Playhouse 90’s A TOWN TURNED TO DUST aka Echoes of the current political landscape!

“We didn’t know he was guilty.

We strung him up, to satisfy the mood.”

 

“There’s the hunger for the niche.

I wanted to be somebody.

So I decided who the victim should be.

I pointed to an old man.

I led the mob.

I wanted to be somebody.”

— Playhouse 90 A TOWN HAS TURNED TO DUST

 

Those quotes from 1958, written by one of our great writers to highlight a mindset of ignorance and prejudice and lynchings, are oddly and shamefully relevant. Being that here 60 years later the current occupant of the white house stole into the office, on such rhetoric of hate and stupidity and intolerance.

Invaded the most powerful office in the world, swept in on the unreasoning bellows of the mob.

I love Amazon Prime for making available these forgotten and overlooked pieces of cultural and cinematic history.

 

Today I watched from the early days of television, PLAYHOUSE 90s A TOWN THAT TURNED TO DUST.

Directed masterfully by John Frankenheimer, written by Rod Serling, starring a stellar cast including Rod Steiger, William Shatner, Fay Spain,  Eugene Iglesias, Mario Alcade and James Gregory.

From 1958, when Jim Crow and Lynchings still infested large swaths of America, this live production is unfortunately again relevant in 2019, will always be relevant as long as there are masses who want to blame their lives on others rather than taking responsibility for their lives. And ready, these masses, to be led by the loudest voice of hate, rather than the more thoughtful voices of reason.

Watch it now courtesy of Amazon Prime (search for it under the title AN EVENING IN THE ZONE). This is a film that deserves to be owned on DVD/Blu-Ray. Deserves to always be readily available, and not at the mercy of ephemeral streaming  contracts and whims.

I would like to think if Americans were raised on films like 1936’s FURY by Fritz Lang and 1943’s THE OX BOW INCIDENT by William Wellman and this one by John Ftrankenheimer, if these films were required viewing, we would stop repeating the same mistakes and committing the same attrocities and empowering the same hate mongers. To the point where the occupancy of the White House would be different.

There is nothing sadder than history and mistakes not learned from.

Currently Watching : POWER Season One on HULU!

POWER The acclaimed Curtis ’50 CENT’ Jackson produced STARZ series finally makes itself available on HULU, and man was it well worth the wait. Showrunner/Creator Courtney Kemp Agboh’s POWER is the very definition of binge worthy television.

From opening credits to final fade to black, the show is FANTASTIC!! Omari Hardwick helms a powerhouse cast, in an exquistely photographed, compulsively paced stunner of a show.

First Great Theatrical Experience of 2017 — KONG : SKULL ISLAND in 3D!

It takes a lot to get me out to the theater these days. 2016 was one of my most anemic theater going years. Having only seen a couple movies in the theater (among them the excellent CAPTAIN AMERICA CIVIL WAR).

The slow movie going year could be linked to several reasons, some personal and singular, and some endemic of larger more encompassing perspectives.

The rise of Netflix and Streaming options has brought cinema quality programming to your living room or bedroom, around your schedule. So no trying to make your schedule fit around a movie showing, and all the baggage of parking, and seats, and annoying crowds, and of course the expense.

So for those reasons and others the theater wasn’t top on my list in 2016.

2017 and I’m incentivized to see quite a few movies in the theater. One reason is the reopening of one of my favorite regional movie theaters, as an upscale adults only dinner and a movie venue.

Perfect for couples or close friends, I decided to check out a matinee showing of KONG : SKULL ISLAND over other available options at this theater (such as LOGAN and JOHN WICK II and GET OUT, all of which I intend to see) for the main reason I wanted to test out the spectacle and 3D quality of this new theater, and what better way than a loud, explosive, monster movie.

So I reserved my seats, picking the perfect seats of course, and quite impressed with their meal and drink menu. Forget the overpriced artery clogging Popcorn and Hotdogs and Candy that comprises the fare of your typical theater, this theater offered a full and quite impressive meal and drink menu, brought to your spacious clean, well kept seats, no less. We had the crabcakes, bistro burger, korean wings, with a Berry Blast drink for me and a Mocha Latte for her. And did I mention the excellent attentive service.

So we are planted in front our huge curved screen, it’s a matinee showing so not only do we have our whole row free, we have our whole section free, with probably a total of less than 20 people in the large yet intimate theater. Meaning the theater and screen is large, but the number of seats are few.

So that’s the setup. What about the movie?

The best part of the Peter Jackson 2005 KING KONG movie, was the one hour period on the island (once we get past Peter Jackson’s annoying portrayal of Native Life as monstrous, evil and subhuman), that one hour was fantastic sequences of monster and Kong Mayhem, and should have been the whole movie.

Once that movie leaves the island it loses all interest and excitement, crawling toward a tepid ending.

KONG:SKULL ISLAND, 12 years after Peter Jackson’s mistake, learns admirably from the flaws of his film, crafting an entire movie on Kong’s home, the Island of Monsters, Skull Island, and it is absolutely kick-ass!

The idea to set it in 1973, at a pivotal time for America and the World, I thought was a stroke of genius and gives real motivation to Samuel L. Jackson’s Ahab inclined character, who see’s in the monster of Kong, this fight, a chance to win the war that he was denied, to change shame into glory. I like the opening, the setup to the actual Mayhem that is Kong, quite a bit, which says a lot about the quality of the filmmaker and the film.

Usually the least interesting part of any monster movie, is the prelude to the appearance of the Monster, when you have to endure boring cardboard characters killing time. That was the issue with the GODZILLA movie by the producers of this film, it was mostly setup and concentration on the human drama, but the humans and the human drama in that movie was as of much interest as watching paint dry.

Here, the setup and the characters feel fleshed out and earned, and part of that is grounding these soldiers in 1973. Survivors, but somehow not victors. Going from one barely war abroad, to a frightening barely understood war at home awaiting them, Skull Island, is very much a reprieve to Jackson’s Colonel. And the men under him, caught in the machinations of dreams of Glory, well they are understood to.

And all the characters are quickly enlisted for this obscure mission, all powerful, compelling actors, not a Jack Black insight. But actors all who can compel and own their time onscreen… their closeups. So I’m thoroughly entertained and into the movie, before Kong goes Ape, so to speak. And when he does go Ape… it is… EPIC!!!

This is why Theaters have value in an age of Netflix and Home Theaters, because a home theater is no match for a commercial theater when you have no annoying audience to deal with, this was the fury of Kong unleashed… this was spectacle, this was Blockbuster, and this was worth every penny paid!

Should you see it in 3D? I typically find 3D is a wasted expense in most situations. I think it is expertly done here, and is really the type of movie that cries out for really good 3D. KONG is really good use of 3D, and I think like AVATAR is a must see in 3D!

KONG is only the second feature film of Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, nothing in his filmography would indicate he could handle a big budget blockbuster of a monster movie, but much like the Russo Brothers of CAPTAIN AMERICA fame (who also came out of feature film obscurity) Roberts rises to the occasion, shattering expectations.

I loved this movie from beginning to end. It blows away recent failures such as GODZILLA and the aforementioned KING KONG, and bodes well for future films. Stay past the trailer for a nice Marvel style Easter Egg.

Grade: A solid and easy B+!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

How do you wrap up 2016?! TV and Streaming BARBARIANS RISING


2016 was a FANTASTIC year for TV.

Netflix and streaming options such as Amazon Prime and Hulu has effectively changed how the world consumes and watches tv.

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Tonight I discovered History Channel’s BARBARIANS RISING, which tells the tale of one of the greatest warriors in the history of the world, Hannibal Barca, and his insane dream, obsession, vision, to conquer the unconquerable Rome.

I have my issues with the HISTORY CHANNEL, I think their VIKINGS TV show, that paints a friendly, proto-feminist, misunderstood anti-hero view of the Vikings, is irresponsible and misguided film-making at its worst.

I don’t expect a documentary, and even in a documentary, much of what we know, must be colored, romanticized, dramatized. The truth of over 2000 years ago like the truth of yesterday, will never be exactly seen by any two people, exactly the same.

But that said while the telling is fluid, blatantly changing the morality of what is known is not. That is simple mendacity.

It’s white-washing of history, that is beyond romanticism to bald-face lying. Like making the ancient Egyptians white. :).

Here’s the thing the Vikings, in their approach to nonvikings, were proto-Nazis, Nazis in their purest form. They were what Nazis dreamed of being. They believed in rape, and pillage, and death, and wholesale slaughter of their enemies. They were in battle, drug addled butchers and thieves and rapists, who put to the sword any land they could reach. War and Pillaging, was not an end, it was a practice, it was a purpose, it was a past time, it was the reason to wake up and the reason to go to bed. As it was for many of the ancient people. Blood, unfortunately, is under most of our ancestors nails.

They did monstrous things, but they also did admirable things. But art, to be honest, must not dismiss the one, to elevate the other. And that’s what the show VIKINGS does, it glorifies that which has no glory in it, and ignores that, which should not be ignored. And to do this is analagous to havaing a show called Nazis, and to portray them as heroic, with no look into the programs of genocide, and the Nazi Work and Death camps.

I’m not saying don’t have a show about Vikings, but tell the truth, don’t make saints out of sinners, and if you find your characters are too reprehensible when you do that, then maybe that’s telling you something.

So I have my issues with HISTORY CHANNEL.

But those issues do not extend to BARBARIANS RISING. Which quite frankly is my last great television discovery of 2016!

 

barca

The first episode, RESISTANCE, simply must see television.

“I swear by the Deathless Gods that I shall not rest till the heart of Rome bleeds dry on the sword of Carthage.” –Hannibal Barca, Son of Carthage, One of the Greatest Generals in the History of the World

 

This is one I have to own the Blu-Ray of! It’s not a show you want to have disappear off of streaming.

Get your copy here:

 

 

Barbarians Rising [Blu-ray]

BEST TV show of the WEEK! National Geographic’s MARS!

“We went into the dark, so that you may find the light.”

—MARS

In the age of streaming there are very few ‘must see now’ shows.

MARS something of a docudrama, science fact/speculative fiction show, courtesy of National Geographic, about a possible future 17 years from today, that is intricately linked to the choices and sacrifices and personalities and visionaries of today.

MARS TV Show

You can argue on some level the show is an elaborate commercial for Elon Musk’s SPACEX. I personally feel that is the argument of cynics and the terminally short-sighted. This is a love letter to space exploration, and more than that, the better angels of our nature.

A nation is defined by the qualities of its dreams and dreamers and preoccupations. Its facts first given birth in its fictions, the zeitgeist of its preoccupations. In the 50s and early 60s we dreamed of the stars, and in the 60s we made those dreams into realities.

That is ever the way. That our occupations of the zeitgeist, our fictions shape our facts. Which is why the proliferation of Zombie and post apocalyptic and serial killer as thematic constants into our fictions, is something I find troubling. We dream of a cannibalistic future, where our worst aspect reign, and our facts follow in lockstep with our fictions. How else to explain a Trump in the Oval Office?

I’m being a little facetious, but my belief in our need for heroic and hopeful fictions to forge a heroic and hopeful future, I am in earnest about.

MARS is the type of show we need more of. STRONGLY recommended! Catch it courtesy of HULU today!

 

TV Show of the Week! Amazon’s THE GRAND TOUR! Great Car/Humor Show!

 

 

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Last year I became a huge fan of the BBC car show TOP GEAR. Thanks to catching episodes of past seasons on Netflix.  It took a couple episodes for me to warm up to the show, but quite quickly the natural camaraderie of the hosts, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May  made a believer out of me.

The shows were just plain fun. So when news came that one  of the trinity was no longer going to be on the show, due to punching out one of the producers, and the other 2/3rds quitting to join him, I was dismayed. No more of the show that I had in quick order made a binge watch favorite.

And yes there was the American TOP GEAR, but the hosts there came off as annoying frat boys, making the show quite unwatchable. Nope it was clear that what made BBC’s TOP GEAR a long running hit, was the fun dynamic of the three hosts they had stupidly lost.

So when it was announced that AMAZON was giving the three ex-hosts a new car show, I couldn’t wait. Well tonight the waiting ended as the first episode of THE GRAND TOUR  dropped. And it’s great. Different but great. There are minor quibbles, the biggest being the absolutely awful ‘THE AMERICAN’ driver.

Their take on the very popular “STIG’ driver of TOP GEAR, but a very poor take it is. Being something of a very unfunny send-up of Ugly American cliches.  The ‘AMERICAN’ is very annoying, very unfunny, and is a bit that hopefully they will pull the plug on in short order.

That aside, the rest of the show and the skits and the cars and the banter of the hosts is great! And the opening sequence is quite frankly awesome. A welcome premiere and looking forward to the upcoming Friday release  of new shows!

 

http://amzn.to/2ePIPSa

 

 

The Grand Tour

 

 

FALL OF THE CITY / American Election Results! Hillary wins at the Polls but loses due to the bs Electorial College?! That’s Nonsense!

You expect me to rant, I’m not goint to rant.

Except to say I did my part, I voted for the candidate who actually had some experience both on the national and international stage, ie the candidate who wasn’t Trump.

First it is sad that in a nation of 322 million people, these are the two individuals that rise to the largest seat in the nation and the world. Sadder still that anyone would vote for Trump, much less in any numbers (That being relative since only about 125 million people voted in total. Not great numbers in a nation of over 300 Million). And yet more direness, that again the popular vote which is obstensibly what we are fed is this Nation’s great Democracy in action, loses to the backdoor shenanigans of the Electoral College (Clinton beat Trump by over 200,000 votes). A stop gap measure created for just such a reason, to muddy the waters, and make the will of the many, subbordinate to the desires of the few.

I guess I am going to rant.

This is a talk show president of an apathetic and ignorant population that chooses based on sound bytes and media bias rather than on the record/resume of the individual. Whatever else you say for or against Hillary Clinton, she is an experienced and tested politician on the national and international level.

Even the 2nd Bush, at least was a Governor first. Trump has never even been a mayor, he lacks any diplomacy. He’s a walking talkshow host. Who now… due to a, from my vantage, very suspect election day voting process, and the fuzzy math of the Electoral College has been granted the most powerful seat in the world.

And he is going to use it to make himself and his friends richer, by making the poor, poorer. That is absolutely his agenda. If you make under $300000 and voted for Trump, you are worse than an ignorant, fool… you are a slave.

You are a nation of masterless men… seeking a master. In Archibald MacLeish’s great FALL OF THE CITY, he forewarned against days like this , a whole population  ‘seeking to be free of the burden of their freedoms’.

The people invent their oppressors: they wish to believe in them.
They wish to be free of their freedom: released from their liberty —
The long labor of liberty ended!
— Archibald MacLeish, “The Fall of the City”

If I was a foreign nation looking at this election, I would see… opportunity. An America that eschews moving forward for the familiarity of moving back. That seeks division over unity, and hate over hope. An America that is ready to fall.

http://www.wnyc.org/story/86853-the-fall-of-the-city/

 

I can not control the ignorance of the led, or the machinations of their leaders, all I can do is prepare, enlighten, and support those better voices of our nature and our America. All I can do is define America not as those resources and liberties the venal waste, but those individuals who against the odds seek, preserve, and uplift what is best and noble.

But I think in this Trump coup, is the impetus for the formerly apathetic to get involved, to turn around this ship of corruption that is America, beginning with eradicating this Electoral college idiocy.

The end?

No, this is the beginning.