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Allies (2014)
9/10
Allies: a return to intimate story telling.
2 March 2015
Delightful surprise for a film made on such a low budget. Well acted and scripted, this action entry into the WW 2 genre not made by Hollywood, is gripping and maintains the same high standards of the films that came out in the 1960's and 70's. I'm impressed at the overall casting and especially that of an actor who can speak French like somebody who had grown up around Metz. At it's core the film is about the bonding experience between English troops and the American officer chosen to lead the dangerous mission behind enemy lines.

Based on actual incidents, Allies works best when doing intimate close combat scenes and those wonderfully believable moments when the characters draw closer and closer as the danger increases. Apart from the set representing HQ back in the UK and the choice of video over film stock, the net effect is much like any mainstream non indie war film done on a bigger budget.

Once the action gets going you forget it's not on film stock and just enjoy the perilous roller coaster ride that I thought had been strictly the reserve of Central and Eastern European film makers who's work seldom is seen outside of art houses or past the Polish border. Some surprising performances from a cast that include a former footballer and a boy band member. Nice to see the art form is not dead in Britain.

Be warned, it's a war film meant to convey the finality and brutality of combat, if you're a bit squeamish you might want to look away once or twice but nothing extreme or exaggerated.
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8/10
Surprisingly good addition to the Viking genre.
23 February 2015
I thoroughly enjoyed The Northmen. At first I was a bit conflicted, how could I cheer for bloodthirsty Vikings come to pillage Lindisfarne? Well it's easy once the writers conveniently turn the Scots King and his mercenaries into the bad guys, from there on in it's easy. If you've watched a few Viking films in your life you'll next be thinking thank G-d it's not Tony Curtis, Kirk Douglas et al camping up the screen. The prospect of a bunch of hams from the Pale via Hollywood overacting looms menacingly, and frankly for a fair few minutes you wonder if this is merely a modern update of the same old swill and will it stop short of the silly hats and comedy of Xena. But no, it redeems itself almost from the moment the wolf pack who resemble orcs from LOTR in both appearance and demeanour leave to rescue the kidnapped princess IF they can, if they must.

Our plucky heroes are joined by a kung fu staff fighting Christian monk, our princess turns out to have the gift and the race is on to see how many of the cast will survive to the end credits. We are taken across a picturesque albeit mostly barren landscape filled with danger and traps for both sides. The chase is artfully interrupted every so often by every trope ever from a buddy action film, which given the subject matter, is not a bad thing. While not Ibsen or Shakespeare, the script manages to paint the Vikings with a delicate balance between posturing warriors and a misunderstood people capable of honour and compassion. At one point our hero informs the Princess that not all Vikings are nearly as bad as made out to be, a master stroke in facial expression and delivery that in the hands of a lesser actor would have brought us shuddering right back to Ernest Borgnine eloquence. Though if only for a laugh, it would have been nice to have one of them let go a long loud anguished RAGNAR!

The action is well staged and the pacing wonderful, far from the super gore of The 300, this manly exercise is the answer to the question what if they made Lord of the Rings without wizards, orcs or demon wraith Kings. Shot in the same style and feel as LOTR, costumed and cast with believable Vikings and Scots, The Northmen is one of those fun cool films you'll enjoy over and over again. With just a hint of 1950's flavour, this German production sets us up at the end for a sequel in the Danelaw. Stick around for the end credits to hear Viking Metal songs by Amon Amarth which are the perfect way to cap off this film. Terrific little action flic for boys of every age, don't pass this one by. I sincerely hope they make that sequel.
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Hidden in Silence (1996 TV Movie)
7/10
We must never forget
22 February 2015
"We must never forget" normally refers to the notion that we as people as a race, as thinking animals capable of more base and self centred actions must never forget the horrors of the Holocaust so as not to repeat it. In this case however I mean to say that there are some who would tar the Polish people with one negative image that has managed to survive in some communities that Poles not only did not help but were complicit in the Nazi's treatment of Jews. To say as some have, that stories such as this are overdone, and should be given a rest is to devalue and spit on the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of brave people across Poland; doctors, factory managers, priests, nuns, sewer workers, farmers, labourers who without these stories would be forgotten long before the stain that is the final solution is ever wiped from our collective memories. Too many died to be so sullied and too many survived to be silenced.

Hidden in Silence tells the true story of a 15 year old Catholic maid left to care for her sister once her parents are taken to work in Germany. Needing a place to live when forced to leave the Przemyśl ghetto, she finds a new home where for two and a half she hides and protects her former employers and other Jews. The fact they all survived the ordeal to live full lives well into old age is a sort of victory for all the others who had done the same but failed in the end.

As for the film itself, the more harrowing elements of what Fusia and the Diamants had to go through are alluded to well enough for a TV movie, but are not explored as deeply as a more explicit gritty feature film would. Despite the limitations placed on the story by the format, we do get to see the more emotional and psychological pressures of both being locked away for two years and being the one who has to walk away from and feed daily said people for such a long time. It's hard for modern people brought up in the diaspora and even harder for those who have no connection to these times and events to imagine just how hard this was and how it makes even the smallest child a heroine by the simple act of being quiet or as in the case of one little girl, to go into the the Ghetto to find and save people knowing that if caught, she will be killed.

As a pole I am aware we may have an accent when speaking English, even those of us born far from there into Polish families in North America, but it took me a while to get past some of the more forced attempts to make dialogue aimed at a domestic American audience sound Polish. Having said that, it doesn't take long to buy Kellie Martin as Fusia. She embraces the role well enough to sometimes even achieve the shadow of paranoia and fear that come more easily to seasoned actresses and to be frank, people with a deeper understanding of the source material. The rest of the cast from the youngest to the oldest lifted a script limited by being for television, past the words spoken and unspoken to deliver portrayals any one of us who's families Catholic or Jewish who come from that part of the world would recognise as not only accurate but dignified. There is a moment in the film when two girls discuss pickles and other food so vividly and honestly you taste the garlic and smell the brine. The locations, sets and costumes are wonderful further making Hidden in Silence one of the better time capsules you'll watch.

There will always be grittier darker and more depressing tellings of this story, most of which don't end nearly as happily as this one does, but not everybody is cut out for Shindler's list or the Polish/Yiddish/Russian language film In Darkness from 2011. If you have a chance to see this, regardless of age or background, do so. The profiles in courage and righteousness shown here need to be seen in a jaded self centred world where real suffering in some places only occurs in history books. In a time when even the youngest survivors of events such as this are fewer in number and the children and grandchildren are themselves no longer that young, it is important that we never forget or as I was recently told by a survivor... We must remember.

I leave you with the words of Fusia Podgorska who's actions judged by herself and weighed against the actions of those around her said "I did nothing special".
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Elysium (I) (2013)
1/10
When a film just gets worse the more you think about it.
21 February 2015
Matt Damon's Elysium so touted as one of the great modern sci fi films I had yet to see, that I finally gave in and watched. What an unholy alliance of dog waste this film is. Nothing makes sense, there is no science fiction, the story is just an excuse for some CGI violence and posturing bad guys that give Damon time to "overthrow" the system with the press of a button. OOOO I waited 2 hours for that????? And what a system! A single suburban 90210 space station. Don't think too hard about it you'll hurt yourself trying to figure it out. What an utter waste of my time, Given the obviously massive budget I genuinely thought there might be some intellectual pay off as Jodie Foster was sucked into this and even spoke French at the start, but no, it just rewards you for suffering through the endless chase and battle through LA with nothing. Even if you like quasi futuristic game like battles complete with exoskeletons, this one just never leaves the ground. Strictly for first person shooter addicts with no standards whatsoever. I'm so hacked off I need to bathe with some proper mindless fun that never promised to be high art.
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7/10
Wong Fei-Hung reboot
19 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Sammo Hung and Eddie Peng star in what is clearly an attempt to renew the success of Once Upon a Time in China's extended series about revolutionary hero and martial artist Wong Fei-Hung.

A lot of money was spent on this, the casting pretty decent and the cinematography and sets are lush; what lets the film down is the choppy editing and the lack of ambition when it came to things like the final fight sequence which looked like somebody had set the stage for a battle to the death between two seasoned champions only to have the comic relief fight the third string henchman.

The Plot centres on Fei-Hung and his childhood friends long drawn out revenge against a powerful gang they blame for destroying their lives and those around them. Fei infiltrates the gang and orchestrates bit by bit the spectacular downfall of his new family and betrayal of his adopted father, culminating in a showdown with Sammo Hung who plays the crafty mob boss. Melodramatic and tragic in tone, the film is choked with moments designed to elicit pained expressions of grief and frustration from Eddie Peng who we assume will have to carry the inevitable sequels should this be deemed good enough. Sadly Eddie Peng even on a basic pot boiler 70's Shaw Brothers scale is not quite there yet. Perhaps I'm being harsh on Eddie Peng, but when Jet Li first broke out ,there was never any doubt of how good he was and how big he would become, Peng however is no Jet Li. Sammo Hung of course plays Sammo, to be critical of this would be unfair. Rise of the Legend suffers somewhat to the earlier and definitive, version of the hero's life.

As a martial arts film it highlights key fighting techniques and sets up action sequences that are if not as complex as Jet Li or Jackie Chan's works, are at least well filmed and hold your attention. Furthermore, several of the fight sequences recall earlier films both in use of sets and obstacles presented. In so doing we are asked to judge the homage to film makers past and conclude sadly that if we are looking for jaw dropping choreography and extended displays of original or at least well executed complex battle scenarios, we should set our expectations to medium. As a cognoscenti of the genre I will admit to not being bored by the fight scenes and looked forward to the next one, in fact you could count on them breaking out fairly regularly. Fighting being half of what you'd expect from such a film, it hits the right notes well enough to entertain.

The other half of the story, in which we explore the motivations and machinations of the heroes and villains is pretty textbook and predictable, interspersed with sometimes annoying intrusions and cut aways of back story told in the form of flash backs to Fei-Hung's childhood, training at a monastery and the occasional sudden personal moments that are far too brief. More Shaw brothers than Crouching Tiger, in this regard the film is let down by sloppy story telling and relies on the next fight scene to forgive it.

Rise of the Legend isn't as good as it could have been, but is good enough to entertain for two hours.
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Whiplash (2014)
10/10
Buddy Rich approved
15 February 2015
I could write a long review like all the others here, but since I fully expect you to read those before you get to mine I'll stick to the core here. Miles Teller as Andrew and J.K. Simmons as Fletcher are the film. It's about the the blood the sweat and the tears of music. I was training as a boy to be a piano player and later played tenor sax in school.Because I had tough teachers I learned to stretch , to be full of myself sometimes and other times know that I didn't know it all no matter how good I thought I was.

The dynamic here is gripping to the point I could not tear myself away but during the travel bit involving a rental car. From start to finish you know that what you see is real, there is no lowering of standards for the non musical or the that's really nice crowd. Every moment to the most extreme, has happened in practice or in your head or in the teacher's head at least once and more often than not the bits some will think exaggerated are if anything not as brutal as the real thing.

And so we come to the drumming, was it him or was it clever editing and some anonymous hero? The simple answer is it was Miles Teller playing, but with help from extended takes and lots of practice, that's why it's so good. And it's no accident that he has pictures of Buddy Rich all over the place, I saw Buddy Rich live as well as see him practice with his band for over an hour when he came through my part of the world. Not only was that man a beast on drums, he expected only the best from his orchestra. A perfectionist, he ran that practice like a drill sergeant getting results worthy of the most knowledgeable paying customer in the hall. In both teacher and student, the ghost of Buddy Rich haunts and possesses them body and soul.

Whiplash proves that sometimes you need to be an arsehole if you're going to be the best at anything. I regret not pushing harder to keep my piano teacher, but then again I was 10 and being a dickhead thinking I could just jump ahead and improvise during lessons before I had proved to my teacher's satisfaction I had nailed the material. Practice and discipline above and beyond the call of ordinary are the other pillars and in Whiplash you see that in abundance.

As music films go, and they are rare as hens teeth to start with, Whiplash touches on all the elements you'd know are missing only if you ever studied music seriously. I loved it, I hope lots of people go out and see it so more such films will be made in future.
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Super Tanker (2011 TV Movie)
1/10
Booooooo can we give 0.000001 ratings?
14 February 2015
I'm a sucker for shlock Saturday afternoon rubbish, ask any of my friends, but this is the all time worst steaming pile of poo I have ever had to watch. Worse than write by numbers, this turkey isn't even a serious attempt at taking the mick for laughs. It's just plain awful.

I will ask a random question, why is it that the only way SyFy films ever solve anything is by throwing nukes at the anomaly? Saves yourself the trouble, if this is on and there is absolutely nothing else on, stick Rocky Horror on the DVD or maybe early Doctor Who, at least you'll be happy and confident you didn't have to suffer.

On the other hand, Super Tanker is also a great way to torture your enemies, so it's not a complete waste of time I guess.
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Rosewater (2014)
10/10
The mind is a powerful thing
12 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
How do you tell the story of interrogation, the breaking of the spirit, the finding of resistance and the desire to survive? Rosewater is a good answer. John Stewart the satirist and news anchor to a generation of Americans makes his serious film début by walking away from the usual balloon bursting of his show to take the bull by the horns and show us through imaginative devices like the deceased family of the journalist,flashbacks, a particularly moving moment with Leonard Cohen and straight narrative, how the mind is the strongest muscle in the human body if we allow it.

Modern journalism and the politics of dictatorship clash briefly to set up the main story, a two man play starring interrogator and prisoner. This is not a documentary about the Green revolution, nor is it a touchy feely film about family. John Stewart takes the book Then They Came for Me by Maziar Bahari & Aimee Molloy and focuses on the core material around the detention of the journalist by Iranian authorities. If you compare Rosewater to any number of films that focus even a little bit on interrogation, even in the recently democratic central and eastern Europe, the film stands up well to stories done often by the tortured themselves. Physical brutality is rare in this film and if we are to believe the writers were prepared to make Iran look bad they could have really laid it on thick, yet unlike some US film makers who sacrifice the basic facts for a bit of gore and propaganda, John Stewart stuck to the head games and did it well.

I suspect doing the Daily Show might be getting a bit old for him what with the recent reaction to his material on Gaza. I hope he makes the transition full time soon, he'll be a great addition to the pantheon of directors tackling issues with the same razor sharp intellect he uses in his comedy.
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The Voices (2014)
10/10
The cat made me write this review
9 February 2015
I've always liked Ryan Reynolds starting with his early Canadian work but even having read the tag line, never in a million years did I see this one coming. What a wonderful surprise.

The Voices is a brilliant film about schizophrenia that balances horror and comedy with such aplomb you forget that what's happening on the screen isn't exactly healthy or good. Gemma Arterton joins Mr Whiskers and Bosco in some of the most entertaining internal conflicts to be shown on screen in years. Mr Whiskers hilariously confirms our deepest and darkest fears about cats while Bosco is the voice of reason. Let's be clear about this, Jerry is deeply disturbed and he needs help but that doesn't keep you from being sucked into his strange world. His life in the real world at the bathtub factory hides a whole lot of crazy going on in his head. Jerry at his core is happy there and he likes his co workers, too bad about the little accident that starts it all going down hill.

If you like your comedy strange, you too will be a fan of this film. From the basic premise of talking animals to the happy joy joy feeling Jerry gets when his "problems" seem to go away, all the way to the end you will be smiling at how good the story is. And what an end, you know it's going there and you know it's all for the best, he's after all a good guy and does the only thing he can. His reward? well you have to watch all the way to the end. But I do promise you this, you'll be wanting to dance to very possibly the most uplifting song since somebody serenaded a man eating plant.

Don't let this one pass you by.
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A Little Game (2014)
8/10
A little gem about a gifted child
9 February 2015
Starring Makenna Ballard in her first credited role ever apparently, she stands out among a heavy hitting cast that are clearly enjoying themselves. A little Game tells the story of Max a 10 year old city girl growing up in NYC with ethnic parents who work hard at jobs that don't pay nearly as well as they should. Max is a gifted student who is not challenged by her current school and her parents sacrifice to get her into a special private school for others like her.

Told from within the bubble of Max's understanding of normal, challenging, right & wrong, the film follows her experiences as she seeks to find her own place when she asks one of the old men playing chess in the park to teach her the game. Her family and friends drift in and out of the story as they intrude on her private thoughts and immediate life.

Olympia Dukakis as Max's grandmother sets the tone when she tells her not to let life happen to her but that she should happen to life.

An interesting insulated slice of life in New York, the movie shines a light on the more imaginative escapist life of a gifted child with great accuracy and gentleness without ever wandering into the darker corners that would have changed the light nature of this wonderful film. Suitable for both children an adults, A little game compares favourably with The World of Henry Orient. Some of the fantasy elements do interfere with the narrative, but not so much as to ruin the story.

I'll gladly watch this one again any time it comes up.
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Angel on My Shoulder (1980 TV Movie)
2/10
Sometimes a remake is just a bad idea
8 February 2015
Sometimes a remake should wait for a qualified hand at the tiller before precious time is wasted. This film is like a lasagna with no garlic a BLT without the mayo or the B, if Paul Muni was ever accused of Hamming it up in the original our leading man is so wooden he is at best a box of tooth picks. Peter Strauss who has been in better films, probably would rather forget this turkey. 20 minutes in I lost all will to live and started skipping ahead to see if it got any better, and no it doesn't. Right after Eddie and Satan arrive up top it's all down hill. Aside from the "I'm not Jewish" line which is great and the required "boy have things changed in 30 years" stuff, it's painful. The DA is terminally dull, the gangster a caricature of a caricature of a mobster from the 40's and the supporting cast are one dimensional first year drama students. Muni may have put some mustard on but he did it with panache and in context while delivering a sympathetic character for which he can be forgiven for a bit of Cagney over the top. Peter Strauss however delivers a death blow to an already deeply flawed production that was never more than a bad idea to fill a few hours air time with. Watch only if you are a masochist. You have been warned.
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6/10
Awkward with intermittent passages of funny
26 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Simon Helberg wrote and co-directed this tale of a shlamazel with self esteem issues, a touch of OCD and a healthy dose of hypochondria. One suspects if Woody Allen had made this film it would have had better fleshed out supporting characters and the long term live-in girlfriend could have still worked if a better actress had been cast. As it is Melanie Lynksey's Devon is played with a constant scowl and annoyed unpleasant disconnected manner more befitting of a drama than a slapstick comedy. Kelsey the rebound prospect as played by Maggie Grace is brilliant and perfect for this genre, being the mad fly in the ointment of Quinn's plans. Sadly her contribution along with those of others including Quinn's father are poorly connected to Quinn's central character. The only other person who's role in the film was properly thought out is the best mate who's always there for support and advice. It's clear the rest of the script wasn't properly thought out or bound up before filming, which damages an otherwise great idea.

We'll never have Paris aspires to be Manhattan and misses the mark by just enough to make it a bit of a drag in between gags. The saving graces of the film are Helberg's consummate Jewish man/boy and the brilliant soundtrack of French songs that given the fact most people won't understand them, serves well to give the film a light atmosphere in the same way jazz was used to great effect by another neurotic writer director.

If you're going to make a film like this, make sure the hero ends up with the girl who is at least a bit sympathetic. By the end of the film Quinn has clearly succumbed to his fears and wears down the woman who is more mother than lover. Perhaps there is an element of reality in as much as Devon is well into married life without the benefit of having ever been asked. If you're intent on making her the prize at the end, her role needed to be written/acted with more effort than the sleepwalk we were treated to.

We'll never have Paris could have been so much better and is proof that comedy without timing and empathy is only ever painful at best. You wish there was a reset button because it's almost there but for better casting and some fine tuning. I look forward to seeing Simon Helberg's next effort as I'm sure it has to be better than this.
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The Eichmann Show (2015 TV Movie)
10/10
Trial of a monster
23 January 2015
You need to be dead to be unmoved by this. I had family in several camps, some nearly murdered in Katyn instead feeling "lucky" to be deported to Siberia where 80% did not survive. All around me as a boy there were camp survivors, how could I think they had made up even the least horrifying of the stories they thought I, a child, could stomach and understand? This film about the production crew who had to film the trial and not crack, not loose focus and not drop to the same level as the beast; it is important. It is important because even as they sat there and did their work, one man kept saying that we are all just as capable as Eichmann to cross that line, to be a fascist, to be the beast we do not believe we can be. How in 90 minutes can you convey the horror of the crimes and the effect of 4 months day in day out on those made to be there till the end of the trial? Probably not nearly as well as they would have liked and I suspect it would have been impossible. But come close they did with a series of powerful scenes that exposed the raw nerves, the sense of frustration of the survivors followed by the dignified and stoic release of tension when they knew the world was listening. In their lifetimes they had been allowed to tell their story and see justice of a sort.

The closing statement of the piece lifted from the original tapes reminds us of how close so many even today stand at the threshold of repeating these dehumanising acts. The film leaves the viewer in no doubt that the lessons learned in 1961 have been unlearned in many countries since and often with the same grim superiority and justifications. The unnamed nations and future monsters I leave to your imagination as does the film.

How often the entire process could have been derailed by well meaning judicial decisions, outside threats, and the unfolding events that at the time did overshadow the trial itself. How these bumps in the road were dealt with are explored with a deft touch that kept us in mindset of the director who at the end of the day needed to keep his mind clear and the staff focused on the job. The production of the trial is the star of the show but never shakes the feeling that it was ever going be like anything before or since. Many of the techniques pioneered at that trial are now taken for granted when broadcasting such events proving yet again that some of the most obvious things today are a result of forced innovation.

As for the cast, some better known for comedy and light drama, this was a wonderful chance to show they could do the heavy stuff, often in accents utterly foreign to them. Being a BBC film made to air without adverts and about subject matter that at times was deeply troubling, the script does not waste a second and you never check your watch. I particularly appreciated the use of the many European languages representing the vastness of the crime, then allowing the haunting song during the camp montage to be sung in Polish. Poles, Jews and Catholics alike,suffered massively at the hands of the Nazis and would have been the language most spoken in the court, it seemed only right.

One can never say about such a film that you enjoyed it, or that it was thought provoking, that would be strange and wholly inadequate. I would say though that it accomplished what it set out to do really well.
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Pirates (2014)
8/10
Fun, perfect ride through Korean history and legends.
23 January 2015
I won't add anything to the material Dare Devil Kid has already stated as I agree wholeheartedly with him. I will however look at this film from the point of view of a kung fu fan. (and why is there no category on IMDb for kung fu / martial arts? ) As an entry in the genre of martial arts oriental film making faithful to the traditions of Wong Fei-Hung and such classics as Project A, Pirates walks tall and proud and has no apologies to make. The timing and mixture of love, honour, tradition, comedy and drama are perfect throughout. These by the way make up the elements in the complex and near impossible to explain within the word limit here, concept of "face". As well, the sword work and fighting skills are nearly as good as anything Jet Li or Jackie Chan would be impressed with. Speaking of sword work, there is a lot of it and never comes off as anything but intense or bloody dangerous to the actors should they make a mistake. Based on the fight sequences and rope tricks alone, I would watch more of anything starring these guys.

Having seen more hours of this kind of film from China over the years, I'm surprised I hadn't ventured into the Korean historic martial arts scene earlier. J pop may be both alien and compelling to me but this genre is like walking into a room full of 80's Shaw Brothers films I'd somehow missed. What a deliciously tasty feast Pirates is to someone like me, it assumes you are familiar with all the significant bits of the culture and story, so don't lumber the film with a lot of klunky exposition as in some films that aspire to being seen at some point in the west. While my Korean is non existent, the easy to read sub titles ( that's important too ) seem to allow the original script's concepts and plot points to come through without the usual over simplification and ham fisted translation into western ideas that haunt many other such films. Most recently I saw a Korean anime that I'm sure was brilliant in the original tongue but was so badly dubbed it went from funny for the first 15 minutes to too painful for my brain to process. I'm sure this may in fact be the principle reason I might have steered clear of the genre till now.

Pirates deserves better distribution, a proper name in English and as mentioned somewhere else, is an object lesson for anybody considering making a film about pirates. There is more Errol Flynn 1940's fun factor here than the confused drive-by muggings of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels churned out for the sole purpose of parting gullible people from their money. I will go so far as to suggest that in the event a DVD of this comes available in near the future, fans of martial arts films add this to the must have list.
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Ranczo (2006– )
10/10
Poland's top rated soap
20 January 2015
Pani Lucy a Pole who returns to the family lands from the USA, finds the politics and class warfare of pre communist Poland is going strong. She finds allies and enemies cleverly played in one case by the same actor who is both the parish priest and his twin brother the township mayor.

Over the years this show has run Lucy marries, has children and is elected in her own right as mayor. Surrounded by colourful characters and well written stories including a wonderful episode in which the town folk combat the mob, culminating in a pitched battle that has gone down in Ranczo history.

Among the characters you'll meet are the drunk guys on the bench, each one a gem individually, Wojt's daughter who is insane and flighty but determined, the women of the town who have their own peculiar way of dealing with each other, the feisty but initially shy farm wife who makes pierogi and of course Lucy's main foils, her husband the artist, the priest, the politician, the policeman and the doctor.

If you want to have a feel for what modern Poland is like, this is the best way short of moving there.

If you know what you are doing you can watch the show from the start.

Be prepared to be addicted, like marmite, you'll either love it or hate it.
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Sole Survivor (1970 TV Movie)
10/10
A gem worth tracking down to see
20 January 2015
Dear reader, if you are like me, you saw this a long time ago once, maybe twice and were hooked for life thereafter. But if you're not, if you have only ever sat on the edges of the discussion about this film or frankly have never heard of it till now ... you must watch this film. It does what so few stories have achieved before and since, it keeps you watching even if you've seen it before.

Sole Survivor is not about the sole survivor of a plane crash come to identify the wreck as IMDb and so many others say, it's about the desire for closure, for a return home as expressed by the 5 crewmen stranded in the dessert for the last 17 years. They are the centre around all else revolves and they are the reason you will never forget this film once you've watched it.

Fairly quickly if you're smart, and maybe not so fast if you're not paying attention, you figure out they're dead and have been waiting around for somebody, anybody to find their corpses and take them home, but when the man who ditched into sea leaving them to their fates shows up with investigators, they want to make sure the truth comes out.

Several scenes that have stuck with me over the years centre around how the world had changed in 17 short years, and if your family are among those that still think the Dodgers are traitors for going west, you'll be hard pressed not to smile at one point. These men display the same curiosity and awe they held in life and that is why I suspect so many feel so strongly about Sole Survivor. The cast and the writer have contributed to making these guys come to life in what could have easily been a one set, three act play doomed to put people to sleep by "What do you miss most about home".

Featured strongly outside of the dead airmen are the performances of the General and that of those of the investigators come to draw a line under the whole thing. Fans of Star Trek will look forward to the familiar acting style of William Shatner who only lapses into Shat speak maybe once or twice.

I can't and won't ruin the ending for you as the ending is entirely up to your interpretation of what happens next, I on the balance of evidence think the last soul, the sole survivor if you like, goes home too. But even if he doesn't, if you have a heart, if you have ever come that close to something but had to wait just a bit longer and wondered if you could stand it.... you too will not soon forget this film.
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Big Top (2009– )
1/10
Funny like a tooth ache is funny
17 January 2015
Very possibly the worst alleged comedy the BBC has produced in years. With few rivals for worst ever you need only see Amanda Holden's name in the credits of anything to know it's bad but this has to be her personal best/worst. This turkey was moved to a late night slot after the 2nd or 3rd ep to limit the damage. Contrived plots with wooden acting combine to swallow the hopes and dreams even the most dedicated career actor who has the misfortune of being cast in this, the 2nd worst ver sitcom to come from the same management team. It is hoped that just this once the BBC go back to the practise of reusing video tape to insure the complete erasure of this embarrassing pile of ick.
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3/10
Not bad for a toned down version of the original
17 January 2015
Having seen the current Disney version of Into the Woods, I'm impressed how the removal of a few songs,a few key scenes, toning down the sexual tension through editing and more modest costuming(like giving Wolf trousers to hide his cod piece), you can take an edgy adult musical and turn it into an almost but not quite edgy family, slightly scary film. I'm happy musicals are making a comeback but I miss Bernadette Peters in the witch role and surprise, Corden can sing. Jack's mother and the step mother in the film would each have made much better witches than Meryl Streep. Personally I miss the kitsch of a plastic cow throughout as it added more pathos and humour to the piece than the live one. By splitting the roles of Prince and Wolf an undercurrent is lost and the assumption the audience can handle a little analogy is abandoned.

As for the wholesale savaging/sanitizing of the original 2nd act, it causes the film to collapse into a series of disconnected vignettes followed by repercussions that seem to be overly harsh and cause us also to wonder what happened to certain characters.

If you never see the original I guess it's sort of OK, but guess what? You can see the original cast and hear all the songs if you look for it intact. So save your money and watch it the way it was meant to be, but by all means if you can't wait a few years for your child to be subjected to sexual innuendo,coming of age issues, philosophic discussions about morality etc... then this film will do.
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1/10
Robert Downey's Sherlock Holmes or Guy Ritchie takes the mick
11 January 2015
Sunday, 28 November 2010

WARNING SPOILERS

Well lets start with the basic requirements of any entertaining film. It fails in every important way possible. It's badly cast, badly acted, poorly written, overly violent for no apparent reason , the story makes little or no sense, lasting about 120 minutes but feeling like 4 hours. It's called Sherlock Holmes, but resembles Holmes about as much as a fat hamster resembles a cheetah. It could have been called Indiana Bond v the Evil doer ninjas and not have changed a single word save a few names, it was that removed from even being slightly about Sherlock Holmes. But since I was made to sit in plain view of the promo monkeys, I could hardly walk out at the 15th minute when I wanted to. Had I left, I would not have seen the complete list of atrocities inflicted on movie goers in the name of Guy Ritchie's bank account and Robert Downey's ego. And so having been made to watch this, I will tell you in exquisite detail why it's 2 hours of my life I would have preferred watching repeats of old industrial films or having a root canal.

Oh Yes! As a Sherlockian I can tell you it treats the core characters with as much respect as an illiterate bully looking for porn mags at the library. Holmes should have no difficulty paying the rent as he's quite wealthy. Holmes and Watson do not have gambling problems, Holmes is not a slob, Irene Adler is not a master criminal but an actress/singer. As for the whole Mary Morstan story, Holmes is the one who hooks her up with Doctor Watson in the stories. So for Holmes on film to be jealous and to make trouble is insane and clearly he can't use deduction on her as he already knows her.. Holmes and Watson never come to blows and Mrs Hudson is Scottish and not afraid of Holmes. One tiny detail... Holmes and Watson do not own a dog of any kind, let alone a dead ringer for a certain insurance selling bulldog. Oh Yes ! Can you say product placement? For the writers to take a few over the top episodes from the books and wrap them in rubbish does not make for an alleged accurate portrayal with a twist. As for the costuming, it's a dogs breakfast of styles from 1840 through to 1925, Rachel Mcadams in particular is dressed so poorly for the period, it's clear this was never ever made as anything but a cash grab at horny teenagers who can't afford internet porn. There are more cockneys per square inch than there were in London at the time and there appear to be only a handful of upper class people and they are all without exception, Evil. London was not an eternal lunar landscape forgotten by the sun and the constant less than subtle reminders that Ritchie once made Lock Stock and two smoking barrels means the film was never more than a sad call for attention from a film maker who's last few films have been without exception, turkeys.

So what's the story?

Holmes has to stop a megalomaniac from taking over the world through alleged Satan worship, but is in fact Kabbala. The baddie who dresses like a Nazi from 1933 and speaks like one, wants to create a new world order. Where have we heard that one before? Oh yeah, Indiana Jones or was that WW2?

The greatest offence, as if what I already mentioned wasn't enough, is the clear use of Jewish iconography and objects to create a sense of evil and danger. People who could read Hebrew, were shocked to see the following.

1- A passage supposedly from the Kabbala , a practise that was so deeply shunned at the time by Jews, it was cause for expulsion from the congregation. The passage purported to be about a ritual with animal parts was in fact a text about the elements of life and completely harmless.

2- At one point, the film casts evil intent on the character of some high nobles with the inclusion of a richly decorated ceremonial box. The box in fact is a Tzadakah box or charity box. You select a cause to donate to and drop your change in to eventually give it to the charity of your choice. To elevate such an object of good to symbol of evil and danger is the same as equating a breast feeding mother to that of a murderer.

It gets worse

3- During the film there is a massive overly long, slow motion explosion. The music played is the same as is used in every WW2 special about the concentration camps. It was creepy and unsettling.

4- Lastly they plan to kill off most of the members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons by using a device to activate poisonous pellets that will send the deadly smoke into the House of Commons turning it into a gas chamber.

This film is flawed in so many ways, but the use of Jewish symbols and sacred items in combination with the gas chamber imagery is beyond the pale. As a Holmes film it fails, as an action adventure it's a complete mess from beginning to end, not having any particular hook or creation of tension onto likable characters. Lastly it is offensive to any person who knows their history .. I can only hope this film dies a quick death.

My last word on this, if you want to watch quality Holmes stories,stick to ITV's Jeremy Brett, but at all cost avoid this piece of dog's droppings,it's not worth the price of admission, even if you don't read Hebrew.
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