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really enjoying this, 27 October 2016

Designated Survivor is the only new show of the season I have any interest in watching.

The show concerns a terror attack during the State of the Union address that wipes out the President, Vice President, the House, the Senate and other high-level government officials who are in the Capitol Building at that time.

When there is a large assembly of President, VP, House, Senate, etc, one person is chosen to stay behind in the event of just such a thing occurring. After the show premiered, I did see a news report about this, and apparently it is true. Makes sense.

The designated survivor in this case is the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland). He is 11th in line of succession, but he moves up to the top after the attack. No one finds him qualified, and in fact, some people refuse to follow his orders.

However, Kirkman is stronger than they know, even if he is more deliberate in making decisions. He is also a caring individual who wants to live up to his responsibilities and serve the people.

It's a tough adjustment for a married man with two children who previously had a very different job. His first order of business is finding out who attacked the U.S. as the Joint Chiefs of Staff are eager to go after whom they believe is responsible.

This may be a problem a year show, where it takes an entire season for one situation to be resolved, and the second season begins with another problem. So far the investigation of what happened is very exciting and pointing to the involvement of one Senator who was conspicuously absent at the time of the explosion.

The cast is very good, including a nearly unrecognizable Virginia Mattson, whose agenda seems hidden, Ashley Zukerman as the questionable Senator, Kal Penn, Natascha McElhone, and many others, all of whom are top notch.

But there's no question that the quiet strength Kiefer Sutherland brings to the character of Kirkman carries the show. He's excellent as a man who had greatness thrust upon him as he deals with a few supporters, a lot of enemies, and his family.

Very good series. Hope it lasts.

Al Pacino is an aging singer who took the wrong long winding road, 26 October 2016

Released in 2015, "Danny Collins" is based on a true story, that of singer Steve Tiltson. It stars Al Pacino, Annette Benning, Christopher Plummer, Bobby Carnevale, and Jennifer Garner.

Pacino is, who else, Danny Collins, a world-famous singer. It appears from the opening interview in 1971 that Danny intended to be a Bob Dylan or the evolved John Lennon, who is his idol. Yet when we see Danny perform 40 years later, looking like a lounge lizard, his big song is something called "Baby Doll." So it appears along the way that Danny made some different choices which are a reflection of an empty life.

Danny's life is one filled with indulgence - alcohol, coke, a trophy wife sleeping with somebody else, a plane, etc., yet he seems miserable. Well one can get a little tired of all these people with money being unhappy. But then you read about the lives some of them with multiple divorces, drug addiction, kids who hate them, affairs, rehab - and it doesn't seem to mean much.

That's Danny. But then his manager (Plummer) gives him a letter that was sent to Danny 40 years earlier. Lennon sent it to the writer who interviewed Danny for a magazine. Instead of delivering it, he held onto it and ultimately sold it to a collector. His manager saw it for sale and purchased it.

The letter knocks Danny for a loop. John Lennon tells him to be true to himself, that money and fame can't corrupt him - "only you can do that." Danny moves into a hotel with the intention of going back to his songwriting. He meets a woman, Mary (Annette Benning) who is friendly but turns down all his dinner invitations. He then tries to get to know his son, whom he's never met. His son hates just the thought of him, so it is no surprise that he's rejected. But Danny doesn't give up.

Though this movie is slightly predictable, its sentimentality is deftly handled by the writer/director, Dan Fogelman. And Al Pacino's performance is brilliant - he's not yelling, for one thing. His acting is subtle, and he gives the viewer a fully fleshed-out character of a man trying to change and wondering if it might be too late. The actor is an odd choice for the role, but he makes it work.

Annette Benning is wonderful as Mary, who hears part of his new song and realizes he needs encouragement. Christopher Plummer as usual is fantastic. He could have hammed up the role of manager, but falling into something stereotypical is something only an amateur would do. Instead, he's sincere, caring, and very direct.

Stage and screen actor Bobby Carnevale plays Danny's son, who is filled with unexpressed anger and worry. Carnevale has a wide range, from Will's boyfriend on Will and Grace to a disgustingly cruel character on "Boardwalk Empire" - here's a dad with a lot on his mind - and the last thing he needs is a father he doesn't know. Jennifer Garner plays his wife, and she's lovely.

Beautiful story with a great ending. So glad I watched it. It was well worth it.

I know I'm supposed to hate this kind of a movie, 17 October 2016

...and often, I do.

But I have to say I've enjoyed the Mission: Impossible films - first, the music and whole setup of the secretary disavowing etc. brings me back to my days watching the series.

Secondly, these films are nonstop action with no let up.

Third, you can pack your troubles away and just be entertained.

What I hate is the fact that this is all Hollywood can do now - these CGI blockbusters with explosions, car chases, bungee jumps and the like - while it's left to independent filmmakers to give us stories with real people, real relationships, and real drama.

After a review of the IMF missions, the IMF is disbanded and absorbed into the CIA.

Ethan Hunt goes rogue to stop a shadow syndicate from its path of destruction, and gets help from his old team: Willam Brandt, Benji Dunn, and Luther Stickell (Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, and Ving Rhames).

He has to second-guess everything his nemesis, Solomon Lane, (Sean Harris) will do, asking himself, did he mean me to find this, am I supposed to react this order to beat Lane at his own game.

In the mix is a double agent (Rebecca Ferguson) who, while trying to help Hunt, is answering to the syndicate.

This is a perfect type of film for Tom Cruise. I've never thought much of his acting and have always preferred him in an action setting or playing someone like a hit man that requires him to be cold and calculating.

The IMF team was great, with Simon Pegg in the showiest role, and Sean Harris as Lane was one of the most frightening characters with the deadest eyes I've ever seen.

Best for me was seeing the Vienna Staatsoper again during a performance of "Turandot" - the scenes there were particularly exciting, the music was beautiful, and it was great to see the opera house again.

This film is very well made, suspenseful, and exciting. Highly recommended.

beautiful, captivating film, 17 October 2016

I haven't read any other reviews of this, but I'm surprised to see such a low rating.

"The Legend of Bagger Vance" from 2000 is a Robert Redford movie about one of his favorite topics - sports. This time it's golf.

The story begins with an elderly man (Jack Lemmon) having a heart attack while playing golf. Lying on the ground, he talks about his love of golf and tells a story set in the post-World War I era.

In Savannah, there was a promising young golfer, Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon) who went to fight in WW I and saw his entire battalion killed, except for him. He disappears, and does not return to Savannah for 15 years, and now spends his time drinking and playing cards. His old girlfriend Adele (Charlize Theron), never heard from him and has moved on with her life.

Adele's father has died, and left her a fabulous resort area but no one can afford to visit these days of the Depression. But Adele knows there are still people with money out there. She decides to sell everything she owns and have a golf tournament between Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen (Joel Gretsch and Bruce McGill) with the prize being $10,000.

Her board agrees but they want someone from Savannah to participate. A young boy, Hardy Greaves, who idolizes Rannulph, wants him to play and is in fact present when Adele tries to seduce Rannulph into playing. Eventually he gives in. But he finds he can't swing anymore.

One night while practicing his swing in the dark, a vagrant named Bagger Vance (Will Smith) approaches him and offers to be his caddie for $5. What he shows Rannulph goes beyond his golf swing - it shows him to get through any challenge in life.

This is a Field of Dreams type of film, and it's wonderful. It's about letting go of pain and learning who you are and what you can achieve, no matter the knocks you take in life. It's not only beautifully photographed but well directed and well acted.

Will Smith is fantastic as the easygoing Bagger, his eyes and smile carrying the secret to life as he guides Rannulph. Charlize Theron has an outrageous southern accent, but she's very likable and beautiful. Matt Damon as Rannulph is a man burdened by the past, frustrated by the present, but with a winning smile who finally realizes he has to go for it.

I have two problems with this film: One is, don't tell me Bobby Jones was that good-looking; and secondly, The Public Enemy, shown on a theater marquee, was released in 1931. Bobby Jones' last game, which he tells Rannulph this game will be, was in 1930.

I thought the end was beautiful, particularly because this was Jack Lemmon's last film.

I guess I don't understand a lot of the criticism about the movie being embarrassing. Perhaps I'm not as politically correct as I should be. I still thought it was a great movie.

Good rental, 17 October 2016

I found "Columbus Circle" highly entertaining. I figured it out, probably pretty early on, but I watch this kind of thing constantly.

The story concerns an agoraphobic woman, Abigail Clayton (Selma Knight) who is actually from a hugely wealthy family. Her disappearance made news years earlier; she has changed her name, never goes out, and slips notes under her door for the concierge. Her only contact is with her doctor and family friend, Dr. Fontaine (Beau Bridges).

When the elderly woman next door dies, Abigail wants to purchase the apartment; then she would be alone on the penthouse floor. To her chagrin, the apartment is leased to a couple, Lillian and Klandermann. Meanwhile, Abigail has been bothered by the police because, though the woman supposedly fell, it looks to Detective Frank Giardello (Giovanni Ribisi) that she may have been murdered.

Things get worse for Abigail when it turns out that Lillian is a battered woman who begs her for help.

This probably could have been a great movie in different hands. As it is, it's pretty good and also fairly typical of smaller films. Selma Blair reminded me a lot of Lara Flynn Boyle back in the day. I won't say the acting was Oscar-worthy but I've seen much worse.

Having lived in New York City for 30 years, I'm not really sure why Columbus Circle was chosen for this fabulous apartment building. It added nothing to the story. It's not the ritziest neighborhood in the city. I would have chosen something near Bergdorf's, which is directly across town on Fifth Avenue, or the Lincoln Center area, or Central Park West.

Anyway, a good movie to rent.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Too long at the fair, 13 October 2016

The Whitcombe Mallet is attracting people from all over. But during the festivities, a stable owner named Harry Wyham is killed. At first it looks as if his horse stomped on him, but in reality he was given a dose of the drug ketamine. The killer then frightened the horse, who stomped on the body.

Harry was the son of Jasper and his wife Serena, and he wasn't popular. His plans for expansion didn't sit well with the villagers, particularly the Wall of Death owner, Butch Nevins, and a vet, Clara Myerscough. Clara is the mother of Harry's ex-wife Jessica. Jessica is not permitted legally to see her daughter.

Butch's son Sean is a suspect - he is seeing Harry's sister Beth. The family is opposed to this union. Then Jasper's horses are stolen and there are two more deaths.

As usual, the past comes into play, which it must in order to expose the killer.

This was a good episode but for me it followed the usual template I have been complaining about - the villagers opposing something somebody wants to do etc. The fun part was that the Barnabys are going to France and have no one to care for Sykes. He is thrown out of one kennel and escapes from another. Finally Nelson and the new coroner compete for babysitting rights. It's actually quite good, with Sara hiding Barnaby's ugly shorts and Sykes waiting for the axe to fall.

This again reminds me of the older episodes, which isn't a bad thing.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
second verse, same as the first, 12 October 2016

Though I did like this Midsomer Murders, "Saints and Sinners" episode, it was somewhat disturbing to see someone receive a note saying "I Saw What You Did" when someone about two episodes ago had received one also.

Secondly, again, something is happening that the villagers don't want.

In this case, it is an archaeological dig to find the remains of St. Cicely Milson. When the head of the dig, Zoe Dyer, is murdered, it is thought that others were after treasure and that she interrupted them.

The villagers insist that the saint's relics are at the church run by Peter Corby. Peter's brother, however, Christopher (Aiden Gillett) believes that is not true is part of the dig. He and Zoe's husband don't get along.

After Zoe, there are two more victims. As is often the case with Midsomer Murders, the answer lies in the distant past and someone not being honest about their true identity.

It's hard to tell the saints from the sinners.

It was fun to see "Absolutely Fabulous'" Julia Sawalha as Penny Henderson as well as Aiden Gillett of "The House of Elliott" fame. It occurs to me that I must have watched "The House of Elliott" an awfully long time ago because Gillett was quite young in it. A sobering thought.

This episode was more like the older episodes with John Nettles, but there were also similarities to some of the newer ones, which I mentioned above. When you watch them like I do, things like that are easy to pick up. This is an old show: the writers need to be careful not to repeat themselves.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Sculptural problems, 10 October 2016

This Midsomer Murders takes place at a park devoted to sculpture. The artist Lance Auden has heralded the opening of Brandon Monkford's sculptural park; not long after, Brandon Monkford is on top of one of Auden's statues...dead.

Monkford's wife, Alexandra, was having an affair with Daniel Fargo, an art critic, so one of them is right up there on the list of suspects. Monkford's daughter Rachel never wanted this park. She wanted a climbing center. Another suspect.

Then there are a group of villagers opposed to the park for environmental reasons.

Then it is learned that Monkford's groundsman, Tony Pitt, was left everything. He decides to carry on with what Brandon wanted - meaning the park. Guess who the next victim is.

There's another body draped on a sculpture as Barnaby and Nelson attempt to find out who is trying their own hand at sculpting dead bodies.

This reminded me of other episodes I saw recently. I hope this show isn't just becoming a program that has two or three templates and throws different names and organizations into each script. A group opposed to something is nothing new, nor are heirs, illicit affairs, and similar things to the denouement of this story.

Barnaby in this episode has to give a speech about his work to a class, and as he asks people for ideas on what to say, they all tell him the same thing: Every day is different. When it comes time to do the talk, he has to find his own way.

Nelson as usual shows his intelligence but for some reason he takes much more of a back seat than Troy or Ben Jones. I think it's because the writers of the current years haven't built up the camaraderie enough.

I hope they give this town opposition to a place and people who will benefit by the place staying around a rest. It's been used too much.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
not that good, 9 October 2016

The writer of this script has written several other episodes of Midsomer Murders, "Dagger in the Hand" and "Christmas Haunting," both very good episodes. He missed the boat here with "Breaking the Chain." When cyclist Greg Eddon wins a national race and then is murdered, Barnaby and Nelson investigate. Barnaby has been at home trying to get Betty to say her first word, which he hopes will be "Daddy."

Mitch McCordell, it turns out, was close to winning this race. His father Des informs Barnaby that this was a very important race. It is urgent that DJM, who sponsors the race, continue doing so as they are short of cash.

There is a great deal going on underneath. Mitche's brother Aiden saw his girlfriend, Amber, kissing Greg, and was sending him threatening texts.

Environmentalists don't want the racing there. A landlady at a pub, Mary Appleton, receives a message stating, "I know what you did." Later she receives one that says Murderer. Aiden McCordell feels that his father has always blown him off in favor of Mitch.

Then there is another murder, as well as another person becoming badly injured. Barnaby and Nelson have to find the killer - and there are a lot of suspects.

First off, the reason for these murders was ridiculous, and I could have done without the Mary Appleton subplot -- this brought up an issue from the past, one of the regular themes in Midsomer Murders.

No beautiful scenery this time, and Nelson took a back seat. Let's have more camaraderie between Nelson and Barnaby, more village life, more family, and a good reason to kill people.

And Betty's first word? Well, it's not Daddy or Mama.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Close Encounters of the Bizarre Kind, 8 October 2016

This absorbing story starts with a woman driving her car in a wooded area and something in the sky engulfing her with a bright light which comes closer and closer. Terrified, she runs. She lives.

The rest aren't as lucky,

Cooper Hill is known for UFO sightings, and many ufologists hang out there. In fact, Abigal Toney runs tours there.

A forest ranger, Felicity Field, is found dead and wrapped in a black gummy substance. Barnaby investigates and learns that one of the most ardent ufologists, Carter Faulkner, who had a famous UFO sighting that is well documented, had a run-in with Felicity. Also, before she died, she called her father, a captain at a radar station, from whom she is estranged. He says that he did not get a call.

Two more murders wrapped in the gummy substance are found. Could aliens really be responsible? Or is there a more earthbound answer? Barnaby ponders this as well as what Sara is planning to do for his birthday.

This was an excellent episode. The tone of these scripts has changed somewhat, though the past is still a factor. In this case, it's not just human relationships that took place in the past, but the Cold War as well.

The script was written by Paul Logue, who began to write for the show in 2014, as did several other writers. Some of the scripts have been quite good and different. And I love Sykes and the baby.

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