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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Been Triping over ..., 11 October 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Shows lately. First Ghost Whisperer and now The Mysteries of Laura.

Like GW, the title left me cold so just kept surfing past Mysteries until I decided to give it a try. And like GW, I found a show well worth watching when I did.

As many of the IMDb reviews point out, Debra Messing does a great job but she isn't carrying the show all by herself: the ensemble cast works well, with good performances from everyone. The same goes for the scripts and cinematography - intelligent and first-rate.

Basing all of this on two episodes so can't say anything about nailing the crate shut but ...

Can say, so far, very watchable with a caveat: unlike Castle or Bones or Elementary, not electric - more of a wine worth sipping than than a shot of single-malt Scotch shot back. The tone is low-key and the pace is leisurely. Giving it a ten because it does what it sets out to do without any glaring faults or flaws.

huh?, 7 September 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I like this series quite a bit - almost all of the episodes I've seem have been entertaining, well-thought out and enlightening.

Which is why this one is such a shock.

Josh Bernstein is his usual affable self and the show is well produced but the history is totally whacked-out.

From the first frame, Bernstein's question is, 'What drove Akhenaten to bring Egypt to the brink of destruction by imposing the worship of The Aten as the one and only god on his subjects?'. His answer: Marfan's Syndrome. Akhenaten didn't see so great and needed the extra light. Virtually every part of Lost King focuses on either the negative effects of the move to Armana or the idea that Akhenaten was responding to his health problems.

Huh? While there's always been speculation, among European and modern Egyptian archaeologists, about the health of the 18th dynasty's last two Pharaohs, Akhenaten and Tutankhamen, the general consensus is that Akhenaten's 'Revolution' was an attempt to destroy the power of the priests of Amun, in particular, while sifting the mechanism of worship away from all of the priesthoods in favor of the monarchy itself. In short, he was pulling a Henry the VIIIth. Politics, not religious fervor or physiologically induced dementia.

Unlike Henry, Akhenaten's attempt to reign-in an overly powerful clergy did not succeed - the fight was between Pharaoh and Priests, not the people who sided not so much with the Priests but with their beloved, millenniums-old gods.

And Egypt's Lost King mentions none of this, treating the elevation of the Aten to top dog as a unsolved mystery.

Where the Hell were Josh's fact checkers?

Saturday Night at the Movies, 2 September 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Was a godsend for me as an adolescent, back in the early 60's, and many of the films I watched stayed with me - Portrait of Jennie being one of the strongest of those memories.

This always puzzled me because, while there was much in the tone of the movie I remembered with affection, there were also elements of melodrama and weak plot elements that gnawed. And, given that I'd only seen it once so long ago, I always wondered if I'd projected a teenager's perspective into it.

So, when it popped up on TCM recently I recorded it, discovering where both impressions originated.

Frankly, the opening and ending credits reek of Selznick's ego while the opening voice-over is both unnecessary and bombastic, tossing in pointless speculations of time and space, neither of which are well understood to this day.

Then Portrait begins with Cotten's character, Eben Adams, meeting Jennifer Jone's Jennie Appleton as a young girl (Who dreamed up these names?), and Portrait takes off - building from friendship to love within a frame of mystery as Adams slowly comes to realize that Jennie is not what she seems.

A great deal of credit goes to Director and Screen Writer for letting the story evolve, from Adams' perspective, without explicitly identifying Jennie as a Spirit or Ghost even 'til the very end, and finally granting her Immortality in Adam's haunting portrait.

Jennie's never explained, the mystery is never really solved, logic is never imposed on the story. It's left, as it should be, lyrical and heart-breaking.

As for my remembered misgivings, blame Selznick and his ego. Cut out everything after "A Selznick Production" to Cotten's opening scene as well as the pretentious closing credits (did Selznick just get back from a French vacation?) and you've got a small masterpiece.

As for the source, Robert Nathan's novella, I suspect he dreamed up the names to seem more New Englandish (Eben? Miss Spinnery?) and I'd love to find a copy; he did write "The Bishop's Wife", the film version of which is also a favorite. So I'm inclined to give him a pass rather than thinking Portrait was a superior adaptation of a lesser work.

At any rate thank God for TCM and, despite my criticism, Selznick's ability to recognize when he's produced a winner and restrain, if not totally corral, his ego.

Finally tripped over it, 27 August 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

And was totally surprised.

I'm constantly surfing through my provider's programming guide like at 2, 3, 4 am and used to ignoring TNT's GW, Charmed and Supernatural, the latter two fine shows but not my cup of tea. Ghost Whisperer I didn't even think of checking out, basically, because I'm sick of any series with Whisperer (dogs, tots, donkeys, sharks, horses) in the title.

Then 3 or 4 minutes of GW got tacked onto a movie I'd recorded and my first surprises were that the principles were full-grown adults and the cinematography was both intelligent and well-done, pace and cutting seamless. Writing was pretty good too. Everybody acted like real people and when the script did invoke surreal or spooky elements they were well-integrated and specific to the episode. Never anything done simply for effect or shock value. Not many shows, even A-list shows like Bones and Castle, can say the same.

As well as the characters, the plots are generally adult, or grown-up, as well. Or at least handled as though they were grown-up, i.e. serious. For example Melinda's ability to see and interact with spirits is taken matter-of-factly by primary and secondary characters alike; no big deal. Point is to solve the mystery, why the spirit hasn't passed on, and to facilitate its passage with that solution. In that respect, GW shares a great more with police procedurals and cop shows than Fantasys with a big F.

Bottom line: well acted, well written, well shot, well produced and well worth watching.

Can't close without mentioning Jennifer Love Hewitt in particular, given her status. Her performance as Melinda is outstanding: low-key, believable and effective. The same goes for all of the primary and secondary characters, especially Jim Clancy as David Conrad. And even, more especially, The Ghosts, who often appear in very short, static cuts expressing a single emotion like anger, surliness, surprise or confusion, all of which are difficult to hold effectively even for a second without sinking to camp.

Moreover, The Ghosts themselves develop into real characters, becoming realer as the mystery progresses toward solution, finally emerging as full-blown individuals and bringing the story to a close by fleshing-out their involvement in the story.

So far I've only seen a half-dozen episodes of a five season run and, therefore, can't speak to the show's evolution but what I've seen so far has been well worth the watching.

Rough, 27 August 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In two senses - rough to re-make a successful series, especially third time around: ratings and reviews of the Scandinavian original and the French version (The Tunnel) makes this clear (really, the French succeeded in gritty reality?)

Lucky me, I've never seen either. Meaning that I can review this version without prejudice.

First point - this is not a police procedural; nor is it a cop show.

What it is is an extremely basic, extremely raw and scary exposition of the elemental war between Light and Dark, the inspiration for Good and Evil.

That's the second sense of rough, depicting that war in its most fundamental form: irrational and senseless madness; no rules and no holds bared and, most of all, no point: no winning or losing, just an intense, paranoia inducing free-for-all played out, in this version, in a pattern of slow declamation punctuated with explosions of intense violence. While cause and effect does exist, as it does in the broader Universe, it's only an excuse for Darkness to revel in mindless destruction.

Staging the war in the context of the Mexican drug trade is a no brainer - even more than the South American connections (Columbia, Venezuela, Bolivia) the Mexican Connection's lack of business orientation, with its veneer of rationality, in favor of violence for the sake of violence is a natural. Paranoia, madness without relief.

And The Bridge succeeds in portraying the clash in its rawest form: defined by the Darkness' ability to express itself in absolute terms while the Light can only exist in shades of gray.

Sonya, Wade and Ruiz, the primaries for Light, express the Humanistic values derived from Light but only in the contexts humans are capable of - incompletely as defined by their individual identities. The shades of gray. Diane Kruger, Damian Bicher and Ted Levine excel in their roles, convincing in both strengths and weaknesses. The same can be said of the rest of the cast, down to the extras, demonstrating the quality of both direction and writing.

Then there are the characters of Steven Linder and Eleanor Nacht, well paired as vessels for Darkness and Light, both void and creepy as Hell, very nearly angels as defined by the Ancients, unworldly and alien, natural forces clothed in human flesh. Nacht (well-named) interacts only transactionally with her human counterparts; Linder, on the other hand, connects deeply with his human mirrors. Both expressing one of the core manifestations of the conflict: the absolute versus the individual.

But The Bridge is not a philosophic treatise - it's a raw, gritty, paranoia-inducing exposition of the war expressed in frighteningly human terms.

Flavored with vertigo and imbalanced atmospherics, even the Sun's glare on the Mexican countrysides becomes threatening.

Guilty Pleasure, 25 August 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Intensely manneristic from the city-scape, crowd/mob scene and lab processing montages to Caine's characteristic neck tilt, CSI Miami is a show I should hate. Apart from the mannerism of the visuals, very few of the secondary characters, from the mobs to the perps, are recognizable as humans.

Good example: one episode opens with a hot-dogger hot-dogging down a beachfront road, popping up through the sun-roof and getting decapitated. The mob watching screams, begins flowing towards the scene and then there's a quick-cut to its members pulling out their phones and snapping pictures. Pretty much all of the crowd/mob scenes display similar sensibilities.

When functioning as individuals, as witnesses, suspects or perps, most of the secondary characters exhibit characteristics ranging from self-awareness lower than Amoebas to high Narcissism; clueless to anyone being anything more than a toy or an annoyance.

The primary characters fare a little better: except for names like Boa Vista and Duquesne (pronounced Descane), they're all more or less human. Calleigh, Caine (despite the neck thing) and Alexx Wood led the pack as fully self-aware individuals with Natalie, Wolfe and Delko following as slightly flawed, blinkered creatures, and Frank Trip trailing as comic relief, human but dumb as a bar of soap. All caring, non-the-less, about their jobs and the victims.

And of course the usual cop-show flaws: story-lines that make no sense and procedures that would make real-life cops cringe (the convoys of screaming cruisers being led by over-sized SUV's; CSIs being first responders and acting like cops, confronting suspects often without back-up, etc., etc., etc.).

So it should add-up to a show I hate: Mannerism, secondary characters less than despicable and stories that make no sense.

Guilty pleasure; I love it.

Why I don't know.

Perhaps because the visual Mannerism is engaging and seems to serve the American fascination with dramatic visuals rather than the European species, which focuses on the filmmaker's ego.

Or because the secondary characters' lack of humanity is so stunningly banal that its unbelievability distances it to the level of flies on fly-paper; aliens squirming, trapped by glue (humanistic values) they don't understand.

Or maybe I just like watching Calliegh, Caine and Alexx interact, instructing and dragging their kinder, Natalie, Delko and Wolfe along, often with the dim-witted but well-intentioned Trip tagging behind.

Whatever the reason, very much irrational, I just plain enjoy it.

One star but ..., 20 August 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Highly recommended for a good laugh.

12-21-12 came and went without so much as an errant burp, transforming this occasionally hysterical episode of Countdown to Apocalypse into a hysterically funny exposition (and exposee) of its kind.

Highly serious, filled with dread and dreadful, it chronicles all of the possible scenarios through which the MAYAN APOCALYPSE will be accomplished: the Sun blowing-up, Terrestrial magnetic pole shift, some vague manifestation of Global Warming, Asteroids Attack!, and just regular old bad weather (tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.) all hitting at once. Fast-paced, throwing disaster after disaster at you in almost a blur with a Beware! The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling! voice-over narration that is exquisitely awful.

More could be said but why spoil it. Watch it yourself to see how truly camp these kind of shows can be, once debunked.

Better than its ilk, 20 August 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This series (Countdown to Apocalypse) is, actually, almost watchable - it's got Morgan Freeman's sonorous voice-over and actually cites its sources (Nostradamus' quatrains) without alteration. And it follows a logical pattern: Freeman reads an overgeneralized statement about Nostradamus or one of 'his' prophecies, the offending quatrain appears on the screen (always too vague to prophesize anything in particular) followed by a talking head projecting whatever 'meaning' into the quatrain that the producers require. The whole process is then sensationally illustrated with historical stills, film and Doomsday voice-over. All at a quiet, sedate pace suggesting rational and reasonable calm.

Almost hypnotic in effect. Almost.

Fact is Nostradamus' quatrains and centuries, like all 'prophetic' verse, had two targets: commentary on the recent past or cautions against current trends. From Revelations on, Christian Prophecy has shared its predecessors' model: vague to meaninglessness imagery disguising criticism of recent political or spiritual trends, vagueness serving as a protection against the gruesome punishments of the time.

Fact is one of the beauties of Creative Chaos (a sixties term) is that 'The Future' is unknowable - there are just too many variables changing too quickly for any brain or machine to keep track of in the great flow of cause and effect. Even if every variable (data point) could be identified, they'd all change too rapidly to track meaningfully - let a single point get past you unnoticed and Blam! Your model of the future disintegrates. Best we can do are various forms of statistical analysis and even then they'll only be valid for specific parameters, like an election or consumer behavior, and only then within a very short time-frame.

So why expend all this effort worshiping 'Prophecy'? Easy: cleansing, restarting and stasis. We'd all love to see Evil (however whoever defines Evil) evicted from human conduct, rebuilding always contains the seeds of a glorious newness and the hope we'll achieve a perfect new future - the stasis of a never-changing Paradise, endless, forever and ever. All done not through eons of struggle to define and implement the values desired but in a glorious instant of rebirth - no work involved.

So we get Apocalypses delivered through everything from asteroids to Divine Intervention (The Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah; both clearly ineffectual) to Aliens. All Hail Apocalypses!

Especially that Mayan one of 12-21-12 that so radically altered our reality.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
First Mermaids, 17 August 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Now Megalodon. And from the opening scene, amateur theatrics. Blair Witch footage of a boat sunk by Something Scary, its crew lost while all of the principles, from Drake to the guy in the cap to those guys stuffing the Chum Cannon, seem like they can hardly contain their laughter. Is this fake? YES YES YES.

There is no such creature as Colin Drake, marine biologist. Nor is the actor playing him (Darron Meyer) very convincing. Same with all of the secondary characters - none of whom have any greater presence on the Web or, more importantly, as members of any professional society than Drake himself.

Emmet Miller does exist as an Emmet Miller, formerly a news anchor (KTLA, Los Angeles) and currently unemployed (by all accounts). As do I, C***** K*******, as a TV viewer, a very irritated TVV, who hates cons not because they're cons but because the con artist's primary goal is to stick it to the sucker. And, unfortunately, much of the Discovery's Channel content fits that characterization.

Fun is fun and this kind of stuff can be fun to produce and watch, like Blair Witch, except when it claims to be real. That disrespects the audience and invokes that con-person snicker, sticking it to the sucker. Insults Megalodon too,who may or may not still ply the deeps of the world's oceans. Hopefully the producers will meet the real thing one day, though they'd be little more than a snack.

It's not clear whether this and other programs in the series are independent or Discovery productions but, whichever, none of the Shark Week episodes should be taken seriously: they're all suspect despite what your programming guide might say.

It would be nice if Discovery forewarned its viewers that "the following program is fictional". But, then, if they did, how could they snicker at the suckers?

Update 8-19-14 Just saw "Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine" which purports to document the capsizing of the the whale watching boat, the Joyride, and the subsequent gruesome events and introduces Submarine, an infamous shark who has terrorized Shark Alley for 15 years - Oops 40 years with 27 kills.

Well, none of the principles exist, neither Mel Thurmond nor Conrad Manus nor Submarine, nor did a boat called the Joyride capsize or sink off the coast of South Africa on April 16, 2014. A very good example of why nothing on Discovery or its sister channels should be taken seriously.

Nothing wrong with producing a Mocku-mentary but it should be identified as such, i.e. "The following is a work of fiction and does not depict any actual events".

This episode of Shark Week is too new to have an entry on IMDb, which is why I'm updating this review and not the episode separately. Would if I could.

Two movies, actually, 9 August 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The first is a smart, sophisticated, snappy romp with Cable, Loy and Powell lighting up the screen. Hell, turn off the sound and just watch the light. Then turn it back on to catch the dialog that matches it. Better than Mr. Lucky and that's saying a lot.

Second movie is the courtroom/prison drama that plays a lot like Production Code Censoring. Mankiewicz manages to make it believable and even establish, or at least presage, standard Death Row bravado - which Gable is able to pull off with panache. Even so, the introduction, or imposition, of all of the stock elements of code morality, no matter how gamely handled by writer and cast, was not a plus.

Saw Manhattan Melodrama first time as a kid and was mightily impressed. Even with the second part (though slightly confused by the sudden change in tone). It played for me then as individuals taking responsibility for their actions.

Just saw it again on TMC and was struck by how well it aged. But the murder and the courtroom/prison drama didn't play anywhere closely as well as I remembered: it reeked of Code dictated morality that almost ruined my memory of it.

Almost but not quite. Except for Powell's resignation speech that ends Manhattan (which should have fallen to the cutting-room floor), Cable, Loy and Powell save it in the best tradition of flawed, improbable endings that Hollywood is so eminently well-know for.

If the conflict between friendship and duty had been allowed to play out more in tone with the first part, more naturally and with a touch of realism, who knows? Critics and public alike might still remember it as a Classic.

Bottom line, despite the flaws of the second part, still one of the '30s must see, A-list films.

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