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Original Battle Star Galactica (1978) compared and contrasted with the new Battle Star Galactica “BSG2” (2003-2009). Same? Similar? Differences? Better-Worse?

Compare and contrast reviews are always difficult because there are often so many similarities as well as so many differences that unless you plan to write an encyclopedia you don’t think you can get them all in.

So we will start with a summary of common characters, their differences from old to new:

Richard Hatch (actor) in the original series played Captain Apollo a/k/a Lee Adama, son of Commander Adama, and one of the lead characters and head pilot; in BSG 2, season 1, Hatch is in several episodes (Hand of God, Colonial Day and others) appearing as Tom Zarak, a reformed terrorist, or as many from his home planet believe, a liberator-revolutionary.  It does not take much to see its him, Hatch filled out as all people do when they get older but it was very clever of the new BSG to bring him in for a part.

Zach Adama, in the 1970’s series, is killed on his first mission but not much more said about his death as the series progresses; in BSG 2 his death is caused by his lover, Starbuck (now a cigar smoking woman and great pilot), because she passed him through basic flight school even though he was totally unqualified.  However, Zach’s death weighs on both Adamas and Starbuck throughout the series and is something they never really come to terms with and is really a blind spot for all three (as in the Starbuck rescue episode in which the President bitches about the massive resources expended for the rescue effort for one pilot).

Boomer, in the original 1978 series, Boomer was an African-American Viper pilot; in BSG 2, Boomer is an Asian-American woman Raptor pilot (a Raptor is accompanies Vipers and provides targeting information and electronic counter measures) In BSG 2 Boomer also happens to be a Cylon—model number 8—though she is programmed to be human. Clips Boomer (17 min Se.1 Ep 8) “Could you help settle a bet?  Why do they call you Boomer?” (29 min she is determined to be a Cylon but lied to by Baltar because he is afraid that her Cylon programming will be activated and kill him (Cylon programing appears when she shoots Commander Adama).

The new Boomer is one of my favorite characters by far.  Because she is a sleeper agent, Boomer has multiple personalities.  At first she believes she is human but begins to have her doubts after she discovers numerous detonators missing and several in her possession shortly before they explode on Galactica.  Other clues that she is a Cylon arise, for instance, when she is piloting her raptor looking for water and when her instruments show large deposits, she can hardly mention it to her co-pilot because her programing is preventing her from saying anything.

Gaius Baltar, in the early pilot, he s a turncoat who sells out the entire fleet by cutting a deal with the Cylons to eradicate everyone but his colony that he would rule as a dictator.  However, karma is a real bitch since he is betrayed by the Cylons and beheaded—not much more is said about him after that in the original series.  In BSG 2, Baltar is remade into a leading scientific genius duped into assisting the Cylons with their surprise attack by the hot looking Cylon model number 6.  His lapse in judgment almost wipes out the entire human race.  Gaius consistently suffers from visions of Cylon model number 6 who is constantly tormenting him, while occasionally providing some comfort as he lives in fear every day that he will be exposed for what he did (or didn’t do) and the catastrophic consequences it had on the human race.

Starbuck, in the original series, was played by Dirk Benedict, a gambling cigar smoker who is also a gifted pilot.  Benedict later played Face Man on the very popular show The A-Team.  Note both The A-Team and the 1978 BSG series were produced by Glen A Larson & Co.  In BSG 2, Starbuck is a woman who is a gifted pilot, and a cigar smoking gambler, like her predecessor.  Needless to say when I first laid eyes on Starbuck I was more than a little surprised to see a blond cigar smoking woman instead of Dirk Benedict.

Colonel Ty is the executive office to Commander Adama in both series.  He is an African American in 1978; but in BSG 2 is portrayed as an aging white guy with numerous self-destructive behaviors including an alcohol problem and a personal vendetta against Starbuck.  His role in BSG 2 is much more substantive than in the original series.  There are several episodes in BSG 2 where TY is forced to take over Galactica as its leader because Adama was shot and incapacitated for several episodes.  Ty really screwed things up while he was in charge, but for some reason Adama is very loyal to him no matter what he does.

Commander Adama.  In both series he is the leader of the Galactica, played by Lorne Green in the 1970s and Edward J. Olmos in BSG 2.  In the original series Adama is more of a philosopher than a military commander giving general orders and discussing questions with his executive officer but is never really hands on.  This is in complete contrast to Adama played by Olmos who is a hands on commander giving orders, planning missions disciplining his crew and letting the civilian government go only as far as he thinks they should.  Olmos does a very nice job as Adama playing an ideal leader who has trust in his subordinates while at the same time keeping a watchful eye on his soldiers.  One wonders how such a good commander was (prior to the Cylon attack) assigned to a Battlestar that was going to be decommissioned and retired (presumably like he was going to be).  He is also one of my favorite characters in the BSG2 series; Olmos has that always serious voice that just seems to grab your attention.  He had the same presence while he played police Lieutenant Martin Castillo in the television series Miami Vice from 1984 to 1989—his biggest role up to that date.

Apollo a/k/a Lee Adama.  As stated above originally played by Richard Hatch in the original series portraying Apollo as a flawless person almost laughable in fact.  In BSG 2 we get a more real portrait of a son living in his father’s shadow will all the flaws and insecurities that accompany such a role.  He loves Starbuck from afar but the memory of his dead brother always seems to be looking over his shoulder.  Adama considers her family so that may be another factor in Apollo not going after Starbuck kind of the brother-sister thing.

The Cylons.  In the original series the Cylons looked like guys walking around in shiny tin suits with the since red roving eye and machine like voice.  By your command was their trademark saying.  In BSG 2 the Cylons take on a whole new dimension.  There are 12 models that look like humans but there are many “copies.”  The Cylons enforcers are still fully mechanical still have the one red roving eye and are frankly quite formidable.  Their fighter ships are also Cylons; part organic part mechanical but are not nearly as scary as their land based counterparts which pursue humans without mercy.

“Frak” is a fictional censored version of “fuck” first used in the 1978 Battlestar Galactica series (with the spelling “frack”). In BSG 2, and subsequently in Caprica, it appears with greater frequency and with the revised spelling “frak”, as the producers wanted to make it a four-letter word.  In that framework it seems to function as a substitute for “fuck” in several different forms.

Next we will go to our theory here at JPFmovies that the new creators of BSG 2 took the original as a starting or jumping off point but really made a new original series out of it that took the story into much more depth and in a much more detailed and different direction.  While at the same time the original series was, in my opinion, more revolutionary for its day as it was produced on the heels of Star Wars and, though its special effects seem dated, to say the least, by today’s standards, they were cutting-edge in the late 1970s.

More to come.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2015 in Movie Reviews

 

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Our next project is a compare and contrast: Battlestar Galactica the late 1970’s vs. Battlestar Galactica the new millennium.

We have not done a compare and contrast in quite some time, so we here at JPFmovies decided to take a look at the Battlestar Galactica series, the old versus the new, better?  Worse? Differences?  General thoughts and comments are always welcome.  Coming next!

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2015 in Movie Reviews

 

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I changed my mind. Instead of reviewing Iris, I decided to go with “New World” (2013) another great Korean “wave” film.

Apparently in Korea, criminal have become much more organized than their counterparts here in America.  In Korea, they have adopted a corporate model, with separate divisions, officers, board meetings and the whole lot.  This film depicts a criminal organization known as Goldmoon and undercover police officer Ja-sung (Lee Jung-jae) who is tasked with infiltrating the organization, which is the largest crime syndicate in Korea.  His handler Chief Kang (Choi Min-sik) is a real bastard willing to put the screws to this guy to get what he wants at whatever the cost.  After eight years, Ja-sung becomes the right-hand man to the ring’s second-in-command Jung Chung (Hwang Jung-min), who holds real power. But when its leader is killed in a mysterious car accident, Goldmoon is thrown into a succession struggle that threatens to tear it apart.  With a baby on the way, Ja-sung is desperate to retire, however Kang forces him to stay on as rival factions quickly develop around two prospective leaders, the gang’s number 2, Jung Chung and number 3, Lee Joong-gu (Park Sung-woong).

Top-level police officials initiate “Operation New World” to intervene in Goldmoon’s selection process for the next leader, and to use the leader’s death to their advantage to control the crime organization.  Caught between Jung Chung who trusts him with his life, and Kang who thinks of him only as bait, Ja-sung is cornered by both bosses on opposite sides and must make a final decision that rests on loyalty and betrayal.  And the best part is that he sells his ruthless handler down the river having him killed by group of thugs known as the Yanbin Hobos.  Since all information about his activity was wiped from police files, he takes over control of Goldmoon and no one is the wiser.  Given his situation, frankly I can’t blame him.

This is a great gangster movie that shows what can happen to people if they are forced to play role for too long i.e. life begins to imitate art.  Ja-sung remains undercover for 8 years moving his way up this well organized criminal enterprise.  The stress causes his wife to have a miscarriage, and she also is forced to spy her husband by the unfeeling handler.  Under this kind of immense pressure, his actions, though legally wrong, are understandable and in fact seem like his only option for survival.  As you watch this well-acted film you find yourself rooting for the bad-guys simply because the “good guys” are no better than the people they are persecuting—bending and breaking the very laws they claim to uphold to justify an end that is questionable at best.

Another great Korean “wave” film in my opinion with all the elements that make gangster movies fun, it is gritty, avoids the typical Holly Wood ending where the good guys somehow always prevail and shows the authorities in a very different light than say the American tripe seen the Untouchables.  It is currently on Nexflix to take a couple of hours and see for yourself and let me know your thoughts.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2015 in Movie Reviews

 

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As promised Poongsan Dog (2011).

The movie starts at present day Korean peninsula, the man simply known as “Poongsan” – from the brand of North Korean cigarettes he smokes – makes regular trips across the DMZ to smuggle everything from people to antiques. No one knows whether he is from the North or the South, though from his commando-like abilities he is obviously highly trained. He makes contact with clients via a makeshift memorial bulletin board for divided families along the DMZ. On one mission he smuggles an antique, as well as a young boy, from North to South but when they are caught by the police, the South’s National Intelligence Service becomes aware of Poongsan’s existence. They contract him to bring a young woman, In-ok (Kim Gyu-ri), from Pyongyang to her lover (Kim Jong-su), a high-ranking North Korean official who recently defected and is still guarded by NIS agents. The arrogant official, who is paranoid about being assassinated (and rightfully so because he is), has been holding out on writing a report for the NIS until In-ok joins him. On the journey across the DMZ, In-ok accidentally sets off a mine that almost kills her and Poongsan, and she also has to be revived by mouth-to-mouth resuscitation when she almost drowns.

The mission is successful but In-ok has become attached to Poongsan who saved her life. Suspicious that the two made love during the crossing, the arrogant abuses In-ok after they are reunited and she expresses a desire to return to the North. Meanwhile, Poongsan is tortured by an NIS team leader (Choi Mu-seong) to find out whether he is a North Korean agent, but is rescued by the team leader’s boss (Han Gi-jung). Poongsan is forced to rescue NIS agent Kim Yong-nam, who’s been caught in the North and is under harsh interrogation; in gratitude, and appalled by his own agency’s methods, Kim later helps Poongsan escape from the NIS’ control. But then Poongsan and In-ok are captured by North Korean agents in the South.  In-ok is killed breaking Poongsan’s heart, however, he keeps working and in the last scene his luck runs out as he is shot by a North Korean while pole vaulting over a battier.

One interesting thing about this film is that Poongsan is apparently mute not saying a word throughout the whole two hour film therefore using either the words of others around Poongsan or what you imagine he would say or is thinking when he is alone to know what is going on.  An interesting device/technique to be sure.  The love story between a naturally mute protagonist (what else!?), about who we don’t get to know anything, and a North Korean woman who is abused by her husband, who actually loves her.

The protagonist, about whose motives we don’t get to know anything in the course of the movie either, still remains somewhat interesting. He is a border runner who doesn’t belong on either on this side nor on the other. He is homeless and yet has his home in both Koreas and therefore is most likely also a symbolization of the inner conflict of a divided Korea. He is a wanderer between the two worlds, it seems, and because of this he also has some superhuman powers.

It is fascinating to see Poongsan succeed in doing with the greatest of ease what so many of the best elite soldiers aren’t able to do: to take a walk through the demilitarized zone. No one stands a chance against this man, until the script demands that Poongsan is overpowered.  In such a case it suddenly becomes pretty easy to deal with him.

Poongsan is very good film it has an original, good story and uses unconventional devices.  What was the last American film you remember where the lead character doesn’t say a word throughout the entire film?  Poonsang was a box office smash in Asia—as it should be.  If we had films like this in American theaters I just might go back.  Alas we don’t.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2015 in Movie Reviews

 

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Yes I’ve been away too long. My apologies.

We have, unfortunalty, neglected JPFmovies for several months.  However we are now back.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2015 in Movie Reviews

 

Joint Security Area (2000) or “Can’t we all just get along?”

Joint Security Area is the first film of our Korean Cold War trifecta.  In 2000 when it debuted it was the highest grossing Korean film of all time.  It was shot on location at the demilitarized zone or DMZ (the heavily patrolled border dividing North and South Korea).  The film is explained through a series of flashbacks, flashbacks that show low level North and South Korean soldiers becoming friends, drinking together and sharing pictures and gifts.  This is of course taboo between the two countries which are still technically at war.

 

Two North Korean soldiers are found dead by gunshot wound while a lone South Korean soldier heads back toward his side of the DMZ.  The South Korean troops get their man however a firefight erupts and two days later the fragile relationship between the two countries is on the verge of war.  An international peace agency sends in a Swiss Korean Army officer who attempts to sort through the evidence and discover what actually happened.  She is warned at the beginning by the ranking General in charge of the DMZ that the outcome of this proceeding is not the point, but that the process be totally neutral—a warning she ignores to her own peril.

Explained through flashbacks it is shown that Soo-hyeok (a South Korean) was on patrol with other soldiers, only to get lost on the North Korean side of the DMZ and to partially trip a mine; found by Kyeong-pil and Woo-jin, (both North Koreans) who deactivate the mine, which later prompts Soo-hyeok to throw written messages over the border to maintain contact.  Eventually inviting Soo-hyeok across the border, the three become a group of friends that soon includes Sung-shik, with the four agreeing to leave politics out of their friendship so to remain loyal to their own country.

 

As tensions rise between the North and South, Soo-hyeok and Sung-shik return to the North to say goodbye and celebrate Woo-jin’s birthday, only to be discovered by a commanding officer from the North and resulting in a Mexican Standoff.  Despite Woo-jin panicking and betraying his friends, Kyeong-pil convinces Woo-jin, Soo-hyeok and the officer to lower their weapons, only for Sung-shik to panic and shoot the commanding officer when he reaches for his radio; when Woo-jin draws his gun again, Sung-shik kills him, before shooting his corpse several times out of anger.  Kyeong-pil persuades Sung-shik to lay down the gun and for the two to flee with a false alibi of being kidnapped, before throwing away the evidence that he and Woo-jin were fraternizing with Southern soldiers. After shooting Kyeong-pil to complete his alibi, Sung-shik and Soo-hyeok flee across the border, with the former getting past unseen; since Soo-hyeok has a wounded leg from the firefight, he is the only soldier seen.

 

As the investigator starts piecing this together (using the only real clue a missing bullet) and confronts the soldiers one South Korean throws himself out of a window putting him into a coma.  After that horrific incident, her family’s past is uncovered and it turns out that her father was a general for the North Korean army tainting any neutrality she may have brought to the proceedings.  Because the missing bullet which all of her theories hinged on was intentionally thrown away she cannot figure out who really shot Woo-jin due to a remaining inconsistency in their stories. Sophie (the investigator) hugs Soo-hyeok and wishes him well, only for Soo-hyeok to steal an officer’s pistol before committing suicide as he is escorted to a waiting car.  It is revealed Soo-hyeok shot Woo-jin, and he committed suicide out of guilt for Woo-jin’s death and Sung-shik’s suicide attempt.

 

The film magnificently concludes with a photograph of the joint security area that accidentally contains all four soldiers.

This film is the perfect kickoff for our Cold War series. It has all the elements of a Cold War movie: you’ve got two sides with opposing ideologies – and in fact it’s communism versus capitalism, and as in the West, capitalism has shown its economic might over basically an ideology which in North Korea happens to be called juche instead of communism. Juche means independence or self-reliance, but in North Korea juche is simply Orwellian doublespeak for totalitarianism run horrifically amuck. But the fact of the matter is that the people of these two countries are no different from each other, and what separates them is a fence. A big fence, yes. A fence I wouldn’t want to cross, yes. A 100%  jones fest, yes. The fact of the matter is that at the heart of it, in the DMZ where they all meet, in the last scene in the picture together, they are not fighting. One of them is even smiling for the camera. But that’s not the real reason this is a good movie. The real reason this is a good movie is because of the Cold War aspects of it: the spies, the electrified fences, the constant threat of total war. The stakes are high. And we see these individuals who are caught up as pawns in this very high stakes game – who really just want to go home. It’s all there for the writing – but think of how many different ways this could have been played out. It could have gone to total war. Those guys could have been court-martialed.

What parallel do we have to this situation in the United States right now? Nothing. We have some disorganized group of terrorists, who have no united front so to speak, who are intentionally walled off as cells so that one group can’t affect the other if they are caught. Moreover, in the U.S. right now our real enemies are within: the government, corrupt politicians, police brutality, big corporations and banks. There aren’t the clear sides that you have in a Cold War situation. We keep trying to manufacture wars, as if we were nostalgic for the Cold War: the war on drugs, the war on terrorism. But we find it hard to make that work when the real enemy is us: our own corruption, our own consumerism, our own fiscal irresponsibility as a country, our own fanaticism and arrogance in the face of poverty. Our own political correctness that we have let hogtie us into an inability to do anything about the “isms” that we claim to care so much about eradicating. The only good movie to come out of Hollywood to address such issues is V for Vendetta. Otherwise, Hollywood has been left as bankrupt of ideas as Lehman Brothers.

 

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Movie Reviews

 

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