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Last night I watched the first ever episode of Knight Rider. I'd not seen the series for many years despite having watched it every week when it was first shown. However I've got quite into the habit of late of watching cheesy 1980s American adventure shows as they are becoming more and more available on DVD. My girlfriend previously watched all the episodes when they were shown on satellite and recommended it to me as good 'brain-in-neutral' kind of TV so I thought I'd give it a go.
The DVD box set of season 1 is put together quite strangely. There are eight discs, but the first episode doesn't actually appear on disc 1, instead it's found on disc 7. Then as an 'extra' on disc 8 is Knight Rider 2000 which was a 'reunion movie' made a number of years after the final season of the original show. Quite why the DVD producers didn't decide to wait and add this as an extra on the final season DVD release I don't know, but it's good to have it.
Also included are all of the other episodes of Season 1, although I haven't yet watched them - only the very first episode, entitled 'Knight Of The Phoenix'. I may update this review at a later date when I've watched more.
So what are my thoughts on the first episode? Well first off it's of a good length - it's a feature-length pilot and so has enough time to develop the story. Strangely David Hasselhoff doesn't actually appear in the episode as Michael Knight until 15 minutes into the story. This is because Michael's real name is Michael Long and he was a police officer who was shot point blank to the head in the line of duty. However it seems that he had a plate in his head which deflected the bullet out through his face and meant that he lived through the experience. However he needed plastic surgery, hence the change of actor.
Michael is then recruited by Wilson Knight (who soon passes away) and Devon Miles to work for their company, the Knight Foundation, as a lone crusader fighting injustice, with the help of an upgraded Trans-Am, which is a car with a brain, called KITT (short for Knight Industries Two Thousand). The car was of course always the thrill of the show and I, like every young lad, always wanted to own one myself. The problem is that even thought it is 20 years later, I still want one!
Well, the storyline and the acting were cheesy as anything, which is to be expected of a Glen A Larson show from this period - he also created Battlestar Galactica and the Gil Gerard version of Buck Rogers. But it was fun, and my girlfriend was right - fun in a 'brain-in-neutral' kind of way. Think too hard about it and you'll pick it to pieces, but it was worth an hour and a half of my evening, and if you like this sort of thing, would be worth the same of yours.
In the time since I wrote the original version of this review, CD Wow has gone from strength to strength. At that time they simply offered CDs and DVDs - now there are games, DVD rentals, electrical equipment like digital cameras, and lots more. The prices on everything are excellent with further lowering of many prices. Some chart CDs and new releases are now available at only £6.99 and prices are still very affordable all round. Delivery times continue to be very quick, although I've still never had quite such a quick turnaround as the MASH DVD referred to in the previous review.
Since writing the review I've continued to buy a great many products from the site, and have done most of this year's Christmas shopping there. It's quick, convenient, and very cheap, and well worth your time.
The only downside is that they don't have as full a range of products as somewhere like HMV but this is only to be expected - they focus more on new releases and chart products.
I've been buying from cd-wow for quite a while now but have only just decided that it is worth giving my opinion on their service. The truth is that I am gobsmacked by the whole thing. Their prices are excellent for one thing. £8-99 for a CD is incredibly cheap, and their DVD prices are fantastic too.
As far as DVDs are concerned they stock just about every Region 1 and 2 DVD that you could possibly wish for at excellent prices but the aspect that has just blown me away is their delivery time. Here's my latest example of an excellent buy....
M*A*S*H Season 2 DVD (Region 1)
The listed price was £17.99 with free delivery. They had a special offer on which was that if I signed up with Natwest's new 'FastPay' service I would get £2 off. With the 20p charge that FastPay make that meant that my total price for a 3-DVD box set was only £16.19.
I placed the order late on Saturday, and knowing that it would be shipped from Hong Kong I expected it to take at least a week. But on Monday morning I received it! That's faster than almost anything that I've ever ordered from within the UK!!
I will never ever buy a CD or DVD from the High Street again, and I heartily urge you to do the same. Use cd-wow!
This was the first album to be released featuring Elvis Presley. I'll start with the sleeve design - this is a picture of Elvis performing in his early days, and is accompanied by 'Elvis Presley' in pink and green lettering. This in itself, before we even get to the music, is famous and influential. Indeed, The Clash used a similar design for their album 'London Calling'. The music on the album, which originally ran to 12 tracks, was made up of recordings which Elvis made in early 1956 for RCA, the major record label to which he had only recently signed, and also a number of songs recorded for Sun Studios where he had originally recorded from 1954. These early tracks have a real bite to them, and show a young man on the top of his game, before what many people view as his decline. These songs were cover versions of old and not-so-old (at the time) songs, but people who say that Elvis was not a talented musician because he didn't write his own material are deluding themselves. I defy anyone to listen to this album and state the Elvis was talentless. Listen to the original Carl Perkins version of 'Blue Suede Shoes' and then listen to the version on this album and tell me that he was talentless. He takes a really quite bland song and makes it exciting. And that takes talent. My favourite song on the original album though is 'I Got A Woman' - again a cover of an old song, but when you compare it to the original (by Ray Charles), it has a certain 'something' which the original (although an excellent track) just doesn't have. These are songs that Elvis would sing throughout his career. The CD re-release of the album has the original 12 songs augmented by 6 other songs from the period, including Elvis' first national hit 'Heartbreak Hotel'. This gives the album a somewhat different feel - back in the 1950s singles were not included on albums, very different from the situation today.
This album is a piece of cultural history and belongs in the record collection of ANYONE who has an interest in popular music.
I have often read of movie producers and song writers perusing newspapers to find ideas for their latest work. Indeed, I believe that David Bowie used to have a habit of cutting up sentences from newspapers and putting them in different orders to provide him with lyrics for songs. I've read that he now uses a computer to do this task for him. The reason why I mention that here is that I was reminded of this tactic for coming up with ideas when looking at this website - the Archive Of Strange Deaths. This is exactly what it is - an archive. Of strange deaths. It is a collection of information from various news sources about people who have died. Strangely. The website is divided into years (beginning in 1990 and coming right up to 2002. You can peruse the site year-by-year or do a search. For example, if you are looking for a strange death involving a television, simply type in 'television'. What is slightly disappointing is that the result of your search only takes you to the page on which that word can be found - you have to then search the page using the built-in search facility in your browser to then find the word on the page. However, when you do you can find such titbits as the man who killed his wife with an iron because she had the TV on too loud. He didn't know what to do then, so he sat down and watching TV. He said "But I lowered the volume" do that's OK then. The website is not in particularly good taste (thankfully there are no pictures), but as I mentioned at the beginning of my opinion, it is a good resource for writers of any sort. It can be found at http://www.castle-brass.co.uk/
This is the kind of website that divides opinions. Some people may find it sick, and there are certainly some weird people out there who would visit the site simply to get their jollies from watching air accidents. However, looked at from another point of view, it is an excellent resource for information for people involved in the press and the aviation industry. The site presents videos, photos, documents, eyewitness accounts, voice recorder transcripts, and many other resources which anyone would find interesting if researching this kind of accident. It is slightly disorientating to realise that you can download video of the September 11 terrorist attacks though. The footage that was shown over and over again on television for months after the attack was heartbreaking, and truly still makes me feel quite ill whilst thinking about it now. So the thought of voluntarily downloading the footage made me feel quite queasy. Suffice it to say I chose not to download it! The site is not for the fainthearted, and I would strongly advise anyone against visiting it for an 'entertainment' point of view. But in the areas of research and journalism, it is undoubtedly a useful resource.
From the vantage point of 2002 it is easy to forget how BIG the whole GHOSTBUSTERS thing was back in the mid-1980s. The original film had been released in 1984 and at one point was the biggest-grossing comedy of all time. The Internet Movie Database currently lists it as the 107th top grossing movie ever worldwide, which is quite a feat 18 years after its release. It was of course inevitable that a sequel would come along, but what is surprising is how long it took to arrive. It was 1989 before audiences were able to see the further adventures of the ghost-busting team, although children's appetites had been sated by animated television shows over the intervening years. Why was there such a delay? Partly due to the popularity of the stars (and as such they were all very busy) but partly due to the behind-the-scenes shenanigans at Columbia, the studio who bankrolled both GHOSTBUSTERS movies. What I find amazing is that despite the intervening years and the popularity of the stars, all the major players returned for the sequel. With the likes of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd (who also had a hand in writing both movies), Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, and the often forgotten 4th 'Buster, Ernie Hudson, all coming back for more, in addition to the original director Ivan Reitman, there was huge expectation on the movie to be as good and as successful as the original. And in some respects it was. It is set five years on from the end of the original movie and the Ghostbusters are bankrupt, but end up coming out of retirement to stop the malevolent slime from destroying everything as a result of all the negative emotions in New York. Although the plot sounds a little twee in that short sentence, it doesn't come across as being so on film. Indeed, one gets so caught up in the plot and the characters that one forgets the potential 'message-push' which the filmmakers may have been attempting. In fact, part of the
joy of the film is seeing the same characters again. At first there had been talk of making a low-budget cash-in sequel using complete unknowns, but it is a testament to the filmmakers' wisdom that they did not allow that to happen as there is no way (in my opinion) that the film could possibly have been as good or as successful if that plan had been carried out. And successful the film was - going back to the Internet Movie Database again we find that the sequel is the 180th highest grossing movie worldwide ever, having made over $215million dollars. This is a fantastic achievement by anyone's standards, and goes to prove that it is a shame that the oft-mooted GHOSTBUSTERS 3 never came about. Of course, there is always a possibility that it will happen at some point in the future, but sad to say I think that it's time is past. Both movies are still excellent to watch - there is great plot, good humour, and excellent special effects - but to wheel out those characters and actors again after 13 years would just be too sad (in a despressing way). So, GHOSTBUSTERS 2 - a good watch.
A.I. (ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE) was Steven Spielberg's 19th film as a director, and for my money it is one of his best. Set in the near future, it stars Haley Joel Osment as David, a 'mecha' (robot) who is created by Professor Hobby (an inventor at a company called Cybertronics, played by William Hurt). This is the first robot in history who has the ability to love, and as a test he is 'adopted' by an employee of the company and his wife Monica (played by Frances O'Connor). This couple's son had been seriously injured in an accident and David is initially treated as a replacement (although it doesn't come across quite as cold as it sounds). However then Martin (the son) gets better and comes home, and David is pushed aside. The remainder of the film follows David's quest to become human (in the style of Pinocchio) as he believes that then his 'mother' will love him more. To reveal more about the plot would only spoil it, but suffice it to say it is a densely plotted film which spans 2000 years and involves an amazing performance from Osment. Other actors come and go through the film (including an excellent appearance by Robin Williams' voice) and these appearances are really nothing more than cameos. The real star of the film is Osment and it is a testament to his ability that he can carry off a film of this length. It can only be hoped that when he reaches the other side of puberty he will still have this ability intact. One thought that did enter my head whilst watching the film is what the making of it may have done to the boy. There are so many questions of reality and self that revolve entirely around David (and hence Osment) that I would be mightily impressed if he made it out the other side of the film with his sanity intact. Having said that I think that a lot of people would say the same about anyone working in films! The special effects are also worth a mention, as they are phenomena
l. The only bad point are the futuristic cars, which don't look particularly futuristic to me. They just look like Audi TTs with three wheels instead of four. However, this is the only letdown as the CGI work is wonderful. The history of the making of the film is very convoluted and I won't go into too much detail here as it is well documented elsewhere. Suffice it to say that the film was originally Stanley Kubrick's baby, and he discussed it in great depth with Spielberg in the years prior to his death in 1999. Spielberg then put everything else on hold (including the forthcoming MINORITY REPORT with Tom Cruise) in order to write and direct the movie himself in tribute to his friend. It is in fact a tribute to Spielberg that he has managed to merge both his sensibilities and Kubrick's in the final project. There are a great many touches in both the story and direction which hark back to Kubrick, especially in the infuriating ending. Kubrick seemed to love to create endings which make the audience ask 'Huh' What was THAT all about?' and that is definitely the case with the ending of A.I. In closing I will say that I watched the movie at home on DVD and didn't get up from my seat once. I often have little patience when watching movies on TV and have to pause them again and again whilst I get up to make a cup of coffee and such like. Maybe it's a result of my being part of the MTV generation that I have a short attention span, but A.I. held my attention throughout - even through the closing credits whilst I was listening to the beautiful music scored by John Williams (a frequent Spielberg collaborator). I can think of no better recommendation than that. If you would like to read the original story which inspire the movie (SUPERTOYS LAST ALL SUMMER LONG by Brian Aldiss) you can do so on this web page: http://www.visual-memory.co.uk/amk/doc/0068.html
If you are someone who loves watching movies on your DVD player but lead a busy life and as such do not get time to go to your local video shop very often then the In-Movies website is an absolute godsend. From costs ranging from £15-£25 you can rent an unlimited number of DVDs each month, with them being delivered to your door by post. The difference in price relates to the number of DVDs you can rent at the same time, with two DVDs at £15 up to five at £25 per month. The range of DVDs is excellent, with all tastes catered for. The website is divided into categories: Action, Adult, Arthouse, Childrens, Classic, Comedy, Documentary, Drama, Foreign Language, Horror, Indian Cinema, Music, Musical, Romance, Science Fiction, Sport, Television and Thriller. There is even a section devoted to those 'bonus' disks which seem to be so beloved of DVD manufacturers these days. You can also search by title for the particular DVD you may be looking for. You then add the DVDs you choose to a list, and each new title is delivered to you when you return your previous disc. The only drawback to site is the inability to search by anything other than the name of the disc. For example, if you are looking for something directed by Steven Spielberg, you can't type his name in and see a list of what is available. However, using this website in conjunction with another movie site such as The Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) solves this problem, as you can search for individuals there, find out what movies and television shows they have been involved in, and then search for those titles at the In-Movies website. What about the service itself? Well, it appears to be excellent, although I've only recently joined. The discs arrived promptly, and although I was slightly disappointed to see that you only receive the disc itself and not the packaging that you would get if you were to BUY the disc, I soon realised that if each disc
was sent out in its original packaging they probably wouldn't have fit through my letterbox, and so I would have had to go to the Post Office to collect them, whicih would kind of negate the point of the service in the first place. Each disc arrives in its own envelope, packaged with a pre-paid envelope so that when you finish watching the disc all you have to do is seal the envelope, pop it in a post box, and wait for the next disc to vome winging its way through your door. So, the In-Movies DVD service is excellent. It is also worth remembering though that the website is not simply for DVD rental. They have a 'news' section, which is no great shakes, but there is also a section for downloading and watching short movies and features on your computer, which is an excellent way of finding movies which you ordinarily wouldn't come across. All in all, the In-Movies website and DVD service is excellent and well worth every penny. I urge everyone who reads this opinion to register with them (and no, they are not paying me to say that!!).
Elvis Presley was one of the world's greatest performers, and he died 25 years ago this year. There are hundreds of websites out there on the internet devoted to the man, his music, his films, food that he liked, and just about anything you could ever want to know (and some things you definitely wouldn't) about The King Of Rock 'N' Roll. The official website (www.elvis.com) is filled with information about The King - both his life and his posthumous career. Ranging from biographical information, chart statistics, information about Graceland (Elvis' famous home), recordings, to information about Elvis - The Concert (yes indeed there is still a touring Elvis concert which uses concert footage of The King) and Elvis Presley Enterprises (the corporate side) and even including free web-based e-mail (yes you could be firstname.lastname@example.org) there is a large variety of content. In some respects it is a shame that Elvis has become such a commercial enterprise in death and has made so much money for his heirs when he was virtually bankrupt when he died. But then that commerciality is keeping the image and the music alive today. The website is respectful towards the man (which is not surprise, it IS the official website, and there are many other websites out there which are a lot less respectful), and the best area of the side is definately the part that promotes ELVIS WEEK - those few days in August which celebrate the life and music of the man in Memphis.
BEING JOHN MALKOVICH has been widely praised as being a wonderful film, so when I saw it at the video library this weekend I felt compelled to rent it out. And I'm glad I did. It stars John Cusack as Craig Schwartz, a frustrated puppeteer who is unable to find work in his chosen profession. Harassed by his wife, Lottie (played by a plain-looking Cameron Diaz), into finding other work, he takes a job as a filing clerk at a company based on an unusual floor of a particular building - this is floor 7 1/2, whose ceiling is only half as high as that on other floors (does that make sense?). That's only the start of the odd goings on, as Craig finds a door which is in fact a 'portal' into the head of actor John Malkovich, when one can travel and remain for 15 minutes before being deposited by the side of the New Jersey Turnpike. Does that sound weird? Well good, because it is weird. But it's also fun, and the casting coup of the film is actually getting Malkovich to play himself (and it is particularly chilling when he himself goes through the portal and sees a world filled with John Malkoviches!). Even better than this are two cameo appearances - I won't ruin the surprise by naming them, but I will say that they are famous actors, one whose initials is CS and one is BP. I'm not telling you anymore! So, BEING JOHN MALKOVICH is a wildly original movie which deserves to be seen. Go on, treat yourself. You won't be disappointed.
APT PUPIL is an adaptation of a story by Stephen King. King's excellent literary work often makes for bad movies (with the rare exception), and this is a shame. Thankfully APT PUPIL cannot be classed as a 'bad' movie, although it definately can't be considered to be as good as THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. The film stars Ian McKellan as Kurt Dussander, who is guilty of Nazi war crimes. Dussander is come across by a high school pupil named Todd Bowden (played by Brad Renfro) who becomes obsessed with his past. However, rather than shopping Dussander to the authorities, Bowden prefers to have him tell him about his experiences. The film is quite chillingly directed by Bryan Singer, who would go on to direct McKellan again in X-MEN. Renfro doesn't come across very well in the film, but this is mainly because he is pit against the excellence of McKellan, who is utterly believable as the Nazi criminal. This is not a film to 'enjoy' as such, but is well worth seeing.
Until recently I'd only ever seen the odd episode of ANGEL. I kind of have trouble getting into any TV series these days as I'm often not at home the same time on the same evening for more than a couple of weeks. For this reason I'm really glad that TV shows have started coming out on DVD and in video boxsets in their complete seasons at a reasonable price. Anyway, on to ANGEL. I recently borrowed the whole of the first two seasons on video from a friend of mine who was adamant that I would enjoy it. I'd never even seen much of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (the series from which ANGEL is a spin-off) so I was a bit sceptical, but I'm glad I did watch it as I got quite used to a regular fix of ANGEL and am now sad because I'm not getting my fix!! ANGEL stars David Boreanaz as the eponymous character, who is a vampire. However this vampire has a soul and is atoning for centuries of evil deeds by helping people in Los Angeles. Helping him in this are a number of other characters. The first season began with Angel being accompanied by Cordelia Chase (another character from BUFFY) who is desperate to be an actress (which is why she moved from Sunnydale to LA in the first place) and Doyle, a half-human, half-demon. Doyle suffered from visions and it is these visions that usually showed the team who they needed to help - they were a signal from the 'Powers That Be'. After 9 episodes Doyle was killed off, and his vision power was transferred to Cordelia. She and Angel were then joined by Wesley Wyndham-Price, who had previously appeared on BUFFY too, but who was now a renegade demon bounty hunter. Later they were also joined by another couple of characters - Gunn and Fred - along with a large number of supporting characters who drift in and out of the storylines. The characters are the best thing about ANGEL. Angel himself is usually dark and broody, and this makes the odd occasions when he becomes a little happ
ier very amusing to watch. Doyle was OK, but when he was replaced by Wesley I was unhappy, as Wesley came across as a bit of a pathetic character. Thankfully he grew on me though. The best character has got to be Cordelia. Charisma Carpenter (the actress who plays Cordelia) is absolutely gorgeous, but that is not the only reason why I like the character (although it's a good reason to like her!). Cordelia as a character has really grown since the beginning of the series, from a vacuous annoying girl, into a more mature, caring, 'deep' woman. The storylines are also strong and this is something else that I like about the series, and to be honest about TV today. Gone are the days of the 'reset' button, where every episode of a TV show ended with the characters pretty much the same as they were at the beginning. ANGEL is a developing story, and characters and situations change. In this respect it is much like a soap opera, but there's nothing wrong with that! So, in closing, ANGEL is an excellent series, and I look forward to the release of the Season 3 box set.
It's funny how TV shows which aired many years ago can still stick in the mind. MANIMAL is one such show - it only ran for 8 episodes in the early 1980s, but it is still held fondly in some people's memories. Perhaps this fondness is because it hasn't been repeated endlessly on numerous TV channels in these days of nostalgia TV, unlike shows like KNIGHT RIDER. MANIMAL starred Simon MacCordindale as Jonathan Chase, a university professor who was able to turn himself into a variety of animals - hence the title of the series. He used this trick to help out the police each week. His female sidekick was police officer Brooke, who was played by Melody Anderson, who is better known these days for having played Dale Arden (FLASH's girlfriend) in the 1980 movie remake of FLASH GORDON. As for whether the show was any good or not, that's a hard one to say as I haven't seen it for so long! I remember watching it with my brother and enjoying it very much, but as I was only about 10 when it was first shown that may not be much of a recommendation!| I hope it gets repeated one day soon though. ************** EPISODE TITLES ************** 1. Manimal 2. Illusion 3. Night Of The Scorpion 4. Female Of The Species 5. High Stakes 6. Scrimshaw 7. Breath Of The Dragon 8. Night Of The Beast **************
After JURASSIC PARK, Michael Crichton's writings became popular for a time, and his novel RISING SUN was turned into a movie in 1993. Directed by Philip Kaufman the film is about the investigation into the murder of a prostitute at the headquarters in Los Angeles of a Japanese company. Investigating the crime is Wesley Snipes. He is assisted by another detective, John Connor, who is taken out of retirement for the job. Connor, played by Sean Connery, knows everything there is to know about Japan and this very much helps the case. Despite starring in one of my favourite movies, MO' BETTER BLUES, I've never particularly rated Wesley Snipes very highly, and this film doesn't change my mind on that score. Unfortunately, although this could easily have been countered by Sean Connery, who can act Snipes off the screen when he's trying, Connery just seems to be going through the motions here and never really makes me care about his character. Here is on a par with the work he did in MEDICINE MAN - not awful, just mediocre. And that's sad for a man who can give such great performances. So - not a film I'd watch again.
It's a sad fact that in the 1990s it seemed that almost every movie released had a soundtrack CD that had little to do with the movie. 'Songs From And Inspired By...' became a phrase that I came to dread, as it usually meant that hardly any of the music heard on the album got anywhere near the film (except perhaps over the closing credits, but often not even there), and the orchestral score which most movies still had wouldn't get anywhere near the CD. It was a relief then when I bought the CD soundtrack album to TRUE ROMANCE. For a film which has so much excellent music in it (both songs and score) I was worried that although many of the songs would appear on the album, the excellent score by Hans Zimmer would be ignored. Thankfully this is not the case, although it is a shame that out of 12 tracks on the album, only 3 are by Zimmer. However the first track ('You're So Cool') is definately the best. Of the songs which are included, the standouts are Robert Palmer's 'Love Is The Tender Trap' and Chris Isaak's 'Two Hearts' although I'm sure that there was lots of other music included in the film that are not on the CD. Definately a CD that I'm glad I bought.