Westworld 2.5: Crichton Bites Nolan

Michigan J. Frog That’s Show Biz!

Michael Crichton’s Futureworld’s troubles come back to Nolan’s Westworld 2.5.

Has Westworld begun to self-destruct? Season 2.5 is beginning to look like it’s a parody of itself, at worst. We half expect James Brolin and Peter Fonda, from the original two movies, to show up.

Creative genius Jonathan Nolan and his partner Lisa Joy seem to be giving the fans exactly what they want, but not exactly the way they want it. We have been treated to two worlds that were never in the Michael Critchon original:  Raj World and now Shogun World. It seems much ado about nothing much.

The series has become a satire on TV writers, as the one character who allegedly has written all the programmed dialogue of the robots complains that it was too much work trying to keep with up 300 story-lines.

So, he cheated. The characters of Westworld are now in Japan, and the idea of meeting your double who speaks exactly the same words, but this time in Japanese, has an unsettling effect on the robots.

You’d think a multi-billion dollar operation like Westworld would have hired more writers. Heaven knows we find the Internet is filled with them, all giving Jonathan Nolan more exegesis of his plots than at a symposium on Moby Dick.

The latest episode seems almost as if Toshiro Mifune is giving Yul Brynner pointers on the Magnificent Samurai Seven.

We feel as if there is far less going on this season, and we are already half-way to the end. What kind of cliff-hanger is in the offing?

We know that some humans are trying to restore the park(s) and save Delos Corporation some money by saving any “hosts” worthy of the name.

If there was a revelation here, we suppose it was the sex lives of robots are not much different than real people as Evan Rachel Wood and James Marsden, perpetually virginal in their robot roles, doff the union suits.

Yes, Mr. Nolan, 300 story-lines are too much for one writer.

 

Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille Found & Lost

DATELINE:  Sphinx Knows

 Sphinx nose

It may sound like something from John Waters, but this documentary marks a failed 30-year attempt to find the buried Egyptian city built by DeMille for his 1923 version of The Ten Commandments.

In 1982 young Peter Branson was inspired to go out into the desert, like some prophet without honor to locate the giant city with its dozens of sphinxes. No one told him it was a foolhardy endeavor.

Intermixed with the story of how Cecil B. DeMille single-handedly made the genre of the Hollywood epic, the film shows how little Hollywood knows of its own history. Its title is The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille.

Time and again, over three failed archeological digs, the studios would not fund this project to dig up what is under ten feet of sand in Guadalupe, California.

When done with his expensive movie, DeMille buried the city to prevent rival studios from using it for knock-off movies.

DeMille nearly broke Paramount and Adolph Zukor with his silent version with a cast of thousands, endlessly wrecked chariots, and technicolor scenes.

When he tried to remake the Charlton Heston-Yul Brynner version in 1955, he met nearly as much resistance as the documentary filmmakers who think they wasted time and money spinning their wheels in the sand.

Of course, the importance of the film is how it collects the memories and images of those silent film extras and production crew as they slowly went on to a production of their own deaths.

In that way, Peter Branson may have lost his fellow producer, his original archeologist to the terrible political idiocy of the Santa Barbara County bureaucrats, but he saved a special part of Hollywood history.

This film is a testament and a gospel for movie aficionados.

 

The Gut: Our Second Brain

DATELINE: Pass the Probiotic

 the Gut- Our Second Brain Twins!

You might think an hour-long documentary on the bowels, guts, and inners of humans would give us more laughs per line than you’d find in a stewed prune.

The Gut: Our Second Brain shows that there are twin controls on our lives.

After watching this French documentary, we weren’t laughing, or even busting a gut. We fell headlong into a pot-bellied bowl of microbes.

Scientists have discovered that the stomach area contains more neurons and sensitivity than the brain of a dog or cat. Yikes, no wonder our stomachs growl.

The brain developed after the intestines in our progenitors who climbed out of the primordial soup. Indeed, scientists will now tell you that your stomach contains thousands of billions of bacteria that are not exactly without their own willpower or way of life.

Yes, the gut can control your feelings, emotions, and provide more pain than your brain wants. We belong not only to three blood groups, but to three bowel groups. Bacteria are not only inside, but outside—and we are reacting to their preferences.

Experimenters have fed mice microbiotic diets that gave them bacteria to make their behavior fearless: in fact, they fell in love with cats who promptly ate them. It seems the bacteria grow even more efficiently inside cats–and know which way the diet falls.

You are what you eat or won’t eat. Probiotics like antibiotics can have a big influence on the ecosystem of our bodies. Yes, there are more bacteria inside us than stars in the galaxy, dear Cassius.

If you feel a little queasy, your bacteria may be acting up for a reason.

A little knowledge is always appreciated. But cognitive overload in the gut drives us mad. What an extraordinary documentary.

 

 

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

DATELINE: Movies Imitate Life

Film Stars Film Stars!

The tragic and sensitive final days of Oscar-winning actress Gloria Grahame make for an ironic version of Sunset Boulevard, without the cynicism and cruel take on Hollywood.

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is the antidote to all those anti-Hollywood movies. Yet, its story is the pathetic truth about an aging film star who spent her last days with a younger man. Gloria is no deluded Norma Desmond, and Jamie Bell’s Peter is no reluctant William Holden.

With Anette Bening in form as the pouty Grahame in her failing days, the film has at its core a rather pathetic love story.  Peter Turner was a young British actor who was Gloria’s last companion. Bening certainly eschews vanity playing a woman with cancer and fighting the clock.

Jamie Bell returns to his roots as a British working-class boy with a show biz heart as Peter. He dances too like Billy Elliott, and Bell’s charm remains in full blossom. Their love story may strain credulity among many but has the world of actors all over it.

As an aging ingenue with a scandalous past, Gloria still wants to play Juliet for the Royal Shakespeare Company, however improbable. Bell and Bening have definite chemistry, even as they attend the movies on a date to see Alien.

Your Hollywood gossip reference level will be satisfied with enough detail to titillate.

Supporting Bening and Bell, you cannot do better than Julie Walters as the Liverpool mother and Vanessa Redgrave as Gloria’s mother.

With clips of the young luminous Gloria in her heyday, the film plays on echoes on the past.  Gloria won her Oscar as support to Kirk Douglas and Lana Turner in The Bad and the Beautiful, another classic Hollywood tale.

Elegiac movies often sink into sentiment and nostalgia, but this film keeps its head up throughout. Forget about happy endings. They only happened in the old movies.

Tom, Giselle, Boris & Natasha!

DATELINE: Met Gala Stun Guns Again

Tom, Giselle, Boris, Natasha

Yes, right after the Kentucky Derby “and they’re off—” comes the notorious Met Gala in New York where the show horses and would-be celebrities fall all over themselves on the red carpet.

Yes, on the heels of the bizarre nature of Westworld’s second season comes Evan Rachel Wood, Kim Karadasian, and Elon Musk, on the red carpet.

Our favorite had to be Tom Brady, erstwhile ageless quarterback and his wife (the billionaire), looking like refugees from 1960s Gilligan’s Island. Indeed, you had to wonder if Jonathan Nolan had produced the glitzy extravaganza as a means to publicize his TV HBO weirdo series.

You can’t tell the androids from the guests.

What Tom Brady has had to do to cause his wife to agree to let him play for two more seasons? You have only to look at his outfit as the twosome cavorted with other Barbie and Ken dolls.

Yes, Tom is wearing nail polish. You can’t see the multi-colored nail polish on his feet. And he looks like he is storing botox in his cheeks. Yet, the rash comments that he and wife look like James Bond villains is a tad off-the-mark.

Tom is not auditioning to play Dr. No, nor Goldfinger. He is acting like a friendly Russian that would charm President Donald Trump, whose hair would have fit right in on the red carpet.

Tom and Giselle came across as Boris and Natasha, those 1960s spies who gave Bullwinkle Gronk and Julian the Flying Squirrel fits.

Halloween comes early. However, we did see Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his young Baby Mama. To our shock, Kraft was NOT wearing his blue collar/white shirt. He did have de rigueur tennis shoes with his tux.

You have to love insanity with money.

 

 

Westworld 2.3: Lost in a Tortured Storyline

DATELINE:  Where Have All the Plots Gone?What's My Line?

Playing What’s My Line, on Westworld 2.3.

If you tuned in a little late to the latest episode of Westworld, you might have to double-check your channel listings. It seemed as if you had stumbled into one of those old BBC TV series about India and the Raj.

Such is the nature of the tortured storyline presented by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy. You may not recognize the characters, surroundings, or goings-on. We supposed that was meant to be part of the show’s confusing allure.

New, old, past, present, familiar, unfamiliar, are all fair game for the Worlds Beyond Westworld. We go from the Raj to the world of Kurosawa over the course of the hour. Welcome to the ever-new, ever-dangerous Samuraiworld.

We are reunited with cast members thought lost, dead, or reprogrammed along the way of the latest series entry. There is some relief to discover the actors still have jobs a few weeks into the second season.

Indeed, the Brit writer in the series, not of the series, played by Simon Quartermain, can even mimic the words the android hosts will utter before they utter them. Well, that’s the power of the writer, which is not saying much or saying too much.

In the case of Nolan and Joy, creative forces behind the tortured storylines, they had a lot of ‘splaining to do on this night and threw the Bengal tiger storyline out of the jungle and into the Raj for a viewer hunting for an irrational story.

We also learned the fate of the woman with the Snake Tattoo, now back with Thandie Newton’s tech workers as her prisoners.

At this rate the new season of episodes will end before we have established where last season’s minor characters have gone.

Perhaps, unwittingly, we and HBO have just signed on for the long haul of five or six seasons. Dolores Delos (Evan Rachel Wood) finds her old robot father and that his memories are not really erased after all, but have gone into some wild Westworld cloud, to be recovered by a tech wizard (android Bernard, Arnold, or whoever, Jeffrey Wright).

Yes, we are still here, but are finding the high altitude of Internet clouds are too convenient for lost souls of Westworld 2.3.

Tesla Files: Missing in Action

DATELINE:  Death Rays & Shocking Details

Tesla & sparks Tesla Enjoys a Good Book!

Brought to you by the producers of Ancient Aliens, History Channel has jumped onto the hot topic of Nikola Tesla, soon to be subject of a docudrama with Nicholas Hoult and Benedict Cumberbatch (Current Wars), and endless stand-alone documentaries.

The series Tesla Files uses a formula near and dear to fans of History adventures: they team up some mesomorphic men who like to go hop-scotching across the globe on quests that would delight your average ten-year old boy.

Indeed, never a girl is seen among the researchers, hangers-on, or production forces. So be it here.

The series starts off with a bang: Tesla claimed to have 80 trunks of research material in storage at the time of his death. The US government catalogued only 30, and the Tesla Museum in Serbia claims to have 60 (nearly everything by their tabulation). Jumping to conclusions, they ask: “Who stole the trunks?”

Indeed, the American researchers are indignant at the cavalier treatment of the Serbian museum director who dismisses them as amateurs and refuses to show them even signatures for verification. It couldn’t be more delightful to deepen their suspicions and mystery.

As you might expect, the Freedom of Information Act has allowed the American government to lie over the years, The researchers believe in a particle beam or death ray invented by Tesla, but serious scholars dismiss it as legend.

One of the highlights of the first episode is the revelation that President Trump’s uncle John Trump was the main investigator at the death of Tesla—and catalogued the files in his safe to reveal there was “nothing of…value.” So much for the purported Death Ray or Particle Beam he claimed to invent.

The show’s hosts want to fall all over themselves to announce that mendacity seems to be a family trait of the Trumps.

Tesla, a naturalized American citizen, was treated as an alien whose property was seized in 1943 by the government; an illegal action.

The series whets enough appetite for cover-ups, crimes against humanity, experimenting with Tesla’s inventions, and top secrets, that future episodes can run on the “electrifying” and “shocking” fumes of the inventor’s life.

You have to love a show that can use the word “electrifying” both literally and figuratively.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strangers Derailed on a Train

DATELINE:  Riding the Rails?

Neeson Sees Rushes of Commuter Old-Timer Hero

Yes, we imagine this is Neeson’s face (above) after looking at the daily rushes for The Commuter.

Though The Commuter sounds like a pedestrian film, it is actually one of those improbable Liam Neeson action/adventure movies.

Our credulity might be given a hard task to accept a complex conspiracy is afoot on a train out of Manhattan. Or, our credulity may be more strained by the notion that the self-identified 60-year-old hero is able to fight strenuous younger opponents and show only a few huffs and puffs for his efforts.

Most 60-year old commuters would be suffering cardiac arrest after a bumpy ride on this commuter train.

A fiendish woman approaches Neeson after he is fired from his insurance salesman job—with an offer he cannot refuse. We learn he is a former police detective, which may explain a few plot holes.

The train out of Grand Central has your usual suspects from central casting—and Liam must earn his $100,000 bounty and save his wife and children from clever kidnappers who may be equals of terrorists, FBI agents, or even the transit police force.

The film defies you to withhold logic and apply an explanation until the final moments. It will take enormous willpower. Forget the notion that anyone that powerful and rich enough to be executed by a mysterious black ops group would not be on a commuter train (as one Goldman Sachs broker on the train tells us).

Wonderful Elizabeth McGovern is around in a small role as Neeson’s wife, and all the actors are suitably well-cast in support of the wild goose chase along the rails. Next, time you may want to call Uber.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Brady’s Successor

 DATELINE: Patriotic QB Gore

CK The Next Patriot QB?

Failing to find a Baker or a Mayfield at the NFL draft, so long, Baker Mayfield, or Baking Maybe, it looks like the Patriots of New England may be in a “heads, you lose/tails, you lose” situation when it comes to Tom’s follow-up.

It’s beginning to look like a basketball game after the NFL draft, and the Patriots need a sixth man to spell Tom Brady as he reaches into his Social Security years.

To save their 40s old quarterback, the Belichick team may need to sit him halfway through the third quarter of every game, and well into the fourth. Perhaps they merely play him every other game this season.

Or perhaps he sits down when the game is out of hand or in hand. He needs his rest. Keep him hydrated and ready.

In this week’s episode of Grabbing Headlines, Tom Brady himself stated how much he appreciates those who kneel during the National Anthem. His owner Robert Kraft said the same words reportedly to other billionaire owners of NFL teams at a meeting.

If any team is going to tackle the Trump approach, it may be the Patriots. If any team can afford to lose fans who have already given up on football because they hate kneelers (except in church apparently).

The NFL has already lost ten or twenty percent of its racist fans. Good riddance.

Are you listening, Colin Kaepernick?

Perhaps in plan two, the Patriots plan to sign Johnny Manziel of Boy Zeal fame. The playboy QB may take a page out of TB12, or AA, depending on how bad he wants to play football.

The Patriots would swirl in controversy for picking up “bad boys” once again and trying to rehab them to win the Super Bowl. It’s a scenario usually reserved for Hollywood and the Patriots.

 

 

 

 

Post Toastie, Post Haste, Post Dated

 DATELINE: Movie Review

 post toastie  The Post

Back in the days of the Nixon Administration, journalism became elevated to the career and mission of national guardian, and you had movies like All the President’s Men about Woodward and Bernstein, starring Hoffman and Redford.

Today, with fake news all the buzz, you have an attempt to recreate the nostalgia of journalism in The Post-Watergate movie in the era of Stormy Daniels and James Comey.

Hence, you have The Post with two actors of note, exceptions as targets in the crosshairs of President Trump: Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep.

The Post is the name of the newspaper that is most maligned nowadays by Sarah Huckaboo Slanders in her daily briefings at the White House. It is also the name of a movie that tries to redeem journalism.

You’d have better luck collecting a nickel for your empty beer bottle.

This is a movie preaching to the people not sitting in the church pew. You will need to chain someone to a pillar to watch The Post.

Muckrakers no longer read newspapers or books and prefer ten seconds to hook their media audience with an image. By the same token, movies are not watched for messages nowadays, and not watched without a good car chase and explosion. You might as well hook your worm and go fishing.

But, we do have a movie here, not a video game. And we have to say something to that cult of movie watchers and the cult of message movie fans.

When documentaries are accused of being faked news, a docudrama is the ultimate fiction to the new breed of Trumpist news monks.

Oh, by the way, The Post is a prestige movie. That means no one is watching, which is a shame.

Bombshell Shocker: Hedy Lamarr

 DATELINE: Inventor & Movie Star

 Hedy Beauty & Brains

You might as well start with Mel Brooks making a joke of Headley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles. It gave actress Hedy Lamarr notorious fame forever.

She didn’t need it. She needed recognition for being one of the foremost immigrant inventors in American history: giving us frequency hopping, used in wi-fi, Bluetooth, rocket science, and myriad other technology. Move over, Einstein.

Yes, the most beautiful Austrian actress in Hollywood history was a genius. Hedy Lamar found tabloid scandal easier to condemn her life than history to exonerate her achievement.

She paid a dear price in those decades for overstepping the bounds of glamour and wanting intellectual equality. Hedy Lamar had a half-dozen husbands, and probably lovers galore, but one of those men—Howard Hughes—was more intrigued with her brain. He put his raft of scientists at her disposal.

What actress movie star came home from playing Tondelayo in White Cargo and sat down at her chemists’ table to do inventing? She wanted to create a weapon to help in World War II torpedo technology. The US Navy just laughed at her creation. She never made a dime off it.

Hedy was Delilah for Cecil B. DeMille. She was Bob Hope’s foil in My Favorite Spy. How could she be something more? She was fired, replaced by Zsa Zsa Gabor in her last attempt at movie stardom in the 1960s.

The brilliant documentary, Bombshell, may stun you with revelations. It will sadden you about ignored genius and the sensitivity of a mistreated soul.

Hedy Lamarr deserved much, much more, but she was a fighter and would not let the world break her on its yoke of beauty and shallow talents.

This film Bombshell: the Hedy Lamarr Story is heady stuff, one of the most stunning documentaries on Hollywood’s inner secret life of stars.

Trump as Captain Queeg?

 DATELINE:  25th Amendment Mutiny?

 

Queeg Trump Bogart as Trump

If you caught Fox & Friends on this Thursday morning, April 26, you heard the President of the United States call in for a light-hearted conversation.

For over 30 minutes, the hosts humored him until someone told them in their earpieces that he was out of his mind—and shut him down immediately.

Unfortunately for his supportive trio of hosts, the POTUS went slightly off-script. Banter turned into darkly moody ranting.

We haven’t seen such a prolonged, agonizing performance of descent into madness since Humphrey Bogart played Captain Queeg in the notorious scene from Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny, not to be confused with Herman Caine’s run for president.

A paranoid officer, Captain Queeg went on the witness stand to testify against the mutineer officers of his ship. And, he proved their point.

We could not see Trump rolling little steel balls between his fingers, but we certainly heard the deranged rant about the missing strawberries.

Someone stole his favorite dessert from the galley kitchen.

No, wait, that was Queeg.

Trump went on and on about Stormy Daniels, Michael Cohen, and admitted to prosecutors listening what they exactly needed to hear. He gave them a full lunatic confession.

It may not be admissible in court of law because the poor, besotted soul in love with himself was clearly an animal in distress. Impeachment may be another kettle of strawberries.

We wonder how many members of Congress heard this and wondered how soon the Cabinet will mutiny against the mad Queeg in the White House.

Humphrey Bogart won accolades for his searing portrait of a man in the throes of madness. Trump lost more credibility, though his supporters may be as mad as he.

We are slip-sliding on steel ball bearings—and Great America is about to have a greater fall.

Indeed, Trump proved that the strawberries were stolen, and it was not fake news after all.

It was a career-ending performance.

Sketchy Brady & Stormy Weather

DATELINE: Say It Ain’t So, Tom!

While Tom Brady is away in Arabia, playing at Lawrence of Best Buddies, on a charity junket to Qatar, riding camels, the home-front is afire.

It’s not bad enough that Bill Belichick is playing the Gunfighter from Westworld, trying to do a robot kill on Brady, but now Mickey Spillane Avenatti, the nightmare attorney who is giving Trump a nervous breakdown, has set his sights on Tom Brady lookalikes.

It appears that a criminal sketch artist has come up with a picture of the man who threatened Miss Stormy Daniels about revealing too much detail about Mr. Trump’s strumpets.

The last time a sketch artist did in Tom, he started to look like Quasimodo in a bad bell-ringer mode during the Deflategate trials.

Today, of course, he looks like a man whose TB12 method means he never had or needed Botox. The latest picture is supposed to be a young thug from 2011, back when Tom wore his hair askance and before the hair-plugs for men settled in.

It would seem that Tom’s one-time support for President Trump will go a long way to ruining his life now and forever. He is paying a dear price for having a MAGA hat in his locker for one enchanted evening.

Tom is so hated in some circles that concussed football fans think he is capable of approaching a porn star with a threatening glare.

We feel being out of the country at present may be the best strategy for Mr. Brady. He also ought to consider hiring a better public relations agency to handle his press junkets.

Ancient Aliens Back in 2010, Season 1

DATELINE: New Episodes On the Horizon!

 hair  Yes, Giorgio!

Nibiru, the X planet, is allegedly on the horizon and ready to cause consternation again later this week. And, with a new season of Ancient Aliens coming up on the rising of a new moon, we decided to take a look at one of the first season episodes from 2010.

Do the old Ancient Aliens hold up to the universal change of the skies? We looked into our radio telescope and crystal ball.

The answer is sort of.

The third show of the series in 2010, entitled “The Mission,” had all the hoopla you’ve come to expect. Alas, the ninety-minute show was all over the map, taking us from Peruvian gold among the Nazcar Lines to Anunnaki control of the Sumerian civilization.

Yes, yes, the guy with the wild hair and man-tan stole the show.

Since the Anunnaki were weird beings into all kinds of genetic mutations and experimenting with the creatures on Earth as possible slave labor, we have mixed feelings about their return. They seem to be the folks on Nibiru, and the Vatican observatory at Mt. Graham keeping an eye on them is cold comfort.

Gold in them thar hills set off our rush of ancient aliens 150,000 years ago. They needed the stuff for their technology, atmosphere, and apparently even took to eating it. With an abundance of goldstuff on Earth, we were fair game for their unfair games.

Old mines have been found that date back almost 200,000 years.

Gold has held its value.

The show leaped all over the planet: Enrico Fermi asked about alien visitors, “Where are they?”  Thence, we also met claimants of twelve crystal skulls hidden on our planet—and, we learned that, if they were ever put into the same room, Nibiru would be small potatoes.

Only seven quartz skulls are known, and they are not likely to leave their museums or private collections, even for Indy Jones.

As you might expect in 2010, much time was given over to the Mayan calendar and the so-called ‘end of the world’ in 2012. It’s like history is repeating itself this year, with another apocalyptic visit from Nibiru.

Yes, we are definitely ready for season 13 of Ancient Aliens.

Titanic Anniversary & Ominous Day

DATELINE:  Ghosts on Mill Circle

Richard Frazar White and his father, Percival, aboard the Titanic.

 

Each year on this date, we visit the grave of Richard Frazar White who died on the Titanic. His father was with him, but his body was never recovered. It is the 106th year since the ship sank into the cold Atlantic.

Richard lived here at Mill Circle. His family owned our home and, in all likelihood, he spent some time here. The caretaker had an apartment in what is now the library. We have hung Richard’s portrait there and placed it near a model of the Titanic.

This year, unlike others, began ominously. A large crash against the picture window overlooking a patio caused some concern. We found a robin, dazed, breathing hard, that after half-an-hour staggered away. We could not see the second bird, dead, that had also crashed into the window.

This is not a commonplace event.

You see our house is haunted by the spirit of Richard White. Oh, yes, psychics have come here to tell us.

We went out to buy flowers for a gravesite visit, but never made it. The car’s systems went a little crazy: the wiper warning light went on, as did the steering wheel light, and the oil light, and the brake light. Perhaps we should not go to the cemetery this year. Was it a sign? A message?

Our Haitian health aide was alarmed enough to suggest we light a white candle and fill a clear glass with cold, cold water to be placed near the table where the birds came at the window.

Following instructions, we found that somehow after an hour the candle had been blown out: perhaps some never felt draft from some odd corner of the house.

Our Haitian friend mentioned that there was one Haitian on the Titanic who also died on this date so many years ago. He was an engineer, the only person of color among the passengers, Joseph Philippe Lemercier Laroche.

This information also rattled us a bit more.

So, we wait before removing the dead bird, starting the car again, or anticipating another bird crash into the window.

It’s just another day at our haunted house.

Dr. William Russo has written Tales of a Titanic Family about the background story to the two victims of the White family. It is available on amazon.com in paperback and ebook format.