We’ll Be Hanged Hangman

DATELINE:  Pacino & Shahi

 Hangman stars

Al Pacino is at an age when Robert DeNiro plays comedy roles, but Pacino is still looking at detective action thrillers.

He is a bit long in the tooth, and we worry when he falls down that he may break a hip. He looks great actually.

In Hangman, he has chosen the role of a detective who retired a year ago (at 77) and is back on special assignment with his young partner (Karl Urban) when a serial killer calls out their badge numbers.

There is some initial interest in seeing this movie because of the cast, and Sarah Shahi (Person of Interest) as the young, tough woman captain of the force in some small city.

For some reason inexplicable to anyone, Pacino plays his detective with an Andy Griffith, aw shucks, Mayberry accent. He’s the only one with such a speech impediment among the New York actors.

If that were not weird enough, the serial killer wants to play Hangman, literally, hanging his victims with a letter carved into their bodies.

Well, if koo-koo descends into ridiculous, we do not find it sublime. We’ve had our fill of brilliantly smart serial killers. We are challenged to stay with this film, mainly because of the actors.

The plot does not thicken: it curdles. We discover both detectives have a personal connection to victims, but this does not disqualify them from the case.

And, to make matters worse, there is a Lois Lane type tagging along to all the crime scenes. When told not to obstruct justice, she enters the case and compounds trouble. Call her the plot hole.

It’s enough to throw in the noose and call it a hang dog day afternoon. Just terrible, and what a waste of talented actors.


Almost Human is Almost Original

DATELINE: Robots on the Loose


Robotic Love with Karl Urban and Michael Ealy

When J.J. Abrams turns to television series, you can count on the fact that his science fiction will borrow from the best: Robocop meets Alien Nation meets Blade Runner meets Terminator meets every android from movies that ever walked the earth. We’ve come a long way since Will Robinson dealt with a robot yelling, “Danger! Danger!”

So, you can have the crisis of confusion: is it human? Well, almost. Is there tension between human and robot? If it’s a series, you can count on it weekly. Is there prejudice against robots? Yes, especially if one is black.

Ever since HAL sabotaged the 2001 Kubrick mission, we have found our android robots acting up with more scenery chewing than Godzilla ever gave us.

Hence, we face off with Almost Human on Fox.

Karl Urban has won fame as J.J. Abrams’s rebooted Dr. McCoy in the new Star Trek movies, and he accounts himself well again, being both telegenic and likeable even in grouch mode. His partner is Michael Ealy, playing Dorian (no Gray yet), but his android is androgynous.

If you want more than a fair share of male bonding that borders on love/hate that dares not speak its name on TV prime time, you may read between the lines. We doubt the two protagonists will get between the sheets, though there will be enough winks and nods to satisfy.

Above all else, this is a cop-on-the-edge show. Karl Urban could not be an accountant and have his android companion, lest he be a CPA with an LGBT license. Instead, we have life and death situations where only the human faces death. The robot faces termination only until a new battery is inserted. Yes, we’re tuning in again.

Out of the Darkness with Star Trek



Chris Pine & Zachary Quinto as Legends Captain Kirk & Spock


Something remains comforting when there is no need for exposition. Star Trek into Darkness brings the mythology of 40 years together instantly.

The film, cleverly written, annotates the original series and the highly successful transition of an episode into Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan back in the 1980s. Now we have the younger versions predating the older action and thus giving us more information and more to savor.

Though the movie still contains much action and adventures, special effects and whatnot, no other movie can provide deeper emotional resonance with a lift of the eyebrow or a snide crack of the major characters at each other.

That is the beauty of having legendary status and national mythology mixed into our 20th and now 21st centuries. If the Greeks had Odysseus and the Romans Romulus, the American mythos may live as long and prosper.

The latest generation incarnates the central figures of Kirk, Spock, Khan, Scottie, and their immortal personalities.

Echoes of the terrorist attacks just recently seen in Boston and Benghazi seem to give an instant comprehension of what the future holds. It’s not much different than the present.

Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are again compelling (as is the rest of the cast), but a special kudo must go to the quirky Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) of modern incarnation now playing the role originally created by Ricardo Montalban. The characters are more British now (as is Dr. Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) from Star Trek II), but it feels like a reunion of ideas and idols.

Though the storyline is enriched by the knowledge of the entire oeuvre, viewers can still discover it anew and lock in like a tractor beam to the larger meanings.

It’s timeless and it’s intriguing. That’s why national mythology is important and lives forever.

Directed by J.J.Abrams, this latest film in the series contains a few surprises and many parallel homage moments to the Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan version.

If you enjoy unusual movie reviews, try MOVIE MASHUP or MOVIES TO SEE–OR NOT TO SEE. Both books are available on Amazon.com in softcover or ebook formats.