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Little Mosque on the Prairie (2007)
Superb idea and fine case get muddled in the middle
"Little Mosque on the Prairie" was a great idea with a solid cast and some interesting story lines. The characters were well defined if some of the ones on the outer edge were cliché'd, if only to make the points the producer intended. When this show jumped the shark they went all in. The removal of one Rev., who largely worked with the mosque they hosted, for another that was less Mosque friendly signaled the change. Rev. Thorne was less a different point of view than a nemesis on which to place plots to eliminate the mosque from the church grounds. Aside from changing the tone of the show, the story lines became less and less believable. A Imam from the middle BOXING? That being said, we came to really appreciate the human nature in some of the characters. Most notably Yasir Hamoudi (played by Carlo Rota of "24" fame) was well drawn and interesting. He battled his need to be successful in business with his desire to keep his family happy and live within the tenets of his faith. Yasir's character kept the show rolling with humor. Baber Saddiqui (played by Manaj Sood) also provided an opportunity for the writers to show different sides of the same faith coin. More certain of the doctrine of his faith, he struggled often as a Professor in a university setting and as a loving single father of a modern daughter. Rayyan Hamoudi (portrayed by Sitara Hewitt) provided a literate, strong and competent character who could be a role model in any society. She was the faith driver in her family and made choices that showed her understanding of that faith. She was a remarkably different character from Baber, yet they agreed on so many things. Fred Tupper and several other characters provided contrast to Rev. Magee. Would that this show was willing to take a few more risks as the seasons went on. The first episode dealt with many of the stereotypes and provided edgy humor. Yasir's character disappeared during the fourth season and left a hole that could not be filled dealing the last blow. From there the scripts became safer and safer and the ratings continued to drop. I will miss this show more for what it could have been and for the people it tried to represent than for the potential it, ultimately, didn't reach.
Without a Trace: White Balance (2006)
Should have been their Emmy episode
Though I agree this episode has an obvious intent that fact doesn't lessen the power of it. There is no question in the mind of the viewer where it was headed. Malone's defense of his staff with his superiors and of his superiors to his staff and the two mothers shows how all good leaders serve. The episode also shows the complexity of being Vivian Johnson in the midst of all the latent media bias. What takes this somewhat predictable plot beyond the preachy is the revealing moment at the end. ****Beyond here spoilers be**** Malone is informed that both missing youths were found, one dead and one alive. Having followed the story lines we are intrigued to know who which is. It isn't until Malone approaches both mothers and the screen goes to credits that we realize how invested in each family we are. Who do we think is dead? Who alive? How do our preconceived notions play into that? We have spent the better part of an hour being judgmental of the press, the agency, and Malone's lack of ability to control either when we suddenly find our own bias laid bare. That can be either to our credit or not. Or maybe it just helps us see our real selves. Either way the viewer doesn't walk away just entertained but truly challenged in the best traditions of the media. In a season (Their fourth) which jumped the shark with last episode of their previous season, this episode edges the show back towards redemption; redemption being the main theme of "Without a Trace" for its first 69 episodes. Jeff M.
Sparkling production of a classic stage play
It is a great loss to the public that this PBS "American Playhouse" production, later shown on Showtime (when it was adventurous in more areas than sex), has never made it to the Video or DVD market. Like the other author here, my well worn VCR copy is the only record that this event ever occurred. The brilliance of the performances from Efrem Z. to Anne F. and all the way down the line carve out a moment in time. A day at Yale University in the early years of the last century. Ilene Graff, lovable Joyce Bullifaunt, a very young Victor Garber, and Vincent Gardenia all shine in the second tier with characters full of humorous prose. Literate as it is funny, ironic as it is fantastic, this stage production is what entertainment was meant to be...the culmination of talents congealing together seamlessly. No mention of this can begin to do duty to it without extensive mention of Charles Grodin. Too often wasted in film, Mr. Grodin flings himself across the screen, while deftly handling lines that would fell so many others. Even when he repeats a line that may be out of place, he adds inflection that makes it fit and makes us wonder if it isn't a running gag. His expressions utilize his whole body and are humorous without vamping and camping it up too much. His physical gestures are true to the moment, but not over-the-top. This makes his character more endearing as well as funny. John Ritter would have been too much, earlier versions gave us too little. Like baby bear's everything, Grodin gets it just right. And we are blessed by it. Even when the ending, the one we can see coming, arrives with one or two unexplained plot holes, we are left feeling nothing but satisfaction and are ready, at a moments notice, to return for another journey. SCJDM
Just a note
This film does take the time to place the characters in their spots like pieces on a chess board. Not all their motivations are clear, but even Shakespeare adds Don John into "Much Ado..." just because he needs a bad guy. I certainly enjoyed spending time with such favorite actors of the time as Inger Stevens (TVs "Farmer's Daughter"), Dean Jaeger and Ed Begley. Jack Elam, often in films a comic foil, here exerts his more evil persona, one which serves him well in several films. Though this film is not in my top 15 Westerns it was an enjoyable afternoon diversion. Just a note to a previous poster, Jimmy and Henry also appeared together in the somewhat satisfying "Cheyenne Social Club". Spinnerjdm
One reason I started watching Canadian drama
For most of my fellow Americans Donnelly Rhodes was just a goof on SOAP. For me he was a Det. on the clean but mean streets of Toronto. This show seemed to foreshadow the person-on-the-ground feel of Hill Street Blues. In fact, when HSB first appeared, I thought it was an American adaption of Sidestreet. Many of the plots are fuzzy in my aging memory now. But I can tell you when I was a kid with a 10" Black and White TV I looked forward to few things more than an hour with the officers of Sidestreet. Kicking theme too. I believe it was Chuch Mangione (boy I feel old now) who performed it. Rivals anything Mike Post and Pete Carpenter could come up with. For me it will be a DVD instant buy when available.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
One of my 15 favorite films of all time
I have to agree that I am amazed this film doesn't rate an upper 8 on this site. It is one of the most perfect films I know. I am not sure how many people remember when this came out. It was in a time that aliens were only thought of as natural enemies of man or benevolent beings seeking to fatten us before we were eaten. This film, like Close Encounters became the first of their kind. Although with the backdrop of the last 25 years it may seem sweet or even quaint, it can be shown to anyone and they can come away feeling profoundly joyful for the experience. Shot in Spielberg's modern world of imperfect families working through difficult times, E.T. raises us up from the day-to-day to help us see the larger picture of who we are and what we can be. Not unlike his later masterpiece Schindler's List there is a greater us than we currently see ourselves as.
All Passion Spent (1986)
One of televisions best
The first time I viewed this version of the Vita Sackville West story I came away moved by the powerful performances, the careful, effective use of language, and the ever present sense of class and propriety that can both stifle a life, and open it to many things. Dame Wendy Hiller lives in her role. Her interactions with Deborah, her only grandchild welcome to visit her, are so genuine as to make the viewer feel as if they have stumbled into a private moment. The grandmotherly understanding Lady Slane shows for Deborah tell us intuitively much about herself. Fine turns by both Maurice Denham as Mr. Bucktrout and David Waller as the bowler covered Mr. Gosheron maintain credibility. Their characters allow Lady Slane the kind of social interaction she has searched for her whole life. Martyn Friend allows the characters to completely dictate the action in this film. Never did I feel the camera was conducting a scene, but quietly recording the event with intimate understanding. Notable performances that enhanced the truthfulness of Peter Buckman's adaption were turned in by Harry Andrews as the irascible, wholly independent Fitzgeorge and John Franklyn-Robbins uncomfortable in his own skin as Kay. Finally, Eileen Way's faithful portrayal of Lady Slane's caring maid/caregiver quite naturally brought the tears to my eyes moments before the end of this three part series. My feelings of empathy for her character, Genoux, in that moment of realization left me without any sense I was viewing a film. The editing is tight. Not a wasted scene, yet, there is no sense any more were needed. I would think that the epitome of what editing should be about. In testimony to this films lasting effect, it has been over 5 years since I last saw this on tape and I remember it this well. In short, All Passion Spent is an clear example of what television can be when those involved care enough to bring all their best, unselfishly, to a project. Dame Wendy Hiller is not prized for this film because she is found selfishly hogging the screen, but because she and her fellow storytellers, bring their whole beings to the roles they present. signed, Spinner