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JSpencer

JSpencer

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Reviews written

since 11/07/2000

190

BBC1 - Fawlty Towers 25/02/2001

The Best. 'Nough said.

BBC1 - Fawlty Towers I can't believe I haven't written an opinion on this yet. This is my all time favourite programme and forever will be. This isn't just the best series of half hour comedies ever devised but also surely the art of comedy at its very pinnacle. I saw it's original showing back in '75 & '79 as a child and have adored it ever since. I know of no other program/film/book that remains as effective no matter how many times I return to it. A testament to the genius of Mr Cleese. It's the sublime scripts that Cleese & Connie Booth wrote that combine exquisitely intricate plots laced with jabs at the english class system, xenophobia and simply BAD hotel service that make it stand out from the crowd, and the perfect performances all round. But most of all it's because it is hilariously funny. I've developed stomach cramps, lost my breath and cried all at the same time when for the fiftieth time Basil climbs up the ladder to the wrong window (The Psychiatrist) or plunges into the trifle in search of the missing duck(Gourmet Night) etc etc. Recently a poll of critics voted this the greatest tv show ever made. For once the critics are correct. ...

The War of the Worlds - H.G. Wells, Brian W. Aldiss, Patrick Parrinder, Andy Sawyer 25/02/2001

The War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds - H.G. Wells, Brian W. Aldiss, Patrick Parrinder, Andy Sawyer H.G. Wells is reckoned by Arthur C. Clarke as the greatest of all authors in the genre (apart from being an acclaimed writer of other works) and I've been wanting to read this most famous of the genre's books for many years to see if the acclaim is justified. It is. Wells writes with a fierce, almost arrogant intelligence especially in the areas of science and its effect on society and for a novel written in the 19th century it has a modern, almost cinematic quality in it's vision and imagery. I can honestly say this is one hell of a page turner! If you've heard the rock opera version or seen the american 50's movie, forget them and treat yourself to the real thing. The compelling tale of one mans odyssey in the face of a vast invasion from Mars of nasty lipless aliens with more than a GCSE in metal work. They build huge tripods and set about wiping out mankind in order to make the planet their home. I tend to like novels that would make great films, this for me is up there at the top of the list - why has'nt anybody made this into a movie (sticking closely to the novel) - it would be stunner. Ridley or Steven, please think about it!! ...

Doctor Strangelove (DVD) 22/02/2001

It doesn't get any better..

Doctor Strangelove (DVD) For me, cinema doesn't get any better than this. Stanley Kubricks best work, along with 2001, is a true masterpiece. On the face of it a simple idea - a satire on political hypocrasy and jingoism taken to extremes. In any other directors hands it would have been mediocre, but here we have the completely unique perspective of Kubrick, career best performances all round (especially Peter Sellers as among others the title character), beautiful yet unsettling monochrome photography and a screenplay other directors would kill for, a film that even now gives the viewer an uneasy but immensely powerful ride. It's also very funny, with Sellers' Dr Strangelove and his overactive mechanical arm one of the funniest scenes I've ever seen. If you watch this you can actually see the actors in the background trying hard not to laugh. A treasure. ...

BBC2 - The Weakest Link 21/02/2001

And Here's to You Mrs Robinson..

BBC2 - The Weakest Link OK so this clever little pre-dinner quiz show was good viewing for a while but as with any novelty (the novelty here being Anne Robinson's less than polite swipes at the unlucky contestants) it's wearing thin. It is after all an act she's putting on (isn't it?) and she must be bored herself with the schoolmistress turn by now. What is more interesting about the show I find are the emotions lurking underneath these hapless people when they have to vote off the weakest link or indeed when they are turfed out themselves. Being english (like me) they are naturally polite (I'm not being sarcastic) and careful beyond the call of duty to not offend their fellow contestants even when a definite case of fowl play is at work. It makes you proud!! Apparently the BBC has sold this idea to the US with Anne herself fronting the program. That should be most interesting...Goodbye. ...

Magnolia (DVD) 20/02/2001

Darkly funny funfair ride

Magnolia (DVD) I felt this was a film of three distinct parts. The first part I found self indulgent and annoyingly disjointed. The last part complete with a downpour of frogs I found very self indulgent and pretentious. The middle part however held me in a vice like grip for around 2 hours - this was a stunning example of how to write a very complex intertwining screenplay involving several characters/stories all gradually merging together. Probably even out Tarantinoing Quentin's Pulp Fiction for this! Consistently surprising, brilliantly acted throughout and astoundingly well edited and photographed this middle part had it's own unique and satisfying style that was utterly absorbing, I felt the beginning and end, even though they tied up the various threads, were much poorer. I hope the directors next piece utilises this middle style and only this style, if so it will place him among the modern masters. ...

Grand Prix 3 (PC) 20/02/2001

Screeech

Grand Prix 3 (PC) As you can probably tell from the title of this opinion I love the sound in this game - the finely tuned F1 engines are simply the real thing (literally apparently), and the clanking of the gear changes is gorgeous. If you can manage to crank your graphics up to over 800x600 then the graphics should mostly impress, particularly the reflective rainy services after a downpour (that is while you're busy trying not to skid off in the wet). Also the trees are quite convincing - very little repeat patterns etc, a problem with previous racers. Wasn't overly impressed with the crowds though and where's all that cheering? As far as gameplay goes (the most important aspect of course) then it's practically flawless apart from the AI of the other cars after a mid track pile up - they seem to keep on bumping into you rather than avoiding or stopping - needs to be fixed Geoff C!! Otherwise on a par with the other greatest racer ever - GP Legends. ...

E.T. 17/09/2000

Superb fantasy

E.T. This film was supposedly inspired by Spielbergs experiences as a child when his parents split up and the feelings of insecurity and loneliness he then felt. Whatever the motives behind the screenplay it is a great one and remains one of the very best films of the 1980's. I don't like schmaltz or over sentimentality and this has been accused by some cynics as having both - that is wrong because the film manages to stear clear of them while remaining emotionally and spiritually moving and uplifting. (If you want schmaltz see the ending of Parenthood). ET is hugely entertaining and exquisitely directed and has a truly magnificent score by John Williams. I tend to rate great films or music by the amount of times the hairs rise on the back of your neck. With this film that happens a lot! ...

Congo (DVD) 17/09/2000

don't wanna be like you, oo oo

Congo (DVD) Another failed attempt by Frank Marshall (Speilbergs old right hand man on Raiders and other masterworks) to copy his hugely talented mentor. Oh dear Frank. Surely one of the first rules of making a film of any kind is to not include a baby Gorilla that communicates in perfect sign language - unless you are being ironic or abstract. Both of which Congo definitely isn't. It isn't even saved when we get to the nasty big white carnivorous apes because by then we are so sickened by the baby Gorilla's sweet and schmaltzy antics that we want the nasty ones to eat it and every one else in the film (including of course the director). Unfortunately this doesn't happen. 'nough said. ...

Blade Runner (Director's Cut) (DVD) 17/09/2000

A work of sci-fi art

Blade Runner (Director's Cut) (DVD) The older this film gets the better it is to watch. The special effects don't seem to date and THAT atmosphere is just as all consuming - Ridley Scott is surely the cinemas greatest exponent of atmosphere and detail. The Vangelis score sounds still perfect for every image it accompanies and the photography/lighting is a wonder to behold. As with any great film it should really only be watched on a big cinema screen or on a widescreen telly with DVD - like a good hi-fi you really feel the quality if your equipment is good. I can't think of any other film apart from Scott's own Alien that quite pulls you into its world as much as this film. ...

The Abyss (DVD) 17/09/2000

We've run out of Abyss puns...

The Abyss (DVD) Great first 3 quarters, naff last quarter. Let me elaborate. For the first hour and something this is an absolute cracker - Some of Cameron's best work. Intense drama, intriguing plot and very good acting (particularly by Ed Harris), also boasting one of the most intense dramatic scenes in recent cinema (Ed's bird nearly drowning!). Yet somehow from here on in the screenplay manages to plummet to the depths quicker than the Titanic(the ship not the film) - Cameron obviously couldn't resist the idea of turning it into a Close Encounters meets Captain Nemo hybrid and it suffers for it. And I haven't even seen the different ending yet(maybe it's better). Such a pity. ...

Alien 3 (DVD) 17/09/2000

Not Ridley

Alien 3 (DVD) I get the distinct feeling while I'm watching this film that he'd love to be Ridley Scott. He tries so hard to recreate the distinctive dark, subtle atmosphere of Alien and doesn't really compete with it in the end. This for me is the worst of the series with Scott's Alien easily the best in terms of all round quality. here we have lots of fast dolly shots around gloomy industrialised sets, lots of blood and very little depth. Yet it still manages to be a decent enough little sci-fi horror - it just shouldn't have been part of this series - and I reckon the always good Brian Glover (Tetley Tea, American Werewolf etc) was dispatched too early! ...

OLIVER! (DVD) 12/09/2000

The last great musical

OLIVER! (DVD) This must be one of the most aped musicals of them all, it has it's own unique style and visual appeal - tons of dancers in brilliantly choreographed scenes in the streets of Victorian London, wonderful colour and just lovely to look at. The best thing about it though is the music with several all time classics from Food Glorious Food to Consider Yourself, and for many the definitive performance of Fagin (though Alec Guinness fans would argue) by Ron Moody, also Oliver Reed in one of his most measured performances and nicely judged direction by Carol (Third Man) Reed. Maybe a bit overlong for a musical but still always welcome on TV every xmas or easter! ...

Sleepy Hollow (DVD) 11/09/2000

Burtons Best

Sleepy Hollow (DVD) I've never been a great fan of Tim Burton - I find his films are never compelling or absorbing, I thought Batman was poor. With Sleepy Hollow he seems to have improved considerably. This film worked from beginning to end and held my attention, I also thought it had much better cinematic photography than his other works which might have helped. He isn't an actors director and it does show - both the leads are bland and fairly ineffective but Miranda Richardson lends some much needed acting quality as the human villain of the piece, great sfx as well. ...

Damien - Omen 2 11/09/2000

A revelation!

Damien - Omen 2 The Omen - the original and best film of this series - is one of my favourite horror movies and was a very well made, exciting and enjoyably scarey horror film - this sequel is pretty good too with William Holden taking over as the unwitting guardian to the little (not so little now) terror, Damien. We find him sporting a hitler haircut and entering a military training school, and then just being himself - a little devil. The only trouble is you just end up waiting to see what gruesome device the film makers have created for the dispatch of the next poor so and so. I thought the ice accident was particularly nasty! The next films in the series got progressively worse from here. ...

Saving Private Ryan (DVD) 11/09/2000

Thats gotta hurt

Saving Private Ryan (DVD) Steven Spielberg was the natural choice to direct this outstanding war film - Oliver Stone would have wanted to blame the Americans for everything, Kubrick would have been too deep. Spielberg has just the right style - a mix of visual spectacle, and emotional sweep, to make this probably the greatest depiction of WWII at its most brutal. Although it is the first half hour that stuns the senses, and is by far the closest any director has got to making you feel that you are there - you have to dodge those bullets and shards of shrapnel. The rest of the film is actually quite old fashioned but still doesn't shy away from showing the horror of battle. A great film. ...
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