“MI-5” seasons 1 through 10: a rave!

The English do spy literature and film very well. This modern take on spookery (titled “spooks” over the pond) is probably one of their longest running television series ever and for good reason.

Killer cliff-hangers, excellent acting, absorbing stories inspired at times by headlines, and the occasional “offing” of one of the main protagonists. Did I meantion the excellent writing? An excerpt:

MI-5 Spooks

MI-5 Spooks

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“The walking dead” season 1 disc 1: a rant…

After everything written about the series, I decided to give it a shot thinking I’d burn feverishly through all the available episodes only to be left wanting more.

Well, I DIDN’T. If I’d been looking for a survival guide to the Z-Apocalypse this doesn’t look to be it. To the point: yes I’ve only watched the first four episodes. However, in this short span, we’re introduced to  Deputy Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), who wakes up from a coma in a dilapidated Georgia hospital after having been shot. He finds the world turned upside down as hordes of cannibalistic living dead have overrun society.

But stop. How did he get shot? Well…

In flashback, we are introduced to Rick and his partner Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal), making small talk in their squad car. Rick is the quiet, decent and sensitive guy while Shane’s the more mercurial single guy, a good ole’ boy and bit of a party animal.

Shane likes to pepper his girlfriend stories with the word “bitch” before asking Rick how things are with his wife. No, really: he did. The dialogue sounds like some nerdy teenager’s interpretation of what jocks talk like in locker rooms, and false notes pile up from there, like a horrid multiple car crash in the mist. Shane and Rick get a call to intercept a couple guys who stole a car and committed an assault with deadly weapon.

They peel rubber, hook up on a country road with other deputies from the neighboring county and set up a road block. Soon enough, the stolen car appears, chased by two more cop cars. Stolen car hits the nail strip and flips numerous times. This is where things go, once again, pear shaped. Bad guy number one gets out of the wreck and fires several shots at the (count them) EIGHT deputies before getting gunned down.

Bad guy number two even manages to fire some rounds, hitting Rick in his vest, knocking the wind out of him. After an inordinate amount of ammo puts him down, bad guy number three crawls out and nails Rick in the back where his vest wasn’t covering him. Why? Apparently because the Keystone deputies weren’t paying enough attention and can’t shoot accurately.

Rick wakes up in a hospital which by then is just a husk littered with broken glass and ripped out wiring. First thing anyone with any lick of sense would do in that situation is look for clothes, and shoes… So what does he do? He simply stumbles out barefoot across all of that, into sunlight, without looking like hamburger meat.

Eventually, Rick sets out on the road wearing his deputy’s uniform complete with hat. If a sense of practicality is what defines who would survive in a zombie apocalypse, Rick’s a goner. I got a sense that his character is given some room to evolve into a more hardened type as the series progresses, but there he goes by the grace of God, rather than skill, surviving all these encounters by sheer and unbelievable miracle.

I’ll just stop there… The list of fails is only longer and the column of wins only has a few “meh” items. I did want to like this, but damn…

zombie crossing

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A musical interlude and the content of things to come

I’ve been mulling over a review of the Mexican film “we are what we are“, finding it just about as difficult as reviewing, say, “rubber“. 2010 turned out to be a great year for quality films.

So as I’ve done in the past, I will do a sort of trifecta, in which I will use two other films which content helps gain an appreciation for the first one. These are Takeshi Kitano’s Yakuza movie “outrage” and Britain’s “Brighton Rock“, adapted from Graham Greene’s novel.

All three are terrific dramas well worth checking out. In the mean time, we hope you might enjoy a sampling of music we love. The first by French duo June and Lula: “I’m not going”.

Then from Brittany, Nolwenn Leroy’s “Tri Martolod”.

And from 1980’s Belgium, Front 242’s “welcome to paradise”…

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Midnight Movie Madness: “Burke and Hare”

Burke and Hare” – (91 minutes, UK, 2010)

Funny story. Two Irish guys, both named William, go to Edinburgh circa 1827 and… Well, “Burke and Hare” tells of William Burke (Simon Pegg) and William Hare (Andy Serkis), scraping by in a city experiencing a sort of Renaissance in scientific studies, particularly medicine. As it happens, two rival surgeons, Doctors Robert Knox (Tom Wilkinson) and Alexander Monro (Tim Curry), are in stiff competition for fresh human meat to dissect.

Burke Pegg Hare Serkis
Burke (left) and Hare (right)

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“Don’t be afraid of the dark”: don’t be afraid to blow raspberries

Don’t be afraid of the dark” – (2010, USA/Australia/Mexico, 99 minutes – rated R)

This definitely has Guillermo DelToro’s fingerprints over it, but despite the occasional clever touch, this adaptation of a 1973 teleplay falls way short from the original.

In this version, the medicated offspring (Bailee Madison) of a divorced yuppie couple is sent to live with her father (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend (Katie Holmes). Daddy and the girlfriend are renovating the auld mansion of Emerson Blackwood who disappeared mysteriously shortly after his young son about a century ago.

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Television series from supernatural to sci-fi

Waaay back in October 2010, I brought up the old TV series “Friday the 13th” as an enjoyable little trip down to memory lane: I used to watch the show back when it first aired in the late ’80s late night on CBS.

Something of a small guilty pleasure tinged with nostalgia when all the bad guys were supposedly from South of the border (Noriega, Escobar et al.). We’re now down to the last couple discs of the series, so it’s time for some more reviewing and suggesting.

The third and last season of the show saw Ryan Dallion (John D. LeMay) replaced by another character named Johnny Ventura (Steven Monarque) and due to some weak writing, Ventura has about as much appeal as an old Mercury Grand Marquis. I know ‘cuz I drive one. The energy of the three original characters (Micki, Jack and Ryan) never really amounted to “magic” but it did keep you engaged in the happenings. Not so in the 3rd season which of course turned out to the last. Conclusion: watch the first two, maybe until the episode explaining Ryan’s “disappearance”, don’t bother with the rest.

More modern fare, interestingly set during the Dust Bowl, “Carnivale” ran for two seasons from 2003 to 2005. “Carnivale” follows young Ben Hawkins (Nick Stahl), who possesses healing powers, on his collision course with Brother Justin (Clancy Brown).

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No accounting for taste: some favorite movie themes and songs

This isn’t any kind of top 10 list, or “best of” by any means: the following clips are posted in no particular order, either.
Some are amusing, some evocative, maybe sad, but they have all stuck somewhere in my mind.

And this sample isn’t exhaustive: I left out Henry Mancini, Roque Banos and Bruno Coulais to name just a few.

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“The illusionist”: Tati nostalgia

“The illusionist” – (2010, UK/France, 80 minutes – rated PG)

Note: this review contains spoilers.
Adapted from an original script written by Jacques Tati in 1956, “the illusionist” retains all the charms from Sylvain Chomet’s previous animated film “the triplettes of Belleville”.

Watch the trailer here:

The illusionist” is a very different kind of film though, partly because it is semi-autobiographical, but mainly perhaps because of the controversy as to which of Tati’s daughters the script was dedicated. Tati had a daughter out of wedlock during WWII with an Austrian dancer named Herta Schiel. Pressured by his sister, Tati abandoned mother and child, and went on to start a family with Micheline Winter, with whom he had a second daughter, Sophie, and a son named Pierre.
Each side lays claim to Tati’s original intent. Did he write out of sorrow and guilt for abandoning Helga Marie, or regret at having missed much of Sophie’s childhood while on the road?

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“I saw the devil” – (2010, South Korea, 141 minutes – NR)

School bus driver Kyung-Chul (Min-Sik Choi) has a nice little toy affixed to the rear view mirror of his van: plastic angel wings which light up in cool blue. It’s cute looking and probably helps put the young women and girls he picks up at ease.
Yellow school van and little blue wings.

Choi as serial killer Kyung

But Kyung is a serial killer who brings his victims back to his lair to carve them up after raping them. He then provides a cannibalistic associate of his with their meat to consume.

Watch the trailer here:

One snowy night in the countryside, Kyung drives up to a station wagon stopped by the side of the road with a flat tire.

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Midnight Movie Madness: “Black Death” 2010

“Black death” – (2010), UK/Germany, 97 minutes – rated R)

In 1348, the plague known as ‘black death’ is cutting wide and deep through the populations of Europe and has reached England with a vengeance. Some men have taken to question God, while others blame Him outright, forcing the Catholic Church to take drastic measures to assert itself.

Watch the trailer here:

Those communities not yet affected by the disease come under suspicion of witchcraft and emissaries are sent to investigate and return proof to the religious authorities.

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