Saturday, October 15, 2016
Below are images from Season One of the BBC America series "COPPER". Created by Tom Fontana and Will Rokos, the series stars Tom Weston-Jones, Kyle Schmid and Ato Essandoh:
"COPPER" SEASON ONE (2012) Photo Gallery
Friday, October 7, 2016
"TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY" (1979) Review
I would have never thought about watching the BBC's television adaptation of John le Carré's 1974 novel if I had not seen the 2011 version. Never. For some reason, I have never been that inclined to read his novels or watch any movie or television adaptations of his work. But after seeing Tomas Alfredson's movie, I had to see this version that starred Alec Guinness.
Unlike the 2011 movie, this "TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY" was set around the time the miniseries aired, since the Cold War was still in full swing. You know the story. The head of SIS (MI-6 in real life), Control, sends agent Jim Prideaux to Czechoslovakia to meet a Czech general who claims to have information identifying a deep-cover Soviet spy planted in the highest echelons of "Circus" (the nickname for the SIS headquarters). "Operation Testify" proves to be a trap when Prideaux is shot and captured by the Soviets. Due to the mission's failure, both Control and his right-hand man, George Smiley, are forced to retire.
But when Ricky Tarr, a British agent gone missing in Portugal, turns up in England with new evidence backing up Control's mole theory, Smiley is recalled to find the mole. He learns from Oliver Lacon, who oversees the country's intelligence services, that Control had four suspects occupying high positions in SIS - Percy Alleline (who assumed the position as the Circus' new head), Toby Esterhase, Bill Haydon and Roy Bland. Smiley, with the help of Peter Twiliam (who happens to be Tarr's immediate supervisor), instigates a secret investigation of Operation Testify to learn the name of the mole, nicknamed "Gerald".
To compare a seven-part television miniseries with a motion picture with a running time just barely over two hours seems just a bit too ridiculous to me. Instead, I will merely talk about the former. And what can I say about "TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY"? It was a first-rate production that deserved all of the accolades it had received three-three to thirty-four years ago. Instead of the usual action-dominated spy stories that have spilled out of Hollywood and the British film industries since the first James Bond movies, "TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY" felt like an well-paced Cold War mystery that featured a good deal of excellent acting, dramatic moments and perhaps the occasional action scene or two on the side.
Too many flashbacks can be deadly to a story or a production. But when said production is basically a mystery, flashbacks can be effectively used. Director John Irvin and screenwriter Arthur Hopcraft certainly used the miniseries' flashbacks with great dramatic effect - aside from one particular flashback. The most effective flashback - at least for me - proved to be the back story regarding of Ricky Tarr's affair with Irina, the wife of a Moscow Center intelligence official, in Portugal. This affair leads to Tarr's discovery of new evidence supporting Control's theory of a high-ranking Soviet mole in the Circus. Another flashback that I found interesting proved to be Sam Collins' recollection of the night when news of Jim Prideaux's capture reached the Circus.
The single flashback that failed to resonate with me proved to be Smiley's recollection of his brief meeting with his nemesis, KGB operative-turned-official Karla, during the 1950s. Although the scene featured an excellent performance from Alec Guinness as Smiley and a strong screen presence in the form of a smoldering Patrick Stewart as Karla, the brief scene nearly put me to sleep. I would have been satisfied with a verbal recollection from Smiley. And there were two sequences that I found either unnecessary or disappointing. I found the sequence featuring Prideaux's trip to Czechoslovakia. I realize that both Irvin and Hopcraft's script tried to convey this entire sequence as intriguing action scene. It did not work for me. Considering that most of the sequence was shot at night, I found it rather dull. And it came as a relief when the miniseries moved on to Smiley's recruitment into Operation Testify. Smiley's capture of "Gerald" in the last episode struck me as unsatisfying and anti-climatic. And while watching the miniseries, I realized that one needs a great deal of patience to watch it. I had no problem with its length, but I did find Irvin's pacing rather slow at times.
The performances featured in "TINKER, TAILOR, SOLIDER, SPY" struck me as outstanding. I have already commented on Patrick Stewart's brief, yet strong silent presence as Karla in one scene. Siân Phillips' portrayal of Smiley's unfaithful wife, Ann, proved to be equally brief. Although the character was discussed in numerous scenes, Phillips did not appear long enough for me to be impressed by her performance. Terence Rigby's portrayal of one of the "Gerald" suspects - Roy Bland - seemed like a waste of time to me. Although Rigby gave a first-rate performance in one scene in which his character is interviewed by Smiley, he spent most of the production as a background character. I found this rather odd, considering his role as one of the major suspects. I also enjoyed the performances of John Standing, Joss Ackland, Alexander Knox and Michael Aldridge, who proved to be effectively smug as the new head of the Circus, Percy Alleline.
Ian Richardson was the last person I could imagine portraying the charming, yet acid-tongue womanizer, Bill Haydon. Yet, he really did a fabulous job in the role and it seemed a pity that he never portrayed similar characters, later in his career. I really enjoyed Ian Bannen's performance as disgraced agent, Jim Prideaux. But I must admit there were times when I found it a bit hammy . . . especially in those scenes in his new profession as a schoolmaster. Beryl Reid struck me as perfect in the role of former Circus intelligence analyst, Connie Sachs. She not only conveyed the character's intelligence, but also the latter's joie de vivre that had sadly dampened with time and a surprising job termination. Bernard Hepton's portrayal of mole suspect, Toby Esterhase, struck me as the most unusual role I have ever seen him portray. He was marvelous and slightly eccentric as the Hungarian immigrant who rose to the top echelon of the Circus by toadying to others. Hywel Bennett did a great job in his performance as field agent, Ricki Tarr, projecting both the character's emotions and trapped situation. Michael Jayston's portrayal of Smiley's protégé, Peter Guilliam, struck me as equally emotional. In fact, I found his performance so effective that there were times I found myself wondering if the character was suited for intelligence work. The top prize for best performance definitely belonged to Alec Guinness, for his portrayal of intelligence officer, George Smiley. With delicious subtlety, he did a superb job of conveying every aspect of Smiley's personality. To my knowledge, only five actors have portrayed Smiley either in the movies or on television. I believe that Guinness' portrayal is probably one of the two best interpretations I have come across.
"TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY" is not perfect. I believe it has a few flaws that included an unnecessary flashback, an unnecessary action sequence and some very slow pacing. But its virtues - an excellent story, first-rate use of flashbacks and some superb characters portrayed by a cast led by the legendary Alec Guinness - outweighed the flaws considerably. In my opinion, the 1979 miniseries might be one of the best television productions from the 1970s and 80s.
Saturday, September 24, 2016
Below is Part III of a list of my favorite episodes featuring "LOST" characters:
"LOST" (2004-2010): FAVORITE CHARACTER CENTRIC EPISODES - Part III
1. (1.10) "Raised By Another" - Claire endures a series of bad dreams of someone attacking her, which leads to Hurley checking the plane's passenger list. Flashbacks reveals Claire's discovery of her pregnancy and a psychic urging her not to hand over the baby for adoption.
2. (2.15) "Maternity Leave" - When Aaron becomes sick, Claire, Kate and Danielle Rousseau travel to where Claire was held captive, an abandoned Dharma medical station, in the hope of finding a cure. Flashbacks reveal her memories of being a captive of the Others.
1. (3.13) "The Man From Tallahassee" - Locke, Sayid, and Kate encounter the Others' homes for the first time and find Jack relatively happy amongst them. Flashbacks reveal how an encounter with his father left Locke paralyzed.
2. (5.07) "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham" - This episode featured Locke's efforts to reunite the Oceanic Six and return them to the island.
3. (1.04) "Walkabout" - Locke leads an expedition to hunt boars, which leads to his first encounter with the Smoke Monster. Flashbacks reveal that he was in a wheelchair before Oceanic 815's crash.
4. (1.19) "Ex Deus Machina" - While searching for a means to open the hatch, Locke discovers that he is losing sensation in his legs. And both he and Boone find a Beechcraft 18 teetering on the edge of a cliff. Flashbacks reveal Locke's first meetings with his parents.
1. (3.21) "Greatest Hits" - Desmond Hume has another vision of Charlie's death, but this time his death ultimately will result in Claire's rescue. Meanwhile, the survivors discover that an attack by the others is even more imminent than originally expected.
2. (1.15) "Homecoming" - Claire is back among the survivors, but still has no memory beyond the plane flight. Ethan confronts Charlie, threatening to kill the other castaways one by one until he gets Claire back, leading the former rock star to take action. In his flashbacks, Charlie tries to get drug money by stealing from a rich girl.
Hugo "Hurley" Reyes
1. (4.01) "The Beginning of the End" - Upon learning that Penny Widmore did not send the freighter to find Desmond, the survivors of Oceanic 815 split into two groups led by Jack and Locke. Hurley deals with being one of the "Oceanic Six" survivors in the flashforwards.
2. (1.18) "Numbers" - Hurley finds that some of Rousseau's documents contain the repeated numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42; the same numbers that he had used to win a lottery jackpot. Hurley sets off on his own to find Rousseau.
1. (3.22-3.23) "Through the Looking Glass" - Jack's plans to kill a group of Others bent on kidnapping some of the castaway women backfire. The episode also featured scenes of Jack spiraling in drugs and alcohol during his off-island life.
2. (6.14) "The Candidate" - Sawyer and Jack hatch a plan to divert the Man in Black's attention and leave the island without him on Widmore's submarine, but disastrous consequences await them. In the flash sideways, Jack investigates the cause of Locke's paralysis and offers treatment.
3. (1.11) "All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues" - Jack, Kate, Locke and Boone engaged in a search for Claire and Charlie, who had been kidnapped by Other spy Ethan Rom.
4. (2.11) "The Hunting Party" - Jack leads an expedition to search for Michael, who has left to find the kidnapped Walt. Flashbacks revealed the last days of Jack's marriage.
Monday, September 19, 2016
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the historical event known as the "Cuban Missile Crisis". Below are images from"THIRTEEN DAYS", the 2000 movie depicting the event. Directed by Roger Donaldson, the movie starred Kevin Costner, Bruce Greenwood and Steven Culp:
"THIRTEEN DAYS" (2000) Photo Gallery