Salem’s Lot (1979)

David Soul

Bonnie Bedelia

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIbJ2rQ59ZE 

My expectations for this production of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot were a roller coaster at first. I had seen the 2004 version narrated by a dour and bored-sounding Rob Lowe. Rather than ratcheting up the suspense, it just made me want to hate small towns and small town people. Rutger Hauer was an effective baddie but the typical King characters with their petty ways just depressed me. I learned that the original edition was directed by Tobe Hooper (the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Poltergeist) and my heart soared. Then I realized that it too was a TV miniseries first televised in 1979 and my heart sank. I thought of the limits allowed on 1970’s TV and was expecting a kid gloves Disneyland experience. I’m happy to say I was wrong. Okay, I’ll say it, (only because it’s currently close to Halloween at the time of this writing). Dead wrong.

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Supernatural Season 10

Jensen Ackles

Jared Padalecki

reviewed by Tom-Tom

Supernatural is one of the most enduring TV series currently on television now. It constantly freshens up the stakes and risks. It isn’t afraid to kill off any one or both of its main characters and throw them screaming into Hell, Purgatory, or even Heaven. It takes big, biblical themes featuring angels, demons, and monsters, strips them to their roots, removing them of anything preachy or overtly Satanic, relying solely on the lore of the beings and places them in big plot arc after big plot arc. It’s smart enough to make fun of itself every now and then with a spoof episode, and clever enough not to try to outspread its reach. It’s been a long road which has featured the Yellow Eyed Demon, Lilith, Satan, Eve, Leviathans, Metatron, and Cain. It’s a show which began with the monster of the week formula with two handsome brothers driving around in a sexy American muscle car and has expanded to encompass its own universe.

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Selma

David Oyelowo

Tom Wilkinson

reviewed by Tom-Tom

starstarstarstar

 

Whatever you’ve heard or in fact will hear (or read, rather) from me about this film, it’s not what you’re expecting. It’s neither a saintly anointing of one of the most important and influential Americans of the 20th Century, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Nor the demonization of his retractors or men and women who stood as obstacles to true civil freedom for all Americans. It’s not the idealization of the cause, either. I only mention this because director Ava DuVernay has done a very brave and ambitious thing here which may have cost her, as happened with the similarly unflattering and well balanced TV drama The Wire ,any Best Picture awards from the Globes or the Academy for that matter, but whose merits have achieved something mold breaking all the same.

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Black Swan

Natalie Portman

Mila Kunis

reviewed by Tom-Tom

starstarstarstar

It is almost impossible for me to watch this film without remembering director Darren Aronofsky’s other masterpiece, The Wrestler which became Mickey Rourke’s comeback film. Both movies focus on performing artists: a professional wrestler and a ballerina whose dedication to their art takes them down long, hard paths of darkness and possible insanity towards becoming perfect in their respective fields. While Mickey Rourke’s character faces an emotional and physical struggle, Natalie Portman, in her Academy Award winning role, faces a psychological and sexual struggle in addition to the physical challenges of the craft of ballet. Playing the lead Nina Sayers is a tremendous role for which Portman trained to be ballet worthy for months. Ballet is not only her forte here as she appears as an innocent, shy, sheltered and dogmatic woman child sleeping in pink colors surrounded by stuffed animals. She is enabled in her eternal childhood by her creepy mother whose so-called good intentions seem to have been holding her back for years. One day, a chance comes for her to change her fate. It’s a chance, however, which may also end in her damnation. How’s that for a premise?

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Pleasantville

Toby Maguire

Reese Witherspoon

reviewed by Tom-Tom

starstarstarstar

 

This is one of my top ten favorite films of all time. Its originality and applicability to the fantastical significance we place on times of an imagined innocence are both remarkable achievements. This could have been a simple, preachy one-message film full of overexplained obvious scenes. Instead, it shows much more than tells in a constantly surprising and amusing way. There’s no clear message but there are various themes debunking our fantasies on the “perfect American small town family.”

David (a very young Toby Maguire who actually looks high school age) is a nerd with a penchant for remembering meaningless trivia from black and white classic TV shows. Socially awkward, he makes conversation with a girl of his dreams from 30 yards away. His twin sister is Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon), your typical 90’s acting out teenager. She smokes and sets up a hookup with the school hunk. They live in a gated community with a single mother (Jane Kaczmarek from Malcom in the Middle!))who is about to go on a vacation with “her new boyfriend.” You can’t really blame David for wanting to drown himself in an idyllic setting of TV 1950’s America (as opposed to the real 1950’s America with lynchings, civil injustice, Jim Crow, church bombings etc) to escape from his dull life where the future is looking to be pretty grim, as detailed by every single teacher in each of his classes.

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Jupiter Ascending

Mila Kunis

Channing Tatum

reviewed by Tom-Tom

starstar

 

One thing the Wachowskis traditionally do well is Sci-Fi. The Matrix Trilogy (well, most of it), the futuristic parts of Cloud Atlas, V for Vendetta (as writers although that is more political than Sci-Fi). Even the basic principles of the underperforming Speed Racer were essentially good. The siblings thrive on action and coolness, stylization and affectation. This is true here where the action is pretty solid and the visuals are jaw droppingly beautiful. Having only ever seen Channing Tatum in comedic roles, I thought he was an effective brooding action hero in Jupiter Ascending and Mia Kunis’ natural tongue for comedy and being the everywoman are fully functional. Eddie Redmayne remains an effectively scary nemesis for most of the film lending his Academy Award winning acting chops to the fray. The underlying plot encircling the secret behind the seeming eternal youth of three of the characters is horrifying and applicable somewhat to the oligarchy found in certain powerful countries today. What, then, went wrong? How do all of these juicy, succulent, well tried ingredients not work? Here’s how.

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