There is a disturbance in the force: The “new” Star Wars, The Force Awakens (2015).

When I was 5 Star Wars came out.  I loved the movie so much that I saw it 52 weekends in a row.  My parents had just separated and all I would do with my father is go see Star Wars.  He ended up bringing books with him, sleeping et cetera probably after the 5th or so week.  I had many of the toys, and the Force was almost a religion to me and many of my generation.

Then the Empire Strikes Back came out—arguably the best movie of the entire franchise.  Wow, I even skipped school to go see it with my father.  Then Return of the Jedi.  The first half—great—then the second half with those stupid Ewoks fighting the elite imperial jungle guard with rocks, that broke my heart worse than my first love.

Then the prequels.  I walked out of the first one (I don’t even know the title) and refused to see the rest.  Alas, another total downer.  Pretty disenfranchised I was really hoping for a home run and from what I was hearing this film may have been it.  Nope.

I was really looking forward to seeing the original group hoping against hope that the franchise could be saved.  I was wrong.  It takes a big man to admit he is wrong and I am not a big man.  That said I disagree with many of you in that I think Carrie Fischer has aged very well, and it was Harrison Ford that looked like he had one foot in the grave.  I love Fischer.

The new Star Wars looked to me like an amalgamation of the first three movies.  I almost knew what was going to happen before it happened in the film.  Take the “scavenger” who later turns out to be a Jedi candidate, those 10-15 minutes were right out of the sand people from the original movie.  At least that is what I thought.  Then there was the escape from the new “Death Star” with the deprogrammed storm trooper setting the best pilot free (just like Luke saving the princess) and it goes on and on.

Also the whole evil guy being Han Solo and the Princess’s son was not really that interesting.  What was a surprise was when Solo got run-through by his own child, but their repeated statements that there was still good in him sounded an awful lot like Luke telling Darth Vader that in Return of the Jedi.

The one thing I did like were the sound effects.  I thought they added some much needed grit to the film.  Other than that I was not at all impressed.

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Posted by on January 13, 2016 in Movie Reviews


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Some of Janeway’s Command Mistakes: Anyone know of Star Trek Voyager?

After watching many Star Trek Voyager episodes over and over again, I began see some pretty major command mistakes Capitan K. Janeway made over the 7 year series run.  Here are some of the highlights:

The geneses of the series. She destroyed the machinery that could get her and her crew back to earth. I understand that the series needs a starting point but she put her own agenda ahead of her crew’s safety.

The way Janeway handled the Borg and Species 8472. During their travels home Janeway et al comes across the Borg on several occasions.  They are a terrifying race of soulless evil drones that “assimilate” anything they believe will add to their “hive” collective.  There is a species (No. 8472 according to the Borg Catalog) that consistently kicks their teeth in.  Species 8472 consistently kicks the shit out of the Borg—the only species that has the ability to do so.  Naturally, Janeway and her team almost instantly come up with the proverbial firing solution to exploit this race’s weakness.  Her haste to get across the Borg expanse (instead of going around it) she makes a deal with the devil himself: the Borg.  Janeway decides to share this deadly technology with the Borg without consideration of the bigger picture.  One of the consequences of her shortsighted policy is that several races are exterminated because they depended on 8472 to keep the Borg at bay and it worked until Janeway’s discovery of their weakness.

When I saw that 2 part episode, I exclaimed to my stepdaughters that Janeway should be paraded before a tribunal in chains for a show trial then locked up to answer for her crimes.  The girls are serious Janeway supporters I think because of the female role model thing—which is OK of course.  Low and behold, a couple of episodes later one survivor of an assimilated race tries to trick Janeway (and almost gets away with it) because 8472 was an effective buffer to keep the Borg at bay.  This alien’s entire species was exterminated so Janeway could shave a couple of years off of her journey.

Every time the character 7 of 9 bitches about Janeway’s various decisions and refuses to comply she is 100% correct. On numerous occasions the former Borg 7 of 9 commits outright mutiny and refuses to comply with some self-righteous Janeway policy.  7 of 9 forcefully argues each time that she is putting the crew at risk without justification.  Naturally Janeway only punishes 7’s disobedience (as is her right as Capitan) with some punishment—like locking 7 in the cargo bay never addressing the merits of 7’s arguments.

I know this is a simplistic overview of theory which would deserves much more examination in order to make a thoroughly convincing case.  However, I realize that putting a show made in the 1990’s on trial is a little too much a little too late.  But for Netflix, frankly, it would not be possible.

Viva la Netflix!!



Posted by on January 9, 2016 in Movie Reviews


You know we here at JPFmovies typically don’t have a lot of respect for most redux. In fact we often trash them. So I asked Dr. H to take a look at Point Break (2015) so we can compare and contrast it with the original 1991 film starring the deceased Patrick Swaze.

As you know we here at JPFmovies are pretty tough on re-makes.  So when I heard there was a re-make of the 1991 film Point Break—a classic despite Mr. K Reeves—we sent Dr. H into the field to assess the damage.  Here are his thoughts.

The best analogy is that he was approached by a smooth car salesman selling him a huge truck that he doesn’t need; it had a fine interior but gets horrible mileage and after the initial infatuation wore off he realized just how bad a deal it was.  When it is all said and done, the V-8 is too much and you’ll never use that much trunk space.

Coming back to Point Break Redux, the stunts are nonsensical even if you allow the customary suspension of disbelief.  Like crashing through glass windows on motorcycles with parachutes to ride away into the sunset.  Only going to further prove that we believe Hollywood has been reduced to making a number of action scenes and merely stringing them together with some insipid dialogue.

Now to the original 1991 classic.  The direction was so good that Mr. Reeves could not do too much damage with his expressionless face and robotic voice.  The word on the street is that when they were teaching actors how to use tone and pitch to augment a delivery line he was in the bathroom.  That said, excellent performances by Patrick Swaze and Gary Busey and the great portrayal of the beaches and natural lighting give the film an excellent look and feel.  Moreover, the actions scenes appear plausible when compared to the motorcycles flying through the glass windows parachuting to the earth making their getaway.

That brings us to an interesting question.  Why are they trying to milk these great old films like Grease, Point Break and National Lampoons Vacation (previously reviewed)?  Because the writers have run out of ideas.  The studios need to invest too heavily in the stars and special effects that there is nothing left for the most important part: the story.  That is why we here at JPFmovies believe that all the good stories are coming out of Asia and Europe—they have not fallen into the seductive trap of taking the easy way out by making a few action scenes and then trying to fill in the space with whatever dialogue they can come up with at a bargain basement price.

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Posted by on December 27, 2015 in Movie Reviews


Southern Comfort—No not the booze, the 1981 film starring Keith Carradine and a young Powers Booth as well as the guy who played Remo Williams in the 1985 movie “Remo Williams the Adventure Begins.”

Don’t piss off Cajuns—that is the moral of this movie.  The movie was always somewhere rolling around in my head and then my friend TV brought it up (I believe he was trying to stump me with no luck for him).  Of course I remembered the film because of some very gritty scenes one or two of which will appear in the vaunted JPFmovie clips.

Southern Comfort is a movie about a Louisiana National Guard unit (or weekend warriors) out on some mock combat exercise.  Part of the mock combat is that all they have are blanks which proves to be the beginning of the end for most of the unit.  As the soldiers begin the 40 something kilometer march, they come to a river that is not marked on their map.  They realize that the recent rains probably have shifted the swamp water causing a pretty formidable river crossing.  Oh did I forget to mention that 90% of this film is the unit making their way through the bayou swamp land?  Well anyways as these soldiers are trying to figure out a way to cross the river, they stumble upon an empty camp of Cajun men where they find several canoes as well as some skinned animals.


Instead of leaving the boats there, as dictated by military law, they decide to use them to cross the river and leave them a note presumably explaining the situation.  While crossing the river, the Cajuns return and are looking at these guys stealing their boats.  One of the idiot soldiers decides (as a joke) to open fire on these men with his machine gun using blanks.  Naturally the Cajuns dive for cover since they have no clue that these are only blanks and this is all just a bad joke.  Once the machine gun stops firing, the Cajuns fire on the soldiers using live ammunition killing the units’ ranking officer.


The rest of the film involves the soldiers trying to make it back to civilization without getting killed by these Cajuns who know the terrain and area like the back of their hands.  In the end, only Booth and Carradine make it to a form of civilization—a Cajun cookout/party.  They remain on their guard as they (correctly) suspect that their hunters will show up and finish them off.  Well when their enemies arrive one shoots Booth but the wound is not fatal.  As the two survivors flee from the Cajun camp, an Army truck and helicopter arrive to save them from these vengeful Cajun men.

If I did not find this film interesting, I certainly would not have remembered it.  Cajuns chasing you throughout the Louisiana bayou swap is actually kind of frightening—not like Jaws scary but scary enough.  They do come across some very dangerous traps and there are a lot of skinned animals.  So I would recommend it, I mean why not—it’s not the greatest film ever made but it sure as hell is not the worst movie in the world.  Also film has some great Cajun music in it that, according to my research, is played by a famous Cajun musician Dewey Balfa.

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Posted by on December 25, 2015 in Movie Reviews


What was I thinking not reviewing this film until now? Akira Kurosawa ‘s Seven Samurai (1954). You’ve got to watch it seven times to really appreciate it.

Seven Samurai (七人の侍 Shichinin no Samurai?) is a 1954 Japanese Jidaigeki adventure film co-written, edited, and directed by “The Emperor” Akira Kurosawa.  This is also one of the most copied films in cinema history.  Films like The Magnificent Seven, Zhong yi qun ying (the seven warriors) and Samurai 7 (the anime television series) are all based on this movie.  Clearly this movie has had a major impact on movie makers since it release.  Perhaps Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress is the only film remade more than the Seven Samurai.

The story takes place in 1586 during the Warring States Period of Japan. It follows the story of a village of farmers that hire seven ronin (masterless samurai) to combat bandits who will return after the harvest to steal their crops.  These ronin work only for food, though at the end of the movie, the “miserly” farmers do offer their protectors jewelry and other valuable items before the final conflict.


Marauding bandits approach a rural mountain village, but their chief decides to spare it until after the harvest because they had raided it before.  The plan is overheard by a farmer who tells the rest of village.  Lamenting their fate, three farmers ask Gisaku, the village elder and miller, for advice.  He declares they should hire samurai to defend the village.  Since they have no money to offer, Gisaku tells them to find hungry samurai saying in one of my favorite quotes “even a bear will come down from the mountain if it’s hungry enough.”


After little success in finding any recruits, the group witness Kambei, an aging but experienced rōnin, rescue a young boy who had been taken hostage by a thief. A young inexperienced samurai named Katsushirō also approaches Kambei to become his disciple. The villagers then ask for his help, and after initial reluctance, Kambei agrees. In turn the aged rōnin recruits some old friends as well as three other samurai: the friendly and strategic Gorobei; the good-willed Heihachi; and Kyūzō, a taciturn master swordsman whom Katsushirō regards with awe (and is apparently based on the legendary Miyamoto Musashi).  Although inexperienced, Katsushirō is taken as a sixth recruit because time is short. Kikuchiyo (Torisho Mifune), a man who carries a family scroll that he claims makes him a samurai, follows the group to the village despite attempts to drive him away.

On arrival the samurai find the villagers cowering in their homes refusing to greet them. Feeling insulted by such a cold reception, Kikuchiyo rings the village alarm bell prompting the frightened villagers to come out of hiding.  However the six samurai are angered when Kikuchiyo brings samurai armor and weapons; equipment that the villagers had most likely acquired from killing other injured or dying samurai.  But Kikuchiyo explodes and points out that samurai are responsible for battles, raids, taxation and forced labor that devastate the lives of villagers thereby revealing his origins as a farmer.


When the bandits attack the village they are confounded by village’s new fortifications, including a moat and wooden fence. During a torrential downpour, the villagers are ordered to let in all remaining bandits where they are killed but not before taking some villagers and samurai with them.  With the fighting over, Kambei and Shichirōji observe that they have survived once again.  In a moving epilogue, the three surviving samurai watch as the joyful villagers sing while planting their crops. Kambei—standing beneath the funeral mounds of his four dead comrades—reflects that it’s another pyrrhic victory for the samurai. While they gained nothing for their sacrifice, the farmers’ reward is their lands.


Some interesting facts about the film include Kurosawa refusing to shoot the peasant village at Toho Studios, instead having a complete set constructed at Tagata on the Izu Peninsula, Shizuoka.  Acts like this eventually lead to Kurosawa’s nick-name “the Emperor.”  Although the studio protested the increased production costs, Kurosawa was adamant that “the quality of the set influences the quality of the actors’ performances… …For this reason, I have the sets made exactly like the real thing.  It restricts the shooting but encourages that feeling of authenticity.”


Boy he was right.  Anyone who thinks of themselves as any sort of film buff Seven Samurai is a must see.  And if you just like movies, watch it anyways, it’s long but worth every minute of it.

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Posted by on December 18, 2015 in Movie Reviews


Shogun the miniseries (1980) starring Richard Chamberlin, Torisho Mifune, John Rhys-Davies and others. One of the great miniseries of all time.

I was getting a lot of static about the number of Japanese films I’ve been watching lately so I decided to relent.  But I still wanted to enjoy the Japanese tales of the samurai then it occurred to me: Shogun the miniseries.  I was still a child when I remember when my parents watched it and I liked it back then.  So I obtained all 12 hours of the series and watched it without complaint from other because the main language was English though there was lots of Japanese spoken in it.  One of the neat film devices used in the episodes what the lack of subtitles whenever Japanese was spoken as it was from the main characters point of view (Richard Chamberlin as an English ship pilot).  I also decided to get the book and the author (legendary James Clavel) also provided no translation from the Japanese “spoken” in the novel.

During the original airing, the network ran the episodes five days in a row.  The first and last episodes (each three hours) and the three in the middle (each 2 hours) garnered about 24-25 million viewers—an average of about 32-33 nielson rating.  Talk about a marathon, I don’t think the networks would have the guts to run a series like that again.  By that I mean they would probably do one episode a week and break it up into one hour segments.  If that were to happen I believe it would totally take away from the flavor of the series.  The book (about 1200 pages) is even better than the series though both in my opinion are legendary works especially for their time.

The cast:  Richard Chamberlin, who needs no introduction, went on to make the Thorn Birds after this epic, Torisho Mifune, Japans legendary film star for probably 40 years prior to Shogun and anyone who watched Star Trek Voyager knows John Rhys-Davies (cast as Da Vinci in Voyager an often seen guest in Capt. Janeway’s hologram fantasies) playing the flamboyant Portuguese ship pilot Vasco Rodrigues.  There are more of course but these three are the best known.

After his Dutch trading ship Erasmus and its surviving crew is blown ashore by a violent storm at Injiro on the east coast of Japan, Pilot-Major John Blackthorne, the ship’s English navigator, is taken prisoner by samurai warriors. When he is later temporarily released, he must juggle his self-identity as an Englishman associated with other Europeans in Japan, namely Portuguese traders and Jesuit priests, with the alien Japanese culture into which he has been thrust and now must adapt to in order to survive. Being an Englishman, Blackthorne is at both religious and political odds with his enemy, the Portuguese, and the Catholic Church’s Jesuit order. The Catholic foothold in Japan puts Blackthorne, a Protestant and therefore a heretic, at a political disadvantage. But this same situation also brings him to the attention of the influential Lord Toranaga, who mistrusts this foreign religion now spreading in Japan. He is competing with other samurai warlords of similar high-born rank, among them Catholic converts, for the very powerful position of Shōgun, the military governor of Japan.

Through an interpreter, Blackthorne later reveals certain surprising details about the Portuguese traders and their Jesuit overlords which forces Toranaga to trust him; they forge a tenuous alliance, much to the chagrin of the Jesuits. To help the Englishman learn their language and to assimilate to Japanese culture, Toranaga assigns a teacher and interpreter to him, the beautiful Lady Mariko, a Catholic convert, and one of Toranaga’s most trusted retainers. Blackthorne soon becomes infatuated with her, but Mariko is already married, and their budding romance is ultimately doomed by future circumstances.

Blackthorne saves Toranaga’s life by audaciously helping him escape from Osaka Castle and the clutches of his longtime enemy, Lord Ishido. To reward the Englishman for saving his life, and to forever bind him to the warlord, Toranaga makes Blackthorne hatamoto, a personal retainer, and gifts him with a European flintlock pistol. Later, Blackthorne again saves Toranaga’s life during an Earthquake by pulling him from a fissure that opened and swallowed the warlord, nearly killing him. Having proved his worth and loyalty to the warlord, during a night ceremony held before a host of his assembled vassals and samurai, Lord Toranaga makes Blackthorne a samurai; he awards him the two swords, 20 kimonos, 200 of his own samurai, and an income-producing fief, the fishing village Anjiro where Blackthorne was first blown ashore with his ship and crew. Blackthorne’s repaired ship Erasmus, under guard by Toranaga’s samurai and anchored near Kyoto, is lost to fire, which quickly spread when the ships’ night lamps were knocked over by a storm tidal surge. During a later attack on Osaka Castle by the secretive Amida Tong (Ninja assassins), secretly paid for by Lord Ishido, Mariko is killed while saving Blackthorne’s life, who’s temporarily blinded by the black powder explosion that kills his lover.

As Shōgun concludes, Blackthorne is supervising the construction of a new ship, The Lady; it is being built with funds Mariko left to him in her will for this very purpose. Blackthorne is observed at a distance by Lord Toranaga; a voice over reveals the warlord’s inner thoughts: It was he who ordered the Erasmus destroyed by fire, not from a tidal surge, in order to keep Blackthorne safe from his Portuguese enemies who feared his actions with the ship; Blackthorne still has much to teach Toranaga. And, if need be, the warlord will destroy the ship Blackthorne is currently building. He also discloses Mariko’s secret but vital role in the grand deception of his enemies, and, as a result, how she was destined to die gloriously in Osaka Castle and live forever, helping to assure his coming final victory. The warlord knows that Blackthorne’s karma brought him to Japan and that the Englishman, now his trusted retainer and samurai, is destined never to leave. Toranaga also knows it is his karma to become Shōgun.

In the miniseries epilogue it is revealed that Toranaga and his army are triumphant at the Battle of Sekigahara; he captures and then disgraces his old rival, Lord Ishido, and takes 40,000 enemy heads, after which he then fulfills his destiny by becoming Shōgun.

The story has most of the elements of the warring states period and the rise of Tokugawa Ieyasu to Shogun.  He was one of the lords who pledged to take care of the Taiko, he also won the Battle of Sekigahara so anyone who is even slightly versed in this area of history can see the parallels.  It is a great series, take the time to watch it you won’t regret it.

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Posted by on November 12, 2015 in Movie Reviews


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