Sunday, October 17, 2010

Oh, The Horror: Dracula Has Risen From the Grave

Just in time for my horror movie kick, I stumbled upon a couple of the classic Hammer Dracula movies on AMC the other night. I caught the last 20 minutes of Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) and then Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968) in it’s entirety.

Dracula Has Risen From the Grave actually picks up where Prince of Darkness leaves off. Dracula meets his demise by falling into an icy river. (Remember the old vampire rule about running water? They cashed it in here.) But like Han Solo at the end of Empire, he’s not dead, he’s just frozen. Dracula Has Risen From the Grave starts in a village at the foot of the mountains where the Count’s castle looms over... casting an evil shadow on the villagers. A young boy finds a victim of the count hanging in a church, and is traumatized to the point of being mute for the rest of his life. We then fast forward a year, presumably past the events of Prince of Darkness, to a time when Dracula has been destroyed. But the town is still affected by the shadow of the castle, and the church and it’s priest are having a crisis of faith.

When the Monsignor comes to town and realizes the situation, he decides to trek up to the castle and perform an exorcism to restore the spirit of the congregation. But for some reason, the road the castle no longer exist and so the Monsignor and the priest have to hike all the way up. As they get closer, the priest has a panic attack and refuses to venture all the way up to the doors of the castle. While the Monsignor performs the ceremony and seals the castle doors with a large metal cross, a storm rolls in and the priest falls down and bleeds into a steam. Unfortunately, it happens to be the exact spot where Dracula is frozen in a block of ice. The blood seeps into his mouth and before you know it, the count is thawed out and back in action. And his clothes look great for being wet and frozen for a year. (Meanwhile, when I put on a dress shirt it’s wrinkled before I walk out the door.)

I don’t intend on writing a blow by blow synopsis of the movie, but I wanted to make a point. This movie takes a long time to get going. Dracula doesn’t even show up until well into the first act of the film.

Once the Count realizes he can’t get into his pad, he decides to take revenge on the Monsignor and follows him back to his home town... with his latest Renfield-like slave, the priest, in tow. In town, we meet the Monsignor’s hot niece and her boyfriend, a feisty fellow who works in the tavern/bakery. Dracula quickly sets his sites on the niece and also bites and enslaves the busty tavern girl.

Lee’s Dracula is a real departure from Lugosi. No accent, much more vicious and just loves to enslave and hypnotize people. And he’s got those awesome, angry red eyes. Although he rustles up the lust with the ladies, there is very little romance with him. At one point he smacks the tavern girl when she questions him. Why if his cape was covered in fur, Drac could probably pass as a pimp.

One great moment comes when Drac secures a new coffin for himself. He simply has his priest-slave dig up a grave and he tosses the occupying stiff aside. Another example of the inglorious existence of the vampire.

I love these old Hammer flicks, but compared to modern films, they can seem a bit slow at times. The main problem with this film is that the protagonists are pretty lame and we don’t care about them a whole lot. The bakery boy and the Monsignor both are not compelling adversaries for the Count compared to Professor Van Helsing. Hopefully the next old Hammer film I see will be one of the Peter Cushing entries. (Perhaps the screen's greatest Van Helsing.) But still, it’s always fun to catch a Christopher Lee Dracula movie. He is by far the most terrifying of all screen versions of the Count.

And that leads me to the next movie on the list, one that is chock full of interesting and compelling characters. Up next, Let Me In.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Oh, the Horror: Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter

The next horror movie on my quest is Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, a low budget Hammer film from 1974. Like a lot of old movies like this, I remember it well, but I am not sure if I ever actually saw it. I watched a lot of these Hammer films as a kid at midnight on WOR, channel 9 in New York. So I’d often fall asleep or only see bits and pieces of the movies because I was switching back and forth from Saturday NIght Live. And flipping channels back then required more work since you had to walk up to the TV and turn a knob. So you tended to stay with a show longer than you might these days.

But even if I never actually saw Captain Kronos, I was fully aware of him. Pictures from this film were a staple in the movie monster books that I so loved.

A friend, and fellow horror fan, lent me the DVD recently and I finally got around to watching it. Wow, I just watched The NIght Stalker, which is a bit dated, but still holds up and seems practically new in comparison. Captain Kronos, is an absolute blast into the 70’s horror past. It’s got it all; buxom maidens in the old English countryside being victimized by a youth stealing vampire, cheesy, technicolor special effects and a swashbuckling swordsman for a hero. There’s even an angry mob.

The plot revolves around the home village of Dr. Marcus, that seems to have a slight vampire problem. Luckily, Marcus has a buddy named Captain Kronos (Horst Janson), who happens to be a professional vampire hunter. (I wonder if Kronos ended up in that vocation as a result of a Myers Briggs test.)

Captain Kronos is a former soldier and still wears some sort of hybrid calvary/pirate outfit. With his lovely, flowing blonde hair, could double for a member of ABBA. He pals around with his sidekick, Professor Grost (John Cater), a hunchbacked combination of Professor Van Helsing and Marty Feldman’s Igor. And with his whiskers and top hat, he has a striking resemblance to Mr. Barnaby, the villain from March of the Wooden Soldiers.

I am glad I chose this movie right after The Night Stalker, because as I mentioned in that write up, one of the things I liked about that movie was that the vampire had no power of hypnosis. In this movie, the vampire’s primary weapon is it’s ability to mesmerize people. And you know when it’s happening because you hear that classic “hypnotizing” music whenever it’s happening.

Captain Kronos himself is quite the stud and manages to pick up a hot chick from the town’s stockades in the first few minutes of the movie. Carla, the gypsy girl, is played by Caroline Munro. She is one of the classic beauties from the Hammer era and is simply drop dead gorgeous. (Pardon the expression.) You may remember her from The Spy Who Loved Me, among other films.

Captain Kronos is the absolute opposite of The NIght Stalker’s bumbling Carl Kolchak. He’s a swashbuckling, puffy shirt wearing warrior with a personal vendetta against fanged bloodsuckers. And he’s so “randy” that at one point he actually gets distracted from hunting the vampire by his hot cohort long enough to allow another villager to get attacked and killed by a vampire bat. Hey.. a man has to have priorities.

The climax of the movie involves a sword fight in a room full of statue-like, hypnotized people... in fact, Kronos even manages to turn the head vampire’s beguiling power against itself thanks to his reflective sword.

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter is quite dated, and downright funny in places, as many movies from this era tend to be. But it’s exactly the kind of movie I want to see as I explore the horror landscape throughout the years. But probably the most important lesson I learned from this experience is this: Puffy pirate shirts allow for a lot of flexibility in a sword fight... and the village maidens really dig 'em.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Oh, the Horror: The Night Stalker

This morning I decided that the next horror movie I’d watch would be one of my favorites and one that helped mold me as a fan of the genre; The Night Stalker, starring Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak, an investigative reporter in Las Vegas who comes to realize that the killer that is eluding them is actually a vampire. I’ve seen this one a bunch of times and own it on DVD. But It’s been a couple of years since I’ve watched it, so I popped it in. (If you have not seen it and don’t want to read spoilers, turn back now.)

I am a huge Kolchak fan. I was first exposed to him when the TV series, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, debuted when I was a kid. It was the show that inspired the X Files and my favorite show growing up. It all started with this 1972 made for TV movie.

There is so much to love about this movie. First of all, Darren McGavin’s portrayal of Kolchak is the foundation on which everything else is built. With his trademark straw hat, seersucker suit, quick wit and disregard for authority, the bumbling Kolchak was the opposite of the prototypical alpha-male you’d expect in the hero's role.

Another fun thing about this movie is the parade of stars from the era. The beautiful Carol Lynley, Kolchak’s only serious love interest in the character’s screen history, whom you probably remember from The Poseidon Adventure. Claude Akins, TV’s Sheriff Lobo and Larry Linville, Frank Burns from MASH. And of course, the other actor who completes the Kolchak picture, Simon Oakland, who plays Carl’s volatile boss, Tony Vincenzo.

Upon this viewing, a few things struck me. The villain of this movie is the vampire Janos Skorzeny, but like in JAWS or The Silence of the Lambs, the protagonist also has to wrestle against the establishment. In this case it’s the local police and government who will do anything to keep the truth from being revealed.

Let’s talk about Janos Skorzeny, the vampire. He’s played by Barry Atwater, and he does not say a word throughout the entire movie. Although, one witness does describe his unpleasant voice, so we know he can actually talk. When we do see Skorzeny, he is usually killing another victim, on the run, stealing blood from the hospital or tossing cops around like rag dolls. It’s a far cry from the gothic, brooding, romantic vampires that litter the genre, particularly now in the Twilight era. Skorzeny is one of the coolest vampires ever because he truly acts like a vile creature who must drink blood to live. He does not have chiseled good looks nor the power to hypnotize his victims. He brutally overpowers them and then tosses their husks aside when he is done. It’s a fascinating concept. I’d love to see a movie of how Skorzeny first became a vampire and how he managed to survive throughout the years. It is alluded to in the movie and also revealed in his modus operandi. He kills some victims but eventually captures one and keeps her bound and alive with blood transfusions. It’s not pretty, which an existence of drinking human blood certainly wouldn't be.

The best part of The Night Stalker is the climax of the movie, when Kolchak discovers the house where Skorzeny lives. He instructs his source to notify his FBI friend Bernie Jenks, but only after 30 minutes, so he can sneak in and get the scoop. When Kolchak enters the dark, creaky house, you get a feeling of dread similar to when Clarice Starling heads down into the basement after Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. The suspense builds as Kolchak explores the house, finding the vampire’s stockpile of blood in the fridge along with the various disguises he uses to do his dirty work in the dresser. Then, he discovers one on the victims, still alive and tied to a bed. She weak, pale and her neck is ravaged. Skorzeny is using her as a personal blood bank. But just as Kolchak begins to untie her, Skorzeny comes home. Kolchak hides in the closet, but it’s not long before he is discovered and is being stalked around the house by the fang baring fiend. Kolchak is able to keep Skorzeny at bay with a cross... a concept that has sadly been abandoned by many modern incarnations of vampires.

Rent the movie to see how it all turns out and then go pick up the TV series and check out one of the most pivotal, albeit short-lived, franchises in horror history.

Re-watching The Night Stalker was a welcome walk down memory lane and a reminder of why I love this stuff so much.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Oh, the Horror: Drag Me to Hell

My horror movie odyssey begins with Drag Me to Hell, the 2009 film directed by Sam Raimi, the man who brought us the classic Evil Dead movies and also brought Spiderman to the big screen. It stars Alison Lohman, Justin Long (The I’m a Mac guy.) and Lorna Raver. It’s about a young, up and coming loan officer who evicts an old woman from her home in order to impress her boss and finds herself the recipient of a supernatural curse.


I had wanted to see this movie for a while now. After all, it was the return to the horror genre for Sam Raimi. Raimi is the man behind the beloved Evil Dead trilogy, the campy horror series that mixed cheesy, over the top effects with genuine shocks and lots of humor. And he made Bruce Campbell a hero to a whole generation of horror geeks.


Drag Me to Hell was pretty much what I expected it to be. And over the top, roller-coaster ride that is almost more of a live action cartoon. You could almost call it Evil Dead: The Next Generation. There were plenty of jump-out-of-your seat moments, but there are more gross-out moments involving old lady phlegm, slime, nose bleeds and bugs than anything else. The mix of classic Raimi cartoonish special effects, outrageous fight scenes between angry spirits and their intended victims and a scene stealing goat make this movie a fun ride.


It was also funny to see what Raimi would do with the improved technology for special effects. CGI did not exist when he made the Evil Dead movies, so I found myself wondering how he would have pulled off some of those shots back in the old days. Luckily, he also sticks to some old favorites, like puppets, white contact lenses and frenetic camera work.


While I got a kick out of Drag Me to Hell I was surprised it got 92% fresh tomatoes on RottenTomatoes.com. It’s a fun movie, and a welcome treat for the Evil Dead crowd, but I would expect the Average Joe on the street to dismiss it as a ridiculous and cheesy B movie. But maybe that’s its charm.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Oh, the Horror: Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein

Recently I watched an old favorite of mine, the 1948 classic Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein, pairing the famous, funny duo up with horror legends Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney, Jr. as Dracula and the Wolfman. Also along for the ride is Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s Monster. Oh man, was it great to see that movie again.

It had been more years than I care to admit since I had seen an Abbot and Costello movie and also quite a while since I had seen any of the classic Universal movie monsters. This experience made me want to go back and watch some of the old comedies like A&C, Laurel & Hardy and The Little Rascals. It also got me thinking about those old horror movies.

I grew up watching Chiller Theatre, Creature Feature and Monster Week on the 4:30 Movie. Those old Hammer horror films in particular, thrilled me and kept me awake many a night. But it occurred to me that although I was very familiar with the classic Universal Movie monsters, I really had discovered them more from the Abbott and Costello movie rather than the original films. They hardly ever showed Dracula, Frankenstein or the Wolf Man on TV, but Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein was on several times a year, usually on a Sunday on channel 5 in New York. And when they did finally show them, as a kid, they were often too slow paced for me. I preferred things like Kolchak: The Night Stalker and the 1977 BBC version of Dracula with Louis Jourdan. And I knew more about Frankenstein from Mel Brooks than I did Boris Karloff.

I also realized that since they did not show many of the old, black & white horror movies when I was a kid, I often knew them more from the piles of monster books and magazines I constantly poured over. Eventually, I saw the classics, but a there are plenty I have not seen. (Like Bride of Frankenstein. Never seen it.)

As we head into the Halloween season, I have decided to start watching more horror movies… I’ll watch some of the oldies I may have missed and re-watch some others. I’m also going to run the gamut and watch whatever tickles my fancy. I’ll keep you posted as I make progress.

First up: Drag Me to Hell. I recorded it on DVR and it’s just waiting for me to watch it. I know it’s not an old movie or a classic, but as I said, I’m going to watch a wide variety of horror flicks between now and Halloween.

(And yes, I consider September the start of Halloween season. As soon as there is the slightest chill in the air, it’s time.)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Back in the Tube Groove

It’s been a while since I posted. It took a while to recover from the 24 hangover. Plus, it’s summer time and let’s face it… things slow down a little bit. But while most people will tell you to go out and get some sun, I’ll remind you to set those DVRs because there are still plenty of good shows to keep up with.


So most of the good shows are taking a break, but a few are starting up and will keep us occupied. I have been looking forward to Top Chef and wouldn’t you know it? It started and I did not realize it. I thought my DVR was all set but it did not start recording them. I have managed to record a few and I should be all caught up in a few days.


One of my other favorite shows is just about to start up again. Rescue Me starts up tonight. This is the big one. I love this show and when we last saw Dennis Leary, he was laying on the floor of his bar in a bloody heap after being shot by his uncle. You gotta love your family, huh?


Another notable happening for me on TV is that my favorite show, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, is now being shown on Comedy Central. If you are not watching this show, it’s time for you to get on board and catch up. For me it is the successor to brilliant shows like Seinfeld and Arrested Development.


I also consider the Timothy Hutton show Leverage as a guilty pleasure. That’s back with new episodes… if you are looking for some light fun.


And let’s not forget our pals at HBO. Two of the best shows are back for the summer. Entourage just came back and so did True Blood. You gotta hand it to True Blood; they have taken a tired genre like vampires and gave a shot of… fresh blood. (Sorry, that just kind of wrote itself.)


Anyway… I wanted to check in quickly, but I gotta go now. It’s almost time for Rescue Me.

Stay tuned for a better late than never look at Toy Story 3.


Se ya soon.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

24: The Day is Done

Well, here we are, at the end of the line. It’s the end of the day for Jack Bauer and the end of an era for television. When 24 first blasted its way onto the scene, it caught America by surprise and became a “must see” phenomenon. Over the years it may have had its ups and downs, but what rollercoaster ride doesn’t have those? And that’s what 24 was; one hell of a rollercoaster ride. For a few years now, I have been writing weekly recaps of this show, and was lucky enough to experience both the great moments and the groaners with you all.

24 limped through the first half of this season, but started to pick up steam in the second half and was back to its finest form by the home stretch. When it all came to a close tonight, it was not just the end of the season, it signaled the end to my weekly recaps and my standing Monday night dates with you guys. Sure, I will continue to write on my blog on the variety of goofy things that pop into my mind… and I will probably pick another show to follow. (When does Top Chef start?) But there will never be another show like 24, that gripped you enough to you keep coming back and corny enough to always take the ridiculous things they dished out with a roll of the eyes and a smile. We will always have our inside 24 jokes and our catch phrases, like ”Dammit Chloe!”

I wanted to take a minute to thank everyone who has read my blog over the years. It has been a blast. I never thought something I write off the top of my head, late at night when I should be sleeping, would catch on, but I have had an amazing ride. I am often referred to as the “24 Guy” and have countless, hilarious conversations at parties with other fans of the show. Thanks to this blog I have met new people and have received complimentary emails from folks I have never met, from all over. I was even mentioned on the radio in Boston. (Shout out to WBCN.) Many Monday nights have been filled with text messages back and forth between my friends, fueled by that night’s episode. I have chatted with an actress from the show, been sent photos of the cast on the set from friends and even befriended the guy at Fox who cuts the trailers for the show. Maybe not quite as exciting as a day in the life of Jack Bauer, but it has been an extraordinary experience for me. So I want to take a minute and thank you all, I really do appreciate the support.

So keep an eye on my blog as I am still open for business, and check out the Purple Goldfish Project to watch my marketing video podcasts. (If you like that kind of stuff.)
Jack Bauer is going dark, but I am not.

And of course, I will see you in line on opening night of the 24 movie.
So without further ado, here are the last two hours of 24.

(Note: Scroll down to 2pm and then come up for 3pm.)

24- Season 8.24: Let’s Call it a Day

3pm

So it all comes down to this. For eight seasons, Jack Bauer has always saved the day. Now he has one more hour to go. He is public enemy number one, with a shoot-to-kill order slapped on his head by his one time friend, Madame President, who has turned to the dark side like Anakin Skywalker in a dress.

Jack Bauer has been on a bloody crusade to take down everyone involved in the terrorist attack on New York, the assassination of Hassan Chop and most of all, the murder of his beloved Agent Lohan. Now, from his sniper nest across the street, he has Charles Milhous Logan in his sites, and has the leader of the Russian Alliance on his way into the room where he can cut off the two heads of the serpent behind all of this mess. As Yuri steps into Jack’s sites, Chloe awakes from the sleeper hold applied by Jack, only to find herself handcuffed to a railing. She pleads with Jack not to take the shot and argues that what he is about to do will only serve as an act of war. Jack points out that they drew first blood yesterday. Then Chloe plays the “R Card” and tells Jack that this is not what Renee would have wanted. These are the magic words that make Jack’s heart grow three sizes, kind of like the Grinch… making Chloe the Cindy Loo Who of this scenario.

But instead of riding a sled full of presents down to the UN plaza, Jack un-cuffs Chloe and orders her to shoot him. WHAT????

Jack knows that the Fresh Prince has ordered a team of CTU agents into the building and that they have orders to use deadly force. He makes Chloe promise to do whatever it takes to help him uncover the truth and then hands her a gun and orders her to pull the trigger. Chloe protests but Jack continues to scream, “Chloe, pull the trigger.” Finally, Chloe obeys, just before Jack turns his gun on himself and the CTU cops burst through the door. Jack goes down, but is not dead. We learn later that the bullet went straight through and missed any vital organs… and that Chloe just got lucky with that shot. Only Jack Bauer can consider getting shot in the shoulder “lucky”.

Jason Pillar is found in the SUV and heads straight up to intercept Chloe before she can leave the scene. He notices that the memory card on Jack’s recorder is missing, so he frisks Chloe… and cops a feel while he’s at it. He finds nothing, and we all wonder if Chloe has smuggled the card in the same way Christopher Walken hid that watch in Pulp Fiction. But it turns out she simply hid it in the battery slot of her phone. She races to a computer in the UN command center and starts to upload the recording for widespread distribution. Meanwhile, as Pillar plans to cart Jack off, Jack pulls off his oxygen mask and tries to whisper something to Pillar. Pillar leans in to hear him and Jack suddenly pulls a Mike Tyson and bites Pillar’s ear off. Furious, Pillar orders his men back to stop Chloe.

Chloe is almost done uploading the information when an agent stops her and pulls out the card, cancelling the transmission. It looks like Logan and Pillar have won. Logan, who is the Emperor to Madame President’s Darth Vader , encourages her to allow his men to kill Jack, as it is the only way to surly silence him. She does not give the order, but she does not stop him from executing it. Her journey to the dark side is complete. Logan also gives Madame President Jack’s video card but casually suggests she not even watch it. But she does, and she sees Jack’s touching video testimony about his quest for the truth, justice and how he stands for those who have fallen as a result of the events of the past day… especially Agent Lohan.

Then Madame President heads out for the signing ceremony, where Dr. Benton once again is master of ceremonies. First Yuri signs and then the pen is handed to Mama Hassan. For a moment, I thought she might stab Yuri in the throat, but instead she signs the agreement. Then it’s Madame President’s turn. She reaches for the gift pen that was Hassan Chop’s… and her heart grows three sizes, just like the Grinch. Or maybe more like Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi. Instead of signing this poisonous treaty, she makes an announcement that she has been part of a conspiracy to cover up some horrible crimes and cancels the peace agreement. Shortly after, Logan’s phone rings and he knows his number is up. Pillar goes to answer the phone but Logan tells him to let it ring. Pillar realizes it’s over, so he answers the phone… knowing Madame President is on the line. But Logan is not happy with this and suddenly smashes Pillar’s head with a bottle. Then he pulls Pillar’s gun and plugs his assistant in the head. Then, in a scene right out of the Shawshank Redemption, Madame President and the authorities arrive at his door to take him away and he turns the gun on himself… just like the Warden. Ironically, the Warden in Shawshank was played by the same actor who plays Ethan on 24.

Logan does not die from the shot, but he is carted off with little hope for full recovery. (So he can show up in the movie.)

Meanwhile, the hit squad is on the way to intercept Jack’s ambulance. Madame President orders a stop on the hit, but it’s too late. Jack’s ambulance has already been attacked and Jack has been carted off in a black van by a bunch of goons in gas masks. But he’s not dead yet, and is able to be tracked by Chloe’s technical savvy and Arlo’s flying drones.

For some reason, the hit squad does not simply kill Jack at the crash site. They take him to a closed off lot under a bridge in order to execute him. Jack naturally tries to overpower his executioner and almost succeeds, but ultimately fails. So he faces death with a steely grin. But just before he is shot, a call comes in from Madame President, who orders the hit squad to stand down.

Then, on the phone, she apologizes to Jack and tells him she is coming clean, surrendering to the authorities and resigning as Commander in Chief. The Russians will be held accountable and justice will be served. Mission accomplished, yet again Mr. Bauer.

Madame President then suggests Jack get out of the country as both the American’s and the Russians will be hunting him. (Just like Batman at the end of Dark Knight.)

Then Jack, speaking into the phone and looking into the camera of the drone, talks to Chloe. He thanks her for always having his back, and tells her he knows she always has his best interests at heart. He tells her to protect his daughter and family and then he bids her farewell as the picture fades from the screen.

Then Jack Bauer heads off of the grid and into the sunset. The next time we see him, it will be on the silver screen. 24 the series is over, but the hunt for Jack Bauer continues.

He’s a cowboy. On a steel horse he rides.
And he’s wanted… dead or alive.

24- Season 8.23: It’s the Final Countdown

2pm

First of all, there were no surprise appearances by any of our old favorites… no Aaron Pierce, no Mike Novik, no Wayne Palmer and most of all no Tony Almeida. And Bill Buchanan and Edgar are still dead. Not even a call from President Logan’s nutty ex-wife. Oh well, that would have been nice, but we still got plenty of action tonight.

The second-to-last hour of 24 opens with Chloe, Arlo and the Fresh Prince trying to track down Jack. The Prince heads to Ricker’s apartment. Cole thermal scans the joint, but does not catch Rickers off guard. Rickers sees him on his monitors and starts to erase all of his files, including the evidence that would solve all of the problems. The Prince shoots his way and there is a standoff, but Rickers eventually decides to help Cole find Jack. (The old “If Jack dies, it’s on you.” guilt trip works every time.)

Chloe heads to the UN, where she is certain Jack is going to pop-up. Yuri, the evil ruler of Russia is on his way, so Chloe buys time by having his motorcade rerouted. Meanwhile, Charles Milhous Logan decides he has to tell Madame President about Yuri’s involvement in the assassination and the attacks. They don’t make an Alka-Seltzer big enough for the case of agida that gives her.

But what about Jack? Where the heck is he? Jason Pillar gets a report that he has been injured, but there is no sign of Bauer. But like that old baseball hat you can’t seem to find, you should probably just look in your backseat. That’s where Pillar finds Jack, or I should say… Jack finds him. Jack pops up cfrom behind him with a gun and a plan. Then, as the most dangerous backseat driver EVER, Jack instructs Pillar to drive to the empty building across from the UN building while he lays low in the back of the SUV. Once in the parking lot, Pillar tries to convince Jack to give up before he bleeds to death. But Jack has a better idea and forces Pillar to sutcher his wound at gun point. I wonder what the co-pay is on a procedure like that.

Instead of giving him his insurance card, Jack gives Pillar the butt of his pistol and heads for an empty room with a good view of the UN. But inside UN, even more is going on. Mama Hassan finally learns about the call from Meredith about the Russian’s involvement in Hassan Chop’s assassination. She heads straight to Madame President to see if she knows anything, and the Prez initially lies to her. Then, after more facts come to the surface, Madame President is forced to come clean and admit that it’s true and she knows about it. Mama Hassan is mortified and declares the peace agreement over. But Madame President orders her to stop as she heads for the door and threatens to send the I.R.K. back to the Stone Age for their part in yesterday’s attacks. So Mama Hassan reluctantly agrees to sign the agreement.

Meanwhile, Chloe plans to take the evidence that Jack has and broadcast to every possible outlet she can imagine, including using the CTU emailing list to spam every government agency. My suggestion would be to give the email a catchy name to be sure people open it. I would suggest using keywords like “Anna Kournikova” or “Kim Kardashian” and “bikini”. I know that would get me to open it.

Of course, for all of their collective knowledge, neither Jack, Rickers, Meredith nor Chloe has considered the most obvious route… POST THE FREAKING THING ON YOU TUBE!!! C’mon, if a clip of a little kid high on anesthesia can get a million hits, imagine what evidence of an assassination and terrorist attack could get. Meredith in particular is at fault here. She had all kinds of time to upload the video. Sent it to your Facebook page, tweet it, post it to your blog. This is not rocket science; most people can do this from an iPhone. (Or in this case, their Sprint phones.)

Back at Jack’s sniper nest, Jack sets up some cameras on the hallway and then prepares his rifle for the task at hand. Then he records a message… maybe for his daughter and granddaughter, maybe for posterity. But Arlo’s magic face recognition software picks up Jack’s reflection on a candy machine and Chloe heads in to find Jack just as Yuri’s limo approaches the UN.

Madame President and Mama Hassan greet Yuri, but Mama Hassan will not speak to him nor look him in eye. Then, suddenly, the UN becomes the ER when Dr. Benton (Eriq La Salle) shows up, with a thick accent, to MC the signing ceremony. He joins Jack’s evil brother Graem Bauer as an ER alum to make an appearance on 24. Maybe Clooney will show up in the 24 movie.

Back in the building, Chloe finds Jack’s hideout but Jack quickly disarms her. Then, as she pleads with him to stop, he shuts her up with a sleeper hold. (How many guys out there were wishing they could do that when a girl is nagging them? Dream on.) I may be off base here, but that might just be the way Jack Bauer hugs people.

Then Jack takes his position at the window with his rifle and makes a call. Logan answers his phone thinking its Pillar and nearly soils his pants again when he finds out it is Jack… and that he is caught in Jack’s sites. Jack plays Logan the incriminating tape and instructs him to call Yuri into the room.

Jack plans on killing two birds with one stone. Actually, it’s more like two bad guys with two bullets, but you know what I mean. The hour ends with Jack smiling into the scope of his rifle, awaiting the arrival of his prey.

And we head into the last hour of the day, and the series.

Scroll up for the next episode.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

24- Season 8.22: No Smoking in the Limo

1pm

I finally figured out what enables Jack Bauer to keep going and going like a sociopathic Energizer Bunny with a sack full of weapons. He’s been stabbed, shot, beaten, tazered, tortured and stabbed again tonight. And yet he keeps getting back up and killing people. It did not hit me until he donned that black hockey mask and stormed Logan’s limo. He’s Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th. Each “Day”, or season, of 24 actually takes place on a Friday the 13th. CTU really stands for Chrystal Lake Terror Unit.

Not buying it? Well, if you think back to seasons past, he has been beaten to the brink of death so many times, and actually died for a moment or two here and there, and always gets back up. So we have to consider the possibility that he is at least related to Jason. Remember, Jack’s brother and father turned out to be pretty bad characters, so it would not be so farfetched. But once again, I am getting ahead of myself.

We pick up with a giddy Charles Milhous Logan watching the announcement on the news about his part in the peace process. He’s ready for his close-up. But Hassan’s wife is suspicious of him. Logan gets an update on Jack’s evisceration of Pavel and the likelihood that Meredith is heading straight to her publisher. So Logan advises Madame President to order the publisher to muzzle the story. She is appalled by this notion but as usual, gives into Logan’s suggestion within 30 seconds. (When this is all said and done, I hope she has to share a cell with her daughter.) She calls in her lackey Tim and orders him to find Meredith and seize the evidence. Even Tim thinks she’s bananas and he doesn’t even know the half of it. .

Meanwhile, Chloe and Arlo get a magic video feed from Pavel’s crime scene and identify his rifle as Agent Logan’s murder weapon. As the Church lady might say, “How convenient.” Now that they know Jack is on the right side of this equation, they proceed to track down his partner in crime, Jim Rickers, who we learn was burned in a chemical fire and is currently presumed dead. But that can’t prevent Chloe and Arlo from finding his true identity and current address in about two minutes.

Meanwhile, Jack sends Meredith the Reporter off with the video card of evidence and sends Rickers back to the hideout to pinpoint Logan. Both are very leery of Jack’s plan, but go along with it. Rickers warns Jack that going after an ex-President is a losing proposition, and Jack acknowledges that he does not expect to comeback from this one. Like Bon Jovi, he’s living on a prayer and going down in a blaze of glory. But it’s his life. It’s now or never… and he ain’t gonna live forever.

So Jack dons his Dark Avenger costume, complete with black body armor and hockey mask, and descends on Logan’s limo while it’s stuck in traffic in a tunnel. Jack Bauer pulls off a one man version of the shootout in Heat. (Once again, 24 waits for its final hours to pull off some of its best moments.)

The Dark Avenger stops traffic by shooting at the cars in line. He picks off Secret Service Agents left and right, but they are sure to mention that he uses non-deadly force. At this point Logan losses it and spins into a hissy fit for the ages. Let’s just say someone is going to have to clean up the backseat of that limo, if you know what I mean. But he at least takes solace in the fact that the car is bullet proof and Jack can’t get it. But Jack climbs on the hood and blasts the windshield until there is enough of a hole to drop some tear gas in. Then he plugs the hole with his foot. I love his attention to detail. Once the car door opens, he makes off with Logan just before reinforcements arrive.

Once they are alone in the catacombs, Jack puts the screws to Logan and Logan weeps like a little girl. You gotta love the actor who plays him, Gregory Itzin. He is the best. No one plays the wimpy weasel like this guy. After a few gun-in-the-face threats and a punch or two, Logan finally spills the beans on who is behind the murder of Hassan Chop. It was Mikhail Novakovich. Once Jack has what he needs, he puts the sleeper hold on Logan and takes off just before Jason Pillar arrives. Wow. Logan has survived his encounter with Jack. Who’d a thunk it?

Meanwhile, Meredith’s publisher is confronted by the FBI, but he manages to warn her. So she calls Hassan Chops wife Dalia to tell her about the Russians. But she talks to Hassan’s daughter instead, so the news won’t reach Momma Hassan until next week. The FBI swarms in and arrests Meredith. The $24,000 question is, what will Madame President do with that video card?

Now wait… did you think Jack was done? Not quite yet. He abandons his Dark Avenger costume and rushes off to confront the Russians. First he takes a goon in parking lot and learns the lay of the land, and then he makes his charge, shooting Russian goons left and right. Using a stolen key card, he summons the private elevator. But just as the door opens one of the goons jumps out and stabs Jack. But as we know, that only pisses him off. (Logan calls things like that “just stirring up the hornets’ nest”.)

Later, when Pillar calls to warn the Russians, we see what Jack has done to them off camera. It’s a slaughterhouse and Mikhail Novakovich is stuck like a pig with a fire poker. Only one wounded bodyguard remains alive for exposition purposes.

The show ends with Logan calling the Russian President, Yuri Suvarov, to warn him about Bauer. Yuri asks if Bauer knows that he was really behind the assassination of Hassan, and Logan assures him not.

However, Jack has tapped the line and now knows everything. He heads out of an alleyway to finish his business, and leaves a blood stain on the wall, much like Dally (Matt Dillon) at the end of The Outsiders.

So next week we head into the two hour golden sunset of the 24 series.
Stay golden, Bauer Boy.
Stay golden.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mindhunter: Opening the Book on Criminal Minds

I just finished rereading a fascinating book called Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit by John Douglas (and Mark Olshaker). It was first published in 1996 and I probably first read it somewhere around 1997 to 1999. So why am I writing about a book that old and why did I go back and read it again? The reason is simple, over the winter I started watching syndicated episodes of the show Criminal Minds and my very first impression was “Oh cool, someone made a show based on Mindhunter.

It’s not the first piece of entertainment based on this book or the BAU. (That’s the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI… where the profilers work.) As a matter of fact, Jack Crawford, the character in the novel The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, was based on John Douglas. That movie propelled profilers into the mainstream and there have been countless movies and TV shows that center around serial killers and “mind hunting” FBI agents since then.

The first thing that made me think of this book while watching Criminal Minds was the use of the term UNSUB, or Unknown Subject. It can be heard in every episode of Criminal Minds, and the first place I encountered that word was in Mindhunter. The book not only covers a number of gruesome and disturbing cases that John Douglas was involved with but also touches on his personal life and the toll a life in this world can take on one’s relationships and health. I could see bits of Douglas in several characters in Criminal Minds; most obvious is Aaron "Hotch" Hotchner, (Thomas Gibson) the head of the BAU team. He is so focused and determined in his work that it eventually costs him his marriage and strains his relationship with his newborn son. This mirrors the failed marriage of John Douglas. There are also bits and pieces of Douglas found in Jason Gideon (Mandy Patinkin) and David Rossi (Joe Mantegna). Mantegna’s character is especially reminiscent of Douglas because Rossi is supposed to be one of the founders of the BAU and has become a celebrity from the books he has written on the subject. That’s exactly who Douglas is.

I enjoy Criminal Minds, its good fun… in a sick way, I guess. It’s like a mini Silence of the Lambs each week, with a wide variety of sickos that sometime seem to push the limits of subject matter for network television. Thanks to DVR I was able to watch a good chunk of the first few seasons and so I decided to pick up Mindhunter and give it another go. One of the things about the UNSUBs on the show is that they almost always have some outrageous way of killing their victims and even more creative ways of eluding and taunting the authorities. As a viewer, you suspend belief a little bit because the more outlandish the crime, the more entertaining the show. But a funny thing happened after I started reading the book. It turns out that some of these plotlines and characters are not so far off the real thing. For instance, there is an episode where two rednecks capture women, release them into the woods and then hunt them for sport. I chalked that episode up to the old “Most Dangerous Game” plot devise. But it turns out it is based on an actual case. A guy named Robert Hansen did that very same thing for real in Alaska.

If you are a fan of Criminal Minds, you will recognize many specific moments in this book that have inspired events in the show. But be prepared, reading about the real thing can be a much more disturbing endeavor. Douglas gives us fascinating stories and insight into a lot of the more famous serial killers and some of the lesser known ones as well. He even gives us a profile of the father of all serial killers; Jack the Ripper.

Mindhunter is a good read, although it is very sobering when you realize just how many sick predators are really out there and how few of them are ever caught as quickly as they are on a TV show. Once you have read this book, when you watch a show like Criminal Minds, you will understand and appreciate the theories and methodologies of those profilers a lot more. And you just might have a little trouble sleeping at night.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

24- Season 8.21: Stuck in the Middle with You

High Noon

Well, it’s finally happened; Jack Bauer has gone completely bat sh*t crazy. And I love it.

The clock strikes noon. Its lunch time in New York, but Jack Bauer is only hungry for revenge. They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but Jack likes to heat it up a little… with a blow torch. But I am getting ahead of myself.

We pick up just after Jack has executed Denny. Fresh Freddie Prince has regained consciousness and is lead to the body, where identifies it for the cops before he is taken back to CTU. Meanwhile, Jack watches the video on Denny’s memory card and sees her meeting with Pavel, the man who killed Agent Lohan and the best lead Jack has to finding the head of the Russian conspiracy. He calls his wacky buddy Jim Rickers (Michael Madsen) and heads for the hideout.

Back at CTU, Logan’s mole Jason Pillar continues to call the shots and feed the Russians information. The best thing about Pillar’s presence at CTU is that it enables Chloe to go back to helping Jack. And this time Arlo joins the fun. Chloe sees way too many holes in Pillar’s explanations of his orders and actions so she begins to take steps find out what is going on. The best moment happens when Pillar is on one of his sneaky phone calls and he sees Chloe watching him through his office window. And then Pillar does what every CTU mole wishes they could have done. He has his assistant flick a switch and the windows frost over to a translucent grey… kind of like the cool bathroom doors in those swanky bars.

It’s about time an office at CTU had some privacy. This is relatively new technology, but it has been around for several years now. You wonder why they didn’t at least have shades or blinds in the old building. Chloe and Arlo also get the chance to plug a sponsors technology when they set up a private computer network with a Sprint 4G wireless card, Good luck with that, Chloe. When I had Sprint I could not talk on my cell phone in my living room. I had to go to the back of the house or use a land line.

Back at the hideout, Jack has Rickers run the video through what else? Facial Recognition software. But before Rickers will help him, he makes Jack admit what his real motivation is. And so Jack admits he wants a piece of the people who killed Agent Lohan. Satisfied with Jack’s motivation, he quickly identifies Pavel, but he can’t figure out who he works for. So Jack calls Hassan’s mistress Meredith, the blonde reporter, and offers the evidence to her so she can run with the story and blow the lid off of the conspiracy.

But CTU picks up the keywords of Jack’s conversation and sets a trap at the department store coffee shop where Jack and Meredith will be meeting. Meanwhile, at the UN, Madame President continues the peace negations with Hassan’s wife. She’s interrupted by Charles Milhous Logan, who informs her of Jack’s impending capture. Then, like a good used car salesman, he dares to be a bit pushy and asks for her to give him props for his role in keeping the peace talks on track. She reluctantly agrees, just like she does to everything he says. Madame President has replaced Denny as the most annoying character on the show. Maybe Ethan can shoot her in the chest. That would be fun.

Then Logan insists on calling Pavel himself to insure the assassination of Jack Bauer and Meredith. Pavel sets up in a spacious air duct and waits for his targets to arrive. First Meredith arrives and then finally Jack shows up. The Russian hit squad scrambles, but Jack proves elusive. They finally find him… where else, but the handbag section. Browsing new Jack Sacks, no doubt. While Pillar screams the shoot order into the phone, Pavel finally gets him in his sites. But before he can take the shot, a gun is pressed to his head by none other than Jack’s buddy Rickers. It appears the hunters have become the hunted and this whole thing was a set-up by Jack, who anticipated the hit. All hell breaks loose in the department store. A shootout erupts and pandemonium breaks out the likes of which have not been seen in that store since the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Jack bobs and weaves between mannequins and proceeds to take out all of the Russian hit squad, and he finds a great two for one deal on sweaters, but he doesn’t have time for that now. He and Rickers make their escape through a side door, with Meredith and Pavel in tow. Naturally, in the world of 24, those stupid door alarms never go off when Jack uses a side door.

Before Pillar heads over to the department store, he calls Logan with the news, Logan nearly craps a brick when he hears the news. Pillar tells him he may want to distance himself from the situation, but Logan knows the only distance between him and this situation is a straight line.

So now the fun starts. Jack gives Meredith the memory card and has Rickers take her in the next room. She senses what Jack is about to do and pleads with him not too. But nothing is going to stop Jack from getting medieval on Pavel with a pair of pliers and a blow torch, like Marsellus Wallace's boys in Pulp Fiction.

Like a scene out of Hostel, Jack goes to work on Pavel, but the Russian won’t talk. Then Jack spots his cell phone and realizes he can trace the last call back to the person pulling his strings. But the Sim Card is missing. Jack looks around and quickly figures out that Pavel has swallowed it. Bad move.

There are two ways Jack can retrieve that card. He can wait 12 to 18 hours for Pavel to poop it out or he can cut him open and get it himself. Since this show is called 24, and we only have a few hours left, option one is really not an option, so Jack goes with option two. So Jack pays back the man who cut out his heart when he killed Renee by cutting out his stomach. An eye for an eye as they say… or a heart for a stomach in this case.

The only thing that would have made this scene better is if Jack had played “Stuck in the Middle with You” while he dissected Pavel with Michael Madsen in the next room. And maybe let Rickers join in the fun and cut off an ear.

When Jack finally cleans off the card and gets it back in the phone, he dials the last number received and gets the voice mail of Charles Milhous Logan. It’s a great moment that could only have been made better if Logan had a catchy voice mail message kind of like George Costanza. (Believe or not, Logan’s not home…)

Next week, Jack comes a-calling on Logan as we head into last couple of weeks of 24.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

24- Season 8.20: The Unsafest Safety Deposit Box Ever

11 am

Have you ever been at a baseball game where your team is getting killed and everyone starts to leave early? A good example is the
Mother’s Day Miracle when the Red Sox scored six runs in the ninth inning and ended up beating the Orioles in the most unlikely of comebacks. Some people had left the game, but some stayed. Those who stayed saw something amazing.

Tonight’s episode of 24 was kind of like the ninth inning of that May 13, 2007 game. A lot of people have given up on 24 this year and have left the stadium. But for we who have stuck with it, we have been rewarded with a gem that harkened back to the good old days when 24 ruled the world. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

We picked up with Hassan Chop’s wife giving a speech about how great her husband was and how great Madame President is. But her words only accentuates Madame President’s journey to the dark side to us the viewer. Meanwhile, the Fresh Prince has called in to Chloe and reported that he has captured Jack, although he is lying and they are actually heading to the safe house where Denny is being marinated… I mean tortured, by Bledsoe. I would remiss if I did not mention that Bledsoe is played by none other than D.B. Sweeney, who you know from your favorite figure skating movie, The Cutting Edge.

Jack & the Prince overtake a sentry on the roof. Then, once inside, Jack tricks the other guards onto the roof and coerces Denny’s location out of the head goon. When they get to her room, Bledsoe uses Denny as a shield and says if they don’t back off he’ll shoot her. His head is sticking out from behind Denny, and as he laments about how Jack won’t take the shot, Jack shoots him between the eyes… in mid-sentence. Now that’s the kind of Jack Bauer action we have been craving. Back to my baseball analogy, this is like scoring that first run. You still are pretty far behind, but there is a glimmer of hope.

Then Jack & the Fresh Prince untie Denny shoot their way out of the building. After a few minutes of Denny refusing to hand over the evidence that will expose the Russians’, Jack parks under a bridge, pulls Denny from the car and threatens to shoot her in the chest. She tells them that the evidence is in a safety deposit box that only she can access. Denny pleads with the Fresh Prince, claiming that Jack is crazy and just out for blood. Cole confronts Jack and pushes him down, like two little girls on a playground. Jack falls back on his tushie and points his gun at Cole, but then they quickly resolve their differences and head for the bank. I’m guessing since none of them have really eaten much in the past 20 hours, they will probably go right for the bowl of lollipops once they get there.

Meanwhile, Madame President continues to dig herself into a bigger hole by taking more advice from Charles Milhous Logan. This time, she agrees to let his right hand man, Jason Pillar, take over the manhunt at CTU. Of course, Logan also makes a deal with the Russians to have Pillar feed them information on the location of Jack so they can take him out. (God forbid we go too long without a mole at CTU.) Naturally, the assassin who killed Agent Lohan will be his Russian contact.

Somewhere between the U.N. and CTU, Pillar picks up a hot assistant named Eden, which makes her seem more like a Cinemax “After Dark” character than 24. Chloe is naturally miffed by this ridiculous turn of events, but like it or not, Pillar is now calling the shots… and calling the Russians with updates.

Back at the bank, Jack waits in the lobby while Fresh Freddy Prince and Denny head in to get the evidence in the safety deposit box. Once they are alone, Dana starts to sweet talk Cole and tells him that despite her actions, she’s always loved him. Although she strikes a chord with him, he won’t fall for it and proceeds to open the box. Inside, amongst other items, he finds a gun. But there is another surprise. A flash bomb suddenly goes off and stuns the Fresh Prince.

Damn, that Dana Walsh is clever. (I wonder if she is related to
Brandon and Brenda Walsh.) Although she does not kill Freddie Prince, she does kill the banker and then calls the cops on Jack. Then, as Jack is being rounded up by New York’s Finest, she smiles at him and slips out.

But it will take more than two cops to stop Jack Bauer. Remember when those two cops found him snooping around that house at the beginning of the season when he was looking for that guy Davros, who was posing as a cop. Hell, they had Jack tied up in a chair and he still managed to escape. So this is nothing. He quickly gets the jump on one cop, gets the other to drop his gun and then shoots the guy in the foot. (But he is nice enough to ask someone to call an ambulance.)

Oh boy, Jack Bauer is shooting anyone in his way! Again, like that baseball game, my team is scoring some runs and this is getting good. I am glad I stuck around. And when the cop referred to Jack as “leather jacket”, I was in heaven.

So Jack heads out of the bank and chases Denny through the streets of NY, occasionally exchanging gunfire. Just another day in the Big Apple. They head into an empty building that is under construction and play a game of cat and mouse, with guns. However, Jack has extra clips and Denny does not, and Jack realizes she is getting low on ammo. She takes an elevated position to get the drop on Jack, but he bravely sacrifices his sweet leather jacket to draw her fire and empty her gun.

Once she is empty, Jack confronts her and forces her to hand over the evidence. Then she pleads for her life tries to make yet another deal with him. And Jack has a choice to make.

Remember how in The Dark Knight, we learned the Batman had one rule? He won’t kill. Well, Jack Bauer has no silly rules like that. He plugs Denny in the chest at point blank range… and then puts another in her for good measure. And the crowd goes wild!!!! Game over, we win!!!


Finally, the most annoying character of the season is killed off, and in grand Jack Bauer style.

This is the kind of moment that keeps us coming back to 24. Four more hours left. Who’s next on Jack’s list?

Oh yeah, one more thing… Happy Mother’s Day.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

24- Season 8.19: Dirty Laundry

This week 24 goes on the air in the air, with Jack being chased across the skies of Manhattan by the Air Force helicopters. Chloe continues to plead with Jack on the com but Jack will not respond. Jack suddenly banks hard and lands on a nearby roof equipped with a helipad.

As the pursuing choppers call in his location, Jack races down a fire escape and blends into the crowded streets just before New York’s Finest arrive on the scene. Pretty impressive since even on a crowded street you’d tend to stand out in a funky leather jacket and satchel.

Meanwhile, Madame President prepares to make a statement about the peace agreement. Nathan implores her to reconsider and he is successful. She realizes the moral implications of her actions and decides to pull out of the peace agreement and pursue the Russians through discreet means. Ethan happily heads off to prepare a statement for her. I guess that’s all taken care of.

Back at CTU, Chloe orchestrates the hunt for Jack Bauer, who has found his way into an electronics store. Jack buys a bunch of cell phones and leaves the store without even taking the chargers. The biggest break Jack gets is that he does not go to RadioShack to get the phones, because if he did, they would have asked him for his address and zip code and that would have lead CTU right to him. (Why the heck does The Shack need to know that anyway?)

Jack’s first call on one of his new cell phones is to Chloe. He explains that he needs to get to Dana Walsh. Chloe begs Jack to turn himself in, but eventually he convinces her to help him. (On the down-low, of course.) She tells Jack the President’s plan for Denny, but after she’s had a chance to think about it she calls the Fresh Prince and decides to go back on her word and set a trap for Jack. Cole wonders if they are on the wrong side of this issue, but obeys Chloe and heads off to set a trap for Jack at a CTU operated laundry facility. Poor Chloe, this sucks for her.

Jack ditches the first phone and uses another to call an old pal of his, Jim. Jim is played by Michael Madsen, or Mr. Blonde to all of you Reservoir Dogs fans out there. He’s been in a million other movies but you probably remember him from Kill Bill or maybe Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home. We first meet Jim in a dank base of operations that looks like a boiler room wired with the latest high tech gadgets. That along with his burnt neck definitely gives him a sort of Freddy Krueger vibe. Jack contacts him and calls in an old favor and then proceeds to instruct Jim to furnish him with an arsenal.

Back at the UN, we find Madame President back with her new BFF, Charles Milhous Logan. No sooner has she made her decision to pull out of the peace talks when Logan presents an alternative. He suggests that they treat Dana Walsh as a war criminal and have her detained and interrogated by an independent firm. (That he happens to have on stand-by.) This way she will stay out of the public eye while they get the information out of her. And once they do, she will have lost all validity in the public eye, so if she talks, it’s no big deal. Madame President quickly reads between the lines and realizes he is suggesting that they torture her to get the info. However, Logan’s grip over Madame President is now so powerful that it rivals Grima Wormtongue from Lord of the Rings. She actually agrees to this plan.

You remember Wormtongue, right? He’s the creepy dude who kept whispering poisonous words to the King of Rohan in order to weaken the kingdom because he secretly worked for the evil wizard Saruman. Okay, sorry, didn’t mean go nerd on you there, but that’s exactly what’s happening here.

Meanwhile, a shady dude named Bledsoe has arrived to pick up Dana, who has lost her Dr. Lecter vibe and instead freaks out at the prospect of being taken away by these guys. She knows she’s all done if she goes with them, but Chloe hands her over. And Denny is right to be freaking out, because Bledsoe fully intends to kill her after they get the information.

So Chloe feeds Jack a bogus address that leads him to a trap where the CTU agents have to navigate a maze of industrial washing machines and carts of dirty laundry in order to catch him. Chloe gives the order to use non-lethal force. Cole laughs. Yeah, right, that will work. That’s like painting a ceiling with no drop cloth and trying not to get paint on the carpet.

Jack arrives at the laundry mat and immediately takes out one of the agents. The other agents navigate the laundry maze in hopes of capturing Jack, but instead they find their colleague hanging on a bundle of dirty shirts and sheets. Jack quickly takes another agent hostage and forces the Fresh Prince to tie them up. Then he takes Cole aside and convinces him to join him on his quest for truth, justice and the American Way. He even gives Cole a gun as a show of faith. Cole naturally agrees to join him and the two leave, staging that Jack has taken him hostage.

But how did Jack know about the trap? Simple, he knows Chloe better than she knows herself and predicted she would not only turn on him out of a sense of duty, but she would also send Cole on the mission. So either Jack Bauer is brilliant or he’s a psychic… you decide.

Back at the UN, Nathan resigns in light of the President’s poor choices… and because he’s miffed that he’s no longer the BFF.

Meanwhile, Denny is brought to a secret location by Bledsoe where she is strapped down for some sort of water boarding procedure involving a ladle. I am not sure if they are torturing her or basting her. It reminded me of when someone would put Bugs Bunny in a pot of water over a fire and he would think it was a warm bath, but really they were making rabbit stew.

Next week, Soups on! The Fresh Prince and Denny are reunited… and it doesn’t feel so good.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Kick-Ass kicked... well you know.

I have anxiously been waiting to see the movie Kick-Ass ever since I saw the first trailer some time ago. My anticipation went through the roof when I saw the red-band trailer that featured some of Hit Girl’s “colorful” dialog.

Well, I finally saw it and the good news is that I really liked it. The bad news, it’s a little uneven and may throw casual viewers for a bit of a loop.

I knew going in that this one of this movie’s biggest strengths, the amazing trailer, would also be one of its biggest enemies. The trailer would certainly draw a lot of people in. What’s not to love? A seemingly hilarious take on a superhero movie with a foul- mouthed, eleven year old girl who’s a killing machine and Superbad’s McLovin’ in a cape and mask.

Sure, I would be easy to please. I love comic books, sci-fi, horror and action movies and I’m a connoisseur of the superhero genre. But what about everyday people off the street. The kind that can’t tell you the names of all the different Robins in the Batman mythos. Or the difference between the Green Goblin and the Hobgoblin in the Spiderman world.

Without going into too much detail, Kick-Ass is the story of a regular, high school kid who decides to dress up like a super hero and fight crime. There are no super powers here. It’s pretty much like if you or I decided to do the same thing. We’d get weird looks from people and we’d most likely get our asses kicked. Kick-Ass takes his lumps, but thanks to the internet, becomes a huge sensation, spurring others on to similar “super heroics”. Eventually Kick-Ass crosses paths the Big Daddy and Hit Girl, two costumed adventurers with a slightly more serious motivation and a much larger arsenal. Kick-Ass also teams up with another costumed kid who calls himself Red Mist. (McLovin’) All of these characters get mixed up in a situation with the mob that escalates from fun and games to real danger very quickly.

Kick-Ass has plenty of laughs, but it’s not a non-stop, lighthearted comedy like the trailer leads you to believe. This movie has a slight edge. So while there are plenty of laughs and some fantastic elements that require some suspension of belief, there is also plenty of violence. And it’s not typical superhero movie violence. You know, like how the bad guys on the A Team would always get up and brush themselves off after their truck flipped. Here, when someone gets hit in the mouth, it hurts and they bleed. And people die. So while the violence in this movie has a fantastic element to it, it is a little more brutal than some folks might expect. It’s kind of like expecting to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles but instead seeing Kill Bill.

As I said, I was fine with this. I liked that a movie that dealt with “real world” superheroes had violence with somewhat real consequences. I also thought the movie had plenty of laughs. You may love or hate Nicholas Cage, but his portrayal of Big Daddy is one of the highlights of the movie. And fans of the old Batman TV show will certainly appreciate his performance.

As you have probably heard, it’s Hit Girl that really steals this move. This is a star making performance Chloe Moretz on par with Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver, Natalie Portman in The Professional of Kirsten Dunst in Interview with the Vampire. I predict Hit Girl will be the “It” costume this year, just like The Joker was when Dark Knight came out.

Kick-Ass himself is a good character, but part of the unevenness that I alluded to is that with all of the characters in this movie, he’s not consistently the focus of the story or the action. It’s a minor complaint, but an observation worth making. I hope a sequel is in the works. There is a lot of potential for these characters in this world.

Personally, I loved Kick-Ass. If you want a fun movie with plenty of action, some good laughs and a bit of an edge, I highly recommend it.


(By the way, the people who held the mantle of Robin were: Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Damian Wayne, Tim Drake and Carrie Kelly.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

24- Season 8.18: Corpse Bride

9 am

The year is 24 A.R.
That’s A.R., for After Renee. We are heading into the home stretch of the season and the series of 24. What else could we possible ask for than an angry Jack Bauer going rogue? But as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself.

We pick up at a quiet moment between Jack & Renee in the morgue. It’s quiet because Jack is in shock and Renee is toast. For a second I was hoping for a creepy Last Dance with Mary Jane moment, but the opportunity quickly passes when the ER staff comes to cart Renee off. And they are nice enough to furnish Jack with some fresh clothes. I wonder if that’s covered under President Taylor’s healthcare plan, and if so, what’s to co-pay on that snazzy shirt?

Speaking of healthcare, how about that Ethan? After almost dying of a cardiac arrest about an hour or two ago, he is not only back on his feet, but he’s dressed and ready for work. How does he do it? He must use Airborne or something. However, he almost has another heart attack when he hears that Madame President has allowed Charles Milhous Logan to intervene with the Russians without disclosing the nature of the leverage he has on them. No kidding Ethan, but remember that you recommended that she speak with him in the first place. Knucklehead. I think the both of you suffer from massive Brain-Farts more than any other ailment.

Meanwhile Chloe, the new head of CTU, reluctantly tells Jack about Agent Lohan’s suspicions of the Russian mob and the fact that Sergei is being arraigned nearby. Sergei, of course, is our Russian friend from earlier this season. You know… the guy who shot his own son. Well, apparently family has become a little more important to him since he was arrested, because he ends up giving Jack information in exchange for protection for his family. (Seems to me they’d be pretty safe with him behind bars.) All he can tell him is that the Russian government is behind the events of the day and that Denny is the one with all the information. She works for the Russians and that’s how she got into CTU in the first place. (I know, still ridiculous, but let’s just roll with it.)

Chloe sets up an interrogation session for Jack with Dana Lecter (I just decide that’s her new nickname, based on the cell they keep her in and the constant evil stare she holds on the surveillance cameras.) Wary that Jack might do something rash, Chloe asks Cole to monitor the session, just in case Jack gets out of hand. Jack wastes no time and almost immediately starts to beat information out of Dana Lecter. Chloe turns to Cole, but the Fresh Prince says to let Jack keep going.

Well DUH! What did you expect him to do? If your ex-fiancĂ©, who just broke your heart and betrayed you and your country, was getting the snot kicked out of them, what would you do? LET ‘ER RIP! That’s what you would do. After a few cuts & bruises Dana predictably plays the immunity card one more time. She will spill the beans about all the players in the Russian government if she gets her deal back. Jack, knowing Madame President like he does, assumes it’s a slam dunk. It’s like asking the Silly Rabbit if he wants some Trix. Of course he does. But what Jack does not realize is that “Tricky Dick” Logan is up to his old trix and has blackmailed the Russians back to the peace table.

Once Charles Milhous Logan learns that Jack Bauer is talking to Dr. Lecter, he realizes he has to shut him up, so he meets with Madame Presidents and ends up telling her about the Russian’s involvement. Naturally, she is appalled, but eventually seduced by Logan to keep her mouth shut in the interest of the peace agreement and the greater good. Ethan protests, but his heart is just not in it. (Get it? Ethan, Heart?)

So Madame President heads to CTU to personally tell Jack to stand down. Before she meets with Jack she finally comes face-to-face with Chloe. It’s amazing that these two have never actually shared a scene together before. It’s kind of like Bill Murray and Chevy Chase in Caddyshack. It wasn’t until they were in the middle of filming the movie that they realized the two did not have a scene together, so the writers whipped one up and let the two improv their way to one of the most memorable moments in the movie. Unfortunately, our girls don’t down any cannonballs, but Chloe’s visible uneasiness is amusing.

When Madame President informs Jack of her decision to cover up the Russian’s involvement, he is shocked and mortified. He says he wants justice, but she counters by saying she wants peace. Jack reminds her that the Russians can’t be trusted. He should save his breath. This is the woman who put her eggs in Logan’s basket.

She orders Jack back to McGuire Air Force base for debriefing. I wondered if that is named after slugger Mark McGuire, and if so, what would happen if Jack Bauer got a hold of some of those steroids. Dear God.

But Jack doesn’t need steroids. He’s got three things on his side… justice, love and wrath. Oh, and he also got the Jack Sack back and his Starsky & Hutch peanut butter brown leather jacket. So he has that going for him too. Which is nice.

So as Jack is lead out, he snags a gun from his guard and hijacks the helicopter. Chloe races outside and orders the agents to hold their fire. Then she radios Jack and tells him to land immediately. When he feeds her static, she gives the order to have the air force engage and force Jack to land.

Fasten your seatbelts, like Sarah Palin in a fly leather jacket, Jack Bauer has gone rouge.

Next week, it all hits the fan… or rather the chopper blades, as Jack has a dog fight over Manhattan and continues to pursue Renee’s killer. And we head into the final six hours of the day.

See you next week.

Oh yeah… I saw Kick Ass tonight as well. I will post a review later this week. But I will tell you right now, expect to see a ton of Kick Ass and Hit Girl costumes this Halloween.

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What did you think? Post a comment below or drop me a line at jack@backinjack.com.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

24- Season 8.17 – Going Out With a Bang

8 am

Damn you 24. Damn you straight to hell. You had to take her, didn’t you? Damn you.
So much for my happy ending. But as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself.

This week picks up with a distraught Jack Bauer, who feels he has failed both Hassan and Madame President. As Hassan’s body is removed from the scene, so is the leader of the bad guys, who is wounded, but should make it. But one of the EMTs is really a Russian spy and he injects the terrorist with some poison when the Fresh Prince is not looking. Agent Lohan sees the spy leaving and recognizes him, but she can’t place the face. But the Russian remembers her from their days in the mob. And why wouldn’t he? She’s freaking hot.

So Jack & Renee head home to Jack’s Love Shack while Cole heads back to CTU. Meanwhile, one of Hassan’s underlings suggests that Hassan’s wife be appointed the new leader of their country. I just knew that was gonna happen. So while one leader is appointed, another is fired. In light of all the failures and compromises, Bubba Hastings is relieved of his duties. In light of the day’s events, that seems like a good business decision. However, until a replacement can be appointed, they appoint Chloe as the temporary head of CTU. Now Chloe has made some brilliant and bold moves throughout the day, but she’s been working for at least 17 hours straight AND she has obvious personality issues… you know, she’s a little nuts. You’re telling me there is no night/day shift leader at CTU that relieves Bubba, like Eckley on CSI?

Meanwhile, back at Mr. Bauer’s place, Renee and Jack finally seal the deal. All it took was a few minutes alone and Renee letting her hair down. You know Jack was thinking “If you are impressed with what I can do in 24 hours, wait until you see what I can do in 24 minutes, baby.”

Little does our happy couple realize that they have been followed by the Russian spy and he is watching them from a sniper nest in an apartment across the street. Sure, he could have taken the shot at anytime, but wouldn’t you watch the “show” too?

Back at CTU, just as Bubba hands the reigns over to Chloe, the Fresh Prince arrives with the terrorist. As Bubba drives off, the bad guy suddenly flat lines. Right off the bat, Chloe has been thrown into the fire. But she steps up and orders an immediate toxicology on the body, to see if he was assassinated. Either she is smarter than I gave her credit for, or she also watches too much CSI… because they do that kind of thing all the time.

At the same time, another patient has made an amazing recovery. Ethan, just minutes off a heart attack, looks great. His hair isn’t even messed up. He’s ready to get back to work. Madame President is worried because the Russian delegate has been threatening to pull out of the peace talks, despite the fact that they have been salvaged by Hassan’s wife. Without the Russians, the agreement won’t work. So Ethan suggests they call in a person with strong ties to the Russians… Ex-President Charles Milhous Logan. Logan has offered to help.

Although reluctant, Madame President agrees. We all roll our eyes. Trusting Logan is like taking diet tips from the Burger King. Tossing better judgment to the wind, Madame President allows Logan to help, even though he won’t disclose what his exact plan is. Oh yeah, this should work out juuuust fine.

Back in Jack’s sack, the bed, not the bag, the happy couple snuggles after a passionate roll in the hay. It’s so romantic; Renee observes the scars on Jack’s body while Jack observes the scars on Renee’s psyche. Then Jack gets up to fetch a pail of water… oh wait, that’s Jack & Jill. Jack gets up to get something to drink when Chloe calls to tell him about the murder of the terrorist. Renee answers the phone and remembers the suspicious EMT. As she is telling Chloe about her suspicions of the Russian mob, she is picked off by the sniper. She collapses in a bloody bed sheet.

Jack freaks out, grabs her and rushes down to the lobby with Agent Lohan dying in his arms. He manages to get them into a cab and they Tokyo Drift their way to the nearest hospital. Jack, covered in his lover’s blood, waits helplessly while they try to save Renee. Chloe calls him and tells him about the Russian mob connection, but he has to hang up when the doctor comes out.

It’s bad news. They couldn’t save her.

Once again, someone has loved Jack Bauer and now they are dead. This is why Batman and Spiderman have secret identities. And also why Batman only hooks up with chicks in the Bat Cave. No windows.

And once again, one of our favorite characters on 24 has been killed off. (Unless she just faked her death, like Tony Almeida. One can always hope…) I understand the dramatic impact that the death of a major character has on a TV show, by why does 24 always kill the interesting characters and leave us with the lame ones. (Hello, Dana & Arlo.)

So with six hours to go in the series, Jack Bauer will now be out for justice. I pity the fools who are responsible for Renee’s death. This should be fun.

Rest in Peace, Agent Lohan. You were the best thing to happen to 24 in two seasons, and you will be missed.

Let’s have a moment of silence for Renee Walker.




See you next week.

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What did you think? Post a comment below or drop me a line at jack@backinjack.com.

24- Season 8.15 & 16 – Cole and Dana Break Up and Hassan Gets a Sore Throat

6 & 7 am

Okay, I finally caught last week’s two part 24 on DVR. Here is a quick recap and some thoughts. It was a two episode event that featured Denny in full fledged mole mode. Now that we know she’s a mole, she uses her evil mole face all the time.

Jack has rescued Hassan Chop from the strike team, but Hassan decides to put the lives of New York in front of his own, and he willingly turns himself over to the bad guys. But first he knocks Jack out, because Jack would never let him do that.

An operation takes place to ambush the bad guy driving away with Hassan Chop, but the car makes an unexpected turn right before the trap. Jack chases them, but the car drives off the roof. But Hassan is not in the car, he’s been switched. Tarin, however, is really dead this time. Jack grabs his phone, knowing he had to be tipped off.

They trace some calls and figure out Denny the mole. She tries to shoot her way out of CTU, but the Fresh Prince captures her. Bubba stops him from causing her any harm. She insists to speak with Jack. He chokes her a little bit and she asks for immunity. As it’s pointed out before, requesting immunity from Madame President is like asking Ronald McDonald for French Fries. The more the merrier.

Jack & Agent Lohan head to the location of where Hassan is being tried on the internet, racing to get their before he is executed. They sneak in and then shoot their way to the back room, where they find the message has been pre-recorded. And Hassan has been chopped. His throat was slashed before they even got there.

Everybody is sad, except the bad guys. Okay, that’s it in a nutshell.

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What did you think? Post a comment below or drop me a line at jack@backinjack.com.