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Monthly Archives: May 2019

Who ever said that white men can’t jump obviously didn’t see the TV series The White Shadow (1979-1981). A show way ahead of its time breaking the “Welcome Back Kotter” and its idiotic “Sweat-Hogs” mold.

The White Shadow had the potential for really cliched premise for a show: a former NBA player forced to retire because of a knee injury returns to his old high school which is not the place it used to be. The school’s principal just happens to be his former roommate from Boston College and talks him into taking the job of basketball coach at their high school alma mater.  But there is a catch, these kids are tough and the times (and the kids) have changed and not for the better.

It’s tired story that has been overdone, like the White Shadow’s very popular contemporary “Welcome Back Kotter” for example, but “The White Shadow” was so much more than a Kotter redux. Produced by Bruce Paltrow (Gwyneth’s Paltrow’s father) and MTM productions (the same folks who brought you “Mary Tyler Moore” and “Rhoda”), this wasn’t simply a basketball version of the insanely popular WBK.  The White Shadow was serious.  For the first time a prime time network show was centered around teenagers (black and Hispanic teens to me more precise) that didn’t reduce the characters into caricatures.  Everyone had their own complicated personality which saw the world as shades of grey rather than the often over simplified black-white or good vs evil typical of then network TV like WBK.  If you think about it, for all of the Sweat-hogs’ tough talk, the audience never saw those chumps get into a fight.  There have been a lot of stupid things forced down the throat of the America public, but “Welcome Back Kotter” is one of the dumbest.

Instead the “White Shadow” brought a real gritty reality to prime time television and showing the audience that modern teenagers didn’t live the life of Reilly and that the kids living in the ghetto are constantly bombarded with outright dangerous influences. From gangs to point shavings to drugs to high school prostitutes and even a member of the team getting gunned down in a liquor store before the city championship, if you were a Carver High graduate, you’ve pretty much seen the entire gambit of human misery. And it would’ve been easy for the writers to go the complete opposite way of like Kotter kids and make each episode a weekly “After School Special” about the danger du jour. They didn’t do that.

Unfortunately, The White Shadow didn’t garner the high ratings it deserved but the show received marked critical acclaim and paved the way for later more realistic dramas such as Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere and My So-Called Life.

Fun fact: The show originated from (coach) Ken Howard’s own experiences as a high school basketball star at Manhasset High School on Long Island.  Howard was one of the few white basketball players at the school and the only white player in the starting lineup and had been nicknamed “The White Shadow.”

When the JPFmovies staff acquired the DVD’s they were not easy to find, but given today’s availability of virtually any show ever made if you want to see something groundbreaking which themes and gritty techniques are still used today give The White Shadow a look, chances are you won’t regret it.

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

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As promised here is the “original” late 1990’s La Femme Nikita cable TV series that actually died and them came back to life like the ladies in the shows.

The followup to the film Point of No Return, La Femme Nikita the late 1990’s basic cable TV series appearing on USA differs from the original film version in one fundamental aspect: Nikita (Peta Wilson) is innocent she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.   Section One sets Nikita up to be accused of murdering a police officer and sentenced to life in prison where she supposedly commits suicide and is brought into Section One.  Like in the original film though Nikita will be killed (or “canceled”) if she fails to comply, she is forced to carry out the organization’s ruthless methods of fighting terrorism, while attempting to keep her moral integrity intact. This personal struggle becomes the primary conflict of the series.  A key scene in both the film and the series involves Nikita’s first assignment—to murder a VIP in a crowded restaurant. Although the Nikita of the television series eventually does become, by necessity, a ruthless killer, in the television version of this first mission she uses her ingenuity to avoid having to kill the VIP (whereas the film versions of the character complete the assignment). However, despite the machinations of others in power around her, Nikita retains her compassion and humanity.

La Femme Nikita was the number-one drama on basic cable channel USA Network for its first two seasons.  It had been “green-lighted” by the network’s founder and “cable network pioneer” Kay Koplovitz and nurtured by former USA Network president Rod Perth, a “key player” in its development.  However in 2000 it was canceled but its dedicated viewers mounted an extensive fan campaign to revive it and were successful!  These fans sent in over 25,000 letters and the network made a truncated 5th season.  According the JPFmovies research staff, such a resurrection happened only a couple of times once when Firefly was canceled after one season but due to fan demand the network made a full-length film an Family Guy which was brought back after three years on the shelf.

The LFN original series was not bad for its time and given the fact that it was brought back from the dead does tell you something about it.  If you do decide to take a look at it, watch for the ruthless character Madeline—she is as cold as it gets and she is another one you love to hate.

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

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Let’s take a look as some beautiful, but dangerous, woman: La Femme Nikita the original series (1997-2001) based on the film Point of No Return (1993)—also reviewed starring Bridget Fonda and Gabriel Byrne. Stay clear of blonds with guns.

Anyone who is a film buff has come across the term “femme fatale” which is a French term that’s translated to “fatal woman.”  Films over the years have made these characters into beautiful, but dangerous, women.  These characters are the ones you love to hate.  The JPFmovies staff has looked into some femme fatale entertainment and decided to review the La Femme Nikita franchise.  First there was the film starring Bridget Fonda, Gabriel Byrne, Harvey Keitel, Anne Bancroft and Olivia d’Abo in Point of No Return (1992).  All fine performers and all         quite young in this film.  Bridget Fonda is literally a child, Keitel and Byrne look like they are in their late 20’s.  The JPFmovies staff was particularly excited to watch a film with Bridget Fonda in it—you don’t see her in too many films.

Our femme fatale, Maggie Hayward (Bridget Fonda), is a violent and unstable drug addict found guilty of murdering a police officer, and is sentenced to death by lethal injection.  A secret government organization fakes her death because they need to have a young female operative in the field.  Agent Bob (Gabriel Byrne) is charged with transforming her from this renegade youth into a sophisticated assassin. She is given a makeover by senior Operative Amanda (Anne Bancroft) and training that turns her into not only a beautiful woman, but also a trained killer.  The pressure is on though as she is only given 6 months reach operative level efficiency otherwise, she will literally get a bullet in the brain.

She passes her final test: an assassination of a VIP eating at a restaurant. Maggie kills the VIP and his bodyguard and then is pursued by a team of the VIP’s bodyguards and then escapes by jumping down a laundry chute. Maggie is relocated to California and finds her first relationship with J.P. (Dermot Mulroney). She promptly performs her first two assignments, both hit jobs, but she begins to hate her work.  Naturally she wants out but the agency has other ideas.  She is told that if she can pull off one last job Bob will try to get her out of the agency.

 

Maggie and her partner have trouble with this job and it goes sideways.  In a early version of The Wolf from Pulp Fiction, Victor, a “cleaner” (Harvey Keitel) is called salvage the mission. Unknown to Maggie, he has also been ordered to kill both agents as well because one failure results in death. After killing the wounded Beth in front of Maggie, he drives her to Fahd’s home she gets what she needs to.  The cleaner is supposed to kill her as well but she is crafty enough to turn the tables and gets away.  Bob (her handler) takes pity on her and falsely tells his boss that Maggie is dead setting her free.  The last scene is Maggie walking away in the pouring rain as she starts anew.

The JPFmovies staff is a big fan of Ms. Fonda and excited to see this film.  Seeing the early version of Keitel as Mr. Wolf as the “cleaner” is frankly hilarious.  Byrne, who also made a great 1990’s film The Usual Suspects, looks like he is in grade school in this movie.  Yeah kinda cliché but all in all not bad if you look at this film as the start of successful franchise depicting secret government organizations transforming young, beautiful, blonde trouble making girls into deadly women.

 

The moral of the story is never trust a blonde with a gun.

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

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That right JPFmovies fans check out page 4 of our movie review index provided for your convenience.

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

We here at JPFmovies hear a lot about Manga—though we have never read one they seem to be the basis for a lot of Japanese films. So let’s take a look at some more Manga that have made it to the big screen. Samurai Commando Mission 1549 (2005).

Yes JPFmovie fans by your request we are going to look at some more manga books that have evolved to the big screen.  This manga series focusing on the adventures of a modern-day Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (Japan’s army) unit that accidentally travels through time to the Warring States period of Japanese history.

 

The Japanese army unit is conducting an experiment which is meant to shield military equipment from the effects of solar flares with the use of electromagnetic shields. However, these shields open a time portal and all soldiers assigned to the test suddenly find themselves stranded on a battlefield in the Sengoku period (the year 1549) and under attack by a samurai army.  Initially a number of the soldiers are killed which was not a bight move by the primitive warriors as the soldiers retaliate with modern formidable arsenal.  Several hours later, a reverse effect occurs, and a wounded samurai warrior suddenly appears in the 21st century.

Following so far?  Fast forward a couple of years and black holes are starting to appear all over Japan—the result of a changing timeline as the modern soldiers live and operate in the past.  Well the Army needs to do something to prevent the destruction of what is modern day Japan.

Conditions are right to repeat the experiment and send a new unit back in time to bring back the stranded soldiers in an effort to stop the potential destruction of modern day Japan.  Well the samurai brought forward in time has been living here for a couple of years and after suffering some culture shock is chomping at the bit to go back to his own time and resume his place as a samurai.  Well we see the unit prepare to go back in time and set thing right, but some frustrating precautions are taken.  For instance, the soldiers are bringing non-lethal bio-degradable bullets in an effort to minimize their footprint.  Fools!  They are going into one of the most violent times in history and they are worried about biodegradable bullets?

 

When the newcomers first arrive back in time they are ambushed by a bunch of samurai just waiting to kill them.  It seems that the first bunch of soldiers have used their technology to take over with the unit commander killing the powerful warlord Oda Nobunaga and taking his place.  These soldiers have used their modern technology to not only survive but to conquer and have started building things like a refinery and a bomb that will destroy half of Mount Fuji since these guys want to rewrite Japanese history.  Also with their advanced technology they have been able to upkeep their equipment and weapons.

Long story short there is a struggle between the soldiers trying to conquer Japan and change history and our newcomers who want to restore the timeline.  With the window for the people to return to the future closing a battle of wits and new and old technology rages.  After destroying the oil refinery the base of operations for the soldiers bent on changing the timeline is destroyed and the people barely make it back to the future so to speak.

 

Yeah the movie is kind of predictable but it does look at one of the scenarios that probably everyone has thought at one time or another; that is, what would happen if somehow modern day military technology were transported back in time and used against primitive weapons.  The JPFmovies staff is currently researching this issue but there have been several American movies that have sent modern day aircraft carriers back to Pearl Harbor for instance and how it would change the outcome of history.  Besides it is also kind of fun to see modern day weapons devastate primitive “screw heads” as Bruce Campbell put it in Army of Darkness.

It is a lite film, predictable but not unwatchable.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

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