At Middleton (2013) – Adam Rodgers

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Available now from Anchor Bay Canada, is this delightful film, At Middleton, starring Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga.

It’s a tale of regrets, life, choices, love, second chances, and a perfect day.

So of course it takes place at the symbolic crossroads of life… a university.

Andy Garcia is George Hartman, Vera Farmiga is Edith Martin. Both of them are accompanying their children to Middleton, for a campus tour.

George is accompanying his son, Conrad (Spencer Lofranco), who seems less than enthused about wandering the Middleton campus, and seems rather aimless about his desires. Edith is with her daughter, Audrey (played by Vera’s younger sister, 21 years her junior, Taissa Farmiga), who knows everything about Middleton and is rather obsessed about going there, and having linguistics professor Dr. Roland Emerson (Tom Skerritt) be her advisor.

Predictably, at their first meeting, George and Edith aren’t fans of one another, but as the tour wanders the campus, a moment allows them to slip away from the rest of the group, and they decide to set out on their own.

What follows is a gentle romance, a revelation about choices and relationships, and how one day can change everything around you.

Farmiga and Garcia are wonderful together, as their characters begin a dance they are both familiar with, but have not done for a long time. Watching them open and share, as their burgeoning relationship begins is really quite sweet, and both of the actors bring a sense of history with them, that younger actors just don’t carry.

In short, it’s a grown-up love story, set in some gorgeous locations. The film looks beautiful.

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These two share a beautiful day together, and you wonder what could be, and about choices made that lead them to where they are.

There’s a fantastic scene where they have stumbled upon a drama class, and take their turn on the stage. Their performances together are heartbreaking, and shows a lot of trust on the parts of both actors.

Vera isn’t the only actor with a blood relation on-screen, Garcia’s daughter, Daniella Garcia-Lorido, makes an appearance as a film student, in a scene that initially mirrors a spying scene in the library, showing how far our character have already come.

You can tell that all of the characters have an effect on each other by the use, and consequent reappearance of phrases and words, and it always gives the other characters pause as they too sense the connection that is going on.

There’s nothing revelatory about the ending, or even the film itself. But what it is, is nice, sweet, grown-up but with a wistful sense of fun and whimsy. There are laughs, and bittersweet moments.

None of this would have worked if it had not been for the performances of the two leads, and they do make a wonderful couple.

This is a good one for a date night, I’m thinking.

So if you’re looking to curl up with a loved one, throw this one in the player now, it’s available from Anchor Bay, and cuddle up together.

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Tales of the Gold Monkey (1982) – Shanghaied & Black Pearl

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Jake Cutter (Stephen Collins) and his one-eyed dog Jake are in for it this time!

Roddy McDowall joins the cast this episode, Shanghaied, as Bon Chance Louie. It originally aired 29 September, 1982. It was written by Bellisario, and throws our heroes right into the fire.

Corky (Jeff MacKay) is kidnapped by a George R.R. Martin look-alike calling himself Ahab (Guy Stockwell) to repair his slaver ship (he is actually harboring a secret that ties him to Koji), the Pandora. Jake, Sarah (Caitlin O’Heaney) and Jack take off after him, despite the fact that Jake is suffering from malaria.

Running down a lead that Ahab may have worked for Princess Koji (Marta DuBois), they take Cutter’s Goose into the Japanese Mandate to get answers. Then Koji with Todo (John Fujioka) and a number of samurai in tow, they head out to save Corky.

Meanwhile, Ahab keeps Corky in check by threatening the Mud People he has captured for selling, though Corky tries to nurse a couple of them to strength so he can use them as help but also hopefully facilitate an escape.

Allying themselves with the Mud People, Jake and company have to come up with a plan to save Corky.

This is good rip-snorting fun, wonderfully embracing the feel of the 1930s serials and the melodramas of that time.

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Black Pearl, penned by Bellisario, Dennis Capps, George Geiger, Paul Savage and Bob Foster aired October 13, 1982.

Flying an American named Kimble (Cliff Potts), who we learn is a double agent, to Bora Gora, Jake and Corky rescue a dying slave who is carrying radioactive material, stolen from a top-secret Nazi installation where they are working on a new kind of bomb.

Taking a risk, and making sure that Sarah and Corky will follow him, Jake poses as Kimble (after Sarah Mickey Finns him), and meets with the Germans. But as time runs out to the weapon’s test, Jake’s true identity is learned, and Corky and Sarah may not find him in time.

While not as all out as the previous episode, this one continues to make the world of the Gold Monkey fun, and full of melodrama, and gives a familiar Bellisario name to the wheel-chair bound waiter of Louis’ bar… Gushie (Les Jankey).

There is some nice wordplay between Jake and Sarah, when Jake learns that Kimble is in Sarah’s room, but she’s trying to keep it a secret, as they continue to dance around their feelings for one another.

All of the characters are developing nicely, and it’s fun to see the undercover Nazi agent, Reverend Tenboom (John Calvin) dealing with the idea of betraying his country or helping Jake.

Corky’s drinking will continue to cause problems for him throughout the series, and while sometimes it’s used as a joke, the undertone of it treats it as a real problem, and I like how Sarah, Jake and Jack all worry about his problem.

More trouble awaits our heroes next week as the Cutter’s Goose flies into more adventure!!!

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2014 Toronto Screenwriting Conference

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Sue and I were fortunate enough to be able to cover the Toronto Screenwriting Conference last year (and learned tons to apply to our own creative writing) and were delighted to be invited back again this year to sit in on it again.

With the amazing guest line-up and the fact that everything we learned would directly impact our writing, Sue and I leaped at the chance, and it was incredibly worth it!!

Saturday, despite starting with some swirling snow coming down, I was eager to get my day underway so I hopped the transit, and hot-footed it to the Ted Ryerson School of Management.

Sue and I met up with Juli Strader, and caught up with her for a bit, sharing our excitement for the weekend, and what we were most looking forward to.

toy_story_three_ver11Things got underway just past 9:30, and within moments, my mind was blown, and in the space of 90 minutes, I took more notes, and learned more about telling stories, than I had ever done before. All thanks to Academy Award winner, for Little Miss Sunshine, Michael Arndt, who also wrote the screenplays for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and Oblivion. With cap positioned just off kilter on his head, he looked like a writer, not entirely comfortable being in front of a large crowd, but once he started talking his passion brought him and the room to life, as he presented Toy Story 3: Mistakes Made, and Lessons Learned. He had been brought in to write the 3rd installment of the Pixar franchise, and upon its completion, made this presentation to be used in-house at the Disney titan.

It was simply amazing, keyboards, pencils, pens, were all making noise as each part of the presentation was duly noted, and people began thinking how these amazing revelations would and could affect their own stories.

I was simply gob-smacked, and just kept writing.

In the 2nd session of the day, Executives on Writing, gears were switched as reps from Shaw, Bell and Rogers – Tara Ellis, Trish Williams and Nataline Rodrigues, sat and answered questions about what they look for in a pitch, how they review them, how notes are given, and how to make your pitch stand-out from the rest.

While all of this was going on, my mind was starting to coalesce again from Arndt’s presentation, and I had a eureka moment as a story that I have been trying to break since the early 90s, finally gave me a way in thanks to the things I’d just learned. I sat there, an ear half-tuned to the discussion, flipping electronic pages from taking notes on the panel to making story notes, reversals, reveals, and how the moments I’d seen in my head fit together into a mosaic of a project I’ve always wanted to do.

Still awestruck at the end of the executive’s panel, and brain quickly reaching information overload, it was time for lunch, and a moment or two to allow your brain to reset.

But it didn’t last long!

After that, it was into Comedy Is A Funny Business, with series creators and show runners, Jeff Biederman (Spun Out), Katie Ford (Working the Engels) and Joseph Raso (Seed). There were a lot of laughs, and lots of experience - Katie worked on Family Ties, wrote Miss Congeniality, and both Jeff and Joseph have worked on a number of recognizable titles and series, they know they’re stuff!  They talked about working in the writers room, working to make sure the funny stays in, their vision for the series, the importance of a log line, and the all important pitch.

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We got a moment to catch up with Joseph after the panel, and introduced ourselves to him, which seemed fitting considering we’ve interviewed like 90% of his main cast – just got to get those youngsters into town!

Following this, was the last session for the day, and the other speaker I was really excited about hearing from. I settled into my seat to listen to In Conversation with David Webb Peoples and Janet Peoples. These two screenwriters write screenplays as a creative expression, like some people write poetry, and David was involved in the script and rewrite of one of my fave sci-fi films, Blade Runner, and wrote one of my favorite westerns, Unforgiven.

unforgiven_ver1_xlgHe and his wife, wrote the script for a film they felt didn’t really be remade, but threw themselves into it wholeheartedly and came out with the Terry Gilliam classic – 12 Monkeys.

They regaled us with stories from behind the scenes on those films, including the fact that Rutger Hauer added the ‘tears in rain’ line to the end of the “I’ve seen things…” speech his character Roy Batty gives in Blade Runner.

I was stunned to learn that he had originally written Unforgiven in the early 70s, and that Clint Eastwood had purchased it mid-80s but had no intention of directing or starring in it until he was older. But when he did shoot and release the film in 1992, he hadn’t changed the script at all!!

He also spoke briefly about his involvement with Ladyhawke, a film he doesn’t think he should get credit for, and Soldier, which was a script he loved, but when he heard how production was messing with, never had any intention of seeing it.

It was a fascinating and honest look into a world of a professional screenwriter who has been involved with some of the most legendary films of the late 20th century!

Heading home at the end of the day, my brain was still trying to process and put together everything, but after dinner, my brain completely shut down and took me down into the realm of sleep.

The next morning, decidedly much more pleasant, weather-wise, than the previous, I headed in for the second day, stopping at Tim Horton’s for something to eat (those Panini breakfast sandwiches are really good!), Sue and I chatted for a moment with Lost Girl showrunner, Emily Andras before going into the session she was serving on the panel for – The Way of the Future: Writing Science Fiction for Television.

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Joining Emily on the panel was Cameron Porsandeh (Helix), Sam Egan (The Listener) and Alan McCullough (Stargate: SG1 and Sanctuary). For someone who loves a good sci-fi show, this panel was a must, and the trio, and their moderator, Denis McGrath (Continuum) talked about pitching the series (focus on your characters, not the hook) and how grounding the series in its own reality with firmly established rules (that can be bent, occasionally circumvented, but never broken) is key to establishing its voice, its vision, and if you’re lucky, the longevity of your series.  They shared stories about how each of their series are run, taking notes from the studio and network, fan interaction, story detail, and the idea of building an image of what the show is like week to week before introducing heavily serialized plots.

This is another session where I took a lot of notes, and Sue and I simply looked at each other gobsmacked as our brains hit overload again.

Following this, we had the Breakdown of the One-Hour Drama with a man who is going to know how to do it, Leonard Dick.

the-good-wife-posterLeonard has served as a writer and producer on some very huge shows… Lost, House M.D., The Mentalist, and is currently working on the incredibly succesful The Good Wife.

Fielding questions, and carrying on a fascinating dialogue with the moderator, Glenn Cockburn, he talked about the differences in writers’ rooms from show to show, how that works for the show, as well as talking about plotting character and season arcs, which again, changes according to the requirements of the show.

It was a fascinating look at the way shows come together behind the scenes, how plots can be shifted about to better serve the abilities of the season story, or availability of recurring and guest cast.

From there, lunch was called, and it allowed us to regroup before plunging into the two final sessions of the conference, one of which, the final one, I was really looking forward.

Anatomy of a Pilot put Eric Gilliland front and center. Gilliland  has served as a writer and producer on Roseanne and That 70s Show. He’s reviewing a pilot script he wrote, that reteams Roseanne Barr with John Goodman, called Downwardly Mobile. It was pitched, ordered by NBC and eventually shelved. He broke down the approach to the show, how the pilot had to be set up, how it would work, how it was pitched and the concept for the proposed series.

Very interesting.

But at this point I was chomping at the bit for the final installment, another presentation by Michael Arndt, the perfect way to close the conference… Endings: The Good, The Bad, and The Insanely Great. Michael broke down the internal, external and philosophical conflicts of three films. His own film, Little Miss Sunshine, The Graduate, and (YES!!) Star Wars. He showed how all the events of the final came to a 2 minute climax, and in that two-minute climax all three of those things need to be resolved to give you a completely euphoric and spectacularly good ending. And he went in to detail! I walked out with pages upon pages of notes, and once again, it helped me crack another part of the story I hadn’t been able to get into.

little_miss_sunshine_ver4_xlgI was stunned by the breakdown of Star Wars, in fact that classic film resolves its external, internal and philosophical conflicts in 22 seconds! It’s bang! Bang! BANG! And what a insanely great ending!!!

The applause that followed his presentation showed that I wasn’t the only one affected, or educated by what he had taught us this weekend, but I made my way to the front of the room, because I simply had to thank him for helping me to finally break this story in my head open.

“I just wanted to say thank you! You’ve helped me crack a story that I’ve been trying to figure out a way into for twenty years.”

“Wow,” he said. “Really?”

I nodded, “Yeah, thank you so much.”

“To hear that,” he continued, “makes me happy that I came!”

“Thanks again!” giving his hand a final shake, I wandered out, ambling towards home, with my mind completely overflowing with information, shattered by all the things I had learned this weekend, and marveling at the behind the scenes trials and tribulations that happen every day before a show even gets thought about being made.

It was stunning.

Now to plot out this story!!!

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The Rockford Files (1975) – Say Goodbye to Jennifer & Charlie Harris at Large

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Private Investigator Jim Rockford (James Garner) gets into it again with this week’s two episode installment.

Up first is Say Goodbye to Jennifer, which aired 7 February, 1975, was directed by acting legend Jackie Cooper, and penned by Juanita Bartlett and Rudolph Borchert from a story by Roy Huggins.It guest stars Hector Elizondo as ex-war buddy turned fashion photographer, John Micelli.

The phone gag features Rockford’s maid service calling to complain about the state of his place every time she comes to clean, it looks like people have been fighting, so she quits.

For me this was a nice bittersweet episode, especially its end, as it sees the relationship between Jim and Micelli, Mitch. Micelli hires Jim to find a model he knows, and is in love with, when she becomes the prime suspect and then believed to be a victim of murder herself.

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Mitch believes differently and pleas with Rockford to find her, he’s absolutely sure he’s seen her, and believes she has returned to Seattle. When a couple of thugs come around looking for her as well, Jim decides to go to Seattle and find her.

There is a great bit with Jim and Rocky (Noah Beery, Jr.) arguing about the fact that Jim was supposed to fix his truck, and then calling from the garage constantly to be picked up, when Jim didn’t fix it. There’s also some fun with Becker (Joe Santos) as he and Jim work some angles of the case together.

As we come up on the end of the first season you can see that a lot of the characters are firmly in place, and the little character interactions make them wonderfully real, within the confines of the world.

The second episode this week is called Charlie Harris at Large. It aired 14 February, 1975 and was written by Zekial Marko, based on a story by Roy Huggins.

The phone gag this time around is a girl named Suzie calling from the local laundromat to inquire why Jim hadn’t called her yet.

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Jim is called by a former cellmate, Charlie (Tony Musante) who has been accused of murdering his wife, but he has an alibi, a woman he was having an affair with, Linda Bannister (Star Trek’s Diana Muldaur). Unfortunately, she isn’t coming forward to help him, and Jim has to find her before Charlie is caught and sent back to prison.

Beth (Gretchen Corbett) makes a welcome appearance, it’s been awhile since we last saw her.

Jim advises Charlie to talk to Beth, as he doesn’t deal with open cases, but Charlie keeps pushing, and promises that Jim will get paid from his wife’s will.

Things go from bad to worse, when Linda’s husband, Alfred (Warner Anderson) warns Jim off the case. He’s aware of his wife’s impropriety but they have an understanding and as long as she keeps a low profile with it, he doesn’t have a problem with it. This case, however, will be front page news, and that’s unacceptable.

Becker tries to help Jim out as well, but it all comes down to Rockford figuring out who the real murderer is, and hoping that the inheritance gets sorted out so he can get paid soon. (I also like the fact that Jim is constantly be woken up this episode, when all he wants to do is sleep).

Poor Jim.

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Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) – Tom Shadyac

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Jim Carrey stars in this final recommendation from Monsieur Hulot in Great Movies – 100 Years of Film. It has been almost 20 years since I last saw this film, and at the time I had grown so tired of it, because it was played constantly in the video store I worked in. Played so often, that whether I wanted to or not, I knew all the dialogue, I mean, at first, I did enjoy the film, but I grew to hate it.

So I wondered… 20 years on, now that I have to watch it again as I work my way through these titles what would I think?

I’ll be honest, I enjoyed it again, sure it’s silly, sometimes downright inane, but Carrey, he of the rubber face, is clearly having lots of fun, and is at the top of his comedic peak here. Since then he’s gone on to other things, but this one made him into a movie star, but it’s films like The Majestic and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that solidified his as a solid actor.

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Ace, is the world’s only pet detective, and he surprisingly has a lot of business! He’s hired by Melissa Robinson (Courtney Cox), to help recover the Miami Dolphins kidnapped mascot before the upcoming Super Bowl.

With wacky impressions, physical comedy, and a recognizable cast surrounding him in the forms of horror icon Udo Kier, Tone Loc, and Sean Young, Ace dives headfirst into this mystery that is fairly easy to figure out, but the comedy aspects, which range from coarse to silly, make for a pretty entertaining romp.

The sequence at Ron Camp’s (Kier) party is probably my favorite, followed by the mental institution scene, as it jumps from slapstick to homage, and it all comes along at a rapid fire pace.

It also keeps it quick and short, running at 86 minutes, this one is done before it can grate on one’s nerves.

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There is some really funny moments, and watching Carrey cavort around in the screen, he comes across as really having a good time, and that enthusiasm is infectious to the viewing audience. I couldn’t help but laugh and chuckle. Course I won’t watch it as constantly as it played in the video store, but I wouldn’t be adverse to watching it again.

I think, if asked, I would point to Carrey’s performance is simply, incredibly enjoyable. I mean, he was up there pretty much making an ass of himself, and yet, somehow, making it look absurdly cool. Not to mention that so many lines of dialogue found its way into the lexicon of pop culture.

The film generated a sequel shortly after, and a prequel (without Carrey) that came way too late, but this, the first one, is still actually really entertaining, and may be a rediscovered guilty pleasure for me.

I am looking forward to the next selection of titles coming up though, because, it’s going to be a romp through some truly classic films!!!

What’s your favorite Carrey comedy?

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Christine (1983) – John Carpenter

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I love John Carpenter movies, and it has been forever since I sat down to watch this one.

It’s 1978, and Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon) is a bit of a nerd and a joke, his only friend Dennis (John Stockwell) is willing to stand by him no matter what. His loyalty is put to the test when his friend is set on buying a rusted out hunk of steel that was once a 1958 Plymouth Fury. Buying it for a pittance, Arnie throws himself into restoring the car, driven by an undefinable need.

As the car begins to improve and change, so does Arnie. He sheds his glasses, argues more with his parents, and begins to dress and resemble a 50s era tough, his choices in clothes and color perfectly complimenting the Fury whose name is Christine.

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Dennis, and Arnie’s new girlfriend, Leigh (Alexandra Paul), the hot new girl in school, are worried about their Arnie, and begin to suspect that something terrible is going on, especially when some of the local bullies, who had made Arnie, and Christine the target of their malice begin to die. Local detective, Rudolph Junkins (Harry Dean Stanton), begins to see Arnie as his prime suspect, and Christine as the murder weapon… he’s half right.

Carpenter films, for me, are always a delight, and this one is no different, I love how he has put this one together, and watching Christine reform after being trashed and crashed is eerie and frightening. Even knowing how it was done makes me appreciate it all the more. Then, she begins to take her revenge on those who put her in that condition, and it goes to show you how villainous and evil this car can be. My favorite sequence has her completely aflame and stalking down one of the bullies as he runs down the road, eventually running him down, and leaving his flaming corpse behind in the night… Awesome.

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And a Carpenter film wouldn’t be a Carpenter film if we didn’t talk about the music. He created the score alongside long time associate Alan Howarth, and the source music is a lot of classic rock and roll. Much like John Williams’ Jaws theme tells you the shark is around, anytime you hear a classic 50s tune, you know the possessed car is up to no good, and every song it plays actually conveys what the car is thinking or feeling.

It finally falls to Dennis and Leigh to try to save their friend, and put a stop to Christine once and for all.

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I`m a fan of the original novel by Stephen King, but I can also respect and enjoy this film as its own creation, and honestly, and any film that has Carpenter`s name attached to it is bound to get a fair shake from me. I think I may have to go watch something else he`s done right away…

And there are so many to choose from, I’m kind of leaning towards Prince of Darkness, or perhaps In the Mouth of Madness…

How about you? What is your favorite John Carpenter film? As we know, his work with Kurt Russell tends to be my favorite of his efforts, but I really do like everything he’s done.

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Doctor Who (William Hartnell) – The Rescue

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The third story of the second season is a two-parter penned by David Whitaker and airing on the 2 and 9 of January 1965. The Doctor (Hartnell) is napping, and I think dealing with his depression of leaving Susan (Carole Ann Ford) behind in the previous story, when the TARADIS materializes on Dido (the planet not the singer) in the year 2493. There’s a nice moment when he mistakenly asks for Susan to open the doors, and you can see that he’s truly bothered by her departure. Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) and Ian (William Russell) set off to investigate, though the two get separated fairly quickly, and the Doctor joins up with Ian to look for her.

Barbara discovers that there is a crashed ship sending out a distress beacon with two survivors, Vicki (Maureen O’Brien) and the reclusive Bennett (Ray Barrett), who are awaiting the imminent arrival of a rescue craft. Unfortunately they are being menaced by a sinister looking creature known as Koquillion. But there may be something more going on here…

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The Doctor is rather confused, as he’s been to Dido before, and have met with its peaceful inhabitants, totaling 100 souls, and the violence and the existence of Koquillion trouble him, as it doesn’t jibe with what he knows of the planet.

As the first episode, The Powerful Enemy, ends he and Ian are in dire straits, having triggered a booby trap in a series of caves, Ian is about to be forced into a pit with a strange-looking, presumably dangerous creatures.

In part two, Desperate Measures, Ian and the Doctor make a quick escape, and join up with Barbara and Vicki in the crashed ship.

Going off to chat with Bennett, the Doctor finds an escape hatch the survivor has been using, and puts together what has been going on, a tale of heroic survival becomes the cover for murder and violence, and the Doctor must put an end to it.

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As the story wraps up, Vicki is invited to join the Doctor and company on their journey, though she doesn’t quite believe that they can travel in time yet, she signs up, and I think her joining them provides the Doctor some comfort in dealing with the loss of Susan.

There is some cute model work that opens the first episode, featuring the wreckage of the spacecraft, but it didn’t push me out of the story so much as make me smile, and marvel at how far we’ve come not only in model making for science fiction series and film, but also in regards to visual effects in general.

I can’t believe we’re in 65 already, albeit just started it. The Doctor’s regeneration is still a ways off, but as long as the stories remain as entertaining as they have been, I’m in no real rush!

Next time around, the TARDIS finds its way to ancient Rome, for what they hope will be a bit of a holiday, but I bet that doesn’t last long…

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Afflicted (2013) – Derek Lee & Cliff Prowse

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Opening today is this found footage film that falls into the could-have-been-great category. It manages to take a fairly exhausted genre and do something new with it, which is great, but the entire second half of the movie seems to be too long, and the film’s climax seems to take forever.

That’s saying something for a film that clocks in at 85 minutes.

Shot on digital, the film looks great, and there is some nice FX, makeup and wire work, but all that cannot work to save the dragging final act. Everything before that actually works pretty well.

Derek and Cliff (the directors/writers used their own names) are two best friends who have decided to go around the world, blogging and filming it as they go. I’m with them so far.

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Derek hooks up with Audrey (Baya Rehaz) while in Paris, and Cliff decides to crash the evening, only to find a bloodied Derek unconscious in bed.

Shaking off the need to visit a hospital, which may show a progression on a possibly fatal illness he has, the two decide to continue their travels, moving on to Italy.

Once there, we learn that something has happened to Derek. This is the best part of the film, as the two friends discover that Derek has unparalleled strength, he can run and leap faster and further than a normal human. Unfortunately, he’s also not eating.

And that leads them to discover something truly frightening is going on.

The film works best when Cliff and Derek are together, there is a lot of humor, the effects are top-notch, and happily both of them (and their cameraman) seem to know how to handle everything they are shooting on, because the shakey cam is blissfully kept to a minimum.

When the two of them are no longer sharing screen time, the film actually drags, and while I liked what they were trying to do, I found myself becoming increasingly bored.

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Together, both leads are likable, and watching them travelling together, and then trying to figure out what is going on, is really enjoyable. Not to mention that the scenery is fantastic.

The second half of the film does have some nice work in it, eluding Interpol, and some dizzying leaps all shot POV, are well executed, but it’s not enough to save it from a lack of tighter editing, and what feels like endless scenes of Derek yelling at the camera, as he is uploading all of it to the blog so that he can find Audrey, or she can find him, and explain everything that is going on.

I do like that they tried to breath new life into a seemingly exhausted niche of the horror genre, but without the glimpses of humor, scares and just sense of fun that populates the first half of the film, it just doesn’t work. The second half is almost like watching a completely separate film, and it just doesn’t have the same appeal as the first half.

While I wave the flag proudly that this is a Canadian co-pro, it wasn’t all I had hoped it would be… And even worse, almost all the good stuff is in the trailer…

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Tales of the Gold Monkey (1982) – Pilot

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The next Bellisario series that came along after Battlestar Galactica that caught my attention (despite the fact that Magnum, P.I. started first, I came to it a little later) was this 1930s high adventure series starring Stephen Collins as ex-Flying Tiger Jake Cutter in his Grumman Goose, and his one-eyed dog Jack.

Bellisario wrote the two-hour pilot that premiered the series on 22 September, 1982, I remember it fondly, and even now, I often catch myself whistling and humming the fantastic theme music by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter.

Fairly quickly, we’re introduced to something that will be a hallmark of a Bellisario series, the inner monologue directed through the fourth wall to the audience, as Jake gives us background, or asides to the viewers.

It’s 1938, World War II is on the horizon, and Jake Cutter is living and working in remote islands of the South Pacific, ferrying cargo and passengers for any who can afford him.

In the pilot, we see a pair of German soldiers, one of whom is William Forsythe,  on an island infested with giant monkeys, searching for a legendary gold monkey, that isn’t actually gold, but of an alloy that is resistant to extreme heat, as its rumored to have survived volcanic explosions.

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The pair are killed by the monkeys in a rather brutal sequence for 1980s television.

We join Jake and Jack in the middle of a card game, where Jake loses Jack’s opal eye… And Jack holds a grudge.

They ferry Sarah Stickney White (Caitlin O’Heaney) to a remote outpost where we learn Sarah is actually working for the government trying to stop the threat of the oncoming war, and that a German officer is posing as Reverend Willie Tenboom (John Calvin).

Everyone on the island converges on the port, and the bar there, run by Bon Chance Louie (Ron Moody – replaced by Roddy McDowall), who is lively and has his finger in every kind of pie imaginable, but still runs a reputable place.

Tenboom allies with local female warlord, Princess Kogi (Marta DuBois) and her right hand man Todo (John Fujioka) as they take over the German’s mission, aided by Monocle (John Hillerman).

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Sarah is eager to thwart the German war effort any way she can, so convinces Jake, his boozy, and forgetful mechanic Corky (Jeff MacKay!) and Jack to help her.

Everyone is racing to the island, and there’s a final confrontation between Monocle and Jake, and a daredevil escape…

The series, right from the off, is a lot of fun, combining the wondrous joy of high adventure and melodrama with humor, romance and espionage.

The stories are fun, the cast is almost perfect, for me, it all comes together when Roddy joins in the next episode, and the sparks between Sarah and Jake are great to watch… not to mention wondering if Jack will ever get his eye back…

This is gonna be a fun trip checking out this treasured series that everyone thought was going to run for a few years, but its cost exceeded its ratings, and now, its been lost except to the fans who love it.

Check it out!

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Sunrise – A Tale of Two Humans (1927) – F.W. Murnau

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Following on the tail of Pandora’s Box, this recommendation from Great Movies – 100 Years of Film,a splendidly filmed silent movie, is a moving and involving drama, that follows two characters on their rediscovery of their love for one another, and the threat of its loss.

Set in a small village, frequented by city dwellers, a man (George O’Brien) is succumbing to the temptation of the Woman From The City (Margaret Lvingston), leaving his Wife (Janet Gaynor) neglected, and letting his small farm fall into disrepair, and being stripped by money lenders.

When the city woman proposes that the two of them flee to town, he asks what should be done about his wife, though his young child is never mentioned, and she suggests that his wife drown, and that he bundle some bull rushes together for himself, to use for buoyancy, so he can survive the boat tipping.

Trudging home, he tumbles into his bed, where his wife, lovingly tucks him in, she still feels strongly for him, despite the turn their lives have taken. The next morning he suggests the two of them go out on the water and spend some time together away from everyone. The wife is delighted, seeing this as a chance to find their way back to one another, and rediscover their love.

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Unfortunately, out on the water, he rises menacingly above her, and lumbering towards her like some melancholy Frankenstein prepares to toss her to her death beneath the waves. He stops, rethinking, and begs her not to be afraid of him, but as the boat brushes the shore, she leaps out, and races away, climbing onto a city bound tram.

He follows her, and slowly begins to win her back against the backdrop of all the things he thought he wanted.

Instead, he realizes all he wants is right there in his arms, and the two of them learn to love and laugh again… but there is still the journey back across the water to come.

I was quite wrapped up in this one as I viewed it, and loved the way Murnau would juxtapose images, superimposing the temptation of the City girl, or the various busy images of the city, as opposed to the singular shots for the quiet village.

This film could have gotten away without the use of any title cards at all, because the pictures tell everything, and tells it well.

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Gaynor’s Wife is loving, patient and affectionate, and when the two of them come back together, there are some very wonderful moments between the two of them as they wander the city, lost in one another’s eyes.

The film won 3 Oscars, one for cinematography, one for Juliet Gaynor’s performance, and one for Best Picture – Unique and Artistic Production (a category I’d never heard of before…).

For my money, I enjoyed this one much more than I Pandora’s Box, and am looking forward to seeing what other treasures will be revealed to me as recommendations for this title.

What did you think of it?

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