Friday, June 14, 2019

Media Notes: Roundup for May 2019

 These are the movies and series on DVD and/or online I watched during May 2019.

Movies and films (links to for basic information unless noted otherwise). Some of these I watched via or other online source. The DVDs come from the public library (unless noted otherwise). In addition, I will try to add other trivia notes, such as when a film is based on a book adding the information about the book (at least the WorldCat record if available):

  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979. Science Fiction. Adventure). The film that started it all. Heck, I remember being a kid in the theater.  Granted, it was not exactly a critical success, but it did launch the film franchise we know today. I do have a soft spot for this film, in part due to its aesthetics; the ship looks pretty good, and it does have a good soundtrack. Plot is pretty basic: "When an alien spacecraft of enormous power is spotted approaching Earth, Admiral James T. Kirk resumes command of the overhauled USS Enterprise in order to intercept it." It does try to recall the days of the Enterprise just exploring something new, so in that sense, it tries to capture that and does it, even if it is a bit flat at the end. Still, it is a nice nostalgia trip now and then. Via PopcornFlix, which in May brought in some of the first ones in the series (I think they got 1-3, and 5), so if anyone wants to indulge, go for it. 
  • Death Ship (1980. Suspense. Horror.)  The movie description is pretty simple: "A mysterious ghostly freighter rams and sinks a modern day cruise ship whose survivors climb aboard the freighter and discover that it is a World War II Nazi torture vessel." Within that, the movie is basically a very slow boiler that is more atmospheric and suspenseful than anything else as various hints and small events eventually reveal the true nature of the ship, by which time it may be too late for anyone to escape. It is a slow film, but if you like your horror slow to build, and minimal on the gore, this is fairly decent. Stars George Kennedy and Richard Crenna. Via TubiTv.
  • Cartel 2045 (2017. Action. Science Fiction. a.k.a. Juarez 2045). In a not too distant future, a Mexican drug cartel manages to get warfare robots from an American company selling their wares on the black market (after they lose their key government contract and are about to go bankrupt). Needless to say, this beefs up the cartel. A small special ops team is sent to get the engineer that is held hostage by the cartel, forced to help them with the robots. A member of the team may be the key to the mission, but everyone from the cartel to his superiors want him dead. The premise is not bad, and Danny Trejo really hams it up as the evil boss of the Malvados Cartel. We get a blend of action and intrigue as our hero is not sure who he can trust, not even the A.I. the good guys have to help them in their mission. The robot special effects are alright; we are not talking high end, but they work overall. Overall, pretty good movie. Worth a look at least. Via TubiTv. 

Television and other series (basic show information links via Wikipedia unless noted otherwise). Some of these come in DVD from the public library. Others may be via YouTube, which, as noted before, I keep finding all sorts of other old shows in it, often full episodes:

  • C.O.P.S. (1988-1989. Animated series. Police. Action. Humor. Children and Young Adult). The basic description on TubiTv, which works: "C.O.P.S. began as the brainchild of F.B.I. Special Agent Baldwin P. Vess. When Vess came to Empire City with a hot lead on The Big Boss, he realized he would require the assistance of a special breed of cop ... individuals who weren't afraid to lock horns with organized crime. Thus, C.O.P.S. was born." This was one of my favorite cartoons in younger days, and TubiTv recently added the complete 65 episode run, so I will be binging for a while. The police officers are all different and colorful given they have different specialties, and the crooks are comically less than competent. How the Big Boss manages to control crime in the city is truly puzzling if you think about it too much. In fact, seeing it today, some of the plots are on the silly side, and at times, you wonder why they do not do some things differently. It was a show for kids and young teens. Like many cartoons in the 80s, it did provide some positive messages. Unlike cartoons like G.I. Joe that usually had a PSA or lesson at the end, C.O.P.S. usually has the lesson as part of the story, more integrated. However, it is still pretty entertaining. Overall, a fun cartoon from the 1980s.  Watched 7 episodes. Via TubiTv. 
  • Emergency! (1972-1977. Drama. Firefighters. Paramedics. Medical drama). The series that I am sure inspired a few kids of our generation to become firefighters, paramedics, doctors, nurses, and so on.  In fact, being a paramedic was a pretty new thing when the show came out, and the show was so good it enabled legislation passed to promote paramedic training. In the first two episodes, the program was in its infancy, and the legislation was still being fought for. Hard to imagine not having paramedics now, but back then even some doctors opposed sending "amateurs" to do medical work. The show caught well the conflict and eventual resolution that led to allowing paramedics to work. I loved this show as a kid. I am surprised I did not become a paramedic or such; I really liked this show and looked up to the guys. Anyhow, watching it today, seeing the tech they had then versus now is fascinating. Show was executive produced by Jack Webb, who gave us shows like Dragnet and Adam-12, so this one is also based on real stories. The series was praised for its realism; the main actors even got some real paramedic training as part of the job. In fact, the realism in the medical procedures and some of the firefighter experiences is very good. The show combined some light humor with solid stories and great medical drama. Before we had "cool" shows like E.R., Third Watch (this is a show I also liked) and other police and emergency personnel dramas, we had Emergency!, which compared to many modern dramas, was fairly accessible to all ages yet it was not lightweight. Via TubiTv, which had the first season (has 12 episodes). I hope they do get more episodes.  
  • Crimes That Made History (2017. Documentary. Crime. History).  I do not know much of this series other than what TubiTv mentions and IMDB, which is little. Anyhow, series with ten episodes about various crimes throughout history. Looking at the credits, I see it is a French production. Episodes last, without ads, about 25 minutes each. Overall, well made. They do define "crime" quite broadly. For example, they have episodes on the Andes crash where the survivors turned to cannibalism and on Roswell and UFOs in 1947. I would not call those "crimes" per se. However, the series does go broad and diverse on the topics. Episodes bring in a variety of experts in various fields, making the inquiry very interdisciplinary. Since it is international in scope, it is also interesting when you see historians specializing in U.S. history who are not "American" as they bring a different and valid perspective on U.S. events. You learn a lot in 30 minutes or less, and in my case, makes me want to go get an extra book or two on some topics. Via TubiTv. Here is a sampling of episodes.
    • "Jack the Ripper." First episode in the series. For a 25 minute series, they put in a lot of effort, content, and expertise. Episode combines a narrator, a variety of period images, a good array of experts including criminologists, specialized historians, pop culture experts, and for this episode even a look at "ripperologists", described as amateur historians of Jack the Ripper that often blend real facts and history with fantasy. Series is not just about the Ripper but the society of the time, the culture, and even the influence of the Ripper today. As I said, for 25 minutes or so, they do an excellent job and provide an interesting documentary with a lot of depth, at times more so than an hour documentary made elsewhere. If you know little of Jack the Ripper, and do not want to spend a lot of time, this series gives a very good overview of the events and why it is significant historically. 
    • "Albert Soleilland." From episode description: "Paris, January 1907. Albert Soleilland is accused of the rape and murder of a little girl - Marthe. The press details every step of the case as if it was a show. As early century France was on the verge of abolishing the death sentence, that infamous crime set the abolitionist cause back decades; the media massively and eagerly asked for his execution." France eventually abolished the death penalty in 1981, but this case basically meant it may have been abolished a lot sooner were it not for the public outcry along with other forces like the press. Episode not only looks at the case, but also other cases similar to this one that incite a frenzy for revenge in the people and calls for the death penalty, also looking at that drive for revenge common in violent crimes against children. This is a part of history I did not know about, so I feel I learned quite a bit about this time period as well as the case from the documentary. 
    • "Fritz Haarmann." The vampire of the Weimar Republic, this serial killer could not have afflicted Germany with his horrors at a worse time as his crimes became a metaphor for the corrupt Weimar Republic and even foreshadowed Hitler for Germans. The fascinating thing of this episode is not so much the crime, but the context of the times and all the connections. This series truly makes an effort to be interdisciplinary in presenting the story and its times. At times I find myself wishing to go find a book and learn more, which is a great sign of a well made documentary series.  
    • "Roswell: Back to the UFO (1947)." This may not be a "crime" per se, but the episode was very well done, looking at the context of the Roswell phenomenon, how it started, and how it went on to become a pop culture thing.
    • "The Jonestown Massacre: an American Apocalypse." This was not just about the massacre, but also about American society at the time. A lot of context is presented. Keep in mind, Jim Jones was not the only "guru" at the time, the Cold War and American hatred of communism in any form was in full swing, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were assassinated not too long ago in relation to Jonestown, and the counterculture was on as well. Jonestown was way more than a horrific massacre for Americans, and the press did quite a piece of work on framing a specific narrative.

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