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Minder (2009– )
Pales by comparison with the original, but worthy and better than expected
6 February 2009
While the 21st Century version of the classic 80s comedy-drama 'Minder' was always going to have a lot to live up to, the first episodes gives cause for optimism.

There was outcry amongst fans when TV personality and sometime TV presenter Shane Ritchie was cast as Archie Daley, nephew of the infamous Arthur, but while Ritchie is not much of an actor, he gets an 'A' for effort here. If anything, he should tone down his 'cheekie-chappie' enthusiasm, in favour of portraying a veneer of reputability, but, as the series will take time to hit its stride so will Ritchie.

The plot exists to be disregarded - an entirely nebulous storyline fulfilled its purposes of introducing us to the principals, via a series of non-descript villains. While Petra (who I take to be a relative of the gravel-voiced Dave, proprietor of the Winchester Club in the George Cole original) is a spirited character and looks set to be a series regular, it was Lex Shrapnel who gave the standout performance. Carrying the show with an understated hard edge and an air of seen-it-all-before weariness, he already seems as able a Minder as either Dennis Waterman or Gary Webster.

It was during the commercials that I stumbled across Waterman on the other side, and while I thought I would be pining for his gravelly tones and acknowledge considerable presence, I feel that the show, in its infancy, will survive without him.
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Big Break (1991–2002)
Saturday night will never be the same if you can't 'sink the pink' and 'down the brown'
8 October 2005
I don't even know why this show was axed - the great duo of dour and deadpan John Virgo as the referee, and manic 'cheekie chappie' Jim Davidson as the host and quiz master, plus a mix of general knowledge quiz and snooker - it was never unpopular. The most likely cause of its axing would have to have been the BBC deciding, in its own 'poliitcally correct' manner, that Jim Davidson was an inappropriate figure to be hosting one of their shows. In fairness Jim is a little risqué with his jokes, and the Beeb maybe felt it could not give recognition to someone who makes a living talking about "the bloody frogs" etc, but the point is, as a comedy talent on a family show, Davidson was pretty impressive, especially in his banter with Virgo, which rivals the Paul Merton - Ian Hislop double act on Have I Got News For You.

The format is pretty simple - 4 rounds of different formats whittle down the three initial contestant / snooker pro duos, to eventually find a winner and what that winner will take home. Although the real characters of the game were never given that much scope to entertain, it was nice to see players from the past showing they could still do it - Masters Veterans like Ray Rearden and Dennis Taylor were regular guests. One memorable quirk was when the first contestant to be eliminated could pick up a consolation prize in the 'Trick Shot' round, where John Virgo would demonstrate a trick shot, and invite the contestant to repeat it. This was always done with great enthusiasm and was a real crowd pleaser, especially when the contestant got it right after Virgo had fluffed the demonstration himself! The trivia part was always interesting, as were the skills shown by the various snooker stars who made guest appearances, but the best element was always the John and Him combination. They just looked like they were having such a good time, and that's the point of Saturday night TV, I don't want to know how smart I am (Test the Nation), I don't buy lottery tickets, and every time Ant and Dec hit the screen I reach for my revolver. BB was good clean fun, and its a crime that Aunty saw fit to give it the boot.
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Time Gentlemen Please (2000–2002)
Formulaic but great!!!
15 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Al Murray's Pub Landlord, famous to most people in Britain now due to his stage shows and stand-up, starred in this hilarious Sky-One commissioned bar room comedy, in which he and his staff, regulars, and various other characters rattle through the same routine each week. The comedy is not in the jokes themselves, but the fact that you know what is coming and just wait to see how it all fits together.

Meet the gang: GUV (the Landlord) is the bigoted, frustrated, desperate proprietor of an ancient pub, and a central focus for its collection of staff and regulars. Although he claims to have been 'never confused,' it seems the GUV underneath the bravado is something of a 'new man'! His main sparring partner is the vile TERRY (Phil Daniels), a chain-smoking, beer swilling, self-employed serial monogamist with a great line in chat-up lines! Behind the bar are STEVE (Jason Freeman), a thickheaded impressionable type, and JANET (Julia Sawalha), who got her job by dint of being an Australian, who according the GUV "are bred for bar work, its instinct!" The bane of the GUV's is VICKI JACKSON (Rebecca Front), the rep from the brewery who has to keep him in line but really just wants to be everyone's friend. She owes her position to the fact that her father owns the brewery, not any knowledge of the licensed pub trade! Also don't forget OLD MAN (Roy Heather) – nobody cares enough about him to ask for his name – and PROF (Andrew McKenzie), an intellectual type who is secretly a notorious flasher and murderer! Add into the mix the GUV'S former college peer and now landlord of the Queen of Hearts (They've got a thirty foot bar and a carvery!) GREG THOMPSON (Marc Bannerman) who loves to lord it over the GUV, but is secretly in love with the GUV'S newest recruit, CONNIE (Emma Pierson), a 'bloody student' who manages to get the GUV'S blood flowing in more ways that one!

With that said, down to the routine. The entire show is usually based around the following instances, with plenty of mock-patriotic humour, fart jokes, sex jokes, and 'plot' mixed in: · GUV will proclaim: "rules is rules – pint for the gentleman, white wine or fruit-based drink for the lady!" · Terry is usually barred for one reason or another (often involving a misdemeanour with Gary, the pub dog), but is let off "just this once" · Terry will enter the pub asking: "got any lunch left?" · Vicki will try to impress everyone by singing a famous old song. Nobody will have heard of it however · Prof will usually make an un-noticed slip revealing his identity as the flasher · Everyone remembers fondly the day Prof won £2 on the Fact Hunt machine · Greg will appear, sporting two gorgeous young ladies on his arms! · Despite her being a student, Guv will be forced to suppress his carnal desires for Connie · Terry will see a woman and proclaim "that is the woman I'm going to marry!" · Usually Steve will utter a desire to be in another profession, often related to the plot e.g. postman, ploughman, work for Riley's. · Guv's uncle Barry will appear, along with his fellow landlords Mike and Dave · Said Barry will get covered in beer, vomit, or other liquid, causing his black hair rinse to wash all over his face · Janet will make a pass at Steve, who is uninterested/oblivious · Janet will make an inappropriate/ill-timed/unwarranted crack about a former boyfriend · The Postie with the face shaped like a bean will appear, and scream out in frustration: "damn my bean-shaped face!" · The Guv will use his mock sympathy catchphrase: "oh well, what a pity, never mind!" · He will also curse himself by asking: "why do they all leave???" · He will cover up repressed non-hetro desires by loudly proclaiming: "never confused!" · The Prof's resentment of his mother, including his desire to kill her, will surface. This is a very amusing satire on the 'Cliff' character from ''Cheers'' · Old Man will make some reference to his immense age and/or his wish to die. Nobody however is interested. · At the start of every episode, the sign on the front of the pub door is different every week, usually a humorous mis-quotation at the Guv's expense. · The strange silent couple, Lesley and Leslie, sit in the corner of the pub at every episode, a huge man in leather and a bandanna and a short, skinny woman; neither will utter a word, and just watch proceedings.

Although it wasn't mainstream stuff, with strong language throughout, TGP was defiantly a riotously successful comedy, which developed a cult following. The idea of putting The Pub Landlord into a sitcom could have been mishandled but in the end it works rather well, with Murray and Daniels displaying tangible on-screen chemistry. Credit should also go to the co-writer (with Murray) and director Richard Herring, and the casting people who got such a great cast together, all of who were great for their roles. TGP managed something like 24 episodes, which is more than The Office, of which it was a lesser known, but no less funny, contemporary.
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Historyonics (2004– )
One of the funniest educational shows ever!
27 February 2005
Idly flicking the channels one holiday evening, I came across this gem of a show, written and hosted by Nick Knowles, who I have long said is great but wasted on DIY SOS. Following on from the 'Two's Country' mode of exploring history, i.e. placing tongue firmly in cheek and having a laugh, Knowles takes us on a wild ride through English Medieval history, but not as we know it! At first I was mildly amused and a little distracted. Quickly I got hooked, dropped what I was doing, and soon I was retching with laughter on the floor like an idiot. The gags, pacing, acting, and sense of timing were all perfect, making for comedy gold. Quickly I was reviewing the TV schedules to find out when this was on next, sadly I have not seen it since, but Knowles acknowledges it as his favourite project.

Although it had great feedback, Historyonics seems to be rather short lived, but luckily Nick is seeing a lot more spotlight these days, and even bigger things are sure to come for this much under-rated performer.
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Honest war drama not over-shadowed by Hollywood's greatest star
28 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Despite the political commentary that has understandably accompanied discussion of Randall Wallace's We Were Soldiers, it should be remembered that the film is primarily based on a true story, with the actual protagonists having had considerable creative input. The movie sets itself up as following the American soldiers as they make their nation's first intervention into the most controversial conflict of the last century, and, with any group of close-knit people who find themselves outnumbered, surrounded, and at war, the instinct is to root for them in their heroic battle against a faceless enemy.

Except that's not the full story of We Were Soldiers. Some understanding and insight into the enemy's strategy and mindset is attempted, if not always achieved, and although we rarely get to see how the North Vietnamese coped with and approached battle and death as we do the Americans, at least we have more of them than what could have been a merciless, villainous, thoroughly dislikeable conveyor belt of cannon fodder. It's made clear that everyone involved in this battle is not doing so because of their duty to their countries or their belief in ideologies or faith in religions. They are there because they are soldiers. Everything else is strictly secondary.

If soldierhood defines the main protagonists, their roles as husbands and fathers is brought directly into play simultaneously, as the families on the home front receive shattering news in the case of each fatality, as the conflict develops. This is a new and interesting slant taken by a film that puts itself primarily into the battleground, and although the two separate sequences struggle to gel greatly together, it is nevertheless an intriguing attempt to show the solidarity between the families in a soldiering community, and the impact of soldiering and war on a small town.

It's hard to fault the film in terms of realism, for we are taken right into the filth and depredation of battle to a degree fully comparable with PLATOON or SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. The use of helicopter pilot characters allows us to get an overview of the conflict is a welcome breath from the claustrophobic, tense, battleground sequences, which are energy sapping in their ferocity and intensity. Wallace's use of light and darkness is also a wonderfully innovative feature, both in the cases of the men on the ground, and the view from the helicopter. Special effects, such as the dropping of napalm and high explosives, are pulled off very effectively as well, but none more so than the authenticity of some of the wounds on the casualties, to such an extent the you often secretly wonder if the men will quietly slit the throats of their tragically maimed brothers in arms, to save them further indignity and suffering.

WE WERE SOLDIERS should not be seen as a microcosm of America's involvement in the Vietnam War, but a degree of political exploration is unavoidable in such a sensitive subject. You cannot help wonder, as the men go into action on behalf of their country, what abstract platitude they went into battle for. The environment that Col. Moore and his men find themselves in is fully believable as hell on earth, even more so than as depicted in Oliver Stone's PLATOON, simply because were are able to see that a seemingly sane, normal, calm world is just on the other end of a radio receiver. The film's biggest strength, that of underlining how men's lives became dominated and identified by their occupation, is also its largest weakness. Because of the depiction of each man as a soldier first and a personality second, it is hard to empathise with any of them, except for scenes in which they encounter each other with soldierly obligations, such as when one platoon of men gets gut off from the main group, and the rest desperately feel the urgency to come to the aid of their embattled comrades.

Despite its unbalanced feel, WE WERE SOLDIERS is effective at portraying the story of one individual unit in one specific confrontation. We need not worry that things seem too easy for the 'good guys,' as the horrors of war are inflicted onto them as much as they are for the enemy, who, despite having lost something like fifteen times killed the number of US soldiers, at the end watch the cavalry leave and wander out onto the battlefield with further re-enforcements. This moment, more than any other, brought home the reality that there are only wars because there are solders to fight them, and in the end, the ground the armies fight for is only as valuable as the blood that soaks into it from the bodies and hearts of the men who do the fighting.

The film attests to be a tribute to the soldiers who fought in the 'Valley of Death,' and despite a feeling that it ignores the wider picture it does that very effectively. WE WERE SOLDIERS may not be everyone's cup of tea, for the reasons of lack of emphasis on the hollow and needless aspects of the waste and sacrifice in Vietnam, but for a film that shows what it is like to be down in the dirt, amidst the blood and mayhem of war, it cannot be faulted.
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"The gang go out on top!"
28 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
It came as something of a surprise when it was announced that a fourth LETHAL film would be made, especially given the 6 year lay-off and the huge status of Mel Gibson since his Oscar winning direction and performance in BRAVEHEART pushed him right into the all time Hollywood 'A' list of super-super-stars, but any fears that Gibson's ego could be too big for the new production, or that things would be too unfamiliar after so long away, were to prove unfounded.

LETHAL WEAPON 4 would probably go down as the best entry into the fine series, given the truly special nature of the stunts, action, and explosions that not only surpassed the lofty standards set during the series, but that also stands well in comparison with anything done since. Check out, for example, the scene in which Riggs and Murtagh take down the 'Exterminator' style killer in the opening moments – I've never seen an oil tanker do anything like that! But the action is not the only huge plus. The introduction of Chris Rock into the formula was a real masterstroke from the casting department; especially taking in mind the 'special relationship' the plot throws up for him and Roger. Rock is also superlative in proving a match for Leo (Joe Pesci), and the reaction of Riggs and Murtagh when these two motor mouths get together is comedy gold! Rene Russo is back, along with all the characters we have come to know and love over four films come together, and with a twin pregnancy storyline intertwined with Riggs agonizing whether to marry Lorna, Roger angry his daughter is pregnant without being married (little does he know!), Leo working as the world's most conspicuous private detective, and on top of all that Lorna suspecting Roger being on the take, there is enough here for a small soap opera! Throw in a gang of Chinese Triads involved in human trafficking slaves with Jet Li's mobster, and what you have is one of the most explosive, stylish, hilarious action comedies of the 1990s! Jet Li deserves a special mention in his first major US film. He may have few lines, but he has genuine screen menace and when he swings into action he comes to the fore in a big way with some of the most impressive martial arts skills ever committed to celluloid. As already mentioned, the action scenes are imaginatively written enough already, with scenarios such as Roger's fishing boat sinking (leaving the shark Leo just caught free to get some payback!) or Gibson going fist to fist with mobsters in the rear of a moving caravan on a freeway, but with someone of Li's skill on board, the whole things goes to a whole new level.

Only a couple of false notes are sounded, those being that Rene Russo looking a little too physically able when knocking out villains while nine months pregnant, and some of the crucial dialogue in key situations being inaudible due to other sound effects, somewhat lessening the potential impact of comedic scenarios. Also, if you haven't seen the other LETHAL films, there are a lot of in-jokes, such as the 1-2-3 routine and other features that any sequel would contain (check out the BACK TO THE FUTURE series for instance).

If this represents the end of the LETHAL series, as implied by the ending and Mel's other projects subsequently, then LH4 certainly is a fitting way to end a fine franchise, and a great example of going above and beyond to finish on top! This has to rank as one of those films its hard to dislike and easy to love, and is a fine tribute to the work of everyone involved in the entire franchise over a decade or more!
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'Has Martin Riggs finally met his match?'
28 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The thrilling, stunt-packed, ammo-toting second sequel to LETHAL WEAPON marks the further evolution in the characters of family man cop Roger Murtagh (Danny Glover) and his off-the-wall partner, Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson). This time around we get a great inversion of the original premise, as it is Roger who has to deal with a devastating event in his life – he has shot his son's best friend. Back as chatterbox Leo Getz is Joe Pesci, whose role is far less central to the plot this time, but whose presence allows welcome opportunities for the two main protagonists to vent comedy steam in his direction! Also thrown into this explosive mix is Lorna Cole (Rene Russo) as an internal investigator who crosses Riggs on her investigation into missing seized handguns. The romance between the two is unique in the sense that the two are almost identical to each other, even down to their mutual love of the Three Stooges, meaning the relationship is an ongoing battle, each striving for the upper hand! Quite apart from being a verbal and personal match for Riggs, Lorna is also tough as nails, and it is a complement to the direction of series chief Richard Donner and Russo herself that Cole is made to look like a real hard-case. Cole's tough side rarely lets up though the film, allowing plenty of banter once again, but if there is to be a criticism, it is that the romance itself is treated a little lightly, almost as if Riggs and Cole switch from opponents to lovers too quickly. But then, isn't it the same in any relationship? Rapier-quick dialogue is more of a feature than ever, as well as an increasing tendency towards more physical humour, meaning that as all this takes centre stage the character of the villain is little more than a sideshow. We get to see Wilson as Jack Travis, a hard-boiled nasty ex-cop, but there is little character development beyond him killing witnesses and talking down his subordinates. With four full characters already, and the rest of the stock cast – Roger's family, a new cop, Ed the Chief – I guess a caricature evil bad guy was all that was required. And don't forget an unwelcome new love interest for Roger! With such a light and comedic feel to the picture, the last thing that would have felt right would have been some exploration of Travis's grievances and mindset.

Although with less going on visually, except the opening car chase, the ending in a burning building site, and Gibson's ponytail, LETHAL WEAPON 3 isn't as striking as its predecessors, it is in every other way a fine continuation of the series. Gibson, Glover, and Pesci are completely comfortable in their respective roles and allow the dialogue to shoot between each other like the electricity between their characters. With a successful complement of big action, the elements are all there for another successful entry into the LETHAL series!
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"The film that blew James Bond out of the box office in 1989 will blow your mind!"
28 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Carrying on from where they left off in the original, Mel Gibson and Danny Glover are back with more incredible stunts, machine gun dialogue, and red hot action than ever before. Reprising their 'good cop, mad cop' routine, except with a greater emphasis on the lighter side of Riggs's character, the comedy is enhanced further by the significant adaptation to the series of pint-sized motor-mouth Leo, played by Joe Pesci (Raging Bull). Along with the full set of characters introduced in the original, such as the police chief, the psychiatrist, and Murtagh's family, we are treated to an even greater range of gun fights, car chases, explosive fist fights, and dramatic confrontations as the duo become involved in an investigation into heroin smuggling.

The bad guys, who are depicted as stereotypical Afrikaner racists (boo, hiss), are nevertheless played by deliciously by Joss Ackland and Derrick O'Connor, who spit out their dialogue in as guttural and vicious way as possible, accentuating the unusual use of the South African accent (in Hollywood, anyway) to create characters immediately identifiable as villains, but whom it can be great to imitate anyway! The actual 'plot' of the drug runners hiding behind diplomatic immunity takes third place to the other two plot strands, as the police come under attack for their intrusion and Leo enters the new treble act with Riggs and Murtagh.

Visually, LETHAL WEAPON 2 will always go down as the most memorable of the series, mostly due to the famous 'bathroom scene', which should be textbook material for any writer in how to take a unique dramatic situation, and turn it on its head to create comedy. In effect, that is the entire LETHAL series in a nutshell. We do get another long hard look at the dark side of Martin Riggs, and once again Gibson is completely believable as a man driven to the edge of rationality by his enemies, as he makes a terrible discovery about the death of his wife. Also notable for the appearance of the stunningly beautiful Patsy Kensit who does a great job keeping up with Gibson (why she married Liam Gallagher I can't imagine), the first sequel to LETHAL WEAPON is a worthy successor and in some regards actually succeeds in surpassing its illustrious predecessor.
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Lethal Weapon (1987)
"'Mad' Mel hits the bit time!"
28 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Progressing from the wide acclaim brought to him through the MAD MAX series, Mel Gibson's star continued its inexorable rise to superstardom with LETHAL WEAPON, the film that would launch one of the most popular, successful, and iconic film franchises of recent times. Gibson takes centre stage as suicidal LA detective Martin Riggs, allowing him free rein to explode into the claustrophobic surroundings in which he finds himself.

Partnering Gibson, his 'straight man' as it were, is Danny Glover as Sgt Roger Murtagh, a veteran cop who is less than pleased to find himself paired with Riggs. The 'buddy' nature of the partnership, shifting from suspicion, to dislike, to liking, back to antagonism, and finally to respect, friendship, and trust, is a formula which has often been imitated, but never bettered. The chemistry between Gibson and Glover is instantly evident, and throughout the film the tension generated by placing two such nominally dissimilar characters together is rarely far from the surface.

The dual layered plot, which initially and mostly focuses on the attempts of Riggs to overcome the depression which has settled over his life since the death of his wife, is an important feature of the film, and one that would be repeated successfully in the sequels. Gradually, as the partnership builds around a murder case of an old friend of Murtagh's, a criminal mercenary heroin running scheme is uncovered by the duo, who find themselves targeted, not for the last time in the series, by the bad guys. Of course, there is plenty of action, including drive-by shootings, fly-by shootings, fist fights, and explosions, but in this first instalment of the series, the best moments are saved for darker instances of tension between characters.

The one false note struck in LETHAL WEAPON is the repeated references to the Vietnam War, in which Riggs, Murtagh, and the head bad guy Mr Joshua (Gary Busey in a menacing but not overused appearance), are meant to have served. Not only are all three men clearly too young to have been in Vietnam, but the ties of Gibson's former special forces unit to the mercenary operation and the murder case are skimmed over too briefly, and could have done with deeper exploration, especially through the 'fleshing out' of key villains, such as Mr Joshua. A belated attempt to look at the US Special Forces abusing the narcotics laws was made in 1990 with Air America, also starring Gibson.

On the whole, this is a very enjoyable action film, with far less of the comedic element than was to follow, with only Riggs' lighter moments during his depression to provide relief from the drama. For an uncomplicated, powerful, and above all fun thrill ride, you can't do much better than LETHAL WEAPON!
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McBain (1991)
McBain gets bored...unlike the audience!!!
28 May 2004
This is a rather nonsensical action drama, with plenty of (entirely unintentional) comedy to go round. To start with, the film itself is called 'McBain.' Anyone who saw that famous Arnold spoof in 'The Simpsons' could be forgiving for looking twice at this title, which essentially features the same cut-and-paste plot, cheesy acting, and incoherent developments that Wolfcastle parodied. It's really nothing great but worth watching for the belly laughs at all the countless errors and overbearing cheesiness!

The 'plot' involves a Vietnam Vet Bobby McBain (Walken)whose friend Santos, a Colombian revolutionary, is killed by the evil dictator on live TV, whose sister comes to McBain to help organize a revolution in that country. For no real reason, other than to alleviate his self-confessed boredom and to avenge his Columbian ex-colleague from Nam, he and his gang of overtly gay middle aged nerds get into a little prop plane and fly off to Colombia to do this.

I started writing a review for this, but deleted it because it ended up totally incoherent. No wonder really, as the madness I was trying to chart is so messed up it's really hard to know where to start. So instead of indignantly providing analogies of McBain's sheer crappiness, I'll just list a few examples from the film which sum it up suitably:

• several people are murdered by people who we have seen die themselves moments earlier

• the special effects, especially some mid-air explosions, look like they were done by a small child with a chemistry set

• at one point, McBain is sitting in the co-pilot seat of a small prop plane. Flying next to them is a jet whose pilot is trying to force them to land. McBain pulls out this stupidly small pistol, and shoots the jet pilot, who crashes, despite the noticeable non-smashing of either windscreen!

• Some rebels attempt to infiltrate the presidential palace using a stretched limo. The driver opens the boot and four men jump out. Four! • Near the end of the film, a government soldier was asking an old man at a café if he has seen Christina, the rebel leader. He beats the man who doesn't tell him anything. This is great because at the next table are a load of American mercenaries in sunglasses, Hawaiian shirts, and fedora hats!

• In a similar vein, during all the battle scenes the good guys can generally just stand around without so much as a bullet touching them, where the bad guys get routinely mowed, and in many cases clearly fail to even notice the machinegun-toting middle aged mercenaries!

• The doctor of the group has to perform emergency surgery on a little girl after a battle. He says she would die without proper facilities, but McBain tells him to go ahead as she would die anyway. After briefly slicing her with a little knife (the girl has had her rib cage severely crushed), she sits there for a second, and smiles! The stupidest survival from mortal wounding since Marie in Biggles: Adventures in Time.

• A tall, Germanic looking drug dealer is really running Colombia. Predictably, he is called Hans.

• A typical example of the nonsense value of the plot: the group doctor declares he is going to stay with the wounded to help them. Then, in the next scene, he is back doing soldiering!

• And another: at the start, the guys are told the Vietnam War is over, and they get into their helicopter to fly home. All of a sudden they see one VC on the ground, and decide to launch a full scale covert assault on a POW camp they hadn't even seen. Yeah, that's exactly what you do right after getting discharged.

• You know a movie is in trouble when even the extras don't look convincing. I blame the director.

Normally I like mercenary movies. They make great viewing and the body count is typically high enough to make up for the lack of plot. Skeleton Coast and Wild Geese were both enjoyable. But McBain, thanks to a total lack of plot development, realistic effects, bearable acting, and tongue in cheek humour, comes across merely as a convoluted, confused mess. In honesty it looked like a load of set pieces had been brought in from a variety of scripts, banged together any which way, and then tagged together with the formulaic 'South American dictator/drug baron revolution' shtick.

Don't get me wrong I sat through it fine, it was never boring, because I was splitting my sides most of the time at the hilariously bad production values and situations. There are some pretty good moments, such as when McBain's gang kidnap a gangster called John Cambotti and dangle him off a skyscraper pretending to be Israeli agents. That part was cool. But the set-up for it, where they killed everyone in a crack house without either taking the money or destroying the drugs, and getting a lecture from the drug chief, was so artificial I just didn't understand why it was put in. Needless to say, mindless killing and slaughter is only entertaining if its well done on a technical level, unlike this ham-fest, where someone is dragged out of a window after a ceiling fan and hundreds of extras overtly mis-time their exaggerated death throes

There is lots of violence but some of it is so poorly done that it actually looks funny, which is not always a good thing. I bought this DVD for £1.49, which in retrospect seems like a bit of a rip-off. I'll hang onto it though, for any occasion in which I want to either play drinking games for number of dead etc, or as a showcase for some truly shoddy film-making.
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Another worthy addition to the Bond series!
24 April 2004
In Roger Moore's final cinematic assignment as Agent 007, the super-spy must investigate the connection between a Soviet research centre's reproduction of British high-tech blast-proof microchips based and a multi-national industrialist who is hoarding them. With a supporting cast of Christopher Walken, Grace Jones, Patrick McNee, and Tanya Roberts, and locations such as Paris and San Francisco, what you have is another Bond movie with the size and scope to match any of its contemporaries.

To start with the good points, Roger Moore is once again reliable and believable in the role of Bond, and although critics of this movie maintain he was told old by now, this is disputable. The script doesn't allow him as much of his custom wit and repartee, with the writers dropping his usual amiability towards the villain in favour of a disgusted and repulsed tone, which is quite a turn. For those sick of the movies where Bond and his enemies swap endless pleasantries despite efforts to kill each other, check out the Bond/Zorin scenes towards the middle and end of this film. Although not Moore's most memorable turn, he is very solid as 007.

Christopher Walken as Max Zorin, the product of a Nazi genetic experiment who was artificially given both incredible intelligence and psycopathy as a side effect of his mother's treatment in the concentration camps before his birth, gives us an odd-ball but distinctive performance, and is very credible as a single-minded sociopath. Grace Jones plays MayDay, Zorin's bodyguard/girlfriend/personal trainer/hit-woman/seductress and whilst she won't go down as either one of the most beautiful Bond girls or one of his most feared villains, Jones still comes across well with some menace and formidable qualities that even Bond struggles to get to grips with (quite literally!). Both Walken and Jones were odd choices for roles in a Bond movie but both acquit themselves well and gain a respectable place in the pantheon of 007's enemies.

Continuing with the positives, the regulars M, Q, Moneypenny, Frederick Gray, and General Gogol (with Lois Maxwell in her last Bond role) are dependable as ever, and are joined by David Yip as a CIA agent. As in the two previous Bond movies, Moore is joined by a fellow agent on his mission, this time Patrick McNee as Sir Godfrey Tibbett, a horse racing expert affiliated to MI6. In some brilliantly funny scenes, with Bond posing as an owner and Tibbett as his valet, the pair go undercover at Zorin's stables during a horse sale with both hamming it up to distract the guards from suspecting them as impostors. Moore and McNee also appeared together in Sherlock Holmes in New York as Holmes and Watson respectively, as well as The Sea Wolves, and their chemistry is a highlight of the film. Too bad really that Tibbett is assassinated in unusual but chilling fashion by MayDay before the film can make more of his obvious debonair charm.

Also on the plus side, the action is handled very competently, with a Siberian (actually Iceland) ski-chase featuring some extreme-sport pursuits like snowboarding before they became more well-known, an adrenaline-fuelled horse race in which Bond comes under attack from Zorin's henchmen, and a scene in which a Russian agent is fed into a propeller after he is found spying on Zorin. There are also some great stunts, such a base-jump off the Eiffel Tower and in the aforementioned ski scene. For a Bond film the plot is actually fairly logical, although it seems to have borrowed some inspiration from its predecessors. Having said that, which Bond film didn't?

However it isn't all roses. Tanya Roberts is extremely annoying and not at all believable as California's state geologist and a businesswoman whose shares Zorin is trying to buy. Every time it comes to a fight or some action she cowers and whimpers, yelling `Help me James' at the top of her shrill voice, and spends most of the time as some sort of damsel in distress for Bond to save. Apart from Mayday, the henchmen are rather boring this time, with a bunch of caricatures instead of characters: a Texan oil boss, a mad scientist (plus monocle, tweed suit, wild hair, and German accent), and a tall silent type with a facial scar as his single defining feature. Lucky then that Walken is there to bail the movie out and prove, as the tagline suggests, to provide a match for James Bond.

Also, the technically well-done chase sequence in Paris is ruined due to a ludicrous moment in which Bond-s care is hit by another and breaks in half! It looked cool driving on two wheels, but it would have been better in a cartoon. In keeping with some of the less attractive Bond conventions, some of the other action scenes are ruined by an overly-jokey feel - the San Francisco fire truck chase, for example, is played totally for laughs, and, like the Golden Gate Bridge scenes, features so much poor back-projection it is hard not to laugh. Plus, the pre-credits ski-chase is wrecked by an 80's cover of 'California Girls' being played over the action, and Bond's companion and vehicle at the end of this sequence. For all the problems in this paragraph, director John Glen deserves the blame, although he was hardly alone in getting things wrong during 007's 40-year history.

Despite criticisms from some that this is a tired movie with a re-hashed plot and an uninspired screenplay, A View To A Kill holds up pretty well. Most diehard fans of the series don't rank this too highly amongst the others, but for the less demanding viewer there is enough of the Bond formula to appreciate, without a great deal of silliness. There are a few flaws in AVTAK but the positives outweigh the negatives, and while Roger Moore didn't make a great success of his post-Bond career, at least he had a very respectable sign-of from the series with this.

Verdict: 3.5/5: Well worth watching.
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100% (1997–2001)
The most under-rated gameshow of the 1990s
15 April 2004
Famous for being the only game show in the history of TV not to have a host, as such, 100% was a staple for Channel 5 before reality TV came along. Critics of Britain's latest terrestrial station labelled this as mindless trash typical of that channel's lightness and lack of depth. Dig below the obvious cheapness of the production (the prize for getting closest to 100% was £100!)though and you might find something you like.

The layout is simple. Three contestants are placed in isolation and asked multiple choice questions, which they answer by pressing a button in front of them (either A,B,C or True/False). They are asked 100 questions rapid fire but only the viewers know who has scored what. After 100 questions the contestant with the most right answers i.e. the highest percentage, is the winner. The contestants and audience hear the voice of Robin 'One To Win' Houston, who is a little more relaxed as he is offscreen. It was embarrassing watching him self-consciously trip over his words repeatedly as he squirmed behind that desk in One to Win, but here he has licence to be a little more jokey.

There were often theme episodes, famously '100% Sex' in which contestants got dressed up in provocative 'clothing' and answered dirty questions, with added lewd comments from Robin. These were screened late at night of course! There was also '100% Gold', '100% 1980s', and several more. Runners up usually got a copy of Chambers English Dictionary (wow), and winners a small cash prize and the chance to appear on the next edition. Nobody ever said no.

The best part of the show was when they asked joke questions, which you can always see in advance as they widen the game screen to fit the extra words on. A typical example would be:

"What did 'so and so' refer to as 'that infernal black hole? A) His bank account B) the morality of politicians c) Daytime Television. The answer was A, his bank account. We're the last people who should be joking about the black hole of daytime TV."

100% was never afraid to laugh at itself and its obviously limited budget. It won't rank up there with the greatest quiz shows but it ran for a lot longer than many. It had all but vanished off air by the time 'play along' technology was brought into widespread use with the 'red button', but luckily the notepad and pen were easy to use. I play myself when it is repeated on Challenge and regularly get around 65%. Of course even the biggest dumbass is likely to get 33% due to the law of averages, but there is some skill involved. To add extra tension, in the last 15 questions or so the contestants' scores are flashed momentarily for the audience to see, but really the game lacks excitement. It's rather similar to Fifteen to One, only simpler, easier, and without the structure.

This wasn't the best game show ever but lasted quite a while and is still repeated; it was even parodied hilariously by ITV's Adam and Joe in a kind of 'what if the 100% Computer broke down' scenario:

"What is the capitol of Iran? A) Mustard b) Mustard c)Mustard. The answer was D) Olivia Newton John"

Just to clarify though, although it was billed as 'computer generated', the host though unseen is human, despite sounding robotic. All in all, pretty good entertainment on a rainy day. When you're not doing anything else.
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Riot (1996)
Enjoyable Gary Daniels action
5 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers
(Warning! Possible spoilers lie ahead!)

This TV Movie is one of many aimed towards the martial-arts action market, the type that goes straight to video and has clearly been done on a budget, but can nevertheless be reviewed critically. Riot sets out to do one thing: provide a platform for the butt-kicking skills of its star, Gary Daniels. He may not be Robert De Niro in the acting stakes but within his own domain, that of the B-list actioner, he is king of all he surveys. The only major gripe of his performance is his shaky accent, although I understand he is actually British, not sure where he was brought up, he sounded like Rolf Harris. Unfortunately, he is not given enough character development in the script to add the important extra dimension needed in an action star, because although he has the skills, as a former karate champion rather than a pro actor, he doesn't have the physical screen presence to allow him to stand out in a crowd. Typically, his dialogue, as with that for the rest of the film is pretty predictable, despite being well delivered, and the script is fairly ponderous too. To me, the word 'cliché' jumps out at the script for Riot.

The "plot": When his ex-fiancé, the daughter of the city's (we don't know which) British ambassador is kidnapped in an inner city riot zone on Christmas Eve, stateside stationed SAS man Shane Allcott (Daniels) has to come to the rescue by delivering the money to her ransomers. In doing so he comes face to face with his past, in the form of IRA terrorists.

I would imagine that fans of this kind of low budget action fest would not go far wrong with Riot. I do not count myself in their number, but sticking with this film for its 80 minutes was no chore, especially given some very competently made stunts, fight sequences, and chases. Unlike some of his other movies, Daniels had creative control over the choreography of the fight scenes, so they look realistic. For this he was listed as Associate Producer. The action is especially good when it is taken seriously, because at times the film can be quite powerful, specifically the scene where Sugar Ray Leonard's character falls from Shane Allcott's grip and onto the pavement some twenty storeys below. Seeing that sequence was a real surprise in what I took to be a mindless action fest, and showed that even in simple or even plain silly movies, you can get great moments of film. Many of the scenes in the film have a nightmarish and excited feel, as the viewer is taken into the heart of the riot zone with Allcott. That part was well done, but unfortunately the rest of the film is a mixed bag.

Realism seems to have been sacrificed for simplicity, as the writers take the complex dynamic of the conflict between the SAS and IRA and turn it into a bunch of caricatures of various stereotypes, especially in the case of the two main villains the (get this) o'Flaherty brothers, Brian and Paddy. One of them even looks like Vernon Wells in Commando. You would not find a more clichéd stereotype in an Irish theme bar. Their accents and dialogue had me laughing out loud. Same goes for the black gang members in the riot zone, who are built up as running things on a racial ideology, despite the very obvious multi-ethnic composition of the rioters. Although the fight scenes are well done, any pretence that the IRA are represented accurately must surely be dispensed with. The acting is generally good, with the exception of Paige Rowland, who should have been blacklisted for her attempts. The film at times feels like a cheap spoof, but as I mentioned it does have its moments, and these are when Gary does what he does best - flex his muscles and dispatch armies of villains, including two separate fight where he takes down a roller hockey side then a softball team!

All the action is handled well, not surprisingly as this is a specialist production by an experienced team. The climax is well done on a technical level, but lacks the spectacle which a few camera angles could have changed. Charles Napier, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Dex Elliot Sanders all put in good performances, but in Napier's case this is just for a cameo. I'll ignore the lack of logic in the plot and accept this is a made for video Gary Daniels action flick.

In all, fans of this type of thing will feel at home. Anyone else, if they can put aside the generic simplicity of this picture, may find something they like too.

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Riot (1996)
straightforward ass-whooping from Gary Daniels
4 April 2004
This TV Movie is one of many aimed towards the martial-arts action market, the type that goes straight to video and has clearly been done on a budget, but can nevertheless be reviewed critically. Riot sets out to do one thing: provide a platform for the butt-kicking skills of its star, Gary Daniels. He may not be Robert De Niro in the acting stakes but within his own domain, that of the B-list actioner, he is king of all he surveys.

The "plot": When his ex-fiancé, the daughter of the city's (we don't know which) British ambassador is kidnapped in an inner city riot zone on Christmas Eve, stateside stationed SAS man Shane Allcott has to come to the rescue by delivering the money to her ransomers. In doing so he comes face to face with his past, in the form of IRA terrorists.

I would imagine that fans of this kind of low budget action fest would not go far wrong with Riot. I do not count myself in their number, but sticking with this film for its 80 minutes was no chore, especially given some very competently made stunts, fight sequences, and chases. These are especially good when they are taken seriously, because at times the film can be quite powerful, specifically the scene where Sugar Ray Leonard's character falls from Shane Allcott's (Daniels) grip and onto the pavement some twenty storeys below. Seeing that sequence was a real surprise in what I took to be a mindless action fest, and showed that even in simple or even plain silly movies, you can get great moments of film. Many of the scenes in the film have a nightmarish and excited feel, as the viewer is taken into the heart of the riot zone with Allcott. That part was well done, but unfortunately the rest of the film is a mixed bag.

Realism seems to have been sacrificed for simplicity, as the writers take the complex dynamic of the conflict between the SAS and IRA and turn it into a bunch of caricatures of various stereotypes, especially in the case of the two main villains the (get this) o'Flaherty brothers, Brian and Paddy. One of them even looks like Vernon Wells in Commando. You would not find a more clichéd stereotype in an Irish theme bar. Same goes for the black gang members in the riot zone, who are built up as running things on a racial ideology, despite the very obvious multi-ethnic nature of the rioters. Although the fight scenes are well done, any pretence that the IRA are represented accurately must surely be dispensed with. The acting is generally good, with the exception of Paige Rowland, who should have been blacklisted for her attempts. The film at times feels like a cheap spoof, but as I mentioned it does have its moments, and these are when Gary does what he does best - flex his muscles and dispatch armies of villains.

All the action is handled well, not surprisingly as this is a specialist production by an experienced team. The climax is well done on a technical level, but lacks the spectacle which a few camera angles could have changed. Charles Napier, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Dex Elliot Sanders all put in good performances, but in Napier's case this is just for a cameo. I'll ignore the lack of logic in the plot and accept this is a made for video Gary Daniels action flick.

In all, fans of this type of thing will feel at home. Anyone else, if they can put aside the simplicity of this picture, may find something they like too.

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Slightly below par, but still watchable
4 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers
(Includes Spoilers)

One evening I sat down and turned the TV on, this movie was just starting so I decided to watch, having nothing else to do. I have never seen the original Beverly Hills Cop but I felt with Eddie Murphy back in 1987 this movie couldn't go too far wrong.

I must admit I almost switched off halfway through, but the fact that I didn't must mean something, even though I wasn't too involved in events on screen I wasn't counting down the minutes till it ended either. This is passable as light entertainment, from the Don Simpson / Jerry Bruckheimer stable which produced the likes of Top Gun, Pirates of the Caribbean, Con Air, The Rock, Enemy of the State, Crimson Tide, and Days of Thunder. The latter three were all directed by Tony Scott, just like this, but you have to feel this must be classed as one of his lesser achievements.

I think the movie relies somewhat on characters and themes introduced in the original, which is perhaps why I didn't engage in this as much as I could have. This is a buddy movie for Murphy and Judge Reinhold, with most of the jokes being directed at Reinhold's partner John Ashton or the stupid chief (and Gerry Ford). The villains of the piece, who include Bridgette Neilsen in their number, are seemingly there for the sake of it, and only pop up significantly for a shootout at the end, except for some needless intimidation of Dean Stockwell.

Perhaps I wasn't paying enough attention but this seems to be mostly a vehicle for Murphy to showcase his talents, rather than a serious attempt to push the envelope in the action-comedy genre. Most of the film's highlights involve Murphy's character Axel Foley getting into situations where he acts outlandishly, such as in a strip joint, a building site, a gun club, or Hugh Heffner's place. Yes HH cameos as himself, just to give you an idea of how seriously Scott, Bruckheimer, Simpson, and Murphy were taking this movie.

There are entertaining moments with the usual 80s gun fights and car chases, one-liners, humourous internal police squabbles in Detroit and Beverly Hills, as Murphy shoots from the hip and plays all sides against each other, but the movie seems undermined by a lack of purpose, other than making slick gags or making the chief look stupid. You can rely on a Simpson/Bruckheimer movie to be put together well on the technical side, it has clearly had quite a budget lavished upon it, just a shame such attention to detail was not applied to the script (co-written by Murphy).

In all this is a popcorn flick, nothing offensively bad or tasteless creeps in, but if you hate mediocre action/cop comedies, just steer clear and watch the Lethal Weapon movies instead.

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Interesting concepts and a lot of positives spoiled by silly errors. Spoilers
3 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Following hot on the heels of Live and Let Die, Roger Moore's second Bond movie The Man With The Golden Gun is a troubled and confused affair. The plot primarily concerns a duel between 007 and Francisco Scaramanga, the world's highest paid and deadliest assassin, played wonderfully menacingly by Christopher Lee.

There are plenty of memorable moments, mostly whilst Lee himself is on screen, and the fight sequence between the two protagonists, the culmination of the movie, is probably the best paced and directed sequence, let down by an obvious and irritating conclusion (Bond wins the fatal moment of surprise by posing as a wax dummy of himself in Scaramanga's lair).

A jokey camp feeling, ludicrous events and situations, and some rather weak dialogue undermine the rest of the film. For example, during the car chase in Thailand, the 360 degree car flip, which was technically brilliant as a stunt and perfectly executed, was overshadowed by a cheesy circus-style sound effect. Sheriff Pepper, the red neck bumpkin sheriff from Live and Let Die, is for some reason brought back, adding to the spoof dimension as he hollers and shouts in his distinctive Southern accent on the streets of Bangkok. For some reason he is buying an American car whilst on holiday there. Scaramanga's car turns into a plane, two schoolgirls defeat a horde of martial arts expert in the cheesiest fight scene in history, Bond impersonates someone by walking into a highly guarded house wearing a fake nipple as a disguise, and Britt Ekland is for some reason repeatedly refused the opportunity to sleep with 007. It's almost like an Austin Powers movie.

There are so many problems with the plot I won't go into them all, but suffice it to say that for a Bond film the script is highly sloppy, with errors such as including a whole fight scene just to allow Bond a couple of one-liners. Most of the plot developments lack any kind of logic, and even obvious slip-ups are made, like M ringing Bond on Scaramanga's personal bedroom telephone. Again, this was for a gag. Additionally, all the characters are bad tempered and terse, which adds negative energy to the piece. The preference of director Guy Hamilton for set-pieces and silly humour over coherent and structured plotting and quality dialogue, the staple of a good Bond movie, encapsulates the problems experienced by TMWTGG.

There are positives however. Apart from the Pepper and Goodnight characters, each individual role is well crafted, with Herve Villechaize visually effective as a henchman. Maud Adams is good as Andrea, although she would surpass this in the title role of Octopussy nine years later. Lee gives a simmering and deadly performance as the main villain Scaramanga, and adds tremendous screen presence almost allowing us to overlook the many plot holes. In fairness, Roger Moore looks quite uncomfortable and stilted as Bond, but nevertheless he holds up quite well and is a fairly strong positive for the movie, despite his character being involved in far too many seaside-style jokes.

The locations, cinematography, set design, and choreography were well done, as you would expect from such an experienced crew. Despite the flaws in the written material you can still rely on this as technically pretty well done, despite what appears to have been a fairly limited budget. This was the last movie to be co-produced by Broccoli and Harry Saltzman before the latter left the franchise, selling his stake to the studio. Perhaps the imperfections in the movie could be attributed to the deterioration in the working relationship between the two, but I think that the scriptwriters Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz must shoulder some of the blame too.

In conclusion this is a fairly flawed and inferior entry into the Bond canon. The purists dislike it, and not without reason, but despite the many dead ends and holes in the script, as well as the usual Bond habit of setting out to do one thing whilst accomplishing another, there is still enough overall quality to make this enjoyable viewing. Despite its many problems, The Man With The Golden Gun is still a lot of fun with numerous memorable moments to make it worthwhile, though if I had to offer a shining example of the Bond movies to win over non-fans, it would not be this.

As a Bond film: 3/10. As just another movie: 6/10 Interesting concepts and a lot of positives spoiled by silly errors. Spoilers
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Commando (1985)
"Do you know what today is, Matrix?"
4 March 2004
Warning: Spoilers
It certainly was 'Payday' for Arnold Schwarzenegger in this adrenaline fuelled, body-counting action fest, which came hot on the heels of his breakthrough to superstardom in The Terminator. This has become a must see movie for all Arnold fans and it's not hard to see why 'Commando' has acquired a cult following. Slip-ups, great action, cheesy lines, cartoon humour, and above all else full on Arnold.

Let's start with the plot. (SPOILERS). The fabulously-named John Matrix, an East German ex-pat who has retired from his job as a Colonel in the Special Forces, now lives in a kind of demented dream-like existence with his daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano). They live in a log cabin in what looks suspiciously like a national park. When he is not chopping wood, carrying fake logs around, and glancing about suspiciously, Matrix enjoys spending time with Jenny in some of the cheesiest scenes in movie history, including the unforgettable moments where Arnold laughs as Jenny wipes ice cream over his face, pets a deer (!), and takes here fishing, karate training, and swimming.

Anyway, Matrix's old boss General Kirby (James Olsen) arrives by helicopter to tell him that three of his former unit have been assassinated. We have previously seen this in the pre-credits sequence, and no doubt as the audience idly wondered, Arnold asks: "who is doing it?" (Ultra stilted). Kirby's reply (remember this is supposedly a Special Forces commando who trained Matrix to SMELL his enemies from a distance), famously offers some valuable insight into the identities of the killers:

"It could have been the Syrians, the Russians, the South Americans, or a terrorist group."

Having offered this helpful information, he leaves, and seconds later of course the killer gang arrive, moments later, having followed his helicopter in 4x4s. Matrix is distracted by gunfire for long enough for the gang to kidnap Jenny, under the leadership of Capt. Bennett, (Vernon Wells) 'a man I trusted for years' says Matrix.

Bennett is one of the greatest movie characters of the 1980s and is worthy of some description. He is uniquely fat, with thin arms, a pot belly, little legs, so he waddles around. He acts mean, by the aid of his chain mail vest, a comedy handlebar moustache, and leather trousers. As if that wasn't enough, he is the campest individual you ever set eyes on, and he has a fine Australian accent! Every line uttered by Bennett is worthy of imitation, he is a truly unique villain and he has all the funniest scenes. He was kicked out of Matrix's unit and little wonder really, but now he's back for revenge by trying to kill Matrix.

Bennett has in fact been employed by a South/Central American ex-dictator called Arius (Den Hedaya), although Bennett waived the fee because he hates Matrix SO much. One of the unit's missions before it was dissolved was to depose Arius and replace him with President Velasquez, for which Matrix was made a 'hero of the revolution', and Bennett was fired at the same time. So the two have got together to take Arius's country (Val Verde, from Die Hard 2) back, and pay back Matrix in the process.

Here's the deal then John: fly to Val Verde under supervision, depose the president you helped to power, and you can get Jenny back. Matrix seems to be a man use to taking orders, not following them, so as soon as he gets onto the plane he kills his minder and jumps off mid-takeoff into a convenient swamp. And there it is. He has until the plane to secretly work out where his daughter is, before his actions are discovered by the terrorists.

I won't go into all the hilarious details but suffice it to say there are enough comedy moments here to fill a Naked Gun movie, and indeed at times Commando does feel like a spoof. Nobody seems quite sure if it is or not, probably it started off serious but Arnold saw that the quality of the script and direction being pretty low grade, he would inject his unique humour into this and make it an ego-driven kill-a-thon with a comic edge, rather than an out and out actioner.

Of particular interest are the final showdown between Matrix and Bennett, the latter of whom inexplicably believes himself to have "an edge" and destined to win. Their fist fight, complete with outrageous dialogue in keeping with the rest of Commando, is a total riot and needs to be seen to be believed. Prior to this, Matrix invades an island and kills so many soldiers with the comedy unhurriedness of the A-Team that people have made games of either counting the dead bodies or drinking for every person killed. There must have been a few drunken people watching this then but in truth you can enjoy all this perfectly sober, as apparently the makers must have been on something if they thought the cartoon violence here looked realistic and convincing. There are so many great non-sensical moments, ten reviews couldn't do justice.

This is probably what people mean when they talk about a 'typical Arnold Schwarzenegger film': the acting is either amusingly bad or ridiculously over the top, and in Arnold's case it is almost a self parody of sorts with his deadpan stilted delivery. This movie could not have been made in any decade but the 1980s, there are so many wonderful moments, not all intentional, that make this one of the most loved (and for some the most laughed at) action movies ever. It's certainly not a technically brilliant film but it is 100% fun.

P.S. Look out for David Patrick Kelly as one of the mobsters, who is the recipient of one of Arnold's greatest one-liners: "Remember when I said I'd kill you last? I lied!" Bill Duke from Predator is in this too!

This is a must-see for all Arnold fans and all action fans: go see it and prepare to laugh your ass off!
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Barbara (1995–2003)
Chronically bad
24 November 2003
Warning: Spoilers
It is hard to put into words quite how bad the so-called 'comedy' was. It is equally difficult for me to convey my amazement that this got a second series when the brilliant 'Believe Nothing' of 2002 did not. Check out the other reviews and these will give you a few more details on what exactly makes this show so awful.

I came across it after switching off my VCR one night last Christmas, it was early evening, around 6.30, and there was some horrendous middle aged sitcom in ITV1, with a plot revolving around the fact that someone had invited a corpse to a dinner party and spent the evening trying to explain the mute, expressionless, rigomortis-riven state of the body as "a bit under the weather."

That, pretty much, is the level we are working at here. Quite honestly, to see that kind of material at that time of day was nothing but disturbing. The sight of a dead body being carted around a living room set, in a shopping trolley, was not only shockingly tasteless and profoundly and totally unconcious of how unfunny if was, but it was also down right offensive. Not only to somebody who may have lost relatives, but to people who enjoy real comedy and had been unsuspectingly given this junk instead.

The one plus point would be the appearance of Elizabeth Carling from 'Boon', but she is wasted here as the only member of the cast who can act. True the bizarre and confused scripts, which cross middle class, middle aged domesticity with poorly done ideas that wouldn't be out of place in a disturbing Kubrick film, do not give the actors (if that is an appropriate description) much idea about how to go about their job.

I am not against disturbing images on television, so long as they are though-provoking and useful. The images of dead people being merrily subjected to humiliation at chirpy middle aged tea parties is disturbing, but far from provoking any thought, it was just mind-numbingly awful.

I watched a few episodes of this, whilst reading, just to get a sense of how bad it really is. And the answer is Very. A total waste of time and money, probably the most ineffective and poorly-thought out TV show I have ever seen.
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Two thumbs up!
9 November 2003
Warning: Spoilers
I entered the cinema for this one very excited at the prospect of the third Terminator film and the first for twelve years. This was Arnold's chance to put his movie career back on track after the near-misses of the last five years or so. I was also rather nervous - I am a big fan of Mr Schwarzenegger, and if the California governership rumours were true (and of course they were), this could well be his last chance to make a huge impact to rival that of Terminator 2. I truly wanted him to succeed, and for the film to be a huge hit. Thankfully I wasn't dissapointed.

Spoiler alert!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

When I left that same cinema two and a half hours later (i had entered for the trailers too), I felt a little confused about what I had seen, how good a film it was in itself, and how it rated compared with T1 and T2. One thing though was certain - Arnold was back in a big way and this is his best since True Lies, of which it is a fair equal. The big man himself didn't let himself down with an eye-catching performance, especially as he thrashed the evil T-X around, breaking everything in sight!

My main problems with the film were:

* there is no ending, simply a "tune into to T4 to find out what happens. This was a shame as both previous films enjoyed a ravishing and conclusive finale.

* Arnold's character is not given enough screen time, and too often he is making jokes and comic lines instead of dialogue that sets him up as a believable cyborg. After all, this T-101 should be exactly the same as the T-800 at the start of Terminator 2, with the same fearsome qualities and mechanic responses. Unless he was reprogrammed by John Connor before he was sent back in time, but that doesn't explain why he didn't reprogram the T-101 from T2 on similar lines. Unless he wanted to give his former self a chance to learn what is needed to be done in the future, a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.

* It feels like a remake of T2. There's not much elaboration on the plot, other than John Connor being a depressed itinerant junkie, and the introduction of Kate Brewster. Sarah Connor is dead, but i half expected that, her character came full circle at the end of T2 when she shakes hand with the T101. Also the relationship between the Terminator and John Connor is ambiguous most of the time, John is mostly over familiar with it.

* The introduction of Kate Brewster, and of her past involvement in the plot of T2, the 'destiny' John talks about, is unwarranted. This messes with a previously perfect film (T2). Also the whole thing of Kate being John's future wife, and of him being killed by the Terminator before Kate sends it back, is uneccessary. You're making T4, why not leave all that until then, where it belongs. Here it just feels goofy. Plus the Terminator should know better than to inform people of their own future, John should have programmed it into him. As any fan of Back to the Future should know!

* The T-X, played by Kristanna Loken, just isn't scary. She hasn't got the physical presence to match up with Arnold Schwarzengger, and the use of weaponry rang false to me - why does it need weapons to beat a machine which it is supposedlly far in advance of? She should have been made more menacing, for example the child murder scenes should have been more graphic and disturbing, giving us an idea of the TX's capabilities.

* Whenever either the T-X appears to menace the mortal main characters, along comes the T-101 to save them, despite a lot of running around that in my view really wasn't necessary. Plus, with all those prototype robotic terminators, and the ability of the TX to control mechanic things, it really should have been a piece of cake for it to wipte out John and Kate. Feels less plausible than the first two.

Apart from these few minor gripes though, I enjoyed the film. Arnold is once again at the top of the action tree, and is well supported by Nick Stahl and Clare Danes, though neither had too much to do in their roles, playing more human characters, with few memorable characteristics. Linda Hamilton is gone, and Kate Brewster character goes from being an innocent vetinary worker to a dead eye Terminator-killing sharpshooter without any discernible character changes in between. She just picks up an AK47 and off she goes.

I'm letting the negatives get in the way here, but what I should say is that this has the look and feel of a major action blockbuster, and whilst its not up there with the first two in the series, its light years ahead of the crap we seem to get in cinemas these days. Especially good was the extended car chase that had a 1980s feel, and the 'coffin sequence,' a pure genius scene that I will never forget.

All in all, the best film of the year, and on this evidence, if things don't work out for Arnold in Sacramento, he'll be welcome back for the finale of this franchise any day!
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Brosnan's second best, after Goldeneye
9 November 2003
Notwithstanding any future effort that sees Pierce Brosnan, back in the role of Bond, The World Is Not Enough is a fairly accurate picture of how the James Bond series has panned out since 1995. Simply, in the finest traditions of the series, set since 1962. This, the nineteenth official film, features some original and unique locations, an excellent female lead in Sophie Marceau, and an amusing re-appearance from the Robbie Coltrane ally Valentin Zuckovsky, who made a real difference to Goldeneye.

Other plus points include the lack of Joe Don Baker, who really out lasted his welcome in Tomorrow Never Dies, a fine send-off for Q, spectacular chase sequences on the River Thames and on a snowy mountainside, some dirty but funny humour, and best of all the climax in a sinking nuclear-powered submarine in the straights of Istanbul. Brosnan by now is synonymous with the role of James Bond and plays the role well, probably his best all round personal effort to date.

It has its bad points too - the villain Renard is handled fairly uncomfortably by the normally reliable Robert Carlyle, the henchmen are devoid of any memorable characteristics, and the nuclear physiscist in hot pants, Denise Richards, aka Dr Christmas Jones, is an outrageous and somewhat ridiculous inclusion.

Brosnan himself carries on from where he left off in Tomorrow Never Dies, that is to say, as if this is Terminator 2, not a Bond film. Thankfully though, the machine gun battles and huge explosions are not a permenant feature of the film, whose plot high points include Bond getting injured by falling onto the Millenium Dome, M being captured, a great pipeline seqeunce where Bond and Jones are on a cart chasing a plutonium bomb, and MI6 headquarters turning into the frontline after some terrorist action!

There's a great cameo from British DJ Goldie as a villain, the only interesting one apart from the brilliant Marceau, and there are enough unique elements, like the helicopter-powered forrestry blades, a bad guy who can feel no pain, and a major Hollywood movie being set in Kazaksthan, Azerbiejhan (sp?), and the Caspian Sea, to make it another memorable entry into the series. The gadgets are present but not overused, and this solid 1999 effort really feels like a great way to Bond to sign off the Twentieth Century.

The only minor complaint would be the pre-credits sequence was too long, perhaps the titles should have been brought forward to fit in between the Bilboa Bank scene and the MI6-Thames sequence.

Once again, top marks 007.
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Interceptor (1989– )
High-octane adventure fun, from the makers of Treasure Hunt!
25 October 2003
One early Saturday morning in 2002 i was looking for inspiration on the TV. Flicking through the channels I noticed nothing interesting, apart from the title of one show I had never heard of, on the Challenge Channel- Interceptor.

This was a brilliant but short lived British game show from 1989, made by Mal Hayworth's Chatsworth Television, the same people who made Treasure Hunt and The Crystal Maze. Whilst those two series went on to massive acclaim in the UK and syndication abroad, Interceptor never got a second series and has largely been forgotten. Like all good game shows, there was a simple (ish) concept.

Two contestants are given a backpack each. One of the cases contains the cash prize, the other contains a lump of plastic. Nobody knows which contestant has the money. Then they are dumped into the countryside, around 4 miles apart, in unfamiliar country. They have a radio link to a location studio, at which host Annabell Croft (the former tennis star) has a map of the area. By use of the radio, Croft must guide both contestants seperatley to find the key to the backpacks. The key the contestant has to locate will open the other case. Usually one of the contestants is male and one is female. They have to find their own transport, and have to meet up within 40 minutes.

That's the easy part! The biggest problem they face is the man himself, The Interceptor, a leather-clad peroxide bodybuilder is on their trail. He has a laser gun (operated rather like a TV remote) which he uses to zap the sensors on the back of the contestants' backpacks. If he does, the backpack lock will not be opened by the key when it is tried. He has the use of a Jet Ranger helicopter and its mild-mannered but sarcastic pilot Mikie to help him. No-one knows until the end, when the keys are tried on the case locks, if the Interceptor has succeeded in his mission or whether the contestants will get the money. The Interceptor also has a Mazerrati, a motorbike, and a manic and crazed Scottish accent to help him in his quest (the two former items are located at his 'lair.'

If it sounds complicated, when you sit down to watch it all becomes fairly straightforward. The highlights are the terrified expressions on the faces of the contestants as Sean o'Kane (the Interceptor) terrorises them, and the banter between Sean and Mikie. Although most of the situations are contrived (use of army facilities, farmhands, fishermen, navy helicopters, canoe clubs, railways lines, outward bound centres etc) and don't ring true, its always fun to watch the Interceptor trying to outsmart and surprise his prey in new and unusual ways - such as swooping down on them in the helicopter inside a qurray on one occasion! The use of varied locations, including Cornwall, Kelso, Chatsworth in Derbyshire, Great Yarmouth, and Kent meant that the backdrop was interesting each time.

Unfortunatley Annabel Croft is very irritating and ineffective as the host, the comms system is usually faulty, but overall this was a fun action series that should have been granted more than the eight episodes it got.
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The Persuaders! (1971–1972)
23 October 2003
Never before have I seen on-screen chemistry like that between Roger Moore and Tony Curtis in The Persuaders. Both actors fill their roles perfectly and more besides, whoever teamed up these guys needs credit also.

Whether they're winning improbable fight scenes, surviving hair-raising car chases, or making sense of unusual situations (e.g Sinclair finding out how he has suddenly acquired a wife, Wilde being accidentally immersed into a Soviet spy ring, or Sinclair again finding that he has been cloned!) Moore and Curtis always appear to be having a riot of a time, perhaps in some measure a result of the large quantities of champagne the cast got through on the set.

Roger Moore deploys his usual charm and dry wit, whilst the manic Curtis excels with his deadpan humour and perfect timing. The contrast between the two main characters matches that between the two actors, but its more a case of salt and vinegar than cheese and chalk, Moore and Curtis are perfect together, and together they are perfect for the show. Slightly camp 1970s comedy/action - perfect for Roger to make his indelible mark on the James Bond series, and a welcome change for Tony from his less light-hearted roles.

Brilliant series, shame it only lasted a couple of years!
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A minor classic
3 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers

I first saw this underrated gem of a movie on television in the UK around four years ago, its only showing in the last twenty years or so. Certainly the demand for 'politically correct' entertainment means that showings of The Wild Geese are way down the BBC's list for potential slot fillers. The prospects of a remake look slim also, not simply due to the nature of the film's sympathies, but also through the lack of ideal British male actors to take up the lead roles.

Richard Burton plays fearless veteran mercenary leader Col. Alan Faulkner, a role that seems to have been written for the Welsh actor: `I have insisted that when I die my liver will be removed and buried separately with honours.' Burton's dry sense of humour help bring a lighter, likeable side to a character with seemingly little to endear himself to the viewer. Faulkner is hired by a corporate big-wig Sir Edward Matherson, played by Stewart Granger, to organise the rescue of an imprisoned African diplomat from certain death, in a move that aims to secure Matherson's copper mining interests in the region.

Joining Faulkner is Burton's hell-raising pal and drinking buddy Richard Harris as Capt. Rafer Janders, a former colleague and second in command now settled in London and enjoying a close relationship with his half-French son, Emile. Janders holds the key to the success of the mission as the planner and 'fixer', and despite his reservations about going back into action as a mercenary, he eventually agrees to plan the mission, although it means he will miss his long-awaited skiing trip to Switzerland with Emile.

Faulkner's two conditions for his acceptance of the mission were that he would be joined by Janders, and that they would also have the services of Shawn Flynn (a rather underused Roger Moore). This looks like a problem to begin with, as Flynn, currently working as a delivery pilot for a minor Mafioso, has murdered his employer and a bodyguard in a brutal sequence at the beginning of the film that introduces Moore as a tougher character than his contemporary James Bond incarnation. The insistence of Faulkner and the influence of Matherson combine to see that the contracts put out for Flynn after the double murder are lifted, and the pilot is able to join the team.

Immediately prior to the team heading out to their Swaziland base camp, there is a scene in which Faulkner, Janders, Flynn, and the fourth officer on the operation, Peter Koetze (Hardy Kruger) interview potential members of the unit. Most of them are familiar with Faulkner, and quite a few of the admittedly caricatured minor figures are introduced here, including Tosh, Witty, and Jesse. Most of the soldiers are veterans of Faulkner's previous campaigns and are rather stereotypical versions of a Scottish army boxing champ or a gay medic.

After a rather amusing training sequence where the unit prepares for the operation, there is a mission briefing and then the Wild Geese (the call sign for the unit is 'Wild Goose') are ready to fly, jumping by parachute into enemy country. The plan is executed perfectly: the unit separates into two parties, one headed by Flynn takes the airstrip extraction point, the other led by Faulkner springs African ex-president Julius Limbani with relative ease, and things are going smoothly. Meanwhile in London Matherson invites Limbani's captors to a conference, at which point a deal is reached, granting Matherson copper concessions without the need to rescue Limbani. Thus the unscrupulous businessman is left free to recall the rescue plane just as it is landing to collect the Wild Geese.

Left stranded hundreds of miles behind enemy lines, with nothing to fight for except each other and nowhere to run, the Wild Geese are forced to flee from the hordes of crack Simba troops now unleashed upon them. Casualties are high and many of the action sequences are very realistic in their brutal portrayal and outcome, none more so than when the getaway plane is beginning its takeoff - with a horde of Simba warriors hard on its heels waving machetes - Janders is racing to get aboard the quickening plane, but is shot in the leg, tripping and falls inextricably behind. Seeing that Rafer rendered unable to climb aboard, Faulkner, already aboard the quickening plane, is forced to shoot dead his old friend as an act of euthanasia.

The Wild Geese is more than a blasé actioner that sees the bad guys blown up and the good guys going on to live happily ever after. There are meaningful points about the relationship between the mercenary and his employer, the futility of this 'romantic' profession, and the harrowing cost of war and the terrible decisions it enforces people to make. When Faulkner confronts Matherson in the final sequence he intends to avenge fallen comrades and take his fee, initially denied him after Matherson pulled the plug on the operation. However any consolation Faulkner gains from the result of this confrontation is scant compared to the loss he has encountered, and the lack of achievement to show for it.

This film will never rise to the status of true classic because too many people find it offensive: to blacks, women, gays, Africans, but for all the gung-ho bravado displayed by the main players, there are some outstanding acting performances, especially from Burton, Moore, and Harris, displaying a lot of grit in the face of a production that went spectacularly over budget after Burton and Harris (amongst others) drank most of it away midway through shooting. On the face of it, their portrayal as over-the-hill mercenaries on one last outing together is all the more remarkable, given that in sweltering heat and in heavy clothing, large numbers of cast members were boozed up. In fact, turning in such performances in such conditions makes The Wild Geese all the more remarkable.

The movie is now quite rare and is unlikely to be released on DVD (a shame, as it would be perfect for such a format), but despite a few flaws, such as questionable editing and a slightly overlong running time, rightly has legions of fans to ensure that however much the BBC and other TV stations try to imagine that such films to not exist, this one will never be forgotten. Burton was all set to star in Wild Geese 2 but was made unavailable for shooting by his untimely death from a brain haemorrhage in 1984. Wild Geese 2 was dedicated to his memory. Col. 'Mad' Mike Hoare, a real life mercenary who fought several campaigns in the Belgian Congo and the Seychelles, amongst other places, served as a technical advisor on The Wild Geese, no doubt adding to its realistic feel, especially during the battle and strafing sequences. Also, the theme song, The Flight of the Wild Geese, by Joan Armstrong, is a classic. All in all, a fantastic action movie with superb acting from some of the greats, hints of irony (especially evident in Burton's character), plus a moving and emotional ending, coupled with a theme tune to make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.
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one of the greatest Bond movies
28 April 2003
People who describe this movie as 'racist' are clearly deluded. Ok,the entire set of villains are black, but this in fact is a positive. In previous Bonds, there were few noticable black characters, and those that did appear were mainly stereotyped as simple and superstitous.

This time, although some of the minor baddies seem very blaxploitation, some of the most memorable villains were spawned here, including Yaphet Kotto's Dr Kanaga, steel clawed giant Tee Hee, and the mystical Baron Samedi. For the first time, black people are considered to be worthy of a serious feature in James Bond, as serious opponents.

This is also the first Roger Moore film of the series, which makes it more watchable. The mood is lighter and there is a trace of comedy, which helps things immesurably since the wooden and colourless Sean Connery years, which although they set Bond on the way, were surpassed by Moore in the 70s and 80s. Moore gave the series a real flavour, and that begins here with some of the most memorable sequences of the whole Bond era.

The plot may not be totally cohesive or even coherent, but some of the images and performances in this film will live in movie history, and rightly so.
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Bad Golf My Way (1994 Video)
Very Leslie Nielsen...
27 April 2003
Warning: Spoilers
This is quite a funny video if you can get your hands on it, in which Leslie Nielsen, as himself, tees of at Blue Springs Golf Club in Colarado, in an attempt to teach a lesson to arrogant club champion Brad van Courtland. With the help of his caddy Bob Donner, Nielsen takes some of the tricks he first showcased in 'Bad Golf Made Easier" and applies them here, along with some new material.


Leslie and Bob the Caddy escort Brad around the course on their cart, as Nielsen and the champ play a high-stakes game with big bucks for the winner. As the match begins, Nielsen not only starts to implement his own unique brand of golfplay to the game, he also submits van Courtland to a gradual, subliminal, but definite psychological battering.

"Brad, a golfer of your quality sees everything, hears everything. You know its true what Nicklaus said, the finest golfer is so perceptive, he can literally hear a person changing their mind." With this kind of exaggerated flattery, some interesting interpretations of "the rules", and a much neglected technique of adding 50-100 yards to the drive - dressing up as a woman and shooting from the Ladies tee - Leslie attempts to distract, annoy, and harass his opponent to the verge of insanity (and beyond, as it proves after one incident on the last green with a "mongosse").

All in all this is funny and off the wall, Nielsen doing his "straight man" routine to a tee, which is great, but only if you're a fan already.
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