Friday, October 11, 2019

Media Notes: Roundup for September 2019

 This is a somewhat random selection of the movies and series on DVD and/or online I watched during September 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):

  • Bangkok Assassins (also known as Bangkok Kung Fu. Action. Drama. Martial arts. Thailand film). The movie description: "Kidnapped as children and trained as martial artists, five teenagers seek justice for the assassination of their Shaolin kung fu master" That is the very basic plot. The children are kidnapped and exploited to be beggars to make money for their masters. A generous old martial arts master rescues them and teaches them various martial arts skills. They grow up. The sensei is killed by a man seeking dark powers. At the same time, the five now grown children seek revenge against the men who exploited them, so there are really two plots. Plus there is a bit of romance, drama, a little bit of humor here and there, and the martial arts scenes are good. For a short movie (about an hour and 44 minutes), it packs a lot. I enjoyed it. The basic description does not do justice to this well made and at times moving film. Worth watching. One of the better ones on TubiTv. Film is in Thai with English subtitles. 
  • Con Man (2018. Drama. Crime. Based on a true story). A movie of the life of con man and ponzi schemer Barry Minkow. This caught my eye because I saw an episode of American Greed on him, so took a chance. Movie is not that big a deal, but what it does have is a pretty good cast of actors in various small roles such as Mark Hamill portraying Minko's dad, Talia Shire was his mom, Armand Assante as a mobster, James Caan as an FBI agent, and Ving Rhames as Minko's prison mentor. Oh, also Bill Goldberg (you may know him from professional wrestling) portrays an early "business associate" (and steroids provider. Minkow was also into steroids), and Robert Pine (you may remember him as the sergeant on CHiPs) as the judge. Minkow portrayed himself (his adult self), which does not really add to the movie. Movie combines the drama with documentary segments where the real people discuss parts of the story. If you know his story (and the Wikipedia entry I linked gives it well enough), you know this is not a feel good nor a redemption story. Minkow really is an asshole, and this movie does highlight that. Other than the good cast, not much to recommend this movie. Heck, even this film production turned out to be controversial (again, the Wikipedia entry goes over that briefly). As I said, it was fun to see the cast, but otherwise, not really recommended. Via TubiTv.
  • Pokemon Detective Pikachu (2019. Adventure. Fantasy. Comedy). The basic description: "In a world where people collect Pokémon to do battle, a boy comes across an intelligent talking Pikachu who seeks to be a detective." This is the big screen debut of Pokemon, and to be honest, it was seriously underwhelming. Aesthetically, the movie looks pretty good, and the effects are great. The Pokemon look great on screen, and you can believe they would be integrated into society. Ryan Reynolds as the smart ass Pikachu is good, but that is mostly him being himself. In other words, after the good looks and smart ass character, this movie is a convoluted mess of a plot that drags way too long. I could not wait for the movie to be over between the usual cliches (the son mad at the father, the overeager intern, the forced romance between the intern and the protagonist, so on) and as I said, messy plot, this movie was a serious waste of potential. The kids may like it mainly to see the Pokemon, but that is about it. This movie got a lot of hype when it was coming out, but it mostly vanished afterwards. I can see why. This is one of those you just rent, or like me, just wait til the library gets it to see it if you must. This certainly was not worth full admission price if at all, and it reminded me of yet another reason why I do not go to movie theaters anymore. Go play the games, read the mangas, watch the original anime series, and skip this movie pretty much. It may be a "kids' movie" but even kids' movies deserve better than this mess. Via DVD from public library.  
  • Dune (1984. Science Fiction. Adventure). Based on the novel by Frank Herbert, this David Lynch film was quite ambitious in adapting the novel.  Having said that, it does capture the feel of the novel quite well, and I think it still holds up. The novel is one of those big classic works that is not easy to film, and one with a lot of depth. The movie is not perfect, but it is pretty good, and as I said, it captures the feel of the novel. It is overall a classic and a product of the 80s, plus it is fun to see some of the cast including Patrick Stewart and Sting among others. Sure, there is a mini-series that came later, but this film will remain a must see for fans of the novel and science fiction in general. 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:

  • Sherlock Holmes (1984-1994. Granada Television Series). I watched some later parts of this back in September and October of 2018. I found some more episodes online (one place had pretty much the full run), so I watching some more of this favorite series. Via YouTube. Some episode highlights: 
    • "The Blue Carbuncle." When a countess has a valuable jewel stolen, an innocent man is accused of the crime. Circumstantial evidence is strong. Holmes comes across the jewel in a goose of all things, and soon the hunt is on for the truth, and to get the innocent man out of jail. A nice mystery and also nice Christmas season story. 
    • "The Final Problem." This comes at the end of the second season of the series. This is the adaptation of the story where Holmes finally confronts Moriarty; Conan Doyle meant to end the series here, but due to popular demand, he brought Holmes back in later stories. This adaption is somber, more serious than other episodes, but still very well made. 
  • Inside the American Mob (2013). Six parts documentary series from National Geographic on the American Mob. It strives to look at the Five Families, and it combines dramatizations with stories told by those involved in them both law enforcement and mobsters (well, former mobsters). The series starts in the 1970s, where the Mob is in their prime just as the old generation of bosses (immigrants) is giving way to the younger generation (US born Italian Americans). The same goes for the FBI and law enforcement as new, younger agents who are street savvy join up and really give the FBI an edge they lacked, starting with Operation Donnie Brasco. So interesting the series follows these two generations in a parallel way between the mobsters and the lawmen. From there, the series goes on to look at the rise and fall of fortunes of the Mob through the 80s all the way to Gotti and then the 90s. Via YouTube.

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