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Pink Cadillac (1989)
7/10
Light but enjoyable bounty hunting action with Clint
23 July 2019
This film sees Clint Eastwood playing skip-tracer Tommy Nowak, basically a bounty hunter working to catch those who have skipped bail. His latest target is Lou Ann McGuinn a woman charged with handling counterfeit money. She has gone on the run with her baby in her husband's pink, convertible 1959 Cadillac... not initially realising it has a quarter of a million dollars stashed in it. This means her husband and his white supremacist friends are also after him. Nowak finds her first but the story is far from over; a run in with her husband leaves her baby with the racist gang.

Clint Eastwood is mostly associated with spaghetti westerns, Dirty Harry and other similarly tough characters so it is easy to forget that he also took plenty of lighter roles and this is one of those. The story is fun and while there are some action scenes there isn't a real sense of danger for our protagonists; even the racist antagonists are more incompetent than menacing. Clint Eastwood is solid as Nowak and Bernadette Peters is a lot of fun as Lou Ann. Those playing the villains are somewhat less impressive making their characters hard to believe. Geoffrey Lewis, a regular in Eastwood's films of the period, puts in a fun performance as the hippy forger Ricky Z. Overall this might not be a must see but it is fun and has little in the way of offensive material.
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Ardor (2014)
7/10
The Burning
22 July 2019
Kai, a mysterious man, emerges from the Amazon rain forest near a remote tobacco farm whose owner is being threatened by armed men working for those who wish to take the land for soya farming. Shortly afterwards three of these men turn up and kill the farmer and take his daughter, Vania, with then. Kai follows them back into the jungle and manages to rescue Vania... they know the men won't stop though and prepare to face them back at the farm.

I had little idea of what to expect with this film; I didn't even know what genre it was... it is closest to being a western with its theme of people being threatened in order that other more powerful people might take their land. There are also ecological themes. The story is simple with a fairly minimal amount of dialogue. It looks great even if it is a bit slow to get going. Once the action starts it is exciting and leads to a finale that is both thrilling and atmospheric as heroes and villains face each other in a smoke covered farm. The cast are solid; notably Gael Garcia Bernal and Alice Braga as Kai and Vania; the villains might be a bit one dimensional but that isn't much of a problem. The jungle setting looks great, as one would expect. Overall I'd say this might not be a great film but it is decent and worth watching if you like westerns and are looking for something rather different.

These comments are based on watching the film in Spanish with English subtitles.
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Open Range (2003)
8/10
An impressive recent but traditional western
22 July 2019
This western is set in 1882 in Montana; the era of the open range where cattle could graze freely is coming to an end as wealthy ranchers take over. "Boss" Spearman along with his friend Charley Waite are two open range cattlemen who are driving their herd across the range with the help of Moses and Button. When Moses fails to return from a nearby town Boss and Charley investigate and find he has been arrested and badly beaten by the marshal, who is in the pay of local cattle baron, Denton Baxter. After Moses is treated by the local doctor they return to the herd. The next night Baxter's men ride close by; Boss and Charley ride to confront them but when they return Moses is dead and Button is seriously injured. They will have to return to town to seek medical help... confrontation with Baxter and his men is inevitable.

For a while in the late twentieth century it looked as though the western genre was on its way out; having seen several made in the twenty first century I suspect the genre will survive as long as people watch films. They may be mostly set in a specific time and place but the themes never grow old. 'Open Range' is a fine addition to the genre. The theme of people holding out against those who are violently trying to stop their way of life might not be new but it is hard for any viewer not to sympathise with our protagonists. Robert Duvall and Kevin Costner are great as 'Boss' and Charley; Michael Gambon is delightfully menacing as Baxter and Annette Bening impresses as Sue Barlow, potential romantic interest. Some may feel it is slow at times but I felt this gave the viewer time to get to know the characters and for the tension to rise before the final, thrilling confrontation. Overall I'd definitely recommend this to any fans of the western genre.
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Allegiant (2016)
7/10
Beyond the wall
21 July 2019
After the events of the previous film Evelyn, Four's mother, has taken control of Chicago and has banned anybody from going beyond the city wall. Those who sided with Erudite are to be tried, and if found guilty executed; this includes Tris's brother Caleb. He is rescued by Tris and Four and along with Peter and a couple of others they flee the city only to discover a wasteland. Just as they start to think they might be doomed they are met by soldiers from the 'Bureau of Genetic Welfare' and taken to their home city. This city has technology far in advance of anything in Chicago and it is soon explained how Chicago is their experiment; everything that happens there is observed. Its inhabitants are considered genetically damaged but Tris is 'pure' so is taken to see David, the city's leader. At first David seems benevolent but it isn't long before Four has he doubts... our protagonist will have to fight again if they are to save the people of Chicago.

I must say this is probably the weakest of the three 'Divergent' films and not just because it is a final film in the series which was meant to have another and thus sets things up for a finale that never happened. Other problems include the fact that Chicago is technologically so far behind the Bureau of Genetic Welfare whose tech is too sci-fi in comparison. We also have the very sudden breakdown of the established order in Chicago and for me the most irritating... the group continue to trust the weasel Peter who betrayed them before and doesn't waste long before doing it again. That said I don't think this was actually a bad film; just less than I hoped for. I liked that there was a good explanation as to why people in Chicago could be so easily categorised and that there was enough exciting action to keep me interested. The cast was solid; most notable Shailene Woodley and Theo James as Tris and Four. The effects are decent although some are more what one would expect in a good TV show rather than a big budget film. Overall I'd say that I enjoyed this and would recommend it to anybody who enjoyed the previous instalments in the series... just a pity we never got the concluding film as too many plot lines are unresolved.
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City of Men (2002–2018)
9/10
City of Men (Seasons 1 & 2)
21 July 2019
This Brazilian series is set in the city of Rio de Janeiro; in particular in a crowded favela known to its inhabitants as 'The Hill'. We mostly see this world through the eyes of teenage boys Acerola and Laranjinha. Each of the episodes sees them getting into various escapades... often with the ultimate intention of getting together with girls or schemes to earn some money.

When I started watching this I expected it to be rather downbeat but despite the fact that the Favela is shown as a dangerous place we see that despite their poverty our protagonists have a certain Joie de vivre... some episodes compare their lives to the 'playboys', children from wealthier parts of the city, and we see that there are many similarities. The way the series is shot on hand held cameras in the favela makes what we see seem very real... taking us into this world without feeling like the televisual equivalent of 'poverty tourism'. Each episode provides a good self-contained little story which features plenty of unforced humour. The cast are impressive; most obviously Douglas Silva and Darlan Cunha as Acerola and Laranjinha but also secondary cast members; they may not be as polished as one would get in a Hollywood production but they feel like real people. Overall I'd definitely recommend this to anybody looking for something a little different... my only disappointment was that the UK DVD only included the first two seasons.

These comments are based on watching the first two seasons in Portuguese with English subtitles.
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Tatort: Borowski und das Land zwischen den Meeren (2017)
Season 1, Episode 1,049
8/10
Borowski and the Land Between the Seas
21 July 2019
This episode sees Borowski heading to Suunholt, an island off the North Sea coast where a man has been found dead in his bath. This girlfriend, Famke, is convinced that he was murdered and as he had disappeared from Kiel following a corruption scandal in which a large sum of money disappeared there is at least one obvious motive. It is soon confirmed that it was indeed murder but the identity of the killer is far from clear. Suspects soon emerge; there is the pig farmer the victim sometimes worked for, the baker who Famke worked for, two mystery individuals who came from Kiel on the same ferry as Borowski and a woman whose religious views are fervent to say the least. There is also a further death and Borowski gets closer than might be considered professionally advisable to Famke.

This episode was a fine conclusion to what was billed as Series Two of 'Inspector Borowski' here in the UK. The island setting was atmospheric and for a change there was a genuine mystery about who did the killing and why. We are quickly introduced to a range of possible suspects so the viewer has plenty of possibilities to consider. Since Borowski is sent to investigate alone there is no Brandt in this episode but there are two local officers in her place. There is also the relationship that grows between Borowski and Famke; is he just protecting a witness or about to cross an ethical line? The story provides some exciting moments and an ending which was both satisfying and rather poignant. Overall I think fans of 'Inspector Borowski' will enjoy this episode... I hope we don't have to wait too long before we get 'Season Three'.

These comments are based on watching the episode in German with English subtitles.
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Wild Bill (2019– )
7/10
Not realistic but still rather fun
19 July 2019
Bill Hixon is a US Police Chief who has just taken a new job in Boston... not the Boston in Massachusetts but the original in Lincolnshire! Here he is to take over as the Chief Constable of the fictional East Lincolnshire Constabulary. It soon becomes clear that it won't be an easy job; he isn't particularly welcome, with locals fearing he has been brought in to cut costs and thus jobs. Over the course of the series he will have to investigate a variety of crimes; most of which aren't of the type that would feature in a typical US cop show! If that weren't enough he has a fourteen year old daughter who must also settle into a new life far from home.

It is clear from the start that this will be a fairly silly series... the very first scene sees our protagonist chase crooks into a cabbage field and start throwing cabbages in frustration! While this isn't a problem there are details that will irritate some viewers... notably the fact that most of the 'locals' have Yorkshire accents and the fact that the way the police behave is very unrealistic; no Chief Constable would lead investigations and junior officers certainly wouldn't get away with talking to him the way they do here. Perhaps a little strangely these flaws didn't bother me as much as I'd expected. The stories are fun but not without their darker moments. Rob Lowe is the undoubted star of the show; doing a fine job as our protagonist; there is solid support from Bronwyn James as DC Muriel Yeardsley, the one local copper who seems to get on with Hixon; young Aloreia Spencer, who impresses as his daughter Kelsey; and Rachel Stirling, as local judge Lady Mary Harborough. The series ends with what I thought was its best episode; this wraps up some storylines but leaves others open for a future series... if there is more I'll watch. Overall I'd say that while this isn't the best British cop show I'd still recommend trying it as different to most shows and set in part of the country rarely seen on television.
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: This Year's Girl (2000)
Season 4, Episode 15
9/10
Faith is back!
18 July 2019
While Buffy and her friends are worrying about how they might deal with Adam and how to get Riley out of The Initiative a threat emerges from an unexpected direction... Faith wakes from her coma. Eight months have passed since Buffy put Faith into a coma and she is now out for revenge. Once awake she leaves hospital and receives a package from her late mentor, Mayor Wilkins. It contains a message and a device which appears to be some sort of weapon.

This episode is very much setting things up for future events but that doesn't mean it lacks action. We get a couple of impressive fights between Buffy and Faith as well as Faith dispatching a demon. Faith's reintroduction to the show is handled well; we see how during her coma she is haunted by dreams of being stabbed by Buffy before waking and showing that her time in a coma hasn't noticeably weakened her. As the episode approached its end I feared we might get a rushed conclusion... instead we get a very interesting 'to be continued', which I won't describe to avoid spoilers. As one would expect there is some humour; Spike's reaction to learning about Faith is priceless as is the gang's total lack of reaction to Xander getting shocked by an Initiative weapon he is trying to fix. The cast are on fine form; Eliza Dushku's return as Faith obviously being the most welcome. Overall a great episode which left me keen to learn what happens next.
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9/10
A classic disaster movie
18 July 2019
From the start there is no doubt about what is going to happen; we are told that The Poseidon will meet disaster and only a few of those on board will survive... the question is who and how. In the opening scenes we are introduced to various key characters; Rev Scott, a priest who believes that God helps those who help themselves; Mike Rogo, a New York cop, and his wife Linda; Belle and Manny Rosen, a couple going to see their grandson; teenager Susan and younger brother Robin, who are travelling alone; Singer Nonnie Parry and some crew members.

Then as everybody celebrates New Year's Eve there is an earthquake of Crete which causes a massive Tsunami. When it strikes the ship quickly turns turtle, killing many people. Survivors in the dining room are advised by the ship's purser to stay where they are and wait for rescue; Rev Scott believes that to survive they must head upwards to the engine room; now the highest point in the ship, also the location where the hull is thinnest. He is joined by the people we were introduced to earlier and as they proceed they meet various difficulties which not all of them will survive.

The seventies are the decade associated with disaster movies and this is one of the best know examples. The genre may have got stale fairly quickly but this film still feels surprisingly fresh. The opening introductions don't go on too long but still manages to tell us enough about each of the key characters. The disaster itself is impressively shot with great special effects that make the viewer believe the characters really are in an inverted ship. The various problems they encounter keep things very tense and lead to some poignant moments. The way the characters argue about the best course of action feels realistic... although the precocious boy who seems to know everything about the ship is more than a little annoying at times. The cast does an impressive job and includes many famous actors; most notably Gene Hackman as Scott and Ernest Borgnine as Mike Rogo. Overall I'd say this is a must see for fans of the disaster genre but it is also worth watching if you like a good tense drama.
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8/10
An impressive 'all-CGI' sci-fi
17 July 2019
This sci-fi film is set in a future where most life on Earth has been wiped out following a meteorite strike which brought with it 'phantoms'. These phantoms consume the life-force of those they touch. Aki Ross has been infected by a phantom but survived, with the help of Dr Sid. Now they are searching for eight spirits which they believe will stop the phantoms. These spirits are to be found in eight different life forms; as the film opens Aki is looking for the sixth, a plant, in the remains of New York City. She ends up being rescued by a military unit lead by Gray Edwards, with whom she was once romantically involved. Not everybody agrees with Dr Sid's theories; most notably General Hein who wants to use the powerful Zeus canon to destroy the Phantoms... something Sid is certain with make matters much worse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the first 'Scream' film much was made of the killers following genre rules. This is followed up with discussions of rules for sequels and arguments over whether a sequel can ever match the original... I think this one might even if it inevitably lacks the original's shocking opening. Instead we get the most self-referential opening I can think of with characters watching a shot-for-shot remake of the original, with different cast obviously... this turned out to be a great hook as it reminded the viewer of that film and them propelled them into the sequel. As one would expect there are plenty of fairly gruesome deaths and lots of tension. The central cast are solid; most notably Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox who are great as Sidney and Gale. The identity of the killer isn't too obvious; I'll admit I was convinced it was somebody who turned out to be innocent. Overall I'd say that if you enjoyed the original you should check this out as it is as good and has plenty to add to the story; if you've yet to watch the original you should definitely watch it first.
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