Agatha Christie’s Poirot s13e05 Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case (2013) – 8/10 period crime detective murder mystery TV review

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Cast / crew
Hercule Poirot: David Suchet
Writer (Original Novel): Agatha Christie
Screenplay Writer: Kevin Elyot
Helen Baxendale: Elizabeth Cole
Shaun Dingwall: Doctor Franklin
Claire Keelan: Nurse Craven
Anna Madeley: Barbara Franklin
Aidan McArdle: Stephen Norton
Matthew McNulty: Major Allerton
Alice Orr-Ewing: Judith Hastings
John Standing: Colonel Toby Luttrell
Captain Hastings: Hugh Fraser
Anne Reid: Daisy Luttrell
Philip Glenister: Sir William Boyd Carrington
Producer: David Boulter
Director: Hettie MacDonald

Agatha Christie’s Poirot s13e05 Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case (2013)

Hastings travels to Stiles, location of his and Poirot’s first murder case together, to visit an ailing, wheelchair-bound Poirot. Fortunately, Poirot’s moustache and little grey cells are in as good condition as ever, but evil is here once more and Poirot aims to stop it.

8/10

Along with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and, arguably, The Murder on the Orient Express, this is one of Agatha Christie’s most unforgettable and surprising murderers. Fortunately, screenplay writer Kevin Elyot didn’t remove that (like ITV did with Roger Ackroyd) and the episode is crisp, involving and emotional. After the highly variable quality of the feature-length episodes, it’s nice to report that the series ends on a high. Oh, and yes, of course, ITV interrupted SPOILER Poirot’s death for adverts and, of course, the ITV announcer talked all over the deliberately silent end credits.

This Agatha Christie’s Poirot episode contains adult dialogue, gory and unpleasant scenes, distressing scenes

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Doctor Who: The Snowmen (2012) – 8/10 science fiction adventure TV review

Cast / crew
Matt Smith: The Doctor
Jenna-Louise Coleman: Clara
Writer and Executive Producer: Steven Moffat
Producer: Marcus Wilson
Director: Saul Metzstein
Richard E. Grant: Dr Simeon
Catrin Stewart: Jenny
Neve McIntosh: Madame Vastra
Dan Starkey: Strax
Ian McKellen: Voice of the Great Intelligence

Doctor Who The Snowmen (2012)

Hiding in the clouds above Victorian London, The Doctor has withdrawn from the hero business after going through the emotional wringer with the Ponds some time ago. An encounter with a perky barmaid, Clara, and an instantly appearing snowman made of some kind of memory snow or something isn’t quite enough to pull him out of his exile. Clara’s going to have to try a bit harder.

8/10

This is a great episode and probably the best seasonal special in the 21st century run. It’s simply tremendous fun and jam-packed with fun (santaran), scary (man-eating snowmen), imaginative (memory worm), surprising (do not read spoilers for this one), brain-tickling (one word answers) goodies which doesn’t have quite enough time for it’s monster-of-the-week story. If the finalé had had any emotional impact, this would have been near-perfect. The crux of the episode is The Doctor and the invigorating Clara and that’s all we want to see. And now we want to see more.

This Doctor Who episode contains inferred extreme violence, unpleasant and scary scenes.

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Columbo S09E04 Rest In Peace, Mrs. Columbo (1990) – 8/10 crime detective TV review

Cast / crew
Peter Falk: Columbo
Helen Shaver: Vivian Dimitri
Ian McShane: Leland St. John
Edward Winter: Charlton Chambers
Tom Isbell: Sgt. Brady
Teresa Ganzel: Dede Perkins
Michael Alldredge: Connolly
Hugh Gillin: Priest at Funeral
Rosanna Huffman: Mrs. Thornwood
Roscoe Lee Browne: Dr. Steadman
Creator: Richard Levinson
Creator: William Link
Writer: Peter S. Fischer
Director: Vincent McEveety
Supervising Executive Producer: William Link
Co-Executive Producer: Peter Falk
Executive Producer: Peter S. Fischer

Columbo S09E04 Rest In Peace, Mrs. Columbo (1990)

Vivian Dimtri kills an informant that exposed her husband’s embezzling of his client’s money. When confronted by a client, the husband ends up killing him and going to prison for manslaughter. He dies in there of a heart attack and the informant that started it all is merely the first to pay. The second murder will be the cop who put the husband away: Lieutenant Columbo.

8/10

Arguably the best of the feature-length 1989-series Columbo’s, this is also notable for being a bit of a behind-the-curtain episode. Early on, Columbo explains why he believes Helen Shaver did it then we see him present a completely different story to her face, helping her believe she is in control, giving her a false sense of security and confidence. Fascinating, and his SPOILER "this isn’t my house" reveal is a classic. Falk deals with the exposure of Columbo’s technique brilliantly here. He’s great, as always, and sells a nice mac gag (a dude leaving a brothel is wearing the same one) and delivers his world-class embarrassed throat-clear when learning of Shaver’s illicit assignation. Helping with the quality of this episode is Shaver who is frequently mesmerising as a badly wounded widow seeking retribution on Columbo and never more so than in the final scenes and in response to Columbo’s above reveal. She also gets an, er, intriguing scene with the arm of a teddy bear that I suspect everyone’s pretty smug about getting past the censors.

This Columbo episode contains adult dialogue and brief graphic violence and sensuality.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

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Doctor Who S34E05 The Angels Take Manhattan (2012) – 8/10 science fiction adventure TV review

Cast / crew
Matt Smith: The Doctor
Karen Gillan: Amy Pond
Arthur Darvill: Rory Williams
Writer: Steven Moffat
Producer: Marcus Wilson
Director: Nick Hurran
Alex Kingston: River Song
Michael McShane: Grayle
Executive Producer: Steven Moffat

Doctor Who S34E05 The Angels Take Manhattan (2012)

A day trip to New York turns out badly when the book the Doctor is reading – starring Melody Malone – makes a reference to Rory getting them coffee as Rory is getting them coffee. The Doctor realises that the book is a history book sent back in time to help him avert yet another disaster but then Rory is kidnapped and taken through time to somewhere the TARDIS can’t go.

8/10

When you’ve got characters who are statues, it makes jolly good sense to go to the place with the most famous statue in the world – New York City – and this episode gets off to a good start with their big reveal. The return of the intensely unlikable and irritating River Song (a typically unconvincing eye-rolling Alex Kingston) is a problem but it’s the only one worth mentioning. The episode is otherwise tense and atmospheric and, critically, it connects emotionally. Marketed as the Pond’s farewell (though I swear they already did that last season), certain events aren’t, therefore, surprising but they are touching. It makes me wish I could share a love like this; it’s very nice. This time the logo has the Statue of Liberty behind it; subtle and rewarding to spot.

This Doctor Who episode contains scary scenes.

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Agatha Christie’s Poirot s05e05 The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman (1993) – 8/10 period crime detective murder mystery TV review

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Cast / crew
Writer: Agatha Christie
David Suchet: Hercule Poirot
Hugh Fraser: Captain Hastings
Pauline Moran: Miss Felicity Lemon
Writer (Dramatisation): Clive Exton
Leonard Preston: Mr Edwin Graves
Anna Mazzotti: Margherita Fabbri
David Neal: Bruno Vizzini
Vincenzo Ricotta: Mario Asciano
Producer: Brian Eastman
Director: Brian Farnham

Agatha Christie’s Poirot S05E05 The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman (1993)

Poirot is drawn into London’s gangland underworld following the murder of the master of Miss Lemon’s new boyfriend.

8/10

Poirot: ‘Haven’t you ever exaggerated your own self-importance to impress a girl?’
Hastings: "Well certainly not. Never. Oh, well, I once told a girl I was a member at Wentworth when I wasn’t. But she didn’t play golf anyway. She thought Wentworth was a lunatic asylum."

This is a very good episode with a story that successfully gives you enough clues to point the finger of suspicion while misdirecting you wonderfully. The solid story is backed up, as is frequently the case in these hour-longs, by some wonderful writing and that lovely chemistry between Poirot and Hastings, especially, but also with Japp and Miss Lemon. Poirot is respectful and cheerful; he happily accompanies Hastings on a car shopping trip and shares his joy just like friends do. Writer Clive Exton really nailed the close friendship of the pair and never forgot the importance of humour. He gave Hastings the outstanding gag above and it’s not the only one. In fact, Hastings is awesome throughout the episode and gets to top it off with a car chase (which is quietly but brilliantly joined by a bus), a "you swine" and a classic punch on the nose.

This Agatha Christie’s Poirot episode contains gory and unpleasant scene, inferred violence, brief violence

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

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Agatha Christie’s Poirot Murder on the Orient Express (2010) – 8/10 period murder mystery drama TV review

Cast / crew
David Suchet: Hercule Poirot
Writer (Original Novel): Agatha Christie
Writer (Screenplay): Stewart Harcourt
Eileen Atkins: Princess Dragomiroff
Hugh Bonneville: Edward Masterman
Jessica Chastain: Mary Debenham
Marie-Josée Croze: Greta Ohlsson
Serge Hazanavicius: Xavier Bouc
Toby Jones: Samuel Ratchett / Cassetti
Susanne Lothar: Hildegarde Schmidt
Joseph Mawle: Antonio Foscarelli
Denis Menochet: Pierre Michel
David Morrissey: John Arbuthnot
Elena Satine: Countess Andrenyi
Brian J. Smith: Hector MacQueen
Stanley Weber: Count Andrenyi
Samuel West: Dr Constantine
Barbara Hershey: Caroline Hubbard / Linda Arden
Producer: Karen Thrussell
Director: Philip Martin

Poirot, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express (2010)

A miserable Poirot is called to London and boards the Orient Express. On the second night, one of the passengers is found brutally stabbed to death and Poirot is implored to investigate before the authorities arrive.

8/10

This is a surprisingly gripping, if humourless, adaptation which successfully provokes thought about the nature of justice and who has the right to execute it. Most surprisingly, it stops Poirot from delivering the traditional summation (Princess Dragamoff takes over and does it) which rather undermines the triumph of intellect required to close these stories on a high. Instead, the story ends with a cold miserable Poirot clearly feeling like he’s been backed into a corner where he had to choose the least wrong answer. It’s not the joyous revelation of the book or previous adaptations, but it is definitely interesting and a worthwhile tinkering for this screen outing of the classic Christie.

This Poirot, Agatha Christie’s episode contains strong violence, graphic blade violence.

Classified 15 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over.

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Agatha Christie’s Poirot S01E10 The Dream (1989) – 8/10 period murder mystery TV review

Cast / crew
Writer: Agatha Christie
David Suchet: Hercule Poirot
Hugh Fraser: Captain Arthur Hastings
Philip Jackson: Chief Inspector Japp
Pauline Moran: Miss Felicity Lemon
Writer (Dramatisation): Clive Exton
Director: Edward Bennett

Poirot, Agatha Christie’s S01E10 Dream, The (1989)

Benedict Farley, a wealthy businessman (he makes pies), requests the wisdom of Poirot with regard to disturbing dream he keeps having where he commits suicide at 12:28 with a revolver. He asks Poirot if he can be made to kill himself through the suggestion of the dream but Poirot cannot offer any advice due to lack of information. His puzzlement and frustration is joined by professionally dented pride when Farley is found dead the next day. Shot. At 12:28. With a revolver. Meanwhile, Miss Lemon is having trouble with the typewriter.

8/10

Though the nature of the revelation of the dream is immediately transparent to the audience and, it should be noted, to a certain extent by Poirot, the surrounding stuff including Poirot revealing a wild youth that may have permanently damaged some little grey cells (prompting a welcome "I say" from Hastings), the murder method, a clock (another "I say") and a typewriter ("Voila!") keeps the episode more than entertaining enough. And there is the tacit recognition (by Japp) that like super-villains flocking to Gotham, even when it looks like suicide, "where Hercule Poirot is concerned, there arises immediately the suspicion of murder." A lot of fun.

This Poirot, Agatha Christie’s episode contains mild unpleasant scene, mild violence.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

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Doctor Who 33.10 The Girl Who Waited (2011) – 8/10 science fiction adventure TV review

Cast / crew
Matt Smith: The Doctor
Karen Gillan: Amy Pond
Arthur Darvill: Rory Williams
Writer: Tom MacRae
Producer: Marcus Wilson
Director: Nick Hurran

Doctor Who S33E10 Girl Who Waited, The (2011)

The Doctor takes Amy and Rory to one of the Universe’s most popular tourist destinations but when they arrive something is wrong. A small mix-up sees the Doctor and Rory in one room and Amy in another but time is running at different speeds in each.

8/10

This is a slow burner with an over-acted setup but once the meat of the episode finally kicks in, we are given something easy to empathise with and emotionally powerful and interesting as well. The most powerful entertainment frequently asks us ‘what would you do?’ and that’s certainly the case here. Both Karen Gillan (with some uncommonly good age make-up; unusually, it’s not wildly overdone) and Arthur Darvill are outstanding and, for the first time, I feel their relationship truly came across as deeply as the writers have intended for many episodes now.

This Doctor Who episode contains violence against robots.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

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Paranoia Agent (2004) – 8/10 difficult-to-categorise psychological crime anime review

Cast / crew
Writer (Original Story): Satoshi Kon
Screenplay Developer: Seishi Minakami
Developer: Seishi Minakami
Director: Satoshi Kon

Paranoia Agent (2004)

Tsukiko Sagi is a character designer under pressure to follow up her huge success with the cute Maromi. Her success and innocent demeanour mean she isn’t liked at work. On her way home one evening, she sees and is scared by a homeless old woman but is then attacked in a nearby car park by a boy with a bent baseball bat and golden inline skates. Her attack and "Lil’ Slugger" make the news but some people aren’t convinced it really happened. One of the policemen assigned believes her, one doesn’t and there is a disblieving gossip journalist, with pressures of his own, sniffing around trying to make a story.

8/10

"They will never get an answer no matter how hard they try to analyze it." – Paranoia Agent creator / director Satoshi Kon.

And so this instant-classic anime is what you make of it. While the Satoshi Kon quote above is talking specifically about the regular opening sequence (featuring all the characters in the show laughing), it does apply to the series as a whole. There is a series-long story-line, there is much food for thought, the animation is reference quality, the subject unusual and ambitious and you can get answers but you won’t find the answers Kon put in there… because he didn’t.

This series contains adult dialogue and strong violence, unpleasant and very gory scenes, gory and distressing scene involving the death of a dog, teenage suicide and sex scenes, references to paedophilia.

Classified 18 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over.

Jonathan Creek s03e02 The Eyes of Tiresias (1999) – 8/10 black comedy crime drama TV review

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Cast / crew
Jonathan Creek: Alan Davies
Maddy Magellan: Caroline Quentin
Writer: David Renwick
Margery Mason: Audrey Panguitch
Rebecca Front: Heidi
Diana Weston: Delia Masson
Producer: Verity Lambert
Director: Keith Washington
Executive Producer: David Renwick

Jonathan Creek s03e02 The Eyes of Tiresias (1999)

An elderly woman has a dream that eerily and exactly predicts the circumstances and sounds of a man’s death. This is shortly followed by another dream and similar death. Now thoroughly unnerved, her next dream causes real terror: it is her own bloody death by a one-eyed man.

8/10

This is one of those mysteries with a remarkably convoluted but plausible solution (that you’ll never guess, naturally). That’s not to condemn it, however; it is gleefully unlikely and coincidental but makes perfect sense (though Creek does rather gloss over breaking into an old woman’s house and hopes no-one noticed). Aside from that, this episode has some wonderful side story lines for both Creek (who manages to expose himself in front of a film camera – "there’s still some wobble") and Maddy (who gets a brilliantly unexpected gag; will you notice before the reveal?).

This Jonathan Creek episode contains non-sexual nudity, sensuality, gory gun violence, gory and unpleasant scenes

Classified 12 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over.

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Jonathan Creek 3.01 The Curious Tale of Mr Spearfish (1999) – 8/10 black comedy crime drama TV review

Cast / crew
Alan Davies: Jonathan Creek
Caroline Quentin: Maddy Magellan
Writer: David Renwick
Andrew Tiernan: Lenny Spearfish
Rachel Power: Alice Spearfish
Griff Rhys Jones: Jeremy Sangster
Stuart Milligan: Adam Klaus
Producer: Verity Lambert
Director: Keith Washington
Executive Producer: David Renwick

Jonathan Creek 3.01 Curious Tale of Mr Spearfish, The (1999)

Jonathan and Maddy meet the Spearfish’s who have recently had a remarkably turn of luck and come into a fortune. Lenny Spearfish reveals why: he signed his soul over to the Devil. Putting it down as creepy but coincidental, Jonathan and Maddy are astonished when shortly afterward Lenny survives being shot twice in the chest as the bullets bounced off him leaving only burn marks on his flesh and holes in his shirt. Is he under satanic protection?

8/10

This is a thoroughly intriguing mystery but the explanation, though it works, is just ever so slightly unconvincing (and there’s a definite bit of cheating going on with the air taser). The side plot featuring Adam Klaus defending a salacious accusation of improper conduct is fun and even has a cunning punchline. Content-wise, this is a bit more troublesome than a lot of the previous episodes as it features an unexpectedly bloody murder and some sado-masochistic sexuality; the former used as an unnecessary visual shortcut to show the murder was real (it doesn’t convince us of that at all; a couple of lines later on do that) and the latter is used as a clever explanation of part of the mystery.

This Jonathan Creek episode contains adult dialogue, mild swear words and unexpectedly gory gun violence, gory and unpleasant scenes and brief sado-masochistic sexuality.

Classified 12 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over.

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Doctor Who 33.01 The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon (2011) – 8/10 science fiction adventure TV review

Cast / crew
Matt Smith: The Doctor
Karen Gillan: Amy Pond
Arthur Darvill: Rory Williams
Writer: Steven Moffat
Producer: Marcus Wilson
Director: Toby Haynes
Alex Kingston: River Song
Mark Sheppard: Canton Delaware
Marnix Van Den Broeke: The Silent
Stuart Milligan: President Richard Nixon
Sydney Wade: Little Girl
Frances Barber: Eye Patch Lady

Doctor Who 33.01,02 Impossible Astronaut, The / Day of the Moon (2011)

Amy, Rory, River Song, and former FBI agent Canton Delaware are all called to Utah, America by messages contained in dark blue envelopes. When they arrive, it’s not a huge surprise that it is the Doctor that called them but an unexpected astronaut and the belated arrival of another invitee will be.

8/10

While I suppose we should be grateful that this isn’t an end-of-the-world plot for a change, it certainly feels like it’s getting too serious in it’s urge to have high stakes. Nevertheless, it’s a joy to have Matt Smith back as the Doctor (asking President Nixon for a fez!) and we’ve got River Song back making absolutely no sense as usual, Amy Pond and Rory the Roman providing stronger support than ever and yet more impressively designed man-in-a-literal-suit monsters. This is also an uncommonly good-looking episode with an opening sequence utilising some spectacular American scenery, nicely photographed and well used by the director. That said, he does bungle the entrance of the Doctor (he’s lying on an Edsel wearing a Stetson; Stetson’s are cool) by giving it less time in the scene than the travelogue shots of the scenery. The second part is stronger, more intriguing, more fun and more brilliant than the first with the importance of Neil Armstrong’s ankle revealed and a great final visual hook that, along with the plethora of other questions we’d forgotten had been raised over these two weeks, will hopefully be resolved later this year.

This Doctor Who episode contains one scene of strong fantasy violence, gun violence, unpleasant scenes.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

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T.J. Hooker 2.01 Second Chance (1982) – 6/10 police action drama TV review

Cast / crew
William Shatner: T.J. Hooker
Adrian Zmed: Officer Vince Romano
Heather Locklear: Officer Stacy Sheridan
Richard Herd: Captain Sheridan
Rebecca Holden: Lynn Hartmann
Robert Davi: The Barber
Victor Campos:
Al Ruscio:
Supervising Producer: Rick Husky
Producer: Jeffrey Hayes
Writer (Series’ Creator): Rick Husky
Writer: Mark Rodgers
Director: Don Weis
Executive Producer: Aaron Spelling
Executive Producer: Leonard Goldberg

T.J. Hooker 2.01 Second Chance (1982)

An old unsolved case from Hooker’s past returns to terrorise a local dance teacher.

6/10

The slightly naff start of the second series sees April Clough replaced with even lovelier Heather Locklear and William Shatner replaced rather too often by his stunt ‘double’. However, the stunt work itself is of a high quality as Hooker writes off another squad car ("Well, it did have more than a thousand miles on it.") spectacularly enough to make the title sequence.

This T.J. Hooker episode contains peril.

Classified 12 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over.

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Jonathan Creek s02e06 Mother Redcap (1998) – 8/10 black comedy crime drama TV review

AmazonBuy Mother Redcap at Amazon

Cast / crew
Jonathan Creek: Alan Davies
Maddy Magellan: Caroline Quentin
Writer: David Renwick
Brian Murphy: Ken Speed
Nicola Walker: WPC Fay Radnor
Producer: Verity Lambert
Director: Keith Washington
Executive Producer: David Renwick

Jonathan Creek s02e06 Mother Redcap (1998)

A judge is precisely stabbed to death inside his bedroom while guarded outside the door by two police officers. Bars on the windows prevent any other way in and the police are seriously investigating an assassin who can disappear into thin air.

8/10

With two fun baffling cases to sort out squished into a single episode, this Creek is a good one. Renwick still finds time for the unusual gag as one of the characters is a nudist (and apparently they like to live half-a-dozen to a house) and another sticks her tongue out when she eats which freaks Jonathan out. The two cases turn out to be related which works well as it allows the murder of the judge (which felt pretty obvious as to who dun-it) to have a completely baffling clue (a broken finger nail). I’m not entirely sure about the extra death at the end (SPOILER Brian Murphy’s detective); it adds a bit of character for Creek (who sidesteps the credit for the solution), but it’s a rather odd moment.

This Jonathan Creek episode contains gory and unpleasant scenes, violence and really gross scenes of a broken finger nail

Classified 12 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over.

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Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) – 8/10 science fiction action movie

Cast / crew
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Terminator
Nick Stahl: John Connor
Claire Danes: Kate Brewster
David Andrews: Robert Brewster
Kristanna Loken: TX
Producer: Hal Lieberman
Producer: Colin Wilson
Producer: Mario Kassar
Producer: Andrew Vajna
Producer: Joel B. Michaels
Writer (Story): John Brancato
Writer (Story): Michael Ferris
Writer (Story): Tedi Sarafian
Writer (Screenplay): John Brancato
Writer (Screenplay): Michael Ferris
Director: Jonathan Mostow

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

Judgment Day averted, John Connor has grown up under the radar but the future is about to catch up with him again as two terminators are again sent back through time: one to terminate, one to protect.

8/10

Following up two all-time classics was never going to be easy but talented director Jonathan Mostow delivers a satisfying actioner that is far, far better than anyone could have hoped for. Spectacular and iconic action sequences and Arnie’s one-liners make the movie but the lovely Claire Danes is the cast stand-out. It even boasts a surprisingly unforgettable ending.

This movie contains sexual swear words and extreme violence, gory and unpleasant scenes, inferred extreme violence and non-sexual nudity.

Classified 12A by BBFC. Persons under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

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Jonathan Creek s02e03 The Scented Room (1998) – 8/10 black comedy crime mystery TV review

AmazonBuy The Scented Room at Amazon

Cast / crew
Jonathan Creek: Alan Davies
Maddy Magellan: Caroline Quentin
Writer: David Renwick
Bob Monkhouse: Sylvester Le Fley
Christine Kavanagh: Lady Theresa Cutler
Stuart Milligan: Adam Klaus
Producer: Verity Lambert
Director: Sandy Johnson
Executive Producer: David Renwick

Jonathan Creek s02e03 The Scented Room (1998)

Hated theatre critic Sylvester Le Fley is not on Jonathan’s list of favourite people but even he can’t resist a good mystery when a very valuable painting of Le Fley’s is stolen in broad daylight from a sealed room in a matter of seconds.

8/10

There’s just enough to pad out the highly entertaining little mystery but the series’ weak point, Caroline Quentin, gets a backstory sideplot to absolutely no positive effect. She even gets a dreadfully supercilious barb to a rich parent ("maybe you can buy him something he really wants: like a life") which really goes contrary to her dreadfully shallow and unconvincing portrayal of her character. You can see her acting constantly. While we instantly believed Alan Davies to be Jonathan Creek we have never and will never believe Caroline Quentin to be an investigative journalist or, indeed, any of her characters. She always appears to be an actress playing a role. Still, the mystery’s great (if a bit tricky to pull off, surely the painting wouldn’t behave and would just roll up and get stuck) and it finishes with a good gag.

This Jonathan Creek episode contains mild swear words, mild adult dialogue and innuendo

Classified 12 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over.

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Jonathan Creek s02e02 Time Waits for Norman (1998) – 8/10 black comedy crime mystery TV review

Cast / crew
Jonathan Creek: Alan Davies
Maddy Magellan: Caroline Quentin
Executive Producer and Writer: David Renwick
Dermot Crowley: Norman Stangerson
Deborah Grant: Antonia Stangerson
Producer: Verity Lambert
Director: Sandy Johnson

Jonathan Creek s02e02 Time Waits for Norman (1998)

Another mystery for Jonathan Creek when the husband of Maddy’s publisher appears to have been on two continents at the same time.

8/10

Imaginative and entertaining mystery. We love it when writers are cleverer than and surprise us and this is one of Renwick’s strengths. Renwick manages a couple of goodies in this episode. First is the comedy reveal regarding Creek’s amorous encounter with a tax inspector (SPOILER “Didn’t you get suspicious when you were running your fingers through her hair and she wasn’t even in the room?”) while the crime mystery features a note (“Oh, when I know to free hate, to sever no one”) whose meaning is brilliantly simple and ingenious (SPOILER it’s a phone number, read it out: 0190 238 2701). The explanation of the whole mystery is also delightfully impressive.

This Jonathan Creek episode contains mild unpleasant scenes of a burned foot, substance abuse (methylated spirits)

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

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Jonathan Creek s01e03 Jack in the Box (1997) – 8/10 black comedy crime mystery TV review

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Cast / crew
Jonathan Creek: Alan Davies
Maddy Magellan: Caroline Quentin
Executive Producer and Writer: David Renwick
Director: Marcus Mortimer
John Bluthal: Jack Holiday
Maureen O’Brien: Kirsten Holiday
Robin Soans: Alan Rokesmith
Producer: Susan Belbin

Jonathan Creek s01e03 Jack in the Box (1997)

Just days after Alan Rokesmith – the man wrongfully imprisoned for killing his young wife – is released after nine years, aged movie star Jack Holliday is found shot dead inside his nuclear bunker in a impenetrable room locked from the inside. Clearly suicide, except Jack Holliday had crippling arthritis and couldn’t even peel a banana, let alone hold a gun to his head and pull the trigger.

8/10

After the feature-length opening double-episode, Jonathan Creek immediately settles into the fifty-minute slot that, I think, is perfect for this kind of show. It keeps things brisk and forces a tight focus on the matter at hand. It ensures that additional pieces of flavour are incorporated into the flow of the story instead of being allowed to bloat into their own irrelevant subplot (so no Adam Claus this time). This episode features a terrific locked room mystery where the viewer is given all the same clues as Jonathan. Alan Davies gets the how-dun-it at the end which thankfully reduces the amount of screen time for Caroline Quentin’s charmless Maddy Magellan.

This Jonathan Creek episode contains bad language, unpleasant scenes

Classified 12 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over.

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Zen (2011, Crime Drama) – 8/10 TV review

Cast / crew
Rufus Sewell: Aurelio Zen
Caterina Murino: Tania Morelli
Ben Miles: Amedeo Colonna
Stanley Townsend: Moscali
Catherine Spaak: Mamma
Francesco Quinn: Gilberto Nieddu
Peter Guinness: Tilo Spadola
Valentina Cervi: Arianna
Sarah-Jane Potts: Cinzia Miletti
Writer (Original Mystery): Michael Dibdin
Writer: Peter Berry
Writer: Simon Burke
Producer: Michael Casey
Director: Jon Jones

Zen (2011)

Aurelio Zen, an Italian police detective, has a reputation for integrity but that will be severely tested when he is assigned to politically sensitive cases. While you can’t please all the people all the time, Zen’s going to give it a good try.

8/10

The BBC get their mystery drama output off to a great start in 2011 with Zen starring the inconsistent Rufus Sewell. Fortunately, Sewell appears to be awake for this piece of work and impressively casually strolls around Rome balancing attempts to manipulate him while ensuring justice is executed in whatever case he is on. The addition of the political machinations to the murder mystery works really well and is instantly what makes this show stand out. The central crime plots have all been good and would have been fine in their own right, but justice always looks elusive until Zen brings it all together. Additionally, the tone is light and fun, the scenery is lovely and there is very little objectionable content. This could easily be repeated endlessly on Sunday afternoons. I don’t really like Caterina Murino’s character who is endlessly and remarkably selfish – qualities that turn even the most beautiful woman into something repugnant – but that’s the only real problem I have. Looking forward to a season two.

This Zen episode contains mild swear words, adult dialogue and gory and unpleasant scenes, violence and sexuality.

Classified 15 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over.

T.J. Hooker 3.22 Deadlock (1984, Police Action Drama) – 8/10 TV review

Cast / crew
William Shatner: T.J. Hooker
Adrian Zmed: Officer Vince Romano
Heather Locklear: Officer Stacy Sheridan
James Darren: Jim Corrigan
Writer (Series’ Creator): Rick Husky
Dennis Lipscomb: Rawlins
Mike Gomez: Gomez
Clarence Williams III: Martin
Richard Herd: Captain Dennis Sheridan
Supervising Producer: Rick Husky
Producer: Jeffrey Hayes
Writer: Bruce Shelly
Writer: David Ketchum
Director: Sigmund Neufeld, Jr.
Executive Producer: Aaron Spelling
Executive Producer: Leonard Goldberg

T.J. Hooker 3.22 Deadlock (1984)

Hooker and Romano get trapped in a department store by a gang of ruthless robbers and their situation goes from bad to worse when Romano is badly injured and Hooker gets trapped in an elevator with the ringleader.

8/10

No car chases and just a single location but this is one of the best episodes as Hooker and Romano get trapped by three ruthless robbers in a department store. Hooker gets through another squad car which is, hilariously, SPOILER pinched by a couple of young vandals. The episode generates an impressive level of peril as Romano looks to be in serious trouble though Hooker does reassure the audience by calling the lead robber maggot. Hooker also gets trapped in an elevator with him and an empty gun and there’s no cheating to resolve things. Hooker hilariously (deliberately so) SPOILER fakes a nerve gas attack while SPOILER Richard Herd randomly turns up and blows one of the other robbers away. A classic.

This T.J. Hooker episode contains violence, gory and unpleasant scenes.

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T.J. Hooker 3.15 Exercise in Murder (1984, Police Action Drama) – 8/10 TV review

Cast / crew
William Shatner: T.J. Hooker
Adrian Zmed: Officer Vince Romano
Heather Locklear: Officer Stacy Sheridan
James Darren: Jim Corrigan
Writer (Series’ Creator): Rick Husky
Judson Scott: Bobby Curtis
Tracy Scoggins: Jill Newmark
Robert Davi: Tom Warfield
James O’Sullivan: Internal Affairs
Greg Morris: Dave Reemer
Supervising Producer: Rick Husky
Producer: Jeffrey Hayes
Co-Producer: Jack V. Fogarty
Co-Producer: Simon Muntner
Writer (Screenplay): Jack V. Fogarty
Writer (Screenplay): Simon Muntner
Writer (Story): Ed Waters
Director: Phil Bondelli
Executive Producer: Aaron Spelling
Executive Producer: Leonard Goldberg

T.J. Hooker 3.15 Exercise in Murder (1984)

Corrigan’s magically appearing girlfriend of “three or four months” (!), Jill, is inextricably involved with a gang pulling off armed jewel robberies while Hooker has to come to terms with shooting a small child.

8/10

This is classic Hooker with all the boxes ticked. The main crime plot is fine, there’s a car chase, both Hooker and Corrigan get personal stakes in the plot and an expanded role for Stacey means dancing in a leotard and a shower scene. The makers pull off a great scene early on when Hooker shoots a small child (or the technical term, as Internal Affairs later puts it, “blowing away the little sucker”). The scene is delivered without fanfare or build-up and just as any other part of the typical Hooker action sequence. They even have the kid go flying backwards into something just like if it was a bad guy. It was the perfect way to do it. I was eating cereal and it stopped me mid-munch in a did-they-just-do-that moment.

This T.J. Hooker episode contains adult dialogue and violence and sexuality.

Links

Hustle 6.04 Series 6 Episode 4 of 6 (2010, Light Crime Adventure) – 8/10 TV review

Cast / crew
Adrian Lester: Mickey Stone
Robert Glenister: Ash Morgan
Matt Di Angelo: Sean Kennedy
Kelly Adams: Emma Kennedy
Robert Vaughn: Albert Stroller
Writer: Mark Chappell
Writer: Fintan Ryan
Director: Sarah O’Gorman
Creator: Tony Jordan
Danny Webb: Rex Kennedy
Writer (Original Idea): Bharat Nalluri

Hustle 6.04 Series 6: Episode 4 of 6 (2010)

Sean blows the latest con by failing to switch a briefcase and striding after a man entering an elevator. When he returns, he is disgusted with himself for letting the team down and not violently exacting punishment on the man: his father, who abandoned Emma and him when he was three-years-old.

8/10

A good deal more interesting than the usual ‘this time it’s personal’ stories that crop up in television shows as it believably develops characters without the need for rabbit-out-of-a-hat plot jumps.

This Hustle episode contains bad language and brief gory violence.

Links

Doctor Who 32.11 The Lodger (2010, Science Fiction Adventure) – 8/10 TV review

Cast / crew
Matt Smith: The Doctor
Karen Gillan: Amy Pond
Writer: Gareth Roberts
Producer: Tracie Simpson
Director: Catherine Morshead
James Corden: Craig
Daisy Haggard: Sophie

Doctor Who 32.11 Lodger, The (2010)

Arriving not quite where he’s expecting, the Doctor finds himself in even more trouble when the TARDIS kicks him out and cannot land. A day later, he takes a downstairs room where the upstairs is starting to eat people. Recognising that something strong enough to interfere with the TARDIS is not to be trifled with, he must not arouse suspicion and that means living as an ordinary human and not even using his sonic screwdriver.

8/10

Before we get to the season climax over the next two weeks, this episode combines a number of great elements into a fun episode. We get Matt Smith’s Doctor being funny and brilliant; his comic timing and delivery is impeccable. The plot generates suspense around an everyday object (a door intercom and upstairs flat) and there’s even an agreeably hoary romantic element as a fat bloke struggles to declare his love. We also get the most unusual scene (in the modern era) of the Doctor’s assistant – Amy Pond at the moment, of course – using the TARDIS and it’s equipment. Though the episode does turn out to be rather apocalyptic (though it would take the baddie some time to get through all six billion people at the rate it’s going), it’s the concentration on recognisable feelings and reactions that makes the episode so much better.

This Doctor Who episode contains unpleasant scenes.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Links

Doctor Who 32.10 Vincent and the Doctor (2010, Period Science Fiction Adventure) – 8/10 TV review

Cast / crew
Matt Smith: The Doctor
Karen Gillan: Amy Pond
Writer: Richard Curtis
Producer: Tracie Simpson
Producer: Patrick Schweitzer
Director: Jonny Campbell
Tony Curran: Vincent
Line Producer: Patrick Schweitzer

Doctor Who 32.10 Vincent and the Doctor (2010)

The Doctor takes Amy (who has absolutely no conscious memory of Rory at all) on a series of wonderful trips and their latest is a visit to a Vincent Van Gogh art exhibition. While there, the Doctor spots something odd about one of Van Gogh’s paintings: a monster in a church window.

8/10

It’s clearly something of a coup when you have one of the world’s most successful writers pen an episode for you and Richard Curtis provides a little gem. While it boasts all the traditional elements of the adventure side of the show with Matt Smith’s brilliant Doctor armed with "overconfidence, this and a small screwdriver," it’s true impact comes from a climactic scene where the Doctor gives something extraordinary to artist Vincent Van Gogh; something Van Gogh can add to his life’s pile of "good things." It’s an amazingly emotional sequence and has nothing to do with saving the world or slaying the beast and, as I’ve said before, pulling these stories back from never-ending Armageddons and connecting emotionally to the audience is the key to a great episode. This does, and this is.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Links

Doctor Who 32.07 Amy’s Choice (2010, Science Fiction Adventure) – 8/10 TV review

Cast / crew
Matt Smith: The Doctor
Karen Gillan: Amy Pond
Writer: Simon Nye
Producer: Tracie Simpson
Director: Catherine Morshead
Arthur Darvill: Rory
Toby Jones: Dream Lord

Doctor Who 32.07 Amy’s Choice (2010)

Five years after the Venice outing, the Doctor returns to the village where Amy is married and expecting a child. Then all three of them fall asleep and wake up on the TARDIS.

8/10

So if last week’s vampires were typically useless how do we improve on that? How about lawnmower wielding OAPs that have an eye in their mouth that turns you to dust? This is a snappy, imaginative, interesting episode with two sets of fun baddies: the afore-mentioned malevolent pensioners and the Dream Lord played with charismatic glee by Toby Jones. It gets the viewer involved by asking the characters and the audience the same question – which world is the real one? – and distracts the audience from the first answer that will have popped into their head (SPOILERthey’re both not real) by using a powerful emotional situation involving our heroine being told to choose which of her “boys” she would ultimately pick.

This Doctor Who episode contains unpleasant scenes.

Links

Jonathan Creek The Judas Tree (2010) – 8/10 crime detective murder mystery TV review

Cast / crew
Alan Davies: Jonathan Creek
Sheridan Smith: Joey Ross
Writer: David Renwick
Paul McGann: Hugo Dore
Sasha Behar: Harriet Dore
Doreen Mantle: Mrs. Gantry
Ian McNeice: Father Roderick Alberic
Natalie Walter: Emily
Stuart Milligan: Adam Klaus
Producer: Rosemary McGowan
Director: David Renwick

Jonathan Creek Special.4 Judas Tree, The (2010)

Joey Ross has managed to get herself employed as Klaus’s stage assistant but her old job as a self-styled psychic debunker provides Jonathan Creek with two mysteries to comprehend. One is from a hundred-and-twenty years ago when an adulterous husband dies at a time prophesied by his spurned lover with no sign of foul play while the other, in the same location but present day, sees the suspected murderess manifesting herself to Joey’s friend, a housekeeper’s assistant.

8/10

What David Renwick does better than any contemporary television writer is come up with the unexpected, usually funny, and imaginative sight gag. This time he delivers a great scene with cat litter, some fun race-related gags at the expense of Stuart Milligan’s Adam Klaus, a disappearing house and numerous other splendid bits and pieces dotted here and there (the approach of ISIS). However, Renwick really comes through with this episode by playing with audience expectations (SPOILER Paul McGann’s author states: “The trick, of course, is to fool the reader into trusting the wrong people.”), telling you everything Jonathan Creek knows and then wrapping it up for a thought-provoking finalé. He also manages to avoid his recent penchant for unpleasant sexuality and unnecessary sexual swear words and adult dialogue. This, with a tiny edit for violence, could be shown again on a Sunday afternoon without any problem (though it is bafflingly rated 15 by the BBFC for strong sex; of which there was none when shown on television). A bit of a welcome return to form for Renwick, then.

This Jonathan Creek episode contains mild swear words and unpleasant scenes, violence and brief sexuality.

Classified 15 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over.

Links

House M.D. 6.11 Remorse (2010, Black Comedy Medical Drama) – 8/10 TV review

Cast / crew
Hugh Laurie: Dr. Gregory House
Lisa Edelstein: Dr. Lisa Cuddy
Omar Epps: Dr. Eric Foreman
Robert Sean Leonard: Dr. James Wilson
Jesse Spencer: Dr. Robert Chase
Creator: David Shore
Peter Jacobson: Dr. Chris Taub
Olivia Wilde: Thirteen
Michael Weston: Lucas Douglas
Beau Garrett: Valerie
Shane Edelman: Bill
Producer: Marcy G. Kaplan
Producer: Sara Hess
Co-Executive Producer: Peter Blake
Executive Producer: Hugh Laurie
Executive Producer: David Shore
Writer: Peter Blake
Director: Andrew Bernstein

House M.D. 6.11 Remorse (2010)

A ruthless businesswoman is admitted with intense ear pain but House only takes her case after hearing she is beautiful and ambitious and her husband is not. Meanwhile, he’s trying to avoid a certain Lorenzo Wibberly from his time at medical school…

8/10

A fun episode with lots of impressive if improbable medical dramas for the patient-of-the-week (a beautiful psychopath), a bit of clinic and a couple of character drama threads. The abundance of activity means that it all moves along nicely and Hugh Laurie, again, knocks a number of good lines out of the park.

This House M.D. episode contains adult dialogue and an extremely unpleasant scene.

Links

House M.D. 6.08 Ignorance is Bliss (2009, Black Comedy Medical Drama) – 8/10 TV review

Cast / crew
Hugh Laurie: Dr. Gregory House
Lisa Edelstein: Dr. Lisa Cuddy
Omar Epps: Dr. Eric Foreman
Robert Sean Leonard: Dr. James Wilson
Jesse Spencer: Dr. Robert Chase
Creator: David Shore
Peter Jacobson: Dr. Chris Taub
Olivia Wilde: Thirteen
Michael Weston: Lucas Douglas
Esteban Powell: James Sidas
Vicki Davis: Dara Sidas
Jennifer Crystal Foley: Rachel Taub
Producer: Marcy G. Kaplan
Producer: Sara Hess
Executive Producer: Hugh Laurie
Executive Producer: David Shore
Writer: David Hoselton
Director: Greg Yaitanes

House M.D. 6.08 Ignorance is Bliss (2009)

Patient-of-the-week is a genius now living a happy life of deliveryman obscurity. Our own genius-in-residence decides that it is time for Cuddy and Lucas to break up.

8/10

There’s lots of quality, but fun, machinations this week as House tries to break up Lucas and Cuddy (though Taub and Chase have their moments as well) and, as a bonus, the medical mysteries are also clearly enough presented with the final solution being pretty cool while raising an interesting side issue as a genius medically makes himself more stupid so as to be content with a normal life with his wife. (It reminds me of the classic line from James Stewart in Harvey: " ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.") Oh, and we even get some clinic duty.

This House M.D. episode contains mild unpleasant medical scenes.

Links

The Mentalist 2.08 His Red Right Hand (2009, Crime Drama) – 8/10 TV review

Cast / crew
Creator: Bruno Heller
Simon Baker: Patrick Jane
Robin Tunney: Teresa Lisbon
Tim Kang: Kendall Cho
Owain Yeoman: Wayne Rigsby
Amanda Righetti: Grace Van Pelt
Terry Kinney: Sam Bosco
Shauna Bloom: Rebecca
Michael Chieffo: Coroner
Suzy Nakamura: Dr. Fox
Gregory Itzin: Virgil Minelli
Co-Executive Producer: Ashley Gable
Executive Producer: Chris Long
Producer: Charlie Goldstein
Writer: Ashley Gable
Director: Chris Long
Executive Producer: Bruno Heller

Mentalist, The 2.08 His Red Right Hand (2009)

The case of a frozen doctor posed naked and garnished with yellow flowers in a cemetery is just the tip of the iceberg when Red John decides it’s time to reassert himself.

8/10

This is a great episode, even more so if you go in without spoilers, and worthy of acclaim as it tackles a crime drama tradition (SPOILER the mid-season clear-out) without feeling stereotypical and predictable. With the exception of one scene where Jane unplugs a patient’s morphine dispenser for no obvious reason, it is scripted sensitively and Simon Baker does well as our hero. Gregory Itzin also gets a good scene where he tears into a journalist for asking a stupid question. As this is a Red John episode, please note that it is more violent and darker in the tone than the regular episodes.

This Mentalist, The episode contains mild swear words and strong knife violence, graphic gun violence, gory and unpleasant scenes and sexuality.

Links

Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple s02e03,04 At Bertram’s Hotel (1986,) – 8/10 murder mystery TV review

AmazonBuy At Bertram’s Hotel at Amazon

Cast / crew
Novel Writer: Agatha Christie
Screenplay Writer: Jill Hyem
Director: Mary McMurray
Joan Hickson: Miss Marple
Producer: George Gallaccio

Miss Marple, Agatha Christie’s 2.03,04 At Bertram’s Hotel (1986)

Miss Marple is thrilled to be going to stay as Bertram’s Hotel, a little bit of England as it used to be but when she arrives, a glamorous female pioneer is dominating proceedings and Marple senses a sinister undercurrent.

8/10

Though the only murder in this adaptation occurs a few minutes before the end, the atmosphere and dotty characters are so splendid that it almost covers the lack of dead people. The wonderful Joan Hickson is backed by Joan Greenwood as a delightfully gossipy friend (she still has that magnificently husky voice) and Preston Lockwood as a spectacularly absent-minded cleric. And while the viewer will certainly have bits and pieces solved before the reveal, Marple still has the final touches up her sleeve. Special delight is reserved for the line "I’m dying to see ITV. I hear it’s ghastly." (For non-British viewers, this programme was created by Britain’s public broadcaster BBC and ITV is the name of the country’s first and principal commercial television broadcaster.)

This Miss Marple, Agatha Christie’s episode contains a mild swear word, mild adult dialogue, Mild unpleasant scenes

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Links