“Titans” S1 Ep 9, “Hawk and Dawn”, Dir Akiva Goldsman


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Anger turned inward is suicidal, but anger turned outward is homicidal.  This episode (Dir Akiva Goldsman) was a story of rage and revenge.  Where do you put all of your anger when self-help groups, drinking, and drugs no longer satisfies the grief?  Revenge.  Revenge is as seductive as heroin and it does not have to be directly done to the individual that wronged you.  Revenge is an idea of retribution distilled into a violent id.

Titans once again challenges us to support primitive justice.  In the not too distant past, blood had to be answered with blood.  In Titans, blood still calls and must be answered.  There is no lawyering up to satiate the desperate pang for revenge.  It is pure.  It is violent.  Honestly, maybe it’s healthier?  Civilized society gives us Justice – the impartial review of the facts to determine legal guilt and reasonable punishment. Vengeance is instant punishment by the aggrieved for the likely guilty.  Vengeance is not civilized, but it is satisfying.  This episode answers the question what does it take for a civilized person to close the door on society’s civilized justice and enter the world of primitive vengeance?

The episode begins with Hank and his brother in football pads filming their first adventure as superheroes.  They are about to beat up a pedophile so that he will plead guilty to his crimes.  Why do they opt for this life?  Hank was sexually abused by his football coach in middle school.  Later, he becomes a football star at his college, but he and his brother get kicked out for fighting.  Without anything, they decide to go after pedophiles and mete out justice in their neighborhood.

Then, we meet Dawn. She is a ballet dancer, daughter to a sophisticated Londoner, BUT her mother is married to an abuser and she keeps going back.  Despite her family’s dirty secret, they remain within the boundaries of the law and society.  We see all of the characters meet moments later.  Hank and his brother and Dawn and her mother all run into each other on the street.  Just as we’re about see the guys become superheroes, a car kills the mom and the brother.

This sends both Dawn and Hank down a spiral of depression and drinking.  In this haze, they find each other, but their anger is just under the surface- Waiting. The loss and the drinking doesn’t send Dawn outside of society. It takes something more for to turn away from society- Intimacy.  No, I don’t mean sex.  I mean real intimacy.  Dawn gets Hank to tell her about the sex abuse he suffered.  She is there for him.  He has undressed himself by sharing his trauma, she can relate to his pain because of her abusive father. Through this shared pain and intimacy, Dawn leaves society and decides to mete out her own justice.  She enters the world of vengeance.

Dawn confronts Hank’s football coach and demands that he turn himself in.  He refuses and a very good fight ensues.  This is what makes this show great.  It’s honest in terms of the physics.  Yes, she lands some solid kicks and punches, BUT he is a large grown man and he makes contact and delivers some ass kicking as well.  In Arrow, we would have to believe that a 100 pound 5’0 lady could beat up four men at the same time.  It always took me out of it.  The fights in Titans are brutal and honest.  To get the upper-hand in this fight, she has to stab the coach in the leg.

Just as the Coach is about to win the fight and kill Dawn, Hank arrives and beats the snot of the Coach.  This is the shared intimacy.  Hank offers to let her leave- that she was never there.  There’s a beat. Then, NO. Right then, she has fully crossed over.  She closes the door of the Coach’s home so they can finish beating him possibly to death.  We watch from a distance as she fully closes the door on us.  The reason is that we are on the outside looking in; Dawn has left our society.  We as the viewer in the comfort of our home and safety and permanently separated from her new life.

When they arrive home, they complete the intimacy by removing all of their clothing and consummating their relationship. They are now both changed.  The story ends with her being roused from coma by Rachel inserting herself into Dawn’s dream.

Greg, you love spin-offs – this is a great one.  Ritchson and Kelly have perfect chemistry; you feel their pain.  The characters and their story is wonderfully dark.  It would be a great addition to the DC Universe as its own series!

 

 

Bronson’s Old: Death Wish 3 (1985, directed by Michael Winner)


To quote Roger Murtaugh, “I’m too old for this shit.”

It has been ten years since Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) left New York City and the place has gone to Hell.  It’s no longer just muggers that you have look out for.  Now, there are roving street gangs of directionless teenagers, terrorizing the elderly and forcing them to live like prisoners in their own apartment building.

One street corner now looks like a war zone, controlled by spiky-haired, face-painting punks who look like something from a Mad Max movie.  Manny Fraker (Gavan O’Herlihy) rules this street corner, supported by a gang that worships him as if he was some sort of god.  Manny thinks that he is immortal but he’s just targeted the wrong person.  The gang may think that Charley (Francis Drake) is just a defenseless old man but what they don’t know is that, when Charley served in Korea, his best friend was Paul Kersey.

The past few years have been busy for Paul.  He’s killed muggers and rapists in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Kansas City and now he’s returned to New York City, to visit his old friend Charley.  Paul arrives at Charley’s apartment just in time to witness Fraker’s gang murdering him.  The gang flees and when the police arrive, they take Paul into custody.

While public defender Kathryn Davis (Deborah Raffin) tries to figure out why Paul is being held in jail, Paul has a conversation with Lt. Shriker (Ed Lauter).  Shriker remembers Paul as being the New York vigilante and he has a proposition for him.  Paul can kill as many members of Fraker’s gang as he wants, as long as he allows the police to take the credit and reports everything that he discovers to Shriker.  Paul agrees.

In the neighborhood, Paul starts to put Fraker and his gang (one of whom is played by pre-Bill and Ted Alex Winter) in their place.  In a scene borrowed from Brian Garfield’s original Death Wish novel, he uses a used car as bait to gun down two aspiring car thieves.  When Paul gets a new gun, he tests it out on a depraved mugger known as the Giggler.  Though some might call him a serial killer, Paul is soon a hero to the entire neighborhood.  Though Charley may be gone, Paul befriends the other residents of the apartment.  He shows the elderly Kaprovs how to catch anyone trying to climb through their window.  He protects Maria Rodriguez (Marina Sirtis) from the gang.  Best of all, he befriend Bennett Miller (Martin Balsam), a World War II vet who still remembers how to load a machine gun.

(Balsam and Bronson previously co-starred in The Stone Killer, though in that one Bronson was a cop and Balsam was on the other side of the law.)

He also finds time to pursue a relationship with Kathryn Davis.  This is one recurring element in the Death Wish franchise that has never made sense to me.  Paul always has a new girlfriend, despite the fact that almost every woman that he ever gets involved with ends up getting killed.  Paul also only seems to go out with women who would be upset to discover that they were dating a notorious vigilante.  In Death Wish II, he went out with a crusading journalist who was against the death penalty.  In Death Wish 3, he falls for a public defender whose job is to provide legal counsel to the very people that Paul is trying to kill.  After Death Wish 3, Paul would date yet another crusading journalist and, finally, the ex-wife of a notorious mobster.  Maybe Paul should just give up and concentrate on mourning his wife.

Michael Winner returned to direct Death Wish 3 and, this time around, he imagines New York City as being a post-apocalyptic wasteland, full of abandoned buildings and murderous scavengers.  Imagine A Clockwork Orange if Charles Bronson suddenly showed up to shoot Alex and the Droogs.  As played by Gavan O’Herlihy, Manny Fraker is the type of seemingly indestructible bad guy who can actually give Paul Kersey a challenge, something that was missing from the previous films.

The other thing that distinguishes Death Wish 3 is that it was one the only film in the franchise to directly confront an obvious truth.  Charles Bronson was 53 when the first Death Wish was released.  By the time he made Death Wish 3, he was 64 and decades older than the typical action star.  (As way of comparison, Clint Eastwood was 55 when Death Wish 3 was released and was already experimenting with less action-orientated roles.)  By partnering him with Martin Balsam and the other elderly residents of the neighborhood, Death Wish 3 not only acknowledged Bronson’s advanced age but also took advantage of it.  Death Wish 3 is a film where the old folks finally get to teach the young punks a thing or two.  If the other Death Wish films were about one man fighting a lonely war, Death Wish 3 is about a community refusing to be silenced.  The chance to put those kids in their place even seems to perk up Charles Bronson, who gives one of his best performances in Death Wish 3.

Death Wish 3 may have been roundly despised by the critics but it’s the best of the Death Wish sequels.  It made a fortune at the box office so naturally, another sequel would follow.

Tomorrow: Death Wish 4: The Crackdown!

Cleaning Out The DVR: My Christmas Prince (dir by Sam Irvin)


(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 193 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on January 15th, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only have a month to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded My Christmas Prince off of Lifetime on December 3rd!)

PRINCE CHARMING IS PRINCE CHEATING!

That’s an actual headline that is seen in My Christmas Prince.  The prince in question is Prince Alexander Theodore William Hendricks (Callum Alexander), who is the next in line to take the throne in some little European country that’s definitely not the UK despite the fact that everyone there speaks with a British accent.

Everyone knows that Alexander as a prince, everyone but his girlfriend, Samantha (Alexis Knapp).  She just thinks he’s a diplomat and technically, he is.  It’s not so much that he lied to her about being royalty.  It’s just that he didn’t tell her the whole truth.  He wants to be judged based on who he is and not his royal heritage.  Of course, by not telling Samantha that he’s a prince, he also hasn’t told her that he will eventually be expected to return home and rule his country.  Samantha has plans of her own, which don’t involve being the Queen of a small European country that is definitely not the UK.  She’s just been hired to design a summer school program for every school in the Bronx!  The children need her!

(Personally, if I had the chance to be the ruler of a small country that pretty much only exists to support its royal family, I would say screw the children and catch the next flight to Monaco.)

Anyway, when Samantha decides to spend her Christmas with her family in Wyoming, Alexander decides to follow.  And no sooner has Alexander stepped into the local diner then a waitress immediately recognizes him as the crown prince of whatever country it is that he is from.  It turns out that she saw pictures of him online, attending a cocktail party with the royal family of Sweden.

(Of course, it wouldn’t be a Lifetime movie if the Internet didn’t somehow threaten to destroy everyone’s happiness.)

Anyway, it takes Samantha a few minutes to get used to the idea that her boyfriend is a royal prince.  Of course, her parents are excited.  The entire state of Wyoming is excited.  But you know who isn’t excited?  Alexander’s mother!  Nope, she is scandalized at the thought of Alexander marrying a common American.  She’d rather Alexander marry a baroness.  Could this possibly lead to a bunch of misunderstandings and unlikely visitors coming to Wyoming?

What do you think?

Every Christmas, it seems like there’s at least a handful of Lifetime and/or Hallmark films that feature obscure European royalty falling in love in small town America.  Once you’ve seen one of these movies, you’ve seen them all.  There’s not a surprising moment to be found nor a disparaging word to be heard in My Christmas Prince, which is a mildly pleasant but eminently forgettable movie.  To be honest, I don’t really demand too much from these movies but My Christmas Prince just didn’t work for me.  For a predictable movie like this to work, there needs to be a real chemistry between the two leads but there really didn’t seem to be much of a spark between Knapp and Alexander.  Much like the movie, they just seemed to be going through the motions.

I’ve often been asked which member of the Royal Family I relate to.  Usually, I say Pippa Middleton but, to be honest, it’s the little girl in the picture below:

A Movie A Day #102: Space Riders (1984, directed by Joe Massot)


Since today’s episode of Twin Peaks featured Gavan O’Herlihy, I decided that today’s Movie A Day would also feature him.  I nearly reviewed O’Herlihy’s best known film, Death Wish 3, but then I remembered that, at some point in the future, I am going to review all of the Death Wish films together.  Instead of reviewing Death Wish 3, I watched Space Riders on YouTube.

In Space Riders, Gavan O’Herlihy plays Ron Harris, a Grand Prix motorcycle racer who is lured out of retirement (and away from Marina Sirtis, who also appeared with O’Herlihy in Death Wish 3) to join a racing team sponsored by a Japanese motorcycle company.  Also on the team are Japanese racer Masao Yamashta (played by Toshiya Ito) and 2-time Grand Prix champion, Barry Sheene.  Sheene plays himself and Space Riders even opens with a recreation of an accident that nearly cost Sheene his life in 1982.  (In the movie, Sheene is trying to make a comeback after the accident.  In real life, the accident eventually led to Sheene’s retirement from the sport.)

There is no real plot to Space Riders.  It’s just one race after another, with the emphasis on the motorcycles and less on the men riding them.  The racing scenes are occasionally exciting and there’s some spectacular stunt work but it is nearly impossible to tell who is on each motorcycle until the race is over and everyone takes off their helmets.  There is an interesting scene where Yamashta imagines that he is being chased by a samurai on a motorcycle but that is pretty much it as far as character development is concerned.  O’Herlihy does okay with the role Ron, playing one of his few good guy roles.  (Even on Happy Days, the main thing that stuck out about O’Herlihy’s Chuck Cunningham was that no one liked him.  After O’Herlihy left the show, Chuck was never mentioned again, leading everyone to wonder what terrible fate has befallen Richie’s older brother.)

One thing that does distinguish Space Riders is the classic 80s soundtrack.  Who would have guessed that Hungry Like The Wolf would turn out to be perfect racing music?  Even though it’s no On Any Sunday, Space Riders will be enjoyed by motorcycle racing enthusiasts.

What Horror Lisa and the Snarkalecs Watched Last Night #106: Finders Keepers (dir by Alexander Yellen)


Last night, the Snarkalecs and I watched the latest SyFy original film, Finders Keepers!

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Why Was I Watching It?

I had been watching Big Driver over on Lifetime but that film proved to be unusually disturbing and I really wasn’t in the right mood to deal with it.  Sometimes, you need to just be entertained and SyFy original movies are always entertaining!  So, after watching an hour of Big Driver, I turned over to SyFy and watched Finders Keepers.

What Was It About?

Recently divorced writer Alyson Smith (Jaime Pressly) moves into a nice, old house with her daughter, Claire (Kylie Rogers).  At first the house seems ideal but soon, cracks start to appear on this perfect fantasy of home ownership.  Claire starts to act strangely.  A crazy old cat lady (Marina Sirtis) keeps coming by the house.  Alyson does some research and discovers that the reason the house was empty was because, years before, it was the scene of a brutal mass murder.  And, of course, Claire finds a creepy doll in her bedroom and becomes extremely attached to it.

Soon, everyone who knows Alyson and her ex-husband (Patrick Muldoon) is turning up dead.  Could it be that the doll is evil or could it all be a coincidence?

Actually, there’s really no question.  That is one messed up doll…

What Worked?

SyFy hasn’t been showing as many original movies this year as they did last year.  Fortunately, the ones that they have shown have all been excellent and Finders Keepers keeps the streak going.  Finders Keepers is an effectively creepy horror film, featuring excellent performances from Jaime Pressly and Patrick Muldoon, atmospheric direction from Alexander Yellen, and a clever script from Peter Sullivan.

Incidentally, Finders Keepers probably featured one of the bigger body counts that I’ve ever seen in a SyFy film.  Nobody’s safe from that doll!

What Did Not Work?

Over the course of the film, two cats and a crazy old cat lady are killed.  As most of you know, I am about 40 years away from becoming a crazy old cat lady so that was a little bit difficult for me to deal with.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

So, beyond the crazy old cat lady and her two cats, this film also featured a vivacious, 20-something redhead who ended up being murdered by the evil doll.  And then, once the redhead and the cat lady had been dispatched, we were introduced to an incredibly efficient office administrator and guess what happened to her?  That’s right — murdered by the crazy doll.  Speaking as a vivacious and efficient redheaded office administrator and future crazy cat lady, I really have to wonder just what exactly this film had against me!

Lessons Learned

Do not let your daughter keep any creepy old voodoo dolls that she just happens to find in her bedroom.  If she won’t get rid of the voodoo doll, consider giving her up for adoption because, seriously — voodoo is nothing to mess with.

Embracing the Melodrama #53: Crash (dir by Paul Haggis)


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For the past two weeks, I’ve been reviewing, in chronological order, some of the most and least memorable melodramas ever filmed.   We started way back in 1916 and now, after 52 reviews, we’ve finally reached the year 2004.  And that can only mean that it is time to review the worst film to ever win an Oscar for best picture of the year.  I am, of course, talking about Crash.

Crash is an ensemble piece that follows a multi-racial cast of characters as they deal with issues of race, crime, and — well, that’s about it.  In Crash, everyone’s life revolves around race and crime.  Well, I take that back,  There is at least one character whose life revolves around being a good maid to the white woman who employs her.  But otherwise, it’s all about race and crime.  The film is set in Los Angeles which, from what I’ve read, is actually a pretty big city but you really wouldn’t know that from watching Crash.  All of the characters in Crash are constantly and randomly running into each other.  I think director/screenwriter Paul Haggis is trying to make a statement about the power that coincidence plays in the world but, often times, it just feels like lazy plotting.

Anyway, here are the characters who are meant to bring Los Angeles to vivid cinematic life:

Brendan Fraser and Sandra Bullock play rich white people Rick and Jean Cabot.  Rick Cabot has just been elected District Attorney of Los Angeles County.  (Because when I think of a successful urban politician, I automatically think of Brendan Fraser…)  Jean is his materialistic wife.  At the start of the film, they’re carjacked by two young black men, which leads to Jean suspecting that every non-white she sees is secretly a gang member.  Later, Jean falls down a flight of stairs but she’s helped by her maid, who happens to be — surprise, surprise — not white!  Apparently, this teaches Jean an important lesson about tolerance.  The message, I guess, is that white people can be redeemed by interacting with their minority servants.

And then there’s Cameron (Terrence Howard) and his wife Christine (Thandie Newton) who are upper class and black.  Cameron directs sitcoms for a living and, at work, he has to deal with Fred (Tony Danza) constantly double guessing him and demanding that he reshoot scenes.  One night, as they leave an awards ceremony, Cameron and Christine are pulled over by two white cops — the racist Ryan (Matt Dillon) and his idealistic partner Hansen (Ryan Phillippe).  Ryan proceeds to molest Christine while giving her a pat down.  The next day, Christine is involved in a car accident on the freeway and is pulled from the burning car by none other than Officer Ryan.  The point here, I suppose, is that the same pervert who finger rapes you one night is just as likely to be the same guy who comes across your overturned car on the freeway.  For that scene alone, Crash deserves the title of worst best picture winner ever.

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But that’s not all!

There’s also Detective Graham Waters (Don Cheadle), who has been assigned to investigate a police corruption case that would not be out of place in an episode of … well, just insert your own generic cop show title here.  Graham also visits his mentally unstable mother who demands that Graham find his younger brother.  Now, of course, as soon as we hear this, we know that Graham’s brother is going to have to turn out to be one of the other characters in the film.  Since there are only three other black males in this film (and since Cameron appears to be the same age as Graham), it’s not difficult to figure out who it’s going to be.

It’s either going to be Anthony (Ludacris) or Peter (Larenz Tate), who also happen to be the same two men who carjacked the Cabots’ car at the start of the film.  Larenz Tate probably gives the best performance in this whole sorry mess of a film, even if his role is ultimately a thankless one.

There’s also a locksmith named Daniel (Michael Pena), who finds himself being stalked by an angry Middle Eastern man.  Daniel’s story contains a hint of magic realism, presumably because Paul Haggis was reading something by Gabriel Garcia Marquez while writing the script.

Crash

You can fault Crash for many things but you also can’t deny that it’s far more ambitious than the typical bad film.  In the space of 112 minutes, Paul Haggis attempts to say everything that needs to be said about race and class in America.  Unfortunately, while watching the film, it quickly becomes obvious that Haggis really doesn’t know much about race and class in America.  Hence, the film becomes a collection of scenes that think they mean something while actually meaning nothing.  Crash is less about race in America and more about how other movies have traditionally portrayed race in America.  Unfortunately, director Haggis does not have the self-awareness to truly bring the subtext of screenwriter Haggis’s script to life.

The main theme of Crash seems to be that everyone has a good side and a bad side and that you can the hero of one story while being the villain of another.  That’s not a bad theme, it’s just an incredibly mundane one.  The film illustrates this theme by continually having a character say something racially offensive just to then have him do something heroic in the very next scene.  As a result, the characters don’t come across as being so much complex as just incredibly inconsistent.  Crash is never as deep as it thinks it is.

Reportedly, Crash was inspired by Paul Haggis’s own experience of getting carjacked.  Haggis has said that being a victim of crime led to some intense soul searching on his part.  Hopefully, Haggis got something better than just Crash out of the whole experience.

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