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City Beneath the Sea (1971)
For the Irwin Allen Completist
There are many ways to view this film which had pilot movie written all over it. Other reviews have hit them, so I won't delve too deeply. However, if you are a fan of Irwin Allen's TV shows or his movies, this is for you.
It's really combination of 60's sci-fi with 70's Disaster Films, which is appropriate given Allen's career path at this point. It very much has a "throw in everything but the kitchen sink" feel. Any of the subplots probably could have served as a serviceable main plot, but cramming them all in makes it laughable, but in an enjoyable way.
You have: The return of a controversial commander and the tensions that brings. A gold heist (by the commander's brother, no less) A dangerously unstable radioactive element. A meteor about to hit them.
When you consider two of those plots were major hit films for Bruce Willis, you can see how the plots kind of piled up. I really wanted Stuart Whitman to have an "Oh what a week I'm having" moment.
Mostly the movie is fun and can't be judged to harshly because it never really attempts to be more than it is.
Star Trek: Balance of Terror (1966)
Great Episode Where The Performances Make You Forget the Flaws
Let's get the flaws out of the way. It relies really heavily on the "Space is an Ocean" trope. It takes the submarine movie in space bit way to far to where apparently sound can travel through space. Translating other genres to sci-fi is an age old concept, but you need to stray from the source where appropriate.
Second is the internal conflict on the Enterprise. Styles is a guy we've never seen before and will never see again. He's supposed to be a bigot, but he's actually got a point, at first. If no one's seen a Romulan, how do you know they haven infiltrated the Federation? His focusing on Spock is a bit less forgivable, given his long Starfleet career and the fact that there's a planet full of Vulcans. However, while an earlier stardate, this episode actually originally aired a few weeks after "The Menagerie", so audiences at the time may have been more accepting of the idea of a Spock betrayal. Styles' attitude shift was a bit far-fetched, but not wholly unbelievable.
Now let's get to what makes this episode ooze with awesome. The chess match between Kirk and The Romulan commander was awesome. It was a match between equals, each with advantages and disadvantages to deal with. I somewhat disagree with another reviewer who called this a clear good guy vs. bad guy scenario. While the Romulans are certainly the aggressors, The Commander and The Centurian are portrayed quite sympathetically. They're not wholly comfortable with their mission, but are experienced soldiers doing as ordered. Mark Lenard did a great job bringing out a brilliant, but somewhat tired old soldier. He got to make a classic line at the end that is really sums up how you feel about his conflict with Kirk,
"CAPTAIN, I REGRET THAT WE MEET IN THIS WAY. YOU AND I ARE TWO OF A KIND. IN A DIFFERENT REALITY, I COULD HAVE CALLED YOU FRIEND."
It's entirely believable from what we've seen. For both Kirk and the Commander none of this was personal. There was no malice. Each was doing his duty and that forced them into a conflict where only one could survive.
Spoilers: Major Plot Holess
While the episode has some good character moments, the villain's main plot was needlessly complicated. It seemed more like they had a beginning and ending in mind, but no real idea how to link them in a way the makes any sense. Had he simply killed the marines in the first place, it would have made more sense for his goals, but there would have been no episode.
They never really explain if the marines were really kidnapped by insurgents or if the villain faked that. I suppose the latter makes more sense since he had them and they weren't killed by the insurgents for non- payment of the ransome. He then engages a mortician to embalm one of the marines alive so that he could put him in the grave. So now he's included someone else in on his plan that would have worked out better if he'd just shot the two marines in the first place.
The In-Laws (1979)
It's really one of my favorite comedies of all time
The writing and casting are excellent. Falk and Arkin play their characters perfectly. The key here is they didn't follow what has become somewhat cliché in comedies.
Arkin's character, today, would be an over the top neurotic. While I haven't seen the remake, Albert Brooks' casting indicated to me that they went that way. He's successful upper middle class dentist with a loving wife and daughter. He had no problems with the upcoming wedding until he meets Falk. Also, none of the things that go wrong in his life are attributable to him. He's truly a normal guy wrapped up in a crazy situation that's far from his "safe zone". He even manages to adapt somewhat well until the firing squad scene.
With Falk's Vince Ricardo, they didn't go with a guy cracking jokes, an over the top tough/professional guy, or the crazy guy. He was a normal guy who has an extraordinary job. He's been at it so long, none of it phases him, because it's normal for him. His funny lines come from treating these situations as everyday occurrences. He can babble about pea soup after being shot at because it's like a train being late to him. He's not funny because he's trying to be funny. He's funny because he's completely calm in an outrageous situation. The only time he breaks this is during the dinner scene where he yells at his son. It's there that you realize he's paid a price for his secret life.
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)
I'm Entertained Every Time I Watch It
While I prefer Fort Apache, I still watch this film every time I see it on cable. I've always felt the best way to judge an actor or director was on the small stuff. Others have made mention of the emotional scene of Captain Brittles saying goodbye to his men. I liked the the added touch when this experienced and strong officer has to take out his glasses to read the inscription on the watch his men presented to him as a retirement gift. A brief pause and uncomfortable look shows how this acknowledgement of age and weakness causes him discomfort. It's obviously something he's rarely done (if ever) in front of his men. However, he'd never insult them by not reading it aloud.
The "romance", such as it is, is really more humorous than anything else. Brittles certainly sees it as such while it's confined to the safety of the fort. However, I can't really see what Cohill is supposed to see in her. It's a little easier with the less experiences Pennell. She's clearly playing them against each other, despite obviously preferring Cohill. After making her choice, all she has to say to the younger officer is, "I guess that's how it is, Ross." He should have smacked her for that.