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Ghosts We Can Believe In
Tyson presents the mysteries of the universe: the invisible. He goes into the implications of gravity and ultimately to the explanation of the black hole. He discusses the possibilities of Einstein's theory of relativity and the limitations presented by the consistency of the speed of light. He talks about the Big Bang and the relative positioning of all things cosmic. He talks about how scientific laws may be modified when we go inside a collapsed star (I don't really mean "we" because our puny bodies couldn't handle the ride. He expresses the joy of our position in the universe and how we stand on the horizon of the unknown. I don't always get the more complex explanations when it comes to this advanced physics. I appreciate that this talks to me. He brings us the "ghosts" that are theoretically there. We are introduced to John Herschel, who was way ahead of time and is little known by most of us, and how he observed things that didn't become revised for many years.
Couldn't Feel the Danger
It has the funny Woody Allen schtick as the master plays a two bit magician who finds himself thrust into a murder mystery. Scarlet Johanssen plays a ditzy young journalism student who is looking for a story. Her hackney junk is going nowhere when a famous reporter, who has died, escape the boat to the underworld, and informs her that a well known, rich man, played by Hugh Jackman, is a notorious serial killer, the Tarot killer. He is so charming that she falls for him and sleeps with him. Meanwhile, Woody, who initially wants nothing to do with this case, becomes protective of the pretty young woman and continues the pursuit when she is no longer interested. This is not Allen's best work. There is no suspense to speak of and it is more of a format for one liners. Johanssen is stiff and not very believable as a character. The conclusion is not very interesting. I did like the death ship with all the people heading for the underworld. It reminded me of a much funnier movie, Love and Death, where Death become corporeal and visits Allen in prison.
The Grey (2011)
Too Many Wolves
I like Liam Neeson and the premise is good. A group of hard living men in a non-tenuous setting, find themselves in the frozen wasteland of Alaska after their plan crashes. It sound exciting, doesn't it. The problem here is that somehow the interaction among the men doesn't click. I can't explain it, other than I didn't really know these men. They were, to some extent, caricatures, with little depth. Neeson goes from being the stoic wolf killer to taken leadership as the men go, god knows where, trying to survive. They are pursued by wolves that take on an almost supernatural role. There is a sense of hopelessness and despair that overrides everything they try to do. They are scared and have every right to be. They explain why there is no one out looking for them, but it really doesn't wash. I know that Alaska is the new old West, but why are these guys so expendable and why would a commercial airplane, with a flight attendant and a professional pilot, not be on the must-save list. It's like the writer and director didn't know where to go.
Subtle, Delicate, Real
I admit that I saw the stage musical before renting the movie. They are both so touching and so human. The relationship that develops between the young street musician and the pretty Czech girl pulls us along with a velvet rope. It is cinematically stunning. I loved watching the two of them walking down the street, she pulling her "Hoover" which he fixes for her. It's like a puppy on a leash. The charm of their interaction and ultimate love must face the factors of her fragile marriage and her effort to maintain a life for her daughter and her "mudder." He is on the verge of having success with his songwriting and performing and he must weigh that against pursuing his hopes for becoming a part of his life. It's sad but positive; loving and real. The acting is superb as they tussle with the hand they've been dealt. At no time does it become maudlin or predictable. Also, the music is striking and often sad. This is a true sleeper of a movie.
Too Much Monkeying Around
Steve Forrest plays a guy who usually shows compassion for animals. He is a naturalist and respects the jungle. One day a group of stereotypical movie natives run to get him. When he arrives at a tiger pit, there is a big gorilla (obviously a man in a gorilla suit). His wife and fellow naturalist, want them to pull him out an let him escape back in the jungle. Instead, Forrest sees look of utter hatred in the eyes of the gorilla. Against his wife's wishes, he captures the gorilla and brings him back to the museum of natural history. The wife has developed a bond with the big guy and he responds Fay Rayeishly to her. One day, she makes the mistake of going into the cage and the gorilla gets loose. Forrest, in order to rescue her, battles with the gorilla. There is a kind of animal respect between them which seems to be the theme of this episode. Not one of the best in the series.
Night Gallery: The Doll of Death (1973)
Voodoo Doo Doo
A young beautiful wild woman is about to marry a very rich man somewhere in the islands (Haiti or someplace like that, perhaps?). What messes things up is an arrangement that was made almost at birth. She is supposed to marry a macho guy who has little respect for boundaries. He crashes the wedding an takes her away. The rich guy doesn't take this sitting down. He connects with some kind of voodoo master and gets a doll made. It is sin the image of the reckless man who stole his bride. When he squeezes the doll, the man experiences incredible pain. They bring in a doctor, but there is no medical explanation for it. The young woman, who has grown up in this environment, knows what is going on and comes to the house. From then on, everything gets all confusing and hard to follow. The people we are supposed to sympathize with are so awful that I started pulling for the guy who bought the doll.
Jersey Boys (2014)
Captures the Spirit of the Broadway Play
I was surprised to see how long this show has been on Broadway. Having seen the touring show, I have become a fan. I was suspicious of the movie version because my first response is nearly always, "How will they screw this up?" They didn't. Clint Eastwood managed to keep the rapid fire story of the four guys from New Jersey well paced an interesting throughout. It starts with the three things that happen to kids. One is to become famous, and that is pretty far out there. A doowop group manages to make a few bucks while breaking and entering and spending an occasional six months in prison. They have no spark, until Frankie Valli becomes a part of them. His falsetto elevates the rest of the group but they still are stuck in place. Enter Bob Gaudio, the true genius of the group. He, along with Bob Crewe, become the reason things begin to blossom. They take their stupid name "The Four Lovers" and turn it into "The Four Seasons." There are some cracks about this guy Vivaldi but since he's dead it doesn't matter. As things transpire we alternate between the successes of the group, culminating with their appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Through all this we get to hear the music. The hit list is really nice and they do very good renditions of the songs. In order to get them seed money, Tommy DeVito hooks up with a loan shark from the mob and eventually drops the group into nearly seven hundred thousand dollars in debt. As big as they were, this was real money. How they deal with that and the tribulations of their day-to-day existences is what this is all about. The time zips by as we develop a real attraction for this charismatic quartet. I found it to be a wonderful film.
Shrek the Musical (2013)
A Nice Adaptation
It's nice when the producers of these musical gems see fit to do a nicely cinematic rendition of such lays. After watching "Phantom" at the Royal Albert Hall and then this one as a presentation on Netflix, I'm hoping that more will be saved for always. This is not the world's greatest musical, but it is full of life, wonderful characters, and a nice edge to it. It has two or three very good songs and lots of topical material. The two leads in particular capture the Disney original and are able to poke fun at themselves. If there is a downside, it does go on a bit long and the fairy tale characters aren't used quite as much as they could be. I remember seeing Prince Farquhar on the Tony Awards and was amazed at his dexterity, playing the entire part on his knees. I would imagine that most of the theater goers already know the plot but the magic still gets us from the get go.
A Bit Too Ambitious; But We Have to Start Somewhere
I know that Neil DeGrasse Tyson is preaching to the choir in my case, so I expect things to be big and impressive. As is often the case with the first episodes of scientific mini-series, this one has a scope so enormous that it doesn't do justice to the specifics. What we have, rather, is an almost religious (forgive me) awe of what is the universe. We are introduced to those who began the movement from superstition to scientific exploration. Tyson shows us a kind of space ship (but so much more) that will help us to see all things universal. We will be able to enter microscopic events as well as interstellar ones. We will look at the great men and women who gave their time and often their lives to answer questions for us. We will watch species develop, thrive, and go extinct. We will see theories put forth with good intentions trampled by the light of new exploration and technology. We will, I am sure, see how the church and other cultural entities often stomped on the forward movement of science. Also, the jealousies among the those of the scientific community. Humans are often their own worst enemies and will come to an appropriate end as life goes on.
A Wolf Eat Wolf World
Evolution is a fact. You can call it a theory, but it is a fact. Neil DeGrasse Tyson spins begins an explanation of how dogs came to be. First wolves, then natural selection among humans, and then the variety of breeds that pattern themselves after basic human needs from work to companionship. He then goes into the thing that the naysayers often say is impossible without a god pointing his finger, the eye. He shows us how the eye evolved and continues to evolve, again based on the particular environment needs of the species. Finally, the tree of life becomes fruitful, but also has a lot of dead branches and he leads through the realities of extinction. The earth itself is not a life form, but it's heating, cooling, gas producing, meteor accepting being is what directs the lives of its inhabitants. Tyson allows that the fact that we are all under the same umbrella of living creatures, gives us a much real spirituality than that of one imposed by ignorance (my word). I would imagine there will be an expansion on this in future episodes.