Gene Wilder: The Candy Man is Gone

Gene Wilder in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Gene Wilder, who starred in 29 films including Bonnie and Clyde,Young FrankensteinWilly Wonka & the Chocolate FactoryBlazing Saddles and Silver Streak died of complications caused by Alzheimers in his home on Monday. Wilder was 83 and had not acted for years. It was his role as Willy Wonka, the candy man who invites the holders of golden tickets to his factory that Wilder is best known.

But the actor, writer, producer and director was a personal favorite for his work in not just “Young Frankenstein” but “Blazing Saddles” and the original “The Producers” holding his own against Zero Mostel who played Max Bialystock to his Leo Bloom.

It was his Victor Frahnkenstein however that proved this gentle actor could effortlessly play the comedy, as he alway had, straight and brilliantly.  When “Young Frankenstein” was released in 1974 I and a group of friends watched the film repeatedly. We got so all of us could recite lines from the entire film. (i still know quite a number of them.) It became a contest, to see who could watch the movie the most.

Yes it had a cast to die for, and sadly almost all the cast have passed on. (With the exception of Cloris Leachman – Frau Blücher, “neigh,” and Teri Garr  – Inga,  “What knockers! Zhank you Herr Doctor.”) But it was Wilder who made the film connect, his penchant for comedy was the cohesion the film needed. (The scene where Inga worries he has not “touched his food” and Victor slaps his hands onto the plate and snarls, “There. Happy now?” is just brilliant and example of his magic.)

Wilder had an aura of gentle sadness that pervaded any role he played. With Victor he was an eventual megalomaniac who creates life.  At the start of the film, he is calm and even a little cold, but not genteel or sad. His Frankenstein was different from the other roles he played.

As Wille Wonka, Wilder emitted a sort of whimsical melancholy that shielded a deeper and, sometimes, quite sinister side to this benevolent benefactor.

The love of Gene Wilder’s life was Gilda Radner, an  original alumnus of Saturday Night Live and they were married for five short years before she died from cancer. Wilder eased away from acting after her death and never really returned to his former status.  His last acting role was the voice of Elmer in Yo Gabba Gabba!.

Wilder worked with Mel Brooks three times and costarred with the comedian Richard Pryor in four films.  Brooks, like Pryor brought out the best in Gene. Each had a chemistry together, Pryor and Wilder’s on screen and Brooks and Wilder working as a team in front of and behind the camera.

The iconic comic actor was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1989, the same year his wife Gilda died.

Wilder wrote and directed, as well as starred in, four films. Arguably these were not on par with his collaborations with Brooks or some of  his movies with Pryor but all were funny. The World’s Greatest Lover, a Valentino-type spoof where Wilder becomes the “new” Rudolph Valentino “Wow, look at those gams…” was poorly received by critics of the day but was a commercial success for the actor.

Gene Wilder may not have been overly prolific but his roles were all memorable. From his first role as the undertaker kidnapped by Bonnie and Clyde in the 1969 film of the same name to his role as Willy Wonka, Wilder crept into the hearts of fans the world over.

He was truly a “one of a kind” actor who has never been replicated.  Wilder had a persona that seemed to be an extension of his “real” self. A kind and gentle man who made people laugh in the cinema.

RIP Mr. Wilder. You made me laugh numerous times at the movies.  Your personal tale of woe with the talented Gilda Radner made me cry.  You were already missed, by your absence on our screens, although you did appear sporadically, it was never enough.

Gene Wilder, gone at 83.  An iconic comic performer who stole our hearts with his Candy Man;  Willy Wonka and made us weep with laughter with his mad scientist Victor Frankenstein has left the stage and can never be replaced. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.

MTV VMA 2016: Minimal Effort for the Millennials (Editorial)

Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj

Perhaps the only thing more annoying than the faux fanboy “influencers” comedy duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele was the minimal  effort expended to entertain the millennial audience.  The show itself seemed to be an extreme answer to the lack of diversity displayed by the academy at the Oscars.

Hip-Hip ruled the night. Amid lackadaisical performances and the overreaction of the tweens in the audience this years video music awards was nearly unwatchable. The older performers were uneasy with their interactions with the younger stars.

Nicki Minaj looked almost hostilely bored during her number with Ariana Grande. Rihanna, who opened the show in a long dance number,  either could not be bothered to lip-sync most of her songs, or forgot.

Beyonce, the big winner of the evening, gave the performance of the evening. A monument to eclectic dance moves and lip-synced lyrics.  The microphone covering the mouth is a dead giveaway by the way.

The MTV Video Music Awards felt geared to a generation who did not cut their teeth on Michael Jackson and may even be tiring of Justin Bieber. This was aimed at the demographic who joined YouTube after  its heyday.  The kids who look blankly when MySpace is mentioned.

It was painfully obvious that the days of truly gifted and spectacular performers like Tina Turner are over.  Beyonce is a personal favorite, but hearing Tina belt out “Nutbush City Limits” was a special treat and not one performance by any female artist on the VMA’s came near that level of power last night.

The show was all about dry ice, flashing lights and a huge amount of dancers supporting the artists.  Perhaps the main problem was that all the music had a sameness to it.  There was no variety.

(On a sidenote, there could have been a lot more of Jay Pharoah)

This year felt sophomoric and apathetic compared to years past.  Miley Cyrus, who made the VMA her plaything was replaced by two comics posing as Twitter poseurs. And just to set the record straight:   Whoever thought  having Kim Kardashian-North present Britney Spears was a good idea?

Spears, the queen of lip-sync (cop the mic over the mouth) performed with G-Eazy who did the lion’s share of the work. The performance, like the show itself, was underwhelming.

The multiple hosts  this year were incredibly annoying: DJ Khaled and Nicole Byer, along with Peele and Key,  put the VMA at a level of irritation never before seen.

More interesting than the actual awards program were the camera shots of the rich and famous in the audience, arguably the best of any MTV VMA.  Kim getting a close of up of Kanye smiling with her smart phone.  West sidled up to Jayden Smith, and that wild hair cut. The clear excitement of the Olympic guests, who later presented an award,  and who all looked around 12 years old.

Jimmy Fallon came out to present the video of the year award and died.  Perhaps the average audience member is not allowed to stay up that late.  (Beyonce won this one, no real surprise there as this was her night.)

Beyonce won a total of six awards by the end of the evening.  Making her the woman of the “hour.” Rihanna kept upping her game and her final performance was her best. Less about the dancers and more about the singing, RiRi killed it.

Rihanna took the Michael Jackson Vanguard Video award after a long winded and slightly rambling intro from Drake. It was here that he declared his love for the singer.

All in all, the evening was pretty blasé.  A sort of masturbatory experience for a privileged few, we are talking about you Kanye and Kim, and  a total yawn fest  without the antics of Miley Cyrus.  When the highlight of the event is Drake declaring his love for Rhianna perhaps it is time to rethink the formula.

Bring back the spectacle guys and dolls, this was a major disappointment.

BrainDead: Season One, Ep 10 – Bug People Unite & Rosemary’s Baby (Recap/Review) Spoilers

BrainDead Logo screenshot

BrainDead “The Path to War Part Two: The Impact of Propaganda on Congressional War Votes” shows the bug people uniting under a common goal. It also borrows heavily, and amusingly, from Ira Levin‘s Rosemary’s Baby.  Not to the extent of old Satanists plotting to bring the devil into the world, but at least hinting clearly that something is not right about Germaine’s new baby girl.

The singing recap took a moment to show Michael Moore in bed with Laurel again, which we know never happened but Moore plays it for laughs and we love it. Thanks to Jonathan Coulton and the creators; the Kings and writer  Lawrence Kaplow for the giggle.

The episode begins with Luke fighting desperately to stop a war with Syria. He also tries half-heartedly to stop having sex with every attractive female he meets or works with.  He tasks Laurel with critiquing the new “anti-war” video as he tries to keep the Senate from voting with Red Wheatus.

It appears that Luke Healy is a sex addict. He cannot stop sleeping with his many paramours even when he tries to break it off. The only one who does not tumble into the sack with him is  the infected Scarlett

His secretary calls Luke a “weak man” and implies that she will be talking to Germaine (Lily Cowles). 

The bug people extremists are urged to unite by both Pollack (Jan Maxwelland Red.  Democrat Noah Feffer (Michael Esper) joins forces with Red’s republican attack dog Jules (Natalie Gold).  This cooperation between factions is a new thing in the world of alien bug people. Before only Red and Ella “joined” very reluctantly so the king and queen could procreate.

“Famous” documentary filmmaker Ben Valderrama (Michael Zegen) cannot stop zeroing in on the “one percent” with his video. He also goes after Gareth and later provokes Noah into attacking him. In the end Laurel recuts the video and it goes viral, just as Luke had hoped. 

Laurel becomes concerned about Germaine’s baby and goes to Rochelle for advice. At one point it seems as though Daudier could be infected.  After learning that the doctor treating Germaine listens to The Cars, “You Might Think” shades of “Rosemary’s Baby ” blend into the proceedings. This makes Rochelle’s actions seem even more suspicious.

Germaine has the baby.

The episode ends with Red’s war against Syria being voted down after Laurel’s video goes viral. Valderrama takes credit for the video and Germaine will not touch her baby. As she leaves the baby’s room, she turns on the mobile above the cot.

The mobile’s bunnies move slowly to “You Might Think”

Tripplet is missing from this episode of BrainDead, this makes the second week that he has been AWOL.  Gareth and Laurel look like they might be rebuilding that burnt bridge and Luke looks to be in danger of infection from either Germaine or Grace (the new baby).

The bug people have united twice and Germaine’s baby may be the first human/alien bug hybrid in Washington.

BrainDead airs Sundays on CBS.


Roadies: The Load Out – The Industry is Dead, Long Live Phil (Review)


Cameron Crowe finished up his 10 episode series Roadies with a clear, yet bittersweet, message. “The Load Out” celebrated the death of the “industry” while stating that the memories of better days would live on through people like Phil. Long live Phil.  Toward  the end of the episode, all the roadies hug the dead man, symbolically embracing the old days of rock and roll.

Days that are, according to Crowe, gone.

At the close of the episode,  Reg (Good old Double D, which does not stand for Due Diligence as  Kelly Ann tells the English patsy.) comes running back to the stadium. He has seen the newly dubbed Pistachio’s latest movie. The normally cold Brit becomes overwhelmed by the imagery and comes to pound on the stage door.

There is no response.  Reg pounds harder and more insistently on the closed door, standing in the rain, head down and determined to come back.

But, Crowe is telling us that we cannot come back. Old time rock is gone, the industry is dead. Killed by smart phones, the internet and millennials who will never really “get it.”

Above all else it is the industry heads themselves who have killed off the notion of bands working the old way. Preston, played brilliantly, if rather sparingly, by Brian Benben, hires Reg to break up Staten House Band. His plan is to set up a solo career for Tom.

Unfortunately, for Preston, Christopher and Tom start speaking, after Chris returns to Janine, and it seems there may be a bit of hope after all. Except after this scene, we have Reg wanting to come back…

The death of Phil signals the death of the industry as we know it.  As  Chris B. Hayner implies, Crowe is using the death of “White Buffalo” as the swan song of Rock and Roll in general.   There is still hope, however.

If Reg can get someone to open that door, he could  become the band’s savior.  He told Preston that he could make it work. The only problem being that no one may actually care enough to bring back the band and an old way of entertainment being killed by greed and apathy.

The theme throughout has been that when the band tried to return to the olden days, Kelly Ann, complaint that they never play the old songs anymore, signaled a beginning of the end for the band.

Crowe is telling us, in essence, that Thomas Wolfe was right. You cannot go back. To do so is to invite ruin and a calamitous end.  Phil “came back” and died. His temerity is repaid with memories and  sudden death.

Another sign that the old ways are gone is Christopher’s symbolic shaving of his beard and his marriage to Natalie Shin.  He knows that to survive, he must embrace the changes and he does so, although Christopher does not look happy at all.

Taken on face value, the season finale of Roadies is bizarre.  Granted there is a heavy focus on music,  the guest list is long and multi-facetted. Jackson Brown, Eddie Vedder,  Robyn Hitchcock and more stop by to pay tribute to Phil. A legend in the industry.

This too could be another message from Cameron Crowe, the legends are gone.  Now that
rock and roll has left the building, it will not return in the way that we know it.  Certainly there are still legends in the industry, The Rolling Stones, for example, but Crowe is telling us that when these go, they will not be replaced.

The creator is probably not too far off the mark. In a time where reality television creates instant “stars” and the Internet slowly changes the way people react with one another this could indeed be the death knell for entertainment as we know it.


On the other side of this coin, how ironic was the final pose of Phil? Standing with his  arms outstretched, the less than pristine (in life) man is given a Christ-like stature in death.  A man who killed two people and stole goods from the victims of Hurricane Katrina is elevated in his death.


Many things were settled in the final episode of Roadies. Natalie Shin becomes validated as more than a stalker-y fan.  Shelli and Bill become an couple.  Reg realizes that deep inside he belongs in the industry. Bill tells Shelli about that unbroken egg.  Most importantly, however, is Kelly Ann getting her nickname; Pistachio.

Herein lies the last bittersweet tone in the episode.  Kelly Ann has been fixated about not having a nickname.  Lately,  however,  it has become less of a concern as she becomes attracted to Reg.

Phil’s dying breath is used to grant her wish and he gives her a nickname, something she desired so much for so long.  Sadly, It is a name she may never be called as the industry is dying, if not dead already.

Roadies was a brilliant soap opera set in the world of touring bands.  Kudos to the cast, and to the guest stars, for giving this show a feeling of reality, their performances all added depth to this entertaining show.

To Cameron Crowe we say thank you for  this often funny,  and quirky, look at the “backend” of the business.


Ray Donovan: Lake Hollywood – Hector’s Lament (Review) Spoilers


The body count continues to rise this week and it seems likely that Avi has joined the number of deceased that are dotted across Ray Donovan’s landscape. The bloodbath in Nevada last week has not been matched in “Lake Hollywood,” but things have gotten seriously out of hand in Los Angeles.  Is Ray smart enough to defeat the Russian mob?

Donovan makes the first move, a pre-emptive strike as it were, by taking the art. He tells Waller that if Avi is hurt, Dmitri will never see his art again. Terry wakes up with the cop the morning after and Marisol continues to bother Hector.

Ray circles the wagons, getting everyone, bar Terry, at the house.  Daryll helps out as does Lena, they steal the art, and only Bridget seems to be left out of the loop. Ray gets Bunchy to move Teresa to the house.

Bunchy tells Ray about Mick’s homicidal rampage in Nevada.  Mickey talks to Ray who is not happy about his killing Little Bill. Mick is still upset about the death of Silvie and Ray is unmoved. Mickey tags along with Bunchy and Teresa in the move  to Calabasas.

Sonia has gone off the grid and despite Ray having all his art, Dimitri has Donovan running around in circles. He insists that the action star Butch Kramer be brought to him.  Dimitri ignores Ray’s requests to see Avi.

At the gym, Hector’s wife  Jessica (Audra Griffisand daughter show up.  Jessica  tells him that she and  Stella  (Mattea Quinare going to Montreal. Hector is beyond distraught. He tells Terry that he will back in an hour.

Terry attempts to distract Stella

Ray gives Waller the receipts for all the art Sonia’s gallery sold. He tells the lawyer he knows about the forgeries. Waller promises to work on Dimitri although, he says,  it will do no good.

Hector goes to see Marisol and tells her about Jessica and Stella.  She is not impressed. He tells her she smells of jail and Marisol goes to run a bath.  At the Donovan house, Mickey and Abby share a moment as one of Dimitri’s men watches the house.

As Terry leaves the gym to get Hector from Marisol’s house, the boxer drowns  his half-sister in the bathtub. When Terry arrives, Campos tells him she died by overdosing in the tub.

The murder of Marisol is sudden, shocking and disturbing.  It is not, however, overly surprising. Marisol knew which buttons to push and her self destructive streak caused her to destroy her half-brother.

Terry calls Ray.

Ray tells Terry to leave Hector at Marisol’s house. Campos admits he killed his sister and Ray says, “I know.” Donovan leaves.  Terry is shaken by the death and returns to the gym.

Donovan gets Butch to see Dimitri. Ray attends the mobster’s party and Kramer is already there. The Russian mob  boss asks Butch to go outside and he has a bodyguard beat the star up. (Dmitri is upset at Kramer’s latest film, “The Kremlin Bleeds” where his character killed 111 Russians.)

Dimitri may be a little bit insane.

After his bodyguard beats Kramer to the ground Dimitri takes Ray to a room where they are keeping an injured Waller.  The mobster tells Ray that the lawyer tried to intercede on his behalf and then shoots him in the forehead. Dimitri then thanks Donovan for bringing Butch to the party.

Ray heads back to help Hector. First, he takes Marisol’s phone and takes a picture of Hector sitting in front of his dead sister’s body. Donovan does this for insurance. He then takes Marisol’s body and dumps it in Lake Hollywood. Just prior to this, he sends Hector a text from her phone; a suicide text.

Ray calls Dimitri and tells him that he has what he owes the Russian mobster.

It seems pretty obvious that Avi is dead. Despite Ray asking repeatedly,  Dimitri has not produced him alive or dead.  After watching the mobster in action it fits that he killed Avi right after the phone call where he told Ray to deliver Sonia.

There are two episodes left in this season and it seems that Donovan is outnumbered and outflanked by Dimitri.  Previews of the next episode makes things seem quite fraught. Donovan seems to be on top of it, but can he really beat the mobster and save his entire family?

Raymond J. Barry as Dmitri

Ray manages to maintain that look of tired confidence  that shows he believes  he will outwit the Russian.  On a sidenote,  one wonders if Lena will make good her threat  and kill Dimitri if Avi really is dead.  The body count in this episode was two, Waller and Marisol. A bit of a comedown after last week’s murderous activities.

There is a lot up in the air in this episode. So far the only thing that has been solved is Hector’s lament. She has been put in the lake, a not-so “lady of the lake,” as it were.

Ray Donovan airs Sundays on Showtime. There are two episodes left, do not miss them as this season looks to be even more intense than season three.


Guest starring Raymond J. Barry as Dimitri,  Jack Kesy as Butch and Ismael Cruz Cordova as Hector. 

Jane Got a Gun (2016): Troubled Hannie Caulder Remake (Review)

Natalie Portman and Joel Edgerton

It took almost three years for this tepid and troubled remake of “Hannie Caulder” to be released. Taking so long, in fact, that co star, and co-writer of Jane Got a Gun, Joel Edgerton wrote, directed and co-starred in his own film, “The Gift.”

However, apart from the female protagonist being raped by a gang of unpleasant villains, there is little to tie these two films together. Jane, played by Natalie Portman, does not benefit from a Robert Culp type character who spends a good bit of time teaching her how to win in a gunfight.

The villains are not grotesque off-shoots of humanity; all bigger than life and equally disgusting while simultaneously being quite funny.  (The original gang, all three of them, were played by western stalwart Jack Elam and – fresh off their  The Wild Bunch roles as Dutch and the one of the bounty hunters – Ernest Borgnine and Strother Martin.)

A completely unrecognizable Ewan McGregor was the only “name’ in the villain’s camp and unlike the Caulder trio, never seemed to have laid a hand on Jane, let alone anything else. While  Jane Got a Gun went through two directors, one before a single  frame of film had been shot and a number of leading men, it  does entertain.

In many ways it is a superior film to the 1971 Raquel Welch original.  To be fair, “Hannie Caulder” was an attempt to cash in on flat brimmed hats, ponchos and a fast draw who could also dispense witticisms as well as bullets.   It was, after all, the age of the Spaghetti Western.

Jane Got a Gun does not depict Jane as a helpless “little woman.” When her husband comes home, shot to rag doll ribbons, she does not whimper or hesitate. This frontier wife straps on a gun and saddles up her horse. She takes the kid to a neighbors and heads to her  former fiancé’s  house and asks for help.

He refuses.

Rather than plead with the man, she heads to town to stock up on ammunition and dynamite. She is grabbed by one of the Bishop gang, the baddies who raped her and shot her husband.

Dan Frost  (Edgerton) almost intervenes but stops short of shooting the Bishop gang member. Jane does that herself.

Thus begins the long middle part of the film where Dan fortifies the house against the expected marauders and he and Jane share backstories.  Jane’s husband Bill Hammond (Noah Emmerich) has little to do apart from lay flat on his back and drink whiskey for his pain. 

The plodding midway point does hurt the film somewhat. When the gang do arrive, the shootout is somewhat underwhelming. after all that preparation. Apparently the Bishops stopped to pick up a few friends to help out.

Jane Got a Gun has an ending that feels a little tacked on.  Without giving too much away, it has “happy Hollywood ending” written all over it.

Directed by Gavin O’Connor, who stepped in to replace Scottish director Lynne Ramsay (who had a falling out with producers after having a falling out with Michael Fassbender)  does a good job.

The film is too claustrophobic to have much  in the way of panoramic visuals but the few shots which are there to show the desolation of the homestead look brilliant.

Written by no less than three people:  Edgerton, Brian Duffield and Anthony Tambakis,  the film could have turned into a helpless hodgepodge of floating plot lines and ramshackle scenes. It does what is says on the label, however, and delivers a western with a strong female protagonist. 

Jane Got a Gun may have been influenced quite heavily by Hannie Caulder, it is a loose remake after all,  but it takes itself far more seriously. One cannot cast an Oscar winning actress in a role that requires her be a helpless female in any size, shape or form. (Portman’s character does not even cry, Edgerton’s, however, does get very teary eyed.)

It is a bit puzzling that McGregor decided to hide his well known visage behind a black mustache and heavy black eyebrows.  He does, however, “give good villain” although he does not appear too often in the film.

Overall, Jane Got a Gun is a 3.5 star film. It loses a bit for the claustrophobic setting and the lack of gunplay. While there is shooting, it is mostly from the other side and the good guys shoot very little in return.  Also, in the final scene, there is a close up of Jane’s gun. She has just told the villainous Bishop that she has two rounds (or as she calls them, “bullets”) left. The front of the gun’s chambers show all the “bullets” to be unexpended, in other words, the pistol is fully loaded. Oops.)

Jane Got a Gun is on Netflix at the moment and certainly worth watching.  Fans of westerns should enjoy it and fans of Portman may opt to suffer through an unloved genre to see her.

Touch Gloves (2016): Boxing as Societal Aid (Documentary Review)


It is a sport not known for being kind to its participants.  Long term fighters are damaged, like the United Kingdom’s Frank Bruno for example.  Boxing has been referred to as the
“Gentleman’s Sport” and Touch Gloves infers that it still is. Ray Herbert and his gym use boxing as a societal aid, helping young, and not so young, inner-city kids find an outlet for aggression.

Documentary filmmaker Felipe Jorge has turned out a polished and in-depth look at a gym in Haverhill, MA.  His focus is the gym’s owner/operator Ray Herbert.  Boxing may be the focus here but Ray believes that the sport offers life lessons to those who participate.

The facility caters to both male and female trainees who learn from Herbert and his other trainers. Haverhill Downtown Boxing  is not fancy, nor is it state of the art equipment with fancy bells and whistles.

Ray is quite clear about the goals of his establishment.  It is, first and foremost, there for the city’s youth. Secondary to that is the opportunity for those who show the drive and initiative to box in events like the Golden Gloves.

Participants ages range from  the very young, age 11,  to a 26 year old man who decides to return to the ring after a six year absence.

Herbert is adamant that the kids under his tutelage not be hurt. It is, he says, about learning how to fight and how to improve their  performance.  In essence the gym is teaching youngsters about self control and how to handle aggression through the art of boxing.

Touch Gloves (which is what boxers do before a match)  follows the training of several gym members. It includes coverage of several external matches including the Golden Gloves.  It follows the progression of several boxers and their successes and failures.

It shows that even the most experienced get nervous and forget their training and tune out their trainer’s advice.

Jorge films the entire documentary on his own.  The single camera process works well for the 75 minute long film. The filmmaker also edited the film and has proven to have a deft touch by  putting together a thoughtful and intelligent look at one establishment.

This is the filmmakers second documentary, the first being the 2013  short film The Comic Book Palace. Jorge manages to capture moments that are intense and he seamlessly films action that is incredibly “up close and personal.”

The film also shows both sides of the story.  It focusses on the boxers, and their thoughts, as well as the trainers who push the fighters to learn more about the craft and to win.

Touching Gloves leaves the viewer with a message that  is less about boxing than teaching kids about life and how to live  it.

If there were any complaint at all about the film, it would be with the fighting competition filmed against the a slow tempo operatic chorus.  The fight and the peripheral events around it could have been slowed down to match the music allowing for a balletic feel.

This is a brilliant bit of work considering that it was produced with no budget and “one man and his camera.” (Additional footage was provided on one match by filmmaker Chris Esper.)

Felipe informed us that  in October the film will be shown at the Tryon Film Festival in North Carolina. Jorge has been invited  as a VIP guest for the screening and he will be discussing the film as it is being showcased.


Orange Is the New Black: The Animals – Tears (Review) Spoilers

The Animals

Orange Is the New Black “The Animals” ends in tears. The gradual meltdown of Litchfield has reached rock bottom with the death of Poussey. It is, in many ways,  a double homicide as Bayley’s innocence dies as he crushes the air right out of Washington.  The sad thing is, this could have been avoided had Piscatella not taken it upon himself to punish people already being punished.

His knee-jerk reaction to the dead “guard” (who is not one of the ranks but an outsider; a hired hitman) has enabled this death to occur.  Piscatella’s bullying of Red finally proves to be too much for the inmates to bear. Despite their failed coalition, they all stand, quite literally, together.

Initially it is Humps (Michael Torpeythey want removed. His gladiatorial fight club put  Maureen in the infirmary and messed up Suzanne. The result of his bullying inmates had all the different groups attempting to work together for his removal.

The plan undergoes a slight change as they aim for Humphrey’s boss instead.  Which makes a certain amount of sense as Piscatella is a dangerous in his own way as Humphrey.

Flashbacks in this episode focus on “Gerber” Bayley.  We learn that the guy has always been slightly naive and his entry into Corrections has not improved his “worldly” knowledge.  He does, however, know right from wrong and he tells Caputo about Humphrey.

The warden is furious about the fights and Piscatella interrogating inmates despite being told not to. Caputo suspends Humphrey for one month without pay and Piscatella backs his staff member by threatening a walkout. The captain believes he has won against Caputo but he has put a noose around his own neck.

Poussey and Soso  (Kimiko Glennhave an argument. Later Poussey hits up Judy King  (Blair Brown) for a job after prison and the celeb gives her a phone number to call. Taystee works the coalition angle to get rid of Humphrey and Maria joins the movement. 

After last week’s leak about Burset  (Laverne Coxbeing in the SHU, she is sent back to Litchfield minimal facility.  As she struggles to fit back in, Alex and Piper get back together.

Red (Kate Mulgrewis exhausted because Piscatella will not let her sleep.  She tries to facilitate the coalition but is too tired to mediate when the whole thing falls apart.

Piscatella bullies Red in the dining hall and then castigates all the inmates in the room. Blanca drops her serving tray and stands back up on the table. Piper, who promised Alex that she was going to stay out of trouble, joins Blanca with a look of quiet resignation on her face.

More inmates begin standing on the table. Hapakuka (Jolene Purdy) tells the Captain that they are not moving until he resigns. Piscatella calls for backup. Humphrey arrives and Suzanne (Uzo Aduba) freaks out when she sees him. 

Gerber is told to control her and he attempts to grab and hold Williams.  Poussey rushes up to make him stop and let her calm Suzanne down. Bayley knocks her down and puts one knee on her back.

Suzanne attacks Bayley and he cannot move his knee, Poussey cannot breathe and she whisper to the officer to get off her.  Williams is out of control and CO McCullough (Emily Tarver) calls for Piscatella to help. 

Finally the captain grabs Suzanne and pulls her off of Bayley. It is too late. The lifeless body of Poussey is face down  on the dining room floor. Piscatella says to call a medic and Taystee, after falling on her knees beside Poussey’s body, screams.

The death of Poussey was the most tearful event on the show, outside of Lolly’s being taken away in the last episode, and these last two segments have taken the comedy right out of this series.

In many ways, this series has become a cautionary tale.  The dangers of privatizing prisons is clear. Poorly trained staff who have no real guidelines and companies more concerned with profit margins than running a facility correctly.

Certainly prison is not meant to be fun, but it is not about bullying a populace whose punishment was having their freedom taken away. This season has been all about the staff not doing their job properly. An inmate dying is the end result.

It is ironic that the dead hitman’s discovery makes things worse. The officers all band together in a sense of outrage that is as misplaced as it is false.

Orange Is the New Black ended with a death. The series’  mood is somber and downbeat. This was a tissue box episode, on par with the previous one, where tears were almost a requirement.

The series is a Netflix original and is available to watch all at once, if one so desires. There is one more episode left in season four, watch it now, to see how Poussey’s death affects the prison and the inmates. Or wait for a week, to let this latest episode settle and for your tears to dry.


Stranger Things: The Bathtub – Spielberg and Carpenter (Recap/Review) Spoilers


Stranger Things “The Bathtub” has Lucas as Paul Revere “The bad men are coming,” and starts off with a full on attack of Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter. (Before going into the episode, does anyone else see that scrap yard and not think of Stephen King’s Uncle Otto’s Truck?)

The episode begins with Eleven and Mike sharing a moment and almost kissing.  Dustin arrives and interrupts this tender moment with news of Lucas’ incoherent transmission.  Lucas is excitedly telling his friends that all the bad men are coming.

Cue a Spielberg “E.T” moment where the kids escape on their bicycles. In this instance, however, the bikes do not fly, an oncoming van does. All the kids meet up and the van attempts to head them off.  El flips the thing right over the bicycles and the trio escape from Brenner and his heavily armed men.

You have to hand it to Lucas. He only really accepts Eleven after she saves their bacon by blocking their pursuers with the van.  Lucas also makes up with Mike. He shows his friends what he found on the other side of that fence as  Brenner’s helicopters start sweeping the area for El.

The kids hide out in the scrap yard school bus as the choppers fly overhead.

Joyce and Hopper arrive at the police station and she is furious to find Jonathan in handcuffs.  The chief is shown the articles in Jonathan’s trunk and the two have a talk.  Mike’s house is invaded by the Brenner “men in black” and they begin to question his mother and father about Eleven.

They tell his worried parents that he is in danger.  Brenner asks that they trust him.

Joyce tells Jonathan off for trying to fix things on his own. The mouth-breater; Troy (Peyton Wich) is brought into the police station by his irate and overbearing mother. He describes Eleven to Chief Hopper and he realizes that she is hanging out with the boys. 

Steve (Joe Keeryhas a falling out with his two jerk friends.  (Sidenote: The makeup on Harding’s face is brilliant.  The blood looks real and his entire face looks sore.)

Backed by  music that is evocative of an entire catalogue of ’80s horror films (Like The  Night of the Comet, for instance), Hopper enlists the help of Nancy to track Mike down and help the kids to escape Brenner and his men.

(Speaking of music, the use of  a John  Carpenter type score, during the school bus scene   – i.e.  the two bass notes used in “The Thing” – sets up Hopper’s almost comic rescue perfectly.)

The kids meet up with Nancy, Jonathan and Joyce. Mike explains the flea and the acrobat. Hopper recognizes the description of the lab and Eleven agrees to find Will and Barb. She cannot.

El suggests they  build a makeshift isolation chamber and Dustin  gets some guidance from Mr. Clarke.

(Amusingly, Clarke is watching “The Thing” with his girlfriend, or wife, when Dustin calls about building the sensory deprivation tank, “for fun.”)

The group make their “tank” after taking the town’s de-icing salt supply and Joyce’s wading pool.  Eleven is given a set of goggles covered with duct tape to help her in the tank.

Mike and Nancy lie to each other about how they feel toward Jonathan and Eleven. During the entire process, Joyce is the quintessential mother, soothing El before the experiment. Later, when Eleven finds Barb dead, Joyce calms the girl down.

After El finds the slime covered dead body of Barb,  she  then finds “Castle Byers” and Will. He does not have long left and the alien thing discovers the building, Eleven and Will before everything dissolves.

Heartbreakingly, when El finds Will, Joyce tells her to tell the boy she is coming for him. Will murmurs, “Hurry.”

Hopper starts to leave. He plans on heading to Castle Byers, it is in the woods behind the Byers’ house, and Joyce forces the chief to take her along. Nancy tells Jonathan that they have to get their monster gear from the station.

Nancy  tells Jonathan she wants to kill it.   As Hopper and Joyce enter the fenced off area the two older kids grab their stuff from the station.  The chief and Joyce are caught and Will is being hunted by the creature in the upside-down.

In this penultimate episode, everything has gone spectacularly wrong. The grownups have been caught and Will has been found by the alien predator.  It looks like it may be up to Jonathan and Nancy to save the day.

Stranger Things is a Netflix series available to watch all in one go. If you have been watching  the show one episode at a time, there is one left to finish up the season.   The series has proven wildly popular with audiences and has already been greenlit for a second season.

Kudos, once again, to Winona Ryder and Millie Bobby Brown for creating yet another tissue grabbing moment, or two.  Mad props to the entire cast are in order as well. The talented actors all bring this meta horror series to living breathing life.


Dark Matter: Going Out Fighting – Do Androids Dream? (Review) Spoilers

 Dark Matter - Season 2

What a rollercoaster ride “Going Out Fighting” was. Four and Nyx having sex, Three knowing about it,   Rook returning, Two dying,  Six saving Three’s life again and that scary-arsed thing inside of Three. Dark Matter managed to provide enough adrenaline fueled terror inside that stasis pod to last the whole season. But what about The Android? Was that a dream there at the end?

After last week’s collapse of Two, it was a foregone conclusion that Rook was going to make another appearance. (Of course it was signposted back in episode 204 “We Were Family” when the Dwarf Star Technologies station was sketched.) The smarmy villain that we love to loathe proved to be just as horrible as the first time he appeared.

The main story line was of Portia’s attempt to replace the nanites in her system.  There is an underlying thread of Ryo/Four becoming fixated with returning to his home The Principality of Zairon.  After learning of his parallel self ruling Zairon, Four has been watching reports of what transpires there.

He knows that without his previous memories he cannot return to rule. This may cause further problems for the skilled fighter.

Portia has a “tune up” performed by The Android so she can ascend the elevator to Dwarf Star Labs.  It is temporary and if she does not get “fixed” properly she will die.  Six and Three team up to help infiltrate the lab. Using retinal scan tech, the two men accompany lab technician Eric Waver (Jonas Chernick) to retrieve new nanites. 

Sadly, Eric is dispatched  after Rook catches the three men stealing the nanites. Three and Six are taken prisoner and Three has some tentacled thing put into him…

Two meets “Portia 2.0” who is, interestingly enough a male this time around, stronger better and more silent than she is.  He matter-of-factly kicks Two’s butt and when Nyx joins the fray, defeats her quickly as well. He is about to kill her when Four intercedes with some well placed bullets and a thorough skewering with his samurai sword.

Portia dies.

Three is acting strangely since being introduced the the boxed thing while Rook was questioning him and does not react to Two’s death. Six takes blood from Portia 2.0 and injects into the dead woman. It brings her back to life. The new and improved nanites start work immediately repairing and replacing the old ones.

Dark Matter - Season 2
Three, aka Marcus Boone

Back on the Raza,  Three is tampering with the ship when Six confronts him.  Three goes for his gun but is shot by Two.  They  put him in a holding cell and when Three wakes up, he begins  an alien sounding roar until he is shot by Two, again.

The crew put him in a stasis pod and the thing inside Three starts pouring out of him and gathering on the transparent lid of the device.  They move the pod near an air lock and after pulling Three free, space the creature left inside the pod.

Three is “cured” but The Android has an odd look on her face. She tells the crew she will be  charging. Shortly after, The Android is shown waking up on a bed, wearing a nightgown, and there is a snowy wooded vista behind her. Is she dreaming?

First of all, “Dark Matter”  reached new heights of fear in this episode. The black liquid escaping from Three, while making that unearthly scream, was damn near terrifying. (For some reason, it brought to mind The Thing, and that made it even scarier.)

In retrospect, it is unclear what was more frightening:  The idea of the tentacle, the possession of Three by the intelligent, and screaming, thing that came streaming out of Boone in the pod or the fact that it turned the man into a ren sleep puppet.

Secondly, the odd behavior of The Android brings up a lot of questions.  Is the scene at the end prompted by her new “upgrade?”  Was it related to whatever the possessed Three was doing?  Or was it triggered by using the blink drive after tinkering with it again.

The last theory seems a good fit.  Could  there be an Android in another parallel universe that is a nightgown wearing gal who has a dynamite bedroom? Or is this a world where The Android is a “real girl?” (Sorry could not resist the Pinocchio reference.)

While the blink theory is a favorite it does seem more probable that the upgrade is the real culprit here. The Android has been slightly “off” since the software was installed.  Her stealing Five’s hot chocolate, while funny, was another sign that things are not quite right here.

Lastly: Do androids dream? If they do in this verse, it is not of electric sheep but king sized beds in a lavish bedroom…

Dark Matter continues to flow smoothly into new territory, with the odd jolt of characters dying or changing dramatically. While Six seems more like his “old self,”  The Android is entering a new phase. This evolution of the quirky character should be more than a little interesting.

Dark Matter - Season 2
The Android. Evolution, metamorphosis, or something else?

The series airs Fridays on SyFy and Space.  Do not miss this brilliant show as it offers more in one episode than other shows provide in an entire season.


Guest Starring Wil Wheaton as Rook