* Tremors: (1990 - Action, comedy, horror, sci-fi) I've seen this movie before, and it's grown on me. Very remniscent of Jaws - On land, where the sharks are giant worms, pulled right out of the Dune series (books by Frank Herbert/and movies based upon the novels). The movie also evokes a 50s 'Giant Bug' vibe. All these things move this movie closer to my 'Favorites' category. Initially, I considered this to be just a typical sci-fi movie. Featuring bad acting by Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward. The two play handymen in the desert town of Perfection, Nevada. As they decide to finally escape the confines of this isolated po-dunk town, subterranean forces conspire against them to thwart their plans. Strange creatures, who burrow through the earth are converging on the town. Stalking the residents of Perfection, these worm-like 'graboids' treat anything moving like livestock. While the survivors do their best to stay out of reach, the big diggers seem content enough to wait them out. The characters are simple folk, living in a totally backwater town in the middle of nowhere. So despite the poor acting. One can identify with the characters who aren't entitled celebrities who expect praise and recognition. The suspense and body count increase as the film progresses. How long can residents survive without access to food or water? After multiple viewings, I've come to love this oddball mish-mash of genres and fierce action. 5 out of 5.
* The Train: (1964 - Thriller, war, action) Directed by John Frankenheimer. Starring Burt Lancaster and Paul Scofield. This WWII thriller is based on true life events. Nazi's raiding Europe's treasures. Artwork, paintings and precious objects. A major train depot in Paris was the hub of this German heist. Until the allies bombed it, the Nazi's used the rail depot for more than troops and ammo. It was also the primary hub for spiriting Europe's artwork to Nazi caches in Germany and Austria. Many of this artwork is still 'lost'. The movie was excellent. Set in 1944 as the curtain fell on the Nazi occupation of France, one particular German officer was focused on getting this treasure out of Paris. On the other side of the tracks was a dedicated railroad director and the French resistance. The real rail-way footage and action sequences were outstanding. The movie had a very authentic feel, and the acting by Burt Lancaster and Paul Scofield was magnificent. The music and sound work were also notable. 5 out of 5.
* The X-Files - I Want to Believe: (2008 - Drama, mystery, sci-fi) Six years after the x-files have been shut-down. Mulder (played by David Duchovny) and Scully (Played by Gillian Anderson) are called upon by the FBI to help them solve the case of a missing agent. Billy Connolly plays a psychic priest (and convicted child molester) with questionable motives. As Mulder and Scully narrow the focus of their investigation, the background develops. We learn all about Scully's career as a doctor/neurosurgeon at a charity hospital (run by the Catholic church?). Mulder was a shut-in doing, what exactly? The plot unravels very much according to plan, and any boy scout could have unraveled this plot. Unfortunately the FBI couldn't do it on their own and they had to call in Mulder and Scully? Anyway, the end game, and ultimate revelations were pretty good. Unfortunately, the movie didn't pick up the pace until the last 30 minutes or so. Mitch Pileggi (Playing FBI assistant director Walter Skinner) even puts in an appearance, but his role was limited to - It's o.k. Mulder, everything's going to be o.k. A solid thriller, with decent performances, but only as good as a television episode. 3 out of 5.
* The Rape of Europa: (2006 - Documentary, history) A well narrated documentary spanning the length of the Nazi reign over Europe, and the breadth of seven European nations. As the Nazi's pillage Europe, others struggle to protect it's treasures from the ravages of war. Starting with Hitler's artistic background, this film moved back and forth from what happened then, to what is happening now. Nazi's looted and destroyed art on an unprecedented scale, and now many people are coming to realize that it's time to return those missing works to their rightful owners. Excellent production value, highly informative, entertaining. 4 out of 5.
* Wanted: (2008 - Action, thriller, drama) Only Timur Bekmambetov (Nightwatch (Nochnoy dozor) and Daywatch (Dnevnoy dozor)) could take an average script (based on a graphic novel) and a group of prima-donna actors and churn out an adrenalin overdose action flick that never quits. Starring James McAvoy (as Wesley Gibson), Morgan Freeman (as Sloan), Angelina Jolie (as Fox), Terence Stamp (as Pekwarsky), Thomas Kretschmann (as Cross) and others. Wesley Gibbon (James McAvoy) is an overanxious, overmedicated, overworked commoner in an accounting firm. He thinks his adrenalin rushes are panic attacks, and puts up with his shitty life because he has no idea that his true calling is - Master Assassin! Born into a mystical circle of elite assassins, after his father is eliminated by a rogue assassin, Wesley is called upon to help set things right. Timur Bekmambetov escorts us into a world of hyper-human assassins, with seemingly super-human abilities and a unique subculture. Receiving their orders from fate itself, he soon discovers the deep secret upsetting the balance of things. Despite the over-use of exposition, and occasional transparency, and reality bending setting, the story itself isn't all that bad. The camera work was very interesting and well matched to the lighting, but I didn't like the overuse (but well executed) of slo-mo or bullet-time sequences. The director does an excellent job of creating a unique, richly textured sub-culture within the context of our own society. This movie brings some fresh new ideas to the genre. The acting by James McAvoy was outstanding. The acting by Angelina Jolie, crappy - but hot. Morgan Freeman, mediocre and unconvincing. Thomas Kretschmann and the rest of the supporting cast, pretty good. The music by Danny Elfman was inspired. I expected much less from this movie. It surprised me. 4 out of 5.
* Kiss of Death: (1947 - Crime, drama, film-noir) There's more than one movie by this name, this one starred Victor Mature, Brian Donlevy, Coleen Gray, Richard Widmark, Karl Malden and others. Directed by Henry Hathaway (True Grit, How the West Was Won, The Black Rose, North to Alaska), this movie was a black and white film-noir drama about a down on his luck ex-con. When Nick Bianco gets out of prison, he can't find a job. Turning back to a life of crime is the only way he can make a go of it. Soon he's caught at the scene of the crime, tried, and sentenced. While he refused to inform on the other members of his 'gang', he goes to prison confident that the other crooks will 'take care' of his wife and kids. Well, things don't work out the way he'd hoped, and he turns stoolie to turn the tables on the two timing thugs who back-stabbed him when he was in the slammer. Good acting, especially Richard Widmark, who played an excellent psycho gangster. Fine camera work. Stark and documentary like. This film-noir story unfolds in a very matter of fact manner. The story was a bit flat, but the direction and production were top notch. Excellent movie. 4 out of 5.
* The Earrings of Madame de...: (1953 - Drama / France, Italy) Starring Charles Boyer, Danielle Darrieux, Vittorio De Sica (the Italian Director) and others. Here's a great period piece. Set in France during the late 19th century, the costumes, locations and sets are all magnificent. The camera work was definitely an uncredited star in this movie. It followed the action/actors in a flowing motion, acting as a seemingly invisible observer. It helped place you in the movie. Helped your experience. The acting was quite good as well. Charles Boyer place a French General. His wife, played by Danielle Darrieux, is a flirt and a selfish woman. No longer in love with the General, she falls head over heels for an Italian Baron, played by Vittorio De Sica. While the General manages to stay one step ahead of his wife's philandering schemes, the two lovers are soon exposed when the General challenges the lover to a duel! The pacing was great, but the music was terrible. Overwrought, slow and melodramatic, it dragged on the movie, slowed it down and lent a dark mood to everything in the movie. 3 out of 5.
* Run Silent, Run Deep: (1958 - War, action, drama) Directed by Robert Wise (The Day the Earth Stood Still, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, The Sand Pebbles), starring Clark Gable, Burt Lancaster, Jack Warden, Brad Dexter, Don Rickles and others. Clark Gable stars as a sub commander shuffled off to a desk job after he loses his boat to a Japanese destroyer. After the navy loses three more subs, they decide to recall Commander Richardson in an effort to thwart the Japanese. He's experienced, knows the enemy, and longs to defeat them at their own game. With Burt Lancaster for an XO, and a crew of willing Seamen, Gable navigates the sub right down the 'Bungo Straits', realizing the vendetta that has long smoldered in his heart. The acting was outstanding, the pacing perfect, and the action thrilling. Realistic sets, real submarines, and authentic costumes. The special effects in this movie were truly outstanding (for 1958), and the story was terrific. 5 out of 5.
* 1971: (2007 - Action, drama, war - India) Based on true facts, this movie presents the story of Indian POWs kept by Pakistan after the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971 . After this short conflict - lasting a mere 13 days, the Pakistani military capitulated. This movie tells the 'untold' story of Indian captives held by the Pakistani military. While Pakistan denied (and continues to deny) the presence of these men (54 military personnel collected from various 'jails'), family members had/have received letters through surreptitious correspondence, and some eyewitnesses have come forward to corroborate some of the allegations. The Pakistani military collected all these men into one POW camp, and kept them imprisoned for many years. After much plotting and planning, a small group of these men planned a daring escape. This movie tells the story of these men and their heroic efforts to escape captivity. It's extremely well produced, well edited, and contained a good deal of historical information. The acting was very good, but the Bollywood song and dance segments were a bit disconcerting in the midst of this rather sobering tale. That, and the poor subtitle brought the rating down a bit. 4 out of 5.
*** Jericho - Season 2: (Episodes 5-7 (2008 - Drama, mystery, sci-fi)) Another television series. With NetFlix 'Watch Instantly', streaming through my Roku box, I find that I am now able to watch the episodes of TV shows - On My Schedule! When I want, not when it airs. So here's another NetFlix recommended TV series, that I've dropped into my 'Watch Instantly' queue. This one is a sci-fi drama set in a small Kansas town. The series opens with the return of the 'prodigal' son, a dramatic character twist that adds a bit of mystery to the series. Jake's (played by Skeet Ulrich) father is the Mayor of this small town, and his brother is the 'good son'. Just as the series is beginning to ramp up the dramatic angles, something unexpected and much more powerful happens. The first episode ends with a Mushroom cloud looming on the western horizon. It's a post holocaust drama, populated by ordinary people in some extraordinary circumstances. Here the heroes are small time actors in small-town America. As the series advances we're carried along on the mystery of America's fate, the lives of this small town, and some sort of underlying conspiracy... Episode 7 is the last episode?! The last episode! CBS cancelled the series. In my opinion, this show only got better as it went along. Rarely do I find the second season of any show to be better than the first. This show was outstanding. 5 out of 5.
* Eraserhead: (1977 - Drama, sci-fi, fantasy, horror) Written and directed by David Lynch (one of my favorite directors). Starring Jack Nance (as Henry Spencer), Charlotte Stewart (as Mary), Allen Joseph (as Mary's father), Jeanne Bates (as Mary's mother). This movie is a cult classic. A soul crushing fantasy. A horrific view of a twisted reality. Henry Spencer lives in an city enveloped by industry. A squalid, hideous, juxtaposition of steam pipes, oil refineries, arc lights, rail lines and power transformers. Wedged between the cacophonic soundscape of wheezing, squealing, squeaking, hissing, clanking industry are people. Residents of this nightmarish landscape are desperately trying to eke out a pitiful existence, relationships and love. A meaningful life. The story is irrelevant - some sordid neo-noir tale of love and lust, punctuated by subtle dark humor. The most striking thing about this movie is the arresting, tortured, mutated scenery. The visceral, visual imagery. 3 out of 5.
* The Scarlet and the Black: (1983 - Drama, history, war / US, UK, Italy) It's hard to imagine that this movie was made for TV. It certainly has the production level, and star studded cast worthy of a feature film. A tense drama based upon the true story of a Vatican priest. One Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty (played by Gregory Peck). This Catholic priest helped numerous allied P.O.W.s and other refugees escape from Nazi occupied Italy during WWII. The movie also stars Christopher Plummer as Col. Herbert Kappler, the arrogant Nazi Commander in charge of Rome, and John Gielgud as Pope Pius XII. While O'Flaherty vexes the Nazi's, his superiors look the other way. While Nazi's controlled the streets of Rome, Father O'Flaherty did his best to navigate the underground and black markets in order to spirit away Jews and allied soldiers. In truth, this Vatican (officially neutral) diplomat worked closely with the Italian resistance. Due to his diplomatic status the Nazi's had an extremely difficult time thwarting his efforts. Excellent drama, based on true story of WWII. Excellent acting, pacing and writing. 5 out of 5.
* Flow - For Love Of Water: (2008 - Documentary) Who would have thought that American's would one day have to pay for water? Billions of dollars of year - The profits collected by multi-national corporations, from the sales of water. It's third most profitable commodity on Earth. The very essence of life, water is under attack. Corporations are doing their best to own it. At the same time, others are polluting it, denying it to the poor. Damming it, rerouting it, using it as a weapon in economic wars. This documentary is comprehensive, moving and dramatic. In an hour and a half, the director (Irena Salina) manages to cover every angle of this complex subject. Extremely revealing, filled with technical details, politics, astonishing facts, human rights, and downright frightening consequences. This documentary clearly shows that multi-national corporations and the greed associated with these companies, are primarily responsible for all the ills threatening our water supply. The next thing you know, they'll be charging us for the air we breath! Don't laugh, no one predicted the monetary nature of water either. Essential viewing for anyone concerned about the environment. 5 out of 5.
* The Hunger: (1983 - Horror, romance, drama / UK) Directed by Tony Scott (Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Red Tide, Enemy of the State, Spy Game) and starring Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, Susan Sarandon, Dan Hedaya and others. This is an erotic romance, disguised as a vampire movie, set in New York during the late 80s, it's a super steamy, sexy, slowly paced romance. Catherine Deneuve plays the role of an immortal and unaging vampire. David Bowie plays the part of her immortal, but flawed pseudo-vampire and Susan Sarandon plays the part of the lady lover caught up in the tragic web of undead romance. The story contains some interesting back story and mythology, but it's the super sexy seductive scenes that really heat up this movie. Containing loads of nudity, some girl-on-girl action, and a very chic fashion feel, this movie tries to balance the line between art film and dark and moody horror flick. The acting was pretty bad, and the direction less than convincing. The atmosphere and artistic flourishes help keep this movie afloat. Lighting, costumes, sets, music, pacing and mood make this an erotic romantic drama worth watching. 3 out of 5.
* Fingers: (1978 - Drama) An independent film, written and directed by James Toback. The movie stars Harvey Keitel, Tisa Farrow, Jim Brown, Marian Seldes, Danny Aiello and others. In this movie, Harvey Keitel plays a somewhat schizophrenic pianist. He's the son of a small time mobster, and an aspiring musician struggling to realize his dreams. His artistic sensibilities are threatened as he's emotionally badgered into debt-collecting by his father. On his own time, he imagines himself a virtuoso pianist, but we can hear the clinking keys behind his self-delusional sense of artistic perfection. When he's attracted to a woman listening to his music, his problems only get worse. This seventies movie contains a twisted love story with the schizophrenic son of a small time mobster. The story is great, but aside from Keitel's performances, it really hasn't got a whole lot going for it. Watch it for Harvey Keitel's outstanding performance. 3 out of 5.
* The Happening: (2008 - Adventure, mystery, drama, sci-fi / US, India) Directed by M. Night Shyamalan and starring Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo and others. This movie had a pretty good plot. Unfortunately the movie also had some horrible acting. The opening sequence(s) are the best part of the movie. The establishment of plot, the creation of the mystery. A mysterious event is afflicting the northeastern U.S. Is it a virus? Some sort of terrorist attack? A toxin in the water supply? No one knows for sure, until twenty minutes into the film! After we find out the cause of the 'happening', this movie becomes a senseless escape from New York dash, with a bit of drama thrown in just for kicks. The casting was bad. None of the actors had any chemistry together. I didn't believe the poorly developed characters in the slightest, and I certainly didn't feel anything for them. Wahlberg's acting was stiff, patronistic, and it seemed to me as if he was reading his lines of queue cards throughout the movie. The acting by others wasn't quite as bad, but the character direction felt artificial and staged. The look of the movie is pastoral, haunting, and surrealistic. The camera work (except for a single 'extreme shaky cam' moment), lighting and sound work (except for the 'what room are you in?' moment - what was the point of that?) were very well done. After we learn the cause behind 'the Happening', the movie goes on far to long for effect. The ending, while anti-climactic, was well matched to the movie. 2 out of 5.
* Logan's Run: (1976 - Drama, fantasy, romance, sci-fi) Directed by Michael Anderson (1984, Around the World in 80 days, Conduct Unbecoming, Orca), this movie is based on a novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. The movie stars Michael York (as Logan 5 the Sandman), Richard Jordan (as Francis 7, his sidekick), Jenny Agutter (Jessica 6, the hot rebel girl), Farrah Fawcett (as Holly the surgeons assistant), Michael Anderson Jr. (as the rebel surgeon), Peter Ustinov (as the old man). This sci-fi classic takes place in the year 2274 - thank you for setting a movie far enough in the future that the events don't become anachronistic through a perceived sense of what our future will look like. Built upon the ruins of a fallen society, the survivors in this future world live in an idyllic self-contained society, devoted to the senses, free from disease, hunger, famine, war. It's a great place to live - until you hit age 30. That's when the state mandates your 'renewal' in the carousel. Logan is a Sandman in this closed society. In charge of exterminating those who decide to 'opt-out' of this state mandated plan. When Logan is selected for a special mission, his 'life crystal' is altered to make him a 'renewal' candidate. Now on the run, will Logan complete his mission, leave the domed confines of the city and destroy Sanctuary? Or, has he run out of reasons to support this state induced fantasy? The story/plot is fantastic. The highly detailed artifice of this society, makes the terrible special effects easier to ignore. The poor acting is accentuated by a lack of appropriate pacing and editing. Look past the bad costumes, hairdos, moog music, and special effects. You'll find a great story of man's struggle against the domination of a rigid society. 4 out of 5.
6* Dilbert - Season 1: (Episodes 1-6 (1999-2000 Animation, comedy) From the comic strip by Scott Adams, here is a feature length version of a favorite comic character. I like the comic, I identify with the characters and situations. Here Dilbert and his co-workers come to life with the voices of some semi-talented actors. The television show follows the comic strip in a fantasized office life. These cubicle dwellers do their best to survive the soul-sucking corporate policies of the place where they work. At times the show is comedic, sarcastic, cynical and reflective of our society. So far I give it a 3 out of 5.
* * * Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: (2008 - Comedy, musical, sci-fi) The future of television. Distributed on the web, via websites, blog postings, iTunes, and now DVD. Directed by Joss Whedon (writer, director, producer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Serenity), written in part by Joss Whedon, Zed Whedon, Zack Whedon, Maurissa Tancheroen. Written during a writers strike, Joss Whedon and friends wrote, directed, and produced this independent 'movie'. Produced in a series of three web blog postings, these 'shows' feature the trials and tribulations of 'Dr. Horrible', played by Neil Patrick Harris (also features Nathan Fillion as Captain Hammer, and Felicia Day as Penny). Billy (Dr. Horrible) is a lonely young man, who has problems relating to other people. Especially women. His alternate identity - Dr. Horrible is a mad scientist, who eschews humans as weak pathetic dopes, and strives to enter the Evil League of Evil (an inner circle of super-villains) by pulling off an exceptional act of villainy. It's the inner struggle that makes the show a star. As his bad side attempts to satisfy the desires of his shy side, we come to see that the Mad Scientist is actually the good guy in this show. The shows contain some exceptional dialog, the music (and singing) is fantastic, the story outstanding. The three web-isodes have a graphic novel feel, and they fit together quite nicely. Download it today, you won't be sorry. 5 out of 5. Added to my 'Must Buy' list.
* Goin' South: (1978 - Comedy, Western) Directed by Jack Nicholson (one of four movies), it's a comedic western starring Jack Nicholson, Mary Steenburgen, Christopher Lloyd, John Belushi, Danny DeVito, Ed Begley Jr. and many others. Jack Nicholson plays a less than effective cattle smuggler captured by a posse and sentenced to hang. Due to a old law, any unmarried woman in the town, may stave off his impending doom by marrying the condemned man. Just as he's about to 'swing low', Henry Moon is saved from his fate by Julia Tate (played by Mary Steenburgen). Following his narrow escape, Julia puts her new 'husband' to work helping her mine for gold. This 'odd couple' story is a bit flat, and the production value low, but the cast is great. 2 out of 5.
* Victory: (1981 - Action, drama, sport, war) Directed by John Huston (Actor, writer, director, producer: The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Asphalt Jungle (original), African Queen, Moulin Rouge (original), Moby Dick (w/Gregory Peck), Annie, Chinatown), starring Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine, Pelé (the legendary Soccer player), Max Von Sydown, and others. It's a WWII escape movie with Soccer. A feel-good drama set in a German POW camp. When the camp commandant notices that the POWs are fond of football he challenges them to a big time Germany vs Allies soccer match in Paris. It's likely to be a propaganda coup for the Nazi's, but the allies might have a chance to escape during the match. The story is unbelievable and rife with plot holes, but it sure was good entertainment. The acting isn't all that good, but the cast is great. I enjoyed it. 3 out of 5.
* The Land That Time Forgot: (1975 - Adventure, sci-fi, war / UK, US) Based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, here's a fantastic adventure set in Antarctica?! During WWI, a german submarine is hi-jacked by the crew of a torpedoed cargo ship. After a bit of submarine action, the crew is lost below the arctic circle, out of fuel and fresh water, they make harbor on a mysterious island in the Antarctic. Once they're there, they discover a prehistoric world of mixed up evolution. Cavemen and dinosaurs coexist in an oddly accelerated evolutionary loop. The crew does battle with rubber dinosaurs, befriends a caveman, fends off hostile natives, and build their own oil refinery. It's a low budget, cheesy, sci-fi classic, with poor direction, acting and production value, but it makes for laughable mid-night viewing fodder. 3 out of 5.
* The Foot Fist Way: (2006 - Comedy, drama) An independent production, starring Danny R. McBride (Cody - the Special Effects Guy in Tropic Thunder) and a cast of other unknowns. Danny McBride plays a pompous, preposterous, Tae Kwon Do instructor (Mr. Simmons) in a small town. Living in his insulated 'Do-Jo' world, all is good, until his wife cheats on him and he starts to see the cracks in the fantasy of his Tae Kwon Do kingdom. In order to cope, he calls on his best friend (an extremely dark and twisted martial arts master) to join him in a pilgrimage. Together they seek out Mr. Simmons' hero; Chuck 'The Truck' Wallace in order to arrange an 'eventful' Tae Kwon Do promotion ceremony. When this low life B-Movie poser screws Simmons' wife, the Demo King loses his cool and mayhem ensues. Despite the poor production, editing and bad acting (by all but McBride), the characters are very well developed and the story works quite well. While we start out thinking that Mr. Simmons is an ass, we come to cheer for him when we realize that this fantasy is his reality, and he gives it his all. 3 out of 5.
* Maria Full of Grace: (2004 - Drama, thriller, crime / US, Colombia) Written and directed by Joshua Marston, this movie stars Catalina Sandino Moreno (at 28 years old, she plays 17 year old Maria) and other unknowns in a dramatic thriller which unfortunately depicts one particular fact of life for many in the drug producing countries of South America. Maria is fired from her job, pregnant, neglected by her boyfriend, and marginalized at home. In her attempt to take control of her life, she decides to smuggle drugs into New York. The story is well directed, and the acting by Moreno was excellent. The photography and editing were well done, but unremarkable. The story is well written, somewhat slow, but dramatic and engaging. 3 of 5.
6* Star Trek - The original series - season 1 (Episodes 1-6 (1966 - Sci-fi, adventure)) I've started viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series, I'm watching them in the originally aired order. In 2007, Paramount studios completed a project to remaster, restore, and digitally enhanced the original series. Those remastered episodes are now available for viewing (Or purchase - that would make a great gift - hint, hint...), and I'm enjoying these remastered shows now. Streaming the shows from NetFlix is incredibly easy and convenient, now that I've got a Roku Player. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), and I loved it back then. You know what? I still love it. My friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. The acting was stage like and corny, but the stories grabbed you by the hand phaser and applied the Vulcan nerve pinch. Episode 1 - The Man Trap: The bio suits they wore in 'The man trap' look like something designed by a top notch fashion designer. More like pajamas than bio hazard suits. A really good looking Jeanne Bal played Nancy Crater (the M113 creature - aka the Salt Vampire) in this episode. Episode 2 - Charlie X: Charlie X contained some great lighting and camera work. The acting by Lawrence Dobkin (as Charlie X) was pretty good. We saw Spock playing a Vulcan Lyre, and Uhuru sang a couple limericks. Later Spock is forced to recite poetry. A pretty good episode. Episode 3 - Where no man has gone before: In 'Where no man has gone before', the costumes were a bit odd, and Spock's eyebrows were very angular. Episode 4 - The Naked Time: This episode feauted a few notable quotes. Spock is noted saying - "It's like nothing we've ever encountered before." Bruce Hyde, playing Lt. Kevin Riley get's two great quotes - "Have no fear, O'Riley's here, and one Irishman is worth 10,000 of you..." the other quote - "You know what Joe's mistake was? He wasn't born an Irishman." A great performance came from Stewart Moss, playing crewman Joey Tormolen. Unfortunately, his character dies in this episode. Fortunately, he comes back as a differenct character in "The conscience of the King". We also see Sulu running about with no shirt on, challenging crew members with a foil. We even see spock weeping uncontrolably! Finally, the Enterprise engines are restarted with a controlled implossion which results in speeds so great that the clocks run backwards - It's the first instance of time travel in the series. Quite an episode. Episode 5 - The Enemy Within: The enemy within gave us an evil Kirk that was a spectacular performance by Shatner. The evil Kirk was created by a bizarre transporter malfunction, which sepparated his good and evil halves. With men freezing on the surface of an alien planet, no one suggested a rescue by shuttle (maybe they didn't have shuttles?). Why didn't they beam down some shelters, or heaters? This episode also featured the first 'Vulcan Nerve Pinch'. Episode 6 - Mudd's Women: In "Mudd's women" we start to see a more light hearted episode, but the social context is still present. Mudd's real name? Harcourt Fenton Mudd. We also learn that lithium crystals (known in later shows as 'dilithium crystals') are worth 300 times their weight in diamonds! I'd buy the whole series, if I could afford it! I give the first season a 5 out of 5.
* At the Earth's Core: (1976 - Sci-fi, adventure, fantasy) This adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels (The Land that Time Forgot/The People that Time Forgot) stars Doug McClure (as the big strong American assistant - David Innes), Peter Cushing (as the absentminded British professor - Dr. Abner Perry), Caroline Munro (as the fetching native Princess Dia), and others. Completely 'B' movie. Full of rubber costumes, cheesy special effects, and crappy acting. Dr. Abner Perry invented and oversaw the construction of his 'Iron Mole' and now it's time to fire it up. This victorian steam powered drill holds two occupants - The absentminded Dr. and his Macho man assistant - David Innes. The two pass out from heat inside their metal contraption. When they wake up, they find themselves in an underground world where up is down, and down is up. The sky is a molten layer of magna far above their heads? The land is populated by three different peoples. Primitive Humans, serve as slaves for a race of odd otherworldly orcs, and their mysterious overlords; a race of rubber suited flying gargoyles with telepathic mind powers. The group of Humans do their best to escape the slave pits, avoid the fire breathing exploding toads, outwit their tribal enemies, and outrun the poorly balanced dinosaurs. When our two heroes appear, it's time to end the status quo, reunite the tribes, stage a prison break and kiss the sexy princess. All this in 90 minutes. What's not to love? Seriously though, it's campy, b-grade sci-fi for sure. There's plenty of versions of this story, and I'm sure there are better versions, but this one had a campy, preposterous, mood altering charm all it's own. 3 out of 5.
* The Promotion: (2008 - Comedy, drama) Written and directed by Steve Conrad (also wrote The Pursuit of Happyness (Will Smith) and The Weather Man(Nicholas Cage)) in his directorial debut. This movie stars Seann William Scott (as Doug Stauber - the young assistant manager) and John C. Reilly (as Richard Wehlner - The Canadian competition). It's not quite what I was expecting. Funny, silly, yet often sad and dramatic. Humor is 'Office Space'. It reminded me a bit of 'Employee of the Month'. The humor isn't over the top, like 'Waiting', yet it has that feel. Doug Stauber is an assistant manager at the local grocery store. Just as he discovers an opportunity to manage a newly planned store, the competition moves in. Richard Wehlner is Canadian, and he moved here to make a fresh start. Unfortunately, he too is looking to move up. The movie is a simple tale about the competition to land the job, the stress of working in retail, and the absurdities of an ordinary life. The acting, story, editing and direction were all well done. If you've ever worked in a grocery store, I'm sure you'll appreciate the movie a lot more than I did. Thank you for not going over the top. 3 out of 5.
* The Visitor: (2007 - Drama, romance, crime) Written and directed by Thomas McCarthy (Meet the Parents, The Station Agent), the casting was great. Starring Richard Jenkins, Haaz Sleiman, Danai Jekesai Gurira, Hiam Abbass, and others. This movie feels a lot like the Station Agent. The acting is good, the story is a humanistic view of repression and prejudice. Illustrating the emergence of injustice and the immigrants plight in post 9-11 America. A widowed professor (Walter Vale played by Richard Jenkins) returns to his Manhattan flat in order to conduct a series of lectures for his university. When he unlocks the door to his apartment, he discovers a couple of immigrants living in his apartment. Rather than kick them out on the street, he decides to take a chance and let them stay. His risk is rewarded with personal growth and truth, which enriches his otherwise sad life. Outstanding direction, editing and pacing. A deeply moving drama. 4 out of 5.
* Dead Calm: (1989 - Horror, thriller / Australia) This Australia production, directed by Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, The Bone Collector, The Quiet American, Rabbit-Proof Fence) stars Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill and Billy Zane (yes there were others). A married couple decides to get away after the death of their young son. Out at sea, away from the hub-bub of civilization, this couple was hoping to find some tranquility and healing. Little did they know that the calm seas were the last place they'd find solace. Becalmed in the South Pacific, their solitude is interrupted when a large sailing ship appears on the horizon. Within moments, the lone survivor frantically rows over to their yacht. His story is a bit hard to swallow, and the husband decides to row over and check it out... Terror on the high seas, a pretty good psychological thriller with good acting and a good looking Nicole Kidman. I give it a 3 out of 5.
* A Haunting in Connecticut: (2002 - Documentary, horror) A made for TV documentary, which aired on the 'The Discovery Channel'. This is 'Not' "The Haunting in Connecticut" scheduled for release in 2009. This movie is a dramatic re-enactment style documentary. It features a group of actors I've never heard of, and a director who's done a few television shows. The production level is notably low, and as a movie, it was pretty bad. The narration is highly telegraphic and the film lacks suspense. The acting is second rate, and the plot is transparent and dull. The best part of the movie is the lighting, composition and camera work. While it was supposed to be scary, the special effects, digital effects and camera effects were all 'TV' quality. A bit cheesy, and definitely 'Not' scary. FYI: After a bit of google searching, It's evident that this 'haunting' has been heavily debunked. I give this movie a 2 out of 5.
* Singin' In The Rain: (1952 - Comedy, musical, romance) Fantastic, fun, musical mayhem. Directed by Stanley Donen (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Pajama Game, Funny Face, Damn Yankees) and Gene Kelly. Starring Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen, Millard Mitchell and Cyd Charisse. A film within a film about the transition from silent movies to 'talkies'. A romance, a comedy and a fantastic forum for song and dance. The dance numbers in this movie were awesome. The music was great. The story - despite the insiders slant - had great merit. In the late 20's, the film industry is in transition. Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are a famous on-screen pair. Unfortunately, Lina has a horrible voice, and her career will soon be sidetracked when America starts to watch the 'talkies'. When Kathy Selden - Chorus girl and aspiring actress - is brought in to do the voiceover, a love triangle is formed. Will Kathy and Don hook up, or will Lina Lamont sabotage Kathy's plans for stardom and romance? The dance numbers, especially those by Don O'Connor and Cyd Charisse, were awesome. Choreography, writing, production, acting, and music! Everything worked well in this movie. 5 out of 5.
6* Star Trek - The original series - season 1 (Episodes 7-12 (1966 - Sci-fi, adventure)) I've started viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series, I'm watching them in the originally aired order. In 2007, Paramount studios completed a project to remaster, restore, and digitally enhanced the original series. Those remastered episodes are now available for viewing (Or purchase - that would make a great gift - hint, hint...), and I'm enjoying these remastered shows now. Streaming the shows from NetFlix is incredibly easy and convenient, now that I've got a Roku Player. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), and I loved it back then. You know what? I still love it. My friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. The acting was stage like and corny, but the stories grabbed you by the hand phaser and applied the Vulcan nerve pinch. Episode 7 - What are little girls made of?: What are little girls made of? was made in 1966 and it was a racy episode. We start out with a mixed race couple on the bridge of the Enterprise. A social statement for the times, and immediately move to androids and the implication that humans were having 'relations' with androids . The android Andrea played by a very sexy looking Sherry Jackson. Dressed in a very revealing "X" shaped jumper, she certainly had me "Confused". The episode was written by Robert Bloch - author of "Psycho" and one of my favorite lovecraftian horror novelists. In this episode we learn that Kirk has an older brother named "George", that Kirk has always called "Sam". In this episode, Nurse Chapel's (played by Majel Barrett (Wife of Gene Roddenberry)) fiance is a mad scientist who's transferred his consciousness into an android, and has plans to convert humanity into a race of androids. Needless to say, Kirk doesn't go along with his plans. Yes - Kirk manages to get his shirt (all his clothes for that matter) off in this episode. Episode 8 - Miri: Miri was a very interesting episode. One of my favorites. The Enterprise encounters an identical earth where all the adults died over 300 years ago, but the children live on? Aging only 1 month for every 100 years, their immortality ends when they enter puberty. Kirk and the crew soon find that they are infected with the biologically engineered 'disease' that killed all the adults. Episode 9 - Dagger of the mind: Dagger of the mind is a rather lame episode dealing with psychiatry and a "Neuralizer" ray. The only exciting part of this episode is Dr. Helen Noel, the ship's psychiatrist - Played by Marianna Hill. Apparently she and Kirk previously met at a Christmas (apparently the future is politically incorrect) Party; Ahem, he stopped by her room afterwards... During the episode, Kirk is forced by the "Neuralizer" ray to make out with the hot Dr. who spends a lot of time crawling around in ventilation ducts. Is it just me, or are the skirts getting a lot shorter as the season progresses? Episode 10 - The Corbomite Maneuver: The Enterprise encounters a spinning multi-colored cube in a previously unexplored region of space. When the alien pilot of this buoy threatens the destruction of the Enterprise, Kirk bluffs his way out of the predicament with 'the Corbomite Maneuver'. Eventually the crew manages to peek behind the curtain to see the wizard behind the curtain. Episodes 11 & 12 - The Menagerie, Parts I & II: The Menagerie was the only two part episode in the Original Series. Roddenberry did a very good job of incorporating the original pilot episode (The Cage) into the Star Trek storyline as part of the Enterprise's earlier history. In this two part show, Spock hijacks the Enterprise, taking it to a nearby Star Base. Once there, he kidnaps his wheelchair bound former Captain (Christopher Pike), and heads for Talos IV. Kirk & Commodore Mendez pursue in a shuttle craft. When they run out of fuel, Spock takes them aboard and places himself under arrest! From that point on we witness Spock's court martial. As events unfold we learn what happened to Capt Pike, Spock and the rest of the Enterprise on Talos IV. A great show. A courtroom drama that could decide the fate of the Enterprise crew as Kirk is eventually drawn into a murder charge!
* The Lookout: (2007 - Crime, drama, thriller) Written and directed by Scott Frank (screenplay - Out of Sight, Get Shorty, Minority Report, Flight of the Phoenix) this is the directorial debut for Scott Frank. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The kid from 3rd Rock from the sun), Jeff Daniels, Matthew Goode, Isla Fisher, Carla Gugino. This crime thriller has a pretty straight-forward plot. Gordon-Levitt stars as a brain damaged (from a car accident) former high-school hockey star, big man on campus, ladies man. Now he's a janitor with debilitating brain damage. When he's targeted by a band of bad-boys, he falls for the ploys used to make him feel like the crooks are his friends. By the time he realizes what's going on, he's intimately involved in a bank-heist gone awry. The acting, lighting and direction was very good. The editing was excellent, but the ending was a bit predictable, and less than satisfying. 3 out of 5.
* Death at a Funeral: (2007 - Comedy, drama / USA, Germany, UK, Netherlands) Starring an ensemble cast, Frank Oz directs a decidedly British comedy. Set in the posh countryside of a British Estate, a large group of friends and family arrive for the funeral of one beloved father, husband, exceptional man. As the dysfunctional family converges to commiserate and mourn the loss of their wealthy patriarch, the fates conspire to make things a bit more interesting. The dark, tragic humor is extremely well done, but it's a bit heavy handed. Everything that could go wrong does go wrong, but most of the gags are old and somewhat stale. Dead guy rolls out of coffin. Dwarfs are used as the butt of some jokes. Gays are the butt of more jokes. Poop jokes. Someone on LSD. Eccentric, understated, British humor, but the laughs are a bit predictable. The ending was meant to tie together all that black humor with a dramatic statement about family, but it was too late in coming, and a bit underplayed. Great direction, excellent acting, and funny to boot. 3 out of 5.
* * * Star Trek - The original series - season 1 (Episodes 13-15 (1966 - Sci-fi, adventure)) I've started viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series, I'm watching them in the originally aired order. In 2007, Paramount studios completed a project to remaster, restore, and digitally enhanced the original series. Those remastered episodes are now available for viewing (Or purchase - that would make a great gift - hint, hint...), and I'm enjoying these remastered shows now. Streaming the shows from NetFlix is incredibly easy and convenient, now that I've got a Roku Player. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), and I loved it back then. You know what? I still love it. My friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. The acting was stage like and corny, but the stories grabbed you by the hand phaser and applied the Vulcan nerve pinch. Episode 13 - Conscience of the King: A play within a play. The conscience of the king is about a mass murderer. A dictator who's decisions resulted in the slaughter of millions just in time for supplies to show up. As he skirts the law by hiding in a traveling Shakespearean acting troupe, his daughter has been methodically killing off all the witnesses. This episode featured some great twists, excellent acting and more social content. As usual the Original Series never fails to entertain, enlighten, and challenge the social status quo. Episode 14 - Balance of terror: A submarine warfare episode set in outer space. The balance of terror introduces the Romulan's and the Romulan cloaking device. This show was a nuclear deterrent show, with anti-racist teachings. It also introduced Vincent McEveety to the series as a Romulan commander who goes down with his ship. He ends up appearing in six episodes and even plays Spock's father. Episode 15 - Shore Leave: Shore Leave features more of the Star Trek lovelies. One crew member gives Kirk a back massage on the bridge, two others accompany the away team to a class-m planet. Speaking of the back massage on the bridge, it's amazing how unacceptable that sort of behavior is in today's military. As a matter of fact, any physical contact is shunned. Is it just today's military, or is our society now unwilling to permit physical contact in public? The locations in this episode are truly beautiful.
* Jeremiah Johnson: (1972 - Drama, western) Directed by Sydney Pollack (They Shoot Horses Don't They?, Three Days of the Condor, Absence of Malice, The Firm, Michael Clayton), starring Robert Redford (as Jeremiah Johnson), Will Geer, Delle Bolton, Joaquín Martínez, Stefan Gierasch and others. War weary former sailor, Jeremiah Johnson has retreated from society to become a mountain man. Intentionally isolating himself from the rest of civilization. Choosing a life where nature is his constant companion, he sets off in search of solitude. Stalking beaver, buck and bear in the Rockies, he soon learns that man cannot isolate himself from the consequences of mankind and his culture. Offending the native population to save invaders, he's soon the one being stalked by the Crow. Here is the adventure of a man who embraces the wilderness. The beauty, the challenges, and the consequence of that journey into the frontier are revealed before us. Robert Redford's performance was outstanding, as was the photography and direction in this wonderful movie. 5 out of 5.