Thursday, September 24, 2015

Battlestar Galactica: Experiment in Terra – Review

The “Beings of Light” from the episode War of the Gods are back, and they continue to be intergalactic busybodies with their lame apparent “non-interference” methods. Originally this was supposed to be another Starbuck centered episode but Richard Hatch pointed out that too many episodes had been focusing on fan favorite Starbuck, so the producers just swapped characters around, and thus this it became an Apollo story.


The episodes begin with a squadron of Vipers, led by Apollo (Richard Hatch) and Starbuck (Dirk Benedict), in hot pursuit of the Eastern Alliance destroyer that escaped during the end of the last episode. Their plan is to follow the destroyer to its destination and find out more about the planet Terra, and what the Eastern Alliance is up to. Unfortunately for our heroes before that has a chance to happen The Ship of Lights appears behind Apollo’s Viper, he is abducted by these apparent “superior beings” and then is given an assignment by John (Edward Mulhare), one of the Beings of Light.


“Am I on a mission from God?”

Apollo is told that he will be sent to Terra to stop the war between the Eastern Alliance and the Nationalists, now one guy being sent to stop a war would seem to be a difficult task so John uses some space magic so that the Terrans will see Apollo as one of their own, a pilot by the name of Charlie Watts whose been missing in action on one of the satellite planets destroyed by the Eastern Alliance. Note: Donald P. Bellisario, one of the show’s writers, would later use this idea for his show Quantum Leap. In Experiment in Terra Apollo is in the role of Scott Bakula’s Sam Beckett, while John appears as a type of hologram to give Apollo advice much in the same way Dean Stockwell gave Sam advice as Al.


“I could help you more if I had my palm pilot to access Ziggy.”

The Beings of Light make a phone call to Charlie's ex-girlfriend, Brenda (Melody Anderson) to get her out into the desert to pick up Apollo, and things don’t go so well as poor Apollo has no knowledge of who she is, what’s going on with the war, and even who in the hell this Charlie person is that he’s supposed to be impersonating. At least in Quantum Leap Al was able to provide Sam with tons of background information, but here John leaves Apollo hanging out to dry, so he ends up coming across as a person whose elevator no longer goes all the way to the top. This results in Brenda calling security and having “Charlie” taken to a hospital for his own good.


“I must be crazy to be in a loony bin like this.”

Meanwhile, Starbuck has left Jolly (Tony Swartz) in charge of the squadron and took off to find Apollo, because screw responsibilities, his best friend is missing. He arrives on Terra and is almost immediately found by forces belonging to the Nationalists. Not one for diplomacy Starbuck takes out the nine soldiers by firing three times…wait what? Before firing Starbuck made a recording on his communicator, to inform whoever may hear this report, that he was setting his gun for stun, this clearly for our benefit so we don't think Starbuck just murdered those dudes, but it does not explain how firing three times can take out nine people unless the stun setting is strangely way more effective than the kill setting.


I’m betting the remaining six were just playing dead.

Starbuck blows up the two helicopters the soldiers arrived in, he then hoofs it into town to find Apollo using a tracking device, but just as he’s about to storm the facility he knows is holding his friend, John shows up to provide absolutely no help. Seriously, he stops Starbuck from going in guns blazing, talks with him for a bit, and then Starbuck goes in guns blazing. These supposedly advanced beings take the non-interference thing a bit far; they have no physical form so cannot interact with anyone physically (though they constantly forget that as we see John often touching Apollo and Starbuck), they are not allowed to give our heroes any real useful information, and basically they just hang around like useless ghosts. Hell, Casper the Friendly Ghost would have been more help on this mission.


“Tell me the truth, your only ability is in bleaching our uniforms, right?”

In the previous two episodes we learned a little about the Eastern Alliance, the Space Nazis bent on complete conquest and the imposing of their doctrine on all worlds, but now in this episode we finally meet the Nationalists, and they aren’t all that great either. The President (Peter MacLean) is trying to cover up all the death and destruction perpetrated by the Eastern Alliance on the satellite worlds so that he can push his Peace Treaty that he’s managed to get the head of the Eastern Alliance to sign. When he heard that “Charlie Watts” has returned, from a place he knows was destroyed by the Eastern Alliance, he had Charlie/Apollo locked up so none of his people could hear of it and spoil the treaty with valid protests.


He’s kind of like Neville Chamberlain but with less charisma.

Back on the Galactica Commander Adama (Lorne Greene) has ordered Colonel to prepare to put the ship to light speed so they can get to Terra fast enough to rescue his son, That this means abandoning the rest of the fleet, with but a squadron of Vipers as protection, does not seem to bother him. Meanwhile his son has at no point tried to pretend he is Charlie Watts, as he was instructed to do, but constantly tries to explain to the Terrans that he is from a distant galaxy. He gives an impassioned speech about how his people use to believe that the opposite of war was peace, but quickly learned that strength and strength alone can ensure freedom. His brilliant rhetoric is of course ignored as the ravings of a madman, but before he can be tossed back in the nut factory they are all informed that the Eastern Alliance has launched all their nukes, and the Nationalist nukes have automatically launched in retaliation.


Battlestar Galactica or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb.

During all this Brenda and Starbuck had been driving around the desert in the hopes of finding his Viper. Question: Earlier we saw that he had a tracking device to locate Apollo, but he doesn't have one that can locate his own ship? Eventually they stumble across his Viper and launches in the hopes of getting to the Galactica and using its superior technology to prove to the Nationalist that Apollo isn’t nuts. John then pulls a Ben Kenobi and starts talking to Starbuck as he flies, informing him that Armageddon is about six minutes away. Starbuck radios the Galactica and fills them in on the situation; Adama orders battle stations which in this case mean putting some kind of laser shield over the entire planet so the missiles all explode harmlessly on space.


You’d think this kind of technology would have been damn useful against the Cylons.

With all their nukes destroyed by some advanced weapons the Eastern Alliance sues for peace on the terms set by the Nationalists, all the people and colonies that were wiped out by the Eastern Alliance’s war machine apparently forgotten. The episode ends with Apollo demanding that John tell him if Terra is the Earth they’ve been searching for and is told, "I'm sorry, Apollo... your journey is not over."


“Your princess is in another castle.”

The most painful element of this episode has to be John, the supposed Being of Light, who wants Apollo to save Terra because its destruction will cause repercussions that will affect even them. Strange that Apollo never asks where in the hell the Beings of Light were when the Cylons were unleashing genocide on the Twelve Colonies. And once again this show hammers the message that only the military can solve problems because politicians are all lying cowards who will roll over at the first sign of danger.


“We should shoot ourselves now; it will save them having to impeach us later.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Scooby Doo, Where Are You! (1969-1971) – Review

As iconic characters go Scooby Doo stands up at the top alongside the likes of Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny, you’d have to travel pretty far off the beaten track to find someone who hasn’t heard of the world’s most famous crime solving dog. By now three generations of children have grown-up following the adventures of Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and their lovable Great Dane…Scooby Doo!


"Scooby Doo, Where Are You?"

Let’s start off with a question, “What did these guys do for gas money?” Almost every episode had them travelling to some event when they'd get waylaid by a mystery, or sometimes the mystery would strike at the event itself, but what do our intrepid heroes do in between these adventures?


And we aren’t accepting pot dealers as an answer.

Back in the late 60s show creators Joe Ruby and Ken Spears had the idea of making an animated show about musicians, much in the same vein as The Archie Show, in which between gigs the gang would solve mysteries with the aid of their bongo playing dog named Too Much, and the show was going to be called Mysteries Five. The Network didn’t like the band angle, and thought the mysteries themselves were too scary for kids, so they decided to lighten the show up by focusing the stories on the gang’s goofy mutt, who henceforth would be named Scooby Doo.


"Ruh roh!"

The show was an instant hit among kids, with the original series running three seasons, and then of course spinning off into multiple different incarnations over the years. To this day there are fans of all ages, but what is it that made the show so immensely enjoyable? After watching a few episodes the basic formula is quite apparent; while on route to somewhere in the Mystery Machine the gang will stumble across a mystery, they will be chased by some monster or phantom, they will split up to look for clues, Shaggy and Scooby will find snacks and encounter the monster/ghost, Fred will come up with an elaborate Rube Goldberg type trap that will most likely fail due to Shaggy and Scooby setting it off by accident, but still the ghost/monster will be apprehended and revealed to not be an actual supernatural entity at all, but just Old Man Whithers (or similar human agency wearing a mask), who were using the scare factor to cover-up their crime or scam.


"...and I would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for you meddling kids."

Part of the success of the show is the very fact that it was formulaic because kids like the expected, it works as a kind of comfort food for them, sure they like to be scared once and awhile, but in the end it’s the safe routine they want. My nephews can watch the very same episode of one of their favorite shows ad nauseam, this is because among kids familiarity breeds content. Of course the other key factors in this shows popularity is the characters, there is at least one character in the group that the viewer can relate to; Fred Jones (Frank Welker) is the level headed leader of the group (I’m betting he’s the leader simply because he’s the one with a driver’s license), Daphne Blake (Stefanianna Christopherson/Heather North) the beautiful danger prone damsel, Velma Dinkley (Nicole Jaffey) the brains of the group, Norville "Shaggy" Rogers (Casey Kasem) the groups resident beatnik and slacker, and whose best friend is Scooby Doo (Don Messick), the world’s most lovable Great Dane.


What kid didn’t dream of having Scooby Doo as their best friend?

And that’s what he was, a friend, he wasn’t the groups pet he was an equal member of the gang with all the weight and responsibility that entails. Sure he and Shaggy were afraid of pretty much everything, but when the chips began to fall they were there at the finish line unmasking the villain. That is true courage. If the phrase “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger” were applied to these two they would have to be considered the strongest pair on the planet.


The premise to the show itself owes a great deal to the Universal Comedies starring Abbott and Costello where that comic duo encountered the likes of Dracula, the Mummy, and Frankenstein’s monster. Though in the case of Scooby Doo, Where Are You? their group consisted of three Abbotts and two Costellos. Now the true unsung hero of the series is Iwao Takamoto, the show’s production designer who gave it that iconic look. From the simple and elegant design of the characters, to the Gothic and scary mansions and landscapes, made this show so memorable. And I do mean memorably scary.  The green spectres that terrorized Scooby in the episode A Night of Fright Is No Delight gave me nightmares when I was a kid.

night of fright 

Masks or not those things were terrifying.

This show, along with the Flintstones, was easily the best thing coming out of Hanna-Barbera Productions at the time, and sure over the years the quality ebbed and waned, but those early halcyon days were glorious. Later incarnations of show mixed-things up by bringing in such characters as Scooby Dum and the much derided Scrappy Doo, and the show even had guest stars such as Sonny & Cher and Batman & Robin, but it was the first three season that I fell in love with when I was a kid, and they will always have a soft spot in my heart.


Note: In 1998 Warner Bros announced "This time, the monsters are real!" for the direct to video release of Scooby Doo on Zombie Island, and since then the Mystery Incorporated has been tackling actual ghosts and witches. I guess you can only take a formula so far before it becomes too absurd, after a couple of decades of it turning out to be guys in masks the gang would start to look like a group of gullible idiots to fall for that every time. And I did love the moment when they try to rip the mask off an actual zombie.


“I, I told you it wasn't a mask!”

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Tarzan and His Mate (1934) – Review

With the success of Tarzan the Ape Man both MGM and Edgar Rice Burroughs were keen for a sequel, and with the crazy amount of money RKO took in with King Kong the previous years, they decided to pour even more money into the sequel, making it grander and more action packed than the original.


Tarzan and His Mate starts off roughly the same way as the first film, with Harry Holt (Neil Hamilton) readying another safari to trek to the Mutia Escarpment and the elephant’s graveyard. Though this time instead of being partnered with Jane’s father, who died at the end of the last film, he has old school chum Martin Arlington (Paul Cavanagh), a man who though a good shot with the gun is a bit of womanizer and all around jerk. Harry has more than one motive in returning to the Mutia Escarpment and that would of course be Jane (Maureen O’Sullivan) who he still carries a torch from their last encounter.  He has loaded his safari with numerous items of woman’s clothing and perfume in the hopes of luring Jane out of the jungle, back into society, and hopefully into his arms. I think Holt would be better off he just stuck to hanging out with Arlington.


Arlington actually drops the soap in this scene.

Tarzan and the dangers of the jungle are not the only threat to this expedition as two other white men Henry Van Ness (Desmond Roberts) and Tom Pierce (William Stack), have stolen Holt’s map to the Mutia Escarpment, and their own safari now has a six hour head start. It becomes a race through hazardous terrain, for without the ivory Arlington will be penniless as he had invested the last of his money in this expedition. Once again we are shown how callous our white leads are here as they get a tad miffed when eight of the native bearers die of exhaustion because they had expected to only lose about ten for the entire trip. Seriously, these guys factored in how many people their expedition was going to lose and everyone seems cool with that. Worse is when Arlington shoots one of the bearers for cowardice and Holt chides him that, “A whip would have done just as well” he responds, “Perhaps you're right. He could have carried 150 pounds of ivory.”


“Which one of us is this film’s villain? We both seem like colossal asshats.”

They catch a lucky break when they come across the Pierce and Van Ness safari horribly murdered by the local cannibals. So with their competition out of the way it should be all smooth sailing…oh wait, those pesky cannibals than proceed to kill about a hundred of Holt and Arlington’s bearers as the group flee to “safety” of the Mutia Escarpment.


It’s tough being a white man in Africa.

Eventually they make it to the safety of the Escarpment; the cannibals can’t chase them there because the ground is sacred. How sacred do they consider this land? Well when one over enthusiastic cannibal chases them a little ways onto the Escarpment, he quickly realizes where he is standing, runs back to his people, kneels before his chieftain, and is stabbed to death. That is one harsh religion. Unfortunately our group then they find themselves in an “out of the frying pan into the fire situation” as they traverse the dangerous climb and encounter a group of angry apes who bombard the safari with rocks.


My guess is they're protecting the Monolith.

After losing a number of native bearers Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) finally shows up to call off the attack, and greets Harry and his new friend. It’s been a year since he last saw Tarzan and he still barely knows any English other than, “Tarzan, friend” or “Tarzan, love Jane” which begs the question, what the hell has Jane been doing with her time that she could have spent teaching Tarzan English? Pssst the answer is sex, lots and lots of sex.


Jane looking incredibly sexy in her two-piece jungle outfit.

Harry makes introductions and explains that he’s here for the promised return trip to the elephant’s graveyard, but he also spends much of his time wooing Jane with new clothes, perfume, and music from the gramophone they brought along. Arlington, the womanizer that he is, also makes a play for Jane and even kisses her. So not only is he making moves on a girl his best friend is interested in but also on the woman whose “husband” is the key to the success of this entire venture. I’m getting the impression he isn’t the brightest of lads.


Is this the kind of guy you want pissed off at you?

Jane likes the dresses, and admits there are some things in society she misses, but she loves Tarzan and has no interest in ever going back home. The love that exists between Tarzan and Jane is one element this movie series gets pretty much bang on. Though Jane in the books later becomes a badass jungle fighter in her own right, sadly the movie Jane is rarely given any job other than that of damsel in distress. In this movie he has to save her from a leopard, a crocodile, a rhino, and a pride of hungry lions, but they do have some time for play. It’s this movie that contains the infamous nude swimming sequence where Tarzan playfully rips off Jane’s dress as she dives into the river, and then the two partake in a beautiful underwater ballet.


Note: Not actually Maureen O’Sullivan but Olympic swimmer Josephine McKim.

This is the last we will see that much skin on Jane (double or not) as after this film Jane adopts a more modest one piece jungle attire and forgoes anymore nude swimming. Most audiences didn’t even get to see this underwater nude sequence as Joseph Breen, then director of public relations of the MPPDA, reported to his president Will Hays that these scenes, which included full frontal nudity, were unacceptable. It wasn’t until the late 90s, when Ted Turner purchased the MGM library, did this scene finally get restored. Yes, in 1934 you can have a film where countless people are savagely murdered, and even show topless black women, but a nude white woman was completely scandalous.


White woman living in sin with a jungle man was as far as they could push it.

So Holt and Arlington get their safari all geared up for the march to the elephant`s graveyard, with a borrowed elephant breaking trail for them, and all seems to be going well until the final penny drops. Tarzan had no idea the reason for this trip was to take the ivory. For him the elephant’s graveyard is the place where his friends “sleep” and he will not let Harry and company desecrate it. This is totally on Jane who never once thought to mention this to Tarzan. With the last of his money riding on the success of the expedition Arlington shoots an elephant so that they can follow the dying beast to the graveyard. It’s only Jane’s quick intervention that prevents Tarzan from breaking Arlington in half.


How did this idiot expect Tarzan to react?

Tarzan and Jane then leave as Holt, Arlington and the safari go off and follow the mortally wounded elephant. Neither of these two great hunters wonder why Tarzan seemed to let them off with just a warning, but once they find the elephant’s graveyard, and have their men pack up all the ivory, Tarzan arrives at the head of an angry herd of elephants to bring some jungle justice. Jane rushes over to Holt and Arlington telling them, “You’re my people. I don’t want to see you buried here with my father.” Arlington quickly tells Jane, “Perhaps after all we were wrong. The elephants are Tarzan’s friends. I realize we are violating something he holds sacred.” Holt’s incredulos “What?” at this change of heart is hilarious, more so in the fact that Jane actually buys into this baloney Arlington is selling.


“Tarzan, they have agreed to not take the ivory, and totally not shoot you the first chance they get.”

So Arlington shoots Tarzan the first chance he gets, while the ape man is out getting breakfast for Jane. Arlington sees Tarzan fall and sink into the river so he assumes the ape man is dead. What a moron. Jane is told by Arlington that he saw Tarzan being surprised by a crocodile and dragged into the river, something even Holt finds hard to believe, but without Tarzan the jungle holds no allure for Jane and so she agrees to go back with them to civilization. Oh, and she lets them take the ivory, cause screw Tarzan’s wishes now that he’s dead, but because karma is a bitch the safari soon encounter a local tribe known as the Men Who Eat Lions. Jane takes charge and tells the men to get their guns ready and make a run for the rocks.


It takes Tarzan being “dead” for Jane to be allowed to do anything cool.”

Jane, Holt, Arlington and couple of the surviving bearers make it to the rocks, but the box of ammunition is dropped and without it they have no chance of holding off the angry natives. While Holt and Arlington argue who should make a run for the ammunition box Saidi (Nathan Curry) the Head Bearer, makes a break for the box but is captured. The Men Who Eat Lions start blowing horns that imitate the call of a lion, and they tie poor Saidi to a tree as bait. In a surprising turn of heroism Holt races out into the open, firing at the natives, in an attempt to rescue Saidi, but sadly he catches a spear for his troubles, and then is mauled to death by the arriving lions.


The noble last stand of Harry Holt.

What is shocking is that Arlington himself is shortly taken out by a lion. We never get Tarzan’s revenge for the whole attempted murder. And on an even cooler note Tarzan never even tells Jane about Arlington’s action, he lets her go on thinking her people were all decent and good, and not backstabbing bastards. That speaks tons to his character more than a dozen jungle fights would. Of course the movie itself ends with an amazing jungle fight as Tarzan, who was nursed to health by Cheeta, and his ape friends arrive to battle the Men Who Eat Lions.


And what kind of Tarzan movie would we have without an elephant rescue?

The elephants show up and stomp and toss the feline menace around, and the day is saved. While Jane is saved; everyone from that safari, all two hundred bearers and the two white idiots, are dead. The elephants pick up all the dropped ivory and the movie ends as the group head off to return them to the elephant graveyard.



This was a fantastic movie with characters consisting of complex and multiple motivations. Neither Harry Holt nor Martin Arlington are your typical “Big White Hunters” that you get in most jungle adventures; they are shown to be callous yet at times thoughtful, duplicitous and cruel but also noble and self-sacrificing. These are not traits one is accustomed to seeing in these film and is what makes this possible the best of the Weissmuller/O’Sullivan Tarzan films. The story is well plotted, the action is fantastic, and Jane actually gets some cool stuff to do.


She takes on angry natives and fends off lions.

The film began under the direction of Cedric Gibbons, but the studio was not happy with how the schedule and budget was going so he was replaced by Jack Conway, but Maureen O’Sullivan recalls the actual direction was carried out by James C. McKay, who was hired only as the animal director. With that kind of mess behind the scenes it truly is surprising on how well it turned out.

Trivia Note: Indian Elephants are easier to train than African Elephants, so they were used for the Tarzan films, but they have noticeably smaller ears than their African cousins so large fake ears where attached.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Battlestar Galactica: Baltar’s Escape – Review

Do you remember the Cylon Empire and the holocaust that wiped out the Twelve Colonies? Well with the Galactica having successfully escaped the clutches of the Cylons, and as our heroes get closer and closer to Earth, the showrunners thought we could use some new villains. Genocidal robots is so old hat.


 Enter the Eastern Alliance, your typical Space Nazis with about the same combat abilities as your standard Stormtroopers or Cylon Centurion. So it's not so much a trade up in villains as it is a lateral move, and sure the Cylons were about as an effective as toddlers with depth perception issues, but at least they looked cool. This cannot be said of the Eastern Alliance whose look was later used in the Mel Brooks movie Spaceballs.


Seriously, who could look at these guys and not laugh?

This episode is all about how the Quorum of Twelve are a bunch of complete idiots whose sole purpose is to be sanctimonious and wrong. Commander Adama (Lorne Greene) wants to interrogate Commandant Leiter (Lloyd Bochner), who was the commander of an Eastern Alliance destroyer that they encountered in the previous episode Greetings from Earth, and who along with his crew were arrested and placed aboard the prison barge. Adama’s major concern is that if the planet Terra, which is where the Eastern Alliance hail from, is in fact the Earth they have been searching for, then they may have escaped the Cylons only to find themselves facing an equally oppressive human enemy. The Council on the other hand want to make peace with the Eastern Alliance believing that Adama’s warriors have caused this political mess. With this in mind the new leader of the Quorum, Sire Domra (John Hoyt) offers Adama the Star of Kobol award for all his service, but with clearly ulterior motives. Note: In the last episode Sire Geller (Murray Matheson) was the leader of the Quorum, and he is nowhere to be seen here. Is it possible that Adama is murdering off his enemies on the Council?


The leader of the Quorum has the life expectancy of a drummer for Spinal Tap.

Adama refuses the award as it’s clear that this is all a set up to force retirement on him. The Council ignore his statements that the fleet is still endangered and they put forth an edict stating that Martial Law, which has been apparently in effect since the destruction of the colonies, will be lifted and the fleet will return to civilian control. The first order of business is to have the Eastern Alliance prisoners transferred from the prison barge to the Galactica so diplomatic negotiations can begin. Also a member of the Quorum will remain on the Galactica in advisory capacity, so Siress Tinia (Ina Balin) is assigned to basically make Adama’s and Colonel Tigh’s (Terry Carter) lives a living hell.


“I told you we should have posted that NO GIRLS ALLOWED sign.”

When Adama orders that four Vipers escort the shuttle that will be ferrying the Eastern Alliance she vetoes that order saying that she wants the Eastern Alliance prisoners to see the effect of the new civilian government, and so wants no warriors involved, just the civilian security forces. As this group of idiots are even less competent than Cylons you can guess where this is going. Now somehow Baltar (John Colicos) got wind of this prisoner transfer and so he makes contact with the Borellian Nomen (The Klingon like hunters from the episode The Man with Nine Lives) and concocts a plan to escape the prison barge.


You wouldn’t think you’d have the man responsible for a holocaust working in the prison mess hall.

The Nomen use their ability to slow their metabolism down to fake their deaths which allows them to overcome the prison guards, and then with the now freed Eastern Alliance crewmembers they take control of the prison barge. Sheba (Anne Lockhart) and Boomer (Herbert Jefferson Jr.) got the terrible job of piloting the shuttle and due to the incompetent command decision of Siress Tinia, and the ineptitude of the civilian security forces, the shuttle is captured and headed for Galactica under the control of Baltar and friends.


“We need a name for ourselves, how does The Legion of Doom sound to you guys?”

When the Galactica loses contact with the prison barge Colonel Tigh wants to send a squadron of warriors to greet the shuttle, but Trinia overrules him because she has to make every wrong decision imaginable. Tigh doesn’t take this kind of crap lying down so he heads to the Officer’s Club to “get drunk” and “accidentally” tips Apollo (Richard Hatch) and Starbuck (Dirk Benedict) to what’s going on. The shuttle lands and The Legion of Doom easily take out the civilian security forces and captures the moronic council members, but their plan to capture the bridge is thwarted by the just in time arrival of Apollo and Starbuck.


Bridge blocked by Starbuck.

Baltar moves onto Plan B which involves having planted solonite charges with the following demands that his Cylon Raider, and the two pilots he came with to be released, as well as the Eastern Alliance destroyer. Those ships, and the shuttle, will then fly to Lunar Seven, which is a known base of the Eastern Alliance. If Adama tries anything funny they will detonate solonite charges and blow all the hostages to smithereens. The biggest stumbling block here is that Doctor Wilker (John Dullaghan) had completely taken apart the Cylon Centurions, and there is no way he can put them back together in the time allowed by Baltar. Note: I guess we are supposed to look past the point that the Cylons are a sentient race, and yet the people of the Galactica have no problem with robotic vivisection.


Apparently the Space Geneva Convention doesn’t cover sentient robots.

Adama and Siress Tinia give themselves up as extra hostages to buy Wilker time to reassemble the Cylons, but even put back together and walking around they are still too messed up to be capable of flying a ship, so Apollo comes up with the brilliant plan of waiting for the Cylon to malfunction just prior to launch, and then jump out, capture Baltar and snag his triggering device. It’s clear when one looks out all the Cylon parts and armor lying around Wilker’s lab that in some early draft Apollo and Starbuck were to have donned the armor and posed a Cylons. This would have made a great deal more sense and I have no idea why it was abandoned. As it is Baltar is re-captured but the Eastern Alliance crew escape in their destroyer, along with the Nomen.


“I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for those meddling kids.”

We never find out what happens to those escaped Eastern Alliance villains and the nefarious Nomen, maybe if the show had got a second season they may have reappeared, but I guess we can assume they are just living it up on Lunar Seven. The episode has a terrifying epilogue where Colonel Tigh is back in the Officer’s Club, relieved that the Quorum has re-instated martial law and Siress Tinia is out of his life, when low and behold she walks in on Adama’s arm.


Adama, you old dog you.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Goodnight Mommy (2014) - Review

Is that person in your house really your mom or dad, or have they been insidiously replaced by someone or something else? This element of horror hinges on the innocence and vulnerability of a child, an aspect well explored in such films as the 1953 Invaders From Mars, but in Goodnight Mommy writer and co-directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala take this idea into much darker realms.

goodnight mommy poster

The film introduces us to twin brothers Elias (Elias Schwarz) and Lukas (Lukas Schwarz) who live in a modern, but very isolated house. The brothers are inseparable and devoted to each other, even when slapping and punching each other to see who’s toughest you can tell their bond is unbreakable. They roam around this idyllic Austrian countryside, swimming in the still waters of the nearby lake, exploring strange bone laden cairns, and playing tag in cornfields, but there is something always a bit off putting in their play.


Is playing Children of the Corn a thing in Austria?

Summer fun is interrupted with the return of their mother (Susanne Wuest) whose been away undergoing some kind of facial surgery. To say the bandaged swathed visage of their mother is creepy would be a gross understatement, and one can certainly understand the boy’s reticence to greet her with hugs and kisses. But it’s not just their mother’s appearance that has the twins concerned for she isn’t acting like the mother they remember, she has moody outbursts and no longer treats the boys as she did before going to the hospital.


Question: Who was taking care of these kids while she was off becoming the Bride of Frankenstein?

As more clues are revealed Elias and Lukas become more entrenched with the idea that this woman is not their mother, but how can two kids win against something they can’t or won’t understand? It’s this psychological battle that makes up the crux of the film and for the most part Franz and Fiala do a fantastic job of ratcheting up the tension as horrifying mystery unfolds. Now there is a crucial element of the plot that many viewers will spot earlier on, about the ten minute mark for me, so I can’t even call it a twist as any remotely astute person will figure it out long before “The big reveal” in the third act, but it's the figuring out of what’s truly going on is what makes this film so engaging.


"Mom, have you seen my copy of Lord of the Flies?"

And really the plot isn’t what holds this film together, it’s the three central performances, and they are superb as they are chilling. Real life twins Elias and Lukas do much of the heavy lifting for their mother is often but a scary form in the shadows, but when Susanne Wuest, as the titular mommy, is given time to shine she provides such an interesting and multi-faceted performance that it reminded me of Essie Davis’s equally excellent performance in 2014 film The Babadook. Another key element in this movie is that it keeps the audience guessing, even if you think you’ve figured out the twist there is a lot going on here, and you must ask yourself, “Is everything I’m seeing actually happening?”


Now some people may be put off by the tonal shift in the third act from psychological thriller to what some may consider torture porn, which is my least favorite horror subgenre, but for this film it is not overdone, fits in organically, and makes total sense when you finally reach the chilling conclusion. For me the only negative element in the film’s entire running time was the strange appearance of the most persistent Red Cross donation collectors ever. Sure the scene creates some nice tension, and even a bit of humor, but the introduction of these new characters amongst are closely knit trio comes across as odd and unnecessary. That aside this is a well-crafted film with gorgeous cinematography provided by Martin Gschlacht, making this is a must see for fans of horror, and joining the likes of The Guest, The Babadook and It Follows in the pantheon of awesome modern horror films.