Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Motorcycle Diaries

his movie is about the story of a trip in the life of youthful Ernesto "Che" Guevara, a historical revolutionary icon in Latin America. It is well done, and sends an excellent message. Most of all, it is true and it makes you think a lot about injustice, revolution, and what is noble to do in life and what is not.

The premise is this; Che Guevara and his good friend Alberto Granado decide, when they are young, to go on a trip all around Latin America, to see the land, to meet people, and maybe discover something about themselves. They are from Argentina, and they have never even been out of the country before. Here in the US we are used to traveling all over the place because it is fairly simple to do so these days, and our country is very large, so we do it a lot, and it is common, for example, to have families spread out across the company. However, it Latin America, first of all people are poorer, but moreover, the lifestyle is different, and families stay closer, and people don't travel outside of the cities where they are born very often. So for Che and his friend, this was a great undertaking, to travel around the continent. Ernesto ("Che") is school to be a medical doctor, and his friend is a biochemist. One of the amazing parts of the movie is when Ernesto is at dinner with his family not long before they take off, and his father says something like, "are you sure you want to do this? You are one semester away from becoming a medical doctor." To which, Ernesto responds "this is traveling around the continent of south america. Being a medical doctor can wait". To which, thankfully, his father smiles back at his beaming son. It is amazing that Ernesto has the foresight to realize that he should take this opportunity while he is young, and see the world, and try to understand something about the life we live, and about his home continent and the people of Latin America.

Anyway, the movie is called the Motorcycle Diaries for a reason. They are taking a motorcycle to make this trip! A terrible, aging motorcycle that is going to take them all around the suffering country roads of Latin America. They plan to go far south along the coast and return through the Andes, working their way to Maccu Piccu (a famous, ancient Incan city), and then staying for a while in a leper colony (soon to be their medical specialty) in the Amazon. The plan is to be finished by Granados's 30th birthday (Che is only 23!).

They of course, run into lots trouble in small towns in other countries (although at least language is not a barrier, since they all speak spanish, except some of the indigenous people), and of course, they find girls and do plenty of partying. Ernesto has a girlfriend in another town from where he lives. They stop to see her in the beginning and they are very clearly in love, but although it tears at him, he knows he has to leave her to go out and discover. He gets a letter from her after a few months whose details we never know, except that she is out of his life. I think he made the right choice. Even if they belonged together, he needed to see the world to know that. Anyway, somewhere in Colombia they lose the motorcycle. After lots of trouble, they try to fix it for the last time and end on foot. As Ernesto puts it eloquently, he says, "on foot, we will meet more people, and feel closer to the land". Even though it is going to take a much longer time. He is right, though. This is when they really start to learn. Walking, they meet lots of locals, and they start to learn about the injustice going on in Latin America. The governments taking land away from honest sharecroppers, kicking natives out of the places they have always lived, forcing people to take extremely dangerous jobs in mines, for example, because they are communists. It is terrible. The injustice starts to eat at Ernesto, and he is constantly thinking and writing (letters to his family, and in his journal) about the people who are defeated by these terrible governments, and about how he is not the same after viewing and somehow partaking in the acidity of this injustice.

Eventually, they reach the leper colony, where they are treated extremely well. They now have a place to sleep, new clothes, food every day, and they have some respect because they are working with the doctors. But even here, Ernesto is bothered by the division between the doctors and patients. At the leper colony, even though leprosy is not contagious under treatment, the Amazon river divides the living quarters of the lepers from the quarters of the caregivers, and the nuns who run the camp insist that all the caregivers wear gloves when working with the sick. As Ernesto points out, this is clearly just symbolic, and he chooses not to do so. Symbolic of what? Of the division of people, despite the fact that the damger is artificial. It reflects his compassion toward the sick people of the South American countries, lost and ignored by a government that treats them like lepers. This is very profound. he makes good friends through being compassionate to the sick, even engaging them in a soccer game. When the nuns refuse to serve him lunch with the lepers, his patients steal food for him to eat. When they are going to leave the next day after a few weeks at the camp, it is Ernesto's birthday, and in the midst of a joyful party on the "staff side" of the river, he takes off swimming across the Amazon (an extremely dangerous endeavor) for the "sick side" to celebrate with and say goodbye to his sick friends.

After the leper colony, Ernesto's friend, who shares his ideals but has a plan for settling down (he is older after all), go back to work in a famous hospital, and Ernesto admits that he has been changed by the trip and may not be ready to go back to medical school yet. We know from history that this means he is feeling the seeds of the revolution in which he will become a major figure. The injustice you see in this movie is amazing, startling, and moving. It is hard for us to understand it in North America, but the political conditions in Latin America at that time were intense and dangerous. The social climate was extremely delicate, and after that time, many fascist governments were overcome by revolution. When you see what Che Guevara sees, you are inspired and you feel what he feels. It is very impressive and it makes you want to do something. This movie is both heartwarming and alarming, and I recommend it to anyone who wants some food for thought about life, justice, and standing for something.

Superman Returns

I am sure somebody has already reviewed this here, but I thought that I might as well put in my two cents. I just saw this movie, and I saw in playing in a theatre on my University although it's out of the theatres, I got a nice look at it on the big screen.

This movie is rife with special effects. It was clearly made to impress, and something like every five minutes you are bombarded with some enormous impressive image, in high detail. For example, even when we are just seeing a scene about Lex Luther in his boat, the scene begins not inside the boat's cabin's but over an impressively stormy, computer-animated sea. Or when the crystal starts growing in the sea, we see great dramatic view of the crystals growing from the bottom of the ocean. Also, when we see superman flying into space with the enormous crystal, for example, we feel like we are there because the enormous rocks are falling all around us. The only thing that is annoying is how fake superman looks when he is flying, because he looks absolutely computer animated. I don't think this is a big deal, though, since we all know it's not real, and everything is so computer animated these days that soon we are going to think that real life looks like that.

Back to Lex Luther, though, I must say that Kevin Spacey does an excellent job of playing the creepy, and sometimes comic, villain. Kevin Spacey is one of my favorite actors and I like how he entangles into the role, making us laugh in the very beginning when we meet him, stealing some dying widow's fortune and then throwing away the wig he is wearing and exposing up to the bald Lex we have always known. On the subject of casting, while Lois Lane is very beautiful, I don't like the actress they chose. She somehow didn't fit the part of Lois in my head, but that is obviously a personal preference. The other characters were fine.

The movie is nice. It is an exageration of all the other Superman movies. They poke fun during the movie at common phrases surrounding Superman ("truth, justice and all that stuff"), and make fun of hero movie in general by exagerrating everything. For some people, this makes the movie phony. In fact, my friend next to me during the movie couldn't keep from laughing during the scenes where Superman makes daring, predictable rescues, because they are so iconic and anti realistic. If you ask me, the movie does this intentionally, and it seems like a trend these days to make fun of the traditional way of making a movie, in a movie of the very same genre. For example, we see cartoons making fun of cartoons, gangsters making fun of gangster movies, and heroes making fun of their former selves, as here.

I really liked that they spent the first 10 ten minutes of the movie playing the famous Superman theme, and showing prior credits. I really liked that they gave us time to work up old memories of superman while absorbing the good old dramatic music and getting us in the mood for action.

Now, about the plot. The thing is, I liked the plot in that not everything turned out perfectly (that is, Lois and Superman don't end up together). When I saw the beginning of the film, and we discover that Lois is married, I realize that her son Jason must be Superman's, which of course we learn later when he saves his mom in an asthmatic fit when he throws a
PIANO at her attacker, but then I found myself wondering, how can they take a noble hero like Superman and allow him to break up this nice family? And the fact is, they don't let it happen, which I admire, but there is still something wrong about the son being his. Obviously it is necessary for there to be plenty of sequels, but I feel unsatisfied with an ending where Superman is just "around sometimes", and Lois has to see him but doesn't get to be with him. But I also don't want her husband to be shafted because he is also a very good man. Anyway, I guess it makes sense because although the boy is his son, he will never have to know it because being Superman is such a strong secret anyway. But what will happen to Clark? It's something terrible for him. But since he is superman anyway I guess he will strong enough to get by alone.

I liked the movie, it was entertaining. It was funny because they exaggerated so much and often Superman ended up making fun of himself and his past. The story line was clever enough, I can't complain except that it is cheesy, and as I said before, I think that that was really part of the point of the movie. They know that Superman is an icon and that it is hard to compete with the tradition of the story, except by adding thousands of amazing special effects. It is clear that this movie was made with 3-d in mind, and since it actually showed in some 3-D IMAX theatres, I think that even for me, and I don't like action movies and stunts very much, it would have been an amazing experience. I hope you like this one. It's no deep film, but it's a nice evening of entertainment for any age.

The Fly (1958)

The Story: A scientist's experiments with matter transference cause his molecules to become mixed with those of a fly, with tragic consequences.

It's always a risky proposition to revisit an old favorite horror film. Sometimes it's as great as you remember it, sometimes you find previously undiscovered chills or depths of meaning or character, sometimes you find it to be cheesy but fun or cheesy but bad, and sometimes you find... not much at all. It's a gamble, but every time I go to the video store and see row upon row of endless sequels and straight to video junk, I get the urge to roll the dice anyway. Roll away...

At the beginning of The Fly, Helene Delambre (Patricia Owens) is turning herself in for the murder of her scientist husband Andre (Al Hedison, who later changed his name to David to disguise his association with this film). His head and one arm have been crushed in a huge factory press and she calmly tells Andre's brother Francois (Vincent Price) and Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall) that she did it but can't disclose why.

The inspector lets her go on her own recognizance while he begins the investigation, and a devastated and puzzled Francois tries to get her to explain her actions. Clues begin to suggest that it has something to do with a white-headed house fly that she is obsessed with and has sent her son Phillipe (Charles Herbert) looking for. Eventually, Francois claims to have caught the fly and tricks her into opening up...

Andre's latest experiment was a matter transmitter, a science-fiction looking contraption that would disintegrate objects in one compartment and reintegrate it in another one at a different location. After a few successful tries with dinner plates and the like (and an attempt with the cat that doesn't turn out nearly as well), Andre decides to try it on himself. Something goes wrong, but we don't see what it is at first because Andre keeps his head and one arm covered with a towel as he tries to hide the results from his wife. Of course, a fly had gotten into the mix and he is revealed to have the head and arm of the poor creature. So what became (and will become) of the fly that everyone's looking for? Sorry, I'm not that kind of reviewer.

So, is this a good movie? Bad? So bad it's good? Well, as I check out reviews elsewhere, I see all three verdicts, and each has its merits, I suppose, though I don't necessarily agree with any of them. Here's my take:

Good stuff: Vincent Price! The man was always incapable of giving a bad performance, and here in a rare sympathetic role, he is nearly flawless. A bit campy sometimes, but he wouldn't be Uncle Vincent otherwise and for the most part he plays everything quite straight. The other performances are well and honestly done, with no real standouts to speak of. Everyone shows up and does their work well if unremarkably.

The budget is indulgent here as well. This is one of the few horror films of its era that could afford color, decent if unremarkable music, professional-looking sets, and good (though limited) special effects and makeup. No element calls much attention to itself at all, either for better or worse. Competence reigns supreme in The Fly. Which brings us to...

Bad stuff: Competence. Mere competence. Nothing in The Fly, aside from Price's performance (and all he had to do was show up and say his lines), is anything more or less than professional and... drab. Dull. Blah. Forgettable. And this is death in an old science fiction horror flick. Better ridiculous or overwrought than boring, I always say. The movie politely knocks on the door, sits daintily on the couch making polite conversation without raising its voice, and then leaves without leaving any muss or fuss or signs of its presence whatsoever. It just leaves the feeling that it's now an hour and a half later in your life and you still haven't got the dishes washed yet.

The Fly is the kind of date you can always bring home to meet Mom, knowing she'll feel comforted in the fact that you'll come home on time, sober and with every hair still in place. Okay if you're that type of person, but I wanna score or at least get smacked around for trying. In other words, The Fly isn't a bad time but you'll never get to second base. Whether this is a good thing or bad is up to you. Personally, I don't feel like I got ripped off but I feel quite unsatisfied and empty.

To me, the fun of movie gambling is the danger of losing everything or the thrill of coming home rich. With The Fly, I broke even. Damn.

P.S. Yes, that is James Clavell, the author of Shogun, getting screenplay credit.

Rent (2005)

Rent is a recent film, but as everybody knows it was first a broadway show. Therefore it has merits on two levels -- as a story, in which case the credit really goes to the original show, and we can take note of some of the differences in story later -- and as a movie. An incredible thing about this show-made-movie is that almost all of the **original cast** from Broadway performs together in the film version. Even though I never saw the show before seeing the movie (though I knew a lot about the show because of its popularity and several friends who liked it), I think knowing that this cast worked together from the beginning adds something to the (already heavy) emotional weight of the movie.

Anyone who is comfortable with homo/trans/tri/heterosexual issues is going to love how this film (show!) treats them, and anyone who isn't should see this anyway to get a taste of how those kinds of differences are so unimportant in light of how we ALL deal with life and troubles in the same realm, as human beings.

The story is about a group of friends who live in Alphabet city in New York, living a Bohemian lifestyle, just trying to make ends meet, and dealing with critical issues like AIDS, multi-sexuality, depression, drug addiction and suicide. On top of that, they are dealing with issues of self-awakening, understanding of others, dealing with loss, and standing for what you believe in while still trying to survive.

Of course, this is a musical, so if you hate when you see a movie where people are constantly breaking into song, you may get annoyed with this. However, the story is absolutely profound and you should give it a chance. You are probably going to forget that they are singing anyway.

Let's look at the cast of characters; you could say that the main character is Mark, although the friends all play important roles. Mark is an aspiring filmmaker / starving artist who is interested in making documentaries about the reality of life on the street and the difficulties of inner city and poor life. He lives with best friend Roger, who is lovesick over a girlfriend who died recently. Mark's bisexual ex-girlfriend is Maureen, and she has now turned to women and is dating beautiful lawyer Joanne. Mimi, who lives downstairs from Mark and Roger in Alphabet city, is a nineteen year old heroin addict who works in a night club dancing and is in love with Roger. Last, Tom Collins, a good friend of Roger and Mark, visits from his job teaching at a university and brings Angel, a sweet transvestite, into the gang when he meets her at the beginning of the movie. The first scene of the movie is of the cast on an actual stage, singing the opening song of the musical. It is obviously not pretending to be anything but it's musical origin, and this beginning pushes forward immediately the main message of the story - that we can't measure our lives in minutes or events, only in the love we collect along the way.

In the beginning of the movie, Benny, another old friend who has now married into a political family and basically owns the dump he used to live in with Mark and Roger, tells them that they need to leave or pay all the past rent that they have ignored. Benny's wife's family wants to tear down the old buildings and build a recording studio and other fancy stuff. Maureen is staging a protest against the action and Benny offers them free board indefinitely if they stop it. Naturally, they refuse. We are introduced to their Bohemian lifestyle and hippie-ish beliefs when we see how they protest in the streets, burning things to stay warm and ignoring calls from their families on Christmas day. But this strange group seems happy enough just struggling to get by.

We meet, in the first few scenes, Mark, Roger, who remains pretty reserved all the time, and Collins and Angel, who finds Collins after he is mugged in the street and they become fast friends and then, lovers. We discover that Angel and Collins, both gay men, have AIDS, and so does Roger, though we learn it a little later. Angel is an advocate for and avidly attends Life Support meetings, a support group for people with AIDS. He encourages all the others to come, because they are in one way or another highly affected by AIDS. The story takes place in the 80s in the height of the AIDS epidemic, so although it seems like an out-of-proportion number of people in the story are HIV-positive, it is not unrealistic considering the height of ignorance that existed, and the high rate of infection, especially in poorer communities and among gays, We see people in the Life Support meetings dealing with feelings about the diseasea dn trying to live their lives normally in the grip of a scary unknown. We also meet Mimi in the beginning, when she goes upstairs to bother Roger, who pushes her away. His past haunts him every moment. He avoids going out with friends, and he avoids getting interested in anyone, especially Mimi. His previous girlfriend haunts him. They were both heroine addicts and we see in a wave of music how they fell in love and did drugs together, only to learn that they both have AIDS. We infer from what is shown that his girlfriend died. This is one place that the movie differs from the original show. In the movie, we don't know exactly what happens to Roger's ex-girlfriend, only that she died, seemingly from AIDS or maybe from an overdose, since he is particularly bitter with Mimi about her addiction to smack. But in the show, we hear that in fact, his girlfriend committed suicide when she got the HIV test results, leaving behind a note that said "we have AIDS". In my opinion, this would have been super-powerful and should have been included in the movie. Regardless, this is what makes Roger push away Mimi, not only his past but the fact that he has the disease now and doesn't see any reason to do anything but wait to die. Much of the movie is his friends convincing him otherwise.

We watch the evolution of the friendships as the whole group seems to gel. Angel is incorporated into the group, and she is absolutely full of life. Always dressing in bright colors, always joyful, always supportive and always encouraging the others to enjoy life and to support each other even under the worst circumstances (drugs? AIDS? Suicide? Most of these guys have had it pretty rough - and anyone who thinks this is an exaggeration is living too comfortable of a life), she is the lifeline of the group. And as we watch the relationship between her and Collins evolve, we fall in love with her too ... they have found a true love, in the face of all the terrible things. And they provide a good lesson for anyone who is not comfortable with bisexuality or transsexuality - one cannot help but feel deeply for the two of them in love. Sometimes it just takes a story like this for some bigotry to be fought - people need to see and feel that LBGQTA people fall in love and life just like all the straight and "normal" people. This is why it is so heartbreaking when we see that she is the first who begins to deteriorate under the influence of the disease.

We also are introduced to the crazy Maureen when we see her show, which is a protest against throwing all of the poor people out of their homes and building whatever they want. What is supposed to be a peaceful protest turns violent when the police are unleashed on the crowd for no reason, but the commotion they create by their attack is indistinguishable from if the crown actually started the riot themselves. This is supposed to be a real story, and a pretty realistic interpretation of a real riot that occurred there in the 80s. It is terrible, but in the end they all get away from the commotion okay, and Mark sells some footage that he shot of the riot to a news company so they will see what really happened at the protest. They go to a cafe to celebrate and run into who else, but Benny, who is responsible for calling out the police who initiated the violence. In a show like only broadway can produce, they sing about their Bohemian lifestyle, the strengths of their beliefs even in adversity, and laugh in Benny's face about how uncomfortable he is around the ideals that he himself used to have. This night, Roger and Mimi finally get together when they realize by talking that they both have AIDS and that life is too short to be cold to other people because you are scared. Roger has a difficult time, but he decides that it is time to put himself out there instead of hiding until the disease takes him over.

In the midst of all this, Maureen and Joanne, in a rocky relationship because Maureen is continuously too friendly with other girls (and guys), a behavior confirmed adamantly by Mark from their previous relationship, have some fights and some loving moments, all awkwardly in front of Mark, who still can't resist Maureen. After a big fight, as a resolution they decide to do the equivalent of getting married and make a life-long commitment to each other. There is a fancy engagement party (Joanne's family is obviously quite wealthy), which is another model for how the world should be, accepting of all sexual styles and preferences. The event goes beautifully until Joanne catches a drunk Maureen flirting with one of the catering waitresses, and they fight with each other and break up for good in front of everyone. This is when things start to break down for the whole group.

Roger and Mimi's budding relationship goes wrong when Roger finds out that Mimi had dinner with Benny to try to convince him to leave the guys alone in their home. It turns out that Mimi and Benny had had an affair a few months before, and even though we don't find out if anything actually happened at "dinner", Roger is fed up and refuses to see Mimi anymore. She goes back into a drug-filled world and after some time gets involved with Benny again. Angel's health rapidly deteriorates as the Life Support group gets smaller, although at last Roger, Mimi, and the others are attending all in support of each other. After some time, they lose Angel and despite their difference are brought together at her funeral. This part is very painful, and now the last happy couple is also broken. Collins' pain is very real and everyone feels the loss of the lifeline of the group. It has been less than a year since they met her, and now she is gone.

After the funeral, Roger leaves New York and drives off to Santa Fe, to wander in the desert and think about how angry he is with life. Mimi gets worse, does more drugs, and then gets lost form the others, living on the street. Mark is alone in his home now, working on a film of all their adventures together, balanced between the rest of his friends. Joanne and Maureen aren't talking. At the funeral for Angel they fight on their way out, and even Roger and Mark fight before Roger leaves.

After some time in New Mexico Roger realizes he's in the wrong place and heads back to New York. They are all looking for Mimi but she is nowhere to be found, they don't even know if she's still alive. Not even Benny has heard from her. When Roger gets back, it's Christmas again, just like one year ago when the story began. Collins has returned to visit and while they are talking the girls yell up to the apartment that they have found Mimi. This is the great finale of the movie. They bring her up, barely clinging to life. She is delirious. Roger sings a song to Mimi that he wrote for her while coming back from Santa Fe. They are realizing, when it is almost too late, that they need to live life to its fullest. Mimi seems to have died, but suddenly she comes back to life, giving her and Roger a second chance and showing them all that they should do the same with each other and in their friendships.

We can learn a lot from this movie, and i can never convey its emotional impact, it is only something you can understand from watching it. There are so many things wrong in the lives of these people, and they realize after it all they should be filled with the joy o living, the joy that Angel felt and imparted onto them until her last moments alive. This is a message that you can get from a lot of movies, but this story has such a huge impact because their lives are realistic, their problems are important and their ideals are reachable. The movie is full of uncomfortable issues, and it explains that we need to see past these problems if we want to enjoy this world. The message is absolutely valuable, straightforward, and real.

some of my favorite lines from the movie are:

-"there's only us, there's only this. forget regret, or life is yours to miss.... give in to love, or live in fear!" (finale, other songs, main theme)
-"you'll never share real love until you love yourself" (Roger to Mimi)
-"live in my house, I'll be your shelter. just pay me back with one thousand kisses" (Angel, "I'll cover you")
-"goodbye, love...hello, disease..." (Mimi to Roger, when he leaves for Santa Fe)

My favorite scenes are:
-when Collins and Angel sing "I'll cover you" in the street, because it is a raw moment of the beauty and purity of their love.
-Angel's funeral, when Collins sings in front of the others; the pain is real, and by suffering it with them we learn something.
-After the funeral, in the graveyard, when they fight. because their pain is raw; they just want to be happy, and it tears them apart.
-the finale, of course. not just because Roger and Mimi can be together. Because the words are so beautiful, and the message so solid.

Please watch this movie. I don't think it made it into the mainstream, because it is sort of a cult story, and deals with a lot of controversial issues, not to mention the musical nature of it. But even if you are not as sentimental as I am about the message, the movie has a lot to say that is worth hearing, and I think everyone should experience it at least once. I am unable to describe how it affected me. I am not gay, I am not Bohemian, I am not a hippie, or any of the stereotypical things that you think a person who loves this movie would be. I simply love the message that we have to embrace life. We hear it time and time again but we don't understand it. We don't appreciate the weight of our friendships, the value of our minutes with them, and how lucky we are when so many have to deal with adversity. And seeing the joy through that adversity, lots of adversity, is the miracle of Rent.

Jericho, Episode Eleven, Vox Populi

By Christina VanGinkel

Eight weeks after the bombs, and one day before the elections, Robert is on his computer when a message comes across the screen that says Traitor Identified. Make Contact ASAP. He starts to reply, but his son his calling for him, telling him he needs him, and he goes to see what he wants. He wants Robert to teach him how to play football. Robert tells him he is not sure he knows how, but he knows a little. He is pulled between what he just read on the computer and his son. He goes to play with his son.

In town, Emily talks to Jake. They begin to reminisce about their teenage years. Emily then switches the discussion and wants to know about the day Jake went to get his father medicine and Heather kissed him.

At Gracie's, Dale walks in and finds Gracie dead on the floor. McCafferty shows up and says he has something to tell them about her death. He says Jonah told them he killed her because she would not do business with him any longer, but that he did not believe him, so he came to see for his self if she were dead. He offers his help in tracking Jonah down. Gray Anderson makes a scene, and Johnston orders the civilian, Gray, removed from the crime scene.

Jake walks Emily home. Jake leaves and when Emily goes inside, her father, Jonah, is there with a gun. He has been injured.

Back at the police station, Johnston and his family discuss Gracie's murder along with Dale. Dale wants to go with them but Gail stops him. She tells him she ahs something to talk to him about.

At the bar, the deputies are discussing voting for Gray Anderson for mayor.

Out at the Richmond farm, Bonnie walks in on Mimi and Stanley in bed. Stanley runs after her and they argue. Bonnie leaves in the truck.

Robert is playing catch with his son and the football. He is asking Robert questions about football, but Robert is worried about work. His wife shows up and as she is answering their son's questions about football and Robert is looking on, Jake drives up and tells him they need his help.

Gail sits Dale down for a talk. She tells him that after the bombs were dropped and his parents died, Gracie changed her will and left the store to him. Gail was the witness of the will change.

Jake shows up at Emily's just as Gray Anderson does. Gray wants to search Emily's house but she tells him no. Robert leaves with Gray Anderson, but Jake stays behind. He tells her she blinked when they asked her about Jonah, and wants to know where he is. He goes into Emily's house where Jonah is armed and waiting. He tells them that when he woke up this morning, McCafferty and his men were standing over him and they told him Gracie was dead and that he killed her. McCafferty then sliced his arm. His men sided with McCafferty, mad at him that he did not allow them to shoot when Emily drove the truck with the generator out of the compound. As he pleads his case to Jake and Emily, he passes out.

Robert has gone back into his basement to work. He signs onto his computer and is greeted by the message Response is critical. Send your coordinates ASAP. He pauses, then starts to type that his coordinates are, and then erases that. He then types Compromised. Proceed without me. He hits send.

Gray Anderson is using Gracie's death to garner votes for the impending election. Jake shows up in town. He goes to talk to his father.

Mimi and Stanley are washing clothes. Mimi tells him that what they did was a mistake. Stanley asks him if it is because of Bonnie. They disagree some, then end up kissing.

Jake tells Johnston and Eric the story that Jonah told him before he passed out. They are going to go out and get him, but before they can, Emily rushes in and tells them he is gone.

Jonah is on the run, but vigilantes from town, including Gray Anderson, have tracked him down. They bring him back to town.

Gray is elected Mayor, and takes office immediately. As his first official act as mayor, he orders the food from the food drop to be distributed immediately. He then addresses the murder of Gracie. He says that justice will be swift and sure.

Jake goes to see Jonah at the jail. Emily also shows up. She tells Jake that she is sorry that his dad lost the election.

McCafferty shows up at the store and threatens Dale. He puts a knife to his throat and tells him not to make the same mistake that Gracie did, otherwise people would be putting out flowers for him too. He leaves, telling him he will see him the next day, the next, and the next.

Stanley finds Mimi knitting. They end up kissing yet again, and Bonnie walks in, again. She takes her coat and leaves.

Back in town, Jake tells his father he is sorry that he lost the election. Dale comes up to them and tells them that McCafferty is the one who killed Gracie. He tells them about his confrontation with him and they head over tot eh courthouse to tell Gray Anderson. They find him just as he is ready to take Jonah somewhere. They tell him what Dale has said about McCafferty, but he says it does not matter, that he could be lying. Gray tells them they are moving him. He goes on to tell them that as mayor he formed a tribunal and found Jonah guilty. They argue, and he says that from now on, people like Jonah just go away. Jake hands him a gun and tells him that if he is going to kill Jonah, he had better do it right there, and not in some dark room. Gray grabs the gun and points it at Jonah. Jake tells Gray that he had better be right, because justice will be swift and he himself will be found guilty of murder.

They all agree that Jonah will be exiled. Johnston asks Gray what he plans to do about McCafferty. He says he will handle him. Johnston packs up the last of his office and leaves.

Robert is out in the yard playing football with his son again. His wife comes into the yard, and he makes some small amends to her. He slaps her on the bottom as he walks away, and makes a comment about is not that what all football players do toe ach other.

Jonah is packing and he talks to Emily about her brother. He tells her not to blame Jake, that his death is on him. He goes on to tell her that Jake wanted out, and that her brother was not cut out for the life of crime they were leading. He also tells her that Jake still loves her. He leaves.

Bonnie is in town with the truck and approaches a boy. He gets in her truck and they drive off.

Emily meets up with Jake at Mary's bar. She tells him that her father is gone. The jukebox is on and they dance. He holds her close, and they are about to kiss when there is a commotion out on the street. A group of stragglers has arrived in town, and among them is Emily's fiance.

McCafferty is smoking a cigarette by a car when a light shines in his face. As he asks who that is, Dale shoots him.

Robert has an incoming message. It says We need to discuss why you are lying to us. It then switches to a satellite view map and quickly zooms in on a snapshot of Robert and his son in their backyard. Another message pops up that simply says, See you soon.

The Fly (1986)

The Story: A scientist and the woman who loves him battle with the horrifying results of a teleportation experiment that has turned tragically wrong.

Remakes! There is a special circle of Hell reserved for dirty politicians, crooked lawyers, spiteful X's, and whoever the bastard is who first said "Hey, that's a good movie. Let's make it all over again and trash its memory forever." Remakes are always lurching, sanitized, lowest common denominator, trend-of-the-month monstrosities with no personality of their own except for the suspicious odors of formaldehyde and brimstone wafting through the theater.

And all generalizations are false. The Fly is a monstrously well-made and powerful film, while its predecessor is a competent but dull B movie. Sometimes bad guys do good things despite their worst intentions. This is like a deal with the Devil at the crossroads, except Old Scratch forgot to collect on his part of the deal.

At the beginning of The Fly, research scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) invites Veronica (Geena Davis), a reporter, back to his lab to see his teleportation device. Just like in the original film, the scientist has two telepods set up in his Frankenstein-like lair. Put an object in one, flash some special effects hither and yon and the object appears in the other pod. Well, the setup has a few bugs to work out yet - living creatures don't come through it looking so healthy. As Seth and Veronica's relationship develops into love, Brundle fiddles with this and that until he's confident (or drunk) enough to try the ultimate experiment - to teleport himself from one pod to the other.

Hey, it worked! But of course, we know that there had to be a fly in there somewhere or we would be stuck with a romantic comedy. Why didn't he change like in the original movie? Oh yeah... because this is the 1980s and we can make this a very gruesome movie with more psychological depth. This time, the change is disturbingly gradual. As Brundle's body begins to gradually discard human parts (check out the collection in the medicine cabinet!) and gain fly parts, his mind undergoes a gradual transformation as well. As the film progresses, and we come to feel more and more pity for the man and the woman who loves him, we also become more and more horrified as his looks and behavior take on inhuman and animalistic, vicious tendencies...

Okay, I'll stop there. Are there many surprises from this point on? From a plot standpoint, not really. Some of the particulars of Seth's mental and physical degradation are shocking, but all is built from a logical foundation once you accept the basic premise. I can't describe any particulars for you, since it would ruin shocks and surprises for the uninitiated and those who have seen the movie know that descriptions wouldn't do it justice anyway. Suffice it to say that The Fly is one of the most surprising, scary big-budget horror movies of the 1980s and is well deserving of the acclaim that it collected - not to mention the Academy Award for the makeup.

Well, you already can tell that I consider this a good movie. The performances on the whole range from sturdy and workmanlike to inspired, though Goldblum's performance could have used a lot more subtlety in my view. The pathos that comes through is due more to the horror of the situation itself and the destruction that is wrought upon those around him than from anything Goldblum does with his role. I suspect he was picked more for his natural insectoid looks than for his acting skills and would have rather seen a more restrained and dignified actor in the role (supporting actor John Getz, perhaps?). Davis's role, on the other hand, is justifiably star making in its honesty and sympathy.

In contrast to the effect of the original film, we are treated to a much more intelligent and complex array of characters and situations, and Cronenberg's usual allegories and personal obsessions are fortunately held in abeyance. There are a few "deep," "metaphorical" elements here and there, and a few moments that are momentarily silly and destructive to the mood (and a ridiculous cheat dream sequence), but all in all this is a remarkably restrained and straightforward film for Cronenberg. Someone somewhere must have shackled the poor man and kept him from his usual creative frenzy, and in this rare instance I approve.

In the end, this movie breaks all of the rules - it's a remake, it's a modern special-effects blockbuster, it's a movie made by an idiosyncratic artist hampered by commercial restraints, and it's a thinking person's gore movie. Plus... it's a David Cronenberg movie with normal, sympathetic characters and no overt obsessive navel gazing. All in all, Cronenberg's "Fly" is that rarity of rarities: A deal with the devil that turns out to be a good deal for all concerned.

Except of course for Seth Brundle and the people in his life.

The Princess Bride

This movie is. a. classic. Let's face it; it's a kid's movie - but let's face it; ANYone can enjoy it. And not because it's the Lion King, for example. This is a fairy tale, a true fairy, lock, stock, and barrel. And it doesn't pretend to be anything else. In fact, the movie is a story inside a story, when a sick boy (Fred Savage....he's so young and tiny!) is stuck at home and his grandfather comes over to read him a story - a book called The Princess Bride, a fairy tale of fairy tales. As his grandfather says, it has everything - danger, royalty, heroism, comedy, true love. Although the kid isn't too excited about having a book read to him (as the grandfather says, "when I was a kid, television used to be called books"), what else can he do? He's sick. So in the end, he says okay, and waits for the story to unfold. We find ourselves in the very beginning of the story, when Wesley and the Princess meet. She is a commoner, who lives in the countryside, and Wesley is a farm boy, who is completely under her control. Whenever she finds the smallest task, she asks him to do it for her. He always replies with "As you wish", and does anything she asks. Soon enough (and we're talking about in five minutes of movie, here) they fall in love, "true" love, and they are already making out in the sunset, etc. etc. Then one day Wesley has to go to sea, for some reason I can't remember, but I guess that it is for war. He tells the girl that he will come back for her, and that nothing can stop true love. She receives news soon after that Wesley's ship has been attacked by the famous Dread Pirate Roberts, and that there are no survivors. She doesn't sleep for days, and basically loses all will to live. But of course, she must go on. The next scene we find her five years later, chosen by the prince of the land, Prince Humperdink, to marry him and become the Princess. Although she does not love him, he is allowed to marry anyone he wants from the land that his family rules, so she agrees. We see her presented to the crowd as future princess and queen. She lives in the castle while awaiting her wedding, and goes horseback riding as her only reprieve from the terrible lonely live that is about to surround her. It is on one of these rides that she is kidnapped in the woods by some men claiming to be circus performers. There is a little old man, a giant, and a Spaniard who is an expert in sword fighting. They were actually hired to kidnap the princess and deliver her to the prince's enemies in order to begin a war with them.

They take her on a boat and are well on their way to the other country when they notice a ship following them. The princess insists that they are going to be caught by Humperdink, who is clearly the best hunter who has ever lived (really, since this is true from what he see of him in the film), so they are pretty nervous about the second ship in the water. Anyway, it turns out that they reach the Cliffs of Insanity, their destination, before the other ship can catch up. They climb together up a rope that they had clearly put there before for that purpose, and while they think this "docking" will help them lose their follower, they are wrong. He pulls his ship up right next to theirs and jumps out, climbing up the ripe right behind them. Not wanting to be chased or caught by anyone, the little man leaves behind his Spaniard to kill the man in black who is climbing the rope behind them. When the man in black gets to the top, they have a pleasant conversation while the Spaniard lets him relax for a few minutes after his climb to the top, before they resume fighting. That is one of the great things about this movie; it is overly ridiculous. They discuss the Spaniard's past, and we hear for the first time that his father was killed by a six fingered man and that his entire life has been dedicated to finding the man and taking revenge for his father. We don't learn anything about the man in black, because, of course, he has to remain mysterious.

They finally sword fight, a sport that is a passion for each of them. The moves and stunts during the fight are impressive, but even though the Spaniard has studied swordplay all of his life, it is clear that the man in black is better. They both begin fighting with their left hands and each switches to the right hand as a surprise. It is very funny. In the end, the Spaniard is caught without his sword and the man in black doesn't kill him - after a few words of respect, he simply knocks him out so that he can't follow him either.

Soon, he catches up with the other two kidnappers and the princess, and once again the man leaves the giant behind to contend with (and kill) the man in black. The giant doesn't want to surprise the man in black with a rock and kill him as the little man suggests; so instead he misses with the rock and asks for a "fair" fight, hand to hand, although the odds are clearly not even since he is a giant giant. Somehow, after a few blows that clearly have no effect of the giant, the man in black climbs on his back and chokes him from behind until he passes out, but again not killing him, the naturally honorable thing to do.

He goes on to find the princess and the stupid old man. He finds them resting together. The little man says that he is clearly no match physically, but that he is the smartest man alive, and that it would be impossible for the man in black to compete with his brain. Thus, the man in black challenges the little man to a battle of wits. He pulls out a little vile of poisonous powder, and places powder in one of the wine glasses before the two men. He says that the little man should choose which one he wants, and then they both should drink, and one of them die. This is one of the best parts of the movie. The silly little man makes a ridiculous show trying to figure out which glass has the poison, and after some time he chooses (although he switches the glasses when he thinks the man in black is not looking), and they drink. While laughing about his victory, he falls over dead.

The man in black then takes the princess and they start walking. He asks her why she has betrayed her true love to marry the prince and she realizes that he is the Dread Pirate Roberts himself, come to steal her. He says that he remembers killing her love. When they see Humperdink pursuing them on the horizon, she pushes the man in black over a steep hillside, and as he rolls down it he cries, "as.... you... wish..." and she realizes immediately that it is her Wesley himself, and consequently throws her own self down the hillside after him. They land at the bottom together, kiss and make up, and then are chased into the treacherous fire swamp by Prince Humperdink and his other men.

Through some miracle they make it through the fire swamp (where the three dangers are fire coming out of the ground, lightning quicksand and rodents of unusual size, and no one has ever come out alive). On the other side, though, they get apprehended, and when the princess realizes that they are going to kill Wesley if he doesn't surrender, she begs her Prince to let him go if she will marry him after all. He agrees, takes the princess home, and immediately throws Wesley into prison, where he is tortured by a strange machine that was built by one of Humperdink's henchmen, the six-fingered man.

Now the rest of the story must ensue, filling the time between the princess's "capture" and her wedding to Humperdink. The Spaniard and the giant reappear, and since they now both feel an affinity for the man in black, and they have heard about the wedding of the princess, they know that they must do something to help him. In the end, they try to find him, they go to stop the wedding, and they all become very good friends. Humperdink is killed along with the six-fingered man, and everyone is happy. Wesley even hands along his place as the Dread Pirate Roberts (a role handed him by the real pirate and the pirate before him) to the Spaniard, since he doesn't know what to do with his life after the revenge has been reached.

It is cute to see Fred Savage reacting to the story all the time. He gets nervous when things go wrong, and since he clearly doesn't want his grandfather to notice it, his grandfather makes fun of him anyway. He offers a few times to leave the boy alone and stop reading the story, but of course the boy refuses this. He says it is very gross at the kissing parts, except of course in the end, when the kisses are extremely important because of the clarity of the true love.

This movie is excellent and amusing for kids and adults. I recommend it one hundred percent. It not only tells a good story but also teaches about life, and that even when things are serious, one can joke a little. It also makes fun of ordinary fairy tales, teaching that all those things you hear in stories are too exaggerated to be true, but that they can teach something anyway. Most importantly, this movie emphasizes the fact that true love is more important than anything else we encounter. I think this is the primary point of the story (and that grandfathers aren't always that boring).

Little shop of horrors (1960)

The Story: A nerdy skid row florist's apprentice becomes a celebrity by inadvertently inventing a talking man-eating plant, which quickly grows out of control and turns him into a reluctant murderer.

B-movie king Roger Corman used to make movies almost as guerilla-type operations. There was a time during the late 1950s and early 1960s when he would use left over sets from previous movies to make new quickies as the sets were being torn down around him and his crew. Most of the time, the results were fun but obviously cheap and rather forgettable. Little Shop of Horrors, on the other hand, was a happy accident in every way. This two-day film was made for a reported $27,000 and has proven to be a comedy/horror classic with scores of imitators and admirers. It even spawned a Broadway musical version that was later successfully turned into a film by Muppeteer Frank Oz, starring Rick Moranis and Steve Martin.

According to legend, Corman found himself one Friday afternoon with a finished film and some skid row sets that weren't due to be torn down until early the next week. He asked his regular screenwriter Charles Griffith to come up with a screenplay that could utilize the sets. Griffith cannibalized his own script for Bucket of Blood, changed the sculptor character into a nebbishy florist employee, added more jokes and goofy subplots, and had it all ready for filming by the next morning. Corman drafted his usual crew and a cast of his faithful repertory actors and filmed the whole thing before the crews showed up Monday to dismantle the sets.

The film stars Corman regular Jonathan Haze as a Seymour Krelborn, a geeky apprentice in Mushnick's (Mel Welles) skid row flower shop. The sign in the window says "Lots plants - cheap!" in what is not the first and certainly not the last in a nearly non-stop series of assaults upon the integrity of the English language ("What do you call this salad?" "Caesarean." "Does your plant have a scientific name?" "Yes, of course, but who could denounce it?"). Seymour brings in a goofy-looking little decrepit plant one day. He names it Audrey Jr. after the sweet flower shop girl (Jackie Joseph) he has a crush on. Everyone in the shop except Audrey makes fun of the pathetic thing until Seymour accidentally discovers its taste for blood ("Feed me," it implores, "feeeeeed me! More!" The voice was done by screenwriter Griffith, by the way) and it grows into a magnificent specimen. He becomes a local celebrity and the flower shop finally becomes a success. The plant becomes more and more voracious, and more and more intelligent and controlling, until Seymour finds himself pressed into service providing human food for it. Eventually, Seymour's secret is found out and he is on the run.

On the surface, this sounds like a simple remake of Bucket of Blood with a slight change of venue. The basic plot is rather similar and some of the scenery and music is even recycled from the previous film. Where this film rises above its predecessor is mostly in the added dimensions of the supporting characters, from Bucket of Blood star Dick Miller as a flower-eating customer (Mushnick's inferior looking flowers have more nutritional value than actual pretty ones, it would seem) and Myrtle Vail as Seymour's hypochondriac mother (but all those alcohol-based medications sure do get her through the day) to Jack Nicholson in one of his first roles as a masochistic dental patient named Wilbur Force ("Oh God," he exclaims in the dentist's chair, "Don't stop now!"). The dialogue has also grown several layers of wit, nuance and style since the earlier film.

All in all, this is one of the most hilarious comedy horrors ever, and for a change is not even without suspenseful and rather shocking moments as well. This movie provides a never-ending supply of clever one-liners and original, quirky and multidimensional characters. The jokes come in fast and furiously, from the lowest slapstick to surprisingly sophisticated verbal wit. If it weren't for its obvious (but quite charming) cheapness and the rushed quality of the sound, camera work and editing, it would be a nearly perfect film. As it is, it is still an undying horror comedy classic, deserving of and nearly demanding repeat viewings. Viva skid row!

The X-Files Season One

Review by Garnet Brooks

For anyone who has not seen this series ever this may be a treat. Many people have seen it in reruns on cable and many more may be watching it still. The series was created by Chris Carter and he directs and writes some episodes. The stars are David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. The two play FBI agents. Duchovny is Fox Mulder a man who distinguished himself as a criminal profiler only to fall out of favor at the Bureau because of his belief in paranormal phenomena. Anderson is Dana Scully a medical doctor who was recruited to the FBI. Relatively fresh from her training she is recruited by higher ups to work as Muldar's partner and use her rigorous scientific training to debunk the annoying Mulder. He has found the X-files. They are cases dating back decades-the ones the FBI wants to forget about both because they remain unsolved and because a supernatural element appears in each. Supporting characters in the series include Muldar's and Scully's boss and an unnamed man of rank and power known as "the Smoking Man."

The series pilot was originally aired on 9-10-93. This was not long after the movie premier of The Silence of the Lambs. The content of The X-Files is nowhere like the film but some of its stylistic elements are an homage to that film. For example, each episode has a kind of place and date stamp every so often. As the series progressed it took on its own look owing in part to its being shot in and around Vancouver. There are a lot of things going on in pine forests. It is often raining or gloomy or just a bit foggy. One of the trademark shots is of the pair Scully and Mulder with very bright flashlights plumbing the depths of something or another.

The pilot episode is one of those shot in a pine forest. In the dark woods we see a helpless young girl. She is being stalked by something unseen and menacing. A bright light appears just on the horizon of the wooded rise. Into it steps a silhouetted figure, one we cannot identify except that its shape is human in outline. The next shot is of a dead body. In daylight we see a team of investigators standing over her. One of them comments on how the same thing is happing again. Thus the series begins.

The scene changes to an exterior shot of the imposing concrete facade of the FBI building in Washington, D.C. The fresh faced Scully is entering the domain for her first meeting with the brass. In this shot we see a glimpse of the ordinary FBI world with its desks and cubicles and paperwork on its employee's desks. We rarely see these shots again because this is not about the ordinary FBI world. Mulder may work for them but he occupies a different space both literally and emotionally. He is in the basement and his office is almost hidden by storage boxes. When Scully knocks he yells something out about being the FBI's least wanted. This is a joke that is very typical of his character. It is also a pop culture reference to another television show-one which features reality cop segments.

In this segment the parameters of the relationship between Mulder and Scully are set. Mulder is always eager to investigate seemingly unexplainable phenomena and Scully is the devil's advocate and spokesperson for science and rationality. Mulder jokes and Scully discourses on the facts. Scully who has been sent to spy on Mulder cannot just do that for she is bound to be objective and she becomes genuinely collaborative if still quite skeptical. Mulder is just happy to have someone to talk to who will listen to him. Across time in the series the science vs. belief theme is played out again and again. Usually this is written in a form that is palatable to the viewer but by season seven it is rather repetitive though to Carter's credit he spoofs the whole issue in an episode that season.

Other people begin to populate The X-Files world right away. In episode two the mysterious Deep Throat is introduced. He is played by Jerry Hardin and is killed off after several appearances. The man seems to be benign and is a figure that Mulder wants to trust. There is almost a father and son dynamic there. Episode two is also the first time the audience sees a UFO like craft. Here it is explained as a secret military plane that has been constructed from salvaged UFO technology.

Episode three is the first of many episodes that might be categorized as mutant humanoid episodes. In this one the mutated human Eugene Victor Tooms is able to stretch himself becoming so thin he can enter locked facilities through tiny portals like those used for air conditioning vents. As is usual with these types of episodes there is an "ick" factor. In this one Tooms secrets some sort of yellow bile that he uses to make a nest. Stone faced, Mulder has to get rid of the slime he gets into. The episode manages to be genuinely creepy and frightening. Tooms collects livers. He reappears later in the season for a sequel. The plot line is that he has escaped custody and this time he is targeting Scully.

The fourth episode is one in which we see the first evidence of alien abduction. A woman named Morris having witnessed the sighting of an alien UFO when she was a child find that her daughter has been abducted. This was to be a reoccurring theme of later episodes and in the second season Scully is herself abducted. One episode in the first season has a character named Max. He is seen later in additional episode. Max is an abductee. He is a member of a group called NICAP one of several groups who turn up in The X-Files who are either abductees themselves or who are investigating possible alien encounters. Mulder is detained by the military as he is investigating evidence of a crashed alien vessel. Here we see black clad secret military units and helicopters with search lights one of the reoccurring imagines that lend the series its dark, unnerving quality.

In addition to stand alone episodes often featuring the mutant theme, a number of episodes per season feature a continuing and developing mythology. The final episode of the season is a mythology episode. In it a scientist mysteriously kills himself. Mulder and Scully investigate. They find a vial in the lab labeled "purity control." When analyzed it is found to contain bacteria that cannot be of terrestrial origins. The woman who tests the sample is mysteriously killed in an auto accident. Mulder finds adult humans in tanks of liquid but the evidence is gone by the time he returns with Scully and Deep Throat. Deep Throat has a last included Scully in the meetings. He gives Scully a pass card that allows her to gain access to a top secret medical facility where she finds proof of alien existence. It is a cryogenically frozen alien fetus and she takes it to trade for Mulder who has now been held prisoner. In the trade she gets Mulder back but Deep Throat is killed. Mulder stumbled upon one of the human-alien hybrids and was injured but not killed. These hybrids do not have human blood chemistry and when their skin is pierced it secrets a toxic gas. Mulder inhaled it but was pulled out of the room before he was fatally injured. The themes in this episode will be elaborated on in later years. At the end of season one the X-Files are officially closed down and Mulder and Scully are split up. They are assigned to different tasks at the FBI.

The season one DVD set contains several special features. In addition to deleted scenes and special effects clips the last disc contains a DVD-ROM game and several promotional spots. The commentary and documentary segment by Chris Carter is particularly good. He comments of some of his favorite episodes. Among them are two particularly outstanding episodes. One is about a group of clones all named Eve. They are genetically manipulated becoming strong, intelligent, and psychotic. Of the original group only three remain. One of them clones herself and this heightens the unusual characteristics producing two young girls who then murder their respective adoptive fathers. In another episode we see Scully's father die. A man on death row claims to be able to put her in touch with her father's spirit. Here we see the scientifically minded Scully struggling with her spiritual beliefs as she seeks to know what her father may be trying to communicate to her beyond the grave.

The X-Files Season Two

Review by Garnet Brooks

This creation of Chris Carter stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as the FBI team of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. During the first season they establish trust with each other and pursue cases in the X-Files that are unexplained and may have a paranormal element. This causes friction between the pair and others. Not just their higher ups at the FBI but also shadowy figures from unknown agencies are anxious to discredit them and close down the X-Files. During season one the mythology of the series develops. There we see the first hints of a possible alien presence. People report kidnapping and exhibit the symptoms ascribed to the abduction syndrome. Mulder and Scully pursue evidence of downed alien ships and of the presence of military vessels designed with the aid of alien technology. At the end of the first season the pair is split up and assigned to different divisions of the FBI.

Season two begins with pair passing in the halls without really communicating. Scully is concerned about Mulder and signals him for a secret meeting. He is discouraged and uncommunicative. The first episode of season two is one in which Mulder is drawn into an investigation of a radio signal. He pursues this alone and is drawn to an astronomical station in the jungles outside the U.S. He is missing without permission and Scully investigates finding him and helping him escape. Their efforts do not yield the kind of proof of alien presence that they hope. As has happened before when they turn up something it is snatched from them or they are unable to retain the proof that they do get. This occurs time and again in the series. The elusive proof they desire is just out of their grasp leaving others who would silence them out of their reach. Mulder's reputation as a crank is preserved while Scully is increasingly seen by others as "Mrs. Spooky." "Spooky" is the contemptuous nickname given to Mulder.

Season two sees the introduction of new characters who have reoccurring parts. A.D. Skinner becomes Scully's and Mulder's immediate superior in this season. We see a new secret source of information for Mulder: the mysterious Mr. X. This man has replaced Deep Throat who was killed at the end of season one. Unlike Deep Throat, he is reluctant to part with information. He is also rather hostile at times and it is unclear whether or not he means Mulder well. The Smoking Man is more prominent as the representative of evil. In one episode he talks about his view of things and it is clear that he does not see himself this way instead he regards himself as a patriotic man who is attempting protect the world albeit in his secretive and frequently lethal way. It becomes apparent later in the season that he is an acquaintance of Mulder's father. We first see Mulder's parents in an episode where they have been approached by a woman who claims to be Samantha their lost daughter. Mulder's parents are divorced. During season two we see more of Scully's family. Her father dies. In one episode we see her sister Melissa introduced. A trio of reoccurring characters are sometimes referred to as the Lone Gunmen. Actually the Lone Gunman is the name of the newspaper they publish and it is a reference to the secrecy and lies that they believe surrounded the Kennedy assassination. The men are Byers, Frohike, and Langly. They are computer nerds and conspiracy buffs whom Mulder has befriended and sometimes consults for information and help.

In a two part episode early in the season Scully is kidnapped. This apparently was envisioned as a way to give Gillian Anderson time off since she was pregnant but it became a significant piece of the mythology as the series continued. In the first of the two episodes a man named Duane Barry takes a group of people hostage. Barry is a paranoid man who claims to have been repeatedly abducted by aliens and experimented on. Mulder goes in to help resolve the situation. He feels sympathy for Barry. The man is taken into custody without having to kill him. This proves unfortunate for Scully though. Barry abducts her hoping she will be taken in his place by the aliens. He takes her to a place called Skyland Mountain. Mulder tracks him and follows but Mulder's new FBI partner interferes. The man Krycek is not who he seems. He is in alliance with the Smoking Man and he tries to kill Mulder on a sky tram. Mulder arrives too late and is unable to stop Duane Barry from trading Scully. She is gone and Barry is mysteriously killed in custody.

Mulder is devastated but the loss. He goes on without her till a few episodes later she is returned by unknown sources to a hospital. Scully is in a coma. Her family gather around her as they wait for news. Mulder meets Melissa for the first time. The episode is a quasi-mystical one in which we see things from Scully's perspective as she is in her coma. She appears to be dreaming and at the same time is partly aware of what people in the hospital around her are saying. A nurse tends her but it is found that no trace of the woman's real existence can be found. Melissa with her new age trappings says she can feel Scully's aura and communicate with Scully's spirit while her sister is unconscious. Mulder is angry and searches for the men who did this but he abandons his search in order to stay with Scully and comfort her. This happens at a choice point and he foregoes his vengeance. Thus, there is a deeper bonding between the pair and the trust and friendship between them anchors the deeply suspicious Mulder.

The mythology involves new scientific technologies in a later episode called "Colony." In this episode a group of identical doctors are being stalked and killed. Samantha appears claiming to have been fostered by one of them. A strange man appears and seems to be able to physically mimic anyone's form. He is thought to be an alien bounty hunter who is tracking groups of human-alien hybrids. A secret project within the government has created them without permission and the alien bounty hunter is cleansing them. This episode is also a two parter and continues as Scully is taken prisoner and traded for Samantha. Mulder attempts to kill the alien bounty hunter but the man jumps from a bridge with Samantha. Mulder is tracking the man without permission and without telling Scully about it. He tracks him to a derelict submarine near in Artic. Mulder is infected with a disease which thickens his blood. Scully finds him and is able to treat the unknown infection.

The Lone Gunmen and a hacker called The Thinker appear in the final episode of the season. This is a mythology episode. Mulder is becoming increasingly paranoid. Scully is able to find out why-the water in his building is being drugged presumably by Krycek. Mulder visits his father only to find that someone has killed him. This too is presumably Krycek's work. The incensed Mulder is about to shoot Krycek but Scully wings Mulder and takes him to safety to keep Mulder from falsely being charged with his father's death. She takes him to see Albert Hosteen, one of the original Navaho codetalkers from World War II. The Navaho language was used by allies in the war and proved to be an unbreakable code. The Thinker has passed on to Mulder computer data obtained from a top secret military source. This information is in the Navaho code and Hosteen is able to break it telling Mulder and Scully several important things. One of these is the location of a buried railway car. It contains the dead bodies of a group of aliens who were experimented on. The Smoking Man locates Mulder and attempts to capture him only to find that Mulder has disappeared. Unable to get Mulder, he settles for burning the evidence in the railway car. Season two ends with Mulder missing and presumed dead.

This season has several very good stand alone episodes. Perhaps the best of them is "Humbug." In this episode Mulder and Scully investigate a strange death. They go to a small town, the location of a circus sideshow. The performers are being picked off by something. The plot is simple and the meat of the episode is in the portrayals of the characters each odd and distinctive. It is one of the successful comic episodes that crop up to relieve the gloom and terror generated by the mythology episodes.

The DVD boxed set of season one contains some good extras. They include deleted scenes, special effects segments and commentary about the episodes. There is also a new DVD-ROM game.

Frank Herbert's Dune

Review by Garnet Brooks

This adaptation of Herbert's Dune is a mini-series made for the Science Fiction Channel. It was written for the screen and directed by John Harrison. Its stars are Alex Newman, William Hurt, Saskia Reeves, Ian McNeice, Giancarlo Giannini, and Julie Cox. It is available as a two disc DVD set.

Dune is an epic. The planet Dune itself is striking. The filmmakers here have done a good job rendering the desert planet. The Atreides capital there is grand and solid and has warm desert colors of yellow and orange along with large similarly colored marble interiors. The Fremen there live in caves where they have strange globular lights. It is an austere and beautiful setting. The architecture of the Imperial capital on Kaitan is delicate and intricate. On the Harkonnens' planet it is industrial red and black. The Spacing Guild has extremely large transport vessels of cold grey and black which engulf the vehicles of the Landsraat members. The costumes leave much to be desired. Particularly, the women's hats are huge and distracting.

Dune is the center of the many plots of all the participants because it is the only place in the universe where spice is producd. This byproduct of Dune's sandworms prolongs life and gives prescient visions. When taken in large quantities, as is the case with the Spacing Guild's navigators, it allows the user to fold space to travel across vast distances. This is the only means of interstellar travel in Herbert's universe. Long since all thinking machines were purged leaving the separate planets in the large confederation cut off from one another except for the help of the Guild.

Intricate plots evolve in the course of the mini-series. The Landsraat, the ruling body of the federation, is largely controlled by the Padashah Emperor Shaddam IV. He is attempting to play the two most powerful houses against each other. The Atreides and the Harkonnens have been enemies for many generations and they are constantly fighting in one way or another. The Harkonnens have been in charge of Dune and the Emperor takes the fiefdom away giving it to Duke Leto Atreides. He does this to destroy the Duke who is getting too powerful. William Hurt is the Duke in this mini-series. Unlike the book and the film of Dune by David Lynch, this rendition of Herbert's work focus on Leto for almost the first half. His role in the two former renditions is brief.

Leto comes to Dune with his concubine Lady Jessica, a Bene Gesserit accolade. They have a son Paul Atreides who is increasingly experiencing visions as he takes in the spice in the food and water of Dune. They spark a transformation in him making him able to see into the future. His mother has given him Bene Gesserit training something that is forbidden to men. His training facilitates the change in him. The character of Paul in this rendition is slightly changed giving him a more oppositional teenager attitude.

The Atreides family begins to make connections with the Fremen population once they arrive on Dune. Jessica makes an ally and friend of the Shadout Mapes who comes to believe that Jessica and her son are sent to Dune to fulfill an ancient prophecy. Duke Leto wins the respect of Liet Kynes the Imperial Planetologist. Kynes is also something of a prophet to the people as was his father before him. The two men offered the Fremen hope of a better future promising that Dune could be terraformed into a planet with water for all. They are a tough people and necessity has made them into a weapon waiting for a Messiah to come. They come to believe that Paul is that Messiah. The Bene Gesserit is responsible for a long term breeding program and is trying to produce another kind to Messiah. He is called the Kwisatz Haderach. He is someone who can see into a mysterious place that the female Bene Gesserits cannot see. Lady Jessica has disobeyed them and produced a son not a daughter. Thus Paul is both the fulfillment of the breeding program and an aberration. He is able to see the future and later when he takes a ceremonial concoction called "the water of life," he is able to see into the place the Bene Gesserit cannot go. It is a place out of which Paul can fold space just as the Spacing Guild members do. They, however, are the result of a breeding program also--one that transformed them into something no longer quite human.

The Fremen are supposed by the Harkonnens to be few in number. However, they are paying the Spacing Guild in harvested spice for the privilege of secrecy. They control the planet and are numerous especially in the southern desert, a region thought to be uninhabitable. One of Leto's men Duncan Idaho becomes a part of a Fremen tribe. Its leader Stilgar learns to respect the Atreides family. Shadout Mapes tries to warn the Atreides of a traitor in their house. It is too late. Dr Yeuh is the traitor and he disables the house shields letting in the Harkonnens who slaughter the Atreides men. Jessica and Paul are sent into the desert to die. They manage to survive and find Stilgar and his tribe becoming a part of the clan. Paul and his mother learn the ways of the desert. Paul promises the Fremen that he will free them from the savage Harkonnens oppressors.

The struggle is one for freedom and self-rule for the Fremen. It is a struggle for power and control for the others. In the end Paul wins because he is not afraid to destroy the spice and he has the means to do it. The semblance of order is restored but now the Padashah Emperor is stripped of real power. As a political compromise, his daughter Irulan agrees to marry Paul something the Bene Gesserit also support because they see it as necessary for the breeding program. There is a stable balance of power again by the end of the novel and the mini-series rendition of it. The Science Fiction Channel made a sequel to the mini-series called Children of Dune. This one incorporates material from Herbert's second and third novels in the Dune series Dune Messiah and Children of Dune.

Herbert's novels are full of mysticism and grandeur. The mini-series manages to render some of this on film. Herbert's books are full of details and it is impossible to translate all of them into the time allotted to this television series. Some are left out entirely and some are touched on only tangentially. One of the things that happens here is that there are characters in the background who are never named and who take no part in the action. This seems a bit confusing at times. Characters loiter about sometimes in unfortunate hats and garb. Despite this the production is a very watchable one but it pales in comparison to David Lynch's Dune.

Jericho, Episode Ten, Red Flag

By Christina VanGinkel

With food increasingly in short demand, several of the men go on a turkey shoot. Robert Hawkins was invited, but passed. He and his wife seem have their relationship on the mend as they discuss the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. He realizes he does not know his family as well as he might like, as his daughter reminds him she is a vegetarian.

An election is brewing and Gray Anderson is making his intentions to run as mayor known, hoping to replace Johnston.

As Stanley and Jake walk back from their unsuccessful turkey hunt, they see bombers overhead. Instead of bombs, they witness parachutes laden with containers drop to the ground. Stanley and Jake go to their truck and drive to where one of the parachutes landed. The large package is laden with food. It is all marked in Chinese. Robert Hawkins sends his family into the basement, unsure what the bombers are up to. People in town just stare at the sky as the planes fly overhead.

Back in town, Johnston sends men to round up the containers, but is cautious about the validity of the food, concerned that it might be poisoned or contaminated in some manner. All of the food is labeled in Chinese, and the question at hand is why they are receiving aid from China, and not the Red Cross or some other American agency.

Eric is doing inventory at the bar with help from Eric when the containers were dropped. Jimmy goes to get him. Jake tells Robert that he thinks he knows how to read Chinese. Robert says he does not, just recognize the language the same as someone else might recognize German.

There is a panic over the food and everyone is grabbing at it. The mayor decides not to hand it out, until they can somehow verify it is safe. Gray Anderson steps forward and eats a piece of the food, to show that in his opinion it is safe and that if he were mayor, he would hand it out to the people. The packages are also full of flyers that say Do Not Fight China is Your Friend.

At Gracie's Store, Jonah and Gracie are arguing. When Jonah goes to leave, Johnston confronts him and his men. Johnston is there to ask Gracie to store the food, but tells her he cannot leave the food with her if she is doing business with Jonah. She tells him in front of Jonah that she will quit doing business with Jonah.

Mimi has found not only a pallet of food out at the farm, but also a generator. She is eating the chocolate, despite Stanley telling her she should not until they know it is safe. Stanley tells her to take the truck, go, and get Jake. She asks him if they have to give up the food along with the generator, and after a short disagreement about who, the food belongs to, she does leave to get Jake.

Gail and Johnston are talking to Eric about the food supply. Gail then asks Eric if they will see him on Thanksgiving. He responds by saying he will be spending the day with Mary, when pressed, he says he does not want to put them in an awkward position, and his mother tells him it was his decision to go and be with his mistress. When Eric walks away, Johnston states that now it feels like the holidays. Gail asks him why he is acting as if it was no big deal. Gail tells Johnston that April is pregnant. Johnston responds by telling Gail that in other words, she is mad at Eric for something he does not even know about.

Out at Stanley's farm, Jonah and his men find the generator and are taking it. Several of the men jump and beat up Stanley.

Back in town, people are getting increasingly restless about the food. They want it distributed. Mimi arrives in town and tells Jake about the generator. When they get back to the farm, the generator is gone and they find Stanley lying in the corn, beaten.

Gray Anderson goes to the police station to get a gun to go after Jonah, but Johnston stops him. Jake, Johnston, Robert Hawkins, and deputies go after Jonah out at the compound where they live.

Stanley wants to go after Jonah, but Mimi stops him.

When the men approach the compound, Jake and Robert use binoculars to find out what they are dealing with. Johnston then approaches the gate and tells Jonah he wants the generator. Jonah tells him no. Someone blows through the fence in the truck that has the generator on it. Jonah's daughter, Emily, is driving the truck so Jonah tells his men not to shoot. Jake catches up with Emily back in town and tells her that was stupid, that she was almost shot by both Jonah's men and them.

Johnston decides it is time for Eric to know that he is about to become a father, that April is pregnant. Eric wants to know why he is telling him. Johnston tells him that he is probably going to be in trouble for telling him. Eric answers with the fact that a child will not make a marriage better. Johnston agrees. Eric tells him that he does not think he ever loved April, but that he does love Mary.

Stanley is being doctored by Mimi, and she tells him to take off his shirt. She tells him he is blushing. He pulls his shirt back on. She tells him that she thought many things about him, but not that he would be shy around women. He asks her what she normally did at Thanksgiving. As they are talking, Mimi tenderly touches Stanley's chest, and then the moment is over.

Out at the compound, Mitchell is asking Jonah what his plans are. Jonah tells him if he has to answer to him, he is in trouble. They argue about not shooting at Emily.

Jake and Eric discover microchips called RFID's in the parachutes, otherwise known as Radio Frequency Identifiers. Robert Hawkins tells them that they are from our own Air force.

Stanley greets Mimi on Thanksgiving morning with a margarita made with Tang. She set it aside and kisses him.

At Johnston and Gail's, Jake comes down the stairs as Eric walks in the door. Johnston tells him he is glad he made it, but he is not there for the holiday. He wants to talk to April. He asks her when she was planning to tell him about the baby. He tells her he is sorry, but he cannot live a lie, but he will do whatever is necessary to take care of the baby.

Robert Hawkins helps set up the generator, but asks that it not be fired up for ten minutes.

Emily shows up at Jake's and his parents for Thanksgiving.

Robert arrives home late for dinner amid hurt feelings, but his family agrees to go outside with him to see something he wants them to look at. He brings them to see the generator being turned on. The Christmas lights he strung around town are lit up.

Eric and Mary kiss out in the open under the lights.

Gracie is outside looking at the lights, then turns and goes into the store, where she is stabbed.

DALLAS Season Four DVD

If anything, the fourth season DVD of DALLAS is one that is memorable for containing one of the most famous TV episodes of all time, the nefarious episode containing the answer to the question "Who Shot JR?" as well as being famous for what was once an excellent weekly episodic TV soap opera to one that totally nose dived in quality. The fall for DALLAS was not only brutal, it was also unforgivably repetitive and boring.

The first three seasons built up an interesting world of wheeling an dealing in the oil business and its effects on a rather complex, but dysfunctional Texas family, a family punctuated by weird, over the top characters. Of course, the most popular of all these characters was the evil JR, who took two bullets in the gut at the end of season three.

If you weren't there, you'll never understand just how huge this whodunit was at the time. Who Shot JR mania swept the nation in the fall of 1980 and was the question on everyone's mind. There even was a talk show that had all the characters on the show hyping the whodunit while the talk show promised to tell Who Did NOT Shoot JR. (The promo for this talk show saw all the characters holding automatic weapons and "shooting" Larry Hagman who takes a spill afterwards. Yes, it really was that dumb!)

All the hype to the Who Shot JR question were answered when it was revealed that Sue Ellen's sister (to no one with 1/2 a brain's surprise) committed the deed. Over 40,000,000 people tuned in to watch a really weak, anticlimactic episode filled with Sue Ellen's psychiatrist performing the WORST ACTING in history (Well, second only to the acting of her sister who is ABOMINABLE!) as he hypnotizes(!) Sue Ellen into remembering her amnesia episode(!) to realize who the murderer is. All of this, by the way, is recounted by way of those silly wavy lines that were used in old TV shows to explain a dream or flashback was coming.

DALLAS capitalized on its giant audience and actually set a record as the most watched TV show in history which was ironic considering the program was in the BOTTOM 10% its first season. Landing the audience is pretty impressive, but where does it go from here?

Cliff still wants to crush the Ewing family and his act is past point of stale. Pamela and Bobby are drifting apart as Bobby goes from power mad Ewing exec to state senator in a few weeks(!), JR overthrows a foreign power by giving it some money (!!!), Lucy marries Mitch who hates rich people (setting up the obvious divorce storyline), Ray Krebbs turns out to be Jock's son (!), Jock and Miss Ellie are headed to a divorce (Yawn).

Seriously, the show took a horrible dive in quality that it never recovered from. The program was so far past the point of dull, one has to seriously wonder how could an audience be so trite minded as to overlook the absolute insult to an audience's intelligence this program had become.

People would later mock DYNASTY for being a rip off of DALLAS, but at least DYNASTY had a sense of fun to it, while DALLAS would drift so far down the path of tedium and repetitious storylines it was shocking that it would remain on the air for another 9 years.

Although, quite honestly, the idiotic absurdity the series would devolve into in later seasons would make it a guilty pleasure for all the wrong reasons. In a way, the fourth season of DALLAS does provide a mild insight into the problems that existed in the days of ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and three UHF stations being all that a TV set could receive as opposed to the 500 channels we get now. People were simply more habit prone to keep watching television shows well past the point the program had become stale. Often times, in doing so led to the audience ignoring many excellent new television programs that were of excellent quality and deserved an audience. Programs such as FREAKS AND GEEKS, CRIME STORY, etc were all short lived, but brilliant series that deserved much longer runs than what they received. In a way, programs like DALLAS received far more attention than they deserved. Yes, DALLAS was great for the first three years, but what about the remaining seven years when it was little more than a pathetic time waster? If a kid got a 30% score on a test, would you be proud of him? Then why be proud of DALLAS and its accomplishments?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mighty Aphrodite

By Simon Woodhouse

When it comes to pitching a film to studio execs, I guess sometimes it pays to be a well known, Oscar winning writer/actor/director. If Woody Allen wasn't Woody Allen, how far would he have got pitching a film that's a supposed Greek tragedy set in New York, and tells the tale of a middle aged sports writer who becomes involved with a porn star? Not only that, but at various points during the film Greek thespians pop up in the guise of mythological figures. And add to this scenes shot in an ancient amphitheatre, which feature masked players speaking Shakespearian style dialogue.

Mighty Aphrodite has all these things. But what on paper seems like it might not make much sense, actually becomes one of Allen's funniest films once it's up on the big screen.

As with most of Allen's films that feature him in front of the camera, he's playing a slightly neurotic, quick-witted New Yorker. Though the character of Lenny Weinrib is standard Woody Allen stuff, he does have a heart, something that other Allen characters sometimes tend to lack. When we first meet Lenny, he's discussing childbirth with his wife Amanda (Helena Bonham Carter). Lenny's not keen on the idea, but eventually they end up adopting a child. They name the boy Max, and for a while everything is good. Then Lenny starts to get the urge to try and find the boy's mother. Eventually he tracks down Linda (Mira Sorvino). Up until this point the film is amusing, however, once Lenny and Linda start to interact, it becomes a whole lot funnier. Linda is a porn star and a hooker, but totally unashamed about it. She's not the sharpest tool in the box, but she has a good heart. Lenny feels sorry for her, and they start to spend time together (but it's totally platonic). He then tries to fix her up with an aspiring young boxer.

Because Lenny is just an ordinary guy, his attempts to help Linda don't really work. But his failures provide the film with some of its funniest moments. In one particularly good scene, Lenny tries to persuade a local gangster to leave Linda alone. The guy and his minder are huge, and Lenny is just Lenny. This mismatch of characters, the bringing together of two people who would never normally meet, means the encounter is priceless. It's a theme that runs through the whole film, but it never becomes tired or over-used.

As with lots of Allen's films, Mighty Aphrodite feels a bit like a whole string of short comedy skits linked together to form a larger story. But that's fine, because these different little chunks mean the film never runs out of steam. And it doesn't rely on one visual gag, or a solitary, vaguely amusing premise to keep it going (as is often the case in lots of other comedies).

The film rolls on and Lenny becomes more confused about what he's doing with Linda. At the same time, he's drifting apart from Amanda. Various characters from Greek mythology pop up to try and advise him, but they just muddy the water.

Though this all sounds a bit heavy, it's not. Even when contemplating the tragic, the character of Lenny does so in the exaggerated, desperate way that's become Allen's trademark comedy style. Mira Sorvino is brilliant as Linda. Her high-pitched, whiney New York accent, though slightly exaggerated, fits the character perfectly. She's a tall girl as well, and so towers over Lenny, making them even more of an odd couple. As with all Allen films, the jokes are in the dialogue. There's some physical humor, but it's mostly what the characters say that'll make you laugh. You have to pay attention though; because the writing is so sharp the funnies come in continuous waves. However, this means the film easily stands up to repeated viewings. Being based loosely on the idea of a Greek tragedy, the film has a twist at the end. It's not tragic though, instead leaning more towards the ironic.

Mira Sorvino won a well-deserved Oscar (best supporting actress) for her portrayal of Linda. Allen is his usual hysterical self, with the character of Lenny being his best onscreen persona of recent years. If you're not a fan of his, however, there's nothing here that'll convert you. But if you are keen, or even just a casual observer, Mighty Aphrodite is a must see.

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)

The 1981 film The Postman Always Rings Twice is a remake of a 1946 movie, which itself was based on a James Cain novel of the same name. So we're dealing with material that is twice removed from its original source, meaning that there were likely significant differences or omissions along the way. Having never read the novel or seen the 1946 version, I was going into this viewing of Postman with no prior knowledge of what I was in for.

The Postman Always Rings Twice opens with a drifter named Frank Chambers (played by Jack Nicholson) trying to hitch a ride to Los Angeles. Frank is clearly an idler and a con man, as evidenced by the way he convinces diner owner Nick Papadakis (John Colicos) to give him a free meal when he (Frank) doesn't have any money. To do this, Frank made up a story on the spot about how he was supposed to go to L.A. to look up some friends and begin work as a machinist. The only problem is, the guy he was riding with took off and grabbed Frank's wallet in the process.

Nick immediately perks up when he hears that Frank is a machinist because he needs a mechanic to take care of the service station that is attached to the diner. He offers Frank a small salary plus room and board in order to forget about Los Angeles and stay on. Frank at first turns down the offer, but after he realizes that he doesn't really have any place better to go he accepts.

The more time Frank spends at the Twin Oaks Diner, the more he lusts after Nick's beautiful, much younger wife Cora (Jessica Lange). The effects of being out in the middle of nowhere probably got to Cora because she is attracted to Frank also, and the two soon give vent to their feelings one day when the husband is away on business.

After awhile, Frank and Cora realize that they want to be together openly without having to sneak around. But that of course means they have to get rid of Nick. The two scheme together to plan Nick's murder, but they completely mess up the execution of the plan. Nick doesn't die, so Frank and Cora are right back where they started from. Although Cora tries to break it off, she knows deep down that she could never be content with Nick now. So they try a different murder plan, which ends up working.

The rest of the film then deals with the aftermath of Nick's murder. With Frank and Cora, nothing ever works out smoothly, so there are cops to deal with, a trial, shady lawyers and assistants, insurance company representatives, etc. It seems that everyone is out to make sure that Frank and Cora don't end up together.

On the whole, I found the major plotline of The Postman Always Rings Twice to be extremely disturbing. There wasn't a single redeeming quality in either Frank or Cora, so I was basically spending two hours of my time with lying, scheming murderers. It wasn't a comfortable experience at all, which is probably what the filmmakers intended.

One of the biggest problems I had with this movie was accepting Jack Nicholson as the Frank. He looked so scummy, dirty, and untrustworthy in his role that I didn't for one second believe that a woman like Cora would be interested in him, that she could "love" him so much that she would risk going to the gallows for him. That point wasn't sufficiently addressed by the script, in my opinion.

Another point that the screenwriters chose to avoid was the question of how a woman like Cora ended up being married to a man like Nick in the first place. Nick wasn't attractive at all, was much older than Cora, and wasn't even particularly nice to her. It didn't make sense that she would be with him, and yet there she was. This bothered me a great deal when I was watching the movie because I just couldn't figure it out.

These problems, along with the rather abrupt ending, made me feel that the 1981 version of The Postman Always Rings Twice wasn't as good of a film as it could have been. If you skip this one, you won't be missing out on too much.