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Your Hawaiian vacation of pop culture






WINTER 2015-16  Written and Edited by Dr. Mike Rickard

The recent blockbuster release, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is an undeniable financial success, having broken box office records domestically and internationally.  What can be said of the film's critical success?  More importantly, now that the Star Wars franchise is out of the hands of its creator, George Lucas, what duty, if any, does Disney have, to maintain a certain level of creativity?  While Disney is in the entertainment business, that does not mean that their product has to be a pale imitation of the original.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens is commercial film-making at its worst.

Mystery writer Raymond Chandler once commented, "I don't particularly care for the hard boiled babies, because most of them are traveling on borrowed gas, and I don't think you have any right to do that unless you can travel a little further than the man from whom you borrowed the gas." Chandler epitomized this.  He wrote hard-boiled mysteries, following in the footsteps of Dashiell Hammett (who pioneered hard-boiled detective fiction) but taking the genre to new heights. 

To Live and Die in L.A. : Neo-Noir Was the Case
          After Star Trek 's cancellation cancelled, William Shatner kept busy by guest starring on TV shows.  One of the most interesting was when he appeared on Hawaii Five-O in the fifth season episode "You Don't Have to Kill to Get Rich…But It Helps".  When I heard about this prospect, I jumped at the thought of seeing TV's Captain Kirk and supercop Steve McGarrett go mano y mano.

        While the episode provides a surprising lack of interaction between Messieurs Shatner and Lord, it is still a very entertaining episode, especially for fans of the Shat.  In this edition of Five-O, the Shat plays Sam Tolliver, a good 'ol boy private investigator who comes to Hawaii after his rich friend becomes the victim of an elaborate blackmail scheme.  The blackmailers operate under the auspices of a corporation named Veritech, and use computers to help them in finding rich targets who are easy prey.

        Doing as only he can do, the Shat arranges things so the blackmailers think that he is a rich businessman.  After he lets himself become ensnared in the blackmailer's web, he turns the table on them by videotaping one of their agents trying to shake him down for money.  The Shat then confronts the blackmailers at their headquarters and demands a piece of the action (not to be confused with the Star Trek episode "A Piece of the Action").


The Force Awakens: Driving Around in Circles on Borrowed Gas
Kirk vs. McGarrett: The Tale of the Toupees

With the current trend of superheroes in television and film, it's inevitable that some clunkers are going to be produced.  The recent Fantastic Four debacle proves that people will not watch anything just because it's based on a comic book.  CBS' rookie program Supergirl became the subject of much talk over the summer with people predicting it was going to be a major flop.  Now that the show has made it to the mid-season mark, how does it hold up?  Despite some flaws in the show, Supergirl is entertaining in a "check your brain at the door" kind of way, and shows potential to be a nice change of pace from the current crop of superhero shows.

William Friedkin's 1985 film To Live and Die in L.A. is not only a terrific crime film but a true neo-noir film. The film contains noir stylistic elements such as shadows and symbols like Venetian blinds; it features fatal women and fatal men; and most of all, it features the city as spectacle, with Los Angeles seen as a corrupting labyrinth from which there is no escape.

The 1980's saw the return of noir.  Labeled neo-noir, Body Heat was seen as the film that heralded noir's return, but with new elements (however as Foster Hirsh argues in Lost Highways and Detours, the differentiating elements of neo-noir are difficult to pin down).  While some critics argue that noir went dormant after 1959's Touch of Evil, one can argue that 1960's films such as Harper, The Manchurian Candidate, Marlowe, and Point Blank; and 1970's films such as The Parallax View, The Conversation, Chinatown, and Taxi Driver prove otherwise.  In any event, many critics point to the 1980's as when noir returned in force, beginning with the 1981 film Body Heat.  If Body Heat began neo-noir, L.A. showed just how much the genre had to offer.


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Supergirl- Mindless Fun You Won't Mind
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Copyright 2014-2018 by Dr. Mike Rickard