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carpe_diem
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Member since: 06.09.2008

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    • Sliding Doors (DVD) / DVD / 177 Readings / 169 Ratings
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      12.09.2008 20:31
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      An intelligent romantic comedy with a clever twist

      What if one brief moment in time could affect the outcome of the rest of your life? When you think about it, it's a scary thought, because it really could happen to any of us. And we wouldn't even know it. What difference would it have made if you'd turned left instead of right that day, gone out instead of staying in that night, or held out for the better job instead of settling for the one you were offered?

      Sliding Doors explores this idea brilliantly, by illustrating the consequences of one seemingly unimportant event - whether someone just catches or just misses the tube on their way home. In this case, the 'someone' is Helen, who is played (with a pretty impressive British accent) by Gwyneth Paltrow. After a really bad day at work, Helen is heading for the underground platform when she hears the tube train coming in, so she rushes down the stairs but narrowly misses making it through the doors as they slide closed (hence the title of the film). Then the scene is rewound and we see the alternative - instead she successfully swerves past the fellow commuters in her way and makes it on to the train in time.

      From that point on, the stories of both Helens (the one who got on the tube and the one who missed it) are told in parallel. This is a little confusing at first, but helpfully one version of Helen goes blonde and gets a haircut, making it much easier to follow as the scenes constantly switch between her alternate lives.

      John Hannah plays the male lead, initially striking up a conversation with Helen 2 who caught the tube. Meanwhile, Helen 1 eventually returns home to her two-timing boyfriend, but because she was delayed she remains unaware of his indiscretions. Over the course of the film, we see the twists and turns that Helen's two different lives take, with her contrasting fortunes played off very cleverly against each other.

      Sliding Doors was both written and directed by Peter Howitt (a.k.a. Joey from Bread, for those of a certain generation). Paltrow and Hannah both put in excellent performances, and the film certainly stands out as a different kind of romantic comedy, with very few overly slushy moments and an ending that isn't at all predictable. Without giving anything away, I wasn't personally a fan of the ending, although the film does benefit from repeated viewings and I'll concede that the ending is appropriate. I'd give it 4.5 stars if I could, but I've rounded up rather than down due to the original concept of the storyline being a breath of fresh air.

      Overall, I would highly recommend this film to those who have yet to see it. I recently purchased this for £2.99, and at that price I think it would be a welcome addition to anyone's DVD collection.

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      • CSI (New York) / TV Programme / 91 Readings / 89 Ratings
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        10.09.2008 21:53
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        An intelligent, well-acted and highly addictive US drama series

        I stumbled across an episode of this show on Five US a few months ago. For the uninitiated, there are 3 different series in the CSI franchise - the original 'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation' set in Las Vegas which began in 2000, the spin-off 'CSI: Miami' which began in 2002, and 'CSI: NY' which first aired in 2004.

        I had never previously watched an episode of any of the CSI series. I already watch quite a few US tv dramas, but the idea of this one had never really appealed to me. I assumed it might be too gruesome, too serious, not very entertaining etc....but all without any foundation as I'd never actually seen it for myself.

        What finally drew me to CSI: NY was the knowledge that Gary Sinise is the lead actor in the series. I've seen Sinise in the films Forrest Gump, Apollo 13 and Ransom - all very different roles but all brilliantly acted by him - and I was sure that he'd put in another good performance here.

        The first episode I tuned into (a repeat of the 2nd episode of season 2) featured a murder in Grand Central Station during rush hour, the death of a blind woman, and the firing of a member of the CSI team due to evidence being planted to secure a conviction. The pace was fast, the dialogue was sharp, the characters were well-written and the storylines were involving. By the end of that episode, I knew I'd be tuning in regularly from then on.

        As the title suggests, each episode of CSI: NY involves the investigation of crimes that have taken place in and around New York City. Usually two separate crimes are featured, with several different detectives on the CSI team being assigned to each case. Gary Sinise plays the compelling Detective Mac Taylor, a former war veteran who lost his wife to the 9/11 bombing of the World Trade Centre. The cast also includes Melina Kanakaredes as Stella Bonasera, Carmine Giovinazzo as Danny Messer, Anna Belknap as Lindsay Monroe, and Eddie Cahill as Don Flack. Those names may not look very familiar (often when you haven't seen an actor in any other high-profile US dramas you soon realise why) but in this case the entire cast is superb. I particularly enjoy the interactions between the main characters - put any two of them in a scene together and there will be brilliant chemistry, humour and a believable history between them. The show's guest stars, who appear as suspects and witnesses to the crimes, also tend to be very well cast, and I often recognise them as having appeared in minor roles in series like 24 and House.

        The team's investigation of crimes involves a thorough examination of the crime scene, questioning of the witnesses and suspects, and further forensic work back in the lab, including post mortems on the bodies of the victims. It's nowhere near as gruesome as it sounds, as you end up being fascinated by the tiniest details that can make all the difference, the amazing range of science and technology at the team's disposable, and the sheer genius of the methods used to eventually solve the crimes.

        Most storylines are sewn up by the end of each episode, although occasionally a major story arc will run for a few weeks. But if you are unable to watch regularly, this is definitely a series that you can happily dip in and out of.

        Five and Five US are currently showing three different seasons of CSI: NY on various days. So thanks to the wonder of Sky +, I've series linked them all and I'm now watching 3 episodes per week. Having seen over 30 episodes to date, I can confirm that the quality of writing, acting and directing remains extremely high throughout.

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          09.09.2008 23:09
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          Top quality UK drama - highly recommended

          This is one of those BBC drama series that aired a few years ago (back in 2003 to be precise) and somehow passed me by. So it wasn't until Life on Mars aired that I became a huge fan of the wonderful John Simm and decided to seek out his earlier work.

          When I came across this series on DVD (at the bargain price of £7.99) I was extremely impressed by the cast list, which is one of the most outstanding line-ups for a BBC series that I've ever seen. Starring alongside John Simm are David Morrissey, Bill Nighy, James McAvoy, Kelly Macdonald, Marc Warren, and even good old Gene Hunt himself, Philip Glenister. So without knowing anything else about it, I couldn't purchase the DVD quick enough!

          But for those who do need further persuasion, State of Play is a political thriller set in London which begins with the death of a senior politician's research assistant and the seemingly unrelated shooting of a teenage drug dealer. Over the course of six gripping episodes, the reasons for these events and the connection between the two is explored. John Simm plays an investigative newspaper journalist who also happens to be the former campaign manager of the politician (David Morrissey) at the centre of the story.

          To give any more details of the plot would risk spoiling it for those who have not yet had the pleasure of watching this series. If the 'political thriller' theme is putting you off then think again. More than anything, this is an intelligent, involving drama that delivers a masterclass in acting (especially from John Simm) and is beautifully written by Paul Abbott (of Shameless and Clocking Off fame).

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            06.09.2008 19:47
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            A great film which is suited to repeat viewings

            When asked the eternal question, 'What is your all-time favourite film?' I may debate offering up one of the generally acknowledged classics in response, but my true answer, especially if I was restricted to only watching one film again for the rest of my life, would be this.

            Sleepless in Seattle is one of those films which can be watched over and over again without losing any of its humour, emotion and good old-fashioned romance. Tom Hanks has always been one of my favourite actors, and has that rare skill of being able to completely take on a role to the point where he is utterly believable as that character, and not for a second do you think of him in another film while you're watching his performance.

            Edit: Tom Hanks plays a grieving widower with a young son, who calls a radio station on his dad's behalf on Christmas Eve to say that his dad is lonely and needs a new wife. Annie Reed (Meg Ryan) is listening to the radio show, and feels immediately drawn to Hanks as he describes his love for his dead wife and his belief that love like that can only happen once in a lifetime. Despite being engaged and living thousands of miles away, Annie decides to pursue this man across the country to find out if true love can in fact strike the same person twice.

            While Sleepless in Seattle was not as demanding a role as films such as Philadelphia and Forrest Gump for which Hanks won Oscars, I find it to be easily the most enjoyable of the three. Without ever overdoing the sentimental nature of the storyline, and despite the two leads (Hanks and Meg Ryan) sharing hardly any screen time together, as the credits role I guarantee that even the most cold-hearted amongst you will have developed a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.

            As for the extras on this Collector's Edition, they are quite limited and the type that are likely to only be viewed once. But for a true fan of the film like me (who already owned it on video!) it's a must for their dvd collection.

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              06.09.2008 18:56
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              More great acting and storylines - sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!

              The 3rd season of Grey's Anatomy may be the weakest to date (readers may be aware that the UK is currently a year behind the US, so the 4th season has already aired in full over there). However, anyone who became a fan during the first 2 seasons will undoubtably be coming back for more, as this is one of those addictive drama series that serves as a guilty pleasure.

              Without giving away any key storylines, this season is yet another 25-episode rollercoaster ride for the staff and patients of Seattle Grace Hospital. Relationships between the main characters are explored further, and there are a number of strong performances from recurring guest stars, including Kate Burton as Meredith's mother, Ellis, and Elizabeth Reaser who gives an outstanding performance as a seriously injured patient who has no memory of who she is.

              The 3 part arc of episodes where the team attend to the casualties from a major ferry disaster and deal with the aftermath are especially gripping, with a few familiar faces popping up unexpectedly along the way.

              In my opinion, Katherine Heigl as Izzie Stevens and Chandra Wilson as Miranda Bailey continue to give the best performances, although the show really does have an excellent cast across the board.

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                06.09.2008 18:51
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                Highly recommended - you won't be disappointed

                Season 2 of Grey's Anatomy is when I discovered this brilliant US show, and although I have since watched the first 3 seasons in full, it remains my favourite.

                There is something in Grey's Anatomy for everyone - an excellent cast full of handsome men and attractive women, brilliant scripts and great acting from all involved. Even the hospital patients who may only be on screen for a few minutes are very well cast and the viewer will quickly become involved in their stories.

                Grey's Anatomy also has the ability to combine humour and tragedy in a single episode, sometimes even within the same scene. During each episode I will usually laugh and wipe away tears in equal measure.

                This second season includes my all-time favourite storyline, involving Doctor Izzie Stevens (played by the wonderful, award-winning Katherine Heigl) and a patient with a heart condition, played by the lovely Jeffrey Dean Morgan (star of films such as P.S. I Love You and The Accidental Husband). For me, this storyline alone makes it worth buying the boxset. But rest assured that there are many more reasons to spend time with the doctors and patients of Seattle Grace hospital.

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