It’s that time of year yet again, where the holidays have finally crept up on us and we ready ourselves for two whole months of corny holiday music, cornier holiday commercials, and that stupid Elf on a Shelf. It seems like time just flies by and we’re back to trying to figure out what to get the movie lover in our life, or what to treat ourselves with. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Boxing Day, or just love the deals, we bring you, once again, our annual holiday gift guide with some suggestions for the respective movie lover, and pop culture fanatic.
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Modest Mussorgsky’s opera receives a lavishly imaginative interpretation in this production from Bulgaria’s Sofia Opera and Ballet. Director/producer/stage designer Plamen Kartaloff brings the work to an open air setting in front of Sofia’s towering Aleksandr Nevskj Cathedral, and he fills his stage with an opulent parade of grandly costumed figures of the monarchial and religious hierarchies, offering a visual feast worthy of conductor Konstantin Chudovksi’s presentation of Mussorgsky’s towering music.
Number Seven is one of the weaker seasons of “Roseanne” since most of the season basically focuses on the less interesting characters and places a great emphasis on the endlessly irritating romance between Darlene and David. For a good portion of season seven, actress Sara Gilbert spent time acting in theater and going to college, so she’s pretty much a non-presence for a quarter of season seven, while the writers miss the boat by focusing more on Chalke’s Becky, choosing to turn her in to a mere side character who appears periodically. Instead, the writers make the misguided choice of placing a good focus on the storylines on DJ’s life.
As well as the relationship between David and Mark. The two characters garner much dysfunction and have a troubled life filled with resentment and hatred, but their arc is pointless and incredibly boring. This is time that should be filled devoted to developing Becky and Darlene, and instead there’s just a deeper and strong look at the dynamic between brothers Mark and David. To add more confusion to the mix, there’s the stunt casting of Traci Lords, who appears for a number of episodes as a walking talking plot device and disappears once the show gets back in motion with Sara Gilbert and Sarah Chalke coming back as the characters they originally played.
“You’re faced with a grave responsibility, ladies and gentlemen…”
One of my favorite scenes of “12 Angry Men” is in fact the opening. Sidney Lumet doesn’t so much provide exposition as he lays out the basic rule of the premise. These twelve men don’t have to abide by story conventions so much as they have to abide by the law and a strict principle about judging someone during this horrible trial. The question soon becomes how far will these men stretch these laws and principals to fit their own agendas? What will keep them biased and subjective in a case that requires a clear thought and analytical mind? The opening shot features the young boy in question transposed over the establishing shot of the empty jury room where his fate lies. He’s a young, minority, juvenile delinquent, with a violent past and his life lies in the hands of twelve strangers. Worse is that these twelve strangers have their own vendettas. His cards are stacked against him immediately since the trial has drawn on for weeks in to the hottest day of the year. The jurors were, presumably, chosen for their ability to put aside their own personal preferences to judge a case, but once Sidney Lumet puts these twelve men in a room together, it soon becomes apparent everyone has arrived with their goals in mind. It’s a group of the worst and best of America.
Before Hollywood came along and turned it in to a buddy comedy, “21 Jump Street” was actually once an edgy crime drama. For its time and the decade, “21 Jump Street” was a controversial series that tackled many issues plaguing the headlines including murder, the drug epidemic, abortion, illegal immigration and the like. Even almost two decades after its end, “21 Jump Street” is still a high octane and truly engrossing crime series that is admittedly a bit hokey, but still manages to soak in the audience with its sharp performances and engrossing plot lines.
“21 Jump Street” is most famous of course for being the launch pad for star Johnny Depp, who transformed from obscure actor, to teen heartthrob overnight and managed to be one of the few successful eighties icons who transformed from teen heartthrob to acting legend and superstar in a matter of years. But “21 Jump Street” has a lot more going for it than Depp. Even if the show’s best years involve Depp. Let’s face it, Depp is basically the lifeline for the series for a majority of the show as his character is one of the best ever written on the series, while he manages to possess an incredible rapport and chemistry with star David DeLuise.
For a good part of the early seasons, the best episodes involve interplay between the two actors, who approach every case with wisecracks and bad assery that is hard to topple once Depp leaves the show for greener pastures. Everything about “21 Jump Street” is still fresh from the get go, from the great theme song to its cases that involve issues like pre-teen alcohol abuse and students bringing guns to school, all of which are still prevalent in our society and still very relevant social issues. The premise of the show is very much in the vein of “The Mod Squad” in which young looking police officers masquerade as teachers and students in local schools allowing them to infiltrate gangs and social groups leaving them to solve certain crime and cases that the local authorities can’t. The cast is made up of diverse and very entertaining actors, all of whom are given their own episodes and chances to shine and will allow audiences to root for them. Holly Robinson is still very attractive and bold as Judy Hoffs, while Dustin Nguyen is a stand out as officer Harry Ioki.
“21 Jump Street” is a healthy mixture of procedural crime drama with some teenage angst that delves not only in to the cases but the personal lives of the individual officers all of whom manage to leave their assignments affected and traumatized in one way or another. Further in to the show, the casting of Richard Grieco in place of Johnny Depp is not much of a departure as he fulfills the bad boy role quite well offering a smoldering performance as Officer Dennis Booker. Overall, like most shows of this ilk, it dives in to the deep end and jumps the shark by season four, but it’s still a very entertaining and action packed crime drama with stylish ensemble performances, and some truly action packed moments for fans of cop shows. Hardcore fans of Johnny Depp need apply if they’re interested in seeing how he went from Tiger Beat to Oscar Fodder.
THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
What with the remake and retread craze at an all time high, I can definitely picture some halfwit second rate comic actor taking up the mantle for William Katt as the next “Greatest American Hero” in a big budget mediocre action comedy. Almost like a lame version of Superman, “Greatest American Hero” is never quite sure what it wants to be. Sometimes it’s an honest to goodness tale of a humble man being given an amazing power allowing him to fight crime and save the world. Sometimes it just takes a step back and laughs at itself for all the right reasons. William Katt gives a surprisingly dignified performance as a local school teacher Ralph Hinckley tasked with teaching a very rowdy and violent special education class.
As fate would have it, Katt and his class happen across a reckless FBI agent Bill Maxwell who almost runs him down in the middle of a field trip during the night when they’re stranded on the road. Hinckley and Maxwell are witness to a major event as a UFO beams down… a suit to them. Not just any suit, but a super suit! They ask Hinckley to take the suit and save the world or it will disintegrate. Why? Who knows? Lacking any apparent fashion sense, Katt dons the alien super suit forced to team with the Maxwell and the result is wacky and ridiculous.
There’s only one other science fiction series I can think of that manages to be half as good and exciting as “The Zeta Project” and that’s “Reboot.” The series, now on a special edition DVD, “The Zeta Project” is a spin off of the critically acclaimed “Batman Beyond.” His story in the aforementioned series is pretty much the same as the one told here. Zeta is an android who has the ability to change appearances which allows him to remain in the general population without being detected.
His introduction in “Batman Beyond” happens to be one of the best episodes of the series; so good was it that it eventually branched out on its own. Sadly, the series didn’t last very long on the WB Network here in America and the characters were shun in to obscurity. Looking back at the format thanks to this great long overdue DVD series, it’s still a fun and exciting sci-fi series very much in the vein of “The Fugitive” following a robotic unit intended for war who suddenly gains a conscious.