Mini reviews of Television seasons old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional bunnies.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Eden of the East: The Definitive Collection (2011)

Saki Morimi is a young woman who's soon to leave University. She and her friends are fearful of becoming NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training). The economic state of Japan needs the youth to pull them out of a fix, but, with so many NEETs around, the older generation are reluctant to let go of the reins.

Japan needs a saviour, so twelve people are secretly chosen to attempt the task, but there can only be one winner and there's a severe penalty for those that fail.

Akira Takizawa is number IX. Akira has no memory of who he is or why he's naked by the side of the road in a foreign country. More worryingly, he's no memory of the "game" in which he's a part and the clock is ticking.

The first half a dozen episodes each reveal a new aspect of the game or its players. Inside that reveal it effectively deepens the mystery surrounding the event, but everything is from the perspective of people who don't really know what’s going on, and as viewers neither do we. We're in the dark for too long and when the lights do come on the room isn't as exciting as I imagined it would be.

Part of the problem was that I was focussing too much on the mysterious organisation, trying to understand its goals, whereas it's the relationship of the two leads that deserves closer attention. So I stopped and went back to the beginning. I enjoyed it more the second time.

11 episodes, approx 24 mins each + 2 movies: Movie I: The King of Eden, approx 82 minutes; and Movie II: Paradise Lost, approx 92 minutes.

The box contains a third movie titled Compilation: Air Comminication. It’s a two hour recap of the series using footage from the 11 episodes with a new narration by Saki. It was designed to be watched before the two movies if you'd not seen the series or had forgotten stuff. Its inclusion is redundant, but it was cheaper to use the existing single release discs than press new ones, so it remains.

3 default states out of 5

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Max and Paddy's Road to Nowhere (2004)

Max (Peter Kay) and Padddy (Patrick McGuinness) got their own series. Ding dang doo! The pair were last seen as bouncers on the door of the Phoenix Club in Phoenix Nights (2001-02) and had appeared in That Peter Kay Thing (1999) prior to that. If you're new to Peter Kay's world, don't worry, it's not necessary to have seen either of the previous series to enjoy Road to Nowhere.

Max sees himself as a tough but sensitive intellectual. He reads the newspaper.

Paddy sees himself as a rock hard Love God.  He reads Razzle.

The two friends live and travel around in a shoddy motorhome that has a Mr T bobblehead on the dash. Why? Why not!

The reality of their 'Easy Rider' lifestyle is simply two gobshites in a cramped space. The comedy is split between that and the scrapes they get into when they stop the vehicle and venture out into the real world.

If the show had maintained the quality of the first two episodes, it'd be a classic, but the four that followed weren't quite as good. It's still hilarious most of the time, I don't mean to imply otherwise. What made it special was that it'd occasionally drop a sensitive moment on you when you least expect it.

6 episodes, approx 25 minutes each.

3 cherry bakewells out of 5

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Transporter: The Series: Season 1 (2012)

British actor Chris Vance replaces Jason Statham as the ex-SAS man Frank Martin in a spin-off from the Transporter movies. Frank’s house is well-ordered and he carries a spare suit in the boot of his car. That’s the kind of guy he is. He’s also a resourceful driver that transports packages from A to B with no questions asked; discretion is paramount. He lives by his own code and is a stickler for the rules:
01. Never change the deal.  |  02. No names.  |  03. Never open the package.
He’ll often quote one of them a few minutes before he invariably breaks it.

Vance’s portrayal of the character is more sympathetic than Stath’s. He’s a sucker for righting an injustice. He needs to be because it isn't just 90 minutes of explosive escapism. It’s an ongoing development in which the hero operates in a gray area of morality and law. He doesn't know what he’s carrying but he’s aware that it’s more than likely illegal. That willingness to facilitate criminals needs to be offset by something if we’re to continue to like him; we need to know that he’s a nice guy beneath the ‘out of sight - out of mind’ ideology. Besides that, his mannerisms and his penchant for using objects in creative ways during fights are the same as they were in the movies.

Frank is assisted by his mechanic Dieter (Charly Hübner) and his agent Carla (Andrea Osvárt). Dieter is the comic relief much of the time but it’s never goofy and he’s a solid, dependable guy. He was my favourite.

Carla is less successful but only because she’s purposefully mysterious. She’s an enigma. All we really know in the early episodes is that she arranges deals and acts as a liaison between Frank and the clients. She’s like Batman’s Oracle.

The only returning actor from the films is François Berléand, who plays Inspector Tarconi; he drops in occasionally to keep Frank on his toes.

You’ll need to make some small allowances for the fact that it’s a TV production, but if you liked the movies then chances are good that you’ll like the series.

12 episodes, approx 45 minutes each.

3½ elegant solutions out of 5