Pouty Harrison Takes on Hackman
In 1974 between his Godfather epics, Coppola tackled the high-tech tale of a wire-tapper who is tapped out. He wrote and directed this intriguing suspense drama. You know the Coppola tag will build this to a daunting climax.
The Conversation seems a throwaway but may be a perfect metaphor for the upcoming technological invasion of privacy that the 21stcentury and Internet will dump on us.
Gene Hackman is a suffering paranoid who seems to enjoy eavesdropping less and less each day. When he discovers that his work may be even dirtier than usual with murder in mind, he seems to be struck with a conscience.
When you subtract all the outmoded surveillance equipment from the movie, you have something so quaint as to be primitive by today’s digital standards. You may rightfully worry that things are a lot worse nowadays.
You may laugh at the spooling tapes and wonder how they could do any job effectively.
As a film, the story is microscopic as befits the nosy nature of small-time detective work. Yet, nothing transcends the basic fright of murder under your nose.
The Coppola cast is more than right: he has collected some of his favorite people and found others right before they made it big on TV/and movies. You will see a baby-faced Harrison Ford, a young girlish Teri Garr, a pretty victim in Cindi Williams without Laverne. Frederic Forrest is a callow-looking adulterer. Slippery John Cazale is always a Coppola staple and acts as a supporting, underappreciated wiretapper here too.
One of Coppola’s favorite actors makes a cameo as the corporate villain.
They are all secondary to the mid-life crisis that cannot be better epitomized than Gene Hackman at the pinnacle of his Everyman person.
The business means that you cannot trust anyone, professionally or personally. And, there is good reason to be suspicious when large amounts of money is paid for information.
DATELINE: Boys Will be Quarterbacks!
Are we seeing double? Are they separated at birth? Are they twins?
The Red Zone of NFL has given us a double dose of cutie-pie QBs. We are now in double jeopardy of wondering how the NFL can allow players to take the field before they can shave.
Josh Allen and Kyle Allen are among the new generation of NFL quarterbacks. They have leapt into the Internet social media and beefcake dreamboat category simultaneously.
They are not joined at the hip because we saw them in different cities on the same day. However, we still cannot tell them apart without a scorecard.
Of course, one is always a tad shocked to find out that the star players are so young that they look like teenagers who could play the Hardy Boys in a new cable series.
TeenBeat might be featuring them on the cover. They could play Tom Brady’s sons in a movie.
One of them plays for the Buffalo Bills and the other now has taken over the Carolina Panthers. They are not your average blue-collar city boys. They are fresh off the farm.
Gleaming smiles and boyish good looks are not the kind of tough guy image you expect from grizzled NFL leaders, like Troy and Peyton. This is the new generation following in the footsteps of botox Tom Brady, whose looks now try to defy the twenty-somethings whom he must play against.
Of course, there is a big difference between looking young and actually being young. We don’t know if the Bobsey Twins of Josh and Kyle will fall into the youth movement of 2040 and find silicone to fill their wrinkles and cracks.
Right now they are so adorable that you wish the time machine would hold still for a few years.
We wish them long careers and hope they never are able to grow a beard like Ryan Fitzpatrick and cover up those beautiful doll looks. Movie contracts are sure to follow.
DATELINE: Worst Episode in Series History
An empowered creature?
Reaching its most squeamish and unpleasant episode in a dozen years, Ancient Alienstackled the big issue of human self-mutilation: tattoos and body modifications practices. They are definitely scraping the crusty bottom of the alien pie plate.
If you are of an older generation that eschews such practice and are horrified by the endless human billboards walking around society, you may be turned off here. These people are called “Human Hieroglyphs,” as opposed to petroglyphs.
Of course, those Ancient Alien theorists think this is deep-rooted habit from the desire to show connections to space creatures who were those gods of yore.
Painful and ugly body transformation may be a right of expression, but it seems a stretch mark to call it inspired by outer space connections. Our typical Aliens hosts, all devoid of tattoos or other distinguishing marks, speak blandly about a habit (or obsession) to put ink stains on every part of the body.
You will be subjected to seeing people covering their skin with unsightly designs in order to appear more extra-terrestrial. Perhaps the most appalling is the praise for a young man who colored the whites of his eyes black to look like a gray alien.
Then, they claim the Internet has inspired this “creativity.”
It’s more like a fad of depravity.
We decided to shut down this episode and its rationalization of creative impulse to be other worldly. When one clown called this activity “empowering,” we knew we were on another planet. Perhaps these oddities will be the first to go to Mars, or the first to be sent there when it becomes the Devil’s Island of the 22ndcentury.
This may be the single-worst episode in the history of the long-running series.
DATELINE: Moving Monster Triangle
When In Search of…series takes on the Bermuda Triangle, you can have high expectations. The show has proven to be among the sharpest and smartest that have come to us from the History Channel. A look at the Bermuda Triangle once again proves the point.
Here you have a tired, repetitive topic that has been examined by dozens of dull-witted documentaries. But, Zachary Quinto’s episode looks at it with a scientist’s explanatory eye. You may well be mesmerized.
No, Quinto does not wear Bermuda shorts, Hawaiian shirts, or pedal pushers, but gives us information that comes across with authority. He is no empty-headed narrator.
As with the Loch Ness shows, this episode turns out to be the best documentary on the subject that we can recall.
The devilish triangle is an area about the size of Alaska, large but not in terms of world-wide. And, the first theory espoused is a red-algae called Sargassum, hence Sargasso Sea. This thick mat of red growth also gives off a noxious gas. When you couple this with 100’ tall rogue waves, you may have people turning to the supernatural.
Quinto’s show hints that the problem is bigger than that: as it also encompasses air travel over the Bermuda area. Once again, he stays studio-bound as the show takes on the dangers.
The air issue brings in an expert who has flown the Triangle since he was 17 years old, and he takes a 70-year old plane with only a compass into the realm. It is risky, as the big problem seems to be something called “magnetic fog.” It clouds equipment, plane, and people. Many believe this condition that arises mysteriously has caused most airplane disappearances, like the notorious Flight 19 from 1946.
Someone labeled a deep-sea prospector proposed that tons of magnetite, a strange mix found only in lava deposits in Bermuda, causes compasses and other electrical equipment to go haywire,
In fact, a scientist is now proposing that the polar shifts in magnetic north mean that the Bermuda Triangle is shifting its location far from Bermuda: look out, World!
DATELINE: Dug Out of the Film Mausoleum
Two hundred years ago Resurrection Men stole bodies out of graves and sold them to medical students.
Today Resurrection Men steal movie star images out of film archives to sell to fans. The body of work of James Dean is about to be dissected by film students.
A generation ago we wondered if old clips of TV and movies could be merged into a new script with old, dead actors as stars. It seemed fantastic to think James Dean could, at long last, costar with Marilyn Monroe.
Well, we have reached one plateau, or perhaps hole in the ground. It appears that James Dean, with permission of his greedy surviving relatives, will rise from the dead thespian hall of fame.
A script about some Vietnam-era characters will cannibalize a few of his past scenes, dubbed with a sound-alike actor, to create, without his knowledge or permission, a new movie: yes, his fourth leading role, sixty years after he won Oscar nominations for East of EdenandGiant, will likely result in no Oscar this time.
Some fans are incensed, and others are utterly perplexed at how such a task can be completed.
Can Dean be colorized, animated, and computer-generated into a character he never heard of, studied, or believed he could depict?
It won’t matter because the notion is out of his hands. It is a new-fangled out-of-body experience. It might have driven James Dean out of his mind or sent him speeding off in a Porsche to his doom.
Nearly all of his costars are gone, and a few who lived long enough to entertain the misuse of their images in a post-death world, have left wills and other documents that will forbid any such action. Dean, alas, died long before such a notion was possible.
Dean will costar with other actors he never screen-tested, and it is impossible for him to create chemistry. He will be like a wooden statue in a department store window. Oh, his costars may be able to respond to his behavior, but he will be denied any chance to upstage them.
The film will be called FindingJack, and it’s entering pre-production. It’s more like Finding Jack Spratt, as he is an invisible and hidden carbohydrate in a world of spaghetti film stock.
DATELINE: Trouble in Paradise
Rubble and bodies, after pyroclastic flow!
In May of 1902 was, perhaps, the most devastating and bizarre volcanic explosion ever known in world history. On a paradise of pleasure in the Caribbean, the entire town of Saint-Pierre was wiped out in 3 minutes.
Only one man survived, and he was in a prison cell with walls over a meter thick. He was found 4 days later with terrible burns. There had been a shock wave first that raced through the town before pyroclastic gas choked victims.
People died of burns, with their clothes fully intact. It was bizarre.
Thirty thousand people died hideously in place: no lava, no ash buried them: they died from gas flows of 1000 degrees that rushed down the volcano. Some people burned up and fell down on Sunday morning, attending church on a holy day to end Carnaval season.
Some people blew apart from inside their bodies: it was a pyroclastic flow, relatively unknown back then. This was not your classic volcano out of Hollywood special effects. It was more like Dante’s Inferno.
For weeks there had been cannon-fire explosions, lightning storms, and the officials of the town refused to order an evacuation.
Back then, Mont Pelee was considered the “debonair” volcano: placid, sleeping, and seldom doing much damage apart from the horrid smell of rotten eggs that permeated the area.
When Mont Pelee awoke, it killed everything in eight square miles. It must be a haunted area.
This documentary even features actual photos and movie newsreel from that May of 1902. It was considered divine punishment for the revels and immorality of the week before when Mardi Gras outrages included lifting up the skirt of a statue of the Blessed Virgin.
If you want to see a disaster that has been little documented, listen to expert volcanologist Mark Davis as he relates the devastation. A fascinating and horrific hour depicting three minutes of hell.
DATELINE: Manning the Moon?
Tripping to the Moon!
Mooning the Man?
If you can forgive some of the silly statements, like “fictional hypothesis,” you may find the documentary Alien Moon intriguing enough to entertain, or to surprise with a bare elemental study. Consider yourself mooned.
The film repeats endlessly its main theory: the Moon is a hollow and unnatural object.
Going from there is an easy step for man, and a giant leap for skeptics. It seems that a hollow Moon may be an artificial satellite that traversed the universe looking for a planet suitable for terraforming for a humanoid race.
Guess who and where?
If there are surprises that are indisputable science, it is that information that moon dust is highly corrosive and likely would present major hurdles for colonists there. In fact, the allergenic problem could cause moon hay fever if it enters the human lungs.
If we have a big problem, we need a bigger dust mop.
Another curio of the film is the strange detail that there is a glassy surface on the Moon, likely caused by high heat not caused by meteors. And, the Moon seems to have strong radiation fields.
Of course, such films start off with acceptable points—and once you have accepted those, the leap is six times what a human on Earth might make.
There are structures, either there from ancient civilizations from another place, or are real estate still active by about 250 aliens who arrived from some place 40 light years away.
We again have governments censoring astronauts and scientists to protect us from the demonic elements that could undermine our fundamentalist religions. Until people go back there and enter the deep tunnels of the Moon, we may only experience more documentaries like this one.
DATELINE: Madison, Olyphant, and Bridges
Somewhere between the TV series Deadwood version of Wild Bill Hickok (limned by Keith Carradine) and the TV series Wild Bill(limned by Guy Madison), you have the version from Walter Hill and played by Jeff Bridges as the wildest Hickok of all.
As a Western on the tale end of movie westerns, this one is a classic mostly undiscovered. Wild Bill has a wonderful cameo cast and is filled with comedic violence.
In this version, Keith Carradine is Buffalo Bill. Ten years later he would join Timothy Olyphant in the HBO series for a few episodes as Wild Bill.
Here, the rootin’ tootin’ Calamity Jane is Ellen Barkin, and one of Bill’s Brit friends is a biographer played by John Hurt.
The bad guys lining up to be dispatched in colorful fashion include such as Bruce Dern and David Arquette.
Wild Bill traipsed through the litany of Western venues from Abilene to Deadwood, making appearances as a ruthlessly violent marshal who’d shoot you in an instant if the matter called for breaking lawbreakers.
James Butler Hickok found himself trapped in celebrity and became Wild Bill as a profession, requiring certain behaviors and attitudes.
The film, utterly timeless depiction of a Western legend, provides us with a conspiracy theory behind the tale. It would seem that the sniveling coward Jack McCall was, perhaps, hinted at an illegitimate son of Hickok.
You may find that the Olyphant-McShane profanity laced TV series owes much to this film—and it’s done with a modicum of the bad language of bad guys.
DATELINE: Murder in the 21st Century
Andress in Undress?
The expiration date on using The Tenth Victim probably ended in the 20thcentury.
A social satire about murder in the future, this Italian film has all the earmarks of Fellini and Antonioni. It is excessive, flamboyant, and beautifully filmed. Its main conceit was that in the 21stcentury America, violence would be rampant and institutionalized as a game.
You would have hunters and the hunted. Alas, nothing racial or insulting to minorities occurs. In fact, there is not a minority to be seen in a colorful landscape meant to be the United States.
The male victim is a highly successful hunter with a dozen kills to his credit, but now the computer system has turned the tables and sent a stunningly beautiful woman out to get him. He does not know her identity, and that is part of the game. Everyone dresses in eye-popping fashion, and the future is squeaky clean, streets bright and cheery.
The cast is exemplary for the time: Marcello Mastroianni bleaches his hair blond (it was big that year as Terence Stamp did it too), and he is pursued by the American killer Ursula Andress. Hunh? You mean it’s not Anita Ekberg? Or Sophia Loren?
The sets are spectacular, and the music is jazz out of the classic Fifties mode, what you’d expect in a Euro-entertainment of the period.
As for the plot, it is neither violent enough, bloody enough, or shocking enough to make it controversial. It is played for light-hearted satire, and there is not a drop of blood to be seen.
Other touches indicate that comic books are great literature in America in the 21stcentury, collected like first-edition Francis Bacon.
In 1965, this flashy film grabbed them at the art house. Today it is more akin to a flash in the pan, though we are reluctant to pan something that is original, singular, and cute.
DATELINE: Ghost Hunters
If you saw New York Jest Quarterback Sam Darnold, of mono fame, on Monday Night Football, you saw a man spooked.
Yes, the young and callow big QB was mic’d up as they say for the cameras. He did not disappoint. When all the cursing is done, and whitewashed out, you had the tall drink of water having the worst night of his life. If you dismiss the night he caught mono…
He ended up with a QB rating of 6.5, which sounds nearly as abysmal as anything this season by anyone.
That conjurer of ancient gridiron spirits, Merlin Bill Belichick, apparently sent Macbeth’s witches to bubble up some trouble for young Darnold. Too damn young for being darn old.
The Jets main man said on the bench after one appalling interception that he was seeing ghosts out there on the field.
We, of course, believe him, as we have seen the power of orbs flying by at breakneck speed. These little photons of light are really the spirits of past football for Darnold, and they are making mischief that would do poltergeists proud.
Marley’s Ghost might have offered him some sound advice on how to deal with the Patriots defense that was fired up to deny the existence of ghosts.
Perhaps Hamlet’s fatherly ghost might have warned him of a coach would pour poison in his ear. That Jets coach was heard to tell him that he knew what to do. Apparently the coach did not know or have the number of an exorcist on his speed dial.
You can scare children with ghost stories, or conversely you can scare QBs like Josh Allen and Sam Darnold who look like giant kids playing a game of chess with the Grim Reaper. Shades of Shades.
DATELINE: A Dark & Stormy Movie
Polidori, Shelley, and Byron, aka Spall, Sands, and Byrne
If you want to learn about the dark and stormy night in 1816 that resulted in the creation of Frankenstein and Dracula by Lord Byron’s pals, you might look elsewhere.
Ken Russell’s hothouse and nuthouse movie about Percy and Mary Shelley and Lord Byron is pure Gothicnonsense. As was the style of Russell back in 1987, you had a psychedelic version of biography and history. It is not satisfactory.
The cast is somewhat exemplary: Gabriel Byrne as lame Byron, Julian Sands as pretty Shelley, Timothy Spall as off-putting Dr. Polidori, and Natasha Richardson as demure Mary! Wow, you almost expect the acting alone will carry the film.
However, the director hijacks every moment and even has cast members chewing on rats. We thought the film turned into that rat-festival moviel, Willard.And, inexplicable pythons wrap around suits of armor. Yep, it’s Ken Russell.
Instead of a dark and stormy night where these highly creative people choose to write great books, we have a literal ghost story. The demons are really around every corner. You almost feel sorry for the servants who basically take a powder during the latter part of the movie to avoid these koo-koo birds.
The summer without sun inspired the writing of Frankenstein and Dracula. Byron took credit for Polidori’s work, and Byron couldn’t write prose. The stepsister of Mary is around for crazy moments in which the sexual peccadilloes of the characters is tested.
We have more than your usual homoerotic connections between the men, including some fairly passionate kisses, but Julian Sands was never prettier. Gabriel Byrne seems to have bigger breasts than the women stars. Timothy Spall is actually slim.
The film becomes increasingly erratic and difficult to watch, as befits what did in the style of Ken Russell ultimately. We had hoped to see something truly fascinating, but not quite on the level of a train wreck.
DATELINE: LOL Lolita Express!
Yuck or Yikes?
Lest we stir up a hornet’s nest of billionaire idiots, we want to castigate Bill Gates right out of the gate.
This week we learned that this richest man on earth type is either an idiot or thinks we are idiots. He denies he was a friend (close or otherwise) of pedophile suicide Jeffrey Epstein.
The frequent flier mileage and chronic visits to Epstein were all strictly for philanthropic reasons: not personal and not business.
Gates does write to a friend that he met a beautiful woman and her young daughter at Epstein’s manse and decided to spend the day. Hunh?
This is like Trump saying that he knew Epstein liked women, especially younger ones, and they shared that interest. Grab’em while they’re hot.
Nowadays, with money to revise history, these billionaire bozos are hiring PR men and women to whitewash the facts.
How illiterate are these clowns?
That seems to be the only excuse: each, even President Clinton, flew on Epstein’s rock and roll private jet, dubbed “Lolita Express.”
Not one had the literary acumen to recognize Nabokov’s pedophile object of desire. Not one asked why the plane was named after a pre-pubescent girl. Not one had seen the two movies on the subject, yes, titledLolita.
How lacking in curiosity can they be? Enough to know that ignorance is bliss; deniability is paramount in the world of billionaires trying to get away with murder, suicide, and pedophilia.
We have had our fill of dumb-bunny, Playboy bunny-loving rich dopes. Go to the back of the line, Gates and Trump.
DATELINE: Light Thinking on Ancient Aliens
When Ancient Aliensdecides to tackle the issue of psychic energies, there is an obvious blame game: those ancient space travelers came to earth 200,000 years ago and turned on the switch for the “neocortex” in the human brain.
Then, they completely undercut the theory by examining the cryptic, obscure, inconclusive predictions of Nostradamus. Their explanation for his lack of clarity (though they give him lots of credit) is that he was protecting himself from witchcraft charges and being burned at the stake. It’s around the same time that Leonardo da Vinci had the same problem.
However, the show is on firmer ground when it examines the validity behind psychic research with the discovery in 1935 of ESP.
The information about the differing methods of communications is intriguing: they specifically discuss precognition as looking at the future (as do all good soothsayers) but dismiss more quickly a look at past events (which may be post-cognition).
The show is more interested in the sensational stuff: like moving objects by brain power. These talents were given to all, but only a few select people (perhaps abductees?) are having their neocortex switched on.
Another intriguing examination is the notion that light photons emitted by the human body is a form of telepathy on which communication or messages may be received or sent. They use Biblical examples to illustrate how prophets often are glowing with knowledge.
Again, replacing the Akashic Record with something now called the Holographic Universe, the series insists that past, present, and future, are all stored in a place that is accessible.
And, the show comes full circle with Nostrodamus predicting that humans will migrate to other planets for survival.
DATELINE: Noserferatu-too much?
Has it been twenty years since Willem Dafoe took on the role of Max Schreck as Nosferatu? And, John Malkovich played the great German director. Shadow of the Vampireis meant to be film history, horror in cinema, and ultimately docudrama to end all vampire tales.
It was like watching Burton and O’Toole in Becket in some kind of twisted duo version of clash of titans. They quibble like Fredric March and Spencer Tracy in Inherit the Wind.Yes, their screen confrontations are on this level.
Is it comedy, satire, or history? Perhaps it is all rolled into one silent screen classic, as the original depicted shadows over substance. You may laugh at the foibles of movie makers.
Unable to film Dracula, Murnau, the Herr Doktor of cinema, filmed on some remote location where an unknown actor, of Stanislavski Method, turned himself into a real vampire. Or did he?
The conceit of the movie is that Max was no actor, but a real creature of death whom Murnau located.
The film is looney in its hilarity. When Max misbehaves on the set, F.W. Murnau denies him makeup. When Max Schreck begins to eat the cameraman, the two come to one of their marvelous argumentative scenes. Dafoe clicks his fingernails like a castanet and watches sunrise on film, moving us behind the hideous makeup. You can’t have a film like this without Udo Keir as well.
Two temperamental creatures want to make a movie to last for all time: and they do! Nosferatu’s spirit is captured in this behind-the-scenes account, however falsified or dramatized.
The ending is spoiled, purely preposterous, with Murnau directing the ultimate mass murders.
It’s koo-koo bird stuff, but dreams can be made of that too.