In The Line Of Duty: Ambush In Waco (1993, directed by Dick Lowry)

In Waco, Texas, a scruffy and frustrated musician named David Koresh (Tim Daly) has announced that he is the messiah and is gathering followers to live with him in a compound.  The Branch Davidians, as they are known, spend hours listening as the increasingly unhinged Koresh gives lengthy sermons.  There are rumors that Koresh is abusing the many children who live in the compound and that he is stockpiling weapons for a confrontation with the government.

The ATF makes plans to raid the compound and take Koresh into custody.  Under the supervision of Bob Blanchard (Dan Lauria), the agents run several practice raids.  However, when the day of the actual raid comes, they discover that the David Koresh and the Branch Davidians aren’t going to give up so easily…

Ambush in Waco is a dramatization of the infamous raid that led to a 51-day stand-off between the government and the Branch Davidians, a stand-off that ended with the compound in flames and the deaths of several innocent children.  Over the years, the siege in Waco has often been cited as an example of both government incompetence and law enforcement overreaction.  Instead of arresting Koresh during one of his many trips into town, the ATF decided to do a dramatic raid for the benefit of the news cameras and they were unprepared for what was waiting for them inside of the compound.  After 51 days of negotiations, the FBI tried to force Koresh out and, in the eyes of many, were responsible for the death of every man, woman, and child inside of the compound.  For many, the events in Waco represent the government at its worse.

You wouldn’t know that just from watching Ambush In Waco.  This made-for-TV movie was put into production while the siege was still ongoing.  As a result, the film shows the events leading up to the initial raid but nothing that followed.  Since it would be years before the full extent of the government’s incompetence at Waco would be uncovered, Ambush in Waco today feels like propaganda, a whitewash of a shameful moment of American law enforcement history.  The ATF is portrayed as being thoroughly professional while Koresh is a dangerous madman who is on the verge of trying to lead a violent revolution.  Today, we know that wasn’t the case.  Koresh may have been a loser with delusions of grandeur but he probably would have been content to spend the rest of his life hidden away in his compound.  Meanwhile, newly appointed Attorney General Janet Reno was so eager to prove her toughness that the situation was allowed to get out of control.  That’s not something you’ll learn from watching Ambush in Waco.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that David Koresh wasn’t a bad dude.  Tim Daly is this film’s saving grace, giving an outstanding performance as an unstable, wannabe dictator.  Ambush in Waco shows how someone like Koresh could end up attracting so many followers and it also shows how even the most well-intentioned of people can be brainwashed.  Though the film may not convince us that the ATF was justified in their actions, it does show us why we should be weary of anyone who claims to have all the answers.

4 Shots From 4 Cary Grant Films: The Awful Truth, The Philadelphia Story, North by Northwest, Charade

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today is the 116th anniversary of one of the greatest stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Cary Grant!  And that means that it’s time for….

4 Shots From 4 Cary Grant Films

The Awful Truth (1937, dir by Leo McCarey)

The Philadelphia Story (1940, dir by George Cukor)

North by Northwest (1959, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)

Charade (1963, dir by Stanley Donen)

The ACE Eddie Awards Honor Parasite and Jojo Rabbit

Last night, the ACE Eddie Awards — which are meant to recognize the best edited films of the previous year — were given out.  Parasite took the award for Best Edited Drama while Jojo Rabbit won for Best Edited Comedy.

If you’re an Oscar watcher, this is a big deal.  Parasite is the first non-English language film to win the top prize at the Eddie Awards and it’s victory might indicate that the Academy might be more open to rewarding (as opposed to just nominating) an international film than many people have assumed.  Meanwhile, Jojo Rabbit defeated Once Upon A Time In Hollywood would might suggest that Hollywood doesn’t have the inside track that many people, like me, assumed that it did.

So, this could all mean something or it might mean nothing.  That’s the way these precursors go and I’ll be the first to admit that amateur awards watchers, like me, are often too quick to try to read huge significance into every single precursor.  We’ll see what happens when the Oscars are handed out on February 9th!

For now, here are the Eddie Winners!


Ford v Ferrari
Michael McCusker, Andrew Buckland

The Irishman
Thelma Schoonmaker

Jeff Groth

Marriage Story
Jennifer Lame

Parasite – WINNER
Jinmo Yang


Dolemite Is My Name
Billy Fox

The Farewell
Michael Taylor, Matthew Friedman

Jojo Rabbit – WINNER
Tom Eagles

Knives Out
Bob Ducsay

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Fred Raskin


Frozen 2
Jeff Draheim

I Lost My Body
Benjamin Massoubre

Toy Story 4 – WINNER
Axel Geddes


American Factory
Lindsay Utz

Apollo 11 – WINNER
Todd Douglas Miller

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice
Jake Pushinsky, Heidi Scharfe

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound
David J. Turner, Thomas G. Miller


Abducted in Plain Sight
James Cude

Bathtubs Over Broadway
Dava Whisenant

Leaving Neverland
Jules Cornell

What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali – WINNER
Jake Pushinsky


Better Things: “Easter” – WINNER
Janet Weinberg

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: “I Need To Find My Frenemy”
Nena Erb

The Good Place: “Pandemonium”
Eric Kissack

Schitt’s Creek: “Life is a Cabaret”
Trevor Ambrose


Barry: “Berkman”
Kyle Reiter

Dead to Me: Pilot
Liza Cardinale

Fleabag: “Episode 2.1” – WINNER
Gary Dollner

Russian Doll: “The Way Out”
Todd Downing


Chicago Med: “Never Going Back To Normal”
David J. Siegel

Killing Eve: “Desperate Times” – WINNER
Dan Crinnion

Killing Eve: “Smell Ya Later”
Al Morrow

“Mr. Robot”: “Unauthorized”
Rosanne Tan


Euphoria: Pilot
Julio C. Perez IV

Game of Thrones: “The Long Night” – WINNER
Tim Porter

Mindhunter: Episode 2
Kirk Baxter

Watchmen: “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice”
David Eisenberg


Chernobyl: “Vichnaya Pamyat” – WINNER
Jinx Godfrey, Simon Smith

Fosse/Verdon: “Life is a Cabaret”
Tim Streeto

When They See Us: Part 1
Terilyn A. Shropshire


Deadliest Catch: “Triple Jeopardy”
Ben Bulatao, Rob Butler, Isaiah Camp, Greg Cornejo, Joe Mikan

Surviving R. Kelly: “All The Missing Girls”

Stephanie Neroes, Sam Citron, LaRonda Morris, Rachel Cushing, Justin Goll, Masayoshi
Matsuda, Kyle Schadt

Vice Investigates: “Amazon on Fire” – WINNER

Cameron Dennis, Kelly Kendrick, Joe Matoske, Ryo Ikegami

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Sideways (dir by Alexander Payne)

I’ve never really gotten the obsession that some people have with wine.

Some of that may be because I hardly ever drink.  I’m not quite a teetotaler but I seem to be getting closer with each passing year.  But, beyond that, I just don’t get the whole culture that’s sprung up around wine snobbery.  I don’t get the people who sit around and say, “Oh, this is an amazing Australian wine and, someday, my great-great grandchilden will get to open it when they’re 90 and on their deathbeds.”  Everything that I’ve seen about wine tastings annoys me, from the overdramatic sniffing to the big bowls of spit-out wine.  (I’m not a big fan of spitting in general.)

The 2004 film Sideways is a film that’s all about wine snobs.  It follows two friends as they take a week-long vacation in the Santa Barbara wine country.  Miles (Paul Giamatti) is a depressed English teacher who loves wine and who has never gotten over his divorce.  He’s also a writer, though a remarkably unsuccessful one.  He’s waiting to hear back on his latest manuscript, an autobiographical novel that he fears might not be commercial enough.  Jack (Thomas Haden Church) was Miles’s college roommate and they’ve remained friends, despite Miles feeling that they have nothing in common.  Jack is a former semi-successful actor who now works as a voice over artist.  Jack knows little about wine.  He’s just looking for a chance to indulge in some meaningless, commitment-free sex before getting married.

Miles attempts to teach Jack to appreciate wine.  Jack attempts to get Miles to actually enjoy life for once.  Together …. THEY SOLVE CRIMES!

Actually, they don’t solve crimes.  That’s not the type of film that Sideways is.  This is an Alexander Payne film, which means that it’s essentially a road film in which two different characters consider their own mortality and question whether or not there’s more to life than just what they see around them.  The difference between the two characters is that Miles obsesses on the meaning of it all while Jack doesn’t exactly ignore Miles’s concerns but he’s much better at shrugging them off and blithely moving from one experience to another.  Miles wears his neurosis on his sleeve while Jack is slightly better at hiding them.

During their week-long excursion into wine country, Miles and Jack fall for two women who undoubtedly deserve better.  Maya (Virginia Madsen) is a waitress who is working on her master’s degree in horticulture.  Maya shares Miles’s love of wine and is one of the few people to show any genuine interest in Miles’s book.  Stephanie (Sandra Oh) is as much of a free spirit as Jack and, after spending two days with her and her daughter, Jack starts talking about canceling (or, at the very least, delaying) his upcoming wedding.  Miles, meanwhile, is falling in love with Maya but there’s a problem.  Jack lied to Maya and told her that Miles’s book is about to be published and Jack has failed to tell Stephanie that he’s engaged….

And really, it would be very easy to be dismissive of both Miles and Jack if they were played by anyone other than Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church.  If you ever need a movie to cite as an example of how perfect casting can inspire you to forgive characters who do rotten things and make stupid mistakes, Sideways would be a good film to go with.  Thomas Haden Church brings an unexpected sincerity to the role of Jack, one that keeps him from coming across as being malicious but instead suggests that he just can’t help himself.  If nothing else, Haden Church’s concern for Miles comes across being genuine.  (“I guess because you were wearing your seat belt.”)  Meanwhile, in the role of Miles, Paul Giamatti again proves that he’s one of those rare actors who can take a rather annoying character and somehow make him totally sympathetic.  It help that Giamatti brings a lot of self-awareness to the role.  Yes, Miles can be whiny and self-absorbed but at least he knows that he’s whiny and self-absorbed and he’s just as annoyed with himself as we often are.

The actors even manage to make all of the wine talk palpable for non-wine people like me.  During Virginia Madsen’s lengthy monologue about why she loves wine, I found myself thinking, “That’s why I love movies.”  Just as wine tastes different depending on who is drinking it and when they opened the bottle, how one experiences a movie can change from time to time and depending on each individual viewing experience.  Just as the best wine was cultivated over time, the same can be said of movies, many of which are not recognized for their greatness until years after they were first produced.  Just as Maya thinks about all the people who played a part in creating the perfect bottle of wine, I think about all the people who played a part in creating the movies that I love.  You don’t have to love wine to enjoy Sideways.  You just have to love something.

Sideways was nominated for Best Picture but it lost to Million Dollar Baby.  Amazingly, Paul Giamatti was not nominated for Best Actor.

A Scene That I Love: “The Sword Has Been Drawn” from John Boorman’s Excalibur (1981)

Today is the 87th birthday of director John Boorman.

A former journalist and documentarian, Boorman got his start as a feature film director in 1965 when he was offered the chance to direct Catch Us If You Can, an enjoyable take on A Hard Day’s Night that starred the Dave Clark Five.  Boorman went on to establish himself as one of the most idiosyncratic and unique directors working in the British film industry.  Among the films that Boorman would direct: Zardoz, Deliverance, Point Blank, The General, Hope and Glory, and The Emerald Forest.  Among the films that Boorman was offered but turned down: The Exorcist, Fatal Attraction, Rocky, and Sharky’s Machine.  Few directors can claim a filmography as varied and unique as John Boorman’s.

During the 70s, Boorman made an unsuccessful attempt to put together a film version of Lord of the Rings.  Boorman intended to tell the entire story in just one film but he couldn’t find financial backing for his epic vision.  So, instead, Boorman directed Excalibur, an film about King Arthur which, thematically, has as much in common with Tolkein as it does with Malory.

Starring Nigel Terry, Nicol Williamson, Helen Mirren, Patrick Stewart, Gabriel Byrne, and Liam Neeson, Excalibur is my personal favorite of the many cinematic adaptations of the Arthurian legend.  (I like it even more than Monty Python and the Holy Grail, though it’s a close race.)  In the scene below, Arthur (Nigel Terry) first removes Excalibur from the stone.  By removing the sword, Arthur confirms that it his destiny to bring “the Land,” (as Britain is referred to as being in Excalibur) together.  Not everyone is convinced but Leondegrance knows a king when he sees on.  (That’s not surprising, considering that he’s played by Patrick Stewart.)

A Tetsunori Tawaraya Double-Bill : “Dimensional Flats”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Disease and sickness are constant themes of Japanese cartoonist Tetsunori Tawaraya’s work — the worlds he depicts are mutated hellscapes populated by mutated hellspawn, after all, but even still : this one takes the concept to literal extremes. And the “this one” I refer to is 2018’s Dimensional Flats, a harrowing, fast-paced, hallucinogenic nightmare that’s freakishly funny, richly-rendered, and downright agaonizingly imaginative.

Our ostensible “hero” in this story is one Dr. Horsey, a kind of “medical cop” who battles mutated viral infections with a “disease ray” and has accrued to himself a loyal group of fellow “officers” who would go to to any lengths to assist him in his germ-killing — and good thing for that, because that’s exactly what they’ll have to do when a visit to an afflicted patient living in a kind of surreal tower block ends up transporting the poor doctor to an…

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A Tetsunori Tawaraya Double-Bill : “Crystal Bone Drive”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

I would never consider myself a “jaded” reader by any stretch of the imagination, but in point of fact there really is very little I haven’t seen done before in comics. I may have seen it (whatever the “it” we’re talking about is) done better or done worse, but that truly “out of left field” reading experience that one at least occasionally yearns for? It simply doesn’t happen for me all that often.

And then I came across Tetsunori Tawaraya.

The Tokyo native who spent some time in the US playing in various west coast punk bands before returning home has the kind of imagination that is best described as utterly unique, and the sheer artistic skill to bring his dystopian, hallucinatory visions to life on the page, but there are plenty of cartoonists you can say that about — what sets his work apart, besides its subject matter, is…

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Music Video Of The Day: Where The Streets Have No Name by U2 (1987, directed by Meiert Avis)

“The object was to close down the streets. If there’s one thing people in LA hate, it’s streets closing down, and we’ve always felt bands should shake things up. We achieved it because the police stopped us filming. Were we worried about being arrested? Not at the time…”

— Adam Clayton on the video for Where The Streets Have No Name

How close did the members of U2 come to getting arrested for performing on the rooftop of a liquor store in the middle of downtown Los Angeles?  It depends on who you ask.

The video’s director, Meiert Avis, claimed that everything in the video is a hundred percent authentic and that the events show in the video happen in “almost real time.”  When the police showed up, U2 was in the process of giving a live concert in downtown Los Angeles.  Before being shut down by the police, the band performed an 8-song set.  (Of course, four of those songs were performances of Where The Streets Have No Name.)  The video’s producer, Michael Hamlyn, came close to being arrested while he was arguing with the police after they ordered the band to descend from the roof.

However, U2’s then-manager, Paul McGuinness, said in 2007 interview that the video deliberately exaggerated the extent of the band’s conflict with the police.  According to McGuinness, the band was actually hoping that the police would give them some free publicity by forcefully shutting down the performance.  Instead, the police apparently kept giving the band extensions so that they could finish up the video.  In this telling, Bono claiming that the police were shutting them down was less about what was actually happening and more just Bono being Bono.

Whatever the truth may be, enjoy!