Oak Island, 11th Episode & 11th Hour

DATELINE: Something’s Happening (we think).

alex front & center Alex, Poised for a Hostile Take Over!

Racing to the end of another and sixth season, The Curse of Oak Island takes time to call in a woman excavator who worked with the ROC equipment last year. Indeed, the Lagina brothers note that it has been a year since they actually dug in the shaft where the Money Pit is likely to be.

It’s a year since they found those two pieces of human bone! If that isn’t slow, we will put our money on the Hare racing against the Tortoise. They admit their hunt has been for “information” this season.

College professors may rejoice over this revelation. Others may not be so thrilled.

The show features Gary Drayton only for a few minutes this week, but he finds part of a lead bracelet that seems a companion piece to the lead Templar Cross he found last season.

Alex Lagina, looking more buff than usual, is once again driving miles to interview middle-aged women at museums in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. He does learn that the latest inscription may be a rune from the Vikings. However, even he as the brightest light in the Oak Island sky, throws cold water on the paralells. He is almost ready to steal the show from his father and uncle.

Still, he actually and half-heartedly digs in Smith’s Cove with Uncle Rick. More bizarre wood structures are under the mud: made for no discernible purpose, they are new discoveries and quite fascinating.

There are growing hints that this year’s big money throwaway will not show returns till next season. But, now we seem to have found evidence of Vikings and Ancient Romans on Oak Island, pre-dating the Knights Templar. It was apparently quite a tourist attraction in its ancient days.

 

 

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Stalin’s Death as Farce and Burlesque

DATELINE: So-so Soviet

 

buscemi & tambor

Krushchev & Malenkov at Stalin’s funeral.

Maybe we missed the lesson of the Cold War in which the ruthless homicidal dictator killer was surrounded by fawning idiots like extras and operetta buffoons. The Death of Stalin makes a point that defies historical truth.

Indeed, the opening minutes may strike you as a Monty Python-style farce (compounded with the appearance of Michael Palin), with a posse of dunces dancing to the whim of Stalin. They must entertain him and do his bidding, lest they end up like everyone else:  on a hit list.

Their cruel inaction over the dying Stalin as he lay on the floor in his odeur is the nastiest of political satire. Jeffrey Tambor is Malenkov, the weaking second-in-command and under heavy pressure from Krushchev (Buschemi).

The film features endless background executions in a variety of appalling ways, carried out ruthlessly, to the gallows humor of men like Nikita Krushchev, played in thin fashion by Steve Buschemi.

Most of the Communist comrades speak with British accents, jarring at first, ridiculous in deliberance.

What starts as a black comedy set in 1953 becomes more and more disturbing, despite pathetic Vasily Stalin and sister Svetlana, horrified and fearful at what might befall them with their despot father’s death.

From the early antics of a Monty Python, the film devolves into The Godfather, as these small-minded committee commies become more frightful and violent. We can almost fully believe there is more political truth than satire here. This is Swiftian justice meted out by the Lilliputians.

The evolution of Nikita Krushchev from second banana to dangerous rival to the predatory Beria, Stalin’s child molesting henchman, is truly the centerpiece of this political free-for-all. Buschemi’s performance is ultimately a marvel to behold.

Fast-moving and surprising, it is a film to put on your viewing list.

Million Pound Note, or Man with a Million

DATELINE:  My Fair Laddie?

wilfred & greg

Col. Pickering Meets Atticus Finch.

If you are looking for John Beresford Tipton to be handing out checks for a million smackeroos, this forgotten movie is way beyond your expectation. It’s actually a Mark Twain story written in 1893, one of his last ‘Americans abroad’ tales.

Here the American need not do much to blow away the fawning British aristocracy, in love with American money.

This gem came after Roman Holiday, but before Moby Dick, when Gregory Peck stayed in England to do justice to this low-budget marvel.

Two aristocratic British brothers make a bet that they can pull a Pygmalion and Importance of Being Earnest tale using a vagabond American sailor as their Liza Doolittle.

Enter Peck to do business with, whoa, is that Wilfred Hyde-White doing an audition for Colonel Pickering? You better believe the bettor. It’s like killing two mockingbirds with one million pounds.

We only wish the other brother had been Rex Harrison. Then, we would have had a film premonition of “my fair laddie.”  As it is, we have the formula that George Bernard Shaw would soon adapt to his famous play. He never found the time and the Twain to meet personally. So, he took a notion.

Yet, this makes My Fair Lady a delicious ripoff, especially since Audrey Hepburn had just made a classic movie with Peck before he shot this one.

Twain outdid Oscar Wilde here, as the poor American schmuck must not spend his million-pound note for one month to win the bet. Thank heavens for the fake media that goes on a toot to help Peck.

Because American audiences in the early 1950s wouldn’t know a pound note from a B-flat, this movie had a different American title: Man with a Million, but a million pounds was likely about five million dollars in 1893.

This film is charming, and in Technicolor, and stars Gregory Peck. What more could you ask?

 

 

 

 

Underground Space Aliens

DATELINE: Not so Nice

phil blasts aliens

Genius scientist with government-drug induced amnesia and son of a notable Philadelphia Experiment doctor, Phil Schneider predicted he would be murdered and made to look like a suicide. It happened in 1996. In the documentary The Underground, we have them coming up for air.

Schneider either planned ahead, faked with improbability, or was clairvoyant. Yep, he died after a series of lectures warning of underground tunnels done in cahoots with reptilians and insectians who colonized our world from outer space.

Even worse, according to Phil Schneider these creatures smell worse than Bigfoot. In one shootout with the creatures, Schneider explains how he lost some fingers to a ray gun. We are not sure why cooperative aliens are being shot at by our scientists and engineers.

Well, you might say we haven’t heard the whole story.

This might sound like science fiction, except that trillions of dollars in black budgets and secret building projects have the US admitting about a dozen bases a couple of miles under the earth.

His family gives full cooperation to this documentary, including many illustrations. There is also a grisly set of autopsy photos to show Schneider’s death was unnatural.

Known experts like Richard Shaud, who has a series of books on tunnels into the Earth’s core, highlight the veracity of something big going on under our feet. There is no mention of how such drilling miles down might impact earthquakes. It must have some connection.

The old master series Ancient Aliens has given cursory nods to this notion over the years. Perhaps they await a new season before giving Dr. Shaud’s insights full coverage. He makes more logical sense and real investigative journalism than most.

Schneider seems to have died in vain. Let’s hope not.

 

 

 

Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power

DATELINE: Classic Bad Leaders

olivier Olivier as Trump?

Leave it to Curiosity Streaming to come up with a documentary on tyrannical leaders as delineated by the Bard. In this curt show of 35 minutes, the complexities of Shakespeare are also explained simply by down-to-earth experts, including Stephen Greenblatt (who wrote the scholarly book on which this is based).

You have here a film that exposes the foibles of criminal leaders in historical terms without ever mentioning the name of the “bloody dog” Trump. It’s called Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power.

Instead, there is a smorgasbord of scenes from Macbeth, Richard III, King Lear, including clips of a delicious Laurence Olivier as the evil king Richard, looking more like Vlad the Impaler than Donald Trump.

What do the experts uncover? Well, these Shakespearean monsters are all inveterate liars. They can’t help themselves. And, each one has a problem with women with power, from motherhood to wives. Heaven forbid a woman wants political influence. These bad guys are cursed with a childish sense of self-deception.

It only grows worse:  you will find they are delusional and humored by aides surrounding them for their own reasons. It is likely those aides will be betrayed, as the monster tyrant sees loyalty as a one-way street. He will send loyal workers to the tower in an instant.

The tyrant also uses and abuses children to his own political gains: tormenting them, killing them, locking them up, separating them from family and protectors.

Imagine, not once does the show mention the President of the United States in 2019. It does end with one of the great characters celebrating the death of the “bloody dog,” after his tumultuous reign. We should be so lucky.

 

 

 

Back for More of Blue Book

DATELINE: Flatwoods Conundrum

flatwoods Kid illo of West Virginia Monster?

Project Blue Book, the teasing docudrama, has high production values and dubious manipulative techniques. So, we tuned in for another episode, despite being sick as a dog this week.

We were not as sick as the kids who encountered “The Flatwoods Monster,” some kind of alien creature who popped out of a crashed UFO.

The show did not cure us of our UFO-it is, or from a nasty case of laryngitis. It did take our mind off the self-pity party we have been suffering.

Dr. Hynek continues to find people worse off than any of us from their UFO encounters. And his less than helpful young military attaché continues to be a man following orders to disrupt the research.

Of course, we remain puzzled as to why these advanced beings in their souped-up space ships keep crashing. If you can fly across the universe, what’s the problem flying around the United States?

In the meantime, some mysterious people are following Hynek (are they really men in black?), and his insipid family is under scrutiny by rejects from the Un-Americans series about Soviet-style spies.

Based on the experiences of a mother and a group of kids in the early 1950s, we are shown how clever the professorial Dr. Hynek can be when it comes to finding a perfect debunking story to explain away whatever lunacy citizens report.

We have to admit he comes up with a lulu on this episode, and everyone is left to a temporary happy ending. Not according, however, to the taglines at the end. Each episode ends with real photos and real reactions of the witnesses.

 

Brooklyn Bridge to Serve as Mexican Border Wall

DATELINE:  Trump’s New Solution!

untitled

In the great tradition of American business, President Donald Trump will follow in the footsteps of Mae West and Bugs Bunny and will sell shares in the Brooklyn Bridge. He believes that, if enough Republicans buy shares, they can charge Democrats a large fee to use it.

At the least, he believes the Bridge can be shut down to keep undesirables out of Manhattan. He believes most of those who use the Brooklyn Bridge are illegal immigrants.

The idea was said to be floated by Sean Hannity and Lindsay Graham at a dinner with the President who noted during dessert of Baked Alaska about furloughed government workers: “Let them eat cake.”

Trump tweeted that “Number A, this is a great idea with a chance to make a huge profit for the American people.”  Trump went out to cite the purchase of the London Bridge by American investors some years ago. They moved it to Arizona.

Trump believes this is a template for the latest effort to take the Brooklyn Bridge, stone by stone, and move it to the Mexican border. Trump believes this will kill two birds with one stone.

Sean Hannity reportedly told the President that the Brooklyn Bridge was a boondoggle, built by corrupt Democrats and that his legacy will be affirmed when he tears down the bridge and makes it bigger than the Berlin Wall.

 

 

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.

 

 

Neeson & Harris Don’t Run Fast!

DATELINE:  Oh, Daddy-Boy!

oh, daddy! Chip off the Blockhead?

Run All Night is a movie with Liam Neeson and Ed Harris. It’s the kind of movie that you will think is great if you never saw Citizen Kane, or ever heard of Ox-Bow Incident.

This film manipulates a certain audience of un-educated film fans who would likely tell you they don’t eat sugar and won’t ever “catch” diabetes. They live on empty starch and carbs, one way to describe this movie that stars Neeson and Harris.

If you think this movie is the best thing since sliced bread, you may also decry Hollywood morality. You may think that a border wall is what makes America great. In this film you will likely think mob killers are deep-down nice guys. This film is white bread all right, down to the empty carbs.

The plot has to do with honor and family, but this isn’t your Godfather’s crime drama. It is more like letting inmates run the asylum or control the federal prison or write a screenplay.

Fan reaction to the Neeson action movies is generally a belief that a great actor never can demean himself and elevates any tripe on which he puts his name. This is not Ed Harris doing A History of Violence.

You can like Run All Night, or Taken, as an occasional dollop of mindless entertainment, but if you eat a steady diet of mindless entertainment, you surely have lost your mind, if you ever had one.

We have sworn off comic-book superhero movies as things of childhood best put behind us, but voters still support Donald Trump and love this sort of movie stuffing.

Put action crime thrillers with antiheroic white men into the mix. Shake well and pour it into the mud pie. Yum, yum, eat’em up, and go back into your cave. Rub two sticks together whilst sitting on a powder-keg and watch it again.

 

 

 

 

 

Ancient Aliens Bring Captain Kirk Aboard

DATELINE: Von Daniken Beamed UP 13.14

shat Shat Upon Sagan!

It was inevitable. As 2019 starts a new special, Ancient Aliens Season 13, episode 14, brings in the most ancient astronaut of TV fame: there is William Shatner giving advice to Giorgio and the crew.

You have to love it. This is a special edition for sure. Cross-pollination is one of History Channel’s favorite Venerable Bede compliments. There is no one from outer space more ancient than Shatner. Where has he been for a 100 other episodes?

The reason for his appearance is to honor Erich Von Daniken. In 1976 Shatner made a movie called Mysteries of the Gods, which adapted more or less from one of Daniken’s books. Hence, the honor from History Channel. Clips of young Shatner appear, but no mention comes of Leonard Nimoy’s series In Search of…, which History is also remaking with the new Spock, Zachary Quinto.

The two-hour special is meant to be homage to Von Daniken’s amazing career since the 1960s when he burst onto the scene with his outlandish theories. We read Chariots of the Gods in 1968, before most the guests on this special were born.

We recall being surprised and more than a little confused as to why no one else had seen what the author revealed. It was mind-boggling, but then again so was 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Now, he has more credibility than Carl Sagan. Indeed, the special has a clip of Sagan looking pathetic, attacking the notion of Ancient Aliens. Today, if the astronomer were still alive, he’d be ripe to serve as Trump’s Acting Ambassador to Mars.

The show manages to catalogue all the movies, TV shows, and other documentaries that had direct influence from Von Daniken: they also admit that Arthur Clarke and Stanley Kubrick slightly preceded him.

Von Daniken reveals his Jesuit education that influenced him, and he also discusses how his background in hotel management ruined him with academics and their Ph.D.-union card prejudice.

As one with a doctorate, we feel as do some NASA people and Dr. Travis Taylor, that lack of degree means nothing when it comes to creative minds.

This latest entry seems a premature obit for Erich Von Daniken, or eulogy in anticipation. It does not detract from his remarkable veracity.

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.

 

 

Aliens & Astronauts, or Something Like That

DATELINE: Old Horizons

moonshot

A streaming Amazon documentary of sorts has two titles: good luck in figuring out which is the right one. Aliens and Astronauts: UFOs on the Moon is one choice, and the other is Alien Origins: UFOs on the Moon.

If this strikes you as a good emblematic statement about the film’s contents, you are on the money, unlike its producer, director, writer, and narrator who are all one person, named J. Michael Long.

Long is an expert director on Bigfoot and space aliens. Lately he has even branched out to Elephants & Donkeys, on the political crisis in America. Alas, he speaks like a non-native, mispronouncing dozens of words (even simple ones). It also adds to the aura of inauthenticity.

We’d be the last ones to call a documentary fake news, but we think the “fictional hypothesis” of the Moon being hollow is hardly fiction.

What do you call people who eat this up? Moonstruck or Lunatics?

The film tries every angle to convince us the Moon is hollow. It even begs the question of the question, which is penurious.

Nicely developed with good visuals, the film does raise the legit question of why we haven’t returned to the Moon in 40 years: someone doesn’t want us there? Hmm, yes, if the Moon is an artificial satellite brought here from another galaxy to help colonize the planet with Atlantis residents.

Oh, it all ties together. Director Long even suggests the Moon has only been out there for 11,000 years, which means the Sphinx may be older than the Moon. There must not have been much night-time construction, without moonlight. Long tells us in long-hand that the Moon is older than the Earth, by quite a bit, having machinery inside that brought it here.

Long is short on logic but heavy on repetition. Conspiracy theory addicts will find this stuff is catnip. Meow.

 

 

 

 

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.

Big Papillon

DATELINE: Renewed Classic

Rami & Charlie.

Perhaps every 50 years or so, a movie needs to be re-made.

This gives a new generation of actors a chance at grand roles, and an audience unfamiliar with the original to see a version that is in tune with the times that half-a-century causes.

Take Papillon, the Devil’s Island classic tale that starred Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman so many years ago. Those who remember will tell you how great they were.  Those who see Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) and Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) in the recent version will not understand how these two could be surpassed.

Yes, this remake is brilliantly done: in ways that the other never touched:  such as the motif of bowels as hiding places. Money pellets are within the mess of diarrhea to be searched. This film is brutal in its sadism and disgusting conditions, perhaps even more appalling than the original.

Henry Charriere’s true story of a man battling the odds of prison condemnation is always a good yarn of hope and hopeless. Director Michael Noer manages to convey the power of a literary classic.

We particularly liked the sequence when the warden has a showing of 1933 King Kong while the repugnant, fat turnkey is in dalliance with a young whelp while Papillon plans his escape.

There is a chemistry between Malek and Hunnam that transcends the original pairing of actors who were stars for more distinctive, discrete audiences. These new young stars have rapport and remain in tune as their relationship blossoms. In a scene Malek plays a mime who performs for Hunnam in a Paris dream sequence.

Hunnam notes it is too soon for a “proposal” in one scene, but the fearless director makes his song of bonds between oddball men quite effective.