Solace Slips Through the Psychic Cracks

DATELINE:  Sensing Solution

solace

You may take some solace that brilliant movies often come as a surprise, unexpected gems of intelligence and deft acting. The paranormal thriller, Solace, with Anthony Hopkins and Colin Farrell may seem to be out of the slush pile of scripts.

The story features a psychic working for the FBI who hunts for a serial killer.

Don’t be fooled by the summary of the plot.

The film turns out to be a chess game with the Grim Reaper.

What can you say about a film that uses quotes from poet Gerard Manley Hopkins as a clue—and operatic lines as foreshadows?

Clairvoyance gives the director Afonso Poyart a chance to show his skills with quick edits and sharp images to display past and/or future as the case re  quires. Hopkins plays his character, Dr. Clancy, with low key stoicism, except in moments of revelation.

He is teamed with a psychologist, Agent Cowles, another FBI agent with disdain for the paranormal. Abbie Cornish as Cowles gives the story an equal opportunity dimension that works well.

There may be a bond between two psychics in this movie, but the real intriguing concept is an opportunity to open up metaphysical debate about mercy killing under the guise of a thriller.

Farrell enters the picture rather late in the plot, but his appearance provides a matchmate for Hopkins. Both had appeared together previously in the disastrous Alexander the Great. They saved the great stuff for this movie.

The picture has much more in common with The Sixth Sense than a crime melodrama, and it was offered to Bruce Willis (star of the other psychic movie) but he passed on this. No matter, the end product in Solace is striking and engrossing, using the occasional car chase and bloody scene to make its point.

Beginning with a dictionary definition of “solace” in the opening credits,  you will take great solace in discovering this movie.

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Kraft Talks & Fake News Outlets Listen!

 DATELINE:  Billions for Defense

Mr. Kraft to you .jpg Call him Mr. Kraft

Mr. Robert Kraft, as he is known socially around Boston, is now in Phoenix for the NFL meetings. And, he is talking—and talking up a storm.

You will always recognize Bob Billionaire Kraft. He’s the man with the two-tone dress shirts, Brooks Brothers suit, and tennis shoes. Yes, money does have its privilege.

This week he had plenty to say when asked by word hungry media members. You have located the diametric opposite of Bill Belichick in the owner of the New England Patriots.

In a world of football secrets, Bob Kraft is the Edward Snowden of pigskin privacy.

So, what’s up?  Well, Tom Brady will play for seven more years—or until the locusts descend on Foxboro. It’s all right, fans. He’s a GOAT, though Kraft is not a fan of avocado ice cream.

Kraft wants to keep Bill Belichick happy with long life and many championships.  He promised to maintain Swami Belichick on a health regime so he can coach for twenty more years.

The Patriots owner has no intention of trading Malcolm Butler, his unhappiest player, because he is so nice and Kraft likes him. It seems to be the Golden Rule of football ownership.

Though he is Emperor of Gillette Stadium, Kraft must keep a suite ready for Roger Goodell in case he chooses to show up. So, Mr. Kraft is noting that Goodell is welcome to come since the owner has no choice but to say so. Indeed, on the other hand, he believes the Super Bowl victory LI vindicates his entire team—and humiliates Goodell.

There’s an olive branch laced with hemlock.

And, oh, yes, he’d also welcome former Jet Darrelle Revis back to the Patriots—just for good measure.

Giant Anaconda Versus Giant Croc

DATELINE: Captains Ahab? Quint? Hook?

 Ahab Meets Quint.jpg  It’s not a gator.

Holy Mackerel!  They still make movies like this!?? Yes, they sure do—for SyFy.

It’s like a time machine trip back to 1957.  Move over, Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

You know the stars—vaguely: Someone from an Alien movie, or was it a Predator movie in the 1980s?  Someone who used to be a child star on TV in the 1970s who isn’t Neil Patrick Harris.  Isn’t that Freddy Kreuger giving us a Captain Quint performance? Or is he Captain Hook?

Babes in bikinis? Hot cars? Dumb cops? Hayseed nitwit boys? Yep, they’re all present and accounted for in Lake Placid Versus Anaconda.

Someone decided to team up two franchise monsters. We haven’t seen such fireworks since King Kong took on the T-Rex in 1933 or since Gallagher chopped up watermelons to spray on the audience. And this doesn’t need to be colorized; it’s in living, blood-curdling Technicolor

Arty movies? Think pieces? Atmospheric noir? Forget it. It’s time for a really bad movie. Check your brain with the remote control and sit back for a looney ride. Was this direct to video? Someone likely paid to see it on the big screen, but stuff like this hasn’t been at a drive-in since 1964.

We aren’t sure if this is meant to be homage to Merriam C. Cooper or Jack Warner. It’s definitely out of the American International Pictures playbook. We sat in dumb-founded amazement.

Oh, don’t get us wrong. This movie is utterly deplorable, with grandiose plot holes with terrible and unfunny jokes. Maybe the series on Joan and Bette prepared us for this eventuality. This one’s a giant crock all right.

Red Planet Secrets: Lost Documentary

DATELINE: Lost Civilization on Mars

 secrets

Nothing irks us quite like Amazon buyer reviews. Pardon us if we defend this little film with more vigor than usual.

Case in point is for the non-DVD video entitled Terrifying Secrets of the Red Planet. It’s strictly a streaming video on the lowest budget. Many Amazon reviewers dismissed it as soon as they found out it was in Russian– and subtitled.

We hesitate to criticize these so-called reviews, but when the listing has in parentheses “English subtitles”. It generally means there are certainly subtitles of a foreign language. We also dismissed a barrage of reviews filled with prejudice, misspellings, and small-mindedness, which includes calling everything “boring.”

The most boring item in the world is a bored person.

This little arcane Russian film actually contains snippets of videos seldom, if ever, seen on American television. One includes took the 20-second video of the first Russian lander on Mars in the 1970s.

The most important interview in the film is with Richard Hoagland, notorious conspiratorial UFO/Mars expert who once was an advisor to Walter Cronkite. There are also a variety of noted Russian scientists who comment. They generally describe the structures photographed on Mars and its moon as not artificial.

Yet, the film leaves us with the sense that there is much we have not been told by either the Russian or American governments.

The documentary even includes some discussions that, of course, note that we are not prepared to hear there is a long lost deceased civilization that once lived on Mars. Only a trip there may give us answers to end wild speculation.

31 of 39 missions to Mars ended in failure, crashes, or accidents. By comparison, only one of 19 missions to Venus ended in such a fashion. That seems within probability.

The film proposes that the ancient dead civilization left Star Wars-style machinery in the atmosphere to defend the planet and sabotage Earth missions to Mars.

All this may leave some people feeling it’s slightly ridiculous, but it is certainly thought-provoking. We do not dismiss this little film and even recommend it.

Round Four: Bette & Joan in Post Production

DATELINE: Hold the Oscar

 lange as Crawford Crawfish

For those who forgot, we are reminded that Bette Davis gave the Academy Award its nickname, “Oscar,” because he resembled an old flame. As you might expect, Joan Crawford did not appreciate this usurping of Hollywood legend.

The two stars await bad news in the fourth episode. Word of mouth is that Baby Jane, or mistakenly called Baby Doll, is a stinkeroo. And, their work has not brought in more roles. In fact, everyone has lost faith in their project.

But, a sneak preview is a shocker, even more than the movie. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane is a hit. That sends Bette and Joan into different strata of psychology. Bette revels in the rejuvenation, and Joan realizes she is second banana for the critics.

Director Bob Aldrich (Alfred Molina) also comes to realize one-time success will not change his career. Jack Warner (Stanley Tucci) wastes no time in belittling him as much as star Frank Sinatra who proves a boorish star in his rat pack picture directed by Aldrich.

The series continues to use sharp-edged Hollywood trivia to provide laughs and hoots about the era and the foibles of the stars. It was the age of television as a publicity machine—and Bette goes all out on TV guest roles (as in Perry Mason, or on talk shows like Jack Paar), while Joan wallows in drink, fires her agents, makes drunken calls to Bette.

All this precedes the dreaded announcement for nominations for Oscar; everyone thinks Bette Davis is a shoo-in, and Crawfish is a dead fish.

The crux is that we the viewers enjoy this stuff more than those “old broads,” as Crawford takes offense to Davis’s characterization.

 

 

Dog, Horse, & Hawke in Valley of Violence

DATELINE: Nouveau Spaghetti

jumpy & Hawke  Dog, Horse, & Hawke

A throwback to the old fashioned spaghetti westerns of a generation ago, starring Clint and Lee Van Cleef, In a Valley of Violence echoes the style and demeanor in its characters.

This one is strictly American, filmed in New Mexico, with Ethan Hawke, growing older and wearier enough to play the laconic antihero. His fierce enemy is rather compromising and solicitous, a federal marshal played by John Travolta.

The real impetus for the film is the dog Jumpy, playing Abbie, to whom the protagonist is hopelessly devoted. Shades of John Wick last year. We know what happened when the bad guys killed his dog.

Taking a detour to seek vengeance, Ethan Hawke returns to Denton, a well-kept town of no visible means of support. It is under the control of its marshal, a town boss and self-anointed leader. Worse is his sadistic son, in a marvelous performance by James Ransome as Gilly.

Westerns are a tough chestnut to crack nowadays, and we always look forward to a good one emerging. This film by Ti West features animals and their totem power to good and bad guys, which is admirable.

Of course, once the protagonist begins to payback those who done him wrong, there is no recourse. Like Shane strapping on his guns, Ethan Hawke is wearily forced to finish the story.

The revenge is not particularly grisly by modern standards, nor particularly inventive, but the production is solid and Westerns fan will be satisfied with man’s inhumanity to dog.

Patriots Day (Trump Style)

 

DATELINE:  To the Victors

real champs

Sports reporters, the biggest purveyors of fake news, are going into overdrive to spew their hate for Donald Trump.

President Trump has invited the Patriots of New England to the White House on Patriots’ Day.

For those in other parts of the country, Boston has a holiday no one else shares. It’s called Patriots’ Day, which celebrates, not the Boston Marathon which is held on that day, but to celebrate the battle of Lexington and Concord, Paul Revere’s ride, and the founding of a great nation.

Now the media is firing a shot heard round the world. They are coming up with some fake news to end all fake news.

The media is now insisting that a Patriots visit to the White House is going to undermine the complete success of the New England champs.

According to the liberal media, you will see a divide among the players in the locker room. According to these lowly paid, bumbling media experts, Bill Belichick’s team is on the verge of imploding over a visit to the White House.

Media members who have nothing in common with millionaire athletes they cover in the NFL, will now try to bond with political allies over politics to disparage the Patriots.

Normally athletes despise the media over their fake stories. Lowly paid and having low self-esteem, sports media will hobnob with their rich friends from the playing field (like small D democrats).

We will now have a daily roll-call of those who are refusing to attend Bob Kraft’s special party. The media will try to drive a wedge between players.

We are talking about the same people who hammer Tom Brady daily as being a cheater. They will now add the Tom Brady’s friends in high places put crimes against him, like Mexican thieves taking Tom’s jerseys, as part of a White House ploy to gain political favor.

Already some players have said they will not attend a White House function. These include players like Martellus Bennett and Chris Long who have already jumped ship, proving they were never real Patriots to begin with. Good riddance.

Put three lanterns in North Church’s steeple, the fake news is coming! The fake news is coming!

 

Round Three: Bette & Joan Battle to a Draw

DATELINE: More Juice and Sauce

sarandon as davis

Sarandon as Bette Davis

With the principal photography on Whatever Happened to Baby Jane completed by the end of the third episode of the series Feud, you might wonder where the show goes from here.

During the third episode both women Davis and Crawford seem to miss working together, no matter how difficult and painful they are to each other.

Their lives off the screen became increasingly empty and lonely, alienated from their rebellious daughters, and wallowing in self-pity over growing older with little happiness to show for it.

Along the way, there are still plenty of laughs when it comes to their association. They never had a female friend of the same peerage, and however hard they knock heads, there is some respect for the other.

If anyone is the villain in this series, it is the dreaded dragon Hedda Hopper – the venomous gossip columnist who suckers in Joan repeatedly, but never Bette. She prints vile gossip wheedled out of Mommy Dearest.  Joan begins to regret most of it.

Along the way that Bette becomes quite attached to obese and gay actor Victor Buono (Dominic Burgess) and even bailed him out of jail when he’s caught in a police sting operation with a young man.

Suffering constant dyspepsia, Alfred Molina seems trapped in Robert Aldrich’s character, feeling self-loathing for his cruel misuse of the star actresses at the behest of Jack Warner (Stanley Tucci).  Aldrich’s assistant tells him that he is directing a war movie after all, though he loathed to take on such projects.

The lead performances are luminous in every case of the show, and Sarandon and Lange seem to fit into their classic star counterparts with increasing ease. The moments when Joan and Bette socialize highlight their wish for need for friends. By the end of the episode, they’ve gone to neutral corners.

Aldrich is surprised and astounded that his great actresses both were filling with energy and youth in all their final scenes, they were so enjoying the creative opportunities.

Still to come is the Oscar fight and the attempt to make another movie together that will end in utter failure. Every scene has been filled with pathos and hilarity, but surely may only resonate with those knowing Hollywood history.

Shirts Off Tom Brady’s Back

parade-6 T

DATELINE:  Shirtless in Houston

The louse who took time Brady’s blouse has been caught.  The Mounties get their man, and so apparently do the FBI. It appears that the thief is from below the border with real journalist credentials.

Hats off to the guys who found the shirts off Tom.

What’s worse, he seems to be a serial jersey swiper. FBI reportedly found the missing game jersey Tom wore in 2015 with its 2017 counterpart.

In an age when the FBI is investigating Russian ties to President Trump and Russian hacking of the recent presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, Hoover’s minions have found time to solve the biggest sports mystery of the century.

It also and apparently pays to have friends in high places. This could be the biggest triumph of the Trump administration so far. It’s been a month since somebody put their mitts on Tom Brady’s half $1 million blouse—and we have answers before we have evidence that Obama bugged Trump. (Well, he bugs Trump every day.)

Brady’s stolen jersey is a victim of international intrigue. We aren’t sure whether to blame Goldfinger or Jason Bourne. It used to be that you had Interpol going after international jewel thieves, but today the James Bond mentality lives among our local law-enforcement.

The FBI has found Tom’s jersey on “foreign soil. ” No doubt, it was soiled too.

Our first suspicions went to the culprit of Bob Kraft Super Bowl ring, which was taken by Vladimir Putin in Russia several years ago. Now suspicion falls again on the Kremlin, or their minions. Did the Russian mob pull a bag job? Did they farm the crime out to the Mexican drug cartel?

We suspect Trump will say we need a wall more than ever, not to keep aliens out but to keep Tom Brady’s equipment in.

That two Brady blouses were discovered means that we have an organized and serial criminal operation that loots the bounty from the sacred locker rooms of America. This is worse than terror; it is sacrilege.

We expect to see President Trump holding the recovered blouse and handing it to Brady at a press conference soon. Right now Trump needs all the positive publicity he can find.

Turn of the Screw Meets Downton Abbey

DATELINE: Strange Fellowes

from time

Julian Fellowes held some out of town tryouts before his big hit with the upper crust Downton Abbey.  Gathering together two of his principals (Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville), Fellowes chose a story that would have been an old-fashioned Walt Disney British movie with Haley Mills in the 1960s. From Time to Time is time enough.

Instead, it was a flop in America—and may be a curio because of the great cult success of the successor to Upstairs/Downstairs. Indeed, Pauline Collins—once the upstairs maid—is now Maggie Smith’s housekeeper. The year is 1944—and young Tolly is sent to stay with his grandmother to stay clear of the war in Manchester.

Tolly (Alex Etel) is no Haley Mills; we leave that sort of thing to Douglas Booth (Sefton). Tolly is a clairvoyant and soon realizes he can weave between timeframes at his granny’s estate. Soon he is spirit in 1810 as distant ancestors have family squabbles over Jacob, a slave boy, that Hugh Bonneville has brought to England as a companion for his blind daughter.

After that, you might expect complications with two astral planes and plenty of dirty laundry. Performances are uniformly superior to whatever passes for movies nowadays; this is a Fellowes production, written and directed by Julian

We give kudos to Dominic West as the butler Caxton, not Carson, and his odd relationship with the son of the manor, Douglas Booth as the foppish jeunesse doree, Sefton. Also around is gardener Timothy Spall in the modern age.

The film falls short of Gosford Park or Downton Abbey, but if you are in the neighborhood, you may as well stop by for tea, ghosts, and sympathy if you have time on your hands.

 

Hightower Rejects Cupcakes from Jets

 

DATELINE: Dont’ya Know

dont'a

When the Patriots want you, there is no doubt.

Dont’a Hightower did his world tour for free agentry, making pit stops in New York and Pittsburgh. The Jets offered him cupcakes on his birthday.

Alas, no confection matches the confetti of a Super Bowl duck boat ride. Hightower’s attempt to find a rich contract among the NFL losers was bound to fail.

Every team he contacted disbelieved his story that he wanted to find a new home if the money were right.

No amount of money can bring them the peace of a Super Bowl victory—and they found his argument that he would join them for a price to be patently ridiculous. No one bought his tale that he would jump off Bill Belichick’s duck boat.

And, they were right. The grass is only greener in other NFL stadiums if they brush it up with a little green dye. In that case, it’s clearly the green stuff.

No team can offer the guarantee of the greatest QB for the next four years. Both Tom Brady and Don’t’a Hightower are on the ticket for four more years. They likely will both retire when Donald Trump runs for re-election.

In the meantime, you might expect at least one more SuperBowl ticker tape measure for their Hall of Fame careers.

Of course, Hightower was not going to put himself in the low tower when he can grab the gold ring with another twirl of the Patriots carousel.

If anyone tells you Hightower signed with the Patriots for the money of $44million over four years, Dont’a believe it.

Sleeping Beauties Among Passengers

 DATELINE:  Going Down with the Spaceship

passengers

Beware of starships where the crew is asleep at the switch for 100 years.

Passengers is an intelligent futuristic science-fiction thriller that brings us the torments of automated voices, automatons, and obtuse robots, which actually sounds much like the present.

The stars couldn’t be more beautiful or appealing. They are both Sleeping Beauties, though only one is Aurora—and played that part in a Disney movie too. We speak of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence who could carry any film on their personalities and looks—and do just that.

When a malfunction awakens Chris Pratt about 90 years before they reach their destination in outer space, he is alone on a massive space odyssey. Few young actors can play the surreality for laughs quite like Pratt who has an easy style that makes him appealing in adventure tales.

His costar is Jennifer Lawrence, also stunning and down-to-earth. They are thrown together like Adam and Eve on a voyage that looks a trip to Gilligan’s Island as told by Stanley Kubrick. Their ship is an intergalactic Titanic.

Their situation and moral decisions of Pratt’s character may be dubious, but seem valid. Also along for the ride as a Greek Chorus is Michael Sheen as an android on wheels behind a bar right out of the Overlook Hotel.

Clever references and parallels fit the story and compel its suspense. Only Laurence Fishburne in a valid cameo—and Andy Garcia in a walk-on are the other big names in the cast. Everyone else is a hologram for a few moments.

The film recalls many other spaceship tales, from Star Trek movies to the classic 2001: A Space Odyssey or even The Shining. The director Morten Tyldum appears to have studied Kubrick.

Charming actors and intelligent scripts tend to overcome most every movie issue. They don’t have to worry about this story; it’s delightful.

Patriots Butler Did It (to himself)

DATELINE: From Frying Pan to Belichick’s Crock Pot

frying pan to steamer.jpg

We grow weary of the stories of stoic, suffering Malcolm Butler of the Patriots and his need for a cash injection to swell up his ego. His agent claims he is not asking for the moon, but merely wants a large asteroid.

In any case, this is like asking Bill Belichick for a blank check.

Alas, poor Butler, he’s in the pantry without his pantaloons. And his agent is no dresser.

Butler seems about to be cast off from the Patriots after asking for $13 million per year. He is offended that the Patriots offered another player who could replace him that largesse of money. Instead from Bill’s checkbook they have offered him merely a pay raise five times what he was making this season.

It’s never enough in the world of Midas touches.

The Patriots plucked Butler out of the deep fryar of a chicken fast-food chain and gave him a chance to become a star. Now he wants 20x what he made last year. It looks like the New Orleans Saints are willing to order the chicken wings de luxe.

Whether Butler will serve din-din to the Patriots defense for another season will be a decision that occurs when Belichick matches any offer. Hold the sauce. Butlers are out of fashion in Gillette Stadium where dumb waiters are the norm.

So now Malcolm Butler’s agent is shopping around for a team that will actually pay the Patriots a first round draft pick and take the Under-Butler away from Super Bowl teams with accompanying rings.

Footmen fans claimed the Butler has had an unfortunate lesson in the business of NFL football. We suspect Malcolm suffers from the chicken-feed killer, yes, one of the deadliest sins, greed.

Space Aliens Need Not Apply

DATELINE:  Narration by O.H. Krill?

 alien crash retrievals

Alien Crash Retrievals is a low-budget documentary. We cannot blame the movie for suffering from poor investors, but this one seems an intriguing compendium of all the United States UFO crashes.

Done mostly with stock footage and repetitive special effects, often mismatching the historical events, the information or disinformation is compelling. When discussing pre-World War II military, we are often shown modern troops with their modern weapons.

However jarring it is to see out-of-place images, the summaries of various crashes are amplified. Those familiar with details might call it a rehash, but each incident is explained with some newer (2015) insights.

Of course, as these documentaries go, the longer they run, the more fantastic the claims become. Yet, this is one of the rare docs that contend UFOs are being shot down deliberately by the government to pirate the technology. The narration indicates this is not a wise policy.

Captured aliens live and are kept as prisoners for their information and knowledge. And, as usual, the whistleblowers are not high-ranking people, but non-coms without academic credentials. The US government seems to thrive on people they educate and they select.

People like Bob Lazar, out of the limelight from his Area 51 days, seems to be vindicated in recent years. Back engineered, captured spacecraft have given the U.S. great capabilities that are withheld from the general public.

We looked at collapse of civilization theories in the recent film Arrival, and such considerations are airtight policy according to this little film, running slightly over an hour.

Explanations try to make more logical sense in this movie exercise of yellow journalism. We are tempted to quote another film: “Be afraid, be very afraid.” Gulp hard and hope they are wrong.

Round Two, Joan & Bette Feud

DATELINE:  Other Vain Women

titans 2

Bette and Joan may not have realized, at first, that their bitter enemy was not the other woman, but was simple vanity.

Though they have every intention of working together amicably, as Jack Warner states, it is more like an agreement between Stalin and Hitler in part two of the series Feud. Warner comes across as a two-bit Mussolini.

As Bette and Joan, Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange become more convincing in their roles, again playing the actresses years earlier in movie clip flashbacks. They are remarkable impersonators, but the characters are grand enough in gesture and attitude to allow for ample performances.

Picked apart by studios who want to see venom on the screen, the two stars are also victims of their media friends, Louella and Hedda, the gossip columnists who most profit from an open warfare on the set of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

In this realm, Robert Aldrich seems to suffer moral nausea at the idea that he must pit the actresses against each other to keep his own job.

An uneasy peace between the stars descends rapidly, setting the stage for a bumpy behind-the-scenes Hollywood story to fill up five times the amount of time of the original movie.

Every detail seems guaranteed to elicit glee and guffaws at the foibles and vanities of the two women. At the backstory of the series is the pathos and desperation that goes into their careers. Sarandon and Lange acquit themselves admirably.

If there are amusing high points, one includes Bette Davis meeting her co-star Victor Buono (Dominic Burgess) over coffee and donuts. She thinks he is the caterer, but the zaftig Buono tells her he is her romantic leading man—a fat homosexual.

We cannot know what Bette’s face looked like upon hearing this, but Sarandon provides a fairly good approximation.

Ripe details and dropped names permeate the script—which may be lost on young viewers, but those with a knowledge of Hollywood history will be in stitches.