Film Review: The Raid (or ‘A Good Action Film But Shallower Than The Flinstones’ Gene Pool’)

May 22, 2012

Some reviews require a lot of words, but some don’t.

The Raid doesn’t really require much said about it.

Before going to see it today it had been hyped up a lot by people who declared it to be one of the best action movies of all time, with non stop action sequences that surpass pretty much anything that we’ve seen before.

A good thing, right?


What’s It About?

Police mount a covert assault on a tower block where the head of an unidentified crime racket of some sort lives.

They are rumbled early on and therefore must fight to survive against nearly an entire tower block of people out to kill them.

The main character is a bloke whose wife is pregnant and he uses that to spur him on.

Is it Any Good?

As an action film, it’s very impressive. The fight scenes are done by talented and athletic martial arts experts who certainly know what they are doing and there are lots of moments that make you go ‘Aaaaaaah’ as you see people getting speared through windows and blown up by propane tanks in fridges.

But there’s a limit to how much of that you can take.

Some people can probably take a lot, but for me it started to get boring about 40 minutes before the end.

You see, underneath that layer of action there is a plot that is thinner than that seen in a bad porn film. There’s just nothing to it at all. No drama, no suspense and a ‘plot twist’ that a blind man could see a mile off.

It’s genuinely difficult for me to say much more than that and I’m only 280 words in.

Well actually, I will say this…

Some of the fight scenes – as impressive as they were – were stupid. There’s a scene towards the end where three people go at it (no…not like that) and their ‘selling’ – that is how they realistically show the damage being done to them – was terrible. One guy got his head slammed off a concrete floor about 8 times in a row and just shrugged it off. Another seemed to be more resilient than the Terminator.

I liken it to watching a wrestling match where the participants are more interested in doing unrealistic flashy moves to each other – or high spots as they are called – and ignore the basic fundamentals of the fighting that they are supposed to be doing. It all got a bit much.

Now that’s not to say I hated the film, because I didn’t. It was harmless entertainment for ActionMoviesLADS but it was shallower than the Flinstones’ gene pool, and I reached my threshold for actually enjoying it about two-thirds of the way through.

There’s absolutely nothing to say about the acting because there isn’t any of that going on.

Really, this film was the movie equivalent of playing a video game like Double Dragon. The main characters just walked through it repeatedly pressing the A button to punch, the B button to kick and occasionally pick up an item to shoot or throw at an opponent with X.

Should You Go To The Raid?

If non stop unrealistic action is your thing then great. But if you think there’s only so many times you can see people elbowing each other in the face and back then you might want to give this one a miss.

It’s more of a workshop in martial arts stunts than it is a story.


Stuart’s Almost Fortnight in Entertainment: May 7-18 (US Season Finales Special – Including Spoilers)

May 19, 2012

I missed last week’s ‘Week in Entertainment’ so I’m doubling up this time.

Over the past fortnight, the US Television Season has come to its conclusion, and so for this article I’ll do a quick summary of how the seasons have gone and how well they concluded.

Warning: There will be spoilers


When the 16th episode – Virtual Systems Analysis – aired last month, I was genuinely worried that Community was on the decline. I wrote about it a few weeks ago, but if you didn’t read it I thought it was horrendous.

Thankfully though they turned it around again and finished on a high with three fantastic episodes aired on Thursday night.

The first of them – an episode set within an old school 16-bit SNES-likegame – was absolute genius. The attention to detail in

No, this isn’t a game, this is Thursday night’s Community. Genius, eh?

making it look like an actual game, with the music, the graphics and the way all the sprites looked and acted like the show’s characters was terrific for a child of the 80s and 90s like me to see. And the humour was tremendous as well;

It didn’t stop there though as the next episode paid homage to classic ‘heist’ movies as the Greendale 7 sneak their way back into the Chang-ruled campus to save  the Dean, while the final episode was more about providing a potential conclusion to the series, were it to be cancelled by NBC.

The good news is the show has been renewed for another 13 episode run at least, and based on the ones that just aired, the writers have plenty left in them.

Modern Family

Modern Family used to be a good show. Unlike Community, when the unfunny episodes started coming in, it wasn’t a blip.

They’ve run out of ideas and they can’t seem to get away from the same format that drives the show every week.

I’ve said it before here, but I’ll say it again. Every character seems to have exactly the same type of storyline every week. After almost 50 episodes, I think this became quite tiresome, and since the writers had no intention of mixing things up, they’ve simply run out of fresh situations to put them in.

The most recent episode I saw was the Disneyland one, and sadly I didn’t laugh once. Was I supposed to? Was it funny that Manny wasn’t interested in the theme park because he was too preoccupied with selling imaginary shares for an economics assignment? Because I didn’t. Nor did I laugh at any of the other storylines, like Phil feeling ill on Big Thunder Mountain. BTM is hardly a white knuckle ride, is it? And of course Claire was the uptight mother, Cam & Mitch had troubles with Lily, Gloria was being angry, Haley got back together with her boyfriend and Jay had a moral to the story.

So the same as every other week then.

Like all the shows I’ve watched, Modern Family has been renewed. They have a lot of work to do to rescue this show.

Parks & Recreation

Great season, great finale.

Parks & Rec maintained a high standard throughout and did what so few sitcoms actually bother to do; adapt.

The season finished with Leslie Knoppe winning her seat on the Pawnee council, while Ben takes the opportunity to work for the summer on a campaign in Washington, Anne & Tom get together and Andy looks as though he might be joining the police.

So next season will have plenty of scope for fresh storylines and new angles.

One comment on the episode from a couple of weeks ago; it was disappointing that they had Bradley Whitford in it and not have him in a scene with Rob Lowe. I only thought about that the other day too. Missed opportunity, but I loved the way they had Whitford (who has aged a lot worse than Lowe since their West Wing days) in a classic ‘Walk and Talk Scene’, straight out of the Whitehouse show.

Big Bang Theory

This show always provides me with a laugh, and I’m surprised how many people seem to be so dead against it.

The Fifth Season of BBT ended with a wedding. Awwww.

Like Parks & Rec, BBT has been consistent throughout. You always get a laugh and a good set of performances from the ensemble cast.

The finale saw Howard and Bernadette get married, and subsequently Howard was sent up in a rocket to work on a project on the International Space Station

The final shot of the rocket leaving Earth wasn’t exactly full of tension; it’s not like they are going to kill Howard off is it?

Still though, a great series and one I look forward to resuming in the autumn.

Grey’s Anatomy

Ok, here’s the one with the real spoilers in it.

Going into the finale of the always excellent medical drama, it was a commonly held belief that many of the original cast were leaving the show at the end of the season. For the last few weeks, the storylines have been preparing for it too; Meredith & Derek were leaving to work at Harvard, Karev had secured Johns Hopkins and Yang was off too.

And then the second last episode ended with a plane crash, and the previews had one character dying.

To me the safe money would have been on one of the aforementioned characters perishing in the accident – Derek being my choice.

But that’s not what happened.

Lexi Grey (highlight to see the name) was the one who died. And it was a quick death too. You expected it to be the usual US TV deal where they dragged it out to the end for maximum effect, with plenty of false finishes and a variety of potential death candidates, but that’s not what happened. She died less than 10 minutes in without too much fuss, which I thought was brave writing. And of course it was still very sad too.

I think it’s a pity that Lexi is leaving the show. She’s one of the more likeable characters and I know a few of my Grey’s Anatomy watching friends won’t be happy about it.

But what I found interesting was that as the episode developed, it became more and more apparent that the other characters weren’t getting out of that predicament by the end of the episode and that it would have to carry through into the next season. And then I read that all the characters who were supposed to leave had signed on for another two years.

So it was a swerve; and a bloody good one at that.

I keep saying it, but if you don’t watch Grey’s Anatomy, you should; it’s consistently brilliant.

The Football Manager 2013 Scotland Research Project

May 18, 2012

So the 2011/12 football season is away to come to its end and that can only mean one thing; it’s time to get to work researching Scottish football for the release of the next Football Manager game – Football Manager 2013.

Last year you’ll remember that we opened the research process up so that anyone could give their opinion on the players at their supported club, in a bid to make things more inclusive. And we plan on keeping things open because it means you can have your say – even if the club you support already has a researcher – and it also gives us a more complete idea of how the players should be rated based on the opinion of the many rather than the individual.

This year we’re going to change things though. If you remember, for the FM2012 research process we set up an online survey for people to fill in. That was ok, but for the large amount of responses we got it became a wee bit cumbersome getting the relevant information to the appropriate researchers. It was also a bit awkward having to go through the incomplete responses etc.

We still want your opinions and views on the players at your club, so the way we’re doing it this year is different.

How Can I Take Part?

Quite simply, we’d like you to let us know what you think each of your players’ strengths & weaknesses are, as if you were writing a brief scouting report on them.

We don’t mean an essay or anything like that, just a couple of lines for each player. Also, make sure that the information in relevant to position. So for example, there’s no point in saying that a centre back’s weakness is that he is a poor finisher.

So say for example I was writing up Dundee United striker Jon Daly; the format would be.

Player  Name: Jon Daly
Best Attributes: Link up play, strength, awareness in the box
Weaknesses: Poor pace and acceleration

It’s that simple, and it’ll help ensure that all the players aren’t just rated correct in terms of overall ability, but that their individual attributes are also as accurate as possible, making the overall experience better.

Now some Dundee United fans might read my assessment of Daly and think ‘I disagree; I think his strengths and weaknesses are x, y and z’, but that’s the point; one objective opinion might be wrong. It could be that I get 100 Dundee United fans replying to this and 86 of them say his best attributes are heading and shooting. If that was the case I’d amend him.

This will also be especially useful if you happen to know what the strengths and weaknesses of the under-20 players at your club are!

Will That Not Take A While?

While we think that this is a far better way of canvassing your opinion, we’re aware that you might think it could take a lot longer to do than filling in the survey like last year. But last year we asked numerous questions and also looked to get you to rate all your club’s players in order from best to worst, and that probably took longer than this will. This should be easier and quicker for you to do; around 15 minutes of your time.

How Do I Take Part?

So if you’re interested in having your opinions on your supported club’s players heard, all you’ve got to do is send an email with your thoughts to, and if you want you can also let us know who you think the top 3 players at your club are.

Please give the name of the club you are e-mailing us about in the Subject title, and also let us know if you’d ever be interested in becoming the official researcher for your club should a vacancy ever become available.

Prize Draw

Just like last year, we’ll be putting the e-mail address of everyone who takes part into a draw where one person will win a free copy of FM13 when it released later this year; not bad for a mere 15 minutes of your time.

Social Media

Also, if you are interested, please give us a ‘like’ on the official Football Manager Scotland Facebook Page where we’ll keep you up to date with FM news, post researcher vacancies and generally debate Scottish Football, and if you want to follow me on twitter, you can on @sgmilne

Similarly, if there are any footballers out there in twitterland who want to make sure they are as accurately represented in FM2013, by all means let me know

Oh, and while you’re here, feel free to browse the rest of my blog 😉

Film Review: 12 Angry Men (Deserving of Being Considered One of the Best Films of All Time? Read On)

May 17, 2012

The other day I reviewed Double Indemnity, and seeing as the film is just outside the top 50 films of all time – as voted by the public on the Internet Movie Database – it probably came as no surprise that I thought it was great too.

This morning I watched another film in the Top 250, 12 Angry Men; a film far higher up the rankings at No. 6.

So I asked myself whether or not it was worth even reviewing it. Surely a film rated that high must be good and that’s that?

Well not necessarily.

Out of the Top 20, I’ve seen 18 of them; the only two I haven’t being The Good, The Bad & The Ugly and The Seven Samurai. Of the 18 I’ve seen I consider the two Lord of the Rings films to be enjoyable but not classic, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and the first Godfather to be merely adequate (sorry, but I prefer Part 2 and Goodfellas; both of which were in the Top 20) and two of the films (Fight Club and The Matrix) to be two of the most overrated films I’ve ever seen.

And while The Dark Knight is good, it was initially receiving of so many votes because Heath Ledger died. At one point it was number 1 before eventually slipping.

So no, being in the Top 20 let alone the Top 250 on imdb does not automatically mean I will like the film or you will either. So on that basis it really is worth having a proper look at 12 Angry Men.

What’s It About?

But for two short scenes that bookend the action, this is a film that takes place on a hot day in the jury room of a courthouse as 12 men deliberate on whether or not to convict an 18 year old ethnic lad of killing his own father.

While initially 11 of the 12 men vote guilty, one man – Henry Fonda – implores them to take the time to discuss the issue in the face of some shaky evidence and potentially unreliable witnesses.

As they discuss it, doubt creeps in to the minds of the jury as to whether he really was guilty, but some of the men are blighted by prejudice and vendetta.

Will the jury force a mistrial or will they eventually all settle on a conclusion one way or the other?

Thoughts – The Negatives

Let’s get the negatives out the way to start off with.

The defendant’s court appointed solicitor must have been phoning it in if he couldn’t see the flaws in the prosecution’s case.

That’s all.

The PositivesThe Jury

Apart from the aforementioned stupidity of the defence that led to them getting round the table and questioning the issues in the first place, the film is a cracker from start to finish.

As you can tell from the title, this is a story more about the 12 men than it is about the case.

And as they discuss the case you see each of their characters coming to the fore. You’ve got…

  1. The foreman who is more preoccupied with his duties than adding to the debate
  2. The meek and mild-mannered bank clerk, initially spoken over but gradually growing in confidence as events unfold
  3. The stubborn opinionated businessman who has had a fallout with his own son and seems to want to punish the defendant for that
  4. The straight-laced, rational and self assure stockbroker who believes in facts rather than conjecture
  5. A quiet young man from the slums who feels as though he’s being pre-judged because of his background
  6. A down-to-earth Blue Collar worker who is respectful and principled
  7. A wise cracking and indifferent salesman who is more interested in getting away to a baseball game he has tickets for.
  8. The Henry Fonda character – the protagonist. He just wants things fully discussed before sending someone off to die.
  9. The wise and observant old man who is softly spoken but can be firm when needed
  10. A racist who believes that the defendant is guilty because he’s “one of them”
  11. A European watchmaker who takes notes on their discussions to try to piece everything together
  12. An indecisive advertising executive who seems more interested in selling himself than coming to a conclusion

As they interact with each other they all clearly develop over the course of the 96 minutes and as they develop so too does the plot.

While initially it seems as though Fonda’s character votes not guilty just to spark some debate, by doing so it allows the jury – and us as the viewer – to fully understand the case.

Yes, we’re obviously conditioned to believe that the guy really is innocent and that as the protagonist, Fonda is fighting as much for the defendant as he is for us, but the way each of the prosecution’s points – as championed by Jurors 3 & 4 in particular – end up being proven unreliable is terrific. And crucially it makes sense.

Of note, I love how the temper of Juror No. 3 leads him to say things that ultimately ruin his own arguments, but then it’s clear that his arguments are there because – as I say above – he has unresolved issues with his own son. And that becomes clear thanks to a seemingly unimportant line of small talk early in proceedings.

I also think the way Juror No. 10’s racism is fully exposed and dealt with by the other 11 men – even the ones who we’re supposed to believe are on ‘his side’ – is very effective.

The Direction and The Tension

The direction of this film is top-notch.

There’s a tension in the air not just because of all the characters are so different but because it’s a swelteringly hot day in a room without air conditioning, and so that just makes things worse.

And as the story develops the characters begin to sweat profusely, and as the heat and tension builds the director begins to employ close-up shots to perfection.

My favourite two shots in the film are when Fonda produces the other knife and when the camera closes in on Juror No. 8 as he confirms he was the first man to change his mind to not guilty.

‘Mon Then!

It’s a joy to watch, and considering it was filmed almost entirely in one room it is brilliantly executed.

The Acting

And it’s not just the director or the writer who should take the praise; the actors are the ones responsible for bringing these characters to life.

Yes, the director was responsible for casting these guys so perfectly (there probably wasn’t an actor more suited to Juror No. 2 as John Fielder – a man probably more famous for being the voice of Piglet in Winnie the Pooh) but all 12 men act their respective arses off.

It’s easy to single out Lee J. Cobb for praise because his character (No. 3) is the loudest and most outspoken, but they all play their parts to perfection; even the quieter ones like Jack Klugman (5) and Edward Binns (6).

Overall it’s just a great film.

Final Thoughts

Yes, this review is almost a love letter to 12 Angry Men, but it deserves it. According to imdb the only films better than it are The Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather Parts 1 and 2, Pulp Fiction and The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.

Well as I say, I haven’t seen the latter of those films but I honestly believe 12 Angry Men is a better film than the others.

That’s not to say that it’s my favourite film of all time, because it’s not. But it’s definitely one of them.

Never mind the imdb top 250, this is in the StuartReviewsStuff Top 10 at the very least.

If you haven’t seen it, what are you waiting for?

Film Review: Double Indemnity (or ‘A Fantastic Time Capsule of a Movie That Still Stands Up To This Day’)

May 15, 2012

Among my friends I have a reputation for liking old films, as if it’s some sort of kink.

I don’t see it that way at all. To me movies are – or should be – about the story. Yes, it’s ok once in a while to enjoy an all-guns-blazing action film where it’s all about the fight scenes, or even a film like Rocky IV which has a paper-thin plot but a great soundtrack and a series of music videos that just make you want to go out and exercise to your maximum capacity, but most of the time I like a film because of the plot.

And old films often have some of the best plots. That shouldn’t be a surprise of course; they’ve been making ‘talking’ films for nearly 100 years so why shouldn’t there be good films from back in the day?

But some people just don’t see it.

Well anyway, today I watched an old film from 1944, Double Indemnity. I’ve seen it before a few years ago – long before I started writing reviews – and I’ve been meaning to get round to watching it again for some time. Seeing as I’ve got a cold and have spent the day in bed, I

Sad as it is to say, even the poster will put some people off this film

thought ‘Why not today’.

What’s This Film About?

To quote the Internet Movie Database:

An insurance rep lets himself be talked into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses an insurance investigator’s suspicions.

Simple as that.


There’s a reason Double Indemnity – ranked #56 in the often reliable imdb top 250 – is considered to be one of the best films ever made, and I’ll get to that shortly.

Before I do though, I’ll praise one of the things I love about this film (and indeed many old films) and that is that it’s like a time capsule.

Seeing things like ‘supermarkets’ from a time before mass refrigeration, the main character – played by Fred MacMurray – going to a drive in to have a beer while sitting in his car, the actors referring to having a ‘coloured lady that comes by once a week’; it’s a different world from what we live in today and it’s fascinating.

Yes, you can get films these days that are set back in the 1940s but I often think that they aren’t all that genuine. What’s great about a film like Double Indemnity is not just that it represents the era it was made in in terms of sets, props and general look, but the idea of the ‘time capsule’ also applies to the style of acting and the music as well.

If you got a film made today set in 1944 it wouldn’t resemble Double Indemnity much at all. Certain things just wouldn’t be the same. The acting style is different. You wouldn’t get a modern-day actor working in the same way as Fred MacMurray does here; his style of delivery, the fast paced theatrical flirting that goes on between the characters (the scene at the start between him and Barbara Stanwyck is so ‘of the time’ that it made me laugh) and even the way he looks (actors these days tend to look – and most likely are – a lot more healthy in mind and body than someone from the 1940s). MacMurray and his co-stars simply are people from the 1940s. That cannot be faked or reproduced today.

And as I say, the sort of orchestral music you got in all films back in those days never appear in modern-day films set around that time either. And I think that’s all part of the appeal.

Another good thing about older films like this is that they offer the sort of honest plot that you just can’t get these days. Double Indemnity couldn’t work in 2012 because the plot centres around a murder that is made to look like an accidental death. Today, such a plan would fall at the first hurdle because of CCTV, and the investigation would be done by the police rather than by an insurance underwriter. That’s not unique to this film though; almost every single Columboplot would be made invalid by modern technology. In many ways, modern technology

Drive In Beer. It really was a different world back then.

has ruined certain types of storytelling – unless of course you set it back in time.

And it’s the plot – the sort of plot that you couldn’t do today – that makes this film as great as it is. Yes, it’s acted well, but it’s the writing and the directorial style that does it for me.

I love the way it’s presented in the style of a prolepsis (flash-forward), whereby the film starts with MacMurray’s character coming in to his office to confess his guilt to his co-worker. Most of story is told from the perspective of him recounting the tale of what got him to that point before finishing back where it started, if you know what I mean. It’s brilliant.

You might think that it’s not exactly a unique way of telling a story since it’s probably appeared in dozens of films and TV shows in recent years, but the point is that this came first. Director/writer Billy Wilder was doing what is considered a progressive way of writing today, 68 years ago.

The way the main characters’ plan is formed and ultimately unravels is not something I want to spoil for you if you haven’t seen it, but again, it’s brilliantly executed and flows wonderfully.

At 103 minutes, it’s not the longest film in the world, but it doesn’t need to be. It keeps your attention from start to finish and ticks all the right boxes.

Should You Watch Double Indemnity?

Some people will sadly look at this – and any other film made around this time – as some kind of museum artefact that couldn’t possibly rival modern films that we’re told to love (like Inception), but those people either haven’t given old films a chance or are narrow-minded.

To me it doesn’t matter when a film was made; if it is well written, acted and directed then it is worth my time.

And Double Indemnity ticks all of those boxes.

I couldn’t tell you how many movies have been made over the last hundred years, but if a film from 1944 is still knocking on the door of the top 50 films ever made with over 50,000 votes from the public to its credit, then that must tell you something about its quality.

If you’re reading this and value my recommendation, then I would suggest you watch Double Indemnity as soon as you get the chance.

And remember, if you agree 0r disagree with my assessment of this or anything else I review, feel free to leave a comment.


Film Review: American Reunion (or ‘Good For a Nostalgic Laugh, But Not Much Else’)

May 12, 2012

For some people, American Reunion will be the 8th in the American Pie series, but for most of us it’s only the fourth.

I must admit I’ve never seen the straight-to-DVD efforts like Beta House,  Band Camp and The Book of Love, and I also struggle to see how Eugene Levy manages to find his way into all of them in anything other than an incongruous manner. I guess though that unless I watch almost everything else there is to watch in the world and just want a bit of variety, the chances are I’ll never know. They all have a reputation for being crap (hence the straight-to-DVD aspect), include none of the ‘regular’ characters other than Levy and have imdb ratings of between 4.6 and 5.1. So it’s a no from me.

But I am a fan of the cinematic releases – well, the first two anyway – and so I was looking forward to seeing this one.

What’s This Film About?

The kids from the first three American Pie films are now all in their early 30s (although some – like Tara Reid and Chris Klein – manage to look far older) and have returned to their town for their class’s 13th Anniversary High School

The poster of this film is a direct knock-off of the original film’s poster. The girl between Jim and Kevin is in one scene.



The first scene of this film – where Jim tries to have a wank while his wife is in the bath and ends up shutting his penis inside a laptop because his young son catches him – had me worried. It was unfunny, crude humour of the lowest rent variety. Yes, American Pie as a series is barely sophisticated, but having gone back and watched the first one there was a little bit more setup work for the crude stuff rather than it just being so blunt.

So as I say, I was worried I’d made a terrible mistake in coming to this film and that it was maybe something that should have been consigned to history. We’ve all grown up since it came out so maybe they should too, right?

Well in fairness to it, it improved from there. Yes, there are a few more crude bits – almost exclusively involving Stiffler – but it was more about the relationships between the characters who had all moved on with their lives since their last meeting, and how despite that, the relationships they formed at school were important.

And that’s OK, but I think that by doing so it’s a film that can only work  from a nostalgic point of view. I think if you took someone who had never seen any of the first three films to it they’d think it was terrible. For viewers like me, it works because I know the characters, and having left school at roughly the same time, can identify with the stage of life they find themselves at.

And nostalgia can be a good thing in small doses. Certainly the best two parts of the film – by a distance – were the cameos from The Sherminator and The MILF Guys, the latter of which had me literally in tears of laughter.

As an aside, isn’t it incredible that the term MILF – something used so widely today – originates from a throwaway scene in the original film?

But getting back to it, even with the nostalgia there were still bits that made you groan. I can understand Jim finding himself in embarrassing situations as a 17/18-year-old boy; but to find himself in equally embarrassing situations at the each of 32 is stupid. Why would he dress up in that latex outfit at someone else’s house? Why would he not just firmly tell the 18-year-old girl who has an inexplicable crush on him that he’s married and is not interested? And why did they think it necessary for us to see his genitalia?

On a related note, why would Jim and Michelle be looking to spend ‘quality time together’ at an event specifically designed to meet up with old friends? Could they not spend quality time together at home?

Final Thoughts

I could sit here and pick flaws in American Reunion all day, but I won’t. It is what it is – a nostalgia fuelled nod to a film that people my age find iconic.

Some say that at 113 minutes in length it’s too long, but I didn’t really think so. It managed to flow well and maintain my interest throughout, and that’s a good thing.

There were some unfunny moments, some ridiculous ones and the occasional bit of brilliance. If you liked the first two or three films, then get yourself a ticket and go along to see it.

But if you’ve never seen any of them, don’t bother.



Things That Annoy Me In TV & Film – Part Two (Death Edition)

May 10, 2012

This edition of Things That Annoy Me  In TV & Film is going to concentrate on Death.

Basically, death is often handled in a ridiculously unrealistic way for the sake of writing a ‘good script’. Here are some of the things that annoy me…

The Way Some People Die So Easily

Death happens very quickly in some TV shows & Films. Now I’m not suggesting that they should be instructional tools on how best to murder people, but it still bugs me to see people dying after having a pillow over their face for about 10 seconds, getting a mild tap on the head with a saucepan or having been exposed to oven gas for a brief moment.

One of the poorer Alfred Hitchcock films – Torn Curtain I believe – showed a rare example of how killing people isn’t actually all that easy. The main character tried all the usual ways that people easily murder others in the movies and still came up short. It’s an interesting scene, but really it’s the only thing going for the film so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend watching it.

The fact is, it’s not THAT easy to kill someone (not that I’ve tried), especially with your bare hands, and yet if all you had to go on was TV & Film, you’d think humans were made of sugar glass and blutak,

On a related note you have people dying of natural causes in ridiculous ways. I did an article about the way Pat Butcher unrealistically died on Eastenders around Christmas time (which you can read here) and another good example of that would be Mike Baldwin dying in agony in

Many times the hero of the show will find himself on the wrong end of one of these, but for whatever reason the bad guys just won’t shoot.

the middle of a street…of Alzheimers Disease. Seriously…

The Way Some People Just Don’t Die

On the other side of the coin you have the people who just won’t die. You’ll usually see this sort of thing in Horror films like Scream, but also in stuff like 24 (Jack Bauer should have died many times), Doctor Who (Ladies and Gentlemen, I present The Master) and soaps like Eastenders (Dirty Den)

If TV & Film tells us anything, it’s that while most people only need a sharp gust of wind to finish them off, really bad people are incredibly resilient. You can shoot them, stab them, smack them over the head with bronze busts of English monarchs, throw them off great heights, hit them with cars, trap them in burning buildings and every which way that you could possibly think of, but they’ll come back. Nice people die very easily though, and so do unimportant hired goons.

Why is that though? How are the angry kids in Scream who dress up as the bloke with the mask suddenly more resilient now that they are exposed as being insane or bloodthirsty?

Like so many of the other issues I bring up, the reasoning is ‘Just Because’.

Dying for the Sake of Dying

It happens too often that people seemingly decide to just give up on living either in the last episode of a TV series or towards the end of a film. It doesn’t matter that their lives should go on after the film or TV series ends in their own fictional world, they just want to die now and get it over with.

And it happens for such stupid reasons., ranging from “I have a sore foot and can’t be bothered running out of this building that’s about to explode, so I’ll just stay here and die, but please, don’t let me hold you up” to “I can’t believe they’ve shut down my pirate radio station”.

As I say above, it’s like when a TV show or film ends, the bloodthirsty writers decide that certain characters have to die in order to fill some sort of quota. It happens all the time in Doctor Who (A great example would be the Horror of Fang Rock where a character decided to put himself in the way of certain death because he wanted to pick up some diamonds off the floor despite the alien advancing on him) and it has also happened in shows like Alias (Highlight for Spoiler: Jack Bristow did not need to blow himself up to trap Arvin Sloane), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the character that died in the last episode didn’t need to die) and of course 24.

Fearless Death and How Quick People Get Over It

On a similar note, I would say about 90-95% of death on TV that isn’t as stupid as some of the examples above are still dealt with badly. Most people face death with a sort of noble acceptance. They are away to die, but it’s ok. Very few people either die without much dignity (which is sadly how most of us will go in the end) or while not looking their best.

Sometimes death is dealt with really well…scarily well in fact. While most of us would like to go having decided that it’s our time and we’ve said our farewells – like Mr. Chipping in Goodbye My Chips – the chances are we’ll go out either slowly and unconscious or in a harrowingly sad fashion. As much as people criticise soaps and as much as they get death wrong most of the time, sometimes – just sometimes – they get it right. Remember Madge Bishop’s death? That was quite good.

But then when people do die, the thing that also bugs me about TV – and it might well be a necessarily evil – is how quickly people get over it. Going back to Dr Who again and the death of Adric. The Doctor, Teagan and Nyssa have been travelling with Adric for a while; he is supposed to be their friend. And he’s just died in massive explosion when a spaceship he was on crashed into Earth. Do they mourn him? Yes, for about two minutes, before going about their business like nothing has happened in the next episode.

And I know Doctor Who is an odd example because death happens in it so often, but it happens in other shows as well. Young people die, and yet their friends, family and significant others only seem to care for about a week in real time.

The Way The Main Baddy Always Dies Last

No matter the film, no matter the TV show, whenever there is a hierarchy of villainy, the lead baddy always dies last. It doesn’t matter that he’s a weedy bloke surrounded by trained ninjas; he will last longer than them before his ultimate showdown with the hero of the hour, and just like I say above, he’ll also be far harder to kill than his goons.

And on the flipside the main hero will have been put in many situations where he’s about to be killed only for the bad guys to change their minds and then tell him or her all their evil plans and exactly how it would be that they could stop them. Or alternatively, everyone around the hero will have been killed by someone, but the bad guys only decided to use a stun gun on him.

I’m About To Die And Have Something To Say, But I’ll Skirt Round The Issue For a While Before Finally Telling You That…

So a character is dying. He’s lying there and he knows he’s not got much time, and he has information that is vital to saving the day. Does he just come out and say it? Of course not. He lies there and makes glib conversation like “Well Ace, it looks like I’ve got myself into one scrap too far this time, ahahahahahaha”

At this point he should probably realise as he loses his sense of smell and taste that he’s not long for this world and yet he still skates round the issue until eventually he decides to get to the point. And then, just as he’s about to give the hero the information that he’s been saying he’s going to tell him for the past five minutes…he dies.

This has happened in so many Films and TV shows that I don’t even need to give you a specific example. You’ll know exactly what I mean.

But what I want to know is what film or even what book came up with the idea first. Whoever was responsible for writing that needed a good kicking.

And One About Life

To balance it up, here’s one about life rather than death.

How come babies are always born completely clean? They don’t come out that way in real life.

Stuart’s Week In Entertainment: April 30 – May 6 (Apple iPad and One Tree Hill – with potential UK Pace Spoilers)

May 8, 2012

Not a huge amount to report on the TV front this week.

I finally finished off One Tree Hill once and for all, and I can’t say I’m particularly sad to see it go. It was a pretty self-indulgent show that had strayed about as far away from its original premise as you could possibly get. Having said that, the one thing I did like was the conclusion to the Dan Scott character. Even though there were plenty of other original characters still in it, he was the only one who had any sort of continuity over the course of all nine seasons, and corny as it was, his exit was handled quite well.

Mind you, when the first four seasons were being shown a few years back, if you’d shown anyone associated with the show a clip of Dan marching through a warehouse murdering Eastern Europeans with a shotgun you’d think ‘Oh come

Dan Scott goes out in a blaze of glory


I’ll be glad to see the back of that horrible little dwarf Jamie Scott though. And I bet that’s his TV career over. Hurrah!

Beyond that there’s not too much I watched (other than Britain’s Got Talent but since its live finals week I’ll deal with that in greater detail next week) and instead I’ve been focusing on my new iPad.

The iPad is something I’ve thought about buying for well over a year. Part of me thought ‘Do I need this’, while another part of me thought it would be a cool thing to own. That other part of me won the debate when I decided to take the plunge at the end of last week.

With the price-tag lower on now supposedly out of date iPad 2, I decided to go for one of them, and I’ve not regretted it. Now bear in mind I’m the sort of person who gets buyers remorse when I buy a player for a high price with fictional money in Football Manager, so I don’t make any purchase without some level of deliberation, but it really is an impressive piece of kit.

And the games are terrific on it too. The weird thing is though that because the price level has been set so low, I actually have to think about whether I want to pay £1.49 for a game when there are free ones or ones that only cost 69p on the market. Changed days from when we thought it was fine to spend the modern-day equivalent of around £95 for a SNES game back in 1993.

What I have played has been good though, both from the graphical standpoint and the pick-up-and-play one, and I’d recommend games like Where’s My Water (£1.50 I think), The Logo Quiz (Free) and of course Football Manager Handheld (£6).

If you’ve got any suggestions for apps or games for my iPad, let me know.


Doctor Who – The Daemons Review (or ‘Iconic Story or One Step Too Far For The Master?’)

May 7, 2012

The final story of Season Eight – or The Master Season if you prefer – is one that is probably the most iconic of the Pertwee era.

The Daemons is probably the most typical example of what people think of a Third Doctor Story as being. It’s got UNIT, the Master, Jo Grant, a homely location and a big bad monster.

There’s the love child of Graeme Garden and Edge

Judging this story has to be done on two fronts though.

  1. Does it work on its own?
  2. Does it work as part of a continuing series?

My thinking coming into this one was that as a story on its own merits it would live up to its iconic hype, but as the fifth Master story in a row, it might seem a bit stale.

Doctor Who – The Daemons Review: What’s This One About?

The Master – posing as a man of the cloth – uses the people of the village of the appropriately (and perhaps unimaginatively) named Devils End to try to summon – you guessed it – The Devil.

Well…not really. The ‘Devil’ is actually Azal, a Daemon from the planet Daemos. They are a race of creatures that have had a hand in the development of Earth for over a million

Sometimes when I take screengrabs for these reviews I randomly just stop it and see what I get.
This is the most random one ever. But that guy has nice hair.

years as part of their own experiment or something. It gets a bit confused.

But the point is that the Master has helped summon him and wants Azal to hand him his power so he can rule the Earth. And of course the Doctor and UNIT have to stop him.

The Ultimate UNIT Story

So as I say, this is the ultimate UNIT story. It has helicopter chases, a lot more Yates & Benton than we’ve previously seen, the Master being up to no good, Jo getting herself captured & nearly sacrificed and of course the Brigadier saying ‘Chap with the wings there; five rounds rapid’.

It’s the one you’ve probably seen clips of even if you haven’t seen it and the one you identify the Pertwee Era with, as I’ve said above.

And on its own merits it’s perfectly enjoyable. It has a strong cast supported ably by the likes of the booming voiced Stephen Thorn (Azal), Damaris Hayman (Olive Hawthorn) and the snivelling Don McKillop (Bert the Landlord; and yes, that’s the official name of his character).

Beyond that it’s got Bok the Gargoyle (everyone remembers him) and the famous scene where the church gets blown up and people wrote in to Points of View to complain (some people thought the production team destroyed a real church. Jesus…)

But the problem is what I thought it would be, and that is that having been the villain in the four previous stories, the Master is getting a bit tired and samey.

And would you believe it, it ends in exactly the same way as his previous stories did – he gets in over his head and can’t control the people/thing he hopes to use to conquer the Earth/Universe.


So while I enjoyed it, I think I would enjoy it more if watched it in isolation rather than as part of a run through. But that’s not really how it’s supposed to work, is it?

The Ending

The one thing that ruins the Daemons – regardless of the circumstances in which you watch it– is the ending.

Over the course of the five episodes, the story has built up well. Unlike other stories in this season, the cliffhangers were all good and served to build up and advance the plot week by week until Episode Four ends with Azal finally being revealed. A quality bit of storytelling, make no mistake.

But once Azal arrived he didn’t really do much other than have a chat; a chat in a wonderful booming voice right enough, but still just a chat.

And then what kills him is the notion that Jo would rather lay down her life to save the Doctor rather than let Azal kill him. That’s it. How pathetic is that? It was an absolutely

Christ…they’re all at it!!

nonsensical cop-out that negated everything that had come before it. To me it seemed as though they had to finish the story and couldn’t think of a good and concise way to do it. Sloppy stuff from the writers.

The Modern Approach in Episode One

But to get back onto a positive train of thought, I particularly enjoyed the way Episode One told the story through the medium of a live TV show. It’s the sort of thing you would expect to see in a 2012 episode of Dr Who rather than a 1970s story. Good progressive storytelling and another example of foresight on the part of the writing staff by having the show being on BBC3. Of course, what makes me feel old is that the first few times I watched this story, BBC3 still seemed like a futuristic concept.

Random Observations

  • Maybe it’s just me, but I hate it when there are one or two ‘paid’ extras in among rabbles. While everyone else gets to rhubarb (and no, that’s not an auto-correct error) to their heart’s content, the paid ones – i.e. the ones who actually get given lines to speak – just stick out like a sore thumb. For anyone who has seen The Ark, you’ll know the ‘That’s No Argument’ woman who tried to steal every scene she was in; well in this case it’s the tall skinny guy who looks like a mixture of comedian Graeme Garden and WWE wrestler Edge. You’ll know exactly who I’m on about.
  • And speaking of him, I recently watched an episode of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads and actually managed to recognise him purely from seeing the back of his head. A proud moment in my “Spotting random ZZZ list celebrities in old TV shows” career.
  • I know the Doctor has seen many terrible things in his time, but surely Adolf Hitler has done enough to deserve being called something worse than a ‘Bounder’?
  • The way the boy with the beard stands in a ‘fearful’ position while Bok shoots him might well be a necessary evil for the special effect to work, but it doesn’t half look shit, does it?
  • Mr Quill is in this! Bill Burridge who played one half of legendary double act Mr. Oak and Mr. Quill appears as an extra in this story. Sadly we don’t see him opening his mouth really wide (what a party piece that is) as we only see the back of his head.
  • Benton is a helluva shot is he not?
  • Three times was one too many for the ‘Bessie has a remote control’ set-piece if you ask me.
  • In all fairness, the special effects in this one are quite good. I’m not exactly sure how they did the fire effects at the heat barrier, but while I’m sure it must have been something quite simple, it was effective.  Similarly the way Bok

    Even the Master! But he looks like he wasn’t expecting it.

    gets destroyed and comes back together is also impressive for the time.

  • The only thing that lets Bok down at all is when he moves and is clearly just a small bloke in a grey unitard and mask.
  • People can be very rude sometimes can they not? What right did those guys in the pub have to take the piss out of the Doctor’s clothes? The cheeky bastards deserved what they eventually got.

Doctor Who – The Daemons Review: Final Thoughts

You’ll probably be able to guess my final thoughts since I summed them up earlier in the review.

In isolation this is an iconic and enjoyable story, but as part of a run through, it suffers from the Master’s over-exposure. Yes, he’ll be back three more times and in each case it’ll be almost exactly the same storyline again, but at least there will be breaks in between.

For now though, the Doctor needs new opposition…or old opposition as the case becomes.

Things That Annoy Me In TV & Film – Part One

May 4, 2012

When you watch shows like Prison Break, no matter how enjoyable they might be there are always little things that will annoy you; things what will make you say “That just wouldn’t happen”.

And that got me thinking about the many things that happen in TV and Film that just aren’t realistic or annoy me. And I don’t mean stuff like ‘People Who Can Fly’ or the like, because that’s not the sort of thing I’m talking about. I’m talking about things that happen often in TV & Film that are supposed to be ‘normal’ or are just plain old overused and ridiculous.

Prison Break had my list at about 10 different things, but for those of you who read my Week In Entertainment articles, you’ll know that I’ve also been watching One Tree Hill and Neighbours recently, and so that list has more than doubled…and of now it’s still rising.

So here is Part One of a list that may never actually end.

1. People’s Appearance Changing Between TV Seasons That Are Supposed To Be In Real Time

In America, a TV Season usually ends in May and starts again in October. In that time an actor or actress might put on weight or have some sort of accident and so when the show resumes, people can look a bit different; I can accept that.

This man never goes to the toilet, and he also recovers VERY quickly from regular beatings

But sometimes things just get a bit sloppy. Take Prison Break as an example (and I feel we might be using this a lot). Season 2 ends with a bunch of the escapees finding themselves locked up in a Panamanian prison. That’s the cliffhanger. Season 3 picks up directly from that on the same day, and yet one of the main characters no longer has bleached hair.

Where is the attention to detail there? Why could he not have just bleached his hair for at least the first episode before deciding to dye it back or cut it off.

It’s a small issue but it bugs me.

2. People Order Food and Never Eat It

This could be almost any show. How often do you see people order food or drink on a TV show or a film and then either not bother to eat it, or leave and pay before they’ve even seen served?

That just doesn’t happen.

Well…it might if it was something serious, but in a show like Neighbours, people leave their food uneaten for reasons like ‘Come and have a look…there’s a toddler eating a banana outside!‘. In reality, unless something major has come up, you don’t just leave cafes or restaurants until you are finished eating.

3. People Never Seem to Discuss Things While Travelling

How often do you see people start a conversation while leaving one place (e.g. the pub) and then seemingly not advance their conversation at all until they have reached their destination (e.g. their house). What happens while they are travelling to the other place? Do they just blank each other?

4. The Way That Some TV Shows Can’t Distinguish Between Real Time and Transmission Time

There are an abundance of shows that are guilty of this, but three good examples would be Prison Break, 24 and Doctor Who.

Let’s take 24 as the prime example, especially as it’s a show that prides itself on being set realistically within real-time to the point where they cut the cast’s hair every couple of days to ensure it stays the same length.

It’s all well and good doing that for appearances sake, but stop and think about the sort of thing that happens in the average ’24’ day. Jack Bauer will get beaten up to the point of being almost literally dead and yet ‘Two Hours’ later, he’ll be fine. And that’s ok because that happened a fortnight ago in our eyes. Or indeed the series where a nuclear bomb went off in Los Angeles in hour 7 and by hour 13 nobody was even mentioning it. Yes, months had passed in transmission time, but if a nuclear bomb went off in LA in reality, I think people might still be talking about it later in the afternoon.

The idea for this came up when I was watching Prison Break though. There was a scene in a later episode of Season 2 where Link the Sink is talking on the phone to his son, who we’ve not seen for about 11 or 12 episodes. His son tells him that in the time they’ve been apart he has settled and is now happy and going to a new school, and that’s fine, but in ‘real-time’, Link saw his son earlier that week. He must settle bloody quickly.

And why mention Doctor Who? Because when you take a moment to think about it, the entire ‘life’ of Peter Davison’s 5th Doctor takes places over about a fortnight in real time.

5. The Reveal of Secrets

People have secrets. People keep secrets. They don’t always come out.

Unless it’s on a TV Show.

Now I can understand that for the sake of drama, if you’re going to have someone with a deep dark secret, it makes sense  for it to come out in the end. That’s fine.

But it’s how it comes out that often bugs me.

Now I’ve never killed someone, but if I had done, I wouldn’t keep a piece of highly incriminating evidence in a box under my bed and occasionally – for no purpose other than exposition for the viewer – take it out just to look at it. And then leave it there until someone else inevitably finds it while doing something otherwise innocent.

It’s just pointless, weak storytelling

Next Time…

Next time I’ll discuss things like the way illness, lead villains and reset switches are used in TV