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American Animals (2018)
Excellent Heist Caper With Reality and Repercussions
American Animals took me by surprise. I wasn't familiar with the true back-story about the events depicted in the film. I can accept it's a film and there may be deviations from the actual events at times. That said the movie feels like a very welcome blend of a documentary and a heist movie. While it's no action blockbuster it reaches a fine level of entertainment by well placed actual interviews with the real perpetrators and a fantastic sense of humor. It's still a black atmosphere as a level headed person watching just wants to shake the main characters and say "wake-up". The idea is so stupid, but it gets the point that within a person who is fairly intelligent, yet bored, there's a need for some kind of excitement. Most folks get involved with less benign ways of course. Here things go toward the unthinkable, at least in logical terms. This is the hook. The movie weaves the decent of these smart kids fantasies slowly becoming reality. It builds tension, and all without the usual Hollywood heist bombast. It's really sad, but since you see it as a voyeur it's safe and engaging. I do like heist flicks and I do feel Hollywood has actually ruined the genre more than ran with it. This is a film that gets so much across about the angst and unsavory elements it's actually a refreshing take on the genre. Plus it tells an interesting true crime story and as such still should reach a broad audience. I give the writers, director, and the actors kudos for stealing back the heist genre and doing with originality and aplomb. In the end you really feel sad for the mis-guided actions of four young men and the aftermath that will always remain with the librarian victim and the families who received such a shock.
This Ones A Sleeper....Highly Recommended
Upgrade is a gritty and dark look into A.I. run amok. It's original enough to stand up to higher budget films while staying pretty much anti-blockbuster. The writing is the real gem here while the effects are just good enough to not cripple the story. The lead character is solid and the cinematography is more than decent. In all it's a winner that actually has a fitting ending while not completely surprising is kept close enough to the vest that I was totally invested until the final frame. I recommend this as a thinking person's Sci-Fi A.I. tale well done.
Car S.O.S.: Triumph GT6 (2018)
What A Mix: Emotional Build For A True Classic, Plus Shenanigans From Tim
I really think when this show combines all of it's elements at once it really isn't like any other car show on the air. The show seems to find uniquely worthy recipients and this is one of the most worthy as well as the rebuild is needed sooner rather than later. Add in a true classic British sports car, the Triumph GT6, and you have lots of potential for both good will and good entertainment.
We get a car in literally thousands of parts here. This one is carried in boxes and the body shell to the trailer. We get some wrench spanning and some history of the Triumph line of cars. It's nice to see the wrenching and I wish they'd show more of this as it is truly interesting to car buffs. Tim goes over the top to fool David Manors for parts (we know David isn't fooled at all yet it's great fun). The build goes on and it seems there's so much ground to cover it is really a big build even if it's not the most challenging one the crew has tackled. Anyway, if you like car shows give this one a chance as it isn't quite like anything else out there.
Car S.O.S.: Peugeot 205 GTI (2018)
Cool Car...Except In The U.S.
Interesting car here as we rarely saw Peugeot cars of any sort here in the U.S. This car was nonetheless important. Peugeot won the World Rally Competition with a version of this car three consecutive years in the early 2000's. It certainly fits into the "hot hatch" category defining much of what the genre is loved for. So, if you want to learn about an important car that was seen as a undesirable in the US and a big winner in Europe this episode is definitely good for that. The rest is usual Car S.O.S. fare.
Car S.O.S.: Volvo P1800 (2016)
Love This Particular Car & This Is One Of The Best Episodes
Car S.O.S. has a special place in the car show universe to me...at least. It's a nice blend of human interest and wrenching. Now, I don't mind saying I'd like more in-depth tool spanning and metal melding, but it does topically get these crucial parts of a car re-build into the mix along with more. That more in this case involves an iconic car from the sixties. As a kid in America I remember catching what was likely re-runs of a Brit show called The Saint. It was cool with a dashing actor and a killer car which wasn't seen a lot in my parts. That would be the Volvo P1800 coupe. Even at a tender age of approximately eight-years I knew cool design when I was exposed to it since I thought this car was really exotic. That's the thing. It's performance was not exotic (I couldn't process that back then), but it looked so stylish and fast standing still. Anyway it's a perfect fit for Car S.O.S. to take on this important Volvo two-door. Add in an owner who has been a real giver to others, yet due to health reasons never gave himself his long-desired re-build of car he stored for three decades and there's good ingredients in this episode. But, the good gets better because Fuzz needs help and he reaches out to the Ford Capri racing guru of the UK. This guy knows his Capris probably better than any current employee of Ford, plus even though his workshop looks somewhat modest it is loaded with the highest-tech CNC milling gear. We get to see the Capri's engine, which in reality fell short of the R/S badging be built up to that spec. And I love it when a body get's dipped and really shows through all the old attempts at saving it only to reveal a "hot mess" with as many holes as a piece of that famous cheese. This one is a massive re-build on all levels.
For the entertainment factor we get prime Tim as he tricks his only adversary at an auction for some much needed Capri parts. Finally, to ice the cake with some luscious frosting we actually get The Saint, Roger Moore. Tm tracks him down and the affable Moore agrees to sign the Capri drivers seat back adding the iconic stick figure of The Saint pushing it over the top. One of the best episodes.
Uncle Hitler (2009)
Hard To Follow Doc
There's some gold here, but it's obscured by poor execution and editing. It's as if you get bits and pieces that are sloppily linked. The filmmaker had a chance during a fleeting window to interview Hit'er's still living relatives and just couldn't link it properly. Or even interview the few still living in any meaningful way. The gist is does anyone still living with a familial link to Adolf Hitler have any rights to the revenue stream of Mean Kampf? That is never answered definitively. so the measures enacted after the war remain in place. While this has many facets that are interesting it's ultimately useless. See if your a completist, otherwise there's only the ongoing curiosity. Ultimately there's no remaining living heirs. Case closed and nothing revealed.
Jay Leno's Garage: Size Matters (2018)
Great Diversion From Normal Petrolhead Shows
I never cared that much for Leno on The Tonight Show. I was stumping for Letterman kinda even though I knew it wouldn't be Johnny and it probably wouldn't be Dave as I previously thought he hit it out of the park. Leno was, apparently, the right man. He just wasn't my man. Well, when it comes to car shows I have a wide-swath of interest and Leno is totally legit. I mean he's personable and he's a total petrolhead. Plus he has the deep pockets to have a top-shelf world class collection. He lives this stuff.
My first intro to Jay Leno's Garage is fourth year episode 8. Oh boy, it's called "size matters"! This has my attention. In car speak size is what built the American scene and it still matters. Nevermind that. This episode has Arnold S and he brings his Patton tank bequeather to the Austrian military. Arnold actually owns the very one he trained with when he was in the Austrian military. This is super cool. Arnold and Jay do what any self-respecting tank owner would do too. Destroy! I think I might love this show already.
That's just the start and it goes tiny from here, well with a few nods to huge. This is eclectic and wonderful stuff if you like anything that burns fossil fuel and moves. I have to wonder if other segments of this show can rise up to this episode's heady level? So, I'm sold enough to go back and watch the whole show. Excellent entertainment with some car education and plain fun.
Who Is America? (2018)
Nothing Like It Anywhere Else....Runs The Gambit From Hilarious To Cringe-Worthy
SBC always takes things to a place few others fear to tread (or have enough taste not to). That said in a free society his work has a place. Sometimes it is both insanely funny and absurdly uncomfortable. How he manages to make a living off this is in itself a bit of wonder. The thing is if you are even passing conservative Cohen will be divisive both politically, morally, and humanely. You've got to remember he's lampooning everything. Nothing is meant as presented except for comedy.
Again he seems to be the only one in the joke (his interviewees taking it seriously) although it certainly makes me wonder if he really is pulling it off as it is presented. Here's the deal, Cohen makes me laugh and makes me want to turn away at some point in everything he puts out. Here it is much the same. The best character in the first episode is "The Terrorist Terminator". This one is pure absurdity making the comfort thing so ridiculous it just is so out there. SBC is obviously a person without fences and barriers. He is sometimes brilliant and sometimes so low he seems sub-human. He is often hilarious. No one like him anywhere it would seem. It's like watching a train wreck. You feel dirty and you keep watching...well, maybe not all the time, but you get the gist. If art should be free, SBC is a bailiwick of insanity, questionable taste, and off the hook comedy colliding. This stuff even hits one different on different days it is so unconventional. I can't give it an 8 (about the best I normally give excepting rare works) and I can't give it a zero for it's far too entertaining. I say 5 because freedom is important and taste is subjective but shouldn't be squashed. I found about 50% to be funny and 50% to be a mess of cringe inducing taking things to a not funny, often tasteless, place. You'll have to decide and I'm thinking it will be all over the place so 5 is actually a meaningful rating.
Not the proper episode...I'm talking about Season 1, Episode 8
I love IMDB as it provides a nice service. Sometimes I'm surprised that something obscure is not only on IMDB, but has actual reviews. It gives on insight into the reach and growth IMDB has had a bit north of a decade or so. Sometimes, however, I'm disappointed. This is such a case. For the popular long-running TV Series "Locked Up Abroad" IMDB only shows two episodes. This wouldn't really be a hard fix at all so that was a bit strange given the popularity of the show. Anyway the episode is about Ernie Bryce who was one of the longest surviving prisoners of war in the Vietnam War. Plus he wasn't even a soldier. He worked as a pilot for the CIA which, if the Vietcong knew, was an instant torture to the death sentence. This is, perhaps, the most profound episode of the entire Locked series. You must see it as it stirs something inside.
A Great Missing American Treasure Adventure
Josh Gates amiable travelogue continues to impress. Josh, and his show, has great range from history changing archaeology in some of the world's most remote and uncharted corners to...Grand Rapids, Minnesota. That's right there is a Grand Rapids in Minnesota which is much smaller and even colder than the better known Michigan city of the same name. Though small Grand Rapids, Minnesota, has a very important claim in America's history. Dorothy, or Judy Garland, was born here. Her childhood home and The Judy Garland Museum are central to the town annually attracting tourists as well as being a huge source of local pride. That pride was shattered in 2005 when one pair of only 4 original "ruby red slipper" used by Judy Garland in "The Wizzard of Oz" were stolen from the museum. Since that time the slippers whereabouts remain a mystery. Recently there has been some hope they may still exist and might be recovered. This is a perfect diversion for explorer Gates to pursue. If Gates is able to be a part of finding these lost American treasures, well, it would rate right up there with some of his all-time greatest adventures.
That's the set up and the program is one of the most entertaining I've personally watched in Gate's cannon of many great explorations. I won't tell you the outcome, but will say I was educated and supremely entertained by Gate's presentation of this particular journey. This is an episode for everyone much like the movie "The Wizard of Oz: itself! It could hardly be better except for a remaining end-story mystery which is why I'm calling it a 9. This episode was so good I watched it twice and recommend it enthusiastically.
Batman & Bill (2017)
I Loved It...Well Done!
I find it relatively easy to love a good "underdog" story. Even easier lets say if there is some kind of huge kind of injustice attached, for me at least, the story is infinitely more engrossing. This is most certain what happened to writer Marc Tyler Nobleman when he researched a man named Bill Finger said to be the main writer behind the original Batman comic series beginning in 1939. Bill actually was believed to have more than even writing the comic storylines as he actually created the adjunct characters to the point of fleshing out acknowledged Batman creators bird man character to be a dark knight instead of a red leotard encased man with strap-on wings. Hopefully you are getting the gist of this. The man who claimed all credit for birthing Batman had some major help from his writer friend. This was unheard of until the mid-sixties and then Bob Kane rebutted it in the immediate years thereafter.
What's a good story of any kind without major complications? The fight to get any credit or financial sharing for Bill Finger had major complications. Marc Tyler Nobleman decided it was at the least a great subject for a book. After all, Batman dwarfs all other comic book heroes in every measure. Of course that includes the on-going actual creation credit and revenue stream. Through an agreement with sole acknowledged Batman creator Bob Kane DC Comics, which is a Warner Brothers asset, wholly controls the mega-industry of everything Batman. Warner Brothers is a part of the even richer Time-Life empire. The old saying is "you can't fight city hall" and Time-Life is many times bigger than the best funded towns, anywhere.
Batman & Bill is an extremely well made documentary about how a small time, but successful, writer Nobleman began a groundswell to restore credit to Bill Finger as an equal to Bob Kane in the creation of what we all must admit is the most loved comic book superhero of all time. This film is an easy to follow linear journey of Nobleman's almost spiritual belief that Bill Finger's input in what became Batman was on par with credited creator Bob Kane. The quest consumed Nobleman even above his original plan to write a book about Batman figuring in Bill Finger as an equal to Bob Kane. In other words, just a published book about Finger's having a major stake in the Batman character wouldn't enough. This was a case of a tragic injustice that seemed to never end. It surely could be righted if all the known facts came to light. Nobleman's obsession became to get Finger credited on an equal footing to Kane...at least credit because the financial part was for others to flesh out. It's a kind of epic journey. Along the way we get "just the facts" as Nobleman continues to uncover more proof, and even insider talking heads, that knew Finger not only wrote the original Batman comic series but went way further by putting his own stamp on the very image Batman became not to mention the many related characters on both sides of the law.
This isn't the opinion of one man, but the proof provided by many which even included recorded statements by Kane after the death of his co-creator Finger. It gives this story some amazing legs. This really is a major injustice, and one that could go forever without correction.
I say you need to see this documentary. In it's realm it is huge as it takes us through a long journey to a satisfying conclusion. We're not privy to the entire resolution, which obviously should include some kine of financial agreement, but we get Nobleman's goal achieved of having the copyright holders of the character Batman agreeing to acknowledge Finger's role as co-creator. What we go get a nice glimpse of is the emotional part of the journey which after dogged research by Nobleman included Finger's sole surviving ancestor along with a smattering of other family members. This is a real-life story of justice being served...late, but nonetheless finally coming through. In that the tragedy gets a huge uplifting which is noble indeed.
A Film For Certain Folks Of Which I'm One
While this film might have been so much more it gets the zeitgeist of the reason Philips Compact Cassette became something beyond just another time specific recording medium. The film is slow and dreamy for the most part. It jumps around not unlike the countless varieties of people whose personal connections to the medium differs, but is a strong one. The cassette, and that special niche called the mix-tape brought emotion and democracy to music recording. Plus, and this can't be under-rated, it was portable! When we listen to music today from our personal collection on our phones and in the cloud there is a connection to the first truly portable democratic recordings which were cassettes. In other words, the cassette remains today and just won't die. The man who invented the idea and some of the engineers from Philips are here. They're elderly and most of them seem non-plusesd by the fact their little invention changed the world and lives of billions of people worldwide. It's all interesting to me since I spent hundreds of hours making cassette tapes to play in my car and my home Hi-Fi rig. Because I love the cassette and because it was an important part of my life I can overlook so much that was left out in this documentary. This film may not be for everyone as a result yet I find it comforting not unlike going through my cassettes and pulling out a jewel I may not have heard for two decades or more. It's like mining a bit of pure gold and basking in the pleasure. I confess I wish the industry had never quit making, and improving, Hi-Fi cassette decks. With the advances by audio manufacturers like Dolby, Yamaha, Teac, Akia, Sony, Technics, and Nakamichi in the seventies it stalled by the middle eighties. Today if the evolution would have continued it isn't a stretch to say the fidelity of cassettes may be near that of digital audio. Even though it never made that leap their are some mighty fine cassette decks one can still acquire through internet sales sites like eBay. I've bought three more nice decks in the past five years and watching this film I think I understand much better why I've done this. I'm glad Mr. Ottens conceived the Compact Cassette. He is a real visionary in my estimation. Oh yeah...I'm also glad National Audio didn't quit making cassettes. Not only can you get National Audio to duplicate your own band's music on cassettes, but more importantly to me they still sell brand new high-quality blank cassette tapes. Long live the cassette!
Lose The Soap Opera Slant...Get Real About Losing Wilderness Issues
A new Dallas like soap? That's what I get out of the first episode. It's trying to be similar with all the turmoil inside the central family of which Costner is the patriarch. Of course, it does want to be more in spite of it's gratuitous use of foul language and sex. It wants to be timely too. The division between Wall Street, Native Americans, and a rich land baron who happens to be a rancher is all being played here. The only commonality among the disparate parties is greed. If Costner is trying to be the righteous defender then he's doing it primarily for his own designs as he's painted in the initial episode. That gives him that special JR Ewing sauce. So is it a soap or a statement against squandering natural resources?
I see a well-financed new stab at a family soap here. The cinematography is rich using what appears to be Wyoming as a decent stand in for Montana. Certainly there age some good things. I hope the show becomes more real + actually giving insight in how the ruining of what is left of pristine wilderness is playing out That's not as likely as a whole raft of dark back-stabbing will likely be the plan. This is TV and as such it wants to be titilating and shocking entertainment. We'll see. It has potential that I'm betting will be squandered.
Operation Odessa (2018)
Wilder Than Hollywood's Bombastic Capers
Hollywood loves bombast. Hollywood loves crime. Hollywood can't sell it like the real thing (nor do they particularly seem to want to). This doc is about the real thing and the best screenwriters can't write this stuff like these real life criminals. This movie blows what really did happen in Miami in the 90's out in the open and it really is hard to believe stuff like this actually went down. It did and now we get a peek and it's mind-blowing. One guy even beat Pablo Escobar out of 10-million dollars. A group of three guys bought two heavy Russian military helicopters and were about to actually buy a Russian submarine before one dissappeared and brought the deal to a halt. It's very conceivable the sub deal might have happened even as the US Armed Forces and all of the 3-letter agencies were scrambling to attempt to stop it. Later it seems a sub deal of a different yet still Russian kind did happen! These guys, at least several of them, weren't hiding in the shadows but actually living extremely large and flamboyant with well-known businesses. It's a lot to take in and one knows we get the highly filtered and mega-condensed version of what they were actually up to. It's more than enough and the film keeps the viewer in wrapt amazement as to what is revealed. It makes you wonder how many other criminal enterprises are out there but totally dark. The fact that none of these men are currently spending their lives in jails is equally mind-blowing. And there is one who, somehow, has managed to escape both the cartel's vengeance and Interpol still while actually granting an interview. Like I already said writers couldn't get all these ingredients in any believable way yet here it is. This is one engaging documentary from start to finish. It really does make one's jaw drop.
The Last Defense (2018)
A Show That May Give Darlie Routier The Chance To Appeal Her Conviction. Riveting!
Darlie Routier's murder conviction is, over twenty years later, out of the public consciousness. Supposedly the Routier case was solved and, sadly, there has been ever more shocking crimes. Still, at the time, it was a double child murder shot heard around the world. It seems most folks thought Darlie was guilty, she got the death sentence, case closed.
The Last Defense re-opens the events and trial that put Darlie Routier on death row. It's surprising that several forensic experts, far surpassing any layman's knowledge of the crime, believe Darlie was wrongly convicted. Now, two decades on, this show is going to make you rethink what you thought you knew. To do so this can't be amateur assemblage of over zealous prosecutors and talking heads. It isn't. The Last Defense makes a compelling case expertly presented that there was a huge police/legal system rush to judgement and a well orchestrated character assassination of Darlie Routier carried out in the courtroom with the help of a salivating press.
The tragedy of the brutal murder of two small children is not to be forgotten in all of this. This is the kind of case everyone wants the guilty party to removed from society with swift and severe justice served. The question is was the actual killer convicted? Judging by so much of what is brought to light here there is more than just a little doubt. First, it seems Darlie had no reason or predilection to commit any crime, certainly one that involved her children. Second, Darlie seems more guilty of a child-like mentality than either mental illness or insidious criminal smarts. Bottom line, she likely couldn't have staged the crime scene the prosecutors are saying she manufactured. It's clear she doesn't have the intent or skill as one imagines even a simple crime she might stage would be the easiest case to crack, probably ever. The girl had no intent, no motive, and couldn't have pulled the crime off without direct and concrete evidence seems obvious. In reality all the supposed scientific evidence presented to the jury in a super conservative Texas town (a town almost guaranteed Darlie was going to be convicted) is pseudo science plain and simple. Add to this the strange fact Routier's celebrated ,and well-paid, defense attorney decided to not bring in his own rebuttal experts, even after he'd paid them to find holes in the prosecution's science, absolutely stupefies.
The show brings up a fact: this was a quite unfair trial and outcome based on the the unproven science and questionable facts. A total conviction by character assassination within a climate of bias which this created. One must hope people given the death sentence are convicted not by bias and only by irrefutable evidence leaving no reasonable doubt. Isn't this the way the U.S. criminal justice system is suppose to to work? If The Last Defense does nothing else it plainly shows how a conviction, and death sentence, can be hijacked. If Darlie was guilty, which seems highly doubtful, it's clear she wasn't convicted based on guilt of the crime itself. Disclaimer: I'm writing this after seeing three episodes of The Last Defense and will add to this review if anything further revealed actually links Darlie to the commission of the murders. I recommend seeing this series as it is professionally produced and raises serious questions regarding the death penalty. This is a well above average crime documentary.
Thornton's High Points Good...Not Good Enough Overall
Anything that reminds me of a Raymond Chandler story I'm pretty much in. Billy McBride, the character, didn't develop in a vacuum but, his forming is a direct descendent of Marlowe. That could be good or bad depending. The good is that McBride is played by Billy Bob Thornton. The not so good is the story. It wants to be a bit mystic, plenty bad-@$$, and partly dumb-@$$ and use the currency in which it postulates Chandler fans lust for anything with open arms. I thought it was a mess personally and I really liked Thornton and his often laser sharp dialog. Should have been and could have been a lot better is all I'll say. Good enough? You'll have to decide.
Graveyard Carz (2011)
Great Faithful Restorations Yet Show Falls A Bit Flat
Graveyard Carz has one thing that I really love and respect. That would be they take Mopar muscle cars and bring them back to factory spec without mods. They usually are better since these are 100% hand-built restorations with as many original parts as can possibly be sourced. That said it seems to have an identity crisis. It wants to be entertaining like so many cars shows with characters and witty dialog yet it also wants to be instructive and show the care of a real restoration done faithfully. The main guy tries too hard and the instruction often leaves out crucial phases and steps out. I'll watch it for the way the cars are spectacularly finished, but I wish it would decide if it wants to be serious or entertainment.
Empty & Depressing
Imagine a super computer. No not like that, but the theoretical one computer powerful enough that it connects everything. Oh, this includes each person as everyone is in the database and everyone is like a node with video of everything we experience. The computer can show anyone anything including the names of any passersby or even the content of a street vendor's knackwurst, Some have higher access as is common in analytics of course, but something strange is happening as those policing things are started to experience hacks in their files. This means simply some people won't show up and some people's files won't show what happened at a crucial moment in the commission of a murder. Is the AI pushing back or just a craftier computer hacker that is also an elevated criminal? Sounds promising, however get ready for a droll and dark ride. I said droll because it's tension building without much color or real emotion. The movie feels just as artificial as the files that fool the police, or whatever division of cyber law enforcement this is suppose to be. Why I kept watching was not exactly rewarding in the end. I felt as depressed as the sepia toned gray cinematography. Anon made me yearn for a more involving whodunit with some emotional color. If the ultimate connected society is as depressing as this flic then I even see our car's ECU's as sucking the life out of driving. For hard core Sci-Fans who appreciate a slow ride with a slower ending.
Because The Album Is Still A Sonic Wonder It Matters
Albums like Pet Sounds are serrendipitous like a random aligning of stars. Something that stuns for various reasons initially and evolving over time as to reveal it's wonders. This is Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys' masterpiece. Upon release it was a bit of an enigma as it wasn't "the formula" of previous Beach Boy albums. As Mike Love recounts: "it took 20-years to reach platinum status". Now, at over half-a-century it is without doubt the crown jewel in The Beach Boys catalog. This certainly adds to the mystical music itself and warrants this film.
1965 was a complex time for The Beach Boys. Brian, not unlike Lennon & McCartney, had tired of live performances and life on the road. Wisely he decided to make it his job to discontinue touring and work writing and arranging "new" songs with all the complexity only he could hear inside his head. Before drugs and mental illness would later hinder his unbridled creativity, Brian, along with new writing partner Tony Asher, crafted a quantum shift for the band. This doc uses stock film and footage along with later day interviews to topically reveal what was happening during this amazing time in the history of The Beach Boys.
If, like me, you've read countless articles and interviews regarding Pet Sounds you won't find any surprises here. It's not even really too in-depth. But, it gets the big picture across and does so with great interview snipets from the surviving band members and the occasional vintage clip such as the great comments by Dennis on his boat admitting how much Pet Sounds meant to him personally. If you're a big fan this film is a must. If you love the album itself it is certainly welcome. What I'd really like it to do is to inspire someone who hasn't really connected with The Beach Boys to get busy with discovering the greatness of this album. It this way it can push it forward once again for the next half-century dropping it's nuggets of sonic spledor on new generations.
The Jerk (1979)
Paved The Way For Stupid Comedy On Film For Decades To Come
After watching the recent Martin & Short net released performance I felt it was time to revisit Martin's first foray into film, The Jerk. At the time The Jerk first dropped Martin was on a roll. The film continued that. A unique piece of celluloid humor whose audience was, shall we say, generous. It is somewhat hard to imagine the time now, but Martin plugged into it. This is a comedy that actually did well in the mainstream at the time and went on to become a bit of cultish type thing. That is to say it doesn't really age well in many ways, but there's Martin at the center. Then and now he makes it a movie to watch. He's completely unique and absolutely irreverent for any time. Watching him is like watching a one-off talent. He put many of his already successful stand-up gags plus delved deeper. The supporting cast was just as edgy with a nice fit. This is one stupid movie making absolutely no apologies. If you in for a cent, you're in for a pound...meaning if in the first ten minutes if you get it then you're going to be watching to the end with those little belly laughs that drop like rain. So, in the end, this many years later this is a film for those with the broadest sense of humor. Those who celebrate crazed stupidity as a form of brilliance. I'd say it was somewhat important as it paved the way for more modern comedies like the Farrrely Brothers later made. Not a film for the masses anymore, if you're a fan of obtuse comedy it definitely warrants another watch.
The Tesla Files (2018)
Keeps The Nikola Tesla Name Alive & Adds Questions...Mostly For The Faithful Though
Tesla...Some just know it as the groundbreaking all-electric car company. Of course everyone in the civilized world's life is extremely touched by Tesla's AC power and wireless patents everyday without ever thinking who pioneered it all. That's a serious omission in the population's collective consciousness. How could this be? All of us of a certain age intuitively knew that when the phone in our homes rang it was because of Alexander Graham Bell. History for whatever reasons largely marginalized, or even erased, Nikola Tesla who was a man whose life's work had so much more impact on the world than, probably, any other human being. This is a mystery that deserves delving into.
That's the set-up for History's "The Tesla Files" TV series. The show has three men of different persuations equally perplexed by the relative obsurity of the link between the man and his groundbreaking advancements which still have a huge impact in our everyday lives. Returning after a his former series "Rocket City Rednecks" got axed is astrophysicist Travis Taylor. Travis is a disarmingly whip-smart scientist who has worked for NASA and lives in Huntsville, Alabama. He certainly isn't your typical "egg-head" scientist and therein lies his charisma. It's as if you or me is sets out on a mission to find a hidden truth. He has two cohorts who bring to the table some welcome talents. Mark Seifert the author of what has become the best-selling Tesla biography to date and investigative journalist Jason Stapleton. Combined they believe they can prove some of Tesla's theoretical unfinished work and reveal even more that was scooped up after Tesla's death by the US government. It's a mixed bag as you might imagine. Some care by the crew does, more or less, actually prove some things while their paper trail researching often comes up short.
Here's the deal. Tesla is so important for the present, and possibly the future, that he deserves any attention that may be given. Uncovering the smoking gun of something as amazing as his AC induction motor is proving much more enigmatic. There are signs that, yes, Tesla was on to more amazing inventions and technologies. But, sussing these out 75-years or so later is more mystery than anything else. This is where the show, sadly, decends into similar History show pitfalls. Like Hitler escaping or real buried priceless artifacts on Oak Island much is speculated and little definitely proved. The show is entertaining enough without the discovery of anything sinister and groundbreaking. Tesla is so important that any attention at all is a good thing. That said I'm feeling it is, however, a show for those already with a keen interest in Tesla and science. The entertainment factor is just not enough for the average viewer while the true-life mystery is a great hook for the person who is already sold that Tesla was hampered after his initial great success by both his own eccentricness and, more so, by some extremely powerful persons. As such. I can enjoy this series quite a bit and hope it finds a decent enough audience to really go deep into the mhystery of why Nikola Tesla became almost unknown until recent times. I say give it try for yourself.
Monster Garage (2002)
A Car Show For The Racing & Wild Mod Set
I have no idea if this is Jesse's original car show or not. I think of him at tatted up probably wild car guy who was once Sandra Bullock's husband. In other words I'm not a fan boy. I've caught a few of these shows and because I like cars and rebuilds I will watch this show. It's not the best one for me as I like shows like the more recent CAR SOS where the cars are not "wild" looking when rebuilt, but true to the originals yet often with upgraded mechanics. These cars aren't particularly useful for driving around and Jesse isn't the most charismatic host. So far, I've seen other guys do more of the mods so I guess it's his garage and name that gives this show cache. A good enough show to watch. I do learn some things and see some interesting techniques and parts. I'm just not a big fan of making stuff that's expensive and not particularly useful or true to the car being rebuilt.
This British Crime Show Wasn't As Good As I Hoped
It's not a stretch to say Dexter was so good as a series in no small part due to Michael Hall. Hall arrived with the role of a lifetime as far as fit goes and he matured quickly as the series quickly found it's legs. Hall is back and he's definitely trying to inhabit another character from the written page which he likely finds interesting. This time it's not a hand in glove fit. While the character of Dr. Tom Delaney may be good for his own artistic growth it has the distinct feel of a "fish out of water". Hall has a bit of trouble selling it and the accent isn't the whole problem. He's a bit edgy and sharp not like Dexter's laid-back cool vibe that endears one.
The shows a Brit crime mystery which is generally a sharper, often a less bombastic more intense kind of a human drama. I tend to like the Brit flavor when compared to America's offering. However, it's going to take some getting used to seeing "Dexter" as Tom Delaney in simplest terms.
I don't think this is one of the best of the genre and it's not a BBC production. While these two things shouldn't be linked I get the idea this is one the BBC would pass on. I'm not too keen on the whole lot. An unsolved old crime with adolescents then and now who just happens to want to get involved. The degrees of separation aren't really that compelling even if it's a proper mess of involving multiple crimes over time. A father searching for his daughter who disappears after her mother's death becomes the flashpoint for a mashup of bad things. I think it goes for a intricate plot that may read better than the show pulls off. It's intelligent somewhat, but it's not something that really grabs me. I confess I watched because it was smart enough to throw breadcrumbs which I was hoping would end in something I found more crazy smart. So while I can't call it a stupid story I will call it full of forced incidents that were suppose to be clever and ended up more maddening. In the end I don't even think a slight middle-age woman can drown a strapping teenage boy so that's kind of a fail at the big reveal juncture. As you can tell I'm not particularly impressed enough to recommend this, however I will concede this is a yarn to likely be polarizing as in there will be an audience that appreciates it more than me.
Car S.O.S. (2013)
Fantastic Cars Renovated For Owners Facing Huge Life Hurdles
Car shows are a staple in the cable world here in America. Even so there are few that really seem to be compelling. Going by the template of Top Gear, the most successful and long-running car show, indicates the hosts and their entertainment value is every bit as important as the cars. I wouldn't argue that point. The audience may be interested in cars but we all know the topic can be presented in very lackluster ways. I give Top Gear the highest marks for attempting to get just that right balance between the entertainment factor and the cars "petrol heads" lust for. Still, the world of cars is often so big that one feels there's something missing. That means there is still room for other brilliant car shows and as as avid car nut I have had a hard time finding that in the US.
That said I've stumbled upon the UK's car show called "Car S.O.S.". This is a very engaging show based on the premise of a person who has experienced a traumatic life-changing event having a garaged, and much beloved, un-restored classic vehicle. That certainly gives this show a real-world worth mission. To lighten the proceedings we have two very personable, and quirky, hosts. We have Fuzz Townsend and Tim Shaw. Fuzz is the mechanical genius and Tim is, well, P.T. Barnum, the raconteur showman. A pattern emerges which is Fuzz being pragmatic and woeful about some pretty grim pieces of automotive history he thinks may be beyond restoration and Tim's "never say can't" trickery. One might think this is simple and ripe for getting old fast. In fact it never does. Even as you suspect many of Tim's "get it for free" shenanigans aren't actual it's still fun watching him scheme. Truth is these two make a classic pair up there with the trio of the grandaddy of car shows, Top Gear.
The best thing besides the supreme entertainment is that the cars really get a good showcasing as each episode centers on just one classic ride. For U.S. watchers it is truly valuable since many of the cars restored are amazing ones we never, or very rarely, ever saw on our shores. Being able to see how a car that is close to being unsalvageable comes back to life is a great ride in itself. These guys pull off amazing restorations and if we're to believe they actually happen in the tight time frames mentioned it is an amazing bit of craft. The joy these two project is then mirrored in the face of the owner who has all but given up their one-time dream of getting their beloved car back in action. So, it really doesn't matter if some liberties are taken in the favor of entertainment to make this show. It feels honest in it's purpose and wonderful in it's showcasing of some really fantastic cars. If you sense I like this just as much as Top Gear you are absolutely correct. I've simply not found any other car shows as compelling and fun to watch as these two. I'm having a blast watching every episode I can possibly find. I highly recommend this show to car nuts, especially because of the nature of gifting a down-trodden person their dream of their own car being restored gloriously.
Journey's End (2017)
The Human Cost of War Is Realistically Reflected
Journey's End is an unexpected war film focusing on a particular push by the Germans almost five years into a stalemated front in France. The lives already lost on both sides approach a million and it will take even more before Germany is defeated. The so called Spring Offensive by Germany is depicted here and it's brutal. Insidious in the long wait prior to the final horrific destruction of the Allies forward trench. The movie expertly weaves tension in it's story of a fresh, quite young, officer who proves to be utterly brilliant, yet is dead within his first five days. It is the human drama here that grabs the viewer and won't let go. It is palpable in it's intersection of brutality and humanity. This is extremely realistic and reverent to the bravery of men put in a hopeless situation. They know reinforcements, or their only chance, is not coming, and worse, they know the enemy is massing for an all-out assault on a particular day. Yet they have to remain steadfast with orders to hold out. This is a powerful and, often, painful movie to watch. It is reverent in the depiction of men standing firm in outrageously poor conditions. I think it should be seen as a graphic reminder of the human cost of the human cost of war. Especially when some absolutely insane decision is made to hold a front that can't be held with the equipment and manpower present. This is a brilliantly poignant film celebrating bravery and condemning poor decisions from the top too often flippantly decided upon. All in all...if there must be a war there is not really anything on either side that can be called "acceptable loses". Wars cost the ultimate human price, period, and this film's story is a prescient today as it was a hundred years ago. A strong recommendation with total excellence in production and acting.