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The Pacific

June 7, 2010 Leave a comment

Watching the ten part HBO mini series “The Pacific” was alot like going on a date with a girl you knew from grade school. You’re kind of familiar with the story, the appearance, and it’s kind of obvious how the whole evening is going to end, but you want to be there as it plays out.

Produced by Dreamworks SKG and Playtone Productions, this is a collaboration between Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg (very far removed) to tell the story of the United States Marine Corps. during the Pacific theater during WWII. It was reported to be the equivalent of HBO’s Band of Brothers in scope, story, and character. Of course this reporting was done by Time Magazine, whose parent company owns both the magazine and HBO so the bias certainly plays a part. Yet, they weren’t wrong about a number of other series that debuted on HBO so why should we doubt them here?

Well, I probably should have, a younger version of me once poured over every book he could get his hands on regarding the PTO (Pacific Theater of Operations), from island hopping of the USMC, the battles of Midway, Solomon, and the Leyte Gulf to the operations in China and the insane levels of genocide the Japanese committed that rarely get mentioned in anyone but China’s text books. I was pretty well versed in the evens that were going to happen. The idolized Marines raising the flag over Iwo Jima (even though the famous picture was staged) inspired and still inspires many people so it was with anticipation that I waited for the series to come out.

After viewing the last of the ten parts I can say that it was mediocre, which disappoints giving us a cycle of the series endlessly falling lower and lower because my expectations were so high. The sets and battles look as authentic as pictures from the era would allow, the acting was pretty decent, but ultimately the characters and the pacing destroyed the series.

The characters, while based on real Marines with real service records are pretty interchangeable. On one hand it’s laudable that they did away with the stereotypical characters that populate every war movie (Sgt. psycho, the stoic, the coward, the texan, etc.) on the other hand they didn’t do much to give the characters personality or get us attached to them. Which shouldn’t have been that difficult being based on actual people. The main problem they had, was in getting rid of characters for several episodes or focusing on later additions to the cast. Band of Brothers succeeded in giving us four primary characters, several secondary, but then following them throughout the whole war. The Pacific spent the entire first episode introducing us to about six people and then removing two of them in the second episode, by the fourth they were giving us new ones and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to learn their names (as one Sgt. later in the series comments in regard to the replacements that have arrived).

The other problem is pacing. The series moves way too quickly, introducing us to the battles of the Pacific but never letting us see their resolution. This happens an astounding number of times, in fact every battle from Guadalcanal to Iwo Jima is shown only at the inception. The next episode, is merely the Marines moving from that victory (which, again, we do not see them earn) to the next quagmire. It would be less frustrating if we didn’t hear time and time again about how stiff the Japanese resistance was and how the determined enemy was fighting to the last literal man. Being blind to these events we just have to take their word for it. Which is a shame because the openings of these battles is so well done and orchestrated it’s hard to believe that the same country that planned these snafus could then recreate them so flawlessly. For example, the resolution of the battle of Iwo Jima is simply a narration by Tom Hanks commenting on how it was the only battle of the theater were the Americans lost more lives than the Japanese, but ironically this was the battle that seemed the easiest by its portrayal.

It’s really too bad, because the idea and the obvious care that the mini-series was put together with could have made it something greater than it turned out to be. Perhaps it was the limiting number of episodes, but then again Band of Brothers accomplished its goal with the same time line. Only in the series mediocrity can it be said to be bad, but it will end as good filler material on the History Channel in between something about Truckers and something about Doomsday.

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Categories: reviews, television review

Sawyer Said it Best

March 11, 2010 2 comments

Well, he didn’t actually say it. It was the shrug of his shoulders and the quiet reservation in which he followed Locke that showed one character on the show finally just giving up any remnant of surprise at the things the show throws at him. I asked for this waaaaay back in 2008, I wanted a character to do this.

I waited on this post because the people who care will already know what I am talking about, with television shows I have figured on a two week waiting period to avoid “white fonting” spoilers along with gratuitous spoiler alert. I’m just coming out with it, as I said earlier if you cared you would have already seen it by now.

In the previous season Locke had died, everyone knew he had died, but by the end of that season he was miraculously back alive. Everyone on the Island, from all camps, had expressed surprise at this which is indicative of their apparent lack of memory. Everyone that is, aside from Sawyer. Locke approached Sawyer and asked him to come accompany him on his new quest, but it isn’t Locke. Sawyer could see this and he reluctantly agrees after coming to tentative terms with the loss of his wife from the past.

Locke asks Sawyer if he wanted to know how it was that he was inhabiting the body of his deceased acquaintance and Sawyer shrugs. He doesn’t care. Which is nice because finally someone did it and I knew it was going to be him. The godhand of the series has thrown just about everything at them from actually moving the Island from one place to another with no notable change in climate, time travel, a crazy black pillar of smoke that kills people, to it’s unwillingness to allowing certain people to die, and yet in the long run people still get surprised, which is ludicrous.

Not to say that they shouldn’t be awed by something like an old clipper ship on the top of a mountain, or lack an expression of wonderment at the odd sighting of a polar bear on a tropical island, or the fact that certain people seem to be stuck at the same age no matter what the year but surprise is the realization of the unexpected. At this point in the series, the main characters or any of the other supporting characters shouldn’t be clinging to any notions of a fixed reality that existed before they first landed there.

The things that should surprise them are when the dead stay dead or if what appears to be a huge coincidence is actually a huge coincidence and not the machinations of some group or demi-god like person.

This season, being the last, is bound to disappoint. I don’t say this with hope laden spite, in fact I do wish it to be one of the few times that I am wrong. Since the series has pretty much ended any chance of a cop out time loop ending, answering the mysteries without adding to them is going to be a let down for the people that have been following this show since the beginning. This is going to be like the Seinfeld finale, the expectations are so great that it must fail…which is why I never saw the Abrams produced Cloverfield. Again, though, hopefully I am wrong about this but in the waft of my mind I can’t even begin to guess what a satisfactory ending would even look like. Then again, maybe that’s a good thing.

Categories: reviews, television review

Lost?

May 21, 2009 Leave a comment

In 2003, James Foley released a movie called “Confidence,” it didn’t do well at the box office but it received some critical acclaim. Enough to warrant an interview on NPR, and with some news agencies which basically relegated it to the category of “things I’m supposed to like but will never watch/read/hear.” I recommend the movie as it has good acting, a great story, and nice cinematography.

The reason I bring the movie up is because director James Foley said in one of those interviews that, “you can’t cheat your audience.” In other words, if there is a mystery or a secret or a con (the movie is called Confidence) that the audience should be able to piece it together. The story shouldn’t rely on a deus ex machina to come in and fill up the plot holes. For instance, if Keyser Soze in “The Usual Suspects” turned out to be some character we never met in the film or some character that we saw die that would be bullshit. Instead, rewatching the movie you can see subtle clues that become obvious when you know the ending. Same thing with Fight Club. Or take a movie that violates the rule: The Fast and the Furious (the original).

In that movie, Paul Walker is trying to locate a group of hijackers among the street racing underground. The entire movie points to the Japanese gang, in fact you would have to be an idiot not to think it: they have a warehouse full of electronics, all of their cars are easily the most expensive, and they carry around silenced submachine guns. Are they the carjackers? No, Vin Diesel and crew are, a point that is completely out of the blue as they work at a garage (thus can afford their vehicles which aren’t too fancy) and own a restaraunt.

What’s the point of this tirade? The plot reveal in the season finale of Lost was complete bullshit. Spoiler Alert although you have had a week and if you cared you would have seen it by now.

Ever since we were introduced to the idea that Benjamin Linus was taking orders from someone named “Jacob,” we have wondered who he was. We have also wondered why it was that Richard never seemed to age, and also how Locke came back from the dead (Of course they also through the red herring of calling him “Jeremy Bentham,” which turned out to be completely inconsequential). All of this stemming from the mysterious Jacob. Then there was also the complete mystery of the giant stone foot and why it only had four toes.

The genius of Lost is that it throws out questions that seemingly have no answer. Yet, all the big questions have answers that seem to tie in to someone or some event in the already established plot. Then we meet Jacob, worse than that we meet his rival…and we see the full statue of the Egyptian god Sobek (at least I think, I couldn’t tell if it was a Jackal head or a crocodile head I’m going with the latter). Jacob is marked for death, but for some reason his rival can’t kill him he needs to work around the rules searching for loophole. Locke wasn’t Locke, he was the other guy, something that doesn’t make any sense and is completely out of the blue, much like the Eagles in Tolkien.

I’m glad the next season is the last season, because it means that nothing new can be added in order to frustrate the viewer who puts moderate thought into figuring out the puzzles. I guess it means that Claire and Jack’s father are gone gone, which was a pretty big “clue” that we were cheated into paying attention to. I suppose the next season will end with Osiris reading the book of the Dead.