Arthur & George, Another Sherlock Team

DATELINE:  Redoubtable Arthur!

Arthur Clunes as Doyle.

Julian Barnes, the noteworthy novelist, wrote his story about Arthur Conan Doyle and his real-life attempt to solve a crime about an Indian solicitor in England who was falsely convicted of animal mutilation, mainly because of racial hatred and class prejudice.

Arthur & George is a strange misleading title for a story in which Dr. Doyle showed his deductive reasoning to illustrate who really were the brains behind Sherlock. If you don’t know ahead of time, the title might lead to some bad book judging from the cover alone. Of course, that was Julian Barnes’ motive.

Julian Barnes in his original novel did not let on who the two men were until the story was well underway. That is completely lost in the movie version, which plays on the connection between Doyle and Holmes.

There has been in recent years a spate of this biographical tales dramatized about the author/spiritualist/doctor.

The BBC drama has all the top-notch production values and impressive acting you might expect of Masterpiece Theatre. The film is three parts of 45 minutes, probably could have been a one-shot film.

Martin Clunes is all you would ask for in a Conan Doyle figure, which contrasts greatly with the Watson figure of Charles Edwards—as Woody, Doyle’s servant.

Indeed, Edwards played Doyle a decade earlier and was miscast, especially against the grand Ian Richardson as Dr. Joseph Bell, his mentor and medical professor in the series Murder Rooms.

Also in this miniseries is Art Malik, the last of the stars of the granddaddy of epic series, the Jewel in the Crown. He plays a minister from India who is the object of prejudice and small-minded hate in a rural English shire. His victim son is George (Arsher Ali), a myopic limping solicitor.

These semi-true stories fit perfectly into the Holmes canon. And, Clunes as Doyle/Holmes features all the brilliant logic and bombast of his literary figure. This Doyle is more active and physical than Holmes, but he fits the tale perfectly.

 

 

 

 

 

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From Blue Book to Green Balls of Fire

DATELINE:  Episode 6 of 10

sexy MalarkeySexy Malarkey.

Well, we’re back for nuclear tic-tac-toe with aliens and UFOs. This incident is based on truth that is out there, all you X-file fans. Is it our imagination, or is actor Mike Malarkey growing more attractive with each show? He is compelling as a foil to Aiden Gillen’s professor.

Indeed, in one scene, Hynek seems to break into some Hangar 18 where he has been given keys by Men in Black.  There you will find all kinds of vaults, files, and deposit boxes filled with UFO goodies. Is this based on truth, or other space shot documentaries?

In the meantime, in a subplot in a small corner of the universe, a beautiful Russian agent is trying to build a lesbian tie-in with Hynek’s wife. Is this based on truth too?

Green balls of light, purported meteors from a 1948 incident, were considered Soviet technology by some, and the government used a cover story of meteors to fool the public, yet again. The less fictionalized truth is delivered to us at the show’s coda showing that the real participants were not Hynek and Quinn, but two other, earlier researchers.

There is some fake Secretary of Something again in this episode, at loggerheads with the military, perhaps meant to be a version of Truman’s Secretary of Defense who leaped or was thrown from a secure hospital to his death (that may be a future episode).

He is co-opting Hynek (Aiden Gillen) from the generals and his partner, the ever-arrogant Captain Quinn (Michael Malarkey, too tough, chewing broken glass in most scenes).

If anything, the puzzling relationship of Hynek and Quinn continues to be at the heart of series: their hostility and mistrust of each other seems to be leading somewhere. Or, it could be just hanging there forever.

This episode’s Twilight Zone parallel featured a town of mannequins, weirdly using real people in pose and true mannequins in other scenes. Why?  Just to give us a chill, probably. It was not germane to the plot.

 

 

 

 

Project Blue Book Wins Over Fans

DATELINE:  Skeptic Hynek?

blue book

Though skeptical originally, we have had a change of heart. With the latest episode, “Lubbock Lights,” we have become addicted to Project Blue Book.

So, we will stick around for all ten episodes. The latest, the third one, is set in 1951 when dozens of witnesses saw multi-lights in the sky—and suffered a few other abysmal effects.

The government under Dr. J. Allen Hynek turned it into a bird watching scene, claiming street lights on the underside of plovers caused the panic.

Suffice it to say, Hynek (Aiden Gillen impressing again) does not believe it, but he is at the mercy of a government coverup that is swamping reasonable doubt. The subplots of his insipid family may be the biggest drawback so far.

This episode features Don Keyhoe, the original advocate for flying saucers in his early books—telling how the agents under MJ-12 tried to intimidate him. The future promises deeper exposing of Werner Von Braun, among others.

And, again, the spit polish pain in the rumble seat is none other than handsome, rigid, and aggravating Michael Malarkey as Captain Quinn who is more interested in career advancement than truth-telling.

We are completely impressed with the use of sparse artifacts from the early 1950s, that give us such a sense of the era. It is well-done with emblematic details.

Once again, the coda for the show is the documentary images of the real people involved in the case—and how their testimony was lost in a disinformation picnic by your government.

Oak Island, Another Week, Another Snail’s Pace

DATELINE: Getting Hands Dirty?

heartthrob alex lagina Alex Goes to Library.

We have come to realize that producers of The Curse of Oak Island will never cut to the chase.  They cut all right: after digging in mud, the treasure hunters suddenly have clean hands and clean clothes every time.

Alex Lagina never dirties his hands. He went to the library this week.

As for the chase, it has something to do with following a snail at his own self-contained pace.  And, the latest episode of the series, now in its sixth year, and tenth episode, indicated to us that it is written by the same formula that gave us As the World Turns, or Another World.

We have a soap opera here that meanders and takes a spurt of action, digests it for weeks, and then crawls onward.

On top of that, we realized again how much you have to trust the insights of the “heroes,” in this case, the Lagina Brothers. They are reasonable if not plodding. This week another “new” worker found a stone with hieroglyphs on it that the team has apparently not noticed after walking past it for years.

Call in the radar people who shoot it with red laser lights and will get back to us.

It may mean that you can add the Vikings to the Knights Templar and the Romans, to the original Captain Kidd, as visitors to Oak Island. We aren’t sure if the place was sort of a historical bank vault where you might come to make a deposit or take out a loan.

In any respect, we have noticed this season that there are dozens of background workers milling about, and huge areas of excavation. Please don’t keep selling us that this is a “mom and pop” friendly treasure hunt.

We are feeling the signs that the summer is almost over on Oak Island, and the kids will have to go back to school soon. Nephew Peter is already gone. Alex Lagina is here for a couple of weekends, and the show is likely to hang us up to dry for another season.

We see new structures in the mud at Smith’s Cove, but we remain the only one with clean hands.

Surrogates Again

DATELINE: AI Goes Bad

bee-strung surrogates Young Bruce Replicant!

It’s been ten years since one of the most clever and intriguing films about Artificial Intelligence in the future came out. Surrogates deserves another look because so little has superseded its message and style.

All the robotic replicants have bee-stung pouts.

This was another in a series of highly intelligent films made by Bruce Willis in the sci-fi mode. It may be the best of the lot.

Set in Boston in 2054, it tells of an era when the Supreme Court has allowed surrogate robots to replace you in daily work and routines while you lounge in a control seat.

You will be a fat slob, aging and ugly, but your surrogate will be a beautiful toy of whatever gender you choose. So, all the day-to-day people in the film are stunning and stiff, wrinkle-removed and smooth skinned. What’s amazing is that Bruce Willis looks like Baby Jane Hudson-young with his blond locks and handsome young physique.

We could not figure out whether he needed more makeup and special effects to be his middle-aged self, or his young replicant self.

He plays an FBI agent who must investigate the murders of surrogates and their masters—but he has to become a true gumshoe and go out on the street as his old self to do it, despite the agony and stress of being out in the “real world”. He constantly surprises his beautiful partner cop (Rahda Mitchell).

The notion that AI will legalize identity replicants is not so far-fetched, and the hilarious satiric barbs at “loaners,” and other modern problems is delightful. Intermeshed here is a murder mystery.

Yes, there is an obligatory and over-the-top car chase through the streets of Boston, though we have no idea how they did it in reality, so we presume it was all faked.

And the climax in which all surrogate replicants must be deactivated is a delight to see as they literally fall in place around Boston. It was a pleasant, summery diversion during an ice storm in Boston.

 

 

 

 

 

Project Blue Book Dramatized

DATELINE: Faux History?

mcdonough & malarkey McDonough (foreground).

History Channel occasionally veers off the reservation of truly documentary-style films with re-enactors, to dabble in actual fictionalized history. Welcome to Fake History that brought you fake Vikings from 1000 fantasy years earlier.

Project Blue Book is some kind of docudrama about one of the government’s hacks, Dr. Alan Hynek, who was brought on to cover up UFO activity, but became (so they theorize) a true believer, not a debunker.

So the new series will show how this progressed as Hynek begins to lose faith with his monolithic government and its attempt to stifle information to the public.

In the first episode the most compelling moment was to show MJ-12, the secret government overseers, watching The Day the Earth Stood Still in 1951.  It’s the best scene in the movie from Robert Wise’s brilliant sci-fi classic. It could only go downhill from there.

A pilot of an aircraft claimed to have been in a dogfight with some kind of light force UFO. Well, you have some hotshot firing at will at something he cannot identify. Hmmm. This may be a series about idiocy.

If this is meant to be convincing truth from the annals of UFOlogy, then they have pulled a rabbit out of their anal area.

Hynek (Aiden Gillen) is paired with a young, handsome, all-military obstructionist co-star (Mike Malarkey). That’s compelling if you like ratings beefcake. We cannot fault the actors (Gillen of Game of Thrones and Malarkey of Dracula Diaries, both of whom play American in reel-life only).  We will resist the urge to say this show is a bunch of Malarkey.

Neal McDonough is our favorite villain from Justified. Here he plays some kind of MJ-12 lackey. The stars surely deserve their paychecks from the government in script, or from the cable giant for on-air performing.

We are not sure that this mini-series can be sustained over the long haul, if that is even the intention of the producers. History Channel dabbles before diving into any new series, and this could take-off or it could be submerged into a USO.

We shall see if we will see another episode. There is no point in being hooked if History will leave us dangling. This limited series is scheduled for ten episodes.

 

 

Oak Island Progress Report, Season 6

DATELINE: Episode 8, Unearthed

cpt kidd gold filling Captain Kidd’s Gold Filling?

With another episode in the sixth season of Curse of Oak Island, it is unquiet on every front. There appeared to be much progress made after so many years of tedium.

However, the onerous tones of narrator Robert Clotworthy appear to have amped up: reminding us more cynically that the entire premise of the show is that someone else, a seventh victim, must die soon. Forget that a teenage son of one investor has already passed away and this season an old woman researcher died and left her materials to Rick.

The unseemly curse of death is an appalling and fearful assertion, akin to something Trump might say to keep the government closed. We almost expect one of these weeks to have a group vote, in the style of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” to occur and to witness someone being stoned to death by the rest of the fed-up community.

In short, you know there was progress this week because the big guns (the old guys with the money) took center stage again, pushing out the next generation. No, teenie-bopper Peter Fonetti and heart-throb Alex Lagina were not to be seen; they are usually billed as “producers” of the series, a real laugh riot notion. The youngest stud on the block is Jack Begley, a tireless worker of every grunt duty.

The Lagina Brothers took center stage. If there is to be a discovery, even the affable Gary Drayton must accede to their primogeniture, but he has his own website. Dave Blankenship has been rendered redundant, even as comic relief.

Oh, there seems to be something with Roman numerals emerging from the muck at Smith Cove as Dan Blankenship said 50 years ago. Yes, there is some kind of light laser ready to read the mysterious and long-missing “90 foot stone.”

And Laird Nivens has secured permits from the Canadian government with alacrity after years of stalling on most other points. Big money talks big.

But, please, we feel like we are living paycheck to paycheck on Oak Island, despite finding someone’s gold filling this week.

Whether we can live with all this progress or be shot down sometime before the latest season ends, only the Laginas can tell: there is tighter security about their findings of the summer of 2018 than you find at the Mexican border.

Which reminds us, all these interlopers are violating the borders of Nova Scotia. They have been for a thousand years.

 

Sad Hill Unearthed! Fake Cemetery

 DATELINE:  Restoring the Un-Dead to Fake Life

sad hill trio Famous Trio at Sad Hill!

In Burgos, Spain, an amateur group of archeologists located the place where the climax of the movie The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly was filmed in 1966.

You have to love the spaghetti western (and it is hilarious horse opera with Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef, and Clint Eastwood). Its climactic graveyard shootout is magnificent film-making—and its restored grandeur is stunning.

It is called Sad Hill Cemetery (not real), except as reel film history.

The responsible men are descended from locals who worked as extras in the movie, and they find the place is magical. It had been lost and buried under six inches of dirt. They dug up to find the circular stone center. Around it were mounds where the fake graves once stood with crosses.

It took much work, and many volunteers. They sold gravesites, with your name painted on a wooden cross, to finance the excavations.

A few survivors of the movie:  film editor and composer Ennio Morricone gave interviews. The film documentary is enhanced with behind-the-scenes photos—and movie clips. Old interviews with Sergio Leone are also a treat.

It was backbreaking work to restore the concentric circles of Leone’s visionary shootout scene among the crosses, row on row.

When finished, the magic returned. A large crowd showed up in the rural area where an orchestra played the film score, the archeologists re-enacted the shootout. It went on for ten to fifteen minutes in the film, and Clint even sent a recorded thank you message to the assembled crowd.

restored reel cemetery Restored at Last!

If you love this classic Western, you need this companion piece to history, myth, and movie magic.

 

Oak Island: Rocky Roads for Season 6

DATELINE: Bring On Dr. Travis Taylor!

Gary with Peter Gary & Peter.

We’re back to Oak Island with a two-hour extravaganza called “Rock Solid,” but there is quicksand everywhere as 2019 starts.

The million-dollar boondoggle at Smith’s Cove has sprung multiple leaks. Was this not foreseen? It’s so bad that the two nephews, Alex and Peter, are sent by Uncle Rick to go to the outside and use silicone sealant along the seams of the steel barrier. Young and dumb always wins the dirty work.

We saw that TV commercial where the guy sprays sealant on a screen glued to his boat bottom and he sails with the sharks visible underneath. Alex and Peter have to work quickly, lest the tide and time take them.

With Gary Drayton finding another hole filled with goodies, they bring back the drudge government archeologist Nivens, who immediately takes a garden trowel to the site. Come back in a few years to find out what’s there.

Alex Lagina and Charles Barkhouse return to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to look in an old business for the Rosetta Stone of the pirate treasure. Guess what? Two years ago they couldn’t find it in the dingy basement tunnels of a city business.

However, this time, eureka is not just a Latin word. The long-lost stone with odd hieroglyphs from the original dig has been located: 200 pounds that needs laser treatment to recover the messages once on its surface.

So, they called in the big gun:  fresh off his series on History that was canceled about Nikola Tesla, the notable PhD star, Travis Taylor enters. He immediately shakes up the team with a new theory.

You never know what will eventuate when History Channel transports old stars to a new setting. Dr. Travis Taylor notes that the island is actually a star map—and blame those pesky Masons yet again.

We seem to be revving the engine for something in the coming weeks. Curse of Oak Island has never looked more promising.

 

 

Equalized by Denzel Again

DATELINE:  Inequality!

denzel as mcCall

Don’t infuriate The Equalizer, as played by Denzel Washington for a second time in Equalizer 2.

We loved the Michael Sloan series about “retired” agent Robert McCall on TV with Edward Woodward, and we really like the idea that he has retired into hiding, faked death, to work as a vigilante for hire to help the helpless. We do miss Robert Lansing as Control.

Here he lives in Boston, and the backdrop of the Hub is photographed with all kinds of reverence, from the Zakim Bridge to Roxbury. We also like the notion that to meet people, McCall now works as a Lyft driver.

An old familiar face plays a Jewish passenger. We were shocked to learn it is Orson Bean, whom we have not seen in 40 years.

The corrupt people at the Agency, the Company, or whatever you want to call that American secret spy group, going by odd alphabets, seem to be worse than ever. No wonder McCall wanted out. Now, one of the few people he liked and trusted, Susan, another retired agent (Melissa Leo), has met a mysterious circumstance.

When Denzel goes into full mode, the bad guys should cringe, though these kind of villains always think they can match the hero. Otherwise, there’d be no entertaining movie.

The moral questions about the right of agency’s to off people they deem bad guys, without proof, is at the heart of this film, which makes it a cut above the usual death-by-gruesome-means movies.

Director Antoine Fuqua is adept and amusing enough to set the climax in a hurricane, which certainly helps with the dispatching of bad guys.

 

Holy Relics: The Quest & Question

DATELINE: Shoddy Documentary

Pia's 1898 negative photo

Another French documentary tackles the tricky question of the history of relics associated with the crucifixion of Jesus.

With so many collectible and miraculous items over two centuries, it is hard to believe that no documentary has given itself time to debunk them all. Holy Relics: the Quest aims high, but we must confess that we are not happy with those who want to gut crypto-science by fallacies.

This show wants so badly to expose the frauds that it commits fraud in itself.

There is no shortage of Jesus relics: his shroud, the nails, the true cross,  the crown of thorns, his sepulcher, the lance that pierced him, even samples of his blood. They have all been saved and sold for profit and political gain by the faithful and the greedy.

Taking each in turn, the documentary presents false information: claiming the shroud is done by dyes and blood in Medieval times, the so-called Italian scientist fails to recognize that the tests done proved it was not a dye or paint on the shroud.

The film does explain “contact relics” which are items of nails, cloth, or wood , that touched the original. According to Vatican laws, these are as good as originals. So, there are over 100 known nails (only 3 were used on Jesus –featuring one spike for both feet, but the documentary claims 4 nails). Pieces of wood from the True Cross are innumerable.

There is even rare footage from inside the tomb in Jerusalem where the body of Jesus rested for three days. It doesn’t look too special. And, the stone slab on which the body of Jesus was washed is a proven replacement item. It does not seem to make any difference for worshippers.

Yet, in its brevity as a documentary, items are omitted: the lance that pierced Jesus’ side is given only a cursory mention—and there is no mention of a bloody cloth in Spain that was used to wrap around the face of Jesus.

So, the film has more holes in it than they even realize if their zealotry to debunk all religious icons.

As much as there may be a need for a catalogue of iconic relics on Jesus, this show is not it.

Twilight of the Hollywood Gods

 DATELINE: Gemstone Ignored?

twilight

It was 20 years ago that Paul Newman played one of his last tired, cynical, lethargic private detectives up to his eyeballs in corruption. The movie was Twilight, and it was so laden with talent that it apparently sank into oblivion.

On the other hand, there are dozens of movies with Twilight in the title, and most are forgettable.

This ignored classic is out there for those who want to stream through it. Thank heavens we found it. And, it is well-worth the time. This is high-quality, high-level movie-making. Every scene is gripping and intriguing.

When you look at the stars in the twilight of their careers from this picture, you wonder if there is a double meaning:  Gene Hackman, James Garner, and director Robert Benton, join Newman at journey’s end. The fictional stars are on their last legs too.

Playing at a coverup of corrupt Hollywood stars in the murder for pleasure motive, Newman plays a former cop and private eye who does the cleanup for big stars. The plot centers on some dirty blackmail scheme, but by whom and why?

Your second generation of stars include Stockard Channing, Reese Witherspoon as the daughter of the stars and her dubious boyfriend played by Liev Schreiber. An honorable mention goes to Margo Martindale as the zaftig rinse-bottle blonde.

As you may guess, this is first-class travel all the way—and makes us wonder why it fell through the cracks 20 years ago. It was likely just too familiar ground for Newman whose posturing resembles a teenage boy, not a man in his 70s.

By today’s dubious film standards, this movie is a sheer delight of crime melodrama.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miner or Minor on Oak Island?

 DATELINE: Rick Lagina Always Finds Them !

Miner or Minor Rick’s Hard Rock Geochemist!

The famine of discovery continued for the most part early on: the seismic mapping appears to be fraught with false positives. As usual, Rick Lagina puts a happy face on unhappy news that dry sand had been read as tunnels. There are no metal casings, only bedrock.

So, the drilling comes up empty yet again.

In the meantime, 95-year old Dan Blankenship made a rare appearance, remaining in the car as Rick took him down to the cove to see the new retaining wall being constructed. As one might expect, he is duly impressed at the new technology. This true figure of heroism remains our most favorite figure.

Rick Lagina must have quite an international network of references when he does a stellar manhunt. Another interesting development is calling in a German geochemist to analyse the Templar Cross of lead. Tobias looks like a teenager but must be some kind of doctorate in the field. He can take the lead out of your worries.  He knows when it was mined and where.

He looks like a minor, not a miner expert. But Tobias is on the money from Germany on Skype. He brings the best news of the night’s episode.

Once again we have been impressed with Gary Drayton who knows all too well what they find by giving it a cursory look. He found the Templar Cross and was on the money from the start.

It appears that Templars may have come to Oak Island to hide their religious artefacts: and those may be too glorified to speculate upon. Oh, well, let’s shoot: it could be the Ark of the Covenant, or some suitable items from John the Baptist who was the Templar patron saint.

They talk to another expert writer on the Templar secrets, but are fairly dismissive of her research.

In the final analysis, this week’s discovery is so titanic that it makes all the waiting worthwhile. We feel closer than ever to some kind of revelation of Biblical proportions.

Noir Classic: He Walked by Night

DATELINE:  Movie as TV Pilot

Dragnet

We had never seen He Walked by Night, and it took us aback right away. It is thought to be a 70-year old black and white masterpiece of low-budget, poverty-row studio. Even the directorship is mysterious: was it really Anthony Mann who sneaked over to another studio to do the work?

Right from the Prologue, we recognized the classic line: “the names have been changed to protect the innocent.” What’s more, actor Jack Webb had a featured role!

Then came the ponderous narrator talking about Los Angeles, a big city, etc.. This was followed almost immediately with a long discussion of a dragnet across the city!

Yep:  it was Dragnet!  We were about to see some kind of movie prototype of the famous police show of the 1950s.

Webb did not play Sgt. Joe Friday. No, he was some lab rat in the forensics department, and young virile Scott Brady was the cop.

We learned later that Jack Webb befriended Marty Wynn, the LA technical adviser (whom Brady played). They partnered and came up with the radio/TV show Dragnet in 1950.

This movie was unusual for other reasons. The LA criminal psychopath was played by young Richard Basehart—in cashmere gloves and Brooks Brothers suit. He was a tech-savvy genius, creating 12-foot TV projection screens 40 years before they really happened.

This villain was brilliant and diabolical in his murdering rampage. The intriguing concept of Dragnet, always, was that the pedestrian and bland cops were flatfooted, but persistent.

The other feature here was the deadpan humor of the police, likely a defensive response to the evil they always encountered. It too would surface on Dragnet a few years later.

Also a bit ahead of its time, the climax in the underground flood tunnels of Los Angeles is a precursor of the Third Man where Harry Lime (Orson Welles) was chased by police in Vienna.

Cursed Oak Island 6.5: Treading Water

DATELINE:  Hold Your Horses & Other Pauses

avast there, matey! Buried Treasure ?

We now interrupt this empty episode for more commercial messages on Curse of Oak Island for the fifth episode of the sixth season.

Yes, there is no golden banana under the drilling. The core samples seem to indicate that there are wooden beams over 100 feet down in two new segments for the drilling. No news is not bad news.

This is a no-show week, with progress reports on various angles of treasure hunting, including putting in a retaining wall at one of the coves. It is an eyesore for sure, but will allow excavation to learn if booby traps were placed at this point for a tunnel system throughout the island.

However, this week’s show is highly repetitive, with self-congratulations and fat middle-aged men in repeated hugs with each other. Don’t snack while watching this episode.

There is a preponderance of endorsements. A company donates “temporarily” a prefab house to serve as the repository of the donated papers of a recently deceased researcher. She has willed the materials to Rick Lagina who has a house converted to a library. No librarians, please.

Also, another author of Oak Island tales calls in to announce his new book will be forthcoming—and he will show up to give them an autographed copy (for free). The rest of us pay.

No wonder that Marty Lagina is mostly absent from this episode, phoning in his comments.

The sole true find of the week belongs, again, to Gary Drayton who locates what appears to be a hat insignia from a French dragoon who was on the island, oddly enough, in 1740s or so.

It was when a legendary soldier of fortune from France and the Templar mode brought treasures from the Holy Land. Is it true? You’ll have no answers this week.