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Major Alvega (1998)
Portuguese fiction takes a step in the right direction
This two-season, twenty-something episode series that combines live action with green screen backgrounds and follows the adventures of World War II RAF Agent Major Alvega (Ricardo Carriço) as he goes up against the hilarious yet sinister SS Coronel Helmut Von Block (António Cordeiro) and tries to woo the loyalty-torn Fraülein Helga Schmidt, in inspired and thrilling sequences of action, humor, and WWII-style romance.
Trying to spot all the James Bond references (the recurring character of Miss Makelove the secretary is a dead ringer, for one...) is nearly impossible but makes "Major Alvega" all the more fun of a show to watch! Another high point, and one I personally treasure quite a lot, is that every episode opens and closes with a narration by legendary BBC Radio narrator Fernando Pessa, who passed away a few years ago but left very fond memories in our hearts, both through his phenomenal voice, his unique gift for storytelling, and his one-of-a-kind personality. His calling the Nazi dictator "Mr. Hitler", with the "Mr." in an hesitating manner, really shows how good he was at acting with his voice.
All in all, one of the best series ever to come out of Portuguese TV.
Herman Enciclopédia (1997)
Herman José at his finest!
This show is truly the highlight of Mr. José's career in comedy and entertaining! Based on the format of the old Monty Python sketch shows like the Flying Circus, Herman crafts a deliciously unorthodox plethora of fictional characters such as Diácono Remédios, Rute Remédios, Mike & Melga, Lauro Dérmio, David Vaitenborough, Super Tia, that to this day retain an almost legendary status in Portuguese pop culture.
Who can forget Diácono Remédios having his office invaded by two fondling and groping members of the Klu Klux Klan on Christmas Eve, only to unmask them as actors from a rival company, before telling one of them to go back to work on his pet store... and then when the actor cracks down laughing because the delivery of the line is so hilarious, Herman notes that he seems to be having a bad case of asthma and the actor practically pisses himself with laughter as he trudges off stage? Or Super Tia blackmailing a rich heiress with obscene letters from her lover under pretense of giving away the loot... er, the "donation, to the poor when she is actually keeping the expensive china, the pearl earrings, the jacuzzi tub and the silver-finish Porsche for herself?! Or the outtakes of a Mike & Melga sketch during Christmas season when they're pitching a supposedly fully-electronic nativity set (with electronic door lock and built-in radio with Hebraic descrambler...), when Mike presses the "eject button" and sends the center figure of Baby Jesus shooting into the fake ceiling?! The outtakes are hilarious because both Herman and the other guy have to call in a production assistant to dislodge Baby Jesus off the ceiling panels... And finally, at the end of the show, we see Baby Jesus dropping slowly from the ceiling on a parachute built into his crib... Outrageously funny stuff! And speaking of outtakes, one of the most memorable moments of the show is when Lauro Dérmio (a fictitious cinema critic played by Herman José himself) commits the famous "Do not pirimpampalhate..." gag and can't stop from laughing himself to tears for five minutes straight, even requiring a production assistant to hand a kerchief for him to wipe off his tears of laughter?! All in all, Herman's best show EVER and the highlight of his career before the move to SIC when his quality as a comedian began to cheapen and droop like molten licorice. The final show, with the "Devil" coming in to take him to Hell (and losing one of the horns on stage, which Herman subsequently tries to glue back on but does it upside down so that the "Devil" is left with two mismatched horns on his forehead) is a fitting close to a true classic of Portuguese television.
And remember... "Do not pirimpampalhate the alhey woman"!
Nochnoy dozor (2004)
Move over, Matrix Trilogy
"Night Watch" ("Nochnoy Dozor" in the original) is a visually and storyline-wise awesome movie, definitely up there with the classic fantasy/sci-fi movies of our age such as "The Matrix", "Lord of the Rings" and "Star Wars". What's even better, this is just the first parter to a trilogy that will continue with the forthcoming release of "Day Watch" and "Dusk Watch" sometime in the future! The best I can say for this movie is that it makes you feel like you're watching a live-action Russian version of a Japanese manga. Despite some choppy editing, the special effects are good, not at all overdone, and the camera angles are near perfect. It boggles the mind to think how small this movie's budget was (5 mil USD) and everything that the director managed to accomplish nonetheless...
Most Hollywood movies wouldn't even get the actors on set running on 5 million dollars alone. Just goes to show how overrated and egotistic American actors have become, with all their demands of higher budgets and more screen time (*cough*Halle Berry*cough*). Russian movie makers, with their extraordinary resourcefulness and skill, have shown that it is quite possible to do a great movie with a reduced amount of money.
Shame on you, Hollywood.
I was on the fence about whether to give this movie an 8 or a 9... And ultimately I decided to give it a 9 because it sets up the scenery so beautifully for the sequels. If you haven't yet, go see "Night Watch"! You'll thank me when you walk out of the theather wow-ing to yourself and others around you, and feeling all amped-up for the sequels.