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Black Mirror: San Junipero
Episode 4, Season 3

My favourite one yet, and the standard is stupidly high
This is as close as Black Mirror gets to feelgood. It's touching, creepy, surreal. The eighties schtick has been done to death over the past few years, but this episode nails it. I can't think of anything else that deals with nostalgia, desperation and the nature of reality as well as this. I don't want to spoil the story for those who haven't seen it. Just watch it. Utterly, utterly incredible.

Battlestar Galactica

this is pretty good, actually
This is how I like my sci-fi - dark, a bit twisted, with real humans instead of idealised 2D hero types. Star Trek, for all its noble intentions, does not have the same handle on human nature as this does. These people argue, make mistakes, commit acts of treachery and cowardice, but also have the capacity for astounding acts of heroism. BG showcases the admirable and despicable aspects of the human condition, without committing to either, and it is this honest approach that gives it its edge. It's not perfect - the constant use of the synthetic profanity "frak" only serves to highlight the hypocrisy of an industry that thinks nothing of showing people committing murder and treachery on the largest possible scale, but quails and splutters with moral indignation about cuss-words. Some of the stories are wobbly - the season 2 sub-plot about scriptures and prophets was plodding, silly, and had no place in a supposedly serious sci-fi show. But the underlying drama, and the human and political relationships are what make this work. Some people have claimed that BG is drama, not "real" sci-fi, but such a lumbering attitude towards genre definitions misses the point. The best sci-fi examines the human condition within a few speculatively altered scientific parameters, and this includes social science as well as physics and technology. It's not always as deep as it'd like to be, but it registers far more hits than misses.


I was sick with disgust
The collective groan which went round the audience every time another hideously misplaced song started up told its own story. Musicals have never really been my thing; musicals where the protagonists scream at each other like underfed babies is a whole new level of hell. I went to see this toxic slurry on a Valentine's Day date. Fortunately, my girlfriend and I are now attending therapy, and with a bit of selective memory erasure, we will be able to put this terrible period behind us and move on. Eight Oscar nominations. Dear God. Doubtless, this movie will win loads of Oscars because it ticks every box: dull clichés masquerading as intense drama, saccharine-laden barfage purportedly illuminating the human condition, over-the-top melodrama and under-the-bottom-of-the-barrel script-writing. My hatred for this film is only matched by my utter contempt for the Academy that it should even consider this shallow piece of sewage-pond flotsam worthy of eight of its increasingly devalued gonks.

The Armando Iannucci Shows

diminishing returns, but still quality
It seems as though this series passed under the radar of just about everyone in the country when it was released five years ago. I loved this at the time - it was fantastically inventive and full of wonderfully surreal notions. I particularly liked the "Dead of Scotland" sketch where the Scottish dead have their own area of Heaven. The East End thug threatening the washing machine is great. But I just watched the DVD last night, which is the first time I've seen it in five years, and it doesn't seem quite as good anymore. Too many sketches seemed flat. "We're good at telly" and the drivel-talking barber quickly become annoying. Having said that, I am very picky when it comes to comedy and Armando Iannucci is one of the few people who can consistently raise the bar - the terrific "In the thick of it" is proof of this. Give this one a go. It's patchy, but it's streets ahead of most other stuff.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Only a Golgafrincham would like this
This film stinks. It has clearly been designed and executed by focus groups who either have no sense of humour or who have cynically removed or dumbed down all the clever bits to appeal to this fictitious "target audience". Why there are fans of the original work who claim to like this is utterly beyond me. If you've heard the radio series, read the books, and seen the TV series, what else is there in this abominable version that adds to the story? Nothing. Apologists for this steaming dung pile of a film are forever pointing out that Douglas Adams gave it his approval, (particularly the vomitous love story which was inserted at the end for no good reason whatsoever) as if that justifies it. Whether Adams approved it or not is irrelevant. If you think this film is good, then you should spend your life painting hexagonal wheels, destroying trees and having meetings in the bath.

Man Stroke Woman

utter crap
This is just the latest in a long line of programmes that have started off life on BBC3 and then been promoted to BBC2. The idea is that non-digital viewers will be so entranced by what they see that they'll go out and upgrade to digital so that they can get all these wee gems as soon as they come out. It's a good tactic, undermined by a small flaw: most of the programmes are rubbish. This one is no exception. It's all over the place. No cohesion, no central binding attitude that stands it out: it's hard to avoid the feeling that every idea put forward during the initial production meeting was included in the final script, however risible it might have been. It's not as bad as Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps (which is actually so bad it has made the reverse jump back to BBC3), but only in the sense that Mussolini was not as bad as Hitler. If this is the standard fare, I'm going to stop watching television as soon as the analogue signal is switched off. Getting more crap for your licence fee is not a reason for upgrading.

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

PREQUEL REPUTATION: Aren't you a bit sh1t for a Star Wars film? ROTS: I'm Revenge of the Sith, I'm here to rescue you.

At least, that's what I'd hoped. And Lucas almost got away with it. There were good bits: Order 66 was relatively moving. Anakin's dismemberment and subsequent surgical upgrading was brutal and effective. And the transformation of Palpatine was one of the few moments in the prequels that felt like a bona fide Star Wars experience. There were frustrating bits also – developments that started promisingly but never went anywhere: General Grievous; the political tension between the Chancellor and the proto-rebels; the attack on the Wookies' home world. Then there were the bad bits. Darth Plagueis the Wise? The utter down-scaling of Padme as a character. The dialogue: "I'm so in love with you. No - I'm so in love with YOU." There's just no forgiving that disgraceful writing. Particularly when you've watched the extras on the DVD and you realise that there are better and more important scenes which were cut to make way for this arse-dribble of a love story, which Lucas insisted on crowbar-ing into the plot. And I can't believe that none of the film's editing staff didn't take Lucas aside and tell him that Vader's final line was the worst idea since William Shatner decided to take up singing. You can see Ian McDairmid laughing in the background. How will history remember Star Wars? "Two out of six ain't bad"? The legacy is starting to curdle, George.


the genesis of Gilliam
There's been lots said about this film in relation to Python on IMDb already, so I won't bother making comparisons. Jabberwocky is a messy, but extremely entertaining film, full of sly satire and crass scatological slapstick. It's an extremely grotty movie - everything is squalid and grotesque. Even the King's palace is falling to bits, and all the characters are either stupid, violent, or both. The film spends a long time farting about, exploring various daft notions and barely-related events, before getting down to its titular business in the last 20 minutes or so. But there are some sublime jokes in there and it's an interesting Gilliam "period piece". You can see the twinkle that later grew into the likes of Time Bandits, Brazil, Baron Munchausen etc.

Watch out for Terry Jones doing a ludicrous cameo as a poacher, pulling some of the most ridiculous faces ever seen on screen.

Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht

Am I the only person who finds this hilarious?
Nosferatu the Vampyre is an extremely strange movie experience. It's weirdly haunting and hysterically funny at the same time. I get exactly the same vibe from every Dario Argento film I have seen, so maybe it's a feature common to European horror films. I just cannot take the vampire seriously. I daresay if I met him in real life I would soil my underpants but onscreen he is just a feeble old man and not remotely scary. The halting delivery of dialogue in the English Language version, and the tuneless violin playing by the strange boy in the castle (a scene missing from the English Language version) also give the impression that this is a shabby, shabby film. Having said that though, I find it very enjoyable. It does veer wildly from hamfest to surreal dreaminess, and it shouldn't work, but it somehow gets away with it. Worth watching, if only out of curiosity.

The Village

Atmospheric but hollow
I am still in two minds about this film. On the one hand, the atmosphere created was fantastic - off-screen rustlings and growlings combined with unnerving violin music and some fine cinematography created some wonderfully suspenseful moments. And some of the performances were spot on - Bryce Dallas Howard was flawless, Joaquin Phoenix was nicely understated almost to the point of simplicity at times and it was nice to see William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver again, after what feels like ages. But the story? What a pile of s***. I felt really cheated by the ending. The plot was contrived and unconvincing, and to all whose who praised its genius - go back and see. Subsequent viewings will reveal just how ramshackle the story actually is. Someone should tell M. Night Shyamalan that he doesn't have to include an audience-confounding plot twist in every film he makes - he's got more than enough talent to make perfectly good movies without resorting to such manufactured mindf***s.

Battlefield Earth

Everything I hoped for
When I heard about this film, and what an utter shambles it was, I just knew I had to see it. Next to brilliant science fiction, nothing is more entertaining than utterly risible science fiction. In terms of "It's so bad it's good", only Kevin Costner's "The Postman" has come close to rivalling this for sheer entertainment in recent years. John Travolta, having come back from the dead in Pulp Fiction, chose to return there with this ill-advised career move. All that Scientology must have curdled his brain. Good science fiction is measured by its degree of scientific plausibility. The plausibility co-ordinates of BE are several million integers into the negative section of the graph. SPOILER. I particularly like the ludicrous ending, where a WWII fighter plane is flown through space, and manages to destroy the enemy planet which - get this - has an explosive atmosphere. Would that not render it susceptible to most forms of radiation? This film is hilarious. But stupid.

Love, Honour and Obey

Boring, smug and self-indulgent
This must have seemed like a great idea at the pitching stage - let's make a gangster film, starring all the zeitgeistiest British acting talent and we'll stuff some karoake and black comedy in for good measure. It can't possibly fail, can it? Well, yes it can and quite frankly it deserved to. This sort of self-indulgent sh*te represents the worst aspects of the British film industry. There were some decent individual moments (Denise Van Outen sucking the cucumber being the pick of the bunch) but it never gelled. They were all too busy being Jude, Sadie, Jonny etc and it's not cute or smart; it's just overly self-conscious and irritating. I give this film one out of two-and-a-half. I normally give marks out of five but I couldn't be bothered watching the second half of this turdfest.

Ed Wood

Pull the strings! Pull the strings!
There isn't much I can say about this movie that hasn't already been said. But just to reiterate - this is a magnificent film. The symbiotic relationship between the delusional young film-maker and the burned-out former horror star is both sublimely hilarious and deeply moving. Johnny Depp once again demonstrates just how versatile an actor he is, and Martin Landau's Oscar award is one of those rare happy occasions when the Academy rewards talent rather than lobbying prowess. Anyone who has ever made their own crappy B-movies for fun (as I have) will appreciate this. In fact, anyone who's a human being should love this film. It's so lovingly made - Tim Burton obviously has a deep affinity with his characters. To paraphrase Ed himself, this will be the one they remember him for.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Better than the last one.
I know the above comment will seem sacrilegious to those of you who worship T2 but T2 is a very very long way from being the best movie ever made, despite what some of you seem to think. T3 is an average movie with some good action sequences. The dialogue, acting and plot development are all about standard for a no-brainer summer blockbuster. At least we're spared the patronising and clumsy moralising of T2, and thank God the odious little Edward Furlong has been binned. What lifted this film above mediocrity was its surprisingly downbeat ending. In contrast to the vomit-inducing sentimentality of T2, this had quite a creepy finish, and sets the franchise up well for the next installment. Having said that though, it's maybe time to put the series to bed. Arnie's past it, and if his Terminator opponents were to become any more advanced it would just be silly.

The Tragedy of Macbeth

What bloody man is that?
I have seen two versions of Macbeth. The other, apart from this, stars Jason Connery and Helen Baxendale and is quite staggering in its total crapness. Almost every scene is screwed up. Polanski, however, gets nearly everything right. The poetry is stripped from the text, leaving a dark, treacherous world in its wake. The surrealist scenes involving the witches stand out in particular. Polanski had the actresses walking on glass in the opening scene, so that they would not make footprints in the sand. Macbeth's second audience with the witches is like a weird trip to the afterlife and back again. Above all, the symbolism of blood stands out again and again, whether it be the setting sun that makes creepy shadows of Birnam Wood as it floats towards Dunsinane, or the brutal scenes of battle and murder.

Macbeth is a difficult tragic hero to empathise with. He's just such a nasty piece of work. But seeing his nimble footwork as he toys with Young Siward before killing him, and his vainglorious final battle with Macduff, I felt a sneaking admiration for him, particularly in comparison with some of the other slimy lords in the kingdom, who were happy enough to support Macbeth in his treachery until they saw which way the wind was blowing.

This is a great version of Macbeth. Jon Finch makes a great title character, demonstrating both warrior prowess and pale-skinned fear with equal skill. Francesca Annis is absolutely tremendous as Lady Macbeth, exuding a potent sexuality and a lethal machiavellian streak. Even Keith Chegwin does his part. The only slight fly in the ointment is Terence `I'm Brian and so's my wife' Bayler, who is such a ham as Macduff that several key scenes come across as bad farce. But this is small beer. If you're a Shakespeare fan, this film is essential viewing. If you're not, watch it anyway.

Vampire in Brooklyn

sheer and utter torture
I can't believe this film has gained so many positive IMDB reviews. It is one of the worst pieces of garbage I have ever seen. Eddie Murphy and Angela Bassett - what were you doing? Did you lose a bet or something? Shi**y premise, no pacing, no tension, terrible dialogue, and cliches exhausted well beyond the point of irony. Oh, and the comic relief was embarrassing. Shouting rapid-fire obscenities in a high-pitched voice does not make you funny. Anglea Bassett was gorgeous. That's the only thing I enjoyed about this waste of celluloid.

The Matrix Reloaded

Don't get over-excited
The above tag-line is intended as advice both for people who haven't seen it, and for those rabid critics who have so savagely torn it to pieces in reviews elsewhere on IMDB. Let's start with the basics. It's not as good as the first one. Many of the fight sequences do seem to be little more than fillers. There is little to no development in overall style or technique from the first movie. The storyline is frequently lazy and complacent. Much of the dialogue was insipid. All of these are valid criticisms. But - worst movie ever made? Come on you guys. There was a lot of extremely dense plotting towards the end of the movie which you probably didn't notice as you were too busy being disappointed. Had you paid proper attention, you would see that some elements of the Matrix Universe (fight sequences and special effects notwithstanding) do represent a considerable development from the tremendous promise laid down in the first film. Don't expect the sequel to be the ground-breaking phenomenon that the first one was. That is not a sequel's role.

The Rules of Attraction

It's not that great
Why are so many people on IMDB salivating over this film? It's pretty average. As a drama, it's only intermittently dramatic; as a work of art, it's hardly ground-breaking; as entertainment, it barely qualifies. Some good moments but it felt as though the best scenes from the book were clumsily cobbled together to make a saleable pic. Bret Easton Ellis is a difficult author to translate into film and this is another illustration I'm afraid.

Die Another Day

Time to die, Mr. Bond
This is the final nail in the coffin for a series that has been living off borrowed time ever since Roger Moore abandoned all pretence at hairpiece subtlety. This film is utterly appalling. Slipshod direction, woeful CGI, a lame foppish villian and a theme tune straight out of the Strangled Cat School of Musical Disharmony. Brosnan is the most convincing Bond since Connery, but that doesn't disguise the fact that all of his films have been lacking in some crucial department. This lacks in all of them. It actually starts off interestingly enough, but lapses into horrible double-entendre cliche before very long.

It's a shame that Brosnan has been let down again, but the fact is that Bond should have been allowed to depart gracefully with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and any attempts to modernise him merely end up looking like the more desparate failures of Dr. Frankenstein. Bury Bond. Now.

Conan the Barbarian

Pretentious guff occasionally, but it works
If nothing else, "Conan" deserves respect for having the balls to quote Nietzsche at the beginning of the film. A sword and sorcery film that doesn't go for the easy and obvious option of extreme cheese is very rare. Indeed, Conan the Destroyer, this film's mutant half-sibling, falls into that very trap. Having set this curiously ambitious standard, Conan veers wildly from pole to pole. Visually, the film is very impressive. The desert landscapes of Spain; Thulsa Doom's intimidating temple; the party to end all parties and Conan's rippling muscles are all pluses. Basil Poledouris's score is excellent. But there are times when the film is just silly. Sandahl Bergman's endless cries of "Do you want to live forever?" are a needless modernistic touch and always sound rubbish. Witness when she comes back from Valhalla at the end to save Conan's ample butt from being wasted. The film's silliest moment, though, is ultimately its greatest. A sublime moment that encapsulates everything about this film: brute strength and insanely cruddy dialogue. Conan, asked by a wise Warrior master to describe "what is best in life" philosophises: "Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the women". What self-respecting Republican could want more?

Blake's 7

Under-rated sci-fi drama
It's unfortunate that so many people choose to judge Science Fiction by the quality of special effects. Blake's Seven had crap special effects. OK. But the characters were well fleshed out, the scenario of freedom fighters versus tyrannical Despots was far more intriguing than "Boldly going" etc and when the stories were great, they rocked. Sure, there are quibbles. Sometimes the stories were s***. The galaxy also seemed to be full of be-sequined RSC luvvies who, we were supposed to believe, were amongst the most despicable cold-hearted scum in the history of the Universe. And Brian Croucher was crap as Travis.

But Paul Darrow and Jacqueline Pearce have earned their place in Valhalla. I wonder what Avon and Servalan's children would have been like?

The Stand

flawed, but a decent attempt
I first read the book when I was about sixteen, and I had often wondered what a film adaption would be like. The obvious answer would be "Long". The Stand is a big book, and the "Author's Cut" made an Epic even more Epicious (I like making words up - I am not really illiterate).

In the end, the six-hour mini-series that resulted was good enough to merit a pass mark. There are flaws - Molly Ringwald was miscast and got nothing to do. Some of the dialogue was wretchedly bad. And the whole idea of Armageddon being an exclusively American party was a little hard for us Europeans to swallow. Having said that, though, the important details were nailed. The story was faithfully observed from the book, and key plot moments, were, for the most part, well executed. Crucially, the casting of Jamey Sheridan as Randall Flagg was spot-on. He managed to get just the right blend of cheeky cowboy persona and demonic rage. Inevitably, there were some personal disappointments. I would have loved to have seen "The Kid" brought to life on the screen. But then, his involvement in the story is peripheral and they had a lot of Apocalypsing to get through. A decent attempt though, considering the difficulties inherent in translating such a massive tome. Stephen King fans should enjoy it, although those who are not into this kind of thing will be bored rigid.

Wild Things

The stupid man's Usual Suspects
***THIS COMMENT MAY CONTAIN PLOT SPOILERS*** This film has a lot in common with the Usual Suspects. They were both filmed using cameras and set in the United States. There, the similarities end.

Where Suspects succeeded by toying with audience expectations to produce a genuinely surprise twist, this film just disappears up its own arse. It's so preoccupied with trying to keep the audience guessing that it just gets plain silly. Brief summary - Matt Dillon has been accused of raping Denise Richards and Neve Campbell and it eventually transpires that they were all involved in a complicated scam to fleece Richard's wealthy mother out of $8.5 million. Kevin Bacon's cop realises something is fishy and starts investigating. Fine. But then it just loses it. The plot twists and convulses with irritating rapidity as one person double-crosses someone else and then someone else is revealed to be in on the game and then someone comes back from the dead and blah blah blah. There's no consistency to what the film is - it becomes a tongue-in-cheek twist circus by default rather than design, once the director realised he had no idea where to take it. I felt violated after watching this movie. I will echo the comments of those other reviewers who say Denise Richards is hot. She is. But that is not a good enough reason to watch this dumb-assed film.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

A big disappointment
Once upon a time there was a talented young director called James Cameron. He made a classic low-budget sci-fi thriller called The Terminator, and followed it up with other minor classics such as Aliens and The Abyss. Then he was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force and started making s***.

***PLOT SPOILERS FOLLOW*** Terminator 2 is an appalling film. Certainly, the special effects were ground-breaking (although look ordinary now)but I'm more than a little sick of hearing people say this in its defence. Special Effects alone are not enough. There needs to be a plausible story, decent dialogue, solid acting performances and a basic artistic integrity. Linda Hamilton excepted, the performances here all suck. Arnie was perfectly cast in the original as a cyborg villain - for once his mechanical tics and twitches actually worked in his favour. His attempts to make the robot in T2 more human are just tragic. The plot is totally lacking in plausibility. Edward Furlong, we are supposed to believe, turns into a ruthless future guerilla leader. Someone who orders his troops not to kill the enemy (as he tells Arnie in that patronising "You can't kill anybody" sequence)clearly isn't meant to be a general. In the first film, we were told that the time-travel equipment had been blown up after Kyle Reese had been sent back in time. So how come it's now working again? And if they're capable of sending more Terminators back, why didn't they just send back a cyborg to kill Sarah Connor when she was in labour? She could hardly have fought back then. It seems as though Cameron thought he could blind his audience to these obvious discrepancies by bombarding them with special effects. The whole film is a mess. Everything that made the first Terminator film great was sacrificed to make a gaudy, crass effects-fest. I had been looking forward to a sequel set in the future, featuring John Connor fighting against the machines. Instead, they made the biggest fake in history. And the thumbs-up bit at the end? I vomited a river.

The Giant Spider Invasion

A pile of s***e
Mild unintentional hilarity value is all this film has to recommend itself. Only watch if you are intending to break the World Record for Most Films Ever Watched By An Individual Person. There's nothing else to say.

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