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Camberwick Green: Windy Miller
Episode 2, Season 1

Perfect for the kids
Windy Miller gets so drunk on scrumpy that he passes out drunk next to his shed and gets prodded by small children with sticks (no joke, look it up on YouTube). Why we can't get this on current CBeebies, I don't know.

Vice World of Sports

Never ceases to be fascinating
I can't praise the show highly enough. Stories on Ugandan prison footballers, very minor league baseball, e-sports, Aussie Rules, New Zealand distance runners living in Africa, and many more never cease to be both informative and entertaining. Even when it's a sport I have little interest in, I end up enthralled regardless. Really deserves to be more widely known.

Mi ni te gong dui

An insane masterpiece
Fantasy Mission Force is complete lunacy. By any sane reasoning, it's absolutely dreadful, but it's nevertheless ridiculously entertaining. Jackie only makes brief appearances, and Jimmy Wang Yu thankfully stays off screen for most of the film. The film never once makes any sense, and the "humour" is dreadful even by the standards of lowbrow 80s Hong Kong/Taiwan. It being subtitled rather than dubbed made no difference whatsoever.

It's definitely a film to laugh at, not with, and I really wouldn't have it any other way. Were it a slightly better film, it would just be another generic low-budget action film. Instead we have a film that rivals Ed Wood for sheer ineptness and resembles a Chinese take on the bizarre post-Apocalypse movies that came out of Italy after Mad Max hit big.

Kung Fury

Laser whats?!
A fantastic retro spoof that, at only half an hour long, knows to end before it outstays its welcome. We've had to wait a long time for it, and I hope the sequel (there has to be one) comes a lot sooner. The action scenes are fantastic, and the lighting and colour palette work nicely with the CG gore. The story's gloriously, nonsensically OTT, riffing perfectly off every B-movie maverick cop in existence, and the multiple nods to things from the time (even if some are slightly anachronistic) give you plenty to look for that you missed the first time.

Oh, if there were any justice in the world, David Hasselhoff's True Survivor, played over the end credits, would be storming up the charts. It's a legitimately great song (none of this irony nonsense), the best track he's ever performed.


I quite enjoyed The Wrecking Crew (1999), which was the last of the three films in this series (the first being Urban Menace (1999) which I've yet to see). I know it was baaaaad, but the three leads did a pretty decent job, all things considered.

This, however, was truly atrocious. Ice-T was dreadful, and he's the producer! Can't say I've ever heard of Silkk The Shocker (who apparently never learnt how to spell), but his performance was one of the worst I've ever seen in a movie.

Miss Jones did pretty well in her small role, though she later went on to make some atrocious, racist "jokes" on her radio show after the SE Asian tsunami (plus other occasions sadly). Way to go, girl...

No-one else comes out with any credit. Strangely, TJ Storm and Ernie Hudson (who are both pretty bad here) are far better in The Wrecking Crew, which was made, along with Urban Menace, at the same time as Corrupt. How that works, I don't know.

I'm going to try the Ice-T commentary now, to see whether he apologises for the film, or tries to make us think it's a great piece of film-making.

Smart Money

Not the best BBC production ever made
No real spoilers, but I like to watch my back.

I remember being made to watch this in IT at secondary school. I couldn't remember much about it, but I do recall someone getting their throat cut, a crap sex scene, it being about hackers, and the title being something like Smart Money (which it is, funnily enough...). Not a lot to go on admittedly, but I now at least know for certain. It wasn't very good as I recall.

Looks like Bernard Rose (Candyman) liked Alexandra Pigg. He used her in a few films. Perhaps he was a fan of Brookside?

Despite having seen him in many productions, I'd never realised Bruce Payne was actually British. I should have noticed, since he's always playing villains in B-Movies like Passenger 57, Highlander: Endgame, and Warlock III.

Seeing this was a BBC film makes me wonder exactly who decides what our licence fee gets spent on...

Zhui ma lao

Was Wong Jing involved?
Whilst the action scenes are first class, as one would expect given Lau Kar-leung is the man behind the film, sadly the rest of the film doesn't really hold up.

The story tone jerks about a lot, which means you go from one extreme to another. For instance, the opening twenty minutes or so, which are somewhat dark and violent, are followed by some broad, over-played comedy scenes (see the rather attractive, yet highly annoying, Mother). If you've seen The Scorpion King/Operation Scorpio (with Lau Kar-leung) and Tai Chi Boxer/Tai Chi 2 (with Wu Jing), that scene may look familiar. Sadly, those films are about 10 years old now. The comedy plays like in a Wong Jing film.

Only Wu Jing is shown really training, which means you have to trust that Lau Wing-kin has been training as well as painting, as he manages to fight against the odds at the end.

Also, Shannon Yao appears to be there as (admittedly gorgeous) eye candy, as she's given nothing else to do. She also doesn't appear to have the same level of ability as Lau Kar-leung and Wu Jing which, like with Lau Wing-kin, leaves you a bit sceptical that she'd last long against the villains.

However, as I mentioned earlier, the action scenes themselves are stunning. Gordon Liu and Chi Kuan-chun expertly add to mix in their respective good guy/bad guy roles and, despite being around 68 at the time, Lau Kar-leung can still wipe the floor with many of today's young pretenders.

In all, provided you can stomach the rather bad comedy scenes, Drunken Monkey is worth watching. Hopefully Shaw Brothers can come up with something more consistent next time. Not bad for their first big martial arts release for nearly twenty years, but a big "could do better" seems appropriate.

Exorcist II: The Heretic

Words fail me
For once, I'm nearly lost for words. This is, quite simply, one of the worst films I've ever seen. Nonsensical drivel involving Richard Burton (why?), Louise Fletcher (why?), James Earl Jones (yup, why? again), Linda Blair (no why here), and a cameoing Max Von Sydow (contractual obligation, perchance?), and a plague of locusts from Africa. The first and third instalments of the trilogy (so far) are good, but this is dreadful. Wasn't Linda Blair a tad too young to be wandering round in a near-transparent nightdress? Surely she wasn't yet 18?

Avoid like the plague... (bad pun...)

Not so lost for words as I thought, eh?

Long zhi ren zhe

Slow to start, but keep watching...
Once you get past the first twenty or thirty minutes, then this film really gets going. Of course, this section features what is surely the only fight performed on stilts.

After that, Conan Lee and Hiroyuki Sanada get to showcase their talents to the full, with Sanada just coming out on top. Hwang Jang Lee makes a nice cameo appearance as a disgruntled sorceror at the end.

Thankfully the action isn't too "old school". The fights are much quicker than many from the late-70s/early-80s (the white eyebrow stuff, and Eagle vs Tiger Crane nonsense), and look more realistic than most films of the period. Even when Sanada demonstrates his own Kung Fu, he seems more 1993 Iron Monkey than 1977.

Oh, and Conan Lee does look a bit like Jackie Chan.


Having already seen the risible Caddyshack II (1988), and knowing that the original was supposed to better, I settled down with an unspecified amount of alcohol of unknown origin to watch. Was the alcohol necessary? Given the state of the sequel, methinks it was.

Thankfully, there were enough laughs in this to make it worth the effort. Sure, the story's rubbish, but then, the story ain't the point here.

Chevy Chase is his usual hapless self here, which is funny in itself (unlike many of his films, sadly - where's the SNL Chevy gone? Methinks he needs to fall down some stairs again). Rodney Dangerfield steals the show with some disgraceful one-liners. Sadly his own films milked this, and aren't as good.

Bill Murray puts in a fine showing as a psychotic gardener under orders to destroy the gophers. Isn't the gopher ridiculously cute?

Oh, some girls take their clothes off, which is never a bad thing.

The film does meander around the different plot lines, but they somehow manage to fit together at the end. Well done, Egon!

The Scottish Head Groundskeeper is a disgraceful stereo type (this would be where Groundskeeper Willy comes from - naughty Groening), but he's only on screen for 5 minutes.

For those of you interested, this film is the reason that Journey's "Any Way You Want It" gets played at the end of the episode of The Simpsons where Rodney Dangerfield plays Mr Burns' son, Larry. Nice in-joke. Great song, too.


One of the best American Martial Arts films of the past decade?
I love Drive. It's one of the best American Martial Arts films of the past decade (not saying much, I know), being one of the first films to mix Hong Kong-style action with an American film.

Mark Dacascos' work is top-notch, and he and Kadeem Hardison play well off each other. Brittany Murphy nearly steals the show as an ever-so-slightly deranged (but not quite Bates-deranged) motel owner, and John Pyper-Ferguson makes a good villain.

Whilst definitely a no-brainer, Drive is slick, funny, and bursting at the seams with ridiculously complicated action choreography. Tongue-in-cheek always beats po-faced seriousness for action films.

The Ghost

I knew I should have gone for Once Upon A Time In China II
Dear, oh dear.

Quite an awful film. Michael Madsen and Brad Dourif have trouble keeping straight faces at the preposterous lines, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa resurrects his role from Showdown in Little Tokyo, Richard Hatch from Battlestar Galactica makes a fool of himself, and lots of the fights look stunt-doubled.

On the other hand, Madsen's two assistants make an entertaining double act, and the guy in the wheelchair kicked some ass, despite not having any legs. Nice!

I really should have known better than to rent this, but the cast looked good. Ah well, better luck next time.

Any Which Way You Can

Better than the first one
It may not be saying much, but Any Which Way You Can is much better than Every Which Way But Loose.

The biker gang are funnier this time around, Clyde gets far more screen time (which is a good thing), and the big fight near the end is a fairly brutal cracker.

A no-brainer, certainly, but who can resist seeing Barry Corbin driving his plane along the roads, in order to get to the fight?

High Plains Drifter

A superb western
As is often the case with a Clint Eastwood western, High Plains Drifter is rather good.

The usual scenario opens, with Eastwood (playing an unnamed character again) riding into a small mining town, Lagos, where a small group of thugs unsuccessfully try to kill him.

This small act serves as an introduction to the local townsfolk: small-minded cowards who are all talk and no action. They also bear a horrifying secret.

Eastwood is eventually approached to help them fend off an upcoming attack from three criminals who have just been released from prison.

He also suffers from a recurring nightmare, which I will leave to you to find out.

Needless to say, all of the pieces come together by the end, and those of you not astute enough to have noticed will be saying, "of course!"

A good story combines with Eastwood's anti-heroic personality (he never really played a good guy, did he?) and a good supporting cast to produce one of the best westerns of the 1970s. As the Maltin summary states: "Half-serious, half tongue-in-cheek, with great role for midget Billy Curtis."

Curtis plays Mortecai, the town dwarf, who shadows Eastwood around Lagos. Some of the scenes in this are extremely funny, but are balanced by some harshly violent moments, of which Eastwood's nightmares are a prime example.

1985's Pale Rider bears similarity to High Plains Drifter in certain areas, but you'll have to watch that yourself to find out where.

The Whole Nine Yards

Worth a watch
Whilst not the funniest film I've ever seen, this certainly caused more than a few chuckles, and even a few proper laughs. Definitely worth 100 minutes of your time.

Bruce Willis is decent, Michael Clarke Duncan is good, Matt Perry is good (especially as he isn't simply recreating his Friends persona), Amanda Peet performs well (with an interesting way of, well, distracting, shall we say, the villains), whilst Rosanna Arquette and Natasha Henstridge are slightly wasted in their roles.

One point though. Matt Perry seems to be turning into Chevy Chase, what with all the pratfalls he takes. Let's pray he doesn't take a spot in Dirty Work II, then.


Better than Ben Hur? Indeed it is.
This is the first Roman epic for many years, so many were ready to rip into it, with comparisons to Ben Hur and Spartacus awaiting.

First things first, this easily holds up to the aforementioned epics, whilst surpassing them in several areas (the realism for one). Secondly, it puts Russell Crowe into the running for the "real man" roles that Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson are getting too old for.

The whole cast come off looking well, especially given the fact that there were only 35 pages of useable script. Add to that the fact that from those pages, Ollie Reed and Richard Harris would still refuse to use some of the dialogue because they didn't like it. Much of the script was done in situ. A Roman epic as done by John Cassavetes?

The only sticking point (performance-wise) was the occasionally hamminess of Joaquin Phoenix's Emperor Commodus (given that his name is also used to refer to a toilet, he's forgiven). He more than makes up for this by being very effective the rest of the time (thus he only rates a 0.2 on the Ustinov scale of hammy scenery chewing).

The action scenes are stunning, easily outdoing Ben Hur's justly famed chariot race. Crowe comes off best here, though only just - his whole performance carries the film. With a presence you can't fail to be pulled in by, Crowe scythes through armies and gladiators alike, becoming a firm crowd favourite along the way.

As with Spartacus, the events here are based on real Roman history. The two Marcus Aurelius and Commodus were previously portrayed by Alec Guinness and Christopher Plummer respectively, in The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964).

One final note. Rest in piece Ollie. A comeback would have been welcome judging by the performance he gave here.

Witchfinder General

Price at his best
One of my favourites. Ian Ogilvy acted (and very well) for once as a soldier in Cromwell's army in search of his fiancé (the gorgeous Hilary Dwyer), whom witchfinder Matthew Hopkins (Vincent Price) has taken for trial as a witch.

Price pulls the role off perfectly here, especially as his usual enjoyable hamminess is nowhere to be seen. What we get instead is Price perfectly recreating one of the most repellent characters in British history (add him to Cromwell and Lord George Jeffreys (see Franco's The Bloody Judge, with Christopher Lee excellent in the title role)).

This was director Michael Reeves' fourth and final film in a promising career sadly cut short by a fatal overdose. His previous film, The Sorcerors (starring Boris Karloff and, again, Ian Ogilvy), is also worth catching. Two Italian horrors preceded these, with a definite visual flair evident.

Watch and enjoy British horror at it's best, though those with a weak stomach (cowards!) may want to avoid.

Dirty Work

One of the worst *cough* comedies *cough* ever filmed
Maybe Norm MacDonald is a good stand-up comedian. I don't know, as I've never seen him on stage. What I do know is that he couldn't act if his life depended on it. Does uttering all your lines in a monotonous nasal whine make you funny? Oh yeah, he does his own stunts. So what? Jackie Chan does (at least in Hong Kong) his own stunts. Far more dangerous ones at that.

Don't get me wrong, I do appreciate stupid comedy films. I liked Dumb and Dumber and Kingpin. This, on the other hand, is just absolute drivel. Chevy Chase gets no funny lines whatsoever. He doesn't even get to fall down some steps.

I can see why Messrs Farley, Goodman and Sandler were uncredited. They watched the film first. I suggest Chevy Chase does next time he appears in a Saturday Night Live film. Then again, Adam Sandler hardly has room for manoeuvre. He couldn't raise a laugh if he urinated off a roof (the one vaguely amusing scene in the film).

The verdict: Bad acting, bad script, no jokes. A comic masterpiece!

Sorry, the biggest heap of steaming excrement since the last Adam Sandler film.

Das Amulett des Todes

Don't bother
Caught this on late night television one time. ITV used to show (badly) dubbed European (usually French or German) films at 1 in the morning. Some were good, like the Jean Paul Belmondo films. Some were bad, like this one.

Even with Rutger Hauer, this isn't worth watching. The awful dubbing doesn't help, but this is still another Euro cheapie. Stick to Hauer's Dutch stuff with Paul Verhoeven if you want to catch him in good roles pre-America.

Rush Hour

Hype overload
Judging by the amount of hype that was generated by this being Jackie's first American feature since 1985 (barring his cameo in 1997's An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn), this was a big let down.

Not enough Jackie, too much of Chris Tucker playing "dumb black guy", and no big fight scene with the villain/henchman.

Elizabeth Peña is wasted in an awful stereotypical Hispanic role. Why she has to push her chest forward every time she speaks is beyond me. It certainly does not suggest "attitude". Considering her role in Jacob's Ladder and The Waterdance, this must have been a bill-paying role.

Chris Penn turns up in a pointless minor role, looking inbred rather than tough. Looking at his usual roles, more could be expected of him.

As for the actual script, dreadful dialogue and plot devices abound. The set pieces are good, but hardly earth shattering. Police Story and Project A easily outshine this effort.

All is not lost, however, as John Woo took until Face/Off to get his feet steady in Hollywood, so let us all hope that Jackie comes up trumps next time.


A must see
A strange film, but one that is defintely a must see.

Queen Elizabeth I travels through time to late-1970s England, and finds it to be a depressing place, where no-one seems to have a purpose for anything they do.

Stars from the time, including Siouxsie Sioux, Adam Ant and Toyah Willcox (now a VH1 UK presenter), mix with Rocky Horror's Richard O'Brien and unknown actors to paint a disturbing (if a little arthouse-ish) portrait of Britain in the punk era.

Adam Ant and Brian Eno (ex of Roxy Music) contribute to the score, giving it an authentic sound.


Not for all sensibilities
It's a while since I watched this, and what little I do remember is odd, to say the least (it is a Jarman film), so I won't try to go into detail, as I'd probably mis-remember something. All I will say is that it's a definite indicator as to which way Jarman went. Certainly not one for homophobes.

Visually striking (as is typical of Jarman), this film is best known for being the first film to be filmed entirely in Latin (The Holy Office (from Spain) in 1975 had some dialogue in Latin, but also Hebrew), and also for being Jarman's debut feature (he had worked on three pictures beforehand, including Ken Russell's The Devils, but this was his first directing job). As with most of Jarman's work, Sebastiane is very arthouse, and will rarely be played on television (Channel 4 here in the UK last played it a few years ago in a Jarman season). Next time it's on, do as I intend to do, and watch it.

Razor Blade Smile

What were they thinking of?
What happened to this film? Lots of hype about a new British vampire film had lots of people excited. Then came the release date. No-one could find it. We wondered why. Then we saw it. We realised why - it's awful.

The acting smells, the script smells, the lighting is awful. The story is interesting at times, but hardly original. The sadly departed David Warbeck makes his final appearance, and Eileen Daly takes her clothes off. Those final two points are the only good points about the film.

If you're going to hype a film, make sure that you actually have a film people might want to see. I've read a lot of comments rubbishing lots of things about this film, but then going on to completely ignore those things in order to try and tell us that this is a good film.

I wanted to like it, I tried to like it, but folks, I couldn't like it. It's impossible to like a film like this. Even the gore was minimal, which could have been in it's favour.

Oh, and please let's have no more Mario Bava or Lucio Fulci comparisons. That's a really nasty thing to say about two of the Italian horror industry's better directors. They can't even answer back.


A good idea that came out too late
Like Spaceballs, Repossessed was released too long after the film it is spoofing. 17 years is a long time, especially for us in the UK, where The Exorcist has only recently (1999) been released on video for the first time since pre-video censorship (c. 1984). Aside from that, too many jokes miss their targets, and too many subjects are lampooned. Some sequences are genuinely funny, such as Ernest & Fanny's TV Show (a brilliant spoof of hypocritical TV evangelists). Most, however, are not - the hospital scene is just not funny. Nielsen, Blair and Beatty give it their best, whilst Anthony Starke spends the whole film looking like he's just trodden in something unsavoury. Watch it if you will, B for effort, C- for results.

Cry of the Banshee

Watchable, but...
Certainly a watchable film, but generally just another run of the mill horror film set in the witch burning age. The usual stuff, like the dodgy lord (Price), decadent family (Price's), "ooh-arr" style peasants, and the usual sets and locations. There is more nudity here than usual, which is possibly why I stuck with it. Ahem.

The main saving grace however, is the strong performance by the ever watchable Vincent Price. Notice that both he and Peter Cushing were able to pull off these sort of roles with ease.

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