Friday, July 03, 2020

Media Notes: Roundup for June 2020

This is a somewhat random selection of the movies and series on DVD and/or online I watched during June 2020.

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):

  • Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars (2017. Animation. Science Fiction. Action. Adventure). The basic plot: "Federation trooper Johnny Rico is ordered to work with a group of new recruits on a satellite station on Mars, where giant bugs have decided to target their next attack." Rico by now is a colonel in the Mobile Infantry, none too pleased he is stuck on Mars, apparently due to some command decision that displeased the higher ups. But all is not quiet. Some Martian colonists are agitating for independence, there is a new young Sky Marshall who seems a bit too perfect, and there is a conspiracy going on, plus the bug invasion. Rico has a lot on his hands. The movie overall is pretty entertaining, and it still holds on to the essence of the original 1997 film. Casper Van Dien, who portrayed Johnny Rico in the first live action film, returns to the character as voice actor now. If you like the series, you'll probably enjoy this little bit of entertainment. I liked it, and I will try to find others in the animated series. Via TubiTv.
  • Ender's Game (2013. Science Fiction. Action. Adventure). The basic plot: "Young Ender Wiggin is recruited by the International Military to lead the fight against the Formics, an insectoid alien race who had previously tried to invade Earth and had inflicted heavy losses on humankind." This is an adaption of the science fiction novel by Orson Scott Card. A draw for the film is it features veteran actors Harrison Ford (as Colonel Graff), Viola Davis (Major Anderson), and Ben Kingsley (Mazer Rackham). I read the book years ago, but I can tell that like so many movies they just kept the very basics of the book. To be honest, the film follows a bit of a formula of the boy coming of age, but it still a pretty decent film overall. Via TubiTv.
  • Terra Formars (2016. Science Fiction. Action. Horror. Japan film). Basic film description: "In an attempt to colonize Mars, 21st century scientists seed the planet with algae to absorb sun light and purify the atmosphere, and cockroaches who in turn spread the algae as they feed. 500 years later, the first manned mission to Mars loses contact with Earth, and a second ship is sent to investigate." The catch is, once the basic terraforming is done, in order for the humans to move in, they have to kill the roaches still there, and 500 years, the roaches have evolved into outright big monsters. Now the people they send to deal with the bugs are basically wretches: criminals, poor people, so on given a "second chance" if they complete what may well be a suicide mission. In between scenes on Mars, we get flashbacks of how the ship's crew was "drafted" for the mission. However, as if the mission was not bad enough, the mission is part of a larger conspiracy. Overall, it is an OK action and light horror movie with some silly moments here and there. It is based on a manga, which was made into an anime. I did not know that when I watched it but I may look up the manga sometime, which I get the impression may be better than this film. Anyhow, it was interesting at times, cheesy in others. Via TubiTv.
  • If you meet Sartana. . . pray for your death (1968. Western. Spaghetti Western. Action). Basic plot: "Crooked bankers plan an insurance swindle and hire a Mexican gang to steal the bank's gold but they also pay Lasky's gang to kill the Mexicans." The movie features a series of double crosses and betrayals as Lasky will try to get the gold for himself. Sartana, the hero, works to stop Lasky, but you are never sure who Sartana is in for, the insurance company or himself. The movie is entertaining, but you do have to pay close attention to keep track of who is double crossing who, and in the end, who will get the gold? Sartana is quite smart and resourceful, always seems to have a trick up his sleeve, and overall, this is a pretty good spaghetti western. If you are a fan of the genre, you've probably seen this. If you have not seen it, and you enjoyed films like the Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns with the Man with No Name, you will likely enjoy this. 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:

  • Ramsay's Best Restaurant (2010. Food. Competition).  Description: "This culinary March Madness pits pairs of eateries against each other in brackets toward the ultimate prize: the best restaurant in England title." Basically, every week Gordon and his team pit two restaurants in a competition to get to the finals and the title of best restaurant in England. Each episode of competition is two restaurants of the same style, two Italian, two Indian, so on. It seemed interesting enough, so decided to take a chance on it. The series had one season, with nine episodes including the semi and finals rounds. After the first episode, I found it interesting enough to keep watching it. On a side note, from the Indian food episode, I do find fascinating the British have so embraced the cuisine of their large former colony and embraced it in a big way. Overall, it was a good, short series, and while I thought the other finalist should have won (not the one Ramsay picked), it was still good, interesting, and entertaining. 
  • America's Dumbest Criminals (1996-2000. Reality. Humor. Crime).  Reality show featuring surveillance, some reenactments, and news reports of dumb criminals plus some segments on dumb laws. The main host, Daniel Butler, is author of the book America's Dumbest Criminals. Each episode is about 20 minutes without commercials. The show ran for four seasons, and TubiTv got all four seasons, so this was some light amusement for me this month.  
  • Midsomer Murders (1997 to present, still going. Mystery. Crime. Detective. British series). The British crime drama based on the book series of Chief Inspector Barnaby by Caroline Graham. In the series, Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby and his young sergeant solve crimes in the small rustic villages in Midsomer County. For a quiet place, there sure is a lot of crime, as it often happens in some of these British mysteries. As of this post, the series is up to 21 seasons. TubiTv has the first 19 seasons, so I figured I would take a chance. On a trivia note, the first five episodes of the series are adaptations of Graham's first five books (she has seven total in the series), after that, its episodes based on her character. Episodes in first season are movie length at about hour and forty minutes or so each. I watched from the first season: 
    • "The Killings at Badger's Rift." The 80 year old or so retired teacher Emily, a spinster, is found dead in her home. It seems like an accident; the lady fell. However, her neighbor, another old spinster insists it has to be murder. As DCI Barnaby and Sergeant Troy start to look into it, it turns out the death was not accidental, and it is only the beginning. You see, two years ago, another woman died from what appeared to be an accidental gun shot during a quail hunt, there is a blackmail plot going on, and the widower of the shot woman is now remarrying. And of course, everybody seems to have their secrets in this town full of quirky, very eccentric people who all know each other's business in the small town. The mystery unravels gradually as Barnaby persists. Just when the pieces seem to be falling into place, things turn out to be much more complicated. The case builds slowly, but once things do fall into place, it is quite deep. Quite the tale. 
    • "Written in Blood." Plot description: "After debating on who their next guest speaker should be, the Midsomer Worthy Writers' Circle decide to invite famous writer, Max Jennings, to their next meeting, despite opposition to the choice by Gerald Hadleigh, the group's chairman. When Hadleigh is found dead the day after Jennings visit, brutally bludgeoned and stripped naked, Barnaby and Troy discover that the victim had many mysteries to him, prompting them to delve into his private life and his past. Matters soon become complicated when Jennings disappears and is later found dead, and a witness recalls seeing a mysterious woman in Hadleigh's house the night before his murder." I will tell this upfront: the local writer's group is positively odious filled with writer wannabes writing things that are not really that interesting or good; no one could care any less about Honoria, the old woman writing that British history from her family's point of view (to be honest, I kept hoping she was next to be killed off). However, the woman writing the children's book that everyone ignores seems to be the one with something interesting. The case starts slow, seems mundane, but again, once the secrets start coming out, things get interesting, and the puzzle starts coming together into a tale of madness and obsession. Plus a bit of salaciousness in this one too. 
    • "Death of a Hollow Man." Plot description: "Whilst investigating the murder of Agnes Gray, a quiet animal-loving woman who was bludgeoned to death and found floating in a river near to the village of Ferne Basset, Barnaby gets more than he bargained for when he attends his wife's performance in the Causton Amateur Dramatics' production of Amadeus. When Agnes's cousin, Esslyn Carmichael, inadvertently cuts his own throat during the final act, it's quickly discovered that the tape on the prop blade he had used was removed without anyone knowing. The detective is left wondering who had wanted to turn Esslyn's final act into a true coup de theatre, as he and Troy try to determine what the motive was behind the two murders." This particular episode Caroline Graham, author of the book series, wrote the screenplay. As usual, you get some characters, like Esslyn, that you just can't wait for them to get killed. Graham apparently has the ability to populate her tales with some seriously snobbish and obnoxious people that you keep hoping will get killed next. This was a theater centered episode where even the quiet animal lover was not so innocent.

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