19 May 2008

Quantum Leap series 3 (starring Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell)

I have so enjoyed re-watching Quantum Leap, which was the only TV programme I used to watch when we lived in America in the early 1990s. Finding the entire series available on DVD was a wonderful surprise - and we've gradually been watching them all.

Season 3 was a Christmas present at the end of 2007, which was excellent timing as we were approaching the end of series 2. We've watched the 22 episodes of this season in just four months, which is a tribute to how much we have enjoyed them; I don't, in general, watch television at all, or more than about two DVDs per month. But somehow, in this series, Sam and Al - brilliantly played, as ever, by Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell, respectively - began to feel more like friends as we got to know both of them rather better.

This season begins with the moving and thought-provoking two-part story called 'The Leap Home'. We meet some of Sam's family as he leaps back into his own history, first trying to help his high school basketball team, and then to see his brother in the war with Vietnam. Sam has to make some difficult decisions, and we learn quite a bit about his past.

In other episodes, Sam becomes a priest, a beauty queen, a motorcycle rebel, a pregnant teenager... and much more. There's a rather predictable Christmas episode that's very fluffy, and at the other extreme, an episode where Sam is a convicted man on 'Death Row'. Inevitably some are more amusing than others - often depending on the banter between Sam and Al - and some are quite thought-provoking. There seems to be a wider variety of characters in this season than the previous ones, and Scott Bakula shows how very talented he is, in that they all seem believable.

This series makes more sense if one has seen at least the first series, but it's not necessary to have done so - nor is it necessary to watch them all in order, although we have enjoyed doing so.

Definitely recommended. Rated 12 in the UK, probably due to some violence and innuendoes, but unrated in the USA.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

08 May 2008

Finding Neverland (starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslett)

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect with this film. 'Finding Neverland' was highly recommended on Amazon, and also by some friends, so I added it to my wishlist. But for some reason I kept putting off watching it. Maybe the idea of it being a true (or at least based on true) story made me reluctant to see it.

However, we finally decided that it would be good to see this film. I am so glad that we did! It did not feel like a documentary at all, and I felt totally drawn into the story.

The plot is probably well-known. The writer JM Barrie (brilliantly played by Johnny Depp) is not very happy in his marriage. He gets to know a single mother with four children, and starts playing imaginary games with them.. in an entirely innocent way that would, sadly, be treated suspiciously these days.

This family becomes increasingly important to him, and provide the inspiration for his classic children's novel 'Peter Pan' about the boy who never grew up. It's a lovely, romantic and poetic story, beautifully made without ever becoming trite. One of the children is particularly good, but the whole cast seemed to work well together, and made me forget, for a while, that I was in 21st century Cyprus..

Very highly recommended. Rated PG in both the UK and USA.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

06 May 2008

The Shell Seekers (starring Angela Lansbury)

I have loved the books by Rosamunde Pilcher, the best known of which is probably 'The Shell Seekers', for many years. And while, at first, I resisted the idea of seeing the movie adaptations of these beautiful books, I did eventually decide that it would be a good idea to acquire the DVDs, if only so that my husband - who was unlikely to read a saga novel of this kind - could enjoy the stories too.

'The Shell Seekers', made in 1989, was well reviewed so I put it on my wishlist and was given it for Christmas 2005. We watched it first in March 2006, where I was surprised and a bit disappointed that it did not really follow the plot of the book very well, despite being a well-produced and generally enjoyable book.

Visiting relatives asked to see it recently, so we sat down to watch it again. Knowing that it was different from the book, in advance, helped considerably. I was surprised to find myself enjoying it thoroughly this time, despite it being only two years since I first saw it.

There is an excellent cast, brilliantly led by Angela Lansbury as the 63-year-old Penelope. The plot - both of the book and the film - revolves around her life, past and present, introducing her adult children. The characters, at least, were close to those of the book, and I thought they were well cast. I particularly liked Patricia Hodge as Olivia, the daughter closest to Penelope and most like her.

The scenery was attractive, the production was good, and - if one is not familiar with the book - it's a lovely film for all the family. Not, it must be said, for those who want fast action or thrills, but warm and thought-provoking for anyone interested in the dynamics of family relationships.

For those who are familiar with the 'Shell Seekers' book, however, I would warn that the ending of the film is quite dramatically different, and there are several changed incidents throughout. It's not really a problem from the point of view of the film standing alone – it worked well, and the film did capture much of the essence of the book – but I found it oddly disturbing, waiting for events that did not happen, or were changed.

Nevertheless, on balance, I felt that this DVD was well worth watching. Unfortunately it does not seem to be available new any more, possibly because a different version was produced in 2006.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews