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Justified - Season 6
Justified - Season 6
Price: £0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A fitting end to a classic series..., 5 Feb. 2016
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This review is from: Justified - Season 6 (DVD)
This has been one of the coolest, most enjoyable crime shows ever to have come out of the US. Tremendous writing and direction and rarely was a cast chosen so well; every member an effortless fit for the character he or she played. There wasn't a duff performance from any of them. While I'm desperately sad to see it go, I have to give full marks to the writers and crew who were determined to maintain the quality right up to the final scene, which was just perfect. So much better for the series to end on a high note rather than run on until it withered on the vine like so many of the vastly inferior shows which came before it.

This last season was tremendous, driven as much by the characters as the action, which at times was sudden, swift and brutal.
Wonderful to see the great Sam Elliott as a baddy for a change. He was terrific. How they persuaded him to shave his instantly recognizable moustache is beyond me, but my goodness it worked, making him an even more menacing individual.

Which brings me to the wonderful Walter Goggins, who played one of the most charismatic villains ever to grace the small screen. Damn it, he actually had me rooting for him so many times during the show's run, it was often hard to pick sides.

So to Raylan, Boyd, Ava, Art, Marshall Tim, Rachel, Wynn Duffy, Winona, Loretta, Dewey and the rest of the 'gang' and especially the late, great Elmore Leonard: thanks for everything.

What a ride...!

Black Sails, Season 3
Black Sails, Season 3

5.0 out of 5 stars Raise the flag! Run out the guns! It's back...!, 28 Jan. 2016
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What a great start to 2016! Wasn't expecting the new series to commence so soon, so imagine my delight when I logged on and found Episode 1 available to view. Which left me with that awful dilemma. Do I watch each episode as it comes out or do I save them up to enjoy in one almighty binge later? Well, duh, it was a no-brainer. There was no way I was gonna wait and I'm so happy to report that my impatience was rewarded. A cracking opening and with Ray Stevenson as Blackbeard, you just know this is going to be something special (I don''t know about Teach, but I've always thought he'd make a great Jack Reacher. Maybe we should start a petition..?).

Any road, this series makes all those 'terrestrial' historical dramas so tame by comparison - 'Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands' anyone..? Nope, didn't think so.

Roll on Episode 2.

Oh, and just to add, with the new series of Ripper Street just started, we have some great viewing to look forward to. Now, if only Amazon can bring forward the release on Instant of 'Hell on Wheels Season 5', that's my evenings sorted.

Lucifer: Season 1
Lucifer: Season 1

12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Devilishly enjoyable....., 27 Jan. 2016
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This review is from: Lucifer: Season 1 (Amazon Video)
Great fun. Another one of those slick, glossy crime/fantasy shows that the Yanks seem to do so well: Grimm, Sleepy Hollow and so forth. With a hugely engaging lead in Tom Ellis who has the ability to deliver a snappy one-liner with ease while turning his hand to the menacing in the blink of an eye.

Ok, the opener was more than a tad derivative and plot-by-numbers but, damn it, it was very watchable in a Chinese meal kind of way and I'll certainly give Episode 2 a look.

One thing that did strike me within a short time, and I know this is early days and the thing might run out of steam, but on this brief showing I found myself thinking: forget all the guff about Idris Elba playing the next Bond...this guy, on looks alone could well creep in under the radar. Watch this space...

Seventh Son
Seventh Son
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars If they'd called it The Seventh Circle of Hell they'd have been nearer the mark..., 24 Jan. 2016
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This review is from: Seventh Son (Blu-ray)
I had no idea this was based on a book - The Spook's Apprentice. I went by the trailer, which looked great, and with Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore in the cast, how could it fail..?

Oh, dear me.

They couldn't possibly have done it for the money, could they? I mean, neither of them could be that hard up, surely?

I'm always dubious when a film is set in some mythical medieval kingdom and the cast speak with American accents. Occasionally, they can get away with it, but not this time. They even had Kit - you know knothing, Jon Snow - Harington displaying a distinct Atlantic twang. It was just wrong on so many levels.

Which brings us to the dialogue: honestly, it made the The Flower Pot Men look like High Art.

And what on earth made Jeff Bridges, one of the best actors on the planet, think he could get away with his manner of delivery? It sounded as if he was attempting elocution lessons with a mouthful of pomegranate seeds. Excruciating doesn't begin to describe it. Those of you with a nervous disposition might have to rely on the sub-titles.

And as for Olivia Williams and Djimon Hounsou, what on earth possessed them?

The fact that the film was scheduled for initial release on February 2013, but kept being moved back until it eventually saw the light of day - some would say escaped - on February 2015 should tell you all you need to know.

I'd lost the will to live at 17 minutes 49 seconds in. Yep, I'm that anal, I even made a note of the time. That's how awful this film was.

Being of a curious mind, I took the trouble to look up some of the trade reviews for the film. Variety magazine called it an 'over-designed' and
'under-conceived fantasy epic' while Rotten Tomatoes gave the thing a rating of 12%, based on 105 reviews, with an average rating of 3.8/10.

Frankly, I'd say they were doing it a favour. this and you'll never get that time back. it'll be gone for ever...

You have been warned....

Ragnarok: The Viking Apocalypse
Ragnarok: The Viking Apocalypse
Price: £6.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cracking B movie...., 13 Jan. 2016
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A very effective....

Oh, hang on, I'd better mention up front for those who might be of a nervous or bone idle disposition and who can't be bothered to make the effort to read the bottom of a screen that this is a Norwegian film with English subtitles.

There, that's that out of the way.

The other thing you might notice is that it has a 12 classification so don't expect a lot of blood and gore, because you'll be disappointed if that's your preference.

So, what does that leave us with?

Right, well, as I was about to say: this is a very effective little film. The 12 cert suggests it might be aimed at kids more than adults, but don't be dissuaded from giving it a go. Despite what I suspect was a very modest budget it's an extremely well made slice of entertainment with just the right amount of tension and action to hold the attention. The big plus is that the female star is Sofia Helin who plays Saga in that terrific crime series The Bridge. In this one, you actually see her smile and that has to be worth the effort of watching, surely?

There are some seriously tense sequences that'll have you gasping - no spoilers here, folks - so do yourself a favour. As long as you don't press 'play' with any great expectation, I reckon you'll be pleasantly surprised by the result. Go on, what have you got to lose..?

Child 44
Child 44
Price: £5.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't be swayed by the negative reviews..., 12 Jan. 2016
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This review is from: Child 44 (Amazon Video)
Really wasn't sure what to expect with this one, especially as Empire magazine only gave it 2 stars, but hey, with it being available on Instant I didn't lose anything by watching it and it meant it wouldn't be cluttering up my Lovefilm Rental list. Though I was a tad wary as I did attempt to read the book when it came out and couldn't get into it, giving up after only a few chapters. Still, nothing ventured...

Verdict: Well, as you can tell by my rating, I reckon it did deserve a couple more stars, though I doubt whether anyone would reach the end credits and say they 'enjoyed' the movie. I'm not sure it's that sort of film, frankly.

There's aren't a lot of laughs, that's for sure, but then, given the story and the time in which it's set, you wouldn't really expect any. There's an unremitting grimness to the portrayal of Stalinist Russia, where the citizens live in fear; where any criticism of the regime is considered treason and where murder is regarded as non-existent. Y'see, according to Uncle Joe's philosophy there are no murders in Paradise.

So when a child is found killed by the side of the railway tracks, you can imagine the official reaction. It's the detective's attempt to find the killer while being hunted in turn by the authorities who are anxious to cover up the crime that forms the basis of the plot. In essence, it's a chase movie as much as a murder mystery and in that regard it's gripping stuff.

Tom Hardy is one of those actors it's very hard to ignore when he's on screen. He has a brooding presence and it's that plus the snow- bound Soviet setting that gives the film its heart. It's not something we've seen too often before and the claustrophic atmosphere is rendered to very good effect.

If there was one aspect of the production that I did find jarring it's the director's decision to have the cast to speak with cod Russian accents. The film reminded me of Gorky Park but in that movie the cast (including American William Hurt) all used their own accents and it worked. Why that wasn't done here is beyond me. Reading some of the other reviews, it appears to be the most common complaint.

But don't let that put you off. Some have said it's a bit too long for its own good but for me it didn't lag at all and it held my attention throughout.

All in all, definitely worth a watch...

Master of Shadows
Master of Shadows
by Neil Oliver
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars All it needed was a good editor..., 7 Jan. 2016
This review is from: Master of Shadows (Hardcover)
I guess the fact that I had no problem laying this book down every half-dozen pages or so and took my time picking it up again tells its own story.

I was looking forward to this. I’m an admirer of Neil Oliver and have been for a while. He’s a hugely knowledgeable and engaging TV presenter and his latest offering, allied with Alice Roberts: The Celts; Blood, Iron and Sacrifice was terrific. He’s a man who knows his stuff and the premise of Master of Shadows promised much.

It’s not a period of history I’m too familiar with so I was all set. Have to confess though, that, sadly, I was struggling within the first couple of chapters. It’s not that the story is a let-down; it’s just that I don’t think Neil Oliver tells it very well. Not that I consider it entirely his fault. This is his first novel, so I place a lot of the blame on his editor who really should have told him not to use three sentences where one will suffice. We readers have a pretty good imagination – that’s why we enjoy novels. Too much needless description and our eyes start to glaze over. Case in point:

‘The night was a warm one, but still as a tomb – as if the universe itself waited, breath bated, to see what might happen next.’

‘The night was as still as a tomb’ would have told us everything we needed to know. We didn’t require the rest. We get the picture. The rest is purple padding. There was quite a lot of that. There are oodles of examples but this isn’t the place nor the space in which to list them.

I know, you’ll think I’m being overly picky but a more ruthless editor would have made it a much better read.

I’m afraid what really started to irritate me, however, was that Neil Oliver referred to his hero as John Grant. Well, yes, that’s his name but referring to him as ‘John Grant’ all the way through the book was exhausting. Why not just ‘Grant’, for goodness sake or, during his boyhood years, as simply ‘John’? I confess I kept flicking forward through the pages to see if he did resort to either just the first or just the surname but no, it continued throughout the entire book, which, in the end, given the number of times it was employed, just started to wear me down. It got to the point where I was dreading the next appearance.

All in all, then, for me at least, nowhere near as enjoyable as I'd hoped; a huge pity as I’m sure, as I said before, there’s an intriguing tale in there somewhere. I just wish that reading it hadn’t been so labour intensive.

The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island
The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island
by Bill Bryson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.00

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anyone who has a dig at John Prescott is a hero in my book..., 17 Dec. 2015
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It occurred to me, not that far into the book, that there was no way this was written with anyone other than a British reader in mind. Thank goodness. Anybody else and I suspect this will go right over their heads.

Bryson loves Britain. He’s confessed it enough times and this latest offering proves it in spades, despite his belief that the entire country appears to be crumbling around his ears. It’s that which makes so many of his observations so damned funny for he’s at his best when he’s having a rant and he does that frequently here, inevitably with hysterical results.

Having said that, I confess, in the beginning, I wasn’t sure this was as funny as his earlier works, until I came upon his first swipe at a moronic British institution, at which point I ended up laughing like a drain, unable to see the pages for tears. That continued throughout my reading. Another prime example being the segment in which he lists the closures of several local firms in East Anglia. Despite the circumstances involved, it does end on a very funny note, trust me.

It'll be interesting to read reviews on Bryson’s humour is essentially British rather than American – well he is a citizen of the UK now, after all – so he does not feel the need to write ‘only joking’ after several howlingly funny paragraphs, which from my own experience (and his) I know some American readers will take literally, one of which concerns a lady he meets while she is walking her dog. Enough said. You’ll see what I mean.

If I’m being picky, he probably spends a little too much time down south and there are a couple of instances where he gets it wrong. German torpedo boats were called E-Boats (Enemy Boats), not U-Boats and he refers to Everton’s ‘blue uniform’. Call me old fashioned – I’m a year older than Bryson – but I’m pretty sure we Brits have never referred to a soccer uniform. It’s either ‘kit’ or ‘strip’. But these are minor blips and, in any case, I’m willing to forgive him everything as anyone who has a go at John Prescott and who also finds Miranda and Mrs Brown’s Boys profoundly unfunny is a hero in my book.

A number of reviewers have raised their hands in horror at what they consider to be a surfeit of four letter words. Yes, they do litter the narrative, but they are in context and they provided me with some of my biggest belly laughs.

Some reviewers - in fact, quite a lot - have also taken him to task, accusing him of being grumpy and negative in his descriptions of what he perceives to be failings in British society and the disintegration of our infrastructure with regards to institutions and services that were once the backbone of the country and highly prized and which have been decimated over the years since he wrote ‘Notes from a Small Island’.

Well, he’s not wrong. I challenge anyone to disprove the facts he’s given. His feelings towards projects such as the HS2 rail link and the takeover of what were once proud British industries by foreign owners had me cheering in agreement and, even as I write this, the TV news is telling me about the closure of our last deep working coal mine, Kellingley Pit, with the loss of 450 jobs. And this, the week before Christmas. And if that wasn't bad enough, I've just read that Tendring District Council (Clacton-on-Sea, if you're interested) is trying to defend plans to charge pensioners £26 to help them to their feet if they've had a fall at home. I'd love to read what Bryson thinks about that.

I also found it extremely embarrassing that it takes an adopted son to prove to me how little I know about my own country. Not least, the fact that it was the American Bar Association which was responsible for the erection of the Magna Carta memorial at Runnymede.

Damned Colonials, coming over here, erecting our monuments…

Long may you continue, Bill. This was a delight.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 22, 2015 12:08 PM GMT

Red Cliff
Red Cliff
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The best laid plans..., 16 Oct. 2015
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This review is from: Red Cliff (DVD)
Sadly, this isn’t gonna be a review of the film so much as a rant against the disc studio as my home cinematic experience left so much to be desired I gave up and came directly to my laptop to type this out….

First off, this disc should carry a health warning:

Why? Because that’s roughly how long the damned trailers lasted. On the disc I had there were six trailers, some over 2 minutes long ( that’s a stretch in trailer time, trust me …) and they’ve rigged it so that you can’t skip to the next one, or fast forward or even go to the menu until they’ve all run their course. If I saw the the mantra ‘Operation currently prohibited by disc’ once I must have seen it a dozen times.
This is totally unacceptable.

By the time the Red Cliff menu finally came up I was already in a foul mood, so imagine my joy when the film started with one of those stentorian American voice overs that sounds as if the speaker would be better employed advertising haemorrhoid cream. Not exactly appropriate for a film that’s about Chinese history with Chinese dialogue.

Talking of which; you didn’t need spectacles to read the subtitles, you needed a pair of binoculars. Memo to subtitlers…white letters don’t show up against white backgrounds…!

I confess I gave up after 10 minutes because I was spending so much time trying to decipher the words at the bottom of the screen that I had no idea what the hell was going on above them….

As I said; a very unsatisfactory experience and I write as someone who loves this particular genre. I also prefer subtitles to dubbing.

As with all John Woo movies, though, it did look spectacular but thanks to the aforementioned dingbats I just wasn’t in a position to appreciate it.
I should have gone to see it at the Odeon...

ps..the one star is not for the film, it's to sum up my entire evening....!

Hamilton 2: But Not If It Concerns Your Daughter
Hamilton 2: But Not If It Concerns Your Daughter
Price: £4.49

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another thriller...and, yes, it's Swedish and it does have sub-titles..!, 11 Oct. 2015
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Another cracker. Tense storyline with an atmospheric and gripping climax. Perhaps not as visceral as the first film and it took a wee while longer for the real action to kick in - and I do mean kick - but that is a minor quibble. This was hugely enjoyable. The fight scenes are, once again, full on and the characters do look as if they mean it. With nothing on TV of note, this was a grand way to spend a Saturday evening's viewing. Ironic, when you think about, it as the alternative was the Swedish cop show Beck, also starring Mikael Persbrandt!

Roll on Hamilton 3 - due out in 2016, when our hero takes on the Russian Mafia

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