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Gi(a)rlish Number (2016– )
7/10
Girlish Number
12 December 2018
This anime series is set in the world of anime voice actresses; in particular Chitose Karasuma. She has been working for a year but is getting somewhat jaded as she feels she is better than the minor roles she is getting. Then it looks like she is getting her big break when she lands a main part in an upcoming light novel adaptation. It isn't long before it becomes clear that this will not be a great series and she starts to think about whether to continue in the industry.

This is a solid series that provides plenty of decent laughs but still manages to be a good drama with some downbeat moments as Chitose questions her future as a voice actress. Chitose is a good central character who is supported by a solid secondary cast. These include fellow voice actresses; her brother, who acts as her manager and best of all Kuzu-P the producer who isn't too bothered that the series isn't great so long as he finds ways of monetising it. Overall I'd recommend this for any anime fan looking for a solid comedy/drama set in the world of the entertainment they enjoy.
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Mad Men (2007–2015)
10/10
A modern classic set in a '60s advertising agency
12 December 2018
Set in the changing world of advertising in the 1960s this series is centred on the employees of one agency as they work to gain new contracts and maintain the ones they have and deal with take-overs and buy-outs. There are many major characters but most important is Don Draper; a man with the magic touch in his business who is far from perfect; he cheats on his wife, drinks rather too much and has a secret that could get him in a lot of trouble if it came to light. We also have Peggy Olsen; a secretary who quickly becomes the only woman on the creative team; office manager Joan Harris; the ambitious Pete Campbell and Roger Sterling, the somewhat amoral partner with an eye for the ladies. The series doesn't only follow the characters at work; we see their home lives; Don's family, particularly his wife Betty and daughter Sally, are as important as his colleagues.

If you are looking for action and expect stuff to happen all the time this might not be for you; but if you want a great character led drama that really captures the feel of the era in which it is set then this might be just what you are looking for. The characters might not be the most likeable but their flaws make them feel real. The ongoing story nicely incorporates the news stories that would affect the national consciousness at the time as well as the changing attitudes to race and sexuality. The cast is superlative; most obviously John Hamm who is great as Don but Elisabeth Moss, Christina Hendricks, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones and John Slattery whose characters stand out. Kiernan Shipka deserves separate mention as she does a great job as Sally; a role she started when she was about six years old. The series provides plenty of drama but also a good number of laughs and one gory shock involving a lawnmower and a foot! Overall I would definitely recommend this superior series.
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Doctor Who: The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos (2018)
Season 11, Episode 10
7/10
The Doctor and her friends cross paths with Tzim-Sha again
10 December 2018
This episode sees The Doctor answering a distress signal on the planet Ranskoor Av Kolos; over the years nine ships have called for help from the same location. The planet has a psychic field so they must wear special devices. When they meet Paltraki, the captain of a ship, who has no memory of who is or why he is there it becomes clear why they need the devices. Once he is given one he can explain more about the situation. It turns out that Tzim-Sha, the Stenza exiled after the series opener, is on this planet and he met the Ux, a race of two people with amazing telekinetic powers, who mistook him for their god. Graham it determined that he will kill Tzim-Sha for killing his wife despite The Doctor's warning that she will have nothing more to do with him if he does so.

This was a decent episode even if it didn't really feel like a season finale. The return of Tzim-Sha was an enjoyable reference back to start of the season, giving characters, most notably Graham, motives for revenge. The look of the planet, clearly filmed in a disused quarry felt like a nod to the 'classic' era of Doctor Who. The Ux are an interesting species although I would have liked it if were shown in greater detail just how they came to believe Tzim-Sha was their god given how quickly she persuaded them that they were wrong. I could have done without the sniper-robots as they were suicidally useless. On the plus side the episode had a great atmosphere and grew increasingly tense towards the end. The cast does a fine job; Jodie Whittaker impresses as The Doctor and Bradley Walsh stands out as Graham. Overall not the best episode of the series but it was still solid and felt like proper Doctor Who.
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8/10
A solid sequel that keeps the best elements of the original and builds on them
10 December 2018
In an opening sequence, set months after the original film we see sole survivor, Alice Hardy, having nightmares about the events at Camp Crystal Lake before being murdered. The action moves forward five years and a new camp has opened up on the shore of Crystal Lake. The events involving Jason and his mother have passed into folklore with rumours that Jason still stalks the woods in the area. As the new councillors arrive they talk about Jason but nobody is really concerned; some even want to walk the short distance to the old camp. Inevitably it isn't long before the murders start again; although the campers don't immediately realise that they are being picked off one by one.

If you enjoyed the original film then this is certainly one to watch. It opens well with its reminder of what went before followed by the surprising death of Alice. Things then slow down a bit as the new characters are introduced; while none of them are killed till around the film's half way point they are some scares as we are fooled into thinking one or more characters could be attacked... there are also a couple of murders involving side characters. Once things really kick off the tension quickly rises as the killer starts killing the young councillors. These murders are quite shocking but not excessively gory. The cast might have been picked because they look good in short shorts and tight tops but they do well enough and look genuinely scared when they are meant to. Amy Steel does stand out as Ginny Field. Overall I'd say that if you were a fan of the original film you should watch this; if you didn't like the original you are unlikely to want to watch this.
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8/10
Great action even if it doesn't really feel like 'Star Trek'
10 December 2018
Three years into her five year mission the Enterprise stops at Yorktown, a vast new Federation outpost near the frontier of Federation Space. While there an alien arrives asking for help; her crewmates are trapped in a nearby nebula. Inevitably the Enterprise is the only ship for the job. Once in the nebula they are attacked by a swarm of small ships which they are unable to defend against. The attackers, led by Krall, take many of the crew while others make, including Kirk, Spock, Scotty and Bones, make it to a nearby planet. Bones lands near the injured Spock while Kirk and Scotty are alone. The latter soon finds himself with Jaylah, an alien warrior woman who explains that they have a common foe. Now they must get back together, rescue the captured crew before thwarting Krall's plans which threaten the Federation.

If you want lots of action then this film certainly delivers even if it doesn't feel like traditional Star Trek... more space opera than science fiction. The story is solid even if most of what happens is there to justify the next action set-piece. There are a few twists along the way; some of which are more surprising than others. The action is very impressive with some very kinetic space battles; these looked great on my small television so I imagine they would be amazing on a big screen. There are also close quarters fights including some fun martial arts from Jaylah. It isn't entirely about the action of course; there is some good character development and interaction; some of it quite emotional. The cast is solid bringing a sense of fun to the drama although guest star Sofia Boutella stands out as Jaylah... I couldn't help wishing she was in the regular crew. Idris Elba also impresses as Krall. Overall I enjoyed it for the impressive action so would recommend it even though hardened Star Trek fans have justified reasons for being disappointed.
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Zombieland (2009)
8/10
A solid zom-com
9 December 2018
The Zombie Apocalypse has struck and a nerdy college student in Texas just wants to get home to Columbus, Ohio to see if his family survived. He soon meets up with a fellow survivor who firmly states 'no names' so they refer to each other by their home towns; Columbus and Tallahassee. They haven't been together to long when they meet sisters, 'Wichita' and 'Little Rock'... who relieve them of their transport and weapons! However they are soon reunited and end up heading to California together; constantly on the lookout for zombies.

Horror comedy is a difficult balance to get right but I think this film pulls it off nicely. There are both gory moments and solid laughs right from the start as Columbus explains his main rules for survival; these flash up on the screen whenever they are applied. Once the situation and rules are explained the characters are introduced in a way that provides more laughs. The cast are solid; Jesse Eisenberg as the slightly nerdy Columbus; Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee and Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin as the sisters who were grifting before the zombies took over. As well as individual funny scenes there is a good running joke about Tallahassee's search for a Twinkie bar and a great surprise cameo. If there is a weakness it is that we go quite a while between zombie encounters in the middle section of the film... at least there are plenty for the finale. Of course there are plot holes but if they'd just stocked up on food and driven to the middle of nowhere rather than heading to a major population centre it would have been a pretty boring film! Overall I'd recommend this for fans of zombie comedy; it may not be as funny as 'Shaun of the Dead' or as gory as 'Dead Snow' but it is still well worth watching.
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Adventureland (2009)
7/10
Romance at the 'fun' park in the 1980s
9 December 2018
Following his parents' change in financial situation James Brennan's promised post-graduation trip around Europe is off... in fact if he doesn't get a job so is his post-grad course at Columbia University. There isn't much work around and eventually he gets a low paid job at 'Adventureland'; a fun park where the games are rigged and the rides aren't that safe. It isn't all bad though he meets Emily 'Em' Lewin; they quickly become friends and it looks like a relationship could bloom. There will be problems though; not least that unbeknownst to James she is having an affair with a married man.

If you are looking for a laugh-riot then you are likely to be disappointed; there are sufficient laughs but most of them are more gentle. There are also more downbeat elements; neither James nor Em's families are exactly what one would hope for. The romance features the expected ups and downs and possibilities that they could end up with other people, or alone. Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart impress as James and Em, making their relationship feel real. The supporting cast is pretty solid too. The '80s setting provides a good excuse for period music but it doesn't make it feel like as '80s film not that that is necessarily a bad thing. The fun park setting was good; it's slightly rundown look and the knowledge that the games were fixed added a layer of depression but also made it more enjoyably when things went well for characters. Overall I'd recommend this; just don't expect a full-on comedy.
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8/10
An amusing '60s crime comedy
8 December 2018
'Pearly' Gates passes himself of as a French clothes designer who sells to well of women of London but it reality he is very much a local and organises much of the crime in the city. It is a successful operation until one of his teams is stopped by the police... except they aren't the police; they are a group of Australian criminals who are impersonating police officers (hence there being dubbed the IPO gang') to steal from fellow crooks. Soon all of his jobs are being intercepted by them. It is clear that somebody must be tipping them but Pearly has no idea who. The IPO gang are bad for crooks; they are also bad for the police leading Inspector 'Nosey' Parker to agree to a temporary truce with other crooks in order to catch the gang... inevitably the best of plans go awry when put into practice.

This film is clearly from another era; one where crooks, at least those in films, accepted they were caught when confronted by the police and had a code amongst themselves. That doesn't detract from the film though; if anything it adds to its charm. There are plenty of laughs to be had, both from the crooks and the police; especially when they are working together. Peter Sellers is on fine form as Pearly and Lionel Jeffries is equally impressive as the slightly pompous Inspector Parker. The humour pokes fun at both crooks, their union style meeting was very funny, and the police who can't afford to provide a working vehicle for the operation. Overall this is a fun comedy with no material that is likely to offend.
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10/10
The Ancient Magus Bride
7 December 2018
This anime series is centred on fifteen year old Chise Hatori, a girl who can see supernatural beings. After a childhood full of sadness she allows herself to be sold to Elias Ainsworth, a mage with an animal skull for a head who later intends to marry her. She moves into his house in England. Here she is treated as his apprentice; learning more about herself and the supernatural world that interacts with ours. Some of the beings she encounters are friendly, others are mischievous and some are malicious. They are all drawn to her because of what she is; a Sleigh Beggy... a magus capable of drawing on the magic of her surroundings at the cost of her health.

This is one of the best anime series I've seen in some time; the story is interesting from start to finish and provokes a range of emotions from sorrow to joy. The characters have real depth with Chise making a great protagonist. Elias Ainsworth is an interesting character; sympathetic yet slightly ambiguous. The world shown beautifully combines the fantastical and the real; the creators perfectly capture the feel of the part of England in which it is set; when they go to town it isn't an imaginary place but a realistic view of the village of Bourton on the Water that anybody who has been there will instantly recognise. This doesn't mean there is no ugliness in this world; there is often a real sense of threat and even some gore that is likely to disturb more sensitive viewers. Overall I'd definitely recommend this beautifully rendered modern fairy tale.

These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
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Blue Velvet (1986)
9/10
Strange, disturbing, brilliant
6 December 2018
When college student Jeffrey Beaumont's father is hospitalised he returns home to what at first appears to be the Perfect American Town... he soon discovers that it is anything but. On a piece of wasteland he finds a severed human ear which he takes to Detective John Williams, a friend of his fathers. Williams' daughter Sandy approaches Jeffrey and tells him she overheard her father talking about a possible connection to singer Dorothy Vallens; Jeffrey decides to investigate. This leads to him getting caught in a very dangerous place with some incredibly disturbing characters; most notably Frank Booth.

This is very much a David Lynch film; the situation has a not-quite-real feel without being quite as weird as 'Twin Peaks'... it is far more disturbing though. Kyle MacLachlan is impressive as the ordinary Jeffrey caught in an extraordinary situation but it is Dennis Hopper who steals every scene he is in as the Frank... one of cinema's more disturbing creations. The way the story unfolds creates a real sense of danger and its ending is far from clear till almost the end. The rest of the cast are solid; most notably Isabella Rossellini as femme fatale Dorothy and Laura Dern as the innocent Sandy. Due to the disturbing nature of many scenes, which include sexual violence, this certainly won't be for everybody but if you like disturbing neo-noir then this is definitely a must see.
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Passengers (I) (2016)
9/10
Superior sci-fi
6 December 2018
The star-ship Avalon has a crew of two hundred and fifty eight along with five thousand passengers; all of them asleep. They are thirty years into a hundred and twenty year journey to the colony world; Homestead II. Then something goes wrong; a meteor strikes the ship leading to a malfunction in one of the sleeping pods; passenger Jim Preston is awakened and finds himself on an empty ship. At first he thinks the journey is almost over then he learns the terrible truth; he will die of old age long before the Avalon reaches its destination. Inevitably the loneliness gets to him and he starts contemplating waking another passenger; eventually he wakes Aurora Lane but doesn't tell her that that he is responsible for putting her in that position. He is concerned what might happen if she were to find out; that isn't the only thing to worry about though.

I really enjoyed this sci-fi drama; it started well as it introduced us to Jim and his situation. This wasn't rushed so the viewer can feel his growing desperation and be more sympathetic when he makes the morally questionably choice of waking Aurora. Similarly their growing relationship isn't too rushed. Towards the end the tension rises as it is far from clear if both of our protagonists will survive the growing technical threat. These two lead characters are believable and well-acted by Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. I also enjoyed Michael Sheen's performance as the ship's android barman, a delightful nod to the bar in 'The Shining'. The ship's design is impressive and the special effects are superlative. Overall I'd definitely recommend this to fans of character led science fiction without aliens or antagonists.
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Vehicle 19 (2013)
7/10
A solid little thriller despite a few obvious flaws
5 December 2018
Michael Woods is an American who has just arrived in South Africa; he goes to pick up his hire car and discovered the company has given him the wrong vehicle... he is in a rush so takes it anyway. It soon becomes apparent that he has made a big mistake when he finds a gun under the seat and a woman, bound and gagged, in the boot. She explains that she has evidence against powerful people who want her dead; now Michael is in their sights as well.

I was surprised to see just how negative the opinions of this film appear to be; it may not be up there with big budget Hollywood productions but it is still a taut thriller which manages to be quite inventive. It must be admitted that the plot is farfetched... who would go to the trouble of kidnapping somebody they wanted dead then leave them in an airport hire-car for a hitman to finish off!? We just have to suspend our disbelief for that one. If you can do that the story provides plenty of tense moments, these include car chases, shooting, an explosion and a nice stand-off at the end. Paul Walker is solid as Michael and Naima McLean impresses as the kidnapped woman, Rachel Shabangu. Perhaps most interesting was the way the camera never leaves the vehicle so even though it is being driven around Jo'berg it has the feel of a 'single location' film. Overall a good little thriller in an interesting location; just be prepared to suspend your disbelief as characters make some strange choices.
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8/10
The Arrival of Wang
3 December 2018
As this film opens protagonist Gaia is working on translating a film from Mandarin into Italian when she is interrupted by a phone call. She is wanted for an emergency translation job for which she is offered two thousand euros for a few hours work. It soon becomes obvious that this won't be a usual job; she must wear a blindfold while travelling and the job is to be done in the dark so she can't see the man she is translating. The questions, and answers, seem a little strange... at appears the individual, Mr Wang, was picked up in a woman's house two weeks after she chased him away and the authorities want to know why he returned, where he stayed in those two weeks and most strangely why he is speaking Chinese. Later the lights are turned on and the last of those questions makes more sense... Gaia may have got herself into something much deeper than she expected.

When I picked up this DVD for 50p I had no real idea what it would be like but was intrigued by the idea of an Italian sci-fi movie... I wasn't disappointed when I watched it. It opened pretty well and only got better when we got to the interview room. Even though most of the film took place in this room it was tense and there was a great sense of mystery... is Mr Wang telling the truth, who are the people asking the questions and where did Mr Wang come from. If possible I'd recommend watching this knowing as little beforehand as possible, which is why I've kept descriptions vague, as it will improve the twists, which aren't too obvious. There are some disturbing moments as the interview first gets intense then involves torture. Some plot holes are a little hard to ignore, most obviously we just have to accept that this agency has to get in an outside translator to introduce a character who is morally offended by what is going on. The small cast does a solid job, most notably Francesca Cuttica, who plays Gaia and Ennio Fantastichini as Curti, the man asking the questions. Overall I'd definitely recommend this to sci-fi fans looking for something different.
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Doctor Who: It Takes You Away (2018)
Season 11, Episode 9
9/10
Through the Looking Glass
3 December 2018
This episode opens in present day Norway within sight of a fjord. They see a house in the distance so head there. It has been boarded up as if to keep something out. Inside they find Hanne, a blind girl hiding in a wardrobe. She tells them how her father cautioned her about dangerous creatures in the woods shortly before he disappeared. As they watch the woods it becomes apparent that there is something strange in the house... Graham is drawn to a mirror that no longer reflects. It turns out that this is a portal; The Doctor, Graham and Yaz pass through and find themselves in a cave like area. Here they meet Ribbons, an alien being, who offers to help them... for a price. There are dangers in this place as well as some surprises when they finally get out.

I really enjoyed this episode because it didn't go the way I expected... I was sure creatures in rural Norway would mean Trolls! There was a good sense of mystery about both the creatures and what happened to Hanne's father; both of which contained good surprises. The 'Anti-zone', the name given to the cave like area contained menace and some good scares; I liked the idea of flesh eating moths. The final explanation was good, leading to a rather emotional conclusion. The non-malevolent, but still dangerous, threat was realised in a good way... another reviewer reference 'Solaris'; I wonder if the creators had the same idea given that they called it the 'Solitract'. The cast was solid; I was particularly impressed by Eleanor Wallwork who played Hanne. Overall I'd say this was a really good episode; one of my favourites of the current series.
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9/10
A fine spy thriller that captures the feel of the era in which it is set
3 December 2018
This six part adaptation of John Le Carré's novel of the same title opens in late 1970s West Germany as a bomb explodes in the home of an Israeli diplomat. The Israeli secret service are determined to put a stop to the attacks, which they believe are being orchestrated by a particular Palestinian terrorist. To this end a small team works to identify somebody they can put undercover in the terrorist's organisation. They select Charlie Ross, an English actress with radical left-wing associations. She is approached and ultimately recruited but can they trust her not to side with the terrorists she is meant to be infiltrating when even she doesn't know which side she will back in the end.

People expecting the style of the recent BBC adaption of 'The Night Manager' might be a little disappointed but anybody wanting a gripping drama that really captures the feel of the era should love this. South Korean Director Park Chan-wook, best known fairly extreme films like 'Oldboy' and 'Sympathy for Mister Vengeance', shows he can do restraint as we are gradually introduced to the protagonists and watch Charlie being recruited; this is not a rapid procedure. The deeper she gets the more the tension rises; approaching the final episode I had no idea how it would end for Charlie. The cast is good; especially Florence Pugh who excels as Charlie. Overall I'd say this series is well worth the effort; I really enjoyed it.
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Eureka: Primal (2006)
Season 1, Episode 9
8/10
Trouble with nanotechnology
2 December 2018
This episode sees Stark test Fargo's latest invention; a device that lets the user connect directly with a computer. Before it can properly operate it has to analyse Stark's emotional responses. At the same time as this is being done Lowjack, the town's stray dog that has been hit by a car, is taken to Taggart for treatment. He uses nonobots but then fails secure the container and the remaining nanobots escape into the computer system where they attack a maintenance worker. Carter is called in to find him but soon discovers there is much more of a problem after they interact with Stark with surprising results.

I thought this episode was rather fun as it provided tension, humour and even an element of romance. I doubt anybody will be surprised when the two stories end up linked but what happens when they do connect was nothing like I suspected. The scenes where Carter and Taggart enter the shafts around the computer are pretty tense, especially for anybody with a degree of claustrophobia. There are a few decent laughs; Taggart is always pretty funny. The special effects are impressive; particularly towards the end as the nanobots are dealt with. Overall a fun episode which had a good story and provided character development.
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7/10
Another fun, if rather standard, early Wayne B-western
1 December 2018
This old B-western features John Wayne as rodeo star John Star who travels to Rattlesnake Gulch with his partner Kansas Charlie. John wins $900 but the rodeo claims a poor turnout means they will only pay twenty five cents on the dollar... they insist on full payment. Immediately afterwards two crooks holdup the rodeo office and fatally shoot the manager before managing to deflect blame on John and Kansas. These two are forced to flee but learn that the actual killers have headed to Poker City so they head there, separately, and take the names Jones and Smith respectively. Here they are both attracted to shop girl Anne, who is the sister of one of the killers. Now they must clear their names before the law catches up with them.

This is a fairly typical B western of the era... the plot is pretty simple and offers few real surprises. It is still fun though. The way the friends fall for the same woman twice is amusing, especially when they flirt with Juanita; a less than honest woman. Also amusing is the way Wayne ogles Anne as he gets her to retrieve items from a top shelf; not what I expected in a film of the Hays Code era! The action is okay but the lack of Yakima Canutt means we don't get the great horse stunts of many John Wayne films of the era. Anybody who has seen 'The Man from Utah' will get a sense of déjà vu as the rodeo scenes are the same as were used in that film... the crowded stands make the rodeo's claim that they are short of cash seem rather implausible. Overall this isn't his best film of the time but Wayne fans should still enjoy it well enough.
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D.O.A. (1988)
8/10
A solid updating of the 1949 original
1 December 2018
As this film opens Professor Dexter Cornell enters a police station to report a murder... his own. As he sits down to tell his story to the police the action jumps back thirty six hours.

Cornell is a Lecturer and novelist although he hasn't written a book in for years and can't be bothered to read a work written by a keen student. The next thing he knows that student plummets past his window and dies on the concrete below. That isn't the only thing going wrong; his wife wants a divorce and it later emerges was having an affair with the student. On learning this he decides to get very drunk. The next morning he wakes up in the bed of student Sydney Fuller with a killer hangover. In fact he feels so bad he goes to hospital and discovers that he has been poisoned with radium chloride and only has a day or two left to live. He is determined to discover who poisoned him and why.

This isn't really a remake of the 1949 film as it only takes the central premise of that film; here we get an entirely set of characters and motives. The opening is a great hook then the story takes its time getting to the point where Cornell discovers he was poisoned. This give us time to meet the various suspects, and student Sydney who will get caught up in the hunt for the truth. Once he learns what happened the tension rises quickly... so does the body count as he finds himself suspected of one murder and targeted by people who think he knows more than he does. Dennis Quaid is impressive as the doomed Professor Cornell and Meg Ryan is fun as Sydney; the rest of the cast is solid too. There are plenty of good action sequences and a few really good surprises... even if the identity of the killer and the motive aren't too surprising. The film has a great neo-noir look; opening in black and white before switching to colour in the flashback; colour that fades as his condition worsens. Overall I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to people wanting a good mystery.
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Time and Tide (2000)
8/10
Tide and Time
30 November 2018
This Hong Kong action thriller is centred on Tyler, a young man who dreams of life on a South American beach. In the opening scenes he has a night of drunken passion with a woman, Ah Jo, who turns out to be a police officer... and a lesbian! This results in her pregnancy but she wants nothing to do with him. To make money he joins an unlicensed group of bodyguards. He also befriends Jack, a young man with a pregnant wife. Things hot up when a group of South American mercenaries turn up; Jack, or Juan they call him, once worked for them and they now want him to kill his father in law. Instead he turns on the mercenaries and it isn't long before they are after him; Tyler also gets caught up in the action.

My plot summary might be a bit confused but to be honest so was I much of the time while watching... strangely this barely matters as the film is chock from of great action sequences. There are numerous fights, shootouts and explosions... we even get a woman shooting at a bad guy while giving birth! I've not seen that in Hollywood movie. Director Tsui Hark does a great job keeping the action very kinetic. The cast is pretty solid; they certainly excelled in the action sequences but also seemed good in the non-action scenes. There are a couple of scenes where fairly obvious CGI is used but they are brief and don't detract from the film. Overall I'd say this won't be for everybody but if you are a fan of Hong Kong action in a modern setting then I'd definitely recommend it.

These comments are based on watching the film in Cantonese with English subtitles.
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8/10
Killer by the Lake
30 November 2018
This French crime drama can be looked at as the second season of 'Vanished by the Lake'; protagonists, policewoman Detective Lise Stocker and her partner gendarme Clovis Bouvier have moved to Annecy; another lakeside location with their nine month old son. A series of murders provides the backdrop to the story; it appears that a serial killer is targeting women he meets online. As the investigation progresses it seems that the killer has access in inside knowledge and Lise suspects that Clovis is hiding something from her.

Having enjoyed 'Vanished by the Lake' I had high hopes for this series; while I did enjoy it I don't think it was quite as good as the first. Barbara Schulz, who played Lise in 'Vanished' is replaced by Julie De Bona; this wasn't a problem though as she isn't too different and does a fine job in the role. The story provides some good mysteries; as well as the identity of the killer there is the question of the woman who appears to haunt Clovis' memories... the latter question is resolved sooner leaving the conclusion to the question of who the killer is and how they stay one step ahead of the investigators. As the end approaches there is still a variety of suspects and the identity of the killer is far from obvious... my guess was incorrect! The tension increased nicely to the point that by the end I was on the edge of my seat. Overall I'd definitely recommend this to fans of 'Vanished'; even if it isn't quite as good it is pretty close.

These comments are based on watching the series in French with English subtitles.
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8/10
Another solid early John Wayne western
29 November 2018
This film opens with young man Jerry Mason reuniting with Jake Benson, a friend of his late father, who he hasn't seen since he was a child. Jake tells how he is no longer ranching due to rustlers but is thinking of opening a blacksmiths. Soon they are working at it together. When they re-shoe a horse they find a stone in its hoof that contains gold; from what the rider said they establish which creek it was in. They find plenty of gold there and take it to local assay office... not realising the man running it was responsible for stealing his cattle and now plans to take Benson's ranch and gold strike... first he needs to find where the gold is. Around the same time Benson's granddaughter returns to live with him.

Despite a somewhat weak opening and pantomime villain this film turned out really well. The plot is basic but provides an excuse for some good stunts. As well as the expected fisticuffs and horse chases there are some fairly original stunts; the most obvious being as Jerry rides down a fast flowing sluice to catch a bad guy and a final chase that features Jerry on a horse and Jake in a car chasing the villains who are aboard a small, powered railway workers vehicle. Most of these feature regular stuntman Yakima Cannut who as was often the case also plays a henchman. John Wayne is solid as Jerry but it is George 'Gabby' Hayes who steals the show as Jake; especially in an hilarious courtroom scene where he turns up in drag! Barbara Sheldon okay as Betty Benson but isn't really used enough to justify her second billing. Overall I'd say this is well worth watching if you are a fan of early westerns.
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10/10
Still fresh after almost sixty years
29 November 2018
Opening in 1929 in Chicago musicians Joe and Jerry witness a mob assassination, committed by Spats Colombo, so have to go on the run. There are jobs with a band that is heading to Miami... there is just one catch; they are all girls. By the time the train is ready to head south Joe and Jerry have become Josephine and Daphne. On the journey they get to know the other girls and as Joe talks to singer Sugar and learns how she hopes to meet a bespectacled millionaire with a yacht rather than the usual succession on no-good saxophone players (Joe plays the Sax). Once in Miami sets about becoming just that man while a real millionaire, Osgood Fielding III, is attracted to Jerry's 'Daphne'! If that weren't enough Spats is in in town for a mob conference.

This film may be in black and white and almost sixty years old but don't let that put you off; it is still fresh and very funny. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon are great as 'Josephine' and 'Daphne'; they may not be the most beautiful of women but they do at least look feminine enough that one can believe they would be mistaken for women. Marilyn Monroe is on top form as Sugar; particularly in the scenes were she is wooed by Joe's 'Shell Oil Jnr' persona. The laughs come thick and fast combining elements of farce and slapstick. One might worry that 'fifties morality' would be a problem but the attitudes are far more modern than one might expect. Overall I'd definitely say this film is a must see.
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7/10
Decent enough John Wayne B-Western
28 November 2018
This early John Wayne western sees Wayne playing Ted Hayden, a man who was left for dead as a boy when he father was killed. In the opening scene he discusses this with the man who looked after him. As they talk a man staggers towards then; he lives just long enough to hell them he has drunk water from a poisoned well. He is carrying papers that identify him as Gat Ganns, a wanted killer who was hoping to work for a certain Mr Gentry; the man who now owns the Hayden farm. As Hayden looks rather like Ganns he takes his place and sees Gentry about the job. It turns out Gentry is trying to acquire a neighbouring ranch and wants 'Ganns' to kill the owner... he also has designs on the owner's attractive daughter. Hayden is determined to find a way to save them. He also learns the truth about who killed his father.

While this isn't exactly a great western it is rather fun. The plot may be fairly predictable but it provides some decent action; this includes fist fights and some solid horse stunts. In most films of this sort the attractive leading lady quickly falls for the handsome hero but here she doesn't even meet him till quite a way into the film... he finds her earlier but she is unconscious. There are some fairly weak points; the opening involves quite a coincidence and Hayden doesn't look particularly like Ganns; certainly not enough that anybody shown the photograph on the wanted poster, as Gentry was, would believe he was Ganns. The acting is decent enough; John Wayne is solid as Hayden and Virginia Brown Faire is suitably sparky as Fay Winters, daughter of the ranch owner Gentry had feelings for. Lloyd Whitlock was a solid bad guy although the character was almost a pantomime villain. Overall this isn't a must see but it is fun if you enjoy westerns and have an hour to kill.
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Hell or High Water (II) (2016)
9/10
An impressive modern western
28 November 2018
Following the death of Toby Howard's mother it looks as though the Texas Midland Bank will foreclose on the family ranch. To raise the money required he decides to take it from Texas Midland Bank with the help of Tanner, his criminal brother. They quickly rob two branches and soon Marcus Hamilton and Alberto Parker, a pair of Texas Rangers are trying to find them. Toby has planned things well but Tanner is far more reckless; as an example he robs another bank while Toby is eating in a diner. After their final robbery doesn't go according to plan a confrontation with the law seems inevitable.

This film may be set in the present but it feels very much like a western... and not just because of the Texas setting and presence of men in cowboy hats. The plot too feels like a western with our two protagonists fighting back against those trying to force them off their family land and the two Rangers after them. The story is well told and even though the Howard brothers are clearly breaking the law it is hard not to feel some sympathy for them; especially as we are constantly reminded that the recession is biting hard in this part of Texas. The cast does a really fine job; most notable Chris Pine who is great as Toby; if I hadn't seen his name on the credits I'd never have guessed that this was the 'new' Captain Kirk I was watching! Ben Foster is solid as Tanner. Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham are a lot of fun as bickering Rangers Hamilton and Parker. While the story isn't 'action packed' it does have some good moments of action; these provide some shocks and believable violence. Overall I really enjoyed this and would recommend it to fans of crime drama looking for something a little different.
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Eureka: Right as Raynes (2006)
Season 1, Episode 8
8/10
Computer problems as Eureka's prodigal son returns
27 November 2018
This episode sees Callister Raynes return to Eureka; he had previously worked as a programmer for Global Dynamics and been involved with Deputy Jo Lupo but had left Eureka under a cloud following a lab fire. Shortly after his return things start going wrong with anything connected to Eureka's computer system... Sheriff Carter suspects this isn't unconnected to Raynes' return. That isn't Carter's only thing to worry about; it emerges that his rebellious daughter, Zoe, has been involved in credit card fraud.

This was a really solid episode that was heavily character led but with the expected sci-fi twist. Raynes was an interesting character who managed to provide a real surprise; this also led to some good character development for the usually unsympathetic Nathan Stark. We also get some good development for Carter and his daughter as they struggle to deal with personal differences. The story progresses well and leads to a surprisingly emotional ending. We are also treated to some amusing moments; my favourite being the effects of a magnetic fence on Carter and Allison. Overall an episode that fans of the series should enjoy.
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