New season of Midsomer Murders now live

Hi everyone,

Midsomer Murders is a long running English murder mystery series. The series is set in fictional Midsomer county, a picturesque, quintessentially rural English place. The one issue with the place seems to be a murder rate approximately similar to Fallujah, Iraq (kidding but barely). Every episode features at least one body as the guest of honor and most have 3 or more, all murdered in amazingly creative ways.

Season 18 just went live on Netflix and I will be reviewing the series after I post my review of Pickup On South Street. I’ve been having a few issues getting screen caps off of my blu-ray copy. Blu-rays can be more than a little problematic in that regard. If everything goes well, expect the review tomorrow.

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Terry Jones

Sad to hear that comedian Terry Jones has been diagnosed with dementia.

Jones is most famous for his work as part of the Monty Python comedy group. Jones, along with Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, John Cleese and Terry Gilliam were the core members of the group. Jones was heavily involved in the writing of the show and was a major element in it’s success.

The blow is harder with the recent death of Gene Wilder. Many of my favorite performers are getting up in years and this is becoming a too frequent occurrence.

Terry Jones – Daily Mail article

 

Curtis Hanson 1945-2016

Director Curtis Hanson passed away today. While not a very prolific director, according to IMDB just 19 films over 40 years, he was involved in some very influential ones. A few of the more recognizable ones would ’90s rafting epic River Wild with Meryl Streep, a film that practically spawned a small cottage industry of rafting TV episodes after it came out. Another was the Eminem vanity project 8 Mile, about an aspiring rapper (imagine that).

More relevant to this site would be the 1992 revenge thriller The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. The most iconic film of his career is also a favorite of mine, LA Confidential, a stylish neo-noir set in 1950s Los Angeles and starring Kevin Spacey, Russel Crowe and Kim Basinger. Loosely based on rampant corruption and mob ties to the LAPD, LA Confidential borrowed heavily from actual events and is a well made hat tip to classic film noir.

RIP Curtis Hanson.

Links

Hi everyone,

Here is a link to a website devoted to an often forgotten aspect of the very visual film medium: Sound. Virtually everything you hear in a modern film from dialog to background speech (walla) to foley (mostly footsteps) is either artificially added or post processed in a hundred specialized ways. It’s a testament to the skill of these artists that films sound as good as they do.

It wasn’t always that way, one of the reasons people find early sound films a challenge is the primitive nature of the sound. Often the only sound system was an open omnidirectional mic. This was also a few years before high quality condensor mic systems escaped from the Navy sonar department and into studios.

filmsound.org is a great resource into this niche but fascinating field of film. From basic how to articles to extensive and detailed interviews, this site is a treasure for any film fan who wants to see how their favorite art form is made.

Link: Marvel movie soundtracks

Found this interesting little article on collider yesterday. It asks the question, can you remember any part of a recent Marvel superhero film score? I thought about it and they’re right, I can’t. I certainly remember the soundtracks of the recent Batman films. Honestly most of what I remember from the last one I saw, one of the Avengers I think, was a lot of painfully loud SFX blasting through the theater’s sound system.

The article gives a few ideas as to why Marvel’s film soundtracks are so unmemorable and it includes a fascinating fan made video essay.

Why Aren’t Marvel Film Scores More Memorable?

Sully (2016)

Sully (2016)

Just went to see the new Tom Hanks film in theaters, Sully. Since it’s a bit off topic for my site I’ll just do a quick review.

Sully tells the story of the short flight of US Airways Flight 1549 on January 15th 2009. Also called miracle on the Hudson, the Airbus A320 struck a flight of birds and lost both engines shortly after takeoff.

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Bird Strike!

Due to an almost perfect combination of circumstances, the pilot Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger was able to make an extremely dangerous emergency water landing and save all 155 passengers and crew. Anyone with an interest in aviation will tell you the odds of pulling off that kind of move with a crippled jet liner are almost improbably small.

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The miracle on the Hudson

My main concern with the film is how they were going to stretch an event lasting less than 5 minutes into a feature length film? Fortunately director Clint Eastwood centers the film in the aftermath of the crash and the NTSB investigation. An NTSB investigation is very similar to a criminal investigation, about the only thing they don’t do is arrest and mugshot the people involved. The primary difference is that the investigators are not just determined to find out why and how a crash happened, but how to prevent it from happening again.

Most of the dramatic tension involves the flight crew being grilled by the NTSB investigators. The story frequently flashes back to the crucial moments of the miracle on the Hudson, as well as other critical moments in Sully’s life. The film also shows the stresses that fame bring and the stress of being separated from his family during the investigation.

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The investigation
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“It was not a crash, it was a forced water landing.”

The film also shows the unsung heroes of the story, the flight attendants who helped keep things together before and after the crash. The ferry boat crews and first responders who helped in the rescue and the air traffic control crew.

The flying sequences are spectacular with minimal CGI and excellent editing. Some of the angles show just how close that plane came to nailing a building in it’s flight path to the river.

While Sully is a fairly low key film, it does a good job of building up dramatic tension and whole thing wraps up in a tight by modern standards 90 minutes. The editing is very tight with very little waste. Refreshing in an era of 2.5 hour epics.

Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart both do well as Captain Sullenberger and co-pilot Jeff Skiles. The easygoing camaraderie and banter feel realistic. My only issue is that Tom Hanks is so distinctive as an actor and personality, that it’s difficult at times to forget it’s him playing Sully.

Verdict 4.0 Gavels out of 5 A surprisingly good story of a real life group of heroes. A great drama without a lot of fluff. The flight sequences alone are worth seeing on the big screen.

 

Sinners in Paradise

Sinners in Paradise

Opening Statement

A group of castaways marooned on a remote island!

Review

The film opens with a group of people booking passage to China. We quickly see the major characters and their personalities. The nurse fleeing a bad marriage, a pair of munitions salesmen form rival firms, a pompous senator, a spoiled heiress and a pair of underworld characters.

The seaplane they are traveling in soon crash lands during a storm, killing the pilot and most of the crew. The survivors find themselves washed ashore on a tropical island.

Sinners in paradise not a good sign bob odierna
Never a good thing to see in the air.

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Senator Foghorn. With that much hot air he’s unsinkable!

To their surprise they find that there is someone already living there. The mysterious Mr. Taylor and his servant Ping.

Sinners in paradise the mysterious mr taylor bob odierna
Mr. Taylor. he’s VERY mysterious, and tragic too.

Taylor is mysteriously reluctant to help them escape the island. Insisting that their troubles aren’t his problem and refusing them the use of his boat. He also forces them to forage for their own food and take care of themselves. Some take to it better than others, naturally, the senator and heiress being the loudest complainers.

The rest of the film is spent trying to figure out what makes Taylor tick and what criminal or misdemeanor past he is fleeing from. All kinds of dark theories of murder and police pursuit are run through in the film. The actual conclusion is unfortunately underwhelming.

This film is unusual in that it manages to be odd and stereotypical at the same time. The characters are cardboard cut-outs straight from central casting. Loud mouthed politician and spoiled heiress being two popular models in that era of film. How they are used is interesting. Instead of the gangster and gun moll being the villains of the film, the two salesman are. In fact they are portrayed in about the most negative light possible while the two criminals are anti-heroes at worst, very unusual for a code era film.

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Weaponized salesmen. Seriously, these guys make used car salesman seem easy going.

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They’re not really bad, just misunderstood.

The problem with the film is that it can’t seem to decide if it’s an adventure, a mystery or a comedy. Any dramatic tension or sense of danger is completely destroyed by mistimed attempts at humor.

The camera work and lighting are competent, but not spectacular. There are some fairly obvious miniatures in the plane crash sequence and most of the “island” is obviously set based. The sound is typically inconsistent for a mid to late 30’s B picture.

The acting is poor to average with a few people underperforming while others such as the senator hamming it up to 11. Especially offensive is the portrayal of Ping, the servant, which manages to hit every racist stereotype possible.

Verdict 1.5 Gavels out of 5 Odd little B picture that tries to do too many things in its 1 hour runtime. The mix of adventure, mystery and drama feels forced and the clichéd and sometimes racist characters don’t help things.