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The Rover (2014)
illogical, grimy, nihilistic and pointless
This is a profoundly nihilist, poorly written and illogical film. To list every gap in logic, far fetched plot element or bit of poor writing would be beside the point. Wait a minute, this must be ten lines long. So here goes. 1: Why did not just move the tires, instead of wasting time stealing a car? 2. Why not just give back the Car for the more useful truck. 3. WHY LEAVE THE GUN? $;.4, What the hell happened to the once proud Australian Army? 5.Why are US Dollars still accepted currency ten years after "The collapse"? 6. How did two mentally challenged rednecks make it all the way y to Australia.I know, this movie has people shouting "profound", " gritty" and "superbly acted". I saw none of this. All I know is that I and a friend just wasted five dollars-and worse, over two hours of our lives.
One of the peaks of the television medium.
Does IMDb plant to have a list of the highest rated TV EPISODES? If so, this deserves to be one it. The writers did the impossible. They topped The Crossing. This episode was jaw dropping in its sustained brilliance. I can think of no flaw. The acting, the writing, the music, (finest use of Johnny Cash's Hurt EVER.) and the cinematography was unrelentingly magnificent. I would list the highlights, but there is a problem with that. EVERYTHING was a highlight. The great Greek tragic dramas were originally written as trilogies. However, almost all are now lost, with the exception of the Oresteia. The "Heroes Fall" trilogy, as it mat eventually be known was, perhaps ,the closest thing to Greek tragic trilogy that the TV medium has yet seen. notably, like many of the best episodes of TV drama, the title had at least three meanings. In effect, three devils got a share. One was released from her prison. Another got his comeuppance. Finally , with HR destroyed, a third will move into the vacuum, and resume undisputed sway over organized crime in New York. In short, absolutely magnificent.
Person of Interest: The Crossing (2013)
Probably One of the Peaks of the Television Medium
I have seen The Crossing twice. Each time, I have been more and more impressed. Unbearable suspense, superbly paced direction, fine camera work, crisp, witty writing, stunning performances from all of the leads and from the villains. It has some of the most exhilarating moments in television history, and one of two or thee most heartbreaking as well. If Kevin Chapman does not get an Emmy for this episode, I will gravely disappointed. If the writers do not, I will be startled. If Taraji Henson does not, I will know the Emmy's are fixed.
I will go further. This was comparable To James Agee's Lincoln (OMNIBUS) Orson Welles' The Fountain of Youth, The greatest episodes of The Twilight Zone and the Honeymooners, Marty, Patterns, The Comedian, Twelve Angry Men, Sam Peckinpah's Noon Wine (And "Line Camp" from The Westerner, , The Fabulous Fifties, the Chief Dan George episode of Kung Fu, "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" and "Postmodern Prometheus" (Kung Fu)My World and Welcome To it, "Fall-out" (The Prisoner) and the best routines of Ernie Kovacs. This episode didn't just PUSH the envelope: It BROKE IT.
Some Came Running (1958)
Superb "melodrama" with a deep spiritual-and theological -subtext.
Godard, Scorsese- and Linklater- show their taste with their admiration for this rich, complex, and profoundly misunderstood film. Adapted from James Jones' overblown 1200 page follow-up to From Here To Eternity, this is one of the best examples of that misunderstood fifties sub genre, the the romantic melodrama/"dramedy", which was brilliantly practiced by Ray, Minelli, Sirk-and, even, sometimes,Robert Aldrich and Delmer Daves . Like the decade which produced them, these films are sadly misunderstood. The Fifties are stereotyped as "the bland leading the bland", however, a closer study of the decade shows inner tensions and paradoxes.Neither Eisenhower nor his decade were "bland " at all, but rather, rich in layers of tragedy and ambiguity, coupled with a suppressed restlessness and undefined spiritual longing in the midst of outward smug prosperity. Similarly, the glossy surface of fifties melodrama conceals profound tensions. On the surface, this films are just melodramatic "glossies", but a closer viewing shows extraordinary power and even depth. In part, this is due to acting that can only be described as excellent. The cast is close to superb. The main cast is divided into two camps; ; Three "rat packers" and f"respected TV stage and movie veterans. The rat packers are Sinatra and his trashy, vulgar pals, Dino and Shirley. Sinatra shows nuances of compassion and sensitivity through the smallest gesture or turn of phrase. Dean Martin, always wearing a not quite pure white hat, is far better than his reputation, playing a doomed small time gambler /hustler quite well. Shirley Mclaine's character, her hair a red crows nest, is a pig, a slut, a drunk,a dummy, and and a floozy. She is also a gentle, sad, human with a soul who truly longs for love, and -who knows-salvation.. They are the Films " Low-life" characters- its "sinners". The other characters are more or less "pharisees"- outwardly respectable but inwardly problematic. They are played by five excellent performers: Arthur Kennedy, Martha Hyer, Nacy Gates, Larry Gates, and Leora Dana. The last three were recurrent faces in fifties and sixties television. They were in EVERYTHING; Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, Playhouse 90, Naked City, Route 66, The Defenders, Slattery's People, Channing, etc. Kennedy is excellent as Sinatra's estranged small town Babbitt of a brother., a weak and confused man, who alternates between genuine love of his bother, for his " scandalous " behavior, and envy of his honesty. Martha Hyer offers a rich performance as Sinatra's "nice" girlfriend. Despite her love for Franks character and her sincere desire to awaken his talent. she too no more understands him than Shirley does. This is shown by the scene in the classroom. In response to a students question, she goes into a remarkable soliloquy about the moral flaws of great writers , and how these flaws reflect their passion, their appetite for life. While these flaws should not be emulated, they also do not detract from the writers achievements, or lessen their humanity. Then, class is dismissed, and who should walk in but Ginny Moorehead, in all her trashy vulnerability. Hyer pretends to be compassionate and understanding, but instead sees in the poor B-girl every one of her lovers flaws. It is not until Ginny Sacrifices herself at the end that she perceives her essential goodness-and the goodness in Frank's character as well. Finally, there are Larry Gates, Nancy Gates(no relation) and Leora Dana. Larry Gates, who also played the peace-loving Missionary in The Sand Pebbles and the bigoted Fat Cat in The Heat of The night, is very good here as a perceptive and intelligent Small Town/Small college who understands Sinatra's character better than everyone else but remains very much a small town, small college, professor. Nacy Gates is solid as Arthur Kennedy 's girlfriend, who longs to flee Parkman and its insular hypocrisy. Finally, Leora Dana is great as Kennedy's Social climbing wife, who despises Sinatra's character- but still wants to use his literary reputation to inflate her own standing in the community. . The Production design is beautiful-as can be expected in any Minnelli film. In addition, Bernstein's score is driving , bluesy, and occasionally perfectly overwrought. The next to last sequence is Cinemascope at its highest. Finally, there is the subtext of the film. Probably, few who watch it nowadays grasp that the title is taken from The Gospel Of Mark. The "some" who "came running" are the sinners who came "running" to hear Jesus preach. The story , therefore, is implicitly about the search redemption, and about those who, for all their surface sleaziness, would "come running" if they were to actually hear the gospel: failed writers who hang out in dives, dying Gamblers with cirrhosis of the liver, Barroom searching for love. In short, A great film. Not quite an "Eleven", but at least a Nine and a Half teetering on the margin of ten, and sometimes toppling over.
World War One (1964)
Stunning documentary series that was a rating failure.
During the 1964 to 1965 season, there was only one show that was more acclaimed than Slattery's People or Profiles in Courage. Not surprisingly, it was also the only show, other than news specials, to be a bigger flop than either. Weirdly, unlike James Moser's and Richard Crenna's masterpiece or the superb Profiles in Courage, it is not hard to find on DVD. It was World War One, a documentary produced by CBS News, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the onset of the War That Was Supposed To End All Wars. I have seen individual episodes on The Battle Of Jutland and The little-known Italian campaign- a campaign which featured Hemingway, Wittgenstein, Rommel, Edward the Seventh, Mussolini Pope John The 23rd, and even Fiorello LaGuardia among its participants- and they are nothing short of brilliant. Using superbly edited contemporary footage and a remarkably literate narration by Robert Ryan, as well as featuring magnificent music by Morton Gould, this puts most modern war documentaries to shame. It belongs on The History Channel, or better, The War Channel.
The Fountain of Youth (1958)
probably would have been the greatest television series, ever.
Television has had a few flashes of true genius: My World And Welcome To It, The Ernie Kovacs Show, the first few seasons of The Twilight Zone, The Fabulous Fifties, large chunks of Omnibus,Twin Peaks, the first five seasons of Lost and about half a dozen others. I would submit that I love Lucy was another flash of genius ( at least before it started to parody himself,) because Desi Arnaz was brilliant enough to use multiple cameras. Arnaz- and Lucy- were good friends of Orson Welles. While the Orson Welles guest spot on I love Lucy was one of the shows weaker episodes, Arnaz and Ball decided to produce an idea that Welles had. It would be a Television version of the old "Orson Welles Almanac". It would have combined non fiction vignettes with adaptations of off-beat short stories, dramatic monologues by Orson, and even bits of animation. The pilot was Welles' adaptation of John Colliers The Fountain of Youth,using stills, quick cuts, and daring camera and editing techniques. It was shown, praised ( It won the Peabody Award.)- and forgotten. Despite the fact that bit was a Desilu Production, none of the "suits" in charge of the Networks in those "Dick Danger " days wanted to schedule a "high -brow" television show made by an erratic genius. So, The Orson Welles Kaleidoscope" never made it to Television. This is an absurd universe.
Omnibus: Lee at Gettysburg (1957)
Fascinating "Omnibus" Verse Drama
My last review was badly flawed, for two reasons. For one thing, it was based on fragmentary memories of an old book of classic television plays that I read when I was 13 or 14. More inexcusably, I ascribed the script to its director, Delbert Mann, rather than its real author, the brilliant Alvin Sapinsly. I finally saw it. It is on the second DVD of the excellent E1 release, Omnibus: James Agee's Mr. Lincoln and The Civil War. It was very, very good. The verse may have been imitation Stephen Vincent Benet, but it was still verse, metrical,, well rhymed, and fluent. The acting was superb. Above all, James Daly was a revelation- a better Lee Than Martin Sheen, and fully equal to Robert Duvall. Don Gordon, who usually played gangsters and cops, was great as Longstreet, while Dark Shadows fans may notice Dr. Lang, Addison Powell, playing Pickett. In short, this WAS one of the greatest things ever put on Television.
CBS Playhouse (1967)
The Last Stand of Golden Age Television Drama.
Between 1967 and 1970, with a few scattered attempts afterward, CBs made a valiant attempt to revive the "Golden" Age represented by such superb shows as Playhouse 90. It was called CBS Playhouse, and despite usually anemic ratings, it was showered with Emmys. Two episodes were especially noteworthy. One was The Final War of Ollie Winters, starring Ivan Dixon as a black army sergeant in Vietnam. The other was The People Next Door, about a typical suburban couple who discovers to their horror that their favorite daughter has become addictd to narcotics. The whole series was superbly acted, written and directed. Naturally, it now gathers dust in the vaults at CBS Paramount. Do these people have ANY idea of the cultural treasures they keep under lock and key?
The (box- office) failure of this film was a tragedy
After Bondarchuk made his colossal reproduction of War And Peace. ( Comparing King Vidor 's version to it is like comparing a paint by numbers watercolor to The Night Watch.) he was naturally chosen by the notorious Dino DeLaurentis to make the battle film to end all battle films, Waterloo.
Waterloo! Is any battle more famous, or more proverbial? With a superb score, a remarkable eye for detail, and stunning overhead shots. ( Not to mention an entire Soviet Army division ), Bondarchuk recreates the highlights of the Napoleonic battle to end all Napoleonic battles. ( Quite literally.)As far as I can tell, the only historical flaw is that The film makes it appear that Wellington's army was exclusively composed of British redcoats, ( Incidentally, one of the best British regiments wore GREEN coats.)when they were only about a third of the "Iron Dukes" polyglot and multi national army. The Kings German Legion, The Dutch, The Danes, the Hessians and the Belgians, are conspicuous by their absence.)
However, what really makes this film stand out is the excellent acting, beginning with the protagonists. Steiger, with his " New York School " method acting, captures the many shades of Napoleon's character: the brilliance, the rages, the sudden bouts of lethargy, the volcanic Corsican eruptions of love and hate.Plummer, the Canadian product of Stratford in the fifties when Sir Tyrone Guthrie was its guiding spirit, brings a very different style to a very different figure. Plummer's Wellington is dry, ironic, skeptical, a man of extraordinary coolness under fire, whose outward stoicism is relieved by sudden flashes of humor and even compassion. He has a job to do. He does it admirably, and at the end, he has lost all stomach for war. Dan O'Herlihy is superb as Ney, a man of extraordinary courage- and absolutely no judgment. Jack Hawkins, sadly at the end, still captures the gruff doggedness of Picton. Finally, there is Welles. This is from the phase of his career when he would do five minutes as Cardinal Wolsey, then five minutes as General Dreedle, all to raise enough money to somehow, someway, finish Don Quixote. Its Tuesday, so Orson is " working for the Russian on the Waterloo thing", doing five minutes as Louis the Seventeenth- and doing it magnificently, playing the corpulent shadow of the Bourbon dynasty as more of a tragic figure than buffoon.
A tremendous effort. Somehow, poor marketing, studio interference and the poor taste, historical ignorance and general stupidity of the American cinema going public lead to box-office failure, which had even more tragic consequences. Kubrick's proposed biopic on Napoleon was not green lighted, thus depriving the world of what should have an even greater film than Gance's Napoleon.
The first realistic medical show.
James Moser was one of the outstanding writing talents in Television history. Sadly, he is almost forgotten and is, probably, quite unknown. He graduated from a Catholic college in California, then booked ship as a sailor on a tramp steamer headed to Australia. After working a variety of jobs in Australia, including journalism, he returned to the states and started writing for Radio. Jack Webb noticed his talent and hired him to be head writer on Dragnet. Moser wrote a wide range of teleplays in the fifties, including a dramatization of the life of Charles Proteus Steinmitz. Moser came up for the idea of an intelligent, realistic medical drama, that would star Richard Boone as Dr. Conrad Styner. To make sure the show was authentic, Moser worked as an orderly in a Los Angeles hospital for nearly two years. Medic, while critically acclaimed, lagged in the ratings, and was canceled after several years. Moser later came up with an idea for an even better, equally hard-hitting medical show, Ben Casey. Later Moser created another superb show that flopped in the ratings, Slattery's People. In 1965, he was the first person to receive The Gabriel Award from The Catholic Academy of Broadcast Professionalws for creating "shows that uplifted the human spirit." Of Course, NONE of them can be found on DVD.