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Legal Vampire (Buckinghamshire, England)

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Hawaii Five-O - Season 1 [DVD]
Hawaii Five-O - Season 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Scott Caan
Price: 14.26

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good even if you don't normally like crime shows or remakes, 17 May 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is made cleverly and imaginatively enough that even if you do not normally bother with crime shows and usually find film and television re-makes of something done succesfully in the past disappointing, you may want to make an exception for this one.

'Hawaii Five-O' may not have great artistic pretentions, ground breaking originality or, I expect, strict documentary realism in its portrayal of police work in Hawaii, but so what?

Characters and dialogue are as much a strength as the action sequences and (to us in Britain) exotic scenery and location of this unique state of the USA a long way out from North America in the Pacific.

The episodes are largely self-contained but there are longer running stories mentioned from time to time that link them together (I would have liked a little more of the hero Steve McGarret's slightly wayward sister and the family plot strands in which she is involved, some of which were cut but included in the DVD extras). The last episode of this Season leaves the main characters in some serious fixes, but this is an upbeat show and somehow we know that the script writers will find a way to set most things right next Season.

The makers of the DVD extras reveal amongst other things that it is cloudy and raining an awful lot in Hawaii (which explains how such a warm place can be so lushly green) but they mostly filmed outdoor scenes only during sunshine, to give the show the bright feel and appearance they wanted.

They rightly preserved the distinctive theme tune (for some reason called a theme 'song' in the DVD extras, although it is entirely instrumental) from the original show and even copy part of the opening credit sequence, so that viewers who remember the original series can be drawn in and reassured at the beginning, and accept the other differences that come in later.

A couple of the characters including the hero are in fact played by Australian actors. It is a little strange at first to hear them talking in their real accents in the interviews and commentaries included.

There may have been no strict plot necessity to strip 'Kono' (the Korean American actress Grace Park, formerly known as Sharon/ Boomer in Battlestar Galactica) to her white underwear in the first episode, but so what?

James Masters has a recurring villain part in a few episodes is fine but not outstanding. I suspect he will never again be as good as he was as 'Spike' in Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel.

Having the titles of the episodes in native Hawaiian (with English translations in the notes to the DVD) is a nice idea in a way, but it makes them harder to remember and may have meant more if they had included a little more information about the language and how it is structured.

Battlestar Galactica: The Plan [DVD]
Battlestar Galactica: The Plan [DVD]
Dvd ~ Edward James Olmos
Price: 5.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars Despite What Some People Say, 9 May 2012
This Feature (I do not know what else to call it as it was originally released for DVD and only later shown on television) is an interesting supplement to the 2003-8 series Battlestar Galactica. However, this is not the best thing they have ever done, so 3 or 4 stars should be the obvious rating. I give it 4. I am surprised at the extremes of 5 star and 1 or 2 ratings by many other reviewers. Perhaps some people expected too much or expected something else.

Anyone not already familiar with the wonderful 2003-8 series Battlestar Galactica should not start here but with the Mini-Series, which comes before Season 1.

This one off Feature 'The Plan' after the Final Season. To avoid very slight anti-climax take a break between watching the Final Season and watching this, but do watch it.

Particularly Good Things in this are:

-Canadian actress Tricia Helfer's performance as various versions of the tall, dyed blonde Cylon No 6. Having been a model before she was an actress and (I am told!) having appeared undressed in Playboy or some such magazine, she may never be taken as seriously as she deserves for her work as an actress throughout the modern Battlestar Galactica

- The scene at the end between Dean Stockwell and himself playng two different Cylon No 1s (Cavills) in which, despite being technically identical machines, they have through their experiences reached different views of whether their original Plan to destroy humanity was right.

(That is why this feature is called 'The Plan'; it is not as some reviewers here expected a detaied account of how the Cylons formed and executed their Plan. One of them eventually almost apologises to the humans and clumsily tries to make peace; the other is to the end unremittingly determined to exterminate the humans and any Cylons who stand in his way - except one gesture right at the end seems to show that even he may be capable of a slight softening)

- The special effects especially in the portrayal of the attack on the colonies.

- Bear McCreary's music, developed from what he wrote for the previous series

- Respect for the original series without monotonously copying it e.g. the way that the introduction "The Cylons were created by man..." that appeared at the beginning of every episode of the main series as text on the screen is here instead spoken one line each by the voices of various Cylon models

- New footage of other familar characters like Ellen Tighe, Chief Engineer Tyrol, Sharon/Boomer/ Cylon No 8 and greater attention to the black male Cylon Simon than he received previously

- Filming this in 2009 they managed to make the characters and backgrounds look so closely like how they were 4 or 5 years before that new and old footage fit seamlessly within the same scene

- Two sequences [within scenes 13 & 14 on the DVD] with Tricia Helfer in her black underwear...

- A good number of bonus features including deleted scenes without the intended special effects. It increased my respect for the actors to see how they had to play scenes as though e.g. there was a Cylon army marching up the road towards them with guns blazing, when at time of filming there was nothing there.

Relative Downsides are:

- This is what in television is called a "clip show" i.e. the plot involves looking back on events previously shown, thus saving the television company money by allowing them to reuse some footage from previously broadcast shows rather than shoot all new.

Some people dislike this. However, if the original footage was good, there is a new way to understand it, and cutting the cost of production is necessary for it to be economic to make the show at all, then we should not complain too much.

- While many major and minor characters from the original series do recur in The Plan, they could not fit in every character to whom you may like. Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck and James Callis as Gaius Baltar both sadly only appear in the reused clips from previous series. President Laura Roslin is not seen at all, nor New Zealand actress Lucy Lawless's Cylon character. There is little or nothing of Jamie Bamber as Captain Apollo or Tahmoh Peniket as Helo.

- While 'The Plan' explains some things from the previous series, in two hours it cannot explain everything. We still do not know any more about e.g. where or how the Cylons lived between the two Cylon/ Human wars, what happened on the 'Olympic Carrier' in Season 1; whether either the Cylon or the Human view of "one true God" or "the Gods" is right; the nature of the guiding figures that only Dr Baltar & Cylon 6 could see that looked like each other; nor Starbuck's destiny that in the Final Season will lead to her apparently surviving her own death.

True Grit [DVD] [1969]
True Grit [DVD] [1969]
Dvd ~ John Wayne
Offered by MusicnMedia
Price: 4.06

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You will probably like this even if you don't like westerns, 1 May 2012
This review is from: True Grit [DVD] [1969] (DVD)
You will probably like this film even if you don't normally like westerns.

It is hard to write a review that explains to someone who has not seen this why the original 'True Grit' is such a good film, it just is.

The plot involving venturing into the then Indian Territory [now Oklahoma] in pursuit of the men who killed the herione's father, with gun fights on foot and on horseback, rattle snakes and other dangers, and scenic wide plains, rivers and mountains, sounds like a typical western.

There is little particularly surprising in the plot, except that the relationship between the young slightly prim and law abiding heroine and the tough old US Marshall with a very rough and ready attitude to justice, played by John Wayne, that we would expect to turn into a romance by the end of the film never does, although they have an increasing respect and liking for each other.

I would though single out Kim Darby, a then young actress who although still acting and now in her 60s I do not know has ever been famous for anything else. Yet here as the heroine she is not at all inferior to the veteran John Wayne, on top form playing the male lead and winning the Oscar.

Yes, John Wayne plays the same sort of role he usually plays, but then, as the actor Vincent Price once said, citing Wayne as an example, "In Hollywood, to become type cast is to have arrived".

The contrast between Wayne's older, rougher and tougher character (even if on the side of the law) and Kim Darby's younger more civilized and domesticated character may say something about how the first of these types was the more needed in the first generation of the settlement of the American West, and the second in the next generation as life became more stable.

Many other supposedly classic westerns like the Searchers, Winchester '73, the Magnificent Seven and Shane I find frankly, although they have good bits, overall have now lost much of the magic they once seemed to have. 'True Grit' has not.

Alias - Complete Season 3 [DVD]
Alias - Complete Season 3 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jennifer Garner
Price: 7.50

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Jennifer Garner works as hard as ever this Season, but..., 25 Mar 2012
As you will know if you have stuck with Alias thus far, one does not watch this show for documentary realism or plausibility, but it can work as entertainment.

This Season is a relative disappointment between Season 2 and Season 4, as the makers eventually realised, trying to return in the following Season to something more like Season 2, with more balance between the lead character Sydney's personal life and the kicking of bad guys around the world.

Jennifer Garner is as hard working as ever this Season in the lead role and Victor Garber continues to be good in a restrained and dignified way as her father, although his character (indeed most of the characters) do not develop much.

The departure of Sydney's mother (played by Lena Olin) at least as a regular character, after her spectacular exit at the end of Season 2, is a loss to the show.

The plot line in which Sydney wakes up in the Far East having no idea how she got there, and finds 2 years have passed of which her memory is missing, has potential but somehow does not catch fire the way it should.

Marshall the gadget nerd continues to be a cliché but some probably find him amusing.

Melissa George as Vaughan's new wife for me does not really add much excitement. I do not think we are ever told why her character appears to have a mixed Australian/ British/ American accent. In one of the DVD extra episode commentaries the actress suggests she might have done better had the writers warned her of the change in her character's role part-way thorough the season, allowing her to build in hints so it does not seem so incongruous.

I do not enthuse about Ricky Gervais as a guest star in one episode, and I have never found the character of Weiss very interesting, although he is featured quite a lot and meant to be a sympathetic character.

From Pictland to Alba: Scotland, 789-1070 (New Edinburgh History of Scotland)
From Pictland to Alba: Scotland, 789-1070 (New Edinburgh History of Scotland)
by Alex Woolf
Edition: Paperback
Price: 24.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a good attempt given the relatively sparse evidence, 14 Feb 2012
Given the very limited quantity, scope and reliability of surviving records from the area that became Scotland from the late eighth to the eleventh centuries AD, it is probably impossible to write a history of that time that answers the questions that most intersted people today would like to ask.

However, `From Pictland to Alba' is a good attempt, given these serious limitations within the author had to work.

The regions of Northern Britain that were to become `Scotland' were then backward even by Dark Age standards.

They had no towns and produced no coinage. At the beginning of this period it is doubtful they even had villages. There were just individual farms, inhabited by a family, plus their slaves if they owned any. Kings and bishops lived on big farms. The largest communities were abbeys and monasteries.

Modern borders had no particular significance. Some kingdoms at times straddled the Irish Sea, having territory in both Britain and Ireland, others included land on both sides of the modern border between Scotland and England.

For much of this period, apart from the Latin of the Church, as many as 5 different languages were spoken, each associated with one or more kingdoms or states that were sometimes independent.

- PICTISH (probably related to Welsh but a separate language) of which no significant writings survive, spoken extensively, at least in the earlier part of the period, in North-East Scotland and probably Orkney & Shetland. The language died out at some unknown date after the once powerful Pictish kingdom fell under Scots rule in the ninth century

-A form of WELSH, referred to as `BRITISH' or `CUMBRIC', the main language of the Kingdom of Strathclyde that included both South West Scotland and modern English Cumbria. This also died out at an unknown date following absorption of their kingdom by the Gaelic speaking Scots, seemingly by violent conquest in the eleventh century. Contemporary records say almost nothing about the Scots absorption of Strathclyde, perhaps because it happened at about the same time as the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, which dominated the attention of contemporary Chroniclers.

-NORSE brought by Scandinavians, which language may have dominated the North of Scotland and Western Isles for a time, although it was eventually to be supplanted by Gaelic. However, we have very little record of what was going on in the North of mainland Scotland at this time.

-ENGLISH in South-East Scotland, which was then often part of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria

-GAELIC, at first indistinguishable from the language spoken in Ireland, starting in the West and spreading east and south. Its speakers formed a kingdom that came to be known variously as Alba, `Albania' (no relation to the Balkan country of that name) or Scottia. This kingdom eventually conquered all rivals to become the nucleus of what we now call `Scotland'.

Accordingly as the author would doubtless admit, especially in the earlier part of the period in calling this `Scottish' history and bringing together in one book the stories of the regions now collectively known as `Scotland' is to see the period from a modern perspective that would not necessarily make sense to people at the time.

Perhaps if the result of one or two obscure battles had been different the lands North of the Firth of Forth might today be known as Pictland or Norseland, and be a separate country or countries with their own language(s). Glasgow might be Welsh-speaking and Edinburgh might be part of England, or part of an independent kingdom of Northumbria with its capital in York or Bamburgh. There might be neither country nor even geographical concept coinciding with `Scotland' as we know it.

Whether, if that were so, e.g. anything like the British Empire would ever have existed, and whether North Americans or Australians would speak English today, is impossible to say.

Much must therefore have happened in this period of great importance in the making not just of Britain but of the world we know today.

I would love to know e.g. what Pictish may have sounded like when spoken, what songs and poems were lost and even what puns ceased to be funny when the language died; and whether Strathclyde Welsh and its probable cousin Pictish just vanished without trace from everyday speech or whether (as the author tentatively speculates) they may have influenced the syntax of Scots Gaelic, and when and why people stopped speaking them.

We have some surviving Medieval Chronicles but their authors were not concerned with these questions. The Chronicles are mostly annals tersely recording the names and dates of kings and battles with little `colour' or analysis. Like an old-fashioned Victorian school history book, they list the dates of many battles but almost never tell us why or how they were fought.

These Chronicles sometimes contradict each other, and were mostly either written in later periods or were written in and primarily concerned with Ireland or England, and only mention North British affairs in passing.

More lively are Icelandic Sagas that sometimes recount the deeds of Vikings in Britain and Ireland, but these are works of legend and literature, written down centuries after the events they describe, not reliable historical record.

The author admits that it is effectively impossible to write the social history of Scotland in this period except by referring to what we know of life and society in Ireland, England and elsewhere at the time, and assuming that life and society in Scotland may have been similar. However, the very fact that early Medieval Scotland produced far fewer written records than the rest of the British Isles suggests that its society was significantly different.

Doing his best with what he has, the author puts speculative skin on the bare bones of the surviving Chronicles. If all that is recorded of a king is that he was murdered at a particular place in a particular year, the author will speculate from that who might have wanted him killed and why. Quite often, the evidence is so sparse that I wonder if the speculation is useful. At times the almost endless series of largely forgotten kings and battles, of most of which we frankly know little of interest, becomes tedious.

The author calls characters by the names used in his primary sources, so for example Norsemen who in their own tongue called themselves Olafr (modern Olaf) become `Amlaib' after the Irish/ Gaelic way of writing their names.

Overall, the author has done a good job with what he has.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 19, 2012 5:06 PM BST

Frost/Nixon [DVD]
Frost/Nixon [DVD]
Dvd ~ Michael Sheen
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: 3.30

2.0 out of 5 stars Well made, good actors, subject moderately interesting, 12 Feb 2012
This review is from: Frost/Nixon [DVD] (DVD)
Well made film with good actors, about a subject (David Frost's 1970s television interviews with ex-President Nixon) that is just not quite interesting enough to make a memorable film.

The revelation presented as the climax of the film, and which was hyped for publicity purposes at the time the interviews were first broadcast, is that President Nixon admitted that he had made some mistakes. That's it, basically, and it took 3 interviews to get that much.

Somewhat more interesting is the story (and information in the DVD extras) of the difficulties Frost had getting to make and broadcast the interviews.

Some reviewers here have criticised the prominence given to the character of Frost's then girlfriend Caroline, assuming she must be a lergely irrelevant character added because studio executives thought for commercial reasons there had to be a 'love interest'.

While that may well be true of female parts in some films, the interview special features accompanying the film suggest that she genuinely was important at the time in helping to organise and make things happen.

The Muppet Christmas Carol [DVD]
The Muppet Christmas Carol [DVD]
Dvd ~ Michael Caine
Price: 3.70

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best screen version of 'A Christmas Carol' & Best Muppet film, 24 Jan 2012
Not only the best Muppet film ever but also the best ever screen version of 'A Christmas Carol'. No one is too grown up to enjoy this.

One generational difference though is that some younger viewers who do not previously know the Muppet Characters and/or the story of 'A Christmas Carol' may miss a little of the interest for those old enough to remember the Muppet Show on television and who already know the story of 'A Christmas Carol', either from the book or from other adaptations, of seeing which Muppet is cast as which of Dickens' characters. (Kermit the Frog plays Scrooge's underpaid clerk Bob Cratchitt, Robin the little Frog is Tiny Tim, the Great Gonzo is Charles Dickens, assisted as narrator by Rizzo the Rat etc.)

However, for anyone who does not already know either the original story or the Muppet characters, there could scarcely be a livelier introduction to them.

The actor Michael Caine playing Scrooge stands up surprisingly well to the daunting challenge of acting opposite felt glove puppets as famous and alive as Kermit and Miss Piggy.

The songs are mostly not so brilliant, but that almost does not matter, as so much is going on on the screen at the same time they are still enjoyable to watch.

Once you have seen this film, almost as good is 'Muppets Treasure Island'. This probably proves that the muppeteers are: brilliant at creating characters; good at creating spectacle, humour and sentiment; less good at creating their own plots. When let loose on an existing good story by someone else the Muppets and their creators are at their best, at the same time both reverent and irreverent towards Charles Dickens' (A Christmas Carol) and Robert Louis Stevenson's (Treasure Island) famous nineteenth century novels.

Stop hesitating. Buy and watch this now!

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