Tag Archives: NBC

A review of “Special Bulletin” (1983), with link

There’s a pretty damn interesting chestnut from from 80’s-era nuclear nightmare films available on Youtube — 1983’s “Special Bulletin.”  (The link is below.)  I was surprised I hadn’t heard of it.  I think most 80’s kids remember ABC’s “The Day After.”  That infamous television movie was a cultural touchstone that scared a generation of kids.  “Special Bulletin” was produced by NBC the same year, actually preceding “The Day After” by nine months.  Instead of a world-ending war with Russia, the feature-length special imagined a single incident of nuclear terrorism in Charleston, South Carolina.  (I myself had no idea that Charleston was the strategic military nexus that the movie explains it to be.)

“Special Bulletin” was filmed as a “War of the Worlds”-type narrative, consisting exclusively of faux news coverage, and it’s pretty damned good.  (It won a handful of Emmys.)  It’s just as frightening today — or maybe more so, given the increased threat of precisely this kind of terrorism from stateless groups.

The acting is mostly good, the directing successfully captures the feel of live news coverage, and the absence of a musical score further lends the movie a sense of realism.  The story has a few surprises for us, too — the plot setup is creative and interesting, and much more thought went in the the teleplay than I would have expected.  The film asks some difficult questions about the role of the media in affecting the outcome of high-profile crimes like the one depicted.  (Would such questions be more or less relevant in the age of camera-phones, uploaded ISIS executions and Facebook Live?  I’m not sure.)

I was also quite impressed with some of “Special Bulletin’s” thriller elements.  (I’d say more, but I will avoid spoilers for anyone who wants to watch it below.)

One thing that detracts from the format’s realism is the fact that some of this movie’s actors are easily recognizable from other roles in the 80’s (although it’s fun spotting them as an 80’s movie fan).

Most viewers my age, for example, will recognize Ed Flanders and Lane Smith.  The utterly sexy female reporter who arrives on location at Charleston Harbor is Roxanne Hart, who later played Brenda in “Highlander” (1986).  (She’s still quite beautiful, guys, and she’s still making movies.)  Most jarring of all, however, is a prominent role played by David Clennon, who any fan of horror-science fiction will recognize as Palmer from John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece, “The Thing.”  This is still fun, though — he has that same disarrayed hair.  Was it his trademark back in the day?


A review of “Goodbye World” (2013)

“Goodbye World” (2013) is technically a post-apocalyptic drama.  I say “technically” because this sometimes misguided movie contains little tension associated with its apocalyptic event.  (A cyber-attack destroys the technological infrastructure of America and possibly the world.)  Indeed, this catastrophe doesn’t even truly drive the plot — it’s more of a background subplot that fails to even affect the tone of the film.  (The poster you see below is misleading.)

Instead, the film scrutinizes the personal lives of a group of thirtyish college alumnae who have an informal reunion at a mountain cabin — one of their number is a plot-convenient intellectual-turned-survivalist.  They’re portrayed by an (admittedly quite good) ensemble cast.  I think a lot of my friends would smile at “Gotham’s” Jim Gordon (Ben Mckenzie) being a rather meek, feckless husband.  And Caroline Dhavernas here is no longer the alpha female we saw in NBC’s “Hannibal,” but is rather an insecure, overly sensitive young wife who immaturely pines that she was the student “everyone hated.”

And there lies a problem that the movie has … few of these characters are terribly likable.  Only Gaby Hoffmann’s surprisingly tough civil servant made me root for her.  And Kerry Bishe’s perfectly performed, chatty neo-hippy eccentric was also pretty cool … Bishe might have given the best performance in the film.  Finally, Linc Hand is a surprise standout, arriving halfway through in a menacing supporting role.  It’s a far smaller role, but damn if he doesn’t nail it.  (Please, Netflix, cast this guy as Bullseye in Season 3 of “Daredevil.”)

The others all seem either self-absorbed, self-righteous and preachy, or inscrutable and vaguely dumb.  Dhavernas’ character actually steals a child’s teddy bear (which she herself had brought as a gift) and … sets it free in the forest.  It was a belabored character metaphor when written.  Worse, it just seems jarringly weird when it plays out on the screen.

All the characters seem strangely detached about the watershed national or global crisis. Some cursory dialogue is devoted to the imagined welfare of their family, colleagues or other friends; the character interaction is devoted mostly to  marriage issues and personal emotional crises that I have mostly forgotten as of this writing.  And those seem maudlin and slightly selfish compared to the Fall of the United States.  The characters mostly failed at engendering viewer sympathy in me.

The screenwriters’ juxtaposition of personal matters and the end of the world also seemed tone deaf.  We follow what the writers hope are educated, successful and endearingly quirky fun people, and we’re asked to worry about their love triangles and spousal communication issues.  But … we’re then asked to view this in the context of a pretty frightening collapse of society, complete with plot elements that are interchangeable with those of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”  (One secondary character turns violent over the issue of resources, then charismatically justifies his violence to  a crowd using a half-baked ideology that seems to channel “The Governor.”)

I felt like I was watching two movies at once, and not in a good way.  The opening motif is brilliantly creepy — the virus causes cell phones everywhere to receive a text reading the titular “Goodbye World.”  Our laconic, uniformly telegenic protagonists kinda just shrug at it.  And even when suspicions arise in the group about whether one character is connected to the cyber-attack, there is dry, dialogue-driven humor instead of any real consequent tension.  It was like John Hughes wrote a thirtysomething dramedy, but then tried unsuccessfully to sprinkle in the human pathos of one of George A. Romero’s more pessimistic zombie films.

But don’t get me wrong.  This wasn’t even really a bad movie.  I didn’t hate it.  It held my interest, its actors gave good performances, and I am a shameless fan of Dhavernas in particular.  The cinematography was very good too, and the story’s tonal differences were occasionally interesting.  (This is definitely a unique end-of-the-world tale, if nothing else.)

I’d honestly give “Goodbye World” a 7 out of 10.  I think my expectations sitting down with it were just unusually high, seeing Dhavernas attached to what looked like an independent, cerebral, apocalyptic science fiction thriller.  I might even recommend it if you’re in the mood for a really unusual doomsday movie.  Just don’t expect “28 Days Later” (2002) or “The Divide” (2012), and you might like this.





Most poorly crafted pickup line ever?

I might have stuck with the “Do you think I could have a plum?” approach he took when he first met Reba.  It was a surprisingly effective icebreaker.

And the dude only says “UHHHHHHHH” at the dinner table.  You could say he gets by on looks, but … she’s blind.

Also … THORIN GOT TALL.  And somehow even grouchier.


“Hannibal” was cancelled.

It looks as though this third season … MIGHT be its last.  There seems to be a lot of speculation out there about whether a fourth season may be possible via streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime.  I myself can’t tell if I should be optimistic … apparently if NBC cancelled the show early this season, the producers “have time” to shop for another carrier?

They say that the show has a fervent cult following, but no wide audience.  I’m forced to admit that this makes sense to me — the program’s gore probably turned off some viewers; its unexpectedly slow pacing (which allowed for a cerebral script) probably lost even more.



Did NBC’s “Hannibal” reference Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” series?!









This could be overeager nerd eisigesis, but something jumped out at me immediately in the second episode of this summer’s “Hannibal.”

When Will Graham greets Abigail Hobbes at the beginning, he wonders about “some other world.”

The doomed young Abigail responds:  “I’m having a hard enough time dealing with this world.  I hope some of the other worlds are easier.”

That’s “worlds,” plural — not “another world” or “the next world.”  It sounds a hell of a lot like the doomed Jake Chambers’ famous line towards the end of “The Gunslinger,” before he falls to his fate:  “Go then.  There are other worlds than these.”

Graham goes on the discuss string theory: “Everything that can happen, happens.”  This dovetails perfectly with the idea of the nearly infinite parallel universes that comprise different levels of “The Tower.”

Then other story parallels occurred to me:

1)  Both Abigail and Jake are children of surrogate fathers who are on a crusade (Graham’s pursuit of Hannibal Lecter, the Gunslinger’s quest for The Tower).

2)  Both are specialized, cold-blooded killers by training (Abigail’s bizarre tutelage by her serial killer biological father, Jake’s training by the Gunslinger).

3)  Both are willingly sacrificed by their surrogate fathers.  (NBC’s show makes it clear that Hannibal is also a father figure to Abigail.)

4)  Both characters were sacrificed by the show’s/book’s title character.

5)  The memories of both haunt the stories’ protagonists as a recurring motif.  Both appear to drive the heroes insane.

6)  Both characters are ostensibly dead at some point, and then are quasi-resurrected by a surprise plot device.  (Abigail has been secreted away by Hannibal; Jake is returned from a parallel universe to which he was consigned.)

7)  The loss of both characters are tied to themes of forgiveness.  (Jake forgives the Gunslinger for letting him fall; Graham explicitly forgives Hannibal for Abigail’s loss as part of the show’s overarching theme.)

It would be fun and perfectly viable to imagine that the show’s events transpire on a “level” of The Tower.  The differing continuities of the original books and feature films could even comprise other levels.  King makes it clear that “twinners” are character analogs living in different universes.

But I am probably just imagining things.  I also thought that Hannibal’s reference to his “person suit” in this season’s first episode was a reference to “Donnie Darko” (2001): “Why do you wear that silly man suit?”  And, in retrospect, that seems like a coincidence.

a80a802b2baea0ead4b2b8ce1e020d82          The_Gunslinger

Can anyone spare a Dolarhyde? Because I’m a little short.

First look at “Hannibal” Season 3!!!


I am depending on you people to watch this show, so that it remains on the air.  You guys already failed to come through for me on “The Following,” and now Ryan Hardy will no longer be able to save us from serial killers — which, in “The Following’s” universe, are about as common in the population as Justin Bieber fans (and even more terrifying).

I am sorry to gush so much like a fanboy for “Hannibal,” but if everyone else is going so bananas for “Star Wars,” I figure my ardor here is forgivable.  If it redeems me any, I was also a huge fan of the books.  So … y’know … literature and stuff.

Here are a few quick thoughts:

1)  The Season 3 preview looks great, but it IS rather heavy on spoilers regarding who survived the Baltimore massacre.  (Am I mistaken in thinking the second season finale meant to keep that a mystery?  ALL the advance press does this — including character posters.)

2)  I’m happy to see that Hannibal Lecter is NOT actually married to Bedelia (I won’t attempt to spell the remainder of her name), because that would contradict his character incredibly.

3)  It looks as though NBC shot on location in Europe.  Isn’t that really expensive for a TV show to do?

4)  I’m confused about whether the story takes place in Paris or Florence (as in Thomas Harris’ original novel).

5)  Seeing Will Graham speak in a British accent causes me cognitive dissonance.   I get the same thing whenever I see Andrew Lincoln or Hugh Laurie in interviews.  Because Rick Grimes should not sound like James Bond.

6)  It looks as though they are heavily (and wisely) referencing the novels again.  The line, “I’ve killed hardly anybody during our residence,” paraphrases Harris’ “Hannibal.”

7)  No Clarice Starling … and maybe not ever.  NBC does not own the rights to that character.

8)  Whether or not Bedelia condones or participates in Hannibal’s crimes is left ambiguous.  This is something that seems forced and implausible to me.  (Viewers should know if she’s dirty or not.)  This is despite the fact that Gillian Anderson  is a great actress with great delivery of ambiguous dialogue.  Yes, I do understand that both characters are supposed to be brilliant, and can trade cryptic comments and understand each other perfectly.  But would this happen all the time?  Wouldn’t Bedlia, just once, look over and say, “You know, I’m not on board with all this killing and stuff?”

9)  Shot for shot, the preview here is heavily reminiscent of Brett Ratner’s film, “Red Dragon” (2002).

10)  The “Red Dragon” storyline is indeed happening; we just won’t see it right away.  Actor Richard Armitage looks great.  They will return to Baltimore if Francis Dolarhyde is a baddie — this would also explain why we see actors portraying Baltimore residents in past seasons.

11)  No Inspector Pazzi, despite Florence being referenced.

12)  Mason Verger returns.  He looks different.  Because WHEN ANIMALS ATTACK.

13)  Some of my Mommy friends have young children who occasionally will lose a baby tooth.  I suggest that this is a great family-friendly program with which to introduce to them the story of “The Tooth Fairy.”


My review of NBC’s “Revolution”

Blogging some of my past tv reviews from Facebook — this was my lukewarm response to “Revolution.”  


The pilot of “Revolution” (2012) gets the high-concept sci-fi series off to a really good start — it’s smart, interesting, and it’s got a pretty original premise. (This is not a story about an electromagnetic pulse – the globe loses all electricity because of some other unexplained phenomenon.) I’d give it an 8 out of 10.

There’s a nice amount of pathos and action, including a clever use of a bottle of liquor in the pilot. There’s also some really good special effects depicting a post-apocalyptic world. (I can’t tell what is CGI and what is a matte painting, but it all works.) The script is damned good, including an awesome surprise at the end that I never saw coming, but which makes perfect sense.

Two things worry me about the show’s chances for success. One, the premise is interesting … for a miniseries. Or for one season of a television show. Or for maybe two seasons. After that, can we really remain interested in watching an agrarian society? Wouldn’t it just basically be “Game of Thrones” with a few firearms thrown in and a lot of obsolete machines lying around?

Two, this is a character-centric “soft” science fiction show with an overarching mystery, obviously inspired by the success of “LOST.”. Which is awesome. Except, since “LOST,” shows like that rarely survive long on network television. “V” was deservedly short-lived, as was the superior “Flash-Forward.” Yes, “The Walking Dead” is a big hit, but that’s really more an episodic horror show, and it’s free to do more things because it’s not an a major network. For whatever reasons, programs like “Revolution” just don’t seem to last very long.

By the way – if anyone recognizes the Dad, and can’t remember where they know him from … the actor’s name is Tim Guinee. He played the unfortunate hospital orderly in “Blade” (1998). That was bugging me like crazy until I looked it up.