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More politics than action, 22 May 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The initial pilot of "Emergency!" was full of the politics of creating the position of "paramedic." But in that case, it was essential to the plot.

In this made-for-TV movie, we get more of the same, but in this case it IS the plot. Over and over we see and hear "we don't do it that way in L.A." to which they get the response from the Seattle crew, "Then you need to change your laws." And after hearing how Seattle paramedics can do things in the field John and Roy can't do back home, we then see rescues that conveniently use those forbidden skills. It goes so far as to show the Seattle paramedics using a special medical tool the primary trauma doctor rigged together for them just that morning. "It worked in Vietnam," he says of the design. We even get to sit in on a meeting where we hear that congress has failed to pass national legislation on the paramedic program at which point Roy quips, "The cost of one ship out in that channel going up in flames would pay for the program for 10 years!" Yes, you guessed it--shortly a ship DOES go up in flames!

That ship fire is, in fact, the key point of the entire movie. But it takes forever to get to that point. The movie clocks in at roughly 90 minutes, and the fire doesn't even happen for the first hour of that time. Between the aforementioned "political" rescues, the rest of the first hour is taken up setting up several different story lines that culminate in everyone from each story line being on the same ship at the same time.

I truly like Emergency!, so much so that I bought the DVDs of this final set of TV movies so that I could say I have watched every episode. However, this one is not one of the better episodes.

Dead Man's Folly (1986) (TV)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Horrible, horrible, horrible..., 30 August 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'm slowly working my way through every instance of Christie's Poirot that I can find on film. I've seen Suchet, Ustinov, Randall, Holm, Molina, even the silly versions in a John Cleese film and a skit in a British 1980's sketch comedy. But this film with its over-the-top, melodramatic performances is the worst Poirot film I've ever seen. I rate it even lower than Tony Randall playing Poirot in the 1960's "Alphabet Murders." But understand. It isn't Ustinov who made it bad. It was the direction. I swear a few times I could see Ustinov wince at the other actors performances thinking, "How did I get into this mess?!?!" All I could think while watching was that the actors were purposely doing a send-up of Poirot, yet they all seemed so earnest, that couldn't be it. I can only conclude it was the direction. These actors are better than this. Far better!!! The movie struck me as campy, except for Poirot. Even the amazing on location setting can't overcome the failures in the acting. The only thing this did was elevate so many of the other performances I've seen for Poirot. At,least after this, it is almost impossible for any other performance to be worse!

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Historically fascinating, but not much else, 6 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'm not much for reviews--I'm too busy watching to do much more than enter a rating--yet this episode is so unusual in the series, I can't help myself.

As other reviewers have said, it appears that this episode was intended as either A) a spin-off to a new series or B) a failed pilot that was re-cut with a few new scenes added and forced into an episode of Emergency! Either way, the result is less than stellar. The doctor's and paramedics of Emergency! wind up having only cameos in their own show. Toward the end of the episode, it appears the paramedics are kept around only for comic relief!

The first hint of something odd, at least on the playback I watched on Net**ix, is that after the standard opening credits for Emergency!, another theme song begins playing--one entirely different from the standard one--and a new set of credits roll.

Next is the lack of any "runs" coming in for Station 51. We never see the guys at the station, we never hear the standard alarms coming in, none of that. Instead, we follow the Animal Control characters. We don't even see a B-roll shot of Squad 51 at any time during the episode, only the Animal Control vehicle.

Most of the actors do a fair job with their parts, however the primary story-line involves a pet goat, and the little girl to whom the goat belongs...oh my, her delivery is poor. And the attempts to add tension simply don't work as well as the producers would have liked, I'm sure. We all know the goat is going to live, after all--this was the 70's, and an unhappy ending was not allowed! And I had to laugh when, after the entire surgical team performs open heart surgery on this little goat, the camera immediately cuts back to the goat waking up on the surgical table and practically jumping off. THAT was a quick recovery!

The one item that all the previous reviewers have mentioned is the appearance of a young Mark Harmon as one of the officers. To see him early in his career is interesting.

Two other things that fascinated me about the show. Early on, Harmon and his partner, "Officer Les," have to tranquilize a tiger. During the attempts to get a clear shot the tranquilizer gun passes from Les to Harmon's character, because only Harmon is where the tiger is. However, as soon as Officer Les shows back up, Harmon immediately hands him the gun, even though he appeared to be ready to shoot just a moment before. It was apparent that this was written in to emphasize which of the officers was the senior officer. Why did this fascinate me? Officer Les is played by a black actor, Albert Popwell. It was obvious that the producers intended to emphasize his character's seniority in the episode (and possible series), over Harmon's white officer, and in 1975 Hollywood, it is interesting to see how they did so in this case. It is just fascinating to get a glimpse of Hollywood reflecting the ongoing social change of that time.

The second item that also fascinates me also revolves around Popwell. While he appears to be just a couple of years older than Harmon, and significantly younger than actor David Huddleston, who plays the vet at the animal shelter, it is exactly the opposite. Popwell was in GREAT shape, and obviously took care of himself, as he was 25 years older than Harmon, and 4 years older than Huddleston. I would have never guessed that he was already 50 when the episode was shot--he looked to be in his late 20's at most--and Huddleston, who was only 45, looked to be in his mid-60s.

If you watch this episode, I believe you will end up focusing more on the format and divergence from the regular Emergency! story lines than on the story itself. In other words, the episode has more to offer from a historical aspect than for being great TV.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
What the heck was the makeup person thinking???, 25 September 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I have never done this before, but like Nixon's resignation there is a first time for everything.

I watched the entire series because it was a fascinating, well acted glimpse into history and a president I was too young to know or truly understand. And I will say that the format allowed the producers to pick-and-choose what was included, so do not go into this series thinking you will get a balanced view of Nixon. Still, if you watch this thinking either they were too easy on Nixon, or did a hatchet job on him with this series--it doesn't matter. These are the man's words, recorded for history, so he has no one to blame but himself if they choose those that made him look bad.

That said, NOTHING could make him look as bad as Harry Shearer's makeup. It was HORRIBLE! It was barely better than one of those Nixon Halloween masks that were once popular (and may still be for all I know). In most scenes it reminded me of the plastic look of Matt Frewer in his "Max Headroom" makeup. And once completely applied to several inches thick, Shearer looked like a bobble-head doll, his head far out of proportion to the rest of his body, and with the layers of putty adding enough weight it didn't look like he would be able to keep his head up through the entire episode. His hair would not move, the skin on his forehead would not move, the nose which--lets face it, Nixon had a prominent nose--still managed to look like a solid block of hardened plaster. The job with the actor portraying Kissinger was similarly bad. The effect was to detract from the amazing performance of Shearer, who nailed the mannerisms, voice, and tone of delivery of Nixon. I just wish he had had a bag over his head instead of that horrible makeup.

And so--as I said at the start--I'm doing something I have never done. I am taking a full 2, perhaps even 3 stars off my rating, simply due to this horrible makeup. If you can get past that, you'll learn quite a bit about Nixon and his presidency that went on behind the scenes.

Killing Jesus (2015) (TV)
3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Unsatisfying for all..., 23 June 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There are plenty of reviews focusing on one or another aspect of this film, and therein lies the problem. It has flashes of greatness weighted down by a lack of direction. By trying to be all things to all viewers, it ends up being unsatisfying to all.

I visited the accompanying website where you have the option to view the same events from three different points of view. That summarizes the problem with the film. On the web site you can choose an angle and stick with it. In the film you cannot, and the attempt to show all three points of view simultaneously leads to nothing but confusion.

The relatively high rating is for flashes of quality that will stick with me. The scourging of Jesus is extremely vivid, and will stay with me. The crucifixion likewise gave an image that I found very realistic--I walked away thinking I had better idea what crucifixion was really like. Seeing the character of Jesus show real struggles with his temper also put more of a face to the man--I had a better sense of the Biblical teaching of "fully human" really means. But these insights were few and far between and ultimately couldn't overcome the other problems with the film.

One of the series best episodes, 9 May 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

By season 5, I found that many of Fame's episodes had gone flat. This is one of the exceptions, and what an exception! It revolves around the school doing a musical version of "Huck Finn" that ends up dividing the students between those that feel the story is racist and those that don't. With the school about to explode over race, the show is canceled, which brings up the issue of censorship. The show raised questions over stereotypes-- not all black students were for the play, and not all white students against it. It raised questions of education -- should anything that a person finds objectionable be cut from the curriculum. It raised questions of independent thinking -- what do you do when you don't agree with your racial group. It raised questions of loyalty -- do you stick with your friends when you disagree with them, and can you even still be friends. It even raised questions about freedom -- are.we willing to sacrifice our freedom to say something others may find uncomfortable when safety is on the line. I really didn't expect this episode, and it treated racism in a more balanced and honest way than many other shows or even documentaries I've seen. And when it was all over probably the most important message was that if we try to block out the past, even when that past was repugnant, we risk failing to grow.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A Husband Who Won't Be Kept, 25 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As others have noted, though this is marketed at "Pre-Code" there is little here to suggest that the censors would have had an issue. A spoiled, rich girl sets her sights on a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, and does whatever it takes to get him. And get him she does, but he eventually rebels and she finds she can't keep him with her money any longer, and must find another way.

I had hoped the ending would give the film more of a pre-code kick, but unfortunately it wasn't there. I found the first two-thirds or more of the film stronger than the last third. In that first section, Dorothy Mackaill as the rich girl, Joel McCrea as the boy, and Robert McWade as the girl's father were the outstanding performances. They had depth and ease in their characters. Most of the others were flatly written -- Mary Carr as the boy's mom was sugary sweet, Ned Sparks as the Carr's border was there for comic relief, and a pack of shrewish women led by Florence Roberts as the girl's mother were all painfully overplayed for me. "Just get them off the screen!" I kept thinking.

But as I said, even the strong performances didn't sustain themselves throughout the film, with the one exception of McWade as the girl's father. His character remained his believable self throughout the film, and though he participated in spoiling his daughter, you always felt he did so because he truly loved his daughter, rather than trying to win her affection through money. At the last, you truly felt that even without all his riches as the owner of a steel mill, he could walk away and there would still be something of the man left at the end. There was still something more to the man outside of what we saw in this film. The other characters never achieved that feeling.

This is a film I'm glad I saw, but one which I would not say I had to have in my collection.

11 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Unusual Format - Excellent Result, 2 August 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

For fans of the Poirot series, this episode stands out. It adds to the typical, "Poirot has the answer when no one else does" format with two things -- a slower setup of the crime and a quicker resolution.

Usually the crime is revealed early in the episode and the Poirot's solution revealed with just moments to spare before the end credits roll. Not so this time. In this roughly 48 minute episode, the crime doesn't become apparent until 15 minutes into the show, and Poirot has revealed the culprit just 10 minutes later. With the wrongdoer identified I found myself wondering, "What will they do with the second half of the episode?" Not to worry.

Just because we know who committed the crime, doesn't mean the person has been apprehended--which takes further quick thinking and action on the part of Poirot, Hastings, and Inspector Japp. Then, once apprehended, Poirot must reveal both the clues, and his actions, that led to the person's capture. If you've watched a lot of the Poirot mysteries, this episode won't disappoint.

The writer framed this episode perfectly, and keeps you off balance throughout, wondering how everything will play out, even when you think you already know the ending.

You also get to see Poirot play a character outside of detective--matchmaker!

12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Best of the Best, 26 February 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I rarely give a perfect rating to any movie, episode, or series. That said, I'm a huge fan of Poirot on TV and film. (Yes, I've seen the 1960's Tony Randall version -- YIKES!) So lets get to the bottom line. I told my wife she HAD to watch this episode with me. It is the best episode or movie of Poirot that I've seen. Suchet is at his best, managing to work both the younger version of Poirot against the more mature version of Poirot, and make them both convincing. The mystery is challenging and fascinating, and even the love story woven throughout the episode has a surprising ending. And for the big fans, watch closely--you'll see the lapel pin from this episode pop up in others as well. All in all, a great episode!

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
I just don't get it, and neither does this short, 19 November 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'll say up front, I don't get what was so funny about the Dogville shorts. But having watched all nine of them now, just for the historical film perspective, I have to say that "Trader Hound" is by far the worst. While some of the others provide a chuckle or two, this one wasn't funny in the least, and didn't seem to know what to do with itself. This short begins with narration (something the other eight never did), then goes to the dog characters for a bit before switching to a second narrated section about a wrestling match between a gorilla and a lion, played by two men dressed in ridiculously bad costumes. Where did the dogs of Dogville go? Oh wait, now they're back, and being chased now by a real alligator--which doesn't fit at all with the previous animals all being men in costume. Except of course, for the real monkeys thrown in for good measure during the jungle scenes. Does my review seem disjointed? Not a surprise, since the short is disjointed as well. The mix of narrated, non-narrated, dog, human costumed animals, and real animals keeps the short off balance and off story. So, can you tell I didn't like it???

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