Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

A reassurance they made quality movies 67 years ago. This one is The Man Who Cheated Himself, from 1950. All right. I said they made good movies, not good titles. It’s a nice view, featuring Lee J. Cobb and Jane Wyatt, but it still has a number of flaws. I caught it streaming on Amazon Prime Video, the go-to place for old movies. Details are from Wikipedia.

The opening scene shows a man unpacking a new handgun he has purchased for himself. We have to wonder what he plans to do with it. We see him loading it with six cartridges and secreting it on a bookshelf. Then he scoops up the packaging and tosses it into the fireplace, to be consumed. Except viewers see a piece of paper fall to the floor unnoticed. We will later learn this is the gun’s inspection ticket from the manufacturer.

Next the man goes outside onto the balcony and closes the French doors. Then he uses a tool to jimmy the lock and let himself in. Then he closes the door and puts away the tool. His suspicious wife is knocking on the other door and wondering why he has it locked.

The wife, Lois Frazer (Wyatt), has it out with her husband, Howard Frazer (Harlan Warde). We won’t be seeing him, because he’s going to get killed early in the film. Anyhow, Lois is the one with all the money, which is why Howard married her. Now all that is over, and divorce preparations are in  work. Howard is off to catch a flight to Seattle, where he expects to do some salmon fishing. Before leaving he advises Lois that she really should change her will so he won’t get all her money if something happens to  her. Heh, heh.

Now Lois spots the inspection ticket and realizes Howard has plans for her. She phones her friend, her very close friend, Police Lieutenant Edward Cullen (Cobb). But Edward does not answer the phone. Edward’s younger brother Andy (John Dall) does. He tells Lois Edward is out of the office. She says she will call back. Andy is moving into his new office as a police detective. He hopes to learn a lot from his brother. He does.

When Lois finally gets Edward on the phone, she tells him about the gun. She thinks Howard is up to something. She wants Edward to come over immediately.

Edward and Lois have something going together. Lois does this a lot. Howard is her second husband, and Edward is scheduled to be the third.

When Edward arrives at Lois’ sumptuous home, she tells him she found the gun. Edward tells her to go get it, and after she picks up the gun she hears somebody entering by way of the French doors. It’s Howard, and he lunges for Lois. She shoots him dead. That’s a big problem. Lois does not want to go to jail. Edward needs to help her cover up the killing.

Edward phones the airport and learns Howard’s flight is not until much later. He’s at the airport. Edward’s plan is to drop Howard’s body off outside the airport, take his wallet, and make it appear Howard was robbed and murdered at the airport.

That doesn’t go well. It’s dark when Edward dumps Howard’s body, and as he starts to drive away two tourists ask him for directions. He ignores them and drives away. Then they find Howard’s body and call the police. They can’t describe Edward, but the man describes the car.

Things go downhill for Edward, but Lois is not concerned. Her sweet butt is going to be safe. Please note that people smoked a lot in those old movies.

Edward has tossed the gun off the Bay Bridge. But shortly it is used to kill a liquor store clerk in a robbery. The bullets match with the ones that killed Howard. A fisherman’s net retrieved the gun, and the fisherman’s son is implicated. He cops to the liquor store caper, but he can prove he was not at the airport.

Much to Edward’s chagrin, Andy has been doing first class police work, and the evidence is pointing to Edward. The tourist identifies Edward’s car. An APB goes out for Edward and his car. San Francisco is a city with only six ways out, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Oakland Bay Bridge, and apparently four land routes. The city is sealed off.

But Edward knows a place where he and Lois can hide out. It’s an abandoned facility at Fort Point, the Presidio, adjacent to the Golden Gate Bridge. But it’s a place that Andy knows about, as well, and he drives out there to look around. Edward and Lois have stashed their car, but Andy finds it. A note left on the windshield is meant for Andy. The note says they have left.

But Andy is suspicious. He climbs the heights, but does not spot Edward and Lois hiding in the upper tower. The notorious San Francisco wind blows Lois’ scarf away, and it floats down to  the compound court yard. Does Andy see it as he gets in his car and departs?

Apparently so. After dark, as Edward and Lois leave the fort and attempt to flee on foot across the bridge, the police spring their trap and arrest them.

The movie ends in the Superior Court where Edward is escorted out by a cop, his career shattered and facing prison time. Lois leaves on the arms of her new boyfriend, her high-priced attorney, hoping to be the next husband.

Yeah, the title is one for the books. The Man Who Cheated Himself? That does not even  make sense and is hard to relate to the plot. If you are going for a title that’s mildly evocative of the plot, how about something like One Lie Too Many?

It’s a clever plot, but a bit thin. A smart police detective like Edward does all the wrong things, and he never gets a break.

Lois shoots Howard in his presence, and that should have been the end of it. There is proof Howard bought the gun. There is proof he went to the airport and then returned, entering by way of the French doors, which he previously jimmied. A little white lie, and Edward and Lois could have made a perfect case of self defense. Instead, Edward goes way out on a limb to protect wicked Lois from scandal.

Carry Howard’s body back to the airport and dump it? It’s going to be obvious the body was moved. Any police detective would know that.

Giving the tourists the brush off? Why not just tell them which way to the parking lot and wait for them to leave before driving off. Then they would be long gone, and they would never connect Edward with the dead body.

Edward dumps the gun off the bridge. Last time I was in San Francisco, the airport was south of the city, in Burlingame. You don’t cross a bridge to get to and from the airport. Edward had to detour across the Oakland Bay Bridge, stopping at a toll plaza, where he could be and was recognized. Then back the other way across the bridge. I don’t know about 1950, but currently you pay tolls entering the city, and the bridges are free leaving.

Like I said, Edward doesn’t get a break. The gun is immediately found and used in a shooting.

Andy, his new bride beside him, drives through a red light and gets a ticket. The cop tells Andy about seeing Edward on the bridge.

Yes, this plot requires a string of improbabilities.

The print is sharp with a full range of tones, but a bit shopworn. There is a section containing a number of splices, losing a few seconds of back and forth between Edward and Andy.

Lee J. Cobb turns in the kind of top performance we have come to expect of him. Four years later he killed (really) in On the Waterfront. Jane Wyatt is the perfect classy bitch. I always saw her as the actress you signed when Jane Wyman wasn’t available.

This one never caught the full attention of Wikipedia and IMDb. Neither provides a plot synopsis. You can watch it for free on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZXsoLg88-o

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Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This is akin to beating a dead horse. Since Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out 38 years ago critics have been whipping it back and forth, the consensus being that it missed the Star Trek frame of mind from the 1960s. And it’s overly long. It’s from Paramount Pictures in 1979. Here’s a quick look and some personal comments. Everybody knows the characters. I’m only going to credit the newcomers. I just watched it on Hulu, but it’s also available on Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia.

In the beginning we see Spock undergoing the Kolinahr ceremony, but he cannot complete it and accept the medallion. Apparently he returns to Star Fleet.

The movie is sprinkled with spectacular views of Star Fleet operations.

Admiral Kirk takes command of the Enterprise, displacing Captain Willard Decker (Stephen Collins), much to Decker’s displeasure.

Apparently Enterprise has undergone some refitting, and the shakedown is not going well. The scene moves to the Enterprise bridge, where much disarray is obvious.

Long expected, if you ever watched the original TV series, there comes the eventual transporter accident. Two people are lost when the transport malfunctions. Long faces all around.

Replacement crew comes in the form of navigator Ilia (Persis Khambatta) from Delta. She’s an old flame of Decker’s.

There’s eye candy in the form of graphics and visual effects. I could not help noticing the rounded corners of this display screen. Those are hold-overs of when display screens were CRTs.

The Enterprise‘s mission is a mysterious cloud approaching Earth. As the Enterprise draws near it encounters powerful forces, ominous warnings, and the invasion of the bridge by a plasma column and an arcing beam. The beam lands on Ilia, and she vanishes, clothing and all.

Ilia soon returns in the form of a mechanical reproduction, right down to Ilia’s personality. Except the mechanical Ilia has been sent as a communications device to the Enterprise. The source is also purely mechanical, and it wants to be connected to the Creator. Nobody can figure out who or what the Creator is. The alien life form (the cloud) refers to itself as V’Ger (veejer).

Penetrating deep into V’Ger, the Enterprise crew discovers at its heart the Voyager 6 spacecraft, a fiction reflecting on the Voyager spacecraft program of the 20th century. The spacecraft has lost its ability to send back its data, and developed V-Ger as a means to get our attention.

Decker melds with the mechanical Ilia, and both join V’Ger in its quest for knowledge. And it all could have been accomplished in little over an hour instead of two hours and 12 minutes.

This movie runs long scenes with nothing much happening. Too much attention is paid to atmosphere and not enough to the story.

Bad Moon Rising

Where did this come from?

I see the bad moon rising
I see trouble on the way
I see earthquakes and lightnin’
I see bad times today

So, what does this have to do with the Kecksburg conspiracy stories? First I need to bring you up to date. Plans are ramping up for a motion picture, and pitchmen are turning up the heat. From INDIEGOGO:

A mystery solved, Government lies exposed!

This feature film will help drive interest and solve a 52 year old mystery.  The US government has refused to tell the truth, even to the Clintons.  What is so secret that even they can’t know?  But to expose the truth, we can’t just depend on traditional film financing, we need your help.

The producer is Cody Knotts, originally from Taylortown, PA., and the above link leads to a pitch for crowd-funding to get the picture off the ground. The pitch, apparently penned by Knotts, stresses these additional points:

  • The public deserves to know the truth about Kecksburg. Our government has no right to continue to hide the truth.  Even Hillary Clinton can’t get the records, but this feature film can help keep Kecksburg in the public eye.  Even more important, this film can help drive tourism to the Pittsburgh region and Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Roswell gets $95 million annually and Kecksburg nearly nothing.
  • Are you tired of your government lying to you?  Then join our fight, help us make this film.  Help us expose the truth.
  • Do you care about Pittsburgh?  Would you like to help change a region for the better?
  • Films are forever.  They last beyond our lifetimes.  This is our chance to tell a story that has fascinated the public for decades.  Bryant Gumble, Ancient AliensUnsolved Mysteries and the History Channel  have all investigated Kecksburg but no one has brought the legend to life, until now.  We need your help and we want you to be a part of the legend.

There is a load of appeal to logic and reason here.

Actually, there is not, and a quick review of the story is worth considering.

On 9 December 1965 a significant fireball (meteor) was observed above the United States northern tier, roughly along the border with Canada. There are multiple accounts, giving differing conclusions. Here are two from the same Wikipedia entry:

Sky and Telescope

Several articles were written about the fireball in science journals. The February 1966 issue of Sky & Telescope reported that the fireball was seen over the Detroit-Windsor area at about 4:44 p.m. EST. The Federal Aviation Administration had received 23 reports from aircraft pilots, the first starting at 4:44 p.m. A seismograph 25 miles southwest of Detroit had recorded the shock waves created by the fireball as it passed through the atmosphere. The Sky & Telescope article concluded that “the path of the fireball extended roughly from northwest to southeast” and ended “in or near the western part of Lake Erie”.

Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

A 1967 article by two astronomers in the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (JRASC) used the seismographic record to pinpoint the time of passage over the Detroit area to 4:43 p.m. In addition, they used photographs of the trail taken north of Detroit at two different locations to triangulate the trajectory of the object. They concluded that the fireball was descending at a steep angle, moving from the southwest to the northeast, and likely impacted on the northwestern shore of Lake Erie near Windsor, Ontario.

Wikipedia points out the obvious. The two reports are contradictory. On one point they both agree. The object in question landed near the western end of Lake Erie. Something equally obvious is not pointed out. The western shore of Lake Erie is a long way from Kecksburg, PA. So, where does Kecksburg come into this? Your guess is as good as mine.

That notwithstanding, following the flash in the sky, there were reports of an object landing near Kecksburg. Again from Wikipedia:

However, eyewitnesses in the small village of Kecksburg, about 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, claimed something crashed in the woods. A boy said he saw the object land; his mother saw a wisp of blue smoke arising from the woods and alerted authorities. Another reported feeling a vibration and “a thump” about the time the object reportedly landed. Others from Kecksburg, including local volunteer fire department members, reported finding an object in the shape of an acorn and about as large as a Volkswagen Beetle.

And the story devolved from there. There are claims that government officials came and cordoned off the area, confiscated photographic film and audio recordings, some of which were produced in preparation for reports on the incident. Anyhow, the sum total of the story is an amazing abuse of government power and of an attempt to cover up, something. Amazing, provided any or all of these reports are true.

In 1967 there was a follow-up investigation. From Wikipedia:

A 1967 article by two astronomers in the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (JRASC) used the seismographic record to pinpoint the time of passage over the Detroit area to 4:43 p.m. In addition, they used photographs of the trail taken north of Detroit at two different locations to triangulate the trajectory of the object. They concluded that the fireball was descending at a steep angle, moving from the southwest to the northeast, and likely impacted on the northwestern shore of Lake Erie near Windsor, Ontario.

Again, others besides those involved in the story are pinpointing the site of the landing hundreds of miles from Kecksburg.

Nearly forty-four years after the event Space.com published a report on another investigation headlined “Is Case Finally Closed on 1965 Pennsylvania ‘UFO Mystery’?” and the essence of which is:

NASA’s resulting search, monitored by the court, was completed in August 2009. The outcome of the investigation is available in Kean’s paper, which was posted online this month to the coalition’s Web site.

Despite, “posted online this month to the coalition’s Web site,” no such report is found on the coalition’s Web site. Regardless, the conclusion of Kean’s paper is supposedly this:

The report, flatly titled, “The Conclusion of the NASA Lawsuit – Concerning the Kecksburg, PA UFO case of 1965,” explains how the process worked and the results of the search after the 2007 settlement in federal court.

The bottom line: No smoking gun documents were released, Kean notes, but many provocative questions and unresolved contradictions were raised by what was received, as well as by the fact that many files were missing or destroyed.

All this leaves ample room for the development of conspiracy theories and for the people who make them into a business. And business this appears to be. From the INDIEGOGO site:

Roswell generates $95 million annually, Kecksburg nearly nothing.  Although Kecksburg has more documentation, more witnesses and more mystery… it has never been commercialized.  This film is the key element in changing that dynamic, both shedding a light on the truth and jump starting the local economy of Pittsburgh, the Laurel Highlands, Westmoreland, Somerset and Fayette Counties.

As part of these efforts, we are working with local political leaders to bring this film to life. In addition, local Pittsburgh stars like Curt Wootton (Pittsburgh Dad), Shane Douglas (5 time world wrestling champion) and Richard John Walters (My Bloody Valentine 3D) are all part of the cast.

And more. There is additional language on the INDIEGOGO site concerning commercial appeal. For example:

You can be listed as an Abductee in the film, get cool alien statues and even be in the film.  Even better you could have a movie poster with YOU on it!  If you can make it to the premiere, you can hang with the cast, walk the red carpet and help shed light on a 52 year old mystery.

Apparently in return for helping to underwrite production.

Running throughout is the theme of government malfeasance and mysterious doings that might include contact with extraterrestrials. These kinds of themes find great appeal with a segment of the population. And that’s how I came to hear about it. A friend of Knotts posted a link to the INDIEGOGO site on Facebook, and that started a conversation. After a few exchanges I chimed in, posting a link to my review of the movie Fire in the Sky and comparing it to the Kecksburg production. I got this response:

…and you label “Kecksburg” as being based on fantasies by… having seen the script, perhaps? Having weighed witness testimonies in THAT incident?

..and “based on an actual event” still indicates fiction is involved, right?

Well, yes. Fiction is almost always involved in a dramatization. But there is more depth. I responded:

“as being based on fantasies” I know the Kecksburg story, and there is a load of fantasy involved. I have not read the script, but I see the promo headlining the following: “Kecksburg: It’s time for the truth! For 52 years the US Government has hidden what happened in Kecksburg. Now the truth will be known.”

I’m a reasonable person, not prone to jump to conclusions. But this has all the smell of a supposed expose of a supposed conspiracy. Stand by for an analysis of the Kecksburg story, coming soon to a blog post near you.

Hence this posting.

I cannot be sure my Facebook friend concedes to the theme of the  movie, but there are others who do, and they are legion. They are the drivers of a thriving  industry in this country and around the world. The movie JFK is unabashed in its proposal for an alternate theory of President Kennedy’s assassination. I have encountered at least one person who finds the movie to be evidence. I previously worked with some French researchers, and one remarked to me his amazement at learning many Americans believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Fact is, the French may be more inclined to accept these notions than we are. I have a book by Thierry Meyssan that goes to great length to fabricate a defiant version of the 9/11 attacks.

Full disclosure. The producer of Southern Fried Bigfoot approached me a few years ago and asked whether I would be willing to be interviewed on camera about cryptozoology. As a result I wound up with an IMDb screen credit. Also a copy of the video for those interested in watching it.  So I have contributed in a small way to this industry.

If and when the Kecksburg movie comes out I will do a review. There will be more. Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

In line with reviewing a bunch of movies in August, here’s another. By the time you read this I will be taking some time off, and I don’t want to be bothered reviewing movies on my day off.

This is from 2011, distributed by Foresight Unlimited. It’s Flypaper, featuring Patrick Dempsey and Ashley Judd. And it’s a spoof, so I have no intention of taking much of this seriously. It’s currently streaming on Hulu, and details are from Wikipedia.

First I have to show a screen shot from the credits. Well done. Could have been the work of Saul Bass, long dead.

The action opens with a shot of somebody’s chronograph. It’s on the arm of a shady character, Jack Hayes (Eddie Matthews), who falls in behind Swiss Miss (Natalia Safran) as she enters a bank.

Meanwhile some maintenance workers unload their equipment and suit up to get on the job. Only, we know these aren’t union workers, because they exhibit a lot of hustle and diligence in getting the job done quickly.

A scruffy character named Tripp (Dempsey) sidles up to the counter, where Kaitlin Nest (Judd) smiles invitingly. The neckline of her dress is also inviting.

Also, Kaitlin is getting married. She has a stack of wedding presents behind the counter. That is significant.

Tripp is really an odd character. He asks for change for a hundred. He wants it in nickels, dimes, quarters, and ones. Then he changes his mind, and wants a different mix. He changes his mind again. Kaitlin is very accommodating. This is the bank where you want to do business.

Then Tripp glances around. Two more characters, scruffier than he is, enter the bank and start to  unload their baggage. Meanwhile the “maintenance workers” have penetrated the upper security door to the bank.

Tripp informs Kaitlin he thinks the bank is about to be robbed, and he leaps over the counter, taking her down on top of himself. Just where he always wanted to be.

And that’s when the killing starts.

It’s all a big farce, of course. Two separate crews have arrived at the same time to rob the same bank. One crew is high-tech, very professional, military precision. The other crew consists of two grease-neck jake-legs with barely an idea of how they are going to pull the whole thing off. As the day progresses the two gangs clash, Hayes is shot by a person unknown, and he turns out to be an FBI agent.

There is hostage taking, explosions, random gunfire, lights going off and back on, mysterious killings, revelations about who is involved in which robbery.

Spoiler Alert: Don’t read further if you plan on seeing the movie.

Everybody winds up getting killed except Tripp, Kaitlin, the two grease neck robbers, and two other bank people. The dead people turn out to be involved one way or another in the robberies. After the three professionals and the mastermind meet their just desserts, Tripp allows the grease necks to skedaddle with bags of loot, and the four survivors walk out. The police help Kaitlin load her wedding presents into her car.

Only, Tripp knows, as we all suspected, there is only one reason a sexy bank teller would have a stack of wedding presents behind the counter. She has loaded the boxes with bank money, and Tripp convinces her to let him in on the deal. They drive off together in Kaitlin’s Mercedes Benz.

What gets this designation as Wednesday’s bad movie is that it is all very silly, significant directing, cinematography, and acting notwithstanding. Worth a watch.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Here’s an old one from 1983, and it’s not so bad. There are obvious flaws and considerable prescience evident. I will explain later. It’s The Dead Zone, based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name. It’s from Paramount Pictures, currently streaming on  Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia.

This is about psychic powers, to be expected from Stephen King. We see high school English teacher Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) giving his final lecture, only he doesn’t realize it yet. He finishes reading The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe, and promises to get into The Legend of Sleepy Hollow next time. Then he meets up with teacher and lover Sarah Bracknell (Brooke Adams), and they head off for an afternoon riding a roller coaster before heading back to Sarah’s house for some serious necking. But the ride has put Johnny off his stride, and he declines Sarah’s offer of sexual delights, vowing to save it for after their marriage. Quaint, to say the least, and nearly fatal.

On the drive home Johnny encounters a character that makers of Pet Sematary sought to use six years later. It’s the careless truck driver, shown in multiple flashes as catastrophe draws ever nearer. Sure enough, it’s a tanker truck, and the driver jackknives it in front of Johnny’s little car. Fortunately it’s only carrying milk. Unfortunately Johnny is unable to avoid clipping the end of the skidding trailer.

Five years later Johnny awakes from a coma in the Weizak Clinic, operated by Dr. Sam Weizak (Herbert Lom). Sarah has already married somebody else and has a child, a device later used in Cast Away, not by Stephen King.

But something has happened to Johnny during his coma. He has developed psychic powers. When he clasps the nurse’s hand he gets a vision of her young daughter home alone with the house on fire. The fire department is summoned in time to rescue the child. People start to wonder about Johnny.

Grasping Dr. Weizak’s hand, Johnny sees back to the time of the German invasion of Poland in 1939, when Sam’s mother gave him up to a wagon loaded with refugees, sacrificing herself. But Johnny tells Dr. Weizak that his mother is still alive. He tells him where she is now. Dr. Weizak phones and hears the voice of his mother.

Johnny’s mother dies, and Johnny goes home to live with his father. Sarah comes to visit while Johnny’s father is out. She brings along her child, and while the child is sleeping she unbuttons her blouse to give Johnny what she intended to give him five years before. It turns out to be the only pussy Johnny ever gets in his life.

But there is a series of crimes in Castle Rock, Maine (Stephen King is from Maine). Young women and girls are being raped and murdered. It’s a plague that’s been going on for over three years. Can Johnny help? Finally he agrees, and he goes to the scene where the body of a young waitress has been found on a snow-swept gazebo. Johnny removes her mitten and holds her bare hand. He sees the crime being committed. He sees the stalker lure a woman he knows up onto the gazebo. He sees the attack. He sees the killer’s face. It’s the sheriff’s deputy.

Johnny goes with the sheriff to the deputy’s house, where the deputy kills himself with the same scissors he used on his victims. But the deputy’s mother shoots Johnny, and the sheriff kills the mother.

Recovered again, Johnny has a talk with Dr. Weizak, who tells him about verified cases of psychic abilities and about a dead zone. Hence the title. Johnny must abstain from psychic activity, else it will consume his life, and he will die.

Johnny moves to another town and becomes a private tutor. One client is Roger Stuart (Anthony Zerbe) a man of great wealth who has a son who isolates himself from others. What the boy tells Johnny is revealing. It’s the father who lives in isolation. The day Johnny first comes to the Stuart home he is introduced to a campaigning politician named Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen). He also meets Stillson’s creepy henchman, Sonny Elliman (Géza Kovács). Stillson gives the appearance of evil personified. He is power mad and grasping, and nothing will stand in his way. Here is where Stephen King is remarkably prescient. We all know that Stephen King is no fan (understatement alert) of Donald Trump, and Stillson is a remarkable take on politician Trump. After the sinister duo leaves, Stuart tells Johnny he should register to vote, and he should vote against Stillson.

The son makes great progress under Johnny tutelage, but one day Johnny touches him and foresees a future tragedy, as the boy and another fall through the ice in a hockey game on a pond. He demands the hockey tournament Stuart has planned be canceled. Instead Stuart dismisses Johnny and tells his son the game must go on. The boy refuses to play, and the next day the newspaper announces the tragedy of two boys drowning after crashing through the ice at the hockey game.

Surprise. There is a Stillson rally scheduled across the street from where Johnny is living, and Sarah and her new husband show up to hand out Stillson campaign literature. Johnny decides to attend the rally and to meet Stillson again.

He does, and he shake hands with Stillson and sees the future. He see’s Stillson, now President of the United States, awake in the middle of the night with a sudden vision that he must launch nuclear missiles to settle an international dispute. He forces his military commander under threat of violence to submit his hand print to approve the launch.

Johnny talks to Dr. Weizak and confirms that had Weizak known of future events, he would have killed Adolf Hitler. Johnny determines he must kill Stillson. He sneaks into a campaign rally and secretes himself in an upper balcony.

When Stillson takes the stage, with Sarah, holding her child nearby, Johnny rises up to take the shot. But Sarah spots him in the balcony and calls out to him. Stillson turns aside, and Johnny’s shot misses. What comes next is the killer scene. Stillson reveals his true self. He grabs Sarah’s child and holds him up to protect himself from Johnny’s next shot. Sonny shoots Johnny, who lies dying as Stillson leans over him demanding to know who he is. Johnny has one last vision. It’s the future cover of Newsweek showing the image above and carrying the caption “No Future For Stillson.” He sees a pistol lying on the magazine cover, and he sees Stillson picking up the pistol and placing it under his chin. There is a shot, and Stillson’s blood spatters the cover. Johnny tells Stillson, “It’s over. You’re finished.”

Stillson and Sonny leave the auditorium on bad terms, and Johnny dies in Sarah’s arms.

And that is that. What to make of it?

Letting slide the matter of psychic abilities, Weizak’s claim that there are verified cases of psychic abilities is false. But then, this is fiction.

Then there is the opening scene. English scholar Johnny Smith tells his student The Raven is a great work of poetry. It is not. Poe was a great word smith but not a recognized poet. No critical review give The Raven marks as significant poetry.

Five years in a coma, and we are told Johnny has suffered some physical debilitation. The movie shows a man in remarkable condition for having just come out of a five-year coma.

Sarah comes by to visit Johnny and to swap some DNA. It’s an interesting interlude, but it is not relevant to the plot.

Yeah, no real military commander is going to  allow a lunatic President coerce him into participating in a mass murder. Think what you will of our guys, but they are really made of sterner stuff.

The final scene is  totally contrived. A man with a rifle tries to shoot a political candidate in an auditorium full of people and is, in turn, shot to death. And everybody leaves the room so Sarah can have last, tender moments with Johnny. Really? In real life there would be law enforcement all over in 15 seconds. This was directed by David Cronenberg, who takes full responsibility for the absurdity. Producer Dino De Laurentiis is on the hook for lack of management oversight.

We see Stillson as an egomaniac of the lowest character, threatening and bullying in his climb to power. It’s as though 38 years ago (the book came out in 1979) Stephen King envisioned the rise of Donald Trump. Only, in the case of Trump, holding up a baby as a shield would not have dissuaded his loyal base. Nice try, Stephen.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I first caught a glimpse of this while sitting through a long airplane ride. I didn’t plug in the ear buds, opting, instead, to try and get some sleep. I opened my eyes from time to time and kept seeing the same thing as before. I knew at the time I would need to see this movie some day, for free.

And here it is, Spider-Man, from 2002, now streaming on Hulu. All right, I did not actually watch it for free, because Hulu is a subscription service. However, I did not have to pay extra to watch Spider-Man after watching all that other stuff on Hulu, including Elementary, which I watch a lot. Spider-Man was distributed by Columbia Pictures. Details are from Wikipedia.

Anybody not just now climbing out of a World War Two Nazi bunker knows the Spider-Man story. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is a nerdy high school senior who has the hots for Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), also a senior and in Peter’s class. Actually, with a lot more class. Anyhow, at a school outing at Columbia University, Peter gets bitten on the finger by a mutant spider.

Returning from the outing and feeling mighty fatigued, Peter sleeps the remainder of the night. The next morning he awakes to an amazing transformation. He has developed the spiders’ quality of strength and agility, plus the ability to shoot spider web stuff. He shows his macho by defeating the perennial school bully.

He wins a pro-wrestling contest, only to be stiffed by the manager. His favorite uncle is killed by a mugger, and “Spidey” goes on the prowl for bad guys, in his made-to-order super hero costume.

A nemesis appears in the form of Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), billionaire father of Peter’s high school friend Harry. From there through the remainder of the movie it’s Spider-Man versus the Green Goblin (Norman Osborn transformed). All the while Peter watches from the side as Jane cuddles with Harry.

In the end, Spider-Man defeats the Green Goblin. Actually, the Green Goblin defeats himself when his robotic craft runs him through and through. And the plot consists of Spider-Man doing great deeds and the duet of Peter and Jane never connecting. It ends with Harry vowing to avenge his father’s destruction at the hands of Spider-Man. There will be a sequel.

And I will not be watching. It’s a small miracle this movie did not qualify as a Bad Movie of the Week.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I’m celebrating 20th anniversaries, and here is another from 1997. I first caught it on broadcast TV many years back, and a noticeable difference is they cleaned up the language for home viewing. The movie features a bunch of tough-talking truckers and situations of intense emotion. It’s Breakdown, from Paramount Pictures and featuring Kurt Russell as ordinary guy Jeff Taylor, caught in critical circumstances. It’s a fairly well written and produced film, so there is not much to complain about, except for obvious plot contrivances. As I  write this, Breakout is streaming on Amazon Prime video where I go when I am desperate for a bad or not so good movie to review. Details are from Wikipedia.

Jeff and his sweet wife Amy (Kathleen Quinlan) are on a drive from Boston to San Diego in their new Jeep 4X4. A bit of preamble: Jeff has a close encounter with roughneck Earl (M. C. Gainey), then at a fuel stop a bit later it gets face-to-face. The reason this is important is that shortly after Jeff and Amy get out on the road the Jeep stops completely. Complete electrical failure, apparently. Earl comes by in his pickup truck but does not stop. Except, he drives a bit down the road, turns around, stops for a while, then keeps on going. Things are getting suspicious. Next a semi rig stops, and the driver, Warren “Red” Barr (J. T. Walsh) offers advice and help. He will drive them to Belle’s Diner, where they can call for a tow truck.

Critical here is that Jeff elects to stay with the Jeep, and Amy hitches a ride with Red. It’s the last we see of Amy until the end of the movie.

Yeah, Jeff discovers the Jeep’s problem is a loose electrical connector, and he fixes that. But when he gets to Belle’s Diner, Amy is nowhere to be found. Red did not stop at Belles. Things are getting mighty suspicious.

The local police are no help. Jeff catches Red’s truck out on the highway and forces Red to stop. The sheriff comes by about then, and Jeff explains the matter. Red denies ever having seen the Taylors before. Jeff can’t get any additional help from the local police, so he backtracks. Outside Belle’s, an apparent retard named Billy (Jack Noseworthy) advises Jeff that he knows what’s going on, and he instructs Jeff to head off along a specific road.

Jeff follows that advice and runs straight into a trap. The road is blocked by a locked gate, and Earl drives up from behind in his truck. Earl is loaded for war.

Jeff guns it out of there, crashes the gate, and takes the Jeep into  the river. Gunfire from the cliff above follows him.

The upshot is Jeff is captured by what is obviously a band of kidnappers. He is ordered, if he wishes to save his life, the recite the exact sum in his bank account, which sum Red tells him Amy has already told them. Jeff survives to live another day by remembering an earlier conversation he had with Amy about a $90,000 prize offered by a donut company. $90,000 is the magic number, and the crooks order Jeff to go into the town of Brackett (down below) and have the bank wire the $90,000 to Jeff, in cash.

But the Taylors never had $90,000 in the bank. It was just small talk. Jeff stalls and withdraws $5000 and bulks it up to look like more. Outside town, Earl stops his truck beside the  road and orders Jeff and the money inside. But Jeff has prepared for this, and he defeats Earl in hand-to-hand combat. Binding him with duct tape and taking his gun. Wouldn’t you believe it, about then the sheriff comes by. But the situation turns out badly for Jeff.

Since Jeff is the one with the gun, the sheriff draws down on him. Meanwhile, Earl gets himself free and pulls his spare gun. He shoots the sheriff and goes after Jeff. But the sheriff has one last shot in himself, and he kills Earl. The sheriff is dying, and the police are alerted. Jeff starts out on the quest to meet up with Red at the place Earl coughed up after being punched vigorously about the face and body.

Jeff spots Red’s rig at the truck stop and hitches a ride as it pulls out. In a great feat of daring-do he works his way along the side of the moving truck and finds a place to hide between the tractor and the trailer. He spends the night there as Red drives back to the family spread, where the kidnappers have their base of operations. Apparently this has been an ongoing family business for a number of years.

By then it’s dark and getting to be time for breakfast. Jeff watches from hiding as a bobtail truck drives up, and the robbers extract Amy, still alive and kicking. But they place her into a freezer chest beneath the floor of a shed and head in to breakfast. Jeff can’t break the lock to the cellar beneath the shed but he finds a pistol in the truck cab and enters the house, ready to confront the kidnappers.

There is a minor exchange of gunfire, and Jeff comes out on top, freeing Amy from the freezer and locking the kidnappers in the cellar. All but one, who escaped out the house when the shooting started.

Jeff and Amy steal a truck and make their getaway, and here comes the interesting part of the movie. The kidnappers give chase in  two cars and the semi rig. There is a running gunfight along a stretch of desert highway.

One after another, two of the kidnappers meet tragic ends. One rolls his car, which is consumed by flames.

The big rig trailer breaks loose and takes out the other car.

The cab of the big rig crashes through a bridge railing and hangs above an eye-popping drop. I forget how Jeff came to be on top of the cab, but he climbs hand over hand toward safety. Red, from atop the cab, attempts to finish off Jeff with a length of chain, but Jeff grabs the chain and pulls. Red plunges off the cab and lands on the rocks below.

Jeff and Amy notice that there is still some movement in Red’s body, so Jeff puts the tractor transmission into neutral, and the whole business lands on top of Red. They admire their handiwork from the bridge.

Of course, that is some wild adventure, and it is way too much to be believed. Stretch your credulity a lot, and this can be an enjoyable movie.

Lots of people killed, no nudity, no gentle, romantic scenes. Just some hair-raising adventure. This was written by Jonathan Mostow, who also directed. Producers were Dino De Laurentiis and Martha De Laurentiis. It runs for 93 minutes. Just about right. It made $50.2 million with a production  cost of $36 million. Location shooting was in the desert Southwest, including Moab, Utah, and Sedona, Arizona. A map shown in the title sequence shows U.S. 60 crossing IH-15, but I was unable to find such a place.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Yep, saw this one before, and I was most gratified to see it pop up on Amazon Prime Video. It’s Miss Congeniality, from the year 2000 and released through Warner Brothers. Details are from Wikipedia.

The title role goes to Sandra Bullock as Gracie Hart. Here we see Gracie as a schoolyard girl kicking ass when a bully picks on her favorite fella. She’s not going to outgrow that attitude.

We next see sweet Gracie as a kick-ass FBI field agent, here taking down a gang of Russian mobsters.

But a new crisis develops, else there wouldn’t be a movie. It goes like this. There is a domestic terrorist who calls himself “The Citizen,” and he always telegraphs his next move by sending a cryptic note. Problem is, it’s only after the deed is done that the feds take another look and say, “Yeah, that’s what he was saying all along.” Comes another letter, and Gracie figures out the target is going to be the Miss United States pageant in San Antonio, Texas. FBI intelligence comes to the same conclusion, and a squad of agents prepares to infiltrate the event and catch “The Citizen” before he can cause mayhem.

Needing a beauty queen agent to infiltrate the lineup, they select Gracie as a last resort. It’s likely she does not even  own a dress. Some preparation is going to be needed. Washed out makeup specialist Victor Melling (Michael Caine) is contracted to make rough and ready Gracie into a svelte beauty contestant. The FBI requisitions an airplane hanger, and a gang of specialists goes to work on the monumental task.

Success! The hanger doors roll back and the new Gracie struts out. She is hot.

The pageant organizers go along with the scheme, and Gracie begins to learn what it’s like to be one of the girls. Her secret heartthrob is Agent Eric Matthews (Benjamin Bratt), who keeps close tabs on her. Their lips never quite touch.

Meanwhile the terrorist practices his attack. A department store mannequin is set up on a vacant parking lot, and its head is blown to pieces by a remote-controlled bomb. Everything is ready for the big night.

Location filming in San Antonio features familiar places. This is obviously the Arneson River Theater, where I have captured numerous such photos.

Meanwhile, “The Citizen” has been captured. His target was not the pageant, after all, and the FBI crew packs up and leaves. But Gracie is convinced from what she has picked up at the pageant that an attack is planned, aimed to appear to be the work of “The Citizen.” Gracie surrenders her gun and badge and stays behind to complete the competition.

Surprise, surprise! It turns out that pageant director Kathy Morningside is scheduled to be scuttled from the pageant, and she is most vengeful. Eric also learns that Kathy’s son Frank (Steve Monroe) has a violent past and a criminal record. Eric stays behind to back up Gracie. We see Frank substituting the victory crown  with another packed with explosives. He plans to blow the head off the winner at the height of the ceremony. Gracie spots Frank preparing to fire the charge remotely.

At the climactic moment, Miss Rhode Island is crowned Miss United States, and Gracie snatches the crown off her head and throws it into the upper reaches, where it explodes, to the astonishment of all.

Their lips finally touch. They practically eat each other’s faces. There’s going to be some heavy necking after the movie.

But first Gracie is called back in to the pageant, where the other contestants crown her Miss Congeniality, hence the title.

Yeah, this is a whole lot smarmy. Nobody gets humped, no bare breasts. And nobody dies. It made $212.8 million at the box office after spending $45 million in production. Not bad.

Take note. We see William Shatner as pageant MC Stan Fields. Beam him up, Scotty!

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

I sometimes mention I watch these movies so you won’t have to. Actually, some of these movies you wouldn’t watch if they pointed a gun to your head. This is one. It’s Alien Outlaw, otherwise titled RiffTrax: Alien Outlaw, from 1985 and currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Wikipedia doesn’t have an entry, so I’m getting details (there are few) from IMDb. I’m not going to list everybody you see in these screen shots. I’ fairly sure you won’t recognize them.

We have to get this started anyhow, so we see Wes, who works for sharpshooter Jesse Jamison (Kari Anderson). He’s leaving his girlfriend’s elegant home in the backwoods, preparing Jesse’s equipment for her next show. Actually, I’m not showing you Wes. I will do that in the next screen shot. Wes’s girlfriend is worth a look right now. He asks her to go around back and make sure the trailer door is latched. We are led to suspect this is merely a director’s device to give us the opportunity to view her very excellent rear end.

This print features a running voice-over, courtesy of RiffTrax, a company that does these commentaries. This movie would not be all that much worth watching without the assistance of RiffTrax.

Wes starts off on his drive, only to encounter a flash in the woods. Everybody is shouting at the screen (I presume). “No, Wes. Don’t stop. You are going to die!”

He does.

Cut to the following morning. Sweet Jesse is giving a shooting exhibition to a gunslinger dressed in black cowboy attire. He is impressed. She is absolutely deadly with that six gun. The thigh-length boots and the buckskin minidress don’t hurt, either.

Jesse is not pleased with the bookings she is getting for her show. She visits another talent agency and signs on. Then she phones her current agent to give him the bad news. He’s in bed in a cheap motel after a hard night checking out some new talent. Here is the obligatory bare breast scene. Every one of these movies is required to have one.

Cut to two rednecks out for a day of fishing and shooting off firearms. One of them is absolutely gun happy, until he meets one of the aliens. End of one of the rednecks.

Cutting out a lot of senseless drama, the word gets out about the three aliens from outer space on the loose in redneck country. Jesse figures it’s time to take action. She shucks off her outer skirt and straps on her trusty six gun. Somebody is going to die.

She arrives at the farmhouse where one one of the aliens is pursuing an enormously fat person named Luger. Jesse finishes off the alien with a deadly shot to part of the alien’s gear, which explodes impressively, sending alien parts flying to places unknown. Jesse tracks down and kills another alien. Just one left.

Meanwhile the surviving fisher has teamed with his uncle to dynamite the surviving alien. But the alien turns the tables and takes the fisher hostage. It’s a standoff. Jesse versus the alien. End of movie.

And that’s all there is to it. The uncle is played by movie legend Lash LaRue. It’s a name I knew well in my childhood, watching western serials Saturdays at the theater on the town square. Lash LaRue was a character in the films, and he was famous for using his bull whip to defeat the bad guys. Hence the name. I always wondered at that name, “Whip the Street.” But I figured if your name is going to start with “Lash,” then what has to come next? Has to start with L, and “LaRue” sounds exotic. It follows from there.

Believe me, Jesse Jamison prancing around in that skimpy mini-dress is the best thing this movie has going for it. Take second place, Mars Needs Women. This is number one.

A trailer is on-line on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIeaPElIHdQ

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I put off watching this on Hulu a few weeks back when I took a peek and figured it was a spoof or somewhat. Of course, there was Tina Fey in the lead role, being more famous for her spoofs of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Then there was the title, which I will get into once I figure out WTF it stands for. But, the pressure of time—I’m taking a few days off—and the better production quality, drew me in, and I watched it through. By the time I was finished watching it was hard to get another movie, Up Close And Personal, out of my mind. This is Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, out of Paramount Pictures last  year. Here’s a walk through:

Tina Fey is real-life Kim Baker, a TV journalist based in New York, but the opening scene shows her and a gang of journalist in Kabul covering the ongoing story in Afghanistan. It’s 2006, and all the westerners are holed up in the Kabul bubble, enjoying a rave party. Than there is a terrific rumble, and everybody understands that a massive bomb has gone off in the street close by. They are all out immediately to cover the aftermath.

Roll back the clock three years, and it’s 2003. Kim is in her New York offices, where she is producer of News Division 1. The organization needs volunteers to cover Afghanistan, since all the first stringers have been shifted to the new story in Iraq. Kim goes, and in doing so meets her boyfriend passing through the airport in the opposite direction.

In Kabul it’s a different life. She teams with Fahim Ahmadzai (Christopher Abbott), driver, translator, protector.

Inside the bubble, she meets the other journalists and is informed that here is a place where anything goes, and everything does. She becomes friends with Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie), who discusses with Kim her plan to divvy up the available men between them. There are many.

Kim soon gets her legs and embeds with some Marines. When the patrol comes under attack from some Taliban in a technical, Kim hauls out of her ride, camera in hand, and charges to the forward line of defense, catching the scene as a Javelin missile destroys the truck.

This is an amusing episode. The Marine general (Billy Bob Thornton) in charge chews out the Marine for wasting an $80,000 Javelin on a 1989 pickup.

Kim’s romance back home gets strained by the separation and finally broken when a Skype video call reveals another woman in the background. She hooks up with photojournalist Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman), who saves her groceries when she gets stranded alone on the streets of Kabul at night, not a healthy place for a European woman, or any woman, alone.

Years go by, and Tanya undertakes a meeting with a Taliban group, which goes horribly wrong. At the same time the American military is tracking the Taliban vehicle and launches a Hellfire missile on it. Nothing was going to turn out well, anyhow. Just before the missile strikes, the Taliban fighters open up with their weapons on the journalists. People are killed. Tanya is hospitalized.

Called back to New York, Kim learns that Tanya has been groomed to take over her job there. Iain is taken by the Taliban and sold to others, who hold him for ransom. Kim returns to Afghanistan and blackmails the Attorney General of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan into revealing the whereabouts of Ian. Kim convinces Marine General Hollanek  it would be worthwhile for his men to stage a rescue mission, covered by Kim’s cameraman. She comes back with the story, and the movie ends with the possibility of Kim and Iain meeting in New York.

There is intrigue and battle action in  this movie, but it draws out as a single-threaded narrative. It’s one episode after another, and then it ends. The movie didn’t make back its $35 million budget.

Wikipedia points out some items I noticed. The character of Marine General Hollanek seems out of place (he starts out as a colonel). What’s an officer of flag rank doing observing combat with the enemy at pistol range?

Hollanek  mentions the cost of a Javelin. I found that curious. This weapon was developed by Texas Instruments Defense Systems and Electronics Group in Lewisville and Denton, Texas in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I worked the program off and on and remember the target cost was pegged a lot lower. Surprise! The Wikipedia entry lists a unit cost of $246,000. Inflation?

Another surprise is seeing a Javelin fired at such close range. It was designed to engage tanks at long distance, using two-stage launch and leave. A booster kicks it out of the launch tube, and the main motor fires when the missile is well clear, to avoid roasting the gunner. One requirement is to be able to fire out the window of a small room. So watching the movie I was surprised to see the Javelin fired in this mode, and then I recalled one feature is the direct-fire mode. You just point and shoot.

The movie is based on Kim Baker’s memoir, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It might be worth reading. A Kindle edition is available for about $6. There could be a review in the future. It’s always interesting to see how Hollywood renders an author’s original work.