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Babylon 5: Infection (1994)
Season 1, Episode 4
7/10
Babylon 5 is threatened by a weapon from a long dead planet
27 May 2018
As this episode opens Dr Franklin is visited by his old friend and mentor Dr Vance Hendricks. He wants help examining alien artefacts discovered on a planet where civilisation was extinguished a thousand years previously. We also see his assistant Nelson Drake murder the customs official who examines the cases containing the items. This is because the items are organic technology, which should be quarantined, Hendricks claims they were cleared at a previous station. As Drake looks at one item he is stunned and the artefact attaches itself to his chest; he starts to change. One arm is replaced by a weapon which he later uses to stun Dr Franklin. It soon becomes apparent that it was part of a biological weapon; as more is learnt about it the more it seems clear that it poses a threat to every living being on Babylon 5. If that weren't enough a journalist is visiting the station determined to interview a reluctant Commander Sinclair.

This can be viewed as a standalone episode as the alien bio-weapon is dealt with by the time it is finished. However there are hints at ongoing plots that may or may not become important later on... it is so long since I first watched the series that I can't recall. There is the secret bio-weapons company that funded Hendricks's explorations and later demanded the items be handed over and there is talk of people on Earth who want nothing to do with alien civilisation.

The main story is decent enough even though the fact that we see Drake commit murder tells us something shady is going on a little too soon. The presence of David McCallum, at the time best known for his work in 'The Man from UNCLE' but now known as 'Ducky' from 'NCIS', adds a touch of class to proceedings as Dr Hendricks. The way the alien device takes over Drake is entertaining and it is certainly a formidably threat even if its ultimate defeat is a little cliché. The secondary story involving the reporter felt a little tacked on and didn't add much to the story. Overall a decent enough episode.
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The Big Wheel (1949)
7/10
An enjoyably car racing film
27 May 2018
Billy Coy, son of a famous race-car driver, has headed to California hoping to get a job working for his late father's mechanic. He doesn't plan to remain a mechanic though; he wants to be a race car driver and, in his words, he'll driver over anybody to do it. He manages to find a car to drive and is successful but after he is blamed for the death of a fellow driver it looks as though his career might be over. He is determined to race in the Indianapolis 500 so heads back east to enter races there. Away from the racing there is some romance; mostly between Billy's mother and his new employer, who she knew many years before, but also it is clear that tomboy mechanic Lou Riley has feelings for Billy.

While this isn't a classic it still has plenty of exciting moments; the best being during the numerous car racing scenes. Apart from the close-ups of the drivers it is clear that most of the footage was of actual races. The story is decent enough with Mickey Rooney doing a solid job as the arrogant Billy and Mary Hatcher being a lot of fun as Lou... it is refreshing to see a film of this era where the leading lady isn't always glamourous; we only see her in a dress once, the rest of the time she is in mechanics clothes with her hair hidden under a cap. It was also refreshing that the story's main romance was actually between two older characters not the youngsters. It is interesting to see how racing has changed over the last seventy years; here, apart from helmets and goggles the racers look as if they dressed for a relaxing ride in the country not speeding round a racetrack in one of the sport's most famous races! Overall this is a decent film that fans of car racing are likely to enjoy thanks to the numerous exciting racing scenes.
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Babylon 5: Born to the Purple (1994)
Season 1, Episode 3
8/10
Londo falls for the wrong woman and Garibaldi discovers an unauthorised transmission
26 May 2018
Babylon 5 is hosting negotiations between the Centauri and the Narn but Londo Mollari, the Centauri ambassador is distracted. He has fallen in love with Adira Tyree a beautiful dancer... he has no idea that she is a slave belonging to an alien called Trakis who is forcing her to steal Londo's 'Purple Files'. These files contain information about all the powerful Centauri families; the sort of information that could be very useful to an enemy. Meanwhile Security Chief Garibaldi has discovered that somebody is using the station's classified communication system without authorisation so sets out to discover who.

This is another solid episode that provides some interesting intrigue, further insight into Londo and the Centauri and a little bit of action. Peter Jurasik stands out as Mollari; he makes the character sympathetic and believable, guest star Fabiana Udenio also impresses as Adira, she too makes her character sympathetic as we see that she doesn't want to betray Londo. Their story doesn't exactly go as expected and has a touching conclusion. The secondary story involving Garibaldi and the unauthorised transmission is very much the minor story but also ends in a way I didn't expect leading us to learn more about a major character. It isn't all intrigue though; there is also a touch of humour; much of it provided by Ko D'Ath; G'Kar's new assistant who is severe even by Narn standards. Overall and enjoyable episode; we are only three episodes in but Babylon 5 is already really impressing.
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Andromeda: Pitiless as the Sun (2001)
Season 2, Episode 4
9/10
Trance is forced to answer a few questions
26 May 2018
When the inhabitants of a planet ask for help after their exports are attacked by unknown assailants Dylan isn't keen to get involved but is persuaded by Beka. While Andromeda, most of the crew and two representatives from the planet's military try to find the attackers Trance Gemini goes down to the planet to learn more about its people. She quickly learns that they are less than friendly; she is put in a locked room 'for her protection' before her host Professor Logitch starts asking her about herself... this questioning soon becomes an interrogation. Back on Andromeda the crew discover the identity of the attackers; an alien race whose ships were a match for the Commonwealth's ships three hundred years previously.

While this is basically a stand-alone episode there are mentions of the major plot arc; most notably we learn of Dylan's secret preparations for the arrival of the Magog. The episode can be looked at as two separate stories; Trance's interrogation and the hunt for the attackers. To my mind the first story was the more interesting. Laura Bertram and William B. Davis are great as Trance Gemini and Professor Logitch despite the fact that their scenes are basically just the two of them talking. These scenes tell us more about Trance than everything we've seen before while in many ways making her even more enigmatic. The second story is still pretty interesting as there are a few twists and some decent action. Overall a great episode thanks to the Trance Gemini storyline.
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Yogen (2004)
8/10
Premonition
25 May 2018
As this Japanese chiller opens a family are travelling home after a holiday; they stop so the father, Hideki Satomi can use a public phone box. While inside he sees a scrap of newspaper and reads a report of a fatal car crash... nothing obviously strange about that but the report tells how his daughter, Nana, was killed a minute or two in the future! Inside the car his wife Ayaka is struggling with Nana's seatbelt; moments after she gets out to ask Hideki for help a lorry hits the car and then explodes killing Nana.

Three years pass and Hideki and Ayaka are divorced. She is interviewing a medium about the 'Newspaper of Terror' while he continues to have premonitions of death. One day he sees a report about a student of his being killed by a serial killer; he rushes to try to save her but is unsuccessful. Shortly after he is reunited with his wife and they investigate other people who received cuttings from the 'Newspaper of Terror'... they do not bode well; if he does nothing he is likely to go mad, if he acts to save somebody he will suffer a different unpleasant fate.

This film opens in a fairly shocking way with the death of a young child; after that it moves at a more sedate pace for much of the time. This is effective as it builds up an impressive atmosphere as we ponder whether he can act on the newspaper reports of imminent death and if he can whether there will be consequences. There are a few shocking moments including a brief view of a person with a hole where their face should have been... given that the film's UK rating is listed as '12', both here and on the BBFC site, I can only assume the '18' certificate DVD incudes stronger material in trailers for other films! Things do get a little strange towards the end put these events lead up to a more than satisfactory conclusion. Director Norio Tsuruta goes for an effective, minimalist approach; there is far less background music than one would expect in a Hollywood movie and he doesn't attempt to show the disasters that are foretold. Hiroshi Mikami and Noriko Sakai impress as Hideki and Ayaka making them believable despite the situation. Overall a fine film for fans of Japanese horror/chiller films.
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Andromeda: A Heart for Falsehood Framed (2001)
Season 2, Episode 3
8/10
An enjoyable heist
25 May 2018
Andromeda has been invited to help negotiations between the Than and the owner of Peirpont Drift to avert a war. The argument is over a crystal that contains the heart of an early Than leader which was stolen and now resides in the private museum on Peirpoint. Negotiations aren't going well but there is a back-up plan; Harper has created a replica of the Heart which he, Beka and Trance plan to switch for the original. This would never be easy but is made even more difficult when they are recognised by the local head of security.

This stand-alone episode is a lot of fun; the heist itself might not take up too much of the episode but it is well staged and there are plenty of other things going on too. There are some enjoyably scenes between Lisa Ryder, as Beka, and Anthony Lemke, the cop who may not be quite what he seems. There is also enjoyable intrigue as Tyr has behind the scenes meetings for reasons that aren't immediately clear. As the story approaches its conclusion there are some good twists; not all of them are expected. I liked to design of Peirpont Drift with its blend of grotty, industrial, an area that looks like the tropical house of a botanical garden and the hi-tech museum. Overall a rather fun episode.
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Babylon 5: Soul Hunter (1994)
Season 1, Episode 2
8/10
Ambassador Delenn cautions against allowing a mysterious alien to remain on Babylon 5
24 May 2018
This episode opens with the arrival of Stephen Franklin; the station's new doctor. It isn't long before he has his first patient; a mysterious alien who arrived, seriously unwell, aboard a heavily damaged ship. Hoping to find out more about the alien Commander Sinclair consults Delenn, the Minbari ambassador. She takes one look at the alien and grabs a sidearm intent on killing him! She explains that he is a 'Soul Hunter'; a being who takes the souls of people they deem worthy at the moment of death. When the Soul Hunter awakens he doesn't deny what Delenn said although he claims that he saves the souls that would otherwise be lost. Not that long afterwards a second Soul Hunter arrives with a warning that the first has given up waiting for people to die naturally and that somebody important will die if he isn't stopped.

While this episode can be considered an 'alien of the week' story it also serves to give solid introductions to two characters; firstly Doctor Franklin who appears for the first time and secondly Delenn who may have appeared before but here we get to know her much better; there are also some intriguing questions raised about her that I suspect might not be answered too quickly. Richard Biggs and Mira Furlan impress in these roles. The Soul Eater is an interesting antagonist; it is unclear if such beings are inherently bad. Certainly the other alien races aren't keen on them but it is hard to say they are fundamentally wicked... the same can't be said of this individual as we learn his own people want to see him stopped. There are some good tense moments; as this is only the second episode there is a greater sense of danger as long term characters haven't become established. Overall this was a fine second episode.
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Andromeda: Exit Strategies (2001)
Season 2, Episode 2
8/10
Still recovering from the Magog
24 May 2018
Andromeda and her crew may have survived their encounter with the Magog world ship but three weeks on things are far from back to normal. Beka, Dylan, Tyr and Rev Bem have taken the Eureka Maru to get much needed spare parts from Andromeda but run into a group of Nietzscheans who are surprisingly dogged in their determination to catch the Maru; if that weren't enough Rev Bem has been fasting but if he doesn't eat soon he will start digesting his own body! The Maru lands on a frozen world but the Nietzscheans follow and there is no food for Rev Bem... they also need to find a way to get back into space. Things aren't that much better on Andromeda; they are still clearing up dead Magog and Harper is understandably distressed about having young Magog inside him.

It is good to see a series with an 'adventure of the week' format that still relates back to what went before... there is no 'reset button'. The trouble with the Nietzscheans both in space and particularly on and under the snow covered planet is enjoyable; it provides some good action and just as importantly leads Dylan to question Tyr about his loyalty. Keith Hamilton Cobb really stands out as Tyr in these scenes. Rev's problems are almost painful to watch as he struggles with extreme hunger. The events back on Andromeda weren't quite as good with Harper coming across as rather whiny... although with a gut full of parasites that would ultimately lead to an agonising death I suspect most people wouldn't take it too well! Overall another solid episode with some good action and impressive character development.
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Ride Along (2014)
7/10
An enjoyably crime comedy
23 May 2018
James Payton is a gruff Atlanta cop determined to bring down Omar, a crime boss who is so secretive that many doubt he really exists. Ben Barber is a school security guard who spends his free time playing video games... he is also living with Payton's sister and hopes to marry her. Barber successfully applies to the Police Academy so Payton invites him to spend a day with him learning what it means to be a cop... hoping that it will lead to him changing his mind. He asks the dispatcher to send him to the most annoying calls; asking bikers to move from a handicapped parking zone, dealing with a drunk in a market and asking a child to divulge the whereabouts of his criminal brother. A stop at a shooting range provides an unexpected lead to Omar. Before the day is over things are going to get far more dangerous than either man expected.

This isn't the greatest of police comedies but it still provides a decent number of laughs and a solid enough central story. Ice T and Kevin Hart are fun as Payton and Barber; two very contrasting characters. It is very easy to believe that Payton really doesn't like his prospective brother in law... admittedly Barber is one of those characters who are amusing in a film but would be infuriating in real life. It is Hart who brings most of the laughs as Barber gets caught up in events that he doesn't really understand. The action is decent enough with a fun little car chase at the start and a good shootout and explosion at the end. There aren't too many surprises but that isn't really a problem as the hunt for Omar is there so we can see our protagonists in a dangerous situation rather than just the early 'Code 126' annoying callouts. Overall this certainly isn't up there with the likes of 'Beverly Hills Cop' or 'Lethal Weapon' but it is better than some of their sequels... not a must see but fun if you enjoy the genre.
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Andromeda: The Widening Gyre (2001)
Season 2, Episode 1
9/10
An exciting start to season two
23 May 2018
When season one ended things didn't look good for Andromeda's crew; Tyr and Harper had been dragged off by the Magog, it looked like Rev Bam had changed sides and an explosion had left it unclear whether Dylan, Beka and Trance were still alive. Things aren't too much better as this episode opens; we quickly learn that Dylan, Beka and Trance are okay but the situation is still far from good; Dylan is determined that he and Rommie will attempt to rescue Tyr, Harper and Rev Bem. He knows it is going to be extremely dangerous and orders Beka to use the last remaining nova bomb against the Magog' world ship if they aren't back on schedule.

It would be hard to match the excitement and sense of danger of the previous episode but this manages to come close. After the initial relief that everybody is still alive we are quickly reminded just how bad the situation is as Harper and Tyr are shown to be infected by the Magog. Dylan's rescue attempt leads to lots of exciting action and his order to deploy the nova bomb gives the mission an even greater sense of urgency. The episode gives the viewer a greater knowledge of the power of the 'Spirit of the Abyss'; one can see why the Magog view it as their god. The story ends well, leaving two distinct threats... one very personal the other potentially leaving a threat to all civilisation in the galaxy.
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Andromeda: Its Hour Come 'Round at Last (2001)
Season 1, Episode 22
10/10
A thrilling season finale with some surprisingly intense scenes
22 May 2018
While working on Andromeda's systems Harper accidentally causes her to be reset to how she was years ago, long before Dylan took command. This means she sees all of her new crew; including Dylan and her own humanoid android, which is unaffected, as intruders and attack them. This isn't the worst of their problems though; Andromeda is determined to undertake a three hundred year old classified mission that will take them deep into Magog space and leave the crew fighting for their lives as well as trying to fix Andromeda.

This episode, the last of season one, is also one of the best. It features all of the main cast and from the start puts them in danger. While the danger as they struggle against Andromeda's attempts to get rid of the 'intruders' was intense it was nothing compared to the intensity once the Magog swarm had boarded the ship. These scenes rival those of any TV sci-fi that I've seen and may be a bit scary for younger viewers... especially as everything leads to a cliff-hanger ending that leaves viewers wondering who will survive. It is hard to pick individual stand out moments but the sight of Tyr fighting off Magog as Harper tries to fix Andromeda's memory took some beating. Overall a great episode that left me keen to find out what happens next.
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Babylon 5: Midnight on the Firing Line (1994)
Season 1, Episode 1
9/10
A great introduction to the world of Babylon 5
21 May 2018
Although there was a pilot film that goes before this episode this will be many people's introduction to 'Babylon 5'; it was certainly mine.

The episode opens with an attack on a Centauri agricultural colony by Narn warships. The Narn claim that they have every right to take the colony as it was theirs until the Centauri subjugated the Narn over a hundred years previously and wasn't returned when the Narn were freed. On space station Babylon 5, a place where ambassadors of various civilisations can try to talk through their difficulties, the Centauri ambassador, Londo Mollari, is determined that justice must be done... largely because his nephew is on the colony. G'Kar, the Narn ambassador is adamant that his people did no wrong. Station Commander Jeffrey Sinclair must try to maintain the peace. Meanwhile raiders are targeting shipping in the area and telepath Talia Winters is having difficulty getting Lt. Cmdr. Susan Ivanova, the station's second in command, to talk to her.

Twenty four years after this first aired it still feels fresh' admittedly some of the once state-of-the-art computer generated special effects don't look great now but many still do. As an opening episode this must serve a dual purpose; firstly it must introduce most of the key characters and explain who they are and what they are doing on Babylon 5; secondly it must provide an interesting story to get the viewer gripped... I think it succeeds admirably on both counts. The cast does a fine job; notably Michael O'Hare, Claudia Christian and Jerry Doyle as Sinclair, Ivanova and Security Chief Michael Garibaldi; key members of the human staff and Andreas Katsulas and Peter Jurasik as ambassadors G'Kar and Mollari. The story provides tense moments, some impressive action as well as a modicum of humour. Overall a fine introduction to the series that left me keen to get to know more about the characters and the various troubles they will inevitably face.
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Triad Wars (2008)
8/10
Fatal Move
21 May 2018
Following a police raid on a triad drugs shipment which leads to the arrest of a drug dealer the man's wife decides to try to extort money out of the triads by suggesting they know the account details of where Triad boss Lin Ho-lung keeps their money. Unwilling to risk the possibility that the man might talk they take drastic action and launch an attack on the police station where he is being held. That isn't the end of their problems though; Lung's friend and financial backer is kidnapped and held for ransom. Lung doesn't realise that those responsible are working with people close to him and soon is involved in a full scale war with rival gangs as well as the police.

If you want full on action this is probably the film for you; it is very violent with numerous shootings; limbs being hacked off with swords, explosions and a very gruelling torture scene that certainly made me wince! The basic story is simple enough although with just about every group having insiders they shouldn't trust there is always the possibility of sudden betrayal. The action set pieces are exciting and feel realistic; this isn't the highly choreographed action that approaches dance one finds in some Hong Kong films. Director Denis Law did a fine job keeping the action gritty while also having some more gentle moments; the scene where to senior triad members remember their childhoods while playing hopscotch was a delight. The cast did a solid job; particularly Sammo Hung, who impressed as Lin Ho-lung; Wu Jing, who plays his right hand man Lok Tin-hung and Tien Niu who plays Lung's wife and shows that women shouldn't be underestimated. Overall I'd certainly recommend this to fans of full on Hong Kong action.

These comments are based on watching the film in Cantonese with English subtitles.
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Midsomer Murders: The Curse of the Ninth (2017)
Season 19, Episode 6
8/10
Far-fetched fun when a violinist is murdered
21 May 2018
We don't have to wait long for the first murder in this episode; shortly after controversially winning a violin prize, at a local music festival, a young musician is found murdered. Shortly afterwards it emerges that his violin, a Stradivarius, is missing. As Barnaby and Winter start investigating they find the world of classical music is full of big egos and petty jealousy. The orchestra's leader is determined that the festival must go on as he is to premier his ninth symphony; there is also the question of who will take over as lead violin player. Local tensions aren't just limited to the musicians; the owner of the local pub is upset that she lost the refreshment contract to a new artisan gin producer; the gin producer is upset that the conductor has called in a loan and one of their employees is upset when this leads to him losing his job. Before the case is solved there will be another death, more motives will emerge and some other crimes will be committed.

I can understand why some viewers won't be too keen on this instalment; mostly because the ultimate resolution is a bit far-fetched even by the standards of 'Midsomer Murders'... the motive doesn't emerge till quite near the end and relies on an unlikely case of mistaken identity. I still enjoyed it though; just about everybody seemed to be guilty of something whether it is actual crimes or something more petty. At some point or another I suspected just about everybody apart from the actual killer! The cast is on fine form was some great guest performances; Simon Callow was delightfully over-the-top as a viola player who like a drink or three and James Fleet is solid as the arrogant composer/conductor. Away from the case the story about Sarah Barnaby's book writing was a bit of a distraction and the potential relationship between Winters and pathologist Dr Kam Karimore was a little disappointing... perhaps because it didn't turn out as I'd hoped! Overall I really enjoyed this episode despite its unlikely moments... I hope we don't have to wait too long before the next series airs.
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9/10
The day of the mayor's ascension is here
20 May 2018
Following on directly from the previous episode Buffy has defeated Faith but can't use her to help save Angel; instead she does something radical that puts her in real danger... and ultimately in hospital. While she is being treated we see that the mayor has found Faith; she too is in the hospital, seriously injured and in a coma. Once Buffy recovers she formulates a plan to take on the mayor during the school graduation ceremony... it may not be much of a plan but it is the only one they've got.

This season finale was a lot of fun. We see just how far Buffy is prepared to go to save Angel and that the mayor genuinely cares for Faith; it wasn't just an act to keep her on his side. I liked the fact that Buffy's plan was kept from the viewer right up until it was put into action; that way one could keep speculating on what would happen right up till the end. The finale may have been a little cheesy but I couldn't help enjoying it; the only real flaw was the moment of the mayor's transformation as the special effects looked rather dated. Once transformed he was suitably menacing though. Anybody hoping that Angel would stay with Buffy may be disappointed but anybody wanting to know what happens to him next can watch 'Angel', his own spin-off series. As well as the demon/vampire slaying action there are some amusing scenes; notably when Cordelia and Wesley finally kiss and sparks don't fly. Overall this episode was an enjoyable conclusion to the High School era of the series; look forward to seeing how they cope at college.
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10/10
Preparing for the mayor's ascension
20 May 2018
It is almost time for Sunnydale's Class of '99 to graduate; while most students prepare to celebrate Buffy and her friends are more concerned about the mayor's ascension. One particular concern is the question of why Faith killed a visiting geology professor. As Buffy and Angel return from retrieving documents from the professor's apartment Faith shoots Angel with a poisoned arrow giving Buffy something else to worry about.

This, the first of a two-part season finale, was really great. There is some great action; most notably the brilliant face-off between slayers Buffy and Faith the finishes the episode. Sarah Michelle Gellar and Eliza Dushku were on great form in this episode; particularly in their fight scene. I liked how we learnt quite a bit more about the ascension; some of this information comes from Anya, who witnessed a previous ascension and plans to be nowhere near this one, and the geologist's papers. Given the action and major plot development it was a pleasant surprise to see some great character development too with Anya and Xander getting a bit closer and Willow and Oz's relationship progressing. The ending was an effective cliff-hanger that should leave viewers keen to watch the series finale. Overall I'd say this was a top notch episode that delivered in every way.
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9/10
Carousel
20 May 2018
As this episode opens Inspector Montalbano's morning gets off to a bad start; first he is almost arrested by the Carabinieri when he tries to break up a fight outside his house then just as he gets to work he gets a phone call from his housekeeper who has knocked out an 'intruder'. It turns out the 'Intruder' was in fact somebody who wanted to see the inspector. Before he gets to say what he wants Montalbano is called away; there has been a case of arson at an electronics store and the proprietor is missing. Soon a second rather strange case emerges; a woman is chloroformed and abducted but released unharmed... Mimi speculates that this could be linked to a stolen car he was investigating. When a body is found the case takes a more sinister turn.

This episode marks a welcome return for this Sicilian detective. It starts well with some amusing scenes; the sight of his housekeeper bashing the 'intruder' was priceless and not surprisingly Catarella also provides plenty of laughs. The cases are intriguing; while few people will be surprised that the cases turn out to be linked the exact details aren't obvious. There are also enough suspects to keep one guessing. As expected Luca Zingaretti impresses as Montalbano and Cesare Bocci and Peppino Mazzotta are solid as colleagues Mimi and Fazio and Angelo Russo is hilarious as Catarella despite it being a relatively small role. Away from the story we are treated to some lovely views of the Sicilian countryside. Overall I'd say this was classic 'Inspector Montalbano' which fans of the series are sure to enjoy.

These comments are based on watching the episode in Italian with English subtitles.
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Andromeda: It Makes a Lovely Light (2001)
Season 1, Episode 21
8/10
The road to Tarn-Vedra
19 May 2018
After a surprise birthday party Beka gives Dylan the map of slip stream routes leading to Tarn-Vedra; the former Commonwealth capital planet where Dylan was born. It was also cut off from the rest of the universe following the fall of the Commonwealth. It will be a long and dangerous journey but Beka persuades the others that it will be worth it... for Dylan it will be a symbol for his newly formed Commonwealth and for the more mercenary crew members it could hold untold riches for them to 'salvage'. The journey starts well enough but the prolonged time in the slip steam has a negative effect of Trance Gemini. If that weren't enough they then get caught in a particularly dangerous area of space and Beka takes a drastic measure to help them get away... a measure that could put them in further danger.

This, the penultimate episode of season one, is gripping despite not featuring an obvious antagonist... although it could be argued that one of the crew becomes an antagonist. It starts well with Dylan being lured to his surprise party by a faked reactor meltdown. The real excitement then starts once they encounter problem in the slip stream and Beka takes measures that make her increasingly unstable and ultimately dangerous. Lisa Ryder does a really good job as Beka; especially as she gets more and more manic. Overall a solid episode that is somewhat different to most in the series.
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Prom (1999)
Season 3, Episode 20
9/10
Breaking up is hard to do
18 May 2018
Angel has been thinking about what the mayor said to him about his relationship with Buffy... the mayor might be an evil demon but Angel fears what he said was true so decides to end their relationship. She is shocked and upset, especially since he ended the relationship days before the school prom. She is still determined that her friends will have a great night. At first it looks as if the only problem will be what they should wear and with whom but then a ferocious hellhound attacks a boy trying on his tuxedo in a cloths shop. It appears that somebody has trained the creature to attack people in formal wear... this person must really hate the prom. As her friends have a great night Buffy sets out to deal with the threat.

This was a solid episode despite the fact that the main threat isn't introduced till half way through the story. The early part contains some downbeat moments as Angel and Buffy's relationship comes to an end, it also contains some fun as Anya asks Xander to the prom. The scene were Xander starts goading Cordelia in the dress shop was also impressive as he learns she has fallen on hard times and then switches to being kind. Early on we get a dream sequence featuring Buffy and Angel; as it started I thought it was a little obvious but it managed to subvert my expectations totally. The hellhounds provide some decent action before the touching finale were our protagonists all enjoy their prom. Overall a bittersweet episode with plenty of character development and some decent action.
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Andromeda: Star-Crossed (2001)
Season 1, Episode 20
8/10
Can androids fall in love?
18 May 2018
Shortly after this episode opens Andromeda receives a distress call from a freighter that is being attacked by the Restorians. It is destroyed but a single escape pod manages to get away. There is a single survivor on board; a humanoid android who identifies himself as Gabriel; a teacher. It isn't long before he starts developing a relationship with Andromeda's physical avatar. While this is going on members of the Free Trade Alliance turn up offering to help Andromeda fight the Resters. They also have some interesting information about the Rester's ship; it was formally a Commonwealth warship, the 'Balance of Judgment', and it significantly outguns Andromeda. Unfortunately things don't go to plan and the crew worry that Andromeda is too distracted by Gabriel to function properly... or is there a more sinister reason for the operation to have failed?

It was nice to see an episode very much centred on Rommie; she may be an android but she as at least as important as the rest of the crew. We see that she is an emotional being rather than just a robot who looks human. The story between her and Gabriel is interesting although we learn a few details about him a little too early. Lexa Doig does a really fine job as Rommie and guest star Michael Shanks is solid as Gabriel. The fights with the Resters provide some impressive action as missiles fly and ships are destroyed. Overall a solid story which provides both action and emotional content.
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Choices (1999)
Season 3, Episode 19
9/10
Can Buffy sacrifice a friend for the greater good?
17 May 2018
Buffy has decided that it is time to take the fight to the mayor so when she learns that he has acquired an artefact, the Box of Gavrok, that he needs for his ascension she decides to take it and destroy it. She and her friends come up with a plan and, despite a minor setback, they get the item... unfortunately one of the gang is captured. Buffy and the rest of the gang must decide whether to return the box in exchange for their friend or whether the threat to the whole of Sunnydale outweighs the life of one person. Away from their supernatural worries the young protagonists muse on what they will do next year; Buffy has been offered a place at a college outside Sunnydale but is told she can't leave because of her duties; Willow can go just about anywhere she wants, including Oxford and a number of Ivy League universities and Xander plans to travel the country rather than study further.

This was a really solid episode that progresses the story of the mayor's ascension and raises interesting moral questions. There is plenty of action and some good tense moments; a particular highlight is seeing Willow stand up to Faith even though the latter is wielding a particularly vicious looking knife... Alyson Hannigan and Eliza Dushku are great in this scene. There are some good humorous moments; Armin Shimerman provides the best laughs as he interrupts the exchange between Buffy's gang and the mayor; learns just what horrors are contained in the box and then ponders why they can't be dealing drugs like normal kids! The discussions about what the various characters will be doing next year may seem superfluous but sets up the whereabouts of the characters in series four. Overall a fine combination of action, character development and story progression.
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7/10
An enjoyable blend of action and comedy as Arnie goes undercover as a kindergarten teacher
17 May 2018
Los Angeles police officer John Kimble has been after drug lord Cullen Crisp for years and finally arrests him after he murders a man who told Crisp that he's seen his estranged wife. Apparently when she left she took their soon and three million dollars and now she is living in Astoria, Oregon. Kimble heads north with partner Phoebe O'Hara; it is planned that she, as a former teacher, will go undercover at the local school to identify Crisp's son and thus his ex-wife who they hope will testify... they have no idea of the boy's current name and there are no decent pictures of him or his mother. Unfortunately Phoebe gets ill so Kimble must play teacher... how hard can it be? He soon finds out that six year olds are much harder to deal with than criminals! He must figure out how to deal with the children while trying to identify Crisp's family. Inevitable before long Crisp is bailed and heads to Astoria looking for his son.

One might think that because this is a comedy set in a kindergarten class it will be a family film suitable for all ages... it isn't. There are scenes of violence at the start and end as well as scenes of sustained threat to a child that are too intense for children. The sight of Arnie struggling with a class full of six-year olds is pretty funny; he does a fine job in the role. Pamela Reed also really impresses as his partner Phoebe. There are also notable performances from Linda Hunt as the school principal and Penelope Ann Miller as a fellow teacher who has a son at the school and provides a possible love interest for Kimble. The children of the class feel natural and provide many of the film's laughs. The identity of Crisp's wife and family aren't too obvious as there are a number of possibilities... that said when we do learn who they are it isn't a huge surprise. The early parts of the film, and its ending are the best; it did drag a little in the middle as Kimble gets control of her class. Overall I'd recommend this to Arnie's other films; just don't expect the action to be as full on as his earlier '80s films.
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Andromeda: The Honey Offering (2001)
Season 1, Episode 19
9/10
Can Dylan get a Nietzschean princess to her wedding?
17 May 2018
The Andromeda has been asked to transport Elssbett Mossadim, a Nietzschean princess. She is from Pride Sabre and is due to marry a prince from Pride Jaguar in order to secure peace between the two previously warring prides. This is something Tyr is very supportive of as these two tribes together will be a threat to his enemy; the Dragon Pride. When the Princess boards Andromeda he immediately offends most of the crew as she assumes they are Tyr's slaves... or in the case of Trance a pet purple monkey! Things then get worse when they are ambushed by the Dragon Pride; as Andromeda leads them away Dylan and the princess head to the Sabre home world in the Eureka Maru. Soon Dylan learns that her plans weren't quite what he was told; this knowledge puts him in immediate danger.

This was an enjoyably episode with amusing as well as action packed moments. The laughs are provided by Harper's reaction to the princess's condescending attitude... he thinks it adds to her hotness! The action includes the attack on Andromeda by the Dragon Pride's ships and an impressive fight between Dylan and the princess in the confined space of the Maru. This includes the use of a mono-molecular whip; a dangerous weapon that will slice through anything... including the hull. The story provides some decent twists and a further insight into the murky world of Nietzschean politics. The regular cast are on good form, for once all the regulars appear, and guest star Kimberly Huie impresses as Elssbett Mossadim. Overall a good episode that fans of the series should enjoy.
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Phone Booth (2002)
9/10
A taut, short thriller
16 May 2018
Stu is an obnoxious New York publicist who lies to the people he deals with and calls a woman, who isn't his wife, from a phone booth so his wife won't find out. One day as he is talking to his other woman a man approaches the booth with a pizza that he says somebody has ordered for Stu... he is rudely sent away. Moments after he hangs up the phone rings and he answers... an unidentified man is on the line. He starts giving instructions to Stu and lets it be known that he has the area in the sights of a high powered rifle. Soon afterwards a man who tries to force Stu to leave to booth and is shot; those around claim Stu shot him and soon the booth is surrounded by heavily armed police demanding that Stu hand over his weapon... which obviously he doesn't have. The voice on the phone continues to goad him, trying to force him to do things that will both ruin his relationships and probably get him killed. Outside the booth police Captain Ed Ramey tries to negotiate with Stu and both women in his life arrive at the scene.

At only an hour and twenty minutes in length this film is definitely shorter than most; I didn't feel short-changed though as for most of the film it was incredibly tense despite the fact that it was basically just a man talking on a telephone. There is some early action when a pimp tries to force Stu out of the box before being shot by the sniper but after that it is just a question of whether he will shoot somebody else or whether the police will shoot Stu. Colin Farrell is brilliant as Stu; for almost all of the film he is on screen; the centre of attention. Forest Whitaker is impressive as Captain Ramey and Keifer Sutherland is menacing as the sniper even though we only glimpse him at the end of the film... often poor performances are described as phoned-in but this phoned-in performance is great! Director Joel Schumacher does a fine job keeping things really taut as the story plays out in real time. Overall I'd certainly recommend this to anybody wanting a good tense thriller but don't want to spend ages doing it.
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Andromeda: The Devil Take the Hindmost (2001)
Season 1, Episode 18
8/10
Dylan and Rev Bem are asked to help protect an unusual settlement from slavers
16 May 2018
In this episode Rev Bem is contacted by Brother Thaddeus Blake, his former religious master. He wants help protecting a settlement of Wayists from the slavers who prey on them. Andromeda is needed to assist at another planet so Dylan and Rev Bem head to the settlement in the Eureka Maru. When they Dylan sets about training the locals to fight off the slavers; Brother Thaddeus objects. It turns out these people have genetic memory; they remember all of their parents, grandparents, etc. memories till birth and Thaddeus doesn't want future generations to remember how to kill. Having observed that the slavers are frightened of Rev Bem one of the settlers comes up with a radical potential solution. Back on Andromeda acting captain Beka realises that Tyr and his associates are stealing aid materials.

This was a solid episode where we get some decent character development for certain main cast members as well as an interesting 'guest society'. Some interesting moral questions are raised after Thaddeus acts to prevent the settlers using advanced weapons... he may be their spiritual leader but does that give him the right to make such a decision. There are also questions about whether the one settler's radical solution will save or doom their community. The cast do a solid job; most notably Brent Stait as Rev Bem and Mark Holden and Moya O'Connell as Brother Thaddeus and settler Tiama respectively. Overall a good action packed main story with some interesting ideas and an okay secondary story to explain why Andromeda couldn't be used to easily solve the settlers' problems.
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