Lisa Marie’s Week In Television: 9/12/21 — 9/18/21


Again, this was another week where I didn’t watch much.  But I have a good reason.  Number one, I was up at Lake Texoma for the first part of the week and I forgot to set the DVR to record a few shows.  Number two, I accidentally DVRed a reshowing of the first episode of Impeachment and I missed the second episode and, since I didn’t care much for the first episode, I didn’t bother to rewatch.  Number three, I somehow totally forget abut the Brooklyn Nine Nine finale.  That was such a good show but I always had a hard time figuring out when it was actually airing.  Finally, I watched quite a few movies this week as I continued to prepare for October!

So, here’s a few notes on what little television did I watch:

Allo Allo (Sunday Night, PBS)

Having avoided (through a convoluted set of circumstances) marrying the head of the community resistance, Rene found himself being targeted for death by that same resistance.  Rene was forced to once again fake his own death and then wander around the village disguised as his father, which meant putting on a fake beard.  Rene even resorted to asking Herr Flick to “lock me up in one of your dungeons for a few days,” but Flick refused because they couldn’t just have people wandering in from off the street.  Rene even asked Office Crabtree to arrest him.  “Are you confessing to a cream?” Crabtree responded, in his broken French.  It was all a bit complicated and, in the end, nothing really worked out.  But it made me laugh and that’s the important thing.

Bachelor in Paradise (Tuesday Night, ABC)

Because I forgot to set the DVR, I only saw one of this week’s episodes of Bachelor in Paradise.  Lil Jon was the new host because eventually, every reality show will be hosted by Lil Jon for a week.  I didn’t really pay too much attention to the show, to be honest.  I had just gotten back from the lake and I was tired.

Big Brother (All the Time, CBS and Paramount Plus)

It’s almost over and I’m happy about that.  I like Big Brother but I always get a bit bored with it towards the end.  I’m still writing about the show over at the Big Brother Blog.

Hell’s Kitchen (Monday Night, FOX)

I was happy that Trenton won, even though he did occasionally act like a bit of a jerk.  Still, he obviously earned his victory and I’m sure that Megan will find success as well, even if she didn’t ultimately win Hell’s Kitchen.  I really liked this season.  The kinder, gentler Chef Ramsay was fun to watch and, for once, he really seemed to actually enjoy working with the younger chefs.  Who would have thought that Hell’s Kitchen would end up becoming the most positive and feel-good reality show of 2021?

Moone Boy (Sunday Night, PBS)

Two episodes of Moone Boy aired on Sunday.  I recorded both.  The first featured the Moones trying to fool granddad into giving up his house so that Fidelma, Dessie, and the baby would have some place to live other than with them.  Meanwhile, Martin wandered about with a video camera, hoping to capture something that could be sent to Ireland’s version of America’s Funniest Home Videos.  Fortunately, it turned out that Grandad’s home was full of bats and when they attacked Dessie, Martin had his video!  The second episode featured Martin and Padraic all excited about the idea of aliens having landed in Boyle.  Can you blame them?

Open All Hours (Sunday Night, PBS)

After overordering, Arkwright desperately tried to get his customers to buy extra apples.  Meanwhile, Granville continued to wonder how his once promising life had descended into the living Hell of being a 40 year-old stockboy.

The Ultimate Surfer (Tuesday Night, ABC)

Though two episodes aired this week, I only watched the 2nd episode.  I still have no idea what’s happening on the show, beyond that it features a lot of attractive people getting wet.  But, sometimes that’s all a show needs.

The Walking Dead (Sunday Night, AMC)

I wrote about the latest episode of The Walking Dead here.

Yes, Minister (Sunday Night, PBS)

PBS aired two episodes of Yes, Minister and I recorded both of them, despite having seem both of them before.  That’s just how good this show is!  The first episode featured Jim unsuccessfully trying to reduce the power and size of the civil service.  The second episode featured a lively debate about whether or not the government should allow citizens to have any privacy.  Even though this show is over 40 years old, both episodes continue to feel extremely relevant to our current situation.  That’s the mark of a good show.

TV Review: The Walking Dead 11.4 “Rendition” (dir by Frederick E. O. Toye)


I was up at Lake Texoma this weekend so I missed the latest episode of The Walking Dead when it originally aired.  I did, however, set the DVR for it.  I came back from the lake on Tuesday of this week and while I was eager to watch most of the shows that I had recorded, I really couldn’t summon up much enthusiasm for The Walking Dead.  For the show’s first four or five seasons, The Walking Dead is what I would have immediately watched but, eleven seasons in, the show no longer holds the promise of the unexpected.  Instead, it has settled down into a comfortable pattern.

Earlier today, when I finally did get around to watching Rendition, it all felt very, very familiar.  Once again, Darryl ended up wandering off on his own  Once again, Darryl ended up getting captured and tortured by the latest group of evil humans, The Reapers.  We learned a little about Reaper culture but, despite the whole religion angle, it turns out that the Reapers are just like every other group of evil humans who have shown up in the show.  At this point, even Darryl should be wondering how the exact same thing can keep happing to the exact same guy.

(At first, I was going to say that this episode did change things up a bit by having one of Darryl’s ex-lovers turn out to be a Reaper.  But then I remembered that Darryl’s brother turned up at the Governor’s prison and that was actually a lot more impressive because Darryl’s brother actually had a definable personality of sorts.  He came across as being something more than just a plot point.)

The gimmick with The Reapers is that, before the zombie apocalypse, they served in Afghanistan and they’re now ultra-religious.  That does explain why the Reaper from last week was so happy to see Gabriel and so insistent that Gabriel pray for him.  It also explain why the leader of the Reapers is named Pope, even though that seems more than a bit heavy-handed on the part of the writers.  But who knows?  Maybe this story arc will actually give Gabriel something to do other than glare at everyone with his one good eye.  One can only hope.  Watching this episode, it was hard not to contrast Gabriel’s cry of, “There is no God here!” to Pope’s request (or was it a demand) that Daryl believe in the Reapers’ version of God.

That said, this episode felt way too familiar.  It was well-acted and competently directed and all of that but it still felt a bit too safe for an episode during the final season of a show that, regardless of what it may be now, was once a pop cultural juggernaut.  If you’re like me and you’re hoping things will go out with not just a bang but with a few hundred bangs, it’s impossible not to be disappointed with this season so far.  Let’s hope things pick up and we actually do get the type of finale that The Walking Dead deserves!

Film Review: Worth (dir by Sara Colangelo)


How much is one life worth?

That’s the question that is asked in a film that’s appropriately titled Worth.

Based on a true story, Worth centers around Kenneth D. Feinberg.  Played by Michael Keaton, Fienberg was the Washington lawyer who, in the days after 9/11, was appointed the Special Master of the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund.  In that role, Feinberg was in charge of determining how much money should be given to the families who lost someone in the 9/11 attacks.  At first, Feinberg tries to reduce his job to just numbers.  He resists the efforts of his law partner, Camille Biros (Amy Ryan), to convince him to meet with any of the families one-on-one.  Instead, he tries to make it all about how much the victims would have earned if they had lived.  When Camille tries to get him to listen to a recording of the final phone call of a man trapped in the Pentagon, Feinberg refuses to do it.

Not surprisingly, Feinberg gets a reputation for being insensitive and many of the families signal that, rather than accepting the government’s compensation, they would rather sue the airlines and the city of New York, a move that we’re told could crash the U.S. economy or bankrupt the families or both.  It’s only after the workaholic Feinberg makes the mistake of staying in the office after everyone else has left that he actually meets one of the families.  With the help of activist Charles Wolf (Stanley Tucci), Feinberg finally starts to care about the people behind the numbers.

Worth is a bit of an old-fashioned film, a throw-back to the type of well-meaning, competently produced films that used to come out every December so that they could compete for the Academy Awards.  Even the film’s rather stolid, middle-of-the road liberalism feels like an artifact of another age.  (I had to laugh a little when the film assured us that, despite sometimes coming across like a jackass, Feinberg was a good guy because he had been a senior aide to Ted Kennedy, the senator who left a woman to drown in a car while he went back to his hotel and got some sleep.)  At a time when Adam McKay is being treated as a serious thought leader and Aaron Sorkin has somehow been recast as a sensible moderate, Worth’s fairly even-handed and nonjudgmental approach feels like almost an act of rebellion.  That said, Worth’s approach works for the story that it’s telling.  9/11 was such a huge tragedy that it doesn’t need to be talked to death, as it would be in a Sorkin film.  Nor do we need the heavy hand of Adam McKay to tell us that there’s something inherently disturbing about reducing the value of someone’s life to a mere number.  Unlike the films of McKay, Sorkin, or Jay Roach (Hell, why not throw him in there, too?), Worth trusts the audience to be able to figure out certain truths on its own.  After a decade of heavy-handed political agitprop, Worth’s nonshowy approach is actually a bit refreshing.

As a character, Kenneth Feinberg is not always easy to like.  That’s especially true during the first half of the film, when Feinberg seems to be more interested in the challenge of running the compensation fund as opposed to the people that he’s supposed to be helping.  When the film begins, Feinberg is the epitome of the technocrat who can figure out the numbers but who has no idea how to actually deal with human beings.  Fortunately, Feinberg is also played by Michael Keaton, who is one of the few actors to be capable of projecting the natural authority necessary to make Feinberg compelling without also resorting to begging us to like the character.  Keaton does a good job portraying both Feinberg’s quick mind but also his social awkwardness.  When we first meet him, he’s someone who has been an insider for so long that he can’t even imagine that an outside exists.  Keaton plays him as a man who does not mean to be callous but who is so work-obsessed that he doesn’t understand how his job comes across to other people.  Even more importantly, though, Keaton does a good job of portraying Feinberg’s transformation from being a detached bureaucrat to being someone who actually cares about the people who will effected by his decisions.  A lesser actor would have overplayed these scenes and the film would have felt mawkish.  Keaton underplays and it saves the film.

As I said before, Worth is an old-fashioned film.  Visually, it sometimes resembles the type of movie that HBO used to win Emmys with in the mid-aughts.  Keaton so dominates the film that, only afterwards, do you realize that the talented supporting cast was often underused.  Worth is not a perfect film but it is a good film and a thought-provoking one.  It’s currently showing on Netflix.

Two From Cirio H. Santiago: Silk and Silk 2


When is an Andy Sidaris film not an Andy Sidaris film?

When it’s directed by Cirio H. Santiago, of course!

Santiago, the Roger Corman of the Phillippines, is credited with directing 100 films over the course of his 60-year career and the 1986 film Silk is definitely one of them! And the sequel, 1989’s Silk 2, is definitely another one. That may sound like faint phrase and I guess it is. Let’s just face it — not everyone is going to be a Cirio H. Santiago fan. Some people are going to want movies that make sense and maintain some sort of continuity from scene to scene. To those people, I will say that Silk and Silk 2 are probably not for you. However, if you just enjoy watching people fire guns and blow things up, the Silk films might be for you.

In the first film, Cec Verrell plays Jenny Sleighton, also known as Silk. Silk is the toughest cop in what we’re told is Honolulu but which is obviously Manila in real life. Early on Jenny informs us that she’s known as Silk because, “I’m so fucking smooth.” Silk may be smooth but she’s also deadly. The film establishes early on that Silk will basically shoot anyone. Normally, that might be a problem but, fortunately, Silk only seems to meet criminals. Over the course of the film, Silk investigates a smuggling operation. She starts out busting heroin dealers and then eventually comes across an identity theft ring …. at least, I think that’s what happens. Trying to follow the plot isn’t always easy but then again, why would you want to follow the plot of a film like Silk? The plot’s not the point. The action is the point and Cec Verrell is such a convincing action star that I’m surprised that she didn’t have a bigger career. Seriously, Cec Verell kicks ass!

Unfortuantely, Cec Verell did not return for Silk 2. In Silk 2, Monique Gabrielle steps into the lead role. Technically, Gabrielle is better at convincingly delivering her dialogue that Verell was but Gabrielle is never believable as an action star. As opposed to the first Silk, which emphasized action, Silk 2 emphasizes nudity and it even features a strangely blurred sex scene. (It’s like soft focus times twenty.) The plot of Silk 2, however, is a bit more fun than the plot of the first film, as it deals with the search for some ancient scrolls and it features Silk’s partner continually getting captured and tortured by the bad guys. After a while, you start to wonder if maybe Silk should stop rescuing him every time that he kidnaps because, seriously, the guy needs to learn to make more of an effort not to kidnapped every time he leaves his house. Eventually, Silk teams up with an ancient scroll expert, who looks like a reject from the brat pack. He and Silk fall for each other, of course. As with the first film, it’s not always easy to follow what’s going on but it’s a short movie and it’s quickly paced, making it ideal for when you want to watch a movie but you don’t necessarily want to have to pay too much attention to it.

Technically, neither Silk nor Silk 2 are that good but they’re both entertaining when taken on their own admittedly special terms. For all of his flaws as a filmmaker, it’s hard not to appreciate the fact that Cirio H. Santiago, like Andy Sidaris and Roger Corman, never let a lack of budget or ability stand in his way. Between 1955 and 2014, Cirio H, Santiago directed 100 films and every single one of them is uniquely his. There’s something to be said for that.

Lisa Marie’s Week In Television: 9/5/21 — 9/11/21


Jeff and I have been up at Lake Texoma since Wednesday so I haven’t watched much television.  There’s nothing wrong with that, of course.  Sometimes, it’s important to take some time off.

Here’s a few thoughts on what I did watch this week:

Allo Allo (Sunday Night, PBS)

After being absent for a few weeks, Allo Allo is back on PBS!  Having won his freedom from the Communist Resistance, Rene finds himself still expected to marry the head of the Communists.  Meanwhile, Herr Flick continues to search for the missing painting, Edith somehow does not realize that Rene is cheating on her with literally everyone on the show, and Crabtree continues to speak very bad French.  It was a strange but entertaining episode.

Bachelor in Paradise (Monday and Tuesday Night, ABC)

This week, temporary host Lance Bass was replaced by Tituss Burgess.  Unlike the sarcastic David Spade and the overly earnest Bass, Burgess was just kind of boring, though it was fun to watch the Bachelors and the Bachelorettes all pretend to be huge Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt fans.  Anyway, though I watched them, I didn’t really pay much attention to either one of this week’s episodes.  It’s a show about attractive people hanging out on the beach.  You really don’t have to pay that much attention to what’s actually going on.  Just enjoy the scenery.

Big Brother (All The Time, CBS and Paramount Plus)

It’ll be over by the end of this month!  Until then, I’m writing about it over at the Big Brother Blog.

Dragnet (Weekday Mornings, MeTV)

I finished binging Dragnet this week, watching the final three episodes of the show’s fourth season on Monday and Tuesday.  In a minute, the results of that binge.

Monday got started with an episode in which Joe and Gannon were investigating a string of robberies.  A woman called them and claimed that her ex-husband was responsible.  However, it turned out that he wasn’t responsible and that his ex was just trying to get him in trouble because she was still angry over the end of their marriage!  However, it then turned out that, even though he wasn’t responsible for the crimes his wife accused him of, he was still holding up other stores!  It was actually kind of an interesting story though, Dragnet being Dragnet, all of the action did stop for a lengthy explanation of how fingerprinting works.  This was followed by another episode in which Joe and Gannon tracked down a thief, this time a safecracker.  The safecracker was well-played by G.D. Spradlin, who later played Sen. Pat Geary in The Godfather Part II and Col. Corman in Apocalypse Now.  This episode was also memorable for featuring a crime victim named Mr. Letterman.  Needless to say, whenever his name was mentioned, I immediately pictured David Letterman looking annoyed.

On Tuesday, I set the DVR to record the final episode of the 60s revival of Dragnet.  This episode, called “The Victims,” followed Joe and Gannon over the course of one night, as they investigated a series of crimes.  They investigated a few robberies and yet another murder at a boarding house.  Throughout it all, the emphasis was placed less on the detectives and more on the traumatized victims of the crimes that they were investigating.  Throughout the show’s run, even during the campy third season, Dragnet centered around the idea that that the job of the police was to protect and serve the public and this episode emphasized that point.  With the exception of a scene where Joe (rightly) reprimanded a patrolman who didn’t show enough compassion for a robbery victim, there was no moralizing.  Instead, Joe and Gannon did their jobs as best they could and tried to help out the innocent victims of terrible crimes.  It was the perfect final episode for this series.

Now that my binge of Dragnet is over, I can say that it wasn’t a bad show at all.  Yes, it’s dated, as any show that ran from 1967 to 1970 would be.  And yes, the drug-and-hippie shows were frequently campy.  But there really weren’t as many episodes about drugs and hippies as I imagined.  Instead, for the most part, this was just a show about two men trying to do the right thing and protect their community.  Some of the episodes were undeniably silly and it’s easy to laugh at any episode in which Friday and Gannon went undercover but quite a few of the episodes hold up well as police procedurals.  If nothing else, the show is an interesting time capsule of when it was made.  As a history nerd, I enjoyed it.

Hell’s Kitchen (Monday Night, FOX)

On Monday night, there were two episodes of Hell’s Kitchen, meaning that two chefs were eliminated ahead of next week’s finale.  Steve was the first to go, with Chef Ramsay saying that Steve had talent and a good attitude but that he wasn’t vocal enough in the kitchen.  Second to go was Brynn, who Rasmsay said had the makings of a great chef but who still needed to learn how to control her emotions.  I don’t think anyone who has watched this season was surprised to see those two chefs eliminated but I did appreciate that Ramsay emphasized their positive traits and encouraged them, even as he sent them out the door.  I like the kinder, gentler Ramsay.

Three chefs remain and the finale is next week!  Personally, I’m rooting for Trenton.

Impeachment: American Crime Story (Monday Night, FX)

This is the third installment of Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story series and it deals with the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

The first installment of American Crime Story dealt with the O.J. Simpson trial and it worked largely because the involvement of Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski worked as a buffer against producer Ryan Murphy’s worst instincts.  The second installment, about Andrew Cunanan and Gianni Versace, started out strong but ended up getting so bogged down in its reverse chronology gimmick that it lost whatever narrative momentum it had going.  It’s too early to pass judgment on the third installment but I’ve had my doubts about it from the beginning.  In what world, I wondered, could an Arkansas hillbilly like Bill Clinton, a living caricature of everything that is wrong with American politics, somehow be played by the handsome and charming Clive Owen?  Even with Monica Lewinsky reportedly signing on as a co-producer, it was hard to imagine Ryan Murphy ever producing a show that would truly be critical of a Democrat, even one as terrible as Bill Clinton.

The first episode was uneven.  It dragged a bit, lacking a dramatic set piece like O.J. Simpson getting arrested or Versace getting shot, in broad daylight, outside of his mansion.  Instead, this episode built up to Bill Clinton calling Monica Lewisnky for phone sex but the effect was ruined by the sight of Clive Owen wearing a prosthetic nose.  The majority of the episode was taken up with Sarah Paulson, acting up a storm as yet another obnoxious character with no social skills and while Paulson did her usual good job, it all felt rather familiar.  The episode worked best during the few scenes that focused on Paula Jones, well-played by Annaleigh Ashford.  Jones was the first woman to accuse Clinton of sexual harassment and, in the days before Me Too, she was ridiculed and caricatured as being “trailer trash” by the rabidly pro-Clinton national media.  In the scenes in which Jones faced a barrage of ridicule and outrageously sexist questions from the press, Impeachment showed why this decades-old political scandal matters.

Mom (Weekday Afternoons, Paramount Plus)

On Tuesday afternoon, as I was packing to go up to the lake for the week, I had Mom playing in the background.  I think I went through about four episodes.  I didn’t pay much attention but, from what I saw, each one seemed to be more depressing than the last.  This show always reminds me of why I could never be an alcoholic because there’s no way I’d ever be able to bring myself to sit through those AA meeting with all of their rules.

Moone Boy (Sunday Night, PBS)

After being gone for a few weeks, Moone Boy is once again airing on PBS on Sunday Night.  This week’s episode featured Padraic running away from home and Debra trying to launch a new career as a marriage counselor.  Needless to say, things didn’t go as planned for either one of them.  It was a funny episode, as they tend to be.  I especially enjoyed it when Martin and Padraic attempted to take up shoplifting.

Open All Hours (Sunday Night, PBS)

Open All Hours is back on PBS.  This week, Arkwright went to a funeral and left Granville alone at the store.  Though Granville seemed to enjoy having some time to himself, I’m going to guess that he probably spent most of the time wondering how he had ever ended up trapped in a go-nowhere existence, living in a run-down shop as an indentured servant to a greedy old man who cared not whether his employee lived or died.  It was a pretty dark episode.

Talking Dead (Sunday Night, AMC)

It was fairly dull Talking Dead this week.  Sometimes, Talking Dead is the perfect way to recover from an intense viewing experience.  Other times, it just reminds you that it’s essentially a one-hour infomercial for The Walking Dead.  This week was a case of the latter.

The Ultimate Surfer (Monday and Tuesday Night, ABC)

Much as with Bachelor in Paradise, I have no idea what’s actually happening on this show.  I just know that it features attractive people surfing and that’s really all that matters.

Upstart Crow (Sunday Night, PBS)

On Sunday, I rewatched the first episode of Upstart Crow, with Will working on Romeo and Juliet, Kate lobbying for a chance to play the lead role despite the law against allowing women on stage, and Will’s family wondering why his poems don’t make much sense.  I had seen it before but it all held up very well.

The Walking Dead (Sunday Night, AMC)

I (finally) reviewed this week’s episode earlier today.  You can read my thoughts by clicking here.

Yes, Minister (Monday Morning, PBS)

Yay!  Yes, Minister is back on PBS!  They’re reshowing the show from the beginning so I rewatched the first two episodes on Monday morning.  The first dealt with Jim Hacker learning about his new ministry and getting expertly manipulated by Sir Humphrey for the first time.  This was followed by the episode in which Jim discovered that the world’s newest dictator was an old college classmate.  Both episodes held up well to repeat viewing.  In fact, having to deal with the daily reality of a Biden presidency has led me to have a greater appreciation for this show’s satirical portrayal of shallow politicians and devious civil servants.

TV Review: The Walking Dead 11.3 “Hunted” (dir by Frederick E. O. Toye)


Seeing as how it’s been nearly a week since it aired, I guess I should go ahead and review the latest episode of The Waking Dead. No doubt about it, we’re all about timely reviews here at the Shattered Lens!

The latest episode of The Walking Dead was …. well, it was okay. Actually, it was better than okay. It was actually pretty good. It was well-directed. It was well-acted. There was plenty of gore, if that’s what you’re into. There were a lot of walkers. The Reapers continued to do villainous things for vague reasons. Duncan and Agatha died, so we won’t have to keep track of them anymore. After being absent for the previous two episodes, Carol showed up long enough to do her whole “compassionate but ruthless” thing. Gabriel announced, “God isn’t here anymore” before stabbing a guy in the head. It was all well-done and effective but, and I say this a lot when it comes to The Walking Dead, it was also pretty familiar. That’s the problem when a show like this goes on for 11 seasons. By this point, almost any show is going start to repeating itself and that’s been the case with The Walking Dead for a while now.

The repetitive nature of the show always leaves me with mixed feelings. Yes, the Reapers are frightening and evil but how are they any different from any of the other frightening and evil groups that have showed up over the course of this show? Yes, being eaten by a walker is not a pleasant thought but, by this point, we know that, unless it’s a season finale, only minor characters have to really worry about getting eaten by a walker. Maggie is not going to get eaten by a walker, at least not this early in the season. Neither is Negan, if just because it’s fairly obvious that show’s writers enjoy coming up with sarcastic dialogue for him. That said, I do think The Walking Dead deserves some credit for remaining consistent in its portrayal of a world without hope. The world of The Walking Dead has always been dark and dangerous and the worst thing that the show could do, at this point, would be to pretend like things will ever get better. Even Gabriel has lost his faith, accepting that the world is now ruled by chaos and random destruction.

The stuff with Carol and the horses felt like it was mostly just tacked on to give Carol and Rosita something to do but I enjoyed the interplay between Negan and Maggie. Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Lauren Cohan had an interesting …. well, I guess you’d have to call it chemistry …. in their scenes together. The first three episodes of the season have devoted a lot of time to comparing and contrasting Maggie and Negan’s leadership styles and, interestingly enough, it seems like Maggie has more in common with Negan than she wants to admit. One gets the feeling that her refusal to abandon Alden was as motivated by Maggie’s need to not turn into Negan as it was by any humanitarian impulse. Still, one can see that Maggie is starting to see that Negan might be right. Survival in world ruled by chaos often means abandoning compassion.

Overall, this was a good episode. At this point, The Walking Dead has lost its power to shock but it’s nice to see that it can still occasionally tell an effective story.

Film Review: Acapulco Gold (dir by Burt Brinckerhoff)


The poster is better than the film.

I just finished watching Acapulco Gold, a rather goofy 1976 film about …. well, who knows?

The film starts with some well-shot footage of marijuana farmers checking out their crop but then it abruptly abandons all of that to follow an American insurance salesman named Ralph Hollio (Marjoe Gortner). Ralph is at an airport in Acapulco, waiting to board a flight back to America. He’s approached by a nun who asks him to carry a piñata for her. Ralph says sure but — oh no! — that piñata is actually full of heroin! Ralph’s an unwitting drug mule and not a very good one because it doesn’t take long for him to get himself arrested and sentenced to 40 years in a Mexican prison.

Despite this run of bad luck, Ralph remains surprisingly cheerful. One is tempted to almost describe him as being a Candide-like figure but that would probably be giving this film too much credit. In prison, he meets another prisoner, a boat captain named Carl Solberg (Robert Lansing). Carl is sprung from jail by local businessman, Morgan Frye (John Harkins). Frye wants Carl to sail a boat from Mexico to Hawaii. Carl agrees but he insists that Morgan also pull some strings so that Ralph can serve as his first mate. Morgan, of course, agrees.

The film’s “action” shifts to Hawaii, where it turns out that Ralph and Carl are being used as a part of a much bigger plot. Or something. To be honest, it’s a bit difficult to figure out just what exactly is going on. Acapulco Gold has a make-it-up as you go along feel to it. Occasionally, it’s amusing. Often, it’s frustrating. As soon as you start to get in any way interested in one storyline, it gets abandoned. The film doesn’t have a plot as much as it has a bunch of scenes that we’re left to assume are meant to be somehow connected.

For instance, there’s an elderly couple who keep showing up at inopportune times, providing what I guess is meant to be comedic relief. At one point, it appears that the couple is surely doomed but, several scenes later, they show up at a golf course and they look none the worse for wear. There are lengthy sailing scenes, mixed in with lengthy helicopter scenes. None of them add much to the plot but the Hawaiian scenery is frequently nice to look at. Ralph falls for Morgan’s girlfriend (Randi Oakes) while a Congressman and a corrupt DEA agent use huge, oversized walkie-talkies to communicate with two people who we occasionally see wandering around in the jungle. There’s a golf cart chase, which ends with a labored joke about a two-strike penalty. And, since this is a low-budget 70s film, there’s a day-for-night sequence that is so ineptly lit that we can barely see anyone for several minutes of the movie. (Though his face may not be visible, one can always spot Marjoe Gortner by his hair. 70s Marjoe had a lot of hair.)

At its best, Acapulco Gold is a charmingly incoherent time capsule, a chance to hop in a time machine and go back to 1976. At its worse, it’s a total mess. That said, it’s short enough that it’s never exactly boring and the randomness of it all occasionally lends the film a dream-like atmosphere (albeit one of those dreams that you forget about after you’ve been awake for 87 minutes). As I previously stated the Hawaiian scenery is lovely and some members of the cast — Robert Lansing and Ed Nelson, in particular — do the best that they can with their inconsistently written characters. The whole thing is such a slapdash affair that it becomes oddly fascinating to watch.

As for the film’s star, Marjoe Gortner was a former child evangelist whose claim to fame was being the subject of Marjoe, a documentary in which he admitted that he didn’t believe in anything that he preached and that he was just scamming people out of their money. Perhaps not surprisingly, Gortner was usually best-cast as villains or unpredictable rogues. (His best performance was as a morally ambiguous space pirate in Starcrash.) In Acapulco Gold, Gortner is playing a normal, ordinary guy who finds himself caught up in the drug underworld. Gortner is miscast as a naive innocent and, instead of projecting any sort of shock over anything tht he experiences, Gortner’s laid back performance suggests that there were multiple reasons why this film was called Acapulco Gold.

Acapulco Gold is currently viewable on Prime. It’s not a particularly good film but Hawaii has always looked great.

Scenes That I Love: The Ending of Breathless (R.I.P., Jean-Paul Belmondo)


I was saddened to learn of the death of French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo earlier today.  He was 88 years old and still an international icon of movie star charisma at the time of his death.

Belmondo spent the majority of his career in France, where he was one of the early faces of the New Wave and also a prominent action star, famed for doing his own very dangerous stunts.  In America, he was best-known for his starring turn in Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless.  In Breathless, Belmondo was the perfect existential outlaw, living life day-by-day and obviously doomed but still so incredibly magnetic and stylish.

In tribute to Belmondo, here is a scene that I love, the final moments of Breathless.

Lisa Marie’s Week In Television — 8/29/21 — 9/4/21


I’ve been on a cleaning binge over the past week so I didn’t really watch that much. I did get hit with insomnia on Wednesday, which led to me watching a lot of true crime. It also led to me being beyond exhausted on Thursday. Anyway, here’s what I watched this week!

Bachelor In Paradise (Monday and Tuesday Night, ABC)

Lance Bass has replaced David Spade as the guest host. On Monday’s episode, he was very enthusiastic and very earnest and it felt totally wrong for this deeply silly and extremely shallow little show. As for Monday’s episode, the men are still hung up on stuff that happened during their time on the Bachelorette and it’s kind of pathetic. (“You weren’t there for the right reasons!”) As for the women, Demi is my favorite because she’s unapologetic when it comes to creating drama. She understands what this show is about. As for Tuesday’s episode …. well, I didn’t really pay attention to be honest. There was a lot of arguing on the beach. My favorite part of this show remains the totally self-aware and delightfully silly opening credits.

Big Brother (24/7, CBS and Paramount Plus)

I’m writing about the trainwreck of a show over at the Big Brother Blog.

Dead Silent (Wednesday morning, ID)

This is a true crime show about murders that occurred in isolated locations. I watched three episodes on Wednesday morning. One of them dealt with a particularly gruesome crime that occurred in my home city of Dallas. Yikes! It’s a scary world out there.

Dragnet (Weekday mornings, MeTV)

I’ve only got a few more episodes left until this binge is over.

On Monday, things got started with an episode in which Joe and Gannon investigated the case of a seemingly helpful woman who was actually conning old people. This was yet another episode where Joe and Gannon went undercover! I always enjoy the undercover episodes because it’s not like Joe and Gannon actually change their behavior in any way. They’re still obviously cops but no one ever seems to notice. This was followed by an episode in which Joe and Gannon investigated a murder at a boarding house, which was something that happened fairly frequently on Dragnet. This episode also featured a classic scene where Joe and Gannon convinced a reporter to hold back on publishing a story by appealing to sense of civic duty. That reporter would lose his job today. He probably would have lost in in 1970, too.

On Tuesday, the DVR only recorded the 1st episode. Either I forgot to set it to record both episodes or the cable could have gone down. (I was asleep, so who knows?) These things happen. Anyway, the episode that was recorded featured Gannon and Friday searching for a missing college student who, because of his drug addiction, had fallen in with a bad crowd. It wasn’t a bad episode, despite the fact that if featured the most clean-cut heroin addicts imaginable. For once, the emphasis was on helping drug addicts instead of just throwing them in jail.

On Wednesday morning, the DVR actually recorded both episodes. The first episode featured Joe and Gannon investigating a man who was manufacturing and selling amphetemines out of his home. They had to prove that the man was actually the one who did the manufacturing, which they managed to do through handwriting analysis. (It turns out that the man was foolish enough to leave his notes out where anyone could find them.) It was actually a pretty good episode, focusing more on police work than on heavy-handed moralizing. (That’s the main difference between the third and fourth seasons of Dragnet.) The second episode featured Joe and Gannon taking down a gang of criminals who would kidnap dogs and then return them to collect the reward. The best thing about this episode is that all of the dog owners were portrayed as being kind of crazy. I’m a cat person so I approved.

I forgot to set the DVR to record Thursday’s episodes. Sorry.

Friday got started with one of my favorite episodes, perhaps my second favorite after the third season episode where Joe and Gannon appeared on the talk show and debated the hippies. In this episode, Joe was taking a night class at the local community college when he noticed that one of his classmates had a baggie of weed hidden in his notebook. Joe arrested the student and, as a result, was kicked out of class by his left-wing professor. Joe asked for a chance to plead his case. Fortunately, it turned out that another classmate was an attorney who pointed out that the professor didn’t have any any right to kick Joe out in the first place. Featuring smug liberals, anti-drug hysteria, and a self-righteously indignant Joe Friday, Night School is a classic Dragnet episode. This was followed by an episode where Joe and Gannon worked in the Internal Affairs Department and cleared the names of two homicide detectives accused of stealing money from the victim of a crime. It was a good, solid episode but it could have used more hippies.

Hell’s Kitchen (Monday Night, FOX)

The black jackets were handed out and, sadly, both Emily and Antonio were sent home. I surprised myself by crying a little when Emily was eliminated but, to be honest, it wasn’t the first time that I’ve teared up this season. I’ve actually gotten quite emotionally involved with this show.

As you may have guessed, I’ve really enjoyed this season of Hell’s Kitchen. I’ve actually preferred it to Big Brother. The fact that Chef Ramsay has been a bit nicer this season than he has in previous seasons has been a surprising but also a welcome change. As much as everyone loves it when Ramsay yells and curses, he seems to be a lot more sincere when he’s actually praising a chef that he’s sending home and telling them to keep learning and not give up their dreams.

Hometown Homicide (Wednesday Morning, ID)

This is a true crime show about homicides that occur in small communities. I watched two episodes on Wednesday morning while I was working on some things. I’m not sure why, exactly, I ended up watching so much true crime on Wednesday. I guess it was just the mood I was in. Sometimes, you want confirmation that the world is as scary and dangerous as you think it is.

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (Sunday morning, FX)

I watched Chardee MacDennis 2: Electric Boogaloo, which wasn’t quite as good as the first Chardee MacDennis episode but which still featured a pretty good guest turn from Andy Buckley. This was followed by the episode where Frank fell out of a window, which is one of the few It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia episodes that I’ve never been able to make my way through. That gash on the back of Frank’s head just freaks me out too much.

Man With A Van (Wednesdsay Morning, ID)

Apparently, this entire series is about men who owed vans and abducted women. I had insomnia on Wednesday morning so I watched an episode. It was about a 16 year-old girl in Arkansas who got abducted by a man with a van. It was disturbing to watch and, as with most true crime shows, it was hard not to tell that the show was exploiting a real-life tragedy. Still, the message was a good one: stay away from weird men who own vans.

60 Minutes (Sunday Night, CBS)

Good God, this show is like a hundred years old and so are most of the reporters on it. I imagine the same that can be said for the people who watch it every week. Myself, I only watch it when Big Brother gets preempted by a football game and I have to impatiently wait for Scott Pelley to get off my TV.

Talking Dead (Sunday Night, AMC)

Josh McDermitt continually pointing out that it made no sense for Maggie to leave Gage to die was the highlight of this week’s Talking Dead. McDermitt was, in fact, so charming and funny that I found myself really hoping that he’ll find another high-profile role after The Walking Dead ends.

The Ultimate Surfer (Monday, Tuesday, and Friday Night, ABC)

I struggle to follow most of what happens on this show. Growing up, I lived in a lot of different states and I experienced a lot of different cultures but I never met any surfers so I’m at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to this show. (If it was The Ultimate Ballerina or The Ultimate Motorcycle Gang Member, I would be on more familiar ground.) But honestly, the only thing that really matters about this show is that everyone looks really good. If you’re going to make a show about surfing, be sure to populate it with people who you would actually want to see on the beach.

The Walking Dead (Sunday Night, AMC)

I reviewed the latest episode here.

Your Worst Nightmare (Wednesday Morning, ID)

This is a true crime show. I woke up at two in the morning on Wednesday and, unable to get back to sleep, I watched two episodes. Both of them were about young women being abducted by crazed stalkers. It was probably not the best thing to watch at 3 in the morning, to be honest.

Documentary Review: Val (dir by Leo Scott and Ting Poo)


Throughout the documentary Val, modern-day Val Kilmer continually assures us that he feels better than he looks.

It’s a sad statement to hear, not just because Val Kilmer is himself admitting that he doesn’t look particularly healthy but also because it shows that Kilmer is very aware that many viewers will take one look at him and believe that his time has passed.  Val Kilmer went from being a rising star in the 80s and the 90s to being a Hollywood outcast, largely due to a reputation for being eccentric and difficult to work with.  While his legions of fans remembered and continued to celebrate Val Kilmer as Iceman, Jim Morrison and Doc Holliday in Tombstone, the real-life Kilmer was aging, struggling financially, and often appearing in movies that were ignored by the same public who loved his old films.  Kilmer started to make a comeback by playing Mark Twain in an acclaimed one man show but a battle with throat cancer left him without his voice and the ability to feed himself.  No, Kilmer doesn’t look particularly healthy in Val but, as quickly becomes apparent, his mind is as sharp as ever.

Val is really two documentaries in one.  Half of the film is made up of footage of the young Val Kilmer, much of it shot by Kilmer himself.  We see him hanging out with an impossible young-looking Sean Penn.  We also see some behind-the-scenes footage of Tom Cruise in Top Gun and we’re left to wonder how Tom Cruise can look exactly the same in 2021 as he did in 1986.  Kilmer, it turns out, was obsessive about filming his life, leaving you to wonder how much of it was about recording events and how much of it was about maintaining a wall between him and anyone who might get too close.  (By filming everything, Kilmer made sure that no one stopped acting.)  In the late 80s and early 90s, Kilmer went so far as to film unsolicited audition tapes for the directors with whom he wanted to work.  There’s a touching earnestness to the three auditions he filmed for Stanley Kubrick while his attempts to convince Martin Scorsese to cast him in Goodfellas led to Kilmer apparently making a mini-gangster film of his own.  In the footage of the young Kilmer, there’s a mix of good-natured arrogance along with an eagerness to please.  Kilmer knew he was handsome and he knew he was talented but you get the feeling that what he really wanted were for his filmmaking heroes to acknowledge those things.

The other half of the film features the older Kilmer, humbled by poor health and years of personal struggles.  This the Kilmer who can only speak in a rasp of a whisper.  The film follows him as he goes from convention to convention, singing pictures for fans who inevitably ask him to write down catchphrases from either Top Gun or Tombstone.  Kilmer says that a part of him hates having to work the circuit but, at the same time, he’s obviously and sincerely touched to have so many fans.  In one of the films most powerful moments, the older Kilmer watches the younger Kilmer in Tombstone.  Though the modern-day Kilmer insists that he’s doing better than he looks, it’s obvious that he’s now very much aware of his own mortality and there are parts of the film that come dangerously close to sounding like a premature eulogy.  But when Kilmer watches himself as Doc Holliday, it’s obvious that Kilmer knows that, no matter what the future holds, his performances will live forever.

That said, I imagine that there are a lot of people who will watch this film just to see what Kilmer has to say about his legendary reputation for being difficult.  Kilmer admits to being a perfectionist and he says that he sometimes pushed too hard.  There’s a montage of various entertainment reporters, all reporting on Kilmer being “difficult” on the sets of Batman Forever and the Island of Dr. Moreau.  Kilmer, himself, however doesn’t seem to view himself as being unnecessarily difficult and why should he?  While other may have called him eccentric, one gets the feeling that Kilmer would simply say that he was just being himself.

Kilmer reveals a lot about himself and his career in Val.  At the same time, it’s obvious that there are still certain walls that he will never completely let down.  When he discusses his family and his childhood, it’s with a mix of regret and a need to believe that things really weren’t as bad as he remembers them being.  He talks about how his family fell apart after the death of his brother.  His father walked out on the family and, after Val became a star, cheated his son out of a fortune.  One would expect Val to rail against his father but instead, Kilmer just accepts it as something that happened.  Still, the amateur psychologist will be tempted to say that a lot of Val’s perfectionism came from his desire to please his father.  (When Kilmer discusses Iceman in Top Gun, he says that he imagined that Iceman’s competitive nature came from having a father who was never happy with him.)  Perhaps the documentary’s most revealing moment comes when we listen to audio of Val Kilmer arguing with director John Frankenheimer on the troubled set of The Island of Dr. Moreau.  Kilmer says that he can’t do the scene because he’s too upset over Frankenheimer saying that he was considering walking off the picture.  At that moment, one gets the feeling that the film set represented the childhood that Kilmer wanted and working with directors like Frankenheimer and Joel Schumacher threw him back into the mindset of the teen who watched his father walk away when things got too difficult.

Val is a documentary that sticks with you, a mediation of fame, aging, regret, and mortality.  (Let it sound too sad to watch, rest assured that Val Kilmer does have a sense of humor and it is on display in the film.)  Here’s hoping that Val Kilmer is with us and being difficult for a long time to come.