From the Wild West to Ireland and Beyond: Movies and TV

The third season of WILD WILD WEST dropped in quality from S2, probably due to the death of series creator and producer Michael Garrison. Without him, this really seemed to lack spark, with too many episodes that weren’t much beyond a stock Western (it doesn’t help that health issues kept Michael Dunn from making more than one appearance).  The show still boasted some good episodes, including the strange, elaborate trap in The Night of the Death-Masks, the horror episode Night of the Undead and Night of the Simian Terror and Ed Asner’s understated turn as a mass murderer in Night of the Amnesiac. Overall, though, not up to the first two years.

THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE (2009) is an excellent indie drama alternating between Robin Wright Penn, who’s cracking from her role as Alan Arkin’s Perfect Wife and younger self Blake Lively who runs wild after fleeing her speed-freak mother Maria Bello. The cast includes Julianne Moore as a kinkster, Winona Ryder as Penn’s bestie, Monica Belluci as Arkin’s ex and Keanu Reaves as the younger man who sparks something in Penn; I’d suggest doubling with All That Heaven Allows for another film about a woman falling for a younger man as she pushes back against her staid existence. “You’ve been burying me for years — I can feel the dirt in my mouth.”

Brendan Gleeson is THE GUARD (2011), a foulmouthed, sharp-tongued cop investigating a murder in Ireland’s Gaeltach when he finds himself reluctantly forced to ally with FBI agent Don Cheadle, who’s crossed the Atlantic in pursuit of the drug-dealers now operating out of Gleeson’s patch. A mix of character study and buddy cop film, very well played by the leads. “You’re just reeling off movie titles with numbers in them — I could do that!”

Reading Hollywood’s Copyright Wars got me interested in checking out SCORPIO RISING (1964), which was an inspiration to Martin Scorsese and others. The avant-garde half-hour short shows a couple of bikers getting ready for a wild night, using clips of comic books and background music built of copyrighted songs. This convinced Scorsese that “fair use” allowed for much more music than he’d thought, something that influenced his own films — even though it wasn’t true, the director having paid for the rights to all the music. Other than historical interest, this didn’t do anything for me.

I’ve never really cared for THE INCREDIBLES (2004) as a superhero spoof, mostly because the “clever” ideas (how do superhero suits work? Superheroes getting sued! What happens to ordinary people in superhero battles?) were the kind of thing Marvel was doing four decades earlier. As a somewhat oddball superhero adventure, though, it holds up well as mild-mannered claims adjuster (Craig Nelson) and his stay-at-home wife (Holly Hunter) find themselves forced back into the game by former wannabe sidekick Syndrome (Jason Lee) who claims to represent the triumph of the ordinary person (as one acquaintance put it, it’s hard to see such a Luthor-class genius as “ordinary”).

The film also got some flack because it was seen as a kind of Ayn Randian endorsement of the elite, exceptional individual not to be dragged down by society’s rules — why should the Incredible family have to pretend to be ordinary? I always thought it was more “why try to fit in when you were born to stand out?” (in the words of What A Girl Wants), the time-honored movie message that you should never be afraid to be yourself. Though that said, Dash at the end winning a race with superpowers raised my eyebrows (is that fair when no ordinary human has a chance against him?). Overall, though, fun. “These bad guys aren’t like the ones on those shows you watch Saturday mornings.”

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One response to “From the Wild West to Ireland and Beyond: Movies and TV

  1. Pingback: Two Western series, rewatched in full | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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