Gone and Not Forgotten!

DATELINE: Disappearing without a Trace

 American Aeryn, Mr. Gay AustriaGillern

A parental nightmare centers on the sudden disappearance of an adult child in a foreign land.

This true story from 2011 tells the horror faced by a retired Ithaca, New York, cop Kathyrn Gillern whose son goes missing in Vienna. Without help, with a language barrier, and with many unanswered questions, this disturbing tale of Aeryn Gillern is told primarily from his mother’s viewpoint.

Alas, much is either withheld or minimized. We see the strapping handsome young American who has become an expatriate and moved to Austria to work for a branch of the United Nations. Then, we learn he is gay. Then, we learn he wants his mother in retirement to move in with him.

Most disturbing of all, we learn that Austria is not a friendly place for gay men. Like the attitude toward Jews 60 years earlier, the populace may be more than hostile.

Police are unfriendly and decidedly cruel to the mother, claiming she is “difficult,” and believe she has come to learn what happened with a chip on her shoulder.

Along the way, more details emerge. Aeryn (once Aaron) was at an elite sauna for well-to-do gay men—and ran out naked to the streets. Police contend it was a “spontaneous suicide” after learning he was HIV-positive.

When his mother goes through his belongings, his recent medical test said he was HIV-negative!  Police lie to her about search dogs, divers in the Danube, and other sundry details.

We hear he is Mr. Gay Austria of 2006!  What? An American? That seems to be part of a homophobic reaction by police, and a coverup of high-ranking gay officials.

Was Aeryn on drugs? Murdered by a jealous lover? A suicide?

Or was it even more nefarious? We think it sounds like he was somehow involved in high-level espionage. Was he CIA? You will never learn from this film.

There are no answers in this compelling mystery that ends in 2011 with annual trips by Aeryn’s mother to seek information in Vienna and hold a solitary vigil.

In 2015, the police finally dragged the river for his body—an example of too little, too late, and no results.

The story is almost as infuriating as the details we are not told.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Search of…., 1.3 Monsters of the Deep

DATELINE:  Quinto Re-Imagines!

sam Suffering Sam, Aussie Boy!

The re-imagined Leonard Nimoy series, now with Zachary Quinto, is back on top with episode 3 of the updated version of In Search Of, on History.

You cannot quibble with the need to update the old 1970s series. Much has been added to the lore, and cryptozoologists never existed back in the old days.

By taking a look at monsters of the deep, the show takes Quinto to Australia where nearby oceans are 4 miles deep –and only 1% of the ocean has been explored.

His first interview is with a cute Aussie boy who was mysteriously bitten all over his legs by some unknown carnivore when he stood in a foot of water.

The attack is horrific and takes up some true detective work to learn it may be a tiny creature (actually hundreds) that emerge during full-moon.

We are delighted with Quinto’s follow-up ability to question those he speaks to. He is both informative, knowledgeable, and quite personable in putting people at ease. He is also clearly a cut above in the intelligence quotient.

He can speak to fisherman, teenagers, and scientists with equal aplomb. When he ends up in Fort Lauderdale, he is able to banter with a man who has discovered a new species of ocean creature.

It is bewildering and frightening to see all the denizens of the deep that have created mythic monster stories. And, we give Quinto credit for diving right into the ocean where blue spotted octopi have deadly toxins.

This was a goody.

 

 

Endeavour 5.6. Endings & Loose Ends

DATELINE: Disappointing Finish to Season

 last endeavour

Inspector Morse has certainly come to the end of one line. Season wraps are often cliff-hangers, but this one seemed less definitive. There is no cliff and no hanging story. Morse’s entire Oxford station has closed and been re-assigned. He is now separated from most of his closest associates.

Like most series that attempt to close the loops of character stories at season’s end, the price is the actual mystery of the tale. Endeavour is so concerned with the loose ends that the big picture suffers in the final episode.

This season closer featured a few of the regulars in smaller than usual, compact scenes: Abigail Thaw, daughter of the original Morse actor, showed up for a funeral at the end of the show, in her role as the tough news journalist.

Thursday’s daughter seemed about to re-kindle her role in the life of Endeavour Morse, and the Thursday and his wife have split over trust issues.

The Chief has tendered his own resignation but has some solace in that those left in service will work to learn who was responsible for the death of one of their regimen.

As obvious, this mystery episode about Morse going under cover as a teacher at a hoity-toity school was really secondary to the wrap-up of a variety of story lines that have grown this season—and travel backward four other seasons.

We know only that the original series set in the 1990s featured the coroner and one of Morse’s fellow officers, in a supervisory capacity, twenty years later. Beyond that, we may come to the only other fact: Morse remained unattached, unlucky in love.

A sixth season will come next year. It will be largely unrecognizable in terms of the past few years. The deadly 1960s are about to give way to the overwrought 1970s. The series may be on its last legs.

 

 

Heaven Forbid: Rage in Heaven

DATELINE:  Koo-Koo Bird Special

 Two-faced Sanders

Note the two faces of George Sanders in the publicity still!

If you think you have seen Rage in Heaven, you may be mistaken. Around the same time came other movies called Leave Her to Heaven and Heaven Can Wait. Worse yet, the latter film also starred Robert Montgomery.

In this movie, Mr. Montgomery may not be above suspicion (after all, he carried an old lady’s head in a hatbox in Night Must Fall). Here too Ingrid Bergman is fresh off being driven mad by her husband in Gaslight, and everyone’s favorite reprobate, George Sanders, is never trustworthy!

This is the sort of movie where we have to trust the psychiatrist (Oscar Homolka) who let the dangerous psycho escape and looks kind of fishy in every scene.

You may begin to think this movie was directed by Alfred Hitchcock or perhaps Mel Brooks. A mysterious inmate of a Parisian insane asylum has escaped—and shows up in Merry Olde England.

So, your usual nuthouse quotient is higher than normal.

As for us, we never did like the way Robert Montgomery looked at Fluffy the cat, and George Sanders was simply too too nice hereabouts. As for Bergman, she looks like she wants to catch the next plane to Casablanca.

This period piece of fluffy nutter came from a novella by James Hilton who had given us Lost Horizon, Random Harvest, and Goodbye Mr. Chips. Lightning did not strike twice, or thrice, even with notable Christopher Isherwood doing the screenplay.

However, this is an MGM movie with a pedigree, and is first-class all the way to the nuthouse.

 

 

 

In Search of …Zachary Quinto

 DATELINE:   Call him Zak, not Spock.

Zak “I am not Spock.”

Leave it to History Channel to take a clever idea and run with it.

The old Leonard Nimoy series about oddities in the world has been revived. There is new wine in old bottles. In Search of…  is back! Its first episode is called, “Aliens.”

Leonard Nimoy had won fame in the 1970s as Spock on Star Trek, so History went to the next generation: they have beamed up Zachary Quinto, the new Spock of Star Trek, to be narrator of the newly minted series. He will be far more hands-on and in person.

If you recall, Nimoy kept his face out of the old shows: relying on his marvelous voice. This new host will be in the picture.

For the first act of the first season: aliens.

Quinto is the executive producer of the series, which means he likely wanted to do interviews and try out various stunts. In the first show he goes to the top of a satellite dish and later is suspended by wires to parallel floating up into a spaceship.

Great stuff, but what hooked us were the interviews. The first man named Kyle claimed he was abducted by aliens since childhood.

Given a polygraph, he failed: he apologized, but this is not something you see. However, we were not impressed with this inarticulate and ungrammatical person. Why would aliens take him as an example of the human race?

The second person was a chemist with an implant he removed from his foot. He claimed it was made out of a meteorite, but testing was inconclusive. This also made the show a tad different shade of your usual ancient aliens on History Channel.

We’ll be back to see Zak, as he introduced himself to various people.

 

 

 

 

Endeavour 5.5: Quartet

DATELINE:  Bond, Endeavour Bond

Endeavour as Bond Shaun Bond, or Smiley Evans?

The latest episode called “Quartet”, set in 1968, at the height of the James Bond and Spy Who Came in from the Cold, sent Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) into the world of foreign agents and double-crosses with Communists.

It’s not a far jump from an international festival murder at Oxford to the world of mysterious secret agents. A child is collateral damage during spy versus spy, which incenses Endeavour. Call this a kind of Bond meets John LeCarre!

As Inspector Thursday states, they are not “danger men” referring to the series starring Patrick McGoohan back then as a secret agent man. The police are ordered to back off the case, but Morse soon finds himself working undercover too with all those 00 types.

When members of the Special Branch ask to meet Morse and tell him to wear a dinner jacket, he shows up like Bond for a meeting with a couple of weasels that would make George Smiley smile.

The British have always had a spot for traitors and communists in the government and, in the words of one double agent, little people. The ones you don’t notice are the hired assassins.

They even try to garotte Morse, and they hijack murder victims to cover up the covert stuff.

Though there seems to be an unrelated case of domestic abuse going on in the mundane world of Thursday’s precinct, it may all tie in to billionaire perfume makers, East German dentures, and girlfriends who run off to take photos in Vietnam.

This season Endeavour offers two bonus episodes, and this high quality makes us wish they could make many more.

Yes, the series is already down for a sixth and likely final season.

 

Ancient Aliens Returns with Two Hours & Two Heads

DATELINE:  Twilight of the Hosts

Giorgio & Ramy

Giorgio & Ramy, that’s who!

The hiatus of the popular series Ancient Aliens was short-lived.

However, they have put their nuclear option on the table: Giorgio of the hair explosion has now joined forces with Ramy Romany and his Indiana Jones fedora, another new rising star and quasi-Egyptologist on the show.

They are teamed up to go to Cairo for a two-hour tour, a new age version of Gilligan and the Skipper.

This is a power move after thirteen seasons and a midseason hiatus. The two most popular hosts are on the chessboard.

Let’s hope their arc of the alien covenant does not shut down in the Great Pyramid.

Ramy plans to take Giorgio into the bowels of Khufu’s power plant (it’s no longer considered a tomb).

This is one-upsmanship, as Ramy takes great pleasure in escorting Giorgio into the Great Pyramid. How he did this feat is revealed shortly when the great Hawass drags his ass into the picture. He’s a man who never met an Egyptian tomb he did not visit on TV.  It seems Ramy is related to national blowheart Zahi Hawass, and that explains a great deal about the great Hawass and the great Pyramid.

Through judicious editing, we never learn how much Hawass hates the ancient alien theory about builders of the pyramids. He likes to say the native peoples did it.

It’s also amusing to watch the facial expressions of Ramy Romany when he disagrees with some of Giorgio’s more outrageous theories. He never lets a sourpuss pass without notice.

Of course, it all comes to a head with the twin hosts sitting at dusk before the Great Pyramid, with Ramy smoking a waterpipe for great effect. Their profiles and agreeing to disagree is certainly the start of long and beautiful friendship, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Captain Renault ran off with Rick Blaine at the end of Casablanca.

 

 

Primal Fear & Secondary Plot

 DATELINE: Attorney-Client Privilege

 attorney privilege

In 1996 came another of those lawyer with killer client movies. This one featured Richard Gere as the hotshot attorney, and young Edward Norton as the simpleton altar boy who butchers the archbishop.

Smarmy, with a wink, and an attitude to put the screws to anyone in his way, infamous attorney Richard Gere defends mobsters (Steven Bauer) and anyone else who will cause his picture to adorn the city’s magazines.

Laura Linney is his antagonist in the prosecutor’s office and dismisses him after a one-night stand that “lasted six months.” Her buttons can be pushed, and she pushes back. In light of the Hollywood mistreatment of women, the brazen sexism of the Gere character is a bit too much. However, it fits in with the attitudes he exhibits.

Alfre Woodard is the judge who is not about to let her courtroom become a place where Gere can let loose his vendettas. The corrupt city prosecutors are about as hooked into mob ventures as the church in this cynical movie.

This time the archbishop isn’t diddling the boys, only videotaping their antics with hired girls. What a change of pace!

Norton seems to play the hillbilly boy brought to the big city by the slick priest. However, neuropsychiatrist Frances McDormand isn’t quite convinced during the 60 hours of conversation she holds with the young choir boy.

Gere uses a bag of tricks to acquit the young man of the heinous crime (a word he claims is too fancy for the dumb jury).

The growing twisted jazz score indicates that we are in film noir territory, and come-uppance is around the corner. Movie is well-done and has fine performances, though we feel like we have been there in several similar movies, most notably with Keanu Reeves last year in The Whole Truth and Gary Oldman a few years back in Criminal Law. They had client troubles too.

You could do worse than pay attention here.

Endeavour 5.4, Colours

DATELINE: Nazis at Oxford

 Jack Bannon

Jack Bannon, as Sam Thursday

With the latest episode of Endeavour entitled “Colours,” referring to racial and military problems, the focus switches to some extent to the adult children of DCI Fred Thursday.  Sam and Joan are definitely problems (Jack Bannon, Sara Vickers) to their by-the-book policeman father.

Sam has been in the military for the past two seasons but returns as a suspect and witness to a murder on a local army base. Jack Bannon returns to the series for a shot and a conflict with Fred (Roger Allam). Daughter Joan has begun to be socially conscious and is arrested at a protest against segregation.

We are in the midst of 1968 where Fred and his wife Win may be entering ballroom dancing contests, but murders seem to be rampant at Oxford. Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) always closely tied to Thursday and his children must remain objective.

Indeed, Chief Bright (Anton Lesser) takes Fred Thursday off the case because of his family connection to the death of a model (whose parents were Nazi sympathizers during World War II).

If all these complications seem to be mounting up, you need only see one suspect who has a photo of Hitler at her wedding in the early 1940s. It ties in neatly with the racial turmoil and prejudice at Oxford in the 1960s.

Characters continue to evolve: as two women in Morse’s life are moving onward to other police colleagues (DCI Strange and Joan & policeman Shelley and DC Fancy). This will certainly leave Morse in the lurch and explains 20 years later his bachelorhood in the original series.

Complex, subtle, and filled with red herrings, the series continues to provide challenging mysteries.

 

Spin Dry Man

DATELINE: Smarty Pants

spin dry

If you want a movie that gives a disservice, try The Spinning Man. This is one of those intellectual mystery movies, which is to say, you won’t have clever a plot, only an overwrought one.

The movie has all the ingredients for an excellent film, so what went wrong? The movie deals with a prickly, pompous, persnickety, philandering professor of philosophy who is suspected of a murder by a persistent police detective. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled plots too.

Stars are Pierce Brosnan and Guy Pearce. We presumed Pearce was the cop and Pierce was the suspect. How wrong we were to fall into the plot hole. That’s a great start.

However, we’ve known our share of philosophy professors at small private colleges—and none has been as obtuse and arrogant as Guy Pearce’s Dr. Birch. He antagonizes the police needlessly when they question him about a missing female student whom he may or may not have known.

Pearce is snide, even to his long-suffering wife (Minnie Driver) who also begins to think he not only sleeps with an array of beautiful nubile young students but may be responsible for something dastardly.

Pierce Brosnan’s detective is an intellectual equal to the professor, and he may be put off by the abject hostility. Okay, we know some professors see police as enemies. And, personal flaws render some police detectives to a parochial beat.

We then are thrust into one of those philosophical conundrums like you found with Guy Pearce in Chris Nolan’s film about memory. Lightning does not strike twice.

The audience is hung out to dry when solutions seem to come tumbling out. We were left a tad irritated more than intrigued, which is never good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decree, Ripper, & Sherlock Holmes

DATELINE: Solid Sherlock Entry!

Mason & Plummer

Back in 1979, another tandem of Sherlock and Dr. Watson came in the form of Christopher Plummer and James Mason. You certainly could not find a better pedigree. The film is Murder by Decree, one of the lesser entries in the Holmes movies.

The film deserves a better fate than to be forgotten.

Director Bob Clark (of Porky’s and Christmas Story) surrounded them with a stellar cast of actors (Anthony Quayle, John Gielgud, Susan Clark, David Hemmings) and some bad set-up minatures of London.

You can expect superior performances—and the Holmes/Watson team is highly watchable, though we took umbrage with Holmes wearing his deerstalker hat in London and showing tears after interviewing a woman in a mad house.

The idea of Holmes chasing after Jack the Ripper is always a staple notion of Victorian crime, though it is not part of the original Conan Doyle canon. Indeed, it seems as if someone decided to plunk down Holmes in the middle of a serious murder conspiracy theory of 1979.

The idea that the Ripper was a member of the royal family has been floated in various situations, but never played for a fictional interpretation with these results.

Blame seems aimed at the usual suspects of conspiracy theory. The culprits here are, once again, freemasons of the 33rd degree who now seem to be covering up the Ripper (other tales make them complicit in UFOs and the Kennedy assassination). With all the top government officials involved, we wondered where Mycroft might be.

In this incarnation, the Ripper plot goes right to Queen Victoria and her Prime Minister. This story seems to support the notion that the monarchy of England deserves to be dismissed. Of course, it is too radical even for Americans.

The politics of religion dominates the story as Catholics and Jews are also made part of the investigation, albeit as victims of prejudice and hate.

 

Alas, Poor Yorick and Poor Shakespeare

DATELINE:  Heads, You Lose!

cursed

Shakespeare’s Tomb is a marvelous documentary that deals with the case of the headless Bard of Avon.

Back in the 18th and 19th century, they were graverobbers who wanted the heads of famous people and in Yorick fashion, they took the skulls from older graves. Phrenologists were also collectors who were interested in having a genius skull in their study. You could so easily read the bumps in the cranium.

You may be surprised to learn that Shakespeare put a curse on his own grave, which is located in the holy Trinity Church in Avon—not the more protected Westminster Abbey.

You may also be surprised to learn that Shakespeare put a curse on his own grave, which is located in the holy Trinity Church in Avon, as if he had an inkling that someone would want his head on a silver tray.

One of the most fascinating documentaries in a long time takes the opportunity of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death to examine his strange burial—and possible vandalism of his resting place in the late 1790s.

It may well be they took the graverobbers took a wrong turn, and grasped the head of Ann Hathaway, in a shroud only three feet deep, next to Shakespeare.

For unknown reasons, this purloined skull was dumped at another church where it has rested without a body in a charnel spot.

Forensic experts studied the discovery and concluded that it belonged to a woman. The documentary makes little of that wrong head, but she was the right age to be Shakespeare’s late wife who is buried next to him next to him in a shallow grave.

Apparently, Holy Trinity Church tried to cover up the problem by putting a new stone over Shakespeare’s dug  up grave and not telling anyone. Ground penetrating radar allows the film crew to examine Shakespeare’s grave without opening it.

Good detective work and charming hosts of the show make this little hour-long documentary is brilliant and worthy of your attention.

 

Queen Latifah, Jimmy Fallon, & Gisele Bundchen Star!

 DATELINE: Bad Bad Bundchen

 bad bad bundchen.jpeg

Mrs. Tom Brady Did It!

Hail a Taxi in a New York minute! This is a must-see movie classic.

Well, okay, it isn’t exactly Citizen Kane.

However, the 2004 movie called Taxi impresses in so many ways. First, its cast includes Queen Latifah, Jimmy Fallon, and Giselle Bundchen. Unlikely and perfect casting?

Yes, the future Mrs. #TomBrady is in her movie debut with third billing. There is not even a hint of “Introducing….” She is the star. Having a billion bucks can do that.

She is top of the game as the villain, a tall model-type bank robber, heading a gang of shoot’em up women. What? You were expecting Anna Magnani in Open City? It’s enough to convince us that, if she teamed up with Tom Brady, for a movie career, we’d have another Burton and Taylor, or at least a potential Laurel and Hardy.

The movie is about a New York cabbie with a penchant for speeding (Queen Latifah in her patented sassy tough girl role) and an inept New York copper (Jimmy Fallon with a run-off at the mouth speed).

Luc Besson directs and writes this stuff to guarantee there is plenty of car-crashing action. He is the Fellini of the urban circus movie. Yeah, we give this one 8 and a Half.

If you expect to see Downton Abbey, you took a wrong turn at Antonioni’s Blow Up. Gisele rivals Vanessa Redgrave here.

We mainly stayed agog during the entire film because it is fifteen years old, and the three principal stars look exactly the same today. They have not aged one whit. #Latifah, #Fallon, and #Bundchen just stepped out of The Time Machine.

Who among us can make that claim? You might start to wonder where the Fountain of Youth is located in Central Park. Is it Tom Brady’s avocado ice cream that tells us the proof is in the pudding?

Yes, the cute strawberry blonde playing Jimmy Fallon’s mother is that Viva Las Vegas girl and Elvis co-star, Ann-Margaret. Talk about ageless

This movie is a Manhattan cake-walk.

Killing Jimmy Hoffa: a Profit-able Enterprise

DATELINE:  #Hoffa Conspiracy

Young James Young James (not Jesse)!

Al Profit (a You-Tube personality named Alan Bradley) directs this muckraking report and also appears, billed as historian. However, he presents himself he manages to give a provocative look at the life, death, and influence of union boss Jimmy Hoffa.

We presume that the brash Profit sees himself as the Francis Ford Coppola of crime documentaries.

His film on Hoffa indicates there beats the heart of a really serious filmmaker under the bravado of a con man, #AlProfit. Alas, for Bradley, the need to make a living, shaking his booty and hawking T-shirts, transcends his movie making skills.

Putting aside his groupie-inducing personality, Profit’s film suggests that Hoffa hated Robert Kennedy and was instrumental in the murder of John F. Kennedy to remove Robert as a smug snobby nemesis. There is no suggestion that Hoffa could have orchestrated RFK’s killing.

Hoffa had ties to the mob certainly: including Sam Giancana, Santo Trafficante and Carlos Marcello, notorious peripheral conspiracy figures in the Kennedy Assassinations. Hoffa was also tied into Robert Maheu (notorious #HowardHughes chief aide) and the CIA.

On top of that, Hoffa was indeed pardoned by Richard #Nixon, presuming that the union leader promised to be an FBI informant against the Mob.

James Hoffa was scheduled to appear in 1975 before the Church Committee on Assassinations when he disappeared, and two other mobsters were murdered shortly before telling what they knew about political killings.

Hoffa was associated with Jack Ruby, and Sam Giancana may have ties to Oswald.

Add this one to the raft of theories with disturbing credibility.

Flush Twice: Unspoken Story of The Toilet

DATELINE: The Real Poop!

toilet 

After years of Upstairs/Downstairs and Downton Abbey, looking for a water closet, we find the BBC on the job and off the pot.

Yes, your upper-crust bathroom humor is alive and well.

A British documentary called The Toilet: An Unspoken History actually speaks volumes in a dry wit fashion, providing all the poop for your chute. Having a staid British narrator makes the puns about toiletry all the more eye-rolling.

Our host travels around ancient ruins, poking his nose into latrines and down old drop-offs, making more double-entendre than in a Mae West film festival. Those openings in the castle wall provided more than a draft. Yes, this is an eye-opening experience.

Jolly old England’s history of the Crapper and Queen Elizabeth’s elaborate john are all examined up close. In some manor houses, the chamber pot was kept in the dining hall—and you didn’t have to miss a morsel of your meal.

You may find a discussion and visual aid of urinals less watered down. In some cultures, the urinal has a center bull’s eye of a bumble bee: in Latin the word for bee is ‘apis.’ There’s a joke in there somewhere.

From ornate porcelain bowls, to the outhouse with three seats, of differing sizes, The Toilet makes for a Goldilocks of choices. No, families did not commune together, but you could find that one size did not fit all. Hence, you looked for the right dumping point.

After a while, you may begin to say TMI: too much information about privy moments and sanitary selection, up to and beyond the sponge on a stick, or colored pieces of wool with an aloe vera soothing texture.

Sitting on the serious part, the documentary explains how Bill Gates and his foundation are looking to eliminate use of water in toilets—turning waste into zapped gas power. And, Third World countries are still dangerous places, owing to poor bathroom facilities.

Yes, this amusing documentary is on streaming service for those with the wherewithal to expel the impurities, leaving you flush with the bloom of a water closet and relieved of laughter.