E. R. Torre is a writer/artist whose first major work, the mystery graphic novel The Dark Fringe, was optioned for motion picture production by Platinum Studios (Men In Black, Cowboys vs. Aliens). At DC Comics, his work appeared in role-playing game books and the 9-11 Tribute book. This later piece was eventually displayed, along with others from the 9-11 tribute books, at The Library of Congress. More recently he released Shadows at Dawn (a collection of short stories), Haze (a murder mystery novel with supernatural elements), and Cold Hemispheres (a mystery novel set in the world of The Dark Fringe). He is currently hard at work on his latest science fiction/suspense series, Corrosive Knights, which features the novels Mechanic, The Last Flight of the Argus, and Chameleon.
One of the more fascinating things, after all this time writing this blog, is seeing what posts wind up being searched out by people and which aren’t. Some post I was certain would get multiple views long after being posted…and didn’t. Some I knew from the outset would be interesting for people for a limited time and were. And some I wrote thinking they’d have a very short shelf life and was surprised to find they had staying power and people kept searching them out long after they were posted.
I’d like to think this happens because whatever I wrote was so fascinating, so blindingly unique, so intellectually challenging that of course people would come back to revel in my oh-so-brilliant analysis.
The cold hard reality, alas, is that I was simply very, very lucky stumbling onto a topic that people out there found interesting. This then is one of those blogs that when I originally wrote it figured it would elicit some mild interest before fading away. Today, nearly two years later, it still draws some interest. From March of 2010, here’s my (mildly belated) review of a perplexing film called Anamorph.
So I’m feeling pretty damn sick over the weekend and, as the illness drains from my body and I’m feeling up for some light TV fare, I turn the television on and, on the IFC channel (or was it Sundance?!) a movie titled Anamorph begins. Instantly I’m thrown…the title of this 2007 film sounds like it belongs to a kiddie TV show you’d find lodged between G. I. Joe and The Transformers on some lazy Saturday morning. I watch on, realizing rather quickly that this movie is about as far from kiddie fare as you could imagine.
In fact, Anamorph turns out to be an ambitious, indeed overly ambitious film that can be accurately billed as something “inspired by” (or, if you’re less charitable ripping off) Se7en and Fight Club. However, lest I sound too critical right off the bat, the movie does feature plenty of food for thought on its very own, even if the influences mentioned are there.
Anamorph features Willem Defoe as Stan Aubray, a NY detective who is at the start of the film presented as an introverted oddball. He lectures at a school while (barely) still working at the Police Department. Five years ago he was involved in the notorious “Uncle Eddie” serial killer case, and it now appears “Uncle Eddie” might be back.
But things aren’t always what they seem…
The short review: The film is decent, well-acted, and keeps your interest through its run time. However, there are so many elements to the story that ultimately are never appropriately resolved and, thus, confuse the viewer that I can’t unequivocably recommend it. I suppose if what you’ve read so far has you intrigued, then give the film a whirl…just be prepared to not get tidy answers to all the questions posed.
Now, I’m going to get into the movie’s details, something I can’t do with giving a very clear…
Ok, here we go: I enjoy almost every type and genre of film. Science fiction, fantasy, suspense, thriller, horror, comedy, drama…you name it and there’s a good chance I can offer an example of a film in said genre I’ve enjoyed. Often, films in the various genres that make me think, or rather those that don’t spell everything out, are particularly intriguing. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a classic example of just that. There is little dialogue and much is left for the viewers to figure out. The same goes for Mulholland Dr., perhaps my favorite David Lynch film. I was absolutely confused by what was going on until we arrived at the audition scene. Suddenly, I understood what Mr. Lynch was doing, and the film became, at least to me, absolutely fascinating.
With Anamorph we start with what appears to be your typical serial killer movie scenario. Like Se7en, the serial killer is as brilliant as he is disturbed. Our serial killer poses his victim’s bodies in increasingly bizarre “scenes” that he creates. By making these elaborate scenes with the often grotesquely butchered bodies, our killer appears to be “talking” to his pursuers, bringing them into his insane world.
As mentioned before, “Uncle Eddie” first showed himself five years before. Through the course of the movie, we find that a group of cops, including Defoe’s Stan, investigated the case until they thought they knew who the killer was. They broke into this man’s house to arrest him and one of the cops, thinking the suspected “Uncle Eddie” was holding a gun (he wasn’t) shot him dead. Despite this, the police are convinced they had the right man. As if to prove the fact, the “Uncle Eddie” crimes suddenly ceased.
But, five years later, new victims appear and things become very muddy. In public and before the media, the police department is certain these new killings are the work of a “copycat”. In private, they appear less sure…Was Stan, the lead investigator in the original case, wrong in fingering who “Uncle Eddie” was? Did the five year old raid kill an innocent man? And if so, were these new killings the work of “Uncle Eddie”? But can we completely discount the possibility that we are dealing with a copycat? As the film moves along, there appears yet another question: What exactly happened to the last female victim of “Uncle Eddie” some five years before? Whatever it was, the young woman’s death and fleeting flashbacks the film shows suggest Stan and this woman had a very strong relationship.
What follows, in the present, are more victims, including one of the original officers on Stan’s group, and hidden messages in the scene of each crime. The term “anamorph”, as we find, relates to clues left behind by the killer. In this case, the killer is referring to old paintings that, when viewed head on, reveal an image. When looked at from another, sometimes severe angle, a hidden image within the painting becomes apparent. Our killer, as it turns out, is hiding clues in his artfully designed slaughters.
Given the hidden message concept, the viewer is thus clued in that we are dealing with hidden meanings in this movie, as well.
As the movie progresses, it becomes clear that Stan may have dirtier hands in this whole affair than is first apparent. To begin, and as mentioned before, he has flashbacks to the events of five years before, from the raid to the last murder attributed to “Uncle Eddie”, the young woman Stan had some kind of relationship to. In the flashback to that last murder, Stan arrives at the scene of the crime after the fact. The last victim lies on a dock beside the water. However, later in the film, Stan recounts to the woman’s friend that HE pulled her out of the water, that HE held her until she let out her last breath. Yet clearly in his earlier flashbacks Stan arrives AFTER she is removed from the water and well AFTER she’s dead. Adding further confusion to the whole thing is that later still in the film, Stan appears to have flashbacks of the woman being stabbed before falling into the water. The flashbacks, up to that moment, were personal to Stan. Were these flashbacks also Stan’s? Did HE kill the woman?
That implication seems to be the case. But where the film ultimately -and sadly- fails is that too much is left for the viewers to sort out, and details are left so vague that arguments can be made for too many alternatives. For example, one could assume that Stan had an affair with this woman, and it went sour while he was investigating the original “Uncle Eddie” crimes. Now (and I’m guessing here) it is possible, perhaps even probable, that Stan killed the woman and made it look like it was the work of “Uncle Eddie”. After all, his police task force already had an idea who “Uncle Eddie” was and were closing in on the killer. Stan, in this scenario, commits the “final” “Uncle Eddie” crime knowing the police (and he) will soon arrest the killer. After Stan commits this crime and his group raids the suspected “Uncle Eddie” house, the man is killed, thus “resolving” the crimes without anyone suspecting that Stan performed that last murder.
Sounds good…except that if this was indeed the case, then Stan, to cover his tracks, has to be the one to kill the suspected “Uncle Eddie” in the raid. After all, it is not in Stan’s interests that the man be taken alive. If he were, there would be the very real possibility that this man might admit to all his crimes yet (of course) deny having anything to do with that last killing. Once he does, and given Stan’s relationship with the last victim, wouldn’t the police begin to eye him as a suspect in that crime? Thus and as mentioned, Stan has to be the one to kill the suspected “Uncle Eddie” in the raid. He can’t just hope someone else does the deed. But the fact is that Stan DOES NOT kill the suspected “Uncle Eddie”. In fact, I didn’t even get the impression he was gunning for him during the raid at all. If anything, he seemed to be hanging back.
So the mind wanders again…Perhaps Stan IS “Uncle Eddie”, and the man who committed these new crimes IS a copycat “Uncle Eddie”, albeit one that knows Stan was the original. But that also doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The crimes are so damn elaborate that it seems impossible someone could simply “copy” something so extravagant. And, further, if Stan was the real “Uncle Eddie”, then wouldn’t he have figured out the copycat and his methodology a whole lot quicker? Add to the mix at least one character, an art dealer, who may or may not be a figment of Stan’s imagination and you’ve got even more confusion.
Still, despite all these criticisms, I admit the film kept me watching until its (very vague) ending. So, to reiterate, I cannot recommend this film to those seeking a movie that offers at least some sort of clear resolution to the plot presented. If you’re still curious to see the movie, do so. But this is one case where I can’t help but wish the filmmakers offered more solid clues as to what path they wanted the viewers to follow.
I’m of two minds with Mr. Gibson and his novels. I’ve read many of them, not all, and while I admire the hell out of how he writes (he creates some of the most incredible descriptive passages), I find I’m not always as big a fan of the actual stories he’s telling. The early ones, such as Neuromancer, were pulp inspired works that reminded me of similar stories in Heavy Metal magazine. His later works, the last one of which I read was Spook Country, feel like they could use more actual plot.
But, oh those descriptive passages!
One of my all time favorites examples of one of those descriptive passages that really turned my head appeared at the start of the second chapter of Spook Country:
The old man reminded Tito of those ghost-signs, fading high on the windowless sides of blackened buildings, spelling out the names of products made meaningless by time.
Incredible, incredible stuff. I wish I could write a passage as good as that one!
For what it’s worth, my favorite William Gibson book is a collaboration between he and author Bruce Sterling, The Difference Engine. If you have yet to try any of Mr. Gibson’s works and find the interview with him interesting, I highly recommend you give that book a try.
Once again reaching into my bag of old posts, this one is from December of 2009. I re-post it because very recently I also re-posted my thoughts on the Roger Moore Bond film Moonraker (read about that here) and decided to post my slightly more detailed opinions on all of Mr. Moore’s Bond films in light of an article from Entertainment Weekly. Re-post begins in 3…2…1…
This article ran a couple of weeks ago in Entertainment Weekly and is available to be viewed online:
To many, Sean Connery IS James Bond, but I have to admit, I’m not as hostile as some are regarding Roger Moore’s take on the character. He was certainly different in the role, and if there is some criticism to point out about his take on the character, it is that at times he seemed a little too suave and/or fancy to be a killer secret agent. But to me the Moore Bond film’s worst “sin” was that for each “good” one released it seemed to almost always follow that the next one would be mediocre or downright wretched.
For what it’s worth, my take on Mr. Moore’s Bond films.
The Best: For Your Eyes Only– Granted, those watching it for the first time today may feel it is tame, but I loved the stripped down -and non-gadgetry filled- plot. The stunt-work is also first rate. Only real debit is that Roger Moore was beginning to look a little old for the role. The Spy Who Loved Me – I suspect even those who don’t think much of Roger Moore’s Bond films like this one, a reworking/remake of You Only Live Twice (my least favorite Sean Connery Bond film). Unlike YOLT, the plot here was presented, in my opinion, far better than in the Connery vehicle. Jaws (Richard Kiel) makes for a truly memorable heavy. Only real debit is that Barbara Bach (the spy who loved him) turns out to be more of a damsel in distress than the deadly Russian spy she’s advertised to be. Certainly a sign of those times. I suspect if the film were remade today, her character would be far more independent and lethal. Live and Let Die – Moore’s first outing as Bond was one of the actor’s best. He appeared incredibly comfortable in the role, as if he had always been there. The plot is rather nonsensical (and some today might even argue borderline racist), but the action sequences (especially an escape from a pond filled with alligators that has to be seen to be believed) make this an enjoyable romp.
The Good-But-Not-Great Moore Bond: Octopussy – Roger Moore was looking very old by this point (this was his second to last outing as the super spy), but the film was nonetheless an enjoyable “let’s-hit-the-audience-with-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink” tongue-in-cheek action extravaganza…at least to me. On the other hand, I can’t argue too strenuously with those who view the film far less charitably. Again, I think its a decent -if not great- film.
The Worst Roger Moore Bond films: The Man With The Golden Gun – You would think that after the success of Live and Let Die the people behind and in front of the cameras would re-work their magic of the previous film, improve upon it, and give us an even better bang for our buck their second time out. You’d be wrong. TMWTGG is so lukewarm and forgettable that I’m still astonished the movie’s villain, Scaramanga, is played by the legendary Christopher Lee…and even he is not all that interesting. Worse, the final encounter between Bond and Scaramanga, something the film was building up to during its entire run time, winds up being too brief and incredibly anticlimactic. A major disappointment. Moonraker – Roger Moore’s worst Bond feature, although if you hunt around some of my previous posts, you’ll find that upon seeing it again recently, I had to admit the first twenty to thirty minutes of the film was not all that bad. The rest of it, alas, remains pretty dreadful. A View To A Kill– Moore’s last swing at Bond proves a strikeout. David Bowie (by now you must know how I feel about him) was at the time sought by the movie’s producers to play the villain, but when he backed out Christopher Walken (sporting a definite David Bowie “Let’s Dance”-era look) stepped in. Mr. Walken and Duran Duran’s theme song may be the only good thing about this weak, weak film, which also features one of the most nonsensical plots.
The eBook of Haze, my very first novel, is available for free starting today and going through January the 25 on Amazon.com. So, if you have a Kindle or read books via Kindle software on your mobile device, iPad, computer, etc., please take advantage of this offer:
Haze was my first attempt at writing a full novel and remains, to this day, my most personal work. When I first conceived of the story back in the early to mid-1990’s, I was going through some peculiar personal issues. I had graduated from College and was working at a hospital while trying to make a career in art/writing. I was also starting to work for an Independent Comic Book publisher as an inker, but even in those early days when sales were high I had a suspicion the ride wouldn’t last. Added to all that, I was also in the process of getting married and considering what I would ultimately make with my life.
And during that time, I caught a cold/flu that I just couldn’t get rid of. Usually when I catch something, my illness will last three or four days, tops. This one dragged on for a couple of weeks. By the time I was approaching the end of the second week of being dreadfully ill, I finally decided to see a Doctor (I was really sharp back then!). The Doctor heard what I was going through and promptly began a series of tests on me culminating in chest X-Rays. The Doctor feared I had developed Pneumonia.
Luckily, I hadn’t, but my condition was serious enough to be prescribed a regimen of medicines which eventually took out that cold/flu. Throughout that time I slept very badly and was like a zombie during my waking hours. Worse, my thoughts were increasingly discombobulated, to the point where I could barely concentrate on things at work or home.
One day after seeing the Doctor and while driving home from work, I spotted a bus on the side of the road. It was out of order and its rear hatch was open. In my weakened mental state, the open hatch and exposed oily machinery looked alien, quite literally like something from out of this world. I was so struck by that image…so much so I feared I had just suffered a hallucination. Upon reaching my house I had the beginnings of Haze brewing in my mind. In those early days of coming up with the story, I envisioned someone not unlike me as the protagonist, young and at a crossroads in his life, exposed to visions from another world. I wrote the first few pages, wherein my protagonist sees this alien bus-like device on the road and comes to the realization that through illness he’s been exposed to visions from other worlds.
But as good a start as that was, I quickly reached a dead end. At least with the idea of a man peering into other dimensions.
Instead, I moved off into other story directions. Rather than seeing other dimensions, I had my protagonist see visions of a famous dead actor. And rather than a science fictional story, my novel became a murder mystery with supernatural elements. Alas, the actual inspiration to the book, that sequence with the alien-looking bus, was ultimately cut as it didn’t fit in with the story I was now telling.
I learned quite a bit while writing Haze, both in terms of the mechanics of novel writing as well as the efforts involved in trying to create something you can be proud of. The experience was alternately exhilarating and frustrating, and more than once tried my patience. Still, I’m proud with the final product and am happily continuing the writing experiment I began all those years before.
No, I haven’t seen Haywire yet, although based on the commercials it looks like something I might enjoy. Now, whether I see it while it’s out in theaters or when it is eventually released to DVD/Blu Ray…I guess that’s the question. I’m all the more interested because of the five minute sample clip:
I also find myself very intrigued with Gina Carano. She plays Mallory, the movie’s tough as nails protagonist.
Why? Because my novel Mechanic happens to feature a tough as nails female protagonist who in my mind’s eye I envisioned to look an awful lot like Ms. Carano…someone who I knew absolutely nothing about until the first Haywire commercials appeared only a few weeks ago.
Mind you, I’m not implying the makers of Haywire were somehow inspired by my book. Given the plot of my novel versus what I see of the plot of Haywire, that should be pretty obvious.
But if I ever get anyone interested in making a Mechanic movie (what are the odds?!), I know which actress I could easily see playing the lead role. That is, if she isn’t too worried about being typecast! 😉
Yes, indeed, the story is about one Parijat Saha who found that he had 9.8 BILLION dollars in his bank account and what he did afterwards.
I’ll spoil it a bit for you: He did the right thing.
However, if you read the rest of the article it presents some other examples of errors in people’s bank accounts and the actions of said people with the…ahem…extra cash they found at their disposal.
I’m rather torn about this. On the one hand, if you find a huge amount of cash appear in your bank account that you know isn’t yours, it seems stupid to think that you can simply claim it as your own, use it as you please, and assume no one will ever find out. Particularly when the amount of money that appears in your account may be very, very large. Someone will eventually figure it out.
On the other hand…you didn’t make the error. The bank did. And if they made the error why should you be held…
Ok, Ok, I know. Fanciful thinking. It’s not your money to begin with and by using it you are effectively “stealing” what is not yours.
I enjoyed the first The Expendables film, despite the fact that, let’s face it, it wasn’t all that good. In fact, I noted somewhere at the time that the film and the released at roughly the same time The Losers were completely interchangeable films. In fact, I would go so far as to say The Losers had a somewhat better overall script.
Despite this, if I had some free time (ha!) and decided to revisit one of these two films, the one I’d pick is The Expendables. For people in/around my age with fond memories of the action films of the 1980’s (and bleeding -pun intended- into the 1990’s), there is an allure to see all these old (and some new) action stars all together in one film, and that’s something The Losers simply didn’t have going for it.
Again, I’d be the last person in the world to say The Expendables was some kind of cinematic masterpiece, but it was a pleasant enough time killer with fun cameos and, yes, I am interested in seeing the sequel, which appears to up the ante in terms of cameos and old action star appearances.
In Expendables 2, there was a lot of vulgar dialogue in the screenplay. Fot this reason, many young people wouldn’t be able to watch this. But I don’t play in movies like this. Due to that I said I won’t be a part of that if the hardcore language is not erased. Producers accepted my conditions and the movie will be classified in the category of PG-13.
So, essentially, Mr. Norris is claiming “credit” for making the sequel film more “family friendly”.
Which boggles my mind.
Looking at Chuck Norris’ IMDB filmography, this is a man who made much of his career in “R” rated action films. Granted, the films were usually “R” rated more for their violent content rather than any nudity or extensive use of heavy language, but still.
According to IMDB, Mr. Norris was involved in 13 films from 1980 to 1989, arguably his most prolific movie decade. Of those 13 films, a whopping 10 of them (or 77%) were “R” rated (In order: The Octagon, An Eye For An Eye, Silent Rage, Forced Vengeance, Missing In Action, Missing In Action 2: The Beginning, Code of Silence, Invasion U.S.A., The Delta Force, and Braddock: Missing in Action III).
So…is Mr. Norris become rather hypocritical? Perhaps. He wouldn’t be the first person to benefit or engage in something only to forsake it entirely at another stage in his/her life.
But what bothers is perhaps the fact that Mr. Norris, at least in that interview, takes credit for making the film PG-13. That part I find kind of hard to accept, unless his role is somehow crucial to the film itself (I have my doubts…I get the feeling his is another “cameo” not unlike what Bruce Willis had in the first film).
Then again, I could be entirely wrong.
Regardless, how much do you want to bet an “uncut” version of the film will find its way to the DVD/BluRay market?
Another re-post from my original blog. This post first appeared in April of 2009…
I’m a fan of many of the James Bond films.
My favorite Bond was the first, Sean Connery, and my two favorite Connery Bonds are From Russia With Love and (yes, I admit it) Diamonds Are Forever.One is “serious” while the other is decidedly tongue in cheek and, again to me, quite hilarious (and, lest you think I don’t like the others Connery made, I do, including perennial favorite Goldfinger. In fact, the only Connery Bond that hasn’t impressed me is You Only Live Twice. To the fans of that film, sorry…it just doesn’t do it for me.)
Roger Moore, after George Lazenby’s single outing, proved a strong, albeit different James Bond. However, his films were far more inconsistent and it seemed he had a good film followed by a pretty dreadful one. For Your Eyes Only is my all-time favorite Moore Bond film, with The Spy Who Loved Me, Live and Let Die, and Octopussy ranking in descending order from there. In between those good films, sadly, was the terribly mediocre The Man With The Golden Gun (considering they had the legendary Christopher Lee playing the bad guy, this film should have been A LOT better than it was), the outright terrible A View To A Kill (Moore was looking really old by that point), and the movie I felt was the worst Bond ever made: Moonraker.
In fact, it seemed the producers of the Bond films realized Moonraker was a mistake and went to back to basics in For Your Eyes Only, the film that immediately followed. This week, Moonraker was released on Blu-Ray DVD, and for the first time since its original release way back in 1979, I sat down and watched the movie from start to end. How did it fair after all that time?
To begin, my original Moonraker viewing experience was…troubled. I watched the film with the family at a Drive-In Theatre (the last time we would ever go to one together). The family that parked next to our car, however, came to party. Moments after arriving they had their stereo going LOUD, as if they were the only people there and souring us almost immediately to the whole movie experience to come. Even worse, when the screen finally lit up, instead of seeing Moonraker we were “treated” to Corvette Summer, a terrible “car chase” film. To this day I’m still not sure why the Theatre didn’t announce we were watching a double feature.
By the time Moonraker finally started, it was very late and we were exhausted, both from the partying family next to us and the unexpected (and quite bad) film we had to endure. There was a glimmer of hope, however, when Moonraker started. Alas, that glimmer was dashed pretty quickly. As I said before, I consider Moonraker the worst of the Bond films. Despite all the crap we had to endure before seeing the film, we were open to it and hoped we would see something special. Instead, we left the Drive-In thoroughly defeated. Bond had let us down.
Since that time, Moonraker has popped up on TV now and again and I’ve watched bits and pieces but never bothered to see the whole thing until now. Target had the Blu-Ray Moonraker on sale for a ridiculously low price, and I figured I’d give the movie another try and see if it remains as bad as I recalled.
I don’t want to keep you in suspense: The film remains one of the worst of the Bonds, in my opinion, but, curiously, I saw the glimmer of a potentially good Bond film right there on the screen, if only the producers had decided to play things “straight” instead of going for over the top silliness.
For example, the first twenty or so minutes of the film, the excellent opening skydiving sequence, the hijacking of the Moonraker shuttle, and Bond’s first meeting with the evil Drax (up to the way Drax takes care of an employee that had the misfortune of getting too close to Bond) are quite good. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the opening twenty or so minutes of Moonraker is very strong.
Unfortunately, the film then decided to go gadget crazy, first with the ridiculous Venice gondola sequence (which could easily have been cut from the film entirely) to the cable car sequence (this led to another of the film’s really crappy turns: Jaws falling in love) to the Bond boat sequence (Bond takes out two of the three boats pursuing him in the Amazon…he’s so far ahead of his pursuers in terms of technology and weaponry…and he chooses to abandon his boat?!), to the overblown space fight.
And let’s not forget Bond’s “crafty” way of escaping vaporization by shuttle lift-off just before he embarks on his own space adventure. He’s tied down to a seat under an about to be launched space shuttle and the villain is so lazy he doesn’t strip him of all possible means of escape, including the curious watch he wears. Worse, this was easily one of the worst examples of “If you’re going to kill him, why not just put a bullet through his head and be done with it?”
But, but, but….While I still feel Moonraker ranks low on the Bond movie list, I have to admit there were things within the film that kept me interested. And even though the film’s plot took several wrong turns, there was the glimmer of a much better work just below the surface. For all the bad feelings I’ve had about Moonraker over the years, I can’t help but wonder if the producers had only taken their work a little more seriously, this could easily have been one of the better, not worst, of the Bond films.
Sometime during its first season (ie 2001) I discovered the TV show Alias. It was a bold TV show which seemed to delight in surprising and one-upping itself with shock after show in each episode. Alas, the show played itself out, IMHO, after the incredible episode Phase One, but if there was one thing I came away with from the show, it was to watch out for any new series from producer J. J. Abrams.
This proved to be a good thing as in 2004 I had the upcoming J. J. Abrams’ produced TV series Lost on my radar. While the show’s ultimate conclusion some years later left something to be desired, there is little doubt that for several years this show was one hell of a thrill ride.
Since then, I’ve seen plenty of other J. J. Abrams works (as producer, director, or writer), from the TV series Fringe to the last two Mission: Impossible films and the re-boot of Star Trek. Considering the sheer volume of material, it was inevitable some of the material would prove great while others not so great. Still, my eyes are always open for new works from the prolific Mr. Abrams, so when I heard about his latest sci-fi mystery production Alcatraz, I had to give it a look and yesterday, when it premiered, I did just that.
Alcatraz appears to be a very purposeful attempt to replicate the winning formula of Lost. Yeah, both shows deal with the mysteries surrounding an island. Alcatraz, at least with the first two episodes presented, also features liberal use of flashbacks not unlike Lost.
The plot of Alcatraz is simple: Back in the early 1960’s every single person on Alcatraz -prisoners as well as staff- mysteriously disappeared. This fact was hidden from the American public but today, in the present, the long lost convicts are returning. They have not aged and they commit new crimes. Worse, they appear to have an agenda. Who are they working for and for what purpose?
Enter Detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) and author Diego Soto (Jorge Garcia). They uncover the odd facts related to Alcatraz and subsequently intersect with Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill) and Lucy Banerjee (Parminder Nagra), two people who know much more about the Alcatraz situation than they’re willing to let on.
Now, the first episode was enjoyable. The second episode…not so much. Not that it was bad, mind you, but it was rather repetitious. Essentially, the first and second episode were interchangeable: Our heroes chase down a criminal from Alcatraz, capture him, he is sent to the ‘new Alcatraz’. Side point: Criminal #1 was searching for a key. Criminal #2 was targeting one of the main characters. Big reveal the idea that maybe some characters are as “old” as the criminals they’re chasing.
Again, not a bad night of TV watching by any means, but the repetition was troublesome considering we’re dealing with only the first two episodes of the show. Is this what Alcatraz will be, a “chase-the-villain-of-the-week-while-advancing-the-show-by-increments”? If so, I worry whether it can sustain itself.
As it is, there was enough good in the show’s premier to ensure I’ll stick around for at least a little while longer. However, if the story doesn’t move a little bit more and continues to display too much repetition, I may well let it go.