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Untamed World (1967)
Discovery sans propaganda
Sundays at 5:00 on CTV were a time of wonder and discovery. The fields with their chaff-like growths blowing in the wind signaled the start of a highly informative and haunting half-hour documentary. The thin straight lines speeding in a single direction, albeit staggered, brought us the silhouettes of images (offset by pink, orange, red, and teal backgrounds) that would have been lost in time if not for a YouTube account. And then the announcer, one Alan Small, would finish off almost every episode with "the Untamed World." I remember being scared half out of my wits by, yet strangely drawn to, these simple images (all of which repeated in the outro accompanied by five others) and Mort Garson's haunting theme, but now that fear seems just silly and ridiculous.
A fine line between fantasy and reality
as a kid, you sometimes had trouble distinguishing fact from fiction. Even into adulthood the line is sometimes too blurry. That's the case for Pinky here. He's so inspired by a Super Guy comic that he just has to try and emulate him. The problem here is that his choice of "damsel in distress" isn't particularly impressed with his efforts. In almost all scenes featuring her, the elderly lady ends up being the butt of his woeful attempts to emulate his fictitious idol. (One exception: a muscular thug's gun goes off on him when he can't wrestle it away.) The very last scene, where she transforms into a caped fighter of her own and chases the stupefied feline with an uprooted traffic post, is a perfect example of how and why intentions are considered less important than results to anyone who is collateral damage in any act of misconduct.
Luckily, if you can get past the speech component, the 1993 television version features a far more competent version of the crime-fighting panther.
Fist of Fear, Touch of Death (1980)
Not meant to be taken seriously
Ah, the Dragon and the Cobra. If you were seriously into the martial arts genre, popularized in part by Enter the Dragon several years earlier, of course you'd call it crap and insulting to Bruce Lee's memory. If you were to look a little deeper, though, it doesn't look like it was meant to be anything more than a lampoon of the sport. Look at the scenes with the Flying Fatman and the dude whose eyeballs got plucked out. Were these actually real events or staged to make some sort of point? And what of the "early" Bruce Lee footage? Was it meant to be a serious biography? If the director were really ashamed of his work, he would have been likely to have himself billed as Alan Smithee so as to avoid embarrassment. But the dude who played Jasper Milktoast in this flick was willing to take his lumps, whereas many other directors would not. And before you call this crap, take a look at what's in our theaters today! Plainly put: foolish, asinine, retarded, lame, juvenile
in other words, if you want good clean mindless fun, FIVE STAR DIAMOND!
Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica (2003)
Were we really enthralled by THIS???!!!
For what do you most remember Jessica Simpson — (a) her vocals, on a par with a famished grizzly; (b) her fashion style, which looks like it came from a cheap beer dive somewhere in the boonies; (c) her business acumen, which probably came off the back of a Shreddies box; or (d) her offstage shenanigans and subsequent tabloid appearances? It's no wonder Nick Lachey wondered what he got himself into when he married this human safety hazard. The opening credits said it all: the happy couple settles into what they think will be domestic bliss but turns out to be the biggest train wreck since Paris Hilton spoofed Green Acres. If you find yourself wondering why you still give any hoot, take heart: Nick quit while he was ahead, as did his sister-in-law Ashlee, and they're better off for that. Jessica, who desperately tried to reinvent herself to counter Carrie Underwood, still thinks she can defy the odds to make a comeback. The rest of us know better.
The Hottie & the Nottie (2008)
How much really needs to be said here?
Just try and tell me you don't think the lead players had their roles all mixed up. Even as a tomboy on Step By Step, Lakin was a real hottie and knew how to make "boy" styles look cute. She deserves a whole lot better than this. Hilton's track record, on the other hand, speaks for itself. If Judge (Michael) Sauer had the power to indict her for bad acting, singing, and just plain performing overall, he'd lock the door, throw the key away, and make sure this nottie with an Executive Producer credit, of all things! never got out. I ragged on Madonna for her performance in Swept Away; compared side-by-side to H&N, she's Oscar material! If this aural and visual carnage never makes it to DVD or home video (trust me, it will), it'll be too soon.
Dark Justice (1991)
Suit on the bench, leather on the street
Nick was clearly a highly successful judge to have made it from cop to District Attorney to Your Honor in such a short time. He was supposed to die in the bombing, but neither he nor the bomber had any way of knowing his wife and daughter would take the wired car before him. That incident by itself did not change his purpose it was the outcome of the trial that set the tone for his double life. The judge recruited some lower-level offenders (which he was clearly able to sentence more easily) for an unusual form of community service: join his leather-clad vigilante patrol the Night Watchmen to bring down those who were able to use legal loopholes to get off scot-free (as did the bomber). He still operated from the bench by day, except that he warned those he knew were guilty: justice is blind, but it sees in the dark. By night, off came the glasses, down came his hair, and the suit was replaced by a leather outfit. And off they went on their motorcycles, to target the antagonist.
The Next Joe Millionaire (2003)
Not just wine and roses
This was far too good to be true. The producers at Fox were sure they could catch the lightning in another bottle and set out to make it happen. In reality, they managed to singlehandedly destroy a franchise in several slow painful steps. One, they found the one guy on earth who ranked lower in IQ than the previous Joe. Two, thinking they wouldn't be able to repeat the charade stateside (which we'll never know for sure), they chose 14 European debs. Three, some of the debs were so opposed to menial labor except when someone else was doing it it wasn't even funny (I'm looking at you, Olinda). Four, most revealing of all, the hostess never appeared except to remind the debs of the inevitable (which she did not appreciate). Add it all up and it's no wonder the loyal audience from the first season disappeared so fast. The only bright spot in the entire show was the manservant, who clearly tried his best but was fighting a losing battle long before the starting pistol. Paul Hogan, nicknamed Butler Dundee by some, deserved better.
Swept Away (2002)
Don't Come on-a My House
Before Paris Hilton in The Hottie and the Nottie, Madonna was the Wile E. Coyote of the big screen. No matter how many failures she notched up, she stubbornly refused to call it a day. As a recording artist, she never failed to push the limits and look good while doing it. As an actress, she seemed to be the only one who still didn't get it.
Swept Away was a good case in point. (Initially, it was believed the Material Girl's sole reason for marrying Guy Ritchie was to snag a lead role at some point.) As did his father in the 1974 original, Adriano Giannini did a stellar job as the lowly first mate the female lead never missed a chance to insult. The visuals were nothing short of astonishing, especially the sea where the leads wound up. The writing was an OK thing. Alas, the sole problem was in the female lead, who simply could not be anything but her (at the time) 43-year-old self.
But that sole problem was the rotten apple that spoiled the barrel. Ritchie later went on record to say that wifey would never be cast in any of his stuff ever again. Smart move, Guy.