REVIEW: THE FINAL DAYS

The Final Days (1989)

CAST

Lane Smith (Lois & Clark)
Richard Kiley (Patch Adams)
David Ogden Stiers (Two Guys and a Girl)
Ed Flanders (The Exorcist III)
Theodore Bikel (My Fair Lady)
Graham Beckel (L.A. Confidential)
Gregg Henry (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Amanda Wyss (Highlander: The Series)
Gary Sinise (Of Mice and Men)

45737_still_2_80434-e1289836210266Thirteen years before it was filmed as a TV-movie, “The Final Days” was the title of a bestselling book, whose 1976 publication “just happened” to coincide with the cinematic release of “All the President’s Men” (based on an earlier book by the same authors). The Final Days book was noted for its complete reliance on anonymous sources, and for its witheringly negative portrait of Nixon and his personality, even including humiliating details about the Nixons’ marriage. Shortly after it was published, Pat Nixon determined to read the book (against her husband’s advice), and suffered a stroke within a day or two after she started on it. She was in hospital for about a month. All in all, TFD was probably the most sadistic literary attack ever leveled on a living ex-President up to that time.drive_1997_featured_imageWith all that background, it seems very unlikely to me that Nixon, personally, sat through the TV-movie version of “The Final Days” when it came out in 1989. My guess is that he had one or more staff aides watch it; possibly Tricia/Julie and/or their husbands, but that he himself couldn’t bear the thought of it. But who knows for sure. Nixon’s office put out a press release at the time, saying that sponsor AT&T should change its slogan to “Reach Out and Smear Someone”, which (IMO) was rather clever.KHMDdriveThe movie itself was highly praised by William F. Buckley, Jr., who specifically singled out the performance of Lane Smith as impeccable. Despite misgivings about the source-material, I watched it (I think it was broadcast on ABC, if I remember correctly) and was mesmerized. The whole show was simply brilliant from start to finish. Smith’s performance as Nixon is, indeed, flawless, and the overall atmosphere of the last 15 months of the Nixon White House was nicely judged, in my view. “The Final Days” is absolutely one of the small handful of TV- movies with an abundance of dramatic power and credibility, and with the ability to withstand repeated viewings. The Watergate Affair, of course, is simply too complex of a story to be dealt with adequately in this format, so people who do not already know the ins-and-outs of that scandal should know that this is not the place to learn about it, except in very basic outline. But if the movie paints Watergate with (necessarily) broad strokes, at least those strokes were true, in my recollection.marcandkadeemA couple of minor details that seemed off-key: The Washington Post newspaper was renamed as the “Washington Herald” or something like that. I’d like to know why that change was made. Also, I have no complaint with David Ogden Stiers as a performer. But there’s just nothing about the man — in appearance or personality — that resembles Alexander Haig. A curious casting decision.

 

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CHRISTMAS 2017 REVIEW: DECEPTION (aka The Reindeer Games)

CAST

Ben Affleck (Batman V Superman)
Charlize Theron (Prometheus)
Gary Sinise (The Green Mile)
Dennis Farina (Get Shorty)
Donal Logue (Ghost Rider)
James Frain (Gotham)
Danny Trejo (Machete)
Isaac hayes (South Park)
Clarence Williams III (The Butler)
Ashton Kutcher (Dude, Wheres My Car?)

Nick Cassidy and Rudy Duncan are cellmates in prison two days away from release. Nick has been corresponding with a young woman named Ashley Mercer, who is waiting for him on the outside. After Nick takes a shiv in a prison fight and dies, Rudy, who just wants to have a cup of hot chocolate after he reunites with his family, takes his place and lets the beautiful Ashley think he is the one who has been writing her. Gabriel, the leader of a gang who assaults Rudy and Ashley in their cabin, and is Ashley’s brother and tells “Nick” that the gang, with Nick’s help, will rob the casino he used to work at. Rudy reveals he is not Nick, but Ashley continues to confirm he is and that she wrote to him knowing Gabriel was going to kidnap and force Rudy to assist in the robbery. Rudy, while furious with Ashley, is reluctantly forced to go along with his ruse.

Using the information from the real Nick’s prison cell stories, Rudy is able to devise a robbery plan and informs Gabriel that the biggest loot is hidden inside a safe in the manager’s office (the “PowWow” safe). On the night of the robbery, Rudy breaks out of his holding in order to find a way to arm himself as he knows Gabriel will kill him after the robbery. He stumbles upon Gabriel and Ashley and learns that they are lovers and partners in crime.

The group robs the casino, each dressed as Santa Claus. Rudy, forced to take part in the robbery, hides the fact that he knows Ashley’s secret. Shots are fired and security guards and Santas are shot. Ashley drives into the Casino and lets Nick/Rudy know she is in on the heist. All meeting in the manager’s office, Gabriel introduces Rudy to the casino manager as Nick but the manager recognizes that he isn’t Nick and Rudy confesses. Gabriel, furious at Rudy’s deception, spares him for a moment when he demands to know where the “PowWow” safe is. When the manager opens the safe, he grabs guns from inside and kills one of the robbers as the rest flee. Rudy kills another one of the robbers and is then grabbed by Gabriel and Ashley who tie him up in their 18-wheeler truck.

They plan to drive him off the edge of a cliff in a burning vehicle with a little of the money so that officials will guess all had been burned. After accidentally revealing too much information during an argument with Rudy, Ashley shoots and kills the now suspicious Gabriel. Shortly after, Nick appears, having staged his death at the prison. It is revealed that Ashley’s real name is Millie Bobeck and Rudy learns that the two had collaborated to rob the casino using Rudy and Gabriel and his gang. Ashley had known the entire time who Rudy truly was. Nick also informs Rudy that the prison stories were part of a set-up.

After they tie Rudy to the steering wheel to drive off the cliff, he produces a knife he had gotten earlier, cuts his bindings, hot wires the car, sets it to reverse and crushes Nick. With Ashley firing at him, he rams the fiery car into her and dives out as the car and Ashley go over the cliff. Nick tries to convince Rudy that they can share the money but Rudy locks him in the truck and also sends it over the cliff. Rudy picks up the stolen cash and begins distributing it in mailboxes he comes across on the way home to his family, and eats a Christmas dinner with them. The film closes with Rudy smiling.

Though it is a basic Action Thriller, there are many subdivisions, that will leave fans of any genre satisfied. Don’t know why they changed the name for the UK.

REVIEW: OPEN SEASON

CAST

Martin Lawrence (Big Momma’s House)
Ashton Kutcher (Two and a Half Men)
Gary Sinise (CSI: NY)
Debra Messing (Will & Grace)
Billy Connolly (The Man Who Sued God)
Jon Favreau (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
Georgia Engel (Grown Ups 2)
Jane Krakowski (The Rocker)
Gordon Tootoosis (Shoebox Zoe)
Patrick Warburton (Family Guy)
Cody Cameron (Shrek)
Danny Mann (Babe)
Maddie Taylor (Surfs up)
Nika Futterman (Batman: The Brave and The Bold)
Jack McGee (The Fighter)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)

In the peaceful town of Timberline, 900-pound (408 kg) grizzly bear Boog enjoys a captive, but pampered existence and spends his day as the star attraction of the town’s nature show while at night living in the garage of park ranger Beth, who raised him since he was a cub. One day, the sadistic hunting fanatic Shaw drives into town with the one-antlered deer Elliot strapped to the hood of his truck. Boog frees Elliot, at the last minute, against his better judgment, before Shaw catches him. Boog never expects to see his “buddy” again, but Elliot follows Boog home to find him sleeping in the garage. To wake Boog up, Elliot throws rabbits at the window. He tells him to be “free” from his garage captivity and introduces Boog to a world of sweet temptations he has never known.When Boog becomes sick from eating too many candy bars, events quickly spiral out of control as the two raid the town’s grocery store. Elliot escapes before Boog is caught by a friend of Beth, police officer Gordy. At the nature show, Elliot being chased by Shaw, sees Boog, who “attacks” him. This causes the whole audience to panic. Shaw attempts to shoot Boog, but Beth sedates them both with a tranquilizer gun just before Shaw fires his gun. Shaw flees before Gordy can arrest him for shooting a gun in the town. The two trouble makers are released into the Timberline National Forest, only three days before open season starts, but they are relocated above the waterfalls, where they will be safe from the hunters.Since he lacks any outdoor survival skills, Boog reluctantly takes Elliot as his accident-prone guide to get him back home to Timberline to reunite with Beth. But in the woods, they quickly learn that it is every animal for itself. The two run into their share of the forest animals including skunks, Maria and Rosie, ducks, Serge and Deni, various unnamed panic-stricken rabbits, the Scottish-accented squirrel, McSquizzy, along with his roguish gang, Reilly, a beaver and his construction worker team, a porcupine named Buddy who is in search of a friend and the herd of deer led by Ian and Giselle (who Elliot is in love with).With each adverse encounter, Boog learns a little about self-reliance and Elliot gains self-respect and they start to become friends. The next day, Elliot attempts to lead Boog out of the forest, but it becomes evident that he has no clue where they are going. After causing a flood at Reilly’s dam, Boog and Elliot are confronted by Shaw; Boog then loses his toy bear, Dinkleman, as the current makes the doll float out of Boog’s paw. They end up in a waterfall, which floods and sends the forest animals falling down it.At first, everyone blames Boog, who accuses Elliot of lying to him about leading him home. Elliot admits he thought that if Boog spent time with him, he would befriend him. Boog leaves to unwittingly find Shaw’s log cabin. Shaw returns and talks to his gun “Loraine” and says he would take back what is his, discovers him (like Goldilocks and the Three Bears), and pursues him to the city road where Boog happens upon the glowing lights of Timberline. Instead of deserting his companions, Boog helps the other animals defend themselves using supplies taken from an RV owned by two people looking for Bigfoot named Bob and Bobbie’s RV while their pet dachshund Mr. Weenie joins “the wilds”.The next day, Boog leads a revolution against the hunters, sending them running after McSquizzy blows up their trucks with a propane tank named “Mr. Happy” ignited by using an emergency flare. Shaw returns for a final confrontation and shoots Elliot in the process, which enrages Boog and leads him to tie up Shaw with his own gun. Boog rushes over to Elliot’s body but soon finds that Elliot survived the shot, only losing his second antler in the fracas. Beth returns to take Boog back home where he will be safe, but he decides to stay with his friends, all of the animals in the forest. During the credits, Shaw, is seen tarred, feathered and tied on the top of Bobbie and Bob’s RV at night, mistaken for Bigfoot.Is this movie good for the kids? Yes. It had some laughs in it and it does bring about a moral message about the preservation of wildlife. It’s a good way to kill and hour and a half. But don’t expect to see anything new or original in this film.

 

REVIEW: THE FORGOTTEN (2004)

 

CAST

Julianne Moore (Hannibal)
Dominc West (Punisher War Zone)
Jessica Hecht (Sideways)
Gary Sinise (CSI: NY)
Alfre Woodard (Luke Cage)
Anthony Edwards (Zodiac)
Linus Roache (Batman Begins)
Lee Tergesen (Oz)
Felix Solis (The Following)
Robert Wisdom (Ray)
Ann Dowd (Compliance)

Telly Paretta (Julianne Moore) believes that her son Sam (Christopher Kovaleski) died 14 months ago in a plane crash, but her husband Jim (Anthony Edwards) tells her that she’s delusional and that they have never had a son, and Eliot (Jessica Hecht) doesn’t appear to believe in Sam’s existence despite her closeness to him. Dr. Munce (Gary Sinise) tells her that Sam was merely a figment of her imagination and that she is just imagining a life that might have been. He recommends that she be sent to a hospital, but she runs away and meets with a man named Ash (Dominic West) whom she thinks is the father of a girl named Lauren (Kathryn Faughnan) who was Sam’s friend and died in the same crash. At first he dismisses her, claiming he never had a daughter, and calls the police. After she is taken into custody, he remembers his daughter and rescues Telly. Together they escape and go into hiding, pursued by National Security agents.Telly and Ash capture and threaten an agent (Lee Tergesen), who reluctantly reveals that he and other agents are merely helping ″them″ in order to protect humankind. Without warning, the roof of the house blows off and the agent, along with the roof, is sucked into the sky—presumably taken by ″them″—and Telly and Ash flee. Eventually, Telly visits Dr. Munce again and he reveals that the disappearances are the work of ″them,″ and that the government monitors their trials, all too aware that they have no power to stop ″them″ from doing whatever they want.Munce takes Telly to an airport and the dilapidated hangar of Quest Airlines, where he introduces her to an agent of ″them″ (Linus Roache). He tells the agent that it’s over and to stop the experiment, because it will only cause more harm. But the agent replies that it’s not over. He reveals to Telly that she has been a part of an experiment to test whether the bonds between mother and child can be diminished. In her case, her memories could not be fully erased. Telly refuses to deny her son’s existence. The agent mentions that if he fails to erase her memory then he will look like a failure. The agent then subdues her and convinces her to think of the first memory she had of Sam. Telly thinks of the day he was born in the hospital, which allows the agent to successfully erase Sam’s memory from existence. As the agent is walking away, thinking he’s succeeded, Telly’s motherly bond kicks in deeper, to before Sam was born, when she was pregnant, triggering her memory that she indeed had life in her at one time. All of her memories of Sam return. Before the agent can comprehend what’s happening, part of the hangar roof is suddenly blown off, and he’s yanked into the sky himself, supposedly for his failure to erase her memory. This ends the experiment.Telly finds herself living a normal life, although she remembers everything that has happened. She reunites with Sam at a park. Also at the park is Ash, watching over his daughter. Like Sam, he has no memory of what has happened. Telly reintroduces herself, and the two sit and watch the kids play in the playground.It might throw some viewers off that The Forgotten is just as much a sci-fi film as a thriller. It firmly veers into X-Files territory–much more strongly than you’d ever expect from the first half of the film. This is yet another great example of why it’s better to approach films with zero preconceptions/expectations if possible.