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Engrenages with minuses
There is a French series with the name Engrenages, or in English, Spirals. Unfortunately the episodes in FBI seem to dip into Engrenages but surface minus the panache. The cast is boring, I can't seem to find a hook to like any of them. I thought with the FBI caught in the cross-hairs of an inordinate amount of bad publicity that this FBI might be getting a Dick Wolf facelift. Not what I had hoped for. The "stories" thus far seem to have been pilfered. With time the series might find its legs but I have doubts. It does have a good slot between NCIS and NCIS, New Orleans bit viewers can siphoned off before renewal time.
Can the Devil speak true?
Paladin has captured Joselto Kincaid, an alleged fugitive killer, and is bringing him in for a trial. Needing a brief stop before boarding a train, Paladin stops over in a town for the night. While there, four local thugs bored in a no horse town decide to hang Kincaid. Their first attempt is foiled by Ray Remy, local older, overweight sheriff who also runs the town bar. After overpowering Paladin, the men take Kincaid, but before he can be hung, Kincaid hurls imprecations at Joe Culp. Culp loses his temper and shoots Kincaid and then rifle butts Paladin's right hand.
When Paladin recovers, he goes after the men. Culp draws on Paladin and the result baffles Remy. How? Paladin tells Remy guns are his tools. But now there are still three others to capture. Paladin will offer them a choice: put cuffs on and be brought to trial or die.
This is a rare two-episode Paladin which means there is more time to develop character and plot. The production set is bleaker than usual setting up a shadowy backdrop for this morality play: the struggle to determine is it justice or revenge we see before us.
Well done episode(s) featuring a young Sydney Pollack who was an actor before becoming an Oscar winning director. Pollack makes a good bad man indicating he might have matured into a fine actor.
Hold the Sunset (2018)
Rubbish Roger. Rubbish you prat
A group of familiar faces trying to make a comedy of aging and moving on from the aged parents and their now aging children/adults to a new life.John Cleese (Phil) struggles for laughs, and Jason Watkins (Roger) manages to be sure there aren't any. Alison Steadman (Edith) overacts the mother torn between her new life with Phil and her responsibility to her 49 year old man-child. As a comedy of situation, Hold the Sunset is Fawlty Towers without the laughs or humor or joy.
800 Words (2015)
Quirky with a undercurrent of meaness
I tend to be a fan of scripted comedies and the off kilter are usually the best. I am thinking along the line of The IT Crowd, Gaven & Stacey, Moone Boy, and Doc Martin. A commonality being is that the most unlikable character has something likable about them. Not the case in 800 Words. I can forgive the main character,George Turner (Erik Thomson) for being somewhat of a tosser, but he is surrounded by characters who are less than completely sympathetic including his son and daughter. The series is somewhat a fish out of water do which follows George's attempts to fit into this odd ball New Zealand town thus accounting for the humorous situations he becomes stuck in. If the genre is appealing to you then you will most likely find someone who draws you back to the show. I am watching this because my wife likes it and she has suffered through some of my favorites so fair is fair.
Diagnosis Murder: Alienated (1998)
Nice spoof via several members of the Star Trek cast
Every so often Diagnosis Murder let itself run off the rails a bit. This is such an episode. Dr. Travis and Steve Sloan set off for a fishing vacation in Utah. But when Steve leaves Jesse at the cabin while he looks to find some real beer to drink and not the light stuff Jesse brought, a fire prevents Steve from a return. When he does return he finds a Jesse who is distraught and suffering from paranoia. Jesse claims he was abducted by aliens and no one believes him. Jesse gets more confused as he meets people who also claim to having been abducted, "agents" who want to interrogate him, and people shooting at him. While it's not too hard to figure out what's going on, it's fun for fans to see all those familiar faces from Star Trek again; plus Billy Mumy from Lost in Space. A good episode with a fun mystery to solve.
Come for the blood, stay for . . ..
It matters not if you are laughing at Larry Kroger (Tom Hulce) doing weed with Professor Dave Jennings (Donald Sutherland) or watching Bill Munny (Clint Eastwood) kill men, both characters pose questions as to what does it all mean. Pilgrimage also asks us to make sense in a world and be somewhat existential in forming some sort of meaning out of chaos. I imagine the older the viewer and if he or she is inclined to ponder, then the more they may appreciate this film. As we come closer to the abyss of our own lives, some of us hope there is more to it all. Mortality will eventually provide but until then we can ponder the pilgrimage of our own life and/or see this film as a kickstarter or just some decent bloody reenactment of what hand to hand fighting was like about a 1000 years ago.
I hope when it's all said and done, it just hasn't been for a crappy rock.
The Royal Rodeo (1939)
Give your country a hooray in the great old American Way.
It was a Saturday and I was clicking through the channels when I came upon this starting on TCM. It had John Payne and as I am a fan, I stopped. At first I thought this might have been colorized as the technicolor was incredibly bright. I knew Payne had a good voice and you get an opportunity to hear him hear several times. The story here is incidental as the appeal to American patriotism in 1939. WW II was underway in Europe and Hollywood was trying to get the public geared up for the eventual entry of America; a fate sealed by Dec 7, 1941. If you, like me, stumble across this curio, give it a watch. Honestly, except for a few codgers, I doubt this will ever find an audience anymore.
Tarzan's Hidden Jungle (1955)
Saving the endangered before it became news
I just caught this on TCM Saturday run of Tarzan films. No doubt I must have seen this during a Saturday matinee because I loved Tarzan books and movies when I was a kid but this is a rather slow moving Tarzan and in retrospect it seems the film was aimed at a more sophisticated audience and not just eight year olds. Real fans knew that Tarzan was the well educated Lord Greystoke who constantly yielded to his need to return to the jungle but this Tarzan is still monosyllabic The action here is minimal; not the Tarzan a kid wants to imitate in their backyard play.
Take Two (2018)
You're just like me, you need a second chance.
Eddie Cibrian and Rachel Bilson have had careers for a while now. And I figured this would be a Castle rip-off that like its predecessor relied heavily of chemistry. Writing is not the responsibility of the actor, but they do the viewer an attempt to bring characters and make them likable, if that's the assignment. I doubt either actor was told to make their character to try and convince you to change the channel, but they do. There is no chemistry between them and it is painful to watch.
Here he has the streetwise P.I., Eddie Valetik (Cibrian) forced to take on actress Sam Swift (Bilson) who is a Linsdsay Lohan rehab type as his ride-along because he owes his Hollywood agent sister a favor.
Suddenly the two are on a murder investigation with Swift calling in favors from people she met over the eight years when she had a TV show playing, of course, a cop. Even though they are trying to capture one of the most dangerous gangsters in the city, not to fear as Swift is here. Swift quickly overpowers her PI mentor with favors she can call in, and her fix that everything that happens in real life, as real life is but a poor copy of her TV show. Oh, and everyone who pulls a gun out on our intrepid two, suddenly stops to ask, "Is that Sam Swift?"
If you don't expect good writing, if you have no expectation of good acting, if less than mediocre is your pleasure, here's your show. Highlight in dialogue: an upset Swift looking at Valetik and muttering to him that he, "Puts the dick in detective."
If they wanted Lohan, they should have hired her; she can act.
Emergency!: Boot (1973)
Ann Prentiss steals the episode
An episode with a sense of fun with an uncredited Jamie Farr, pre MASH, doing a bit as a man cursed and unable to move his hand. But Dr. Early has his own gypsy cures. Then the staff has a problem as medical doctors unable to diagnosis what's wrong with Boot, the fire station dog. The docs have sort of stepped in because it's Sunday and veterinarians are all closed. Then Ann Prentiss, looking, sounding, and acting a lot like Paula Prentiss her older sister, plays a woman in hopes of luring a boyfriend through a home cooked meal. Unfortunately for Ann, flunking home economics sends her from one cooking disaster to another. For old timers, like me, there is a cameo appearance by Jock Mahoney as a man suffering from a bleeding stomach. There are serious rescues but enjoy watching the increasing frustrated Ann Prentiss.
Book Club (2018)
Hoping no one dies for real before the release
Four sexagenarians, five septuagernians, and an octogenarian get cast into a movie about aging, sex, and having fun before the lights go out completely. If you are in your thirties or younger, I doubt this is a date night movie unless you are desperate to get your date to go along with carpe diem.And if you of an age to be cast in this fun romp among the wealthy and old, I would recommended that you wait for it to appear for "somewhat free" on Amazon Prime. There isn't anything new here and for me Cacoon has the same message but is more fun.
Keeping Faith (2017)
Nothing happens. Evan Howells leaves for work and doesn't arrive. Faith Howells would like to know where her husband went. The gossipy old bird next door calls the police immediately as she believes from seeing Evan drive off in the morning, after Faith came home tipsy the night before after a night out with the girls, that Faith murdered him. There is a lot of Faith looking through closets and bags for clues.A lot of Faith thumb bitting. A lot of Faith lying on the floor staring up at the ceiling. A lot of Faith drinking white wine. A horrible score. Skip to the last episode, it will save time as each hour long episode seems an eternity. The ending? You decide but you will thank me if you skipped 2-7.
Tarzan's Secret Treasure (1941)
Tarzan vs the crocs
Weissmuller made a dozen Tarzan films over sixteen years. Tarzan's Secret Treasure is just about in the middle of that run, and Weissmuller is a bit older and "thicker" but still has the muscular look of Tarzan. I always liked the Tarzan films when I was young and regretted that Weissmuller never had the opportunity to become John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, but remained a monosyllabic Tarzan.
I had read all of Burroughs' books and believe only John Carter and David Yates' The Legend of Tarzan capture Burroughs' characters.
Regardless, Tarzan's Secret Treasure is an enjoyable Tarzan entry even though there is little new here; however, the rescue of Jane and boy and the fight with crocodiles is worth it at the film's end. Good film to kick back with on a winter weekend or rainy weekend and sofa down with popcorn and just go along for the fun.
The Good Karma Hospital (2017)
Good Karma indeed
First, I don't really care if its shot in Sri Lanka and not India. The setting looks good and helps make the various episodes Look and appear "real." Other than that, I don't care as the setting is both beautiful and exotic. Amanda Redman still looks great and makes her role of Dr. Lydia Fonseca believable. Amrita Acharia as Dr. Ruby Walker is appropriate as Indian by nationality but English woman by birth who in a fit of heartbreak decides to regroup by taking a position in an Indian hospital whereby she can enjoy the beautiful beaches, local color, and live in a luxurious apartment as her heart heals from a bad romantic relationship. Needless to say, this quickly becomes a fish out of water show as the realities of working in a "dump" of a hospital with minimal facilities and a variety of quirky locals have to be negotiated by Dr. Ruby Walker who is learning how to grow up and not live in the bubble of what she thought would be a medical vacation of sorts.
As the stories progress, we learn more about the various characters and alternate between humor and heartbreak. Dr. Walker has to learn to negotiate her English sensibilities with the realities of working in a run-down hospital and treating patients who have neither money of resources. The humor comes mainly from situations but the heartbreak is about people.
Don't get too attached to some of the characters as their storylines run out while the series continues. The series tries to have a big heart and for the most part it does. The acting is excellent and you care about the characters; it's a shame so many of the stories end sadly.
The series is certainly worth watching and I hope for many more seasons.
Haunted Gold (1932)
A film for kids in the 30's, today they wouldn't be allowed to watch it.
The opening credits would have had me scrunched down in my seat; then when a creepy hand appeared my eyes would have closed but I would have opened one eye slightly so I wouldn't miss anything good about to happen. A good thing too because a man was missing and then a picture frame moves revealing a pair of eyes.
Then the scene changes as we see John Wayne appearing being followed by Clarence, his ranch cook, who gets to play the same character Mantan Moreland played in the old Sidney Toler Charlie Chan films. In other words, he is there to be the black comic relief who comes close to saying "hooves, don't fail me now." He is a cowboy who rides a horse, but he doesn't want to go to any haunted mine with spooks and all.
And back at the haunted ghost town, Joe Ryan and his men start shooting at shadows, or was it the phantom. But Ryan won't be spooked: he has a half interest in the Sally Ann mine. John Mason (Wayne) owns the other half. Janet Taylor had owned the other half but it was lost to Ryan. Regardless, Mason has received a message to show up as his half interest in the mine is in jeopardy. Janet Taylor received a similar message but doesn't know why; she has no ownership rights. Worse, she tells Mason that she feels she is being watched and she is!
So, will Mason figure out what's going on? Will he be able to return to Janet her half ownership? Will he convince Clarence there are no ghosts? Will he see that Joe Ryan and his men get what they deserve? Will he find out if Simon really is deaf and dumb?
I love the scene when Janet Taylor comes down stairs dressed as if she were going on a fox hunt with knee high riding boots, a shirt and tie, wearing a blazer and topped off with a feathered riding cap. Next Janet learns from Benedict that she was cheated out of her half of the mine by Ryan and that her father was framed and sent to prison.
Mason tries to trick Ryan to get Janet's share of the mine back but his plan backfires and the phantom steals the mine ownership. What follows is a mash up of events that would have had kids sitting wide eyed waiting to see what happens next.
The thirties were a great time for Western. John Wayne alone was cranking out about five Westerns a year and there was a massive amount of cowboy heroes. This is a fun film and is very entertaining but the PC police wouldn't know where to start as Blue Washington (Clarence) suffers through a long series of indignities. At least in this film he receives credit.
Ride Him, Cowboy (1932)
Great Oater when you were 10.
Let's see, this picture was made in 1932 and my parents were just about ten years old. As this was the depression and my dad was one of six kids, I doubt if he had a nickel to spend. As I watch this, as an old, old man; I see it as a pretty good oater. Lots of action, last minute rescues, and a smattering of adult humor. At least, I hope the humor was adult aimed for I know I wouldn't have gotten it. John Wayne got top billing although he shared it with Duke, his horse.
The action moves quickly enough for kids to follow it to see if Wayne caught the bad guy or at least exposed him to the law. I thought the film held up over the years. Solid supporting cast with both Harry Gribbon and Otis Harlan providing the humor; a little gallows at times but no doubt that was for any adult who wandered in.
You have to feel sorry for Wayne's character, John Drury, who goes from horse saving hero to wanted outlaw in the blink of an eye. I think after all was done with, I would have just moved on and left these people to themselves.
But, all in all, a decent oater for its time.
Interesting crime show
Currently there are three seasons running on MHz identified as Tatort: Cologne (crime scene, Cologne) going from 1998 to 2007 that feature Inspectors Max Ballauf and Freddy Schenk (actors Klaus Behrendt and Dietmar Bar). The two actors work well together and it's interesting to see them adapt to new technology and changes in police procedure. Those changes aren't part of the stories but just note how quickly things change.
At times Max and Freddie's personal issues can surface in an episode to add to building of their characters, and at times as crucial story points. Max has even been known to sleep with a suspect. Several episodes deal with social problems and the stories can be very gritty and the conclusions quite depressing.
At times both my wife and I yell at the screen when obviously bad conclusions are reached by the inspectors but you do have to fill about 90 minutes per episode. At times the episodes seem more about commenting on social issues rather than being solid mystery stories. In spite of some of these commentaries, the two forge ahead but they seem to get to finding the perp more by dumb luck than solid detective work. But they do doggedly pursue their quarry and usually catch the suspect.
Like any series, there are good episodes and disappointing ones but Max and Freddy are worth a look.
A show written for Ward and Wally for a change
Ward wants to get off to work but Beaver needs a dollar. Two fifty cent pieces as that must sound less than a whole dollar, and that will allow Beaver to join his friends in the pigeon club. Beaver can then get two pigeons to raise but Ward wants to stop by the pet store for the whole story. Apparently, the sell was a good one as Ward returns home after work with two pigeons. But he can't give them to Beaver as Beaver has contracted chicken pox. Who will take care of the pigeons? Wally agrees to care for the pigeons although when he had to take over Beaver's hamsters, they ended up croaking.
Things seem OK until Larry comes over with his pigeons. He has to go away for the weekend and needs a pigeon sitter. As Larry's birds look ill, it is a reluctant Wally who agrees and the pigeons are put together. When Wally checks the pigeons later, they all look sick. Did they catch something from Larry's pigeons? Will Wally be blamed for croaking Beaver's pigeons? Will Ward try to save the pigeons? Will all end happily?
An episode with an ending a lot of kids could no doubt relate to. Along the way they might have even gleaned something about responsibility and friendship. Looking back over the years, I sometimes wonder what I picked up from watching TV. It wasn't the babysitter it is now. Even on Saturday's writers did most of the shows like Fury and Sky King or Mr. Wizard using the same format they did for adults.
For a surprise, we find out that Larry can actually act in a rather mature manner. Who knew?
Ensign O'Toole (1962)
It could have been a contender
A true waste of a potential great cast. I have to blame the writers here. This sitcom seemed to have weekly shows minus its two chief attractions: Dean Jones and Jack Mullaney. There were several episodes that didn't even have the cast in them, just the guest star. One almost has the feeling that the cast were all waiting for their real shows to turn up. Maybe the writers sensed that and decided not to bother about scripts. Unfortunately, while most of the cast had careers, no one really made super star status. Dean Jones cranked out some Disney films but never had that one role. If anyone came close it was probably Beau Bridges.
Among several service comedies, Ensign O'Toole found itself just another casualty. The show was in good company. Hennessey with Jackie Cooper, Abby Dalton, and Roscoe Karns was probably the success. Broadside with Kathleen Nolan, Mr. Roberts with Roger Smith, and Operation Petticoat with John Astin, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Jim Varney ( Hi there Vern)-just sank. A few out there might recall C.P.O. Sharkey with Mr. Warmth himself, Don Rickles only set sail for two seasons. Maybe Navy comedies aren't right or write for TV.
You might catch Ensign O'Toole sailing the shores of MeTV or Cozi or Decades for a few episodes and be able to try and figure out what might have been.
Try to view it through the eyes of an 8 to 10 year old
I'm not sure you can review this show or Amos and Andy by 2018 "racial sensibilities." Beulah was a maid, an anomaly in the households of 99 percent of the country, who pretty much raised the Hendersons' son Donnie with the help of her friends. The humor was gentle and the show ran on ABC in the 7:30 slot. The "Seven to Eight" hour was one pretty much ignored by adults but was prized by kids. On the DuMont Television Network ran one of the best shows ever for kids: Captain Video and his Video Rangers. Beulah followed on ABC and retained a lot of the kids. That kids' audience is now in their 70's and I doubt many recall Beulah clearly. I can't recall Captain Video all that clearly either.
Thanks to the Internet and the plethora of cable networks, some of these old shows rise to the surface once again. For me many bring back some good attached memories; some make me wince seeing the cheap sets and terrible acting. I am left to wonder what synapsis in my brain were connected/created to shape the person I am today. Did the vestigial images of Beulah from decades past shape my view of Blacks today? I don't know but I still get a smile when I see Beulah or Amos and Andy. If that's the take-a-way, then I don't see any problems. I know I don't appreciate it when someone suggests I enjoy those shows because I harbor racist views. Beulah was nice, she was loyal to her friends, always tried to follow her heart and do the right thing. What was wrong with that picture?
I like Jack Black but he's running his niche character a little thin. He made King Kong (2005) bearable, and was perfect in Tropic Thunder, and I liked the semi-serious turn in The Holiday. Here like in most of his films, he helps with the comic turns but in an usual way that almost makes this his movie. Kevin Hart plays Kevin Hart. The Rock likewise plays the Rock. In this turn the game is amped up to being a video game but you know the drill. It's a pretty much mindless romp that I would have waited to see on HBO or Netflix but that a friend had passes. I guess I am tired of CGI and loud booms and plotless films. I suspect if you are under thirty you will enjoy this and have some laughs but the studios are really pushing Jumanji to the breaking point but I'm sure they will squeeze another film out of this franchise depending on the profits. I am beginning to wish Hollywood would start on the road to bankruptcy already with the endless repetitions.
The Team (2015)
Good European crime miniseries
I was a fan of Crossing Lines, another European import running on Netflix, and when I read an introductory blurb on MHz there seemed to be some similarities so I decided to give it a try. Both my wife and I enjoy it. The team of European cops assembled to find what appears to be a serial killer is quite good. While they are supposed to work together there are some internal rivalries and one of the countries seems to have its own hidden agenda which they expect to stay that way.
The episodes are short, one hour each, and the story moves along at a crisp pace. Harald Bjorn, the titular leader of the team, seems to have a past with another member; and she seems to be having some issues of her own with her husband. The subplots don't take anything away from the main story, and provide us with back stories on team members.
There are eight episodes you need to commit to if you want all the pieces to fall into place. The cast seems to be quite good and work together well. I would recommend it as it is so much better than the usual crap we see on American TV. If having to read subtitles is a turn off then you will probably take a pass; but I was amazed at how much of the dialogue was English.
It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947)
To be without friend is a serious form of poverty.
I'm usually a softhearted for these Christmas movies from the 40's and maybe if Frank Capra had had an opportunity to recast and have some significant rewriting done then maybe this film would have turned out better. A neglected film is Holiday Affair with Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh, and Wendell Corey. Directed by Don Hartman it has a lighter and more comedic touch.
The only member of the cast I like is Charles Ruggles. Everyone else is miscast and without sympathy which is not good for a film that's supposed to pull on your heartstrings. By now you know the plot, a hobo moves into a Fifth Avenue mansion while the owner winters in Tennessee. Victor Moore is the hobo and had a spotted film career. Moore's character, Aloysius T McKeever, ends up having a recently evicted soldier, Jim Bullock (Don DeFore) move in with him and then a slew of others show up. When the mansion's owner Michael J. O'Conner (Ruggles) shows up, his daughter Trudy (Gale Storm) is romantically interested in Bullock. When Trudy realizes her father is about to have everyone in the house arrested, she calls in her divorced mother Mary (Ann Harding) to help present a bulwark against her father.
Of course, there is the requisite happy ending with O'Conner and his wife getting back together, Bullock and Trudy cementing their romance, a bunch of ex-servicemen pulling their money to buy housing, the usual. I am sure in the current climate (2017), the story might have appeal with the little people vs. the industrial giant; but the little people only win because Michael J. O'Conner lets them in a rather unbelievable end. It's not that I don't like the message, it's just the wrong movie for me.
Oddly enough this movie was popular with audiences while Capra's directorial choice It's a Wonderful Life bombed. But with time the Capra film is now a Christmas classic; and It Happened on Fifth Avenue is just about completely forgotten.
It's not history but it is is entertainment worth watching.
If you are really interested history of the Templers then you might try The Templars by Dan Jones, if you like your "history" rolled about in conspiracies and arcane myths with questionable respect for accuracy but "insight into the secret history" and ways the Templars influence leaders today then go for The Knights Templar by Conrad Bauer.
I doubt if there are many people who know anything about the Knights Templar, but if you like the look of a handsomely produced period piece set among the early 14th Century, then this is great to watch. There is intrigue, betrayal, sex, gore and all the usual stuff that makes Game of Thrones popular. When I say sex, don't expect nudity as this is the History Channel not HBO; but the battle scenes are well done.
Casting looks good and acting is fine. I can't say I recognize the cast except for Jim Carter who was Mr. Carson in Downton Abbey and plays Pope Boniface VIII here. Don't watch because you are expecting a history lesson any more than you would watch The Big Bang Theory to become a physicist. Basically, it is a well-done show with great sets and solid acting. Set your DVR.
Singing, singing, dancing and Whoopie!
Of course it is a formula. It was 1993, remember 1993. It's Andy Hardy dates Sister Mary Clarence with James Coburn as a villain. And who cares? This film helps people remember how much fun Whoopi Goldberg could be and there are some wonderful music numbers that will get you moving and feeling good. Then there is possibly the best credit run ever at the film's conclusion. Plus you look at the young cast and think isn't that Jennifer Love Hewitt or Lauryn Hill? Older audiences will recognize Barnard Hughes, Mary Wickes, Michael Jeter, and Dame Maggie Smith the Dowager Countess of Grantham.
There is nothing bad about just admitting you were entertained and felt good as the credits roll on. I wish Whoopi had stayed with film and Broadway. To this day I remember her one woman show on Broadway which was later broadcast as an HBO special. What a talented woman. I know it's PC to say "person" or "actor," but I don't care; Whoopi Goldberg is a great entertainer and I can't understand why we can't accept and acknowledge she is a woman. Her performances over the years have made me cry and laugh such that I thought I would burst.
Know what, just go to Apple or Amazon, rent the movie. Sit back with some popcorn and prepare to laugh and clap and maybe even dance to the signing. I bet you hit IMDb to see what else Whoopi was in that you missed.