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Becker: Margaret Sings the Blues
Episode 10, Season 6

Hattie Winston's showcase
Hattie Winston takes centre stage in this episode and shines in "It could happen to you", accompanied by her husband, renowned composer and conductor Harold Wheeler. It is a lovely episode and I'm grateful writers & producers made this possible. Ted Danson graciously steps aside to give Miss Winston the opportunity to perform. I loved this episode.


Exceptionally bad...
I don't even know where to begin. Other reviewers have already been so thoughtful to describe the massive amount of plot holes and inconsistencies. The acting (and I use the term very loosely) reminds me of a non-rehearsed production of an elementary school. Chris Jai Alex as the Air Marshall is the only one who's doing a convincing job. According to this film, FBI agents are clueless amateurs. The dialogues are cringeworthy and delivered even worse than written. Have I mentioned the highly annoying 'music'? Written to emphasise drama but as there isn't any drama, it's completely useless. Perhaps this film was made for Kindergarten students?

The Golden Girls: Mrs. George Devereaux
Episode 9, Season 6

Best episode?
I do love this episode. It's mostly about Blanche ('The Human Mattress', as she was once lovingly given that nickname by Mrs. Petrillo herself) as her believed-dead husband suddenly reappears.

At the end of this episode, Blanche, surrounded by her dearest friends, shares what happened to her. I think that it is very touching, very well written and an excellent performance by Ms. McClanahan.

In general I think Ms. McClanahan was the most versatile actress of the group - no offence to the other ladies! But I think she was the one who switched the best from emotion to emotion of her character.

To keep everything in balance, there's a lot to laugh and enjoy as we follow Dorothy being pursued by no less than two(!) gentlemen.

Timeless quality, thanks to good writing and acting.

Midsomer Murders: Death in the Slow Lane
Episode 1, Season 14

Barnaby II
Neil Dudgeon has a daunting task taking over from John Nettles. Like any actor who's taken over illustrious characters (Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot) it's a great challenge not to copy the previous actors.

In his first lead as DCI John Barnaby, Dudgeon is doing a great job indeed. I like his style of acting -observant, letting poor Jones doing the fieldwork, and has a lovely sense of humour. I particularly enjoyed the 'fingerprints'-scene: where he just keeps looking at Jones until the latter understand what he's missed.

In this first episode there's not really a chemistry going on between Barnaby and Jones, yet. And of course not. Their characters only met once before, so it takes times to build this (just like in real life).

The invitation to Barnaby II to join a 'gentlemen's club' I find hilarious; nicely written and performed. Am looking forward to the next episode!

The Golden Girls: Brother, Can You Spare That Jacket?
Episode 8, Season 4

No-one told me it costs money to get old...
Writers Kathy Speer and Terry Grossman (supervised by Susan Harris) wrote an excellent episode. Although a sitcom, The Golden Girls were a series not being afraid of bringing social injustices to the attention of the public -as this episode proves. We start off light as the girls buy -what turns out to be- a winning lottery ticket, it gets misplaced though and the search for it is funny and well written. And then we get to the better part -the girls end up in a homeless shelter and decide to stay the night. The dialogues they have with the guests are eye-openers. Sometimes life is cruel -and without any warning there you are, in a shelter, homeless. As a friend of Sophia says: no-one told me it costs money to get old... And so she had to leave her retirement home -a nice punishment for becoming a senior citizen.

When 'Brother, can you spare a dime?' is sung as the girls look for their ticket, it is heartbreaking. In the end what else can they do but only the right thing?

I'm touched every time I watch it. Excellent writing, excellent acting, excellent directing (Terry Hughes) and as a topic still very ongoing, even 25 years after taping.


Abismo de pasión

Bipolar galore
I really don't know where to start this review. Honestly, I don't. I find that this 'telenovela' has effortlessly reached a new depth of stupidity. From the writing of the script to acting/directing, it amazes me how low the level of the series is. Let's start with the acting, shall we? Or better: lack of. Most actors don't have a clue what they have to do, so they overcompensate in big gestures and rolling eyes; Rene Casados' acting as a priest (honestly, who did the casting?) is embarrassing to watch and he is wearing so much make-up that he could work in the circus as a clown. A very brown clown. Sabine Moussier is, well, Sabine Moussier. Over the top. With everything. Pleasant exception is Mark Thatcher (what's in a name?) whose acting is nice to watch although even he can't escape the lack of direction from both directors. Directors Sergio & Claudio seem to be interested in making pretty pictures and find the cast an annoying interruption of their shots.

The costume designers must have had a ball: all muscular guys wear shirts that are two sizes too small and unbuttoned down to their navel, and to complement the ensemble they're wearing tight trousers. Too tight. For the ladies: tight blouses with mega cleavage, short skirts/tight trousers.

For the dialogues... I've never heard dialogues switch from completely normal to the level of a maximum security mental institution so fast. Within a few words, there are arguments and accusations, there is screaming and confrontation. Example? Well, if you insist:

She: (in normal tone of voice) Where have you been?

He: (normal too) Oh, just been for a walk.

She: (starts normal) At this hour? (voice is getting hysterical) Where did you go WHERE, WHERE?! (screaming) YOU WERE SEEING HER, WEREN'T YOU?

HE: No, I didn't

SHE: (normal voice again) Oh, I thought you did.

He: No.

She: Oh.

He: Goodnight

She: Goodnight

Well, why do I watch it, you may wonder? That's because my host where I have dinner every evening (I work momentarily in Kenya) is watching this before the evening news. That's why.

The Golden Girls: Mrs. George Devereaux
Episode 9, Season 6

Best episode?
I do love this episode. It's mostly about Blanche ('The Human Mattress', as she was once lovingly given that nickname by Mrs. Petrillo herself) as her believed-dead husband suddenly reappears.

At the end of this episode, Blanche, surrounded by her dearest friends, shares what happened to her. I think that it is very touching, very well written and an excellent performance by Ms. McClanahan.

In general I think Ms. McClanahan was the most versatile actress of the group - no offence to the other ladies! But I think she was the one who switched the best from emotion to emotion of her character.

To keep everything in balance, there's a lot to laugh and enjoy as we follow Dorothy being pursued by no less than two(!) gentlemen.

Timeless quality, thanks to good writing and acting.

El Dorado

Very violent, not very adventurous
With all the adventure films that have been made it's hard to be original. One could opt for strong story lines, great acting or humour. El Dorado has opted for violence. And a lot of it. The story is quite simple (finding gold) and the way to do that is apparently with the help of guns. And riffles. And more guns. And shoot anybody who gets in the way.

The acting and directing I find very, very sloppy. I do like Shane West but in this film I think he's terrible. In one scene he and his friends are strolling towards a village. Then a dialogue starts and Shane's character (Jack) starts panting. Why? To make him more butch? Someone must have told him it looks manly. No, it doesn't. It sounds like Jack has asthma. And Jack makes a habit of panting his way through his scenes. There's a scene in a library and the hero and heroine are looking at some papers that are over 400 years old. Normally one would handle these documents with care and respect whilst wearing gloves. Nope, not here. Like they hold yesterday's newspaper: opening and folding and throwing it about. Most peculiar.

There are some special effects, very clever done yet totally misappropriate in this film. Kids will love it, I think. But then again, total body count is over a 100 (give or take a few) so you might think twice before you let your little ones see this picture.

O well, it was a rather cold and rainy summer evening when it was aired in The Netherlands. Ideal circumstances for this film.

ER: Time of Death
Episode 6, Season 11

Liotta's finest hour.
Ray Liotta brilliantly performs the alcoholic being treated in the ER. Of course behind each alcoholic is a story. Life, actually. Liotta makes it his story from a drunk nobody likes (or worse: loves) to a guy who's life slipped trough his fingers and as we get to know the background, we can relate to.

Liotta's acting is superb and I was glued to the screen. His transformations are beautiful and he can play the part with finesse and believability. Very rightfully he won an Emmy for his performance. Bravo and bravo!

Director Christopher Chulack directed this episode and what a talented and passionate guy he is. Stunning dying-scenes of Charlie in a place that exists in his memory/soul/heart layered with voices from the ER. Bravo too.

Of course Liotta deserves a major guest role in such a good series and not to have waltz in for the part of a taxi driver who broke his toe whilst hitting the brakes to hard (just an example). I'm very pleased that was chosen for a character who was on screen for the whole episode. For the first time I know off, all the regulars stepped down to support a guest role. So whoever had this idea: thank you very, very much!

ER is broadcast on Dutch National TV where commercials are not allowed in the middle of any series or films so I could watch it in peace and without being interrupted. Very, very good.


The Majestic

Beautiful cinematography
Let's start off with those we never see on screen yet their work we see all the time. A nomination for Best Period Makeup (Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Awards) went to Bill Corso, Douglas Noe and Judy Mathai. Yet David Tattersall (cinematography), Karyn Wagner (Costume Design) and all those others who worked with passion on this movie deserved an Academy Award Nomination. This movie looks immaculate! Beautiful lighting and very tasteful set design. So: bravo to the tech crew!

Unfortunately director Frank Darabont is not as good in directing as he is in adapting screenplays. He makes beautiful shots -and that's about it. The movie never touches me -and it should as the story has the potential of a good drama.

And what is it with the music? Composer Mark Isham thought perhaps he was writing an opera? There's a score under every scene! Most annoying indeed. The second an emotional scene starts, the violins start to play -as Darabont is afraid we don't understand what it's all about, so 'we' need music to make us feel what he should be doing in the first place: directing . In all other scenes, the trumpets and full orchestra make overtime. Horrible.

Right. Let's go to the cast: Lauri Holden is a great actress and her talent (and patience) saved her in this movie. Very subtle and aware of the emotions of the scenes she portraits her role very well indeed. As always it's a joy to watch Martin Landau perform. He's aging very gracefully indeed and that same spirit is in his performance.

I think Jim Carrey can't act. Period. A matter of taste, I know. I find it's all an outside-performance, he never ever shows any depth of character at all. Yet the movie looked so beautiful, I kept watching.

Who's taking the challenge and will make a remake of this one?



Brilliant acting in brilliant play.
Put a dozen or so of the finest actors round a dining table and let them perform the words so beautiful written by Loring Mandel, and you have a brilliant, spectacular film.

Director Frank Pierson -with eye to detail and respect for the script- inspired the cast into an ensemble as that is extra needed to make the limited set a vibrant and believable place.

Kenneth Branagh made his character General Heydrich absolutely charming and believable. Yet Branagh could turn him into a cold, heartless man when opposed to or contradicted. A dangerous man indeed. But charming... Colin Firth is at his best as Dr. Stuckart, who hates Jews SO much -and still wants to have everything laid out in Law. Because when it's in the Law -it's true, we all know that. Stanley Tucci is great as Eichmann -who organizes the whole "work shop". Acting on a square inch (loosly translated from Dutch) and he's very good at it!

What stunned me was the way the characters talked about killing millions of their own country men, in a way they talked about killing flies. The horrible thing is I got used to it in ten minutes or so. I had to bring myself back and think: THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT PEOPLE! Men, women, children. As if they were cattle.

Here in Holland we were occupied during WWII by the Nazi's. That war is a big part of our history. Over 101,000 of our Jewish families, friends and neighbours were deported and murdered. And it all started at Wannsee. In one hour or so. Depressing.

The veneer of civilization is very thin indeed. Yet Nazi's loved Schubert & Beethoven. Poor composers, they would have turned in their graves!

And what a brilliant film this is. Bravo.


The Royle Family

Brilliant extra long episode
An hour long treat just aired on BBC One and what a wonderful episode it was -an other one. Shameless as always, the full cast are at their best -now with Nana as the center of attention as she and her bed moved into the living room.

A beautiful, stunning scene between Sue Johnston (Barbara Royle) and Liz Smith (her Mum) with a good long shot at the end of that scene, just watching the two together whilst music from the radio is playing. The clever writing (including Caroline Aherne) and brilliant performances of the cast made this an extraordinary episode where -in spite of the 'lack' of manners or good behaviour, this is a strong, loving family. And that's where it's all about -in my opinion.

The serious scenes are seamlessly followed by the hilarious ones as indeed life itself can be -at least if you're open to that kind of absurdity.

I don't wish to write any spoilers, although I did write it on top of my comment but to be on the safe side I just leave it there to be.

Just Beautiful.


Jake in Progress

Nice and tasteful
Series one just aired in the Netherlands (june 2006) and to start of with a great plus: no canned laughter on this show -and I am very pleased about that! Well played and presented humor (I do find that the writing has similarities with Gilmore Girls) brought with a great pace.

John Stamos seems to enjoy playing Jake Phillips very much indeed. He's looking very good at 42 but I find his character a bit too much into women -and as he's not twenty anymore it's a bit over the top. The scenes have common, day-to-day subjects and are therefore believable.

Ian Gomez (Adrian) and Rick Hoffman (Patrick) play their characters very well indeed but the series would not be lost without them. Stamos is a strong enough actor on his own to make this sitcom work. Wendie Malick (Naomi) is nice as always and feeds Stamos' character. So after five episodes: a seven.


20 centímetros

Ramón Salazar's directed this movie-with-music and I do not particularly like what he has done with it. The story is not that spectacular (transsexual wants operation to remove his penis) but very thin indeed so extra drama on the side is needed and added to fill a whole movie. Too many sidelines and extra, needless information is given. The switches to the musical scenes are not that brilliant -it's quite logic to have them when Marieta has her narcoleptic attack but there are a few out of the blue and they don't move me. Could be the singing and dancing of Leading Lady Mónica Cervera -I am not that much impressed with her at all. Of course we're spoiled after The Singing Detective and -more recent- Moulin Rouge or Chicago. It's a must for a director to follow one's own path but one can't behave like those movies were never made! The movie is not bizarre enough for me -but the subject should be. The choices Salazar made are a bit on the safe side and they miss a bizarre kind of fantasy.

The good bits: Chevi Muraday made very nice choreography's. Suggestive or just festive: very nice work indeed. Pleased to see that dancers can act as Pablo Puyol proves. Without any shamelessness at all he acts and dances his way through this movie. Bravo. The bests scenes are for the lady's at Marieta's apartment! Wonderful characters indeed played by Spain's finest actresses. Brava.

I'm sorry but I can't find the name of the elderly actress who plays Marieta's hormone-shot-giving friend. During her telephone conversation we can see a photograph of her at young age -and that scene is just a little miracle -it moved me to tears. Bravo Salazar. Could have lasted longer.


Die Zauberflöte

Non-magical fairytale
Schikaneder's en Mozart's fairytale about love, trust and religion is layered with humor, death, adventure, and unconditionally loving. The opera has been popular right from the start in 1791. It's more a play with songs -like My Fair Lady (or, to stay in opera-lingo: Die Entführung aus dem Serail). The libretto is good although Schikaneder's dialogs are not that time-resistant; they do sound a bit over-explanation-like (if that's a word). They deserve a good dramatizer to bring those dialogs into this century.

August Everding made the scenery and did a good job -a bit too good. Sometimes less is more, and here is a case where that's true. The massive set pieces look wonderful but take over much of the energy of the cast and Everding should have realized that. Wolfgang Sawallisch conducts and does a OK job. Nothing too spectacular -I think he was in a hurry to get the last train home; I found the tempi a bit fast.

The cast. Well. Start with the good one's: Lucia Popp is (although already 43) a very good Pamina: she's very much in character and sings beautiful but "Ach, ich füll's" (Pamina's heart-breaking aria), was conducted so fast that I missed the sadness and despair. But she can act (could, Popp died much too young...). Wolfgang Brendel is OK as Papageno, his energy fills the huge stage and that's always nice to see. He's on the edge of over-acting but it's very difficult where the concentration lies for singers: with the life-audience or the film-camera's; those two disciplines have their own techniques -it's hard to combine them, of course. But his presence is lovely on stage.

And that's about it. Gudrun Sieber's Papagena is charming but her role's to small to make a lasting impression. Kurt Moll's Sarastro: good, deep Basso but no acting skills at all. And I don't think he's friendly -In my opinion Sarastro should be a friendly guy! Francisco Araiza (Tamino) think he's in a Donizetti-production: everything is fortissimo. In the finale of act I, he suddenly surprises me by almost whispering his recitative and I am touched by this. So he can do it! So why start so late?

I was disappointed by Edita Gruberova's Königin der Nacht (Queen of the Night) -she did not get those high notes. Believe me: she did not. Her high Q was a mere whisper and her acting is nothing spectacular either. Sorry Edita. Must have been strange for Popp as she used to be famous for singing that role. And of course the QOTN is an overrated role as she only sings two little numbers and plays one scene; that's it.

In general it's a nice thing to watch -but I was annoyed with the mishaps as I wanted to be invited into a fantasy world. And I should have as the music brought tears to my eyes in several scenes.

Mozart could write music!


Miss Marple: Nemesis

There are no small parts...
As always Joan Hickson is wonderful as Jane M. Subtle, sharp and aware. I do not wish to dwell on her acting skills as they are praised enough on this site. I would like to criticize some of the smaller parts as the rest of the cast seemed to be hand picked by director David Tucker.

Liz Fraser's performance as Mrs. Bent (the mother of the missing girl Nora) is a joy to watch. Subtle and deeply moving as the alcohol-depending grieving mother who loves and misses her daughter desperately. A good long shot of her monologue (thanks Tucker!) so she can be enjoyed to the fullest. I was moved when I saw her the first time when it was broadcast and I am moved again, now I have it on DVD. Brava.

Joanna Hole as Madge the tour-guide I find highly amusing. She is on the edge of over-acting but her role can have it. She is SO funny as the over-organized guide who wants to do good with everyone on that bus, I find her hilarious. Her reaction after she boarded every-one on the bus is great... As always: to perform comedy one has to take it very seriously, and that's what Ms Hole does.

In general I think it's a beautiful filmed episode with a brilliant cast.


Così fan tutte

Václav Kaslik directed this popular co-production of Da Ponte and Mozart. The question of the faithfulness of women and the mistrust of men, are the key in the libretto. I do not know of course how the opening night in 1790 was performed but this recording of the Salzburger Festspiele in 1969 is of a better amateur production. There is a basic rule for performing a comedy: take it absolutely serious! The wonderful humor and weakness of the characters are in the libretto and score; no need to overdo it in acting or funny faces.

Karl Böhm directs and has -much to my surprise- good and fast tempi most of the time; which is a nice change from his slow and Wagnerian style of conducting -although Böhm made a few cuts in the music (i.e. Finale act I) and I don't understand those decisions. If Mozart would have wanted things cut out of his score, he would have done it himself! And he didn't, so leave it like it is please.

The singing with orchestra is done by play-back and the singers have a lot of trouble with that (the recitativa are done life) but I do keep in mind it was 1969 and in classical music the lip-sinc was not that common yet. Especially Gundula Janowitz (Dorabella) just opens and closes her mouth at random. Christa Ludwig tries to make something out of her Fiordiligi but is only partially successful as her acting skills lack interpretation. Alva and Prey are not convincing as Ferrando and Guglielmo; they behave more like bored students with nothing else to do than to manipulate women. I was pleasantly surprised by Walter Berry's Alfonso as his faces muscles where not making so much overtime as usual. Olivera Miljakovic is quite nice as Despina but that is of course a grateful part. Her pitch as Notary was not an octave lower as in the score but higher! Again I question Böhms decision in this. Why o why?

The staging was compensation for lack of understanding what the opera is about. Kaslik had no idea what to do, so he gave the poor singers so much work to do that decent acting and singing was impossible. The 'plot' is not that women turn to other man the moment their fiancés are gone but about betrayal, mistrust, insecurity and human weaknesses. For all parties involved, not just the women.


The Golden Girls

Best sitcom ever?
I find The Golden Girls absolutely wonderful. The writing is spot on, the topics address current affairs and social challenges, the acting is top-notch; a landmark for the 80's. Overall a wonderful show performed by women over -eh- forty. Nearly thirty years ago it must have been a shock to audiences worldwide that older women talked about -and actually had- sex! The eighties were about being young and beautiful and here are four 'oldies' making it big. Topics as PMS, menopauze, HIV+, and too many to mention were brilliantly executed. Brava.

King Solomon's Mines

Start of with the good bit: several times Swayze talks Zulu to his friends or that language is heard among the tribes. That's a great plus, as normally USA & UK movie audiences think all people on this planet speak English (just in case you're one of them: no they don't).

But the acting is 'tenenkrommend' as we say in The Netherlands (it makes your toes curl -and not in a good way). I like Swayze but in this he's awful. The muscles in his jaws make overtime and he's frowning the whole movie -some one must have told him it looks butch. No Patrick: it looks silly and is compensation for lack of character. Alison Doody (Elizabeth) has opted for a style of acting that does not meet the style of her co-workers. Her acting is só relaxed that this movie could have been set in the current days. And it's not. Your frock was a clue, Alison.

The best acting came from the people from the African Continent and Sided Onyulo as Umbopa I liked best. Clear, warm and in character, his performance is a joy to watch.

General: it is mildly entertaining on a rainy day. Pity. Could have been better.

Attention Shoppers

European style movie
Beautiful 'film noir'. I was pleasantly surprised. Decent and inspired acting and a moving Carbonell at the end -driving back to the airport- with a wonderful (as always) Michael Lerned.

With eye to detail: the plastic bag where the table cloth was wrapped in, is just visible in two more scenes before it gets a place in Nestor's luggage (I like those details very much, it's shows respect by the director). The pace is just great: very slowly and thus giving me time to enjoy the weird and strange atmosphere. A very un-American movie; perhaps that's why it's more popular in Europe? Hope Carbonell finds more inspiration (and money!) to make more of these beauties.

The Affair of the Necklace

Accent? Moi?
If we do not like the American/English accents, the French should have made this movie. But they didn't. And if they would have -like they should have as it is their history- who would have seen it, apart from European audiences? But it is annoying that no choice was made of what 'accent' to perform it in. A clear decision was never made and that spoiled the movie for me (though the entrance of Christopher Walken was enough for me to hang on -and I loved the way he reacted to the guard before he was led into le Bastille).

Historically: Mozart's Requiem was heard in one of the scenes -but that was not composed till 1791. And at that time the Affaire of the Necklace was over and the Royals were in deep merde...

Sex and the City

Disappointing final episode...
I found it disappointing as Carry got her Mr. Big. It would have been SO much more interesting if she would have stayed in Paris to build a new life of her own -with or without her Russian. It was written too easy from the beginning that she was not happy in Europe and did not do a thing about it. The development of Carry in the final episode was of a spoiled little girl who cried if she didn't get her way. No adult women in her at all. Of course it is difficult to build a new life in a foreign country, but hey: with the load of cash she has, it's not that difficult! Especially when she is recognized by her French book-readers so she IS somebody over there, n'est-ce-pas?

Of course Mr. Big is allowed to follow her and ask her to come back but it would have been so much better if she said "No, thanks". It would have turned Carry in a strong women with a life of her own. Now the last scene is: a shopping Carry in NY. Duh. The characters of her friends in NY are so much better developed: learning about them self and partners, and that life sometimes sucks but in general is OK. So, apart from beautiful played scenes by Kim (brava!), Kristin and Cynthia, not very good. Six out of 10.

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