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Bearfax (Sydney, Australia)

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Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries - Series One [DVD]
Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries - Series One [DVD]
Dvd ~ Essie Davis
Price: £17.99

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Australia's Drama Resurgence, 7 Oct. 2013
Came across this series a little over a year ago and was stunned when I realised it was Australian made. This is the first of three superb period detective series produced through Australia's ABC network. Other writers have already given you a taste of this exquisite series which is now part way through its second season on TV here in Oz.

The lead actors, fronted by an exceptional performance by Essie Davis as Private Detective Miss Fisher, offer a most enjoyable romp through the early 1920's Melbourne and many of its events known well to those living in this country. The sets are first rate and the story lines all worthy of this brilliant series. It has a sense of the British Poirot, Marple series styles but with a definite Oz flavour.

But as I said it is merely the first of three excellent series under the ABC banner. The second is Dr Blake's Mysteries. This is set in 1950's Ballarat, a large town north of Melbourne, and a war veteran doctor, played brilliantly also by Neighbours ex star Craig McLaughlan (you'll barely recognise the blond surfer from Neighbours, and later character in the British series B.U.G.S. in this role). He's the son of a loved doctor returned from WW2, who has that uncanny knack of being able to understand the motives of people and the processes of death and murder. This series was also so successful its about to start its second series here.

The third series has just started here and is an Australian-Singapore produced series, 'Serangoon Road' set in Singapore in the 1960s, and revolves around a small detective agency run by a well off Chinese woman Patricia Cheng, also brilliantly acted by the very well known Joan Chen. She is supported by the part-owner of an import-export firm, the tough guy ex Changi Prison detainee as a child, Sam Callaghan, played by Australian actor Don Hany. Callaghan, an ex pat Aussie decides to assist Cheng when her husband dies, and does much of the grunt work for her agency. This series is rich in setting and story lines of a time when Singapore was at the cross roads of its development after WW2. The characters, a broad mix or various Asian and European cultures, and the narrow but very colourful street marts, make this a very rich tapestry upon which these story lines develop. It reminds me a little of a British series from the 1950's called Hong Kong, which sent Rod Taylor on his way to fame. But its much richer in complexity of scenery and story line. A pearl of a show.

Both of the first season of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries and Dr Blake's Mysteries are available on DVD and I think blu ray. Look out for season two of these shows soon. Serangoon Road is yet to be released to DVD but should appear on one of your TV networks I would suspect. All three series are well worth looking out for.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 9, 2013 11:38 AM BST

Tomorrow, When The War Began [DVD]
Tomorrow, When The War Began [DVD]
Dvd ~ Caitlin Stasey
Price: £5.93

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MORE THAN JUST RED DAWN, 18 Feb. 2013
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John Marsden is a popular Australian author, who writes mainly for a younger generation, given he is a teacher by profession. Tomorrow, When the War Began is the first in a series of about ten novels that follows the development of a group of generally pampered young high school students from being naive fun loving kids, to eventually a seasoned guerrilla force who later come under the command of military forces from New Zealand and the uninvaded parts of Australia. Told from the point of view of their unofficial leader, an 18 year old farm girl called Ellie, it offers a sense of the sheer fear and panic of being thrust into an environment totally alien to them and their initial amateurish efforts to fight back against a professional foreign army and peoples who are occupying their home.

Marsden has cleverly reversed the setting, where he is allowing us to have a taste of what it must be like for other war torn countries and peoples around the World, who are suffering under invading forces. Perhaps its even an attempt to look at our actions when, with the best intentions, we in the West enter wars in other countries and how the average person can change dramatically from being simple everyday people into becoming a ruthless fighting force to defend their homeland.

Comparisons have been made with the 1984 American film Red Dawn, which has recently been remade. I think it looks deeper into the characters and the issues than that film, but then as an Australian I guess it hits home more. I understand that at least two film sequels are being made, which is good, because the story is much grander than the first film which was only the first book. Much of the story is about the changes that occur to these young people who are forced to grow up quick, rely on each other implicitly, and seriously confront and alter their sense of morality to suit the world in which they now live.

And for those intrigued by the landscape in the film, I can assure you that almost all of Eastern and South Eastern Australia looks very much like those images. In fact you'd find Australia has an extraordinary diversity of environments, not just a central desert land with kangaroos and Emus.

The Legacy of Heorot
The Legacy of Heorot
by Larry Niven
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Space Colonists' adventure, 3 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: The Legacy of Heorot (Hardcover)
I've read this story twice before so I knew what to expect. There are few really good realistic space colonist stories about, that rely on good science and a sufficiently different world to make you feel its real. The people are real characters struggling to survive the unknowns of a new world and the authors are not squeamish about the potential savagery of an alien planet's ecosystem. I have the sequel Beowulf's Children (Dragons of Heorot) and what is a kind of further sequel called Destiny's Road and am working my way through those stories. Despite Niven's brilliance with ideas in such books as Ring World, I find his best stories are those he writes with Jerry Pournelle and in the Heorot series Steven Barnes. These include The Mote in God's Eye, Footfall and Lucifer's Hammer, all excellent stories well told. But Legacy of Heorot was my favourite

TimeRiders: City of Shadows (Book 6)
TimeRiders: City of Shadows (Book 6)
by Alex Scarrow
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The new King of Time Travel, 9 Aug. 2012
Have only read the first two of the Time Riders series, though own the first five and about to buy the sixth.

If Connie Willis (Doomsday Book, All Clear, Blackout etc) is the new Queen of Time Travel stories, Scarrow is the King.

Came across this author quite by accident and was a bit put off by the scenario (three teenagers recruited to regularly repair the time stream), but I was quickly captivated by the fundamental premise of these three adolescents snatched out of their time, moments before their death and then living in a short time period in a make shift lab that only exists for those few days then recycles. These kids receive their instructions from sometime in the future and from persons they never meet. Even their initial trainer is a paradox.

Scarrow has created a very clever time travel concept, and I agree with earlier assessments that this should be used as a TV series (though I suspect it would need quite a bit of financing for some of the concepts). And for those worried that it's writing style is fairly simple and no doubt written for a younger audience, dont be put off because the journey is well worth the reading. Actually sometimes using younger people as your main characters adds to the chills and thrills (like the Tomorrow, When the War Began' series by Australian author John Marsden, which also uses young people very a successful movie and soon for sequels).

I love time travel and alternative history stories when they are well done and believable. HG Wells of course was the master of the genre, but Scarrow, like Willis, is one of the modern masters of this form of fiction. Suggest you read the series, but start from the beginning because there are elements of an over riding story line that may be confusing if you dont follow the thread

To Catch a Thief [Blu-ray] [1955] [US Import]
To Catch a Thief [Blu-ray] [1955] [US Import]

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone's Dream, 5 April 2012
This film is pure tongue in cheek opulence and style, and no doubt we all would love to be either of the characters played by Grant and Kelly (depending on your gender).

Hitchcock has created an adventure catalogue of life on the French Riviera that still draws you to that holiday style, that dream of adventure and fun.

And one of Hitchcock's principal leading men, an aging but still virile Cary Grant (the other being James Stewart), plays the handsome debonair playboy/ reformed jewel thief with an aplomb few other actors would get away with (no doubt this was the template for Robert Wagner's fine TV series 'It Takes a Thief').

And then there is that very beautiful, stylish and clever actress Grace Kelly (what a loss to film audiences when she soon after married that Monaco prince like some fairytale princess of yore). Few actresses had the stylish grace (excuse the pun) of this very attractive thespian, who was one damn good actress as well. Who can forget her memorable performance alongside James Stewart in Rear Window.

But this film is about glamour, that imagined holiday we all crave for. The sights of the Riviera are all given full coverage...the opulence of the hotel suites, the sun drenched beach scenes, the romantic picnic overlooking a spectacular coastal vista, the fun fast car chases utilising every spectacular scene in the hills, the castle like residences and park lands, the scenic speed boat scene giving us full view of the beautiful coastline, the luscious party scenes and attire, the chaotic market scenes and of course that wondrous residence Robie lives in atop a spectacular scenic hillside. Dont you just want to be one of the characters.

And then there's the fun of the chase, the quiry characters, the roof top struggle to finish it off. And who can forget so many of the clever, though at times predictable, witty one liners that have you joining in with the fun. Because that is what this film is all about. This is a romantic's fun adventure holiday dream made in film and it does it so polished.

Hitchcock has created here the ultimate adventure travelogue and its little wonder at the end when Grace Kelly's character whilst embraced by Grant turns and looks about his home and says 'Mother will love this place'. We all would given the chance.

Firefly - The Complete Series [Blu-ray] [2002]
Firefly - The Complete Series [Blu-ray] [2002]
Dvd ~ Nathan Fillion
Price: £9.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FIRESTICK, 8 Mar. 2012
Just like to know who the fool was he decided to cancel this show and who the fools are who havent reinstated it.

Just a short note of the number of people expressing positive opinions about this series and then the number who have backed those opinions shows this was a top of the line SciFi that should have been given a minimum 5-7 year tenure.

Obviously there are certain behind the scenes executives past and present who are not working in the interests of their share holders and viewers especially when you see the type of shows that do get extended tenures.

I realise most of the actors have moved on and Whedon is involved in other productions and quietly smarting over what happened with this marvelous show. Certain high paid execs should have been shown the door a long time ago and this show should have been and should be renewed in some form if the money people are serious about quality television.

Doomsday Book
Doomsday Book
by Connie Willis
Edition: School & Library Binding
Price: £11.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Black Death made Real, 20 Feb. 2012
I also had never heard of Connie Willis before reading this book, but have since been searching out her other novels including the recently published "Blackout' and its sequel 'All Clear', another time travel story set in the middle of World War 2, a kind of follow up of one of her short time travel stories.

Reading Doomsday Book, I became totally enamoured by Ms Willis' ability to describe realistic people and environments in other times. Her novel in my mind is a classic, one of the best time travel stories I've read. And it succeeds, despite some minor faults that most would not notice, because it comes across as being so realistic. The characters in the book from the small barons, the serfs, the struggling priest, the anglo-saxon lass struggling with her emotive almost child like state, and of course the approaching doom the little village out of Oxford faces, all are quite well developed and you feel some sympathy for them.

The main character, though viewed suspiciously at first as being 'French' gradually becomes accepted in the village and she becomes the observer of the increasing fear (we should all get away and go to Scotland where ever that is) and the rapid collapse of the social order as the deaths begin. These are people who rarely travelled more than a few kilometres from their village all their life and are trapped there whie the impending doom approaches. They have no where else to go.

In reality Ms Willis' main character, the late 21st century 'Time Traveller' who is for most of the book, stuck in the 14 century, is in essence an observer of the tragedy, which is quite effectively described without resorting to heavy action or making the lead character a heroine. She observes and can do virtually nothing to save the town and her own life becomes at risk despite receiving immunisations before she left her century. There is also no attempt to cause paradox by seeking to change history.

I loved the book and consider it a worthy addition to the Wellsian Time Travel style. Simple and effective.

Doctor Who: Ace Adventures - Dragonfire / The Happiness Patrol [DVD] [1987]
Doctor Who: Ace Adventures - Dragonfire / The Happiness Patrol [DVD] [1987]
Dvd ~ Sylvester McCoy
Price: £15.99

8 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mini Leela, 4 Feb. 2012
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This is one Dr Who period when the doctor wasnt the standout performer. Sylvester McCoy was a fairly good doctor and quite amusing, but in my opinion the star of these later episodes of the 'older' doctor was Ace aka Sophie Aldred.

Ace was one of the toughest but spunkiest and well developped companions in Dr Who history and its sad that she never had the opportunity to star alongside Tom Baker or Jon Pertwee or even Peter Davidson. In my mind, after Tom Baker's companion, the pre-Xena warrior, Leela, Ace was the next best of the 'older companions.

Used to love Ace's tough girl, self sufficient style, again more like an urban gang girl than a sweet Ms Prissy. It was perhaps a time when women were beginning to be seen as tougher and more resilient people, thanks in part to Ripley in Alien and Aliens.

But Ace retained as well that feminine charm, as she blew up yet another building or bad guy, that was so very appealing. She gave the old Who a late summer before its demise and remains for me one the Who world's favourite characters.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 29, 2012 7:20 PM BST

Doctor Who: The Dæmons [DVD]
Doctor Who: The Dæmons [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jon Pertwee
Price: £5.99

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dr Who and the Pit, 17 Jan. 2012
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At last!

I understand a lot of restoring had to go into this one with some lost colour prints etc. I havent seen it yet but I'm hoping it's significantly better than the VHS edition I've got.

For me this is the second best Dr Who episode, past and present series. I consider Uncle Tom's 'Talons of Weng Chiang' the high mark in the Dr Who world and No 3 is the recent Tennant episode 'Blink'.

But Daemons is truly a masterpiece and easily worthy of movie status. Granted it plagiarises elements of Quatermass and The Pit (aka Five Million years to Earth) and and the barrier has a Midwich Cuckoos feel about it, but still it is a marvelously constructed story with all the favourites of that time, Jon Pertee's Dr Who at his finest, his companion Jo, supported by the UINT team and the nefarious Master lurking about doing much naughtiness. Marvelous character in the White Witch as well as the surly archeologist and TV news reporter. The little devil character is a great piece of invention.

A brilliant piece of Magic and superstition vs Science and logic in this one demonstrating that so much we consider as supernatural is merely that which we have yet to understand scientifically.

This is one episode of the older Dr Who series you shouldnt be without and a great introduction for those unfamiliar with the Who world (are there any left?)

Pertwee's Pinnacle!
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 16, 2012 8:13 PM GMT

Sherlock - Series 2 [Blu-ray]
Sherlock - Series 2 [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Benedict Cumberbatch
Offered by b68solutions
Price: £8.39

10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Singular Modern Classic, 7 Jan. 2012
Havent seen these latest episodes as yet and really hanging out for them. I have been a Sherlock Holmes fan for decades. Read all the books, seen all the Rathbone and Cushing movies and the Brett series as well as some of the other minor series and other films. Had considered Rathbone's Holmes the best but only in about 4-5 of the films (the quality wasnt retained throughout the movie series). Brett's series was the most consistently good set of stories. Love them both (Rathbone and Brett) and the thought of them being eclipsed in my mind was considered impossible.

The then along comes Cumberbatch (who I would have loved as Dr Who but he apparently turned down the role). He is brilliantly supported by Martin Freeman's Watson (amazing this is the same actor doing Bilbo Baggins role in The Hobbit). I thought it was dangerous contemporising the series. How wrong I have been.

The first three movie length episodes were superb television. Everyone I've discussed the series with here in Oz agrees with that sentiment. Much as I liked Robert Downey Jnr and Jude Laws recent Sherlock Holmes movie, in my mind these three 'episodes' were more clever, realistic, complex, brilliantly acted and produced than even that fine and clever film. Both Cumberbatch and Freeman are now my favourite Holmes and Watson, and I cant speak highly enough of the brilliance of their interpretations of the roles. And Moriarty was truly sinister and diabolical. Moffat's scripting is sharp, clever and a joy to absorb. The contemporary settings are very well considered giving a wonderful contrasting of the modern and the seedy almost archaic backwaters of London

I'm a great fan of recent British interpretations of Christie and Conan Doyle with the outstanding series of Marple, Holmes and Poirot. Poirot was my favourite until I saw this treasure. I've given it 5 stars unseen for series 2 because, given the outstanding effort in series 1, even 50% lesser quality would be worthy of that ranking, and I'm sure that wont be the case.

A spellbinding joy to watch and listen to. Anyone wanting good television story telling and drama should ensure they see this series and buy the dvds for repeat wont be disappointed.

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