulling them off! There are also other student teacher pairs who find themselves in similar circumstances.

Even with fairly heavy censorship it is clear that this is an ecchi series. Female characters end up in s state of undress or in compromising positions in every episode. Thankfully it isn't just sleaze; there are plenty of laughs to be had and the animation is pretty good with solid character designs. Overall I'd say this series was okay; if you like ecchi series it might be best to wait for the uncensored version but if you just want a laugh the censored version is fun enough.
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9/10
This never happened to the kids in 'The Breakfast Club'!
30 June 2019
This film opens with the viewer being introduced to the four high school protagonists who find themselves in detention together. They are; Spencer Gilpin, an intelligent but shy boy; Anthony "Fridge" Johnson, Spencer's friend who is a football player needing academic 'help' who are caught cheating; Bethany Walker, a popular girl who used her phone in class and Martha Kaply, an academic high-flier who doesn't see the point of physical education... or PE teachers. Once in detention together they are left alone in a room and find an old games console. The hook it up to a TV and select their characters... then they find themselves sucked into the game in the bodies of their characters. They also gain their characters' allotted skills.

Somewhat inevitably their new in-game avatars are rather different to their real world characters. Spencer finds himself in the body of man-mountain Dwayne Johnson; Fridge ends up as Kevin Hart, no longer a great athlete but with knowledge that the team will need; Bethany is perhaps the most shocked when she becomes Jack Black and Martha finds herself in the scantily clad body of Karen Gillan... complete with martial arts skills. They soon meet a character who gives them their task... if they are to exit the game they are to return a gem to the statue it was stolen from. If they are to escape they will need to adapt to their new strengths and weaknesses and work as a team as they face a variety of challenges. It helps that they each have three lives but it is far from clear what happens if they lose the third... although they assume it means real death.

I haven't seen the original 'Jumanji' but thought this would be worth checking out as the concept sounded fun and the four lead actors have all impressed me in the past. They may be very different but the film this made me think of was 'The Breakfast Club'; not just because it involves students in detention. Like that film it shows the characters are more than their stereotypes; something they learn when they suddenly find themselves forced to as characters very different to their own. The cast are all on great form and provide many laughs. It was great seeing Dwayne Johnson playing a slightly wimpy character and it was hilarious seeing Jack Black as a high school girl! Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan really impressed as well. The action was solid with good CGI making it look real. The villain didn't have much of a character but that makes sense given that they are meant to be in a game... all the non-player characters are comically limited in what they say and do. The spectacular Hawaiian countryside is used to great effect to make the land of Jumanji. While there are no real surprises the story is a lot of with its impressive mix of action, humour and great characters. The humour mostly avoids crudeness... even the idea of a high school girl coming to terms with her new male body is dealt with in a way that is unlikely to offend too many people. Overall I'd definitely recommend this fans of 'Indiana Jones' style action.
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