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Ellery Queen (1975)
I remember watching these shows as a young teenager. As a kid I read all the Poirot stories from Agatha Christie so I liked mysteries and these shows gave one an opportunity to figure things out and use your brain.
But the thing I was surprised at were the guest stars each week. As a kid I had no idea who Eddie Bracken or Ann Reinking were but after watching every episode on dvd I amazed that every episode has big name guests.
If you're a fan of dark mysteries this may be too mild for you. But in the end it's a good clean fun for the entire family.
Zabriskie Point (1970)
This Has Not Aged Well
Being a teenager back when this film came out, I guess I would have a different opinion if I had watched back then. Unfortunately, it stayed on my 'I've got to see this movie some day' list until I was long past part of the intended audience.
Today it feels like it's a joke about American society. The student revolutionaries could spend all their time arguing about whether their school is bad or if it is bad and mean. The scary thing is a lot of those students now can only find jobs in those schools or some other government entity where productivity is unimportant.
But as much as I have enjoyed watching Blow-Up over the years, it at least had a point to the story. I've had a lot of balloons that have had better points. Antonioni must think he was the first to discover there is a generation gap and the young are just free and easy with life and love.
The photography and the music are the best things about ZP - it sure isn't the acting. Antonioni intentionally hired amateurs for the leads and it shows. Even the stereotypes he hired had trouble playing the stereotypes they actually were. Evidently from their minuscule list of credits no one else saw any acting ability in them either.
I could have used more Pink Floyd and Grateful Dead and all other music. There could have been an extended version of Dark Star over all the shots of Daria driving in the desert and it would have made the tedious parts bearable.
If you have a couple hours with nothing absolutely nothing to do take the time to watch what Antonioni saw happening in America at the end of the '60s. But know you have been warned.
The Forgotten Space (2010)
Someone Needs To Take Some Basic Economic Lessons
I gave it an extra star because it is photographed well and the language translations seem correct. Otherwise it is 1 star worthy.
But how simple are the ideas in this documentary? It has all the intellectual depth of 10th graders that believe if we got rid of bulldozers we could hire a lot more people to move dirt.
Have Sekula or Burch never heard of Frederic Bastiat and the broken window fallacy? The film starts out bemoaning the loss of jobs in the shipping industry as if well paying jobs on the docks is a human right. Later they have truck drivers that are making less than minimum wage and bemoan their fate.
Here's an idea - the real minimum wage is zero. If these drivers are willing to work for what they are offered then that is the market talking, not some greedy shipper. If they are such valuable workers, why don't they go get a job that pays more. Why would any shipper pay more when there are plenty of drivers that accept what they are paying? If no business owner wants to pay them more than they are worth they will be making nothing which is less than they are making now.
No business is run with the idea of hiring as many people as possible. A business wants to eliminate as many workers as possible or it will not be in business for very long.
So the entire premise of the film is worthy of Marx and Engels that has worked such wonders in Eastern Europe and Russia. Socialism and Communism have worked out so well for the peons, right? We've got to keep these phony-baloney jobs. I think the film makers never got past their 10th grade classes.
Last Will & Testament (2012)
Learn More - Don't Be Misled
This documentary looks at Shakespeare and only considers a little of the evidence to tell the viewer that the author Shakespeare was not written by the man from Stratford-upon-Avon. Pure rubbish!
For a long time there has been doubts about Shakespeare. But consider:
1. Shakespeare did not live in a time of biography such as today. Look for biography about others from his age. So the fact that there is little left behind is not unusual and is the norm.
2. From the time of the beginning of the stage, a play's author did not just send his work over and be done with it. A professional writer told me writing is rewriting. Plays are rehearsed and rewritten with the authors participating with the director, actors and producers. To think Bacon or de Vere could just send a completed work and be done with it is not workable.
3. Many of his plays were actually written with co-authors. Kind of hard to do if you want to keep the true author hidden.
4. The female parts were played by young boys. The acting ability of these boys varied widely and Shakespeare had to write their parts based on what they were capable of. Kind of hard to do if you just throw a completed play over the transom.
5. The stages of the Globe and Blackfriars were so different in size and Shakespeare wrote using the available size depending where they were to be performed. Marlowe and de Vere obviously could not have anticipated the move to Blackfriars and unlikely unless the author was closely connected to the company.
6. Fiction writing does not have to be based on biography. Douglas Adams wrote the Hitchhiker books without discovering what 42 was the answer to. H.G. Wells wrote War of the Worlds didn't he? It is very likely Shakespeare had a better education than a lot kids get today. People knew about the city of Venice and Shakespeare even performed for the king.
There are other reasons but please do not swallow this 'documentary' without learning the arguments supporting the man from Stratford. I give it a second star just for hopefully getting people to learn more about the man and his great works.
What's The Opposite of Truly Great?
Did they have a wrap party at the end of filming? And did everyone congratulate everyone for making a truly great movie? And was there a young child that looked around and said "Are you people insane?"
Okay, I sincerely doubt there was an emperor has no clothes kid on the set.
But the idea that this is some smart movie that will make intelligent people think about what divides us instead of what unites us is type of trite belief that ISIS will sit around a campfire with us if only we would quit shooting at them.
Forget the bad bad science of the movie where a linguist can learn to communicate with the aliens in such a relatively short time.
Forget that the only woman in the film is the one that has the desire to make peace instead of war with the aliens (perpetuating the belief that if women were in charge of the world we would have an end to wars).
Forget that such an advanced civilization could actually find us in the vast universe and still not figure out a way to communicate with us instead of we with them.
No, the worst thing about this movie is that it telegraphed every scene 10 minutes ahead. I found myself mouthing dialogue seconds ahead (It wasn't meeting them. It was meeting you) and hoping against hope there would some unforeseen twist like the alien being the father of the little girl though that's a science fiction cliché. Didn't anyone reading the script find themselves thinking they've seen this movie before?
How many movies have been made where the brave voice in the wilderness can't get anyone to listen to them before mob gets out their guns and start shooting? Will she get through to the Chinese boss before the authorities have her shot? Gee, will Lassie get the townsfolk to understand that Timmy fell down the well?
The director must have kept telling Amy Adams to tone it down because she never really does more than act pensive as she is made more and more aware of what the key is. You'd have thought it was every day that she met some aliens and saved the world.
Jeremy Renner plays a physicist though he could have been playing a travelling anvil salesman and it probably wouldn't have changed a single word of his dialogue. If he did any real physics in the movie I must have blinked as it went by.
And whose idea was it to cast Forest Whitaker? What a waste of talent. He probably didn't have to memorize any lines because it was obvious what he had to say. They could have gotten a film student at scale for how much his skills were used.
Unlike some I didn't consider the movie a waste of my time. A film this bad has some entertainment value as long as one is not expecting Shakespeare.
Scott & Bailey: Episode #5.3 (2016)
We Bid Farewell
Major Spoiler Alert!!!
Well,if this is the end of S & B it went out on an okay finish. The murder mystery and path to catching the killers was okay. Though my pet peeve with British cop shows is when the police go into dangerous situations alone (Mitch in the previous episode and Rachel in this one). While Janet and Rachel are experienced and trained police, they are unlikely to survive a hand to hand encounter with an average sized male criminal.
But if this is the end, I think it would be interesting to look at one of the major criticism of the show - the negative depiction of the men on the show.
Yes, some of the men were losers. Dom was a fire hazard as well as a killer. Kevin was an incompetent and a leaker (didn't everyone peg him as the prime suspect from the beginning) and Pete couldn't keep pants zipped up when he was in a parking lot with Rachel's mom. Sheeesh Pete - how horny does a guy have to be to sink so low?
I think the only males to not screw up were Lee and Janet's husband. At least he never cheated on Janet and only left when he discovered she had cheated on him.
But while the men were occasionally guilty of juvenile behavior or stupidity, the three main characters were not exactly paragons of upstanding virtue throughout the series.
Gill has to leave the job because of her drinking on the job. And Janet couldn't see what she and Andy were doing was wrong if she wanted to stay married.
And then there is Rachel. From the beginning when she tracked down her married boyfriend with Janet's knowledge to the end where she returns from London pregnant she was a constant stream of stupid decisions. If she had a choice between a good decision or a stupid and bad choice, she was a sucker for the stupid and bad. Yet she got chosen to run Syndicate 9 after Gill left.
In the end, I think the writers saw the cast as being comprised of both good and bad characteristics as all humans are. They weren't the by-the-book cops on Dragnet or the compromised crew of The Shield. Instead they were in between, trying to do a job while coping with the issues we all face as parents or spouses or friends. And I will occasionally go back and watch some of the episodes again and that is something I can't say about a lot of shows.
In the end, I would give season 5 a 7 out of 10 but the series as a whole gets an 8.5 out of 10. So good job Janet and Rachel.
Scott & Bailey: Episode #5.2 (2016)
A Sad Episode
Well, Mitch's Day Book appears to be the cause of the leaked information on the case as he tells Rachel and Janet he can't find it.
Mitch is sliced across the neck by a suspect in the murder investigation. He makes the mistake of going into the suspect's house instead of waiting for Janet to get off the phone. At least he won't be reprimanded by the force. I'm not in law enforcement but is losing one's day book worse than getting it on with Rachel's mom in the parking lot? Is it Pete?
And for a group that likes to go out for drinks after work (almost every day - how do their livers managed to hold up) they have one of the dreariest get-together after Mitch dies.
By the end of the episode we see the new girl in Syndicate 9, Anna, thinks she has tracked down the killer by combing through CCTV. Of course we also find out she's a lesbian. It seems like a gratuitous point since it really doesn't matter to the story line in any of the episodes of Season 5.
The death of Mitch knocks this episode down to 7 out of 10 since he, Lee and Pete are good characters that somewhat offset the estrogen of the two lead characters.
Scott & Bailey: Episode #5.1 (2016)
The Girls Are Back
Well, it's been awhile since we last caught up with the girls. But Murray Gold's theme is the signal that Manchester has their top two detectives in Syndicate 9 ready to go.
Rachel is back after a year in London and now she is the Acting DI as some killer or killers is posting his killings on the Darknet. And by the end of the first episode of Season 5 we find out that Rachel was not acting as a responsible adult during all her time in London. Do smart women not know where wee little ones come from?
Janet has her own problems as 16 year old Tasie discovers how cameras work on smartphones. Unfortunately her boyfriend is only 15 and we find out the law in England can be just as stupid as the law in the U.S. when it comes to kids and sexting. Teenagers can do stupid things no matter where they live and the law can be just as stupid in any parts of the world.
As to the investigation, it's the usual legwork trying to catch the killer. Mitch loses his day book which apparently has the confidential info they have.
The biggest absence is Amelia Bullmore is no longer DCI. That and the seemingly cutback on the use of electricity for lights in the entire police building. Was DCI Murray spending money out of her own pocket paying the light bills?
Since Season 5 is only 3 episodes it is clear halfway through the episode it will carry over to the second and probably the third episode.
I know it's the 5th Season so the story lines and plots have been pretty well played out. All in all though it is very good to hear that theme again though I will miss Godzilla. Come to think of it, they could have used someone like Godzilla on the Olympic Development Team for the London Twenty Twellve Games.
The Pyramid Code (2009)
Huh? What Did They Just Say?
First, the good.
The cinematography is very good. It's the pyramids so they have a lot of interesting beauty to film and they don't mess it up. I know it's hard to make the pyramids look like crap. At least this "documentary" got that part right.
For that I give it 1 star for a total of two.
Now the bad. Everything else in these 5 episodes.
A few minutes in I heard some of the on-screen "experts" say that the idea that the pyramids were built as tombs is all wrong and there is no evidence anyone was buried in them since none of them are occupied by a mummy.
Even I learned in the 7th grade the tombs were raided not all that long after they were completed. That's why some were built with elaborate pathways meant to thwart grave robbers. Do these experts really expect people to respect those buried in them and not go after the treasures in them.
Then they started talking about fields of harmonic resonance meant to replicate human skulls or something. Along with using the Orion constellation to guide them.
Now there is a lot we do not know about the pyramids. But I decided after the first episode that any answers were not going to come out of this doc.
Beware - If watching this you find yourself thinking "these people are so smart to have figured all this out" be very concerned. Because it's one of the signs that reality is slipping away from you and your best days are behind you. It scares me that people put their money into this project instead of building a bonfire for the homeless on a cold January night. At least some good could have come out of their waste of cash.
I'll say this for the series. Never has there been a collection of "educated experts" that have so many wild theories without a scintilla of evidences to back them up. Google these experts and start to laugh at their theories like our Sun has a companion star carrying us through great stellar cycles or something. Why isn't the Hubble telescope looking for this companion star instead of looking at things like supernovaes or the first stars in our universe. The harmonic resonance expert has been a guest on Coast to Coast A.M. As someone that worked a lot of overnights listening to this show I have to laugh at anyone taking her seriously.
History For Modern Sensibility
Okay, this is not as bad as Amadeus where Mozart was portrayed as a boorish and lewd playboy and Salieri as a hack composer willing to kill. And the history of wanting to attribute the writings of William Shakespeare of Stratford upon Avon to some other partial contemporary has been going on for a couple of centuries. This film puts Edward de Vere instead of Bacon, Marlowe or Stanley in the role of the secret author. And like all other names submitted, the Earl of Oxford's case for authorship falls short.
I'll give the movie a 3 out of 10 since the cinematography, sound and acting are all fine. It's just that the plot is pure fiction and like The Davinci Code would like us all to believe it fact.
Somehow, against any and all evidence, it is presumed a fact that Shakespeare's writings are all autobiographical and that his plays all contain things that he was incapable of imagining. I guess this relates back to our 7th grade teachers telling us to write about what we know so of course that must apply to Shakespeare. Hogwash!
How do plays make it to the stage? Before Shakespeare's time through today a play does not get written, turned over to an acting company or director and then produced a few weeks later. Instead, the company of actors and the director sit with the author during rehearsals making changes for all sorts of reasons from the capabilities of the actors to the pacing of the play. To think de Vere could write a play, give it to Shakespeare and have it be successfully produced is ridiculous.
And how did de Vere write those great plays after he had died in 1604? Because after the Kings Men moved into Blackfriars in 1608 the plays were written for the smaller stage and the different actors in the company.
Shakespeare did not live in an age of biography. He did not even own his plays that were performed by the acting company. For a different example, try and find Christoper Marlowe's name as the author of Tamburlaine. Good luck because such a script never existed.
If you are interested in the works of Shakespeare enjoy this movie as a work of fiction just as Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet or Taming of the Shrew are. It is not history as de Vere was not the author of the works by the man from Stratford. At least the producers did not market this as a documentary as the people that produced Last Will and Testament. Now that really is a case of false advertising.
Not Your Ordinary Cat Story
How many times have you wanted to watch a nice cute cat movie and when you pop in the DVD from Blockbuster or Redbox you are once again let down. Cat Ballou, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, The Truth About Cats and Dogs all disappoint. And don't even get me started on Fritz The Cat.
But Miss Minoes will not disappoint. Sure it's your typical boy meets cat, boy loses cat, boy wins cat plot but it does a great job telling the story.
Carice van Houten is a winsome Minoes, the cat in a woman's body. She moves and reacts like you would expect a cat to do, something that I doubt is stressed enough in acting classes anywhere in the world.
The plot is simple enough to have been used in most sitcoms for the last 50 years but van Houten, Theo Maassen, and Sara Banier elevate it to where you don't care that a 10 year old can see every plot turn miles ahead. It's their performances that are responsible for most of this movie's charm.
A word about the cats used in the movie. I train dogs and would never want to even try to train cats for a living. The people that were responsible for the cats in this movie probably deserve an Oscar or some award because it had to have been literally herding cats at times.
No one is going to confuse Miss Minoes with a Bergman film and it's unlikely to be studied in any USC film classes. But maybe it should because this is a film anyone of any age can watch and enjoy and goodness knows not every graduate from USC could make a movie as much fun to watch. And you don't have to be a cat person to like it.
The Barnes Collection (2012)
Minimizing A Travesty
The description of this doc says it tells the story of Dr. Albert Barnes and his art collection and the new museum it is housed in as well as the controversies surrounding the move to new quarters.
Well, I guess it does a somewhat decent job of describing the collection, though it never goes too deep into how impressive the works are. But as far as the controversies about the move, it is truly lacking and basically serves as a glowing press release for those that won the court battle.
Dr. Barnes created detailed terms of operation in an indenture of trust to be honored in perpetuity after his death. This was his art collection and it was his and only his wishes that should have mattered after his death. Barnes had seen how the Philadelphia Museum of Art had gotten control oh his lawyer's art collection and he was determined to keep them from doing the same with his works.
Yet only 50 years after his death the terms of the indenture were already being violated and the need for money led to exactly what Barnes feared and the collection was moved out of Merion to Philadelphia.
This doc tries to make it sound like everything is great and the new move was a great success. The smug designer of the garden in a gallery and a gallery in a garden is the worst because that is definitely not what Barnes wanted. But the chance to get a prestigious commission was worth more than the wishes of the man who put the collection together.
Had Barnes not created the terms of the indenture, the new museum probably would be a fine way to show the collection. But it was not what Barnes wanted. Barnes may have been a bad gallerist and the lighting and access to the collection may be better today. But it is not what Barnes wanted. There are tin-pot dictators around the world that can get a judge to rule the way they want and it doesn't make it right. Just because a judge ruled the collection could be moved out of Merion does not make it right.
The controversy of the move is never explored in this movie and the viewer deserves to know the truth of how the powers in Philadelphia art circles managed to steal the collection away from what Dr. Barnes wanted. The message that might makes right should be front and center instead of all the smug platitudes espoused by those in this film.
Of course who am I kidding? They are laughing at all the rubes that thought a legal document had any force of law. One would think they would fit right in working in Washington D.C.
The Trainwreck Unfolds Before Your Eyes
I doubt anyone that pays to see this doc will be unaware of the history of Anthony Weiner's prowess with a phone camera. The beginning of the movie covers his time in Congress and the resulting pictures and scandal that forced him to resign in well deserved shame.
I wish that story had been explored more by the filmmaker since it makes his subsequent behavior so hard to imagine (though very believable). His initial scandal was not just the fact that he texted pictures of his underwear - he went out and attacked those that claimed he did it as liars and had some people believing him when he said his twitter account had been hacked. He refused to tell the truth and accept responsibility while he accused his critics, notably the late Andrew Breitbart, as dishonest partisans hoping to stop him from helping the American people.
Part of this is shown in his fiery attacks on the floor of the House of Representatives against a bill funding health care for 9-11 first responders. (This has always puzzled me since I would bet my mortgage that the NY police and firemen have gold plated health care packages as part of their union contracts. Why did Congress have to give them more? Were police and firemen losing care because the city couldn't afford it? Did Weiner and others just want to have the federal taxpayers cover their health costs? This is never explained in the movie. Maybe if the film had explored this question it might not have reflected well on his image as a great crusader for the people).
And that sets up the train wreck everyone in the theater knew was coming - the new texting scandal while Weiner is running for mayor of NYC and doing well enough to force a runoff if not win outright. Here's a guy that has gone through the humiliation of a sexting scandal once, rehabilitates his image enough to be compete for office in the only city that would even consider voting for him, and he knows there are other women he has sent pictures of his junk. PICTURES HE SENT AFTER HE HAD WEATHERED THE FIRST SCANDAL.
Forget whether he used bad judgment or hurt his family. One has to wonder if he has an IQ above single digits to think these new pictures and messages won't come out. People actually supported him, volunteered for his campaign, signed on to work for his election and he did not have the intestinal fortitude to tell those closest to his campaign and his wife that there are probably more pictures that are going to come out. He just led his staff, supporters and family down the campaign trail knowing they were going to look like fools for believing he had repented.
The film shows Weiner trying to salvage his quest and it goes as badly as one would expect. He could have held a news conference explaining he had discovered how to give everyone unicorns and rainbows and the only questions he gets are why he did it and how could he be so stupid. Making matters worse he somehow doesn't realize how bad he looks in a combative interview with Lawrence O'Donnell or with a voter at a bakery.
As the election results roll in and it is clear that Weiner will be lucky to break 5%, the last crisis develops with how to get him in to his campaign's last event so he can thank his supporters and give the traditional speech a loser has to give. His texting compatriot and the one that revealed what Weiner had been doing (Pineapple as we learn the campaign had named her) was at the event hoping to confront Weiner and his wife. Of course they avoid her and still manage to screw up when he gives the finger to reporters and photographers as he leaves the event.
One person I feel sorry for is his son who will grow up learning what a dumb a** he has for a father. I don't feel much pity for Huma though. After the first scandal and his subsequent decision to run for mayor, the first question I would ask is "do you have anything you want to tell me?" She has been with the Clintons through Bill's making a fool of his wife so she is not some naive waif bravely standing by her man. She went into this with her eyes wide open.
In the end, Weiner is shown as just another politician that only has a talent for running for office and getting elected to an office so he can have taxpayers give him a paycheck. He couldn't run a business or actually produce a product that people would give him money for. His only skill consists of getting the government to spend money on things he wants. Had he stayed in Congress he probably would have been there for 40 years retiring a multi- millionaire despite never having a job that paid enough to do so. No doubt he admired the Clintons for being rich enough to be the top 1% of the 1% despite having never produced anything or running a business putting people to work (unless one considers the Clinton Foundation an actual business instead of a vehicle to enrich the Clintons themselves and give their friends a paycheck between campaigns.
Anyone reading this review probably already knows all the details in the film and the only question is it worth watching? I would say yes, at least once. Watching a truly stupid politician squirm on a big screen is worth the $7 I paid but until it comes out on DVD I wouldn't see it again.
QB VII (1974)
A View From 42 Years
Like others, I have not seen this since it's original run. In 1974 I was a HS senior and the subsequent years have drastically changed my opinion.
Having worked in law firms and other businesses the courtroom scenes seem so untrue. Even allowing for differences between American and British courts, it is hard to believe a barrister would allow his client to testify at the end of a trial without a delay to review the journals. I understand for dramatic effect it makes sense to do it the way it was written but it's just not realistic. Actually, Kelno's barrister was pretty ineffective from the beginning.
From the beginning it was telegraphed how the story would go and how it would end. It's kind of hard to write a good story if Kelno had been innocent of the what was written in the book. But Kelno's barrister had to have known there were people he had operated on that survived and would be brought in to testify. Too much testimony and evidence of what Kelno did while in the camp was going to come out during the trial. Even assuming Kelno was not entirely truthful with his barrister, the solicitor will have have done some due diligence on what the evidence against a client will be. That is what they do.
And for Cady, the change from jerk to heroic advocate after his father's death is really hard to believe. Going to school in the Midwest during the '70's even I was aware of the horrors of the Holocaust and the meaning of "Never Again".
And just as Kelno's representation was weak, it is unbelievable Cady would take off to Poland in the middle of the trial. Again, trained investigators would be sent to Poland (if they were actually allowed) to dig up facts and evidence. Even assuming the Communist government would allow such investigation in Poland, it was really hard to believe a woman would turn from defiance to acquiescence in minutes because Cady made her aware of God.
Kelno knew the facts and had he been honest with his counsel even a middling barrister would have been able to account for opposing testimony and evidence. For a story revolving around court proceedings, the story seemed dumbed down for the audience.
Now I know this is a story and not meant to document what a real trial would look like (just as the crimes on Law & Order are solved and the perps convicted in 60 minutes is unrealistic) but what seemed powerfully dramatic to a teenager loses a lot after more than 40 years.
If you are are looking for a realistic courtroom drama, this is below the normal Law & Order episode (almost every L&O episode has evidence suppressed by a judge when real defense attorneys will tell you they have never won a suppression hearing in decades of practice). For realism you are better off watching an episode of Rake.
I wish this courtroom drama dealing with the horrors of the Holocaust had done a better job of demonstrating the difficulty of proving the culpability of the numerous cogs of the final solution.
Sad End for Member of the 27 Club
I came to Winehouse late, after hearing Back To Black. Before and after all I knew about her was the tabloid Amy, the one that was a drunk and drug user.
But she was so much more than the character the tabloids portrayed. She really was a powerful and talented singer and songwriter. She was a great jazz singer that could dazzle a small crowd of jazz enthusiasts or a stadium of young rock fans.
The documentary takes a usual chronological line from her early notice as a singer to her death in London at the age of 27. And even at over 2 hours the movie does not go into any depth about her demons and death.
Most of what I know about her I discovered when I read the book 27 by Brian Sounes. Like Joplin, Jones, Hendrix, Cobain and Morrison, Winehouse lived without the responsibility of following the rules.
I remember when Elvis dies and everyone blamed the Memphis Mafia for allowing him to abuse his body to the point he died at the age of 44. But who was going to stop him? He would just fire anyone that got in his way of what he wanted. His entourage really did care about him but they were helpless at stopping him.
The movie doesn't show just how bad her addictions really were and that Belgrade was not the only time she got on stage totally messed up. And the last thing she needed was a husband that introduce cocaine to her.
But my biggest problem with the movie was her death. Winehouse liked to text and skype her friends and the night she died no one was available to get together (they all had things to do withe their own lives) so she stayed home and drank. A lot. More than someone as petite as Winehouse could safely put away. And since she was alone and not going out, her bodyguard never had a reason to leave another part of the house to check on her. She died as much from loneliness that night as anything and despite how awful her husband and father were to feeding off her earnings it's ultimately not fair to put the blame on them.
Despite the superficial nature of the movie I still give it a 9 out of 10 because she was such a special talent and fascinating person. Maybe someday a more in depth doc can be made that really shows her talent and demons.
Wallander: Innan frosten (2005)
***Big Spoiler Alert***
I've seen all the Branaugh, Lassgard & Henrickson versions and while I like them all, their Wallanders are all very different. And while this story has the same title as the Branaugh version it's different enough to keep me interesting.
But while I never expect the cops in Ystad to act like the Strike Team on The Shield, you would hope they use their brains.
Two cops come across a van with explosives in the woods while their searching for a kidnapped baby. Instead of disabling the van while they follow the baby's cries, they just walk right past it.
Then the cops shoot the driver and stop the van. Of course then one of the cops lets the female passenger get her gun and they drive off toward a church they want to blow up. Man, how hard is it to catch a criminal.
Of course the church is being guarded by police with rifles and they get a call the van is coming their way. So what do the cops do? Well of course they go into the packed church and tell everyone to leave all the while getting stuck in the middle of the crowd. Maybe they could have set up on the road to shoot and disable the truck as it's coming toward the church? Instead some of the people were sitting ducks in front of the church right next to the road.
I can overlook the anti-religious theme, I've watched enough Morse and Lewis to almost expect it. But if this were a realistic depiction of the police in Sweden the criminal community of Europe must be flooding in there because they don't have to worry too much from the police.
If you can get past how much more depressing the Branaugh Wallander is, his version is more interesting and less frustrating. Henrikkson is a less volatile and moody KW but carries the role OK.
A Worthy Oklahoma
From the first time as a kid I saw a summer stock production of Oklahoma I've been captivated by the inaugural Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. From the 1955 movie to high school productions to professional road shows I can't get enough of this musical.
I was born after the Theatre Guild Broadway production but I suspect this version of the Oklahoma territory is a little rougher than what was depicted in 1943 and definitely rougher than the 1955 movie. Josefina Gabrielle in her denim overalls looks tough enough to kick Shirley Jones or Gordon MacRae into the next county if they cross her. And you don't get any of the lush Arizona foliage we remember from the 1955 movie.
Fortunately Trevor Nunn did not try to update the production and make it his own. I keep thinking of the 2005 Brian Large production of La traviata with the giant clock on a sterile stage and the actors doing their best to imitate robots. When two great singers like Netrebko and Villazon can't distract you from the staging I think the director has failed.
Being a Royal National Theatre production the British tinge is felt in the performers. Jackman is good but Gabrielle and especially Shuler Hensley as Jud are outstanding. Easily the best improvements from the 1955 movie are Jimmy Johnston and Vicki Simon as Will and Ado Annie respectively.
My only complaint with the DVD is the sound of the barn raising number seemed muffled. Maureen Lipman and Sidney Livingstone sounded like the soundman didn't like them. And I could have done away with the shots of the crowd. The performances were plenty good enough for us to know when to clap.
I doubt anyone sang and danced like this in the Oklahoma Territory but darn it they should have. Thank you Trevor Nunn for respecting this American original and making this a worthy production.
Cold Case: Blood on the Tracks (2007)
----- MAJOR SPOILER WARNING ----- This episode did not rely on my pet peeve with the series where the case is closed when the perp, after going years or decades covering their crime, confesses under questioning of the detectives and no lawyer in sight. At least in this episode there was actual forensic evidence.
But it is a real stretch to believe someone could switch identities after two people are killed in an explosion. The deaths were investigated by the PDP in 1981 not Sheriff Bart in Blazing Saddles. They didn't have dna evidence back then but they would have other ways to try to identify the bodies. And even if the police didn't discover the change, weren't there people that knew Sarah and Johanna? With all that said, I enjoyed the episode and especially the Dylan songs. I wondered if they would use Like A Rolling Stone since it is not a three minute pop song and I knew the ending would not last 7 minutes. So after complimenting them for using the entire My Back Pages from The Byrds they cut off LARS after about three minutes. Oh well! Still a great series.
Lewis: Counter Culture Blues (2009)
We're Bringing Back the Band, At Least Those That Survive
+++++ MAJOR SPOILER WARNING +++++
Interesting premise of a singer that has returned from the dead after 35 years and the band is going to reunite.
well, except for the fact that two of the original band members get killed off and the manager, who staged the whole thing, is trying to kill off another member. Leaving the drummer and the female singer if he succeeds.
So the manager, after 35 years, wants to reunite the band. The real lead singer has died and he trained her sister to take her name and place. Except he didn't tell her the guitarist was gay? Seems like he skipped over a major detail if he thinks she can pass for her sister.
And just how excited would the fans be if members keep getting killed off because they figured out it wasn't their original singer. Who was going to be left - the singer and the brain damaged brother? That will get them a few dates at some Midwestern casino boats along with the remnants of Iron Butterfly. Big deal.
Lewis seemed unconcerned that an important figure from his youth, thought to be long dead, has resurfaced. Aren't detectives skeptical about such stories? Shouldn't he be able to verify where she's been all these years? Wouldn't the deaths that started after her return cause him and Hathaway to focus on her? Are so many people being murdered in Oxford that no one thought there might be a connection? I love Morse and Lewis but this story was hard to believe from the moment Esme appears to the last second rescue of the guitarist.
Cold Case: Forever Blue (2006)
One of the best episodes
The quality of Cold Case episodes is above average, especially considering the time restraints of story lines that would be tough to put into a 90 minute movie. The acting is justifiably restrained considering they are working on cases usually decades old. This is not Starsky and Hutch or Miami Vice.
This episode is one of the best reflecting a time prior to Stonewall similar to a previous episode dealing with race relations. The '60s were a turbulent time - flower power and peace & love often took a back seat to riots, sit-ins and days of rage. Homosexuality was still classified as a disorder I believe so this story about two gay cops was well done.
My only complaint is one I have with many episodes - how they solve the case. Here you have someone that has kept a secret for years and he blurts out that he did it under questioning and he was a cop no less. Up until the time the perp confesses there is usually no hard evidence that would stand up in court, usually just the detectives putting together long buried clues and coming up with the most likely story. No one seems to ask for an attorney when questioned and just reach a point where they confess. It's not like they beat the suspects with a rubber hose to get a confession.
That said, I still like the show but it helps to remember that it is still a TV show that has about 45 minutes to tell a story.
One other thing I about Cold Case. They didn't cut off The Byrds version of My Back Pages at the instrumental bridge like so many other shows would. Their selection of songs, especially at the conclusion, are almost always spot on. Few shows would spend the money or like WKRP unable to afford the original music for dvds and reruns.
Sacco and Vanzetti (2006)
For the Defense
Popping this into the DVD player I hoped for a detailed history of the S&V case. Instead it bordered on hagiography with the two defendants just a couple of innocent anarchists caught up in a wave of immigration hatred. And at the end the point is made that such irrational hatred continues to this day because we are indiscriminately rounding up Muslims and shipping them off to Gitmo.
I say this as someone whose grandfather was an immigrant from Italy. The movie downplays any evidence against the defendants using the standards of today's justice system. Because the police didn't have DNA evidence, fingerprints, surveillance video or ballistic evidence it is assumed the case was weak.
Were Sacco and Vanzetti guilty? I don't know but then I wasn't around at the time. But if you are looking for a balanced account of the case you can save your time and pass this DVD by.
La traviata (2005)
First off, I am glad I watched this production of La Traviata. As long as the performers can carry a tune better than Rosie O'Donnell it is hard to not be moved by such a masterpiece.
And I'm always open to updating productions or remaking classic movies. While some like the original, the Bogart Maltese Falcon is my favorite. I also enjoyed the Mitchum Farewell My Lovely more than the original but not Mitchum's remake of The Big Sleep. But just because an epic work is modernized does not make it improved. Different is not always better.
I understand what the idea was to strip the set of almost all fixtures and make a giant clock the focal point of the stage. But for me it detracts from what the leads are doing. The clock beats us over the head about the theme of Violetta's descent. Anyone that has a passing knowledge of Traviata knows the story and doesn't need a giant clock to know how the story ends. The set seems like something made to impress a bunch of grad school dropouts that meet every evening at the local Starbucks.
I think it was in Gatsby where someone says they always feel more alone in a big crowd. Here, even in her red dress, Violetta seems lost among the mask wearing men at the party. Violetta has to dominate any production of La Traviata and here she seems reduced and trivialized.
That said, Netrebko is a very good Violetta. Her arias at the end of the first act are a highlight of any Traviata and Netrbko doesn't disappoint.
Rolando Villazon turns in the best performance, going from the high of endless devotion to bitter scorn and back to deep love for Violetta.
But I had a hard time ignoring the huge, stark set and when you have singers like Netrebko and Villazon there is no need to upstage their voices.
Le nozze di Figaro (2006)
If you are one of those that watched Some Like It Hot and kept complaining because it was obvious Curtis and Lemmon were not women you probably won't like The Marriage of Figaro. The comedy is very broad and you will have to accept confusion by characters as to the identity of very close relatives and companions.
There are no lowlights in this production but my personal highlights are Dorothea Roschmann's Countess arias Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro and Dove sono. But with the world-class cast in a Mozart opera you will enjoy every number.
Sit back and enjoy.
La Traviata (2006)
Enjoy A Classis
You don't have to be an expert in opera to appreciate this version of La Traviata. As one of the most popular operas you may already be familiar with the story of a woman gone astray. If not, being an opera, you can probably figure it our easily enough.
Tenor Rolando Villazon is excellent as Alfredo but the star of any production of La Traviata is the part of Violetta. Violetta is a role that sopranos are measured by and here Renee Fleming shines through. Beautiful and engaging, her performances of Ah, fors e lui and Sempre libera closing the first act of will leave you breathless. Comparing her performance to Callas, Sutherland, Angela Gheorghiu and others, she rates up there with the best.
Sung in Italian with subtitles in English and 5 other languages, this is an entertaining 144 minutes for newcomers to opera as well as veterans.
Paris Steals The Show
Spoiler Ahead! This episode is worth it just for the few minutes Paris is on the screen. Taking over the offices and starting an SAT prep business is pure Paris, better even than when she was doling out tips to everyone in FL during spring break.
Grilling the mother with the poor daughter sitting there silently except for an occasional 'mom' was great writing and Liza Weil deserves credit for keeping Paris on the edge without hating her.
And Luke once again has justifiable grounds for going off on Kirk or Taylor. There is no jury that would ever convict Luke for whatever he does to them.