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.

Vera Cruz: Classic Western Fun

DATELINE: Clash of the Titans

 Coop & Burt

When you cast Burt Lancaster as the villainous rogue cowboy against stalwart Gary Cooper, you have a humdinger. So, it was in 1954 when these two titans clashed in a Technicolor epic called Vera Cruz.

Cooper was fresh off his High Noon Oscar, and Lancaster liked to do an adventure movie between his high-brow efforts (like From Here to Eternity).

It was a rousing Western in which double crosses and triple crosses were the norm. With friendly enemy banter between the two principals, you have a quest to steal a couple of million gold dollars in Mexico in 1869. It is sheer delight every step of the way.

Burt’s gang includes Charles Bronson, Ernest Borgnine, and Jack Elam, which may be one of the foremost gangs of the 1950s. On top of that you had Cesar Romero as the aide-de-camp of the Emperor (George Macready, no less), who is also a rogue like a laughing cavalier.

The film starts with a series of set-up challenges between the stars, and their bonding and chemistry is delightful. Burt flashes all the teeth repeatedly as his tricks, cheats, and banters with Cooper.

The director is no slouch: Robert Aldrich of Baby Jane and Dirty Dozen, managing to orchestrate this rousing shoot’em up and horse chase movie.

Produced by Lancaster, the villain is so charming in his black hat and black leather vest that we may find ourselves rooting for the two actors to do a sequel. Nowadays, it would be standard. How could you waste such talent without a follow-up?

If there was a problem on the set, it was a production decision on whether to kill Burt Lancaster in the movie.

Alas, back then, franchise sequels were not really done.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

Odd Couple 2, Bittersweet Reunion

DATELINE: Original Stars, 30 Years Later

grumpy old odd couple

Grumpiness as a Joy to Behold!

The two men who single-handedly created a movie/TV franchise of Neil Simon’s comedy classic stageplay, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, returned twenty years ago, aged in the wood, to reprise their roles as Oscar and Felix.

We discovered Odd Couple 2 to cheer us so many years later.

We confess to having missed this event when it happened, and we were surprised to find it available now on streaming format. It is, however, a sad and bittersweet experience to behold. The two great stars keep their chemistry, but age has sapped them of vitality. It is like watching Laurel and Hardy in their final film.

Time is never kind.

Oscar and Felix have been separated for nearly twenty years, though they made the original film in the late 1960s, and the sequel is 30 years later. They are brought together by the marriage of Felix’s daughter to Oscar’s son.

Jokes about slobs and neatniks have been replaced with a series of old age jabs and dollops of humor.

More than ever these grumpy old men (Lemmon & Matthau) epitomize Oscar and Felix, as if the aging process has turned them into fine wine.

The storyline is filled with pratfalls and lowbrow situations as the two men battle each other’s foibles in the California desert, trying to make it to a wedding.

Though the situation is forced, you must see past that and simply enjoy the actors as they return to their beloved characters, not missing a beat, not letting age and time distract their timing and their experience.

 

 

 

Tab Departs

DATELINE:  Our Loss

Untitled Tab & Divine!

Bashing Tab Hunter was a media entertainment form since he first came to Hollywood in the early 1950s as a pretty boy.  Most critics held the opinion he must be a vapid blond male equivalent of Marilyn.

Yet, Tab stuck around for decades, playing everything from beach boys when he was too old for that, to athletes, soldiers, and assorted heroes. He dressed up whatever story he acted in.

Now at 86, looking 60, he suddenly and unexpectedly expired on us. It comes when he was about to oversee a new movie docudrama of his life. Well-known gay actor Zachary Quinto has decided to produce a movie about Tab and his torrid, secret affair with Anthony Perkins in the 1950s and 1960s. The new movie is to be based on Tab’s autobiography of a few years ago, entitled Tab Hunter Confidential.

Yes, that Damn Yankee killer met the Psycho Bates off screen for a closeted love affair.

We always enjoyed Tab and look forward to this new movie of his life. However, we can also turn back to five films today’s young film aficionados may not know or appreciate.

One of his early successes, or weird films, was Track of the Cat, directed by Wildman William Wellman. He played callow younger brother to dangerous Robert Mitchum in a movie that played on Technicolor downgraded to black clothes on a white snowfall.

Not long after he appeared with John Wayne and Lana Turner in The Sea Chase in 1955. Audiences loathed a film in which Duke Wayne played a German naval officer. Looking perfect as the Aryan in the cast, he managed to come off as a good actor next to Wayne’s deplorable performance.

Tab came into his own as the young version of Joe Hardy, who makes a deal with the devil to beat the Damn Yankees in baseball for one season. He was stunning and the boy that Lola wanted. The director mistreated him and almost sabotaged his performance.

Soon, Tab wanted to prove his worth and did a film called They Came to Cordura. He was the villain, opposite Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth. It was a shocking turn of events—but not well received by Hollywood which would soon return him to surfing movies and light comedy.

His rediscovery in the 1980s cast him in wild comedies like Polyester and Lust in the Dust, a parody Western, both films in which his romantic interest was zaftig Divine, cross-dressing delight.

Not Tab’s full oeuvre, it is enough to give you a sense of his career.

Perfectly Human Diet, Not a Fad

Perfect Diet, Not a Fad

diet

Though we have been taken with recent scientific study of human health through diet, we were unprepared for the superbly thorough documentary by C.J. Hunt.

A media journalist who suffered from debilitating heart conditions at a young age, the director and writer of this expert examination of paleodietic information may be dropping the final word on fad diets.

In short, the film is a history of diets after a 19th century fat man decided he needed to find out why he was morbidly obese (5’5” and 300 pounds). Blame it on the Industrial Revolution.

It appears that changes in the human diet began fairly recently in the epoch of evolution. One scientist uses the football field analogy to great impact. Homo Erectus was at the end of the field and working one’s way up to today, you find that in the inch before the goal, we humans began to eat grains.

Hmm. Meat eating appears to have, by all agreement, caused brainpower. That caveman diet of bone marrow and sweetbread was far removed from Wheaties.

It seems the modern diet is shrinking the brain pan. You can hardly call a return to paleo-eating as the latest fad. Blame your misinformed government on telling you to avoid fats and eat more carbs.

Nearly every health-conscious scientist agrees that vegetarianism is too exclusive. You need only avoid sugar, carbs, processed food, and salt. Nobody under 2 needs a glass of milk every day. We are victims of economic diet plans—marketing for money-makers.

A walk through the supermarket with a dietary scientist and doctor is an argument against browsing.

C.J. Hunt has provided one of the most illuminating and intriguing of insights into health and food. He puts politics, religion, and nutrition, on the list of hopeless argument. He already knows he is preaching to an empty choir.

 

 

 

 

 

Art & Neon

DATELINE:  Hitch Loved Neon

 Neon Novak Novak in Neon!

An Australian film, Neon may seem like a subject hardly worthy of excitement. When some of the interviewees talk about the colored gas lights, you begin to think they need to get a life.

Neon, of course, defines American business, urban life, and a change in American perspective. Once you realize that the invention and adoption of neon lights in American business altered the landscape of the nation, you begin to recognize how special it is.

Not surprisingly, once again Nikola Tesla enters the picture as one of the prime inventors of neon light, but he never patented it, nor made a nickel off the product. Patent fights centered over a Frenchman who produced lights first stunning Paris.

Though the United States featured several World Fairs with cities of lights in the 19th century, the notion of neon changed the life of urban America when it seemed to debut and spread over Broadway and Manhattan in the 1920s.

Neon’s bright and jazzy colors and motion brought forth a new nocturnal culture. And, it was immediately picked up as a motif in movies, first in musicals and as a flashy jazz parallel. Only later did it turn dark with film noir—and then color noir.

Neon captivated movies. Indeed, Hitchcock loved to use neon—in his great movies like Psycho (that alluring Bates Motel) and as the garish green ghost of Kim Novak in Vertigo.

Las Vegas is where the light-scale went bonkers in the years after World War II. Nothing could compare to the garish, commercial call. Yet, the images of flashing logos became landmarks, not just sales gimmicks.

The film presents an array of magnificent shots of glowing neon signs and streets across the world.

Only when neon began its inevitable fade to black did artists and museums realize it needed preservation. As an expensive means of communication, it now seems to be finding homes in art refugee centers. However, mammoth chunks of 90 feet of neon is not conducive to indoor display.

The film turns elegiac when neon starts to lose the battle with time and timeliness. At least a movie like this will allow future viewers to see what magnificence it truly inspired.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Westworld Grand Finale, Season 2

DATELINE:  Who knows?

 ben barnes.JPG

 Back in the Saddle Again!

If you expect us to save your sorry series Westworld, you are barking up the wrong portal.

The Mighty Jonathan Nolan has struck out, and there is no joy in Westworld 2.

Anyone who can explain what happened is a false prophet.

The season finale ran about ninety minutes, an epic of sorts in which Westworld turned into John Wayne’s Alamo. Yes, we might conclude that everyone died at the end. However, HBO has signed up for Season 3,  which may be ready in a couple of years, and by then we expect that loose ends will mean that more than a few cast members will cut loose.

Those who have long-term contracts may be back. Alas, your favorite’s fate may rest on the volume of fan mail that demands a return.

We thought for a moment we were returning to prequel-land where Ben Barnes as Logan, now an android, runs Westworld. However, there were more endings on this series finale than you might find in a Steven Spielberg movie.

No writer or producer wanted to end this thing.

William, aka Billy, turns out to be Billy Pilgrim. Yes, we expect that madman Ed Harris’s character will make a full recovery, and we expect that technicians will selectively pick from among the hosts all your favorite characters for re-programming.

We think too that in the chaotic confusion that a few other characters revealed themselves to be hosts, not human guests.

Of course, you can never be sure on this loony-tune series that what you saw is what actually happened.

Beware of those who tell you what really happened. Only Jonathan Nolan knows, and he isn’t telling.

 

Is Anybody Out There?

DATELINE:  Phone Home!

SETI@home No Robots Need Apply!

When we ask if anybody is out there, it sounds as if we are wondering whether anybody actually reads these blogs. Some may say that our outreach indicates there is no intelligent life behind the message.

The question and answer is somewhat bigger. A documentary about intelligent life in the universe raises some traditional questions about whether we humans are alone in the universe, and it runs through the SETI organization for the most part.

In case you have been hiding from ET, SETI is the acronym for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. It sounds like an oxymoron, not an acronym.

We don’t even have intelligent life in college faculties, let alone the entire planet.

The hour-long recap of info deals with the Drake Formula and the Fermi Paradox. One tells us how many intelligent planets there could be in the Milky Way (only a fraction of the universe), and the Fermi pessimism stated that all intelligent life forms have come and gone by now. We are indeed all alone.

If there is one point of interest from the doc, it is that there is something out there called SETI@home, which is a means that all of us, everyday idiots, can scan the skies for a phone call from ALF.

In 2010 Stephen Hawking warned against trying to reach out and touch an alien. SETI dismisses that idea.

We noticed on the application form that robots are not allowed to join SETI@home.

We prefer not to have furry aliens living in our garage, or mind-controlling our children, but it would break up the monotony of daily existence for the vast majority of intelligence-challenged humans.

You should watch this little science kindergarten show-and-tell because education has to start somewhere.

 

 

Coke & Pepsi: 100 Years of Marketing War

DATELINE: Bottoms Up!

cola

Well, it’s not exactly the War of the Roses. You might be surprised at the back and forth of the fates and fights of the two soda pop giants. A documentary entitled Coke and Pepsi: the Marketing Battle of the Century offers to eliminate your six-pack with caloric intake.

It seems like much ado, full of sound and fury but signifies billions of dollars and millions of lives over the empty bottles, cans, and soda fountain glasses.

Many factoids emerge from their origins in the time after the United States Civil War. Coca-Cola arose in the 1880s out of battle scarred Georgia, and a few years later in South Carolina, you had the birth of the purer Pepsi. Coke was originally laced with cocaine, long-since discontinued. Both were overly laced with sugar.

Both started small:  like six ounces in a bottle, not like today’s mega-drinks that are three times the size and deadly to the human diet and nearly a diabetic shock in one swallow.

In the 1930s, Pepsi made great strides by selling itself at half the price of Coke. It became the drink of poor people and disadvantaged Americans and reinvented itself as the drink of the elite.

The Colas are as political as you might expect. They created marketing: red and blue ribbons of their banners. Santa Claus drank Coke. And, Coke was the patriotic American thirst-quencher. It was a staple of World War II and had to be discontinued in the Third Reich (where Coca-Cola became Fanta for the duration).

TV appeals and musical ditties permeated the 1950s: you are who you chose to drink with. When Joan Crawford became Pepsi’s spokesperson, Bette Davis drank Coke.

Nixon drank Pepsi and tried to force it down the Russian throats. But Coke went for the Red Chinese market.

When health fanatics became their enemy in the 21st century, the colas teamed up against the political forces of the health industry and the diet Puritans.

Which tasted better? Which one shot itself in the foot and became a classic? Which one is more akin to rot your gut? This documentary may be for you if you want to learn the answers.

 

 

Vikings Unearthed: Real, not Reel, Story

DATELINE: Takes One to Know One

  snow  Dandy Dan Snow Job!

Though we tried to watch the soap opera series on History about Vikings, we were drawn to something that provided the real story.  If you want the dirt, digging through the literal and figurative dirt, try Vikings Unearthed, a genuine documentary on the Norse.

A two-hour special on use of satellite technology and old-fashioned archaeological digging provides a thorough look at the life of the Norse who ravaged Europe in myth and actually were a culture of savage machismo. They went east to Asia as well as west to North America. You’ll love their silver rings and amulets, as well as forged swords.

Perhaps it helps to have as your on-the-ground researcher and scientist, a handsome Brit Viking named Dan Snow. He is lithe, Thor-like, and taller than anyone else in the show. Indeed, they seem to surround him with other men who look like pygmies or children next to his Conan the Barbarian style.

Yes, those Northumberland monks were treated badly by the Vikes. Our Viking host is a tad more civilized.

Dan Snow, our personal choice for Viking of the Year, is often paired with adoring nerdy men who can only marvel when he takes up an axe to work on a Viking boat replica, or when he listens to the description of a scientist who shows him Viking fecal matter to explain their medical problems.

You have to enjoy scientists who marvel that a satellite 400 miles over Earth can take photos in infrared to find sod brick Viking longhouses that are buried a foot below the ground and invisible to the naked eye.

Without leaving monumental buildings, so they say, the Vikings simply came, saw, and did not conquer the New World.

The upshot is to prove that the Vikings went all over present-day Canada and United States near New England and the Great Lakes.

Why would anyone doubt these prototypical macho men went wherever they damn well chose?

Westworld 2.9 Penultimate Bullet-in

DATELINE: Heads Rolling

simpson Jimmi Simpson, Android?

We are rapidly coming to a climax, or anti-climax, or post-climax of  season 2. Since HBO has ordered a Westworld third season (coming not soon to your cable stream), we know that cliffhanging will be fashionable next week as we try to discern which of our favorite hosts and guests will be around.

As we move to the all-cast shoot-out beyond the pale riders, this next to end-it-all episode features Ford on the Brain.

Yes, everyone from host to guest has Anthony Hopkins telling them what to do. Forget that he’s dead since last season. Is it any wonder that half the cast puts a bullet into their skulls to stop that computer chip from functioning?

You can’t tell who’s mad and who’s a robot as we come crashing toward the end of the season. Actually all the robots are loony. Then, again, so are the crypto-Nazi humans.

You can rest on the fact that no one is ever ever really dead in a Jonathan Nolan flashback series.

We did enjoy seeing Jimmi Simpson and Ben Barnes together briefly again. We did not enjoy watching Ed Harris, or some immortal coil of him, unable to tell whether people are real or robotic, including himself.

When did he shuffle off that mortal coil?

If we wanted to spoil everything for next week’s extravaganza, we’d find ourselves unable to do so: it looked like everyone in the cast was back and in fine fettle. Of course, that could be a flashback, flashforward, or prequel to the old movies.

Perhaps the most telling moment in the current 2,9 show was to find Ed Harris (Sweet William) and his program card stashed in a copy of Slaughterhouse Five, the old space/time continuum novel by Kurt Vonnegut.

When we have time during the week, we may peruse it to learn how the season will end next week. So it goes.