Pegapus

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Reviews

Sherlock
(2010)

Great adaptation of a classic premise!
I never got to see this show when it came out in 2010. I usually watch most of the Mystery! Masterpiece shows, but somehow this escaped my scrutiny.

The first thing that struck me was the idea that Sherlock Holmes could be dragged kicking and screaming from his Victorian roots--it's an odd thought, to see the root of many a 20th century detective story becoming a fresh thought, even to the point of imitating its own followers. The writers and creators have succeeded. As those producers are already savvy to the whims of witty and peculiar characters from the Dr. Who series, they "get" it and know how to mold a story for love and enjoyment. You can tell the show is well crafted in ways that are remarkable.

Currently, the series is either filming or soon to be filming its third series. In England, each year of a show is called a series, while a show in the US is based on a season. Since TV has changed drastically over the course of time, the idea of a "season" is losing ground, but ultimately, it's the same concept. As part of Masterpiece Mystery, "Sherlock" is a mini-series. There are 3 90-minute long episodes. The first season was comprised of three episodes: Study in Pink, The Blind Banker, and The Great Game. The second series was comprised of Scandal In Belgravia, Hounds of the Baskerville, and The Reichenbach Fall. Each episode (for the most part) has its root in an actual Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes short story, modernized for the show.

Some things remain the same: if you've read Conan Doyle's stories based on the character, you will be in familiar territory for the most part. Instead of Dr. Watson keeping a journal, he blogs. Mycroft still works for "queen and country," Sherlock is still a bit on the odd side, though nowadays with some of the troubled detectives in literature and on television, he seems positively normal.

The actors are another key to its success. Mystery has always had rich, well carved characters on its many shows--this isn't much different. As I watched a featurette on its creation, the producers remarked on the chemistry of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman together as Holmes and Watson. It shows. You would think they'd been mates for ages by the interaction between them.

Actually, all the actors are excellent in their roles, even Mark Gatiss, one of the show's creators, as Mycroft Holmes hits his stride as a pompous overachiever that grates on his younger sibling's nerves.

I'm a late-comer, to my shame, on the show's fan lists, but now that I've become a rabid fan, I can't wait until mid-2013 for the third series of the show. We were left with a massive cliff-hanger that needs resolving, and I, for one, can't wait to see it return.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
(2010)

Overly melodramatic at times, a roller coaster ride with highs, and lows, but very little middle ground.
I confess. I read the book about a dozen times in the past few years. It's not like I don't do anything else, but I do. In a year, I probably get through about 25-30 books. So reading HP and the DH was just something I was enjoying. There are clues in various places in the books, and you just have to marvel at how Jo Rowling tied up all the ends so nicely in the last one.

The one thing, though, that I felt was off in 7 was how she portrayed Hagrid. In a few cases, it seemed like she was treating him like a buffoon, but that's a personal opinion, not something that critically could be considered wrong with the book.

But the last book kept elements close together. It brought in all the old characters, added a few new ones, but basically held together things with bonds of steel. The relationships were both old and new, with a true feeling of family and friendships. And we all celebrated the good times in the book and lamented the bad times.

So when Mad-Eye Moody gets killed so early in the book, a feeling of loss goes with him. When Fleur is so happy to be marrying Bill, we're all happy for them both. When we see Kreacher turn from a foul house-elf to a fine house-servant, we're happy for him. When Tonks tells us she is pregnant, we celebrate! But almost none of that is in the movie. We know instinctively that those things happened in the book, but if you haven't read them, you're going to go WTF? an awful lot.

Mad-Eye is killed in the chase, but there isn't a toast to this memory. When Fleur is so intense about the wedding, we see no real emotion, but for one brief moment. When the trio leaves Kreacher for their exploits at the ministry, we have no idea how much he has changed. And when Tonks and Lupin go off, there is nothing to suggest the very sad and aching love they have for each other, and about Remus's hesitation about his upcoming fatherhood.

There is no investment in these characters in the film. It's like "strip the souls from everyone but Ron, Harry and Hermione, make the others more melodramatic with no attachment to the real story, and voilà! you have Deathly Hallows Part One." I confess: I don't like David Yates' direction. There has been something off about it since OOTP, though I might be one of the few who think that. I think his often amateurish direction is quite obvious in this film. The film is often like a roller coaster, with giddy high points, either in the action or the tone, but there are also many very low points, and there is nothing in the middle. We don't LEARN anything from the characters--we follow them on their journey, yes, but we have to inject too much of the overall plot from the book to see what has been left out, and what is still present. There are times when a collage filming of the many places the trio (and in the middle, the duo) went could get that section speeded up without weighing it down (a friend with me found the middle WAY too slow), and at times, a more polished director could have found ways to make the scenes pack a lot more information into them. It certainly didn't look like the kids weren't eating a whole lot, or how much Hermione actually fit into her small pocketbook. The scene that could have managed that would have been the scene in the book where Hermione packs the full sized painting of Sirius Black's relative, Phinea Black, former headmaster of Hogwarts, into her bag. But it was not to be.

I think if there had been a consistent tone during the film, it would have helped bring a more cohesive tone to the film, interlocking all the elements into one. But there wasn't that kind of a feeling in it, and I am disappointed that it didn't happen.

I might be one of the very few fans who feels the film wasn't a very good one. Yes, it's only half of a whole, and the second half might be a totally different one, emotionally, and dramatically. But I just need to say to fans, go with the warning that there are a lot of faults with this installment, and accept it just as a nice visual film, with very, very little to do with the entire HP legacy. It probably won't help, and you will be filling in the blanks from the books, but it's certainly better than nothing.

Insight
(1960)

Great show with great moral dilemmas to work through
Every now and then, I peruse the Sunday morning listings to see if it's there. It hasn't been there for quite some time, but old habits die hard.

I can't remember many of the episodes, but if I saw them again, I might remember them.

One of the few that still occupies my brain is one of the Christmas episodes, with William Windom, James Cromwell, Tim Matheson and Paula Kelly (Jesus B.C. (1976)). It was amazing the talent they used to employ! The show, from my recollections, was shown into the early 90s. I don't remember watching them from the 60s or even 70s, but I do recall them airing later.

I'm not religious, despite my growing up as a Catholic. Over time, I've become an atheist, but it really shouldn't matter. Morality, whether you are religious or not, shouldn't depend on what faith you come from. Morality should come from the heart, and be something you do without any reward, recompense or favor. And I think this show promoted that as much as it could, within the confines of its format and design. That's why it resonated with people who weren't particularly religious--it took common values and brought them to life. And every one of us who has ever cared about another person could find themselves in the midst of the situations presented.

I think the show should be available on DVD as well, as I think we could all remember the messages they told us. While there has been dating in some episodes, the vast appeal of the format, as a single one act play, could be a nice addition to the Sunday morning shows, and certainly as appealing as all the political shows on at that time!

The Water Horse
(2007)

Highly evocative
I saw The Last Mimzy and The Water Horse on two consecutive nights, and now I have forgotten many elements of the former simply through watching the latter. The Water Horse has a few inconsistencies, but overall is the better of the two films. It is not as aimless, nor does it have the presumptive air of the former, either.

The CGI is practically flawless. It works, however, in making Crusoe the Water Horse as real as possible: as we watch, we see Crusoe growing from the size of a box turtle (which it resembles early in its development) to that of a true king of the deep, the Loch Ness "monster." Having been fortunate enough to have traveled to Inverness, Scotland and visiting the Loch itself, I was delighted to see some of the places nearby, including Uruquhart Castle (the ruins on the south side of the Loch). Seeing the Loch itself gives one pause to wonder if a creature could exist, and in one of my own personal slides I have a shot with a black rock on it that I always tell people is one of the humps on the real monster. Regardless if one believes the "monster" is real or not, there is something in the air which makes one feel as though there are infinite possibilities no matter how much we think otherwise.

As it goes so often in life, we want so much to believe in something outside of ourselves, that we cherish those moments in life when fantasy is solid enough to appear real. Most of us lose that sense of wonder as we grow up and grow old, so when something comes along that restores that wonderment, if even for two hours, we should be quick to jump at it, allowing childlike acceptance take control. We can't journey back in time to those days of innocence, but we sure can recapture the feeling of them, if even for just a little while, with a vessel like The Water Horse leading the way.

My Cousin Vinny
(1992)

A character driven comedy excellently played
My Cousin Vinny could be a mess in the wrong hands. Thanks to Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei, Fred Gwynne and the other main cast members, and to Jonathan Lynn, the film's director, it succeeds and is quite entertaining.

Much has been said in a non-complimentary fashionabout several of the acting efforts in the film, but it's the acting that elevates the film from run of the mill ho-hum fare to one which keeps you laughing on repeat viewings.

Recently, I watched the film on DVD and listened to Jonathan Lynn's audio commentary. I found his anecdotes to be charming, insightful and informative. Getting inside the mind of the director and reasons he used particular shots and dialog was fascinating and engaging, and I think listening to someone, other than one of the performers, is also educational.

I would recommend the film to anyone who wants some light entertainment that really isn't mindless, but infused with good performances and a well done film.

Pig Sty
(1995)

A fun show that wasn't given much of a chance
We've seen bad shows last long times on TV, but too few really different shows get much of a chance, especially when they're on a new network. This UPN series has a bit of a dark core, but didn't get much respect at the fledgling network. In addition, some of the dialogue was a bit more grown-up than other shows, so it was never going to be a lead-in show. One could only have hoped that Pig Sty had greater exposure before a final decision to kill it went into effect.

It was positioned right after Star Trek: Voyager, which was a good opener, but the style of the show did not fit the audience that preceded it. I don't think that UPN had much of a sense of programming strategy early on, so there was never a lot of compatibility between shows on a given night. A night of all sitcoms might have been a better bet. It's interesting to see that most of the regular actors on the show did manage to move on to other projects, but there was a certain amount of chemistry in Pig Sty that will never be matched.

Even the title of the show showed a bold move--of course it reminded me of my own housekeeping habits!!

The Da Vinci Code
(2006)

A nice thriller from start to finish
I went into the film cold, without having read the book, and I enjoyed it. It stands on its own, apart from the book, which I will likely read now to compare the two.

The performances for the most part are understated, though at times the dialogue is too expository, and doesn't lead to any new actions, however much it gives background. I think that perhaps a rolling "credits" scene in the beginning might have helped make some points clearer, though I can understand the need for the characters to learn new elements as the story moves forward.

In comparison to other films in the "treasure hunt" type of action films, it is a lot more cerebral, but whether that helps or not depends on your point of view! There is very little in the way of graphic violence, though there are some scenes which might frighten smaller children. There was also very little profanity. I could compare it with "National Treasure" in some ways, but a "Raiders of the Lost Ark" it isn't.

The film (and obviously the book) pour down heavy criticism on certain historically religious groups, and I suppose this is one of the reasons why some are boycotting the film--however, since the whole thing has been designated fiction, I can't understand why people just don't accept it for just that--a "fictional" story.

The mood is dark, and there is some humor, too, though it's almost whispered at times. Perhaps this tone of "reverence" is in the novel, too, I don't know; Ian McKellan's character is the only one audacious enough to laugh out loud.

I recommend the film, but if people aren't prepared to check their own beliefs at the door, they might be disappointed in the film's outcome.

Sole Survivor
(1970)

A haunting film long after viewing
Considering how long ago I saw this film, it still remains in my memory as special. The story focuses on an investigation of a downed plane in the desert, which is thought to be a plane from World War II that was not supposed to be over land when it crashed.

When the plane went down, it was supposed to be over the ocean, and only one crew member escaped from that accident--a man who is now a general, and is on that identifying mission to determine if it was his former assignment. The general, played by Richard Basehart, embodies a lot of conflicting emotions, some of which are ambiguously depicted until all is made clear toward the end of the film.

The thrust of the film centers on the former plane crew members, now seen as ghosts who hang around the wreck, wondering when they will be discovered, and their bodies found. After so many years as ghosts, hanging around such a limited terrain, they have become cynical and discouraged. It is only when the team arrives to survey the wreck and the surroundings that they gain some hope that the truth will be discovered, and that they will no longer have to stay with the plane for eternity. When they find their former teammate part of the investigation team, and now a general, they feel that they have been let down, and that the lies told by the now general will threaten their hopes of getting out of the desert hell they have been stuck in for far too many years. They discover, too, that it was the general's lies which has kept them from being discovered sooner.

Performances by all involved are great, and your sympathy for the doomed crew members grows with the film. Richard Basehart does an excellent job as the haunted crew member whose lies enhanced his own status, but whose conscience has never been clear since the accident so many years ago. William Shatner's character is a bit over the top, but Vince Edwards acts as a stabilizing presence, and whose respect for the history of the plane lends compassion to the fate of those who died in the wreckage. It is through his presence that much of the humanity in the film is made clear and kept constant.

As an aside: both William Shatner and Richard Basehart worked together on another venture around the same time as this film, The Andersonville Trial, directed by George C. Scott, which won an Emmy. If you are interested in seeing both in another setting, where Shatner really shows his very real acting ability, you should consider seeing that presentation as well.

Independent Lens: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
(2005)
Episode 22, Season 8

A slick documentary about the greatest corporate scandal in the country.
A well produced and slick documentary about Enron and its trip from 7th richest corporation to its final bankruptcy.

The film traces the humblest beginnings of Ken Lay and the other major executives of the corporation, Jeff Skilling and Andrew Fastow. It also shows the involvement of many others through the 20 years of the company, and how many people contributed to the ultimate downfall of the company.

The only complaint I had with it was the involvement of some of the people that were interviewed on screen and their identities. It was often difficult to understand who was who, and why they were part of the group being interviewed--whether they were former Enron employees, or the team that helped write the books and screenplay of the documentary and their role in the drama.

Overall, something I would recommend highly to anyone interested in corporate greed, hubris and arrogance, and why the company managed to pull the wool over the employees of the company so long.

From Hell
(2001)

Okay Drama from What I Saw of it
Perhaps it's because I didn't catch the whole film, but there didn't seem to be a whole heckuva lot new in this film that hasn't been said in other movies, and in better ways. I like Depp, Holm, Coltrane and the other major performers for the most part, but I found Heather Graham too pretty to be playing a prostitute in Victorian England. The thought that they were beautiful, relatively naive women is rather misleading.

The film I found that handled many of the same theories, and in a lot better fashion, was Murder By Decree with Christopher Plummer and James Mason. The whole angle of the Freemasons was pursued there, as well as the theory that the Royal Physician was the real Ripper. The comments about the "Juwes" was also given, connecting them directly to the Masons. The thing is, Freemasonry was not (and still isn't) as well known as it appears to be in From Hell--it's preposterous that in that day, without the amount of knowledge and information as available as it is now, that every cop on the beat would know about it. Also, the film seems to have also read most of the same source material as Murder By Decree with Annie Crook and the illegitimate child fathered by the Royal family member.

The ending was confusing, though perhaps as I said it was because I didn't see the beginning.

Overall, I suppose I need to see the film from the start, but if there wasn't any significant revelations in the 2/3 of the film that I saw, I would say that seeing Murder By Decree again would be preferable.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
(2004)

Quite excellent with a great visual sense
Alfonso Cuaron has done well in his first effort at Harry Potter. The third book is relatively well covered in terms of content of the film, and while it looks occasionally that it goes off topic, those points are finally meshed in a series of climactic scenes that tie up the final ending well.

There are a couple of points I want to make about the film, and different areas that interested me as to how they would be handled.

1. Richard Harris's death and the casting of Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. As Richard Harris's death was well publicized, and his replacement was picked early and people got a chance to see Gambon's Dumbledore through trailers, specials and news info, fans of HP could get used to him, and knew (or at the very least hoped) that he had the physical presence to handle the character. While I missed the wee bit of Irish brogue we knew from Harris, I felt very comfortable with Gambon's performance. His Dumbledore has a bit of an impish quality, I feel, and merry twinkles filled his eyes. I found myself smiling, as both his spirit and his qualities of leadership and intellect were intact.

2. The kids. There have been rumors that the kids are getting too old to play the parts of the kids in the novel. Well, I hate to say this, but the kids "in the novel" ARE the kids in RL. The two are joined at the hip, and the characters in the novels ARE growing up. They're not cute little 11 year olds anymore--they are now 13-14, and they are entering their teenage years. As are the actors who are playing them. I heard JK Rowling herself say that Daniel, Emma and Rupert are the embodiments of Harry, Hermione and Ron, and I can see that way too. I think it would take away from the aging and the maturing of both the actors and the characters if they thought about replacing them with younger actors. We're seeing an incredible effort here in trying to maintain a sense of continuity. I don't think they should meddle with that.

3. The director. Alfonso Cuaron hasn't done that many films, but I am a huge fan of his "A Little Princess" from 1995. If you haven't seen that film, you've missed a true and beautiful gem. "Princess" is a remake of France Hodgson Burnett's book, and an earlier Shirley Temple film. It is a wondrous and excellent film, and it makes me appreciate the man's wonderful ability to work with many children, and utilize the adults to work with the children with complete fluidity. In HP3, he brings out a wonderful mixture of emotions in all the characters and the actors who play them. He knows how to handle animals (including completely CGI ones!) as well, and makes us believe that the animals are more than just "actors" like the rest of the cast. Chris Columbus has grown up quite a bit since his early days as a director (think Gremlins), but Cuaron has a natural talent which is overwhelmingly rich and strong. I haven't seen other of his films, but I can't wait now to at least try to see them.

4. The cinematography. In the first two movies, much of the film concentrated on the interior of the castle at Hogwarts, on the deepest darkest secrets of it, and in general were tools to help make Hogwarts into something with which its characters and the audience could be well familiar. The first movie, of course, concentrated on Harry's and the others' first glimpse and view of the School of Magic, and the second film concentrated on the legacy of Slytherin and Voldemort. In Prison of Azkaban, we are given an unfamiliar landscape, literally. Viewed in broad daylight, the Whomping Willow doesn't seem as scary as it did at night, but the forest beyond still holds a sense of mystery and wonder, both dark and benign at the same time. The cinematography shows expanses of beauty that stretch far beyond what the eye can see. The Scottish Highlands are so beautiful, and they are used to the best advantage in this film. When Harry takes the first ride on Buck Beak (a hippogriff, who is part horse and part eagle), the sense of freedom at flight is captured with great effect. And another flying scene, in the miserably handled Quidditch game also shows great emotion: Harry's run-in with the dementors is well handled with a visual sense of claustrophobia and despair.

5. The casting. I must admit the one film I knew David Thewlis from (Dragonheart) made me think he was a bit sniveling and nasty as the character he played in that other film. A fresh look at him through Remus Lupin made me very happy to see his excellent range and grasp of the particular character he plays in HP3. Lupin, the new Professor of the Dark Arts, is an old friend of Harry's dad. He is also a friend to Sirius Black, and another character who features in this installment. He is able to show a keen sense of empathy to Harry, as well as help Harry in learning defenses against the Dementors, and becomes a true friend to Harry. Emma Thompson comes on board as Professor Trelawney. If you have read the books, you know Trelawney will feature quite prominently in #5, The Order of the Phoenix. The introduction to the character shows her as rather eccentric, with a flair for the dramatic and whatever will garner her the strongest reactions. Keep watching her--she will be a force to reckon with at a point down the line. As far as Sirius Black, Gary Oldman is a perfect actor to play a man who has spent 12 years in a horrific dungeon prison, who's mind borders on the brink of insanity, but who is also very passionate. I'd tell you more, but then I'd have to kill you, right? There wasn't as much new casting other than these major characters, who will now be with the show in the 4th and 5th installments, and likely further down the line.

For those who enjoy fantasy, this is an excellent film and a great installment in the Harry Potter universe. If you're an adult, you will find your sense of wonder returning faster than ever.

Threat Matrix
(2003)

Jingoistic pablum at its finest
I thought this series was going to be another fun, action series with some dynamic plots and great performances. I was wrong. While I like Jamie Denton, this show is hardly worth watching at all, unless you enjoy watching some people brutalized and the actions of the agents supposedly warranted under the theme of "national security." The show is great propaganda for the current government, and spews out jingoism as though we talk that way every day. After a couple of episodes, it was boring the hell out of me, and I started watching reruns of House Invaders on BBCAmerica instead. Rather watch CSI and Without a Trace, without a doubt.

Quincy M.E.
(1976)

CSI before there was a CSI!
This show was more influential than most shows of its genre on TV. In many ways, it was the predecessor to the current CSI and CSI: Miami, with its emphasis on science and the forensic approach. In fact, many of the episodes dealt with forensic methods which were just coming into being in the 70's, and for the first time let the audience of the series see these new techniques and research, including the build-up of a skeletal face to what the person could have looked like, looking for evidence of where a person has been by looking at the residue on a person's shoes and other forensic methods we take for granted nowadays.

What's even more interesting is that many of the topics of these episodes, some 25 years old, show a great amount of relevance even now. Such things as airplane safety, epidemics, political influence, riots, runaways and child pornography, post traumatic stress disorder as a result of a war experience, migrant workers, crash diets, child abuse, and much, much more.

This show was and is a great forerunner to many other shows over the past twenty-five years. In many ways, the current resurgence in shows about forensic science can be attributed to this show. Not only the commercial successes of CSI and CSI:Miami, but shows like "Forensic Files," "Cold Case Files" and other such shows. With the amount of technology which we presently have available to us now, it's amazing that a lot of it has only been available since Quincy debuted on television, less than 25 years ago.

Blame It on Rio
(1984)

A Guilty Pleasure
The movie is not a cinematic triumph at any interpretation of the word. It's filled with nudity and bad acting, especially on the part of the younger actors in it, but what can I say? As a longtime fan of Michael Caine, I will gladly see *almost* any film he does.

Joe Bologna and the short appearance of Valerie Harper also show long time talent in the film, but for the most part, this film is farcical and funny, and full of irony so apparent, it will smack you in the face! There is little effort to make this film subtle by any means. The seduction of Michael Caine by the nubile young Michelle Johnson is clearly awkward--as it should be, but hell, once entangled in the web, Caine's character keeps on going, like the Energizer bunny!!

The most fun part, for me, is Bologna's partnering with Caine to "discover" who the "older man" is who is having an affair with his daughter. Caine's superior acting ability manages to bring him through the discomfort that ensues.

If you're uncomfortable with nudity in films, or films where an older man is supposedly having sex with a girl young enough to be his daughter, then don't bother seeing this film. But if you just want to suspend disbelief for awhile and enjoy a fun, satirical film, go for it.

The American President
(1995)

Aaron Sorkin warms my heart once again!
Aaron Sorkin has the heart of a lion, and the soul of a liberal. Watching this movie again today, I recall that the eight years of Bill Clinton's presidency were mostly uplifting ones--filled with a lot of progress on all fronts. The movie does touch upon some of the more salacious points which were brought up, but in all fairness, these points are those of the president's personal life, and NOT those brilliant and shrewd policies which marked his presidency more frequently.

People who don't like this movie are missing that point--that the President of the United States has the right to his personal life, whether good or bad, and that it's his public image which is the only one that anyone should be examining in any depth.

Too much today, everyone in this country is getting a more intrusive look at their personal life. Too many people are getting their "15 minutes" of fame and much more, and privacy flies out the window. Should we really know how many men that an actress has slept with or how many women an actor has managed to marry and ditch? Or any combination thereof? Do we have the RIGHT to pry into ANYONE else's private life? Isn't that why it's called a PRIVATE life?

Shouldn't the President of the United States also have some semblance of a personal life, without his laundry being shown to the whole world? This movie brings to bear all the reasons this country is filled with so much hatred, so much anger, and so much fear. It is because we are too angry to help our fellow men and women, it is because we are too afraid of them because of their color, their religion, their thoughts, their belief systems, and their ideas.

In order to make this nation number one again, we need to stop burying our heads in the sand, stop trying to convert others to our ways of thinking, and merely REACH OUT with an open hand, and stop invading their privacy. It's when people learn to respect others, without making any kind of judgements about their deeds and actions, that we will once again be the best place on earth to live.

And this film brings all of those points to the light, in ways some people never will be able to.

PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal
(1996)

Still alive in spirit!
Psi Factor rode a rough road in its 4 years as a series. Conceived as a series based on the purportedly real organization of the OSIR, the stories were supposedly inspired by real life incidents investigated by the organization.

In its first year, the series used a docudrama format, with two 1/2 hour stories a week. They gave the major facts of a case, and the investigators were mostly there to present the story, and not to be active participants. In a lot of ways, while it was interesting, it was not necessary compelling. In two separate episodes, however, they used a single episode format, and the stories presented offered a great more promise than the rest of the episodes that season.

In order to keep the series alive, the producers changed the format for the second season, killing off a major character in the first season finale, and introduced two new character in the first episode of second season. The new characters were Matt Praeger (Matt Frewer) and Michael Kelly (Michael Moriarty)--one, a flippant criminologist with a background in mechanical engineering, and the other, a conspiracy theorist.

Matt Praeger took over the "A" team of the OSIR: the characters who survived the cast culling from first season: Peter Axon (Barclay Hope); Lindsay Donner (Nancy Ann Sakovich); Anton Hendricks (Colin Fox) and a myriad of secondary characters: Claire Davidson (Soo Garay); Lennox Q. Cooper (Peter Blais); Ray Donahue (Peter MacNeill) and Frank Elsinger (Nigel Bennett).

While the series survived through three additional seasons, more changes were instituted, including fourth season characters going missing, the introduction in fourth season of Mia Stone (Joanne Vannicola) and more intimate storylines [with less investigating team members].

The most disturbing change for many fans was the killing off on first season character, Connor Doyle. Many fans were extremely upset at the character's demise, making him very sorely missed for the rest of the show's run. Producers tried to make up for the loss several times, but logistics prevented them from bringing back Paul Miller until near the end of fourth season, where an episode entitled "Regeneration" brought him back to bring some closure to his character's demise.

Overall, the series had some promise, and while it didn't live up to its full potential, there were some promising episodes, and characters that were interesting and full of energy.

Johnny Dangerously
(1984)

Just a lot of fun
This movie is just a lot of fun. I've seen it a couple of times, but it always has something funny that I remember. The "duckies and bunnies" car scene is one of my favorites, and I still quote Morone's versions of certain words!

There are so many running jokes, that it's amazing. But I love Michael Keaton anyhow!

The Blair Witch Project
(1999)

If you only see one movie this year, DON'T make it this one!
The more I think about this movie, the more ripped off I feel. I saw the movie when it was first released. When the ending finally came, I laughed my head off, I was so shocked that there wasn't more to it.

I was queasy throughout from the horrible camera work (even if it was planned that way, it was disgusting!) and almost left from disgust several times through the movie.

Don't bother seeing this film! If ten of you pay 20¢ toward a $2.00 rental and plan to get drunk while watching it, you're STILL overpaying for it!

See "The Sixth Sense" instead, or "Stir of Echoes." Both of them are worth a thousand Blair Witch Projects.

Stir of Echoes
(1999)

A decent movie, with an interesting idea and good acting.
The second movie to come out this year with the main characters of a "father" figure and a boy who sees ghosts (the other of course, is "The Sixth Sense") "Stir of Echoes" has a few similar themed moments.

But while the "Sixth Sense" delves into the psychology of a child and the man who helps him, "Stir of Echoes" follows a different path.

This film is more about the father, Tom (Kevin Bacon) who has been given a post-hypnotic suggestion to "open his mind" more, and stop being so skeptical. The end result of this suggestion is the awakening of psychic powers in Bacon's character. The reaction is amazing. Tom, it appears, is one of the "8%" of people who are able to achieve a significantly deep level of hypnosis, to the point where the sister is able to puncture his hand with a safety pin, and he does not bleed.

Tom is completely weirded out by the hypnosis, especially after all he can remember are momentary glimpses into "something" which he is unable to identify. After awakening, he also finds himself extremely thirsty, suffering from a bad headache.

He suddenly finds himself suffering from momentary "hallucinations" including one where a young ghost is sitting next to him on the couch, trying to tell him something. Over the next couple of weeks, small clues come pouring in, and Tom's wife (Kathryn Erbe) soon realizes her husband and her son share a "world" she knows nothing about. His obsession to know more about the ghost, and what her fate is, serves to bring a rift between him and his wife, which requires enormous patience on the part of the wife in order to keep their marriage together.

To compare this film with "The Sixth Sense" on anything other than this superficial level is a disservice to both films. "Sixth Sense" carried with it a superior wisdom--a true character film carried mainly by the two male actors, with some input by Toni Collette as Cole's mom. "Stir of Echoes," on the other hand, has a wider cast, and each of the players is like a piece of the overall puzzle which is finally almost complete by the time the last half hour of the film comes. There are no truly shocking endings, but there are questions. There is no answer, of course, but we think, as the audience, can only hope that things will finally work out.

The emphasis is less on the child in "Stir of Echoes"--in this film, as I mentioned, the child is completely aware and accepting of his gift. It is the man, emerging from a cocoon of life's gravity, and finally being able to open his eyes to all that surrounds him, who has the benefit of the epiphany of discovering talents which finally make him more than "normal"--a curse he thought would always be upon him. Kevin Bacon looks tired and thin in this film and is able to convey a world-weary man who finally breaks out of his earthly perceptions in time to discover his inner self.

It is a lot more gory than "Sixth Sense," and a lot more shocking in places. I would not recommend it to anyone under the age of 14, especially children who don't take that kind of graphic violence well. But adults should enjoy the film for having a decent plot, and having a lot of things going on in it.

The Man Who Would Be King
(1975)

Among my top 5 choices for best film!
I beg to differ with one of the comments about this being a man's film! I would place this film among my top 5 favorite movies of all time, and I am definitely NOT a man!

This film is the epitome of everything that is good in a film. Great locations, great direction, great art direction, great story, great plotting and most especially, great acting.

Michael Caine and Sean Connery have done "bigger" works, but together, they have made the "biggest" work they could ever do. The spirit and life in their characters--the sheer optimism that they show, even in the final scenes of the film are heart wrenching and beautiful. They "make" Daniel Dravot, Esquire and Peachy Carnehan come to beautiful life, embodying all that is innocent in two men who have been to war, conquered their demons, and now desire to fulfill the rest of their dreams.

The underlying subplot of freemasonry is an interesting one as well. For it would not have been out of character for men such as Danny and Peachy to have been masons, nor for Kipling to be one as well. (Did anyone ever note that this was Christopher Plummer's first of two roles that dealt quite a lot with freemasonry? Murder by Decree, four years later, is the other)

I just love this movie for itself. I've been a fan of H. Rider Haggard, and it's the same kind of thrill you get in reading his work. I just HATED it when they started remaking the Haggard movies and putting women like Sharon Stone in them, when it's supposed to be a "male" adventure. You would certainly never find a woman like that in The Man Who Would Be King--it is the TRUE essence of a film about MEN in a MAN'S era.

Michael Caine and Sean Connery are, for lack of a better word, geniuses in the art of filmmaking. They have become true ACTORS, because they love their craft so much, and know the difference between acting and faking it. They are not out to prove themselves "stars" because they don't need that--they know how to ACT and that is far more important.

If any filmmaker now were to tackle a project such as The Man Who Would Be King, they would likely try to cast some big name "star" such as Tom Cruise, and ruin the story. Let's hope this film is NOT remade--it would certainly taint what is perhaps one of the few masterpieces of modern day story telling.

The Secret of My Success
(1987)

An entertaining comedy
This film, believe it or not, is supposedly based on fables that Steven Spielberg did something similar when he first started in the business. The film is fast paced, and hits the right notes. Overall, the soundtrack keeps it going, and one can only imagine ourselves in that very same position if only we were as persistent and driven as Michael J. Fox.

The Andersonville Trial
(1970)

A compelling drama of the first degree, with riveting performances by excellent actors.
Back in 1998, I submitted the below review of The Andersonville Trial. Over the course of years, I searched for a video copy of the show, and finally paid a high price for it at eBay! Now, however, and finally, reason has triumphed, and this excellent presentation is available on DVD. I urge fans of this production to get DVDs of the show, and preserve its memory in your DVD library. As a top-notch and award winning drama, it is only when patrons support quality television like this that we can hope for even greater committments to such fare on the "boob tube." If we are prepared to support schlock on television and not shows like The Andersonville Trial, we will be left with nothing to preserve for TV generations to come.

This presentation is one of the most compelling dramas ever filmed for television. It was directed by George C. Scott, and includes great performances by such performers as Cameron Mitchell, William Shatner, Jack Cassidy, Albert Salmi and Richard Basehart.

It is the story of one of the few post Civil War trials, of the "commandant" of the POW camps at Andersonville. The conditions of the compound were horrible, and Henry Wirz (Richard Basehart)was charged after the war for terrible treatment of the prisoners.

Every performance in the presentation is excellent--it is great to see so many fine performers work together.

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