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Mister Ed (1958)
A show that is is still funny nearly 50 years later
After the passing of Alan Young on May 19 (2016) of this year I fired up a few episodes of Mr. Ed in tribute to Mr. Young. Having watched it as a kid I was curious how it would hold up. It was still funny and witty and held up quite well. All the episodes are available on youtube in good quality. It easily holds its own with many of the more current comedies being put out today. Given that it is nearly 50 years old you don't have cell phones, but you do have party lines and gossipy neighbors. Of course you also have a world-wise talking horse who is integrated quite cleverly into each week's plot line. It is not a bad option for family TV time as both kids and adults can appreciate it. Some sexual innuendo of a mild nature, but still a "G" viewing experience.
Uchû kyôdai (2012)
Great Drama that is both fun and educational.
Space brothers is not your typical anime. But it is really really good. In Space Brothers you follow Mutta as he tries to follow in his younger brother's foot steps to become an astronaut. Realistic characters and fairly realistic training separate this from your typical anime. (Apparently NASA who provide technical consulting, felt that the depicting training was actually more drawn out and tougher than what real astronauts go through.)
Mutta and his brother were likable, relatable characters as are their fellow astronaut candidates.
This is an excellent anime well worth watching. I would give it a ten, but it ended too soon for my taste.
The X Files: Medusa (2001)
Scully's ineffectiveness strains credulity
Without giving anything away, Dana Scully's feckless ineptitude in this episode strains credulity. Rather that calling in resources at her beck and call she's allows a caricature of a public official to expose the public to a potentially lethal contagion.
The passivity and helplessness of Scully and unwillingness to do what was necessary to protect the public was out of character and was little more than a device to keep the story going. Frankly, lazy script writing.
The supporting characters also were also pretty weakly portrayed.
I really like the X-Files but I barely made it through this one.
Now I am watching the next episode, Per Manum, and Scully apparently has no memories of the last eight years and all the evidence she came across of doctors using women as guinea pigs.
The Equalizer (2014)
Denzel Washington has been in a lot of Good Movies - this is not one of them
Denzel Washington has been in a lot of good movies. Unfortunately, this is not one of them. Having appreciated the mid 1980's series upon which this movie is loosely based; and liking Denzel Washington as an actor, I went to this movie feeling that the movie had a better than fair chance of being a good action thriller.
The movie starts promisingly as we see Robert McCall's (Denzel's) efforts to positively impact those with whom he works and socializes. Unfortunately, the movie goes downhill from there. While Good guys killing bunches of villains and being unrealistically lucky is standard fare for mindless action films, the initial 20 minutes plus of this film tried so hard to convince us that this was not going to be such a film that the transition to being a mindless action flick is jarring and disappointing.
Sadly, once Robert McCall begins his killing spree it truly does become a mindless action film that is largely without suspense or fun. The lack of fun comes from Washington's character who despite very token almost meaningless efforts to give the bad guys a chance to do the right thing, clearly enjoys figuring out all sorts of ways to kill them.
Of course only bad guys use guns, but highly trained ex CIA operatives/assassins like Robert McCall eschew guns. So ex CIA operative Robert McCall does the competent professional thing by leaving guns on the ground throughout movie, instead choosing to kill the villains using a wide variety of methods that in real life would have put himself and the people he is supposed to be protecting at far greater risk.
As described above, the situations Robert puts himself and the risky way in which he engages the bad guys completely contradicts the idea that he truly is this methodical experienced professional. That he manages to come out ahead could only have been accomplished by script writers with no regard for realism or the viewer's sense of credulity.
The situations were so stupid that even I watched the film I found myself angry with the scriptwriters for being so obviously lazy.
Frustratingly, Washington's character does not even do a good job protecting the innocent, putting them at risk even after being directly warned they will be put at risk by his actions.
In the end this was a poorly made film not because it featured the hero doing ridiculously unrealistic things, but because the movie worked hard at the beginning to tell us this was not going to be mindless action flick, but than went on to deliver a mindless action flick that really was no fun at all.
Trouble Along the Way (1953)
Winning isn't everything, its the only thing - when properly defined.
"Winning isn't everything, it's the only the thing!" So says Steve Williams (John Wayne) who is doing his best to raise a daughter in the rough and tumble world of college football. Of course, like so many Wayne characters, Steve Williams talks roughly, but under his wise cracking tough guy exterior there is a basically decent man who when pushed a bit will try to do the right thing. Though not necessarily in the right way.
His daughter Carol Williams is very well played by child actress Sherry Jackson and there is a strong supporting cast of characters that combine to make this film both fun and heart warming.
Donna Reed provides the romantic element as social worker whose job has brought her in to contact with Steve and Carol.
Refreshingly, unlike most modern films, the Catholic Church is positively portrayed, i.e., the priests and the Cardinal are real people with common sense and real senses of humor doing their best to make good decisions while staying true to their faith.
So if you are looking for a fun, well-acted, well-directed movies with a strong performance by John Wayne and a great supporting cast you will not be disappointed in "Trouble Along the Way."
Man of Steel (2013)
Superman Redux good but not great
"Man of Steel" is a good movie. Not as good as the first two Superman movies in 1978 and 1980 and (Superman and Superman 2) starring Christopher Reeve, but certainly better than any of the sequels for Superman post Superman 2. Superman with Christopher Reeve was much more tongue and cheek than the current iteration and I thought stayed truer to the Superman ethos.
Further, despite the more tongue and cheek nature of the 1978 Superman I found the Lois Lane death scene much more impactful than anything in "Man of Steel." With that said "Man of Steel" is a good film, with some great action scenes that complement a solid performance from Henry Cavill as Superman. Amy Adams is okay as Lois, but frankly just okay. Russell Crow as Jor-el brings does a good job, but in spite of more screen time does not surpass that of Marlon Brando as Jor-el in the 1978 Superman.
In terms of the whole Daily Planet angle we will have to see how that works out in the sequel, but this first movie does very little to establish the Daily Planet as a the central player it has been in Superman lore.
The best thing about this Superman was that he actually did the right in killing General Zod. Yes, Superman's rule on not killing is a good one especially for someone as powerful as Superman. However,not killing General Zod would certainly have resulted in the deaths of further countless innocents as earth authorities would not have been able to contain GeneralZod. So actually in this case Superman made the very tough decision to protect innocent life by killing Zod. (note this is not in any way murdering Zod as he had already killed hundreds if not thousands and was poised to kill more innocents in a matter of seconds. Superman has not become just like Zod.)
So when dealing with humans, Superman's rule is a good one, but when dealing with murderous, genocidal beings with powers far beyond those of mere earthlings such as Zod, the underlying spirit of the rule must be followed which is to protect innocent human life. Ultimately, Superman was morally obligated to kill Zod. Not doing so would have made him responsible for any further murders by Zod.
To whom much is given, much is required and Superman will have to bear the burden of intentionally killing the last Kryptonian of which he is aware.
Big Jake (1971)
A Big Rollicking Gritty Fun Movie
From its documentary style opening, Big Jake delivers big fun, big adventure, nasty villains, whippersnapper sons and classic John Wayne. This movie has something for everyone, but be warned it has plenty of violence and is definitely a PG/ PG13 type film.
The supporting cast is excellent with Patrick Wayne, Christopher Mitchum, Richard Boone,Bruce Cabot, Maureen O'Hara, Gregg Palmer and Dog turning in solid performances.
While there are the formulaic elements such as horrendous acts perpetuated by bad men that give license to the good guys to do whatever is necessary to right the wrong, Big Jake also has other elements that make this film not just another Western:
1) Takes place in transition period of the turn of the century which provides some interesting interaction between the old ways and new ways.
2) Fun relationships and interplay between an estranged father and his young adult sons.
3) Great mixture of fun and intense gritty action. (John Wayne movies are known for this)
If you like Westerns this is a classic that you will enjoy.
If you are a fan of John Wayne at all this is a must see film.
If you are just looking for a good gritty action film with a healthy dose of humor seamlessly woven in to the story you will not be disappointed.
Ultimately, this is one of my favorite John Wayne films.
The Hobbit trys to be something it's not.
The Hobbit is a really good book, the Lord of the Rings is a much better book. LOTR is truly an Epic adventure having to do with the fate of all of Middle Earth. The Hobbit is an adventure about dwarfs trying to reclaim their home, their treasure and also kill a dragon. A nice big fun adventure, but not really Epic and not really on anywhere near the scale of LOTR.
Having read LOTR multiple times I felt that Peter Jackson truly captured the feeling and spirit of the book. Yes, there are some things I disagreed with in his movie adaption, but on the whole the movies were an amazing achievement.
Relatively speaking, Peter Jackson's adaptation of the Hobbit falls way short of what he was able to accomplish with LOTR. Jackson's efforts to make the Hobbit more epic are severely undercut by giving the action sequences a video game quality. In the Hobbit you are bombarded with too many scenes and actions sequences that strain credulity.
Sadly, the action sequences in the Hobbit film that take away from the experience were not even in the book. Further, the film's efforts to be "Epic" by making the Hobbit longer results in extended action sequences and extra plot elements that really take away from the story.
The result is a film adaptation that fails to capture the magic of the book that it is based on.
In the end the film adaptation of the Hobbit falls victim to a movie studio trying to recreate the financial success of LOTR by trying to artificially pump the Hobbit up into three really long films and it just doesn't really work.
Does this mean that the first of the three Hobbit films is is a bad film? No it is a pretty good film, but make no mistake that the Hobbit is not even in the same league as the Lord of the Rings.
I give the Hobbit a 7 because it is a fun film with good special effects. If I were grading it strictly on being a good film adaptation of the Hobbit I would drop it to a 5.
A Timeless, wonderful and thoughtful anime with baseball, romance and more.
Not every anime done in 1985 holds up well. TOUCH not only holds up well, but sets a standard for thoughtful drama that few animes meet or for that matter any series of any style.
What sets TOUCH apart is its thoughtful examination of the relationship between Tatsuya Uesugi and Kazuya Uesugi, who despite being identical twins are different as night and day. While this series has humor throughout, it seriously looks at a relationship that despite no intended malice has resulted in the serious diminishment of one of the main characters as a person.
The long-time childhood friend Minami plays a critical central role as she helps advance the story and plot in a way no other character could.
This is a thoughtful anime that has some sadness and poignancy interwoven throughout, yet still has enough fun and enough action to keep younger,less thoughtful audiences interested even if they are too young to understand the deeper issues being addressed.
Really geared for teenagers and above. Male characters do notice pretty female characters bodies and figures and do things real teenage boys do, i.e. look at girly magazines, etc, but this only adds some realism.
Kurosu gêmu (2009)
A thoughtful, charming, romantic drama with nice sprinkling of comedy - and baseball too!.
I want to marry Wakaba. Okay I guess that won't work because I am already happily married and she is an anime character in fifth grade, but other than that the writers and animators do an amazing job of establishing Wakaba's character in such a way that is is clear that any guy would be pretty much putty in her hands.
With that said this anime explores a lot of questions with perhaps the key question being - what impact can a 5th grade girl have on the lives of her friends and family? Well if you invest the time to watch this series you will find out she can have an influence far beyond her years.
This is a charming, well-written series that has great characters, a strong plot and if you are so inclined gives you an opportunity to think about and discuss the dynamics of friendship,family and romance.
While liking baseball will be a plus in how much you enjoy this drama, even if baseball is not your thing you will still enjoy this series.
Because of a main plot development this might be a little intense for younger viewers, especially the first few episodes, but after that this is a family friendly drama that can can enjoyed by the whole family. (I think upper elementary and above would be fine.)
While this series is pretty much ecchi free, male characters do exhibit a normal, healthy, and non-exaggerated interest in the female form, but I would argue that the way it is done is tasteful and if it was not there would actually detract a bit from the story. (this aspect is a very small part of the series and I only mention it to point out that it is appropriately done and makes the characters more real.)
There are positive portrayals of both male and female characters and in particular "Cross Game" ends up giving a strong plug to the value of girls being involved in sports.
On a negative note, the stereotype of adult males only being able to have fun by drinking to excess and making fools of themselves is used in this story as a form of comic relief. This is a still pretty minor and should not stop you from enjoying the story.