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Most Haunted (2002)
This is 'must see', turn the lights off viewing on a Monday night here for me in NZ. I admit, seeing is believing with me so do I believe in ghosts? The jury is out but I am open minded enough to believe that there has to be something. Some freaky occurrences when I was younger which I still, to this day cannot explain lead me to believe that, whilst there may not be ghosts per se, there may be spirits or energies that we cannot explain.
I have just watched the episode at the Ram Inn where Stuart is physically assaulted by a spirit in the barn after Derek, whilst possessed by the spirit of a Witch, says they should go there. All this is built up to by Karl saying that he senses something is going to happen. If you are really cynical, as I can sometimes be, you could say this was all pretty contrived. But frankly, I don't think Stuart is that good an actor; what he went through freaked me out and I wasn't even there.
I do find Derek a wee bit far fetched at times (and who the heck is Sam? - must have missed that somewhere along the way)and he REALLY loves the word residual doesn't he? But if he TRULY does know nothing of the history of the location before he arrives (I am a wee bit sceptical about that too) then his insights are remarkable.
What I really do enjoy about this show is the historical aspect. As an ex pat Pom that is one thing I miss about my mother land - the sheer abundance of history and historical sites. I do think when something powerful has happened at a place, it does leave an atmosphere. I was sceptical when my Mother told me that she had felt such a feeling when she visited the Culloden battlefield.....until I visited the place myself. I have never had such a strong feeling as I did there and would love to have gone back at night. If ever spirits walk a place, its there. You can really feel the tragedy, the despair - it's very difficult to put into words. You just have to go there for yourself and experience it.
Whether Most Haunted is contrived for dramatic effect, as I am sure is sometimes the case, there are still occurrences and phenomena that occur that cannot be explained. And I think this is something that the show illustrates well. We are arrogant indeed if we think we can explain everything in this world. Tragic, violent or significant effects do leave a residue. How could they not? Visit Culloden. If you are American, visit Gettysburg or Shiloh and I defy you not to feel it.
Then go watch Most Haunted again and I am sure you will be a wee bit more open minded. Looks as if we are only in series 3 or 4 here in NZ so I look forward to many more episodes to come.
The Champions (1968)
They really don't make 'em like they used to
I wasn't born until 4 years after this wonderful show first aired but luckily I managed to catch the reruns of the mid 90's and the rest is history......I was hooked. The premise was pretty simple; two hardened Nemesis agents, Richard Barrett and Craig Stirling ( William Gaunt and Stuart Damon) are partnered up with an expert (if not young) Doctor and Biologist (Sharron Macready) to head behind the bamboo curtain to retrieve a dangerous biological agent from being used by red china. Whilst making their escape, their plane is hit by machine gun fire and they crash in the heart of the Himalayas where their lives are saved by a mysterious and previously undiscovered civilisation who heal and enhance the senses of the trio, thus setting the scene for many exciting adventures to come...
The series lasted for 30 hour long episodes and I guess it was its relatively short lived, one season run that has set it up for cult status.
Monty Berman, the producer, was notorious for making things as cheaply as possible and sometimes the show suffered for this with incredibly tacky sets - particularly in Episodes such as "Happening" ( a studio deputising for the Australian outback) and the 'snow' sets of "Operation Deep Freeze" and "The Beginning" but if you can get past this, and focus on the characters and the story lines, the show was really a lot of fun. It had a great mix of adventure, and plenty of deadpan humour (mainly from some terrific one liners from William Gaunt).
The chemistry from the three leads was fantastic - you get the sense that they were really having a lot of fun making the show and this is borne out in the 2005 reunion documentary where the three reunite after over 35 years to reminisce about the show (and laugh about Anthony Nicholls awful wig!!). They all shared equal screen time and all had their moments to shine. I have to say, I was always a Richard Barrett fan - I loved his sardonic humour along with that dangerous edge - he was certainly a man you didn't cross, and those eyes........the bluest eyes you would probably see on TV. I have also followed Bill Gaunts career with interest since. However, Craig Stirling certainly would have had his legion of female fans and I am sure Alexandra Bastedo had a whole queue of male fans swooning over her too.
The show also had a plethora of guest stars to entice with, including Donald Sutherland, Jeremy Brett, Peter Wyngarde, Burt Kwouk, Anton Rodgers, Kate O'Mara, Jenny Linden, Paul Eddington and Colin Blakely.
Notable episodes for me were : "Auto Kill", "The Interrogation", "The Fanatics", "The Mission" and "The Gilded Cage" but I am sure every one has their personal favourites.
If you do get a chance to watch this show for the first time, or to re watch it after many years, remember to watch it in the context of the time it was made and just sit back and enjoy - the characters and the chemistry from the three leads is what made this wonderful show for me and I don't think I will ever tire of it.
The Mod Squad (1968)
You'll not see a better social commentary of the times
I write this commentary not as someone reminiscing about a show that they watched as a kid or adolescent; that reflected the era they grew up in - as many do on here, but as someone who discovered the show a generation later. I was not born until 1972 - so just as the show was ending its successful run. I didn't see the MOD Squad until it was shown as a rerun in the UK (where i was born and raised) in the late 90's/early 2000's. From memory it was on at 1.30 in the afternoon and I watched it during a brief period of unemployment. From reading episode synopsis' on several sites, it must have been season 4 I was watching. What I remember thinking was - what a cool premise. Three kids from conflicting backgrounds, anti-establishment, setting aside their differences, working together to help others. Yes, the cover is that they are working as young cops, ultimately to solve crimes but, to me, the show had a much more philanthropic message. At a torrid time in the USA and the world as a whole, the show commented on things such as Vietnam, race, social injustice - things that were actually quite risky for a mainstream TV show to be commenting on at the time. One thing that really sticks out is an episode where a soldier has just returned from Vietnam. Pete firmly shakes his hand and welcomes him home - in a time and a USA where returning veterans were, generally, not welcomed. The villains weren't always clear cut villains - it wasn't a case of black and white - the show exposed the fact that there are always several shades of grey in between; that there are often human tragedies lurking beneath the surface. The show had a lot of angst, the central characters Pete, Linc and Julie often having to examine their consciences; being faced with making difficult decisions. However, amongst all this, they always had each other. Maybe I am looking at this through rose tinted glasses but what I have really enjoyed through rewatching the newly released to DVD season 1, is the fact that these three 'kids' really care for each other; look out for each other - are always THERE for each other. Was it really like that at the time? Well, I like to think so - I think people were more neighbourly and mindful of each other back then. Is it like that now - sadly...no. I wish I could say it was but I really can't say it is. And this is from someone who did not live through that era - I was born to it but the world had changed a great deal by the time I was old enough to really start taking notice. I really hope that the distributors have had enough success with the release of the two season 1 DVD's to warrant a release of the subsequent 4 seasons. I know its all about profitability - sadly. But I think a lot of people would really appreciate this show - not only those who remember it first time around but perhaps those who enjoyed the reruns in latter years and, who knows, there may well be a new audience waiting amongst the generation of today. I can't think of any other show at the time that gives such an accurate social commentary of the time and if I was pointing anyone in the direction of a memorable show from that era to reflect ' how it really was' that would be the one.
And boy......Was Pete Cochran ever sexy!!!!
Blake's 7 (1978)
This show had so much depth
When this show was first launched - I was 5 going on 6 - kinda young to be into sci fi but this show was something that I just could NOT miss. I didn't get to see any reruns of this show, believe it or not, until I emigrated to New Zealand in 2001 and it was being rerun on one of the free to air channels. Wow. The tingle I got down my spine when the signature tune started was amazing. The nostalgia rush entirely unexpected but welcome. The episodes that were shown were from Season one and, as is typical in New Zealand, they took the show off air midway through with no explanation - Grrrrr! Fast forward to 2008 when I discover an amazing DVD store in Christchurch which stocks pretty much every rare DVD or video you could ever want. And they had all 4 Blakes 7 DVD Box sets. You see where I am going with this....
As I type, I have just finished season 3 and out of all of the 39 episodes viewed thus far, was amazed that I could only remember about a half a dozen so was like watching with new eyes over again. It's easy to watch such things with 2008 eyes, having been spoiled with Visual effects from Mssrs Lucas, Spielberg and Jackson over the years, but I have learned to watch things in the context of the time they were made. Sure, there were shaky sets and if you look at the Liberator hard enough, you see three Fairy Liquid bottles staring back at you. Doesn't matter. What made this series for me was the characterizations and the sophistication of the story lines. My mother used to say she thought Paul Darrow was the worst actor she had ever seen.In retrospect, and having trained as an actor myself, I think she was very wrong. Paul Darrow ROCKED as Avon. He created the complexity of the man that was Kerr Avon like I think no other could. I wouldn't say that Paul Darrow was a good looking man but I would say that he had a real sexual magnetism that he played to amazing effect in his scenes with Servelan which made him very attractive and mesmerizing to watch( I am now talking as a 35 year old woman - not the 5 year old child!) - more on Serverlan later. My favourite character as a child with always Vila and I have not revised that opinion because I think he added that much needed humour to break the obvious tension between Blake and Avon and then, in season 3 and 4, Tarrant and Avon. Vila was the only character to appear in all 52 episodes and I think that is testament to Michael Keatings portrayal of the lovable rogue - always portrayed as a coward but I think, a very reluctant hero. I wasn't a huge Roj Blake fan. I felt that Gareth Thomas came across as a Shakespearian actor who looked and felt uncomfortable on a sci fi set. His booming RADA trained voice just didn't impress me and I felt that the series improved when he left ( Is that a treasonous comment?!!) I felt that all the other characters had their part to play and remember the shock when Gan was killed ( I remember that, particularly as a 5 year old who had previously been shielded from such things) and that was the great thing about the show - there was no such thing really as a happy ending; bad things could, and often did, happen and it was inevitable that the show would end the way it did - to have ended any other way would have been somewhat of an anti-climax.
The villains - ah, the villains.....Servelan - Jacqueline Pearce. What can I say? As a child I HATED her. So Ms Pearce did her job well. She was superb in the role. It's easy to play an icy cold villianess but not so easy to play one who has her vulnerabilities and not be afraid to show them which we saw from time to time with Servelan. I read somewhere that it was Jacqueline Pearces own idea to have her dressed in such stylish and feminine outfits rather than the mandatory PVC skin tight black body suits that 'baddie' females tended to wear. The decision was an inspired one. I was disappointed that Travis was killed off at the end of season 2. Whilst I didn't think Brian Croucher was that good an actor, still, I enjoyed his performance more than Stephen Griefs ( another RADA voice) - perhaps it was the quietly spoken voice, perhaps the more regional accent, or maybe the piercing blue eyes- anyhow, I did enjoy the episodes he appeared in.
Well, I am just about to go and watch season 4 over the next two nights. I know how it will end and I suspect I will remember more episodes as was 8 or 9 by the time this aired. What I do know for certain is that I will enjoy every minute of it and will be sad when it all ends. If I had to chose between storyline, characterisation versus effects, I would choose the former every time. So sad that programme and movie makers in the sci fi genre don't do the same nowadays. The nostalgia rush rewatching Blakes 7, for me, has been amazing. This show defined a time in my life that I can never return to permanently but watching it again has enabled me to return for a brief while and the experience has been priceless.
The Flying Scotsman (2006)
Sometimes painful but compelling viewing
Being a relative of Graeme ( albeit fairly distant - his father and my mother were cousins)I knew the story well - I keep close contact with his Aunt ( My Mothers cousin)who would update me on how the "Scottish branch" of the family were doing. I followed Graemes career closely and remember vividly seeing his triumphs on the news. I knew about some of the issues he had to face in his life, the adversity that he had to overcome time and time again. Sitting down in a PACKED movie theatre in Christchurch NZ, I felt tremendously proud of him and e-mailed home straight away to pass on that message that, if he still has any doubts today, then I wanted him to know that, on the other side of the world, he packed a theatre out and, the chances are that, if he packed a theatre in tiny Christchurch then, he will have done so in Wellington, Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne etc. Cycling is pretty popular here in the Southern Hemisphere and there were young kids in the audience who held him up as a hero. His honesty in writing his autobiography and allowing this film to be made, no holds barred is truly an inspiration because it shows that, if he can make it, become world champion twice, break the hour record, twice, without the major sponsorship and million pound technology of his contemparies, then so can they, the young lads starting out. Graeme, you were an inspiration and you still are, to MANY MANY people. And you have earned the admiration of many many people not only with your genius designs but with your honesty in facing your demons and confronting them head on. I know the Obree family continue to be very proud of you but, ultimately, you can be immensely proud of yourself and everything you have achieved. If the Cycling fraternity were to ever appoint an ambassador for the sport to get youngsters more interested in it - it really should be you. Watching the movie was painful at times but, ultimately I came out of the theatre very, very proud and I wish you and your family all the best for the future.
North & South (2004)
I am a English woman by birth - I have lived in NZ for five years and I absolutely love it here. However, the one big criticism I have is it takes SOOOOOO long to get the great British dramas here. This wonderful adaptation of a book that I lovingly studied at University, has yet to be aired here on terrestrial television and, knowing the standard of TV we get here, I doubt it will air...the best I can hope for is the SKY Channel UK TV. No sign of it yet.... Still, I saw the DVD in my local library and hired it for a dollar for the week ( thats 33p to you UK dwellers - not bad huh?!) And so that is how I come to be writing these comments.
It was the best dollar I have ever spent! I thought it very brave subject matter for the BBC to attempt as Mrs Gaskell does not enjoy the fame that Austen or the Bronte sisters names carry. In fact, to most, if you mentioned " North and South" before this wonderful production aired in the UK, they would probably think you were talking about a 1980's American Civil War drama with Kirstie Alley and Patrick Swayze!!! I have read a lot of the comments on here and there seems to be a general consensus that Richard Armitage rocks! I won't disagree. As a part time actor myself, I am critical when I watch dramas - If I see an actor playing the part and not the actual character, I lose belief. Perhaps it helped that I had not seen him before but, somehow, I feel that, even if I had, I would still have been totally ,mesmerised by his performance. Never has a character ever drawn me in so completely - not even when I read the book. In fact, I recall not liking him much at all when I first read it. However, Armitage played the role beautifully. As the episodes unfolded, we saw the layers start to peel away and, beneath the harsh exterior, a sensitive and painfully lonely man appear. Armitage was not merely acting the part - he BECAME John Thornton. He has a truly special quality that you don't often see in actors and he could say more in a look than ever any words needed. The scene where Margaret rides off in the carriage in the snow, leaving Milton, leaving Thornton watching her leave, yearning for her to show him a sign and look back, was one of the most beautifully shot scenes I have ever seen on the small screen. I have lost touch with the BAFTAS these past few years but that was a BAFTA worthy performance in that one scene if ever I saw one.
Onto the other actors. Dramas like these are ensemble pieces and succeed because of the power of the combined performances. I frowned when I saw Daniela Denby Ash for the first time in this production. Perhaps because we get a nightly dose of "My Family" here in NZ and I had the spoiled, bombastic, "Janey Harper" image in my head. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the restraint in her performance. It is so easy to be all heaving bosoms and fluttering eyes in these period dramas but she played the strong willed Margaret Hale to perfection and the chemistry between her and Armitage on screen was electrifying.
The amazing Sinead Cusack. I didn't like her accent at first I will admit, I thought it overdone but, the power of her performance as the protective mother soon made this pale into insignificance and I thought she played the role to perfection.
The wonderful Tim Piggott Smith. He is always good value and he conveyed all the goodness and gentleness of Mr Hale that I remembered from the book (and ironic that 30 years before, he played Frederick!). The scene where he is talking about one of his pupils to his newly deceased wife had tears in my eyes. As did the scene where he greeted his long lost son Frederick.
I LOVED Pauline Quirke as Dixon. She is a wonderful actress who I feel is really beginning to flourish and show just what a strong performer she is. She was utterly believable and her relationship with Mrs Hale was touching and evocative.
Finally, I would like to mention the wonderful Brendan Coyle - an actor who,in my opinion, has not enjoyed the recognition that he deserves. He totally captured the dignity of the working class man trying to improve life for his family and fellow workers and the despair when things spiral out of his control - the death of his beloved Bessie, the breaking of the strike by the desperate Boucher and the way that, despite all the suffering and the heartache, he sees beyond the barriers that Thornton throws up around him and puts out the hand of friendship and support. The scene where Thornton goes to Nicholas's house to ask him to come and work for him was wonderful. So touching to see two very proud men make such concessions. Beautifully played.
Finally, yeah, I know it was poetic license, but the scene at the rail station was the perfect climax to the piece. I had tingles down my spine just watching it ( and a few tears). If only life were that romantic! And I am sure there was not a red blooded woman watching that didn't wish a man would look at her with half the longing that Thornton looked at Margaret nor kiss her with half the passion that he kissed her with. Nobody does drama like the " Beeb " and, to me, this production rates above " Pride and Prejudice" and I would have Mr Thornton over Mr Darcy any day!!
The Amazing Mr. Blunden (1972)
A Childhood classic that I will show my kids
I loved this film as a kid - aside from the cheesy " Goodbye, hope you enjoyed it" from the actors, coming out of character at the end of the movie ( very much a Lionel Jeffries signature - also did it in "The Railway Children") - which I HATED (!) this movie still holds the same magic for me now as it did when I first saw it.
The premise has been described many times before but I will just add the fact that all the atmospheric ingredients are there - the mist on the open lawns, the cawing of the crows, the suitably haunted looking old ruin and a musical score that really captures every emotion that it needs to in the wonderful story telling. Laurence Naismith is every inch the "actor", whose casting in this role was genius. Lynn Frederick, whose troubled life was ultimately cut short, was a little miscast as Lucy - already 18 and obviously a woman, it was difficult to see her as a little girl. However, Rosalyn Landor was perfect as, what turns out to be, Lucy's Great Grandmother.
David Lodge and Dianna Dors were superb in their roles as Mr and Mrs Wickens although James Villiers looked a smidgen uncomfortable as the 1816 children's wicked uncle.
However, it is the story and the atmosphere that Jeffrie's evokes in this movie along with the wonderful score. I have just ordered this again on DVD as it is many years since I last saw it and I cannot wait. It really is a childhood favourite and I am looking forward to the nostalgia buzz that it will, undoubtedly evoke.
Oh the nostalgia!!!
This series was made the year I was born - 1972 - and so it must have been the reruns I used to watch but I do recall that it was an unmissable show for me. This series is timeless because it reflects a time that, even when it was made, had already passed. Sure, some of the hairstyles give it away at times for being from the 70's but it's something you could show your kids now and it wouldn't be dated. I don't have any kids but I have just purchased the " Best of" DVD as I want, someday, for my kids to appreciate the innocence of growing up that this show reflects.
I agree with a previous user, it does show good triumphing over bad, promotes good morals and, at times will tug at the heart strings, but its the kind of wholesome entertainment that you want your kids to watch as it always promotes "doing the right thing".
I am not ashamed to say that, mentally, I joined Vicky, Kevin, Albert and then Jenny and Ned on ALL of their adventures and, even now that I am all grown up ( as are all the actors who played them) I am being transported back to those childhood days in a warm, fuzzy and nostalgic glow. Albert was always my favourite character and I would LOVE to know where Tony Maiden is today. To me, he was always the most endearing character - the one who added all the humour. My only criticism of the DVD release? It only contains 11 of the 54 episodes that were made over the 2 seasons. Please, let's have Box set releases for both seasons. I suspect a lot of parents of my generation would far rather their kids watched shows like this than the violence that kids are subjected to nowadays.
A heartwarming story of hope in a time when there was little or nothing to celebrate
This movie proved to me what a fine actor Ian Hart is. Never been a Hugh Grant fan because he is almost always the same in everything he does so the novelty of the " English Fop" has worn off for me. Tara Fitzgerald always plays the sexy girl and, to be honest, I have never been a fan of her acting style, despite doing a good welsh accent. No, this film for me, which, despite my criticism of the leads, is one of my favorite movies because of its fantastic supporting cast. Colm Meaney is always good value and Ian Mcniece always adds quality to everything he does. However, getting back to my opening statement, it was Ian Hart's performance that moved me the most. It goes to prove that you don't have to have many lines or a leading role to turn in a masterful performance. In every scene he appeared in, he just excelled. To portray someone who has suffered the horrors of the trenches of World War 1 is not easy and it would have been easy to overdo it but he doesn't. The scene on top of the mountain after the lightning strike where, mentally, he is transported back to the horrors of the trenches, was truly moving. When Williams brings him back to the pub, again, despite what is going on with other characters and their dialog, we are drawn to him. He truly owns the scene.
In every scene that we see him in, it is the haunted look that we see on his face, in his eyes, that truly captures the underlying theme of this movie - the desire for something good to come out of such hard times; a community that has lost so much desperately trying to recapture its pride by ensuring Ffynnon Garw is retained as Wales first mountain. Johnny is one that came home when the rest of the villages young men are unlikely to. He is one that the village is trying to cling onto although, most of the time, he is just beyond their reach. He is there in the flesh but not truly in spirit.
Pivotal moments - standing up and speaking about the trenches at the village meeting. I loved the Reverand Jones reaction to Johnny speaking - the tears in his eyes, trying not to break down. Johnny is the one, probably the only one in the village, who is able to make the Reverand and Morgan the Goat set aside their differences.
I loved the shot of Johnny after the breakdown when the voice-over speaks of the days of rain that followed. In one frame, Hart perfectly captures the haunted and damaged young man that Johnny is.
I loved it when Johnny tells the School teacher to " Stop acting so English"
and I absolutely ADORED Johnny's epiphany near the end of the movie where he decides it is time to stop being afraid and face his fear. The camera zooming right into him so that the entire screen is his. The village applauding his arrival to the top of the mountain was magical. One of their sons was home at last. He was finally back with them.
Of course you could just see this movie as a heart warming comedy - and sure, it can be enjoyed this way but I would urge all of you, if not already, to go back and watch it again from the perspective I have illustrated.
As an actor, Ian Hart is a master, and in his portrayal as "Johnny Shell Shocked", a master is truly at work. Any aspiring actor would do well to get this man's entire back catalog on DVD to see how it ought to be done.
Quality Drama at its very best
This must be one of the most original and addictive shows I have ever encountered. It works on absolutely every level in terms of reflecting a period of American history, with no holds barred. The cinematography captures the essence of the Oklahoma dust bowl with no frills, it is almost sepia in its hue. The characters are well crafted and are REAL people - there are no Hollywood hotties in this show which is just SOOOO refreshing. As one of the pivotal characters, Ben Hawkins states in the season 1 opener "They are just people".
But this is not a historical epic - no sirree, there is SOO much more to this show going on than that. It is hard to find words to describe this show and there is nothing that I feel I can compare it to - it really is unique. Suffice to say, initially, we see 2 parallel plots going on - the story of Ben Hawkins, an unloved loner, run off his property, rejected by his dying mother and on the run from the law, picked up by the colourful characters of the " Carnivale", led by the charismatic "Samson" as they pass through Oklahoma. Parallel to this, we have the story of Brother Justin Crowe , a Mehodist Minister in Mintern California, living with his devoted sister Iris.
Soon, these parallel stories will be completely and utterly entwined as the story moves on from season 1 into the supercharged season 2. To say much more would give the plot away and besides, it would take far much more explanation than space allows - go get season 1 on DVD and I will guarantee you will soon be ensnared into the world of the Carnivale as 2million viewers before you have been.
And, whilst you are at it, send an e-mail to HBO and join the " Save Carnivale" campaign. Creator Daniel Knauf has 6 seasons worth of material to tell his story and HBO have canceled at just 2.
Never before have I come across such well crafted characters, so well acted and so well written. All involved with this show including the actors themselves are passionate about the vision of this show and this really comes across when you watch it. A number of the cast and crew are involved with the campaign so the more numbers we add to our ranks, the more DVD's that are sold, the higher our chances of reinstatement become. People power does work - "Roswell" bears testament to this! Carnivale - buy the season 1 DVD now!