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Found 17 results

  1. Star Trek: The Next Generation Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard Jonathan Frakes as Commander William T. Riker Brent Spiner as Lieutenant-Commander Data LeVar Burton as Lieutenant-Commander Geordi La Forge Michael Dorn as Helmsman and Chief Security Officer Worf Gates McFadden as Chief Medical Officer Beverly Crusher Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi Wil Wheaton as Ensign Wesley Crusher Denise Crosby as Security Chief Tasha Yar Diana Muldaur as Chief Medical Officer Katherine Pulaski Colm Meaney as Transporter Chief Miles O'Brien Whoopi Goldberg as Bartender Guinan Season 1: Sep 28, 1987 - May 16, 1988 - Executive Producer: Gene Roddenberry 1.1 and 1.2 - "Encounter at Farpoint" - Sep. 28, 1987 - Directed by Corey Allen (Buzz Gunderson in "Rebel without a Cause," Primetime Emmy Award Winner for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for "Goodbye, Mr. Scripps" on "Hill Street Blues," Primetime Emmy Award Nominee for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for "Jungle Madness" on "Hill Street Blues"), Written by - Teleplay: Dorothy Fontana (Writer of 10 episodes of "Star Trek"), Story: Gene Roddenberry (Creator of "Star Trek") Featuring John de Lancie as Q (TV Executive in "The Fisher King," Donald Margolis in "Breaking Bad"), Michael Bell as Groppler Zorn (Voice of Chas Finster in "Rugrats"), DeForest Kelley as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (H. Norbert Willis in "The Clover Throne" and Bob Harcourt, Jr. in "1800 Days to Justice" on "Route 66"), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Court Bailiff (Chang in "The Last Emperor") [Star Trek or not, this Pilot was *rough* - both in terms of the acting (Troi was awful, Q functioned not only as a God-like being, but also as some sort of "nanny chorus," telling us what we didn't need to be told, and Data was seen grinning on more than one occasion (remember how awful Spock was, at first, in the original series - he was grinning too)). My biggest problem here wasn't the plot; it was the condescension of Q, telling the viewer what they're about to figure out for themselves - that is elementary-school TV. This was largely a very interesting plot, but the writers spoiled it for the viewers. I do wonder just how much the creators, e.g., Gene Roddenberry, had in mind when it came to essentially building the entire series around Q - could Roddenberry possibly have envisioned the glorious final episode before the series even began? Nah ....] 1.3 - "The Naked Now" - Oct. 5, 1987 - Directed by Paul Lynch (Director of "Prom Night"), Written by - Teleplay: Dorothy Fontana (2), Story: John D.F. Black (Co-Writer and Associate Producer of "The Naked Time" on "Star Trek") Featuring Brooke Bundy as Sarah MacDougal (Leah in "Firecreek," Elaine Parker on "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors"), Benjamin W.S. Lum as Jim Shimoda (Kim Mei Clerk in "Another 48 Hrs.") ["The Naked Time" was George Takei's personal-favorite episode on "Star Trek," as he got to have fun prancing around the decks, shirtless, as a swashbuckler. That episode was written by John D.F. Black, and because of that, he was given credit for having written the story for this episode, a "parallel" version written for The Next Generation. In case anyone has forgotten, this is the one where "Data Does Dasha" (sorry, Tasha, and not to be confused by a porn movie with a similar-sounding name) - him being an android, one can only imagine his thrusts-per-minute - Tasha looked pretty tired when she emerged from her quarters. The Pilot featured a cameo by McCoy; this episode has a verbal reference to Kirk - this was undoubtedly to "ease seasoned viewers into" this new and very different series - it seems like a wise and prudent decision. The "Acting Captain Wesley Crusher" scene may have been the beginning of the hatred for Wesley hijacking the series (according to people who didn't like him; to me, his "precocious genius" got a bit annoying, but never went so far overboard that I couldn't stand him, plus he redeemed himself as the series progressed).] 1.4 - "Code of Honor" - Oct. 12, 1987 - Directed by Russ Mayberry (Director of "Unidentified Flying Oddball") and Les Landau (Assistant Director of "Leadbelly"), Written by Katharyn Powers (Writer of "The Longest Drive" for "The Quest") and Michael Baron (BS Degree in Organizational Systems Management from California State University, Northridge) Featuring Jessie Lawrence Ferguson as Lutan (Calder in "Prince of Darkness"), Karole Selmon as Yareena (Homeless Woman #1 in "The Soloist"), Julian Christopher as Hagon (Prison Truck Guard #1 in "X-Men: The Last Stand") [A very poor episode in the weakest season of the series, "Code of Honor" features bad writing, bad direction, and acting that should have - and could have - been stronger. I can't remember the last time I had to hunt this deeply for something else - anything else - the directors, writers, and actors did outside of "The Next Generation," and it's a shame that *this* has to be the episode with the most primitive black stereotypes in this normally equitable series (Ferengi stereotypes notwithstanding). Just look at what I found for the three guest stars - other than Jessie Lawrence Ferguson, it's downright embarrassing to even cite their other acting achievements, especially when all three people did a perfectly decent job in the episode. Karole Selmon is absolutely lovely, and was fine in her role; yet ... "Homeless Woman #1?" Ugh. For one of the writers, Michael Baron, I couldn't find *anything* else he did, so I simply listed his degree, and then when I researched Cal State Northridge, I couldn't even find the degree. Interestingly, Patrick Stewart is in "X-Men: The Last Stand," and I'm wondering if his influence helped Julian Christopher get his role (Prison Truck Guard #1? Ugh). I'm not very politically correct, but this episode makes even me cringe, and I'm wondering if it should have ever been made in the first place. I don't know of a good way to put this, so I'll just come out and say it: Denise Crosby has too much air time in these first three episodes. The most laughably bad moment in the episode? When millions of people are about to die, Tasha is about to engage in a fight to the death, the Enterprise is in a gravely acute diplomatic crisis with the Ligonians, and Riker - who is acting captain - has just finished making a silent soliloquy about the gravity of the situation. Then, the turbolift doors in the bridge open, and Wesley Crusher is standing there, grinning. Riker greets him as if he were working the registration desk at the Four Seasons in Fiji, smiles warmly, and says, "Care to lend a hand? Sit at ops," as he waves Wesley onto the bridge, gets onto the turbolift himself, and exits the scene with this young child strolling over to the control panel, unattended. Are you kidding me?] 1.5 - "The Last Outpost" - Oct. 19, 1987 - Directed by Richard A. Colla (Director of "Olly Olly Oxen Free"), Written by Richard Krzemien (Writer of "Kentucky Rye" for "The New Twilight Zone") Featuring Armin Shimerman as Letek (Stan the Caddy in "The Caddy" on "Seinfeld"), Jake Dengel as Mordoc (Pee Wee in "Ironweed"), Tracey Walter as Keyron (Lamar in "Silence of the Lambs"), Darryl Henriques as Portal 63 (Life Reporter in "The Right Stuff"), Mike Gomez as DaiMon Tarr (Auto Circus Cop in "The Big Lebowski") [Note: After these first 5 episodes (I'm calling the pilot episodes 1-2), I don't know how this show survived the rest of 1987. I don't think I'd ever seen any of these except for "The Naked Now," and they are all ... just ... largely ... bad. I've actually forgotten, at this point, why I ever liked this show so much. Leigh, I'm very much looking forward to watching the entire first half of Season One (which hasn't been terribly fun), and then purchasing Wil Wheaton's book - it should be the perfect quick read for me when I'm finished. I do think "The Last Outpost" is the second consecutive episode where TNG has reinforced negative stereotypes about a human ethnicity of people (with the Ferengi, you can pick your ethnicity, but they're surely being mocked as "short little mercantile, conniving opportunists who won't hesitate to cheat others"). I don't remember how I initially reacted to the Ferengi appearing on the view-screen as giants, but it certainly echoed, and was influenced by, "The Corbomite Maneuver" in The Original Series, except that Balok was just a wonderful person - the type of guy you'd enjoy sharing a glass of tranya with. My problem, in general, with the Ferengi is that the series makes them just a little too easy to hate, and there's no complexity to them at all - they're defined in black-and-white, shallow, and (I guess the current term among Millenials is, "basic"). Also, it's somewhat painful to see them jumping up, down, all-around while Riker is trying to have a discussion with Portal 63. Sure, they've now been established as a race of entities you'll hate upon their very mention, but isn't that just a little too convenient? Looking back, after having watched every episode (I've written this summary at different times), I don't remember a single moment of honor among them.] 1.6. "Where No One Has Gone Before" - Oct. 26, 1987 - Directed by Rob Bowman (4 consecutive Primetime Emmy Award Nominee for Outstanding Drama Series for "The X-Files"), Written by Diane Duane (Writer of the "Young Wizards" novels) and Michael Reeves (Daytime Emmy Award Winner for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program for "Batman: the Animated Series") Featuring Stanley Kamel as Kosinski (Dr. Charles Kroeger on "Monk"), Eric Menyuk as The Traveler (Carney in "Der Roachenkavalier" on "Hill Street Blues"), Herta Ware as Maman Yvette Picard (Rosie Lefkowitz in "Cocoon"), Biff Yeager as Chief Engineer Argyle (George in "Edward Scissorhands") [When Troi, Ryker, and Argyle go to meet Kosinski and The Traveler in the transporter room, the cinematography, lighting, and camera angle is all wrong (see the first picture above). In the "Awkward Scene of the Episode," when The Traveler says to Wesley Crusher, "Something troubles you with the way this is configured?" there is silence, as Crusher sits there nodding for four full seconds which seem like an eternity. This episode clearly borrows something from "2001: A Space Odyssey," as the Enterprise is jettisoned one-billion light years away, in an unknown part of the universe which features fantastic lights outside the ship (see the 3rd picture), and where ideas come to life in the form of terrifyingly real characters from times past. Wesley is introduced to the viewers by The Traveler as a Mozart-like genius, to be nurtured (but not informed) by Picard - this sets the stage for him being a Boy Wonder in future episodes. Kamel overacts as the annoyingly arrogant Kosinski, both while intractably cocky, and also while reduced to a blubbering "I didn't mean to do that," before he gets largely elbowed out of the episode - why he wasn't taken into quarters, I'm not sure.] 7. "Lonely Among Us" - Nov. 2, 1987: 8. "Justice" - Nov. 9, 1987: [Note: In "Justice," Worf's comment at 5:58 on Amazon, "Nice planet," was the first laugh-out-loud funny moment I've ever had in any Star Trek episode, from either series. I want to take shore leave on this planet. This series is improving, markedly.] 9. "The Battle" - Nov. 16, 1987: 10. "Hide and Q" - Nov. 23, 1987: 11. "Haven" - Nov. 30, 1987: [Note: Some of these recent episodes were panned by some reputable online sources; I, on the other hand, remember again why I like TNG after watching them. In "Hide and Q," Worf proved himself to be one of the great heroes of the series. Leigh, I assume Majel Barrett will redeem herself later in the series? There's nothing, nothing at all, to like about her in this episode.] 12. "The Big Goodbye" - Jan. 11, 1988: [Note: Does anyone know why there was such a gap between episodes 11 and 12?] 13. "Datalore" - Jan. 18, 1988: [Note: This is the final episode covered in Wil Wheaton's book, so if you've made it to here, buy the book.] 14. "Angel One" - Jan 28, 1988 - 15. "11001001" - Feb. 1, 1988: [Note: It's not the first season that's bad; it's only the first few episodes - the critics are wrong, and I'm loving this. In this highly structured, almost military environment, a logical person might assume that, at this point, the wonky holodeck might become prohibited, but, meh, to heck with logic.] 16. "Too Short A Season" - Feb. 8, 1988 - 1.17 - "When the Bough Breaks" - Feb. 15, 1988 - Directed by Kim Manners (Director and/or Producer of 132 episodes of "The X-Files" (xx)), Written by Hannah Louise Shearer (Writer of "Q-Less" on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine") Featuring Jerry Hardin as Radue (Deep Throat on "The X-Files" (xx)), Brenda Strong as Rashella (1980 Miss Arizona, Sue Ellen Mischke on "Seinfeld" (xx), Mary Alice Young on "Desperate Housewives," Ilene Stowe on "Fear the Walking Dead"), Jandi Swanson as Katie (Jenny Drake on "Baywatch"), Paul Lambert as Melian (Washington Post National Editor in "All the President's Men"), Ivy Bethune as Duana (Evelyn Tuttle on "Father Murphy") [I get the concept of cloaking a planet visually by bending light rays, but ... isn't there this other force called "gravity?" Regardless, Riker is positively thrilled at the possibility (and realization) of finding the mythical planet Aldea, something akin to Atlantis. "When the Bough Breaks" is an unheralded, but extremely strong, episode with a fine writer in Hannah Louise Shearer, a talented director in Kim Manners, and the sometimes-hilarious, always-alluring presence of Brenda Strong (who guest-starred with Armin Shimerman in the very funny episode, "The Caddy," on "Seinfeld" (Strong is in the first photo up above). You'll see, in the first ten minutes of this episode, that it stands above the norm, and that the slow-starting first season is (and has been) fully on-track - there is beauty, mystery, intrigue, and especially after the uninvited visit to the Enterprise, Hitchcockian suspense, animated by the telepathic powers of Counselor Troi (you get a glimpse here of how effective Troi becomes in later seasons, after getting off to such a clumsy beginning). A subtly hilarious moment occurs right after a little girl named Alexandra disappears - the next scene shows a girl playing a musical instrument, and when she disappears, the instrument simply tips over: This is absolutely a "You have to see it to appreciate it" moment, but if it doesn't slip by you (and it easily could), you might find it laugh-out-loud funny - there's obviously a stagehand holding the instrument who forces it to tip over. It is remarkable just how much Wesley has aged since Episode 1 - he has clearly entered puberty, and has gone from being a boy to a young man in just a few, short months. I'm not certain, but this episode seems to contain a very early reference to the lethal potential of climate change - how many dramas can you think of that mentioned it nearly thirty years ago?] 1.18 - "Home Soil" - Feb. 22, 1988 - Directed by Corey Allen (Buzz Gunderson in "Rebel without a Cause," Emmy Award for Directing "Goodbye, Mr. Scripps" on "Hill Street Blues"), Written by: Teleplay - Robert Sabaroff (Writer of "The Immunity Syndrome" on "Star Trek"), Story - Robert Sabaroff, Karl Geurs (Director and Co-Writer of "Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin"), Ralph Sanchez (Writer and Executive Producer of "Boxcars") Featuring Walter Gotell (Second Officer of the Königin Luise in "The African Queen," Oberleutnant Muesel in "The Guns of Navarone," Hans Lasser in "The Hi-Jackers" on "The Saint" (xx), Morzeny in "From Russia with Love," General Gogol in six "James Bond" films), Elizabeth Lindsey (Miss Hawaii, 1978), Gerard Prendergast (Erik Slade on "Summer"), Mario Rocuzzo (Angelo in "The Locket" on "All in the Family" (xx), Andrew in "Goodbye, Mr. Scripps" on "Hill Street Blues" (xx)), Carolyn Barry (The Metron in "Arena" on "Star Trek" (xx)) 19. "Coming of Age" - March 14, 1988 - 20. "Heart of Glory" - March 21, 1988 - 21. "Arsenal of Freedom" - April 11, 1988 - [Note: "Get Off My Train!"] 22. "Symbiosis" - April 18, 1988 - 23. "Skin of Evil" - April 25, 1988 - [Note: RIP, TY.] 24. "We'll Always Have Paris" - May 2, 1988 - [Note: That's Michelle Phillips from "The Mamas and The Papas."] 25. "Conspiracy" - May 9, 1988 - [Note: My first question: The "homing beacon sent from earth comment at the very end ... what did that imply? It sounds ominous, but nothing seemed to pan out from it in later shows that I'm aware of, so ...? (Answers will be Spoilers)"] 26. "The Neutral Zone" - May 16, 1988 - [Note: And that's a wrap for season one.]
  2. I started watching this show because I tend to enjoy British TV (the shorter seasons generally make for a higher quality per episode product) and because it came recommended by some sources I trust. I also tend to like spy stuff. I think the conceit is that it's about domestic spies in England with a focus on how difficult it is to live a normal personal life when you are in the business of deceit. Overall, I think the pluses of the show are the great acting, and surprisingly high production values for a British series, and the willingness to kill of any main character at anytime, which lends a sense of urgency. There are some characters that I particularly like, such as the Tom Quinn character. It was almost a science experiment of things they could put him through the see if he would eventually break down. Other characters, like Zaf, are just poorly drawn shells of humans. My biggest beef with the show, however, is the sheer carelessness with which some episodes are written. It's painfully easy to tell at times that the writer was in a corner and had to throw in a convenient mechanism to get out of it. For instance, there is one episode where the protagonists had no leads until a government official attempted to sneak out of a meeting with several files, and subsequently admitted treason within ten seconds of suspicion being placed on her. There also another episode where one of the protagonists was framed by another branch of the security services. This was done by a recording from a subway ("tube") security camera showing her standing next to a guy that eventually jumped in front of a train, framing her for his murder. At the exact moment of him jumping, the "security footage" cut to a closeup of two hands pushing someone. The spooks were nonplussed as to how to disprove this damning evidence. I have an idea: Maybe tell the authorities there is no security camera in the world that zooms in at random times. I'm currently on season six (of ten seasons) and feel as if I should see it through.
  3. And so I watched the 1993 movie, "The Gathering." I'm pretty sure that this is going to be a necessary prerequisite for understanding the series, even though the series will apparently have a very different cast of characters. On its own, the movie played like a better-than-average, one-hour TV episode - it was clever, with nice plot twists, and set the stage for the viewer to hit the ground running when watching the series. The "I'll have what she's having" line has a lead-in that goes: "Someday, I'm going to find the guy that thought up the idea of renting telepaths to businessmen, and I'm going to kill him."
  4. I'm watching "Firefox" for the first time since it was released in 1982. I distinctly remember the opening scene, with Clint Eastwood jogging (although, for some reason, I thought I remembered him jogging without a shirt). When I was 21 years old, I thought to myself, 'My *God*, he looks old' (he was 52). Now, my impression when I just saw that same scene was, 'My *God*, he looks young.' Unfortunately, other than seeing the movie in the theater vs. on Amazon, there's only one variable in this equation. (Actually, in a later scene, Eastwood was standing around without a shirt - he really wasn't in top shape for this film, even for a 52-year-old.) I had completely forgotten how blatantly Soviet this film was - sort of like an earlier version of "The Hunt for Red October" (1990) which I thought was just awful. However, I was studying Russian in the late 1980s, and knew enough to pick out the flaws in Red October; when I saw Firefox, Russian was like Chinese to me, so I had absolutely no idea how contrived it was. I do find it interesting just how John McCain-like Clint Eastwood's Vietnam flashback was. I also didn't realize that Firefox, like all of Malpaso's (Eastwood's Production company's) pictures since, has no opening credits after the title was displayed. One thing I'm noticing about Firefox is the incredible attention that's being paid to seemingly mundane detail (which I consider to be a huge asset; others consider it to be dull) - not a lot of action is occurring, but the Soviet atmosphere is being slowly and surely cultivated, despite the film not being shot in the Soviet Union (for Cold War reasons) - I suppose some might find the entire structure ponderous; I find it fascinating, in the way that I find Bruckner's symphonies fascinating. Just don't watch Firefox looking for an "Eastwood action movie," because you're going to spend a lot of time trying to find it. That said, Eastwood's heavily Americanized Russian accent would *never* pass muster when scrutinized by even a casual speaker, much less suspicious KGB agents screening him at a security gate - also, doesn't *anybody* around the perimeter of the ultra-secure facility know what their own pilot looks like? The special effects used for the flying scenes were known as "Reverse Bluescreen" photography, and were pioneered by John Dykstra just for this film - Dykstra was the special-effects lead for the original "Star Wars," and is almost surely a household name to anyone who cares about special effects. When the second Firefox is chasing the first, it becomes *extremely* obvious that this is a riff on Star Wars - you'll know the scene when you see it. Interestingly, not long after this, there's a scene that's a riff on, believe it or not, my favorite scene from "Wings" (1927), one pilot showing respect to the other. And after *that*, there's yet another Star War's riff - recall, "Use the force, Luke." If you want a detailed plot synopsis, there's a good one on *** SPOILER ALERT *** IMDB.
  5. Lately I've been catching Batman episodes on IFC. I probably haven't watched since I was 7 or 8. It's hilarious. Check it out if you get a chance. I didn't realize how many big showbiz names made guest appearances as the villains. Do you remember Otto Preminger and Eli Wallach as Mr. Freeze? Liberace as Chandell? Milton Berle as Louie the Lilac? Mmmm, Catwoman. (Julie Newmar or Eartha Kitt, doesn't matter)
  6. Earlier in the day, I'd had a minor surgery, and was staying at a hotel nearby. The *last* thing I felt like was something mentally taxing, so I went for some mind candy - something fun, entertaining, and utterly devoid of substance. I remember really liking "Jack Reacher," and the trailer I saw for the sequel (the one with Tom Cruise sitting in a bar, getting arrested by a cocky sherriff, and saying the phone would ring in 90 seconds, etc.), looked like mindless fun as well, so why not "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back?" Sometimes in life, all you want is a hot fudge sundae, you know? *** SPOILER ALERT *** There's a *lot* of opening action in this film - in fact, that whole trailer comes at the very beginning, and I had high hopes about this being another "Rambo-like" Jack Reacher movie. I was wrong, sort of. A lot of the first thirty minutes came at the fictional Fort Dyer in Washington, DC, and DC locals will enjoy seeing a lot of familiar scenery. Reacher's (Tom Cruise) Army contact - whom he has never met - Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) has been framed for espionage when he finally gets around to meeting her, and in fact, when Reacher goes to see her at the high-value prisoner detention unit at Fort Dyer, he, too, is framed for murder, and is held there (big mistake). Fort Dyer is actually in Washington, DC-proper, and Reacher is somehow able to get to Turner and make an impossible escape, beating or outwitting about ten people in the process - less than thirty minutes into this film, Jack Reacher is in full whip-ass mode, and I'm thinking this is going to be perfect for what I wanted. It's really funny that, since this is inside of Washington, DC, their final escape from Fort Dyer was inside a *food truck* (or was it?) - if this movie were made just ten years ago, they would have had to hijack a hot-dog cart. <--- "But we're not illegal aliens! We swear! Oh, wait a minute ... it's still 2016." While Reacher and Turner are in a taxi, Turner comments, "Hey, I like your hat ..." <--- " ... you a Nats fan?" Cabbie replies, "Yeah, from the beginning." And in the next scene, Reacher and Turner are at an Internet Cafe on Pennsylvania Avenue and (the fictional) "North Street," and she's wearing the hat: I guess the driver made a tidy profit in that little exchange. When the "initial act" of the film is over, and Reacher and Turner are safe inside a motel, with Reacher positively reveling in a hot shower, we see a man referred (in Amazon X-Ray; he has no name yet in the film) as "The Hunter" on the film with a General - General Harkness (Robert Knepper) - which confirms the obvious: This plot goes all the way up to very, very high levels. "The Hunter," btw, has shown himself to be a total, complete bad-ass, on a par with Reacher - he's going to make an interesting protagonist and a formidable opponent to the seemingly superhuman Reacher. A very simple - perhaps too simple - question: Why doesn't Turner simply type a long, explanatory note, and send it to every newspaper in the country, naming names? She doesn't have to change her strategy, but people will be implicated whether she's killed or not. Remember "The Shawshank Redemption?" That's the only thing that took the warden down (in a rather effective fashion, I will add). One flaw comes about 1'10" into the film - Reacher "tries to apologize" to Turner for being somewhat condescending. While that might appeal to a broad cross-section of film watchers, I enjoyed "Jack Reacher" because he was a cold-blooded loner - he could separate good from bad - but that's all he was willing to do. I do not to see a fairly extended scene of him apologizing to a woman because he may have say something that got under her skin; the reason I enjoy Reacher is because he's a quasi-superhero, like Rambo (imagine Rambo doing the same thing, or maybe he did as the series got on in age). What I'm saying is that there's an undertone of romance here that is misplaced in this film. All this said, there's a "subtext to the subtext" which would certainly explain Reacher softening up in certain, confined situations, so it's at least understandable. Another interesting sub-theme (and I have to admit, I've seen almost *no* contemporary movies is) that they dabble with the opiate problem in the United States. (I think they might have meant opioid, not opiate, but that's the word they used.) There was great, unnoticed pun during this scene, when Reacher says, "Turn her?" and then Espin (Aldis Hodge) exclaims, "Major!" Incidentally, Turner performed all her own stunts in this film. The last half-hour of this film turned away from being a "Jack Reacher" movie, and turned into a generic Tom Cruise action flick - there was more action than you can remember (in fact, I'll remember very little about this film a week from now). I wish I could recommend this to people who enjoyed the first Jack Reacher film, but my guess is that it's probably something more like "Mission Impossible," or <pick-your-own non-stop action thriller>. I'm not sorry I watched it, because I needed it when I did, but I'd never watch it again, and I'm not looking forward to the next sequel.
  7. I remember watching "The Mechanic" (1972) with my dad when I was a child. I'm in yet another "Jack Reacher" mood, but don't want to completely waste my time - I remembered enjoying this as a child, and it's in a similar genre (sort of), so why not relive my childhood, and watch something with some historical merit? Besides, it features bad-ass Charles Bronson as an assassin - what more could you want in a mindless action film? Note also that producers Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler would go on to produce "Raging Bull" eight years later. What a difference a superstar director (Martin Scorsese) makes! "The Mechanic" is noteworthy in that it has *no* dialogue of any kind for the first sixteen minutes (I knew this going into the film). This was particularly interesting to me because at around the two-minute point, a single, dissonant, ominous-sounding, organ chord starts to build up, Bolero-style, and you wonder how it could possibly go on for another 13 minutes - mercifully, there's a lull in the tension, and it dies down. One thing this sixteen minutes of no dialogue does is allow for a leisurely presentation of the opening credits, which you don't mind, because there is action taking place on the screen. The first shot of Arthur Bishop (Charles Bronson) in his own environment shows that he is a man of taste - while alone in his thoughtfully furnished abode, he turns on a beautiful, overture-like piece on a cassette recorder - probably a slow movement from a symphony - highlighted by angelic-sounding violins, and (this is the advantage of having a food and wine critic do your film reviews, because I suspect I'm the first person in history to mention this) is drinking a bottle of Cheval Blanc, and given the age of the film, and Cheval Blanc's vintage track-record in the 60s, my guess would be that it's a '64 - he didn't decant it, so it couldn't be too old - but he needs a better claret glass than he has. This type of juxtaposition with the gritty and the urbane is exactly why "Road House" is a guilty pleasure of mine, and why I occasionally enjoy films like The Mechanic. How's this for a blast-from-the-past and product placement? The Mechanic is an interesting take on the classic tale of The Great Master taking on an apprentice, with some natural talent, under his wing. Early in the movie, you may recognize Keenan Wynn, who starred in "The Man in the Funny Suit" (he was the son of Ed Wynn), and thus, once again, so many things trace back to Rod Serling. Keenan Wynn played Harry McKenna, whose son, Steve McKenna, was played by the rising (and since hard-fallen) star Jan-Michael Vincent, who is The Mechanic's apprentice. This is sort of like an amoral version of "Jiro Dreams of Sushi." *** SPOILER ALERT *** Given that they only touched on Bishop's character development (albeit clearly showing he's depressed, anxious, and lonely), I'm not convinced that a man of his skill-set - which is nearly superhuman - would so willingly take on an apprentice without testing him "to the max" first - and by "to the max," I mean, having him kill someone and putting his (McKenna's) entire life in Bishop's hands - Bishop never tested him like that, and it's simply not plausible that he would have taken McKenna on so willingly without having done so first, not when he's playing at this level. (I should add that I'm only an hour into the film, and have forty minutes left, so he may have something else up his sleeve, but Bishop essentially showed his hand to a virtual unknown, without asking anything in return first). Someone *this* good, with this much invested into his lifestyle (and I mean, Bishop was the *ultimate* assassin), would never take that risk without having something heavy and lethal to hang over McKenna's head - just in case. Well, there are less than twenty minutes left in the movie, and it's been obvious for awhile that the entire paragraph above was justified, but naive. I am very curious to see how this is going to play out, and wondering how Bishop is keeping his sanity. You'll know what I mean when you see the film (they recently arrived in Italy). Funny, I just rewatched "The Departed," and there is some overlapping thematic material in these two movies (as in, "rats like cheese"). Who's going to crack first, I wonder - the underlying tension introduced in the past 10-20 minutes is now permanent until something happens. All I know is this: Any film that makes you worry about the fate of a cold-blooded killer can't be all bad, but I'm nearly 100% confident that Bishop is going to be okay, and I'll tell you why when I finish the film - the answer was right before my eyes about forty-five minutes ago. The movie is over, and I was wrong. I thought *sure* the karate match between the old master and the young, cocky kid who broke the rules (about an hour into the movie) was a direct parallel to what would happen at the end. It wasn't, and I'm shocked that Bishop would put himself in the position he did, regardless of what eventually happened to McKenna. This movie "broke the rules" of drama by not letting me take advantage of the foreshadowing I saw, but I guess everyone got their comeuppance in the end, so it's dramatically complete, and really - where was Bishop going to go? For that matter, where was McKenna going to go? His snuffing of Bishop was *not* sanctioned by Bishop's employers (even though the film could have made that more clear), and they were angry about Bishop taking him on as an apprentice. It's still not clear to me why Bishop would unilaterally take on a partner without even asking his mysterious, shady, yet clearly *very* powerful bosses - he was only asking for trouble, and sure enough, he got it. I also remember the last scene of the movie very well, although I didn't remember it was from this film (I last saw this with my dad when I was eleven). It is just not reconcilable that Bishop would do this to himself, and that's the one fatal flaw in The Mechanic - he was too smart, with too much to lose, to let himself slip up like this, especially when he knew it was coming. Yes, he essentially "insured" his life, but to what end? Thus, The Mechanic just isn't a great film - it's a good action flick, with slightly insufficient character development, and inadequate justification of the choices Bishop made - it's worth watching as long as you know you're not seeing anything profound, but it just doesn't make enough sense for any intelligent person to buy into. And there you have the opinion of DonRocks.
  8. I feel like I just ate an entire box of Chips Ahoy! cookies. I am so ashamed that I have now watched - and enjoyed - "Jack Reacher," the Tom Cruise action thriller from 2012, but so I did. Sometimes, multiple external factors converge to make you want nothing but the cheapest, most escapist brand of diversion, and such was it with me, and the previews for the Reacher sequel which just came out were enough to reel me in for the most tawdry brand of entertainment there is. And I enjoyed it. This was my beach book, my Robert Ludlum, my Twilight Zone without the historical significance. I'd enter a spoiler alert, except there's nothing to spoil, any more than me taking pictures of the Domino's pizza that arrived, twenty minutes into the film. And I'm kidding about the pizza. But the movie was perfect within its genre, and I'm actually looking forward to the sequel.
  9. "Das Boot" is perhaps the finest war film I have ever seen. It is certainly in my top three films about war. I recently watched the Director's Cut of this German film, released in 1997 (the original was first shown in German theaters in 1981 and then as a TV miniseries). "Das Boot" is an adaptation of Lothar-Günther Buchheim's 1973 German novel of the same name, and it tells the fictional story of a German U-96 crew during World War II. The director's cut is 3 hours and 29 minutes long, combining action sequences from the 2.5 hour original theatrical release (which garnered six Academy Award nominations) and character development from the miniseries. Improvements in the picture and sound were also made. Yes, 209 minutes is a substantial amount of time to devote to watching a film, but I can tell you, the Director's Cut is worth it. I have watched much shorter films that seem twice as long. I found this film riveting from the bawdy opening scene to the closing segment, one of the most poignant and moving moments I have witnessed on film. The tension in this film is palpable. The tedium and the fear of fighting a battle deep beneath the surface of the sea is made incredibly real for the viewer. I felt great empathy for the characters, and forgot they were Germans, fighting for the other side. They were men, some really boys, struggling to do their best under the most difficult conditions. This is one of the best films I have seen - an epic, classic, World War II tale - and I highly recommend it.
  10. I'd never before seen "Zero Dark Thirty" (2012), and only knew - or thought I only knew - that it was about what the U.S. did with captives suspected of Al Qaeda involvement, so I went in with a very clean slate. Note this thread about torture (and feel free to comment there), which does *not* reflect my personal views on anything, much less torture - I only mention it because it's probably related to this film. In my opinion, this is very much related to our thread about Lt. William Calley as well. "The Saudi Group" is mentioned prominently at the beginning of the film, and I'd never even heard of the term before (and I've always considered myself pretty well-informed about current events, especially things such as this). Some important (real-life) names you may want to familiarize yourself with - or at least have the Wikipedia links handy while watching the film), aside from the obvious, are: Ammar al-Balauchi (brilliantly played by Reda Kateb), Hazem al-Kashmiri, Ramzi Yousef, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Hamza Rabia, Khabab al-Masri, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulai al-Balawi, and Abu Ahmed (I'm writing as I watch, trying not to pause the film, so I'm bound to make some typos, and will also probably miss some key people). You should also know about the general concept of "Black Sites," and what "ISI" is. Note: It's not at all essential to the plot of the movie to know who these people are - in terms of the film itself, most of them are "mix-and-match" high-level Al Qaeda operatives, and that's more than sufficient to watch Zero Dark Thirty - if you hear a name mentioned multiple times (for example, Abu Ahmed (pronounced "Ahkmed")), then you can make a stronger mental note. When Mark Strong (George, the senior CIA supervisor) was chewing out his group for not eliminating more Al Qaeda personnel, I was thinking to myself, "Well, who's in charge of the group, you brain-dead dork?" Mark Strong also played Maj. Gen. Stewart Manzies in "The Imitation Game," who was the man that made Alan Turing's life (more) helllish, so he's good at playing power-hungry authority figures, and these are two pretty huge roles in a short period of time. Jessica Chastain is a terrible choice to play Maya, the quiet, passive girl who becomes psycho-edgy the longer she stays in the group - her acting is terrible, and she's about as believable as watching Geena Davis playing Ronda Rousey (of course, Ronda Rousey isn't very believable playing Ronda Rousey, either, so ....). Ninety more minutes have passed since I wrote the previous paragraph, and the film is almost over. While lauded by both critics and the public, I'm taking a dissenting view and saying that "Zero Dark Thirty" is a stupid, Hollywood rendition of something that could have been made into a great film. Jessica Chastain was laughably bad in her role - she was miscast, plain and simple, and carries about as much gravitas when she uses big, aggressive words around high-up CIA operatives as an Englishman prancing his French poodle around in a dog show. Furthermore, she was a completely fictional character, and the producers had a chance to make her into anything they wanted - and they chose *this*?! In a way, the film is like the absolutely abysmal "Airport '77" in that the ending is terrific - the final hunt for UBL is brilliantly filmed, believable, and dripping with tension even though we all know what's going to happen. It was the same way in Airport '77 with the rescue, which was filmed using actual military techniques, and was the only good part of the movie. This film is like a wrapped piece of toffee - it's really strong at the beginning, and at the end, and there are nearly two hours of Hollywood tedium, over-acted dreck, and God-awful Jessica Chastain who, inexplicably, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress - I can certainly see "Zero Dark Thirty" winning awards for lighting, editing, sound and the like, but acting? Not unless it's either Reda Kateb or perhaps even Jason Clarke, but nominating Jessica Chastain shows just how much the Academy Awards are dumbed down for the masses, and should never be taken as anything more than "notoriety." Go to Rotten Tomatoes, and you'll think this is a great movie - a can't-miss movie - but to this viewer, it was "okay" at best, and very typical Hollywood: big, bold special effects, and story-driven rather than concerning itself with character development, nuance, or subtlety. If anyone thinks Jessica Chastain was successful in her role as Maya, please offer up your opinion - I'd like to know what you think.
  11. It has been said that Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove is an anti-war film for those already convinced, and I suppose that's fair enough. But I've just watched it for about the 11th or 12th (or maybe 15th) time and I have to say that I think it's the greatest film ever made. It's visually ravishing, even though the process shots of the B-52 in flight are not as duplicative of reality as modern film graphics; they're still devastatingly beautiful. George C. Scott's performance is certainly his greatest in a long and wonderful career, and ditto Sterling Hayden. Peter Sellers's three performances are all precious treasures, but his performance in the title role is almost impossibly, almost uniquely brilliant. If you haven't seen it, you need to see it. You may not be aware that Sellers was supposed to play the Slim Pickens role as well as the others. I don't know if that would have made a better or a lesser film, but it's hard not to love Slim Pickens's performance. What prompted me to watch Dr. Strangelove just now was seeing Fail-Safe on TCM just before. Practically the same conception, released in the same year, except Fail-Safe didn't have any laughs or any genius. If you want another great anti-war film, possibly even for the unconvinced, watch Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory, another of my favorite movies.
  12. I suspect many of our younger members aren't familiar with the 1973 film, "Walking Tall," and that many of our older members have either forgotten about it, or don't remember its relative cultural importance. While it was never a threat to win any awards, it was one of the first "hicksploitation" films, which paved the way for "the angry, white vigilante" (if you look at that link, you'll see very few movies released before 1973 - one notable exception being 1971's "Dirty Harry,") However, "Walking Tall" is essentially a rewrite of the 1955 film, "The Phenix City Story," which was directed by the same man: Phil Karlson. On the Facebook page, "Buford Pusser: The Other Story," it states: "You can take the script from 'The Phenix City Story,' replace John Patterson with Buford Pusser, and you have basically the same story. Although there are some occasions where the movies strays away from being totally accurate, 'The Phenix City Story' is fortunately a true story which was told in a far more accurate way than was 'Walking Tall.'" The film is a semi-truthful story of legendary Sheriff Buford Pusser, who really did get the crap beaten out of him, who really did get tried for his "crimes," and who really did run for (and win the election for) Sheriff of McNairy County, Tennessee - that much of the story is true. Pusser was an enormous man: 6'6" tall, and very athletic - he was indeed (as depicted in the film) the professional wrestler known as "Buford the Bull," based out of Chicago in the late 1950s. And if you want a robust chuckle, Pusser was born in the town of Finger, Tennessee. Amazingly, The Finger Diner was purportedly the impetus and inspiration for the very first Hard Rock Cafe - you can choose to believe that, or not. In the movie, Pusser was portrayed very well by Joe Don Baker - himself a large man at 6'3" - and someone with "that familiar face" which you could swear you've seen somewhere before. And in fact, you probably *have* seen it before, because even if you don't know who Joe Don Baker is (which is quite possible, even though he was pretty famous in 1973), Baker was the man who portrayed "The Whammer" in "The Natural." How about that! One thing about Walking Tall is that the film is very racially progressive for its time - Pusser deputizes a gentleman of color, his old friend Obrah Eaker (played by Felton Perry, who was the reason I watched this film in the first place - I saw Perry in a very impressive, very important "Adam-12" episode: Season 3, Episode 20 - "Log 76 - The Militants," which I urge people to watch). Another celebrity who played in Walking Tall was Leif Garrett, who played Pusser's son, Mike. Here are Baker, Garrett, and Perry in shots from the movie:
  13. Sometimes, you just gotta have cheap escapism. I'm watching an HD version of this film on Amazon, and the cinematography is fantastic. The movie starts off strong, then gets progressively more incredible (as in, "not credible"), but it's good, tawdry entertainment, as well as being an important part of American pop culture.
  14. At the beginning of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," when Indiana is running for the airplane, take note of the second arrow shot at him - the one on the right. It's such a *laughably* bad shot that it should not have been in the final cut. I guess they weren't thinking about "rewind," or whatever they call it on digital these days.
  15. In honor or Richard Kiel, I'm watching "The Spy Who Loved Me" right now which I haven't seen since it came out in the theaters. Lotus Esprit S1 (1976)
  16. That movie was released several years after the not-quite-so cheesy The Gumball Rally, starring Raíºl Julií¡ as an Italian hotshoe and Michael Sarrazin driving a Cobra, iirc. Probably awfully dated by now, but I still giggle when thinking about the Jaguar.
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