Lisa Marie’s Week In Television: 8/7/22 — 8/13/22

Being up at the lake this week, I haven’t watched a lot but here’s a few thoughts nonetheless.

Allo Allo (Sunday Night, PBS)

Allo Allo was a bit weird this week and I think it’s because Sunday’s episode was the first episode of the show’s final season.  Watching it, it was pretty obvious that the show’s writers and directors had run out of new ways to hide the painting and, for the first time, the show felt like it was kind of going through the motions.  Apparently, the show’s star, Gorden Kaye, was in a very serious car accident before the 9th series was filmed and, when the episode started with Rene’s traditional recap, I couldn’t help but notice the very prominent scar on his forehead.

As for the episode, everyone in Nouvion knows that the Allies will be invading at any minute.  The Resistance is awaiting liberation.  The Germans are making plans to flee.  (And, because Richard Gibson declined to return to the role, Herr Flick has had plastic surgery.)  Officer Crabtree still cannot speak French.  And Rene has been abducted by the communist resistance.

The Bachelorette (Monday Night, ABC)

The dates in Bruges were wonderfully romantic and I loved the fireworks display that ended Aven and Rachel’s date.  But then it was time for the Rose Ceremony and …. Boooooo!  Meatball did not get a rose.  I’m over this season.

Better Call Saul (Monday Night, AMC)

This week, Bob Odenkirk and Carol Burnett proved themselves to be dramatic powerhouses.  With Kim telling Jimmy to turn himself in and Howard’s wife now having the true details of Howard’s downfall, it’s slightly frightening to think of where this is all going to end up leading.  There’s only one episode left and I’ve pretty much given up on Jimmy/Saul/Gene getting a happy ending out of this.

Big Brother (All Week, CBS and Paramount+)

Seeing Daniel, one of the most annoying houseguests in the history of the show, get voted out really made my week.  For those of us who are still angry over the way the show catered to bullies like Paul during season 19 and Jackson during season 21, this latest season of Big Brother has been cathartic.  I’ve actually been enjoying writing about it over at the Big Brother Blog.

The Challenge (Wednesday Night, CBS)

Derek X. became the latest cast member of Big Brother 23 to get eliminated from the show.  For all the talk about how strong the cast of Big Brother 23 was, they kind of suck at The Challenge.

Full House (Sunday Evening, MeTV)

The first episode featured Michelle graduating from preschool.  Jesse took it upon himself to turn Michelle and her classmates into a band called …. I am not kidding — Jesse’s Little Rippers.  They performed a horrific rendition of Twist and Shout.  Could no one tell Jesse that not everything was about him and his lameass band?  The second episode featured Aunt Becky discovering she was pregnant and worrying that this might make it difficult for Jesse to go on tour with the Rippers and …. well, I’m not going to repeat myself.  Seriously, everyone deserved better.

Inspector Lewis (YouTube)

A gossip website led to multiple murders in Oxford.  Lewis was stunned to discover the Internet could be such a dangerous place.  Hathaway towered over everyone else on the show.

Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butthead (Paramount Plus)

Beavis and Butthead nearly died twice in the latest episode of their show.  First, they got trapped on a roof.  Then they got trapped on a piece of wood that sailed out to sea.  Actually, they were still stranded when the show ended so they might be dead now.  That’d be a shame.  They really don’t seem to mean as much harm as they cause.

Open All Hours (Sunday Night, PBS)

Granville painted something silly on the window of the shop so Arkwright beat him up in the stockroom.  Then the milk delivery came by and Nurse Gladys Emmanuel pulled up in a hearse or something.  I don’t know, it was a weird episode.

In the Line of Duty: Hunt For Justice (1994, directed by Dick Lowry)

When New Jersey State Trooper Philip Lomonaco (Dan Lauria) pulls over a car for having mud on its license plate, he doesn’t know that the car is being driven by two members of the United Freedom Front, a group of left-wing revolutionaries.  While Lomonaco talks to Tom Manning (Miguel Ferrer), Dickie Williams (Dell Yount) opens fire.  Lomanaco is killed and Tom and Dickie flee to their safehouse in New England.  While the United Freedom Front plots their next series of bombings and bank robberies, Lomonaco’s ex-partner (Nicholas Turturro) teams up with an FBI agent (Adam Arkin) to track down the terrorists and get justice for his fallen friend.

Hunt For Justice was the ninth of NBC’s In The Line of Duty films.  The previous films featured religious cults, anti-tax protestors, drug lords, and mobsters.  In this one, the antagonists are all former 60s radicals who are still trying to overthrow the system.  The FBI views the United Freedom Front as being a threat to national security while Lomonaco’s partner just wants to make sure that Lomonaco’s death won’t go unpunished.  Dan Lauria was actually a mainstay of the In The Line of Duty films, appearing previously in A Cop for the Killing and and Ambush in Waco.  (Nicholas Turturro was previously featured, on the other side of the law, in Mob Justice.)  Since most people who watch this film will probably remember Lauria as being Kevin Arnold’s father in The Wonder Years, everyone will want his killers to be brought to justice.

As with the previous In The Line of Duty movies, the action is evenly divided between law enforcement and the criminals that they’re pursuing.  At first, Miguel Ferrer seems like odd-casting as a leftist who admires Che Guevara but he gives a good performance as someone who regrets some of the decisions that he made in the past but who knows that he can’t change them now.  Melissa Leo is also very good as his wife.  Stephen Root and Dean Norris, two other actors who you would not necessarily expect to see playing left-wing revolutionaries, are cast as the other members of the United Freedom Front and Hunt For Justice does a good job of contrasting their middle class lifestyles with their revolutionary rhetoric.  One of the ironies of the film is that the revolutionaries are leading much more comfortable and financially-stable lives than the men who are trying to hunt them down.  In fact, the main problem with the movie is that the revolutionaries are so interesting that it’s always a letdown when the action shifts over to Turturro and Arkin, whose characters are far less interesting.  Arkin and Turturro go through the expected paces.  The FBI doesn’t like it when local cops try to interfere with their investigations.  Who knew?

Hunt for Justice is a pretty standard In The Line of Duty movie but no movie featuring Miguel Ferrer, Melissa Leo, and Stephen Root is ever going to be a total loss.  The cast is the best thing that Hunt For Justice has going for it.

Book Review: Stud Service by John D. Revere

In 1985, Justin Perry’s fifth and final adventure was published.  In Stud Service, the CIA’s most deadly and sex-obsessed assassin discovers that his whole life has been manipulated to lead to one moment, the moment when he will be sacrificed to Halley’s Comet.  Before the sacrifice, of course, his sperm will be preserved by a secret cult that will use it to create hundreds of genetically perfect warriors who will conquer the Earth and rule it for the next 50,000 years….

Okay, I’m sensing that some of you think I’m making this up.  I’m not.  That is the plot of the final Assassin novel.  Justin Perry discovers that SADIF is a front for a cult that worships Halley’s Comet and that his sperm is the key to their plan to rule the world.  Actually, there’s several cults.  It turns out that there’s many different divisions within the Halley Society and one of them is run the Old Man, who was Justin’s mysterious handler at the CIA.  As the Old Man explains it, he just wanted to serve his country and make the world a better place.  But he also has a brain tumor that is driving him mad.

It’s actually kind of an interesting wrap-up for the series.  If nothing else, it actually explains why, over the course of the previous four books, people from Justin’s past kept randomly popping up and turning out to be SADIF agents.  Since birth, Justin has been cultivated and developed to be a potential sacrifice to the comet.  Even the Old Man and his sister were involved in it.  Everything over the past four books has been about developing Justin into a heartless killing machine and, significantly, this book features Justin realizing that he no longer “enjoys” killing as much as he once did.  He’s rediscovered his humanity and that humanity allows him to survive, even when he has hundreds of Halley cultists trying to masturbate him to death.

That said, even though the book nicely wraps up the weirdness of the series, it’s still a bit of mess.  Trying to keep straight who works for each faction of the Halley Society requires taking notes, which is more activity than Justin Perry really deserves and this is one of those action novels where there’s considerably more exposition than action.  It’s safe to skim over the final fourth of the book because nothing really happens until the final page or so.  Somehow, the book manages to be extremely sordid and rather dull at the same time.

This was the final Justin Perry story.  He saved the world a lot.  Interestingly, it does appear that the author meant for this to be the final novel.  This wasn’t a case of the publisher saying, “We’re not wasting any more money on this series.”  Instead, all four of the previous book lead to this fifth one and it ends on a definite note of conclusion.  One gets the feeling that the author felt that he had said everything that he needed to say.  Of course, it’s impossible to guess what exactly it was that he was trying to say.  I personally suspect the whole thing was meant to be an elaborate joke on the people who regularly read novels about violent spies and never once considered that their literary heroes were actually deeply damaged sociopaths.  If so, bravo.

Film Review: The Fallout (dir by Megan Park)

The Fallout, which premiered on HBOMax way back in January, opens with a scene of a sandwich being made.  It’s a peanut butter sandwich but the person making it is putting way too much peanut butter on the bread.  The kitchen counter is a mess.  The knife looks dirty.  To be honest, it’s kind of sickening to watch.

No, the film is not about the sandwich.  In fact, the sandwich never appears again.  But I have to admit that sandwich represents the entire film to me.  That scene, I think, is meant to tell us that we’re watching a film about real people and sometimes, real people prepare disgusting food in a cluttered kitchen.  And that’s true.  Then again, sometimes they don’t and that’s something that some filmmakers don’t want to acknowledge.  Indeed, there’s something rather condescending about the cinematic belief that being authentic is the equivalent of being a slob.  It’s an interesting phenomena how a film can try so hard to be “real” that it instead becomes the opposite.

The Fallout certainly deals with an important subject.  Vada Cavell (Jenna Ortega) goes to high school on a day like any other day and, without warning, finds herself in the middle of a school shooting.  The shooting itself is handled well.  We don’t see the shooter nor do we learn anything about him.  We just hear the gunshots while Vada, Mia Reed (Maddie Ziegler — yes, of Dance Moms fame), and Quinton (Niles Fitch) hide in a bathroom stall.  It’s a terrifying scene and it immediately reminded me of what it was like when I was in high school and I would see stories about school shootings and wonder if my school was going to be next.

The rest of the film deals with the emotional, political, and mental fallout of the shooting.  Quinton struggles with the death of his brother.  Vada’s best friend, Nick (Will Ropp), becomes a self-righteous David Hogg type.  And Vada starts spending all of her time with Mia, a dancer and influencer whose Dads are in Europe and apparently can’t even be bothered to come back to the States even after their daughter is involved in a school shooting.  Vada, who has a total crush on Mia, starts hanging out at Mia’s mansion.  Mia is happy to finally have a friend that she can talk to, even if Vada is kind of annoying.

(The whole thing with the Dads being in Europe and Mia living alone in her mansion feels a bit too convenient, to be honest.)

The film is dealing with important issues, which is one reason why it’s gotten so many good reviews.  This is one of those films that many people feel obligated to like because otherwise, they might run the risk of being told that they don’t care about school shootings.  But, honestly, the film doesn’t really have that much to say.  It hits all of the expected beats and, as much as the film tries to make everything messy and real, it often seems like it’s trying too hard.  Of course, Vada is going to use drugs to get through her first day back at school.  Of course, Vada’s father is going to encourage her to shout out her frustrations at the top of her lungs.  Of course, Vada’s mother is going to be remote and controlling.  Of course, her little sister is going to have a breakdown.  Of course, her best friend is going to get mad at her for not wanting to get involved with his nascent political career.  Of course, there’s going to be an absolutely cringey moment where Vada starts talking a mile a minute just because she smoked one joint.  To be honest, I’ve never seen anyone react to weed quite the way that Vada does.  She’s like the person who gets drunk off half a beer and then won’t stop talking.  It’s freaking annoying.  Throughout the film, there are occasional moments that work but, ultimately, it’s never quite as insightful as it obviously believes itself to be.

Jenna Ortega does give a good performance as Vada.  As written, the character is often annoying but, then again, the same can be said of most people and one can only imagine what Vada would have been like without Ortega’s likable screen presence.  The film is pretty much stolen, though, by Maddie Ziegler.  Ziegler reveals the lonely reality behind the influencer façade.  Since Ziegler is herself a dancer and an influencer, she brings a lot of her own persona to Mia but, at the same time, she also makes Mia into a believable character who has a life and an existence that’s separate from the actress playing her.  After The Book of Henry and Music, The Fallout actually gives Ziegler a chance to prove that she can act as well as she can dance.

As opposed to Gus Van Sant’s Elephant or Fran Kranz’s Mass, which both that the courage to acknowledge that violence and its consequences can never be truly understood or easily defined, The Fallout tries too hard to find definitive meaning in an incomprehensible tragedy.  For all of its good intentions and its attempts to be realistic, there’s a shallowness at the heart of The Fallout that keeps it from working.

6 Shots From 6 Films: Special Alfred Hitchcock Edition

4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More 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!

123 years ago, the master of suspense was born in England.  Today, we honor the career and legacy of the great Alfred Hitchock with….

6 Shots From 6 Alfred Hitchcock Films

The Lodger (1926, dir by Alfred Hitchcock, DP:Gaetano di Ventimiglia )

Shadow of a Doubt (1943, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, DP: Joseph A. Valentine)

Vertigo (1958, dir by Alfred Hitchcock, DP: Robert Burks)

North by Northwest (1959, dir by Alfred Hitchcock, DP: Robert Burks)

Psycho (1960, dir by Alfred Hitchcock, DP: John L. Russell)

The Birds (1963, dir by Alfred Hitchcock, DP: Robert Burks)

Music Video of the Day: Don’t Know What You Got Till It’s Gone by Cinderella (1988, directed by Nick Morris)

Watch out!  Cinderella’s in a sensitive mood.

Best known for being discovered and initially promoted by Bon Jovi, Cinderella had their biggest hit with Don’t Know What You Got Till It’s Gone.  This song made it up to number 12 on the charts in 1986, proving that there was a market of listeners who were eager for overly sensitive hair metal.

The video was shot at Mono Lake, a California lake that is well-known for the large amount of salt that has accumulated in the water.  (It has to be known for something, I guess.)  This video was directed by Nick Morris, who also directed the video for Europe’s The Final Countdown.