Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Media Notes: Roundup for May 2021



This is a somewhat random selection of the movies and series on DVD and/or online I watched during May 2021.

Movies and films (links to IMDB.com for basic information unless noted otherwise). Some of these I watched via TubiTv.com 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):

  • Reservoir Dogs (1992. Crime. Drama. Thriller.). Plot description: "When a simple jewelry heist goes horribly wrong, the surviving criminals begin to suspect that one of them is a police informant." This is an early Quentin Tarantino film, considered his break out hit. The film, like his other films, starts at one point near the end, then goes back and forth with flashbacks to reveal the stories of each character. The heist is important, but this is really about the men and their stories and how they come together. It does start a bit slow, but over time it picks up the pace and starts getting interesting. Having said that, this is not the great film many Tarantino fans make it out to be. It's good, but it is not great. As I said, it does start pretty slow for one. It does have some entertaining moments, and it is violent in parts. For Tarantino's start, this was decent, but if you seen his later movies you see how he gets better over time. For me, this is one of those films I heard so much about I felt I needed to watch, and I am glad that I did. Now I can say I got that done. So it was OK, I'd say 2 out of 5 stars. Via TubiTv. Watched 5/28.
  • Lady Vengeance (2005. Crime. Drama. Thriller. South Korean film. Also known as Sympathy for Lady Vengeance). Plot description: "After being wrongfully imprisoned for thirteen years and having her child taken away from her, a woman seeks revenge through increasingly brutal means." The story starts going a bit back and forth between her time in prison and right as she gets out and preparing to execute the plan she has been plotting. She becomes a model prisoner, generous to others in the prison even, but we soon learn this also helps her future plans. When she is out of prison, she calls on those she helped on the inside to assist her and cashes in favors. This is all revealed slowly and gradually. The film may seem a bit slow, but this reflects the time and patience Geum-ja puts in to get her revenge. Soon what we get is a slow building story that at times can be very emotional and moving. There are two versions of this film: a color version, and the fade to black and white, which starts in color then gradually becomes black and white. Tubi had the fade to black and white, and this version does add to the depth and emotion of the story. Not easy to review this film without revealing key plot points but I will say this is a rewarding film that has moving moments, a bit of dark humor here or there, and it looks very good visually. The choice of music adds to the film as well. It is a film you need to watch closely to get all the details, but it is well worth it. If you enjoy revenge stories, this is one for the list. 4 out of 5 stars. Watched 5/29. 
  • King Solomon's Mines (1985. Action. Adventure. Comedy).  Plot description: "Fortune hunter Allan Quatermain teams up with a resourceful woman to help her find her missing father lost in the wilds of 1900s Africa while being pursued by hostile tribes and a rival German explorer." The very loose adaptation of H. Rider Haggard's novel starring Richard Chamberlain as Quatermain and Sharon Stone, early in her career, as Miss Huston. I remember watching this film in younger days; it was around the time Indiana Jones films were getting popular, so I am sure this was Cannon Group's way of cashing in on that. It's Golan-Globus production, so you can count on it being fun. Overall, it is a light and silly at times movie, but it does have a nice blend of action and fun. I still liked it after all this time, a good easy popcorn film. Also the main musical theme remains one of my favorite epic pieces of music even today. Just don't go looking for a faithful adaptation of the book; this is not it. It is a fun, campy adventure film with some humor and a touch of romance. I'd give 3.5 out of 5 stars. Found it online randomly. Watched 5/30.
  • Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (1987. Action. Adventure.Comedy). Plot description: "Allan Quatermain once again teams up with Jesse Huston where the discovery of a mysterious old gold piece sends Quatermain looking for his long-lost brother, missing in the wilds of Africa after seeking a lost white race." This sequel was filmed at the same time as King Solomon's Mines, but due to the first film not doing as well in theaters it went to VHS for the most part. This one I barely remembered, but when I found it I decided to take a chance on it. Again, it is a Cannon Film and Golan-Globus, so you know there will be some fun at least. Their 1980s productions were often fun.  Well, unfortunately this was not as fun as it could have been. The action was very light, and the plot takes a turn for the ridiculous in the last act of the film when they actually get to the lost city. The movie just drags down at that point, losing any pace or momentum. Not even appearances by James Earl Jones, as the warrior and friend of Quatermain Umslopogaas, and Cassandra Peterson, as an evil queen in the lost city, could save this. It feels like it could have had potential, but in the end I can see why this went straight to VHS. It is just not as good nor as entertaining as the first film. Chamberlain and Stone do retain a bit of their charm from the first film, but this one just lacked substance. Enjoy the first one. Watch this one if you feel a need for completion, otherwise skip it. It is cheesy as any other B-movie but not the good kind. 1.5 out of 5 stars. Via TubiTv. Watched 5/30.

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.

This month I binge watched a lot of old television shows. The highlights were episodes of Midsomer Murders and episodes of Barney Miller.

  • America's Dumbest Criminals (1996-2000. Reality. Humor. Crime).  See my June 2020 wrap up for commentary on this. Continued this month with the fourth and final season of the series.  
  • Space: 1999 (1975-1977. Science Fiction. Adventure). Started watching this in January 2021, and watched a bit more in February 2021. Picking up with Season 1, Episode 6, watched that and episodes 7 and 8.
  • Midsomer Murders (1997 to present, still going. Mystery. Crime. Detective. British series). I commented on this series in the July 2020 roundup.  Via TubiTv, which has up to Season 20. 
    • Season 6, Episode 4: "A Tale of Two Hamlets." Plot description: "At his family home in Upper Warden, arrogant actor Larry Smith is killed, when a summer house he walks in to as part of a promotion for the sequel to his hit film, The House of Satan, is suddenly destroyed in an explosion. " As in other episodes, soon things get complicated with blackmail, affairs, and other secrets surfacing. Larry Smith is your usual arrogant somewhat obnoxious actor you made his fame in some TV show, but he also was a local son. Still, he was the kind of guy you'd want to see dead in these kind of mysteries. Fact his own family seems cold about him clues you in as well. Meanwhile, the two hamlets, Upper and Lower Warden have had a sort of rivalry for centuries and they are still holding grudges, the Upper Warden where the nobility lives and the rundown Lower Warden where the poor locals and leftover hippies and socialist live, descendants of the ones who burned castles in the Upper Warden. This mystery was a bit slower but still interesting. 
    • Season 6, Episode 5: "Birds of Prey." Plot description: "While Troy assists an attractive wildlife liaison officer with an investigation into the illegal sale of protected bird eggs, Barnaby travels to Midsomer Magna to investigate the sudden death of a man, who apparently drowned himself." Soon Barnaby and Troy find their cases cross with each other, and that the drowning may be a murder connected to a scam. The plot thickens as three people die overall, and our detectives rush to solve the case. A bit of a complex case, but it was interesting. This is the last episode for the 6th season. 
    • Season 7, Episode 1: "The Green Man." Plot description: "Barnaby and Troy tackle two separate cases as Troy prepares to leave Midsomer after his promotion to DI." We begin season 7, and Troy leaves Midsomer as he gets promoted to Detective Inspector (DI). But before he leaves he has one more case to solve. Barnaby works to solve a decades old case while Troy works on a case involving a "hobo" and some rowdy teens. When the teens, who had been harassing the old man start dying, the man is a suspect, but soon Troy finds out the case may not be as obvious. Overall, Troy does well in his last case with Barnaby. 
    • Season 7, Episode 2: "Bad Tidings." Plot description: "Barnaby's new Sergeant arrives on the day after the murder of a local shrew occurs, and he is immediately put to work." Scene starts with a Spanish themed party hosted by a local residents association of Midsomer Mallow (in this series, basically most of the towns in Midsomer County are Midsomer this or that), where a couple has an argument, about money, she leaves in a huff, ends up murdered. The new sergeant is a transfer from the London Metropolitan Police, a city man, not too thrilled about his new assignment. Meanwhile, in typical small town fashion, the members of said association pretty much hate each other for various reasons, but are any of those reasons enough to kill? Meanwhile, Cully sets up a reunion of some close friends and her after 10 years, despite her father warning her people do change in time. Soon turns out the friends did indeed change, and they have quite the secret Cully was not aware of. Soon other murders happen and a blackmail plot is revealed that threatens the secret. They really put the new sergeant to work, and it was quite a small town mystery. 
    • Season 7, Episode 3: "The Fisher King." Plot description: "Long-suppressed family secrets, stolen ancient artifacts, and a thirty year old death at a Celtic burial site result in a series of murders in present day Midsomer." The episode features a book author on local Celtic myths, some snobbish academic arguing, and real estate deal in addition to murder and apparently an illegitimate son, and another illegitimate child. That one guy got around. Reputation in academia can be everything, as I have observed working in academia, and it plays a big part in this story. 
    • Season 7, Episode 4: "Sins of Commission." Plot description: "When Midsomer hosts its 12th Annual Literary Festival, an author is found with his neck broken. More writers will die before the winner of the competition is announced." Turns out the world of publishing and writers can be cutthroat as we find out the publisher of a best selling author is actually struggling, there may be blackmail due to an author and an editor being gay (and at least one of them not out), and then that best selling author is killed. This mystery is a bit on the slow side, but if you like stories from the world of books, you may appreciate this one a bit. The killer turns out to be quite the character by the way. 
    • Season 7, Episode 5: "The Maid in Splendour." Plot description: "DCI Tom Barnaby and DS Dan Scott investigate the shotgun murder of Jamie Cruikshank, a barman at the Maid in Splendour, a pub in the village of Midsomer Worthy." Conflict in the bar happens as the old owner retires, leaves the business to his son and wife, but cannot quite let go. In addition some shady rich property developers are looking to buy up local properties from some of the locals, something said locals do not appreciate. However things get complicated into a mess of obsession and jealousy. Once that is revealed, the tension in the drama goes up, leading to the solution of the case. 
    • Season 7, Episode 6: "The Straw Woman." Plot description: "When the curate of the local church in Midsomer Parva is burned alive in the effigy of the straw woman, DCI Tom Barnaby and DS Dan Scott find themselves investigating what must be a murder." Soon the vicar is murdered as well, and the plot thickens in a town that opposes the straw woman town tradition (ironically displaying the ignorance and prejudice a local teacher is trying to teach the children against). To make matters worse, turns out the two priests were gay, which prominent members of the community being "traditional" Christians seriously opposed. So all that rises the tension as our detectives try to find out who killed them. The episode does make use of some creepy music here and there to add to an atmosphere of a possible witch or evil presence. There is nothing witchy, just someone stirring up the locals and their old superstitions in a little village that in many ways still acts like it is the 1600s. I thought it was a bit hokey how Barnaby figures out the real culprit, a line from a song, but still works. In the end, as I said, nothing witchy. In this case, just some good old jealousy. 
    • Season 7, Episode 7: "Ghosts of Christmas Past." Plot description: "Exactly nine years after Ferdy Villers killed himself, his entire family reunites for Christmas unaware that someone is out for revenge." This is the last episode of season 7. Not quite a merry Christmas at the house nine years later. An elderly aunt dies, in what turns out to be murder as she was pushed down the stairs. Ferdy by the way is the subject no one talks about, but his death may have significance after all this time. Add to it family, despite trying to erase him, feel guilty over not helping him more (at least one or two of them do). Ferdy by the way was a magician, it was his dream to be a professional despite the opposition of his family who wanted him to get a "real" job. And someone is out to avenge that suicide, and the detectives figure it out in part with the help of a young boy who is an aspiring magician. I liked the magic elements on this one, making for a good mystery puzzle. 
    • Season 8, Episode 1: "Things That Go Bump in the Night." Plot description: "Undertaker Patrick Pennyman is found dead with his wrists slashed and suspicion turns towards a spiritualist church." Apparently the good undertaker was quite the miser, lousy boss to his very few part time workers, and even cheated mourners, say switching a fancy coffin paid for with a cheap one right before cremations. There were a few people who hated him, maybe wanted him dead. To complicate things, there are suspicions about how authentic or not the church's medium is, and if there is a connection to the undertaker. Despite the supernatural tone at times, this was a very down to earth case of murder and passion. 
    • Season 8, Episode 2: "Dead in the Water." Plot description: "During a regatta, the body of Rowing Club chairman Guy Sweetman is found bludgeoned and drowned. Bachelor Sweetman was prolifically promiscuous and jealousy would seem to be the motive." There are plenty of suspects from jilted boyfriends to angry husbands with cheating wives. But is it really an angry man killing Sweetman, or was he killed for another reason? Could be jealousy motive may easily mask the real reason. By the way, another episode here of "detectives conveniently break into homes with no warrant" and nothing really happens. Seriously, how they get away with it never ceases to amaze me. In the end, well, money and passion always good reasons for murder. 
  • In the Heat of the Night: Give Me Your Life (1994. Crime. Drama. Mystery. Television series). This is a two-part episode from season 7 of the series that Tubi brought in as a movie. Plot description: "In this special 'In The Heat of the Night' movie event, Bill Gillespie (Carroll O'Connor), Chief Hampton Forbes (Carl Weathers) and the Sparta police investigate allegations of child abuse in a mysterious religious cult run by a charismatic leader (special guest star Peter Fonda), which leads to a tense -- and possibly deadly -- stand-off." Early on, the clues are there the cult is not the beneficent church it wants people to believe, and when evidence begins to surface of child abuse, including sexual abuse, tensions rise as the church leader gets himself a very good lawyer as the police try to save the children. Eventually things lead to the stand-off. Peter Fonda does a pretty good performance as the charismatic and very creepy cult leader. Overall a good episode in the series. 
  • Barney Miller (situation comedy, police. 1975-1982). Watching some of these via Crackle, which has the first and last seasons. Also, there are some additional episodes on YouTube. This is a nice, light comedy that is well written, the actors do good work and their timing is great, and overall the performances are good, and the series has a nice humane element. This is the kind of show that they just do not make anymore. Anyhow, having a great time enjoying it this month. 
    • Side note: This is a 70s show mostly, so it is interesting to see how things have changed over time. The humor overall is still fairly universal, but it helps if you get some of the historical references of the time. 
    • Side note: Also, in episode 9 of the first season , a detail that caught my eye was the transvestite man (or rather the man in drag). Anyhow, point is he gets arrested for being outside taking a walk in his dress because it was an "unclassified misdemeanor," something having to do with not trying to conceal your identity. It becomes a bit of a joke as some of the detectives initially do not realize the "woman" is a man, Today this would likely not be a big deal, but apparently back then it was. Things have changed. 
    • On another side note, Crackle is terrible in terms of interface and usability when compared to Tubi Tv. The screen frame does not always fit fully. The ads, which I do not mind since it is a free service, are extremely repetitive (honestly, how many times can they play the same diabetic medicine ad?) and way too long when compared to other services. As I said, the user interface is not terribly user friendly either. So I used it mainly this month to watch Barney Miller, but once done with that I am not likely to go back to it much. It is too much of a hassle. They may need to see how Tubi does it and learn from that. 
    • Another interesting to me detail. In Season 4, Episode 18, "Wojo's Problem," one of the suspects is confined to a wheelchair and having accessibility issues and naturally complains. I got curious, and the ADA Act was not passed until 1990 (under H.W. Bush). Caught my eye because buildings being accessible is something by now we may take for granted, but back then it was often rare if non-existent. 
  • N.Y.P.D. Mounted (1991. Comedy. Drama. Crime. Series Pilot).  Plot description: "A New York City cop becomes partners with a rodeo cowboy from Montana on the city's Mounted Division." This was a series pilot, but CBS at the time never picked up the series. Dennis Franz is the city cop, and he plays a role he can play well, which is the jaded veteran police officer. Him and the cowboy transfer, who was a cop in Montana (did rodeo on the side) become the odd couple that creates a lot of the comedy.This series may have had potential as a semi-decent cop drama with some light comedic elements maybe. Instead they were playing the comedy elements way too much, and not even very competent comedy. The result to be honest can be a bit painful to watch at times. The two wiseguy wannabes trying to peddle an illegal tiger are just poor acting and even worse comedy. They are supposed to be amusing, but not even close. The cowboy cop making eyes at the lieutenant is even more awkward, especially given his recent divorce back in Montana (you'd think the guy would take a break); basically, they are trying to force a love interest that does not really work. As I said, the odd cop couple angle could have had potential as in other cop dramas, but they just wasted it on poor attempts at slapstick comedy. No wonder the series was never picked up. This was just pretty bad. Via TubiTV. Watched 5/28. 


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