I Saw That!

One woman's opinions about popular entertainment.

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Amateur boxing coach, Christian (but not so heavenly-minded that I'm no earthly good) singer, writer, self-defense advocate, childfree. feminist www.smartwomenboxingtraining.org

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The King's Speech (2010)

The Duke of York (Colin Firth) has a stuttering problem that has vexed him for years.  His dad, King George V (Michael Gambon), has been pressing him to make more public speeches.  The Duke's wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), using an alias, enlists the services of a speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) to help her husband.  Logue is nervous when he learns whom he's really dealing with, but his trepidation is soon replaced by a determination to help.

The Duke of York is not on board with Logue initially.  He thinks he's stuck with his stuttering.  But then King George V passes on, and the Duke's older brother Edward (Guy Pearce) is crowned king.  But Edward's plan to marry Wallis Simpson (Eve Best), an American divorcee, forces him to make a choice between duty and love.  Edward chooses Wallis, and the Duke of York becomes King George VI, a position he never thought he'd have.  In addition, World War II is looming on the horizon, and England needs a leader that will stand up to the threat -- and someone the people can stand behind.  It becomes more important that the new king know how to communicate effectively.

This is a warm story about two men who met out of need and slowly grew a lasting friendship out of the encounter.  I loved how Logue was firm but fair towards King George VI, who was used to living in a world where everyone bowed and scraped before him.  I also liked how Ms. Carter played Queen Elizabeth as a quietly strong woman who had her husband's best interest at heart.  Timothy Spall, who plays Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter films, makes a good Winston Churchill in this film. 

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

"Honey West" (ABC; 1965-1966)

Honey West was heralded as "the leading female fictional character in the world" according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.  The feisty female detective was the heroine of several novels written in the 1950s and 1960s by G.G. Fickling (the pen name of husband and wife team Forrest and Gloria Fickling).  Producer Aaron Spelling ("The Love Boat", "Beverly Hills 90210") brought the character to TV.

Honey (Anne Francis) shared a home with her Aunt Meg (Irene Hervey) and a pet ocelot named Bruce.  Her partner was Sam Bolt (John Erickson), a guy who backed her up, worried about her, and admonished her whenever he thought she took too many chances.  Honey had taken over the detective agency that her late father had run.  Each episode featured her getting into some dire situation and Sam coming to her rescue -- but not before she had gotten in a few licks on the bad guys and girls herself.  Honey was first seen on an episode of "Burke's Law" (1963-1966).

The series only lasted a year.  Low ratings probably had something to do with it, but I'd like to think American audiences weren't ready for a show with a female detective as the lead.  Fortunately, it did not stop the ones who came after Honey West, including the women of "Charlie's Angels" -- another show that Aaron Spelling would bring to TV in the following decade. 


"The Green Hornet" (ABC; 1966-1967)

Britt Reid (Van Williams) owned a newspaper and a television station; he inherited the media outlets from his late dad.  In his spare time, he fought crime in the guise of The Green Hornet, aided by Kato (Bruce Lee), his butler.  They sped around down in a tricked out car called the Black Beauty.  The law considered the duo criminals.  District Attorney Scanlon (Walter Brooke) and Reid's secretary Casey (Wende Wagner) knew The Green Hornet's real identity.  Hard-nosed reporter Mike Axford (Lloyd Gough), who worked at Reid's newspaper, had no clue. 

Producer William Dozier also produced "Batman", which premiered the same year.  "The Green Hornet" was closer to being a straight crime drama than "Batman" was.  Unlike the latter, the hero relied very little on gadgets and gizmos.  He was good with his fists and besides, he had a good backup in Kato, who was well trained in martial arts (in real life, Bruce Lee was a martial arts champion).  The criminals involved in the plots were not as flamboyant and outlandish.  Both shows started off as ratings hits, but it didn't take long for the gimmick to wear off.  "The Green Hornet" disappeared after a season, and "Batman" limped along for another season before fading into TV history.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Lights Out" (2011)

The first shot is of heavyweight boxer Patrick "Lights" Leary (Holt McCallany) laying on a table in a locker room.  He's out cold and his face looks like ground hamburger.  His wife Theresa (Catherine McCormack) revives him, and tends to his wounds.  Lights has just finished a brutal fight, and he tells his wife he was robbed of the victory.  Theresa agrees, but she can't take seeing her husband take the punishment anymore.  She tells him to forego the ring or she's leaving him.

Fast forward five years.  Lights has retired from boxing, and life appears to be good.  His family lives in a sprawling house, Theresa has been accepted to a medical residency, and their three daughters are in private school.  Lights owns a boxing gym where his dad, Pops (Stacy Keach) continues to train boxers.  On the surface, things look fine, but there are cracks in the foundation.  Lights' brother Johnny (Pablo Schreiber) is Lights' manager, and money problems are piling up.  A real estate deal has fallen through, the gym is not generating much income, and Lights is calling out numbers at bingo games to earn extra funds.  The IRS comes to check the books, and the financial problems increase.  A loan shark, Hal Brennan (Bill Irwin) is offering Lights big money to be a "collector" of debts, something he doesn't want to do.  On top of everything else, Lights learns he has signs of pugulistic dementia, and his time of continuing to be of sound mind may be cut short. 

Lights still replays the last fight with Death Row Reynolds (Billy Brown) in his mind.  He was only champ for a few months, but he misses the rush of the battle. He misses being known as someone.  Lights is struggling with an identity crisis, while dealing with other problems in his world.  This was a well put together drama that played like a movie.

Unfortunately, it was not meant to last.  FOX canceled "Lights Out" after one season.  Before it ended, Brennan and underhanded fight promoter Barry K. Word (Reg E. Cathey) had banded together to fuel Lights' rematch with Reynolds.  However, their alliance was very uneasy, and it was unclear whether Brennan really had good intentions towards Lights.  Lights, Johnny and their sister Margaret's (Elizabeth Marvel) had returned after years of estrangement under the guise of wanting to reconnect with family.  Her real goal was to fleece Lights out of money to support her and a ne'er do well boyfriend.  Lights replaced his dad as trainer with another trainer who seemed to be a loose cannon, and who had a connection with Reynolds.  There was tension between Lights and Theresa because of his return to boxing and their financial woes, which led to a brief separation.  It was also revealed that Theresa came to America to escape a scandal caused by her father, a doctor who had embezzled money.

Lights and Reynolds faced each other in the ring.  The referee made some bad calls on Lights while allowing Reynolds to get away with infractions.  It appeared that the referee had been told to give Lights a hard time -- but by who?  Brennan or Word?  Plus, Brennan was seen telling the ringside doctor to ignore Lights' injuries in order to keep the fight going.  The fight turned into a bloody war, with Lights beating Reynolds to a pulp and asking the referee, "Are you going to stop this?"  Lights regained the heavyweight title. 

Theresa found Lights wandering around the stadium sometime later and told him it was time to face the reporters who wanted a story.  Confused, Lights asked his wife, "Who won?"  Did Lights' pugalistic dementia take a turn for the worse?  Unfortunately, fans of the show will never find out.

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