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Ok here is part 2 of our look at Battle Star Galactica the Old vs. the New.

We left off with our theory that the new creators of BSG 2 took the original as a starting but really made a new original series out of it by taking the viewer into much more depth and in a much more detailed and different direction.  Yet, the original series was, in my opinion, more revolutionary in 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.

The original Battle Star Galactica was produced shortly after the legendary film Star Wars was released. How can you compete with that?  You can’t, but many of the special effects Lucas used were incorporated into the TV series which made the original show special effects wise superior to its contemporaries.  The story was also original.  It had the fleet of star ships with a handful of human beings running from killing machines bent on the human race’s destruction.

The new BSG took the original theme and really seemed to run with it.  The characters were much more developed, the plot line significantly more complex (for instance the institution of a civilian government) and much was talked about things other than a few Viper pilots– in relative contrast to its predecessor.

Also the musical score for BSG 2 was really much better than expected. So in short while the original was revolutionary for its time the sequel also had its own merits hence its extreme popularity and one point.

Naturally your thoughts and comments are welcome.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2015 in Movie Reviews

 

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As you know, we here at JPFmovies take requests very seriously. Our new friend CC put in a number of requests, one of them being Atlas Shrugged Part 1 (2011). The “critics” didn’t like, but we did.

Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged is a legend in the literary world.  Her novel is one of the foundations for laissez-faire capitalism.  Whether you agree with her or not, you would be a chump to discount the power of Rand’s writings, especially Atlas Shrugged.  I find it amazing that it took over 50 years after the book’s publication and almost 30 years after Rand died in 1982 to get this into the theaters.

The film has several interesting characters, Dagny Taggart, Vice-President in charge of her family’s old Trans-Continental rail-road, Hank Rearden an industrialist who has developed a new metal stronger and lighter that traditional steal and Ellis Wyatt, a Colorado oil man that loses the freedom to run his business the way he wants to.

The protagonist, Dagny Taggart, is clearly the brains behind the operation of the family railroad and her moronic brother is no more than a puppet and a bad one at that.  Curiously one of her top managers comes into Dagny’s office to resign.  Dagny throws money at him hoping to keep him on.  When she asks why are you leaving and that she deserves the truth, he simply responds “Who is John Galt/”

For the rest of the movie we see black and white still shots of people with their names, occupations and the date of their “disappearance.”  So who is John Galt?  Well Rand does not tell you until the last third of her 1,100 page novel.  The movie follows suit leaving the viewer with few clues revealing who John Galt is.

To my surprise, Atlas Shrugged Part I turned into an intriguing, stylish film that did not water down the Randian message in the least.   In fact, the film’s format seems to free the characters in some sense from the limitations of Rand’s prose and give more clarity and purpose to the story, while keeping its message firmly at the film’s center.

When the novel was first published in 1957, the rail industry was still a central key to the American economy.  The film takes place in the near future, starting in 2016, and cleverly uses a global energy crisis to return rail to a central position in American industry.  Economic decline has pushed American government with ever-increasing speed into interventionism and central planning.  Politicians and lobbyists scream about fairness and the need to force the wealthy to pay their share in order to show compassion.

A few titans of industry resist the momentum of socialism — or to be more accurate, the crony capitalism that precedes and abets socialism and eventually fascism (personally I am always worried about any “ism”).  Dagny Taggart needs to save her family’s railroad empire from her incompetent brother, and turns to steel producer Henry Rearden for a revolutionary new metal for aging and unreliable tracks.  Meanwhile, prominent and successful men keep disappearing without a trace, and no one knows where they have gone — except perhaps Dagny’s old flame Francisco, who may not be the dissipated playboy he seems.

The best word to describe Atlas Shrugged Part 1 is … surprising.  It’s surprisingly well-paced, surprisingly intelligent, surprisingly well-acted, and surprisingly entertaining.  Perhaps most surprising of all, it has me thinking about my intellectual roots.  Let’s be clear, the film is not for everyone, but then again what film is?

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2015 in Movie Reviews

 

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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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