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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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Here is one I’ll bet many of you have not seen: FM (1978)

I feel I must disclose that probably my favorite non-jazz band, Steely Dan, recorded the sound track for this film—the title song being of course “FM.” Steely Dan–FM Theme FM the movie is about Q-SKY– the number one radio station in Los Angeles chiefly because the proverbial inmates run the asylum.  These attention-grabbing radio personalities include: Jeff Dugan, the rebellious radio station manager; Mother, who is burned out from being a DJ; Eric Swan, a self-centered and self-styled romantic who wants more than just being a DJ; The Prince of Darkness, the hip night DJ; and Laura Coe, the easy-going type.  The station personnel play the music they want to, only use certain advertisers, sponsoring concerts/benefits as well as some other “unorthodox” non-corporate ways to make the station their own and the best in LA.  They have operated relatively autonomously, free from corporate interference for some time.  However, the corporate machine is about to try to turn their No.1 position into cash.  The movie centers on the inevitable battle between Jeff and his corporate bosses, who want more advertising and money at the cost of music.

The skirmish grows until sales manager Regis Lamar from corporate HQ presents him with a business opportunely to advertise for the U.S. Army using a series of cheesy radio ads. When Jeff refuses to endorse the contract, Regis takes the issue to upper management who orders Jeff  to run the ads as provided by the Army and on the schedule specified in the advertising contract. Jeff takes a stand and quits his job.

In a show of solidarity with their fearless manager the remaining DJs decide to take control of the station in a sort of lock-in/sit-in/protest.  They incite listeners to gather in the street outside the station and protest while the DJs play music without any commercials.

Jeff Dugan wakes up to hear the DJs take control of the station. The crowd is already present when he arrives at the station. The DJs lift him up to the second story with a fire hose as they have already barricaded the front doors.  The office siege in lasts only until the police arrive to remove the staff.  Not willing to go down without a fight, the DJs battle back using a fire hose and throwing tapes and other office objects at the police.  The conflict is resolved when Jeff Dugan finds himself fighting a policeman outside on an overhang and saves the policeman from falling off and sees that fighting is the wrong thing to do.  He calms the crowd and announces that the DJs are coming out.

Unknown to him, the company owner Carl Billings has watched from the crowd as the events unfolded. He insists that the DJs stay in the station, fires his management staff responsible for the advertising conflict, and then joins the DJs inside the station.

In addition, the film includes live appearances by Linda Ronstadt, Jimmy Buffett, Tom Petty, and REO Speedwagon. Steely Dan performs the title theme, and Dan Fogelberg, Joe Walsh, Boz Scaggs and Queen also contributed soundtrack music. The film debuts  several future hits like We Will Rock You (in the protest rally sequence) and Life’s Been Good integrated into the plot.

I had a really hard time getting my hands on this movie a couple of years ago, but I am glad I did.  The music, sound track and real appearances by the artists themselves make this movie worth watching on its own.  Unfortunately, it is hard to find and even harder to find someone who has seen it to enjoy it with.  If you can, see it, if you can’t just get the soundtrack.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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Punishment Park—A “Mock-Documentary” that Easily Passes for a Real Documentary.

Peter Watkins made this movie in 1971, when I was born, but it is startling to see Watkins’ prophecy of deprivations of freedom in today’s context — as our country’s civil liberties are flushed away under the Homeland Security and “Patriot” Acts.

The film starts with a reading from the The Internal Security Act (a.k.a the Subversive Activities Control Act, McCarran Act – after Pat McCarran – or ISA) of 1950, a United States federal law that required the registration of Communist organizations with the United States Attorney General and established the Subversive Activities Control Board to investigate persons suspected of engaging in “subversive activities” or “otherwise promoting the establishment of a ‘totalitarian dictatorship, fascist or communist.’” Members of these groups could not become citizens, and in some cases, were prevented from entering or leaving the country. Citizen-members could be denaturalized in five years.  This abomination was passed by the Democratic-controlled Congress, which actually overrode President Harry S. Truman’s veto to pass this bill.  Truman called the bill “the greatest danger to freedom of speech, press, and assembly since the Alien and Sedition Laws of 1798.”

Specifically the film narrator begins:

“Under the provision under Title II of the 1950 Internal Security Act, also known as the McCarran Act, the president of the United States of America is still authorized without further approval by Congress to determine an event of insurrection within the United States and to declare the existence of an internal security emergency. The resident is then authorized to apprehend and detain each person as to whom there is reasonable ground to believe they probably will engage in certain future acts of sabotage.”

The Act was activated by Nixon during the civil unrest as the controversy in Vietnam escalated.  Luckily over the next 20 years, many of the Act’s provisions were declared unconstitutional and almost totally repealed by 1990, only to be replaced by the Patriot and Homeland Security Acts recently enacted into law.  These facts make Punishment Park, in my opinion, just as relevant and powerful today as they were almost 40 years ago.

The film had a total budget of $66,000, with an additional $25,000 when the film was converted to 35 mm and is shot as a typical documentary.  It was so believable that Dr. H and I had to assure a third party that this was in fact a mock-documentary and not historical footage.

The film is made from the perspective of a British news crew — the U.S. has created a network of detention centers called Punishment Parks to deal with prison overcrowding and help train law enforcement.  At this particular Punishment Park in the California desert, arrested dissidents are tried by a truly kangaroo court and when they are all found guilty, they have a choice between lengthy imprisonment in the federal prison system or three days in the park.  Once released into the park, the recently convicted are released in bunches as numbered ‘Corrective Groups’ – and given three days to make it 50 miles through a deadly desert to an American flag.  But they must  evade police capture; they have a two-hour head start. It’s left somewhat up in the air as to what will happen if they reach the flag.  They are assured that they will not be killed if they surrender when caught.

As the dissidents (ranging from black power extremists to pacifists and draft dodgers) are brought into the kangaroo court, nothing more than an army tent set up in the desert, they are grilled by the multifarious group of conservative civilians. The defendants are rarely allowed to state their positions and law, due process and a fact finding jury are not even a pretense in the proceedings.  Each defendant is bound and gagged at some point and forcibly removed from the kangaroo court.
While the film is of the vicious kind, it is skilled and wise enough to (initially) leave room for doubt here.  Punishment Park is not just a horror film illustrating the potential for fascism in America; more importantly the mock-documentary shows us how opposing sides harden themselves against each other, how misunderstandings mixed with prejudice build to tragedy.  The police and soldiers hunting the Corrective Group down are shown as a rough bunch, but even they are given the benefit of the doubt.  After an unarmed prisoner is shot, the camera charges in on the Guardsman who did it, the filmmaker screaming bloody murder while the wide-eyed stammering 18-year-old kid in a too-big uniform looks not evil but just terrified and sick at what he’s done.

The ending is also tragic.  Those who made it through the desert to the American flag are met by a squad of the authorities who execute them on site to prevent them from going free, refusing to live up to their part of the bargain.

Many of the reviews I read about this movie called the premises “thin” — perhaps, but why then do many people believe that Punishment Park is a real documentary not a mock-documentary?

An excellent film you should see particularly if you are concerned about the erosion of freedom and civil liberties in this or any other country.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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JPF Looks At One Of The Greats: Roman Polanski’s Chinatown.

Director Roman Polanski has had a tough and turbulent path through life—some of it his own making some of it just plain back luck.  Part of my decision to review Chinatown was his legal problems resurfacing again in September of 2009 when he was arrested in Switzerland at the request of the U.S. Government for extradition back to the States to face criminal charges involving alleged sex with a minor from the 1970’s.  On July 12, 2010, however, the Swiss rejected the U.S. request and instead declared him a “free man” although all six of the original charges are still pending in the U.S.

In 1969, before he was personally involved with our criminal justice system, Polanski’s pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate, was murdered by Charles Manson and his band of  twisted followers.  Despite the personal hell one would go through under such circumstances, Polanski directed Chinatown which was released in 1974.  Chinatown is a 1974 American neo-noir film based on Robert Towne’s screenplay and starring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and John Huston.  The film clearly embodies the film noir genre with its multidimensional tale that is part mystery and part psychological drama.

The film, set in 1937 Los Angeles was inspired by the disputes over water rights that had plagued southern California.  Nicholson plays JJ ‘Jake’ Gittes, a private detective who concentrates on matrimonial matters.  He is hired by a phony Evelyn Mulwray when she suspects her husband Hollis, builder of the city’s water supply system, of having an affair.  Gittes takes the case and photographs him with a young girl however, he was hired by an impersonator and not the real Mrs. Mulwray.  When Mulwray is found dead, Jake is plunged into an intricate web of deceit involving murder, incest and governmental corruption all stemming from the city’s water supply.

Polanski even makes a cameo appearance in film (the clip of course shown here) as the individual who famously cuts Jack Nicholson’s nose forcing him to wear an obnoxious bandage throughout much of the film.  Perhaps most importantly, Chinatown has one my favorite lines said in a movie “Forget it, Jake — it’s Chinatown” (again clip provided for your viewing pleasure).  It is also the last line of this great film.  You are a fool if you don’t make time to watch this one.

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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JPF Examines the Classic: Dazed & Confused

What a great setting for a movie.  The entire film takes place on the last day of a local high school in 1976.  Over the course of the day, the about to be “cool” freshmen (both boys and girls) are hazed by their elders—the boys get their bums smacked with wooden paddles and the girls are subjected to sucking on pacifiers and sitting in the bed of a pickup truck as it goes through a car wash.  The movie doesn’t stop there.  The Dazed & Confused covers the broadest spectrum of teenagers imaginable, we see the “nerds,” the “potheads,” the “jocks,” and the “cheerleaders” getting ready to celebrate the beginning of summer vacation.

My favorite character is David Wooderson played by none other than a young Matthew McConaughey.  I think Wooderson is so outrageous that I have dedicated two clips to scenes he appears in.  Wooderson also has one of the greatest lines in the movie “why you just gotta love high school girls, I get older, they stay the same age.”  McConaughey, in my valued opinion, has never been funnier or better than he was in Dazed and Confused.

The soundtrack is one of the best ever.  The 1970’s music scene was full of dizzying highs and terrifying lows.  Thankfully the soundtrack highlights the highs while leaving out the lows.  The movie treats us to songs by Aerosmith, ZZ Top, Dr. John, War, and other seminal 1970’s rock icons (though one of the most popular bands is noticeably missing: the song “Dazed and Confused” by Led Zeppelin, but that’s ok).  Hands down brilliant, there’s not a single bit of musical debris here adding to the free, relaxed ambiance of the movie.

What else happened in 1976?  Well remember: Howard Hughes died, 45 cents a gallon gas, Frampton Comes Alive, Bad Company, Jimmy Carter, the Marshall Tucker Band – Heard It In A Love Song and Pink Floyd’s “Time.”

If you have not seen this one you are a fool.

A bouquet of roses.

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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