Category Archives: TV

Captain America and Promiscuous Women! Books read

CAPTAIN AMERICA: The Coming of … The Falcon by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Jim Steranko and Gene Colan runs from 1968 into ’69 and despite a couple of flaws, made for very good reason. We have Sharon “Agent 13” Carter, easily the most interesting of Marvel’s Silver Age love interests (if she and Cap have to die to complete the mission, so be it) and arcs involving the Fourth Sleeper (I through III showed up in an earlier story), the Red Skull (rather overused during this period) and obviously Sam Wilson becoming the Falcon (a bigger deal back when black faces in comics were a rare sight). It also has Jim Steranko’s short run as writer/artist, during which he introduced Madame Hydra (a good foe except for her I’m Sooo Ugly motivation), made Rick Jones into Cap’s new partner and resolved Cap having his secret identity known (which Brian Cronin covers here).

On the downside, some of Kirby’s last issues show the Lee/Kirby team running out of steam (not as badly as on Thor, though). And the arc that introduces Falcon involves the Skull using the Cosmic Cube and it almost verges on parody how he uses godlike power (for those who don’t know, it’s the equivalent of the Infinity Gauntlet) to toy with Cap and give him lots of time to escape. Still, it was overall excellent.

THE TRIALS OF NINA MCCALL: Sex, Surveillance and the Deacdes-Long Government Program to Imprison “Promiscuous” Women by Scott W. Stern looks at how the United States in WW I decided to fight the risk of soldiers catching debilitating STDs by cracking down on prostitutes and STD carriers around military bases; when it turned out many doughboys had caught the clap in their home towns, the “American Plan” as it was later called broadened all over the country.

In practice what that meant was that women who were prostitutes or suspected prostitutes or simply promiscuous (despite gender-neutral language, the plan in practice targeted women) could be sent to reformatories and forced to accept dangerous chemical treatments for the diseases they supposedly had, all without any trial or hearing. Some women escaped their jails, some set fire to them, and some like Nina McCall (not a prostitute, simply a young woman alleged to have slept with a soldier, and to have gonorrhea) went to court. Usually federal pressure squashed any hope of judicial support, but in Nina’s case she won release from the oppressive post-confinement supervision. The plan however continued on at the local level even after it died out as a federal project; the freedom to round up accused prostitutes as a public health menace without having to worry about a trial was manna from heaven to local cops (much like vagrancy laws).

It’s a good book, though flawed by Stern’s efforts to make Nina the central focus. After she wins her case, Stern continues to follow her life story in detail even though it has nothing to do with the plan, nor offers anything particularly unusual; the best he can do is suggest that Nina must have been worried her female friends or relatives could be caught up in the plan like she was. It doesn’t really fit. Nevertheless, this was worth reading.

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Senseless death, an angel and a yellow submarine: a play, movies and TV

This month’s production from Playmakers Repertory Company was the premiere of JUMP, a drama in which two sisters and their father gather to dispose of mom’s things after her death from cancer, and knit together their frayed relationship. Only one of the sisters keeps going up to the nearby bridge and thinking what it would feel like to jump … This didn’t quite work for me, mostly because the big twist was quite obvious (though I didn’t get the details exactly right). Well executed, though, and a good looking set. “This is a strange place to vape.

JINDABYNE (2006) is an Aussie film based on one of the Raymnond Carver short stories adapted into Short Cuts, wherein Gabriel Byrne goes on a fishing trip with his buddies, only to discover an Aboriginal woman floating dead in the water. They do not, however, think that’s a reason to cut short the trip, which completely freaks out Byrne’s wife Laura Linney when she learns about it. This was better than Short Cuts but multiple distractions during the morning worked against me really getting into it (one break from the screen turned into several short breaks). It would double-bill well with River’s Edge in which a group of callous teens similarly discover a corpse. “So who appointed you the chief of political correctness?”

I was never a fan of the 1980s series HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN, in which Michael Landon played Jonathan, an angel earning his wings alongside mortal sidekick Mark (Victor French). Its particular style of heartwarming wasn’t to my taste, though I can see why some people found it satisfying comfort food; comforting enough it ran five seasons, second only to Touched by an Angel as far as angelic TV series go. I watched the sixth season episode Reunion though because a local friend, Hope Alexander Willis, has a supporting role as the wife of a PR guy. I’m not sure I’d have recognized Hope’s face, but I definitely tell it’s the same voice. The story itself involves Jonathan working to bring off Mark’s high school reunion, thereby helping leading man Lloyd Bochner accept he’s aged into character acting and recapture a lost love. However because that’s one of several happy endings at the reunion, I found this less focused than the few episodes I’ve watched before. “It just shows how things we think are unimportant at the time can matter the world to someone.”

THE YELLOW SUBMARINE (1968) was one of LeAnn’s Christmas gifts to me, wherein the malevolent Blue Meanies invade the utopian musical undersea realm of Pepperland with an army of apple bonkers, snapping-turtle Turks, killer clowns and the deadly flying glove. One man escapes in the eponymous vessel that brought the founders to Pepperland. Flying it to Liverpool, he finds a brooding Ringo (“Next to me, Eleanor Rigby lived a gay, mad life.”) and enlists the Beatles to liberate Pepperland. But can they survive their travels through the Sea of Time, the Sea of Holes and the foothills of the Headlands?

This film reminds me a lot of Miyazaki’s Spirited Away in that the designers just don’t seem to quit, constantly throwing in little visual details and touches to scenes that are already stunning. Delightful to look at, whimsical in story, it’s a thorough charmer. I’ve always been surprised the Beatles’ didn’t speak their parts (they sing, of course), as bringing them together in the studio proved impossible (on the commentary track, one of the production team says they stumbled across the voice for George one night in a bar). Definitely worth seeing, if you haven’t already. “Would you believe me if I told you I was being followed by a yellow submarine?”

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Enter: the Legion of Scrooges!

Continuing my immersion in Christmas movies and TV shows, with a particular emphasis on Dickens:

SHOWER OF STARS was a 1950s TV anthology show, and Amazon Prime streams their 1954 adaptation of A Christmas Carol with Fredric March as Scrooge. While March at his best is a terrific actor, he comes off more like a slightly grumpy relative than Dickens’ bitter miser; a bigger problem is that there’s a lot of time devoted to singing and while the voices are good, the songs are forgettable. It also annoys me that like Scrooged, the horror of Christmas Future is simply “you’re going to be dead!” Yeah, who isn’t?  “Days shall come and days shall go/but this is the day of mistletoe!”

THE GIFTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST is a commercial my friend Ross taped for me, in which the title spirit confronts a bad gift-giver with reminders of every rotten gift he ever gave (“Motor oil on a rope — for your mother!”). The solution? Shop at Meijer (a department store, I assume).

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (2015) got my attention because it was Starring Colin Baker, but it turns out that means he introduces and occasionally narrates this bland direct-to-video version (about the level of a so-so community theater production) as Charles Dickens, rather than playing Scrooge. Nothing about it stands out. “This story could happen anywhere — even here!”

GEORGE BURNS COMEDY WEEK was an anthology show with Burns providing the introduction (“Dickens published A Christmas Carol in 1943 — I was 17.”) to Christmas Carol II: The Sequel, in which James Whitmore as Scrooge is so compulsively generous (“That’s the largest tip we’ve ever gotten — and you don’t even eat here!”) the Cratchitts (Roddy McDowell and Samantha Eggar) are slowly going corrupt because it’s so easy to suck money out of Ebenezer. Can the three spirits provide a course correction? A good one to revisit, with Ed Begley Jr. as Tiny Tim. “You will no longer refer to me as Tiny Tim — I wish to be known as Tiny Timothy!”

The classic WKRP IN CINCINNATI episode Bah, Humbug! has the station’s manager Carlson skimping on Christmas bonuses so he can impress the owner with his cost-cutting; after eating one possibly mind-altering brownie he finds himself trapped “in one of those Christmas Carol things” as he looks back at the early years, his current disgruntled staff and the bleak fate awaiting them all …Only it’s all done with real humor and warmth that makes it a pleasure to rewatch (the sitcom remains a classic). “Kids, grandmothers, that’s all very nice — but I’m in it for the bread.”

Moving away from Dickens, BEYOND TOMORROW (1940) has lonely oldsters C. Aubrey Smith, Harry Carey and Charles Winninger befriend two young people on Christmas (hence the more marketable title Beyond Christmas); the kids fall in love but when girl loses boy, will the now deceased seniors’ ghosts be able to turn things around? Mostly shows sappy schmaltz about the season predates Hallmark Channel’s holiday rom-coms, and I could have done without Smith’s embrace of the white man’s burden (“What was Australia before England redeemed it from the Aborigines?”). “And now do you believe in the immortal spirit of man?”

THE CHRISTMAS CALENDAR (2017) has a small-town baker fighting a losing battle against the Big Box Grocery’s new bakery when an advent calendar dropped off by a secret admirer makes her store a media sensation. Forgettable.

HOOVES OF FIRE is a claymation special in which Rudolph’s son Robbie arrives at the North Pole to follow in Dad’s footsteps, only to find a vindictive Blitzen (why should Rudolph be famous for one ride when Blitzen’s been leading the sleigh for years?) out to destroy his career. The kind of thing it’s fun to catch every few years, but not a perennial. “I looked him up in the phone book under ‘Wise Old Mentors Who Can Save The Day.”

CLAYMATION CHRISTMAS CAROL is the delightfully inventive special in which two dinosaurs introduce animated versions of “Carol of the Bells,” “Joy to the World,” “We Three Kings” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” while trying to figure out what “wassail” is. I’d have given this a pass this year, but it was right after WKRP on my off-air tape so I couldn’t resist. “There are no Christmas songs about snacks!”

As TYG watched COYOTE UGLY (2000) I wound up following along and enjoying it more than I expected. Piper Perabo plays an aspiring singer who while waiting for her big break winds up paying the bills by working at Maria Bello’s eponymous bar; too bad strutting her stuff on top of the bar freaks father John Goodman out, not to mention interfering with her efforts to find either an audition or true love. Nothing deathless, but watchable. “Stage fright DNA? That’s right, I saw that on E/R last week.”

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Rogue Christmas spirits, forgettable Christmas films and more!

KARROLL’S CHRISTMAS (2004) is a fun Christmas Carol riff; Alex Karroll is a disgruntled greeting-card writer who hates Christmas ever since his ex-girlfriend shot down his proposal (in public, no less), only half aware of how badly he’s slipping into bitter depression despite having a new and better girlfriend. When Bob Marley’s ghost shows up (it seems Jacob spent some time in Jamaica as a young man; Bob’s a descendant), it turns out they’ve mistaken Karroll for his even meaner neighbor, Wallace Shawn, so he finds himself dragged into Shawn’s past life instead of his own. Of course the spirit of goodwill wins out, but not before some fun; in its own way as subversive of the conventions as Scrooged. “Your use of the word ‘lunatic’ is very offensive to me and to, well, lunatics.”

Having watched CHASING CHRISTMAS (2004) for Now and Then We Time Travel, I knew it would make a good double bill for the first film; Jack (Tom Arnold) is the Christmas hater this time, due to catching his wife cheating on him during their daughter’s Christmas pageant; unfortunately after Christmas Past (Leslie Jordan) drags Jack back into his childhood, Past snaps, feeling centuries of guilt-tripping people has been completely futile, and strands Arnold in 1965. And if Jack can’t get back to the present before Christmas Day, he’ won’t exist any longer … A fun one, as I thought the first time I watched it.  “I am not some mean old man — I hate Christmas for a reason and no amount of memory is ever going to change that.”

I also caught EVE’S CHRISTMAS (2004) for the book, but I had no memory of that when I decided to stream it. Nor did the first thirty minutes jog my memory as unlucky-in-love Eve gets transported back to right before the wedding to her hometown sweetheart that never happened when she left for a Big Apple job (leaving your home town and not marrying your childhood sweetheart are terrible, terrible, terrible mistake in rom-coms like this). Once I realized I’d seen it, I stopped (trust me, I wasn’t missing anything).

I can’t say THE SANTA CHRONICLES (2018) did any better for me. This made-for-Netflix programmer has two kids attempt to catch Santa result in Mr. Claus losing the hat that gives him his magic powers. Can kids and Santa recover the hat in time to save Christmas? Despite Kurt Russell as a somewhat grump Father Christmas (constantly annoyed that no matter how much he works out, people expect him to be plus-size), this wasn’t worth finishing either.

While I’d planned to rewatch 12 Dates of Christmas it appears I gave that one away with many of the other time-travel DVDs. So instead I went with the old reliable WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954) in which entertainers Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby put on a show to save their former CO’s Vermont Inn, and possibly snag dancers Vera Allen and Rosemary Clooney for themselves. As familiar as an old shoe by now, but there’s no denying the charm of the performances (particularly Kaye and Vera Allen in “Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing”) and the gorgeous Technicolor look. I also found myself thinking of ways it could have gone horribly wrong, like if they’d done the minstrel-show number in actual blackface. “‘Wow’ is somewhere between ‘ouch’ and ‘boing!’”

Another perennial is TWILIGHT ZONE: The Night of the Meek with Art Carney as a burned-out, drunken department-store Santa who gets to play the role for real when he finds a bag that allows him to give everyone the present of their dreams (hmm, where do you suppose it came from? Why, that’s right!). Rewatching, I was struck by the episode’s generosity of spirit; the officious department store-owner is precisely the kind of character who usually gets coal in his stocking in some fashion, but here even he gets a merry Christmas. “Just once, I’d like to see the meek inherit the Earth.”

MR. MAGOO’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (1962) stars the short-sighted cartoon character voiced by Jim Backus as a Broadway star, here performing in an musical adaptation of Dickens. This squeezes in a substantial amount of plot for under an hour, though dropping some details such as Scrooge’s family. Well done, with good songs, though I’m curious what millennials would make of the stylized, simplified style of animation UPA uses here (it was considered quite groundbreaking back in the day). “A hand for each hand was the way it was planned/Why won’t my fingers reach?/A million grains of sand in the world/Why such a lonely beach?”

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Let us sample some Christmas treacle

As anyone who’s been reading this blog for more than a year knows, I love immersing myself in Christmas movies. I spent about a decade of Christmas mornings alone before moving up here (family scattered all over the map) so I compensated by watching a mix of old classics and new TV movies until I was stuffed with Christmas cheer. Normally I’d have started right after Thanksgiving but with the weeklong stretch before December, it didn’t feel quite right.

As a result I caught FAME (1980), in which aspiring musicians, actors and dancers struggle to graduate from a performing arts school while also coping with family, teen angst, career struggles, insecurity and love.While I enjoyed the TV-series spinoff, I’d never seen the movie before; pleasant enough, and I absolutely loved one twist when a rejected dancer appears to be contemplating suicide. “Who cares if it wasn’t ready? They liked it!”

Next comes some new-to-me Christmas stuff, but even by my low standards it was disappointing. A BAD MOM’S CHRISTMAS (2017), for instance, plays like a TV spinoff special jacked up to a feature film. Original Bad Moms Kathryn Hahn, Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis struggle to stay afloat under the demands of being a Mom At Christmas, an effort made worse by their various mothers (wild child Susan Sarandon, overbearing diva Christine Baranski and insufferably perky Cheryl Hines) all showing up for a long stay. Despite some amusing moments (Hahn as the raunchiest mom has a lot of those), the themes about Christmas have been done before, and better.  “You should never have to watch your mom lick your boyfriend’s nipples!”

SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS (2013) is sufficiently Christian that I was surprised the Wise Handyman who helps everyone out didn’t turn out to be Jesus.  Eric Roberts and Vivica A. Fox are the parents watching their kids cope with drugs, sex and petty theft before discovering Jesus and Christmas Pageants Are the Answer. Forgettable. “You’re going to write the script. We need seventeen speaking parts.”

I fear my iPad is finally expiring, which may be why CHRISTMAS CRUSH (2012) kept crashing when I streamed it. Fortunately a movie abouta twenty-something returning home for her high school reunion where she’s surrounded by her far more successful old friends, gets a shot at reuniting with her high school crush and fails to notice her male bestie still has eyes only for her probably isn’t going to surprise me any. Not that I require rom-coms surprise me (as I’ve said before, love is a cliché) but it didn’t interest me much either.

I think I may stick with the tried and true for the rest of the month. Because even fluff like 12 Dates of Christmas is better than that troika of treacle above.

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Librarians, Dungeons and Dragons, mad science and cartoons: movies and TV

The fourth and final season of THE LIBRARIANS has the team coping with not only a new wave of magical threats but the need to tether the Library to reality (a ritual that will put more responsibility on Flynn than he’s ready for) and the return of Flynn’s original Guardian, Nicole (from the first Librarian TV movie, Quest for the Spear), immortal and very pissed off. The usual fun, though while the ending (involving banishing the Library and the dystopia that results) was good, it wasn’t great (possibly because I’ve seen too many stories where a last minute bit of time travel resolves everything). “They say you can kill a man but not an idea — but I did just that, I killed the idea of the Library!”

Right-wing Christian Jack Chick became legendary for his bizarre “Chick Tracts,” comic strips showing how watching Dark Shadows or playing Dungeons and Dragons would damn your soul to Hell. The short film DARK DUNGEONS (2014) is a comedy fantasy that takes the latter premise literally: two nice young Christian college women are seduced into playing D&D (“People have tried to get those RPGers off campus, but they’re just too popular!”), after which one of them turns to Satanism to get real magical power while the other snaps under the strain. Fun, but the elements it adds to the original don’t all work, from errors (clerics don’t cast magic missile) to making Debbie as ignorant about Christianity in the end bit as she was in the Tract, even though she’s now written as Christian. And throwing Cthulhu into the mix felt like they didn’t have enough faith in their premise. Still, I did enjoy this. “I am proud to announce that more people have decided to become homosexuals this year than ever before!”

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974) didn’t lighten the purging phase of colonoscopy prep as much as I expected so I didn’t laugh as much as I usually do. Still, it’s never a waste of time to watch Frankenstein descendant Gene Wilder reanimate dead flesh, Marty Feldman robbing a brain depository (“It was someone called … Abby Normal.”), Teri Garr showing off her knockers (it may show a generational gap that while I think of this as her big role, TYG thought of Mr. Mom), Cloris Leachman gets outed as Victor’s ex (“He was my — boyfriend!”), Peter Boyle tap dances and Richard Haydn and Kenneth Mars round out the cast. “Tonight we shall hurl the gauntlet of science into the frightful face of death itself!”

THE TOP 10 FORGOTTEN CARTOONS OF ALL TIME doesn’t live up to its billing; the cartoons are perfectly entertaining, but they’re not better than lots of other obscure ‘toons I’ve seen (as four of them come from the 1930s Rainbow Parade series, I wonder if rights to that series influenced what was picked). Still, I did enjoy watching a rabbit trying to wear out a hound dog the night before a hunt, honeymoon couples going “Dancing on the Moon,” an RCMP-clad Cupid uniting two squabbling neighbors, the Toonerville Trolley comic strip coming to life and the rough-hewn mutt Dog Face protesting against being a pampered pet. The weakest was probably the one I was most interested in, Ub Iwerks’ (Disney’s partner in Walt’s early career) “Happy Days,” about a group of kids going fishing. “If he’s a real burglar, I’m Seabiscuit — wait, I am Seabiscuit!”

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Enter Tom Baker, Davros and Harry Sullivan; Fourth Doctor, First Season

They say your first Doctor is your favorite, but I think I like Tom Baker in DOCTOR WHO even more than William Hartnell.

None of the Doctors have much use for the powers that be. William Hartnell sneered at them, Patrick Troughton shrugged them off, John Pertwee snarked at them. Baker meets them with a mocking smile, like a michievious kid who can’t wait to pull a trick on some stuck-up twit. All the Doctors stir up trouble, but the Fourth Doctor relishes the opportunity.

Baker’s stories are probably the episodes I’ve seen most, because they ran in constant daily rotation on PBS in the 1970s. The first season holds up well, though the special effects get pretty bad — worse than most past seasons, I think, because they’re a little more ambitious.

The first serial, Robot, is a Pertwee UNIT story, reminiscent of Invasion of the Dinosaurs: a cabal of technocrats plots to build a perfect world, and steals an unstoppable super-robot to do it. It adds Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter) as a new companion, so that if Baker wasn’t suited to action scenes, they’d have someone to handle them. Baker was perfectly suited, so Harry wound up being superfluous, often little more than a buffoon, particularly as Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane) and Baker played off each other well. Most significantly, this serial establishes that regeneration is a normal Time Lord ability in contrast to a freak power of the TARDIS (Hartnell to Troughton) or compelled by the Time Lords (Troughton to Pertwee).

THE ARK IN SPACE is a much stronger story, the first to use the horror elements that would be a recurring part of the next few seasons. The Doctor, Sarah and Harry arrive on an orbiting space ark holding humans in suspended animation against the day when polluted Earth becomes livable again. The day has arrived, but so have the Wirrn, insectoid parasite s laying their eggs on the Ark and whose larva have taken over Noah, the ark’s leader.

That leads directly into THE SONTARAN EXPERIMENT, a two-part serial. On behalf of the space station survivors, the Doctor, Sarah and Harry check out Earth to see if it’s really livable. Wouldn’t you know, a Sontaran has captured some of the few surviving Earthlings as a run-up to taking over the planet. This one is competent, but effective.

 

And then came THE GENESIS OF THE DALEKS, one of the all-time classics. The Time Lords tell the Doctor that the Daleks will inevitably conquer the universe unless someone aborts their creation. The Doctor, Harry and Sarah arrive on Skaro when it’s riven by a thousand year war between the Thals and the Kaleds that’s reduced the planet to an irradiated wasteland. Davros, a Kaled scientist has a solution: forced evolution of his people into a form that can thrive in the radiation, even though it will require a mechanical transport to move around and kill … and while he’s at it, why not eliminate all those inconvenient emotions?

A solid, six-episode arc anchored by the grim tone (the Thals are no longer unambiguously good guys) and by two performances. Michael Wisher as Davros manages a voice that sounds just like a human Dalek, intense yet monotone. As his coldblooded aide Nyder, Peter Miles is equally memorable.

Unfortunately the season doesn’t do as well by the Cybermen in the final segment, REVENGE OF THE CYBERMEN. Arriving at the space ark back when it’s just a minor space station, the good guys become embroiled in a struggle between the human crew, the Cybermen and the Vogans, inhabitants of a planet of gold. Gold, you see, can be used to clog up Cyberman respirators, choking them, which is an unconvincing weakness. The Cyber-actors use their own voices, and the Cybermen come off way too emotional. A disappointing finish to a solid season.

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Danes, Detroit and a Lost Girl: multiple media viewed

Franco Zefferelli’s HAMLET (1990) may not age well, given that star Mel Gibson’s image is now “anti-Semitic loonie” instead of “talented actor/director” (it’s telling that the two special features are both Gibson-centric) Which is unfortunate because Gibson does very well as an intense Hamlet fuming over Gertrude (Glenn Close) marrying Claudius (Alan Bates) so soon after her husband’s death; said rage, of course, turns murderous after the Big Reveal from ghostly Paul Scofield. Watching so soon after the Derek Jacobi version, I can see where the cuts are (Fortinbras, and Hamlet’s advice to the players). What really stands out are the women’s role: Helena Bonham Carter’s Ophelia is much livelier and more active than most that I’ve seen (and Gibsons deliver “get thee to a nunnery” less as an insult and more as “girl, get somewhere out of the line of fire while you can.”). And Close’s Gertrude is a wonder, clearly excited about her new husband, but just as loving to her son; there’s a great bit early on when Claudius is telling Hamlet to stop being so mopey and Gertrude is wordlessly trying to reconcile her two men. Worth seeing if you’re okay with seeing Gibson; Ian Holm plays a windbag Polonius. “I show you how a king may progress through the guts of a beggar.”

Playmakers’ follow-up to the Robin Hood play Sherwood was the much darker SKELETON CREW (by Dominique Morisseau, who recently received a McArthur genius grant). This one is set in 2008 in the break room of a dying Detroit auto plant as a fiftysomething lesbian, her surrogate son/supervisor, a single expectant mother and borderline gangsta all contemplate how to deal with a looming plant closing. The first contemporary drama I’ve seen on stage in a long time, this was well done though a lower key, less downbeat ending than I expected. But that fits well about the themes of struggling to stay afloat and pondering what “afloat” really means. “There’s no way to fight without jumping on the goddamn grenade.”

The final season of LOST GIRL was an improvement over S4, but that’s not saying much. This time the Big Bad is the Olympians (“The most powerful fae of all time.”), particularly Bo’s father Hades (Eric Roberts), who it turns out has big plans for her, and not pleasant ones. Lacking Kenzi most of the season really hurt, and the Tamsyn/Bo/Lauren triangle didn’t work at all. However they did pull off a first-rate season ender — the showrunners definitely knew ahead of time this was their last hurrah (Dragoncon’s Lost Girl panel said they had a different showrunner for every season, which explains a lot). “Great, I’m going to die next to a girl wearing gingham.”

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Send in the Marines! Or the shaolin! Or the Ghostbusters! Or the Sailor Scouts!

HAIL THE CONQUERING HERO (1944) is Preston Sturges’ screwball classic in which William Demarest’s Marine platoon discovers 4F Eddie Bracken has been lying to his mother about fighting overseas rather than disappoint her by not following in dad’s footsteps. Simple solution: the Marine fit him with a uniform and some spare medals, take him home and pass him off as a hero. Complication: everyone in town turns out to celebrate and opponents of the windbag mayor decide a war hero would be the perfect choice to run against him. And what about Ella Raines, the girl Bracken left behind, now engaged to the mayor’s son? A great comedy, and in an age where “thank you for your service” is supposed to be the automatic response to meeting anyone in the military, Sturges’ gentle mockery of soldier-worship (“Nobody knows what I did, they just know I’m a hero.”) hasn’t aged a bit. “They’ve got four bands out there — one medal isn’t enough!”

The second season of KUNG FU(1973-4) sometimes gets a lot closer to a conventional wandering-hero TV western than S1 did, but not so often it lost its distinctive charm (as noted in my S1 review, if you don’t want a white guy in yellowface as the Eurasian lead character, the charm may be lost on you). Among the memorable episodes are A Dream Within a Dream (Caine investigates an apparent murder, only the body vanishes) and Empty Pages Within a Dead Book (a vengeful Texas ranger learns the difference between Law and Justice) — and yes, the titles are definitely part of the charm. There are also some whimsical episodes such as The Spirit Helper (a young Native becomes convinced Caine is his spirit guide) and the zany two-part season ender, The Cenotaph, which includes a fight with a Chinese warlord who is emphatically not a master of the martial arts. With the TV season starting up, it may be a while before I get to my DVDs of S3, alas. ““That woman must have died of gallstones — 2,000 pounds worth.”

Rewatching the 2016 GHOSTBUSTERS remake during my Florida stay didn’t change my opinion that it’s a very worthy follow-up to the original, as “ghost girls” Kirsten Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Johnson discover a seething misanthrope (if they’d made it this year, I suspect he’d be an incel) plots to raise the dead to terrify the living, Melissa McCarthy avoids a fatal high five, Mayor Andy Garcia insists he is not that mayor from Jaws and Chris Hemsworth tries to answer the phone. A shame it didn’t win over more people.  “Laborers such as you shall be spared until the end of the butchering, so make the most of your extra time.”

The third season of Sailor Moon, AKA SAILOR MOON S, uses much of the previous seasons’ formula (energy-draining monsters dominated by villains who keep failing and getting destroyed, but a bigger bad behind them), in fact too much for my taste. On the other hand, it has some good stuff, such as Chibi-USA’s relationship with the seriously ill Hotaru and the enigma of Sailor Scouts Neptune and Uranus, tougher, more mature and more experienced fighters (also lesbians, something dropped from the original US dub) who think the regular cast just isn’t hard core enough to stop the coming of the Messiah of Silence (I do like the episode in which Usagi demonstrates that silly and tenderhearted though she is, she’s still top dog on this show). I’m sure I’ll get to the remaining run eventually, even though I’ve never heard anything positive about it. What they say is true, I was naive and foolish — but I was also right!”

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Our heroes have always been bad guys: Movies and TV

Hank Pym forces ex-con Scott Lang to become ANT-MAN (2015) and reclaim Pym’s shrinking technology before former protegé Darren Cross can use it to create Yellowjacket, the ultimate killer. While I didn’t care for the drawn-out origin in Doctor Strange, this takes almost as long and it works, perhaps because Scott’s character arc is stronger. The cast includes Michael Douglas as Hank, Paul Rudd as Scott, Evangeline Lily as Pym’s daughter Hope and Corey Stoll as Cross (the villain from the first Scott Lang Ant-Man story). A real winner — I’ve rarely seen a film do so well with shrinking special effects.“I’m just destroying everything that gives your daddy’s life meaning.”

Errol Flynn’s classic THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) made a double-bill for both Ant-Man and last week’s viewing of Sherwood. Rewatching the story shows why Robin endures as a legend and symbol — the fight against tyranny and corruption and 12th century England’s 1 percent is probably always going to be relevant. Plus Flynn’s laughing swashbuckler makes being a rebel and an outlaw look like the most fun in the world. Alongside Flynn we have Basil Rathbone’s sneering Guy of Gisborne, Claude Raines coolly evil Prince John, Una O’Connor as a flirty servant, Alan Hale as Little John and Eugene Pallette as Friar Tuck. Olivia deHaviland plays Maid Marion who like countless movie heroines has to be awakened by the hero to what’s right (you could also look at it as checking her Norman privilege). Given I just finished a book about Technicolor (review tomorrow) I was very aware of how gorgeous the movie’s colors are. “You’ve come to Nottingham once too often!”

THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT (1996) which starts with Geena Davis as a school teacher afflicted with amnesia for everything beyond the past eight years — why that’s right, the missing years do contain a dangerous secret! It turns out Davis is a CIA hitwoman who’s unwittingly believed one of her cover identities is the real her — and she’s regaining her memories with the help of sleazy PI Samuel L. Jackson just at the point her former bosses are up to something very nasty (“Budget cuts? Is that what this is about?”).

This is a wildly over the top film (the protagonists take damage that would kill anyone without healing factor), but it’s also thoroughly entertaining. While Bourne Identity would be a logical double bill, the clip of 1973’s The Long Goodbye shown on TV makes me think that would make sense as well (even though I hate it): another story of someone faking their death, and Elliott Gould’s seedy PI, matching Jackson’s. With G.W. Spradlin as the president, David Morse as a sadist (“A woman is never as beautiful as when her face contorts in pain.”) and Craig Bierko as a smirking nemesis. “I was busy coming up with that ham sandwich line.”

After a disappointing fifth season, THE AMERICANS managed to finish its run with a bang. It’s a year or two after S5; Paige is now a spy in training, Philip’s working full-time at the travel agency (which is slowly collapsing) and Elizabeth, spying without him, is beginning to crack under the strain. Now with the US/USSR START arms-reduction talks in progress, the KGB assigns Elizabeth to spike negotiations if Gorbachev gives away too much; Oleg returns from the USSR to ask Philip to stop her. Will the marriage survive? Will Stan finally catch on to what his neighbors are up to? Will Paige find happiness? This leaves enough loose ends I wonder if they have a sequel in mind, but it’s still excellent. “You’re my best friend — the only friend I’ve had in my whole shitty life.”

#SFWApro. Cover by Jack Kirby, all rights remain to current holder.

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Filed under Movies, TV