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274 reviews in total 
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Kimball, The Braveheart, 20 August 2014
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Terror at High Point is another one of the human drama stories involving Richard Kimball as a kind of hero risking being outed for the greater good of saving the innocent. Here it involves a trouble-making co-worker played by the familiar James Best. The boss, played by the character actor Jack Klugman, hires a mentally-challenged, but functioning, youth at both his wife's and Kimball's encouragement. For Klugman's wife it is a kind of surrogate child she has yet to have, for Kimball is is imagined due to his background in pediatric medicine and strong sense of right.

Posing as the time-keeper for a river project puts Kimball into an atmosphere of animosity spurred by an evil-hearted co-worker and a young water boy who the worker strangely resents. Apparently the worker has a past history with Klugman's wife where she, likely, rebuffed his advances. James Best, the bad-apple worker, hatches a plan to get rid of the boy as well as get even with his spurned love-interest. He attacks Klugman's wife when no one is around and, worse, the water boy is seen, attempting to return a borrowed book, leaving the scene. The plan seems to be working until Kimball risks it all to save the boy and find out what really happened.

This isn't one of the best episodes, but it has the ingredients that help define Kimball. While the backdrop isn't particularly scenic it shows a time when modern expansionism was still very much on the march, thus providing some low-key period interest. Alluding to the jealousy that is pervasive when diverse men come together in latter-day "wild-west" atmosphere it makes a statement: injustice is where you find it. It is what men do. Men who sit by idly to it contribute to the dark side of the human existence. Kimball, simply, is built with such a strong sense of right that he seems to attract trouble, or at least sees it for what it is and must work to prevent it. That's the power in this humble episode. The cast is quite up to bringing the story to it's final conclusion, one in which Kimball triumphs, but most move on in order to find his own justice...And, the one-armed man.

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Decent Fictional Drama, 11 August 2014
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Only three episodes into the new WGN production "Manhattan" several things become clear. Manhattan is a fictional drama based on the remote Los Alamos County area the government used imminent domain to isolate in 1942. The nation's top scientists formed their laboratories to create the world's first functional atomic bombs. Robert Oppenheimer led the operation. While the show does well to paint the possible environ in which these men, and their families, lived and worked, the show doesn't attempt to be a highly factual account opting for drama and entertainment. In this guise it works quite well.

One can't help but notice a degree of care has been undertaken to create a time past. The cinematography is many times striking and uniformly excellent. The writing, though fictional, weighs in on the human drama surrounding this unique community. These are hard times and all are sacrificing creature comforts for the greater good of humanity as it is feared Germany may possibly be on the cusp of developing a atomic weapon first. No matter what these individuals are going through the atmosphere of urgency and secretive isolation looms large. Naturally such stress brings out many sides, both good and ugly, these people wrestle with That much rings true even if in using artistic license the writers have chosen to use a competition among two scientist's groups to be the first to make a working prototype bomb. While likely not true (Oppenheimer insisted on sharing all possible breakthroughs is the accepted fact) the fictional competition is fodder for great drama. This undercurrent of fevered competition is brought forth in Dr. Frank Winter's role as a man driven to stop the bloodshed overseas and prevent it from coming to America. Winter is highly conflicted, but laser driven to succeed at whatever the personal costs he and his group must pay. In his quest he steps on toes and alienates his superiors regularly.

So, if you don't expect a big revealing historically accurate telling of the Manhattan Project you can sit back and be entertained. It's obvious care has been given to create a "possibly true" alternative telling of this unique time and place.

Chef (2014)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Film Food Fun, 9 August 2014
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Faureau as I know him is a director and sometimes actor. Or is it the reverse? That's the thing, I'm not sure which is first or second. Chef makes it clear that in the right role Faureau is a great actor (yes, he's the writer and director too). Strangely, he reminds me of Albert Brooks, funny but without the neurosis.

The ritual that is food: the conception, preparation, and serving is at once the most sensuous as well as labor-intensive brush with sweaty human frailty (Murphy's Law?) a working man can combine. It's extremely personal and a daily challenge to pull off well. Not unlike Beethoven having to each day write, and conduct, another Fifth Symphony. A chef who produces masterpieces regularly is a victim of his own success. That, combined with outsiders, as in our case a "riva" owner, demanding the SAME symphony be played over and over. Forget about a possibly brilliantly inspired new work of culinary genius. Of course, this makes for a major conundrum, and online ugly showdown. So begins the story that is the movie Chef. Faureau totally nails and inhabits the character of harried food impresario who after great initial success has landed in a rut both professionally and personally.

Chef's son Percy, played by Emjay Anthony, takes on a major role in this fictional food adventure. If a child could be more lovable on celluloid it would be hard to imagine. There's also Chef's ex-wife Inez played by the striking Sofia Vergara. Admittedly, this role throws a curve. Why she's his ex isn't fleshed out leaving one to wonder since she's kind like Mother Teresa and genuinely supportive. And, by all outward appearances she's cash-flush plus runway ready too. Well, this is Hollywood after-all! Chef has to have a wing-man and taking that role to great heights is John Leguizamo as Martin, the sous chef. He's fantastic because he's a pro and this role is tailor-made.

In addition there's notable performances by Dustin Hoffman (restaurant owner), Oliver Platt (food critic), Robert Downey Jr. (a delightful ex cameo role), and Scarlett Johansson (hostess w/ a sweet disposition)...It's a dream cast and works as expected. Throw in a magical road-trip with some pretty tasty, and extremely well placed music, and watching Chef is great fun. Don't miss this one as it is easy to like.

Frontera (2014)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Realistic Confluence Of Tragic Events, 8 August 2014
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

At the intersection of hope and hopelessness that is the desert borderland of the U.S. and Mexico there is a strangeness. While refugees from the south plod toward some sliver of hope there's tremendous darkness threatening not only them, but the innocent who somehow intersect this web of illegal immigration. Then there's a whole other dynamic of both self- righteous and plain stupid people who 'get off' on taking the law into their own hands. The confluence of this, and more, is where life regularly meets death. How seemingly regular people's life changes for the worse isn't too far fetched at all. This is Frontera and it plaintively (i.e.straight-forward and simply) paints a tragic story of human nature's good, thoughtlessness, and criminal greed. As such, Frontera emerges realistically powerful.

The always excellent Ed Harris is a retired Sheriff border rancher. His quite life is suddenly upset by the tragic death of his wife when a suspected illegal attempts to steal her horse. Only, what first appears as an open and shut case isn't what it seems. Now, this isn't a mystery; i'm not giving away anything as the viewer knows full well what actually caused the unfortunate death. The story isn't this, it is how this cesspool that is the border, and those who play parts within, can come together all too ominously. What unfolds is many times gripping.

Frontera doesn't reach too far or wide, it just weaves a small story with compelling drama using an excellent cast which fits like a 'hand-in-glove'. The brilliance is in it's humbleness and realism. I have always thought Ed Harris can inhabit his roles with a naturalness that make you forget he's just an actor playing someone else. Frontera is such a story and It works to the very end where Harris proves pro-active in administering his morality as justice.

Nails Why The Fugitive Is Among TV's Finest Ever Series, 4 August 2014
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Never Wave Goodbye", only the fourth episode into the entire series, and The Fugitive comes into it's own rare television air. If one wants to get some flavor of a scenic place they've never experienced this episode adeptly uses the charm of Santa Barbara as it's backdrop. Painting it more as a quaint west coast version of Rhode Island really works. Using the handmade sail craft as Jeff Cooper's (Richard Kimball's) latest job and cover works colorfully in his need to hide, work, and search for that elusive one-armed man.

Of course, Kimball is destined to struggle and here it's complicated which provides truly top- notch drama. First, he has attracted the attention of a jealous co-worker. The type of person who always seeks to promote his own agenda by wreaking havoc with those who he perceives as competition. The fuel for this is the sail shop's owner's niece who has taken up with Kimball much to the co-worker Eric's (a young , and already interesting, Robert Duvall) attempts to curb any attachments. The jealous co-worker seeks to destroy this couples relationship by bringing down Jeff Cooper (Kimball). Cooper is trying to leave and events keep making that harder, yet highly advisable.

The drama comes to a critical mass when an article in the LA newspaper announces a "one- armed man" has been arrested for a local crime and is in custody. Cooper (Kimball) believes this may be the very man who murdered his wife. He must stay long enough to go to LA and find out. On the elderly sail shop's owner death bed he promises if he finds the man he thinks might be "the right man" the niece will never have to be alone. This sets up the critical mass with the co-worker which unfolds with a surprise. All this while Lieutenant Gerard gets a POI bulletin and travels to LA to interrogate the one-armed man in hopes of finding Kimball, primarily, yet it is intimated Gerard may just believe there really is such an assailant as per Kimball's testimony. Slivers of doubt such as this small tidbit really flow like an undercurrent and add to the persona of the man sworn to bring in Kimball.

So, all the ingredients which make The Fugitive compelling TV are in full-tilt here in one story. And, to make it better it's a two-parter and it uses the time to develop this story exceptionally well; building human interest and drama which threaten to intersect in a possible game- changing outcome. The cast here is "spot-on", the locale fantastic, the story filled with drama, and has a good fleshing out of all characters involved. We even meet Gerard's wife and son giving him a much more humane side as opposed to his Kimball obsessed "to-the-letter", mostly one-sided, enforcer of the law. An excellent first part which is followed-up by the equally good second-part conclusion.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Third Time Is Still Darkly Charming, 19 July 2014
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

n the new world order of television it is extremely common for various domestic TV markets to have a re-make of a program original to another country/market. That said, why not a re-make of re-make, or a third-generation re-envisioning of an original already re-made once (is there a fourth generation re-make already?).

I didn't see the original Swedish/Danish production entitled "The Bridge", but I did see the French/British re-make called "The Tunnel". The Tunnel was quite good and very slow to reveal the real plot. It was hugely inhabited by the pairing of two quite different detectives from two closely situated countries known to have plenty of their own culture differences. Sounds like a perfect template for yet another, this time American, re-make with the U.S. and Mexico as the geographical "ground-zero". Yes?

Yes, most definitely. Could two countries be closer physically, yet in denial of their common problem, i.e., the fact they are practically joined together by a less than well-secured border? And so, the idea of two murder victims of which only half of each, a bisected upper torso with the lower torso of a different victim, being purposely placed on each countries divisional line works well using El Paso's and Juarez's Bridge of the Americas. Perfect, unless someone blows it. And, of course, there are many ways in which that can happen.

Four episodes in and it appears the writers/producers didn't blow it. In fact, even seeing the joint French/British excellent production does little to water down a very good story with most elements pretty much lifted yet transformed.

Diane Kruger plays Sonya Cross, a El Paso detective who is so dis-enfranchised from common human emotions as to seem as if she dropped in from another planet. Clemence Posey's portrayal for the "The Tunnel" is certainly hard to follow and it appears Kruger has used it wisely to create her own version in which comparison is not a problem. In fact, she does the role total justice as if she really is disaffected to some unnatural degree (i.e. in real life).. The Mexican detective Marco Ruiz, played by Demian Bichir, has a bit more latitude in that The Tunnel's counterpart Karl Roebuck, played by Stephen Dillane, is more of the common man beset by everyday problems and weaknesses. Bichir's Ruiz character retains much good and, again, transforms the role as befitting the geographical and cultural differences. The always dependable character actor Ted Levine grounds these two as the officer in charge overall.

So, The Bridge is off to a fantastic start in yet it's third incarnation. This time the newspaper reporter, who plays a vital role, is fleshed out even more to good effect. The theme of illegal immigration and it's assorted crimes underpin things for a shadowy murderer seeking to make a big statement. This should be good indeed, we shall see.

Recycled Theme? No Problem 'Cause It Works., 12 July 2014
8/10

First, this is a good Sci-Fi. The movie gets to it too as whoever the aliens are need not be explained as what's important is they're here and they're on the brink of eliminating mankind. The CGI effects are definitely "perfect" here as we get really original bad-ass aliens and well realized battle scenes with them.

Then there's the compelling differences. One big one, and it ain't even original, is the premise of replaying the day as per Groundhog Day. It doesn't ever feel recycled though and it is the absolute core of the story. Perhaps the biggest difference is we get a Tom Cruise character that isn't in any way a typical summer "money-grab" cut-out: cooler than cool character. We get a real Sci-Fi anomaly whose persona is in a desperate situation and he plays it perfectly. PR officer Bill Cage, Cruise's character, is suddenly thrust into a major front line battle situation in which he, quite accidentally, becomes the one valiant person who can divert humankind's demise. He gets some nice support by a very physical woman warrior played by Emily Blunt and an obliviously gung-ho Master Sargent Farrell Bill Paxton (he drank much Cool-Aid).

So, if you enjoy "nasty" (i.e., big and good action) Sci-Fi this ones got you covered. The living the day over thing is treated with both humor and that needed tiny crack of hope in that outcomes actually can be changed by extraordinary means.

Bad Words (2013)
1 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Cack-handed Coruscation (i.e., left-handed flash of wit...it's only BAD WORDS), 7 July 2014
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Bad Words": the very title, isn't so much a slick writer's name for a movie as the very core which permeates the story figuratively, as well as, particularly, literally throughout. The outlandish idea of an angry grown man working out his inner-demons by taking advantage of an obscure loophole in order to compete in The National Spelling Bee is refreshingly brilliant.

The protagonist, Guy Trilby played enigmatically dour and dark by Justin Bateman, is a self-made word-smith extraordinaire. Not that Trilby has ever really achieved much with his gift save for a colorfully dark vocabulary laced long memory he is driven to purge. Trilby is conflicted in the extreme, but his brand of black brooding isn't defined by picking up a gun or jumping from a building. Trilby largely keeps to himself save for his penchant of hurling off-color speak to any, including children, who cross his path.

This collision of the Trilby character and the spelling bee is definite fodder for a refreshingly different, often low-key brilliant, story telling. The fact that the humor sometimes drags the otherwise creative idea down requires forgiving patience (who finds giving a young child alcohol funny, i.e., it is not creative and is otherwise cheap) The viewer, in order to remain invested, must forget the lows Thankfully Bateman can get away with most of the faux-paus and let the story ride on the more entertaining aspects.

While not outright hilarious this movie is laced with plenty of humor throughout. In the end it isn't a me-too type of a story and, as such, keeps you watching. In its dark humor it does inject a sparingly small bit of the warm and fuzzy to lighten things,. It has a few racial epithets that are clearly meant in no literal demeaning way so beware to keep your feeling guarded so as not to "run" with those. A solid and different dark comedy if not great.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Technology...The Double-Edged Sword, 2 July 2014
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Which is more flawed, humanity or technology? What results in an extreme collision is what Transcendence seeks to explore. As human beings we have came a long way in the thousands of years of our existence, but for all of our accomplishments our understanding of how to love one another in peace and harmony is as volatile as the ancients. Technology, on the other hand, evolves ever faster. Perhaps, ever since Tesla's paradigm shift of powering the world we've been on a ever faster collision with the dark side of technology with little understanding of how to use it only for mankind's benefit. Transcendence, in less than two hours, explores how we had better work on the selfless humanitarian part to avoid a possible horrific outcome.

To wrap this idea into a movie that isn't polarizing is, likely, impossible. People will either dismiss Transcendence as too far-fetched, even silly, or more "on-point" and compelling. Director Wally Pfister and writer Jack Paglen do an admirable job of working through this mostly by a fast paced story with spectacular cinematography. It may not be a classic, but it has it's two sides of light and dark in almost every scene. The message seems to be humans struggle with everything and tend to let fear and hate dictate their actions forcing the aforementioned double-edged sword as an outcome that we then attempt to fix. It's actually an important theme blended with a love story and a bit of that patented Hollywood bombastic, but quite good, effects.

I'd say see it. Judge it with the knowledge it has a mirror of truth no matter if it seems a bit too "out-there". Also worth noting is that the cast fits well serving the story by not over-playing the characters portrayed. It's nice to see Depp subdued and Hall as his wife caught in a situation she must deeply be troubled over as she conveys her predicament through her angst over and over. Suddenly the Beatles' song "All You Need Is Love" sounds downright transcendent.

Rauchy Humor Made Palatable ( If You Have An Open Mind That Is), 26 June 2014
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"And now for something completely different". If you think, like most, this is simply an overused cliché, especially within comedies, then stop here. This isn't something you're open to. If, on the other hand, you are open-minded and seek a different flavor of comedy then you're in luck.

As many know, the MTV show "Jackass" celebrated outrageously bad behavior wrapped in the guise of mind-numbing stupid, and many times dangerous, stunts. The bent mind behind that, of course, was one Johnny Knoxville. That show was best consumed in small servings as it tested the bounds of taste. The show ran its course, but Knoxville didn't fade into the night. It's been a while since the show and the "cash-in" movie. So, the time could be right for a revival of sorts.

While jumping off of Jackass, Bad Grandpa is a very different animal. It's a fictitious story even as it intersperses some almost stunt-like vignettes as the story unfolds. The bad taste is wholly intact. The question of just how much the, supposedly uninformed, normal people appearing really know looms large. It really doesn't matter if they're wholly in or not because they seem clueless for the most part and act accordingly. It's funny and works.


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