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The Numbers Station

The numbers stack up in this one.
The cavernous corridors of a secret CIA facility provide the claustrophobic setting for this tense, nervy thriller. I was gripped from the first ten minutes when the hero carries out some wet work, show's us his moral side and whose actions explain the function of these numbers stations. Cusack has massive appeal as a cerebral hero and he's no slouch in the action stakes either. When his moral code interferes with an assignment, he's given the task of watching over Katherine (Malin Ackerman), a cryptanalyst working at a lonely station nestled in the English countryside. The stars display strong screen chemistry, they're both effortlessly charming and I found them easily convincing. Arriving for their shift, they find the station attacked and the code compromised; the tension shifts up a gear as the two defend themselves and figure out what's going on. The screenplay, which is tidy and uncomplicated, draws to a satisfying conclusion but the ending is a tiny bit long. It's clear that this didn't have blockbuster financing but as a mainstream feature from a fledgling but talented director it compares favourably to many major studio offerings that don't show nearly as much class. Be warned though, this isn't a meat head's action picture with car chases and explosions all over the place.

The Darkest Hour

Classic old school sci-fi
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It reminded me of "day of the triffids" not the remake, I hasten to add! It's a simple survival story with fairly recognisable characters and it plays out by the numbers towards a satisfying conclusion. I didn't watch it for clever dialogue or plot plausibility and I do have a chuckle at those reviewers who seem to have mistaken the movie for something deep and meaningful; I can only assume they didn't watch the trailer beforehand! The effects are effectively realised and the stark, silent, Moscow streets are a welcome change in terms of setting. Some of the sets, like the crashed plane in the shopping mall for instance, are a real visual treat. For me this is a totally acceptable addition to the genre.

Strike Back

I thought I'd hate this......
I record it and usually intend to watch it in fast forward but something about it just pulls me in. I particularly like the chemistry between the two leads. The bloke playing Scott doesn't give a monkeys and whoever writes his dialogue has created something of a likable character. Believable no but likable yea. The English guy is a bit stiff but that's the way he's written. I'm glad to see that Sky has spent a bit of money and I hope they make more. It's not Downton Abbey but there's something quintessentially English about the way the thing is put together. I like the idea that beyond the hot air of the back room intelligence team (which they seem to set up at a moments notice in a foreign country in a shed) its just about two blokes running around with guns. They wont save the world, they don't set out to, but they will save the hostages - well, the good ones.

On Dangerous Ground

Is this a student film?
I watched this again today having been let down somewhat on the first viewing. I hoped I'd been little harsh on the TV treatment since I like Jack Higgins stuff and I was willing to give it another go. A second viewing didn't raise my appreciation. They seem to have spent loads on locations, this thing goes all over the world and there are a few decent sets. The story is fine and the woman playing Bernstein is excellent but Rob Lowe and most of the rest of the cast are dreadful. I can see a few well known faces in there but they deliver their lines as though they are drugged. It looks like it was shot on an old camcorder and the music sounds like it came from a 80's digital watch. I guess it depends on the production company and the resources they've got but I've seen many TV movies with good production values, Robin Cooks Formula for Death springs to mind as a good example. I've also seen Thunder Point with Kyle Maclachlan as Sean Dillan, it's just as bad.

Ashes to Ashes

The BBC has reached rock bottom.
After all that she was dead anyway. All that rubbish in the first series about her parents being killed in a car bomb! It all came to nothing, the story line just dropped. We didn't even find out who shot her or why. All the screen time they wasted showing her angst over being apart from her daughter and she never got back to her. The last episode played out with Gene Hunt as a God type figure acting as custodian for the lost souls of dead coppers. His rival spent a couple of minutes trying to usher the supporting cast down to "the basement" before putting in a ridiculous turn outside the pub snarling like some hell hound. Alex Drake was supposed to be strong willed, resourceful and intelligent and yet she played no part in the three minutes or so they used to end the story. Why couldn't they just have her wake up in the hospital bed? I will watch out for further work from the writing team and avoid it to save myself further misery.

Just as disappointing as Life on Mars when Sam Tyler solved the mystery of who kidnapped his girlfriend. He solves it in an early episode, they arrest some guy and Sam realises he will become the kidnapper later on in life, but when Sam returns to the "real world" we don't get any further mention of his girlfriend, the kidnapper or the fact that Sam has put the pieces together. These, along with DI Drake's daughter and the mystery of her parents' death are the reasons we tuned in each week and the writers just left them hanging. What a shame. I've seen the ending to the US version of Life on Mars and at least it had the good grace to provide a proper ending, even though they nicked it from an episode of Red Dwarf.

Solomon Kane

Solid, old fashioned, sword and sorcery flick
If you took the time to find it, then you wont be disappointed with this solid, old fashioned sword and sorcery movie.

The tales of Solomon Kane have been around longer than most, the character first appearing in mass market print back in the late twenties, but they've not been filmed. Many others, borrowing from it have been filmed so you will be quite familiar with the twists and turns having seen them elsewhere. The saving grace here is that it's all done quite well. James Purefoy is every part the tortured warrior and it's good to see Max Von Sydow and the legend that is Pete Poslethwaite up on the big screen. It's a creepy, dark movie at times and the extra effort they've put into the set design and cinematography really helps to set the scene. The story nips along to a satisfying conclusion. The fight choreography is very well done and FX are good as well.

The Fixer

Gritty drama and some solid action
I love stuff like this. A tortured hero and a motley crew around him laying waste to all that is bad in the world. Each episode has action much like in the Professionals and the hero has a soul reminiscent of Edward Woodward in Callan.

The situations given to us each week depict a dark underbelly of crime; many of which ring all too true. It's dirty, nasty and the people therein are little better. Thankfully there's a lot to like about John Mercer, he's intelligent and his brooding on screen presence is lifted albeit momentarily by sharp dialogue and some welcome comic relief from his sidekick.

The shady organisation he works for is nothing new but the adventures are pulled off with such enthusiasm I can't help but like this show. Can't wait for series two.


Guilty Pleasure
This thing has it all. Can't think of a genre I like which isn't included. Neil Marshall knows his stuff and can pull off a decent action flick. This is one for all us action fanatics and it makes no apology for crashing head first into the mayhem. The basic premise is that an incurable plague decimates Scotland and a giant wall is erected to contain the victims in and leave them to die. Years later the plague appears beyond the wall and there still isn't a cure. The authorities have suppressed evidence of survivors in the "hot zone" and dispatch a special forces team led by Rhona Mitra to find out how the survivors haven't perished. What follows is a roller-coaster of action and adventure as the intrepid team look for a cure and make their way through the wasted cities encountering flesh eating tribes and medieval warlords. This movie is what happens when Escape from New York and 28 days later have a party with King Arthur and Mad Max; almost the perfect movie.


It doesn't get much better.
A no nonsense, kick the crap out of everyone who gets in your way action movie. Liam Neeson's character is the angry love child of Bourne,Bond and all the other pretenders put together. If I was asked to cast the movie I guess he wouldn't have been my first choice but having seen it I can't think of anyone else I'd rather have in the role. The fight choreography is bone crunchingly good. This is one kick ass flick and one I will definitely buy on DVD. There's little doubt who the bad guys are and they get a very satisfactory smack in the mouth - when they aren't being shot or electrocuted. This was made by people who like the genre and know how to get an action movie from A to Z. I can't help but giggle at those reviews that mention plot and probability in this kind of movie. What kind of movie did they think they were going to see?


Cracking movie
I managed to see this in Spain over Christmas. It's a really fun movie and gave me just what I was looking for. Great SF, plenty of action and a bit of drama in the mix as well. The sets, music and cinematography were good too. James Caviezel was excellent as usual as was Sophia Myles - to think of it, there wasn't a bum note in the cast and the script was fine. The battle scenes were very well done and the monster was as good as anything else i've seen on the big screen. Aliens, Vikings and Spacemen..come on! It's one of those movies I would buy on DVD and i've had a look on the official site etc..The positive feedback i've seen lately seems to have had an impact because the straight to DVD option has been shelved and the UK distributor has changed the release date from Feb to the Easter break. With any luck they will beef up the marketing and give this canny film the boost it deserves. If you like 13th Warrior or AVP type movies then this'll do for you.

Kampfansage - Der letzte Schüler

Every now and then you find a diamond in the rough.
Paying homage to the post apocalyptic genre with echoes of stories like Fist of the North Star, Cyborg and the Postman this movie is infused with adrenalin, enthusiasm, rage, excitement, and action. It has a huge heart and the fact that it was made on a limited budget is testament to the skill and passion of those involved. They say that first time features made with limited financial support will have failings somewhere around Lighting, Script, Score and CGI. I am pleased to say that the piece is effectively lit even when filmed in cavernous tunnels. I rather like the CGI; it's obvious of course, but it offers a unique visual vista and blends well with the other outdoor scenes. The script, well, I watched the movie in German with English subtitles and found that the characters, although very familiar, (the hero falls somewhere between Kenshiro and Robin Hood) were comfortable rather than caricature. When the lead was doing voice over to convey his thoughts it really worked well for me, there was something about the sound of his voice that gave what I was reading some resonance. I thought the score generally worked well. I have some difficulty in accepting techno music in any setting; thankfully for me, its unwelcome intrusion was brief. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the fight choreography and the stunt work. In addition to all this, some of the cinematography was extremely effective, especially the two wonderful sweeping shots on top of the building during the final showdown. I won't pretend that the story is anything new but it is carried off with such bare faced enthusiasm and more than a little respect for the genre that I can't help but like it. I tracked this down from the makers own website. I'm glad to say that I was happy to pay the few euros for such a great product.

The Outsiders

I rather enjoyed this highly derivative piece of action adventure. The references to all before it were great to pick off. They really threw everything into the mix; Bond, Bourne, the Da Vinci Code, 3 days of the Condor, the Persuaders, as well as The Saint to name but a few. Personally, I loved it, particularly the 60's throwback stuff, the title screen reminded me of the Time Tunnel and lines going across the screen in place of a fade out were great. It's the latest in a long line of TV action and reminded me of stuff like the Sandbaggers, Department S, Callan and the Professionals. Even the gardens of the Stately home reminded me of the Village from the Prisoner as did the scene when the lead woke up in his room! The choreography they used in the fight with the Ninja assassins came straight out of the Bourne Identity movie but I really enjoyed watching it, especially the elbow smash! The perfect antidote to a soap filled Tuesday night! Just wonderful! There was a load of bad writing on offer, such as the schmovie goers guide where the female lead explained the male leads back story for the benefit of the viewers and the Ninja assassin carrying a calling card! I can forgive this because of the short run time. The CGI was a bit poor in places and I could just about forgive putting place names on scenes showing world famous landmarks. In short, if you like any of the above named shows then this is for you, albeit with a tongue in cheek approach. If you like Spooks / MI5 this is the other side of the coin. I hope they make more.

Highlander II: The Quickening

This movie has soul
The history of this movie is strained to say the least. The financial controllers put out a sub standard product which everyone hated. I just caught the Macleod (SE) version on DVD and I found it to be a pleasurable experience, far enhanced from the original versions put out at the time. The scenes are in the proper order and that gives the story more sense. The Zeist scenes are still there but are not referred to as being on another planet. As with the first movie the origins of the immortals are not really explored; only to say that they were transported into another time on earth to fight for the prize.

The Macleod DVD version has a crisp transfer from the original negative so it looks great. There are over a hundred updated effects and there are extra scenes which give the movie a better sense of structure. There are many set up shots which give the viewer a richer feel for the surroundings in which the action takes place.

I agree that the whole series is a bit of a pig when continuity is considered but I have to congratulate the makers on trying to return the product to something near their original vision (and make some cash in the process). In short, this movie has soul.

The Mechanik

That'll do Dolph, that'll do.
I had read some encouraging reviews but still watched this with some trepidation (you can't always tell if some reviewers have seen more than one film!). After just watching a depressing B&W French movie called '13' I was in the mood for a good old action fest. I am happy to report that Dolph didn't disappoint. I found the plot to be fairly well structured, not perfect, but it has engaging characters and the straight forward revenge plot suited the mood I was in.

After the fight scenes and chases the action ends with a shootout reminiscent of the "OK Coral". This encounter is set up quite well and the final gunshot is very creative whilst giving some satisfactory closure to the viewer. The scene is very effectively shot, rather like the bad guy actually! I understand that the film is released as either "The Russian Specialist" or "The Mechanik". Incidentally the term Mechanic used to be a slang reference for a hit man; although you don't hear it much now.

Make no mistake, this movie isn't Oscar worthy but I do appreciate it for what it is. I found this a better viewing experience than other DTV fodder being put out by faded 80's action stars. I look forward to his next project and in the mean time I will re visit some of his earlier work such as Man of War and Red Scorpion.

Red Cap

Excellent show!
RedCap gave us a decent Pilot movie and two good seasons. The show demonstrates strong production values and plot driven episodes. The decent plots were bolstered with intelligent scripts; the tiny cliché of envious female colleagues cropped up now and again but this usually served to help things along rather than hinder the action. As a starring vehicle for Tamzin I though she gave an engaging performance and had able support from the rest of the cast. Although this is a crime drama it is set within the British Military Police and allows the show to give us something out of the ordinary. At a time when the TV listings are awash with standard cop shows this was a welcome change. I understand that the previous (1960's) incarnation starring John Thaw was equally good. The BBC said that the show was too expensive (Shot in Germany) for a third series even though it was a ratings winner. I for one would happily pay the licence fee for quality shows like this rather than be force fed naff soaps. All episodes are being offered on Ebay. Why isn't there an official release? Unusual for the BBC not to want more cash!

The IT Crowd

Very Funny
Like Father Ted and Black Books before it this show is packed with great comedy. There are real gems in here (as well as some stuff we've seen before). Katherine Parkinson does a fine job as Jen, the voulnerable but strong IT manager (who doesn't do IT!),this is particularly satisfying as many Female characters don't fare well in comedy and can quickly fall into the 'say line to the camera, move off screen' rubbish we see so often. Chris O'Dowd is great as Roy and although he provides many of the 'stock comedy moments' this is mixed with new material and isn't detrimental to the overall piece. Richard Ayoade as Moss is another great character, to see how he peels an Orange is worth the DVD price alone. It is worth noting that this is already being traded on Ebay.

A Sound of Thunder

Entertaining Mess
Yea, it is a mess, but it has a certain charm. It would be a shame if you were suckered into watching it not knowing some of the problems beforehand. I found some of the effects to be rather good, the time waves and the ape creatures for example. The serpent is really awful, as are some of the city scenes. I guess the effects will be updated for the DVD release next year. It would be a shame to leave the movie the way it is. I feel sorry for the actors, especially David Oyelowo; Player in the Royal Shakespeare Company and the first black man cast as the King of England, he must have felt great to have a substantial part in what seemed like a Hollywood blockbuster only to have the overall movie turn out to be a steaming pile of muck. My rating would change if the effects were substantially updated.

The Island

Logan 5 or Lincoln 6
I really enjoyed this movie. I found shed loads of similarities between this and another favourite of mine, Logan's Run. The lottery on the Island reminded me of carousel from Logan's Run, the set interiors of the "facility" had a very familiar feel to them, the costumes, although white, reminded me of the sandman outfits due to their cut and the last scene of the movie is almost identical! That said, the story is updated, the pace and excitement have gone up a few levels and Lincoln goes places Logan never did. America of the future looks great CGI wise and I found the action set pieces to be very exciting. The main car chase is the best I've seen in a long time. The acting and script kept me entertained and I cared about what happened to the lead characters. Like most people here I watch stacks of movies hoping each one will deliver the goods. This was just what I needed.

The 13th Warrior

Cracking yarn
I found this troubled production to be hugely entertaining and it is one I enjoy watching time and again. The basic idea is that Ibin (Antonio Banderas) is a wealthy Arab. A well educated man whose elitist (he walks palatial halls) and scholarly (he describes himself as a poet) lifestyle comes to a steady halt due to him being exiled by the Caliph for being a little too "friendly" with a married woman.

Exiled far to the North with a small entourage including (Omar Sharif) he happens upon a camp of Vikings or "Northmen" where he witnesses the ritual burial of a king and the rather swift and violent election of a new leader! A messenger arrives at the camp and 13 warriors are called for to travel back to their homeland to a kingdom besieged by beasts. As one of the warriors must not be a Northman Ibin is coerced to join this "task force".

I enjoyed the visual poetry as well as the musical score, I found each to be very rich and whilst there wasn't much time spent on character development I found I could engage with and care for what was on offer.

During the arduous journey (a lengthy passage of time condensed for movieland) Ibin passes the time by watching and listening to his compatriots; we see that these north men are a fairly robust but amiable bunch as they poke fun at each other and talk about their wifes and lives. As an educated fellow skilled in language and writing Ibin manages to communicate with his compatriots and at the end of the long, did I mention, long, journey he learns to speaka de lingo (so to speak).

Upon arrival at the homeland the 13 warriors find that they are up against a bear worshipping tribe which they can only stop by killing the Witch / Mother and the tribal Leader. Whilst achieving their goal we are treated to a mixture of myth, legend, action, and adventure, all wrapped up in great cinematography and music.

That said, the film undoubtedly has flaws, the unfinished plot line concerning the Kings son is unforgivable for a major studio and I echo those comments calling for a directors cut.

Even with its flaws, it beats many other films hands down and is a welcome addition to the genre.

The Village

Great Stuff
This is a welcome change for me and as such it stands tall amongst other Hollywood offerings. As with his other movies there is a gimmick attached to the plot but I am glad M Night Shyamalan gave us a simple story with two fine performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Bryce Dallas Howard amongst a strong ensemble cast. People who view and review Shyamalans movies often concentrate on the gimmick 'I see dead people' Sixth Sense; 'an indestructible man' Unbreakable; 'alien beings' Signs; when I believe these elements come a close second to the characters and how they develop throughout the story. For me Unbreakable was about discovering love and meaning within your life (Bruce Willis gave up a sporting career for the love of his wife, a love which slipped away in the face of life's mundane disappointments) and in Signs it was about Mel Gibson letting go of the past to live for the future and reaffirming his faith. Children and family feature heavily in the two latter stories and their fathers, although loving, are lost within them selves and are unable to see the love and joy available within their family group. The story progresses and the plot gimmick, when realized allows the character to move towards their niche in the world.

I found similar themes within the Village. For me it's essentially about faith and romance; faith in yourself and again the joy to be found in companionship and love.

The movie starts slowly immersing the viewer in the village community; I found that this time was well used to develop character and setting and serves to allow the viewer full access to the characters thought process when making decisions later on.

Some have said that you can figure out the ending, so what? At least it's done well; I rather liked the idea myself, although, I understand that it has been used before but then so has 'dead person finally realising they're dead' (Sixth Sense) and this was met with rave reviews across the world! Who cares if its been done before? This is a deftly handled piece of film-making; I reveled at the innocence of the characters and the beginnings of the romance between Joaquin Phoenix and Bryce Dallas Howard. I found simple enjoyment in setting up their feelings for one another and then putting them to the test such as when she steadfastly believes he won't leave her in danger and the moment he finally holds her hand again. I think I enjoyed this romantic aspect because it was subtle but powerful. In many respects is difficult to place the movie in a genre; one reviewer was disappointed because they thought this movie was going to be a horror film; I found this incredibly difficult to believe given the amount of information on offer before it went on general release and can only assume that this particular reviewer doesn't get to watch many movies. I found the movie offered some eerie moments and some genuine excitement.

While it may not tick all my boxes its miles better than many of its contemporaries and definitely worth a look.

Ultimate Force

Does exactly what it says on the tin.
We need a series like this. It does exactly what is says on the tin. Most of the situations are unbelievable but what do you expect from a show about the SAS? The production values are OK and the action is exciting without being silly (compared to made for TV American action movies). There are some stock characters but the script isn't laughable and the actors seem to care about what they are doing. As the new team member Jamie Draven portrays the right amount of innocence and brings a sense of duty to his role; his interactions with the rest of the cast are well thought out; you can see some chemistry between him and Alex Reid and I hope this is fleshed out in the next series. Although billed as such I never found Ross Kemp to be the star of the show and at times we aren't even supposed to like him; I am glad character is written this way and that his obvious mental scars dictate the person he is. This is in stark contrast to badly written imported shows where we are expected to believe that hardened battle veterans who are emotionally scarred and have shattered private lives are really nice guys who never do any thing wrong.

Some episodes are better than others; I actually thought the first episode was fairly weak but the second with the pressure group sniper story was excellent and allowed us to see flashes of how good the series could be.

I only got to see the first episode of the second series which took place on board a ship; the standout fight scene being that in the belly of the ship between Jamie Draven and the legionnaire, it was a tough no nonsense scrap and as exciting as the fight in the Bourne Identity.

Looking forward to the DVD.

Minority Report

Very Disappointing
Some time ago I bought this movie as a USA import and eagerly awaited its arrival. Having younger kids I don't get to the cinema much and so I jealously guard my DVD fix. The hype promised me an entertaining time; futuristic setting, action packed set pieces, intrigue, a courageous leading character etc and although the film delivers this it somehow just wasn't enough. The film lacked something, it seemed pedestrian, I found it hard to engage with those elements I normally find entertaining. I don't mind watching inner turmoil but the tortured soul of the leading man didn't offer the glimmer of a satisfactory outcome. It seemed as though he was substituting the visionary girl for his lost child but the script just couldn't pull it off. I didn't care about their time together, *minor spoiler* I wanted Tom's character to find his child or bring the perpetrator to justice offering him and the viewer some closure but alas no; I would have chosen a different sub plot to move the story along. I think the movie was over produced and didn't bring enough substance to the visuals. The message boards are full of guff about plot holes, the ability of the pre-cogs, the stereotypical Witwer character but this viewer is happy to suspend disbelief for entertainments sake if the overall effect is entertaining. Unfortunately the climax provided a predictable ending to the main plot area and that's a shame because I really wanted to enjoy this movie.

Extremely Dangerous

A very worthy piece of entertainment
Comparisons to the Fugitive are obvious so I won't go into that here. This gritty UK production benefits from an excellent tortured performance from Sean Bean. *Minor Spoiler*. We know he's an undercover officer early on because NCIS (National Criminal Intelligence Service) have a meeting to disown him. What we don't know is did he murder his family? This basic question provides the viewer with a bumpy ride. Is he a tortured soul or a deranged maniac? What helps in the confusion is that the supporting players steadfastly believe that he did kill his family and the viewer is left unsure until the last act.

This is an unnerving bedfellow because we don't know if we want to route for Neil Byrne or not.

Some scenes work especially well such as when Neil is watching children in a school playground and is approached by a Policeman; Sean delivers his dialogue as though he's in a dream recounting a floating memory, but what memory? A loving family man who will never see his own child again or some deranged fantasy of killing an innocent?

The chase scenes and action set pieces were very well put together. I found that the street fight and the fight in the cab office were choreographed to deliver the strong sense of animal energy rather than flamboyant 'clean' martial artistry or comic book violence.

The supporting characters lend emotion and intrigue to move the plot along; I agree with the comments on the dry black humour from Nitin Chandra Ganatra as the cab office owner, very funny and in just the right measure, Juliet Hubrey displayed a powerful sexy persona with a tenuous grip on the head of the crime family, Alex Norton is excellent as usual as the no nonsense cop (a role he took with him to Taggart). On a downside the NCIS head of section isn't fleshed out very well and his character forms part of an unbelievable plot device later on.

Although the ending provides a satisfactory conclusion to the story I feel that the tension built up on the journey beforehand deserved something more spectacular.

The Uninvited

Great Brit Sci Fi
It's great to encounter a story with a beginning middle and an end. Comparisons with the Xfiles are obvious but the saving grace here is that its is carried off rather well. Good production values are backed up by a decent script and a neat plot line where the otherworld beings can't control the mind of a woman with Alzheimer's. Although the show isn't exactly fast paced the script allows the viewer to care for the players as the plot moves along. Douglas Hodge is excellent as usual although Leslie Grantham and the woman playing Hodge's editor are miscast they don't detract from the overall piece. Although the ending is somewhat predictable it is satisfying and not pedestrian and it offers the viewer a sense of closure which is rare in the UK where most imported American Sci Fi shows are left unfinished.

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