Scarecrow-88

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The Rifleman: The Young Englishman
(1958)
Episode 13, Season 1

The Rifleman - The Young Englishman
Lucas and his boy realize that one of their calves is missing when the mama and newborn accidentally wanders into the herd of a Lord from England being outfitted by a crooked, no-good foreman and his equally repellent crew (including a young James Coburn). The foreman, Waggoner (Ted de Corsia, a total black hat with no shades of grey), damn near gleefully takes the calf into the herd, without weighing the ramifications even as Lucas (righteous but nonetheless imposing Connors) emerges, taking a whip crack to the face and barely flinching from his irritating stance that he took his calf and will soon test to see if he's right. Of course Lucas maybe shouldn't have allowed his son to tag along when returning to Waggoner's herd with mama cow in hand to see where the calf might be, sure enough locating it when the newborn suckles her teat for milk. Waggoner and his goons soon try to corner and execute him when they realize the rustling has been discovered. The Lord's brother, Ashford (Allen Case), sent to monitor the operations and machinations by Waggoner, keeping inventory and accounting, is forced to accept Waggoner's methods because he is practically powerless to stop him considering he is but a moneyman, not a citizen of the US or owner of the cattle. Waggoner knows that and even goes as far as slap Ashmore across the face at one point when confronted over his rustling! In this episode, Coburn, still not yet the Hollywood star he soon would become, plays second to de Corsia, who isn't bothered by conscience or reason, just taking what isn't his boss', not concerned with the fallout...until he meets his reckoning in the form of Lucas McCain. Young Mark (Johnny Crawford) inadvertently becomes involved as does Ashford when they see that Waggoner and his men are opening fire on Lucas. Ashford eventually does have to truly square with Waggoner, giving Lucas enough time through the distraction (although Lucas is distracted by the danger his son faces) to get a fair chance against three guns firing at him. Coburn was always good as the cool heel, not overstepping or going too over the top while de Corsia is just a stone-cold heavy with no redeeming qualities. The use of the mother cow to find the calf by Lucas once again proves how resourceful and clever he is, and the message at the end when Lucas talks to Mark about using the rifle as a weapon only when there is no other choice was important in letting the audience know that despite being successful in the shootout he didn't want things to escalate to that point. And despite Ashford's alliance to Waggoner, it was nice to see Lucas encouraging him to become a part of the cattle-community, not dissuading him from hanging around if he decided to. There was even a brief scene where Lucas gives his son a little educational lesson when visiting Ashford's office, noticing all the British artifacts from England...Mark was wowed by the suit of armor, particularly. The western plots of shows like "The Rifleman" weren't exactly sophisticated or overtly complex because there were just so many of them so casting and certain elements of formula paramount to the audiences watching them at the time being satisfied remained important. This show always got those right.

The Rifleman: The Angry Gun
(1958)
Episode 12, Season 1

The Rifleman - The Angry Gun
While returning home via stagecoach after a successful sale of herd, Lucas and his boy are riding with a cocksure braggart, arrested and handcuffed to a marshal. Soon the crook's gun-toting associates interrupt a brief stop for rest and water, shooting the marshal, freeing him, taking Lucas' cash and loot on the stagecoach. He also takes Lucas' rifle, a big no-no. Lucas sends his son with the coach and injured marshal, pursuing the taken cash and money. Mainly a fun guest vehicle for Vic Morrow, as the confident, grinning, assured heel, quite aware Conners is coming after him, clearly looking for a gunfight. Leo Gordon wishes Morrow would take him seriously while Walcott is dispatched early when left to try and disrupt the determined Conners. The use of an avalanche and a brilliant strategy involving a plank of wood with a hole just big enough for a pistol handle and a little stick for measuring distance allow Lucas to get the better of his quarry. Morrow's teasing and jawing leaves him the perfect candidate to get a good comeuppance. Clearly Conners didn't want this to resort to violence and such but they went too far. Always good use of hot desert environs to emphasize the conditions of the old west and how treacherous territory can be a nuisance to both straight and crooked folks on both sides of the moral fence.

D.A.R.Y.L.
(1985)

D.A.R.Y.L.
Wonderful sci-fi family film, one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. I'm shocked I've never seen this considering I'm an 80s kid! I watched this with my son, who loved it as well. It really has three chapters. The first is a kid with AI, part human/part robot, named D.A.R.Y.L. (Data Analyzing Robot Youth Lifeform), found in the woods after a scientist partially responsible for his "birth" (later explained to have been "developed in a test tube in a lab") leaves him before military's "dark forces" drive him off a cliff. He has no recollection of who he is and yet retains the ability to talk, receive information, store his experiences as if recording data in a computer (which is his brain), and through everything he learns (and does so immediately) evolves. He is relocated to a foster family (construction supervisor, Michael McKean, and, piano instructor, Mary Beth Hurt), adapting to his surroundings and feeling actual emotions, including love for his new family and best buddy, Turtle (Danny Corkill). Before long, though, those who "made" him eventually find him. Claiming to be his parents, scientists Dr. Stewart (Josef Sommer) and Dr. Lamb (Kathryn Walker) are actually among the staff that created Daryl, retrieve him from disappointed McKean and Hurt (as the Richardsons). The second chapter is Daryl in the Pentagon as Stewart and Lamb remain astonished at the abilities to function within a human environment and actually acclimate so well. But General Graycliffe (Ron Frazier) tells Stewart that the military/government aren't interested in a boy robot who can function impressively with a family, opting for Daryl's destruction, favoring a killing machine who is an adult. So Stewart and Lamb collaborate to set him free so that someone valuable as Daryl (not considered just some machine to be obliterated because a general feels he isn't important anymore) can have an actual life, seeing him as more than just a device to be done away with. And the third chapter has Stewart and Lamb tricking the general, with Stewart narrowly escaping with Daryl before Graycliffe can stop him. So Graycliffe, a bevy of police, all point bulletin, and the military seek to catch Stewart and Daryl, or kill them if necessary, as they hope to eventually get away.

While I had a hard time believing Graycliffe would want to just dispose of Daryl, who proves to be incredible and elusive, it does give us a great adventure, with a thrilling car chase that spills into an interstate full of high speed pursuits and crashes. And this is a rare chance to see Sommer as a hero, risking (and ultimately and tragically giving) his life to keep Daryl safe...so often Sommer is the one who would be at the forefront in disposing of Daryl but he actually sacrifices his career and all to keep him out of harm's way until he can no longer protect him. Daryl taking a stealth plane and fooling the military at the end might seem quite far-fetched, I personally nonetheless found it to be a ton of fun! The early scenes with McKean (given a rare dramatic part that has very little need for his particular brand of comedy chops) and Hurt (who feels like Daryl is the parent, instead of her, until Turtle convinces Daryl that he shouldn't be altogether perfect and make mistakes on occasion) play a more conventional family drama with the big baseball game (Daryl hits some homeruns until he listens to Turtle and purposely strikes out), a key videogame excursion in Turtle's sister's room (Amy Linker) where Daryl proves to be quite adept at car racing that later comes in handy when he drives as Sommer tenses up in the passenger seat, piano training, and Daryl's bonding with his surrogate family and friends. There is a visit allowed for the Richardsons and Turtle to visit Daryl at the Pentagon, as we later learn from Dr. Stewart and Lamb that their doctor colleague had damaged a memory portion of Daryl's microcomputer brain so he wouldn't know he was part AI. Once again, the military are portrayed as sinister and downright cold-blooded.

The performances of the main cast-including Barret Oliver of "The Neverending Story"-are solid and the happy ending means more because of Sommer's sacrifice (never thought I would be teary-eyed as he was fading into oblivion). It is hard to believe this same Sommer who is out to kill young Haas in the same year in "Witness".

Ghostbusters II
(1989)

Ghostbusters II
God, it is hard to believe that Ghostbusters II is 30 years old! I decided to watch a slate of Murray films, including Meatballs and Stripes, and it had been a few years so GB and its sequel were also on the docket. The sequel was simply never going to surpass the original: that was just a hard hill to climb. It has plenty of entertaining moments, though, including the courtroom "electric chair ghosts" raising havoc when "set free" by some ooze found under the city of NY through the outburst of disgruntled judge, Harris Yulin, whose rage provides the Ghostbusters with evidence of how the slime responds to anger and hate, the underground slime tests which include how "happy music" and positive comments get it to "happy dance" inside a toaster among other things, the special effects which include the ghosts returning in the Titanic, a marathoner testing his pulse, the ghost train that nearly gives Hudson a coronary, the Statue of Liberty walking through the streets with help from the slime to confront the villainous demonic spirit, Vigo, Vigo's portrait "coming to life" and emitting "bad vibes" and supernatural tendencies while possessing MacNichol's devotee at the museum, Weaver's baby terror which included MacNichol's possessed "spirit" actually carrying him off in a "phantom carriage" from a balcony of an apartment complex, and MacNichol's "lit eyes" when trying to negotiate his way into Weaver's apartment. Weaver and Murray's chemistry is once again off-the-charts and she spends most of her time trying not to laugh when he goes about his ad-libbing and improv zingers and remarks. Murray and the baby have their cute moments, with Hudson given more to do in the sequel, dragged into Aykroyd and Ramis' pursuit of understanding more and more about the pink slime. The pink slime monster reaching out for Weaver and the baby is quite freaky! Weaver added to her status as a pop culture icon with the GB and Alien franchises. It is clear Murray often just goes off-script and that is what always made him such a popular comedic actor. Much like the first film, NYC is as much a character as the beloved cast. The opening of the film, which shows Murray as a host of a low-rent psychic show with kooks, Hudson and Aykroyd as "GB celebs" accepting gigs like a kid's birthday party, Moranis as a out-of-his-depth lawyer (he took night classes), Potts returning in much brighter colors (and trading Egon for Louis) to babysit while also the secretary again, sets up the sequel hilariously. Even Slimer returns, as it should have, feeding its face and even driving a bus! Just not as iconic as the original, but not a waste of time. Too bad Ramis died before the cast could return for a third film, and unfortunate that Ramis and Murray quit speaking to each other for twenty years. I can remember reading over and over that there were attempts to make that elusive second sequel...sadly, it would never be. Margulies, returning as the Mayor, has the hilarious line, "Being miserable and treating other people like dirt is every New Yorker's god-given right." It will take the city coming together, in unison ringing out a song of positivity to counteract Vigo's evil before he brings about a "new world", in order for the supernatural terror to be quelled...ironic, as it may seem.

Ghostbusters
(1984)

Ghostbusters
There are plenty great comedies of the 80s but within the Mount Rushmore, "Ghostbusters" is perhaps George Washington or Lincoln. Well at least to this 80s kid who remembers the film (and, yes, its cartoon), it is one of the greats. The song is iconic, ghosts turned loose on NYC when damned Atherton and that punchable face insist the Ghostbuster team shut off their "ghost concealment machine" at their headquarters (refurbished firestation that perhaps, as Egon says, should have been condemned) because he considered their whole operation a farce (despite evidence that proves otherwise), the entire classic pursuit of Slimer in the fancy hotel which leaves the building a mess due to their protopacks missing the green, floating ugly with mouth and teeth gobbling food from trays inside the building's floors), the library ghoul that sends Egon, Venkman, and Ray running for their lives, poor Alice Drummond in the library scared half to death, Moranis who steals every scene he's in as the well-meaning but feckless neighbor in Weaver's apartment complex pursued by one of the demon hounds (The KeyMaster) who can't get any help from a restaurant full of uninterested patrons, Weaver possessed by another of the demon hounds (The Gatekeeper) who becomes a client of the Ghostbusters when her eggs crack and cook on her counter and pursued romantically by Murray, Hudson's Winston telling Ray that when a Sumerian demon asks if he is a god he says YES (seriously, Hudson never gets his due but he's so funny as the straight man to his goofy scientists, reacting as we might to their pseudo-paranormal babble), Murray's Venkman "testing" Steven Tash and the lovely Jennifer Runyon for "psychic abilities" (using his "jolt device" for kicks on Tash, while also looking to date Runyon), Aykroyd and Ramis' straight-faced "paranormal speak" often poked fun at by Murray with Hudson humoring them even as he clearly wonders what the hell they are talking about, Murray's dedicated quest to woo Weaver and her clear inability to totally avoid his charms, Moranis constantly locked out of his apartment, the Mayor (David Margulies; I just love this guy) having to respond to the inexplicable ramifications of Atherton's ordered release of all the paranormal activity trapped by the Ghostbuster team on his city, Annie Potts (another perfect casting choice) as the nasally, quirky secretary at the GB headquarters who proclaims the immortal line, "We got one!!!" while flirting with Egon ("I collect spores, molds, and fungus"), and all the neat special effects (one of my favorites is the rotted cabbie!) make up just some of the highlights. This cast is such an epic ensemble. "Back off, man. I'm a scientist".

Meatballs III: Summer Job
(1986)

Meatballs III: Summer Job
Dempsy portrays Makepeace's character from the first film while Kellerman is a dead pornstar given a chance by her maker to star in a big production in Heaven if she can get Dempsey laid. Dempsey, meanwhile, has problems with his biker marina employer, jock locals constantly bullying him, trying to brush aside his reservations towards sex even as Kellerman's angel tries everything she can to help, a local teen who is romantically interested in him without his returning the favor, and a Hells Angels type of local gang his boss belongs to. Kellerman's supernatural abilities (levitating items and hurling folks around) are effects to appeal to fans of the sex comedy while clueless Dempsey is a far cry from McDreamy of Grey's Anatomy, although he wasn't long until "Can't Buy Me Love" where his role in that film is similar to "Meatballs III". Softcore icon, Shannon Tweed, has a minor part as Dempsey's employer's supposed wife, but this turns out not to be as perceived. The running joke throughout the film is that anyone who tries to bed Tweed is tossed out of the brute's house, often right through a wall or roof. The absence of a camp in favor of a marina left much to be desired to me. I think the comedy is hit or miss, mostly miss for me, although I loved Kellerman...still quite sexy in the film, much more than many of the other ladies treated as such.

The Addams Family: Morticia and the Psychiatrist
(1964)
Episode 2, Season 1

The Addams Family - Morticia and the Psychiatrist
Gomez, Morticia, and Fester are mortified when they discover that Pugsley is wearing a boy scout's uniform, is out playing baseball, and has taken to a pet dog! Yes, he has abandoned feeding his pet octopus, blowing up trains/sets with his father, playing down in the torture chamber of horrors (Fester takes Gomez to task for spoiling Pugsley too soon with a battle axe!), and avoiding his daily trips to the mineshaft! What else can they do when one of Pugsley's favorite bedtime stories, Poe's The Raven (!), read to him by Morticia in the hopes that she "gets her son back" but look in the phone book pages for a psychologist?! This is very much classic formula "Addams Family" with the psychiatrist, Dr. Harold Black (George Petrie) believing one thing while the Addams are oblivious to his naiveté regarding their lifestyle and different understanding to what is "normal" than him. Black advises them to "encourage" Pugsley's newfound interests in the hopes that it eventually leads him back to the way he was prior to this "change". Eventually Black arrives at the mansion at Morticia's urging, hoping firsthand that face-to-face conversation can help motivate Pugsley towards returning to his normal self...wearing a werewolf mask and barking at the moon. Black believing that the typical macabre Addams mansion décor and how the family dresses everyday is part of the therapy to urge Pugsley's change in interest is essential to the episode's main punchline...what is normal for the Addams' Family is quite the opposite for someone like Black, who actually believes that a giant stuffed bear near the stairs, a giant moose with antlers on the wall, or even the two-headed turtle and statues of villainy throughout the manor are temporary shock devices hoping to help their son not what they actually are: intentioned items meant as interior design for the house on purpose. Morticia unable to barely stomach that her son wants to "play catch" or coddle with a poodle as Gomez helplessly dotters about looking for a solution that seems elusive is part of the enjoyment...it is the direct reverse reaction of how any other family would respond, which is why this series worked so well. I can't say I necessarily ever laughed out loud but the dialogue and absurdity of what the Addams consider troubling in Pugsley's change in behavior, especially Morticia, who I just love to pieces, pleased that dark sense of humor I have. Other memorable scenes involve Lurch lifting up Pugsley to bring him inside, Black getting back story from Pugsley regarding his unique childhood which includes a bomb that seems to go off as evidence of the peculiar upbringing, Morticia feeding her monster plant (Cleopatra!), and a look into the dungeon with torture chamber devices and tools.

The Addams Family: The Addams Family Goes to School
(1964)
Episode 1, Season 1

The Addams Family Goes to School
Fun Pilot introduces the bizarre family of the title as a representative of the local school, Mr. Hilliard, a truant officer, arrives to question why Gomez and Morticia's two children, Wednesday and Pugsley, aren't going. Gomez, not ready to let the kids go, all involved in his exploding train set, and Morticia, tending to her moonlight-deprived hemlock (while trimming her flowers in the greenhouse, one of which can reach and grab you around the neck!), debate sending the kids to school, soon needing to discuss the hideous use of violence towards the witch in Hansel and Gretel (!) and the dragon's death thanks to the knight in shining armor with Hilliard. The beauty of this series is how cheerful and giddy Gomez and Morticia are about what many consider terrifying and sinister. And the decadent mansion and estate, with its swordfish with a leg sticking out of its mouth on the wall, a bear rug that roars, statues of devils, ghouls, and armored villainy, is as much a character as the grim-voiced, towering Lurch, bald-headed, raccoon-eyed Fester, omniscient hand Thing, and frizzle-haired, witchy Grandmama. Wednesday gives the nervy Hilliard a tour of the mansion (as well as the viewer), as he tries to avoid a dart-throwing Fester and Grandmama, fear of Lurch's elongated arms possibly carrying him to his doom if he says the wrong thing, and near suffocation at the grabby wine of Morticia's plant in her peculiar greenhouse. Allyn Joslyn, as the increasingly terrified Hilliard, finds himself seemingly unable to get away from this family, assuring them that he would try to keep Grimm's Fairytales from ruining the children of the school! Lurch's paddling away at the harpsichord as Morticia moves her demure and sexy figure to a tune while Gomez soon flicks the top of his head in order to get the right melody to take to his own type of romantic dance soon cradling his wife is a highlight as is Fester lighting a light bulb by merely sticking it in his mouth and moving his eyebrows. Thing snatching the mail from an astonished postal worker, soon showing up throughout the house either from its box or a flower pot proves to be quite a character as well, even nabbing Hilliard who attempts to escape his chair. Gomez' crazy eyes, Morticia's pitter-patter feet in that long black dress that hugs her petite body, Fester and his crackling vocals, Grandmama's nutty disposition, Wednesday's sweet face and voice despite certainly remaining very much an Addams, and Pugley who looks nothing like either Gomez or Morticia but nonetheless fit for the last name, Addams, all make up quite a rogue's gallery perfectly fit for a Gothic Horror Comedy. The little asides often shared by the Addams, quite normal to them while others might be mortified-such as how Gomez and Morticia discuss the use of voodoo to immobilize someone they consider troublesome-are part of the black as pitch humor, the macabre existing within a world that would otherwise react often in puzzlement or naiveté. The clashing of the macabre and the family wearing it like comfortable clothes and the outside world that is nothing like them (and yet encounters them throughout the series) is the ongoing recipe of success this series relishes. The cast, snapping their fingers to the memorable, iconic theme, are an absolute treat. The laugh track is my main gripe...it can't manipulate me into laughing out loud to Hilliard tripping over concrete moss.

Highway Patrol: Fake Cop
(1957)
Episode 34, Season 2

Highway Patrol - Fake Cop
A con artist robbery team commits clever ruse operations where one of their group poses as a Highway Patrolman in order to trick those being held up, such as a bank manager, grocery clerk, and service station attendant. Ed Beale (Barry O'Hara), the disguised Highway Patrolman, and stickup man, George (Billy Nelson), essentially take orders from raven-haired Lorna (Cynthia Leighton), coordinating jobs where she cases joints posing as customers. Lorna encourages those robbed to hesitate slightly while her husband gets some distance, soon retrieving Ed to help the victims-or so they believe-before all three eventually get away with the loot from each robbed location. As each victim realizes that their comfort in Ed, the cop, is a charade, the cases start to accumulate, with Chief Matthews (Crawford) and his team of Highway Patrolmen hoping to orchestrate a trap to eventually nab the trio. The key to the demise of the ruse is the area for which the trio operates, failing to work outside a designated triangulation, allowing Matthews and his team to strategize a plan to eventually halt travel routes back to where they live. The best scene, to me, is the grocery store where the clerk actually undermines the much older George, scuffling successfully with him until he gets the gun away, with a worried Lorna going outside to grab Ed in order to fake arrest her husband and covertly grab the bag of cash! Matthews pinning them down after the third hold up of the episode gets a little too cute (George gets away in his car while Ed and Lorna follow after him) proves that no matter how clever the heists might be, eventually going to the well one too many times can get you caught. Still I found Lorna being the mastermind and strategist of the heists a nicely intriguing twist considering the time of when the series aired on television. I thought this was a lot of fun and gave Matthews a great challenge. Matthews pulling off the sticker from the door and wadding it up after the trio gave him a lot of headache mimicking highway patrols was a fine addendum to the story.

Highway Patrol: The Sniper
(1957)
Episode 7, Season 3

Highway Patrol - The Sniper
Damn good episode of "Highway Patrol" has a cunning sociopath committing strategic sniper shootings (just vandalism for a stretch, shooting into cars as they drive by, positioning himself in the bushes so he would not be seen), eventually taking out a morally upright local farmer with a headshot-this sequence is startlingly cold-blooded and onscreen, absent blood and brain matter, of course-starting an investigation by Crawford and his Highway Patrol. The investigative trajectory of where the sniper shoots other cars as opposed to the murder victim, a shoe impression linked to a specific work boot found at a goods-and-feed store, and shell casings from a particular rifle (this weapon left at the little farmhouse of a recently-released felon, to set him up) all factor into the case. The exciting finale is built up by a revelation behind why the victim was killed and an ex-con was set up..it includes a failed attempted marriage and potential inheritance. The planted gun, and a later retrieved rifle hidden for use when needed or so it wouldn't be found, not to mention the killer's car and boot purchase eventually implicating him, leads to Crawford and his patrol officer accompanying him having to set a trap to lure him into an open stance. This plot moves quite fast and is over before you know it...a lot is crammed into this one!

"Oh, do me a favor? Don't miss."

Dragnet 1967: S.I.U.: The Ring
(1969)
Episode 3, Season 4

Dragnet - S.I.U. The Ring
"In my job, I meet a lot of losers. I carry a badge." Not exactly one of my personal favorite Dragnet 1969 episodes, but there is still a lot of attention to detail, especially when it concerns the history of the races in California. The episode focuses on Friday and Gannon assisting the Special Investigative Unit, receiving information from informant, "Black Ten" (Lawrence Levin), a sketchy undercover type who gives police details with financial exchange upon delivery. A jade ring, diamonds, and a fancy dog collar were stolen from a wealthy widow's home, and it seems that the victim's dog kennel had someone inside using her address (and knowing she was going out of town to San Francisco), with knowledge of where folks hide their expensive jewelry, to burglarize her. Black Ten gives Friday and Gannon information on Al Baylor (Anthony Eisley), even drawing them a sketch of the jade ring, describing it, not asking for anything in return, cluing in the detectives that he has a special interest in this crook being arrested. A swinger's club, a hostess in cahoots with Baylor (a bartender there), and a pretty, fresh-out-of-the-academy undercover recruit looking to get experience in the field (Stephanie Shayne) all factor in to the results of the investigation. Gannon uncomfortable with Friday asking him if Shayne's cop fits the bill of the three things he needs for the role of "date" to the club-pretty, young, and looking nice out of uniform-is amusing. A piranha fish tank even finds its way into the uncovering of taken jewelry...Al boasts that if Friday and Gannon had searched it by hand, the fish would have torn it apart to the bone. Louise Lorimer, as the victim, gets a lesson in how thieves operate, feeling like no matter what she tried to do to hide her precious items, it almost impossible to keep them safe unless she takes precautions such as a safe and a safeguard on her glass door.

Dragnet 1967: Burglary: Mister
(1969)
Episode 5, Season 4

Dragnet - Burglary - Mister
Mister Daniel Lumis is perhaps the most detestable outside of Ponzi Schemists, and serial killers. He's a real piece of work and never have I wanted Joe Friday and Bill Gannon to find more than Mister Daniel Lumis (his demand to be called Mister before his name and Friday telling him he should get used to a prison number is very satisfying). Lumis completely cleaned out the house of a second wife's blind grandmother (!!!) to sell and pawn to fund his desire for luxuries (he even tells Friday and Gannon specifically luxuries, *not* for necessities), left with his mother's funeral funds (!!!), fled from his first wife after learning she was pregnant (!!!), and stole from a bowling alley manager who bailed him out of jail! This guy is not only an immoral jerk but he uses his intellect and smooth talking to con folks and use them because he considers himself superior and deserved of the items he illegally confiscates! Friday and Gannon interview each victim, and as the case builds, I can't imagine few viewers won't want to see them catch this dirtbag, interrogate him, and make sure he does hard time for his despicable actions. Judson as Lumis isn't in the episode until the end but the way he flippantly expects to finish a bowling game while Friday and Gannon show up to clearly arrest him tells you all you need to know about this pondscum. Judson's explanation of everything, and the way he conducts himself, when Friday tells him he's about to go to jail I think most will feel it couldn't have happened to a more rightfully deserved candidate. My favorite scene in the episode (besides how the blind grandmother describes him as the devil you would find under a rock) has the bowling manager (Jack Sheldon, whose delivery of his lines and the lines themselves just cracked me up) describing Lumis and some other guy who abused his trusting nature, descriptively painting a picture of these folks with colorful details. The dialogue scene when Friday and Gannon visit a current victim and her mother, it is just heartbreaking and tragic...particularly because the mother questions why he would have been interested in her plain, ordinary, not exactly beautiful daughter! To say Lumis gets what is coming to him is an understatement!

Dragnet 1967: Homicide: DR-22
(1969)
Episode 14, Season 3

Dragnet - Homicide 1969
Burt Mustin is a real treat as a hotel manager, Calvin Lampe, who offers (more like "imposes") detective tips and reasoning to Sgt Joe Friday and his partner, Bill Gannon, as they investigate the murder of a tenant, hog-tied, gagged, with ceramic pieces all over her face to indicate the fatal blow to the head was from a vase of some sort. This whole episode, titled "Homicide", is particularly amusing as you see the frustrations and annoyances on the face of Friday and Gannon as Lampe points at pieces of evidence, imparting his wisdom, seemingly from detective books (!!!), revealing an incredibly sharp mind for a 91-retiree. A hand print of Lampe's and a missing page to a letter meant for the victim's parents seem to indicate the manager might be the most likely suspect, but soon details emerge regarding other prints found at the scene of the crime, perfume opened, a jewelry box that was black being stolen, a glass of water found, and eyewitness possibilities that might prove to have three others more suitable for the crime. Mustin's cocksure dissection of the crime scene and his own account of the victim are something that must be seen to be truly appreciated. Friday and Gannon obviously bothered by Lampe's questions about their investigation and full survey of everything, giving his advice and advising without request is hilarious. This episode is a lot of fun if you enjoy the way this show works. I know Mustin from The Twilight Zone. The reaction of the forensics specialist, particularly when fingerprinting, to Lampe who continues to advise him on the process is probably my favorite scene. But Webb always cracks me up with somebody he encounters during a case irritates his Joe Friday.

Sharp Objects: Ripe
(2018)
Episode 4, Season 1

Sharp Objects - Ripe
Always good for picking up my spirits, "Sharp Objects" gave us another dandy pick-me-up with "Ripe". Yep, Mama Adora tells her daughter, Camille, she smelled ripe. Adora threatens Chief Vickery's job if he pushes too hard on her daughters (one is "dangerous", the other "in danger") and requests her Calhoun Day (a long Wind Gap tradition, set up for the community on the grounds of Alan and Adora's grounds) be cancelled because the killer taking out girls hasn't been caught. Adora doesn't take Alan seriously when he brings it up to her that he lost a daughter, too, not just her. Lots of domestic bliss in this family. Every since, solitary time Camille arrives home and encounters Adora she is reminded of her difficulties as a child, of how she is just a disappointment. Camille might get an apology from Amma for being a prick the other evening when hanging with Detective Willis but Adora ever coming to her with an "I'm sorry" isn't likely. Speaking of Willis, he desperately wants to share information with Chief Vickery but this contentious relationship won't be an easy case marriage despite some co-existence. Vickery simply seems disinterested in involving Willis in anything he does while trying to find the killer. Willis, on the other hand, is trying to secure anything he can from Camille, promising to share with Vickery. Camille and Willis go to a popular hangout in the woods, a shed with dirty pornographic pictures stuck on the walls, reminding her of past experiences there with local boys (Willis seems to learn from an elusive Camille that she was on the receiving end of possible rape). Camille moves Richard's hand into her unzipped pants to pleasure her so they have become a bit cozy with each other after a lot of sexual tension and evasive maneuvers to avoid discussing the murders in town. And Camille joins some of the ladies in town (including Perkins' Jackie, kind of a blunt, sarcastic acid-tongued local who joins in the chorus regarding the suspects involved in the murder of the girls), absent Adora who claims her rose-bushes "hand injury" will be keeping her from the gathering, as they gossip about town.

Adams and Clarkson do deservedly claim a majority of the accolades for their acting work, but Scanlen is a real find as the manipulative Amma. Amma cuts on a rap song and hugs her mom. Amma gathers with her friends as they giggle about John Keane, eyeing a fixed picture mocking him. Amma is nowhere to be found when Camille arrives after learning that she was friends with the murdered girls (hanging out with them at the shed) when speaking to John at the local watering hole. Amma with her friends portrays women of war in a theatrical play as the goofoff guys in her class fail to take the work seriously...she seems "interested" in their teacher's melancholy, holding his hand and wanting to offer someone to talk to (or perhaps more?). Amma, seemingly naughty and promiscuous, knows how to also convince her mother she's a doll and a teacher she's a "friend". Camille is the damaged sister she can both poke fun at and be close to. It does seem Amma weaves a grand play using those in her orbit as characters to move about like pieces on a chessboard. I have no doubt she'll be the one who proclaims, Checkmate.

This show is dreary and glum. So it won't be an appetite all viewers will consider palatable. But it is damn well acted and the director knows how to light the mood for every single scene. And why would such a dark story and stark characters be lit with bright colors...the dark reds and auburns, yellows and greens, are the kind of palate this material seems meant for. The Soderbergh atmospheric effect. Characters half-lit, distanced emotionally from each other, an undercurrent of deep-seething torment and rage...the production/direction colors this appropriately.

A Discovery of Witches: Episode #1.2
(2018)
Episode 2, Season 1

A Discovery of Witches - Second Episode
The second episode (I really wish there were actual titles for their episodes) elaborates on how Diana's "relationship" with the book, Astamole 782, continues to draw vampires and alchemists to her. It seems this book very well could have the origins of vampires and even tell them if witches were responsible for their creation. Knox wants to verify if the book will allow him to "uncreate" vampires, in order to render them extinct, often accompanied by a powerful witch he brought into the fold in the previous episode, Satu (Malin Buska). Satu tries to "read" Diana and fails. When Knox "gets inside" Diana's head she is able to free him from her mind through an "elemental spell". So already we can see she's powerful and would be even moreso if she decided to embrace her inner witch. Meanwhile, Matthew leaves Oxford for the lodging with a very affluent Londoner currently in the countryside who just so happens to be a dear friend...and demon...named Hamish (Greg McHugh). Matthew has "the craving", yearning to feed from Diana, which is why he has fled for his buddy's lodging. In order to satiate his overwhelming bloodlust, Hamish takes him into the breathtakingly idyllic countryside to feed from an enormous antlered deer. So you have Knox and Matthew both vying for the book's contents, to the point of obsession. So Diana's welfare is in question because of that book. As you might expect the episode also indicates the growing attraction between vampire Matthew and agnostic witch Diana...Matthew shows her evidence of a power-loss due to the absence of usage. Not only that, though, is the abilities that they do have are waning. The desire to not adhere to who you are has resulted in the loss of those unique characteristics that separate vampires and witches from humans. Like vampires ability to sire humans. Witches can't necessarily spellcast with great alchemical effect.

Juliet (Elarica Johnson) is introduced in the beginning, unable to resist her allure for Matthieu (Freddie Thorp), a visiting tourist from France. She draws him to her, seducing him into a little public sex, before taking a bite...and then feeding him to death. Her father, a powerful vampire named Gerbert D'Aurillac (Trevor Eve), is visited by a detective, Domenico (Gregg Chillin), after he "smells" Juliet on the corpse of Matthieu in the morgue. Not sure yet what this all means to the ongoing Knox/Matthew/Diana series arc but I assume it all ties together.

In this episode Diana feels betrayed by her friend, Gillian, because she is aligned with Knox. Knox tries to befriend Diana so he can gain possession of the book, or at least learn of its contents. Diana feels threatened by him, particularly offended at his desire to kill vampires until they are no more. Gillian shares a similar dislike/distaste for vampires. So you can see the prejudice that exists between vampires and witches. If witches created the very species they now despise, that is quite the irony. Knox seems emboldened to make up for his ancestors' "mistake". Matthew, on the other hand, seems emboldened to help strengthen his species before they are merely...ugh...human.

Attractive cast. Attractive locations. Attractive production. Very similar in ways to The Vampire Diaries, though, except this cast is older but still obviously handsome. I have to admit that Palmer is a reason I remain invested in it. The plot is not too overtly complicated which might be nice for some audiences. It's not hard to watch, especially when the camera gives us so many closeups of Palmer.

Waking Ned
(1998)

Waking Ned Devine
Tullymore villagers ban together (except for the miserly, misanthropic Eileen Dromey) in unity to fraudulently claim that Michael O'Sullivan (David Kelly) is the winning lotto ticket owner, Ned Devine. Ned, as Jackie O'Shea (Ian Bannen) soon learns when he realizes that he's the only one unaccounted for when the village locals meet at a liquor-and-chicken party at his house to determine who got the lucky lotto ticket credited to a Tullymore resident, is dead. Ned died because the shock of having the winning lotto ticket caused a coronary! He died, eyes wide open, with a smile! So Jackie and Michael coordinate a fraud, needing the entire village to lie, agreeing to split the nearly 7 million pounds evenly among the entire small populace. But village pariah, Lizzy Quinn (Dromey), isn't so easy to coax...she tells Jackie, Michael, and Jackie's wife, Annie (Fionnula Flanagan), 10% of the lotto winnings could go to anyone who reports a fraudulent claim to them as a threat. Promised one million in order to "sign" (as part of the complete village agreement), Lizzy seems to relent from her threat...of course, the ending says otherwise, although she's "rewarded" for her attempted betrayal. Lizzy picked the wrong phone booth at the wrong time of the day! This is brilliantly juxtaposed with an Irish jingle captivating the villagers gathered at the local pub, celebrating the check, questioning whether or not Lizzy will call the authorities on them!

Absolute delight from Kirk Jones, shot on the Isle of Man but set as fictional Irish village, Tullymore, has a treat of cast, with particularly wonderful performances from the leads, Bannen, Flanagan, and especially Kelly. Kelly's Michael having to ad-lib as Ned on short notice, when the sneezy Kelly lotto rep arrives at Ned's home, needing to convince him he's Devine is hilarious. Kelly motorbiking naked to Ned's place in order to beat the lotto representative and Jackie (Jackie purposely driving in opposing directions to create enough time), Bannen and Kelly "fixing" Ned's smile resulting in a lost denture, Lizzy's "phonebooth accident", the ongoing love triangle between Maggie (Susan Lynch), the pig farmer she fails to marry due to his stinky occupation (James Nesbitt, a really fun character), and the supposed village "stud" living comfortably with an inheritance (Fintan McKeown), the touching "tribute to Michael" funeral in a church where Jackie was intending to speak about Ned until the lotto rep arrives unannounced (Kelly's teary-response and poignant appreciation of it touches the heart-strings), and the party where Jackie and Michael work the room for "lotto details" are highlights. The location is idyllic (the landscape can be quite arresting), the setting's crop of village locals are a kooky and eccentric bunch laying on the charm and chutzpah, and the Irish score from Shaun Davey perfectly layers the proceedings beautifully.

I hadn't actually watched this since 1999, and "Waking Ned Devine" really is one of the films that is over before you know it, leaving behind a feeling of wanting more. I think when you spend time with this village; you will not want to leave so soon. Bannen and Kelly are a joy; they indicate that their characters have spent a lifetime of friendship together, finally "cashing in" after no telling how long they've tried to win that damn lotto.

Breezy, simply-plotted, with its heart in the right place. This is every bit a character actor token to those of us who love this kind of cast. I admit...when it goes to end credits, I was melancholy that it was over. I loved this cast and setting that much. Highly recommended. I do believe many will feel rewarded.

Barry: The Show Must Go On, Probably?
(2019)
Episode 1, Season 2

Barry - The Show Must Go On, Probably?
In the life of Barry, he rids himself of this problem and that problem (Janice Moss and Goren), others emerge. Gene cannot escape the funk of losing Janice while NoHo Hank must try and keep his newfound relationship with Cristobal and the Bolivians under repair. While Barry hopes The Front Page will somehow go on as planned, Gene's lack of participation keeps the cast (including Sally) from committing faithfully to the play. NoHo Hank wants Barry to do a hit for him, unwilling to take no for an answer, using his status as the replacement of Goren (and knowledge that Barry killed him) to convince him that it is in his best interest. Detective Loach learns that a tooth found in the garage where Goren and his thugs were killed matches DNA of Fuches from a Coca Cola can, eventually surmising ties to Barry "Block". Loach has a failing marriage and understands that his wife is having an affair...this could very well factor into whether or not Barry can keep from a trip to jail. Fuches tried to secure a new hitman but he fails miserably to get a "package" for a client...the hitman uses a shotgun on the safe when the bullet ricochets into his leg, with the police arriving to take him out while the client leaps out a window, falling into a car and right into the law enforcement armament. So Fuches is caught, Barry's link to him is discovered by Loach, NoHo Hank demands Barry kill someone for him, Barry is forced to try and direct Gene's play which turns into a complete disaster, Barry must surrender some details to Gene from his military past (the thrill of killing locals in while in an outpost of the Middle East is met by other soldies with glee, target practice celebrated because they were his first kills) in order to save the workshop from closure, and Barry's giving up some truth impresses Sally. Sally, of course, can't be with him that night afterward because her career demands come before that (drinks with agent, rehearsal the next day, etc.) Goldberg's moments are so good it feels like she's in these episodes longer than she really is...her inability to coax Barry out of trying to direct the play and rehearsals (his pep talk totally embarrassing) and attempts to convince Barry that Gene's pain is more important than a play show that despite her efforts he's totally committed to its success even as all the signs scream bad idea. Barry wishes to put his hitman past behind him-that has always been the show's point-but that simply won't go away. NoHo Hank, often treated as a clown, has a shining moment of clarity where he isn't a pushover doof Barry can talk down to, drawing from how he was disregarded in the clothing store with a pointed mission statement and no fooling around.

Sharp Objects: Fix
(2018)
Episode 3, Season 1

Sharp Objects - Fix
And the dark descent into the abyss continues... Camille must deal with a mother who will stop at nothing to undermine her reporting/interviewing and constantly remind her of how much of a problem she is. Camille tries to get some cooperation from Detective Willis on his investigation, finally weakening his stance against revealing anything at a bar (diner talk went nowhere that morning), later actually having a rather comfortable (if fueled by alcohol) conversation outside the establishment before Amma interrupts to be insulting and obnoxious. Amma's rebellious antics are reaching Adora now thanks to the chief who caught her with teen friends rollerskating past the curfew. Amma arriving home drunk and sick to her stomach, later trying to bring up Camille's same rebellious attitude as a teenager to Adora who won't listen to it. The constant of the series up to this point is Adora's disapproval of Camille without fail. Camille can do nothing right. Interviewing the father of the first victim, Bob Nash, Camille just wants to see how he reacts to being a suspect and listening to him avert attention to the second victim's brother, John Keane (Taylor John Smith). Then bursts in Adora to shame Camille for her being there. She does learn that Adora tutored the victims and later than Amma was friends with them. So here is where you get the first real ties to Camille's family in regards to the serial murders. John's gorgeous, cheerleader girlfriend, Ashley (Madison Davenport), promises and delivers an interview with her boyfriend to Camille. It reveals a sensitive young man who has a hard time holding back tears when discussing his dead sister and how the small town accuses him without any evidence through their treatment of him. Ashley clearly holds her relationship with John important, particularly emphasizing her ability to steer him towards obedience, although his feelings about being home, the regret, give her pause...ever coming back home he regrets while her shocked expression leading to questioning why he'd say that considering they are together because of his return. Incorporated into the events of the episode are Camille's memories of a teenage "cutter" who spends time at a clinic she gets to know while also sleeping in a "cell" there. The two sharing the room, two beds and one bathroom, start off distanced but eventually are sharing their scars and listening to music together. The traumatic memory of Camille finding her dead on the floor after guzzling draining cleaner certainly only enhances Camille's mental anguish, not helped by Adora's dismissive, knife-edge remarks and Amma's targeted teenage mean girl act. So the episode doesn't exactly offer the viewer very many cheery hugs...the darkness in this series can almost envelope you if any of this material is relatable. The acting remains top-notch even as seeing Adora downgrade Camille into an alcoholic can be a bit dreary over fifty minutes. Well up until this episode that is all Adora does: Camille is a disappointment to her. Never does Adora take into account her own responsibilities for how Camille turned out and remains.

A Discovery of Witches: Episode #1.1
(2018)
Episode 1, Season 1

A Discovery of Witches - First Episode
Dr. Diana Bishop (Teresa Palmer), Yale grad, author, and witch, returns to Oxford, perhaps up for a professorship, is granted access to the Ashmore manuscript 782, never seen by vampires, of definite interest by them because the words might hold the key to their origin and could even help them if discovered. When Bishop opens it up at the Bodleian library, although not apparent initially on each page, soon she can see hidden words that move from the parchment "into her". Something about this exchange from page to Bishop has witches and vampires alike very interested in learning more about why she had access to the manuscript (we see that the book isn't available when the librarian first looks for it, later finding it in its missing slot upon return). Vampire Matthew Clairmont (Matthew Goode) begins to take great interest in her, confronting her about the manuscript, with Diana making it clear (as she does to her aunt (Alex Kingston) and friend, Gillian (Louise Brealey)) she doesn't have any desire to pursue magic available to her as a witch. Peter Knox (Owen Teale; formerly Alliser Thorne of "Game of Thrones") is head of a particular alchemical sect who question Gillian about the manuscript he has been trying to find for quite a long time (as Clairmont also indicated to Bishop) as well. So the first episode of the series, "A Discovery of Witches", sets up the existence of vampires and witches and how a particular manuscript "chooses" Bishop as its carrier. So she's central in the story, the figure that is the gravitational pull of every supernatural event and character introduced. Vampires realize they can't use their blood to turn others and can tell something's "off" since Bishop held and researched that manuscript. It is also established that witches and vampires are seemingly adversarial but try to conduct a truce against waging war against each other unless provoked. We don't see a vampire necessarily predatorily besiege a human and kill him or her, but Matthew gets a good nose full of Bishop's scent from a jacket and barely contains his urge to attack her. We see a witch also burn alive a human hunter nudged by Knox into hunting her. So provocation can lure out the dark side of witches and vampires. Although, so far, the overall Gothic horror plot isn't overwhelmingly original, with even "The Vampire Diaries" dabbling in a lot of what this series' plot does, I'm willing to give it a shot all the same. Palmer's blond, blue eyed beauty gets plenty of the camera's close-ups (and why not?) while Goode's handsome vampire is her male equal. While the episode serves as an introduction to the characters and British backdrop, it does feature the unease for which witches and vampires harbor, underlying a tension that clearly calls to attention that danger possibly awaits at any moment. The words leaving the page of the book, "merging" with Palmer is quite a highlight. Not a lot of witchcraft and vampire bad behavior as of yet, but previews do offer some exhilarating delights to come.

Barry: Chapter Eight: Know Your Truth
(2018)
Episode 8, Season 1

Barry - Know Your Truth
As much as Barry wants to free himself of his past life as a hitman, he just can't escape. Multiple attempts-"It starts...now."-continue to fail. His last attempt at the end of the episode is thwarted by Detective Moss, listening to what acting instructor, Gene Cousineau, says about Barry's using his "soldier's experience" early on in the actor's studio, drawing from it. This piques her curiosity, although she sells all of what Gene says ineffectually. Barry watches her face just to gauge her response, but by the end, as Janice looks up Barry's Facebook profile, his ties to the Chechnya and Bolivia feud become clear, and he realized that her cop instincts were always on alert. A gun pulled by Moss on Barry, refusing to listen to his pleas of being a "changed man", allowing the detective to take him in just wasn't in the cards...a shot of the discharge of a gun, flashing multiple times, can be seen outside the bedroom window of a sleeping (and seemingly happy) Sally. Soon Barry joins Sally in bed, indicating Ms. Moss won't be returning to her precinct to solve any more crimes...much less arresting him for his numerous hits.

Much like how many of us might admit to wanting the car with Marion Crane's body in its trunk to sink into the swamp in "Psycho" (1960), it also might be fair to say a desire to see that Barry escapes Moss's arrest by "silencing her" was perhaps present...Barry's hopes to completely abandon his life as a hitman/killer were confronted with a good police officer on the right side of the law. Much like Norman deserved to be caught, Barry does to...they were both killers.

Fuches nearly gets a bullet to the head as Goran departs the series when Barry interrupts his orders to kill the "contract arranger" and have his bodies "chopped into manageable pieces". Barry takes out Goran and his thugs, including a torturer/cleanup creep, Ruslan (Mark Ivanir), the twin of Vascha, executed when attempting to kill Sally. Dismissed by Barry at the airport with all the money, Barry wants him out of his life. I think anyone who has watched the previous episodes will know it is almost a guarantee Fuches isn't just going to leave behind his meal ticket.

This episode, besides its shocking conclusion where Moss leaves the series, has a good scene with Sally convincing Barry to remain at the actor's studio despite an indication he has considered leaving that theatrical career behind. Sally mentions the search of truth, finding it, and using that for his previous performance, mentioning her abusive husband from a past marriage out of high school. Goldberg, as Sally, continues to be stellar, just as how she reacts when Barry fails to reveal the trauma of his past, used as fuel for his performance when she freely offers hers...watch her almost take him to task for it, reel it in, and accept that "he just isn't ready to talk about it yet". That it is a "process".

In another twist, NoHo Hank seizes the opportunity to fill Goran's roll, seemingly securing an alliance with the Bolivians despite the rift between them once appearing to be inoperable. The cops gearing up to arrest Goran, only to find a bloodbath thanks to Barry's interference is hilarious, as is their conclusion that Ryan was heavily involved in the whole gang war.

Sharp Objects: Dirt
(2018)
Episode 2, Season 1

Sharp Objects - Dirt
Well if you were expecting a picnic on a sunny day within a meadow of pretty wildflowers after the first episode of "Sharp Objects", think again. Further darkness and despair in this episode, "Dirt" reveals Camille uses a sowing pin on her flesh as a coping mechanism, a funeral where Adora (Clarkson) tries to keep Camille from taking notes about what she sees from those in attendance, Adora constantly asking Camille where she's been then with guile retracting with how she doesn't want to know, a small town so in terror kids aren't allowed on playgrounds or even away from their porches without strict parental presence, an eyewitness to a woman in white kidnapping the second victim not taken seriously by Chief Vickery (Craven) because his mom is a meth addict with cancer who allows him to keep a gun nearby, former high school cheerleader friends of Camille all gossipy and "mean girl" when congregated together during a gathering after the funeral at the victim's house, reported gossip regarding the brother of the second victim being "too close" to his sister, and memories of a cold mother neglecting love to Camille. Reporting to her editor occasionally, Camille lays out what she has to Frank (Sandoval), not knowing that a reason behind her being sent home is to rehabilitate her mental well-being. Doesn't seem to be working all that well. Amma (Scanlen) continues to present a well-behaved, obedient, precious doll to Adora while outside the home, when she can get away, Camille sees her shoplifting liquor while out with teen friends in a service station. The Adora hugging her grieving Amma farce is read right though by Camille who realizes her sister is quite the clever actress. To further document how hands-off and cool-off the marriage is between Adora and Alan (Czerny) a mere attempt to romantically slow dance to a little soft music is thwarted because Adora isn't interested. Camille does indeed meet the requirements of what was mockingly mentioned in a conversation as "intrepid journalist"; in this episode, she noses about, following leads where they come, confronting the chief and Detective Willis (Messina) with the woman in white spotting while attending the funeral and after party with complete focus in trying to determine who might want her dead, soon realizing this second victim was very similar to Camille when she was young. Adora never fails to cold fish Camille, her disapproval in her daughter's work and general behavior always mentioned, the comments quite pointed and targeted. It is not surprising Camille is a wreck trying to keep herself together, hoping to maintain her resolve while the pain of an unloving mother wears on her entire being. The second victim had teeth pulled from her mouth and Willis reenacts this with a pig, realizing that it isn't so easy to do that with one tooth much less many. It is revealed here that the Krellin wealth comes from their hog-slaughtering business. The mother with cancer worked for Adora.

Sharp Objects: Vanish
(2018)
Episode 1, Season 1

Sharp Objects - Vanish
Dour, dark aesthetic and atmosphere from director, Jean-Marc Vallée, focuses on haunted reporter, Camille (Amy Adams, true to the character throughout, a trauma-plagued adult still reeling from the past, living it in the present), returning home reluctantly (her editor refusing to take no for an answer) to cover a child's murder and missing girl case, revisiting lingering emotional suffering that resurfaces upon meeting her morose mother and ambivalent father, recalling her sister's moments prior to death, the death itself, and the funeral afterward while trying to piecemeal a story for her St. Louis Chronicle paper. Patricia Clarkson is non-too-surprisingly brilliant as Adams' mother, seemingly always on edge, as if she'll fall apart at any given moment if word gets back to her that her reporter daughter is "acting inappropriately". Clarkson's husband is played by Henry Czerny, quite stoic and blank, avoiding any sort of confrontation with her, especially when she gobbles some booze and presses upon Adams to not talk about the cases she's investigating. Czerny keeps any comments he might have inside while Clarkson scolds and chides Adams when she feels her reputation might be threatened...reputation to Clarkson remains quite important. Eliza Scanlen is Adams' sister, a subservient doll in dress when around her mother but all sex kittenish in her "civvies" (short, tight jorts and clinging shirt, rollerblading with her teen girlfriends) around town square and thereabouts. Matt Craven is the sweaty, clueless smalltown sheriff, ill-prepared for a serial killer, trying to avoid Adams and any story that might draw attention to Wind Gap. Chris Messina as the "out of town" (this emphasized between he and Adams in their various tense conversations) detective from Kansas City who was called in to help Craven, feels unwanted and undesired after some time helping to investigate the first death (girl found strangled by clothes line) and search for a second victim eventually found rested in a window seal, dirt tracks down her legs, blood present on her person, in an alley near the town square. Much like everyone else in this series, Messina remains sour and sore, not particularly featuring an inviting, engaging personality. If you are looking for sunny, vibrant, charming characters, "Sharp Objects" is not for you. This is like an open wound spilling out damaged, depressing, scarred people. Adams awakens broken, moves through her life that way, and copes throughout the pilot episode with the welcome friend poured in a small glass. When you meet her family, why she does so becomes all too clear. Her sister's death, as if an invisible chokehold seized her throat while pointing toward the ceiling alongside Sophia Lillis (a young Adams) while the two debate what the shapes represent to them, clearly is a blow that leaves its lasting pain Adams walks around with daily. Veteran Elizabeth Perkins pours on a Southern charm when Adams spots her during a search party tracking the whereabouts of the eventual second victim, offering her tea "with a little extra something". Will Chase is the homophobic, rage-filled father of the second victim Adams is granted a chance to question about when his daughter was kidnapped. Miguel Sandoval, as the editor, keeps in touch with Adams, forcing her to face her demons and work through the issues that have obviously reigned supreme in her psyche. An acting showcase, for sure, but not a friendly, cheery environment we are introduced to. The color aesthetic applied by the director is alluring, sometimes distancing, other times moody and even seductive. But the tone is quite a drag, and the pace will strain the patience of some. But I'm not opposed to its slow burn, a burn many feel is too meticulous and deliberate to contend with, withdrawing from the series before it has a chance to truly sink in its nails. How the past memories often bleed into the present for Adams can be jarring, but that's the point.

Crossing Delancey
(1988)

Crossing Delancey
Jewish grandmother, "Bubbie" (Reizl Bozyk), desperately wants her granddaughter, Isabelle (Amy Irving, in perhaps her best film role), who works at a book store and is in her 30s, to meet a nice man and marry "before it's too late". A poet, Anton Maes (Jeroen Krabbé), is who she's attracted to while Bubbie eyes a "man who makes pickles", Sam Posner (Peter Riegert), found through a "hired matchmaker", Cecilia Monk (Claudia Silver). While Isabelle continues to try and skirt the working class Sam in the hopes of securing the relationship with Anton, Bubbie and Cecilia refuse to give up hope she might change her mind. As the film continues, Isabelle realizes that Sam might just be the right man for her. Late 80s Manhattan Jewish community setting works as a charming backdrop and might be quite a pleasant bit of nostalgia for those who remember that time in New York. The cast is top to bottom excellent with Bozyk and Silver standouts...Bubbie is a persistent meddling influence in Isabelle's life even as she tries to "upscale" her status within a particular affluent, literary, scholarly group while Cecilia devotes to the cause so she can feast from Bubbie's fine cooking and prove her matchmaking instincts and skills are on point. Riegert is just fine as the patient, cool-headed, hard-working "pickler", much more than what his job might define him in regards to "refinement and culture". He is willing to even concede to dating Isabelle's friend, who sits at a bar while she "dates" Sam. Sam doesn't neglect Bubbie, always asking him over to clean her apartment window and keep her company, while his willingness to give Isabelle time to figure out if he's who she wants or not should be cause for status as a saint. I can just imagine many women just looking for someone such as him are perhaps screaming at the screen for him to dust off his feet and leave Irving behind. Irving does a swell job of displaying the complications in whether or not Anton's (and those who work and live in and near her book store) presence in her life far exceeds pursuing Sam. The two worlds are highly emphasized...Sam is a good listener, easy to be around, doesn't force himself on her while Anton always speaks in poetry as if his whole language and lifestyle completely involves and is absorbed in it. I can't recall any moment or conversation where Anton is quoting poetry when engaging in dialogue with Isabelle. A normal conversation is exactly what Sam can provide Isabelle, and the ending proves that Anton is so totally devoted to his work he will use whatever manipulative tactics are necessary (like seduction) to get her to work as an assistant. It shatters that illusion freeing Isabelle from considering Anton truly worthy of her love while Sam awaits at Bubbie's apartment, having not left when most others would have, for her to arrive, even if very late. I can see why many might not like Isabelle, but I guess she just needed to see Anton for who he really was and finally accept that Sam was the right fit. But I think "Crossing Delancey" will perhaps be best remembered for Bozyk and Silver, often scheming to get Isabelle and Sam together through every avenue available to them , and the Manhattan backdrop for which a good deal of the romantic story is located. A young David Hyde Pierce is an employee at the book store, John Bedford Lloyd (as a buddy of Isabelle's struggling with a failing marriage, often needing her for emotional support), Sylvia Miles (as tagalong gal pal, Hannah, set up with Sam so Isabelle could pursue Anton), and Rosemary Harris (as a renowned author catered to by Isabelle's literary friends and boss) round out the cast. George Martin (C.H.U.D.) is the book store proprietor who sees Anton as a source of reputable equity he exploits (Isabelle tells Sam their "soirees" Martin takes quite seriously).

The Fog
(1980)

The Fog
On the 21st of April, the fog rolled in...and Midnight to 1 belongs to the Dead. John Carpenter's cult ghost revenge story, set in a coastal California Antonio Bay, has remained an 80s stalwart, recognized since its rather lukewarm release, having found its audience for decades thanks to releases and repeats on home video, cable, satellite channel, DVD, etc. Wisely shot by Carpenter and Cundy to look far more cinematic than its budget might lead you to believe, "The Fog" is very aesthetically rich if perhaps not structurally or logically as sound, probably ripe for the pickings if you scrutinize the film's plot with great intensity. I have always shrugged off how apparitional warnings that don't occur between Midnight and 1 seem to still take place (like the body in the morgue that gets up and nearly collapses on Jamie Lee, writing 3 on the floor) or how the fog's sewage-and-maggots infested full-bodied spirits of the Elizabeth Lane target specifically particular cast members instead of the plentiful of townsfolk attending the 100 year celebration of Antonio Bay.

I think if you just groove to the glowing fog and its presence as a seemingly sentient malevolence following after targets it so chooses (the weatherman, the lighthouse DJ's son's elderly babysitter, three boozing fishermen), the picturesque, idyllic, serene sunbaked coastal shores on the outskirts of Antonio Bay, the lighthouse radio station with its smooth jazz as a significant location along with the small town harboring a dirty secret from long past (that involved a priest deciding to help certain members of their township kill lepers with riches, written in a hidden diary along with a cross of gold that belongs to Blake and his crew, returning to reclaim what belongs to them), opening montage of crazy activity that includes a gas station pump and vehicle mechanic press operating absent a physical presence, car alarms going off, a television coming on, a chair moving across the room, windows breaking on cars and clocks (and inside a service station while a janitor mops), etc, and Hal Holbrook's haunted face foretelling how their celebration is a travesty recognizing murderers and doom awaits them then this will be ideal entertainment. The cast is incredible: Janet Leigh as the harried busybody town chairwoman keeping her assistant Nancy Loomis (the snarky, sarcastically funny friend of Laurie in Halloween) following her as they go from place to place without much time to breathe, Tom Atkins as a fisherman who picks up hitchhiking artist, Jamie Lee Curtis, with the two having sex almost immediately after meeting, Hal Holbrook as the gloomy and foreboding priest (the visit of Leigh and Loomis to his church and his focus on their ancestors' wrongdoing is one of my favorite sequences without the fog), and Charley Cyphers as the flirty weatherman always trying to pickup Barbeau. Andrienne Barbeau has her first big film role and it remains one of her hallmarks as the radio DJ almost always by herself, within her lighthouse station, softly caressing her listeners with a sexy cadence and seductive tone, fittingly enriched by the jazz that follows behind. The ghouls of the film might either work or not considering their eyes light up at the end and they often fail to get their intended victims as Atkins swoops in to rescue a child or Jamie finally gets the clutch in reverse so the truck removes itself from the puddle halting its movement. But that fog, how Carpenter and company succeed in developing it as a type of force that will eventually catch you no matter where you go, is as much a star as the amazing cast. If you can let yourself be taken by the film without dissecting its flaws too closely (the fog knocks out the power lines before Barbeau can talk to the sheriff, the fog and its ghouls leaving a boat dry in places and wet in others, the ghouls not always where they need to be so that the characters can get away or escape near capture), there are treasures aplenty. The music and editing (like the back and forth of Holbrook reading from the diary while Atkins tells Curtis the story of his father finding the abandoned ship and coin, the eyeless body falling on Curtis, the diary falling out of the wall followed by the dropped glass, the various paranormal activity in Antonio Bay) are top-notch. The film poster with Curtis trying to defy the ghoul trying to enter the room is a classic; the ending of the film does a good job of converging the major characters, with windows breaking and time running out, as the ghouls seem to be on the verge of getting in. This really is the case of talent behind and in front of the camera overcoming the material in the script. John Houseman's Mr. Machan telling the ghost story around the camp fire as the kids listen on at the film's onset remains iconic...Ghost Story couldn't help but go the same route.

Critters 2
(1988)

Critters 2 - The Main Course
Grover's Bend on Easter weekend is not quite prepared for more Crites, sort of brushing aside what happened to the Browns in the past until the "space monsters with lots of sharp teeth" kill the current sheriff while in an Easter Bunny costume, crashing the church service during the preacher's resurrection sermon. The Crites sure seem resurrected and the "damned meat eaters" are on the hunt for plenty of human cattle (or any meat for that matter). The Chiodo Brothers were put to work in this sequel to the surprise hit,"Critters". Lots of furry carnivorous fiends on the rampage and former foe, Bradley Brown, returns to his former home to visit Grandma, not expecting another round with the Crites. Returning to execute this scourge are alien bounty hunters, Ug and Lee, along with human tagalong in training, Charlie (Don Opper). Bradley and Ug reuniting is cool, as is Ug returning to Earth although Lee, in the form of delicious model, Roxanne Kernohan, eventually succumbs to an isolated Crite attack in an alley (sending Ug into mourning, his face returning to formless.) The Crites feasting in the fast food hamburger joint, Hungry Heifer, Lee transforming via Playboy into topless Kernohan and later counterman Deezen (almost into Freddy Krueger if Charlie hadn't stopped it!), Antiquities creep Douglas Rowe and his monster mutt soon becoming critter chow, Barry Corbin as foul-mouthed former sheriff who decides to put on the star one last time while corralling his townsfolk into action, the Crites uniting into one giant critterball as they rumble down the countryside towards folks (and over one unlucky fellow who is just a skeleton afterwards!), Tom Hodges as leather jacket bullying jerk, Liane Curtis as Bradley's love interest and town paper editor's (veteran film and television actor, Anderson) daughter who finds herself often immersed in the action, red-headed Lin Shaye as enthusiastic photographer for Anderson's town paper, Opper always a welcome presence as wannabe hero (and former drunk who went away with Terrence Mann's bounty hunter to find himself), Herta Ware as vegetarian Nana to Bradley who unknowingly purchases Crite eggs for the church egg hunt and serves as unwavering voice again red meat, a nicely lean running time, quaint small-town Easter atmosphere, and rural aesthetic give this sequel plenty of charm and sci-fi 80s cult appeal. Not a critical darling in its time but Garris got enough from his fun cast, Critter hijinks, and returning regs from the previous film to help the sequel maintain a favorable nostalgia and following. Growing up with it, I for one always enjoy revisiting it. Grimes as the young hero, Mann's effortlessly cool Ug, Opper congenial Charlie, Curtis' plucky heroine, and Corbin's quipping sheriff won't allow the sequel to be forgotten. And Kernohan certainly leaves a lasting impression!

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