Saturday, July 06, 2019

Media Notes Roundup for June 2019

These are the movies and series on DVD and/or online I watched during June 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):

  • Augustus: The First Emperor (2003. Drama. History.)  A made for television movie produced in a British and Italian collaboration, about 3 hours long which they split into two episodes. Peter O'Toole does a great performance as Caesar Augustus at the end of his life. After the death of his friend and top general Agrippa, Augustus spends time with Agrippa's wife, his own daughter, Julia, telling her his story and explaining his actions, which he always justified as for the good of Rome. I leave folks to judge that history on their own. O'Toole's performance is truly moving, reinforced a bit by Charlotte Rampling in the role of the manipulative Livia;  manipulative yes, but also gains some humanity here. Granted, they do take historical liberties, but compared to other films that also take their liberties, this was actually pretty good and moving at times. If nothing else, do keep in mind, he was the first emperor, and he did bring peace to Rome, a lasting peace. By the way, Gaius Maecenas, Augustus' friend and close advisor who was effeminate (according to history, that was true), and portrayed as a bit flamboyant in the film, was very real, and it turns out he was a very able and competent administrator, especially in cultural affairs. In fact, to modern times, his name is often associated with arts patronage. If nothing else, the film does not get enough of the real Maecenas but we do get a glimpse of his political skills. Overall, the film is worth a look. Via TubiTv.
  • Hellraiser (1987. Horror). Clive Barker directed his film based on his novella The Hellbound Heart. I think this is one of those films that over time has gained a cult status, but it may be somewhat overrated. The pluses: great special effects on the cenobites as well as other parts of the film. The concept is good too, but not explored nearly enough. Film leaves a lot of questions open.The minuses: this is a seriously slow film. Aside from the promising beginning, the film does drag along for most of the running time until things come to a head in the last hour or so. By the way, there is some sex, but let's be honest, fairly tame. I like the idea and concept, the mythology it sets up, but the execution, aside from that last part of the film was not really that great. It has moments, but honestly, it does drag for most of the film. On a side note, my local public library got a new edition of The Hellbound Heart, so I will be reading it just to see the source. Clive Barker may be a horror and dark fantasy master, but I get the feeling his fiction is better than the films. Heck, even the comics adapted from the concept may be better (for example, this one which he wrote). It is a classic by now, but really, not that big a deal. I did not think it was that big a deal when I saw it back then, and not that big a deal now seeing it later. As the saying goes, your mileage may vary. Via TubiTv. 
  • Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988. Horror). The film starts pretty much where the first ended. In fact, you get some scenes at the beginning from the first film to remind you where things left off. Kirsty the daughter, who survived from the last time, is now in a mental institution, except not all is at it seems. The head psychiatrist turns out to be obsessed with the Lemarchand boxes and manages to unleash the Cenobites once more with the help of another mental patient who is seriously good at solving puzzles. This sequel to be honest felt better than the original, mainly because we get to see more of the mythology Clive Barker created starting with The Hellbound Heart. Special effects are still pretty good for their time. Plus the movie has a better pace; it is not as slow as the first one. The movie overall still holds on pretty well today, mainly in terms of the setting, scenes, and the mythos it presents, plus it was entertaining. Via TubiTv. 
  • The Dwarves of Demrel (2018. also known as Dragon Mountain and/or The Dwarves of Dragon Mountain. Fantasy). Whatever the title, bottom line is three dwarves trapped inside a mine after a cave in. Aside from a brief fly over by a dragon at the start of the movie to see the mountains from outside, the whole movie takes place inside the caves, so setting is very minimal. The dwarves have some steampunk-type tech but that matters little. The film is really a character study of the three men (who could easily be humans trapped in a mine), their trust issues, and confronting their mortality. Otherwise, it is a seriously slow movie with not much of anything, a lot of lost potential, and an unresolved ending that makes it feel like the film was not even completed. It is an hour and half too long. 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:

  • The Making of the Mob: New York (2015. Crime. Docudrama). Description from This is an "eight-part docudrama that begins in 1905 and spans more than 50 years, tracing the original five families that led to the modern American Mafia, including the rise of Charles Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky and Benjamin Bugsy Siegel." This particular series aired on AMC in 2015. Series combines drama with historical narration. If you know the history, well, you know how things turn, yet the series manages to make it dramatic and interesting. Series goes from the origins of the American Mafia to basically when the Gambino Crime Family is born. I did like watching this, and I will likely be seeking out one or two authors who provided expertise in the series. Via TubiTv.
  • The Making of the Mob: Chicago (2016. Crime. Docudrama). Second season of the series covers the rise of the mob in Chicago. This has eight episodes as well. I did not find it as interesting as the New York series, but it was still pretty good and worth watching. An important point it makes is that everyone thinks of Chicago and Al Capone, but there were others, some we barely if ever heard about, who really ran things and helped give rise to what became known as the Chicago Outfit. Series goes until the passing of Tony Accardo, who manages to survive into a good retirement, very rare for any mob boss. I did jot down a couple of book titles to read later mentioned in the series, such as Thompson's Kings about the Chicago numbers rackets, which at the time prior to the Outfit were ran by African Americans. Via TubiTv.
  • Gangsters: America's Most Evil (2012-. Mob. Crime. Documentary). Via YouTube.
    • "The Rat from Southie: James "Whitey" Bulger." A look at the life of Boston mobster "Whitey" Bulger. 
    • "The Mafia Cops." Looking at Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, the NYPD cops who worked for the Mob and almost got away with it. David Fisher, who wrote Friends of the Family (link to my review) appears in the documentary as one of the experts going over the story.
    • "The Iceman: Richard Kuklinsky." A look at the hitman. 
    • "Sammy the Bull: Salvatore Gravano." The close associate of John Gotti who did flip and thus helped bring down the Teflon Don. As Gotti's underboss, once he turned witness, he pretty much destroyed the notion of silence (omerta) in the Mob, showing overall that rather than honorable or organized, they were every man for himself. 
  • Mobsters (Documentary. true Crime. biography. 2007-2012). I continue watching episodes of this series via YouTube here and there. See the June 2018 roundup for previous commentary on the series overall.  Episodes watched:
    • "Tommy Lucchese." 

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