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The Guardian (2006)
Action on the Coast Guard flight line
As you watch, please remember "The Guardian" is a motion picture a lot of the scenes are played in a way that will elicit certain emotions. Some of the scenes are just plain fantasy. However, that being said, please also remember that there are thousands of individuals who serve their country daily in the U. S. Coast Guard, a military service now under the Department of Homeland Security, but previously directed by the Department of Transportation. They serve at sea, on land and in the air. Much of the drama and danger depicted in the film is more than real. These situations happen far more often than you would imagine. How do I know? I served in the USCG from 1976 to 1984 several decades prior to the approximate time of the motion picture. The video training footage is real. And, it's simply amazing that many people are actually saved from some of those hopeless situations.
I almost lost my life on several occasions while tending to routine duty. Had it not been for our CG training and attention to detail, both before and during our missions, I would not be writing this review today. I served in every location depicted in the film, including Alaska, which can indeed be a brutal environment. The major portion of my small boat duty happened in the Gulf of Mexico. As we used to say while on small boat duty, "we are required to go out to sea, but we are not required to return." On the other hand, none of us was given permission by our commanding officer or chief to get hurt of killed.
I used to get somewhat miffed at the amount of publicity and attention that those in the aviation branches get over the much larger force of seagoing officers and enlisted sailors who take care of the daily drudgery and human drama that happens far too often while people are attempting to earn their living from the ever changing and unforgiving environment of the sea. But, the media likes that kind of high visual drama. The Officer of the Day won't spend a dime of the money it takes to fire up a sophisticated, multi-million dollar aircraft and risk a group of highly trained aviation personnel without some definite attainable mission. When things go wrong out there in the middle of nowhere, they can go wrong very fast. Many times a radio call to the USCG is all that stands between Davy Jones' locker and some more time spent on this earth with your family and friends. How much is it worth? Just ask any victim of circumstance who has spotted the red, white and blue stripes of a Coast Guard rescue. There are no words to describe it when a set of strong hands reaches for you and you hear those welcome words, "I'm with the U. S. Coast Guard. I'm here to help you." The relief is overwhelming.
When USCG pilots and enlisted swimmers go to sea, they have only a very limited time to affect a rescue, usually governed by fuel, load, weather, and yes, sometimes even luck. The job they do out there is supposed to be mostly routine. But, when the pilot announces it's time to leave the scene, you leave the scene. There is no question. It's either that or the people in the aircraft face a high risk of death. Every move the crew makes is full of life and death decisions that will determine the fate of not only those they are rescuing, but the personnel on the aircraft as well. Just one small error is all it takes for everyone in an operation to have a very bad day. So, all Coast Guard training is intentionally difficult to account for those variables.
This motion picture, "The Defection of Simas Kudirka (1978)" and a hand full of other films are a testament to the training, dedication to duty and the constant attention and work by the maintenance personnel that keep the helicopters, airplanes, small boats and cutters operating smoothly and safely to accomplish the over 200 mandated missions of the U. S. Coast Guard every hour of every day.
Parks and Recreation: Fluoride (2013)
Clean water please
I watched the episode simply because our group, whom we prefer to refer to as "opponents of fluoridation," have spent the last decade studying the science, ethics and legality of public water fluoridation. The show was meant to put some kind of light on the controversy of the policy using dark comedy. It failed to clarify either side for its viewers and the pro-fluoridationists are probably quite happy about that. However, the show might serve to bring the absurdity of the practice to more of the public than might otherwise even bother to check on this long term scam. I doubt European viewers will find it funny at all. They saw through the fluoridation scam decades ago. Only a handful of countries still retain the policy in the entire world.
At first I was confused by the way the episode was written. Obviously, someone from the ADA or CDC or maybe even PEW Trusts got some talking points over to the writers of the show. They ran with all the trite arguments and internet chatter they could fit into the script.
I had thought maybe it would either be alarming or interesting. I'm not quite sure what I can call it now. Maybe that was the writers' intent.
I don't normally see the humor in government officials acting insanely because a lot of citizens get hurt in the process. But, that's what this TV show seems to be about. Now add the fluoride problem, and you get insanity squared. Whoever wrote this had researched ALL of the major catch phrases used by the proponents including "we have science and the facts on our side" and "safe and effective." We've found proponents go to any lengths to avoid the real science in achieving their goal. This show is just another example.
Perhaps the most bothersome aspect of the show was that the writers somehow managed to inject the opponents of fluoridation (if indeed there were any) with aspects of craziness while pretending that there was a debate going on. And, having a dentist argue our side of the issue for all the wrong reasons was a bit uncomfortable.
That being said, perhaps the best this show will do for the public is to once again bring the fluoridation issue before people in a national audience who might not have otherwise known all this insanity was actually being perpetrated by their own health department.
Cowboys & Indians (2011)
Nice weekend production
First, let me say that I've directed low budget Old West street plays for fairs and events and that I've done a few films in my time. That being said, I would not have been very comfortable with the outcome of this project.
We knew this was going to be what appeared to be a weekend production by a relatively new director, actors and crew when we saw the modern grip sole pattern clearly visible on the boots of one of the actors in the first fight scene. Not much time was taken to age or research the clothing, most of which appeared as if it had been purchased the previous day from an outfitter I know in Tucson. The horse saddles and rigs were so new looking you could practically identify the brand of coating on the leather. And, all through the production, we spotted items that were anomalous to the late 1800's. However, the weapons and Colt pistols appeared to be used and reasonable looking if only the actors had known how to fake a recoil when shooting blanks.
Generally speaking, there are moments and scenes in this film that work as a story of people of the Old West who did not really take themselves too seriously. However, there were so many mistakes in the production and the story line that you had to marvel at the ingenuity needed to pull off the project on what was obviously a low budget, student level film. I've seen local student films at Watsons School of Film here in Nashville that either compare favorably with, or thoroughly outclass this production. Many of the actors gave us the impression of being weekend reenactors who had been given a film opportunity.
Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed watching simply so that I could learn more about what does and doesn't work on these type productions. Most of the actors had enough chops that, given time and direction, they could have pulled off some very convincing characterizations. For that effort, most of them deserve to be commended for committing themselves to the part for some level of realism.
All in all, had I been the producer, I think it might have been much easier to simplify the story line, dispense with scenes that needed a town or backdrops that were obviously modern, and invest in some better establishing shots and quality lighting and reflection equipment. With those kinds of changes, this production could have been shot to play just like a high budget project by a major studio.
Thanks for the Memories
No, not the absolute best movie that could have been made given the resources available to the film makers, but definitely a different approach for a relatively new format - i.e. 3D IMAX size. Compared to some the things that had been done by Douglas Trumbull for the likes of Universal at a very high budget, this motion picture was quite passable for a production done on the cusp of the CGI era. And, IMAX had a tendency to hire actors who were capable of telling the story rather than distracting from the ultimate goal of education.
Let me warn you that the subject matter is educational and meant to evoke some of the possible theories and realities of palaeontology. Much of what IMAX produced for decades filled in the scientific genre of big screen learning before the Discovery Channel had hit its stride. The producers were very limited by the size of the equipment and the resultant technologies needed to bring this very expensive experience to the very large screen. These days, of course, you can do a 3D motion picture using a film camera that practically fits in the palm of the hand.
Now on to something I'll bet very few folks recognize in the story line. Listen to Ally's experience in the museum, and some of you may realize that she is either a full blown diabetic or somewhere on the edge. Many kids have this problem, and it's a real limiting factor when you go out there on a professional dig where it's possible to get lost in the canyons of the west when being overtaken by low blood sugar. It clearly explains why her father is reticent to take her on a dig. Despite his seeming distraction with work, he really does care about his daughter's well being.
Finally, I want to thank the film makers for the location of their shoot. Anyone who dares to travel the badlands of Alberta, Canada, will not regret taking a trip to Drumheller to see the world's greatest palaeontology museum, The Royal Tyrell. We've never seen anything that gets near to the quality of displays and historical information as this amazing organization. Both my wife and I have been to all the filming sites used in the motion picture, including the preparation rooms (minus the little changes they made for the film). It brought back some incredible adventures to our memory. It's the only place I know of where a walk of 100 feet will transport you one million years into the past.
Saints and Soldiers (2003)
Down to the human level
A lot has already been written about this little film that could. So, let me say that one of our local Christian stations played Saints and Soldiers on Memorial Day. I had my doubts, but it's rare that a highly rated film gets placed on the schedule for midday from this station. So, I sat for a while to check it out. By the time I knew what was happening, the film was over. Wow. That doesn't happen very often.
For such a low budget film, this is one of the best human interest stories I've ever seen from the World War II perspective. It gets down and dirty in the trenches and explores the inner doubts, fears and certainties of the soldier's reality. It even, God forbid, shows us that even the enemy can have members that are both compassionate and understanding in the face of mindless human tragedy and death.
My compliments to the extraordinary effort the technicians and extras put into placing these actors into real human situations and into a scenario that is hard to detect as a forest in Utah. We had a hard time figuring the location, even though we had been there in person. If high budget motion pictures had just a fraction of the attention to detail and freedom to express real stories that this one has, what an amazing set of movies we'd see on the big screen.
I can do nothing other than highly recommend this film. It is exceptional. (written by a U. S. Coast Guard veteran).
One of the best
I've always been a big fan of Bart the Bear (1), and whenever I think of Bart, this movie always comes to mind as the highest achievement of this amazing bear and his trainer.
There are two things that surprised me about the film. First, I've lived in Kodiak, Alaska where Bart's relatives originate, and I've visited much of the Rocky Mountains and the mountain ranges of Alberta, Canada. The mountains in the film seemed strange and unidentifiable to me. Later, I discovered that the film was actually shot in the mountain ranges of Italy. The other, more natural surprise, was that a male bear had been coaxed into accepting the presence of a baby bear - something very strange in the real wilderness. Most bear cubs who get anywhere near daddy bear end up as lunch meat, unless momma comes to the rescue. distasteful as it may seem to us, it's just part of the real bear world. In fact, much of the natural behavior of living bears was altered or ignored in this film for the sake of the story. Yet, somehow you simply become immersed in this charming tale of childhood survival and learning. And, those of us who are familiar with the species of mushroom the little bear ate, were rolling in the aisles with laughter.
For those who may consider the face off of the Bear and the Hunter near the end of the film as pure fantasy, this encounter is actually quite possible. Bears are very predictable in many respects, but their behavior under duress can often be startling and unexpected. Bears are built by nature as the perfect killing machine. But, they are also extremely intelligent and capable of incredible survival instincts. We were told in Alaska that a simple coke can with a stone inside makes a sound that bears are scared of. Bears also react to strange smells. People have been known to drop their shirts or coats while being chased by a bear. More times than not, the animal will pause to sniff the garment, and cease the attack because of the strange scent. However, to be even more prepared, a hiker or camper should carry a fully charged pepper spray canister in the back country just in case. They really do work.
Saving Hope (2012)
Saving Hope? When?
I've given this show a six with the "hope" that the producers have not pinned themselves into a corner from which they cannot extricate themselves. A man in a coma walking the halls of a hospital while discussing philosophy with the forth wall cannot sustain itself for an entire series. That said, the plot and the handling of the general story line are enough to keep me coming back for some pleasant TV. The acting is good, though the characters have not excited me all that much. I remain hopeful.
As with so many recent entries into the prime time television fold, the most disappointing trend of all is the general lack of real character types with an age spread. My wife worked at a hospital for 15 years, and I can say with some authority that there are indeed a small selection of babes and hunks who ply the medical trade. However, there are also plain Janes, gray hairs, odd faces and attitudes and the obese. And, doctors come in all sizes, shapes, attitudes and backgrounds. Some speak with accents, and some just jerk your cookies with their "I'm just here for the check," attitude. Some even break many of the cardinal rules of hygiene by not washing their hands and entering rooms dressed in dirty wool suits. What I'm trying to say here is that no hospital has a top heavy staff of perfectly healthy photo models running the show with no real oversight by bothersome administrative suits. I'm hoping that Saving Hope soon begins to explore those realities and reasonably resolves the issue of a nice, lonely, comatose wandering spirit so that the story can move into other realms. Stop letting one spirit hog the show. We want to see Dr. Reid and Dr. Harris experience real life in a real hospital environment together. You don't have to remove the ethereal side of the story - just mix it up a bit and make it more interesting.
Cold Case: A Perfect Day (2005)
Amazing acting and directing
It took me a while to warm up to this series while watching reruns on ION TV. One has to realize that in order for this series to work, the writers had to provide clues to the detectives that sometimes stretched the boundaries of credibility. With that in mind, this particular episode covers a home scenario that far too many of us have had to endure. I am not ashamed to admit that I sat there completely transfixed by the amazing acting and directing job done by all of the main actors, including Maridith Monroe, Michael Roderick, Charlotte Stewart, the twins, Amy and Zoe Schlagel and all of our regular cast. Director Roxann Dawson (Lt. Torres of Star Trek Voyager) is seeing her best moment in this episode. Whether she personally had this experience or not, she and the show's writers have created a timeless expression of what so many families have gone through. The episode covers spousal and child abuse with a chilling note of restraint. You may not actually see the worst of the physical and emotional moment, but the story demands that we slowly come to realize the secretive manipulation that occurs when a husband develops an insanity that compels him to injure or kill those he loves. And, I can say from personal experience (in my childhood) that wives who discover they are victims of the insanity will cover up the crime when there seems no reason to do so - sometimes ignoring the problem until it is far too late to save their own children. Family abuse is also one of the most emotional, difficult and dirty sides of police work. I will rate this episode as one of the most riveting and poignant portrayals of an all too common social sickness. As a man I don't often tear up during a television show. But, this one jerked my heart out.
Nova: Why the Towers Fell (2002)
The worst of Nova
One of the worst productions in NOVA's history. The source of the animation used to depict how the buildings collapsed is far too close to the Bush administration and completely one-sided. There are no alternative theories, and the science and engineering conclusions make no sense in the real world. Nova has simply followed the dictates of what the National Science Foundation and the government have approved and sanctioned. There were many glaring omissions from the program; first, why did the buildings collapse at free-fall speed, that is, less time than it takes an unimpeded object to fall the height of the building? The smoke of the fire was a tell tale sign that the fires were not hot enough to melt the massive beams of steel used to construct the building. Nothing is mentioned about the heat generated nor the massive amounts of asbestos and cement dust that eventually caused so many emergency workers to lose their health. And, nothing at all is mentioned about Building 7, the building that supposedly housed the mayor's emergency headquarters, SEC records, and many other important government offices. Even though the building was only hit by spurious pieces from the nearby collapse of the twin towers, many hours later it too collapsed at free-fall speed, just like a planned demolition. This was one of Nova's worst moments.
Another one of those "if only" movies
I'm going to make a suggestion here. When you watch this movie for the second time, turn down the volume completely. Make up your own wonderful scripting and music. Somehow, the scenes, acting, and storyline make complete sense and the movie becomes a wonderful exploration of images from a first rate motion picture that might have been. There are moments of incredible color and western imagery that are delightful to see, even if they fall far short of being the reality of the era depicted. Sorta reminded me of a nice western novel you picked up in a shop while in the airport. There's Alex Cord and Lana Wood in a classic lover's pose on the front cover with Iron Eyes Cody looking on in the background. Perfect Native Americans, who of course, are not native at all. This motion picture had everything it needed to be a wonderfully engaging drama with spectacular filming and broad scope. Yet, somehow during its production, it simply became a good children's tale. So, the question here is; how do you manage to get the money and all these industry tools, Ben Johnson, Jack Elam, and all those great actors, and turn a wonderful movie into this? I don't know. But, it saddens me.