Limitless – A Science Fiction – Fantasy Movie Review

Limitless was a 2011 movie starring Bradley Cooper.  The movie is about Eddie Morra, a young man in New York City struggling to write a novel.  On the day we meet him, he is dumped by his girlfriend and is trying to fend off his literary agent.  Eddie has blown through the advance he was paid for the book but so far hasn’t written a single word of the book.

By coincidence Eddie meets his former brother in law who used to be a drug dealer but alleges that now he markets a legal pharmaceutical called NZT that alters brain chemistry in a way that turns the user into a super genius for a day.  Although reluctant to use it Eddie tries it and it is everything promised.  He writes half his novel in a few hours and finds himself able to navigate his real-world problems, like his angry landlady, effortlessly and successfully.

He goes back to his brother in law to get more of the drug but after going to perform some gopher errands for him Eddie finds his brother in law shot to death in his living room and the apartment ransacked.  Eddie calls the police but spends the ensuing arrival time finding and taking the large supply of NZT that the killer had missed.

Now Eddie harnesses his abilities by becoming a securities trader.  But he needs capital to get going so he borrows $100,000 from a frightening Russian mafioso.  Eddie quickly makes several million dollars and comes to the attention of a Wall Street giant, Carl Van Loon played by Robert De Niro, who gives him the opportunity to become a major financial player.  But now he starts running into the side effects of NZT.  Continued use encourages neglect of the body such as forgetting to eat for days and overuse of the pills leads to violent impulsive actions.  And as he finds out from his ex-wife withdrawal from the drug can be fatal or at least permanently debilitating.

The climax of the story combines crises combining the Russian gangster, Eddie’s work with Van Loon and the NYPD.

The science fiction element of the story is restricted to the unbelievable effects of NZT.  In fact, the story reminds me of a decidedly non-science fiction story that I saw long ago.  In a lot of ways, it reminded me of Tom Cruise’s first big hit “Risky Business.”  We have a man taking a dangerous chance to change his life and dealing with the consequences of that decision.  Of course, this story is much darker but the resemblance occurred to me.  While I think the story is a little over the top, especially with respect to the Russian gangster portion of the story, I thought it was pretty good.  If it sounds interesting to you, give it a try.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 8 – Miri

So, the set-up is the Enterprise hears a Morse Code distress signal out in space (somehow) and follows it back to a planet that is identical to Earth.  The landing party includes Kirk, Spock, Bones and, for no explicable reason, Yeoman Janice Rand.  I’ve got to stop here for a moment, and comment on the fact that even though we’re only a quarter of the way through season one it should be noted that finding themselves on a planet that inexplicably resembles Earth and responding to a distress signal, which implies danger, the Chief Medical Officer, the First Officer and the Captain are being sent down into an unknown and possibly lethal emergency.  But at least they brought the pretty girl with them for back up.  Okay, end of rant.

The upshot is that a virus that was meant to bestow practically endless longevity to the whole population instead killed everyone but the prepubescent children.  Three hundred years later the Enterprise crew finds the “children” still young but terrified of grownups that they call grups.  Apparently, the dying adults went crazy and attacked everything in their path as they were dying.  The children call themselves “onlies” but as each of the older children eventually reaches puberty the disease covers him in hideous sores, rapidly ages him, drives him mad and kills him.  The Enterprise landing party is infected immediately and has a week to find the cure before they will die on the planet quarantined from the Enterprise.  Only Spock is immune because of his green blood.

They find a teenage girl named Miri, played by True Grit actress Kim Darby, who has a crush on Kirk and in typical Kirk fashion he creepily smirks as she moons over him.  It’s pretty bad.  The other onlies are a weird collection of random children and stunted former child actors, one of whom, Michael J. Pollard, was closing in on thirty years of age.  The actor who played Dill in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” John Megna, is in the cast as a supposedly little kid but he was fifteen years old and although he was still extremely short his head had grown disproportionately so his appearance was truly disconcerting.  Anyway, the sympathy we’re supposed to feel for the onlies doesn’t happen because they are creepy and vicious and weird looking.

The kids steal the communicators from the landing party and this hampers the search for a cure.  Kirk, Bones and Janice begin to show signs of the disease and they become extremely short tempered with each other.  One particularly embarrassing scene has Janice Rand pulling back the collar of her blouse to show a sore on her chest and then admitting to Kirk that she has always wanted him to notice her legs but now they were disfigured with sores.  Careful Janice, those kinds of things can’t be unsaid and Kirk doesn’t forget.

Finally, Kirk gets Miri to bring him to the onlies.  She adds her voice to his story that they are all in danger.  At first the onlies attack him and beat him with large crescent wrenches and odd-looking clubs.  Kirk makes some of his patented looks of pain.  But eventually he convinces them to return the communicators and trust the Enterprise crew to help them.

Meanwhile Bones throws caution to the wind and injects himself with the vaccine.  He immediately keels over and we have to wait as his unconscious body slowly fights off the virus and the sores on his face mercifully disappear.

As an epilogue Janice tells Kirk that Miri really was in love with him and he agrees but gives a creepy leering smile which probably should have been reported to the FBI’s Pervert Investigation Unit for evaluation.

Okay, so the scene where the onlies beat up Kirk is kind of funny and Janice’s comment about her legs is wonderfully embarrassing but other than that, meh.

Let’s rate it 5//5.  Right in the middle on both axes.

Guest Contributor – The Fat Man – Movie Review – Parasite

When The Fat Man forwarded this review, I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  It seems like some bizarre sort of Kafkaesque nightmare.  I asked the Fat Man to provide some kind of introduction to warn the reader if this movie is unsuitable for the Deplorables but he balked at my request.  Being a Julliard trained Forensic Editor I sprang into action.  Well, after investigating the movie it doesn’t seem to be an abomination, merely bizarre.  Never let it be said that photog stood in the way of Art!  — photog

 

Parasite is a new South Korean movie that has surprised the movie industry because of its success at the Cannes festival, followed by very good tickets sales in all major global markets. The movie is about a family that has been left behind by the rise of South Korea’s middle class in the country’s major cities, but as part of the traditional east Asian service class, is fairly well educated, that is to say familiar with the culture of their rich employers and their upper middle class (read bourgeois) aspirations and fears.

The family, mother, father, sister and brother, lives in a basement apartment with a half window that looks out on an alley where local bar patrons come to vomit and urinate. In the opening scene, we are introduced to the family’s current occupation and major goal, pre-folding fast food pizza boxes and eating as much junk food as they can consume. They seem happy, even comfortable in their debasement, cheerfully leaving their widow open as city officials fog the alley to kill insects, crying out triumphantly, “leave the window open, free fumigation”!

One day our heroes are visited by a school friend of the son and given a good luck gift as well as a good job tutoring the daughter of a rich architect. Their good luck expands when the son finagles his sister into a job teaching art to the architects five-year-old son. Soon the father and mother join in as the chauffeur and maid and the family is flush. Of course, once the inevitable descent begins things get extreme and what was attractively amusing turns bizarre.

Some young critical theorist, improbably named Thessaly La Force, wrote a long thought piece for the NY Times on how Parasite is an example of the dominance of “rage” as a theme in East Asian cinema. You can guess the socio/political source of the rage she describes.  Another Times’ reviewer blames inequality for the rise of “dirty spoon” cinema described in a separate review.  Undoubtedly there is some truth to these theories, but the film is really just another in a long line of Korean, and other east Asian movies, that indulges in the superstitious, the bizarre and the hyper-violent for their own sake. This tendency predates the current economic environment; indeed, it predates the regions current socio-economic structure.

Filial piety, we are told, distinguishes Confucian culture and in this sense, East Asians are never fully adults. There is always an older sibling, parent, ancestor or institutional structure that requires one’s family obeisance. This ubiquitous subordination allows a natural a fluidity of hierarchy that is at the core of slapstick in the West, but is less confined in China, Japan and especially South Korea. The rage that Ms. La Force describes in movies like “Parasite” and “Old School” is childish, more blood-spraying tantrum than sublimated political violence. Tantrums don’t mean to hurt.  They are a young child’s natural message of inadequacy.

And tantrum is the appropriate mode of communication for a society of people frustrated by the challenge of integrating the degenerate western fantasies reflected in K-Pop with the demands of high test-scores and traditional service roles. These contradictions are infinitely more damaging than income inequality or homophobia. The two big news stories out of South Korea the same week “Parasite” was taking the U.S. by storm is the second suicide of a girl band member this month and the discovery an enormous global kiddy porn network is based in Seoul. In yet another story run in the NY Times we are told that South Koreans do not see child exploitation as a major problem. The article quotes one police source describing the sexual abuse of children as basically “natural”, citing that more than half of South Korean prostitutes are underage. The officer described one suspect as “unlucky” for getting caught at something “everyone does”.

We might safely assume, therefore, that the societal problems working themselves out below the surface of “Parasite” are likely not to be inequality, or racism or even sexism as defined in the West, rather something entirely different, but familiar to South Koreans. Confucianism taught these cultures a millennium ago how to live with the barbarian in their midst and how to seek for the “Mandate of Heaven”, even when incarnated in a foreigner. In China, Chairman Xi’s new authoritarianism is fueled by what he calls the century of “humiliation” at the hands of the West. He poisons America with fentanyl to avenge the Opium War. The thought that their own imperial war brought about Hiroshima and Nagasaki and has left Japan neutered, their population shrinking, their only weapon trade. In their eternal occupation and division, the South Korean’s embrace Kim who embraces Trump. And now they have sent us ‘Parasite”. The movie makers of these countries direct these conflicting forces into ordinary characters as they vomit out bizarre cultural concatenations to amuse us, to frighten us and to implicate us.

 

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 7 – What Are Little Girls Made Of?

Here we are at episode seven of Season One and certain trends are already appearing.  Hopefully this will allow me to formulate a number of postulates as I did with the Twilight Zone.  For instance, whenever Kirk is replicated either by transporter mishap or incursion into an alternate universe or by action of a mad scientist hilarity is bound to ensue.

And such is the case in this episode.  The Enterprise is sent to a frigid ice world to locate Dr. Roger Korby who is not only the Louis Pasteur of archaeological medicine but is also Nurse Chapel’s fiancé.  In fact, mention of Korby’s preeminence as a scientist elicits the first utterance of the dreaded phrase, “his textbook was required reading at the Academy.”  Now we’re never told why a military officer needs to be versed in archeological medicine and in fact we never really find out what the hell archeological medicine is.  Anyway, by the fact that Nurse Chapel is his fiancée we know this guy is a loser.

When they reach orbit Korby communicates to them that they are to only send Captain Kirk down alone.  But when he finds out the that Chapel is aboard; he allows that she should join the captain.  We find out that Korby is really a robot with Korby’s mind implanted in it.  He is assisted by other humaniform robots who were created by a robot that was left by the “Old Ones.”  This robot is named Ruk and is played by Ted Cassidy who was Lurch on the original Addams Family show from the 1960s.

Korby’s evil plan is to substitute robots for humans throughout the galaxy and allow them to assume control and thus bring forth a logical new civilization.  Of course, it swiftly devolves into a murder spree wherein red shirt after red shirt is killed by Ruk.  To put this plan into action Korby duplicates Kirk with a twin robot.

And here the hilarity ensues.  Kirk is naked on a spinning table with only a metal console hiding his nethers.  The other side of the table has a sort of formless dummy that is the future home of Kirk’s mind in Robot Kirk.  As his mind is being copied into the Robot Kirk, Meat Kirk keeps repeating over and over, “Mind your own business, Mr. Spock. I’m sick of your half-breed interference!”  Meat Kirk is implanting this racial hatred in the mind of Robot Kirk to tip Spock off that Meat Kirk had been replaced.  We are treated to the Kirks verbally with sparring with each other.  I’ll have to say Robot Kirk seemed to get the better of it.

One of the robots is Andrea.  She is a very attractive young woman wearing a form fitting and meager outfit that improves the show substantially.  Nurse Chapel’s reaction to Andrea’s relation to Roger Korby is very entertaining.  When he assures Chapel that Andrea is just a robot and there cannot be any question of an emotional attachment Nurse Chapel does not appear either convinced or comforted by the story.  Later on, Meat Kirk is able to overcome Andrea’s lack of emotional or sexual capability by vigorous kissing.  She is somehow transformed into a woman and when later on Robot Kirk refuses her romantic advances, mistaking him for Meat Kirk and resenting his refusal, she disintegrates Robot Kirk with a phaser.

Finally, when it is revealed to Nurse Chapel that Roger is a robot and she rejects him for not being human.  He despairs.  And when Andrea then turns her romantic attention to Roger and kisses him Roger triggers the phaser and disintegrates himself and Andrea together.  So sad.

Okay, this is a lot of stuff.  Nurse Chapel is one of the really awful parts of Star Trek.  She always has some horrific hairdo or wig, she’s kind of homely and she’s a terrible actress whose character is always annoying.  But when she’s jealous of Andrea and angry at Roger it’s kind of hilarious.

Kirk has one pretty good shoulder roll in the episode and Ruk does pick Kirk up and pins him on the top of a wall at one point.  And passionate Meat Kirk grappling with Andrea and reprogramming her with his Kirk lust is funny.  And when she disintegrates Robot Kirk for spurning her that was funny too.  But all in all, naked Kirk spinning around at two hundred rpm is probably the highlight of the show.

As a story it’s passingly interesting.  Robert Bloch, the writer of Psycho wrote this episode so it’s not completely boring.  In terms of mockery this is one of the best.  For those two measures of the value of the show I will institute a binary marking scale and to give it a pseudoscientific aura I’ll use numbers instead of letters.  In each case the value is out of a possible 10.  This is a 5//9.
 

Guest Contributor – The Fat Man – Movie Review – Joker – Todd Philips

The movie, Joker, could be easily dismissed as an attempt to extend on the successful formula established by Christopher Nolan in his turn at the Batman franchise, launched in 2005. But beyond the constant “dark” refrain, not enough was said about Nolan’s reformulation of the DC comic book character. When Tim Burton in 1989 first attempted to bring the character to film his movie temperament and the last shreds of maturity that remained in American popular culture required that he make it in its essence, comic. It’s true he leavened the film with instances of “adult” gravity, but no more than in his other comic book movies.

But Nolan did something that it took the success of the ‘80s and ‘90’s Batman movies to make possible, play Batman straight. By 2005 struck upon the formula for converting the comic book into a “serious” movie by making the films “dark”, thereby removing the tongue from Batman’s cheek. Nolan took the comic out of the comic book hero and the films became blockbusters. I suspect they did for the same reason space movies from 2001 to Star Wars were also so successful. The baby boomers and later Gen X-ers had a choice between the narcissistic atavism of their peers or withdrawal. The comic book fans were always outsiders so it was easy to choose withdrawal, and so they did, in droves. What has been truly remarkable was that most of the rest of America follow along, in even bigger droves.

But what does it mean to movies and America to make comic book movies without the comic? One might say that comic books, at least of the super hero variety, always played straight. They were more like the serial genre fiction that anticipated both the “soaps” and the novel. Fair enough, but the illustrations, primitive graphics and primary colors, were a comic proscenium, perhaps helping to suspend disbelief for the comic book reader, but not his sense of humor. Theatrical movies have no such proscenium, they have long been understood to be psychological, subconscious, in their effect. They do not afford the comic book distance, the healthy separation. We needed Burton’s fantasy gloss to create distance from the film. But Nolan’s success argues that this view was wrong, or at least obsolete, that audiences yearned for the Dark Knight’s subconscious payload, unmediated by winks at the camera.

Todd Phillips’ new contribution to the franchise, Joker, suggests that we might still need the winks. The movie attempts to use psychological clichés and bathos to establish a “natural” backstory to the one-dimensional villain. The attempt exposes the naiveté behind Nolan’s original reformulation. What is a joker, can one have a backstory? Lear’s fool never needed one. Jokers are allegorical place holders for dramatic elements like plot and action, even fate, but never character. They are anti-characters, devices, not anti-heroes. Ah, but Phillips would counter, I wrote Borat and most people thought he was real. Isn’t character fluid? Yes, it is fluid but not superficial. But what about the epics, they were full of the very same placeholders? Wasn’t Hephaestus allegorical? The answer is Hephaestus may be a myth and allegorical to us, indistinguishable from a joker, but to the Greeks he was a god.

Is Joker a god, is Batman or Thor, to us? The mind reels. So, Phillips may have wasted much of his runtime trying to pose Joachim Phoenix’s anorexic torso to evoke St. Sabastian and paint the decay of ‘70’s New York in renaissance yellows and gold. The adolescent retreat in the face of adulthood beaten by the American movie going public, however, is not a Christian martyrdom. Phillips’ attempt to tell Joker’s story as such is the latest landing in the vertiginous descent of American society into an arrested underworld. Must we now analyze the cardboard cutouts populating our comic book movies first as patients, to remove any moral question of their actions, then as victims, to instead apply a moral test to “society” and finally as martyrs, to establish our newly reconstructed deities? Foucault would be proud. This mental ritual has become so routinized by academic and political rehearsal the director seems unaware of its emptiness.

And that can be the only verdict reached for Nolan’s vision and Phillips’ realization. Empty. This explains the need to go to further lengths, to go darker, with each successive relaunch. The writers, producers and directors, even the actors, know they must work harder each cycle to pump up the crowd and distract from the inevitable descent. But by trying to make serious our comic book carnival posters, the Hollywood hucksters have drained the fun from their movies, and our laughs on the rollercoaster.

22NOV2019 – American Greatness Post of the Day – Attack of the Groypers – Christopher Roach

The Dissident Right has been abuzz for weeks about the “Groypers” and their jabs at Charlie Kirk of TPUSA.  Mr. Roach has a good summary of the situation and a pretty even handed take on the facts.  Seems like some progress has been made in the last decade or so resisting the astro-turfing of the Establishment Right.  A good article to read if you’re interested in what’s going on in the culture war.

 

 

 

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 6 – Mudd’s Women

This episode is notable in that it introduces the character Harcourt Fenton (Harry) Mudd who returns in the much more enjoyable later episode “I, Mudd.”

The Enterprise detects a transport ship that is travelling without its identity beacon.  Pursuing it into an asteroid belt The Enterprise is forced to overload its own engines while protecting the transport ship from destruction.  Harry Mudd and his cargo of three women destined to be sold as wives to rich lonely miners are transported onto the enterprise just before the smaller ship is destroyed by an asteroid.

The women are repeatedly described as incredibly beautiful (meh) and have an hypnotic effect on the male crew.  Interestingly, other than Uhura we don’t see any of the female crew members during the episode.  The Enterprise is crippled by the destruction of its lithium crystals (apparently the term di-lithium crystals was coined later in the series) during the asteroid belt maneuver and the ship must head to a planet where lithium crystals are mined to replace them.  Mudd finds out about this and communicates with the miners and they cook up a scheme whereby the miners will refuse to provide Kirk with the crystals unless he allows Mudd and his women to go to the planet’s surface for a meet and greet with the miners.

Things move forward on the plan but one of the women, Eve, is disgusted with the whole plan because of their guilty secret.  The women are only artificially beautiful.  They take a drug that makes them attractive.  If they stop taking it, they become homely.  Anyway, the miners find out about the secret and become angry but then we see that Eve becomes beautiful again due to the placebo effect of thinking she took the drug.  Now she’s beautiful because she’s self-confident.  And the miners are happy again because she has a heart of gold.

Mudd is taken back on the Enterprise where he will be put on trial for high crimes and misdemeanors against the Federation and the Enterprise is back to just having Yeoman Rand to maintain their hormonal balance.

Other than the slightly amusing acting of Mudd and the revealing costumes of the three women the only scene that I found engaging is when Eve and her miner are shown in bickering domesticity.  She makes him breakfast and they spar about the value of female versus male housekeeping.  I detected a spark of honesty in the portrayal which is highly unusual in anything Star Trekian.

But that’s it.  Watching Bones, Scotty and Kirk salivate and gape at the women wears thin very quickly and cannot manage to fill out the hour while Mudd enacts his brilliant scheme.  Kirk doesn’t do any shoulder roles or pontificate about life.  It’s not very good.   This episode is sub-par on both a conventional dramatic scale and with respect to Shatnerific bad acting.

 

 

 

 

Guest Contributor – The Fat Man – Movie Review – A History of Violence – David Cronenberg

I thought sci-fi fans might get a kick out of a review of this film since its source was a graphic novel and its director is David Cronenberg, who I rank with Kubrick as among the most important directors working in the genre.

The movie has a quality cast, including Viggo Mortensen as the rural Indiana restaurateur, Tom Stall; Maria Bello as his wife Edie; Ed Harris as the gangster Carl Fogarty; Ashton Holmes as Jack Stall, Tom’s son; and William Hurt as Tom’s kingpin brother from Philly. There are also a host of additional small-role actors that do an excellent job. Harris is particularly effective as the one-dimensional killer as is Holmes as the nerdy millennial.

The movie opens by following two motel guests, one in a dark button-down shirt in the middle of the desert, i.e. a bad guy, packing up to “head east” and “avoid the big cities”. The younger partner complains of the boredom and yawns his way through the rest of the scene, including when he’s asked to go back to the front desk and fetch water from the cooler for the long drive.  There he sleepily encounters the clerk and maid whose throats his partner has just slit and almost nods out as he notices that a small child is emerging from the back room and shoots her. Like I said, bad guys.

This lovely bit of business is immediately contrasted by Tom and his quiet nuclear family. In these introductory scenes of the Stalls they all speak so softly and behave so tenderly to one another that the opening scene becomes submerged by the normal impulse to separate this seemingly vulnerable family from the monsters. But we know they will come and the savagery of the two drifters is anticipated by the inevitable high school bully that humiliates Jack in gym for daring to catch a fly ball to right. Violence, large and small, is almost clumsily emphasized. Cronenberg was said to have commented in connection to the film, “I am a great believer in Darwinian evolution and that violence is baked into our genes”, presumably explaining his lack of subtly on the issue.

When I read his comment, I thought of Cronenberg’s other films, like “Dead Ringers”, the story of twin gynecologists that descended into a surgical horror. And other of his films, Naked Lunch, Crash, Fly, all disturbing, but not particularly violent in any conventional sense. Rather, at their core, his films stylize death and disfigurement in a kind of grotesque eroticism. His focus, until “History”, was more in line with Poe than Peckinpah. Afterwards, however, gangsters and violence become common in his movies. One suspects the shift may be understood at least in part as commercial, but also, he seems to be trying to work out more conventional themes in more mature ways. For instance, “History” includes Bello in a frontal nude scene that seemed all too blue-blooded for the director of Naked Lunch.

In any event, when a very fickle fate sends our drifters into Tom’s diner, we are shown all the good that violence can do. For just as blue shirt instructs his youthful partner drooling at the waitress to “start on her”, mild mannered Tom dispenses with the would-be butchers faster than you can flip a flapjack. His ruthless efficiency at smashing a hot coffee pot in the face of one assailant, retrieving his gun and then dispatching both make his adversaries seem like amateurs. Even professionals like Ed Harris’ Carl and his gang can’t measure up to Tom’s lethal skill set. Carl, hearing of Tom’s heroics on the news, emerges from Tom’s past as if vomited out of hell’s mouth.  His face seems half melted, one eye is clouded, he claims his visage is a reflection of Tom’s true nature and he has come to return him to it.

I won’t belabor the obvious. I’m sure the reader knows there is only one way our genes and destiny can resolve such a history. It’s a pretty good film, especially given its source. “A History of Violence” made money and won acclaim but it was less influential than one might have guessed back in 2005. When I saw it back then, I thought that some of the film’s hokier elements like the straw man bullies and one-dimensional housewives would evolve along with the genre. I was wrong, in fact, the thinnest parts of graphic novel sources like Watchmen or Westworld, the robot/costume stuff, became the focus of their realization on the screen. We have devolved, but I’m sure that statement comes as no surprise.

 

 

 

Guest Contributor – The Fat Man – Movie Review – Ford v Ferrari

Ford v Ferrari is the true story of the effort by Ford Motor Company, led by Carol Shelby, to build and race the first American car to win the Le Mans Gran Prix, the most prestigious road race in the world. The film was directed by James Mangold, starring Matt Damon as Carol Shelby and Christian Bale as Ken Miles, the lead driver for the Ford team. The movie is something of a small miracle; a mostly live action Hollywood film shot on real locations. Also, there is no political agenda. All the actors are who they actually were, white men, and they fight, lie and cheat, which is to say they compete, for the purity of winning. How did this happen in 2019 America?

It is a wonderful spectacle to behold. Matt Damon as the Texan Shelby battling the soulless suits, led by Josh Lucas, who has made something of a specialty out of playing dastardly weasels. The movie is unconcerned with cultural appropriation, casting the Jewish Jon Bernthal as the Italian-American auto industry icon, Lee Iacocca. He does a fine job. Even Henry Ford II has a substantial role played by Tracy Letts. And to top it off, the film is centered on Miles’ intact heterosexual family of three, a supportive, if somewhat feisty wife and his heartbreaking 10-year-old son, who will witness his fiery death.

Now the movie aims for iconic myth-making but I’m happy to report it is at least soundly competent. I have been wondering the last few years if the industry was still capable of making a real movie. Apparently in some corners, it is. The racing scenes are fun, much of it CGI, but still enjoyable. Grown men past sixty, as were many in the audience, will have a different experience from everyone else. If you were around in the 1960’s but still too young or too working class to be in college, cars was the most important thing in life. They are the material and cultural medium that ties the suits to the cowboys and the Brits to the Italians. They hate each other in all the deplorable ways we make believe is unnatural. It is the very nature of men and it is their crafts and creations, mechanics, racing, auto making that channels their animal spirits to a higher plane. They compete, they innovate and even when they lose they tip their hats to the winner, as Enzo Ferrari does to Miles.

Bale and Damon go a little over the top now and then as does the film itself when the Ford scion is reduced to a sort of weeping orgasm at his first experience of real racing at the hands of Shelby. But these flaws are welcome and authentically quixotic in their ambition. If the film ultimately misses the mark myth-making, it doesn’t matter. It succeeds at something more important, reminding us what real movies and real men once looked like.

 

 

 

 

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 5 – The Enemy Within

As I delve deeper and deeper into Season One, I find myself amazed at just how much awful acting there is.  Whereas in most Star Trek episodes just one Jim Kirk is enough to satisfy anyone’s appetite for bad acting but in “The Enemy Within” we get two!  A malfunction of the transporter causes anything sent through to be divided into polar opposites.  A dog with a horn on his head and a really fake looking fur coat is split into a calm docile version and a rabid psycho version.  And when Kirk goes through the machine, he becomes polar opposite twins too.

And this pair of Kirks is very special indeed.  One of them is Castrated Kirk.  The transporter has neutered him.  He is indecisive, confused and unmanned.  He is constantly reminded by Spock that his Evil side is responsible for his ability to command the ship and therefore Good Kirk while intelligent and principled is unfit to run the ship, a capon and a big loser.  Spock really rubs it in.  It seems like he’s angling for the job.

The other Kirk is Satyr Kirk.  He attempts to rape Yeoman Rand.  I suspect given time he might have humped the entire female crew.  He berates Bones and orders him to hand over the Saurian Brandy which he wanders around swigging from the bottle.  And he beats up various members of the crew whenever the chance offers itself.  Later on, when he takes the Helm, he orders the crew to abandon Sulu and the landing party to their frozen deaths.  This did actually endear him to me.  I think they should have given him a chance.  I liked his instincts.

Watching Shatner portray the complementary fragments of Kirk is a thing of grotesque beauty.  The feral lascivious leer of Evil Kirk is wonderfully overdone.  The fretful womanish whining of Good Kirk is annoying and pathetic.

As a secondary pleasure in the episode, due to the malfunctioning transporter, the landing party is trapped on the planet as the temperature heads down into negative triple digits so we get to watch Sulu slowly freezing to death.  Very satisfying.

The climactic scene for each of our demi-heroes comes when Good and Evil Kirk have their showdown on the Bridge.  When Evil Kirk submits to Good Kirk’s leadership he cries out in a panicked voice, “I want to liiiive, I want to liiive!”  Pure schmaltz, marvelous.  Then as both Kirks are standing on the transporter plate waiting to see if the transporter can meld them back into a composite of bad acting, Good Kirk is supporting unconscious Evil Kirk and just before the mechanism is activated Good Kirk hugs his Evil half in a loving embrace.  It’s quite nauseating.  Truly wonderful.

Obviously, this is a Star Trek must-see episode.  Seeing the two polar opposite Kirks you realize that up until this episode, Shatner has been restraining his acting style.  We get to see Shatner unbound and it’s not pretty.  But it’s important for us to know his true range.  It’s good to know that there is more Shatner in there if it’s needed.  Well done Bill, well done.