Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tinker, Tailor

First let me say there's nothing wrong with the new Tinker Tailor movie. It's well acted and the cast and director have nothing to be ashamed of. But why did they decide that this story needed to be remade. The original BBC mini-series was so well made and the cast as close to perfection as we are ever likely to see, that a remake was always going to be second best.

Well it happens I guess, and not only in Britain. Why someone in Hollywood decided to remake True Grit still puzzles me. There was nothing wrong in Jeff Bridges and the rest of the cast's acting, but the original was one of the few very good movies that John Wayne appeared in and he acted about the best he ever had in it. The big scene where he charges the baddies probably couldn't be repeated and the new remake didn't really try to match that.

So why do they do it? Money I guess. If producers want to make a British spy movie from that period why not look at stories by Len Deighton which could do with a remake or even less well known authors of spy fiction like my favourite, Anthony Price.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

John Mortimer, RIP

John Mortimer died on the 16th. of January 2009 at the age of 85 years. Best known to the TV viewing public for his Rumpole character, an Old Bailey defense barrister played so well by Leo McKern. He was much more though, as a barrister himself he fought against censorship. He supported left and liberal causes amongst which was the fight against the generals in Burma. And in many ways he was a link back to earlier British writers like Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh.

I will review the Rumpole series in the future but if you are interested I found it much darker in the pilot and early episodes. Later he could still make his point, a little moral in each story, but it seemed a lighter touch.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The River - One to Miss

The River - 1988

I have to admit first that I quite like David Essex and his acting abilities. About 15 years before this series he was in two very good films in my opinion. They were Stardust and That'll Be the Day. On the other hand the first 15 minutes of this TV series were just awfull. Because I am being picky on what I watch it is seldom that I have something that is just too hard to watch through to the end and here I was only one twelfth into the series. I might give it another go later but it did seem a complete waste of time.

My review : (0 stars) Within the first minute of the first episode there was just terrible canned laughter. It made no sense when you were getting the background noises of life on a canal to have very clearly recorded laughter exchanged for it on the sound track. The shots of David Essex were just him posing. I just started to feel embarrassed for everyone involved in this show and turned it off. The only audience I could see this appealing to were women who were 14 years old when David Essex was in his prime as a teeny-bopper idol twenty years earlier. I wonder how old the director/producer Susan Belbin is?

Details : 1988 comedy series in 6 by 30 minute episodes for BBC One

Discs : 1

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Regan (1974)

Regan, The Sweeny Pilot - 1974

Last night I watched this pilot episode of Sweeny and it was a pleasantly surprise. I was worried it would be too dated, too seventies, but it seems not to have aged. I will now get the rest of the shows. I have to admit I watched a downloaded version and it would probably make more sense to buy a complete DVD set than pick off episodes one by one.

My review : (4 stars) The first real gritty TV cop show on British TV. Definitely a cop show and not a detective series. Lots of action and the Ford motors seem to be in the thick of many shots, something we got to see in many other cop shows right up until Life on Mars. John Thaw and Dennis Waterman put in good performances and they were well supported by the other actors. Garfield Morgan played their ambitious boss and Lee Montague the villain. Also look out for Don Henderson (Bulman) in a bit part playing a minder. Why watch Life on Mars when you can watch the real thing.

Details : 1974 pilot for The Sweeny made by Euston Films (Thames TV).

Features : Yes

Discs : 1

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lewis Series 1 & 2

Lewis - 2006-8

I guess these are too recent to be retro, but they are interesting in a couple of ways. Lewis shows that a good idea and good acting can give a successful follow up to a finished popular TV series like Morse, and that British detective shows, still following on the basics that Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie used in their novels, can compete with the more modern thrillers and US cop shows.

My review : (4 stars) With John Thaw gone and his likeable Geordie sergeant now an inspector, the success of the show was always going to be who they could pair Kevin Whately with. They could have used a heavy brutal cop to work with him but the writer was inspired to have a skinny, awkward, high-church, Cambridge graduate played by Laurence Fox. As the series progresses you can see where this character is being fine-tuned. His height and awkwardness are being highlighted by making his trousers and jacket sleeves slightly short. It's all very clever and enjoyable.

Details : 2006-2008 UK Police Detective Series. Series one 4 episodes (includes the pilot) and series two 4 episodes.

Features : No

Print quality : Very Good

Discs : Series One 4 discs and Series Two Discs
Sub-Titles: Yes, English

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Very British Coup

A Very British Coup - 1988

If you like political thrillers you will like this. In America they would call it a made for TV movie but that makes it sound cheap and nasty. Let's go with Wikipedia's "television adaption of Chris Mullin's 1982 novel" instead. Amazon has the time as 148 minutes so get comfortable before you start. It's a bit expensive on Amazon for the amount of TV you are buying but this is a case of "never mind the width, feel the quality".

My review : (5 stars) Great performances from Ray McAnally playing the working class left wing prime minister and Alec MacNaughton playing the upper class security chief determined to undermine him. I guess it is at times a working class hero fantasy, but why not enjoy it as we can't seem to get that from today's Labour Party. Look out for the very beautiful Kika Markham.

Details : 1988 political thriller made for the Channel 4 and 148 minutes long.

Features : No

Print quality : Good

Discs : 1

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Murphy's Law - A Cult Classic?

Murphy's Law Series 1 to 5

I suspect that Murphy's Law has the makings of cult classic like Callan or The Prisoner. It didn't last as long as it should have and through the various series we see the main character's personality change. It was dropped by BBC because it wasn't competing well enough with ITV's Doc Martin which had the same time slot. Surely a wiser answer would have been to find a different time slot. My one complaint is that Murphy must have been the UK's best know undercover cop which leaves a hole in the story line as best known and undercover don't really go together;-) Something that does confuse me is how come this BBC show is published in DVD format by ITV Video? BTW keep an eye on the Amazon price for the complete five series as I have seen it down at around £20 in the past although as I write thie it is up over £30.

My review : (5 stars) James Nesbitt plays the role of Tommy Murphy very well. The character changes from the first two series to the last three quite a bit. In the beginning he has a certain lovable rogue about him, telling jokes and even singing. The later series are far more gritty and on par some of the more psychological thrillers like Wire in the Blood. How much this was to do with the stiff competition it was facing on ITV I don't know. The pilot was shown in 2001 and the series were screened from 2003 through to 2007.

From Series 2 onwards the programs have been edited from 60 to 50 minutes. I never saw the originals but this editing doesn't seem to have done any harm.

Details : 2001-2007 police drama series made for the BBC. 5 Series were made altogether.

Series 1: 4 x 90 minute episodes plus the pilot.
Series 2: 6 x 50 minute episodes.
Series 3: 6 x 50 minute episodes.
Series 4: 3 x 50 minute episodes in a serial format.
Series 4: 3 x 50 minute episodes in a serial format.

Features : No

Print quality : Very Good

Sub-titles : Yes

Discs : 9