Review: Virtuality

Virtuality cast

In the US: Friday June 26, 8pm, Fox. Available on Fox On Demand
In the UK: Sky will probably nab it

Unless minor miracles happen, this won’t become a TV series. Yes, it’s from the brain of Battlestar Galactica creator Ronald D Moore (well, “written by Michael Taylor; story by Michael Taylor & Ronald D. Moore”). Yes, Fox picked it up as a pilot.

But then they had second thoughts and left it to air as a TV movie.

It’ll also be a minor miracle because frankly, if you thought Battlestar Galactica was depressing, you’re not going to have a fun time with Virtuality. Here’s a 12 minute preview to give you the basic idea.

Continue reading “Review: Virtuality”


Liam Neeson – the movies’ greatest martial arts actor?

Liam Neeson in Star Wars

So I was watching Taken again yesterday. It’s a cracking movie – you can always tell when an action film isn’t as dumb as the others when it gets described as a ‘thriller’ or an ‘action-thriller’.

In it, Liam Neeson plays a retired CIA agent whose teenage daughter gets abducted while in Paris. He has 96 hours to track her down before she disappears forever. Now, it owes an awful lot to the Bourne movies, from its gritty fights and its European locations to its camerawork and stunt scenes. But it definitely stands by itself as a film intended for grown-ups, and Neeson’s fantastic and the director lets him have some great moments to himself.

It also deserves a lot of credit for portraying the world of prostitution and trafficking in women as the horrific, miserable, squalid thing it is, rather than the usual glamourous Pretty Woman-esque view.

But it suddenly got me thinking. When exactly did Liam Neeson become the West’s greatest martial arts action star? Okay, he started off in Hollywood doing Dark Man, so it’s not like he was a stranger to action films. But over the last decade or so, he’s become a real martial arts star who is also a great actor at the same time. That’s pretty rare: in fact, he may be the movies’ greatest martial arts actor. What do you think?

After the jump, some of Liam’s recent fight scenes to prove my point – at least as far as the fighting’s concerned.

Continue reading “Liam Neeson – the movies’ greatest martial arts actor?”


Network DVD releases in June, including Sky, The Jensen Code, King of the Castle, Escape Into Night, Fly Into Danger and The Mind of Mr J.G. Reeder

Network DVD, which seems to have a monopoly on releasing cult classics of TV, has quite a few series out this month that I thought I’d mention – it’s like someone picked up an old issue of Time Screen and said “Yeah, let’s just release all of those”:

  • Sky: Which was part of my Lost Gems selection but now isn’t lost at all
  • The Jensen CodeThe Jensen Code: Sixteen-year-old Terry Connor is sent, along with a few of his friends, to an Outward Bound centre. On his first day at the centre Terry is taken pot-holing by the senior instructor, Alex. All goes well until, at 100 feet underground, Alex goes to search for the torch that Terry has dropped.

    Hours pass, and, to Terry’s astonishment, when Alex finally returns he has no recollection whatever of having been absent. Terry suspects something sinister is taking place – it is surely no coincidence that there is a secret Ministry of Defence establishment nearby. But just how deeply his curiosity will involve him in dangerous matters becomes clear when he learns the truth about the ‘Jensen Code’…

    The Jensen Code was a highly unusual children’s thriller series, written by Carey Harrison (author son of actor Rex Harrison), and starring David (Dai) Bradley, the BAFTA-winning young star of Kes, as the teenager who unwittingly uncovers a terrifying space-age espionage project. This complete 13-part series, rarely seen since its original transmission in 1973, is released here for the first time in any format. Originally made in colour, The Jensen Code now exists only as black and white telerecordings made for overseas sales, the full colour episodes having been junked many years ago.

  • King of the Castle:King of the Castle Macabre, fantastical and a benchmark production for children’s television in the 1970s, King of the Castle was created by Doctor Who stalwarts Bob Baker and Dave Martin as one of the run of outstanding children’s dramas HTV produced in that decade. Featuring strong direction and a script which expertly melds fantasy and reality, the series boasts solid performances from genre stalwarts Fulton Mackay, Milton Johns and Talfryn Thomas as well as Philip Da Costa as the series’ hero, Roland.

    Recently moved to a crumbling tower block of flats, Roland’s cleverness marks him out for rough treatment from the gang who haunt the stairwells. Fleeing from Ripper, the gangleader, he plummets to earth in a lift that should be broken… waking up he finds himself in the grotesque and eerie fantasy world of ‘The Castle’ – a twisted version of the tower block, filled with gruesome versions of the people he knows. Can Roland find the missing keys he needs to become ‘King of the Castle’?

    One of the most memorable television series of the ‘70s is available here, for the very first time in any video format. Episode three no longer exists in the archive in any format and the version included on this set is taken from an off-air VHS.

  • The Mind of Mr J.G. ReederThe Mind of Mr J.G. Reeder : This classic Thames drama series, based on the short stories by Edgar Wallace, features one of the unlikeliest fictional sleuths: Mr. J.G. Reeder, a mild-mannered, bespectacled civil servant at the Department of Public Prosecutions. But Mr. Reeder (Hugh Burden) has an unusual ‘gift’ – he can think in exactly the way a criminal does. In 1920s London, his talent for cracking even the most impenetrable of crimes is known throughout the underworld, and much valued by his department head, Sir Jason Toovey; bank heists, jewel thefts and murder are among the many and varied cases that are passed on to Mr. Reeder to solve in his own singular way…

    The Mind of Mr. J.G. Reeder is released here for the first time in any format and this complete set brings together both series, originally screened between 1969 and 1971.

  • Escape Into NightEscape Into Night : Compelled to find her own amusement whilst confined to bed after a riding accident, Marianne fills her sketchpad with drawings of an imaginary place. When she sleeps she dreams of her imaginary world and realises that the more she draws in her waking hours, the more she can explore when she sleeps. She draws a house to investigate in her dreams and is shocked to find a boy looking at her through one of its windows…

    A milestone in children’s television drama, Escape Into Night was adapted from Catherine Storr’s novel Marianne Dreams by Ruth Boswell (Timeslip, The Tomorrow People). The combination of Boswell’s taught scripts, Richard Bramall’s clever direction and Alan Coleman’s production enabled the juvenile cast to give memorable and, sometimes, terrifying performances. More experimental than most children’s drama series, Escape Into Night’s surreal, dark tone and eerie sense of unearthliness made an indelible impression on its viewing public and is still remembered, perhaps with a sense of unease, after nearly 40 years.

    Originally made in colour, Escape Into Night now exists only as black and white telerecordings made for overseas sales, the original colour videotapes having been junked many years ago.

  • Fly Into Danger: Fly Into Danger At Chilford Green Aerodrome, a small, privately owned airfield in the heart of England, the transportation of cargo takes place daily. But this is no ordinary cargo – as 18-year-old Chris Lomax is to discover. A keen motor mechanic whose enthusiasm for aircraft has prompted him to get a job at Chilford, Chris’s self-reliance and questioning mind are soon causing consternation for his employers; as he gets alarmingly close to the true nature of the airfield’s operations, it becomes clear that Chris – and his young colleague, Sarah – could be in serious danger.

    Fly Into Danger was a seven-part action series aimed at a younger audience; however, its spectacular and rapidly paced airborne sequences and a subject matter as relevant today as when it first aired in 1972 ensure that Fly Into Danger will appeal to viewers of all ages. Written by Roy Russell (The Saint, The Queen Street Gang) and boasting a strong cast, Fly Into Danger is released here for the very first time in any format.

    Originally made in colour, only two episodes still exist in this format, the remaining five coming from black and white telerecordings.

August at the BFI

Time for our regular look at what’s on at the South Bank in London in August. Everyone’s probably going to be on holiday, but c’est la vie.

Most of the TV-related material is part of the “From Stage to TV Screen” season, which is probably self-explanatory, but there’s also an afternoon run: Missing Believed Wiped Special: The Lost Cartiers, looking at the work of legendary 1950s/60s director Rudolph Cartier.

  • 2nd/4th: Play of the Month: Look Back In Anger
    John Osborne’s play, shot for the BBC1 on the 20th anniversary of its first Royal Court performance. Stars James Hazeldine
  • 10th/14th: Theatre 625: Chicken Soup With Barley
    The first play of Arnold Wesker’s trilogy concerns the history of a communist working class family
  • 12th: Rat in the Skull + Panel discussion
    Brian Cox and Gary Oldman star in an examination of Irsih sectarian psychology. The panel interview with Max Stafford-Clark and Simon Curtis discuss the influence of Royal Court productions on TV drama.
  • 19th/25th: Performance: Top Girls
    Caryl Churchill’s fantasy dinner party, starring Lesley Sharp among others
  • 20th/29th: Performance: Suddenly, Last Summer
    A production of Tennessee William’s play starring Maggie Smith, Natasha Richardson, Rob Lowe and Richard E Grant
  • 22nd: It is Midnight, Dr Schweitzer
    Part of the Missing Believed Wiped Special: The Lost Cartiers season, this in the earliest surviving complete UK TV drama, and stars André Morrell
  • 22nd: The Wednesday Play: The July Plot + Out of the Unknown: Level Seven
    Part of the Missing Believed Wiped Special: The Lost Cartiers season, The July Plot is based on the ‘Valkyrie’ plot to assassinate Hitler, and was directed by Rudolph Cartier. Level Seven is a ‘chilling instalment about nuclear war’
  • 27th/30th: Performance: Six Characters in Search of An Author
    Starring John Hurt, Brian Cox and Tara Fitzgerald

Members’ priority booking opens: 11.30am July 7
Public booking opens: 11.30am July 14

£7.60 (members)
£5.25 (member concs)
£9.00 (non-members)
£6.65 (non-members concs)
Under 16s £5.

All shows are £5 on Tuesdays. Conc prices are available to senior citizens, students, unwaged and disability visitors. Proof of eligibility may be required.

As always, visit the BFI web site for more details

PS Cy Young’s standing for the board of governors. Vote for Cy Young everyone!