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2030 - Aufstand der Jungen (2010)
Scary and realistic view of our future
This is a fascinating film that is difficult to classify: part thriller, part mystery, part reality show, and part sci/fi. It's a very busy movie, but all components I found interesting. Basically, the plot is about these kids who have grown up, literally, on a reality show and were much loved by the country; now, as adults in the year 2030, one of the participants appears to have died, left alone and untreated in an overcrowded and understaffed hospital after being shot. Or was he? Could it have been a simple medical oversight because he was uninsured? Or was he murdered because of something he knew? The best part of this movie is that we are shown in a quite realistic fashion what ANY country could be like in 2030- where the divide between the haves and have-nots has gotten so wide that there are two kinds of hospitals; one for people with money and one for people who don't have money. A great commentary on where our world is heading, disguised as an intriguing mystery.
Flamingo Road (1980)
One of the more underrated series of the 1980's
Flamingo Road was a lot like Peyton Place, in that it took place in a small Florida town and was dependent on a paper mill run by Claude Weldon. This soap had the best names. . . Constance, Eudora, Skipper, Fielding, Lane, Lute Mae, Julio, Elmo, and Titus, for starters. How these great actors kept from going over the top was a miracle, as the material could easily have gone in that direction. The first season focused on the triangle of Lane/Field/Constance, and Sheriff Titus's efforts to get Lane Ballou out of town permanently so she wouldn't affect Field's up and coming political career. However, due to Morgan Fairchild's popularity as the very self-absorbed and spoiled Constance, she became the focus of season two and slept with virtually every man but her father and brother! Throw in the arrival of Michael Tyrone as a man intent on destroying everyone on Flamingo Road through blackmail, murder, voodoo, and black magic, and the series was at it's peak. Unfortunately, the series ended with a few unanswered questions and cliffhangers, but it was still one of the best nighttime soap operas ever. Featuring a very sexy cast, including Woody Brown, John Beck, Fernando Allende, and Mark Harmon, plus the aforementioned Fairchild, Christina Raines, and Stella Stevens for the few straight men in the audience, this series had it all.
The most underrated soap opera ever
Texas as it began was very different from the Texas we all loved when it ended. It started out with a lot of flash and style but little substance and gradually morphed into one of the most family-centered dramas ever. Once Beverlee McKinsey/Iris Wheeler left, the show introduced more and more characters so that by the beginning of year two, most of the original female cast had been replaced! Forgettable characters like Dawn, Terry, Shirley and Anita were replaced by Ashley, Allison, Brett, Lurlene and Ruby. Ah, that dynamic duo Ruby and Lurlene- their friendship seemed so real and genuine, whether they were on the run from a zombiefied ex-husband trying to kill them before they could use a fire compass to open up a mysterious world named Hi-To-Pah, or just sharing their insecurities about their boyfriends to each other, few friendships ever shined like that one. Lots of humor, sexy shirtless men with cowboy hats, beautifully dressed women, and characters who actually worked, whether at a bar or an oil company or a boutique. Besides the Hi-To-Pah storyline, my other favorite included the Reena/Grant/Judith triangle, which took many twists and turns before it finally climaxed with a last episode happy ending. The last few episodes jibed perfectly with the cancellation of Texas, as Victoria Bellman lost her TV station KVIK- a perfect metaphor for the end of Texas. At a party featuring every cast member but Reena and Grant, she gave a truly beautiful toast to everyone for the work they had done and the joy they had given to the viewers. Cast members are seen crying softly as she finishes her speech and then they begin singing Auld Lang Syne, followed by a slow version of what has to be one of the most exciting and dramatic TV show openings ever- if you don't believe me check out youtube for the Texas opening, particularly the Next Generation score after McKinsey left. There's a reason this show is so fondly remembered by the fans.
Stranger in Our House (1978)
Not nearly as good or interesting as I remembered. . .
Wow, you'd think a TV movie by Wes Craven would be pretty suspenseful, right? Wrong- this is a snooze-fest that plays more like an after-school special. I'm serious- there are no thrills to be found until maybe the last 10 minutes, if you can call the catfight between the two female characters thrilling. I saw this movie when it first aired and I could really only remember a scene where a horse freaks out. Guess what- that's pretty much the only scary thing that happens, and it's not even scary! I was so looking forward to seeing this again but now that I have, I can truthfully say it wasn't worth the $10 bucks I paid on ebay for it. A much much better movie in this vein was called Midnight Offerings. It starred Melissa Sue Anderson and was much more exciting, with a couple of confrontations between the two main characters and some real, actual thrills. The movie box said it was rated PG-13, but considering there's no violence, blood, nudity, or language, it could have been rated G. I'm not kidding. How Wes Craven could have made this is beyond me. I'm tempted to listen to the audio commentary he provides for this movie, but that would require watching the film again, and I can't imagine putting myself through that again.
No Down Payment (1957)
I'm surprised no one has mentioned that. . .
No Down Payment was the basis/inspiration for the popular TV series Knots Landing. Both take place in a subdivision/cul-de-sac in California and focus on four married couples. Even the barbecue that takes place in the movie takes place in season two of Knots, with incredibly similar scenes. The character played by Tony Randall even works at a car lot, while on the series it was Don Murray who owned one. If you liked this movie, you'll definitely want to check out Knots Landing on DVD, and vice versa. I enjoyed the movie a lot, although I felt the ending was a bit too melodramatic. And the acting is a little uneven, with the newlyweds being perhaps the weakest. Still a great movie worth searching for.
Settle the Score (1989)
Better than average
This is a better than average movie for two reasons: the actors are of high quality (Howard Duff, Louise Latham, Mary Beth Hurt) and the ending- I thought it was pretty bold and brave of the writer to stick with the ultimate revelation of who the rapist/killer was. Small towns often hold shocking secrets, as we learn in this movie. Jaclyn Smith is totally adequate in the lead role, I agree with the one review which referred to her as somewhat flat, but I think that was a deliberate choice on the part of the actress. Certainly her scene with Howard Duff in the kitchen is intense, and the ending is suspenseful. Definitely worth seeing.
One of the best television movies ever
Truly remarkable on so many levels, and worth repeated viewings because it's easy to miss some things the first time around. For example, notice who is in the background when Caroline's father laments "I don't even know my own daughter," or the book the adult Winston picks up when speaking to Hilary. The acting is exceptional all around, but especially by Shawn Phelan as young Winston and Jenny Jacobs as Heidi- yes, Jenny Jacobs really does have a disability in real life, and I wouldn't be surprised if the woman who played Hilary also does, as well. Stephanie Zimbalist is luminous as Caroline, and the scenes between her and Patricia Neal (as the headmistress who doesn't believe she's really Caroline) virtually crackle with tension. The ending always puts a lump in my throat, but this is a rare movie that actually earns it's tears. It originally aired on CBS against the Jim Bakker story, which all the critics thought would destroy Caroline in the ratings, but it was the other way around! I've read the book as well and while I liked it, the movie in my opinion is better, because the actors bring the characters to life in a way that the written word can't.