Around The World In 80 Days (USA 1989)

You should know the plot and shame on you if that’s not the case. A 3 part TV miniseries rendition with an all-star cast. There are many cameos and bit parts by so many top actors from back in the day. (Darren McGavin as Mudge was the most pleasing surprise for me) There are some scenes that are not in the book, but they didn’t bother me as they were just as entertaining as the ones that were. Filming on location in Germany, England, Yugoslavia, Macau, and Thailand, adds a lot of grandeur to the series that it otherwise would have lacked. [Read more…]

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Thérèse Raquin (1980 BBC)

The picture quality on this DVD has the resolution of a fading VHS tape from 30 years ago, and if this truly is the best restoration that can be made of this 166-minute production, that must be counted as a minor but distinct tragedy…for actress Kate Nelligan is the Thérèse Raquin to end all Thérèse Raquins. Based on the Zola novel, this is the story of a vibrant but trapped young woman, stuck in a loveless marriage to a pampered weakling. Then one day, the husband brings home an old friend–Laurent– and the doors of her soul fly open. [Read more…]

Pyramids Of Mars (1975 BBC)

It was really Tom Baker who epitomized the eccentricities, sharp-wit and extreme other-worldliness that one would expect from an extra-terrestrial master of  Time and Space who has inexplicably developed a keen interest (and insatiable curiosity) with regards to humanity. And in this story Tom Baker makes perhaps the most striking entrance in the show’s history, standing silently next to the Tardis’ control panel, head bowed, hands in pockets like a Western gunfighter before looking up to later utter the immortal lines: “The Earth isn’t my home, Sarah. I’m a Time Lord…I’m not a human being. I walk in eternity.” [Read more…]

Marc Maron: Too Real (Netflix)

He’s still the guy who prefers to sit onstage on the stool in a crouch, only with a more regular smile across his face. The change is most noticeable from one particular camera angle positioned about the third row. It’s also quite visible as Maron enjoys more physical act-outs of his material onstage. At 53, Maron is happier, nimbler, and stronger as a comedian. Not all comedians get better with age and experience. Some lose the hunger. Some lose touch with the audience. Some get sidetracked by other pursuits, personally or professionally. That’s not the case with Maron, who has delivered his best hour of stand-up to date. [Read more…]

Only When I Laugh (1979–1982 United Kingdom)

If you are on the wavelength of classic, delightfully dated, superbly acted, situation British comedy then check this TV series out. You can purchase the four disc package off Amazon for a reasonable price. 28 memorable episodes from the reliable quill of Eric Chappell. Supremely irreverent, with virtually no political correctness to spoil the viewer’s enjoyment. They don’t make em like this anymore because the Bolsheviks have taken over western entertainment… anyway, the confines of a hospital ward actually enhance the chemistry and camaraderie of the cast, as well as the varied, yet silly, storylines. It’s so whimsical! [Read more…]

Thomas The Tank Engine & Friends (1984–1986 Britain)

This TV series is based upon the Railway Series children’s books by Wilbert Awdry who, in the 1950s and 60s, wrote a series of charming, captivating and well illustrated books that are good works of art in their own right. The series captures for us in the present the significance and romance of the railway during the 20th Century, and especially the era in which Awdry wrote the books, which can be considered great children’s literature. The stories were well narrated by Ringo Starr, and made in the right period of the 1980s, not long after the books and the era of its effect. Who needs the new versions when the stories were so well told? [Read more…]

Maigret Sets A Trap (2016 Britain)

So much effort was expended on getting the atmosphere of the whole thing right that tension and a plausible story went by the board. Another old serial killer plot? It may have been bold and edgy in 1955 when Georges Simenon penned the novel, but the subject has been explored endlessly from every possible angle these past few  generations that its hard not to stifle a yawn. The film looks authentic enough even if it was filmed in Budapest. But it gives us a Paris that is about as quiet as a sleepy village in Provence. The viewer never gets to see any bustle in this city, but I guess when you saddle yourself with a 1950’s setting, the correct vehicles are not that easy to come by, and it has that shot-on-an-early Sunday morning look. [Read more…]

Dr Terrible’ s House of Horrible (2001 Britain)

“And you Mr Brocken, are you infirm on you’re wedding night?” “Its just a battle wound, a very large Turk surprised me from behind.” No, its not Shakespeare but one of those very short-lived TV fiascos that fill die-hard fans with expectation then disappears through lack of reaction, viewing audience etc. Shot between a foot and mouth outbreak and 9/11, Dr Terrible was doomed from the start. Some BBC bastard gave it the finger after a mere 6 episodes. As an homage to 1960s/70s British horror movies the series is chock full of in-jokes and references. But each episode comes down to one particular style. Where the series’ genuine pleasures lie are in its far richer gags, the ones which make the more acute references. [Read more…]

Downton Abbey ( Britain 2010–who cares?)

Downton Abbey has been a predictably enormous ratings success, taking the viewer-friendly melodrama of the soap operas and adding a bodice-ripper gloss by adding a period setting. Twenty or thirty years ago this series would have been a chippy pseudo-Marxist drama but in the post-modern world we get the Edwardians re-invented by a modern snob (Lord Julian Fellowes is quite a mouthful! ) as perky progressive aristocrats who love their servants as much as their servants love them. Each story is carefully compartmentalized (the only person to ever talk to the chauffeur is the young lady who is in love with him but won’t admit it) and un-named characters essentially don’t exist (during the numerous hospital scenes nobody, bar the protagonists, ever speaks or moves unless interacting with a named character).
[Read more…]

Inferno (1970 United Kingdom)

This was the final story in Jon Pertwee’s debut season and, although slow, it is the best of a series that, whilst an improvement on latter period Patrick Troughton, seemed a bit stilted and somewhat stuck. Not least because after a ruling by the Time Lords, Pertwee is stuck on earth to help Unit (a hush-hush military brigade headed by the Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney) and there is no time travel. This gave the whole 1970 season a ‘Quatermass’ vibe that is very cosy and British. The story concerns a mission at a research station to bore through the earth’s crust with a view to harnessing what lies beneath as a form of cheap energy. [Read more…]

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