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Tom Pheby is a person who is interested...


PERSON OF INTEREST
I was a late arrival to this series but as soon as I found out that J.J. Abrams was involved, I became seriously interested. His name alone suggests a show will have a degree of quality, having been involved with Lost, Fringe, Star Trek and Star Wars, the Abrams CV is one associated with success and credibility.

Person of Interest is curiously billed as an action, sci-fi, crime drama, and it is certainly unlike anything that has boldly gone before. It stars the almost unpronounceable Jim Caviezel as former CIA agent John Reese, who is presumed dead. Reese has withdrawn from the world and is more or less a vagrant, but one who you wouldn't want to pick on in a hurry as he has an array of skills that make Liam Neeson's character from Taken appear like an arthritic Judo instructor.

After an incident on a subway train which attracts the attentions of the NYPD, Reese is approached by billionaire Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) who is hell bent on preventing violent crimes before they happen. This is achieved by the use of state of the art equipment and technology that employs an advanced surveillance system dubbed "the Machine". Its Matrix meets Dirty Harry with a dash of the Equilizer but none of that matters much because it is a fast paced, mindboggling yarn, that offers a steady supply of action sequences and thrills.

Reece's gun ho approach in pursuit of justice is instantly engaging for an audience and its not long before you find yourself rooting for him to administer a kick, punch or slap to the bad guys - and he isn't adverse to shooting things either. This obviously attracts the attention of two NYPD officers, Jocelyn Carter (Taraji P. Henson) and Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman), who Reese uses and abuses to investigate 'persons of interest'.

As the series goes forward we get to uncover police corruption (hardly a new concept), the Russian mafia and a psychotic hacker oddly called Root. More interesting than that is perhaps the way that potential terrorists and criminals are identified as targets, through their social security number no less.

Person of Interest is no ordinary show, it may beg and borrow a few ideas and refresh them as new but it has enough to make all that perfectly acceptable. Caviezel, who I'm so tempted to refer to as Vin Diesel, is quite the brooding, damaged and avenging vigilante with a quiet demeanor which makes him compelling and enjoyable to watch.

The recent announcement that the show will be returning next month for it's fifth and final season is sad news, but if you've not caught this one yet then you could do a lot worse than spending the next four weeks binge watching the first four seasons to play catch up. I'm sure you'll find that Person of Interest is another hit from the man who can smell success, as well as deliver it.


FAMOUS, RICH AND HOMELESS
Famous, Rich and Homeless is an oddly curious delight, here we get to see stars trade their lavish lifestyles and trappings of success for the cold, harsh, lonely streets of London. Those attempting to learn about a life without luxuries were Nick Hancock, former presenter and comic, Julia Bradbury, the BBC's Countryfile crumpet and Joan Bakewell clone, Willie Thorne, ex-snooker player who needs a more appropriate first name and bares an uncanny likeness to a failed experiment which included the DNA of Silvio Berlusconi Clement Freud and Adolf Hitler, and last but not least the rasping tones of domestic dominatrix and former Queen of disinfectant, Kim Woodburn.

Most of us know there are people who face a harsh reality everyday in some form or another, so you would expect those participating in this type of social experiment to embrace it and count their blessings. Most do but some can't seem to get through the four days, almost oblivious to the fact that others, genuinely on the streets, don't have the luxury of changing their minds and quitting as and when it suits them. I'd seen this series in the past so I couldn't wait to place a speculative bet on who would be the first to try to opt out of the drab, hopeless existence for a night in a comfortable hotel bed. I quickly identified Thorne as the most likely to feign injury or fall victim to an acute illness - I will reveal all in due course in one of those "Tah Dah" moments.

Bradbury went for the begging approach, in the hope that she might spend the first night in a hostel, but without ID she had to try her luck in the nearest doorway. Yes, it appears even if you've got the cash and spend the majority of your time wandering England's footpaths on TV for a living you wouldn't get a bed if you couldn't prove who you were.

Meanwhile Woodburn and Hancock tried to work out what they had to do to survive a night without their privileges and comforts. Both made the best of it, with Woodburn in particular fairing much better, able to socialise and adapt with a degree of ease, even if her magnificent, perfectly manicured talons looked fabulously impractical and out of place.

Thorne looked like a man who discovered that his wife had run off with his accountant and sold the house in the process. Uncomfortable with the whole project, and disconnected from the world in general, he looked truly lost. Closer examination of his puppy dog eyes indicated that he was busying himself by fantasising about a pair of warm pyjamas and a steaming cup of bovril, or is it the other way around?

Tah Dah! It was Willie couldn't wait to locate Lenny Henry and upend him from his well paid Travelodge perch.

In the end the other three managed to complete the four days. Mr Thorne felt so guilty by his two nights in a hotel that he took his homeless buddy with him.
"I had a headache, my body had given up, I needed a night off "
Thorne said, which sounded incredibly fatuous.

I'm nor implying that everyone could or should be capable of living on the streets but if you sign on the dotted line to give it a go at least try your best rather than reach for the nearest credit card. The others may benefit from the experience in someway, even if it's just fleeting, but those left behind no longer have the distraction of cameras and celebrities to make the days shorter. It was just a temporary solution to a more permanent problem, and even though the intentions may have been genuine, the homeless that featured still have to seek shelter, safety and rely on the generosity of others to get through tomorrow.




DVD HEAVEN OR HELL
A Knight's Tale is one of a number of unique films that should never be remade under any circumstances because it is near perfect cinematic entertainment. It stands alongside movies such as 'Groundhog day', 'Back to the Future', 'One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest', 'The Shawshank Redemption' and 'All the Presidents Men'. Now  I'm not implying it's better or worse than those above, just that it is a perfect piece of cinema that should be beyond tinkering. You may disagree with my conclusion but it's a film that ticks a number of boxes which audiences love, consisting of action, romance, comedy and at its heart there is a message that is bordering profetic.

I'm also not suggesting either that Heath Ledger can compete with Nicholson, Redford, Hoffman, Murray or Freeman. He had undoubted potential but sadly he will never be able to match a body of work from any on that list simply because it was achieved over many years.

A Knight's Tale is an effortless watch, one that is uplifting and joyous with an exceptional cast that includes Ledger, Mark Addy, Rufus Sewell, Shannyn Sossamon and the brilliant Paul Bettany who delivers lines such as "I will evicerate you in fiction" without laughing hysterically.

Ledger is William Thatcher, a peasant squire in 14th Century England who cons his way into taking part in a number of jousting championships by passing himself off as Sir Ulrich of Lichtenstein. Initially all goes well but he requires the help of Chaucer (Bettany) who he meets destitute and naked on the road to another competition, after he made one bet too many.

The film is the brainchild of Brian Hegeland who writes, produces and directs. Without him the project might not have fared so well because of the clarity of his vision and resourceful inventiveness. The real trick here is that Hegeland manages to make an unremarkable, unoriginal theme, fresh and exciting with a tight and amusing script, excellent casting and the introduction of songs that could easily have upset the piece.

Contributions from Queen and David Bowie provide the surprises within the context of the story which was truly a masterstroke. Bowie's 'Golden Years' is one of the most memorable moments of the film as traditional 14th century dance collides with 20th Century music.

I've seen this film so many times that I've lost count, yet it never fails raise a smile. Heavenly storytelling.



FIRST DATES
Just casting your mind back to a first date is a daunting enough prospect as it is, without the company of a film crew and director to capture it all, and who are quite content to let you look like a mesmerised idiot on national TV. Yet, oddly, some people are happy to oblige no matter what the consequences are.

In Channel 4's First Dates we meet a series of love lorn individuals who, for one reason or another, can't hold down a long term relationship or have failed to meet 'The One'. For Jay (36) and Robbie (31) initial impressions were good, especially when they discovered they both liked 'Sex and the City' and that Samantha was their joint favourite character. Wow, if only romance boiled down to your choice of mundane, imported, substandard American eye varnish, we'd all live in eternal bliss, apparently, but although they got on like two pensioners sharing a crochet pattern, they were only destined to become friends. Ahhh.

Next up, it's Becky (28), who inadvertently forgot to mention that she was in the middle of a divorce. She's looking for romance but added that she thought that she was "The Girl before they met 'the One'". Men went out with her, then moved on to a more preferable partner........

Hold on a minute, you were married five minutes ago! So you were the one but not, it seems, the right one!

Becky met up with Lewis (28) from London, who announced he was a writer and performer of comedy, which is a bold thing to let out of the bag unless you are extremely confident that you are very funny. The date was awkward and Lewis just stared for long periods with the expression of a meerkat that hadn't had a bowel movement for several weeks. You sensed Becky knew that even before the decree nisi arrived that Lewis would be on the bus back home without the promise of a second date. In complete and utter desperation, he tried to expand on an earlier claim
"I'm writing a piece where myself and a friend are in a room that we can't leave and I make a girlfriend out of cardboard."
Becky looked bewildered, I hid behind a cushion and Lewis awaited a laugh that was stuck in traffic. Becky countered with...
"I can stand on my toes, like a ballet dancer."

Lewis nodded looking around for someone to rescue him or news on the missing laugh but found neither.

But there was good news when Sonia (28) met Ashley (27) and they both hit it off straight away. It was cards on the table, she had a child, he wanted kids and a relationship, both were attracted to each other and they headed off with love following close behind.

I enjoyed being made to feel as if I wanted to die at any moment, just like I had on dates I'd been on in the real world, but I was also thankful that I was the only one to witness those failures, without reliving them on DVR.

Script Writer, Poet, Blogger and junk television specialist. Half English, half Irish and half Alsatian, Tom is well known for insisting on being called Demetri for reasons best known to himself. A former film abuser and telly addict who shamefully skulks around his home town of Canterbury after dark dressed as Julie Andrews. Follow Tom on Twitter

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