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Siblings (I) (2014–2016)
Enjoyable offbeat comedy
24 August 2014
This is definitely not a great comedy or particularly original but it is certainly enjoyable with a few genuinely funny moments. It is quirky and charming and although the two main characters are self involved idiots they both somehow manage to remain likable. Although they are selfish and irresponsible they aren't actually malicious and seem blissfully unaware of their own antisocial behaviour. Charlotte Ritchie is delightful as Hannah, the lazy ex-vice-deputy-head-girl; a title she apparently bestowed upon herself at school. Tom Stourton delivers a genuinely funny performance as her childlike 23 year old idiotic brother Dan. The theme tune, which is used as incidental music through each episode, gives the show an innocent and slightly old fashioned feel. It gives you the sense that this is a light hearted comedy and that you don't have to take their behaviour too seriously, however it is contrasted by genuinely odd and occasionally dark humour.

Hannah is a girl who has elevated socially insensitive self-serving behaviour to an art form. However, she regards herself as a wonderful and caring human being. The contrast between her opinion of herself and her actual behaviour is not exactly an original source of comedy but Charlotte Ritchie carries it off so beautifully that you never actually feel angry at her and in fact remain strangely on her side. Dan is a 13 year old boy trapped in the body of a 23 year old man; he careers through life without ever achieving anything and yet throws himself into everything he does with boundless enthusiasm. We have learned that he spent 8 months at university, a fact he recalls as if it's an achievement, and has also been in prison for an as of yet undisclosed crime.

It's not a classic but it is enjoyable and has it's own vibe, well worth watching.
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coming of age in the 1960s
23 November 2010
I just watched this on DVD having not seen it for about 30 years and very much enjoyed it. It's a simple story and although set in the 1960s it's a timeless one. Every guy in the world remembers being that age and how desperate you are to experience the pleasures of women. The film also honestly depicts how the reality of losing your virginity isn't the mind blowing experience you imagined it would be and leaves you feeling a bit odd. Although reminiscent of the 70s sex comedies that followed this film has much more heart and depth.

It's also a perfect time capsule of Britain at a unique point in it's history. It shows the brave new world of 1960s architecture just before it all turned sour. This was to be the way we were going to live with. Everything made from concrete with people interacting in strange urban spaces. Of course we know that it failed miserably but there was a brief moment when it must have felt like a bright new future. The Victorian architecture that we now value depressed the people of the 1960s and reminded them of the past and of the war.

The overall experience of watching this was a strange one. It is very much of the 60s and yet it also feels incredibly modern as if it was made later but set in the 60s. Barry Evans wouldn't have looked out of place in the 80s with his jeans and white shirt. Of course the girls all look fantastic in their mini skirts and sexy boots. I don't know if suburbia was really as liberated as this in the 1960s but it's fun to imagine that it was.
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amateurish and unconvincing
10 October 2010
The over all impression I had of Crying With Laughter was that of a film student or amateur film maker being let loose with a professional film crew and not really knowing what to do with it. The script wasn't great and the plot that unfolded down right silly. Low budget film makers always seem to feel the need to have a shocking element to their story as if this makes it intrinsically good drama and an obligatory climatic scene where all is revealed. It actually started off reasonably well with a solid enough character, the stand up comedian Joey Frisk played by Stephen MacCole. He's a bit clichéd but a decent script could have built around him and his relationship with his family. Instead a totally unconvincing character called Frank starts hanging around trying to get him to attend a school reunion. Frank apparently beats up Joey's landlord and then claims to be a witness to Joey doing it and identifies him in a police line up. It's such a severe attack that Joey is facing the possibility of many years in prison. Frank then pretends to be a friend to Joey offering him a place to live and even an alibi. Anyway a very silly plot unfolds where Frank kidnaps a former teacher who raped him as a child and as it turns out Joey but to be honest by this point I didn't really care. Frank also kidnaps Joeys daughter for reasons that shall remain a mystery.

The ending is a bit daft and there is absolutely no resolution as to what will happen to any of the characters concerning the assault charge or the kidnapping. Not that I was particularly interested in finding out.
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Father Ted: New Jack City (1996)
Season 2, Episode 9
Brendan Grace played it right.
25 August 2010
As is suggested by the title the idea of this episode was to bring a priest into the parochial house who is a young version of Jack. Enter the wonderfully nasty Fintan Stack. The writers imagined that who ever played the part would shout the lines and generally behave like Jack. However Brendan Grace, who played Fintan Stack, pulled a masterful stroke and completely played down the role. He delivered his lines in soft voice with a camp menace that borders on sinister. This is one of my absolute favourite episodes and even after repeated viewings I still laugh at every one of Brendan's lines. It wouldn't have been half as funny if he had shouted them like a young Jack. It's a shame he only appeared in one episode.
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Psycho (1960)
still great
13 July 2010
I've just watched this again and it still stands up as a truly great piece of cinema. Anthony Perkins is superb as the nervous twitchy Norman Bates. The conversation between him and Janet Leigh is incredibly tense as the dark under currents in Norman's psyche show through. The shower scene is still shocking and Anthony Perkin's reaction when he sees what his "mother" has done is great acting. The style of the film is fascinating as well. It has elements of Film Noir but with a 60s art house feel. It was a brave film for Hitchcock to make at that stage in his career and demonstrates what a true master he was of his craft.
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Bronson (2008)
What was the point?
1 June 2010
I'm not sure exactly what this film wants us to learn about Michael Peterson or Charles Bronson. All I learned about him was that he is an extremely violent self absorbed sociopath who lives in a tragic deluded fantasy world. Nothing else was offered, no hidden depths revealed. In the end he was just a violent sadistic idiot.

The heavy handed stylisation of the film was overly self conscious and blatantly copied from Clockwork Orange amongst other films. There was a clumsy attempt to turn scenes of violence into artistic aesthetic moments by using Stanley Kubric's method of showing them in slow motion with classical music playing in the background. The shear amount of extremely violent scenes grow painfully tedious. The way the film dealt with the hostage taking of Phil Danielson was offensive and totally disrespectful to Danielson himself who's life was ruined by the experience. Danielson was shown as a foppish idiot who deserved everything he got from Bronson. In reality Danielson was held captive for over 40 hours and was made to walk around the prison like a dog and was told by Brosnson that he was going to die. Bronson apologised in court to Danielson and his family which Bronson's supporters see as proof of the fundamental decency of the man.

I don't buy into the Bronson supporter's propaganda. Bronson is artistic they tell us. Yeah and so? I actually checked out his so called art online and it's talentless childish rubbish. Even if it wasn't I don't see why that means he should be released. Perhaps his supporters should try being held hostage by him for 40 hours. Bronson is warm hearted and funny they tell us. Yeah, Bronson and every other psychopath. Warmhearted until they take a dislike to you and use that as a justification for stamping on your head.

I don't see why this man should have had a film made about him, especially one that didn't seem to have any point to it. Having seen the film I hope he stays where he is, locked up safe and sound.
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Awaydays (2009)
Pretentious Nonsense
23 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I've just ploughed my way through this mess of a film on DVD. It started off very promising, I liked the music and that it was set in the late 1970s. Also the fact that it was a hooligan film not set in London was very refreshing. However it quickly descended into tedious self indulgent drivel. It was one of those films where after an hour or so you felt that every scene might be the last and the place where it ended didn't make any more sense than it ending anywhere else. The fight scenes were pure fantasy. A bunch of wimpy young lads seemed to be able to go anywhere and turn over gangs of hardened grown men. The violence was also presented as deep and profound as if it was it was the perfect back drop to the tortured sound of bands like Joy Division.

When one of The Pack murders the gang leader by cutting in his throat in a crowded pub with no apparent repercussions legal or otherwise I realised this was a a fantasy film. A middle class art students take on what it is to be violent. By the end I was barely aware of what was going on I was so bored.

I give it a 3 rather than a 1 for the music, the fashion and the haircuts.
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Enjoy the thrill
23 June 2009
I can understand the criticism this film received. There isn't much plot, virtually zero character development and a huge amount of gratuitous violence which the director obviously relished.

However if you accept it on it's own terms as a drug and adrenalin fuelled roller-coaster ride through the British criminal underworld then it's a thrill a minute. The opening scenes showing the early days of the I.C.F. are possibly the best portrayals of football hooliganism committed to celluloid. I've never found films like the Football Factory or Green Street very convincing and the Rise of the Foot Soldier makes the fight scenes in them look like a jolly wheeze. The I.C.F. were frightening and sinister and the people involved were capable of extreme and sadistic violence. The scene where they are ambushed on the underground by the terrifying surgical mask wearing Millwall firm is particularly scary.

Overall though the film is patchy and a little bit random selecting bits and pieces of Carlton Leaches criminal life. He gets through two wives but we don't really get to find out anything about them or what motivated them to be with him. There was some humour though, I liked the scene when Leach first takes ecstasy.

I did find it slightly confusing that the film opens as a story about Carlton Leach only to find half way through that he becomes a minor character. The focus then switches to Tony Tucker, Pat Tate and Craig Rolfe, the victims of the notorious Range Rover Killings. I'm not sure exactly what the film wanted us take away from this. I personally thought the world was a better place without these three scum bags in it. I didn't find the scene where Tucker and Leach express their friendship for each other particularly moving. Both of them after all had committed numerous acts of terrifying violence in their day. Just because they showed some bizarre loyalty to each other doesn't really make up for the misery they had caused.

Pat Tate was, if the film is anything to go by, a mindless thug and Craig Rolfe a revolting cowardly retch of a human being. I don't think even Leach was crying for those two when he finds out about the murders.

As a last thought it does show that British crime is still, thankfully, nowhere near the level and violence of American crime. The Range Rover Killings are still regarded as a major event in British crime history. A bunch of drug dealers being blown away by shot guns would be business as usual in America.
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It went badly wrong.
22 June 2009
This film just didn't work very well. I found it hard to understand what the characters were saying and the acting was fairly awful. In a lot of the scenes it just didn't feel like the characters were even talking to each other. Also a lot of what happened wasn't very well explained and didn't make a lot of sense. I've read all the original books but this film just didn't capture them. Also a lot of original dialogue was contrived and complex which when read as the printed word was very funny. However hearing much of it regurgitated word for word in a feature film sounded clumsy and forced. A good film maker should understand this basic point when adapting a film from a book. I quite liked Martin Freeman in it although he wasn't exactly the Arthur Dent of the books who is a rather hapless and uncool figure. Mos Def wasn't very good and I didn't understand much of what he was saying and the less said about Zooey Deschanel the better. OK, she's easy on the eyes but she can't act. Also letting Arthur get Trillian in the end was kind of the exact opposite of the whole original story. Arthur is the good guy who doesn't get the girl. Trillian is an air head who goes off the total jerk.

Except for the dolphins, the Vogan space ships blowing up the Earth and the animated parts of the book it was a poor film.
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Reggie Perrin (2009– )
It's just not working
10 May 2009
I've watched this with an open mind as a huge fan of the original and tried to appreciate it on it's own merits however I'm not getting into it. I don't dislike it exactly but it just doesn't really have any impact on me at all. The only thing keeping watching I think is the gorgeous and charming Lucy Liemann who plays Jasmine and the very cute and adorable Kerry Howard who plays Vicky, Reggie's dopey secretary. Kerry Howard is the only person in the show who has actually made me laugh.

So what's wrong with it? The story isn't as relevant as it was in the 1970s. Shows like Reggie Perrin, The Good Life and Butterflies all hit a nerve at the time with people. There must have a great deal of dissatisfaction amongst the middle aged suburbanites of the 1970s. I just don't find Martin Clunes dissatisfaction very believable. It seems forced, this is after all a show about Reggie Perrin and so he has to be dissatisfied. In the original you can really feel Reggie's mounting sense of frustration, boredom and insanity. The point about Reggie Perrin is that he is a man who has everything that society says you have to have and yet he is still bored and dissatisfied. He is driven mad by repetition, banality and the total absence of any kind of uncertainty. He has to create danger and uncertainty in order to make himself feel alive again. I don't think anybody in the Britain of 2009 could possibly have the luxury of being driven mad by too much security and certainty. A modern day executive is more likely to be driven to desperation by fear, over work and stress.

The biggest problem I have with it though is that it just isn't that funny. The script isn't very good, the editing is quite poor and the performances are average. Martin Clune's was on a hiding to nothing trying to step into the shoes of a masterful performer like Leonard Rossiter. I've nothing against Martin Clunes, he's a decent enough comedy actor but he's not one of the greats.

It was a brave thing to do and I'm sure they knew they were setting themselves up to be severely criticised, I just wish they had either done it better or not bothered.
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Funny Games (1997)
Thought Provoking or Condescending?
10 January 2009
I think there is a valid argument to make that the universal visceral impact that Funny Games has on audiences undermines the very thesis of its director Michael Haneke. I use the word thesis very deliberately because Funny Games is an intellectual academic statement. Plainly it is not an entertainment movie but I don't consider it to be an art film either. Haneke intended it to be neither in my opinion. I think he intended it as an assault on both Hollywood and the audience. It's the cinematic equivalent of punk. Rock music against rock music. This is an analogy Haneke draws the audience to himself by overriding the classical music Anna and Georg are listening to with some extreme punk music on the sound track. We are left in doubt that the world of Funny Games belongs to Peter and Paul. Anna and Georg and their bourgeois taste in music are treated with utter contempt before Peter and Paul even appear on the screen.

Getting back to my original point: I think there are two parts to Haneke's thesis. The first is that Hollywood has commodified and sanitised violence and turned it into thrilling entertainment. Hollywood violence doesn't show the reality of violence or its consequences on those it is inflicted on. The second part of his thesis is that Hollywood's portrayal of violence has dehumanised and inured the audience and reduced their capacity for empathy and sensitivity. I fully agree with the first part of his thesis. The problem is most people do. I think you would be hard pushed to find any reasonably intelligent, educated person who doesn't agree with Haneke in this regard. Anyone who doesn't isn't going to be enlightened by watching Funny Games. On this point I can't help feeling that he preaching to the converted.

It's the second part of his thesis that he inadvertently undermines. Haneke set out very deliberately to make violence real again so that the audience feels it in their gut. Funny Games isn't real violence though. It's still just a film. However it is a film that manages to make a huge impact on an audience well accustomed to watching violence on the screen. This clearly indicates to me that audiences are smart enough and sensitive enough to be able to tell the difference between Hollywood trite and a convincing portrayal of violence. You could argue that Haneke had to resort to making such an extreme film to have the intended impact on an audience dulled by years of cinematic violence. However Funny Games isn't actually that violent. Compared to the average Arnold Swarzenegger movie it's actually quite tame in both the quantity of violence and how graphically it's portrayed. What makes Funny Games so disturbing is the emotional content in the impact and consequences of the violence on the victims. This is effectively contrasted with the casual approach, understated sadism and emotional shallowness of the perpetrators. If audiences were as lacking in sensitivity as I think Haneke is suggesting then surely Funny Games would have simply have been accepted as another piece of horror entertainment.

Haneke said something along the lines that anyone who stops watching before the end doesn't need Funny Games, anyone who watches it to the end does need it. This strikes me as thoroughly arrogant and is quite wrong in my opinion. Nothing can be implied about anyone who watches it to the end and there is no such thing as a film that an audience needs. Funny Games is a superb piece of cinema and there is no doubt that Haneke was fully successful in what he set out to achieve. However what exactly is it that Haneke thinks that the audience needs from it? As I said earlier most of the audience already understands the point he is making about Hollywood. It seems to me that Haneke is trying to shame the audience into realising how immoral they are for watching violent films. I fundamentally disagree with him if this is his intention. Personally I have no problem with the cartoon violence of Hollywood for the very reason that it is lacking in any real emotional content. It would seem that Haneke not only has a problem with the cartoon violence in films but with actual cartoons. Both Tom and Jerry and Beavis and Butthead are referenced in Funny Games. If Haneke is seriously suggesting that Tom and Jerry cartoons are a moral problem then he is beyond ridiculous.

Having said all this I still give Funny Games a 10 out of 10. Whether we agree with Haneke or not he made us react, think, defend and argue. He also made a truly remarkable film with some of the most heart breaking and profound acting I have ever seen. Funny Games a deeply intelligent film and I don't doubt Haneke's total sincerity and moral integrity. I just don't necessarily agree with him.
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When OFAH was great comedy.
17 December 2008
Only Fools and Horses began as a worthy successor to Steptoe and Son and Porridge. It was fresh, sharp, witty and relevant. Sadly over time John Sullivan turned it into something completely different. The show most definitely "jumped the shark" on more than one occasion and practically turned into Sullivan's other comedy success Just Good Friends.

"May the Force Be With You" was Only Fools and Horses at it's absolute best. The third series represented a peak in the quality of the show and this episode is one of the best in that series. It's also the episode that introduced one of the best supporting characters, Roy Slater, played to perfection by the amazing Jim Broadbent. Slater only ever appeared in three episodes and yet is one of the most memorable figures in the history of the show.

The story is simple. Rodney drops Del Boy right in it by bringing back his old foe Slater to their flat without realising he's one of the most hated policeman in London. Slater recognises a microwave oven as stolen property and promptly arrests Del, Rodney and Grandad. At the police station he puts the pressure on Del to name the guy who stole it. Naturally Del refuses as this goes against everything he believes in. When Slater resorts to some seriously nasty tricks Del has to think fast.

The ending is one of the of the greatest endings to a sit com episode I've ever seen. Del's quick thinking leads to a lateral thinking stroke of genius.
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Starts off well…..
26 November 2008
The opening title shots of Peter Fonda riding along the California coast to the sound of some very cool music gives the false hope that this is a classic film. If you could stick Dennis Hopper along side it could almost be the opening to Easy Rider. However it quickly goes down hill.

By the closing shots in the graveyard the only thing keeping me going was the hope that the locals would beat the crap out of Peter Fonda and his hideous friends. They had just attended the funeral of one of their friends at which they smashed up the church, raped his girlfriend, pulled the dead guy out his coffin, stuck a cigarette in his mouth and pushed the preacher into the coffin instead.

I've rarely seen a film that made me feel such contempt for the main protagonists. I think the closing shot of Fonda standing alone in the graveyard was meant to be deep and meaningful. It wasn't.

The only reason I would recommend this film is for the same reason I watched it. To see the film that Primal Scream sampled for their classic hit Loaded. Having seen it I can't for the life of me imagine why they did.
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My New Best Friend (I) (2003– )
I'm killing the bloody chicken!!!
15 October 2008
My New Best friend is one the funniest and sadly one of the most under valued shows of all time. For those who aren't familiar with the premise, a member of the public has to pass off a complete stranger as their new best friend for an entire weekend. They must spend time alone with their new best friend, introduce them to their friends and in most episodes take them to a meal with their family. If they can keep up the pretence at all times they win £10 000. It sound fairly straight forward but the problem is their new best friend is, as the show informs us at the start of each episode, their worst nightmare.

The new best friend is played each week by the wonderful and fearless Marc Wooton who created a different character tailor made for the personality of each contestant.

Episode 1. A real lads lad called Tim has to pretend his new best friend is the super camp Stevie who is also his therapist. There is a fantastic scene at a casino party where Stevie reads out all the things Tim has supposedly said about his friends and his brother. His brother eventually tells Stevie to "F**k off". The episode ends with Tim being made to confess that he is gay to two female friends. This is particularly uncomfortable as the two girls are very understanding but are less than impressed when they find out he only said it to win the money.

Episode 2. A bossy control freak called Tiffany has a paranoid hypochondriac called Daniel enter her world who proceeds tell her friends that they have had cyber sex over the internet. He then proposes to her at a salsa party and is once gain told to "f**k off" by Tiffany's friend. At a pub lunch with her Dad and Sister Daniel announces that he and Tiffany are getting married and are off to live in the Falklands. An odd aspect of this episode is that Tiffany's sister and father are introduced as if they have never met before at the dinner. I've never quite worked out what that was all about.

Episode 3. A very tidy and extremely normal guy called Michael is subjected to a new age hippie called Wicky. This is one of my personal favourites. At a BBQ Wicky pours all the beer for the party down the sink and insists that everybody eats vegetarian. In the middle of the night he keeps going into Michael's bedroom and makes him play a fantasy role play game. The next day he watches Michael play his Sunday game of football and encourages him by shouting "you have the power of a snow leopard Michael" much to his team mates amusement. At a pub lunch he shows Michael's family a picture of a kid who he claims is Michaels.

Episode 4. This is has to be far and away the best episode of the whole series. A really genuine and sweet natured guy called Matt has to put up with a rich arrogant maniac called Sasha. Sasha has him breaking into cars, stealing and deeply offending his friends who eventually just walk out. Matt then has to play a bizarre game of The Grand Old Duke of York marching round and round his coffee table for an hour. Sasha makes up some arbitrary rules about missing out certain words which Matt can't seem to get right. This make Sasha more and more angry and then very upset. Sasha then starts going on about how they are doing it to impress his father and comes out with the classic line, "We can do it, mum's bloody seen us do it". The less said about the end of this episode the better.

Episode 5. Sam is a very cool and wealthy young guy who's new best friend is called Simon who totally hero worships him. Simon starts crying in front of Sam's friends and threatens to commit suicide because he isn't as good as Sam. The episode ends with a very strange conversation between Sam, Sam's mother and Simon. At the end Simon suddenly changes character and pretends to be someone totally different.

Episode 6. This was my least favourite and I only watched it once. A young girl called Emma is almost drawn into pornography and prostitution by a cockney wide boy called Gary. This is actually quite disturbing this episode.

Exactly how Marc Wooton managed to keep up the pretence for a whole weekend is remarkable and he claimed there was only once when he had to leave the room because he couldn't stop laughing. This show was pure class and I think it deserves more recognition. What was particularly interesting was what people were prepared to do for a mere £10 000. On Who Wants to be a Millionaire most people are disappointed if they come away with less than £32 000 for sitting in a chair and answering a few questions. On My New Best Friend they really had to make some serious moral decisions with possibly permanent consequences. Apart from Matt they mostly came over as totally amoral shallow people.
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Could have been great but in the end was just Hollywood
29 September 2008
I found the first Hostel genuinely disturbing and it really got under my skin. I watched the sequel with a knot of anticipation in my stomach. It started off fairly well with a sickening sequence in which the girls are auctioned to rich scum bags with families of their own. This could have been a film making a serious and quite profound statement about power and the human condition. When I watched the first Hostel I felt that it was believable that such things go on. Then it struck me that similar things did go in Europe under the Nazis. Murder and torture are the part of the history of Europe from the medieval aristocrats who tortured peasants for entertainment going back to the Coliseum in Rome. It was at one time the vogue for the landed gentry to invent torture equipment and try it out on poor unfortunates kidnapped from the local countryside. So it's reasonable to assume that some of the rich and powerful of modern times have similar appetites.

However the two rich protagonists just weren't really disturbing enough. They were a bit of a joke to be honest. I did like the idea though that when one of them actually saw the reality of sticking a saw into a girls face it completely freaked him out. Where this film really went all wrong though was the final interaction between Beth and Stuart and the way the Beth gets herself out of the situation. It turned the whole thing into Hollywood tripe for me and completely destroyed how deeply disturbing this film should have and could have been.
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12 August 2008
I describe this as disturbing not because of the material but because of what this film showed of Peter Cook. I liked Ad Nauseam as an audio piece of work and was quite excited at the prospect of seeing this. However I found the experience of watching this just depressing. It's not funny and Peter Cook comes over as a very bitter character. In public Cook needed to be constantly mocking everything around him. I'm sure psychiatrists could spin a few theories as to why he was like this. He did actually visit a psychiatrist for many years the reason being, according to himself, that he had been putting on silly voices for so long he didn't know who he was. It's a self defence mechanism to be constantly funny and to belittle anyone who dares to be serious about life. Of course Cook was a genius, there is absolutely no doubt about that. However he was a genius in quite a narrow way. What he was good at he was the best at: being incredibly witty and spinning wonderful flights of surreal fancy. Sometimes his flight of fancy had an almost childish innocent charm and sometimes they were dragged up from the lowest depths of the human psyche.

Dudley Moore was a huge talent in his own right but on Peter Cook's turf, improvisational comedy, he only just managed to keep up. It's to his credit that he managed to play Cook's game at all, most of us would have just sat in awe, too intimidated to speak. However Dudley Moore had a wonderful talent of his own which was comedy acting. Peter Cook as a comedy actor stunk, let's be honest. He was the king of off the cuff quick fire genius but if he had to work to script, with the exception of 3 minute comedy sketches, he fell flat. He couldn't do what Dudley had achieved in Hollywood and he knew it. Dud was no longer his verbal punch bag and had out grown him in every way.

Dudley Moore looked to me like he hated every moment of this film and he seemed bored by and embarrassed of the obscenity. Not surprising considering he was 44 years old. This film charts the disintegration of both their professional and personal relationship. Dudley Moore didn't show up for the third day. I think they performed live together only once more after this but only after one of the Pythons, John Cleese I think, begged Dud to do it.

When I heard Cook's "cunt kicker in" monologue on audio I found it very funny because of the sheer extremity. Derek and Clive at their best were cathartic for the audience and liberating. Not because we are laughing at the idea of a man really committing such an act but because there is a psychological release to hear such things. When all is said and done they are only words and no matter what we say out loud it doesn't matter. Nobody really gets hurt and our head doesn't fall off.

However seeing Cook saying this and other material wasn't funny. It was dark and weird. This film leaves us with a sense that Cook had, at least at that point in his life, a major problem with women. He seems to be exorcising some very deep and very dark part of his own soul. To find such material funny we are trusting in the artists intelligence and decency. We have to believe that for the artist the material is nothing more than empty ridiculous words chosen to break every taboo that society has. I believe that earlier Derek and Clive was a joyous exploration of all the things we aren't supposed to say. However by the time this film was made Cook's misogyny, alcoholism and jealousy of Dudley Moore were destroying both him and his profound and wonderful talent.
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The Young Ones (1982–1984)
My Generations Monty Python
16 July 2008
When The Young Ones first appeared in television I was 12 years old and it felt like a revolution had started. I can't imagine any show before or since having such a huge impact on a generation. Contrary to what others believe I don't think it has dated in the slightest. There is so much about this show that I love I hardly know where to begin.

Others have outlined the context for the show so there's no point going over that. One of the aspects I loved about the show as a kid and still do was the idea that there are bizarre things going on all around us that we aren't aware of. Talking brooms, people living under the ground, men living in basements etc. The Young Ones created a whole strange world around the main events of the central characters and I think that is part of its appeal to kids. There was even an episode where they did a parody of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe which in a strange way fitted perfectly with the show.

Of the four main characters Rik was by far the most interesting and well drawn. The others were rather 2 dimensional caricatures but worked perfectly well in the surreal context of the show. Although I have to say Vivian didn't represent accurately anyone you would have met in the Britain of 1982. Real punks wouldn't have had "Very Metal" written on their back in studs. Vivian is more like a middle-aged persons idea of what a punk would be like. Whether this is because Adrian Edmondson just didn't have enough cultural savvy or it was done deliberately in order to make Vivian seem like an out of touch fool it's not possible to say.

The tragedy of the show though is that Mike was written for Peter Richardson who didn't take the part due to some disagreement. I'm not criticising Christopher Ryan who made the part his own but I would have loved to have seen The Young Ones with Peter Richardson. Due to Christopher Ryan's diminutive stature the character become a rather ironic figure. If Peter Richardson had played the part Mike would have genuinely been the cool person in the house. In the Comic Strip Presents Mr Jolly Lives Next Door, Peter Richardson plays a gangster called Mr Lovebucket. I recommend you watch it if you want an idea of how he would have played Mike. It was also sad for Peter Richardson himself that he didn't take the part. If he had he would have been as famous as Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson who, in my opinion, he is more talented than.
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New Heroes of Comedy: Ricky Gervais (2008)
Season 1, Episode 1
This is a hero of comedy?
14 July 2008
I think that the fact a programme was made hailing Ricky Gervais as a hero of comedy is indicative of the poor state of British comedy in general. Don't get me wrong, I liked the office but beyond that I don't see what people are talking about. I felt like I had slipped into a parallel universe when I was watching this show. Clips of Gervais doing third rate stand up comedy were inter cut with comedy heavy weights like Billy Connelly and Chris Rock talking about amazing he is. Billy Connelly needs to get out and see more comedy if he thinks Gervais was good. He seemed to think it was incredibly clever that Gervais started his act by pretending to answer questions that the audience weren't asking him. That's a bog standard comedy device. I've seen guys trying out stand up in comedy clubs doing five minute slots come up with better material than Gervais. Sorry, I don't get it. It's like the whole world has conspired to pretend that this guy is funny. Like I said, the office was good, but I think that Gervais in his heart of hearts is David Brent. It wasn't creative it was just him being himself. An irritating little man, Oh, and another thing. Why do people ask David Baddiel what he thinks of comedy? He's about as funny as a road accident. Overrated mediocre fool.
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Brimstone and Treacle (1976 TV Movie)
Disturbing, Profound and Very Entertaining
26 June 2008
Dennis Potter was a unique and profound talent who wrote many great pieces of work for television. His work was entertaining, witty, satirical, innovative and challenging for both viewers and those involved in the television industry. Brimstone and Treacle is perhaps the most difficult piece he wrote which is reflected in the fact that the BBC banned it for 11 years. I recently watched it again and I found it to be as fresh and as shocking as ever. Viewed in the light of what British TV has become in the last 10 years it was particularly refreshing to be reminded of the quality it was once world famous for.

I really can't speak highly enough of this remarkable work. Firstly there are the superb performances of the three main leads. Michael Kitchen is breath taking to watch and Denholm Elliot was in his element playing a sleazy little man racked with guilt. Patricia Lawrence was also perfect as the downtrodden "mumsy". Dennis Potter's script was perfect and gave them wonderful lines. The story is disturbing and sick but at the same time incredibly funny. I couldn't help laugh at the demented sight of Michael Kitchen wheeling the mentally handicapped Patty around the living room before having his way with her. There was also what were at the time very innovative uses of lighting and camera which are still highly effective even today. There is also the Dennis Potter trade mark use of music.

What really offended people about this play, apart from the fact a mentally handicapped girl is raped, is a that demon comes into the lives of three people in a desperate situation and turns out to be their saviour. Not that he intended to or could care less about them but through his actions he saves Patty from her terrible state and frees "mumsy" from both the tyranny of her husband and having to look after Patty. The only one who comes worse is the father who as it turns out is the truly guilty one.

Early in the play a quote from Kierkegaard is shown on the screen, "There resides infinitely more good in the demonic than in a trivial man". Tom, Denholm Elliot's character, may not be evil but he is sentimental, dishonest, cowardly and racist. He has no real good in him and no real bad in him. He's an ineffective and frustrated little man and lacks the courage and conviction to be good or bad. This is why he is trivial. Martin, Michael Kitchen's character, is a thoroughly wicked demon but is far from trivial and lives a remarkable life. Perhaps the message from this is that it is better to be who you are with total conviction whether that is good or evil than to live a crippled pointless life in which you are neither.

However the exact meaning and message of this play could be debated for years and that is, at least in part, what makes a truly great and profound piece of work.
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Is it OK to laugh at this?
21 June 2008
I really like this film. It's just one of those films that bring a smile to your face. There are some fantastic moments: Roland Culver dying while Michael Palin obliviously continues with his speech, Michael Hordern as the butler who doesn't know where he's going, Michael Palin being propositioned by a lady of the night (and accepting). It's just a very charming film.

One thing that did strike me about it though is how we find situations acceptable if they are transported into the past. I don't think it would be considered very funny to make a film in which a Reverend lets three child prostitutes into his bed at once if it was set in today's London. We can laugh about the hypocritical sexual shenanigans of the Victorians though. Paedophilia's funny as long as it's in the distant past.
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The Vicar of Dibley (1994–2015)
no bark and even less bite
21 June 2008
It's kind of funny in bits but I can't stomach Richard Curtis's wet dream fantasy about an England that doesn't and never did exist. It seems that many people are comparing it to Father Ted and for obvious reasons. Both centre on the flawed religious leader at the centre of a rural community and their respective half-witted sidekicks. I have to say I'm very much on the Father Ted side. The Vicar of Dibley is for sure far slicker and more professional than Father Ted but it always stops short of saying anything of any substance about the church. At the heart of it The Vicar of Dibley is respectful of the Church of England and the whole myth of English village life that goes with it. The Church of England may not be as obvious a target as the Roman Catholic Church whose evils are plain to see but it has its dark side and questionable business interests just like any religion. Where The Vicar of Dibley is irreverent Father Ted is subversive. There isn't a single moment in the three series of Father Ted where they show an ounce of respect for the church and that is why for me it is superior. However I know others will find The Vicar of Dibley superior for exactly the same reason.

If Richard Curtis had written The Vicar of Dibley with the same biting cynicism with which he wrote Blackadder it could have a great comedy.
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What did Rita and Susan really learn?
26 April 2008
This film definitely isn't an example of great directing, cinematography or editing. The music is kind of cheap sounding and the overall feel isn't far off television. What makes this film great are the script, Julie Walters and Michael Caine. It's proof that if you get the right actors and the right words for them to speak all you have to do and stand back and let them get on with it.

What also makes this film a great film is that it portrays very convincingly a character transformation. For me there is something particularly fascinating about showing a character in a film going through enormous personal change. However in Educating Rita the transformation has a bitter sting and it's only at the end that we find out exactly what the transformation of Rita the hairdresser to Susan the educated confident young woman really means. Rita had told her tutor played by Michael Caine that she wants to "sing a better tune" and that's why she wants to be educated. However at the end she is forced to question the value of all that she has learned when Michael Caine tells her that she hasn't learned a better tune, only a different one and on her lips it sounds "shrill and tuneless".

I think the real message of this film is that ultimately education isn't just about books and knowledge it's about self discovery. At the end of the film, Susan, through education has become an independent woman with real choices in her life. However her real achievement is that she has found out who she is and is comfortable with that. She isn't embarrassed by her past and she isn't mesmerised and infatuated by the middle class world of academia. A great ending to a fantastic film.
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Hancock's strangest half hour
25 April 2008
This is a strange film. Hancock wanted to do something different and hoped he could have an international film career. It's hard to see exactly what Hancock was trying to achieve in this film. In some ways it feels like a film from earlier era. It would have sat more comfortably in the 1950s. Although there are elements of the early 1960s kitchen sink dramas. The character Hancock plays in the film, Wally Pinner, is hard to quantify. It's obviously not the same Hancock of the TV series and the film The Rebel but his performance isn't strikingly different. Hancock had carved out a career playing a deluded pompous and tragic figure. He understandably wanted to get away from that and show that there was more to him. With the character Wally I get the feeling he was trying to create a gadfly. Unfortunately the over all feeling of the film was depressing and Wally's attempts at being a local chirpy character don't really work for me. Another odd aspect of this film is the ending. Suddenly the film flips from a downbeat slightly tragic comedy to complete slapstick.

This film just didn't know what it wanted to be. It veers between being a 1950's British comedy, a 1960's kitchen sink drama, a social commentary, a downbeat gentle comedy and a slapstick without doing any of them particularly well. Part of the problem for Hancock was that the world and particularly Britain had changed enormously in a very short space of time and I doubt Hancock understood those changes. Ironically the people he had shed from his career along the way including Kenneth Williams, Sid James and his writers Galton and Simpson all went on to huge success in the 1960's.

I still like this film though and consider it an interesting part of British film history. However I'm not sure I would recommend it to a non Hancock fan.
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Bloody Kids (1980 TV Movie)
A vision of a lost generation?
5 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
It's difficult to know how to assess this film. There are parts that deserve a 10 star rating and parts that barely deserve 1 star. I saw this film once when I was about 9 years old and it had a huge impact on me at the time. Having just watched it as a 37 year old I can understand why although I barely remembered anything about it.

The story is quite simple. It starts with a car crash. Leo, an 11 year old boy watches the aftermath of the police clearing up the mess. From one of the police cars he steals a policeman's hat. The next day he shows the hat to his friend Mike at school. The hat is stolen from them by an older boy who throws the it onto the school roof. Leo and Mike find their way onto the roof to recover the hat. On the roof Leo offers to give the hat to Mike if he will take part in a practical joke. Specifically Mike has to pretend to stab Leo in a staged fight outside of a football match. Leo acquires some fake blood from the school drama department to make the stabbing look real. However during the practical joke Mike accidentally stabs Leo for real or possibly Leo pulls the knife into himself on purpose. We never find out which is the truth. Leo is taken to hospital and Mike goes on the run. The rest of the film concerns the rather bizarre interaction between Leo and the police who come to question him and the even more bizarre situations that Mike gets himself into.

There is a great deal about this film that doesn't make much sense and it's hard to get inside the motivations of the characters. Exactly why Leo wants to stage his own fake stabbing isn't at all clear. Even the character of Mike asks him in the film why they are doing it to which Leo doesn't give much of an explanation. The way the police hang around the hospital for hours doesn't make much sense either. While on the run Mike runs into a rather nihilistic character called Ken who takes Mike to a night club. Later Ken steals a car and takes Mike joy riding. Ken is another character whose behaviour was very hard to understand. Exactly what his interest is in hanging around with an 11 year old boy on the run isn't exactly apparent. Why Ken almost commits suicide later by jumping off of the roof of a bus can only be described as baffling.

There was much in this film that seemed unnecessary and the whole film would have benefited from being considerably shorter. For example I wasn't at all sure why the whole scene in the Chinese restaurant was included. Again the motivation of the characters was also confusing. Ken takes Mike for a meal he doesn't have the money to pay for. He then walks out without eating any of it leaving Mike on his own. Mike manages to escape through the kitchens and Ken picks him up outside in the stolen car. The whole scene can again only be described as baffling.

Having said all that there are some fantastic elements to this film. Visually some of it was very beautiful. The scene of the two boys on the school roof was exquisitely shot. The overall atmosphere of the film is odd and unnerving. It portrays a frightening after dark urban landscape in which a disaffected youth run wild. Of all the characters Leo in particular is unsettling. He is able to lie with total ease to anyone including the police and speaks with the articulacy of an adult. There are very few moments in the film where he shows any emotion at all and yet there is a sense that there is something quite disturbing going on under the surface. It seems initially that Leo has deeply betrayed Mike be telling the police a stack of lies and putting all the blame onto him. However at the end the two boys remain friends. Leo explains that he did it to give Mike what he wanted. We can only assume he thinks Mike wanted to feel dangerous and enjoyed being chased by the police. It's hard to interpret this film in any one simplistic way however.

A hugely important element of this film was the music score. It has to be said that it was fantastic and inspired. Much of it was of a very emotionally intense thriller/horror genre. However the truly inspired aspect was setting much of the film to spaghetti western music that wouldn't have sounded out of place in a Sergio Leone movie. It gave the film a very dramatic and exciting feel. There doesn't seem to be any obvious reason for using this music but it works perfectly.

The final scene of the two boys walking through the chaos they have caused in the hospital by setting off the fire alarm is quite breath taking. The ending shot is of both of them lighting up a cigarette and staring off detachedly into the distance completely unconcerned about any of the trouble they have caused. Leo had already explained to Mike that as 11 year old boys they would get away with it all.

Exactly what the message this film was trying to give isn't at all clear but I have to say for all it's faults it's a genuinely unique film. Bloody Kids reminds us that all the fears that we have about modern youth in Britain today are hardly new and although dated in style it is as relevant today as it was then.
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A very good atmospheric thriller
8 February 2008
I had been waiting for this to be released on DVD and ordered as it soon as it became available. I had already seen it a few times a very long time ago and was keen to watch it again. This isn't a film that grabs you by the throat and smashes the plot into your face. It builds slowly developing atmosphere and mounting tension. When I watch films in general from this era it becomes apparent that people must have had more patience and longer attention spans in those days than they do now. Contemporary Film and TV is dominated by clever short cut editing and fast pace to keep the audience entertained and attentive. Older films invited the audience to do a bit of work for themselves and allowed them to enjoy longer camera shots. It has been noted by others that the plot doesn't entirely make sense but I don't see why that's a problem. Since when did a good film have to make sense? The crux of this film is atmosphere and it does this fantastically. This is a very simple story with minimal character development. It is about two young pretty English nurses on a cycling trip in rural France. They have a row over how they should spend their time on the Holiday. Cathy wants to have fun and flirt with a handsome but strange man whose been following them whilst the more prim Jane wants to stick to their agreed schedule. Jane cycles off leaving Cathy sunbathing next to a secluded wooded area. Cathy disappears and Jane spends the rest of the film trying to enlist help from the locals in order to find out what happened. Cleverly in my opinion the director didn't include subtitles for the French dialogue so we feel just as much in the dark about what's going on as Jane does. However Jane learns from a older possibly lesbian English woman that three years previously another young female tourist was raped and murdered and it seems likely that Cathy has suffered the same fate. We then have to guess which of the odd ball creepy locals that Jane runs into is the murderer. Needless to say the most obvious suspect turns out to be a red heron but the true culprit is genuinely unexpected.
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