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Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Chuck: A Nerd's Delight

Chuck (currently on Amazon and stored on my hard drive), was a dead lock to be a hit with someone like me. And it was.

The show is about a nerdy electronics store computer troubleshooter. who gets a massive CIA database called The Intersect downloaded into his brain. The Intersect flashes into his conscious when he needs information or some kind of skill. It's basically the kind of hero fantasy every kid who has been bullied, pushed around and isolated by the cool kids dreams about.

Zachary Levi, the titular hero, is terrific. He's got all the insecurities the rest of us nerds have, and yet he rises to the occasion when challenged. His breath-takingly beautiful girlfriend/CIA handler Sara Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) leads Chuck through outrageous adventures and an on again, off again romance. Adam Baldwin plays John Case, NSA agent tough guy with his usual snarly swagger. The rest of the crew of the Buy-More electronics store, which provides the cover for a CIA base underneath, are a rag tag gang of geeks, nerds and odd-balls. 

Chuck is funny, sweet and often marvelously violent with Chuck exercising his Intersect-provided skills as a kung-fu master, swordsman, tranq pistol marksman and gymnast when he needs to get through laser security systems to save the day. It's a great story with some great guest stars like Timothy Dalton, Linda Hamilton, Scott Bakula, Brandon Routh and Chevy Chase. Joshua Gomez is fun as Chuck's best friend, Morgan.

Great show for binge watching. Wish they'd had several more seasons before CBS canceled them. They had a very devoted fan base. I've got all five seasons and it was well worth it. Right now Chuck the series on Amazon Prime Video and shows up in other streaming services as well. The best way I can describe Chuck is "James Bond" meets "Big Bang Theory" with a dash of "Spies Like Us".

One of my favorite TV shows. Up there with Firefly, it gets 3 pineapples.

© 2020 by Tom King

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Is " Solo" Maligned by Star Wars Fans Unfairly

I just rewatched "Solo". Star Wars fans set up a howl about that movie. I heard it from the usual prissy Star Wars Fans, It didn't have Harrison Ford in it, but he couldn't have played a young Han Solo anyway. Why is it that movie fans think they should criticize another person's story?

I enjoyed the movie. It was well done. No nudity or strings of f-words. It filled in Solo's backstory and the plot was as intricate as any sci-fi fan could want.I think Ron Howard did a fine job. The folks doing Star Wars these days are taking off in their own directions somewhat, but hey. George wasn't doing anything with it anymore so the story fell to another generation of filmmakers to tell.  Besides, who wants to know how the story ends even before it starts. Sure the feminist and social justice stuff gets sneaked into it - though not as much as with some of the other ones.

What's funny about it all is that so many of these filmmakers are foursquare liberal big government socialists and yet, when they do a film, it's always the big government that is the villain. You'd think they'd notice that, huh?

Only two pineapples though for forgetting to put in something that explains Harrison Ford's chin scar like they did in the Indiana Jones series. Derivative? Maybe. But it would have been fun and I'd always bet on fun!

© 2019 by Tom King

Friday, October 18, 2019

Hold that Ghost - Abbott & Costello

At Halloween each year we cycle through our favorite Halloween Movies. No slasher films included!  I intensely dislike slasher films. I prefer comedy films.  The Halloween films we watch are older films, back when it wasn't necessary to say the f-word every other sentence and comedy was a bit gentler.  Tonight's movie was an Abbott & Costello classic, "Hold That Ghost".

The film is basically a thinly plotted series of Abbot & Costello bits interspersed with Ted Lewis and the Andrews Sisters numbers and some action designed to advance the unlikely plot. The duo inherit a hotel from a gangster named Moose Matson who left the crypt hint that he "kept his money in his head".  The boys and an assortment of travelers including comedian Joan Davis, who does a great job of keeping up with Lou through several delightful sketches.

The two do a chaotic dance number, faint when each thinks the other is dead, and try to keep track of mysterious candles that move around by themselves.

Oh, there's gangsters, hidden treasure, romance and a lively corpse that shows up several times to make Lou faint in a funny fashion.  Several people get slapped, and Lou does his terrified attempts to call his friend Chuck, but can't get anything out except and excited bout of wheezing. It's all brought to a happy ending. The boys open a health resort in Matson's old hotel and the Andrews Sisters are back to sing a Brazilian tune called "Aurora".

It's a fun romp with just enough spookiness to make it fun for Halloween without scaring the wee bairns (or their aged grandparents).

This one gets a full plate of pineapples.

© 2019 by Tom King

Monday, September 24, 2018

"Anne of Green Gables" vs. "Anne with an E"

I'm binge-watching the PBS Wonderworks/Disney mini-series version of Anne of Green Gables. Megan Follows, Colleen Dewhurst, and Richard Farnsworth were brilliant and the series was faithful to the book. It is the definitive version and truly perfect. There was never a need to remake the Lucy Maud Montgomery, who was by the way a pastor's wife. That matters in the telling of this story. 
For me, binging the original was a kind of way to flush the last few episodes of  "Anne with an E" out of my head. Once again, Big Hollywood has found a way to gay-up a lovely book with a Christian theme. I was so disappointed in "Anne with an E" from Netflix. they eliminated the pastor and his wife, they added gay characters and made Anne a budding militant feminist with a shrill temper. I don't think I can bear to see Mrs. Montgomery's work butchered by a lot of social engineering feminazis. 
While Lucy Montgomery was something of a progressive for her time, I'm pretty sure her progressivism was tucked safely in amongst her Christian values and principles. In some ways the Netflix Anne is rather closer to the Anne of the books, which actually gave me hope for the story. Unfortunately, the story very quickly veered off course into one of those social justice indoctrination pieces. It was sad because the director started off well.

Fortunately, PBS was respectful and the three editions of the story they produced were beautiful. My kids used to pile up for a weekend and we'd all binge watch the series on VHS. It was one of those rare films in which the parents and the kids all cry and laugh at the same places. 
Micah and Meg used to binge watch it by themselves sometimes. A couple of times Meg would pile up with her old man and watch it. She used to pick on me when I'd tear up over stuff. I couldn't help it though. It's so seldom that in a movie you see actual kindness and decency portrayed so well. When Matthew tells Marilla they should keep Anne even though she might not be of use to them, but because they "might do some good for her," my mushy old heart takes a joyful little leap. Of such moments, I believe, are our steps toward heaven made up.

My VHS tapes are growing fuzzy from being many times played and from being 25 years old. I'm going to look for the DVD versions and add them to my odd collection of films. Meanwhile, Anne and Gilbert (Jonathan Crombie) have walked off across the field together having settled their old feud. I never get tired of watching two people find each other in forgiveness. The tape is done rewinding now and I need to cue up the sequel and get a fresh hankie. This one's kinda soggy.

Thank you PBS and Wondework for such a beautiful and uplifting set of movies. And thank you, Megan, Colleen, Richard, and Jonathan for creating such wonderful characters.

© 2018 by Tom King

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Frisco Kid

I don't buy a lot of movies anymore, but this one I had to add to my collection. The critics didn't much like it. They complained that the humor was too "ethnic". It was Jewish humor which treated Jewish culture kindly so, of course, Hollywood's leftists wouldn't like it. There wasn't much cursing in it. There weren't any major gay characters and it treated religion with respect.

If you've never seen it, it's my favorite Gene Wilder film and a gem of a Harrison Ford performance that makes him one of my favorite actors. The movie is gently funny. There's nothing harsh about it. Wilder plays a young Jewish rabbi from Poland crossing pre-Civil War America to get to his new synagogue in San Francisco. A trusting soul, he falls in with thieves who take his money and abandon him along the road. He runs into a string of kindly characters, Amish farmers, wild Indians, railroad workers of various nationalities, a nice horsie, some overly friendly raccoons and a prairie chicken who is quite reluctant to stay for dinner. He teaches Native Americans how Jews dance and disrupts the silence of a Catholic monastery. When he finally meets a kindly bank robber (Ford) who helps him find his way to San Francisco. Along the way he inadvertently robs a bank. At the next town he sends the money back to the bank to Ford's immense frustration.

Wilder's tenacity is irresistible.   The movie has a happy and very satisfying ending. Wilder's simple goodness will make you tear up in places and plays a perfect counterpoint to Ford's impatient, if confused cowboy. It's one of those movies you're glad you spent some time with. It's not on any of the major streaming services, but you can rent it on Youtube and Amazon.

If you're like me, you need a gentle couple of hours with some likeable people once in a while. This movie gives you that. I give this movie my highest rating - three pineapples.

Tom King

© 2018

Monday, March 12, 2018

"A Wrinkle in Time" Falls Flat on Oprah's Face

The Disney movie version of one of my favorite childhood books "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L' Engle debuted this weekend.
It was given the Disney treatment (not the Walt Disney, but the post Uncle Walt version). Then Oprah got hold of it. When they were done, all the Bible verses and Christian themes were stripped out of it so that it's barely recognizable as the original book. They had to wait 10 years after L' Engle's death to butcher her masterpiece, but they managed to do it.

It made less than half what they hoped over the weekend. And after the critics gave it less than enthusiastic reviews and word got around the Christian community about the heart being cut out of it, they'll be lucky to break even on it.

Disney's AWIT gets a raspberry for cutting the
beating heart out of L'Engle's book.
The screenwriter argues that Madeleine L'Engle wanted to express all the ideas in the film but couldn't do it in the book way back in those ancient and unenlightened days, so she chose to use Christian themes. She assures us that this is how the author would have done it if she'd been more progressively enlightened and less dependent on religion.
L'Engle could not be reached for comment. Disney and Oprah waited till she was safely dead and could no longer object to the brutalization of her lovely little Newberry Award winning book.

© 2018 by Tom King

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Hobson's Choice

Filmed in an ethereal crisp black and white by David Lean, Hobson’s Choice is a beautiful little gem of a movie. A Hobson's Choice refers to a choice that's not really a choice. The film stars Charles Laughton as the pompous Henry Horatio Hobson, the often inebriated owner of a bootshop in late Victorian norther England. Brenda De Banzie, an English stage actress, plays Hobson's proto-feminist daughter, Maggie, a feisty and independent woman of nearly 30, who already runs Henry's shop in place of her late mother.

When Hobson in a fit of stinginess refuses to pay settlements so his younger daughters can marry, elder daughter Maggie decides to find her own husband and make her own future with Hobson's best bootsmith, Will Mossop (played by John Mills).  Oh it's a head to head battle of wills alright between the crusty old patriarch and his bumptious daughter and you can guess who wins. The film weaves a delightful tale in which the blustery Hobson gets his comeuppance in fine fashion as Maggie proves her worth and Will Mossop rises up on his haunches and becomes his own man. It's a beautiful piece of story-telling by David Lean and one of my top ten favorite movies. It's also one of Prunella Scales first film roles as younger sister Vicki. You may remember Prunella from her turn as Mrs. Basil Fawlty in the British TV series Fawlty Towers.

This is a lovely little move, a gentle comedy that softly pokes fun at the British class system. The wedding night scene is absolutely the sweetest thing you'll ever see. I watch this film once every year. It makes me happy.

Three pineapples to this wonderful bit of film-making.

Tom King © 2018