Kolchak, Community, Red State, and Ironclad

The last few weeks have been a time of quiet reflection, and review of my life. Mostly because I am flat broke and sit around the house doing nothing when not at work. In an attempt to distract myself from the snoozefest my life has become, I watched a lot of TV over the holidays.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker

I briefly discussed this recently as my favorite old show discovery of 2012. Kolchak started in the early 70’s as a couple of tv movies which was then upgraded to series for 20 episodes before being cancelled. It is one of those series that I have been aware of, but never seen. I am certainly glad to have remedied this situation. Kolchak is played by Darren McGavin- an actor who earned a place in my pantheon with his turn as the father in “A Christmas Story”. Kolchak is the story of a newspaper reporter who prowls Chicago searching for stories, and coming across supernatural threats instead. A major influence on X-Files, this show also launched the career of David Chase- creator of The Sopranos as well as featuring stories written by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis who would later team up to create Back to the Future. McGavin’s sense of humor is present throughout, and the supporting performances of the others in the newsroom, give the show a lot of heart. Keenan Wynn makes a couple of notable appearances as a police Captain who keeps running afoul of Kolchak. A grueling schedule, and studio politics led to the show’s cancellation in 75. Amazingly it lives on, being a popular download from Netflix, spawning a short lived remake, and even comic books. Kolchak is a great show.

Community

From old to new! Another show that is constantly dancing on the periphery of my viewing habits is NBC’s Community. It is the story of Jeff, former lawyer a who is caught not having a real college degree, being forced back into school or face disbarment. He falls into a study group for Spanish class which then has all manner of misadventures. Easily the funniest show on tv of the last several years. Like 30 Rock, it is intelligent, and so SO bizzare! There is nothing quite like it on tv right now, and I am a bit sad that it is not finding much of an audience other than the vocal geeks on the internet.

Red State

Kevin (Clerks) Smith’s first “horror” film isn’t really a horror film, more of a gory action film. I enjoy Smith, but this was a bit of a misfire for me. Three teens find a woman online soliciting sex and they travel to her trailer for some fun. Instead, the whole thing is a set up by a Westboro Baptist Church type group who is rounding up homosexuals and fornicators and killing them in the name of God.  The ATF is called in to raid their compound for illegal guns, and a shootout commences. It aims really high, hoping to tell a story of religion, free speech, government abuse, 9/11, and gay rights. It never really comes together sadly. John Goodman plays a great ATF agent, and the phenomenal Michael Parks is the Pastor of the church. Parks really hits it out of the park and elevates this film higher than it probably deserves. Kevin Smith is a great writer, and a favorite director of mine, but even he is admitting that he doesn’t have much left in the tank. He is making one more film (Clerks 3) and then retiring from film to focus on other projects- TV, internet etc. While this makes me sad, I have reached a point in my life where I can realize when its time to go, you go.  Smith has earned his rest.

Ironclad

Its been sitting in my Netflix queue for a while now, waiting to be seen. Well, it was seen.

In 1215, the Barons of England fought a rebellion against King John (perennial villain of Robin Hood). Facing defeat, John was forced to sign Magna Carta- the document that stated that the free men of England had rights, that the law of the land was supreme and even the King was beholden to it. Well, John did not like this, and he immediately hired an army and attempted to crush all the Barons. This is the story of that war following Magna Carta, specifically the siege of Rochester Castle.

It takes some serious, SERIOUS, liberties with history, almost insanely so.

James Purefoy- terrific actor from Rome (Mark Antony) plays a Templar Knight.

Brian Cox

Baron d’Aubigny, leader of rebellion. He is brutally killed in the film. In reality his character lived another 20 years.

Paul Giamatti

King John. Insane casting, but he pulls it off.

I honestly do not know what to think of this. I like historical accuracy, but this was not as bad of a film as is being touted. The actors were fine, and the story as presented is fine. The problem is that it is total bullshit. The film ends as the King is about to conquer the Castle. He has killed d”aubigny 20 years too soon and used a “Pig Bomb” to blow a hole in the wall. In reality, he used pig fat to grease support struts under the castle which he then set on fire. He did not send an army of pigs, set ablaze, to blow a hole in Rochester castle. About to seize victory, he is thwarted at the last minute as King Louis of France arrives and drives off the King’s forces- saving Rochester Castle….

What the fuck.

Rochester castle is regarded throughout 800 years of history as one of the most ingenious sieges EVER. Right up there with Caesar’s battle with Vercingetorix. Rochester Castle is a legendary VICTORY for King John. The rebels, including d’Aubigny, surrender to the King in the face of his superior siege warfare. They are sent to jail and the King rides on and takes Southern England. 6 months later, King Louis arrives from France and starts tearing up England. John later dies of illness while retreating. This film turns John’s victory into a defeat. Its like making a Napoleon film where he WINS at Waterloo! Drivel.

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