Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This is one of those vigilance justice films, and it came out in  2012 from Lionsgate. It features Josh Duhamel as Jeremy Coleman, ace fire fighter. There is also Bruce Willis as police detective Mike Cella and Rosario Dawson as Talia Durham. She’s Jeremy’s girlfriend, but not until later in the movie. It’s currently streaming on Hulu, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

Jeremy is heroic and good looking. All the women crave him. However his life changes forever when he gets caught up in a gangland hit. Aryan Brotherhood (read “white pride”) crime boss David Hagan (Vincent D’Onofrio)is making to take over some Eastside Crips (E.C) territory in Long Beach, California, and Jeremy happens to be in a convenience store when Hagan’s men, followed by Hagan himself, enter to put the squeeze on the owner, who currently is paying protection to the E.C. The Aryan’s want to make an example, and they murder (shoot) the man’s son and then the man. Jeremy escapes and becomes the sole witness who can put Hagan in the slam. Jeremy goes into  the witness protection program.

That gets interesting. In Louisiana (New Orleans), where he is hiding out, he develops a close (very close) relationship with federal marshal Durham. She teaches him how to shoot. This is going to come in handy later on.

Following this blissful scene, the two get ambushed in the motel parking lot. Durham is wounded, and Jeremy puts some slugs into one of the Aryans. That turns out to be fatal, because the wounded man’s partner puts him down to keep him from blabbing.

Jeremy goes on the lam, and he’s seeking revenge. He and anybody loosely associated with him will never be safe while Hagan is alive.

He makes it back to Long Beach and drops in to visit the local E.C., no friend of the Aryan Brotherhood. He negotiates the purchase of a pistol that cannot be traced.

Then he starts a gang war by pummeling one of the Aryan team to death in an alley, carving “E.C.” into the face of the corpse. Just to make sure the Aryans know who done this. He also guns down a driver who comes to assist the fallen superman. More Aryan’s die as the Crips take to the streets to defend their turf.

But Marshal Durham recovers and tracks Jeremy to Long Beach, where the two reconnect. Jeremy goes for Hagan in his stronghold, but the Aryans have captured his girlfriend and are holding her there. He does not know this when he sets fire to the place and heads inside to finish off the Brotherhood. We jump with joy as we watch Aryans going out the windows on fire.

Jeremy confronts Hagan. Hagan is about to shoot Jeremy. Durham has freed herself, and she puts the lights out for Hagan. Jeremy carries his true love out of the burning building in true fireman fashion. The entire Aryan Brotherhood is wiped out.

Yes, this is a formula plot, and we should see Bruce Willis in there and mowing down the Aryans. But, as a savvy cop, whose partner (plus the partner’s wife) were previously murdered by the Aryans, he satisfies himself with cleaning up the mess.


Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Time for another Bad Movie of the Week, and Amazon Prime Video is there when I need it. This is Shadow of a Man out of E.J. Fancey Productions in England. Release date was 1954 according to Amazon, 1956 according to Wikipedia, where I obtained technical information. The apparent locale is Hastings, on the English coast, and the opening scene features Inspector Gates (Tony Quinn) investigating a disturbance on The Pier. Never having been to Hastings I checked Google maps. And, yes, there is a famous Hastings Pier, still there 64 years later.

The gatekeeper tells of a couple, a man and an attractive young woman, going out on the pier late in the evening. Later another man came through, and out in the darkness shots were fired. A search finds a semi-automatic pistol and nothing else.

The scene shifts to Gene Landers (Paul Carpenter) holding an intense conversation with Carol Seaton (Jane Griffiths). Gene is telling what transpired out on the pier. The police will be looking for him. He needs to explain to Carol, and much of the remainder of the plot is a flash-back.

Paul Bryant (Bill Nagy) is at a night club with his wife Linda (Rona Anderson). Also there are Carol and Linda’s good friend Norman Farrel (Ronald Leigh-Hunt). You see them here in the background as a drunken and disorderly Paul gets punched by night club owner Max (Robert O’Neil) and ejected from the club. Meanwhile, a cabaret singer (Rose Alba) belts out the title song, Shadow of the Man I Love.

Back at the Bryant flat, Carol herds Paul into his bedroom, where he is left unconscious. There is much drinking and smoking of cigarettes. People smoked a lot in those days.

Norman goes in to check on Paul, then he leaves. Carol, who is also staying at the flat, goes to her room. Linda goes in to  check on Paul, then she comes out and phones for the police. Paul has expired.

Anyhow, Linda is an airline hostess, and she is out of  town when the police dig deeper into Paul’s death, and they find the broken tip of a hypodermic needle in his arm. He has died of an air embolism. Somebody has injected air into a vein, causing heart failure.

Also while Linda is away Gene arrives from America. He is a wartime buddy of Paul’s, and Norman has the sorry task to inform him of Paul’s death.

More develops. Gene is a writer with no place to stay, so Linda invites him to stay at the Bryant flat. Things are getting crowded, and interesting. Norman has a love interest in Linda, and he walks in while Linda and Gene are passionately embracing.

Now we get the full picture. Norman, who is diabetic, has used one of his syringes to inject the deadly air bubble. His scheme was to get Paul out of the way so he could make time with Linda. But then Gene came along and spoiled the whole thing.

Gene has brought with him from America the infamous pistol that was found on the pier. The police approve, since Gene obtained a permit on arriving in England. Anyhow, Norman took the pistol from the drawer in the Bryant flat and lured Linda out onto the pier on the fateful night. Gene came along and figured out what happened. He followed them, becoming the second man mentioned by the gatekeeper. Norman fired and missed. There was a tussle. Gene got the gun and fired, and Norman went into  the water.

Now the police have the whole story. Norman was not hit by Gene’s bullet, and  now he is on the loose, and he has armed himself with another gun. He has been spotted on the pier.

Gene and Linda go with Inspector Gates to the pier, where Norman has been spotted. They clear the pier, and the inspector prepares to go it alone and take Norman into custody. Gene offers to pitch in with the aid of his trusty pistol, but the offer is declined.

Gates confronts Norman, who wings him with a shot. Gene comes to the rescue and wrestles Norman to the ground.

Norman is taken away to be booked. We are sure Gene and the widow Bryant are going to become better acquainted.

The plot is overly complicated, and some of it does not ring true.

Norman has used hypodermic syringes twice daily to inject himself, but in the critical instance when he kills Paul, he breaks the needle. Then he takes the broken needle back to his flat, where the police find it, tying him conclusively to the murder.

The police searched Norman’s flat, and they found a case of hypodermic needles. One needle was missing its tip and was a match for the murder weapon. This raises some questions. Norman had a supply of needles at his flat. How come he happened to be carrying one around with him when everybody went to the Bryant flat on the fatal night?

Gene arrives in England with a pistol, and he registers it. Why? He figures the Huns are going to restart the war? The pistol has no position in real life, being introduced only to agitate the plot.

The police find Gene’s pistol, and Gates hands it over to Gene. Really? Isn’t that pistol now a piece of evidence in a crime investigation? By now the pistol is loaded. Previously Gene kept the bullets separate. Why is a police inspector handing a civilian a loaded pistol?

Gene shows up at the pier with the loaded pistol. The police relieve him of it forthwith, but I don’t see them impounding it and yanking Gene’s permit, forthwith.

In total, the acting is credible, and the plot, a bit lame, does work.—provided you war willing to accept a variety or premises.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

It’s the classic Steve Martin comedy, slapped with schtick and slathered with predictability. There is Steve Martin, of course, and there is Michael Caine to add some flash and dash. It’s Dirty Rotten  Scoundrels from 1988, and with a title like that you know it’s going to lean toward a spoof. It was distributed by MGM, currently streaming on Hulu, whence the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

Opening finds a more-money-than-brains American tourist on the French Riviera being conned by suave British grifter Lawrence Jameson (Caine). She hands over a neck-load of sparklies to a the phony royal to finance a revolution to free his people. She exits for America, believing her sacrifice was for the greater good. It’s another day, another scam for the high stakes grifter.

Trouble arrives when high-pockets meets low-rent Freddy Benson (Martin). Jameson notices Benson is playing small time, conning a rich traveler into  buying him lunch. At first Jameson finds Benson amusing, but then Benson  begins to tread upon Jameson’s turf. A bug tussle begins.

Jameson cons Benson into  teaming with him. He will teach Benson the art of the high-stakes filch, and Benson will appreciate the education. Jameson introduces Benson to suave, even debonair. And then they get to the action. Here Benson is Jameson’s deranged brother. Jameson agrees to  marry rich American marks and move with them to America, but the unsettling brother will come along and join the happy family. It’s at this point the bride-to-be always backs out, returning alone, without her money.

When Benson learns he is not getting a cut of the proceeds, he decides to challenge Jameson head on. Along comes Janet Colgate (Glenne Headly), the American soap queen. That’s a lot of soap, but if you ever watched such classics as The Sting, then you will suspect the sting is going to be reversed.

And it is. Janet strings the two along, playing each against the other and absconding to America with their money. But then she is back. She her mainstay is clearing several million dollars a year working real estate schemes against guileless tourists. The three join forces.

And that’s the end of the movie.

You need to reflect back on the classic flimflam movies that set the tone. First there was The Flim-Flam Man, starring George C. Scott as the early 20th century cross-country huckster. Already mentioned is The Sting, followed by Paper Moon the same year.

This is fun to watch if you can get past the over-ripe corn. Steve Martin is his Saturday Night Live wild and crazy guy. Caine is cool as ever. Headly plays the shark woman roll less brilliantly than I would have liked.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Got to be the worst movie I have reviewed. It’s Sherlock Holmes And The Shadow Watchers from 2011. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video, whence the screen shots. Wikipedia doesn’t have an entry. Details are from IMDb. Anthony D.P. Mann is Sherlock Holmes, and Terry Wade is Dr. John Watson, Holmes’ trusted colleague. The film also features Richard W. Kerr as Inspector Lestrade.

The opening scene shows a young woman walking alone in the dark streets of London. We know she is going to come to a bad end. She does. In a secluded carriage way a stranger grabs her and grips her by the neck as others wearing masks look on. They are the Shadow Watchers we learn later.

Lestrade brings the case around to Holmes, who agrees to have a look.

The woman’s friend is questioned. He’s an unsavory character, but apparently not implicated.

A priest seems to have guilty knowledge.

The priest and a prostitute have a thing going, and they know too much. Shortly both are put away by the mysterious group.

Suspicion points to the cardinal, who comes off as devious, but there is nothing to implicate him.

Holmes infiltrates the cardinal’s little group of evil  makers, who turn out to be clergy members who feel a religious need to observe violence at first hand. They are the Shadow Watchers.

Holmes springs his surprise, tangling with the strangler while the cardinal takes poison. The other cult members are apprehended as they leave the church.

And Holmes relaxes with his violin in their flat at 221-B Baker Street.

Acting is absolutely atrocious. None of the participants appear to have any professional experience, reading their lines as they sit for their appearances before the camera. Otherwise this could have been an interesting drama.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This is the movie that gave the name to bad-ass women. It’s about the road-trip from hell. It’s Thelma & Louise from 1991, released by MGM. It features Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon in the title roles, two women, fed up with a man-driven world and aiming to break free. I once had a VHS copy, but it’s now streaming on Hulu, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

To summarize: Louise is taking leave of her waitress job, and Thelma is taking leave of her misogynistic husband Darryl. Before starting their trip to a mountain cabin for some fishing they take one last selfie. They will never return.

Thelma, young, trapped in a dead-end marriage, surging with hormones, is engineered to drag Louise to the grave. Beginning with a stop at a cowboy bar for some girlie fun, Thelma makes all the wrong movies. Completely lacking in situational awareness, she loads up with whiskey shots and mistakes a barroom troll for a knight in shining armor. When he sets up to rape her in the parking lot, Louise steps in, brandishing the pistol Thelma has had the bad sense to bring along. Louise says back off, boy scout says suck my dick, Louise plugs him through the heart. The vacation is over and the road trip has just begun.

Thelma takes a lust for a road-trekking cowboy and convinces Louise to let him ride along. Her idea is to have a good hump, but he turns out to be a convicted armed robber in violation of his parole. He screws Thelma and steals the packet of money Louise’s boyfriend Jim brought to rescue them.

Ever helpful, Thelma digs them deeper, robbing a store for some needed cash, and getting herself on candid camera for the benefit of the police, by now tracking the pair across Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma—ultimately to Arizona.

Men have done these women dirty all their lives, and now they get fed up with the antics of a low-life trucker they encounter several times on the road. They decide to settle his hash, having previously locked a highway cop in the trunk of his car and lifted his service weapon. Doubly armed, the two lure the jerk to a lonely spot and shoot up his truck, which explodes spectacularly.

Near Grand Canyon the armed representatives of straight society close in.

No place to run, and not liking the options, they ride the Ford Thunderbird into the clear air of the canyon.

Yeah, don’t watch this if you are on medication for depression. Nothing good ever happens, unless you count the barroom bully getting his ticket punched and the exploding truck. What is a problem is that you don’t have to know this plot to figure what comes next. Just assume it’s the worst decision that can be made and the worst outcome that can derive from the worst decision, and that’s what comes next.

Good performances all around. I saw Brad Pitt here for the first time as the ride-along cowboy. His career has since soared, moving on to Legends of the Fall and Moneyball. Prior to this I caught Geena Davis as a winsome dog trainer in The Accidental Tourist. Sarandon has enjoyed a long and successful film career, one early credit being Janet in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Amazon Prime Video to the rescue again. This is currently streaming, allowing me to get these screen shots after a short view (runs about an hour). It’s Cloak Without Dagger, featuring Philip Friend as Major Felix Gratton and Mary Mackenzie as Kyra Gabaine. As hinted, this is a spy thriller but not seriously solid as indicated by the somewhat frivolous title. It came out in 1956 from Balblair Productions in England.

To get the plot rolling there is a scene in fashion house in London. Models are displaying the wares before appreciative buyers. In particular we notice an exchange of glances between one of the models and a “buyer.” The model goes backstage for a change in costume. Somebody serves coffee—why is not explained—but before the model is due to go back out an unknown  powder is dumped into her coffee. She takes a sip, strolls out onto the runway, collapses, and eventually dies. Her last words are “Tell Enrico” to Kyra Gabaine, an American writer over to cover the show and other readable stories.

Back in her hotel room, number 501, Kyra answers the door, and there is Felix Gratton, formerly a major in military intelligence, but now working as a floor waiter at the hotel. They recall old times in Belgium at the end of the war. Kyra is distressed to find Major Gratton has come down to the level of hotel  waiter after such a promising career in the military. She suspects the come-down is related to the spy who got away, an episode that is about to unfold in the scene below.

Kyra notices a hotel guest on the fifth floor with a mannerism that matches what she saw in the club in Belgium so many years ago—the way the man rolls his cigarettes. She decides to investigate. Since his room is next to  hers, she hikes across to his balcony in her spike heels, a most interesting bit of drama.

She almost gets caught when the spy returns to his room, but she finds a body in the bathtub.

Felix won’t get involved, and the body vanishes, so Kyra, thinking to further Felix’s career, pursues the case on her own, fumbling, way. She enlists the aid of hotel detective Fred Barcombe (Leslie Dwyer). Together they make great progress.

As you suspect, Felix is working the case for military intelligence, disguised as a waiter. Kyra follows the trail of the spy, ending up in the basement of his wine business, where she witnesses a murder. Before she can raise the alarm a mysterious stranger grabs her in the dark and knocks her out with chloroform, leaving her to  sleep it off in the hotel ballroom. It’s Felix, trying to get Kyra to cease meddling.

Kyra and Barcombe follow the trail of evidence to a military testing ground, where they figure the spy network is planning to  infiltrate their agent in to observe the test, an atomic-powered tank.

It turns out the body in  the bathtub was a Mr. Markley, who has access to the site. They conclude his dead self has been substituted by the real spy. And it almost works. Kyra and Barcombe are arrested attempting to infiltrate the site. But in the nick of time, Mrs. Markley shows up. That’s not her husband. The impostor is arrested, and the chase is on for the spy.

He is spotted being picked up by a helicopter, and he gets away clean. Not quite. The helicopter returns with the spy in the custody of now Colonel Gratton of military intelligence.

Kyra looks on lovingly as her old flame takes charge and wraps up the case.

Do I need to explain why this is a bad movie?

The fashion model and (apparently) the spy exchange looks at the show. Back stage the woman in charge murders the model by slipping her poison. How many people need to get involved to make this plot work?

Kyra and Felix meet again ten years after the war, just in time to make the plot click. That amount of coincidence is allowed, but only once in a plot.

Felix appears only infrequently. Most camera appearances feature Kyra, nice to look at, but shouldn’t Mary Mackenzie have received first billing in the opening credits?

That bit about Kyra hiking it over the balcony railing in spike heels is a bit much. Makes for heightened tension and a bit of sex appeal, but no real person would be as foolish.

The action goes back and forth little advancing of the plot. The movie is a bit over 60 minutes as it is. Somebody felt there was need for some filler.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Showing my age, I watched this at the Palace Theater in Granbury Texas when it came out in 1953, and there are scenes that stick with me after all these years. It’s Pony Express, a highly fictionalized account centered around the actual Pony Express—1860-1861. Did I mention “highly fictionalized?” I am at times known for understatement. This has big names, maybe not as big in 1953 as later. There’s Charlton Heston as William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, and there’s Forrest Tucker as Wild Bill Hickock. I caught it streaming on Hulu this month. It was released by Paramount. It’s a simple story made overly  complex. Here’s a rundown of the plot.

The opening shows Bill Cody meeting up with some suspicious characters from a plains tribe. He tries to  figure out if they are friendly. They are not. They chase him down and kill his horse, but they have only arrows, and he has guns. Their leader, Yellow Hand (Pat Hogan), tells Bill he’s breaking off the fight, but will come back when his band has some guns. They later get the guns.

Bill treks across the prairie until he intercepts a stage coach, and he shares a ride with Evelyn Hastings (Rhonda Fleming) and her brother Rance (Michael Moore). The two are up to  no good. This is 1860, about the time states are figuring to break away from the Union, and they are part of a plot to engineer California secession. They eye Bill coldly, Evelyn, perhaps, with not so much chill. After all, that’s Charlton Heston sitting in the opposite seat.

At the next stop the coach is met by some phony soldiers who attempt to arrest Evelyn and Rance and take them away. But Bill sees through the ruse, and he breaks up the scheme with some amount of gun play. Problem is, Evelyn and Rance are in on the plot. It’s all a scheme to make it appear that… Actually, that’s an aspect that is never made clear to me.

At the next town Bill runs into his old friend Wild Bill Hickock. They engage in a bit of gun play to show off for the audience. Evelyn is impressed.

And here is the scene that I  recall seeing at the age of 12. Evelyn needs a bath after that long stage coach ride, and she gets instructions from a girlfriend of Bill’s, Denny Russell (Jan Sterling). The dialogue that I recall after all these years goes like this:

Evelyn: Doesn’t this soap lather?

Denny: No, it’s sandstone.

Evelyn: Then how do you get clean?

Denny: Rub until the dirt comes off.

Truth be, Denny is hot for Bill to an unhealthy degree, but she is too rascally a woman for Bill’s taste, and the ardor is not reciprocated. Makes for some sexual tension, especially after Evelyn develops a shine to Bill.

Lot’s of stuff. Evelyn and her brother plot to bring down the Pony Express enterprise that Bill and Denny’s father are cooking up. If California is kept isolated from the eastern states, then secession is going to be an easy sell. The Pony Express will cut mail delivery from St. Joseph, Missouri, to 10 days.

The secessionist group considers a number of alternatives. Kill Bill, destroy the Pony Express stations, various other devious acts.

But Yellow Hand and his troops have their own ideas. They ambush a party that includes all the movie’s remaining principals, forcing a stand-off at a stage coach station.

That episode comes to conclusion when Bill defeats Yellow Hand mano a mano, and the white faces are allowed to go about their business.

Finally we arrive in Sacramento, the capital of California and the terminus of the Pony Express. A mail satchel is dispatched from St. Joseph, heading west, with a 10-day schedule. The bad guys put their plan into action.

A rider is stalked and wounded on the trail. Closer to the terminus two other stations are destroyed by explosives after the agents are gunned down. But Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill ride to the rescue, defeating the bushwhackers with gunfire, and Cody takes the satchel into Sacramento before the noon deadline, putting the kibosh on a bunch of carefully laid plans.

The secessionists are sore losers, and they attempt to ambush Cody, but Denny is killed, instead. She dies in his arms. A massive fire fight wipes out the secessionists, and Cody picks up the return mail pouch and heads off out of town toward the east.

And that’s the end of the movie.

There is a bunch of irrelevant stuff added to boil the plot. The entire business with Yellow Hand contributes nothing.

The action starts and stops. During the siege at the stage coach station, Yellow Hand rides up and offers to duel Cody, winner take all. Cody declines. His plan is to sneak out the back after dark and set the prairie on fire, spooking the enemy’s horses. He gets captured, instead and engages Yellow Hand in the fight to the death. During all this, his life not worth a cup of warm spit if Yellow Hand wins, Rance contemplates finishing off Cody with an “accidental” shooting.

Time lines don’t make sense, and this highlights something I never understood about depictions of the Pony Express. The transit time from St. Joseph to Sacramento is targeted at ten days, could be eight. All along the route we see relief riders waiting to pick up the relay when a rider comes in. How do they know when the rider is going to be there? The relay rider could be waiting for hours. There is no way to alert the relay station when a rider is approaching.

there has to be a lot of back and forth between St. Joseph and Sacramento, but communication time between the two was measured in weeks at the time. Whoever wrote the original story had telegraphs and telephones on his mind at the time.

Bill Cody did ride for the Pony Express, but he was 14 at the time. Much too young to be the fabled gunfighter depicted in the movie. Cody’s and Hickock’s lives did intersect, but I’m thinking much later, when Buffalo Bill recruited Wild Bill to his wild west show. Wild Bill’s involvement was as a partner in the parent company of the Pony Express. He was ambushed and killed in Deadwood, South Dakota.

Bill Cody died right before the United States entered WWI

Heston went on to become Judah Ben Hur in the DeMille production. Later he was Moses. We enjoyed seeing him hawk pseudo science on NBC’s Mysterious Origins of Man.

The completion of a telegraph connection to Sacramento put the end to the Pony Express after a few months of operation.

Deeper and Deeper

A Reading Of High Delusion—Part 2

I previously reviewed The Language of God, by Francis Collins. This is Adam and the Genome, by Dennis R. Venema and Scot McKnight. I obtained the Kindle editions of both after a short dive into a posting to Evolution News, the blog site of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. No author is listed for that post, but it centered on this book and the one by Collins:

In Adam and the Genome, Trinity Western University biologist Dennis Venema covers many other subjects besides what you might expect from the book’s title. We have been reviewing this material by the prominent theistic evolutionist and BioLogos author; find the series so far here.

Thus, Venema cites the high degree of genetic similarities between insulin genes in humans and other mammals as evidence for our common ancestry. He writes:

[W]e can see that there is good evidence to support the hypothesis that these two present-day genes come from a common ancestral population in the distant past … What we observe for this short segment is that the gorilla sequence is identical to that of the human except for one letter; the chimpanzee is identical except for three; and the orangutan is identical except for five. As before, this level of identity far exceeds what is needed for functional insulin, and strongly supports the hypothesis that humans share a common ancestral population with great apes. Indeed, the similarities between these sequences make English and West Frisian look like very distant relatives by comparison.

(Adam and the Genome, p. 30)

Yes, Venema does dig deeply into revelations from the human genome, and Evolution News does make a big deal about that. But Venema goes far deeper, a depth not plumbed by the posting. All this you can marvel at by plugging through the remainder of the book—which I did.

From the back cover of the book:

Dennis R. Venema (Ph.D., University of British Colombia) is professor of biology at Trinity Western University and Fellow of Biology for the BioLogos Foundation. He writes and speaks regularly about the biological evidence for evolution.

In the book Venema does lay out the evidence for evolution in grand detail, and it is this part that has caught the attention of the Intelligent Design pitch men. Some excerpts from the book elaborate:

Like many evangelicals, I (Dennis) grew up in an environment that was suspicious of science in general, and openly hostile to evolution in particular. Yet I had a deep longing to be a scientist, even as a child. For a long time, I reconciled my two worlds by rejecting evolution— after all, evolution was “just a theory” pushed by atheists and supported by “evidence” so flimsy that even a child could see through it. Moreover, Jesus was the way, the truth, and the life, and “what the Bible said about creation” was good enough for me.

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science . Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

He goes on to say that conflicts with his faith almost kept him from pursuing his dream of becoming a scientist. Fortunately for science and for his students at Trinity Western, reason won out.

My family explored the possibility of my attending a Christian university, but it was more than we could afford. So a secular university it was, and I braced myself for what would surely be a trial for my faith.

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (p. 2). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Interestingly, I would remain an antievolutionist through the course of my PhD and on into my career as a professor, now teaching at the very same Christian university I was unable to afford as a student. What would come as something of a shock to me as a young professor is that, contrary to the claims of my Christian grade-school workbooks, evolution is a theory in the scientific sense.

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (p. 11). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

What those creationists of the second kind found worth challenging is Venema’s erudite exposition of the evidence for common descent. For example:

In looking at the sequences above, we can see that there is good evidence to support the hypothesis that these two present-day genes come from a common ancestral population in the distant past, just as “butter, bread, and green cheese” and “bûter, brea, en griene tsiis” do. The principle is the same: they are far more similar to each other than they are functionally required to be. In principle, any words could stand for these concepts in either English or West Frisian; similarly, any matched pair of hormone and receptor could function to regulate blood sugar levels in humans or dogs. Yet what we observe strongly suggests, in both cases, that the present-day sequences are the modified descendants of what was once a common sequence.

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (p. 30). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Besides giving the creationists something to chew on, Venema does a great job of taking them down.

In the late 1990s I was a PhD student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, studying genetics and development. I had weathered my bachelor’s degree with my faith and antievolutionary views intact, and my area of study did not require me to think about evolution much at all. 3 Evolution was not completely avoidable, however: one very proevolution professor down the hall from my lab maintained a bulletin board called “Crackpot’s Corner,” where antievolutionary views were held up as objects of ridicule. It was here, on this bulletin board, that I first became aware of biochemist Michael Behe, a leader in the intelligent-design (ID) movement. 4 A little digging indicated that he had recently published a book, Darwin’s Black Box. In that book, which I eagerly devoured, Behe makes the case for what he calls “irreducible complexity”:

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (pp. 67-68). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Venema explores Behe’s irreducible complexity conjecture and finds it bare of support.

Behe argues, we can infer when we see protein complexes composed of several proteins that bind to one another that they are the product not of evolution but rather of design.

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (p. 69). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The irreducible complexity argument goes like this:

  • A living organism, even the simplest cell, is a complex assembly. Darwinian evolution stipulates that life forms were not always that complex.
  • Evolution from less complex to more complex life forms has taken place.
  • We now know that evolution proceeds by random mutation of genes, coupled with selective pressure that produces organisms more likely to predominate in the gene pool.
  • Random mutation of genes must occur in small steps, slight changes in a DNA chain—the genome.
  • Each slight change in the genome must be beneficial to the organism, else that change will not be preserved.
  • Existing organisms cannot operate competitively with the loss of a single function coded in the genome.
  • Modern organisms are irreducibly complex. There is no way to proceed from one viable organism to a new and more viable form by means of single mutations.

Behe stakes his argument against Darwinian evolution on his contention that many biological functions are irreducibly complex. What Venema does, and what others do, is to expose Behe’s supposed irreducibly, showing how current forms can be obtained by means of Darwinian evolution.

Interestingly, the virus did evolve to use a second host protein, one called OmpF. Not only did this happen once, but it happened repeatedly in the experiment. Sequencing the DNA of the viruses able to use OmpF instead of LamB revealed that one of the virus proteins— the one that normally binds to LamB, called “protein J”— had accumulated four amino acid changes. By looking at the preserved samples, the researchers showed that the new binding requires all four mutations to be present. They also showed that these mutations did not happen simultaneously, but rather sequentially. As it turns out, these single mutations allowed the protein J to bind more tightly to LamB, which was a significant advantage since hosts with LamB were so scarce in the experiment. Once three single mutations were in place, the virus was only one mutation away from the ability to bind and use OmpF. Interestingly, viruses capable of using OmpF retained  their ability to bind LamB— the virus could now use either host protein.

Two key aspects of this experiment are problematic for Behe’s thesis. First and foremost, this experiment documents the addition of a protein to an irreducibly complex system. The original system was composed of virus protein J binding to LamB, plus numerous other protein-binding events. The modified system lacks LamB and has a modified virus protein J that binds to OmpF instead. The intermediate system has the modified virus protein J and LamB, as well as OmpF, but now only one of LamB or OmpF is required. The transition from one irreducibly complex system to another has an intermediate state between them that acts as a scaffold, or to use Behe’s term, a stepping-stone.

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (pp. 79-80). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Is it any wonder those creationists of the second kind, writing for Evolution News, feel the need to take Dennis Venema down.

Venema is beginning to look like a secular camp hero of the first kind. Where this discourse starts to come apart is the latter half contributed by Scot McKnight.

Scot McKnight (born November 9, 1953) is an American New Testament scholar, historian of early Christianity, theologian, and author who has written widely on the historical Jesusearly Christianity and Christian living. He is currently Professor of New Testament at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, IL. McKnight is an ordained Anglican with anabaptist leanings, and has also written frequently on issues in modern anabaptism.

From Chapter 5 through Chapter 8, McKnight lays out a devilishly detailed analysis, some would say apologetic, on the place of Adam, both as a character in Genesis and as an ideal in Judeo-Christian faith. I apologize for having little comprehension of what he is attempting to get across, but I will have a go at my interpretation.

What happens when the church or, in my case, a Bible professor, encounters the kind of science found in the first part of this book? What happens, not to put too fine a point on it, when evolutionary theory and the Human Genome Project encounter the Bible’s creation narratives? What happens then when we are told that the best of science today teaches that the DNA characteristic of modern humans could not have come from less than approximately 10,000 hominins? What happens when we are told there were pre-Adamite humans? What about those two humans in Genesis 1– 3? And what about the eight that survived Noah’s flood? Which are we to believe, some ask: the Bible or science?

That last question leads some of us to dig in our heels while others shift with the latest conclusions of science. Some relish the countercultural stance of digging in their heels, and, to switch imagery, the second group at times refers to their counterparts as hiding their heads in the sand of the past or even of religious superstition. What the first thinks is faithfulness to the Bible, the second thinks is intellectual compromise. The accusations go both ways. You’ve probably heard them as often as I have. To illustrate I pose the great Protestant Reformer Martin Luther, who dug in against scientists, with Galileo from the generation following Luther, who permitted science to reshape his thinking. Luther said this of the facts in the Bible that seem to conflict with the external realities: “The more it seems to conflict with all experience and reason, the more carefully it must be noted and the more surely believed.” When Luther turns to Eve being formed from a rib, he says, “This is extravagant fiction and the silliest kind of nonsense if you set aside the authority of Scripture and follow the judgment of reason.” But perhaps this illustrates his heel digging the most: “Although it sounds like a fairy tale to reason, it is the most certain truth.” Here Luther contrasts “reason” (or scientific thinking) and faith or Scripture. One might call Luther’s approach the dominating approach to science and faith because he chooses— against reason, he admits— for the Bible to dominate the evidence. Galileo mirrors Luther with another kind of domination: “A natural phenomenon which is placed before our eyes by sense experience or proved by necessary demonstration should not be called into question, let alone condemned, on account of scriptural passages whose words appear to have a different meaning.” The choice to let either the Bible or science dominate the other is common enough, but there is a better way, one that permits each of the disciplines to speak its own language but also requires each of the voices to speak to one another. Science, after all, can help the interpreter of the Bible just as the Bible can provide horizons and vistas for the scientist. Three Old Testament scholars are modeling how this dialogue between the Bible and science can be fruitful— John Walton, Tremper Longman, and Peter Enns. They don’t agree with one another always, nor do I always agree with them in the pages that follow, but they have opened up new pathways for this kind of dialogue to occur.

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (p. 93-94). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

That’s a massive chunk of text carved out of a book for review, but it’s worth doing on two counts:

  • McKnight has a knack for the longest trains of thought I have encountered in writing, making it difficult to find a good point to insert a break.
  • This piece pretty much summarizes my impression of where McKnight is going with the last four chapters.

He seems to accept that Adam and his faithful companion Eve are not the origin of the human race. Then he spends the remainder of his alloted space attempting to justify the story of Adam (and Eve) by invoking context.

I have to admit that the encounter with science made me wonder at times about what I had been taught, about what the Bible said, about whether or not the Bible was wrong, and— this was for me a defining intellectual moment— about whether traditional interpretations of Genesis 1– 2 were perhaps well intended but misguided and in need of rethinking. In other words, my encounters with trustworthy scientists and their works taught me to go back to the Bible with other questions and other possible interpretations and to ask what Genesis meant in its world. In this I believe I was motivated by a quest to know the truth. I went back to the Bible to read Genesis in context and to ask if what many thought the Bible was saying (that is, its interpreted meaning) was not in fact what the Bible was actually saying (its original meaning). But there’s more: my encounter with science that prompted renewed study of Genesis also led me to challenge science about some of its assumptions. Modernity, expressed in extreme form in the “New Atheists” such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, presses into our minds that the only reality is the empirical. If only what studies the empirical world (science) ascertains reality, then only science tells us the truth about reality. However, this common assumption in modernity is a case of concluding what one already assumes. How so? This approach restricts discoveries to empirically testable realities. Nothing else is real. But what if there is more? What if some kind of nonempirical reality exists? This is the sort of question the Bible presses on the scientist. I am convinced that there is more than the empirical, or perhaps I should say the more is hyperreality or suprareality. If so, there is a reality not knowable exclusively by the empirical methods of science. Theology, which is designed to investigate that nonempirical reality in some ways, can provide a map onto which we can locate science and which can challenge science.

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (p. 95). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[Emphasis added]

Use of “context” occurs four times prior to this point, including once in an introduction and once in the Table of Contents. It appears an additional 85 times from this point forward. My take: context is everything.

Where have I seen this before? It was in the matter of tattoos. A Facebook friend, a devout Christian and one who from time to time posts pronouncements of faith, called attention to her tattoos. Gentleman that I am, I reminded her that the Bible forbids tattoos, much as it forbids homosexuality. A relative chimed in with the reassurance that it is a matter of “context.”

My take (again): “context” is a cop-out. When context is invoked to justify the Bible, then what you are getting from the Bible is the interpretation being pushed by the speaker. You are not getting the word of God. You are getting the word of the interpreter. You are not placing you faith in a 3000-year-old set of laws. You are placing your faith in whoever happens to be professing faith, an extreme case being the sordid collapse of Jim Jones’ People’s Temple.

Previously mentioned, McKnight’s parsing of theological history largely passes over my head. Therefore I will post a few excerpts that caught my attention, and  I will let the reader get back to me. Advice requested.

I went back to the Bible to read Genesis in context and to ask if what many thought the Bible was saying (that is, its interpreted meaning) was not in fact what the Bible was actually saying (its original meaning).

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (p. 95). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Every statement about Adam and Eve in the Old Testament, in Jewish literature, and in the New Testament is made from a context and into a context. Furthermore, some of the statements about Adam and Eve in all this literature are designed to speak against that context. That is, those statements are polemics and apologetics. Learning about those contexts and polemics often brings fresh understanding of the intention of the Bible and hence of what God wants his people to hear. In addition, this contextual approach to Adam and Eve provides a model for how Christians today can think about Adam and Eve in the context of the faith-and-science debate. If the Human Genome Project provides brilliant discoveries about the origin of life and the development of humans into who we are today, we will all gain clarity if Christians learn how to speak about Adam and Eve in a context that both affirms conclusions about the genome and challenges some conclusions drawn from the Human Genome Project. Contexts, both ancient and modern, shape what we see, what we hear, and how we respond.

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (p. 97). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Winding down with:

Interpreting the Bible is not easy. As Scot demonstrates, taking into account the languages, contexts, and presumed intents from centuries ago is a lot like, well, paleontology. Again, when explaining the challenges science presents to Christian faith, I stress the important distinction between scientific findings (e.g., DNA in a Siberian cave) and the philosophical or theological interpretations of those findings (Homo sapiens therefore emerged by sheer luck of the genome, or God operates on a circuitous route not unlike wandering in the wilderness to get to the promised land).

McKnight, Scot; Venema, Dennis R.. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (p. 197). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Summarizing the book, we have two obviously intelligent people still clinging to the notion there is a magical person who created us and the universe and who cares for us personally. That this can be so is not an indication that there is no problem at hand. It is an indication that the problem is both wide and deep-seated.

May Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This is one of those movies. It’s about the loner who’s had it with society and social structure, reminiscent of John Galt. He’s more valuable to society than society is to him. Of course, by the conclusion he will have successfully demonstrated that. It’s Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, starring Tom Cruise. It came out in  2016, released by Paramount and is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots.

Here we see Cruise as Jack Reacher, former major in the United States Army. There’s been a fight out front of a road-side diner in rural America, and Jack has just trounced four jerks who messed with him. Arrives the crooked sheriff and his trusty deputy, figuring to  arrest this interloper and rid themselves of a threat to their illegal enterprise. And here is where it becomes cute. We see tough guy Jack Reacher telling them they made a mistake by running their operation on property owned by the United States Army. In the next 90 seconds two things are going to happen. First the phone on the wall is going to ring. Second, they are going to be wearing these handcuffs currently on Jack, and they are going to be headed off to prison.

And it comes to pass, as Army MP cars roll up, and the sheriff and his men are hauled off.

The person on the other end of the phone line was Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), who has inherited the position with the 110th MPs recently vacated by Jack. Jack continues his aimless trek across America, becoming ever more curious about the mysterious Major Turner. When he finally gets around to looking her up in her offices in Fort Dyer, he finds she has been arrested, charged with espionage. Jack suspects a setup, quickly confirmed. He arranges to break her out of prison, and they set off to uncover what evil lurks with the U.S. Army.

Along the way they pick up Samatha Dutton (Danika Yarosh) alleged to be Jack’s illegitimate daughter. That rounds out the team of good guys in the movie, at the same time ramping up the complexity of the plot.

It turns out two of Turner’s military cops in Afghanistan previously uncovered malfeasance thereabouts, but were murdered before they could file a full report. Apparently it became necessary to falsely accuse her and thereupon engineer her death to cover up the sorry episode. Reacher and Turner track down a surviving member of the unit involved and get the true story from him. Military weapons scheduled for repatriation are being hijacked, and dummy crates are being shipped back home.

When Jack arranges for an MP officer to come and take the witness into  custody, the general in charge of the criminal activity gets the scoop and arranges for an ambush. The witness is killed, but the plot is revealed to the military cop.

Now all that is left is for Jack and Major Turner to intercept the return shipment and expose the crime. However, Jack figures the worth of the purloined weapons does not measure up to the coinage flowing into the criminal company involved. You guessed it. It’s not about weapons. It’s about Afghanistan opium being shipped home in the crates. Jack figures it out and pulls a launcher tube from a crate and dumps the contraband out on the tarmac. End of the line for the crooked general.

However, it’s not the end of the story. Jack’s nemesis, known only as The Hunter (Patrick Heusinger) wants to even the score with Jack, and his means is young Samantha. He tracks her down to where she is staying in a hotel in the New Orleans French Quarter during Mardi Gras celebrations. Of course Jack defeats The Hunter’s two associates, and The Hunter snags the girl on a high roof top above the celebrations.

Jack takes both The Hunter and himself over the edge, and does as promised. He breaks the creep’s arms, then his legs, then his neck.

Major Burns is restored, and Jack departs. No sex. The girl is not really Jack’s daughter, and he leaves her in the care of an upscale girl’s school.

We last see Jack continuing his trek to see America.

It’s a great action yarn with a hint of romance plus some sexual innuendo. And There’s Tom Cruise being Tom Cruise. And it’s trite. It’s the tired warrior coming out of retirement to right what is wrong. The first matter is showing what kind of stuff Jack is made of. We see the bodies of four toughs he has laid out in  the diner parking lot for the crooked sheriff to clean up. Never said, we get the idea Jack discovered they were up to no good, confronted them, then trashed them, and correctly calculated the immediate consequences. He phoned his previous duty station, got his replacement, the comely Major Burns, whom he has not met. He arranges for the cavalry (MPs) to arrive, and then he sits back and waits for things to develop. Absolutely most cool.

It’s when Jack gets curious and decides to find out if Major Burns looks as good as she sounds on the phone that he gets really involved. He quickly gets neck-deep in the shit when he figures out she’s been framed, and someone high-up in the Army is doing dirty.

There is a whole bunch of kick-ass to put Chuck Norris to shame (almost), with Burns showing her stuff, as well. Who would not fall for a girl like that?

Lots of lead flies, and none of it touches Reacher and Burns. Time after time they evade destruction against steep odds. Typical of this kind of movie and just as believable.

Did I mention classic Cruise. He has come a long way since Risky Business, but we see reflections of Top Gun and A Few Good Men. Fans so loved that vision of Maverick washing up after his crash they reprieve it while Reacher and Burns are holed up in hotel room after losing a fight. Also, if you watch closely, you will see Reacher doing the same thing with the fingers of his right hand, making a point as Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee defending two hapless Marines. All the stuff you love about Cruise.

As you have surmised from the colon in the title, this is one of a series of Jack Reacher stories. Cruise featured in a previous film titled Jack Reacher, which I have not seen.

Too bad, Cruise is showing his age. He was 53 when filming started.

Crazy From On High

A Reading Of High Delusion

A few weeks ago I reviewed a posting on Evolution News. It’s a site sponsored by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, and the posting was by somebody not readily identified. Whoever they are, the topic was Dennis Venema’s book Adam and the Genome, and the matter of Francis Collins came up regarding his book The Language of God.

That covered, there is more of interest. The post dips into  a discussion of The Language of God, a book by Francis Collins:

Francis Sellers Collins (born April 14, 1950) is an American physician-geneticist noted for his discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the Human Genome Project. He is director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, United States.

Before being appointed director of the NIH, Collins led the Human Genome Project and other genomics research initiatives as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), one of the 27 institutes and centers at NIH. Before joining NHGRI, he earned a reputation as a gene hunter at the University of Michigan. He has been elected to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science.

In order to continue following the discussion I obtained a Kindle edition and will be covering that in future posts.

As promised, I obtained copies of both books and have finished reading the Collins book. Considering the author’s obvious deep intellect, I can only remark, “What a load of warmed over drivel!” Thank you, Dr. Collins. Now for a brief dissection.

First the book is well written. If Francis Collins ever comes to the point he can no longer find work saving the human race through science and medicine, he has a future as a writer. There are very few unintentional mistakes of fact. This one caught my attention.

William Paley’s parable of finding a watch on the moor—which would cause any of us to deduce the existence of a watchmaker—resonated with many readers in the seventeenth century, and continues to resonate with many people today. Life appears designed, so there must be a designer.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 148). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

It is unclear where the reference to the 17th century comes from, but earlier in the book Collins mentions the Blind Watchmaker theme was published in 1802.

THE “ARGUMENT FROM DESIGN” dates back at least to Cicero. It was put forward with particular effectiveness by William Paley in 1802 in a highly influential book, Natural Theology, or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearance of Nature.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 86). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

Beyond all that, this is an argument for God by a person who grew to maturity absent any push in that direction, becoming committed to non-belief well into adulthood. His rise to greatness in human endeavors left him unfulfilled, but he could not reconcile the richness of the human spirit and the beauty of natural wonders with strictly natural explanations. There must be more. He became convinced of the existence of God:

I had started this journey of intellectual exploration to confirm my atheism. That now lay in ruins as the argument from the Moral Law (and many other issues) forced me to admit the plausibility of the God hypothesis. Agnosticism, which had seemed like a safe second-place haven, now loomed like the great cop-out it often is. Faith in God now seemed more rational than disbelief.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 30). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

That should have been satisfactory, and that  should have been the end of the book. Unfortunately Collins feels the need to rationalize, and it is in this effort he stumbles badly. Some citations are in order. Consider what he accepts as true in an effort to shore up his faith. Here is an example:

All religions include a belief in certain miracles. The crossing of the Israelites through the Red Sea, led by Moses and accompanied by the drowning of Pharaoh’s men, is a powerful story, told in the book of Exodus, of God’s providence in preventing the imminent destruction of His people. Similarly, when Joshua asked God to prolong the daylight in order for a particular battle to be successfully carried out, the sun was said to stand still in a way that could only be described as miraculous.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 48). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

It would be generous to allow that these are put up to illustrate what is deemed to be miraculous and no more. The problem is there is little doubt left by the context that he believes these miracles occurred. Elsewhere, his interpretation of reality goes askew, as with his reference to “Mother Teresa.”

Mother Teresa has consistently ranked as one of the most admired individuals of the current age, though her self-imposed poverty and selfless giving to the sick and dying of Calcutta is in drastic contrast to the materialistic lifestyle that dominates our current culture.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (pp. 25-26). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

The cold fact is that Mother Teresa never seemed to have given physical aid and comfort to the “sick and dying.” Collins seeks to illustrate the benefit of religion by pointing to the good works done by famous religious leaders.

As just one example, consider how religious leaders have worked to relieve people from oppression, from Moses’ leading the Israelites out of bondage to William Wilberforce’s ultimate victory in convincing the English Parliament to oppose the practice of slavery…

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 40). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

He goes on to include the martyrdom of Martin Luther King. The obvious problem with this line of argument is that Moses is a fictional character. No such person ever led the Israelites out of Egypt.

Religion (and by this I assume his favored blend) Collins asserts is essential to answer the matter of Moral Law. An actual scientist, he believes we came about by biological evolution, but that does not explain the existence of Moral Law, an innate morality, traces of which are found in all Earth’s people, regardless of region, culture, or religious environment. God must be the answer, and religion must be the vehicle. How then does Collins explain the evil committed by religious people. No problem for Collins. Here’s how:

But the second answer brings us back to the Moral Law, and to the fact that all of us as human beings have fallen short of it. The church is made up of fallen people. The pure, clean water of spiritual truth is placed in rusty containers, and the subsequent failings of the church down through the centuries should not be projected onto the faith itself, as if the water had been the problem.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 40). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

He invokes the “rusty container” at multiple points in the book, and that, in itself, is a crock of poop. In various instances the origin of the universe is attributed to God, and people are the special creation of a caring and loving God, one for whom human well-being is held dear. How then does one explain how an omniscient, all-caring God fails to show himself (itself) in times of great human suffering? May I never eat another chocolate ice cream bar, but Collins invokes the principle of “stress makes strength.”

This notion that God can work through adversity is not an easy concept, and can find firm anchor only in a worldview that embraces a spiritual perspective. The principle of growth through suffering is, in fact, nearly universal in the world’s great faiths.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (pp. 46-47). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

Yes. Yes! I’ve seen that before.

It is also told to me the following was found scratched into a cell wall in some Nazi death camp: “If there is a God, He will have to beg my forgiveness.” I also note an incident recounted by Richard Dawkins:

This grotesque piece of reasoning, so damningly typical of the theological mind, reminds me of an occasion when I was on a television panel with Swinburne, and also with our Oxford colleague Professor Peter Atkins. Swinburne at one point attempted to justify the Holocaust on the grounds it gave the Jews a wonderful opportunity to be courageous and noble. Atkins splendidly growled, “May you rot in hell.”

Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion (p. 64). Houghton Mifflin Company.

Dawkins is one of Collins’ least favored atheists. Collins considers Dawkins to be doing harm to the atheist cause due to the stridency of his attacks on religion (see above).

Even stronger words have emanated from Richard Dawkins. In a series of books beginning with The Selfish Gene and extending through The Blind Watchmaker, Climbing Mount Improbable, and A Devil’s Chaplain, Dawkins outlines with compelling analogies and rhetorical flourishes the consequences of variation and natural selection. Standing on this Darwinian foundation, Dawkins then extends his conclusions to religion in highly aggressive terms: “It is fashionable to wax apocalyptic about the threat to humanity posed by the AIDS virus, ‘mad cow’ disease, and many others, but I think a case can be made that faith is one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate.”3

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 163). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

If you can get past Collins’ inexplicable acceptance of the supernatural, you will find a scientist unwilling to accept the absurdities of religious apologetics. His debunking of creationists of the first and second kind is just short of scathing. Particularly the young Earth creationists (YEC) are called out as a disgrace to the Christian faith.

Assisted by Henry Morris and colleagues, Young Earth Creationism has in the last half century attempted to provide alternative explanations for the wealth of observations about the natural world that seem to contradict the YEC position. But the fundamentals of so-called scientific Creationism are hopelessly flawed.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 176). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

Collins’ diagnosis of the Intelligent Design movement is practically complete.  Collins properly characterizes ID as a God-in-the-gaps argument, all the while laying out the history and the substance.

ID’s founder is Phillip Johnson, a Christian lawyer at the University of California at Berkeley, whose book Darwin on trial first laid out the ID position. Those arguments have been further expanded by others, especially Michael Behe, a biology professor whose book Darwin’s Black Box elaborated the concept of irreducible complexity. More recently, William Dembski, a mathematician trained in information theory, has taken up a leading role as expositor of the ID movement.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (p. 183). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

The exception I take to the foregoing is the reference to Dembski as being trained in information theory. No evidence of that appears in his c.v. Also, not mentioned is Dembski’s severance from Intelligent Design, which came about recently.

Besides all that, this book provides a first rate read of how studies of genetics point to the common ancestry of life on Earth. Particularly explored is the close relationship between humans and chimpanzees and the relationship between those and the other apes. There is an appendix, which I did not read, but the book’s closing lines come off as a special pleading for giving religion a place at the table.

It is time to call a truce in the escalating war between science and spirit. The war was never really necessary. Like so many earthly wars, this one has been initiated and intensified by extremists on both sides, sounding alarms that predict imminent ruin unless the other side is vanquished. Science is not threatened by God; it is enhanced. God is most certainly not threatened by science; He made it all possible. So let us together seek to reclaim the solid ground of an intellectually and spiritually satisfying synthesis of all great truths. That ancient motherland of reason and worship was never in danger of crumbling. It never will be. It beckons all sincere seekers of truth to come and take up residence there. Answer that call. Abandon the battlements. Our hopes, joys, and the future of our world depend on it.

Collins, Francis S.. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (pp. 233-234). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

A truce? Never. We continue to lie in witness to The Years of Living Stupidly.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

About two inches into this film the trajectory of the plot becomes apparent. First some introductions. The title is The Circle, and that’s the name of a tech firm in the Bay Area. At the time I’m writing this the movie is streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. It was released in 2017 by Playtone, among others. Details are from Wikipedia.

After some preamble, the plot gets rolling. We see distressingly naive Mae Holland (Emma Watson) interviewing at The Circle, and the interviewer is asking questions that you would get interviewing at Google. “How would you describe what The Circle is, say, to your grandmother?” The company is a culture thing. You’ve been there.

At an employee rally we meet Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), apparently the CEO of The Circle. He introduces SeeChange (not Sea Change). SeeChange is a new way of seeing. There is to be total transparency, like Facebook, but total saturation. SeeChange is to be facilitated by button-size body cams that can be attached anywhere, costing less than “a pair of jeans.” He brags about having that very morning posting these at various beaches, no permission asked, and at other places. They require no batteries and no wire connections. Along with the image comes complete information regarding the locale. It’s world transparency wherever one of these is posted.

We see more. The rally mirrors what we have seen in the past with Apple rollouts. The tech guru up front, eliciting round after round of enthusiastic response from his avid followers. We are talking true cult, people.


The cult ambiance becomes awfully apparent when two co-workers drop by to evaluate Mae. They are effusively supportive, but there is no getting past they are steering Mae toward total immersion in The Circle culture.

Mae meets Ty Lafitte (John Boyega), who turns out to be the inventor of “True You, a popular Circle product.” He takes her to a subterranean expanse, where, he tells her, all information on all persons will eventually be stored.

Mae’s posting of an image on The Circle social media feed brings unwanted attention to her friend Mercer (Ellar Coltrane). He meets her at work, where everybody recognizes him, and they accuse him of killing deer. He departs for parts unknown to get some privacy.

But privacy is what The Circle is not all about. A stated goal is total transparency, which means everything is known about everyone. Secrets are viewed as criminal activity. This is Facebook in seven league boots. Bailey introduces a United States Senator who has vowed to go 100% transparent.

Mae goes off the rails. She goes out at night to a place that rents kayaks and takes one for an unauthorized spin around San Francisco Bay. However, her every move is tracked, and when her midnight sail comes a cropper, she is rescued, and The Circle works to rehabilitate her. She comes back in a blaze, developing a concept of her own. Anybody, anywhere can be tracked down in minutes using the technology. At an introductory demo before an employee rally she elects to hunt down a woman from England who left her three children to die in a locked closet when she ran off to Spain. The woman is found within ten minutes, here seen on the big screen while Mae stands in awe at the spectacle unfolding. The sequence finishes with police taking the woman into  custody.

But Bailey suggests that Mae next search for somebody not wanted by the police. How about Mercer? Mae is reluctant, but the screaming mob insists. In less than ten minutes Mercer is brought to heel at a remote cabin in the woods. As multiple stalkers hound him he gets into his pickup truck and flees.

Still pursued, Mercer is distracted and drives his truck off a bridge. If you look closely you can spot Mercer’s truck taking the fatal plunge through that gap in the bridge railing.

I mentioned the plot is as predictable as the morning sun, and here it comes. Mae decides this business has gone too far, and, working with Ty, she announces at a company rally that Bailey and business partner Tom Stenton (Patton Oswalt) are going to join the rest of the world in total transparency. She proceeds to put up all their personal data, including their most secret of emails, on the big screen behind them. It’s the end of the pair, and we might conclude, the end of The Circle, and the movie, for all practical purposes.

And that’s what makes this a bad movie. You know it has to end this way. The most innocent of the inductees is the one most likely to turn the tables and bring down the ridiculous notion that privacy is anti-social.

I have previously commented on the illusion of privacy in this modern age. This came in connection with the Edward Snowden episode a few years back, when everybody was shocked, shocked!, to discover the government was peering into people’s private matters. I called this The Awful Truth.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Oh my God! I saw this when it hit the screens in 1961. It’s Disney’s major foray into sitcom TV for the big screen. It’s pure corn syrup and out of this world cute. People with a family history of type 2 diabetes should not watch this movie. It’s The Parent Trap, starring Haley Mills and also Haley Mills. That’s two roles for Mills. I did not investigate whether Mills got paid two salaries, but that’s water under the bridge by now. As I write, this is streaming on Hulu, where I’m getting the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

Don’t believe this is way too cute? Then check out this from the title sequence. Yes, way too cute.

So, let’s get to the plot. Here we see way too cute Sharon McKendrick (Mills) arriving at summer camp (Camp Inch), delivered by the family chauffeur. She’s proper Bostonian, all of 13, and residing at 18 Belgrave Square. Is she ever in for the shock of her life.

Wham! The action starts early. Sharon runs head on into Susan Evers (Mills), an exact look-alike. Naturally the two girls take an instant like to each other.

Of course not. These are 13-year-old girls, the perfect formula for a teenage cat fight. And the war begins. Rival cliques are formed and nuclear war quickly escalates. The Sharon clique draws first blood, dumping the Susan clique in the lake by tumping over their canoe. In retaliation, the Susan clique sabotages the Sharon clique’s tent, creating mass chaos. Finally, the Sharon clique, now barred from the inter-camp dance for a failed tent inspection, sabotages Susan’s dance dress, unbeknownst to Susan until she steps onto the dance floor with her butt showing.

That’s final straw. The cat fight turns physical, and the dance turns into a shambles, complete with all the standard dance party fight gags, including punch bowl sliding down the capsized table into the face of the boy’s camp counselor and also the cake falling onto the face of Miss Inch, the girl’s camp counselor.

At this moment pause to appreciate the exquisite camera work by the Disney crew. Many scenes show Mills doubling up in the same frame with the aid of some industrial magic:

The film originally called for only a few trick photography shots of Hayley Mills in scenes with herself; the bulk of the film was to be shot using a body double. The film used Disney’s proprietary sodium vapor process for compositing rather than the usual chroma key technique. When Walt Disney saw how seamless the processed shots were, he ordered the script reconfigured to include more of the special effect. Disney also wanted Mills to appear on camera as much as possible, knowing that she was having growth spurts during filming

Yes, that does it. The girls are sentenced to quarantine for the remainder of the summer, required to live together in a remote tent. At this point the plot crystallizes. The girls get to talking to each other, and details come out. Not only do they look alike, but they share a common birth date. Also, each lives with just one parent. Sharon lives with her mother in Boston, and Susan lives with her father in Carmel, California. Then Sharon shows Susan a photo of her mother. Not only does it turn out to be Susan’s mother, as well, but it’s Maureen O’Hara for Christ sake!

The girls figure they were separated when their parents split up 12 years previous, and they initiate a scheme to get their parents reunited. Hence the title of the movie. Each wants to meet her other parent, so they switch identities, which requires Susan clip Sharon’s golden locks. They share sufficient details to facilitate the ruse, and at the end of summer each returns to the other’s home. Susan is enraptured by her glamorous mother. On the other hand, her grandmother is a bit on the stuffy side.

Out in California, Sharon meets her hunk of a father at the airport. He turns out to be Brian Keith, with the squarest jaw west of the Pecos.

There’s a fly in the soup, however. Mitch Evers is making plans to marry gold-digging Vicky Robinson (Joanna Barnes). Mitch is loaded.

Sharon sees right through the plot, and in private encounters Vicky reveals her true nature. The girls figure they need to act quickly.

So, Susan unravels the situation to her Boston family, and Margaret “Maggie” McKendrick travels out to California with Susan. Mitch is surprise to find his ex-wife in his house wearing only a bathrobe.

So, yes, the girls gang up on Vicky and, employing tactics they learned in summer camp, they sabotage her. Only they call it “submarining,” by which they probably meant “torpedoing.” Vicky’s true character comes out for all to see, including Mitch, and Vicky departs stage left.

As the movie draws to a close Mitch turns around in the kitchen and realizes what he saw in Maggie from the get-go. The final scene is a too-sweet wedding ceremony.

Other matters:

The twins were raised separately. There are differences. Sharon has learned to play the piano, which her father notices. That’s about right. But Sharon is also an accomplished horse rider, as evidenced by a beach riding scene with her father. Did she learn to ride a horse somewhere back in Boston? If so, then what’s she doing getting off the wrong side of the horse?

The girls scheme to get their parents back together. They stage a bit of entertainment, emphasizing “let’s get together.” Sharon, wearing a neat dress, plays a two bars from Beethoven on the piano. Susan, in jeans and a tee-shirt responds with a few riffs from a guitar. The dissonance is manifest. Then the two harmonize on a smarmy tune with the refrain, “Let’s get together, yeh yeh yeh.” I had to remind myself this was three years before the Beatles hit the big time, and it was two years before Bob Dylan advised, ““Tell Your Ma. Tell Your Pa. Our Love’s A-gonna Grow Ooh-wah, Ooh-wah.”

Hey, Leo G. Carroll plays the Reverend Dr. Mosby, always around to officiate at the wedding, no matter which bride, and also adding a ton of class as he always did in his roles.

And by now you too recognize this as too sweet for words, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.

Haley Mills is, of course, daughter of Sir John Mills, famous for a number of stellar roles, including the village idiot in Ryan’s Daughter, where he won an Oscar.

Brian Keith had a long and successful career, starting in 1924 and ending with Rough Riders  in 1997, the year of his death.

O’Hara made a splash as the gypsy girl in The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1939.  She also starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn that same year. She paired with Keith again in 1961 in The Deadly Companions. Her last dramatic film role came in 1991 with Only the Lonely. She died in 2015.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Everybody knows going in this not going to be a serious movie. Start with the title, Legally Blonde. The implication is that being blonde is a handicap that needs to be covered by the ADA, so if you can demonstrate yourself to be legally blonde, we need to give you a break. This came out in 2001 from MGM and was a great hit, due about 100% to the scintillating performance of legally blonde Reese Witherspoon. As I write this the movie is streaming on Hulu, where I’m getting the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

Witherspoon’s character is Elle Woods, elle being French for she. And is she ever rich and fashionable. In fact, her college major is fashion merchandising, which I am not inclined to capitalize, since I find it difficult to believe this is an existing degree program at a serious college.

Anyhow, Elle and her self-absorbed sorority sisters live in a make-believe world where fashion and status are the the alpha and the omega. In fact, if anything is to summarize this storyline, then that thing would be status.

So, a big day has arrived for Elle, and her sorority sisters are bubbling over with enthusiasm for her. Tonight Elle’s best beau is taking her to a most  swanky eatery and is going to pop the question. It is no secret that what matters in these young women’s lives is advancing properly through life’s grand chain of events—proper family, proper school, proper boyfriend, proper husband, proper life as the proper wife of the proper man. And the proper man arrives to pick up Elle for the proper event in her life. He is Warner Huntington III (Matthew Davis), and Elle’s future is going to be just perfect, and proper.

Only, at the most elegant of all dining spots Warner Huntington III does not pop the question. Instead he delivers the awful truth that what he needs is the proper wife for a proper man on his proper career path. And the proper wife not a ditsy blonde majoring in fashion marketing. He is off to Harvard Law School and the rest of his life. And by the way, thanks for the ride.

Ditsy does not completely describe Elle Woods. She has fortitude. After crying her lovely eyes out she decides anything worth wanting so badly is worth the maximum effort. She announces to her proper parents from the pool of their proper home in a proper SoCal neighborhood that she is going to Harvard Law School, and she is going to lay claim to the most proper Warner Huntington III. Her parents are nonplussed.

But if there is one thing Elle Woods learned while obtaining a 4.0 average in fashion marketing, then that thing is marketing. She markets herself to the Harvard Law School admissions board in no-holds-barred presentation video. The board members are impressed. She has what Harvard Law School needs more of, tits an ass. Also an impressive score on the Law School Admission Test.

Harsh reality sets in when Elle Woods attends her first class. Harvard Law School is going to flunk you out if they can. This is made clear by one Professor Stromwell, played by Holland Taylor. In the meantime, Warner Huntington III has already given the coveted engagement ring to one snippy Vivian Kensington (Selma Blair), a classmate seen her gloating over Elle’s humiliation.

Vivian further rubs it in, flashing off the coveted engagement ring at Elle when Warner Huntington III introduces to the two at a chance meeting on campus.

Vivian loves to twist the knife, further demonstrating this story is all about status. There’s going to be a party, and Elle announces she would love to go, as well. Vivian lets slip it’s a costume party, so Elle shows up in costume. It’s not a costume party.

Cut to the chase. Elle, Vivian, and Warner Huntington III make it to the end of the first year at Harvard Law School and are selected for internships with the law firm of Professor Callahan (Victor Garber). All the major characters come together in one shot, as they interview the defendant in a major homicide case. With her back to the camera is Brooke Taylor-Windham (Ali Larter) from Elle’s college sorority. Brook is accused of murdering her fabulously wealthy husband, something over thirty years her senior. To the left is Emmett Richmond (Luke Wilson), a serious hunk of a person previously seen lurking about campus, and giving Elle some sound Harvard Law School advice. That’s Professor Callahan presiding over the interrogation.

Callahan professes not to buy into his client’s innocence, not a great position to take if you are defending her against a murder charge.

Meanwhile Elle has become involved in a sidebar with a manicurist, who so much wants to connect with the hunky UPS delivery man. Without wasting a bunch of ink, Elle’s advice pays off, as the movie ends up with the lady getting her dog back from an obstinate ex-boyfriend and subsequently married to the UPS hunk.

You never saw a worse trial performance by a Harvard Law School professor. He is completely inept in defending the widow Taylor-Windham, who has an alibi but will not disclose it. But Elle’s fashion expertise comes to the rescue. A key prosecution witness is the pool boy, Enrique Salvatore, at the Windham estate. He claims to have had a passionate affair with Mrs. Taylor-Windham, but Elle figures different. Enrique turns out to be much too fashion conscious for a straight guy. Elle figures he’s gay. After Professor Callahan asks him some functionary questions (he’s a Harvard Law School professor?) on cross-examination, Emmet Richmond steps forward to ask a few more, also more pertinent. Such as,  “How long have you been sleeping with Mrs. Windham? (three months) ending with, “And your boyfriend’s name is? (Chuck). That explodes all over the courtroom, especially when Enrique disclaims any such relationship, and the boyfriend, who is in court, calls Enrique “bitch” and storms out.

Professor Callahan has by now determined that Elle is just the type of lawyer his firm needs, and he arranges a private conference with her, wherein he indicates that T&A is what he really needs.

That’s the end of it for Elle, and she quits the team. But Emmet convinces her to stay on, and he takes over the defense after the widow Taylor-Windham fires Callahan and company. The principal witness against the widow is the step daughter, Chutney (Linda Cardellini), who discovered the widow kneeling over her father’s dead body. No gun was ever found. She was taking a shower during the time of the murder and did not hear the gunshot. But Elle destroy’s Chutney’s story by pointing out that nobody with any idea of fashion would be taking a shower immediately after an expensive perm job. The daughter did it.

Elle throws over Warner Huntington III and hitches up with Emmet. Raquel Welch appears in the movie as the first Mrs. Windham.

Yes, fashion consciousness wins the day, and that’s what this movie is all about, making it something not to take seriously. Of course, this is comedy, and we need to give it a lot of leeway. But not that much.

Law professor Callahan is shown to be completely inept in the defense of his client. A back alley law firm would have investigated the pool boy and discovered he had a boyfriend.

The widow was discovered kneeling over the just-shot husband. And there is no gun ever found. And the prosecution is going to make a case out of this?

The sidebar concerning the manicurist and the UPS guy plays no discernible part in the movie plot, seemingly inserted for additional comic relief and also to chew up 15 minutes of celluloid (hint, I don’t think they use celluloid anymore).

The defendant in a murder case will not reveal her alibi. She was having liposuction at the time of the murder, and her reputation as a fitness guru would be ruined if that ever came out.

Somebody supposedly as sharp as Elle Woods gets taken in by the standard plot device of conning somebody to show up inappropriately dressed at a party?

This was not the end of Legally Blonde. Wikipedia lists a slew of spin-offs:

There is no doubt T&A are going to feature in all of these.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This is a remake of one from 62 years ago. The Desperate Hours starred Humphrey Bogart and Fredric March, and was reprised in 1990 with changes in the title and the plot. Desperate Hours, from MGM, features Anthony Hopkins as besieged leader of his family Tim Cornell and Mickey Rourke as desperado Michael Bosworth, whose ruthless gang invades the Cornell home. As I write, this is streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

The original, based on the Joseph Hayes book, jumps right into the police searching for the fleeing gangsters. This one begins with a bit of drama that provides some setting for what is to follow. We see a speeding car, throwing up dust along a mountain road, apparently in Utah.

When the car finally stops we are treated to the best legs to come our way in a while as attorney Nancy Breyers (Kelly Lynch) steps out. She leaves the car parked at a turnoff and walks those FMN shoes to a bus stop. We next see her hustling into a court house, where she prepares to defend Mr. Bosworth against heinous crimes. She has left the car parked for her gangster boyfriend to pick up later in the day.

She has more between her legs than you might expect. Prisoner Bosworth slips his hand into this sacred place, but only to fetch the weapon. He kills the guard and fakes a hostage situation, leaving breathless Nancy abused and bedraggled, feigning to be the victim rather than the accomplice.

Out on the street, Bosworth joins up with his brother Wally (Elias Koteas) and accomplice Albert (David Morse), recreating the role of dumber-than-dirt Simon Kobish from 1955. The Cornells are putting the finishing touches on a friendly divorce, and their spacious home is in the process of being sold when the Bosworth gang picks it from among many on the street.

Nora Cornell (Mimi Rogers) is home alone when the gang leader rings the doorbell. She is shocked when the brutish Albert comes in the back way.

To make the telling short, family members come to the home and are taken in, starting with rebellious teenage daughter May (Shawnee Smith).

Eventually young Zack (Danny Gerard) arrives, and the entire Cornell family has been scooped up into Bosworth’s deadly scheme. Tim is a war veteran and puts up resistance, getting stabbed for his efforts. The real estate agent drops by, and Bosworth kills him. Albert now wants out of the whole business, and Bosworth takes advantage of his slow wit. Albert gets the job of disposing of the corpse, and off he goes with a dead body in the trunk.

But Albert, as expected, muffs the assignment, which was all along a scheme by Bosworth to ditch him. He gets the car stuck in the dirt alongside a stream bed, wherein he ditches the body. Then he makes it back to the highway on foot, where his bloody appearance catches the attention of some college girls and ultimately the police. His life ends at the hands of police snipers.

But Albert was carrying Nora’s pistol, registered to her, and the body is identified and tracked to a slew of properties being handled by the dead real estate agent. It all points toward the Cornell residence on a quiet street.

Meanwhile, FBI agent Brenda Chandler (Lindsay Crouse) has not been taken in by the ruse back at the court house, and Nancy has been allowed to go about her business, which is to bring money and her sweet self to her lover Boswell. The police first plan to send Nancy in wearing a wire, and she is stripped to the waist in that effort, and also to provide some eye candy for the rest of us.

They decide against the wire, but Nancy insists on carrying a piece. Agent Chandler agrees, but she removes the bullets.

Then there is the expected climax, expected especially if you watched in 1955. Wally is riddled with police bullets out front, and Tim and Michael Bosworth have it out inside the house.

Only, by now Tim has discovered the unloaded gun, and Bosworth has it. When Bosworth attempts to use Nora as a hostage the leader of the Cornell clan takes him down for what he’s worth and thrusts him outside for the police snipers to finish off.

The Cornell family is reunited inside their spacious home.

It’s just as it was in 1955, with some differences:

  • Humphrey Bogart reprises Duke Mantee from The Petrified Forest. Mickey Rourke is cool and calculating, right up to the point where things began to go south.
  • The gangster’s moll never appears on screen in the original.
  • Also, the original has a bunch more going back and forth, with the drama stretching out for days.
  • The original likewise features the murder of an innocent witness. The original has the trash man becoming suspicious. The dumb crook tags along on the trash truck and murders him. He never makes it back to the house. He shoots a cop, then gets run over by a truck.
  • In both versions the crook’s gun is traced back to the house.
  • Both versions feature the unloaded gun.
  • Both end with the gang leader being machine gunned on the front lawn.

There is a lot to be suspicious about the plot:

  • I never came to understand the opening sequence. It’s the dead of night, and Nancy is absolutely racing the getaway car down an unpaved road in the mountains. Then the sun is up, and she is running the Mille Miglia along a two-lane hard top. Then she’s going more miles, like a bat out of Chicago, throwing up dust along an unpaved stretch. She now leaves the car and hikes a few feet to a paved highway, where she now must catch a bus back to town in time to make her scheduled court appearance. We know this is an unbroken sequence, because she is dressed for business the whole time and carries her lawyer’s briefcase.
  • Stashing the getaway car out on a lonely stretch of road seems overly dramatic.
  • We see Miss Sex Body smuggle in a gun between her thighs. What ever happened to metal detectors?
  • The authorities never buy the fake hostage escape caper. What was Bosworth thinking?
  • Bosworth sends Albert off on what he expects to be a one-way mission. And he doesn’t figure this business is going to trace back to the house?
  • Bosworth has duped his comely lawyer into aiding his escape. Now he puts his life on the line, waiting for true love to come his way.
  • It is never explained why American lawyer Tim Cornell has a trace of British accent.
  • The final police siege of the house mirrors what I previously mentioned about The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery. There is a family inside the house, and police are pouring volleys of machine gun fire through the front door? See the above images.

Hayes’ book, which I don’t have a copy, was based on an episode from 1952, involving a family named Hill. The Hills subsequently sued Time, Inc., over misstatements in a Life magazine article about the episode. The case bounced around for years, going to the Supreme Court and back. The case was not put to bed until 1967. Former Vice President Richard Nixon represented the Hills before the high court. It turned out to be a landmark case, establishing the present-day right to publish about people who become notorious through no fault of their own.

You can’t watch this, or the original, without recalling The Petrified Forest. Here is an absolutely ruthless gangster, risking it all for the love of a woman.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Looking for another Bad Movie of the Week, so I turned (again) to Amazon Prime Video. This is a sci-fi feature straight out of Saturday morning TV. It’s about a world catastrophe involving rising ocean levels, and they needed a title. After much soul-searching they settled on Oceans Rising. Wikipedia doesn’t have an entry, so details are from IMDb. It was released last year by The Asylum and others.

Jason Tobias is Josh, and Summer Spiro is Pam. They are scientists, married to each other and  working for the government. Things are going badly for them, as Pam’s embryo transplant has failed to take, and the couple are facing life without children. However, said life promises to  be short, as the world is going to hell on the fast track.

The Earth’s magnetic field is flipping, and that is causing chaos for all concerned. Offices in Washington, where the two work, are by the hour rocked by earthquakes, and solar storms wreak havoc with satellites and the world’s power grid, due to the vanishing magnetic field. Polar ice is melting, oceans are rising, and tidal waves frequently invade the land.

Josh has a solution, but nobody will listen to him, and his violent outbursts only make matters worse for him in the government bureaucracy, and in his marriage to Pam. He throws the whole business over and moves to Texas, Galveston in particular. Josh has chosen Galveston, because those people appreciate what rising oceans can do.

Josh has acquired a boat, and he is stocking it for survival. Meanwhile, Pam comes to the realization that the peaks of power are in gridlock and unable to address the matter. She quits, hops a plane to Galveston, and arrives just in time to help Josh stash provisions on the boat.

It’s none too soon, for minutes after Pam’s arrival the big one comes, and the Gulf of Mexico rises up and swamps the whole place. Josh and Pam barely have time to unhitch the boat before the water comes.

They motor about in a Waterworld, searching for survivors to take aboard. They find an adequate number.

Quickly there is crew enough to engage on Josh’s quest to save the world. He must get to Brookhaven Labs, because Josh will use the accelerator there to generate a mini-black hole. His task also requires getting to CERN, where he will create a matching black hole. The two in combination will stop the magnetic pole reversal.

Josh figures Brookhaven is going to be above water since it was skillfully constructed on the highest point on Long Island, 98 feet above sea level. When the boat arrives they discover two soldiers shouldering the task of shoring up sandbag dikes around the installation. Josh leave Pam in charge of a crew to do the rescue work and also to engineer the black hole.

Josh and the rest of his crew head across the Atlantic Ocean and arrive in France, in the foothills of the Alps, still above water. They hijack an abandoned van and head for CERN.

There Josh works with Dr. Zicree (Paul Statman) to get another black hole going. The two black holes need to be synchronized for this to work, so Josh and Pam throw the starter switches at the same time.

It’s a beauty to behold, as charged particles zip around inside the accelerators.

And there is success, but when time comes to shut down both accelerators, the Brookhaven engine will not switch off. Pam saves the world by taking an ax to the power cable, but then falls lifeless from the electric jolt. Josh looks forward to a world saved, but without Pam.

Miracle of miracles! Pam revives, and everybody is happy. Except, I imagine, all those who were caught up in the ocean flooding.

Yes, pretty hokey. We know what it looks like when the oceans walk up onto the land. We all saw the videos from Indonesia in 2004. The disaster scene has the appearance of being shot in some quiet lagoon. The views of sub-atomic particles zipping around the colliders are fun to watch but a definite piece of imaginary thinking. We see Josh’s boat supposed to be making 30 knots across the Atlantic, but from all appearances the boat is idling at less than 10 in somebody’s lake. Much imagination is required to make this believable.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This could have been a first-class flick, except for some improbable plot features. It’s Out of Time, from 2003 from MGM and featuring Denzel Washington as Matthias Lee Whitlock, Chief of Police in Banyan Key, Florida. It’s now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I’m getting these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

Watching the opening scene you’re going to get very suspicious. We see Whitlock pulling night duty at the station when a call comes in from a lovely maiden, Anne-Merai Harrison, played by Sanaa Lathan. She tells the chief somebody broke into her house, and he should come right over. The chief doesn’t ask the usual questions, such as is the person still there. He just comes right over. We suspect there is a pre-arranged connection between the two.

Sure enough. After verifying the maiden is, indeed, safe, the two of them start to get it on hot and heavy. The chief’s honor is saved by the bell as a phone call takes him away on official business.

The background is Chief Whitlock has previously seized $450,000 in a drug bust, and it’s safely ensconced in his office safe. He shows it to his drinking partner, Chae, the medical examiner, played by John Billingsley. Chae has all kinds of ideas about what the two of them could do with that money, but it stays in the safe, for now.

Tragedy looms. Anne-Merai wants the chief to go with her when she visits an oncologist, Paul Cabot (Alex Carter), on the doctor’s weekend off. The doctor has bad news for Anne-Merai. Her cancer has come back, and she has about six months to live. He gives her a list of clinics offering experimental treatments.

The two visit a company, The Living Gift, willing to purchase Anne-Merai’s life insurance policy, valued at $1 million. They will pay her $750,000 and collect the $1 million when she dies.

Anne-Merai figures to beat the odds by using the money to seek alternative treatments, but she needs cash now. Anne-Merai submits a change to the policy, making Chief Whitlock the beneficiary. For reasons I was unable to derive from the movie, Anne-Merai can’t get the money in time from The Living Gift. Whitlock gets the idea to lend Anne-Merai the $450,000 so she can go to Switzerland for treatment. Then, after some rigmarole involving Anne-Merai’s husband Chris Harrison (Dean Cain), a former NFL quarterback-turned security guard, Whitlock gets a phone call from Anne-Merai. She tells him to wait, and she will meet him. He waits. She does not come. He gets concerned. He goes to her home. Nobody is there, but a neighbor spots him as he leaves.

Minutes later the house is completely obliterated by a blaze that is obviously arson. Two bodies, burned to a crisp, are discovered in the residue. The money is presumed destroyed in the fire.

Whitlock’s sharp-looking wife is Alex Diaz-Whitlock (Eva Mendes), recently promoted to police lieutenant in the nearby Miami police department. She’s a homicide detective, and she is investigating the apparent murders. The two are in the process of getting a divorce.

As Mrs. Whitlock and other fuzz close in on Chief Whitlock, who is going to come off as the prime suspect once the facts come out, the chief works frenzied mechanizations to throw them off the scent. For example, the cops subpoena phone records, records that show Whitlock and Anne-Merai have been exchanging intense communications. As the incriminating FAX comes in, the chief intercepts the sheets from the machine. Then he scans them, edits the scans, removing his phone calls, and then substitutes reprints, minus his calls, for the FAX sheets.

In the meantime, the neighbor who spotted the chief at Anne-Merai’s house is brought in, and she identifies the chief. He laughs it off and points to other dark-skinned people in the office. The poor woman becomes confused and agrees she must have been mistaken.

Meanwhile, a check with Anne-Merai’s doctor, not the oncologist, discloses she did not have cancer. Puzzled, Whitlock goes to the oncologist’s office, only to discover a different doctor sitting in the office. The other “doctor” was obviously a fake.

Whitlock persuades the real doctor to hand over a desk pen the phony doctor had used during the previous visit. It’s a pen the real doctor had not touched since. Whitlock has the pen shipped off to a crime lab and tested for fingerprints. The prints come back as belonging to a known crook. Whitlock traces the crook to a nearby hotel, finding the crook there with the money. A fierce struggle ensues, ending with both hanging seven stories up from a broken balcony railing. Cabot takes the plunge, and Whitlock escapes with the money in a valise.

So, it all comes to a head when Whitlock figures Anne-Merai and her husband have pulled a fast one. Reality crystallizes when Whitlock receives a phone call from Anne-Merai. There is a final confrontation with the Harrisons in a lonely shoreline dwelling. Things have gone sour between the Harrisons, and Chris has been beating his wife, again. She shoots her husband, and then she shoots Whitlock, but not seriously. Just in time, Alex appears and shoots Anne-Merai.

Just in time the Miami police show up, demanding the money from the safe that the chief had promised to arrange to deliver to them. Just in time Chae shows up with the money, complaining to Whitlock that he was unable to deliver the money to the Miami police, because Whitlock gave him the wrong address.

Meanwhile, Alex has been getting it all figured out, and she reconciles with her husband. The chief wants to accept the payout from Anne-Merai’s insurance policy, but he cannot, because it was his wife who killed Anne-Merai. Insurance companies will not pay out on policies when the proceeds will go to the person who caused the death. Anyhow, the divorce is off, and things are going to look up for the Whitlocks.

Some good acting, some great action scenes, some hot sex. Most-improbable storyline. Watching through one time and then going back to review the plot, I never figured out Harrison’s scheme. Suppose they knew Whitlock had the money. How were they going to get it from him? Fake Anne-Merai’s cancer? That’s going to guarantee he’s going to get him to hand over the money? No.

And there is a fatal flaw. The policy had to be taken before the cancer was diagnosed. That was weeks prior to the start of the movie. The drug bust that raked in the $450,000 was still fresh news by the second scene. Again, no.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Yes, it is. Amazon Prime Video is the go-to place for bad movies. All you have to do is navigate over to their sci-fi selection and take your pick. From 1958 this is The Trollenberg Terror, featuring Forrest TuckerLaurence PayneJennifer Jayne, and Janet Munro. This was distributed by Eros Films Ltd. out of Great Britain. Details are from  Wikipedia.

The first thing that got me was the unevenness. The opening scene shows what is obviously an artist’s rendition of Trollenberg, the mountain. I figured they paid the artist $2.75 an hour 60 years ago to produce this, while later in the movie there are excellent location shots of mountains that could have been inserted. The graphic artists must have had a strong union.

Next we see climbers (Jeremy Longhurst and Anthony Parker) on the mountain in the Swiss Alps. This is maybe the second worst studio mountain ledge mock-up, but I do not recall what was number one. Anyhow, a climber above calls out in distress. He’s obviously being killed, and he falls, his descent snubbed by the safety line. When the survivors attempt to pull him up to the ledge, the one on the right relinquishes the task in horror. The man’s head has been torn off.

Next two sisters, Anne and Sarah Pilgrim (Munro and Jayne) are trying to get some sleep on a train traveling on the way to Geneva. Alan Brooks (Tucker) is trying to read a newspaper. He’s a UN investigator on his way to Trollenberg, the village.

Anne, who we later learn is the mental side of a mind-reading act from London, gets restless. She goes to the window to view the mountain. She sees Trollenberg (the mountain) and passes out on top of Brooks’ newspaper. So they meet.

But Anne no longer wants to go to Geneva. She wants to get off the train at Trollenberg (the village) and stay at the Trollenberg Inn.

And they all do. Brooks meets Philip Truscott (Payne), who later turns out to be a reporter, sent to investigate what Brooks is up to in Switzerland.

We also meet two climbers, Dewhurst (Stuart Saunders) and Brett (Andrew Faulds). We can guess things are not going to end well for Dewhurst and Brett.

Brooks takes the cable car up the mountain to the observatory of  Professor Crevett (Warren Mitchell). They have a history. Previously the two had investigated mysterious goings on in the Andes. Now Crevett has an elaborate laboratory, courtesy of the Swiss government. It has all the features necessary to make for a successful movie plot. The walls are feet-thick concrete, and the place is equipped with TV scanners to monitor the mountain. Also, apparently, ionizing radiation scanners.

Meanwhile, back at the lodge, Anne demonstrates her mind-reading powers. She surmises, without seeing it, a 500-franc note and its serial number. And more. Plus, she and her sister are absolutely stunning—eye candy for men watching the movie.

So Dewhurst and Brett take the cable car and then hike up to the base hut on the mountain, in preparation for a climb the next day. Things go badly. Brett leaves the hut and never returns. Dewhurst goes to look for him.

When others go to the hut to investigate they find Dewhurst’s headless corpse. When a search party organizes to look for Brett, a search plane spots him up the mountain side. When two searchers arrive at the ledge where Brett was spotted, the first one to arrive discovers Dewhurst’s head in a knapsack. Then Brett appears and kills the two searchers with an ice ax.

All this is unknown to those down below, and when  Brett arrives back at the lodge, he appears to have suffered some damage they cannot explain. Then Bret spots Anne in the lobby and lunges at her with a knife. He is subdued and placed in a locked cell. But he murders the guard and escapes, searching the lodge for Anne. She awakens when he enters her room, and she screams. Best movie scream I have seen  in a long time. Academy Awards, anybody?

But Brooks enters from behind and shoots Brett dead.

Now Brooks has figured that an alien invasion is underway, and the mysterious cloud that hangs around one side of the mountain is a manifestation. The cloud is gradually drifting lower on the mountainside and is approaching the lodge. Brooks determines the safest place is the observatory at the top of the cable lift, and he orders an evacuation to the observatory. But Hans (Colin Douglas) decides to attempt to escape by car, through the cloud. He later shows up, having been unsuccessful, but much changed. When it becomes apparent he has been taken over by the aliens the others put him down.

The final cable car prepares to leave the village for the observatory. But a little girl is missing. Brooks goes back to the lodge, and finds she has gone to retrieve her ball. Brooks arrives just in  time to rescue the child from an alien being with tentacles like an octopus and one big eye.

Back at the laboratory, all the survivors have collected within the concrete walls. On the TV scanners they can see the horrible aliens menacing the laboratory.

Brooks exits briefly to hurl a Molotov cocktail at one alien. When Truscott attempts to do another fire bombing, and alien grabs him. Brooks comes to the rescue.

Soon the aliens are all over the fortress laboratory. Brooks orders an air strike with fire bombs.

We see a Swiss bomber flying over and unloading fire bombs. Only they do not look like fire bombs. This is apparently stock footage of some general purpose (GP) munitions being unloaded.

The fire bombs kill off the aliens, and the mysterious cloud disappears. Sex becomes manifest as Truscott makes a bid for Anne, and Brooks gets cozy with Sarah.

And it’s a simple story, fairly well told. The monster aliens are a major F/X accomplishment, particularly showing up some of the amateurish studio sets. Wikipedia makes no mention of production cost or box office revenue. Despite the low-budget outdoor scenes, there is some excellent location shooting. We see airplanes banking and turning among towering mountain peaks, and the cable car exteriors are obviously not studio shoots. Acting is par for a B movie, and director Quentin Lawrence has done a smash-up job. Dramatic tension is skillfully introduced.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Another from Amazon Prime Video, the go-to place for vintage movies. This is Blown Away, from 1994, and it’s amazing how time has passed. This is not to  be confused with the erotic thriller of the same name that came out the year before. This one is about a psychopathic serial bomber bent on vengeance. It’s from MGM, details are from  Wikipedia.

Tommy Lee Jones is Ryan Gaerity, a prisoner, breaking out of Castle Gleigh Prison in Northern Ireland. He has been convicted of a bombing that killed several people, and to bust out he kills his cell mate and uses the dead body to shield himself when he sets of a prison-made bomb to blow a hole in the wall.

Gaerity then travels to Boston, Massachusetts, to settle a score with a former protégé,  Liam McGivney, now known as Jimmy Dove (Jeff Bridges). Liam is the one who upset Gaerity’s Northern Ireland bombing scheme and left Gaerity to take the rap. Now McGivney is enjoying life as a bomb specialist for the Boston police, and he is celebrating the birthday party of his lady friend. She is Kate, later to be Kate Dove (Suzy Amis). Lizzie (Stephi Lineburg) is her daughter.

McGivney is called in to handle the trickiest of cases. Here he has to defeat a most ingenious contrivance. At M.I.T. an overwrought student has coupled a bomb detonator to a desktop computer, which his girlfriend must now continuously type on the keyboard to keep the bomb from going off. The bomb maker is dead on the floor from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, while McGivney works to get at the mechanism. It’s another glorious success for McGivney.

McGivney’s uncle is Max O’Bannon, played by Jeff Bridges’ father Lloyd Bridges. Max knows of McGivney’s past, having, himself, previously been in the trade. He advises McGivney to move on while he is still on top, and still alive.

McGivney takes a job as an instructor in the bomb disposal school.

But Gaerity initiates a rampage against the disposal squad. In the case pictured below he has set a phony bomb to lure the team to the site. Then he explodes the real bomb with devastating effect.

Gaerity goes after rookie bomb technician Anthony Franklin (Forest Whitaker). Franklin comes home and plugs himself into his hi-fi phones, only to discover his setup is wired to a bomb. McGivney comes to  the rescue.

McGivney sends Kate and Lizzie into seclusion on Cape Cod, but Gaerity stalks them and prepares a deadly future. When Max attempts to track down Gaerity, he runs into him at an Irish pub. But Gaerity kills Max and escapes.

McGivney tracks Gaerity to an abandoned ship, where Gaerity has prepared an elaborate trick bomb trap. But Franklin has been following McGivney, having learned of his nefarious past. Together they defeat the bomb trap, and the ship explodes, killing only Gaerity.

Now McGivney must defeat Gaerity’s final trap. Kate’s Jeep has been wired to detonate a bomb, but only when she applies the brakes after driving the car some distance. McGivney tracks her and Lizzie after Kate finishes performing at a concert, and he gives chase on his motorcycle. Of course he is able to jump aboard the moving Jeep and disarm the bomb.

Franklin decides not to reveal what he has learned about McGivney’s past, and we can assume life follows a happier course from there on.

And, yes, a lot of this is pure hokey. Get past the rogue, anti-British bomber from the days of the Northern Ireland unpleasantness. In Boston we see a bomb disposal squad on almost weekly calls. One would get the idea the infamous Mad Bomber has been resurrected and cloned. Ironically, George Metesky died the year this movie came out. I’m sure there was no connection. Aside from that, even Ted Kaczynski never generated as much business as this squad is shown to be handling.

The computer bomb is a script writer’s contrivance beyond believability. The closest that reality has come to such a scheme has been the case of the bank robber’s bomb of 14 years ago. Likewise, the headphones bomb is a stretch, although the Israelis once took out an enemy bomb maker with a cell phone that contained an explosive charge.

The bomb wired to the Jeep is right out of the plot from Speed, which came out the same year as this movie. The year 1994 corresponds to the peak of the Ted Kaczynski bombing frenzy, possibly a motivation for such scripts.

In the class room setting we see McGivney demonstrating a Bouncing Betty land mine of World War Two vintage. The movie characterizes the device as a bomb that spring-launches itself into the air before exploding. In fact, the mine used an explosive charge to propel itself into the air, rendering the classroom demonstration problematic.

I mention Wikipedia in almost all my reviews, as I pull heavily from this free Internet resource. In return, every year I log on and make a sizable contribution. You should, as well. Nothing like Wikipedia has come our way before, and everybody interested in the straight skinny, enlightened, and crowd-sourced should work to ensure it stays on-line and current. Here is the (shortened) link to contribute. You have to click on the link to get the contribute page:

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Amazon Prime Video, the source of these screen shots, is revealed to be a mother lode of recent-release bad movies. You will be seeing more of them. Science fiction is always a target for bad movies, because it is seldom handled well. This is Moontrap Target Earth, released in 2017 by MT2 Productions. Wikipedia does not have an entry for this, so details are from IMDb.

This is going to be a combination space travel, mystery, thriller. Not much goes into drama here, most of the movie is the special effects (F/X) and the visuals. It sets out with archaeologist Daniel (Damon Dayoub) rehearsing a presentation to an audience of one, his girlfriend Sharon “Scout” (Sarah Butler). He wants to announce his discovery of his remarkable find from the desert in Arizona, certain to be more than 14,000 years old.

Then he gets a phone call from a colleague, Carter (Chris Newman).

Carter has discovered another strange artifact out in the desert. He’s preparing to announce it to the world. He brags to Daniel how earth-shaking this is going to be, and he tells Daniel to watch for it on CNN. A helicopter is heard in the background

The helicopter lands, and it’s not CNN. It’s Richard (Charles Shaughnessy), and his female “facilitator” Nicole (Jennifer Kincer). After Carter explains all the wonders this discovery holds, Richard orders Nichole to dispose of Mr. Carter.

Then Richard pays a visit to Daniel and Scout. We soon see them at the site where Carter was murdered. Scout translates inscriptions on the artifact. It’s the above-ground portion of an ancient space craft.

Daniel and Scout make a deal with Richard to promote the archaeological study, but when the scientists appear before Richard’s mysterious panel in a grand hall, they are thanked for their troubles and sent on their way.

Back at the university, where supposedly Daniel and Scout do their research, they sadly inform their assistant Eli (D.B. Dickerson) (who is preparing a celebration) there will be no need to celebrate. While Scout and Daniel are in the back checking on a projector malfunction, Nicole appears at the door. She machine guns Eli and sprays the hall with bullets. Then she pours gasoline on Eli’s body and sets it afire. This is turning out badly.

We see Scout fleeing cross-country, learning on the radio that Daniel’s burned body has been discovered in his apartment.

Back at the grand hall, Richard is desperate to explain to his quasi-religious panel why there has been no progress in disposing of the disturbing artifact in the desert. Also why have the meddlesome Daniel and the slut Scout not been dealt with. Richard assures them the assignment will be completed.

But Scout comes up behind him. She has decided to make a crusade of Richard’s destruction.

But Nicole comes in and turns the tables on Scout. A chance discovery reveals that Scout holds special interest to the buried object, and Richard and Nicole take Scout out to the site.

The mystery unravels, as the object emerges from the ground, and a robotic creature appears. Richard is transported to the interior of the space craft, and a bolt of electricity is shot into the back of Nicole’s head.

Inside the spacecraft, Richard and Scout watch in wonder as the robotic creature pilots the craft to the Moon. Scout is commanded to remove her clothing and to dress in a provocative Queen of Outer Space outfit. Richard is impressed.

On the moon things seem to be progressing, as Scout dons a space suit designed for her. She and the android exit the space craft, where the android battles yet another android. Meanwhile Richard takes over the controls of the space craft and heads it back toward Earth. But something intervenes, and the space craft crashes onto the surface of the Moon and is destroyed.

As the friendly android expires, it hands over to Scout a disk-shaped key. She approaches a huge sculpture (see the image at the top), and inserts the key into a slot in the sculpture.

The Moon is turned into a habitable world with blue sky and clouds.

Scout enters the structure beneath the sculpture and joins Daniel (blue) in a journey through time.

Scout leaves behind a word to those who come after them.

And that is about it for the movie. Much ado about what? Special effects are commendable, but that is about the extent of this production’s budget. The audience (see above) in the grand hall appears to comprise cardboard cutouts, shot out of focus to disguise the fact. In most scenes they do not move.

Scout in the see-through outfit is worth a look, but there is not enough of that. The narrative cuts in and out of a number of dream sequences, at times making it problematic to follow the course of events.

Inconsistencies jump out.

If the plan was to kill Daniel and Scout, why not do it in the grand hall after they have completed their presentation?

Why does Nicole burn Eli’s body? Same with Daniel’s body. Nothing is gained, only additional notoriety.

For the story line I would like to have seen a clear driving force behind the plot. There is a mysterious assembly of interrogators at the grand hall, who speak off camera, in tones that smack of a religious cult, but we only have to guess they represent modern, decadent society, hinted at by a scene with a waitress in a truck stop. No firm resolution is delivered.

This movie runs 85 minutes, and you might be able to catch it still streaming on Amazon or elsewhere.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I went into this thinking I was going to pick up another Bad Movie of the Week. It turned out to be not so bad. The title got me off track. It’s The Escort, showing a sleek-looking woman in a man-killer red dress. We all know this is going to  be that kind of movie. It’s more like Pretty Woman, which is, in fact, referenced in the plot. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video, whence the screen  shots. It came out in 2015 from Cloverhill Pictures, among others. Details are from Wikipedia.

It features Lyndsy Fonseca as Natalie (aka Victoria), a drop-dead good-looking Stanford graduate. Natalie wasn’t able to get a job post-graduation, because earlier she listed on-line all the guys she had humped in her spare time. It seems that every job interview got hung up on the list and never went any further. Natalie was perceived as being better at something else than the position for which she was applying. Here we see Natalie entering a hotel room, where she proceeds to  strip down to her skivvies and treat her client like a naughty school boy so he can get his rocks off humping her in bed.

Enter Mitch (Michael Doneger), a journalist of sorts. He writes obits for a hard-copy rag. That’s not Mitch at the table with the two chicks. That’s Mitch’s brother, JP (Tommy Dewey). One of the chicks is JP’s. The other is a fix-up JP has brought to the party for Mitch, because JP knows how much his brother likes sex. In fact, Mitch likes sex so much that he is right now in the men’s room jerking off. Obviously Mitch has a problem. We can guess how the plot is going to resolve Mitch’s problem

But first Mitch’t boss resolves one of Mitch’s problems. Mitch has been diddling an intern on the job, and this is Mitch’s last day at the paper.

Mitch tries multiple interviews, but the answer is always the same. Hard print is dying, and there is not much need for somebody to write obits, or much of anything else. Mitch proposes to write an in-depth story, based on a hooker (escort) he met in a bar last night. The editor advises Mitch to go for it and to bring her something worth reading.

Mitch figures Natalie would make a great subject, and he is inspired by a high-minded review he reads on-line.

He tracks down Natalie and convinces her he is not a cop. He manages to do the convincing without having to show his balls. Typically that is something a policeman is not allowed to do when trolling for prostitutes.

In the meantime, Mitch is getting all the nookie he can handle through a mobile app called Climax, which hooks up pairs of horny people. You get the idea. Picture an egg timer.

A deal is struck, and Natalie and Mitch get to know each other. Since Natalie does not have a pimp to protect her, and since Natalie from time to time runs into rough customers and can use some protection, Mitch stands in where a pimp would normally provide the service.

In fact, Mitch takes Natalie to meet his family. Rather his father, Charles (Bruce Campbell), because his mother has long since moved on. Mitch’s father is an old-time song writer, living in a grand house somewhere in the Hollywood Hills. Natalie is impressed. Mitch’s father and Mitch’s young sister Emily (Rachel Resheff) are impressed with Natalie. Since Mitch’s father is a pot-smoking liberal, he is also OK with his son having a pro for a girlfriend.

The plot follows the usual ups and downs, as Mitch falls heavily for Natalie, but he finishes his piece for the hard-copy rag, and his career is starting to get back on track.

Natalie catches a copy of Mitch’s essay, and is impressed. Also, she has been accepted into an MBA program and is quitting her night job.

And that’s the end of the story, and yes, it is a remake of Pretty Woman.