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The Life of David Gale (2003)
"The death of David Gale!"
There have been movies showing innocent people being executed i.e.THE GREEN MILE, the truly guilty being executed I WANT TO LIVE and the guilty being reprieved at the last minute or even acquitted in court, BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT and JAGGED EDGE respectively. In addition even getting away Scot free as Liam Neesen did in UNDER SUSPICION.
Unlike TRUE CRIME, THE LIFE OF David GALE goes a step further and results in the execution of an innocent man when you are led to believe that Winslett's character would at the last minute save the day. Why is this? To some extent the ability produce movies that stays an execution at the last minute is probably been done so many times, that the ending is predictable. Everybody was no doubt relieved when at the last minute in TRUE CRIME the execution was stayed, particularly after the harrowing scene of the condemned mans final time with his wife and daughter. Pro death penalty advocates can at least argue that well even under these bizarre scenarios the system still works; the last minute is still OK! In David gale you can't say that, the system clearly fails under such circumstance when it is obvious that Gale was not guilty of murder! Having said that I'm not sure we should feel sorry for Gale, he wanted to die and conspired in what best could be described as a bizarre (time delayed) suicide pact in a cult like manner. While it's obvious from much earlier in the movie that there is something odd about his associate's death/murder that is compounded by the creepy hilly-Billi Dusty who arouses all sorts of suspicion.
In the end suicide and voluntary incrimination is all that makes sense as the final twist approaches. For people who enjoyed the (not very subtle Bush bashing, i.e. 'that's FUZZY thinking) and the anti-death penalty message you have to be careful. The chance of a wrongful conviction for murder is as big as winning the lottery. Also, should the system be dismantled on the strength of a determined effort to under represent one self with inept legal representation as well as contriving an elaborate and well organized scheme to frame one self for murder. Also, the nobility and courage of all in doing this should not be over stated.
In this case the girl was going to die, and despite being a Harvard graduate Gale had decided to give up on life believing that he could not recover from divorce and the set back of a ruined reputation from the original rape charge. That is self indulgent view of life which flies in the face of the human spirit, never the less he sets up his death while also providing for his family and in some manner fulfilling the desire to discredit the death penalty.
The anti death penalty message behind this is clumsily done! If there is any real injustice with the death penalty it's that if you have to rely on a public defender, criminal trials almost resemble 'kangaroo courts' as over zealous prosecutors with unlimited resources bridled with political ambitions can steam roll a defendant onto death row quicker than you can say 'Jack Frost'. Biased media coverage, mug shots, perp walks and shackled defendants in court waring the now obligatory "Guantanamo bay" auteur paraded for news at 10 prior to a trial taint a jury before it even starts. None of this was really addressed by the movie! It's an entertaining movie and Spacy delivers as usual, yet I'm not sure I have much more sympathy for Gale any more than his alter
The Harder They Fall (1956)
A decent insight into the business of boxing!
Although this movie is now 50 years old I think that it is more relevant now than it was then in 1956. Prize fighting has moved on leaps and bounds since then, some of it positive and some negative. Of course it depends on your point of view about boxing and in some respects the message that this movie sends is totally dependent on that view. Some might say that it is anti boxing but I would say that it is a realistic portrayal of the business of professional boxing.
In this movie a boxing promoter Nick Benko (Rod Steiger) hires a washed up sports writer Eddie Willis (Humphry Bogart) to help talk up and help with the promotion of a new boxing sensation called Toro an Argentinean giant (6' 8" and 270 Ib.) "the wild man of the Andes". Unfortunately, Toro despite his size couldn't punch his way out of a wet paper bag and even worse, has a chandelier jaw to match. Any decent fighter worth his weight would turn Toro's legs into linguine with a decent combination of punches. Despite this obvious problem Benko is not perturbed and along with his crooked associates stage a series of fights where Toros opponents are bribed to throw the fights after a couple of rounds. The ultimate goal is to make Toro look much better than he really is.
The result of a string of wins against some decent opponents allows Toro to build up an impressive boxing resume and consequently his stock value in the world of boxing rises too. The tragedy is that Toro starts to believe in his own ability and Willis who feels he has a sense of responsibility towards Toro because he is partly responsible for the hype has a genuine feeling of affection for Toro who in reality is a naive gentle giant who only wants to go back to Argentina and buy his parents a home with his money.The ending of the movie is perhaps somewhat predictable but not without honor and your belief in humanity is some what left intact.
In offering full disclosure I think that boxing can be one of the most entertaining and exciting sporting events. The 1981 welterweight unification bout between Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns and the 1989 commonwealth title fight between middle weights Michael Watson and Nigel Benn both spring to mind. Fights are no more intense and exciting as these two and both lived up to pre-fight hype. However, on the down side boxing is riddled with miss matches and over hyped fighters. Frank Bruno a British heavyweight and world contender in the 1980's and early 1990's was one. Blessed with a well chiseled physic he built up an impressive KO record, yet when he came up against anybody half decent or not payed to take a dive he was found out and not nearly as powerful as we were led to believe. Also there is an alphabet soup of world bodies who claim to represent a world champion, phony fights and "Mexican road sweepers" who fall over when instructed too.
It's also important to note that boxing is also entertainment but more importantly a business and this movie portrays this very well. Yes big business, which goes some way to explain why there is so many promoters, world bodies, fighters, world title fights of some description. Boxing is like any other business it's marketed, promoted and sold to the public as entertainment and consequently to sell out crowds and large PPV TV audience or else exclusive TV rights. It's big money and there's a lot to be made, there are a lot of snouts in the trough claiming a cut of the money.
When you hear of a boxer getting paid $30 million a fight, by the time all of the expenses are taken into account, all the entourage get their slice the fighter gets considerably less. The fighter in effect is just one cog in the giant machine of the business in boxing, although an important part never the less he can't get the big fights unless they are a team player and play ball with the promoters. This movie in particular portrays this very well! I have no problem with the business nature, entertainment or the violence of boxing. As for the public or TV companies who are fooled into believing the hype of up and coming fighters and are willing to pay so much to watch fights under false pretenses -that's too bad. What I'm concerned with the welfare of the fighters when so many people are filthy rich out of prize fighting. In the end of the movie Eddie Willis concludes that boxing should be banned. That's the anti boxing message, however boxing can't be banned! The scandal is the fighters who end up seriously injured and broke either through the trauma of one fight i.e Gerald McClellan or through a succession of fights like the Quarry brothers who both ended up with brain damage and consequently in assisted living accommodation.
There are too many fat cats in boxing who are not accountable for the injuries that their fighters suffer while in the ring, this needs to be addressed and sorted out. To me this is what the movie is saying!
Bloody Kids (1980)
Richard Beckinsales last movie!
I do remember walking down to "old Leigh" (Leigh-on-sea)one night in early March watching them film a scene for this movie at the underpass by the cockle sheds. In addition while in the 'Peterboat ' pub I saw Richard Beckinsale sampling some of the local brew and was struck how overweight he looked despite the fact he was well over six feet (he looked in good shape in Rising Damp and Porridge). Then about five days later I heard the shock news that he had died from a heart attack while only 32
Watching it today, although nostalgic, it does seem very dated. A lot has changed in Southend since then, some things are the same or very similar but it is a different generation, time has passed and it does not seem relevant today. Good scenes of the town back in 1979 and it also reflects the very poor spirit for young people back at that time, things did seem hopeless for many.(Note: In 1979, --- 33,000 were packed into ROOTS HALL to watch a goal less draw in the FA cup between Euro Champs Liverpool and fourth division Southend united!).
The Games (1970)
"The two hour marathon"!
This movie has aged, of course it's going on for 40 years so that is understandable. Never the less it represents a time gone by, its politically incorrect, full of racially insensitive remarks and highlights the conflict with professionalism/amateurism, drugs and the political grandstanding that went on back in the 60's,70's and 80's in track and field. As an other reviewer says the Olympics was the ideal forum where sport was all about politics.
It's a movie really for track and field enthusiasts although it's interesting to see a very young Michael Crawford (who actually had top billing for this movie) and Ryan O'Neal in his love story glory (it had not been released) and a young Sam Elliot who you would never recognize today but sounds the same. If I hadn't known better I would have said his voice was dubbed, but no it actually was Elliot's voice which would become better known as his career progressed. Crawford never hit the big time in movies but would be better known in comedy and stage by the late 70's and 80's. O'Neal ironically became typecast in his love story role which he never really shook that off all but disappeared from the screen by 1980.
As for the political incorrectness, it starts almost at the beginning. Back in those days milk was the stable drink but nowadays because of the fear of heart disease and bad cholesterol gator aid or some ridiculously priced glucose based drink that is supposed to re-balance the fluids in the body would be the primary beverage, milk just won't cut it! In the second scene while at Yale University Reynolds gets into a "binge drinking" contest. Of course, that's really what it amounts to of but here it's innocently described as a 'Chug-a-lug' contest where the prize is a night with one of the (co-ed or sorority girl?) girl students. Both drinkers pass out and today Women's advocate groups and the college establishment would freak at this type of activity, you certainly can't make light of things like that today.
The aborigine Australian runner Sunny "who is used to the heat" and runs in bear foot learned to run because he chases kangaroos in the bush is also another politically incorrect stereotype that won't cut today either. Also portraying Harry Hayes coach Bill Oliver as a homosexual should not be overlooked. It was meant to be subtle but it didn't fool me at all, the aggression, the drooped moustache, the sexual tension with Hayes girlfriend as well as the jealous looks, it was just all too apparent.
It's obvious that a lot of the film was left on the cutting room floor, probably for time constraints, yet it is still allows for character development. In addition you can see at first hand the cultural differences and training methods each runner uses in the old days of "shamateurism ". I'd have to say that all of the athletes that were portrayed Harry Hayes, Vedick , Sunny Pintubi and Reynolds from the UK, Czechoslovakia, Australia and USA respectively were well cast and very believable as runners.
The climax of the movie is worth waiting for and the gut wrenching Jim Peters moment (Vancouver 1954) portrayed by Harry Hayes is a spectacle. Great commentary from both BBC broadcaster Ron Pickering and former US Olympian Rafer Johnson for NBC, it's well worth a watch for all of the above
Doctor at Sea (1974)
"The cruel sea!!"
All at sea maybe, critics at the time lambasted this as being lame by comparison of the original doctor's series. I disagree, although many of the original cast members had gone by the way side the basic chemistry between Duncan warring and Stewart-Clark which by that time was easily the backbone of the series remained intact. Even their arch nemesis professor Loftus who technically was written out of the series staged a metamorphosis to haunt the two wise cracking and juvenile doctors.
By this time they had been sacked from St.Swithans and despite this set back they thought that they had managed to wrangle a cushy little number on a cruise liner. However, to their horror it so happened that the captain of the ship was none other than Norman Loftus sir Geoffrey's twin brother who not only was identical to his brother but shared the same personality: what rotten luck
Doctor on the Go (1975)
The penultimate series!
After having enough cruising around the world Warring and Stewart -clark managed to return to St Swithans for what we were to learn was the penultimate series 'doctor on the go'. This kept faith with the original theme with all it's carrying ON's and we were introduced to the attractive Dr Kate Wright, the dopey Dr Mackenzie and the stiff backed and humorless Dr Gasgoigne. This lasted a respectable two seasons before Waring and Stewart-Clarke had to emigrate to OZ (presumably they were both struck off). By the time of the last series they had run out of ideas, scripts but more importantly they had all grown up.
(Note: in 1992 they all returned for "doctor on the top" which mercifully was sent packing after a tedious six episodes, that was not in any way funny.)
The Fenn Street Gang (1971)
"Please sir - - - - - - - can I have some more!"
When it became obvious that the pupils at Fenn St school were not believable as 16 year olds ( some were pushing 30 by this time) because of the success of the characters in Please sir they decided to continue the antics out of school in the real world where they could chance their arm trying to earn a living. (please sir actually continued for another season but without Duffy ( awhh rabbishhh sir!) and co it bombed and was axed shortly there after.) The problem is that they all went their separate ways and it was difficult to keep the chemistry together especially with so many plots going on. When the main characters all jell in the school environment it all falls apart when they are not together. As with the ill fated Tuckers luck in the early 1980's (a spin off from Grange Hill) high school pranks do not transfer well out off school. You can't get away with school shenanigans in the work place.! The Fenn st Gang did run for a respectable 40 episodes over a two year period but it was not as popular as please sir and found itself relegated to Sunday afternoons. It just goes to show that tinkering with a popular show is risky and even transferring the same characters into a different setting has it's limitations.
Not yet available on DVD, whether it will be is any bodies guess.
The Swimmer (1968)
The American nightmare!
What can you say about the swimmer that hasn't already been said. On reflection you have to feel sorry for Ned Merrill, certainly you can't have any sympathy for any of the characters he meets on his way! If he has suffered some sort of mental breakdown the question is why? This movie was set in the civilized environment of New England, Connecticut to be precise and it highlights the cozy drinks around the swimming pool and lavish dinner party Scean that is part and parcel of American culture.
It's perplexing to me that people would put so much expenditure and effort in putting in a pool something that you can only use in New England for about 5-6 months of the year. (Although in the Bizwangers case they added a sliding roof whereby at least they could use the pool all year round!) However the real reason for a pool in New England is to have your friends around, show off your pool and drink and eat to excess. However you can't be satisfied with that, in addition you have to have a pig roast with professional caterers and bar tenders to boot with a band playing in the back ground, thats real living. Material possessions are not just something to show off but are part of what is required to achieve status, without status in the US you have achieved nothing.
So how did Ned Merrill find himself in this predicament? In a conversation with Julie Ann Hooper he recalls that while on a transatlantic ship down in steerage he saw his wife to be, up in first class, he climbed over the barriers wooed her with his charm and that was the beginning of a whirlwind romance. So Ned Merrill found the inside track to achieve high social status. Next comes the huge wedding no expense spared, the grand house and soon the family. Status is not just 6 figure salary, but the house, the cars, the family, the job, throwing wild parties and being a member of an influential committee that's doing charity work. That's not it, being seen at $10000 plate political fund raisers, being a church deacon and basically rubbing shoulders with the movers and shakers in your suburban community is a requirement. At one scene at the Graham's Betty says to her husband "I wish we couldm travel more!" A bemused looking Howard says" why we have everything we want right here? That just sums up the attitude that the whole world evolves around their neighborhood. It epitomizes the culture of contentment and it's world of self importance.
Yet Ned Merills found to his cost that when his wife left him, or threw him out he found that everything else became very imbalanced and just like a house of cards once one falls the rest all comes down. Well you can figure out all of the sordid scenarios in sequence, many reviewers have tried but the bottom line is that your life and status can nose-dive into a downward spiral with marriage and work upheaval i.e. friends suddenly don't return calls, invitations to regular events don't turn up but worse you find that you are tapped of favors from colleagues and employment prospects start to very look bleak.
For people who live in such circles this must be their worst nightmare because you lose one you can lose it all. How do you adjust to such a dramatic change! In Ned Merrills case he became so obsessed in pursuing his American dream and totally absorbed in what he regarded as important that he fell into a state of self-propelling delusion.
Shallow, selfish people who put so much emphasis on status and material possessions as a sign of success find it hard to cope with such misfortunes . Why didn't Neddy just pack his bags and move to the west coast and start again? He can't, partly because of his pride and the fact that he was handed a lot probably makes it all the more harder. But the answer to the question is that he was conditioned to believe in a certain way and that without all of the above he was nothing, and he can't accept it?
All in all Ned Merill made things worse for himself, nothing to fall back on, nothing for a rainy day,no safe deposit box full of gold Krugerrands or cash. He threw everything into his lifestyle took himself too seriously and found very little sympathy from former friends, colleagues and acquaintances when the tide turned! Burt Lancaster was proud of this movie and so he should. His performance is very believable, he exuded confidence, happiness and the American spirit. Interestingly at the beginning of the movie he in no way portrayed a middle aged man on skid row which makes the ending even more disturbing when you see the state of him at the end. It could happen to the best of us, Was this what Cheever was trying to portray?
The Thing (1982)
"Gimmie that Thing"!,
The Thing has to be one of the all time great movies. Of course it was ground breaking special effects at the time of it's release that impressed me so much, back in 1982 it just blew my mind, I'd never seen anything like that! However, although the effects themselves made the movie more horrific, it was the story itself, the music score , the claustrophobic atmosphere of the Anarctic as well as the interaction and tension between the members of the doomed research station that makes it a classic.
Movies don't get any better than this! In the opening scene with the the chopper chasing this husky you just assume that it was some bored scientists from some station letting of some steam. Yet when you see them continue their chase at the US base you then think that the Norwegians are suffering from some form of advanced or extreme strain of cabin fever. Yet this is offset by the menacing opening music score that sets the tempo! You just know that something is not right! At this point it's a mystery until 'the thing' reveals itself.
However, the mystery returns because it becomes a sort of Agatha Christie "who dunnit" ( i.e. ten little Indians movie) sci-fi style as the members don't know which one of their team is really an alien. Suspicion continues to go back and forward between them all as one by one they eventually get knocked off or revealed as the alien. The mistrust between the station crew is absorbing as the movie progresses until the final showdown.
After 20 years of advances in computer graphics and film making production the special effects in "the Thing" don't carry the same weight as it did in 1982, but other than that it holds up very well all round with some great performances by the cast.
Hit Me, Baby, One More Time (2005)
Once would surly be enough!",
Vernon Kay keeps asking me to take a swing at him but the gangly metro-sexual host of this prime time line up would surly fold like a pack of cards with one hit -- to me he doesn't look like he could take a punch ! Ironically despite that, Vernon Kay's puss and his annoying northern English accent is not the problem with this show; it's the acts themselves.
Rock n Roll has been around for about 50 years, but it might as well as be 250 years pop/rock stars seem to age much quicker than any other profession. In acting, child stars often struggle to make it as adults, but some do make it, and as actors age they can often reinvent themselves from former leading men and women to patriarchal/matriarchal figures or else become the bad guys. Sports stars can often go into broadcasting or coaching! For rock stars if you want to perform and remain in the spot light there is simply very few options. Rock n roll/pop longevity seems to work providing the performers stay around in the public eye and they manage to change with the times. IE Paul Macartny, Elton John, Rod Stewart,and Madonna have successfully stood the test of time by re marketing themselves or alternatively changing their style of music despite the fact that none of them have contributed any thing meaning full to the music industry for about 25 to 15 years. In other words I remember them for all of their best work in the 1970's and 1980's respectfully not the stale and boring stuff since.
Imagine if after a 20 year absence Elton John and Stewart both tried to make a come back with their acts from the 70's with old fashions and tried to perform the way that they did back then, you would hear the laughter half way around the world. They would simply look ridiculous! To some extent this is the problem with this show! (Come to think of it I know now why the "rolling stones" have never broken up. To spare us the shock, nausea and horror as well as a rush to the kitchen sink if we were to see them decomposing on TV after a twenty year absence.) It's not that I'm against old music, on the contrary, but I'm happy just to listen or watch remastered old archive footage of them in their primes on VH1 or TOTP2 not waddling about on a live TV show 20 years later. Consider for a minute what it would be like watching the "Spice girls" and boy bands "Take That" and "NSync" in 15 -20 years time, just imagine them shuffling around a stage set in an attempt to turn back the clock, they would be the laughing stock --- and in all honesty it doesn't bear thinking about.
Rock n roll is by nature rebellious and performance is for the youth; seeing middle and old age rock stars prancing around is undignified and embarrassing (the 60 year old Blondie comes to mind). Seeing the 1980's retro group the "Bangles" now middle aged mothers trying to act like they were 20 years younger is sad.
Even if former groups dress and act like they are middle age to me it still doesn't work! For example "the eagles" looked very dignified when I saw them strumming classical guitars while perched on top bar stools on their last TV appearance but to me the whole act was simply dull and lacked the energy that they once had! In that case if you are die hard fan of an old band dish out the cash and go to one of their reunion concerts, but spare the rest of us from this spectacle on prime time TV.
With "hit me one more time " most of the groups and singers don't look or sound as good as they once were but to watch bloated and graying musicians trying to reprise their music from their heyday cheapens the accomplishments from their past. For example Duran Duran and Flock of seagulls were not very good! I'd be surprised if this show lasts another full season.If you are feeling nostalgic or want a blast from the past,then buy the DVD or get a digitally remastered CD!