My Life In Film: Part Twenty Four

Well, it seems like absolutely ages since I gave you part twenty three of this odyssey but here we go again with another edition.  This time around there is at least one film that I hadn’t thought about for years until it just suddenly popped into my brain while trying to research another project, while the others are pretty much standard movies I’ve seen again and again but just happened to forget about until now!  Anyway, enough of me yacking on…we’ve got work to do!

 

UNCLE BUCK (1989)

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The ever reliable, and much-missed, John Candy was perfect in this film from John Hughes.  Candy is Buck Russell, confirmed bachelor and all-round slob, who is forced to look after his brother’s three kids.  Hughes’ ability to tap into the mind of the American teenager was one of his masterstrokes and he does it again here.  Jean Louisa Kelly as Tia is about as dysfunctional a teen you could find while Gaby Hoffman and a pre-Home Alone Macaulay Culkin provide the cuteness overload.  But this is really John Candy’s film in which he showcases not only his brilliant comedic bones but also his heart.

WATCH IT FOR: “Here’s a quarter…”

 

JUST CAUSE (1995)

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Sean Connery stars in this solid thriller as Paul Armstrong, a Harvard professor lured back into the courtroom after 25 years to represent a young black man who has been sentenced to death for the murder of a young girl.  Laurence Fishburne plays the local sheriff who resents Armstrong’s presence and who believes the police have their man.  Connery is, as usual, brilliantly cool and takes no nonsense from the locals as he delves deeper into this horrific crime.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986)

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John Carpenter made his name in the seventies and eighties as one of the leading lights of cinematic horror with Halloween, The Fog and The Thing.  Here, though, he ventures into the world of comedy, adventure and fantasy.  Kurt Russell stars as Jack Burton, a truck driver, who arrives in San Francisco’s Chinatown where all manner of weird and wonderful things happen.  Kim Cattrall and the ever present James Hong provide solid support in this rip-roaring extravaganza.

WATCH IT FOR: The Three Storms

 

CITY SLICKERS (1991)

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Three middle-aged friends – Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern and Bruno Kirby – are having a mid-life crisis and decide the only way to celebrate their milestone birthday is to go on a cattle drive from New Mexico to Colorado.  Whilst there, they meet Curly (Jack Palance) who teaches them everything they need to know about being a cowboy, as well as a few things about life.  It’s a wonderful, uplifting comedy that brought the legendary Palance his only Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

WATCH IT FOR: The Secret of Life

 

MATILDA (1996)

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Big screen adaptations of Roald Dahl stories haven’t always been up to the quality of the original product.  With this movie version of Matilda (a book I absolutely adore), director Danny DeVito has managed to capture the spirit and essence of the source material.  Mara Wilson stars as the eponymous heroine, a little girl who just so happens to be a genius, and the fight against her horrid family (DeVito and Rhea Perlman play her parents) and the hideous Miss Trunchbull (a delightfully wicked Pam Ferris).  As adaptations go, this is one of the best.

WATCH IT FOR: Hammer Throw!

 

BLADE RUNNER (1982)

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With a sequel (Blade Runner 2049) currently in cinemas it seems only right to revisit this classic piece of sci-fi.  Based on the novel by Philip K. Dick (“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”) and from pioneering director Ridley Scott, Blade Runner is a bleak, film-noir-style thriller set in a futuristic Los Angeles where Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is on the trail of a group of replicants (androids that look like humans) who have staged a mutiny on the Off World colony.  Its a dark, brooding thriller made all the more menacing by Rutger Hauer‘s Roy Batty.

WATCH IT FOR: “Tears in the rain”

 

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS (2009)

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Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) is a scientist who is regarded by everyone he meets as a failure.  He invents a machine that makes food fall from the sky but little does he know that trouble will soon follow.  The story has been told many times before – local laughing stock comes good – but here its given a quirky twist with giant food falling from the sky.  The animation is beautiful and the script is as witty as you like, add to this the voice talents of James Caan, Anna Faris and Mr. T and you’ve got yourself a winner!

WATCH IT FOR: Raining burgers!

 

HARVEY (1950)

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James Stewart is wonderful in this film version of the hit stage play.  In it he plays Elwood P. Dowd, a man who insists that he has a friend in the form of an invisible six-foot high rabbit called Harvey.  Because of this his family and friends believe him to be insane and try to have him committed.  This is a whimsical tale, almost fable-like with Stewart giving one of his finest performances and providing cinema with one of the best fantasy comedies in history.

WATCH IT FOR: Stewart’s performance

 

GUNG HO (1986)

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Michael Keaton plays Hunt Stevenson, a worker at an American car firm that has just been taken over by a Japanese company.  He must act as a mediator between his co-workers and new owners while justify the existence of his own job.  Director Ron Howard brings humour to a culture clash drama which is, in essence, slightly clichéd and mundane but its Keaton’s performance that keeps things moving.

WATCH IT FOR: Morning exercises

 

HIGH SOCIETY (1956)

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As movie remakes go, High Society is a pretty good one.  Based on the 1940 romantic comedy The Philadelphia Story it sees Grace Kelly as a spoiled heiress who finds herself having to choose between three suitors, two of which are played by Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby.  Sure, it lacks the fizz and punch of the original but it does boast a number of glorious songs and has a fun, flighty nature about it not to mention an appearance from Louis Armstrong and his band.

WATCH IT FOR: Well Did You Evah?

 

Well, did you ever?  There goes another edition of My Life In Film… I promise not to leave it so long until the next one but, as it’s that time of year, the next entry will be a Halloween special so keep your eyes peeled for that one!  As for this edition, well I think its quite eclectic as per usual, don’t you think?  If you’ve liked what you’ve seen here then please do get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.  Until the next time…

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“It’s all in the reflexes”

 

 

 

 

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Movie Heroes: Harold Lloyd

As a child I first became aware of Harold Lloyd during the school holidays when UK television showed his World of Comedy compilation programmes.  The catchy theme tune (“Hooray For Harold Lloyd”) has been stuck in my head for decades but it was only in the past few years that I really began to appreciate just how important Lloyd was to the world of cinema.  Not just a brilliant comic performer and stuntman, Lloyd was also a writer, producer and director and is often cited alongside Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton as one of the greatest, and most influential film makers of all time.

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For the most part, though, Lloyd has been sadly overlooked in favour of his fellow cinematic giants.  It’s a shame because I think his work is just as good, if not better, than both Keaton and Chaplin.

Lloyd had always acted as a child but it wasn’t until he moved with his father to California that he began appearing in one-reel comedies and, while working for the Thomas Edison Motion Picture Company, got his first role in a production of The Old Monk’s Tale.  When he was 20, Lloyd moved to Los Angeles and soon began appearing in Keystone comedies and working as an extra for Universal.  It was here at Universal that Lloyd met an aspiring film-maker called Hal Roach.  They became firm friends and soon started making their own films, including “Lonesome Luke” which was a version of Chaplin’s tramp character.

After a few years of playing this tragic-comic character, Lloyd felt the need to develop and set upon creating the Glass character, an everyman that audiences could identify with more than Lonesome Luke.  Glass gave Lloyd the chance to show his emotional depth and empathy and would become his most famous creation.

Harold Lloyd in SPEEDY (1928). Courtesy Harold Lloyd Entertainme

During the height of his new-found popularity, Lloyd faced a personal struggle when, while posing for publicity photographs, he was seriously injured when a supposed prop bomb blew up in his hand.  Lloyd lost a thumb and forefinger in the accident and suffered severe trauma to his face and eye.  Despite this, he regained his sight and the face wounds healed and he also developed a special prosthetic for his hand so he could continue working.

In 1921, Lloyd and Roach moved from making shorts into making feature films and, in particular, his most iconic movie Safety Last (1923).  This film secured Lloyd’s stardom and cemented him in the history of cinema.  Even after Lloyd parted company with Roach in 1924 his success continued with Girl Shy, The Freshman, The Kid Brother and Speedy which would be his final silent movie.

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He formed his own production company – The Harold Lloyd Film Corporation – and was one of the founding members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  But, with the advent of talking pictures and the Great Depression, Lloyd found his Glass character was out of touch with audiences.  Along with the increased length of time between the releases of his films, Lloyd found his popularity declining.  His company also suffered in the decline and he ended up selling the land on which his studio was built.  He produced a few comedies for RKO in the early 1940s but had all but retired before returning for a short career on the radio and occasional appearances on television.

Lloyd maintained the copyright control over most of his films but offered them out infrequently to cinemas as he felt they were best seen with a live organist.  In the early 1960s he produced two compilation films – Harold Lloyd’s World of Comedy and The Funny Side of Life – the first of which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1962 and where Lloyd was lauded as a major rediscovery.

He received an Honorary Academy Award in 1953 for being “a master comedian and good citizen” as well as having his footprints and autograph preserved outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

Following Lloyd’s death, the rights to his films were sold to Time-Life Films where they were subjected to terrible edits and compacted into television compilation shows (which is where I first became aware of him) often featuring narration telling the viewer what was happening which, while amusing to a child like me, was actually sacrilegious to Lloyd’s legacy.

Chaplin and Keaton may be more recognised as the pioneers of silent cinema but you can’t forget Lloyd’s contribution to the genre.  His daredevil antics and thrill sequences are among some of cinema’s most spectacular moments with Safety Last appearing in the AFIs list of 100 Most Thrilling Movies.  His films made him one of the wealthiest movie stars in Hollywood as well as one of the most influential yet his name is often forgotten.  Do yourself a favour, seek out Safety Last if you can and marvel at the genius of the ordinary man in glasses who ended up doing extraordinary things.  You won’t be disappointed.

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HAROLD LLOYD – 1893-1971

 

 

 

 

My Life In Film: Part Twenty Three

And so, as the dust settles on another entry of My Life In Film… we must surely delve deeper into the archives for more lost gems of cinema.  This time around there is at least one curveball that I had forgotten all about and, more importantly, forgotten that I liked! There are also a couple of massive blockbusters and plenty of award winners to enjoy in this twenty third edition.  Time to get to it, then…

 

STAR TREK (2009)

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In a world of reboots and reimagining there lies the odd film that actually works as it should.  Star Trek is one such delight.  J.J. Abrams takes the helm of this spectacular reboot of the classic television series and movie franchise.  I was never a fan of either of these originals but hearing of Abrams involvement got me on board.  Chris Pine stars as a brash James T. Kirk trying to live up to his father’s legacy.  Along for the ride are Zachary Quinto as Spock, Karl Urban as Bones, Anton Yelchin as Chekov, John Cho as Sulu, Simon Pegg as Scotty and Zoe Saldana as Uhura.  Original Spock, Leonard Nimoy, appears as his own father and thus keeping a foot in the original franchise.  It’s a really entertaining action sci-fi where the whole cast works so well together.

WATCH IT FOR: Beam us up!

 

ASK A POLICEMAN (1939)

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Sgt Dudfoot (Will Hay) and his two incompetent constables, Albert (Graham Moffatt) and Harbottle (Moore Marriott) are the dedicated policemen in Turnbottom Round, a village that prides itself on being without crime for years.  Unfortunately, this means that their jobs are now at stake so they form a plan to stage fake crimes in order to get the numbers up and save the station.  However, they unwittingly uncover an actual smuggling operation.  If you think you’ve heard that plot somewhere before then you’d be right.  It was remade as The Boys In Blue starring Cannon & Ball in 1984, which has also made the list of my favourite films!

WATCH IT FOR: A visit to Harbottle’s father!

 

THE PRESIDIO (1988)

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I revisited this thriller recently and had forgotten just how much I enjoyed it.  For years the only thing I remembered about it was the scene with Sean Connery‘s character beating a guy up with just his thumb, but there’s more to it than that.  Mark Harmon plays a civilian detective in San Francisco who comes up against his former commanding officer (Connery) while investigating a series of murders that cross both their jurisdictions.  Directed by Peter Hyams and co-starring Meg Ryan as Connery’s daughter and love interest for Harmon, The Presidio is an underrated thriller that doesn’t get the love it deserves.

WATCH IT FOR: THAT fight!

 

TRULY MADLY DEEPLY (1990)

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I’ll be honest, this isn’t my go-to style of film to watch and I don’t know why I was drawn to it first time around but I’m glad I did.  Juliet Stevenson plays Nina who is overcome with grief at losing her partner, Jamie (Alan Rickman).  She gets a second chance when he comes back to her as a ghost.  It’s a romantic comedy but, at it’s heart, is a story about grief and nothing illustrates that more than Stevenson’s heart breaking performance.  In other hands this could have been overly sentimental and cheesy but when you have Anthony Minghella writing and directing, you know you’re in for some quality work.

WATCH IT FOR: The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore

 

PACIFIC HEIGHTS (1990)

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If you take nothing else from this film, just know that Michael Keaton gives good villain.  Pacific Heights came along during a busy period for unhinged individuals invading peace-loving, All-American people’s lives.  Here, Matthew Modine and Melanie Griffith are a young couple who have worked hard to renovate their dream house and now plan to rent out apartments to pay for it.  One of their tenants, though, has other plans.  Keaton is suitably maniacal while Griffith and Modine are perfect as the innocent couple falling for his charms.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

FINIAN’S RAINBOW (1968)

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How’s this for a curveball?  Francis Ford Coppola‘s fantasy musical starring the legendary Fred Astaire and Petula Clark.  Astaire and Clark play father and daughter who move from Ireland to the American South with a magical piece of gold that has the ability to change people’s lives.  With Tommy Steele as a leprechaun and an array of memorable songs, Finian’s Rainbow is a film that is often derided but is also an absolute delight.

WATCH IT FOR: Look To The Rainbow

 

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960)

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As westerns go this one is pretty damned good.  A remake of Kurosawa‘s Seven Samurai, the story sees a bandit who terrorises a small Mexican village.  The villagers seek help in the form of seven gunslingers from across the border, each of whom have their own agenda.  A stunning cast – Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter and Horst Buchholz – and one of the most famous soundtracks in cinema history, The Magnificent Seven is proof that remakes sometimes work.  The same cannot be said for the remake of this remake, though!

WATCH IT FOR: Gunfighter arithmetic!

 

SCENT OF A WOMAN (1992)

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This is the film that finally snagged Al Pacino an Academy Award for Best Actor after twenty years of being nominated and just missing out.  Chris O’Donnell plays Charlie, a prep school student in need of extra money to help him get home for Christmas.  He takes a job “babysitting” a blind man over Thanksgiving.  This blind man is retired Lt Col Frank Slade (Pacino), impossible to live with and with his own plans to spend the holidays.  It’s a tour-de-force performance from Pacino who is, as you’d expect, magnificent but its wise to acknowledge O’Donnell’s fine support in one of his earliest roles.

WATCH IT FOR: Tango!

 

BLIND FURY (1989)

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From one blind veteran to another in this action thriller from Phillip NoyceRutger Hauer takes the lead as Nick Parker, a blind veteran of Vietnam trained as a swordsman, who travels back to America to rescue the son of a fellow soldier.  Baywatch star Brandon Call co-stars as the son Nick aims to help in this quirky road movie.  It has its tongue very firmly in cheek with regards to the action sequences and plot and Hauer is perfect as the surrogate father figure with hidden skills.

WATCH IT FOR: Skills!

 

UNFORGIVEN (1992)

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Seen as Clint Eastwood‘s farewell to the Western, Unforgiven is a masterpiece in cinema and storytelling.  Eastwood directs and stars as William Munny, a retired cowboy who takes on one last job with the aide of his old partner, Morgan Freeman and young gun (Jaimz Woolvett) who initially accepts the bounty.  Gene Hackman shines as the heavy-handed Sherriff ‘Little Bill’ in a role that won him a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award.  It’s a wonderful swan-song to a western career during which Eastwood made his name.  Unforgiven quite rightly won a shedload of awards, including the big ones at the Oscars – Best Picture and Best Director (Eastwood’s first) – and is regarded as one of the best in the genre.

WATCH IT FOR: “It’s a hell of a thing killing a man…”

 

Another fine bunch of movies I think you’ll agree, some of which have been severely neglected in recent years.  Some of them haven’t been shown on television for absolutely ages.  These are high calibre stars and directors taking on some of their finest work and reaping the rewards.  Once again, if you’ve enjoyed this little trip down memory lane please don’t hesitate to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.  Until the next time…

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“We all got it coming, kid”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Life In Film: Part Twenty Two

Here we go again, folks!  Part Twenty-Two already, can you believe it?  Another batch of movies long-forgotten and, more importantly, long-loved for your viewing pleasure.  There are at least three entries in this edition that I was genuinely shocked at myself for never having included previously and a couple that I had completely forgotten about until I started researching.  That’s one of the joys of doing this, rediscovering lost gems like these.  I hope they bring back some memories for you, too…

 

DEATHTRAP (1982)

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Sometimes, transferring a successful stage play to the big screen often feels very staid and flat.  What we get here, though, is essentially a filmed play that works wonderfully thanks to it’s two leads, Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve.  Caine plays a famed playwright who has just debuted his latest, a flop, on Broadway.  Desperate for a hit he finds newcomer Reeve who has written “the perfect play”.  Its a story of jealousy, greed and, ultimately, murder.  Directed by the legendary Sidney Lumet, Deathtrap is one of those films that you either love or hate.  I don’t think there’s an in-between on this one!

WATCH IT FOR: Handcuffs!

 

EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE (1978)

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Really, this film shouldn’t work but somehow it does.  Clint Eastwood stars as Philo Beddoe, a laid-back trucker and famed fist-fighter.  Along with his best friends, Orville (Geoffrey Lewis) and Clyde the orang-utan he won in a bet, he roams the countryside in search of beer, country music and fights.  His plans are changed, however, when he meets a country western singer (Sondra Locke) who gives him the slip when she realises he’s getting too close.  Add to this a vengeful motorbike gang and Philo’s loud-mouthed Ma (Ruth Gordon) and you’ve got a light-hearted romp where Clyde steals the show!

WATCH IT FOR: Diner

 

THE FIRM (1993)

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For a while in the mid-nineties, John Grisham was the biggest author at the box office.  This legal thriller was the first of his novels to get the big screen treatment and what a way to start.  Tom Cruise plays young, hotshot lawyer Mitch McDeere who joins a prestigious law firm only to find out that this firm has a sinister side.  Director Sydney Pollack assembles an outstanding cast and manages to keep the pace for it’s two hour-plus running time.

WATCH IT FOR: McDeere learns who his firm actually represents

 

WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (1971)

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Written by one of the world’s most beloved children’s authors, Roald Dahl, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory has also become one of the world’s most beloved movies.  The late, great (and very much missed) Gene Wilder takes the lead as Wonka, enigmatic owner of the chocolate factory who stuns the world when he announces that five lucky people will get to tour his establishment.  This is a wonderful, musical recreation of Dahl’s novel that also manages to keep the story’s darker tones.

WATCH IT FOR: Pure Imagination!

 

TIME BANDITS (1981)

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This wonderful slice of fantasy could almost be classed as another Monty Python film as it boasts a star-cameo turn from John Cleese as well as being written by Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam.  Gilliam also takes the reigns as we see a young boy (Craig Warnock) follow a group of time-travelling dwarves on a magnificent quest for treasure.  As you’d expect from the mind of Terry Gilliam, Time Bandits is a mind-bending sci-fi comedy that also features a veritable who’s who of British screen acting (Sean Connery, Ralph Richardson, Ian Holm and David Warner to name but a few).  Although the ending may leave some viewers cold, the whole experience is a pure joy.

WATCH IT FOR: Robin Hood!

 

THE JANUARY MAN (1989)

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Here’s an odd little movie that has been largely forgotten.  A starring vehicle for Kevin Kline, The January Man is a romantic comedy masquerading as an action thriller.  Kline plays the formerly disgraced cop Nick Starkey who is brought back onto the force when a serial killer known as “The January Man” begins his reign.  Alan Rickman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Susan Sarandon and Danny Aiello co-star in an ultimately mixed-up movie that has just enough to keep it from being terrible.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

THE DREAM TEAM (1989)

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These days, mental health is treated with a little more care than it was back in the eighties, but that doesn’t really matter for this film.  Four residents of a mental hospital find themselves having to fend for themselves in New York when their carer is witness to a murder and ends up in hospital.  Michael Keaton, Christopher Lloyd, the late Stephen Furst and the brilliant Peter Boyle star as the patients with a day pass to the big city.  It’s one of those classic movies of the period where plot is secondary to the action and the comedy.  Keaton shines as usual but Boyle is particularly wonderful as a man who believes he is Jesus.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

D.O.A. (1988)

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Dennis Quaid stars as Dexter Cornell, an English professor who has been poisoned.  He doesn’t know how, why or by who but he only has twenty-four hours to find the truth before his time runs out.  This is a great thriller from Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton that shows the deterioration of Dexter’s health by gradually becoming black and white throughout the film.  Meg Ryan, Daniel Stern and Charlotte Rampling co-star in this stylish noir.

WATCH IT FOR: TV Spot from 1988

 

PARENTHOOD (1989)

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This is one of those ensemble movies that Ron Howard does so well.  It’s the story of the Buckman family, headed by Steve Martin, their friends and extended relatives and all the usual stuff crazy, mixed up families go through.  Mary Steenburgen, Dianne Wiest, Rick Moranis co-star along with early appearances from Keanu Reeves and Joaquin Phoenix (billed here as Leaf Phoenix).  At times it can be a little over sentimental but on the whole its a funny look at family life.

WATCH IT FOR: Diarrhea Song

 

HEAT (1995)

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The majority of hype surrounding this movie when it was released was to do with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino finally acting together on screen.  They had both starred in The Godfather Part II (1974) but never actually shared screen time so it was kind of a big deal to see these two giants of cinema duking it out.  That aside, the film is a brilliantly taut crime thriller about a group of professional bank robbers and the police force hunting them down.  Written and directed by Michael Mann, Heat is so much more than the Al and Bobby show.  Fine characters, spectacular set pieces and a thriller full of suspense and action.

WATCH IT FOR: The Al and Bobby Show!

 

And there you go, another ten films that are either long-forgotten or absolute gems and all have a special place in my heart.  Sure, they might not be to everyone’s taste but it would be boring if we all enjoyed the same things, right?!  Some films will divide opinion, some may be brand new to you.  Either way, if you like what you see here please do let me know, I’d love to hear from you.  Until the next time…

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“Ah, it’s great to be young and insane”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Life In Film: Part Twenty One

After another short hiatus, My Life In Film… returns with more movies that hold a special place in my heart.  They might not all be great, cinematic classics but they all mean something to me.  In this edition there is at least one outstanding film that never fails to move me as well as a couple that are just plain stupid but great fun all the same! So without further a do, let’s get to work…

 

THE TRUMAN SHOW (1998)

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Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) lives a perfect life.  He lives in a perfect, little town where everybody knows everyone and nothing out of the ordinary ever happens.  Until one day when his whole perception of reality is shattered.  This is one of those films that, in anybody else’s hands, would have been overly saccharine and sentimental but with Peter Weir you know that you’re going to get quality.  Ed Harris and Laura Linney co-star in one of the most surprising movies in recent years.

WATCH IT FOR: Good morning!

 

JOHN WICK (2014)

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I picked this film up on Blu-Ray without knowing anything about it.  I’d seen a couple of trailers but that was it.  What I found was a truly mesmerising action thriller that gave Keanu Reeves another smash-hit.  John Wick is an ex-hitman who is drawn out of retirement when gangsters take everything away from him.  It’s balletic, violent and utterly brilliant.

WATCH IT FOR: Boogieman

 

GOODBYE, MR CHIPS (1939)

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Robert Donat won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of an aged classics teacher at an elite boarding school.  Mr Chips looks back over his long and illustrious life, taking in the memories of former pupils and colleagues as well as the love of his life.  Donat is spellbinding as is Greer Garson as Katherine, the lady he courts and eventually marries.  It is one of those films that once you’ve seen it you won’t forget it.  Simply magnificent.

WATCH IT FOR: Mr Chips’ First Day

 

PATRIOT GAMES (1992)

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This wasn’t the first time Tom Clancy‘s CIA Analyst, Jack Ryan, had been portrayed on the big screen.  He had been played by Alec Baldwin in The Hunt For Red October (1990) alongside Sean Connery.  Here, though, Ryan is played by Harrison Ford who finds himself on the receiving end of a vengeful Sean Bean in this action thriller from director Philip Noyce.  Ford is, as ever, brilliant as the unassuming man in a suit forced to protect his family from the IRA.  Although, at times, the action veers towards the absurd, Patriot Games is nonetheless a great slice of action.  Ford reprised the role one more time two years later in Clear and Present Danger which focussed more on the political nature of his job rather than seeing him as an action hero.

WATCH IT FOR: London Ambush

 

THE MONEY PIT (1986)

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This remake of Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) sees Tom Hanks and Shelley Long as a young couple trying (and failing) to find a perfect house that they can afford.  Their luck changes when they meet an old con artist who sells them a beautiful mansion.  There is a catch, though, as soon as they move in the house begins falling apart around them.  The renovations also turn into a huge disaster and soon the cracks begin to appear in their relationship, too.  It is utter madness, a little bit daft but also hugely enjoyable.

WATCH IT FOR: Faulty wiring!

 

CON AIR (1997)

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If you want all-out action, cheesy dialogue and Nicolas Cage kicking ass then look no further than Con Air.  Cage plays Cameron Poe, a newly-paroled former US Ranger who finds himself on a plane home that is packed with the worst of the worst kinds of villains, headed up by John Malkovich.  The villains seize control of the aircraft and it falls upon Poe to defeat them and get back home in one piece to see the daughter he’s never met.  Director Simon West delivers one of the biggest surprises with this fun thriller.  The action never lets up and the one-liners and set pieces come thick and fast.  I’ll be honest, I didn’t really like it when I first saw it but on repeated viewings it really is a little gem of a movie.

WATCH IT FOR: Movie trailer

 

PRETTY IN PINK (1986)

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If there’s one thing John Hughes did well it was to tap in to the hearts and minds of eighties teenagers in America.  Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club had shown a side to these kids that movies just weren’t showing at the time.  For Pretty In Pink, Hughes continues to examine teen angst with Molly Ringwald playing a poor girl torn between the affections of her childhood sweetheart (Jon Cryer) and a smooth, rich playboy (Andrew McCarthy).  It’s a perfect slice of eighties pop culture with an evergreen tale of class.

WATCH IT FOR: Otis Reading

 

PAUL (2011)

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Written by and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Paul is the tale of two comic book geeks who discover an alien (voiced by Seth Rogen) at Area 51 while travelling across America.  They soon find themselves on the run from the feds and the angry father of a woman they accidentally kidnap as they attempt to get Paul back to his mothership.  It is one of those comedies that keeps on giving with every viewing and just keeps getting better.

WATCH IT FOR: Spaceman Balls!

 

LICENCE TO KILL (1989)

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Licence To Kill marked the end of Timothy Dalton‘s short tenure as 007 and he went out with a bang.  James Bond goes rogue as he hunts down the drug lords (including Robert Davi and Benicio Del Toro) who left his friend, Felix Leiter (David Hedison) for dead.  It is, by far, the most violent of the franchise but also remains as close to the original idea of Fleming’s Bond novels.  Dalton is outstanding as Bond but is sadly overlooked in favour of Moore or Connery, probably due to only doing two movies.  It would be another six years before Bond returned to the big screen due to various legal wrangling, but as a swansong to the Cold War, Licence To Kill is top drawer entertainment.

WATCH IT FOR: Trailer

 

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS (2016)

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From Laika, the animation company that brought us Coraline, The Boxtrolls and ParaNorman comes this magical adventure.  Kubo is a young boy who must locate a magical suit of armour once worn by his father so that he can defeat an evil spirit.  It really is a special film complete with comedy sidekicks and plenty of heart.  If you haven’t seen it yet then do yourself a favour and give it watch, it will lift your spirits and might also make you cry at the same time.

WATCH IT FOR: Don’t Mess With The Monkey!

 

Oh, it’s good to be back talking about films.  I love my television but film is where my heart lies.  I think this is quite an eclectic mix, as usual, full of old classics and more modern features.  Again, not all of my choices will resonate with everyone but they do have special meaning to me.  If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve seen here then please get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.  Stick around for more of the same and a couple of specials that are on their way but, until then, it’s time to make my exit…

 

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“Put the bunny back in the box”

 

 

My Life In Film: Stinkers Special

*WARNING – May contain views you don’t like*

For every great film and modern masterpiece there is a genuinely terrible and poorly-made movie that just beggars belief.  What I have done here is gather some of those really awful films that should never have been greenlighted.  The films that I think are the worst of the worst.  These films are, by no means, box-office disasters but merely the ones that I like to call Stinkers.  Please remember that this is only my point of view.  Some of these films are probably in your Top Ten lists (shame on you!) but for me, they don’t even make it into the bottom half of my countdown.  I’m quite prepared for a backlash here as film is very subjective.  One man’s Citizen Kane is another man’s Showgirls and so on.  With that in mind, may I present to you what I think are some of the worst films ever to grace the silver screen…

 

TITANIC (1997)

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I’ll start with what I think is the most overrated film ever made.  Despite breaking most box-office records and winning a record-equalling eleven Oscars I found Titanic to be one of the most poorly acted and really dreary films in recent years.  Yes, the special effects were impressive but they outshone everything else.  A lot of films, this one included, suffer from style over substance and I felt every single minute of its 3 hour-plus running time.  I’m also going to be controversial in my opinion that Leonardo DiCaprio just isn’t that good an actor to be believed in this film.  I think the majority of the blame lies with director James Cameron who, while being able to orchestrate spectacular stunts and effects, has limited skills at bringing out performances from humans.  Quite how The Academy saw fit to award it so many awards is beyond me, especially when L.A. Confidential was overlooked for most of its nominations.  I have since attempted to watch it again but without any luck and I doubt I’ll ever be able to sit through the whole 3 hours 14 minutes again.

 

DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002)

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There is so much wrong with this entry into the James Bond canon that I fear this short entry won’t do it any justice.  Released in the film franchise’s 40th anniversary year, Die Another Day is filled with so many in-jokes and gimmicks that it is almost embarrassing to watch.  Pierce Brosnan plays Bond for the final time in what is widely regarded as one of the biggest turkeys in the franchise.  Piss-poor special effects (Bond kite surfing and a bloody invisible car!) added to the awful tone of the film.  Add to this the worst theme song ever written for a Bond film (yes, I think Sam Smith’s “Writing’s On The Wall” is better) and you’ve got yourselves a true disaster.  I’m a huge James Bond fan and to have this lame attempt in the collection makes me despair.

 

PAN (2015)

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Whenever a film is “reimagined” or given a modern twist I can feel my heart sink faster than the Titanic!  Pan is yet another retelling of the classic story about the boy who never grew up and his adventures in Neverland but with a modern twist.  Here, young Peter comes up against Hugh Jackman‘s Blackbeard in a performance more hammy than Babe 2: Pig in the City.  Characters break into Nirvana songs which detract from the mind-numbing plot and the whole feel of the film is all over the place.  But, and I can’t stress this enough, by far the worst part of the film is Garrett Hedlund.  His wooden performance drags the whole film further down into the hole its created for itself and distracts the viewer from the rest of the mess.  Every time he appeared on screen I just wanted to slap him in the face and then point him in the direction of the nearest job centre!  I don’t mind films being “reimagined” but when they are this bad you have to wonder at the state of mind of the people behind the decisions.

 

BATMAN & ROBIN (1997)

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When Joel Schumacher took over directing duties from Tim Burton on Batman Forever (1995) it was clear that he wasn’t going to remain in the dark and gritty tone of his predecessor.  This camp, dayglow feel was continued in Batman & Robin, a film so dire and lacking in any redeeming features.  George Clooney was charged with carrying on where Kilmer and Keaton had left off and, still a freshman movie star, was embarrassingly inadequate.  He wasn’t the only one.  Arnold Schwarzenegger and Uma Thurman as the main villains amped up the pantomime while the appearance of Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl just made me laugh out loud.  I watched it again recently and really wished I hadn’t.  Time hasn’t been kind, even though Clooney has managed to shake off this disaster and has since gone on to become a highly accomplished actor and director.  This really is one of the worst kinds of superhero movies ever made.  There are worse films, but not many…

 

SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE (1987)

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You can always tell that a film is going be truly awful when the people in charge of the money cut the budget.  Beset by story problems and having to cut so many corners there aren’t any left to cut, Superman IV is quite rightly universally panned.  It looks and feels every inch of the reduced budget and, although managing to get the majority of the original cast back in place, it lacks the energy of the first films.  It’s full of two-dimensional characters and performances and Christopher Reeve and Gene Hackman are just phoning in their work.  In recent years filmmakers have proved that making a superhero movie can be fun to watch but, thirty years ago there was no sign of fun anywhere!

 

SUICIDE SQUAD (2016)

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Well, when I said modern superhero movies were fun I didn’t mean this one!  I did try to enjoy watching it but it is just too awful.  Terrible performances and over-the-top action sequences and dialogue add up to a heap of stink.  It doesn’t help that there are so many characters to focus on that everything feels very disjointed and messy.  Will Smith tries hard to be convincing but he fails, miserably.  Most of the performances are played to the max but fail to live up to the hype.  The only shining light in this dark mess is Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, but even then its at the expense of equality.  I’m not even going to mention how shockingly bad Jared Leto‘s Joker is!

 

BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016)

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Which leads me nicely onto this pile of steaming horse dung.  Two and a half hours of not very much starring Henry Cavill as Superman and Ben Affleck as Batman.  Now, I kind of liked Cavill’s previous Superman movie, Man of Steel so was quite happy to see him reprise his role here however, a changing of the guard at Wayne Manor in the form of Ben Affleck left me cold.  I’ll be brutally honest here, I don’t rate Affleck as an actor and find him very wooden and staid so I (and most of the internet) wasn’t looking forward to seeing his take on the role.  He didn’t disappoint at being disappointing.  The whole film is laboured, slow and drudgingly poor.  I can’t think of a single redeeming feature about it.  It certainly doesn’t fill me with optimism at future Batfleck movies or for the Justice League film that’s on it’s way.  It’s just a mess and that’s without mentioning Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor!!!

 

ARMAGEDDON (1998)

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Ben Affleck turns up in this slice of turd from Michael Bay.  I was unsure whether to add this film to the list or not as I switched off halfway through but I’m pretty sure I didn’t miss much.  Bay has since gone on to destroy the Transformers franchise so it’s no surprise that he should be behind this piece of nonsense about a group of deep core drillers hired by NASA to destroy an impending asteroid.  I’ve never been a huge fan of Bay’s bang-smash-bang approach to filmmaking, although I do rank The Rock as one of my favourites.  Not even the appearance of the very lovely Liv Tyler can raise the standard of this drivel – Armageddon outta here!

 

THE OXFORD MURDERS (2008)

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Here’s a film that, despite the presence of Elijah Wood and the late Sir John Hurt, manages to come across as a very cheap episode of Midsomer Murders.  A supposed thriller about a series of murders that appear to be linked to mathematic symbols, it tries to be smarter than it really is.  Using symbols to solve riddles has been done much better and without feeling like it was made by a bunch of film students on a lunch break.  Sadly, neither Wood nor Hurt come across well thanks to the terrible script and direction so all that you’re left with is an urge to watch Midsomer Murders instead!

 

GHOSTBUSTERS (2016)

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There are some films that should never, ever be messed around with.  Ghostbusters is one such film.  There had been rumours and counter-rumours of a third instalment ever since the second film was released, so it was a bit of a gut-punch when this travesty came out.  Not only was it being remade but it was being remade with women in the lead roles.  Before you start, I have nothing, absolutely nothing against the casting of women in big blockbuster movies.  The thing that got to me was the fact it was being made as a Ghostbusters movie in the first place.  Not to mention that the people involved just aren’t that funny.  Against my better judgement, I watched it.  Crude, cheap jokes mixed with poor script and lousy direction, this rehash chilled me to the bone.  It is an unnecessary remake and even the appearance of the original surviving cast members can’t dissuade me otherwise.  I’m glad, though, that it has offered the chance of female role models to young kids but, seriously, if you’re going to do that then get your own bloody franchise!  There are only two Ghostbusters movies in my mind, anything else is a cheap knock off!

 

Do I come across as a bit of a dick?  Probably, but sometimes film can do that to you.  I love the medium and I admire anyone who can actually get their project made but there has to be something out there to prevent certain films ever getting made.  Too many people are concerned about a cash cow, making as much money as possible while sacrificing the art and craft of the genre.  Sometimes I am genuinely surprised by how good movies can be but for the most part I am generally disappointed.  Cinematic Universes, sequels and remakes make for poor cinema.  Don’t give the public what they want, give them what they need.  I’ve a feeling I’ll be returning to this subject in the future, there are far too many stinkers out there to be ignored.  Until then, I apologise if any of these films are your favourites but they do absolutely nothing for me.  Feel free to get in touch if you agree/disagree with what you’ve seen here or if you have any other suggestions.  I’m off to cleanse myself with some Frank Capra…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Life In TV: Part Twenty

Well, here we are.  On the verge of 200 television programmes that have, in one way or another, made an impact on me and shaped my viewing habits for years.  American dramas and sitcoms, classic kids’ shows and the ones that got away…almost!  After this edition the TV blog will take a rest while I return to my first love of film.  But, until then, we’ve still got work to do…

 

WHAT’S UP DOC? (1992-1995)

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This is another one of ITV’s Saturday morning kids’ programmes that was intended to compete with the BBC’s output.  The similar format of live broadcasting, studio guests, games and cartoons were all there along with popular children’s presenters, this time including Pat Sharp, Andy Crane and Yvette Fielding.  This always felt slightly more near-the-knuckle than most Saturday morning shows and, as such, appealed to the student audience.  It was certainly one of the better attempts by ITV but, alas, was short-lived but still well remembered.

WATCH IT FOR: Thanks to the wonders of the internet – a full (edited) episode!

 

THE LIVING AND THE DEAD (2016)

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Here’s another anomaly.  A well-crafted, brilliantly written drama with excellent performances that was denied a second series.  Created by Ashley Pharoah, the man who brought us Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, The Living and the Dead sees a young, newly-married couple inherit a farm.  They are determined to make a go of it but strange, supernatural forces linger and threaten to put a stop to their plans.  Colin Morgan and Charlotte Spencer star in this spooky drama that builds the tension and gives the audience plenty of jolts and scares right up until the later episodes where the twists occur.  I really don’t understand how the BBC didn’t grant the series another go as it really was excellent.  Maybe, like New Blood, releasing the whole series on iPlayer beforehand damaged potential viewing figures.  Whatever the reason, they’ve missed a trick by not carrying on the story.

WATCH IT FOR: BBC One trailer

 

PERFECT STRANGERS (1986-1993)

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One of those sitcoms that the Americans do so well.  One highly-strung, strait-laced-type living with a free-wheeling, offbeat character.  Mark Linn-Baker and Bronson Pinchot star as Larry and Balki, cousins who are thrown together when Balki comes to visit from his Greek-style island, complete with obscure accent.  Think of The Odd Couple for the new generation and you’ve pretty much got the gist of what happens week by week.  It was great fun and I enjoyed watching it during the school holidays.

WATCH IT FOR: Opening titles with obligatory cheesy song!

 

SPITTING IMAGE (1984-1996)

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This satire show with a difference quickly became a cult hit.  Using puppets of  famous people of the day, the show managed to ridicule without being too cruel.  Some of the biggest names were given the Spitting Image treatment, with some celebrities later claiming it as a badge of honour if you had been mimicked.  Broadcast on a Sunday night it featured parodies of current events, most notably the government of the time, and also spawned it’s very own number one single.  Declining viewers saw it cancelled in 1996 but it is still remembered as one of the best of it’s kind.

WATCH IT FOR: Thatcher’s cabinet!

 

THE CAFE (2011-2013)

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This gentle comedy has probably slipped under the radar for quite a few people.  Written by two of its stars, Ralf Little and Michelle Terry and set in Weston-Super-Mare, The Café continues where programmes like The Royle Family and Early Doors left off.  Normal people doing ordinary things but finding the funny in it all.  It isn’t flash or full of gimmicks but it is really cleverly written and performed by all concerned.  A must for all comedy fans.

WATCH IT FOR: A scene from the first episode

 

TELLY ADDICTS (1985-1998)

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This quiz show featuring two family teams answering questions on TV trivia was just perfect for me.  As a self-confessed telly addict myself I never missed an episode.  Presented by Noel Edmonds it ran for over 90 episodes with the occasional celebrity edition for Christmas.

WATCH IT FOR: A full episode

 

OPEN ALL HOURS (1973-1985)

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This is, quite possibly, one of the funniest British sitcoms ever made.  Created and written by Roy Clarke it originally began life as a single episode in Ronnie Barker‘s Seven of One series of pilots.  It has since become one of the most beloved of all sitcoms, and rightly so.  Barker stars as Arkwright, a tight-fisted shop owner with a speech impediment who runs a small grocers shop in Doncaster where he employs his nephew, Granville (David Jason).  Like most British comedy, the humour comes from the relationship between the two leads, both of whom play off each other magnificently.  A sequel, Still Open All Hours, has since been made, starring Jason taking over the shop but, in my opinion it pales in comparison.

WATCH IT FOR: Arkwright!

 

BOY MEETS WORLD (1993-2000)

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I really enjoyed this US sitcom about kids growing up in the midst of adolescence and girls.  Its another in a long line of cheesy, yet rather enjoyable, comedy shows that our friends across the pond do so well.  It stars Ben Savage as Cory Matthews and Rider Strong as his best friend, Shawn.  Some of the best comedy comes from Cory’s older, and slightly dim brother, Eric (Will Friedle) and his constant annoyance of school principal Mr Feeny (William Daniels).  Sure, there are lessons and morals to be learned but it was such a good, fun show that you almost forget the schmaltz.

WATCH IT FOR: Mr Feeny doing his thing!

 

CSI:NY (2004-2013)

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Out of all the spin-off shows from the original CSI series, I think this one, set in the Big Apple, is my favourite.  I didn’t care for Horatio in Miami.  For me, it was all about Mac and his team.  Starring Gary Sinise as Mac who heads up the team that includes Carmine Giovinazzo, Hill Harper, Anna Belknap and Melina Kanakaredes.  Again, the series features a theme song provided by The Who (“Baba O’Reilly”) and the occasional crossover with the previous incarnations.  I really enjoyed the chemistry between the cast and they gelled so well over the years.  When the time came to end the show, though, the stories had run their course and some of the original spark had gone but it was still unmissable viewing in our house, including singing along with the theme tune!

WATCH IT FOR: Sing along with CSI

 

STRICTLY COME DANCING (2004-present)

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It seems only fitting, following the sad news this week that Sir Bruce Forsyth passed away aged 89, that I should include Strictly Come Dancing in this edition (it was already planned to feature when news broke).  It is a huge hit and brought Sir Bruce back to Saturday night television where he had dominated for so long.  The premise is simple, a pro-celebrity version of the classic Come Dancing.  Joining Bruce to co-host is Tess Daly who would chat to the dancers after they had performed.  It has fast become one of the biggest television shows in history, spawning foreign remakes and making stars of the judges.  Sadly, Sir Bruce retired from the show in 2014 and the hosting duties were taken over by Daly and Claudia Winkleman.  For me, Bruce was the heart and soul of the series, dealing with a live audience and putting everyone at ease.  Now, as Strictly season fast approaches and with the passing of the legend, it is still very much on everyone’s minds as we discover the latest celebrities to take part.

WATCH IT FOR: Brucie doing what he does best!

 

There you have it – 200 television programmes that have seen me through my life so far, some of which really have made an impact.  As I said earlier, this TV edition of the blog will take a rest while I return to bring another batch of favourite films to your attention.  Keep your eyes peeled, though, as there will be another Halloween special pretty soon as well as a Christmas special, too.  Blimey, did I just mention the ‘C’ word?  Anyway, in the words of the late, great Sir Bruce Forsyth – “Don’t touch the pack, I’ll be right back!”

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“Keeeeep dancing”