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9/10
State of Happiness
25 May 2020
This series is set in the Norwegian city of Stavanger in the late 1960s. As the story starts it is a fairly quiet fishing town with a reputation for being rather religious. There are Americans in town looking for oil in the North Sea but it looks as though they are about to wind up their operation... then a massive oil field is discovered; this will affect the lives of our various protagonists. Throughout the series we see events through the experiences of a group of characters; most importantly Anna Hellevik, a young woman who works as a secretary to those making the decisions. Her fiancé is a diver working for an oil company; his father owns a struggling fishing company; she catches the eye of an American initially tasked with shutting down their Norwegian operation; and one of her friends is pregnant by an American working for another company.

I really enjoyed this Norwegian series; it made a refreshing change from the, admittedly excellent, 'Scandi-nior' we've been treated to over the last few years. The way Anna was involved with people from so many different groups may seem contrived but it was an effective way of showing us how the changes were effecting the various parts of the community. The story proved to be gripping even though most viewers will know, or at least guess, which city will ultimately be selected to be Norway's 'Oil Capital'; there are enough unknowns to maintain the viewers' interest. The cast does a fine job making the characters feel real. Overall I'd certainly recommend this to people looking for something a little different.

These comments are based on watching the series in Norwegian with English subtitles.
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9/10
David Stratton's Stories of Australian Cinema
22 May 2020
This three part series provides an interesting insight into Australian cinema. As the title suggests it is led by David Stratton, a prominent film critic who moved from Britain to Australia as a young man and fell in love with the country and its films. Over the course of the three part series he discusses a variety of films; some which are globally famous and many which I hadn't heard of. His insight is fascinating and not limited to films that he liked. Much is made of the cultural importance of many of the films; notably how films about the mistreatment Australia's native population led public opinion. The comments are illustrated by excerpts from the films... it must be noted that several show major spoilers; presumably it was assumed that most of the intended audience will have seen those films. David Stratton does a fine job narrating and the clips of him critiquing films at the time of their release are interesting.

I would certainly recommend this to any film fan; particularly if you are interested in Australian films.
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FLCL Alternative (2018– )
8/10
FLCL: Alternative
20 May 2020
This, the second FLCL sequel series, is centred on a new main cast; school girl Kana Koumoto and her friends 'Pets', Hijiri and 'Mossan'. They seem to be ordinary characters but this being FLCL they are about to get caught up in extraordinary events. These are presaged by the appearance of pink-haired, Vespa riding Haruhara Haruko and the more 'normal' Tsukata Kanda. Expect more surreal antics as they find themselves struggling to save Japan from mysterious forces.

I enjoyed this series slightly more than 'Progressive' but not as much as the original. The central characters are perhaps the most normal of any FLCL series, many of the things they do could be from any number of school girl led series... that said whenever Haruko appears things tend to get stranger and more fun. The story is solid and, as with previous series, it doesn't outstay its welcome. The animation might not be the best but it fits in with what went before. Overall I'd recommend this to those who enjoyed the previous two series.

These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
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9/10
An impressive Australian film that avoids many rom-com clichés
17 May 2020
Muriel Heslop dreams of her wedding day as she listens to ABBA at her home in Porpoise Spit... unfortunately for her she has never had a boyfriend let alone got engaged. Muriel is fairly awkward, her 'friends' barely tolerate her and her father finds her, and her siblings, an embarrassment. One day Muriel takes advantage of a blank cheque, given to fund preparations for a new job, to have a luxury holiday. Here she meets Rhonda, a woman who got out of Porpoise Spit. She tells Rhonda that she is engaged and is unable to end that lie when she follows her to Sydney and gets a job. She doesn't give up on her dream of marriage.

On the surface this film looks as if it will be a fairly standard rom-com. It may play with some of the genre clichés but generally avoids fully giving into them. It has plenty of downbeat moments as well as some cringe inducing scenes. There are also some good laughs... sometimes during those more embarrassing scenes. Toni Collette is really impressive as Muriel and Rachael Griffiths shines as Rhonda; the rest of the cast is solid too. I liked how the film avoided many of the expected outcomes; sometimes in uplifting ways but in one case with a tragedy. The use of music, particularly ABBA songs is effective and likely to have viewers wanting to sing along. Overall I'd definitely recommend this film; it is a modern Australian classic.
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End of Watch (2012)
9/10
On patrol with a pair of LAPD Officers
16 May 2020
This film is centred on Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala; two young police officers working the often dangerous streets of South Central Los Angeles. In the opening scenes we see them chasing a car and being fired upon when they force it off the road... the criminals are shot and killed. After the investigation clears them of any wrong doing they return to work. They are soon out there again making arrests. One day they arrest a man whose car contains guns and money; follow up action leads them to some very dangerous people... members of the Sinaloa Cartel. Intertwined with their work on the streets we see them chatting together and their home lives as Brian develops a relationship and Mike's wife has a baby.

The way this movie was filmed with much of the action being caught on the officer's body cameras or a camera Brian is using as part of a project gives the viewer the feeling of being caught up in the action with our two protagonists. This feeling of watching 'reality' is increased by the way many of the call outs they deal with aren't obviously related and when they are it doesn't become apparent to the viewer till Mike and Brian realise the link. The banter between the two men, who are clearly friends as well as partners, feels very natural. Because of this natural feel the moments of danger feel tenser than those in a typical action movie. Jake Gyllenhall and Michael Peña really impress in the lead roles and the supporting cast feel similarly natural in their roles. The film won't be fore everybody thanks to plenty of robust language and a couple of disturbing scenes; however if you like cop movies and are looking for something different I'd certainly recommend this.
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FLCL Progressive (2018– )
7/10
A return to the surreal world of FLCL
14 May 2020
Several years after the events of the original FLCL it returns for this series; set in the same town but with, mostly, new characters. Hidomi Hibajiri is a fourteen year old girl who always wears cat-eared headphones and has strange dreams is the new lead. Her life, and that of those around her are about to get strange when Haruko Haruhara returns to town on her Vespa.

I won't attempt to describe the plot; anybody who watched the original will know to expect the bizarre. I can understand why some viewers didn't enjoy this; at first I wasn't sure I would. Thankfully once I got to know the new characters I found myself enjoying it more and more. The story provides plenty of surreal moments, laughs and action. The animation might not be as good as many new series but I felt the style matched to original which for me was more important. Overall I found this to be a welcome return to the world of FLCL so would recommend it... as it is only six episodes long you won't waste much time if you don't like it.

These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
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The Young Ones (1982–1984)
8/10
Surreal, anarchic '80s comedy
11 May 2020
This '80s comedy is centred on four students sharing a squalid house. They are Vyvian, a violent punk, medical student; Rick, a left wing sociology student who is obsessed with Cliff Richard; Neil, a vegetarian hippy; and Mike, who considers himself to be the coolest of the bunch and the most normal. Most episodes start with a simple premise but things inevitably lead to violence, Vyv hitting Neil or Rick with a cricket bat, and surreal asides which may feature talking household items, characters only tangentially connected to the plot or musical interludes featuring well known bands of the time.

If you loved this series in the '80s, or you just like your comedy to be unconventional this is still entertaining; you certainly don't need to be an expert on '80s Britain to enjoy most of the jokes. The acting might seem poor at first glance but it is clear that this is part of a deliberate intent to give the show a cheap look... occasionally characters break the fourth wall and compare their show to other more mainstream comedy's popular at the time; so in reality it is actually pretty good! Everybody will have their own favourite characters, for me they are Vyv and Rick, played by Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayell who would later go on to star in the even more violent 'Bottom'. Away from the four main characters there are appearances from many well-known comic actors of the day; most obviously Alexi Sayle who plays the entire Balowski family. Overall I'd definitely recommend this; some jokes may not be that great but if one fails there will be another very soon.
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Van der Valk (2020)
8/10
A solid rebooted detective series
11 May 2020
This ITV series is centred on Commissaris Piet Van der Valk, a cynical detective in the Amsterdam police. Each two hour episode features a separate murder inquiry in the sort of setting that is typical of the genre; those with an interest in mediaeval erotica and the art world... in other words people not like most viewers.

I vaguely recall seeing episodes of the original version of Van der Valk but not well enough to let memories of that spoil my enjoyment of this new series. I was concerned that having an English speaking cast playing Dutch characters may seem strange in an era when subtitled continental programmes are so common... thankfully I soon forgot all about that. The cases are interesting enough with plenty of suspects and motives and the central characters are pretty good. Marc Warren is solid as our eponymous protagonist and is ably supported by a good supporting cast. For the most part the stories are self-contained but there is character development through the series and one or two questions that remain unanswered at the end of the third episode... presumably the makers are hoping further series will be commissioned. Overall I'd recommend this to fans of the murder mystery genre; it might not be the best example but it is far from the worst.
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Moulin Rouge! (2001)
9/10
Camp musical fun from director Baz Luhrmann
10 May 2020
This musical opens in 1900 with Christian, a writer, working on a script based on his own experiences in Paris in the past year. We then move back a year and see his story. He is a young British writer who has moved to Paris to experience the Bohemian lifestyle; particularly that at the titular Moulin Rouge theatre. He starts writing for a group who are preparing a play. When he goes to the Moulin Rouge he is quickly attracted to courtesan Satine. She has been promised to a wealthy duke but following a misunderstanding mistakes Christian for the duke... by the time the truth is revealed she has fallen for Christian. When they are caught together they explain that they were merely rehearsing the play... a story of love that mirrors their situation. The group works to create the play described, all the time trying to keep the duke in the dark. There is another concern Christian is unaware of; Satine is unwell.

If you want a feel of late nineteenth century Paris and the music performed there you are likely to be disappointed; the songs are reworkings of modern songs so expect to hear versions of songs from the likes of Queen, Madonna and Bowie. The musical numbers are impressive with huge numbers of extras as well as our central performers. The story may be cliché but it is effective and provides a good reason for the various musical numbers. The cast does a fine job; most obviously Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor as Satine and Christian but also the likes of Jim Broadbent and Richard Roxburgh as theatre owner Howard Zidler and The Duke, amongst others. This certainly won't be for everybody but if you like over-the-top camp it is a lot of fun.
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8/10
More exciting 'Full Metal Panic' action
8 May 2020
These comments assume viewers have watched previous 'Full Metal Panic' series.

After the events of 'Second Raid' Amalgam are far from defeated; under the leadership of Leonard Testarossa they soon fight back. Mithril's island base is overrun leaving survivors to flee aboard the submarine Tuatha de Danaan. Meanwhile Kaname Chidori is taken by Amalgam leaving protagonist Sousuke Sagara despondent. He travels to Namsac, a corrupt country. Here he gets involved in competitive mech-fighting. It isn't long before he is facing Amalgam again and working to rescue Kaname.

This is an exciting action packed series that almost entirely foregoes the comedy elements present in earlier series of FMP. The story is much more downbeat with things going badly for our heroes; there are some impressively emotional moments, these include a real sucker punch near the middle of the series. The action is impressively animated in a way that makes the viewer feel part of the action. The characters are good; this includes both established characters and those introduced in this series. The story progresses well but here we come to the series only real problem... the final episode felt more like the last episode before a mid-season break than a finale. I can only hope there will be another series to resolve certain very important plot threads. Overall though I'd certainly recommend this to FMP fans.

These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
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8/10
Lesbian love in Victorian London
8 May 2020
This three part story, set in Late Victorian London, is centred on Nancy Astley. She is the daughter of an oyster restaurant in Whitstable, Kent; she has a boyfriend but doesn't understand why she doesn't have romantic feelings for him. One day she goes to the music hall and sees a performance by Kitty Butler; a woman who's act involves playing a young man. Nan immediately has feelings for Kitty. After going to the show many times she meets Kitty and soon she is working with her in London. Here a romance starts and Nan becomes popular in her own right... then it is over and Nan must find other ways to survive in the large unforgiving city. She meets a variety of other people, has relationships, and her life has its ups and downs.

This is a quality period drama, albeit one with more lesbian sex than most! The story works well as three episodes as each features a separate section of Nan's life. The cast does a fine job; most obviously Rachel Stirling who really impresses as Nan, she really convinces as Nan's character develops throughout the story. She is ably supported by Keeley Hawes, as Kitty; Anna Chancellor as Diana Lethaby and Jodhi May as Florence amongst others. There are several scenes of a sexual nature but they don't feel overly salacious and are necessary to show Nan's sexual awakening and the different nature of her various relationships. The story has its emotional ups and downs; we have moments of comedy; fun music hall performances and times of despair when things go wrong for our heroine. Overall I'd recommend this to people looking for a somewhat different costume drama.
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The Eye 3 (2005)
8/10
The Eye... Infinity
30 April 2020
This, the third and final of the Pang Brother's 'Eye' films sees Ted, May, Kofei and April, four young adults from Hong Kong, visiting Thailand. Here they witness the aftermath of a traffic accident before meeting up with April's cousin Chong-kwai. One night they share ghost stories; Chong-kwai tells them of a book he bought that gives ten methods of seeing ghosts. Inevitably things go wrong for them after they use the information learned; Kofei vanishes, April is troubled and remains in Thailand while Ted and May return to Hong Kong. They are not free though; they continue to be terrified by ghostly sightings.

The first two films in the series were proper chillers; this one, while continuing to provide plenty of chills, also features a heavy dose of comedy. I can understand why this irritated some fans of the series but it worked for me. Most of the comedy was quite funny and without it lessening the chilling moments. Of course comedy and horror are two of the most subjective genres; what amuses or scares one person may do nothing for another. The story is effectively told and the ghostly apparitions are suitably creepy. While there are one or two jump scares there aren't too many. We are treated to a good twist, which I didn't see coming and won't spoil, some way into the film. The cast seemed solid, especially in scenes when they are meant to appear scared. Overall I'd say this is worth watching if you enjoyed the first two film in the series; just don't be surprised by the increased comedy.

These comments are based on watching the film in Cantonese with English subtitles.
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Twin (2019– )
8/10
Unlikely but enjoyable Norwegian drama
29 April 2020
Erik and Adam are identical twins living in the north of Norway; they have become somewhat estranged as Adam, who works and is married with two children, sees Erik, who lives in a beat-up camper van and spends his time surfing, as a bit of a wastrel. One day Erik crashes his camper into the fjord and seeks financial help from Adam... this leads to a fight which ends when Adam's wife, Ingrid, hits him with a plank. They think he is dead so take the body away on a boat; it is lost in a storm... when it is found the police think it must be Erik. Now Erik and Ingrid try to pretend that he is Adam. Will he be able to convince people that knew him well that he is really his brother?

It must be said this series does require one to suspend ones disbelief somewhat; Erik and Adam may both be played by the excellent Kristofer Hivju but it is hard to believe that nobody would suspect they are talking to the other twin; even his daughter and close friends. That said if you can get past that the series is a lot of fun. There are moments of dark comedy and good dramatic tension. The cast does a fine job and the spectacular scenery certainly adds to the enjoyment of the show.

These comments are based on watching the series in Norwegian with English subtitles.
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22/7 (2020– )
7/10
A fun idol group anime
28 April 2020
In this anime series eight girls find themselves receiving in invitation from G.I. Productions, a talent agency. When they turn up at the designated location they are told that they are to form an idol group called 22/7. At first not all of them are keen to proceed but eventually they do. This isn't like an ordinary group; instead of being directed by their management instructions are delivered by something known as 'The Wall'; nobody knows whether it is a machine or a person behind its façade. Over the course of the series they are instructed to do the sort of things one would expect in an idol show... selecting a lead, putting on performances, taking part in a photoshoot, having a break at a hot spring. While The Wall remains a mystery the girls get to know each other better and become friends.

This is a decent enough idol series with likeable, nicely varied, characters and a fun story. The nature of The Wall and why these particular girls were picked provides an interesting sense of mystery that one wouldn't normally associate with the genre. As one might expect there are some setbacks for the girls but overall it is a feel good series. The animation is good and the songs/performances are fun. Overall I'd recommend this to fans of the idol genre.

These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
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Extraction (2020)
9/10
Full on hostage rescue action
28 April 2020
When Ovi Mahajan Jr, the teenage son of a jailed Indian drug lord is snatched from the streets of Mumbai and taken to Dhaka by a Bangladeshi drug lord Tyler Rake is called in to rescue him. Tyler is former Australian SAS but is haunted by the loss of his own son. Once in Dhaka he manages to retrieve the boy from his captors but getting him safely out of the city won't be easy. His erstwhile kidnapper is determined to get him back and he controls a corrupt police colonel who shuts down the city to hunt for them... if that weren't enough Saju, a former member of Indian special forces working for the boy's father, is determined to take to boy to avoid paying for the rescue.

It must be stated the plot is both unlikely and rather simple... that doesn't matter though; it is there to provide a reason for the action and that action is great. From start to finish the action barely lets up... much of what happens from the moment of Rake rescues Ovi feels as if it is set in real time with camera work that puts the viewer right in the middle. Instead of the frequent cuts favoured by some directors we gets scenes that look like a single take. The action includes numerous shootings, chases on foot and in vehicles and a near-obligatory exploding helicopter. Chris Hemsworth really impresses as Tyler Rake as does Randeep Hooda as Saju; the rest of the cast are solid enough too. With its near non-stop violence this certainly won't be for everybody but if you want an action movie and enjoyed films like 'John Wick' and 'The Raid' this is sure to appeal to you.
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9/10
Back to the action
26 April 2020
After the comedy antics of 'Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu' this series sees Sgt Sousuke Sagara of 'Mithril' return to front line action in a direct sequel to the original series. Sousuke is still undercover at Jindai High School protecting Kaname Chidori however his frequent absences due to secret operations elsewhere lead her to fear he will fail at school. These operations are against an organisation known as Amalgam which has equipment that surpasses that of Mithril. Amalgam is led by Gates; a somewhat crazed individual who is plotting to start a war in a divided China. Events lead to Sousuke questioning his role in Mithril as conflict threatens to engulf Hong Kong.

This series is much more serious in tone than Fumoffu. That doesn't mean it is totally without humour but the humour certainly takes a back seat... instead we get plenty of impressive action and a fair amount of angst. Our protagonists are fun as are many of the villains... even if Gates was a little over the top for my liking, just a bit too much of the pantomime villain. The assassins, twins Xia Yu Lan and Xia Yu Fan, were more interesting characters as they were at least a bit sympathetic. The animation is impressive; especially during the action scenes. Away from the main action the Sousuke/Kaname plot works nicely and leads to some emotional moments, as well as most of the comedy. Overall a solid series; I'm glad I finally caught up with it.

These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
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Chisum (1970)
8/10
A fictionalised but fun account of the Lincoln County War
23 April 2020
This Western is set in New Mexico in the late 1870s where cattle baron John Chisum owns the prime land in Lincoln County. He notices that newcomer Lawrence Murphy is buying up land and taking over businesses in town. Chisum is a man who respects the law but Murphy finds it easier to buy. When the inevitable conflict comes Chisum, with friends Henry Tunstall and Alex McSween, work to defuse it legally but when Murphy's hirelings resort to murder Tunstall's young protégé William H Bonnie, AKA Billy the Kid, decides to take more direct action leading to a stand-off in town.

This story may deviate from the known details of the Lincoln County War, as most other films inspired by those events do, but that doesn't matter too much as it is entertaining. The film has the feel of an older western, apart from its more positive portrayal of Native Americans and Mexicans it could have been made at any time since most films were made in colour so anybody who enjoys classic westerns should love this. There is plenty of action, including fist fights, shootouts and most impressively a cattle stampede. The Mexican locations use in place of New Mexico look impressive. The cast does a fine job; John Wayne is typical John Wayne so whether you enjoy this is likely to be predicated of what you think of his style; Forrest Tucker is solid as bad guy Murphy and Geoffrey Deuel impresses as Billy the Kid, a character far more important than his relatively low cast listing would suggest. Overall I'd say that if you are a fan of westerns, especially the more classic style, this is definitely worth watching.
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9/10
An impressive conclusion to a film series I started watching way back in '77
22 April 2020
As this, the ninth and final chapter in the Skywalker Saga opens Kylo Ren makes his way to the planet Exegol where he finds Emperor Palpatine. He is ordered to find and kill Rey. Meanwhile a spy aboard the First Order fleet passes on a message warning that the Emperor is back and is will destroy any world that doesn't surrender. Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron and others must find a way to get to Exegol and stop the Emperor before it is too late. Inevitably this won't be easy and they will have to visit new worlds, face threats both new and old and make new friends.

When I first watched 'Star Wars' it was in the cinema when I was ten years old in 1977 and I, like all my friends, was awestruck. All these years later I may not be quite as awestruck watching this on DVD but I still really enjoyed it. The story provides lots of excitement and characters I care about; some like Rey and Finn first appeared in this trilogy, others like Leah and Luke have been there from the start. I wasn't expecting any real surprises but one was delivered... which I won't spoil here. There were also some genuinely emotional moments. The cast does a fine job; I particularly liked Daisy Ridley's performance as Rey. It was a treat to see many of the cast of the original films returning; it was especially poignant to see Carrie Fisher's final performance. As one would expect the special effects were top notch. I know a lot of people were disappointed but I really liked it and would say it is a must see for Star Wars fans... love it or loathe it; decide for yourself.
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Devs (2020)
10/10
Interesting, intelligent science fiction
18 April 2020
Lily and her boyfriend Sergei work at Amaya, a company involved in quantum computing. Forest, the company's CEO invites Sergei to join 'Devs' the companies secretive research department. He never returns from his first day working there... CCTV shows him departing then returning later and setting himself on fire. Lily can't believe that he killed himself and starts trying to uncover the truth. She learns things about Sergei she never imagined and later realises she is in danger too. Meanwhile we see what is going on within Devs and learn just how powerful it is with implications that would change the opinions on the very nature of existence.

I really enjoyed this series; it raised lots of interesting ideas and kept me gripped from start to finish. There may be no mystery about what really happened to Sergei, the audience is shown what really happened, but that didn't make Lily's search for the truth any less interesting. The scenes inside Devs were just as interesting; the site is impressively designed and even though many of the scenes moved at a deliberately glacial pace I was never bored. Much of what we see is clearly meant to be symbolic; Forest may state that he knows there is no God or higher power but there is frequent religious imagery. I know a lot of reviewers didn't like the casting but it worked for me; Nick Offerman stood out as the morally ambiguous Forest; Sonoya Mizuno may not be a typical lead but for me she worked as Lily Chan; Cailee Spaeny's casting as Lyndon was most interesting as a young woman playing a boy created further ambiguity. Overall I'd say that this won't be for everybody but it really worked for me; I liked the ideas, the look and the way the story was ultimately resolved.
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8/10
An enjoyable sequel with more comedy and less action
16 April 2020
This series is centred on schoolboy soldier Sgt Sousuke Sagara; instead of showing any of his wartime activities it shows his time at Jindai high school and interaction with his fellow students; most notably Kaname Chidori. This features various comic situations; frequently involving Sousuke overreacting to situations or Kaname clobbering him afterwards. Inevitably we get some anime staples such as beach and hot spring episodes.

It has been a while since I watched the original 'Full Metal Panic' so I can't fairly compare how much I enjoyed them... I can however say I enjoyed this show from start to finish. Sousuke and Kaname are good protagonists and there are plenty of other fun characters; some only appear occasionally and others are more regular. There is some fan service but this is fairly comic and pretty mild compared to many series. A comic highlight is 'Bonta-kun', a giant teddy bear suit worn by Sousuke in some episodes... I'd seen this in trailers and thought it would be irritating but in fact it was hilarious. The animation is pretty good as are the character designs. Overall I'd certainly recommend this to anime fans wanting a good laugh.
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The 4400 (2004–2007)
7/10
A decent sci-fi series ended too soon
15 April 2020
Over the years many people just disappeared then one day four thousand, four hundred of them reappeared in a ball of light on the shore of a lake in Washington State. These people are quarantined by a branch of the US Department of Homeland Security known as National Threat Assessment Command (NTAC). It soon emerges that each of them has gained a power. NTAC agents Tom Baldwin and Diana Skouris are part of the investigation to find out where The 4400 went and why they returned with these powers. The series concentrates not only on these two NTEC agents but also of a variety of key members of the 4400. Many ordinary people are nervous about having people with powers amongst them; especially after some misuse their powers. One of The 4400, Jordon Collier, becomes a leader to a group of fellow returnees; acting in a Messianic manner he is naturally considered a threat.

This is a decent enough science fiction series. The idea of a group of people suddenly getting powers is hardly new but that isn't really a problem. The series provides both long running plot lines and '4400 of the week' stories which are dealt with within the course of a single episode. There are plenty of good characters and the cast is solid and includes a few 'sci-fi' regulars such as Jeffrey Combs and Summer Glau in secondary roles. The series started well then dipped a bit as we got more single episode stories; it does improve again but sadly it was cancelled before a proper ending... it was a pity the makers weren't given a couple more episodes to at least try to wrap up major plot lines. Overall I'm not sure I'd recommend it; not because there is anything wrong with the show but because it lacks an ending.
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Red Dwarf: The Promised Land (2020)
Season 13, Episode 1
8/10
A decent 'Red Dwarf' movie
10 April 2020
Warning: Spoilers
In the prologue we learn that Cat isn't the last of his species; there is a cat society which has been taken over by a feral cat who is intent on suppressing those who worship Cloister (Lister). Three of these oppressed cats manage to escape. Meanwhile back on Red Dwarf things go wrong after Dave finds Holly's back-up disc... the rebooted Holly promptly says it is his job to decommission Red Dwarf. Our heroes flee and find another ship; here they meet the cats and are soon attacked by the ferals... this leads to a succession of dangerous situations and Rimmer questioning the nature of his existence.

Too often film length instalments of comedy series fail to live up to the original; however I thought this was pretty solid. Yes, I'd rather have six new half hour episodes but if I can't have that I'm happy with this format. The story is solid leading to plenty of funny moments as well as some more serious ones. It was great to see the main cast again, Norman Lovett's return as Holly after some time away was a particular treat. The Cats were amusing and in the case of their leader provided a good villain. I really liked how the idea of the Cats worshipping Lister was returned to for the first time in many years... I suspect since the first series. The special effects might not be the best but that suits the feel of Red Dwarf. Overall I'd say fans need to watch this.
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City Slickers (1991)
9/10
A modern comedy western
9 April 2020
New Yorkers Mitch, Phil and Ed have been friends since childhood and regularly holiday together; as the film opens they are taking part in the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. A year later Mitch is going through a midlife crisis; henpecked Phil has been caught having an affair and Ed has another young girlfriend. At his thirty ninth birthday party Phil and Ed give Mitch a present... they are to take part in a two hundred mile cattle drive between New Mexico and Colorado.

The three are joined by similarly unlikely new cowboys and soon start to think that they might have made a mistake. The drive is to be led by grizzled old cowboy 'Curly'; who is rumoured to have killed a man and appears to take an instant dislike to Mitch. Over the course of the drive various challenges must be faced; some expected some surprising and potentially dangerous.

I remembered this film as a comedy, and it does provide a good number of laughs... it is also much more than that. It is a buddy movie, and not just between the trio of friends, it has some genuine thrills and perhaps most surprising it is a genuine modern western not just grown men playing at being cowboys. The three main characters; Mitch, Phil and Ed played Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern and Bruno Kirby, are enjoyable to watch but it is Jack Palance's Curly that proves to be the film's most memorable characters; the scenes between him and Billy Crystal are particularly good. As with any good western there are moments of danger; a scene involving a river crossing provides a notable example. The locations used are impressive and add to the 'real western' feel. Overall I'd definitely recommend this character led comedy; especially if you are a fan of the western genre.
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7/10
Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story
7 April 2020
As the title suggests this is a side story to the 2011 series 'Puella Magi Madoka Magica'; these comments assume you have seen that series but won't include any spoilers for it. This series is centred on Iroha Tamaki, a girl who has somehow forgotten the wish she made before becoming a magical girl. After meeting a small Kyubey she recalls that she healed her sister Ui... who is now missing. Hoping to find her she heads to Kamihama City where she meets many other magical girls. They are congregating there as they have heard a rumour that magical girls may be released from their duties there. Inevitably they find themselves battling several witches.

I wouldn't say this is a bad series but it doesn't stand up to the original. There are no major surprises and the sense of danger was somewhat lower. The characters are decent but there are too many of them. At times I was confused as to what was happening; something that never happened during the original. On the plus side it does look good with impressive backgrounds and character designs that were distinctive and in the same style as the original. Overall I'd still recommend this to fans of the original; just don't expect it to be in the same league.

These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
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8/10
What happened next for Jesse Pinkman
6 April 2020
This film follows on almost immediately from the events depicted in the final episode of Breaking Bad. Jesse is now free from captivity but the police are chasing him. He manages to get to friends Skinny Pete and Badger where he ditches Todd's El Camino. He has a plan to get out of town but that will require finding Todd's stash of cash; inevitably he isn't the only person looking for it. Intertwined with these scenes we see flashbacks of his time in captivity, including a strange 'day out' with Todd.

While I don't think this film was quite as good as 'Breaking Bad' it was pretty good. Fans were left wondering what would happen to Jesse after that series ended and this shows us in an interesting way. It provides some good moments of drama, from the opening car chase to dealings with others after Todd's money. The events have the feel of Breaking Bad and I liked how, thanks to flashbacks, several popular but deceased characters appear. Aaron Paul really impresses as Jesse; he was always important in the show but here he successfully carries the film. Overall I wouldn't say this is a must see but I'd definitely recommend it to fans of the show left wanting more... if you haven't watched the show it is unlikely to appeal as it requires knowledge of what happened before.
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