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peekayinhk "peekayinhk" (Hong Kong, SAR)

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Death on The Nile [DVD] [1978]
Death on The Nile [DVD] [1978]
Dvd ~ Peter Ustinov
Price: £6.55

5.0 out of 5 stars A classic, and a rarity that improves on the book!!!, 8 Jan. 2016
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Linnet Doyle - filthy rich, shrewd, arrogant - has made a lifetime worth of enemies, but stealing her best friend's handsome new boyfriend is a new low. And jilted Jacqueline de Bellefort (Farrow) is not giving up without a fight. Stalking the newlyweds on their Egyptian honeymoon, Jacquie is determined to insert herself in their every step, including boarding the elegant S.S.Karnak on a cruise down the Nile. So when Linnet is found murdered in her bed one night, Jacquie is the obvious suspect, despite her airtight alibi. And as things unfold, it appears that everyone on board has a reason to hate Linnet, and potentially a motive to kill her. So Belgian super-sleuth Hercule Poirot has a knotty case to untie, with the help of his old comrade Colonel Race.

Accept no imitations: this is fabulous, an absolute classic. The adaptation of Christie's (rather humourless) whodunnit vastly improves on the novel by tight plotting, and the injection of a healthy dose of camp. A stable full of Hollywood's biggest names chews the scenery to bits and they have a whale of a time while they're doing it. Peter Ustinov brings a dry wit to Poirot; Niven is stiff-backed and debonaire as Colonel Race. Bette Davis is a gorgeously grouchy old biddy with a penchant for pinching jewellery, constantly bickering with the incomparable Maggie Smith, hilarious as her sniffy companion, appalled at being reduced to working as a private nurse after Linnet's father ruined her family's fortune. ("If there are two things in the world I can't abide it's heat and heathens!") But no review could be complete without a loving mention of Angela Lansbury, whose portrayal of teetering tipsy erotic novelist Salome Otterbourne is one of the campest in cinema history. Lansbury has a ball teetering around sloshing her drinks, and she's adorable to watch.

Farrow and McCorkindale are both terrific - his star never really rose after this, which was a shame. If there's a weakness, it's that the rest of the cast battles to keep up with the leads (Lois Chiles looks the part as Linette, but is quite a weak link, and a couple of the others (Jane Birkin, Olivia Hussey, Jon Finch) are too thinly written to be really effective). But that's a small gripe, and the screen would explode if all the performances were as large as Bette's and Angela's. In short, it's bouncy good fun, a classic of its genre and a true style guide for the limp Hollywood stars and starlets who plod across the screen today. They really don't make 'em like this anymore.

Summer Heights High [DVD]
Summer Heights High [DVD]
Dvd ~ Chris Lilley
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.80

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious, grotesque and finally very moving..., 17 Oct. 2013
This review is from: Summer Heights High [DVD] (DVD)
Summer Heights High, a typical (and fictional) Australian state high school, is the stage for this remarkably funny and insightful mockumentary from the immensely talented Chris Lilley. Playing all three of the lead characters, Lilley manages to be utterly convincing as each, and will leave viewers shaking their heads in wonder at his precise delineation of these very diverse roles.

Jamie (pronounced Ja-may) King, (and formerly seen in We Can be Heroes), is a spoilt private school senior, chosen for a social experiment in which she will swap places with a student from a public school and spend a term seeing how the other half lives. Grotesquely conceited, manipulative and bitchy, Jaime soon joins the cool clique and runs riot socially. It's a fantastic parody, although the cringe-worthy self-absorbtion of Jaime (and indeed all her gang of willing followers) will be so familiar to anyone who's attended high school that calling it a parody is perhaps misleading.

Mr G (watch out for the reveal of his first name) Gregson is the school's (junior) drama teacher. He's sexually ambiguous (OK, camp as a row of tents), ethically disgraceful and utterly hilarious - and perhaps the least qualified human ever to grace the classroom. He's about 1% as intelligent or talented as he believes himself to be, but compensates for this with an monumental ego and a firm belief in the total inferiority of everyone around him - culminating in writing a full-scale production based entirely around himself.

But it's Jonah Takalua, the trouble Year 8 Tongan student who is Lilley's masterstroke. It would be easy to dislike Jonah - he's a bully, a renegade, a willing troublemaker, self-marginalising and seeming to rejoice in disruption - but Lilley brilliantly shows the desperately lonely teen inside. His mother dead, and his father aggressively incapable of loving him, Jonah finds a substitute mother and father in two of the schools most compassionate teachers - Doug Peterson, the school's youth counsellor and Jan Palmer, the teacher of remedial English. Jonah longs for their attention and knows - as troubled kids so often do - that good behaviour doesn't capture their gaze. Unable to articulate his heartache, he has learnt a different language: when he's creating havoc he pulls the focus of the two people he loves and needs most - and it's not until his devastating scenes in the series final episode that we're truly made aware of how deep this need runs.

Lilley is outstanding, there's no doubt. But the series gains immeasurably by its supporting cast, whose naturalistic performaces both anchor and enable Lilley's. David Lennie and Maude Davey are fan-tas-tic as Peterson and Palmer, true advocates of the teaching profession who really care about Jonah, and all their kids. Kristy Barnes-Cullen is also exceptional as the hateful Miss Wheatley, a young woman not yet aware that she's clearly chosen the wrong profession. Stan Roache as the science teacher smitten with Gregson, the marvellous Elida Brereton (herself a real-life headmistress) as the diplomatic-yet-pragmatic Mrs Murray... and of course all the kids - who really understand the savage irony that underpins the series.

In the end it's hilarious (and a lot funnier that this review might suggest, in fact, sorry about that!) but it has serious things to say about young people and education and love and family and the need to belong. And it says them with laser precision. So to comment on the comedy without touching on its thematic strengths would be a great shame I think. Just have a look - you'll see what I mean...

Smash - Season 2 [DVD] [2013]
Smash - Season 2 [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Debra Messing
Offered by MusicnMedia
Price: £8.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars wanted to love it..., 18 Sept. 2013
The wheels fell off Smash in its second season. Too many new characters written into the show; too many repetitive plot devices; some really silly, meaningless cameos (Sean Hayes particularly grates, although his one big number is fabulous). But my biggest complaint against the show is that the core cast simply didn't have enough to do. Jack Davenport's Derek goes from likably grouchy to tediously bad tempered; Debra Messing's Julia (outstanding in Season 1) has a few great scenes early on, and again towards the end, but the writers seemed to forget about her in the middle episodes. Katherine McPhee has a lot to do, but certainly can't prop up a show on her own.

Thankfully, the show is redeemed by a few absolutely outstanding numbers - my personal highlight being Megan Hilty's belter "They Just Keep Moving The Line". Hilty is a breathtaking talent, and despite the cancellation of the show, there's little doubt we'll be hearing a lot more from her. Hope so anyway. Smash 2 isn't all bad. It's just not very good.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel [DVD] [2011]
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ Judi Dench
Price: £2.44

5.0 out of 5 stars If there was a six star rating, I would give it, 25 April 2013
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This is a gentle masterpiece, a truly superb film which sways back and forward between gentle comedy and proundly moving scenes of grief and loss with a delicacy rarely seen in film. A group of senior citizens, strangers to each other, but united by their uncertain future at home in England - through reasons financial, medical, spiritual and romantic - take the leap from buttoned-down Britain, and find themselvs plonked in the middle of Jaipur - hot, sweaty, chaotic, bewildering. To make matters worse, the hotel they've been seduced to turns out to be more of a fallen ruin that the palace of the brochures. So how do they cope with change? And how does this shockingly different world shape their futures?

With an ensemble cast like this, you would expect something great - but the whole of this incredible group of actors more than adds up to the sum of its parts. The incomparable Judi Dench leads the cast, and also narrates brilliantly - "Is it our friend we are grieving for, whose life we knew so little? Or is it our own loss that we are mourning? Have we travelled far enough... that we can allow our tears to fall?" she asks in one breathtaking moment. I don't think there has even been such a mesmerising actress. Much the same for Penelope Wilton, marvellous in bringing real depth to what could have been an unsympathetic role - passive-aggressive and disappointed, socially aspirant and socially awkward, who blames her loving husband for her inadequate position in life. Nighy is also great as the husband, pushed to breaking point, but determined to put a good face on things, whatever the circumstances. The scene where he finally bites back is fabulous.

Tom Wilkinson's character - for me at least - forms the emotional core of the film; if Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is about the notion of home, his is the character who embodies it most fully (I'll say no more than that). And he is phenomenal, in a beautifully-written role.

Light relief comes from Ronnie Pickup and Celie Imre, both lovely as the randy singles seeking a last hurrah, as well as Dev Patel who is cute (if twee at times) as the perky manager whose optimism can almost prop the falling hotel up on its own. And Maggie Smith as a grouchy racist with a dicky hip is exactly what the (Indian) doctor ordered...

It's beautiful, it's lovely - and I found, wonderfully reassuring - to have a story told about ageing, in which life continues to offer new beginnings and new challenges. And to know that even the most rigid soul can be shaped by new experiences and surroundings. I know that one day I, and so many of the people I love, will all face forks in the road like these - and I only hope that this gorgeous film will inspire more of us to open our hearts and follow the new, rather than sink into the quicksand of the well-trodden path.

Brokeback Mountain [DVD] [2005]
Brokeback Mountain [DVD] [2005]
Dvd ~ Jake Gyllenhaal
Offered by MusicnMedia
Price: £3.73

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent and devastating. A modern classic..., 17 Jan. 2013
Longing and loneliness have never been brought to the screen as effectively as they are in Ang Lee's extraordinary film of Annie Proulx's equally magnificent novella. The story is simple, and has been told in reviews here umpteen times - two cowboys in 60s Wyoming fall in love over a summer of herding sheep on Brokeback Mountain, and this love - which neither can or will give name to - permeates their hearts, minds and souls over the next twenty years.

A director lacking Lee's sensitivity could have made this a crass shambles, but Lee's direction, and the spectacular cinematography, ensures that the experience is profoundly moving. Likewise he manages to elicit performances that are simply spot-on from all involved.

Jake Gyllenhall is superb as Jack Twist; as the more extroverted of the two he allows Ennis inside his desperate heart, making plans for a future for the two which he knows are impossible, but refusing - or unable - to allow his feelings to be withheld. But it's Ledger's film. His Ennis Del Mar has been disarticulated by society's rules that forbid men to express any emotions other than anger - but while he cannot speak of his love and need for Jack, he understanding the reality, and it screams in total silence from the core of his soul in every frame. Rarely has an actor ever been able to say more by saying less. Jack might be able to satiate his physical cravings by "going over the border" to Mexico, and in his roles as husband and father, but by the end of the film its clear - Ledger's Ennis will never love again.

This is not a film about romance, or sex, or even being gay. It's about love between two people at its deepest, most crippling (and perhaps, in another time or place, most liberating). As such, it packs a colossal impact.

A true classic, worthy of watching over and over again.

Smash - Season 1 [DVD]
Smash - Season 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Debra Messing
Price: £8.00

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a delicious guilty pleasure, 27 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: Smash - Season 1 [DVD] (DVD)
A TV show about a stage musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe was never going to be a darling of the purist critic circles, so there's no surprise that the reviews of Smash have been a bit savage. And if you're one of those people who really hates the theatre and musical numbers and theatrical types being grandiose and flamboyant, this show will be like taking a cheese grater to your eyelids. So all ye, abandon hope here...

BUT... if you have even a single theatrical cell in your genetic make-up, there's a huge amount to adore in this lavish, big-hearted, bitchy, smart and often quite tender version of Glee For Grown Ups. For starters, there are some fantastic original musical tracks, starting in the first episode when Megan Hilty bursts into "The National Pasttime", moving straight on to "Let Me be Your Star", and then carrying on through the rest of the series. It's a true testament to the writers that the original songs work a lot better than the covers which are loosely (sometimes very loosely) peppered throughout.

But it's the cast that makes Smash: the non-singing cast is excellent - Debra Messing, leaving 'Will and Grace' far behind, is a complete stand-out as the show's warm, kind-hearted but emotionally confused writer Julia, and she's strongly supported by Anjelica Huston and Jack Davenport as the driven, ruthless producer and director (respectively). On the musical front, Christian Borle showcases his brilliant Broadway pedigree as the composer Tom - he plays it natural and low-key on the acting front but delivers a true show-stopper when called to in a later episode. You can see the showman lurking just beneath his skin waiting to upstage his castmates in every scene (and he really could), but he keeps the genie in the bottle as a true professional should.

Katharine McPhee has been unfairly mauled by the critics as the ingenue Karen Cartwright. McPhee's a strong singer and a capable actress and delivers and develops her character well, although her own 'newness' in a dramatic role does occasionally show through - there are a few moments where she looks out of place and self-conscious. But that's nitpicking, there's not a lot of them.

The true star of Smash - by a long way - is Megan Hilty. As an actress, she manages to make Ivy likeable, vulnerable, jealous and bitchy, and Hilty handles the undulating arc of her character from desperate wannabe to fledgling diva to brokenhearted reject (and back again) with consummate ease. As a singer, her presence in the musical numbers is nothing less than amazing: pitch-perfect voice, perfect diction (if you don't believe me, listen to her duet with McPhee on 'Let me Be Your Star' with your eyes closed), vampy va-va-voom delivery. It's a star-making turn, and Hilty knows it. She brings 100% to every song, every episode. She's pure Broadway, at its best.

Smash is not without its flaws. A couple of the musical numbers don't just tetter on the edge of trite, they topple right in (an especially stupid Fame-style number in a bowling alley particularly irks, as does a really stupid and unnecessary sub-plot involving a techno number in an industrial garage). Some of the junior supporting cast, who seem inexplicably and totally void of the drive and determination which propel the two leads, are under-written. And Bernadette Peters drops in (as a former Broadway doyenne, no less) to belt out a number and promptly exit stage left, with a minor and under-written role that should have been developed more.

But it's fun. Huge fun. Dazzling at its best and mildly irritating at its worst, Smash will excite and delight those who approach it for what it is: a musical TV show about a musical stage show. I can give no clearer warning than this. Disliking Smash for not being a different kind of show is like sending your cheesecake back because it doesn't taste like roast beef. You have been warned... ;-)

David Mitchell: Back Story
David Mitchell: Back Story
by David Mitchell
Edition: Hardcover

62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Somebody I'd Like to Know..., 5 Nov. 2012
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I've admired David Mitchell's TV work for a long time - much preferring his panel shows, with their lightning fast wit and theatre-sports improvisation to the scripted stuff like Peepshow or the sketch shows. "Would I Lie To You?" is, I think, one of the most delightful shows to screen on British TV in a long long time, just because of the its unpredictability. In fact, the only thing Mitchell's ever done that I wasn't impressed with was the big red Mitchell and Webb book, which I think tried just too hard.

So I was hoping that this would contain more of the naturally warm and funny Mitchell that I love on TV, and less of the over-written comedian - and I'm really delighted to say that I think it does. Mitchell shines through every page as an intelligent, caring, warm person with a really sly sense of fun coupled with a very real humility. His chapter on meeting and falling for Victoria Coren is genuinely touching (pity the other reviewers here who have sneered at this chapter) and overall he's re-confirmed himself as someone I'd really be pleased to call a friend. Sometimes, less really is more, and to have overdone this memoir would have been a shame.

God, but he was a dorky-looking teenager though....!
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 12, 2014 9:39 PM GMT

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