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It's always remarkable to note how one particular weapon can change the balance of power within a continent and some weapons even change the course of history - at least to a degree. With regard to the Longbowmen of England, I think that when they were captured by the French they often had their forefinger and middle-finger cut off in order that were they to escape they would be rendered useless as soldiers (at least with regards to being able to fire a bow and arrow.) And it was due to this that before battles the English archers used to tauntingly display their fingers to the French lines as much as to say, 'Look, I still have the means to do your army harm,', hence the use of the two fingers in the 'V'-sign became a way to insult someone. A very interesting drama-documentary from Cromwell Productions who made a veritable plethora of them during the 1990s.
Outpost: Black Sun (2012)
Bring on Outpost 3...
Exceptionally well-made piece of work with top-notch production values all round. Fantastic acting from the leads down to the small parts, great use of sound, excellent dramatic lighting and powerful, gripping camera-work especially in the action sequences. Some truly shocking moments and great plot-twists and surprises. My favourite parts of this film were actually not the battle-scenes but some of the dialogue scenes particularly the final one with the two men. Extremely good casting and some great performances from not just the leads who were uniformly great but all the tiny roles as well since it's essential to ensure every actor (no matter how small the role is) is great in a film like this otherwise cracks would start to show.
Revealing and fascinating.
An exceptionally engaging drama-documentary on all counts. Many people will have heard of Joe McCarthy most probably by the term 'McCarthy Witch- hunts' but will not know anything much about him. It was revealing in many fundamental ways (which I obviously won't mention here) and a fascinating insight into politics and the way human beings can manipulate each other and the media. Excellent production values throughout and extremely good performances from the whole cast. John sessions is excellent in the leading role proving himself a dramatic actor of real quality. His American accent is superb as well especially considering that he's actually (so i understand), Scottish. Philip Bulcock appears in a small to medium sized role and gives an excellent performance as does Peter Brooke and Ryan McClusky. These actors have worked together on a number of drama- documentary films previously.
A Changed Man (2003)
Good direction of crowd scenes
Normally I wouldn't spend a great deal of time (if any) remarking about how the Supporting Artists and extras come over in a film. However, with regards to the scenes in A Changed Man there are scenes aplenty (due to the fact that it all takes place at a big party) in which the natural behaviour of a crowd is paramount and the Supporting Artists in this film must surely be commended as must the director's handling of them. They blend in beautifully and effortlessly and the reactions to the dramatic events are excellent. Next time I watch it I'll do so and perhaps air my thoughts about the main action more but it's not that often Extras get mentioned or favourably remarked upon hence my comments here.
Land of the Blind (2006)
Deserves more praise that it received
This was an extremely powerful film in so many ways and I'm somewhat surprised it wasn't hailed more than it was and that it didn't get the extent of theatrical releases that it actually deserved. Fundamentally about the fact that power can certainly corrupt and absolutely power even more so, Land of the Blind is often a very bleak vision of how humans will feel perfectly justified in going to extreme lengths to ensure that their end-goals are realised and that the means to achieve those ends become immaterial. Ralph Fiennes is a brave an excellent actor who I've seen astound me on stage on many occasions (let alone his excellent film-work) and he doesn't disappoint at all in this hugely powerful role. Tom Hollander once again probably steals the show with his psychotic portrayal - a truly frightening character and a marvellously brave performance yet again from this amazing actor who seems able to be brilliant in every single role he ever does and all the roles are so hugely different.
Human Traffic (1999)
Moments of quality
Patchy but had its moments of quality without a doubt. Very good, released and quite brave performance from the lead John Simms who was well cast in this role of a somewhat unlikely kind of romantic hero managing in the end to overcome his sexual worries. The scene he has with Koop towards the latter part of the film is especially good as they stare, drug-addled and fascinated looking down at a table. The film did have its cringe-worthy moments (perhaps the Alternative National Anthem being one) but it's saved by other moments of clever insight into Human interaction such as the scene where Jip has to talk to a guy who he admits isn't actually an unpleasant person but he just doesn't like him and the dialogue, direction and performances perfectly convey the thoughts that have run through everyone's head at some stage in life when we are desperate to extricate ourselves from a strained conversation which we wish we hadn't had to enter into in the first place. Justin Kerrigan pops up again (as is his way) in the role of Ziggy Marlon and gives one of the best cameo performances in the whole film.
'Live TV!'s very own comedy-drama...
It's incredible how programmes like this actually manager to get made let alone aired. 'Live TV!' was hardly a bastion for anything remotely resembling quality (to put it mildly) especially as one of the most remarked upon aspects of it's program schedule was news-reading in the nude. Most of the episodes of this series 'Agony' were pretty agonsing to watch and took the format of a kind of 'cartoon-comic' story somewhat akin to a live version of those dreadful storyboards of relationship problems that appear in the tabloid press. A quite astonishing number of episodes were made and aired (many more than listed here) though they were all as pointless and ludicrous as each other. The acting was generally bad or average at best (though that's probably not necessarily the actors' fault as much as the style and nature of the format itself. At least it was better than Eastenders (though that's hardly an accolade worth boasting about).
Urban Ghost Story (1998)
This film manages to hold the attention well and is genuinely disturbing and frightening at times as well. Good performances from the cast and good direction. Obviously, the budget was pretty low but they make good use of it. One of the well-performed medium-sized roles is played by an actress who ended up doing truly astonishingly great work in The Office as an irritating and self-obsessed co-worker of Tim's. Great to see actors careers progressing especially when so well-deserved. Perhaps Urban Ghost Story did suffer slightly from a somewhat bland title. Jason Connery inhabits the role well. It did achieve a theatrical release in the UK though not of immense proportions.
Pig in a Poke (1998)
the only way i could see...
...anyone finding the premise of this film funny would be if they were a Sun-reader who'd perhaps had their brains removed (or is that actually a contradiction in terms bearing in mind the fact that the readers of said tome may not have intellectual faculty in the first place)? However, I digress. The 'hilarious' plot of this short sees an overweight and over-sized gent who has got stuck in his loft and the hapless authorities are doing their best to free him. Cue many a fart-gag and other such side-splitting fare. The character who ends up stuck like a 'pig in a poke' spends much of his time (not surprisingly) stuck, and to save the actor the physical discomfort of having to literally be stuck there for hours on end, the actor's bottom half has been replaced for these sections by a (terrible) body double in the form of a pair of legs attached to a very sizable midriff (at least that's what it looked like to me). However, the director must have forgotten that a normal human being would be struggling and audibly moaning all this time they were stuck not simply dangling there in utter stillness for hours on end. Having said that, the film does have it's compensations in the form of some good performances so the director must be commended on his casting and his ability to get good work out of a not-incredible script. Good use of music too to evoke the 'feel' of certain moments. A broad comedy with over-sized emphasis on 'broad' with a capital 'B'.
Making a drama out of a crisis...
Perhaps if there was ever a subject in which the 'drama' side of a drama- documentary was not only unnecessary but positively unhelpful would be in a self-help video about what to bear in mind when getting divorced. Why anybody would want to actually sit down and watch through the 'dramatic' sequences displaying the break-up of a fictional marriage is anybody's guess. The sequences with the real-life lawyer/solicitor would perhaps have been better simply as delivered straight to camera with the information on the screen which needed to be digested by the viewer. Hopefully if anyone did actually buy this title then the factual information would have been helpful to them but that's all that this piece has to offer.
Tight Trousers (1990)
A reasonable first film
I can't say that I found this 'comedy' amusing at all though that's not to say the cast and crew were without talent. The director Metin Huseyin has gone on to direct a string of good-quality projects and the lead actor, Vas Blackwood was excellent in Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. I suppose i just find the thought of a young black man dressed as Margaret Thatcher on his way to a party not the funniest thing I've ever seen in my whole life. Fairly decent production values unsurprisingly enough (since the film is from the best film school in Europe, the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield) at least alongside Prague Film School which is also excellent.
And the series rolls on...
A very well-made series indeed. Generally well-acted with powerful dramatic moments throughout and shocks aplenty. Genuinely frightening at times. Stylish and exceedingly well-shot with an interesting premise for the power the characters have. Great-looking cast with fabulous faces for film. Particularly loved by teens and kids in school, understandably. Well- deserved nominations and wins at BAFTA Awards. Sometimes too vulgar than was necessary which was a bit of a let-down as it needn't have been and especially if the audience if teens it doesn't help their growth as people in my view and they should be given better than that. Perhaps one of the program's appealing elements was that a group of underdogs ends up with considerable power.
Blood in the Water (2009)
It is quite...
...remarkable to note that it was indeed the incidents of these manifold shark attacks in 1916 off the East Coast of America that were the original inspiration (I think this is correct) for Jaws. I think this also may have been an addition to Shark Week on the USA Discovery Channel. Good performances especially from Anthony Edridge and also from Peter Brooke as the Reporter. Sharks seem to have an endless fascination for man, perhaps it's the mixture of their physical beauty mixed in with the fear they are able to produce in humans as well as their more standard 'prey'. I look forward to more drama-docs about sharks since they are all so engrossing. The counter-play and differing viewpoints of the two leads was handled very well.
Any Human Heart (2010)
Good piece of work
Certainly very well made and exceptionally well-acted. An interesting story of a man's life and the trials and happiness he is subjected to. The main character seems often irrevocably drawn back to memories of his past, painful ones and the melancholy of happiness which has missed his grasp. Tom Hollander was incredible, the release he had in some of his scenes and his whole characterisation was immaculate. Matthew McFaddyn too was engaging. Exceptionally good dialogue too which is essential for any drama, or any comedy for that matter, to work. Intriguing insight into corruption and the way people in positions of power are able to twist the lives of those beneath them.
Gina's Laughing Gear (2007)
As pilots go, for the Children's market this one was pretty good and quite a shame it wasn't made into a full series. The writing was very clever and very funny and aimed well at the right age-group throughout. A very talented cast give it their all creating some wonderful characters to enjoy. An amusing title, self-referencing another BBC program which most certainly DID get past the pilot stage (with a cameo from a lead actor from that series, no less). I confess I didn't actually see the other pilots but if this was anything to go by i'm sure whichever were actually picked in the end certainly must have been very highly quality Children's TV.
Ocean of Fear (2007)
Harrowing and powerful
Yet another marvellous drama-doc by Brook Lapping Productions. An intensely powerful piece, well-acted and directed with great flair and awareness of the dramatic. Stunning underwater photography of these beautiful creatures which are the stars of Shark Week. Incredible to see how some of a group of human beings were able to endure such pain and fear and hardship and come out alive. Adds fascinating insight into Robert Vaughan's speech from Jaws about being torpedoes by the Japanese. The Discovery Channel is a host to a myriad of gems such as documentary-dramas like these. National Geographic manage quite a mixture of quality shows too.
The Wild West (2006)
perhaps one of the most fascinating...
...subjects of this documentary-drama was the fact that its main focus was whether or not Billy the Kid should be given a posthumous pardon as (if the researchers have dome their work correctly) it seems he wasn't all as bad as he was made out to be in history. Very well-researched and fairly good acting. Shot in southern Spain due to the similarity of that landscape with the badlands of the USA. Colin Stinton was particularly good in his role. The lead actor was certainly somewhat more handsome than the real Billy the Kid. One of a series of several about the Wild West, the Custer episode (though I haven't seen it) was meant to be very good also.
Saving Ronald Reagan (2006)
The subject matter has captured attention...
...from so many quarters round the whole world especially in the UK and the USA. Fascinating insight into the process a team of doctors will often go through when addressing how to try to save a human being in a trauma. The leading 'protagonist', namely Ben Aaron the surgeon who performed the operation, comes across a such a thoroughly warm and kind human being. Very powerful CGI work and good, natural performances from the cast which is essential in this medium. Exceptionally well-documented and researched. The way the Operating-room scenes are inter-cut with those in the White House and at the news conferences is particularly good.
...though that's about as far as it goes for this series. The whole program just seemed to scream that the makers desperately wanted it to be the hippest creation EVER and oh-so-cool but the result was flat, anti- drama with little to recommend it. The acting was passable though certainly not electric by any means. Production valued were generally good but the script just tried too hard to be daring and shocking but it's core ended up coming across as simply tepid, lacking in substance and with a negative moral outlook some of the time. I didn't see the whole series, admittedly, but when something starts to simply bore the pants off you there is nothing much left to do but put this series of the shelf and file it under 'dull'.
Emyn Roc a Rol (2004)
...the title of this series translates from Welsh to English as 'Rock 'n' Roll Hymn.' A well-made little series loved by many people in Wales especially as so much of it was in their native language. Generally well- acted and with a friendly cast of talented youngsters with not just acting skills but an aptitude for music too. Many beautiful locations shown in the Welsh hills throughout and the story-lines were usually very light fare. I don't know if the series is still going though I didn't see them all by any means anyway. The majority of the cast were native Welsh- speakers of course though a few guest roles were English and would perhaps have found it interesting to be on set with a language being spoken around them at times which they couldn't understand!
Harry and Cosh (1999)
not a bad little show
While certainly not reaching the lofty heights of being able to be voted Best Children's' Comedy of All Time (or even not perhaps as good as Grange Hill which was pretty high quality) Harry and Cosh had a charm all of it's own and was quite a feat especially considering the budget was probably not exactly, how can i put this.....astronomical. Zillions of episodes were made and avidly watched by a legion of fans who adored it. The cast were reputed to be a truly lovely bunch of kids without big egos and many older actor praised them for how pleasant they were to work with. I think some (or all?) were released on DVD though not necessarily every one from every series.
Real Crime: A Mind to Murder (2003)
most engaging drama-documentary
Granada made 2 series of Real Crime at least and this episode was a fascinating (albeit intensely tragic and sad) insight into possible reasons why people perform such hard-to-fathom actions which cause such distress and shock to individuals and society. Shown first a few years before Denis Nilsen was due for parole, arguably the most intriguing question raised by this documentary was simply, 'Why?'. It attempted to look for the psychological causes behind the killings. This episode was aired several times over a period of a few years. Particularly harrowing were the accounts from the victims' relatives and also one young man who was attacked but survived and his intense distress was plain to see as he recalled what had happened to him.
Painted Faces (1992)
Tom Hooper's first film
I recall seeing this very unique and clever little short quite some time ago on C4, a late-night slot I think. Certainly showed a great deal of promise which as we know materialised into the tremendous directorial talent of tom hooper. While not ground-breaking, it had quite a unique conclusion and displayed a great imagination. The acting was pretty good, perhaps a little shaky in places from the cast but generally impressive. Great camera-work too and lighting, really excellent use of sound and building of tension. Tom Hopper went on from this some time later to start directing on Byker Grove though probably not as a direct result of this short. Hooper doesn't seem to have taken his idea here and made it into a full-length feature at any future stage at least from the work of his which I've seen myself.
Pubroom Paranoia (1996)
From director of Human Traffic...
This was the last of several short films made by Human Traffic director Justin Kerrigan before he broke thorough into the mainstream in 1999. Quite typical of Kerrigan's work in that the subject of (you guessed it) paranoia is explored comedic-ally. A nice little piece which showed promise dealing with a game-show about who the most paranoid person was in a pub on a certain evening. Generally good acting, perhaps a bit forced at times but quite explosive and the cast give it their all. Technically fairly sound too, quite bold camera-work though a little rough round the edges at points. As Justin Kerrigan likes sometimes to do a bit of a Hitchcock (in that he has a penchant for playing small roles in many his own films) he also appeared in this one for a very brief little cameo. he's actually an extremely good comic actor as well as director.
A Beginners Guide to Freud (1989)
I remember seeing this drama-doc quite a few years ago now and it was very engaging subject matter without a doubt. Very good and natural performance from Valentine Pelka as Young Freud. This actor has done a lot of good work since and I've also seen him in other drama-docs. He has a good 'face-for-film'. I don't think the director Stacey Marking made any subsequent drama-docs. I think this was one of a whole series of introductions to various historical figures which Channel four undertook in the late Eighties. Locations were good. Would be great to see it repeated sometime. The drama-doc is an interesting medium as the drama is usually engaging though sometimes one wonders if it would have been just as good or even better as a straight documentary.