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Flipping Ships
(2015)

A Southern fried marine version of Counting Cars
OK, my lovely wife and I caught a couple of episodes of Animal Planet's Flipping Ships the other night. The premise is very similar to the History Channel's Counting Cars. Flipping Ships is the tales of a Greenville SC area shop that restores old boats. They find a old boat and fix it up with various adventures along the way. As a native son of the Great State of South Carolina, I was very familiar with many of the locations involved. The characters are likable even if at times overplayed. All in all it's a decent show. My main gripe is the show is way too long at an hour. they spend a lot of time standing back and looking at their progress. While I do that in some of my projects, it doesn't add much viewer value. Either two projects in an hour show or just a half hour show might be a much better way to go. If you enjoy the beauty and quirkiness of South Carolina and Counting Cars, then this show is a good bet.

Railroad Alaska
(2013)

Stories not as compelling but scenery better than Thomas the Tank Engine
OK full disclosure here. I like trains, earlier this week I was shopping for a caboose for the back yard. I'm afraid the house management is going to object and we haven't even gotten to the HOA despite my plan to letter it for our subdivision.

Anyway on to the show. If it's running on rails it's got my attention so this show caught my attention the first time I caught it channel surfing.

This one those myriad reality shows that shows mundane jobs and hypes everything to the point that you would think that life on this planet would cease as we know it if they somehow failed to complete the task that they do five days a week.

The Alaska Railroad is a 500 mile line that serves the interior of Alaska, starting in Seward Alaska. It's owned by the State of Alaska and has no land connections to any other railroads. The railroad is unique in that it has both freight and passenger operations.

A typical episode breaks down in several smaller stories with the railroad either as a back drop or as the subject itself. Off griders comprise a lot of the stories. Off griders are people that live off the grid roughing it the Alaskan wilderness usually after a trip to Alaska and giving up everything to move there. (No thanks, I'll take a beach, anywhere without icebergs) With the off griders usually some critical item has to come by train. A recent episode had off griders working to put a roof on a house before a snowstorm. Another story was about another group of off griders moving a house about the size of decent tree house out of the path of rising river. All of these depended on the railroad to get them supplies in the most dramatic manner imaginable. I think Thomas does it better but the Island of Sodor cant beat Alaska for scenery.

Meanwhile on the railroad, crews were dealing with their own troubles. One crew was pulling a train with supplies vital to a mining operation and was concerned with getting through a tunnel. (tape measures anyone?) and having enough horsepower in their cheeky little locomotives to get over the highest park of the railroad. (There are formulas for this, and that's why they sometimes double head the engines on Thomas the Tank Engine.) One of the more interesting jobs and dramatic is snow clearing. The railroad employs a number of tactics to deal with this. In the last episode they were using a military surplus cannon(I got to get me one of those, although the HOA is not going to like it.) to trigger controlled avalanches.

If after years of mind numbing reality TV you hear a narrator when you're going to grocery store or plunging a toilet, then this will keep you staring blankly at your television screen for an hour. If trains are your thing, then you'll enjoy the photography, it very well done. If you suspend reality to some degree you may even enjoy the operations. This might be better with less stories offered and done in a half hour as opposed the one hour format it's in now.

The Curse of Oak Island
(2014)

When it's all said and done a lot more gets said than done.
OK I have to be honest, I both love and hate this show at the same time. Like the Lagina brothers, the stars of the show, I read about the Money Pit as a child and have been fascinated by it for years. I'm going to agree with a lot of other posters and say that this would be better suited to a documentary but hey, it's the age of reality TV and this is how the mystery is going to be served to us.

Despite the problems I have with this show, like the slow progress of the show I'll probably keep tuning in just in case they actually find something. I find the constant shifting of theories; wait a minute, theories isn't the correct word here, maybe wild hunches might be a better way to describe it; annoying especially since most of the tangible evidence contradicts itself and could be random.

One of the most repeated legends they offer up is that 7 must die before the secret of Oak Island is revealed. But the origins of the curse are never explained, unlike the other possible origins that are explained so many times during a single episode that I find myself waking in the middle of the night with them playing in my mind. I'm often left to wonder if this isn't something a producer dreamed up. Its' not something I recall reading in any of the earlier articles.

Another explanation that is not covered is that the whole thing is a naturally occurring sinkhole, oh and one more, Ancient Aliens, which is surprising since this is the History Channel after all. Maybe they could do a crossover episode. I'm sure that crew could get to the bottom of this.

The most dubious piece of evidence is the stone found near the bottom of pit with the inscription that say who knows what, but has somehow been translated to ready something to the effect, 2000 lbs buried below. The stone has somehow been lost to history, possibly on purpose and thus not available for modern analysis. So we are left to wonder how or if this is any a part of the mystery.

It's a plodding show at best with lots of talk and not a lot of action, great for say a man cave during a brake job since you're not likely to miss anything should you have to get up for a drink or crawl under the car.

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team
(2006)

Hard to digest if not for the eye candy.
Hey Guys, remember all of the hot chicks in high school and college that wouldn't give you a second look? You know, the ones with the perfect hair and bodies who always wanted to be just friends. If they ever did call, you could bet that the upcoming date would involve heavy lifting and a pickup truck. Then they would give you a cute little wave as they strolled away arm in arm with the jerk they called their boyfriend who arrived seconds after the last piece of furniture was put in place. If this all sounds remotely familiar, maybe this show will lift you up out of the pits of depression and humiliation. You can see girls just like them get their just rewards and you don't even have to get out your credit card.

The idea is pretty simple, girls from all over come to Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader tryouts put on skimpy outfits and then try to shake, jiggle, shimmy and gyrate their way onto the team. Along the way, the girls get sent home in shame after weeks of grueling work,(seeing the connection yet?)usually for problems that should have obvious from the initial tryouts to the Pom Pom Miss Kitty of the show Kelli Finglass.

One problem that seems to come up is that these darling little petite girls don't look right in the uniform. After seeing this over and over, we get it. That's why the Rockettes have a minimum height. Is there not a tape measure in the entire Dallas Cowboy franchise? Do DCC workouts reduce female height? Honestly, if this a problem in week 5 it was a problem in week 1.

Other body problems see to come up from time to time but why they don't get spotted earlier is a real mystery. I don't ever recall seeing any of the girls wearing burqas during tryouts.

If the coaches were paying attention from the start, the only reason to send someone home would be for not being able to learn the routines or prematurely posing for Playboy. But alas one beauty usually has her dreams shattered every episode. Several are called into Miss Kitty's office, most are told to practice the routine or somehow reshape their body by the next practice. I sometimes wonder if there isn't an ambulance waiting at the gate to whisk them off to cheerleader career saving emergency plastic surgery.

The last one usually is the one cut. The cut process would only be more degrading if the girl being cut was forced to strip naked from the practice uniform and then have their perfect hair and make up ruined by being doused with water by the other girls. (Well there is always next season, producers are you listening?)

Duel
(1971)

An excellent high octane adventure
I understand that this was a TV movie and then had scenes added for a theatrical release in Europe. Since it was 43 years between viewings I remember a few things differently. If I remember correctly, when Mann sees the pest control car, he asks himself if it a police car and then get more excited until he realizes that it isn't. This is a very brief scene on the version El Rey is showing which makes me think that this may a change made in the European version or maybe I'm not remembering the scene on the TV movie correctly.

At the time this movie aired, the star Dennis Weaver was on TV as McCloud. This was one of my daddy's and my favorite shows. While I was expecting a different type of performance from Mr.

Weaver than McCloud, the one he gave in Duel was riveting. The screenwriter of Duel, Richard Matheson and I have a history dating back to 1963. I was 3 years old and enjoying a night of television with some older kids while the grown ups were playing bridge in the next room. We were watching the Twilight Zone episode Terror at 20,000 Feet that was penned by Mr. Matheson.

When William Shatner pulled up the shade and saw the monster, I went into hysterics and the bridge game had to be halted. This led to a 15 year phobia about opening curtains at night that was only cured when I watched the episode again with a cheerleader I was dating after a football game where I had two fumble recoveries as a defensive nose guard.

Anyway, in seeing the film as an adult it's easy to see the genius of it. It's beautifully shot and with road rage all the rage that it is now, the film has remained timeless if not prophetic. I'd group it in that inner sanctum of gritty high octane road movies that you just can't enough of. It holds its own with monoliths like Mad Max, The Road Warrior, The Blues Brothers, and The Sugarland Express. And speaking of Sugarland Express which Spielberg directed about 3 years later, has anyone else noted the final credit scene is almost the same? In doing some research, I have found that one of the trucks used in the added scenes for the European release is owned by a private collector about 40 miles away. I'm hoping to get a chance to see sometime.

A must see even with commercials which come to think of it, is the only way I've every seen it.

Avatar
(2009)

Pack a lunch, it's about an hour too long.
Unless endless CGI vistas are your thing, you've seen this movie before and you've seen it done better. I couldn't wait for it to end and really didn't care who won out in the end.

Basically, an evil corporation arrives to mine a moon or planet or whatever it was. The native populations simple but utopian existence is threatened. One of the miners falls in love with one of the natives and fight his employer to save the natives.

It's well shot but it took way too long to tell what is a very basic story. If it's ever released again in theater maybe they could sell adult diapers along the popcorn and drinks.

Dog and Beth: On the Hunt
(2013)

It's as if someone crossed a bad Mad Max parodoy with Kitchen Nightmares minus the Drama
I caught a couple episodes of this the other night. It's similar to the old Dog the Bounty Hunter but with a twist. They're now helping bondsmen improve their business. The two episodes involved family owned agencies. Nothing strengthens family bonds like the family bonding business, I guess.

If you never saw the original, and I admit I didn't watch every episode, this bunch dresses up like they're going to some kind of leather costume party and then all pack up into suvs and roll out to catch for the most part, petty criminals. It appears that any exposed skin must be tattooed. Sometimes there is a redemption when the target is cuffed and stuffed in the backseat of one of the suvs with Dog or Beth providing counseling. OK so most of those elements or the old show haven't changed.

While the focus is still hunting down fugitives, there is also brief glimpses into the day to day paperwork of the bail business. Anyway I couldn't stop thinking that at some point Chef Ramsey would pop up. May be they could do a Kitchen Nightmares crossover episode.

Planes: Fire & Rescue
(2014)

An excellent adaptation of a Tennesee Williams Play
OK maybe not, but Planes Fire and Rescue is a good kid's film that parents should be able to enjoy as well. The animation is gorgeous, much better that the original and the fire scenes are really well done. The plot is better than the original Planes but there aren't too many surprises. Dusty is forced to face his mortality and the end of his racing career when he learns that his gear box is failing and he can no longer get maximum power out of his engine. The Doctor at Propwash says that the gear box is out of production and finding a replacement is unlikely. Dusty, in a fit of depression, takes a late night flight and upon landing starts a fire at the airport which all of the Propwash characters must work together and struggle to put out. Once the fire is out, the investigation begins. The airport at Propwash Junction is closed by authorities when they determine that Mayday, the airport's long time fire truck is inadequate to deal with emergencies. This is especially bad news since the annual Corn festival is close at hand. (Geek Note: while most of the characters in this series are based on real aircraft and vehicles, I've had trouble identifying what kind of truck Mayday is. This is particularly embarrassing since I'm a past chapter president of the Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of Motor Antique Fire Apparatus in American, SPAAMFAA, and yes it is a real organization. My guess is that he is likely British, possibly based on a Bedford chassis used for airfield crash trucks by the RAF during WWII) To reopen the airport, Mayday must be upgraded and a second firefighting unit put in service. Since Dusty is no longer able to race and really doesn't want to go back to cropdusting. (The job offer he gets is pretty funny) Dusty decides to become the second fire fighting unit at the airport. His mentor Skipper has a friend named Blade Ranger who commands an aerial firefighting unit at Piston Peak national park. Dusty takes off to receive his training and certification. At the airbase, Dusty is given some female attention from Lil Dipper and the star treatment from everyone except Blade Ranger. We meet several other characters including Wind Lifter. Wind Lifter, a former lumberjack turned firefighter provides a Native American perspective and serves as a spirit guide to Piston Peak National Park. His stories are both poignant and hilarious. He's like a rotary wing Tonto, although Tonto was a Planes Indian, sorry Plains Indian. It's revealed that Blade Ranger also has a storied past as a TV star. Dusty is fitted with a pair of pontoons for scooping water. While in the hanger he sees a bulletin board with spectacular pictures of firefighting aircraft and wants to know how he can get his picture on the board. He's told that "You have crash". One night the firefighters gather in a hanger to watch some of Blade Rangers old show called CHoPs, California Helicopter Patrol. It's an excellent parody of the 1980's CHiPs based on the exploits of two California Highway Patrolmen played by Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada. In CHoPs Blade is teamed with his partner Nick "Loop'n" Lopez to fight crime around Los Angeles, they even use the same radio call signs as they did in CHiPs . Lopez is played by none other than Erik Estrada himself, who seems to have made a career of playing himself in parodies of CHiPs. We learn from one the characters that Lopez was lost in an accident on set and that Blade was there but did not know what to do to save him. The show ended and Blade became a firefighter to compensate. It's told as a story so it's not very intense, little kids should be OK. (Geek note: This is very similar to what happened to the 1973 Ward LaFrance fire engine that was used on the TV show Emergency. This truck had a brief cameo appearance on CHiPs. Once the show had ceased production, the fire engine provided fire protection in Yosemite National Park for about 15 years before coming back to the LA County Fire Museum.) The training and firefighting is pretty much a Top Gun meets Backdraft meets Thomas the Tank Engine kind of thing but for the most part works. Before Dusty takes off for his first mission the mechanic says "Say Cheese" and snaps his picture. Dusty asks what that was for and he's told it's for the board. As I said before the animation is very good at times almost breathtaking. Some of these scenes might be intense for younger kids although I didn't hear any screaming in the theater. I won't reveal the rest of the story but suffice it to say, it's nothing that hasn't been done before although I think it was well done. Now I'm off to Target to if the new diecast toys from this movie are in. I want to get Mayday, Dusty, Lil Dipper .....

The Rat Patrol
(1966)

I'm still working through issues this show gave me.
As a child I couldn't wait for the Rat Patrol to come on each week. I think this was ABC Tuesday night at 8:30pm. It was awesome, a couple jeeps would come across a sand dune in the air and then proceed to destroy a heavily armed German convoy and disappear into the desert unscathed. There was nothing else like it. Sgt Troy obviously took his tactical training at the General Robert E Lee school of small unit tactics. Never has a commander since Lee been able to divide a smaller force in the face of larger force and achieve as much success. The General would be proud. As a kid I had no idea that wasn't how a unit like this would operate. When I got to ROTC in college, I often found myself asking "what would Sgt Troy do in this situation". Sometimes those antics worked not because they were sound tactics but because the opposing force would never think anyone be that stupid to try them. The show was a half hour so serious character development was out. It was a good thing everyone had a different hat so it was easy to see who was who. The Germans were pretty generic, except for Capt Detrich, who was a man of honor but one has to wonder how long he would keep his command and life given all the setbacks the Rat Patrol gave him. My wife finds the whole dynamic rather cartoonish and has given the good captain the honorary radio call sign of "Coyote" in reference to the Roadrunner and Coyote cartoons when he calls his minions to arms against a Rat raid. For me the jeeps were the stars of that show and thus the biggest issue. Enzo Ferrari is reported to have said that the jeep was the only sports car ever made in America. The image of an airborne Willys at the show's opening is permanently etched into my mind. As an adult when I got a chance to look at some of the shows I began to see some problems. Like the person standing in the back of the jeep may not be real or if he is, he has rubber arms. Other times they show a reverse image with the jeep being right hand drive. This summer I became a proud WW II Willys MB jeep owner (still working through those issues) and after some work getting it road worthy (the first test drive was done humming the Rat Patrol theme) I not sure this vehicle is capable of a jump like this in with a sand unless it was getting full traction like on hard dirt or a ramp. Anyway trips in the jeep are referred to as raids, like the "Get the Christmas Tree Raid" or the "Drive down to the Subdivision Pool Raid". These are all done with the windshield down in all but the coldest weather. Anyway I'm digressing. I have a WW II veteran friend who was assigned a Willys with a .50 caliber mounted on it. He used the machine gun on the beach at Normandy during a Luftwaffe attack and said that this was lot of gun for that small of a platform and it's wonder that he didn't cause some friendly fire casualties during the event. Of course this flies in the face of the precise marksmanship Troy and Moffitt were able to achieve. If you want realism,sleep through a documentary on the History Channel, if you want entertainment then look no further.

The Great Escape
(1963)

The Best War Movie Sound Track EVER
I consider the decade of 1960's and a few years on either side, the Golden Age of the epic World War II movies. This era gave us Bridge over the River Kwai, Patton, Tora Tora Tora, The Battle of the Bulge (say what you will). There were some great scores that came from these gems but the sound track of the Great Escape is the one that pops in my mind (and maybe this is just me) when I'm doing something that may be of epic proportions. I think one of the things that makes this era so great is that many of the actors and production people involved were WWII or military vets themselves. Period vehicles and locations were still around in good supply as well. As our greatest generation passes so does the greatest generation of the World War II movie. I ended up watching these movies usually on TV as a kid and if they were on a weeknight I didn't always get to see the end. I remember watching this most likely as a two parter of Saturday Night at the Movies. This was an NBC show that would feature first rate movies within a few years of their theatrical release. This was before the days of home video. It memory serves me correctly the first part came on Saturday night with the second part the following Monday night. On Monday night when they started the movie I was able to record the opening score with a very primitive tape recorder and I've been hooked ever since. This movie has to be seen to be believed. The star power put together for this movie is incredible. I've seen a documentary on this that puts the whole movie in an even more epic light. Steve McQueen's motorcycle chase is in my opinion one of the top five chases ever put to film. McQueen's chase in Bullitt is another one. But back to the sound track, some of the most memorable are of course the opening convoy scene,the McQueen chase (one day he's going to make it, I just know it) James Garner and Donald Pleasance in their airplane escape (very sad at the end) and James Coburn in the rowboat.

The Philadelphia Experiment
(1984)

Where is MSTK 3000 when you need them.
OK this movie was kind of roller coaster for me. During the opening scenes when you could tell that the leads didn't think it was necessary to get period haircuts, I began to have my doubts. Things began to pick up though when the convoy was crossing the big bridge. This is the old Cooper River Bridge (Silas Pearman Bridge) in Charleston SC. I recognized it immediately and when they panned to Patriots Point. (A museum where the Laffey, the ship used for the Eldridge, was docked) I was hooked for a few seconds anyway. This bridge has been torn down and replaced in the last few years. It was during this scene that the continuity errors began to creep in. The vehicles used for the convoy were 1980's vintage military trucks and jeeps, likely borrowed by the SC National Guard. The jeeps were really out of place since the M 151's used in the convoy over the bridge was a Vietnam era jeep that was in production until 1982. The trucks were just as bad. This was compounded when they used the same type vehicles for present day scene in Nevada. Period correct vehicles would have set the scene apart and in 1984, WW II era vehicles in South Carolina would not have been that hard to find. The aircraft carrier used for some of the background is the Yorktown. If you look closely in some of the scenes you can see some of the jet planes that are displayed on the flight deck, clearly out of place in a WW II movie. Another thing out of place is the NS Savannah which was the first nuclear merchant ship built in the 1950's It was on display at the museum at this time and is in some of the scene and it looks very modern docked with the WWII vets. Another scene I found annoying was when they were driving and would do a close up on one of the sailor in the mirror and it was obvious the car wasn't moving. This movie reminded me of the Final Countdown made for television. The Countdowns special effects were much better although they will not serve as benchmark for anything, so that's really not saying much. I could see this as a feature on MSTK 3000.

Ta-weo
(2012)

Backdraft Engine 17 and Ladder 49 respond to the Towering Inferno
OK I'm a sucker for any movie with big red trucks with ladders and sirens so when I saw this on Netflix I thought I would scroll through if only just to look at the Korean fire appliances. I suspected from the description that this was going to be a remake or at least heavily influenced by the Towering Inferno. I wasn't wrong and it also appeared to have some Backdraft and Ladder 49 influences as well. The version I saw was subtitled and I can help but suspect that some of the movie was likely lost in translation. I think this is particularly true in some of the firefighter communications. I thought some of the acting early on at the fire station was over the top, but during the actual action sequences, it was believable even with the language barrier. Another influence that can't be missed is the similarity of this incident and the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Some of the visuals were obviously inspired by the images of that day. The movie was well shot and the special effects were as good or better than the standard Hollywood movies of today. I saw the Towering Inferno in the theater in the early 70's and count it among one of my favorites along with Backdraft from the early 90's. But both of these films were pre 9/11 and it's interesting to see what a sky scraper disaster movie looks like post 9/11.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
(1968)

A Turn of the Century Bond for the Whole Family
I can't remember when I first saw this movie, but I caught it recently on Netflix. As most of you may know, this was an adaptation of an Ian Fleming novel produced by Cubby Broccoli, and with parts filmed at Pinewood Studios in England, if it all sounds a little familiar this the same people that have done the early Bond movies. Desmond Llewelyn (The original and best Q from the Bond films) makes an appearance as 1920's version of his Q character. Like most Broccoli films this is a pure fantasy done for a child's eye. There are lots of musical numbers, my favorite being the "Roses of Success" number. That's one we can all take with us. I don't think anyone has delved very deeply into the character of Chitty herself. A great racer, her racing days are cut short when she is forced to take a fatal dive off the track to avoid striking a child and her dog, thus not only losing the race but relegating herself to scrap heap where she is befriend by two children. When Mr Coggins agrees to sell her to a junk man to be melted down, the children come to her rescue. Once rescued, Chitty is brought back to life by their inventor father. They hit the road with Chitty and she becomes fiercely loyal and displays super powers to get the family and lovely Truly Scrumptious out of danger. I can appreciate this now more than I could as a child. This movie reminds me a lot of the Herbie the Love Bug movies which were coming out about the same time. Chitty is much more visually spectacular than the Herbie movies, and her part is much more low key with no actual interaction with the other characters. If you've ever fixed up an old vehicle or rescue one from going to a scrap yard, you can understand the bond that appears to develop between the owners and the vehicle. Anyway enough of my rambling. It runs a little long in spots, if this were in a theater today,I doubt most kids could sit through with out being medicated but then again maybe not.

Planes
(2013)

An Ariel Ben-Hur
I'm not sure what some of the other reviewers were expecting of this movie. It's a kid's movie and it did not fail to deliver what it promised. The premise is a crop duster wants to race but he's afraid of heights. Oddly enough I can relate to this, in my job I spend several hours a week in a helicopter flying around at 800-1500 feet, whenever we get much higher than that I get a little nervous even though it if there was a problem the extra altitude makes it actually safer. If you haven't guessed, Dusty the crop duster has to overcome his fear to win. OK this isn't the first time we've seen something like this but if you're looking for something truly original try a film festival. This is a kid's movie and I'm glad to say there are no subtitles. As others have said this took scenes from other movies and used them in the story line. The filmmakers are guilty as charged but it's all done in good fun and I was entertained trying to catch all of the references, Star Wars Episode I and IV, Top Gun, every war movie you've ever seen in the Pacific. On that note. Did anyone else catch the Star Wars pod racing reference sounds when Ned and Zed crashed in the canyon? One blooper I caught, Skipper is talking about a battle in 1941 that he was in, the Corsair F4U was not put in service until July of 1942. Anyway, I thought it was a decent movie,I was hoping for some cameos from some of the Cars characters. Sure there wasn't a lot of new ground broken here if any at all and it was predictable but it's hard not to love some of the characters. I'm sure they will be coming to a store near me soon. Leadbottom the Stearman PT 17 is one of my all time favorite airplanes. Does anyone know if Mayday is going to be produced? If not maybe I can catch him in Planes Fire and Rescue.

American Battleship
(2012)

It cleared the bar, but the bar was on the floor.
OK, First the good news, I saw this as a new arrival on Netflix and knew what it was right from the opening credits and since it was Netflix, it didn't cost me anything but the time. Like a lot of Asylum releases (or escapes) this one had all the usual ingredients: Veteran actors that should have known better, similar name to a major release, bad script, if there was one, cheesy effects that make Saturday Night Live's special effects look like a Star Wars film. I've sort of developed a morbid curiosity about films from these people, my stepson and I like to sit around and watch them and laugh. My favorite so far is Titanic II. I was holding the remote with one hand and my nose with the other. I really liked the helicopter seat that looks like they are some kind of cooking pan, but alas I digress. Anyway, you've seen it all before, in Battleship and Battlestar Galactica, aging warship delays retirement to fight one last epic battle. It's completely predictable but hey it was better than a root canal. It's the best of the Asylum films I've seen so far but as those that have survived these, you know that's not saying much.

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