Reviews (5,856)

  • 21 January 2021
    This Chinese film opens in 1948 when a bitter civil war is being fought between Communist and Nationalist forces. Captain Gu Zidi leads the 9th Company of the 139th Regiment; part of the communist People's Liberation Army and this depleted unit is ordered hold a coal mine on the far bank of the Wen River; they are not to fall back until they hear the call to assembly from the regimental bugler. They are attacked by better equipped Nationalist forces but fight bravely. After suffering heavy casualties a mortally wounded soldier claims that he heard the bugle call; Gu Zidi did not and orders them to fight on. After the battle he wakes up in a hospital; there are no signs of any other survivors. They are listed as MIA. Many suspect that Gu Zidi is actually a deserter but he is desperate to prove that he and his men did their duty. Later he serves in the Korean War before resuming his search to find evidence of his Company's actions.

    I picked up this film on DVD a little while ago but didn't rush to watch it; I knew the Chinese could make great historical action films but feared a film set in their civil war might be political in a heavy handed way... need not have worried. Protagonist Gu Zidi may be a soldier in the PLA but the film doesn't dwell on the reasons for the war; he is just a soldier fighting bravely for his side. In many ways this is unusual for a war film; the most intense action all takes place in the first half of the film. This is intense and puts the viewer in the thick of it with kinetic camera work capturing the confusion of battle. The latter portions of the film are centred on Gu Zidi's seemingly futile attempts to give his fallen comrades the respect they deserve. The cast does an impressive job, most obviously Zhang Hanyu, who as Gu Zidi, is rarely off screen. Overall I'd definitely recommend this to fans of the war genre looking for something a little different set in a modern war which features in few films.

    These comments are based on watching the film in Mandarin with English subtitles.
  • This series is a dramatization of real events which took place in Pembrokeshire, in the South West of Wales. In 2006 a new Detective Chief Superintendent, Steve Wilkins, decides to reopen a notorious pair of unsolved murders from the 1980s. He is hoping that advances in DNA analysis will tie items gathered at the time to somebody whose DNA is in the system. Similarities with other crimes leads Wilkins and his team to suspect convicted burglar John Cooper. He is in jail but is up for parole; Wilkins is convinced that he will kill again if released... he just needs to find that crucial piece of information that will enable him to press new charges.

    Since this is based on real events it doesn't feature the sort of events one would expect in a fictional murder mystery... we don't get multiple suspects or moments of danger for the police. Instead we look at the more painstaking parts of real investigations; trying to find images of the suspect at the time of the crimes to match with a sketch made by a police artist based on a witness statement; checking for paint samples and searching for a pair of khaki shorts. It is fascinating to see the police trying to find which evidence is crucial during interviews with Cooper. The cast is impressive; most obviously Luke Evens and Keith Allen as Wilkins and Cooper respectively. Overall I'd certainly recommend this to fans of crime drama; even those who usually prefer the fictional variety.
  • This Russian series opens as news breaks of a new plague; those who have it are highly infectious and will die within days of catching it. In an attempt to stop it spreading the authorities lockdown Moscow. Sergey lives with his new wife and her son, who has Asperger's Syndrome forty kilometres from the city; at his father's suggestion they decide to evacuate to an island on a remote lake. First he must rescue his young son, and his ex-wife, from the city. On their journey they are joined by their neighbours and their teenage daughter. Along their way they meet various other people; some of whom are helpful and others who present a danger... the military are definitely in the latter category.

    When I saw this series recommended on Netflix I thought it would be a zombie-type film with the infected attacking people... it is nothing like that. The only real danger the infected provide is the fact that they are so contagious. The real danger is other survivors. Our group of protagonists is interesting as they aren't particularly heroic; they are better than most people they meet but aren't above taking advantage of others they meet. The military types are particularly menacing; this is emphasised by the fact that we never see their faces as they are all masked. The locations add to the atmosphere with long snow covered roads though near-endless forest. The cast does an impressive job making us believe in the characters and their predicament. The conclusion is clearly sets things up for a second season... I hope it gets made and isn't lost to our own pandemic. Overall I'd definitely recommend this.

    These comments are based on watching the episode in Russian with English subtitles.
  • As this episode opens a teenaged boy heads to an apartment block in Hamburg's red light district; here he waits for one of the residents, the owner of a large brothel, to return, then stabs him to death. The killer leaves his phone at the scene where it is found by Michael Lübke, an employee of the deceased. This is an area Falke considers his neighbourhood; in his youth he worked as a doorman alongside Lübke who he considers to be a friend. While the police work to find the killer, and more importantly the person who hired him, Lübke runs a parallel investigation. He is one step ahead of the police and is determined to be useful for his employee one last time.

    I rather enjoyed this episode; its setting is grittier than many in the series and there is more of a mystery. We may know the identity of the killer from the start but he feels like another victim; the real villain is the person who arranged for him to commit murder. The setting, the Reeperbahn area, feels somewhat sleazy with the large brothel, owned by the murdered many, featuring in many scenes. The fact that this is Falke's home leads to interesting revelations about his past. The cast is impressive; as well as the regulars Michael Thomas stands out as Lübke, a somewhat tragic character. As things stand this is the last episode of 'Inspector Falke'; I hope we get more later.

    These comments are based on watching the episode in German with English subtitles.
  • Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse are a young couple looking for a new home in New York. The move into The Bramford; a building with a somewhat dark history... at the turn of the century certain people living there were linked to witchcraft and murder. Of course the Woodhouses don't believe there is anything wrong with the place now. Soon after moving in they are befriended by Roman and Minnie Castevet, their elderly neighbours. Guy likes them but Rosemary finds them more than a little strange. They plan to have a child and one day Rosemary has a strange and disturbing dream; various neighbours are there and she is raped by the Devil! Soon after she learns she is pregnant and starts to believe it wasn't a dream... worse still she becomes convinced that Guy is involved too.

    If you like your horror film to be full of jump scares, gore and violence than you might be disappointed with this. If on the other hand you want a great story with some genuinely disturbing moments you are likely to love it. While the story is told from Rosemary's perspective the possibility that she is delusional and paranoid remains for most of the film; but as the saying goes 'Just because you are paranoid it doesn't mean they aren't out to get you'. The viewer is really dragged into Rosemary's view of things and soon suspect every other than her of being part of a demonic plot. The cast is really impressive; Mia Farrow carries the film as Rosemary but it wouldn't be what it is without fine performances also from John Cassavetes, as Guy; Ruth Gordon as Minnie and Sidney Blackmer as Roman. Overall I'd say this is a must see for horror fans; it clearly had an influence on the genre, leading the way where 'The Exorcist' and 'The Omen' would follow in a less subtle manner.
  • 12 January 2021
    This twelve part series is centred on Satoru Fujinuma, a man with an unusual ability. If he is near the site of an accident he will find himself projected five minutes into the past, enabling him to avert it. One day he gets home and finds his mother, murdered on the floor... he soon finds himself wanted for her murder! As he tries to get away from the scene... then he is thrown back in time. It isn't five minutes though; it is eighteen years! He is a child again, back in his childhood home in Hokkaido. Here he tries to do things that may prevent his mother being murdered; this involves trying to save three children who were kidnapped and murdered at the time. Satoru has no idea who the killer is but is convinced that the man who had been sentenced to hang for the crime is innocent.

    I watched the anime version of this but it was long enough ago not to recall key events. I really enjoyed this version. The story progressed well with the concept of Satoru's time-travelling abilities explained early on. Things pick up even more as the action moves to 1980s Hokkaido; its snow covered urban landscapes creating a create atmosphere. The cast, particularly the youngsters, do a really fine job making the story tense and believable despite its fantastical premise. Overall I'd certainly recommend this to anybody who likes a mystery and wants something a little different.

    These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
  • 11 January 2021
    6/10
    Blood
    This Japanese vampire film in centred on Hoshino, a detective working for a cold case unit. He is determined to solve the murder of a maid fourteen years previously before it reaches the statute of limitations. He visits the victim's employer, Miyoko Romberk, and she tells him that she knows the identity of the killer... Ukyo Kuronuma, a powerful businessman. Events lead to two shocking truths; Miyoko and Ukyo are vampires and after needing rescue from Ukyo so is Hoshino; how will he cope now he is destined to live forever?

    This is a decent enough film; far from a must see but not terrible either. The story has some interesting ideas, including some fun changes to normal vampire lore; here only a small number of people with the right blood can become vampires. Other pluses are the numerous action scenes, even if some of the wire work is a bit too obvious, and solid enough acting from the fairly small cast. There is some nudity, this is fairly gratuitous and sometimes part of scenes that seem to be there to pass a few minutes rather than add to the story. The music is also rather distracting; sounding like it came from a cheesy TV show from the '80s. Overall I'd say this passes the time well enough but isn't a must see.

    These comments are based on watching the film in Japanese with English subtitles.
  • This eight part series tell of the hunt for serial killer Charles Sobhraj and his girlfriend Marie-Andrée Leclerc during the mid-seventies. The pair met on the 'Hippie Trail' and hade their home in Bangkok; here Sobhraj, along with associate Ajay, targets travellers. Robbing and murdering them for their possessions and just as importantly their passports. Nobody seems to care if a few long-haired hippies vanish until Dutch diplomat Herman Knippenberg learns of a missing Dutch couple. Against ambassadorial orders he investigates and finds they were murdered. The trail leads to Sobhraj but he has insufficient evidence. Few people want to help him but Belgian diplomat Siemons does and later two French tourists staying at Sobhraj's hotel also help... putting themselves in grave danger in the process.

    I hadn't heard of this case and don't usually watch 'true crime' stories but for some reason thought this might be good... it is. In many ways the story plays out like a fictional thriller but knowing it is based on facts make details that would seem unlikely in fiction acceptable. There are many flashbacks to key incidents but they don't get confusing. The story is tense from start to finish and as we know it is based on real events one really worries about the safety of characters. The cast does a fine job; Tahar Rahim is chilling as Sobhraj; Jenna Coleman is solid as Marie-Andrée, a woman who has difficulty accepting that the man she loves could be a killer (at least for a while) but knows he is a criminal; Billy Howle and Ellie Bamber impress as Herman and his wife Angela. There are also fine performances from Tim McInnerny as Siemons and Amesh Edireweera as Ajay. The locations are impressive and each is introduced in a way that gives us a taste of the era. Overall I'd certainly recommend this even if it isn't your preferred genre.
  • As this episode opens Falke and Grosz are at a service station helping with routine lorry inspections. One vehicle drives through the checkpoint and as the police surround the vehicle a man lying in a nearby hill shoots at it... a ricochet hits and kills another driver. The identity of the killer isn't hidden from the viewer and we soon learn his motivation. There is still the question of why he targeted that particular vehicle and the family that own the haulage company.

    I thought this was a pretty good episode; the opening scene was suitably exciting and set things up well. Knowing the identity of the shooter wasn't a problem; in fact knowing about him made him a sympathetic character whose motives are understandable even if they don't excuse his actions. The actions of the haulage company owner raise some questions and ultimately explain while they were targeted. There is some humour, largely coming from Falke observing that a fellow officer appear to like Grosz and trying to get them together. Overall a pretty good episode.

    These comments are based on watching the episode in German with English subtitles.
  • This series of three and a half minute shorts is centred on Suwaru Doge; a pervert who isn't ashamed to get down on his knees and beg young women to show him their breasts or occasionally there panties... that is it! We don't even see our protagonist; everything is shown from his point of view.

    To be honest this anime doesn't have much going for it; there is no plot to speak of and each episode is basically the same... then the reveal is censored. The animation is pretty good and there are a few laughs to be had. The biggest thing going for it is the shortness of the episodes... the only thing that kept me watching to the end. I am glad that I stuck with it as the final episode is genuinely funny, in a slightly shocking way. Overall I'm not sure I'd recommend this but if you start it then decide to drop it I'd recommend skipping to the final episode.

    These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
  • Following the apparent suicide of a young teacher at a school in St Petersburg policeman Igor Andreevich Kryuko is called into investigate. He soon starts to suspect that all is not as it seems; a student in her class had died in an accident and the school principal, who was the dead student's father, died shortly afterwards. Kryuko becomes certain that the class knows more than they are telling him; particularly the charismatic Michail 'Bark' Barkovskiy, who is their de facto leader. Most of the class are involved in beta testing a new rule-free computer game called 'Sparta' which may be affecting their behaviour. As the series progresses secrets are revealed, concerning students, parents and teachers.

    I really enjoyed this Russian series. It set up several good mysteries early on; not only do we have the school deaths there is also the opening flash forward which shows Kryuko being released from prison so are left wondering what will lead to him ending up there. The tone is often dark, especially as we see Bark manipulating his classmates and them turning on their teachers in various ways. That isn't to say there is no humour in the series; notably scenes between Kryuko and his pathologist friend. The cast does a fine job; especially Artyom Tkachenko and Alexander Petrov as Kryuko and Bark respectively. Overall I'd certainly recommend this to fans of a good mystery wanting a different setting.

    These comments are based on watching the series in Russian with English subtitles.
  • As this episode opens the empty shell of a Dalek is stolen as it is being transported to a secure facility... a year later it forms the basis of a new security drone. They should be perfectly safe but one of the developers found a tiny trace of DNA inside and decided to clone it to see what it was. Inevitably the results aren't good for humanity. Meanwhile The Doctor has been serving a long prison sentence; shortened when Captain Jack Harkness turns up to break her out. She gets back to Earth several months after her intended arrival, leaving there companions wondering what happened to her. Once they tell her about the potential Dalek problem she sets about discovering the truth and saving the world once again.

    This New Year's special has both good and bad points. On the plus side it was fun to see Captain Jack back again; John Barrowman is a lot of fun in the roll... seeing him again reminds me what a pity it was that 'Torchwood' was cancelled. The new Dalek design is really good, more menacing than before. The story provided some good scary moments as well as fun references to previous adventures and characters. I know she isn't popular with everybody but I am still enjoying Jodie Whittaker's Doctor. On the downside the companions are a problem; any one of them might be great but having three means they continue to be a group separate from The Doctor. The way the Daleks was defeated was solid; and should have been the end of the episode. Unfortunately we got an overlong epilogue with much 'meaningful' dialogue... at least it might solve the companion problem. Overall it was decent enough but by no means a classic... I'm certainly glad there were no attempts to add Covid references!
  • This is the third season of 'Strike Witches' and my review assumes you've seen earlier seasons so know the situation. For those that haven't this takes place in an alternate 1940s; instead of the Second World War there is a war against aliens known as Neuroi. Much of the world, especially continental Europe is under their control. Teenage witches are in the vanguard of the fight against them.

    The 501st Squadron, AKA 'The Strike Witches' are back! This time they are battling the Neuroi in the skies over Europe. There is a nest over Berlin but before the Witches can tackle them there they must fight them over Antwerp and Kiel and liberate those cities.

    If you are a fan of the first two seasons of 'Strike Witches' you will want to watch this. There is lots of action as the girls fight the Neuroi as well as new problems... most notably Miyafuji having problems with her magical powers. While there is considerably less fan service than the earlier seasons there is a little; although the version on Crunchyroll feature 'censor steam' so nobody is likely to be too shocked. Overall a lot of fun for fans of the Strike Witches.

    These comments are based on watching the Series in Japanese with English subtitles.
  • This series is centred on Raquel and Viruca, two literature teachers working in a small Spanish town. Raquel moves to the town with her husband, who is a local, to take up the teaching position. She didn't know that her predecessor, Viruca, had died in a presumed suicide. The more she learns the more Raquel starts to think Virura may have been murdered, possibly by somebody in her class. As the series progresses we see Raquel's story intertwined with flashbacks of the events leading to Viruca's death.

    This is a somewhat mixed series; on the down side one does have to suspend one's disbelief at times... watching the series one would think there was only one class at the school and the way the students and teachers interact seems highly unlikely; it is far too casual and students get away with threatening teachers. If you can get passed those problems the central mystery is gripping and there were plenty of genuinely tense moments. As the series progresses more suspects emerge as we learn about various activities going on in the town which include affairs, sexual jealousy, shady financial dealings and drugs. The cast is solid; most noticeably Inma Cuesta and Bárbara Lennie as Raquel and Viruca. Overall I'd recommend this despite its problems; if you want a good mystery it is definitely worth watching.

    These comments are based on watching the Series in Spanish with English subtitles.
  • This thriller is centred on an unnamed protagonist. All we know is that he is a CIA operative who shortly after the opening is recruited into an even more secretive organisation; 'Tenet'. One that is determined to save the world from an unexpected enemy... our future selves! So-called inverted items have been found which travel through time in the opposite direction and Tenet wants to discover who supplied these items. The trail leads to an Indian arms dealer then onto a Russian oligarch, Andrei Sator. It appears he has the technology to invert items and is using the technology to find something which if used could end the world as we know it.

    I really enjoyed this sci-fi thriller; I think I managed to follow what was going on but will have to watch again to be sure... with characters travelling in both directions though time it can be a little confusing at times. Events we see through the perspective of a character travelling normally through time seem slightly different when seen from the perspective of somebody travelling in the opposite direction later in the film. The action is impressive; with chases, shooting and explosions in a variety of locations it feels like a sci-fi version of a James Bond film. The cast is impressive with John David Washington impressing as our protagonist, Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki being very good as the protagonist's handler and Sator's wife respectively. Kenneth Branagh is suitably menacing as Sator. There is some violence but no more than one would expect from the likes of Bond so the film only has a UK-12 rating; it might be a little confusing for younger viewers though. Overall I'd definitely recommend this for fans is smart sci-fi and thrillers.
  • When Konomi Kasahara was in junior high school she excelled at puzzle solving; now she is in high school she joins the sports climbing club. Here she learns to use her puzzle solving abilities to find the best route up the various climbing walls. There is more to climbing that identifying the best routes; she will have to learn the necessary techniques. Over the course of the series she improves, along with the rest of the team. As they take on teams from other schools rivalries emerge but Konomi remains determined.

    Having done some non-completive rock climbing many years ago I thought it would be interesting to see a sports anime centred on climbing. I rather enjoyed this. Having somebody new to the sport as the protagonist was good as it meant the viewer learns various details along with her. The climbing sequences are fun to watch and even though it is animated one can't help wondering if characters will be able to ascend their assigned routes. The characters are decent enough although some of the rivalries seem exaggerated for dramatic effect. Overall I found this to be a good sports anime; worth watching if you are a fan of the genre.

    These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
  • As this film opens Kotono, the titular geisha, confronts Hyoe, a samurai, and asks why he killed her father. He says he doesn't know who she means. He leaves and she is attacked by two other samurai. These are soon dispatched and she sets off to find Hyoe. Along the way she meets a variety of people who, for reasons she doesn't know, want to kill her. These include female ninjas, a monk with demonic powers and a lone woman in the forest who is a highly skilled fighter. Eventually she faces Hyoe again. Along the way we learn who her attackers really were and more importantly why a geisha would be so skilled in combat.

    I wasn't expecting too much from this so was pleasantly surprised. The story is relatively simple... just about everybody Kotono meets will try to kill her and they will fail. The way they attack is nicely varied though and while nobody will doubt that Kotono will ultimately prevail she does get injured more than one might expect. Given the obvious budget constraints the fights are impressive. The cast is pretty solid; especially Minami Tsukui as Kotono. Overall I'd recommend this to fans of the genre; it might not be a great film but it is a lot of fun if you like ninja or samurai based action.

    These comments are based on watching the film in Japanese with English subtitles.
  • Set in Sixteenth Century Japan. The Iga ninja are threatened with destruction by the forces of Japan's greatest warlord; Nobunaga Oda. The Iga leadership have clamped down on those within their territory any of the junior ninja suspected of breaking their rules faces death. One of those being targeted is female ninja Ukagami; however she won't be easy to kill!

    I bought this on DVD on the strength of the fact that it is made by the director of the delightfully trashy 'Alien Vs Ninja'... while I don't think this was as much fun as that film it is enjoyable if you are fan of low budget ninja action. The story is fairly simple but serves justify the various fight scenes. These contain a solid blend of swordplay, throwing shuriken and the use of fists and feet. There is less blood spilt than in many such films. The forest setting may be necessitated by a low budget but it is a good location for the action. The cast is solid; particularly Mika Hahii, who is a lot of fun as Ukagami. Overall I'd say this isn't a classic Japanese action film but it is rather fun; I'd certainly recommend it to fans of the genre... if you don't enjoy it you'll only waste seventy minutes.

    These comments are based on watching the film in Japanese with English subtitles.
  • There have been a number of burglaries in an area and the locals don't think the police are doing much to catch the culprits. After one robbery an arrest is made; Falke and Grosz are sure the young man is guilty they don't have the evidence to hold him. That night there is another burglary; this time the householder shoots the burglar. By the time Falke and Grosz get there the man's brother is also there. They see the man they had in custody lying dead on the floor with a plastic replica pistol in his hand; the householder says he feared for his life when he shot... something is wrong about the scene though. Falke soon doubts the man's story and evidence suggests there might have been another person present... will the police be able to find this potential witness before the brother? Things aren't helped by the local Neighbourhood Watch making life difficult for the police; including action that puts Falke's son in danger.

    This was a really impressive episode; it makes one question just how far one should be allowed to go when confronting burglars... especially as we learn more about what really happened. When does self-defence become vigilantism and when does justice become revenge? While the mystery of what actually happened is soon explained that doesn't lessen the quality of the episode; if anything leads to the tension raising considerable as the race to find the witness gets underway. The way the story includes people spreading information and rumour on the internet adds to the tension; especially when addresses are revealed. Wotan Wilke Möhring and Franziska Weisz impress as Falke and Grosz and are able support by a guest cast which includes Michelle Barthel as Maja, the girl being searched for and Andreas Lust and Jörg Pose as the two brothers. Overall another good episode which fans of crime drama should enjoy.

    These comments are based on watching the episode in German with English subtitles.
  • As this film opens a man is chased through the city of Nice; just as it looks as if he has escaped his pursuers he has an accident and is killed. We are then introduced to our protagonist, Alain Moreau, who looks identical to the dead man. Alain is a French policeman who was unaware that he had an identical twin who was adopted when he was still a baby. He determines to solve his brother's murder. This investigation will take him to New York where he will end up confronting the Russian Mafia, in which his brother was involved.

    I really enjoyed this film; it is full of impressive action as well as a few twists. The first twist comes surprisingly early on with the death of Alain's brother... the opening chase feels as though it showing us the man destined to be the protagonist not somebody who is about to die. Having a protagonist who is a twin of the character might feel a bit cliché but it works to give him motivation and lead to others not realising they are facing Alain rather than his twin. There is a lot of impressive action; this is nicely varied with shooting, martial arts, vehicle chases and the occasional explosion. The acting is pretty good; Van Damme is on really good form as Alain, and twin Mikhail, and Natasha Henstridge is good as Mikhail's girlfriend; the rest of the cast are solid even though many are just there to be beaten up by Van Damme! Overall I wouldn't say this is a classic but I'd definitely recommend it to action fans.
  • Arisu Ryohei is unemployed and spends most of his time playing video games. One day he meets up with two friends in the middle of Tokyo. After some mild hijinks they hide in a cubicle in a public lavatory... suddenly the lights go out and they can no longer hear the general hubbub of the busy city. They emerge to find the city empty. Not long afterwards signs lead them to a building, where they are joined by two girls. Here they are forced to play a deadly game, after which they are awarded a playing card. It emerges that they will be forced to take place in such games on a regular basis. Later we are introduced to Usagi, a skilled climber, who later joins up with Usagi. They gradually learn more about the games and what the cards signify while trying to discover if there is a way back to their previous lives.

    I really enjoyed this series; little time is wasted with set-up; the viewers are thrown into the action along with our protagonists. We know as little about the world they are in as they do and only learn more as they do. Early games make it clear just how dangerous this world is; just because a character is introduced early does not guarantee their survival. The scenes within the games are very tense, and frequently quite gory; there is also a fair amount of fan-service as characters wear beachwear in later episodes for reasons explained in the series. The way the dynamic between the characters changes is interesting; especially after our surviving protagonists find a location with many more players. The cast, both main and secondary does a solid job making the fantastical situation believable. The effects are mostly good but a couple of times the CGI is a bit obvious. As the final episode ends many questions are answered but more are raised; these people's problems clearly aren't over... hopefully there will be at least one more season.

    These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
  • This episode opens with Falke and Grosz searching a building; they separate, shouting is heard and two shots are fired. Grosz sees Falke standing over the body of a woman with another man. Falke and the man run off; almost immediately afterwards local police turn up. Shortly afterwards both Falke and Grosz are brought in and questioned by the local police who seem to believe Falke may have fired the fatal shot. As the interviews progress we see, via a series of extended flashbacks, what happened in the days leading up to the shooting. Sometimes we see the same events twice, but happening in different ways as their statements differ.

    This was an impressive episode, I certainly enjoyed it more than the previous too 'Inspector Falke' episodes. The way the story plays out is gripping; the two different points of view for many events means we are never sure which, if either, of Grosz and Falke are describing the facts as they really happened or whether differences are down to differing perspectives or deliberate lies. There are plenty of twists and turns, including a finale which is far from obvious but not too extreme. Overall a fine episodes with hints of 'Rashomon' (seeing events differ from different characters' perspectives) and the possibility of unreliable narration as our protagonists give their versions of events.

    These comments are based on watching the episode in German with English subtitles.
  • Ben Campbell is and MIT student hoping to go to Harvard Medical School; he has applied for a scholarship but fifty other students with equally impressive CVs have applied. If he doesn't get the scholarship there is no way he can raise the $300,000 dollars required... or so he thinks. One of his professors, Micky Rosa, is impressed with Ben's mathematical abilities and approaches him with an unusual proposal. Rosa wants Ben to join a small group of students with the intention of earning a fortune playing blackjack in Las Vegas. He explains that they won't be gambling... they have a system which involves card counting, tracking the values of the cards already dealt, to stack the odds in their favour. There may be nothing illegal about it but the casinos certainly do everything they can to stop it. Security consultant Cole Williams, who is losing contracts to computer systems, is particularly keen to stop counters at the last casino he works at... the one targeted by Micky's group. As Ben gets caught up in this new world he starts neglecting his old friends.

    This might not sound the most exciting idea for a film but it works surprisingly well; at times feeling like a thriller as the counters play cat and mouse with Williams... facing the probability of a beating if caught. The interaction between the characters is fun to watch; it is easy to sympathise with the group... or just about anybody trying to legally beat the system in a casino. There are moments of comedy, many provided by Ben's old friends; as well as tension, both within the group and with Cole. There are a couple of twists, but nothing to major. The cast does a fine job, most obviously Jim Sturgess, who impresses as Ben; Kevin Spacey, who is on fine form as Rosa; and Laurence Fishburne who is suitable menacing as Cole without being a pantomime villain. Overall I'd recommend this; don't worry if you have no interest in gambling, that isn't necessary to enjoy the film.
  • Set in Korea's Joseon Period when, shortly after the king is taken ill, a mysterious plague starts to threaten the nation. The remains of a doctor who had died shortly after treating the king were eaten by starving peasants and shortly after they became ravenous zombie-like creatures, attacking anybody they see, spreading the condition. Crown Prince Lee Chang, the King's illegitimate son, starts to investigate. Rumours spread that the king is in fact dead and that the Queen's family is waiting for her to give birth; hoping if she has a son he will be the next king not the Crown Prince. When the Crown Prince is declared a traitor the army is deployed to find him.

    If you are a fan of zombies but feel most films/series are just more of the same these days this is a must see. Those infected by the plague might not follow all the standard zombie rules but the way they move at speed and as a mass adds to their scariness. These beings also are apparently unable to go out in the sun and seek shelter at night; this leads to tension rising as dawn approaches. The setting adds to the feeling that this series is something new; not just a different country but also an historical period that provides different problems to our own, notably the rigid hierarchy and palace scheming. The combination of court politics with zombies might seem an unusual mix but they work to give a great story. Everything looks great with beautiful scenery contrasting with the brutality of the action. The cast is solid, most notably Ju Ji-hoon, as the Crown Prince; Bae Doona as Seo-bi, a physician researching the plague; Kim Sung-kyu as Yeong-shin, a mysterious tiger hunter; and Kim Sang-ho as Mu-yeong, the Prince's bodyguard. The main plot lines are nicely wrapped up after two seasons but new details leave things open for a third; I have no idea whether there will be more though. Overall I'd say this is definitely one to watch.

    These comments are based on watching the series in Korean with English subtitles.
  • This Icelandic crime drama opens with two apparently unrelated murders; the way the bodies were mutilated suggests a single killer. A police woman named Kata is put on the case. An expert, Arnar, is flown in from Norway; he is an Icelandic native who left Iceland some time ago. Investigation into the victims' pasts leads to the Valhalla Boys' Home; a long-closed institute for troubled boys in a remote part of the country. Here another body is found. It becomes obvious that somebody is targeting those who worked at Valhalla; who and why will take some investigation though... an investigation that will unearth old secrets that some in power would rather remain secret.

    This might not be the fastest moving series but it is gripping with a good number of twists and turns leading to an exciting conclusion. This conclusion provides a real sense of danger for our two protagonists. From start to finish there is a great atmosphere with snow covered settings and a 'cold look' even when indoors. The lead characters are interesting; each has their own problems, which some might consider a little cliché, but that didn't bother me. The cast is solid; most obviously Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir, who plays Kata; and Björn Thors, as Arnar. Overall I'd certainly recommend this to fans of Nordic crime dramas.

    These comments are based on watching the series in Icelandic with English subtitles.
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