Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Documentary about a Bold Experiment in Television
I stumbled onto this at Netflix. WOW! It's not only totally nostalgic seeing the crazy opening credits to the show - apple pies, flags, Ayatollahs, Castro, American icons of all kinds, with MDJ's face in various expressions in stop motion animation, culminating in the open toothy mouth - but it's fascinating seeing the start of the obnoxious style of political commentary we have in the media today.
I was not very politically aware when I was younger, so I missed most of the importance of his show when it was first on.
The Morton Downey Jr. show at its peak was a bold experiment in audience participation - the one criteria for the show's production seemed to be to get the audience to actively participate in the harshest and loudest way possible.
I didn't realize how patrician MDJ's background was - he was a neighbor of Teddy Kennedy's family at Hyannis Port, Mass and his father was a well known Irish singing star from the 1920s and 30s. I thought he had come out of nowhere to speak the truth as he saw it - since I was younger I had no clue about the dad's singing career. But the truth is that he stumbled into the MDJ Show format after stumbling earlier into some talk radio shows and after doing some right-to-life activism that taught him that outrageousness and populism sells.
The MDJ Show pioneered the basic idea of the ideologically combative, very one sided talk format that we see today. And leveraged audience participation at an extremely populist level, which we don't see so much. Hannity, The Ed Show, Glenn Beck, Rachel Maddow, and to a lesser extent Bill O'Reilly are all basically the MDJ Show in spirit, but each with a very pure ideological tilt and no live studio audience. And, really, the modern shows make a lot more coherent sense than MDJ ever did.
That is another key difference with MDJ and our current popular media left and right wing ideologues: MDJ was not pure in any way ideologically: he usually went to the right but would often adopt leftist or liberal points of view which he liked. The basic idea seemed to be that he postured for "obvious" decency (obvious to the studio audience, anyway) and simple answers to complex questions. For instance, while he usually draped himself in the flag (quite literally), he also backed Al Sharpton in the Tawana Brawley incident.
This documentary is not only about the MDJ Show's life cycle but also the rise and the fall of MDJ himself. Watching this film, I was quite sad for him toward the end of his tenure as a public figure. He was quite obviously extremely insecure as a person, and just drank up the publicity, groupies and attention that the show gave him. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1996 and passed away in 2001. It's probably too much to say that he was a broken man after the MDJ show but the show caused him to burn himself out with his worst tendencies and appetites.
The film never mentioned drug use. I find it difficult to believe that his frenzied attacks on the show were *him*. But apparently they were.
I also got the answer to the question as to why the MDJ Show was canceled, since I didn't pay a lot of attention to it in its heyday. Essentially, the format drove away all substantial guests, since they knew that any dissenting opinion would cause them to be crucified by the audience mob and by MDJ himself. So at the end, the show had a lot of novelty acts, like the amputee lady who played patriotic anthems with her tongue on a keyboard, or transsexuals arguing their lifestyles.
The life cycle of this show was a great warning to anyone who believes that populism and direct rule by the public is the answer to all complex social issues and debates ... such as current political movements (Tea Party, "Occupy") that are tied directly to anger and outrage. The MDJ Show started with a "high concept" that eventually dissolved because the show lost any credibility it had at the outset. This is a warning to both sides of the aisle to understand that mobs don't have answers, they just have emotions.
The things that made the MDJ Show popular for a time were the same things that eventually buried it.
In terms of production and the documentary itself - I thought the presentation was exceptionally effective. Several commentaries from Pat Buchanan lend credibility and gravitas throughout the film, and he did a great job of tying MDJ to today's political climate. The weird graphic novel style animations which have been mentioned by other reviewers as distracting - I found them perfectly complementary to the movie. A recurring meme in the animations was the ghostly image of MDJ's father's face, grimly nodding "no" in disapproval to junior. The animations were impressionistic - a reflection of Downey's id and internal obsessions.
Machete Kills (2013)
Ridiculous and Moronic - It Delivers! Bravo!
Check your brain at the door, crack open a sweaty, edible Bear Whiz Beer, and enjoy the blood soaked mayhem of this faux 70s drive-in exploitation trash cinema, complete with a scratchy lo-fi preview of "Machete in Space" and "Our Feature Presentation" teaser.
I busted a gut laughing at the non stop violence. Sick, gruesome, over the top, cruel, and anyone can die at any time. It doesn't matter.
The big names in this movie help make it great. Even geek icon Elon Musk makes a cameo. Carlos Estevez aka Charlie Sheen.
Sick, gruesome, and uninhibited. And that's the best parts.
There are many small asides and in-jokes. "Machete does not Tweet."
The Time Tunnel (1966)
Fun/Dumb Sci-Fi Series: Irwin Allen probably set science education back 20 years in the US...
This series is clearly one of the best of the genre of big budget, splashy SF series that capsulizes the attitude of the American space race and the notion of scientific progress of the day. I watched it religiously as an 8 year old.
To answer one comment about the lack of underlying premise of project Tic-Toc, the answer is: see the US space race. We "have" to do it before the other guys do. In 1966 that's all the premise you needed.
I'm sure other reviews have covered this series quite well. I found this gem on Hulu plus the other day and I have watched the pilot and the second episode.
One clear casualty of this series is any semblance of scientific accuracy that begs one key question: did Irwin Allen ever, ever, ever pay attention in grade school in science class? I find the lack of any thought or consideration about scientific accuracy of any kind (even when you accept the fantastic premises) quite, quite dumb. Irwin Allen turned anything involving science into a cartoon. Exactly the same as with Lost in Space. Realistic depiction or dumb cartoony dramatization? The dumb cartoony wins with Irwin Allen every time.
In TTT we find out that you hear all noises in a vacuum in space. You also hear explosions. Stuff that explodes in space burns with flames.
Yarrghh!! (beats head repeatedly against brick wall.) Just so little additional attention to small details in post-production would have elevated this series from the level of little kid's escapism to decent adult drama.
But no, if you're Irwin Allen you have a God sanctioned mission to make ALL of your shows with a tiny peanut for a rationale brain.
The absolute lack of any attention to time travel paradoxes is also striking. In "One Way to the Moon" we see that clearly as one character in the present of TTT plays a role in the future being revealed to them, and nobody pulls the guy aside for questioning. The whole concept of polluting the past with the actions of guys from the future is completely ignored.
Ah, well, TTT is a great period piece.
Brilliant "historical science fiction"
I found this gem on Netflix.
Other reviews are criticizing the improbability of events depicted in the movie, starting with the involvement of France and the UK in the Civil War. That's why it's fiction: the precipitating events *did not happen*. It's a "WHAT IF" work of fiction. The film maker presupposes a few alterations to history, and then examines what would happen as a consequence. Chaos theory indicates that just about any imagined set of consequences of a few initial changes to a system are as plausible as any other.
This movie is essentially "alternative Earth" fiction. It's fanciful by definition. It has a lot more in common with something like the sci-fi series "Sliders" or the "barbarian universe" riff in Star Trek than it is to be taken as a serious critique of modern US society. It's essentially "historical science fiction", with the aliens being the citizens of the "US" (CSA) in a different reality.
I also really did not feel that it was liberal or minority grievance agitprop (it was pointed out at the end of the movie that "Aunt Jemima" and "Uncle Ben" are major US brands, but I don't need to be preached that they are somehow embody racist evil.) What CSA is, is an exploration of where the US would be if certain of the values of the antebellum South had been captured through the expanding US, and had then evolved to the present day as mainstream US values. How would the US relate to the rest of the world? What would become of the Americas? What about WWII, Nazi Germany, and the cold war? What would the major political dynasty of our time be in such a country? The film explores a fascinating series of possibilities that could have resulted.
The film is only "ha ha funny" for the commercial segments. The meat of the narration is a bit satiric. The historical figures that the film portrayed, including Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas, and minor figures like Judah P. Benjamin and doctor Samuel A. Cartwright, show a serious effort to take one implausible assumption (the Union forces lose at Gettysburg to combined Confederate, French and English forces) and run with it to many logical or at least plausible conclusions.
What I found very implausible has not been mentioned by most reviewers. Given that the CSA was born as a xenophobic and virulently intolerant society, I don't see a CSA type nation as having accomplished most of what the US has done, particularly in terms of the sciences, militarily, and economic development. The white supremacist establishment would have rejected and marginalized many of the most productive and brilliant members of "real world" US society. IE, would a CSA ever have developed the resources to conquer most of the Americas? Would the CSA have been in a position to plant a confederate flag on the moon? (Great sight gag, BTW.) Would a CSA have invented radio, TV, atomic fission, and the internet? "CSA" only got this diminished society aspect partially right by showing that the arts and entertainment flourished in the Canada of the film, and therefore arts in the CSA were stunted and mostly tended to government propaganda.
The part that I felt rang very true was how values are transmitted from one generation to another. Supposing that abolition had never happened, and also supposing that it a preference of the government - what else could you say about the society? So in CSA, women in 2004 do not yet have the vote. And Canada is despised for "stealing" the CSA's slaves.
If you have an open mind and a small interest in US history, I highly recommend this movie. It's fun. It's good when it is over, and you can breath a sigh of relief for our flawed but still superior real life world.
Me and the Big Guy (1999)
I ran across this little 10 minute gem by accident. It will be absolutely hilarious to anyone who has read 1984 and watched one of the dramatic adaptations. Basically it's Orwell meets a contemporary Seinfeld show style nerd who wants to be everyone's friend. It's true to the book, too.
There is a scene with visiting thought police that is comedy gold.
Listen to the telescreen announcer, and also, watch for "Winston Smith's" book.
Highly recommended. (I am REALLY trying to get this review to be 10 lines so IMDb will accept it. There's not that much you can say about a 10 minute short.)
SGU Stargate Universe (2009)
Stargate for Grown Adults - A First
This series is a welcome departure from the turn that the Stargate franchise had taken since its move from Showtime: the "deus ex machina" driven plots, the likable-geek scientist characters, the big alien-badass "security officer" ("Worf" like Teal'c and Ronin), and most significant: the idea that normalcy was *always* at hand.
The original Stargate movie was sort of a kid's movie and both TV series moved in the direction of very doctrinaire plots and story arcs with bright, happy endings. In my opinion, in the last year or so of each, SG1 and SGA were devoid of tension. The plots were all becoming like this: find problem, have dramatic setbacks, analyze the problem, invent some crap, and save the day. Guaranteed each time.
SGU is quite different, if you give the stories and the characters half a chance.
One comment in this thread belittled the "religious freak" nature of this show. I want to attack that point. In just *ONE* episode a group recites the Lord's Prayer. Perhaps I missed other Christian references. But the point is that the Stargate franchise, up to now, has been absolutely and quite artificially void of religious references. Considering that the US is mostly a Christian culture (sorry, atheists!), this is simply conforming to objective reality - I found the lack of any reference to common religious practice in SG-1 and Atlantis to be quite contrived. If you get a bunch of Americans together in a closed space and tell them that they will probably die, they probably will start praying aloud ... deal with it.
Also, there is a lot of authentic tension in the command structure that I think is much more realistic than the "plays together like puppies" dynamic of the past Stargates. The Earth based SGC and IOA have no idea what conditions are like on the Destiny, they impose "solutions" and they pontificate that a bunch of rogues are running the show on the ship. Even O'Neill (fatso :) ) is not the character that he was in the rest of the franchise - his role is different and he is not warm and fuzzy any more.
I agree with one other comment that states that the tragic nature of this show is that the entire "crew" could vanish and there would be no effect on earth's population.
This is quality stuff.
Parks and Recreation (2009)
They're trying but it simply doesn't click
"Parks and Recreation" simply drags. The jokes and scenarios aren't completely unfunny, and I find myself WANTING to find the show funny, but after watching three episodes, I just can't be bothered to continue.
Why? Little cast chemistry. No real tensions beyond "thwarted career aspirations". The office romances are subdued. There's just no blatant outrageousness of actions or intentions. Basically, it's "The Office" done in shades of light gray. Example: the mayor, who has a gigantic picture of Bobby Knight on his wall as a role model, just seems so apathetic about being a local & states rights nut job. It just felt like they could have done much more with that guy's character. The "Jim Halpert wanna be" character is also a waste.
I do find the satirized and incredibly gory American Indian paintings and pioneer histories that Leslie always recounts to visitors to be a bright spot in the show and they are always funny. However, just to quibble, this aspect is a little misplaced to be set in an Indiana locality. You'd probably have to go farther west to Oklahoma or Nebraska to find a locality that has such a direct affinity to Indian lore. You just don't get this kind of "recency" of Indian stuff in the Northeastern rust belt states like Indiana.
This show really needs to kick the personalities and the scripts up a few notches in order to prosper. I don't give it more than 1/2 season.
Halfway Home (2007)
A Good Cheap Laff
As already noted, this show is a good time-waster and is better than most new experimental comedies.
Yes, the characterizations are all stereotypes but it's more slapstick in tone than mean. The characters are all idiots and they all seem to be in on the joke. The "counselor" is hilarious, kind of a washed up "Leisure Suit Larry" type.
For whatever reason, Oscar Nunez seems to be making a name for himself as a gay sitcom character - here and on "The Office".
The best episode so far was "Parent's Day". A theme that runs through every episode is kind of a "summer camp" vibe that contrasts sharply with the hardened ghetto hubris of Serenity and "Seabass". Basically the "inmates" in the house are all emasculated by the system and have to act like one big extended family.
I predict a one season run and then Halfway Home will join the vast stable of aborted Comedy Central also-ran comedies such as "Wanderlust" which occasionally run in blocks in the wee hours.