Tag Archives: review

No Longer Equalizing a Person of Interest — A Colossal Mistake?

As I write this I have just finished up the posts for my Montreal-to-Boston cruise aboard the MS Maasdam, the second season of The Equalizer was finally made available last Tuesday some six years after the release of Season One (as well as the complete set directly from the new distributor), we’re just over three weeks away from the fourth season opener of Person of Interest, and we’re just over two weeks away from the release of The Equalizer movie.

When last we discussed Person of Interest (see: Equalizing a Person of Interest) I compared Person of Interest to that fascinating, ground-breaking 1980s series The Equalizer, starring the late Edward Woodward.

Edward Woodward as Robert McCall, The Equalizer

Boy, was I wrong. As of the end of Season Three Person of Interest is no longer a remake of The Equalizer; it’s become a remake of the 1970 film Colossus: The Forbin Project. For those unfamiliar with Colossus, the story revolves around Dr. Charles Forbin who creates an artificial intelligence to handle the strategic nuclear forces of the United States. Things seem to go well until it is discovered that the U.S.S.R. has developed a machine (sound familiar?) with the same capabilities. When Colossus discovers the existence of the other machine (Guardian), things go to hell in a hurry.

Colossus: The Forbin Project

This past season on Person of Interest we discover that a second machine — Samaritan — has gone online and is now trying to track down and kill anyone connected to the first machine (code named Northern Lights). I started getting the uncomfortable feeling that I had seen this plot before when there were still several Season Three episodes remaining, so I ordered Colossus from NetFlix to refresh my memory.

John Reese is a Person of Interest . . . to both the NYPD and the CIA, and now Samaritan!

Yep. I’ve seen it before, all right. Not that it’s a bad thing. It’s just that Colossus has no business mucking about with what is at its core a remake of The Equalizer.

Speaking of which, we have another Equalizer headed our way Friday, September 26 (actually a few days ago, as this post is scheduled to hit October 1), and this one is already a bit of a disappointment to me even before I’ve seen it. The original concept of The Equalizer centered around a character who was supposed to think of a retired version of James Bond. Edward Woodward’s Robert McCall was British; a former agent sick of lies, deceit, and killing; a person who dressed immaculately and who carried a Walther PPK/S (for marginal differences between the PPK/S and Agent 007’s PPK see: The Perfect Fashion Accessory—Walther PPK in .32 ACP).

Walther PPK and PPK/S

Denzel Washington’s characterization of Robert McCall is none of those things. And while I have high hopes that this version of The Equalizer will do well, the writers would have done just as well naming Mr. Washington’s character “Harold Potter” or “Michael Hammer” for all the dissimilarities involved.

At any rate, let’s hope Person of Interest (and The Equalizer before it) hasn’t lost what made it such a hit — a talented, hardened, disillusioned former agent/killer who helps everyday people against insurmountable odds — rather than a science fiction battle pitting supercomputer against supercomputer with the main characters playing pawns caught in the middle.



Filed under R. Doug Wicker, Social Networking, Television

Pierre Maspero’s — A Disappointing Taste of New Orleans

Last Saturday we took a flight to Nawlins.  That would be New Orleans, Louisiana, or NOLA for short.  Our reason for coming here was to catch the NCL Star for a cruise around the Western Caribbean, which we’ll get to in subsequent blogs.

New Orleans 02 New Orleans 11 New Orleans 14

This is something like my sixth or seventh trip to this great little city.  The food is usually good (however you’ll see today that you can, if fact, get a less than stellar meal here) and the photographic opportunities are tremendous.  The people alone make NOLA a street photographer’s paradise.

New Orleans 08 New Orleans 35

Now, about that rather disappointing meal.  After a little internet research, I decided to try something new.  Big mistake.  The restaurant was Pierre Maspero’s, and it had some pretty good write-ups.  So much for the internet.  Ursula ordered a trio New Orleans sampler that included shrimp étouffée, red beans and rice, and gumbo.  The étouffée had little in the way of crawfish, the red beans and rice had even less in the way of sausage and meats, the gumbo was almost entirely broth, the portions were small, and the whole things was neither spicy nor served piping hot as one would expect.  Even the French baguette was disappointingly stale.

Pierre Maspero's 7

My experience was a disaster.  I ordered a seafood platter of fried oysters (the only thing exceptional about this place other than the alligator appetizer), battered catfish, fries, and hush puppies.  Again, the food was lukewarm.  The catfish coating was so soft and spongy that I sent it all back for a retry.  It came back only marginally better.  Let’s face it, Southern-style cooking demands catfish be coated in cornmeal.  I should have been tipped off by the beer batter.  Next time I won’t repeat that mistake.

Pierre Maspero's 6

The fried alligator was great, however.  And the accompanying remoulade sauce was a nice touch.

Pierre Maspero's 5

I will conceded, however, that ambience is in abundance at Pierre Maspero’s.  The wait staff are eager and friendly.  The dining room is absolutely charming.  Alas, charm and friendliness do not tickle the tongue or sate the stomach.

Pierre Maspero's 1 Pierre Maspero's 3 Pierre Maspero's 2 Pierre Maspero's 4

Now for a few more snaps of Nawlins:

New Orleans 07 New Orleans 05


Filed under Photography, travel

From Soap to Primetime to Big Time—The Evolution of Barnabas Collins (Movie Review)

Dark Shadows

Drama/Comedy, Gothic Horror, Fantasy; U.S.; 2012; 113 minutes; directed by Tim Burton

Medium:  Currently in Theaters

Rating:  2.5 (5-point system)

Dark Shadows.  Almost nobody my age can forget it.  It gnaws at you.  It takes you by the throat.  It leaves you thirsting for more.  But enough of the vampire clichés and puns.  Let’s talk a little about what this cultural phenomena was for those too young to have experienced it.

Dark Shadows started out as a gothic soap opera back in 1966, and at first it was a certified bomb . Gothic didn’t sell back then, and Dark Shadows faced cancellation only six months after its debut.  Dan Curtis, the show’s creator, decided to go out in style, and suddenly ghosts started appearing . . . in a daytime soap opera!  But things didn’t really take off for Dark Shadows until 1967, with the introduction of Barnabas Collins.  Barnabas was a 200-year-old vampire who had been entombed by his father—a man who could not bring himself to destroy his beloved son despite his horrendous affliction.

Jonathan Frid—the original Barnabas Collins

And how did Barnabas come to be afflicted with this curse?  He severely ticked off the wrong lady.  He had an affair with the maidservant of his fiancée, Josette du Pres from Martinique.  Unfortunately for Barnabas, that maidservant was Angelique Bouchard, a witch whose extraordinary powers were only exceeded by her extraordinary vindictiveness.  Angelique summoned up a bat who bit our hero, transforming him into a hideous and foul creature of the night bent on converting Josette so that she might spend eternity with him.  In her disgust and horror, Josette leapt to her death.  Pretty good setup.  Complicated, but good.

Fast forward two centuries later.  Barnabas is released from his tomb and returns to the family estate as a ‘long lost cousin from England,’ whereupon he meets Maggie Evans, a resident of Collinsport, Maine, and the apparent reincarnation of his love Josette du Pres.  And if all that isn’t complication enough, Angelique has resurrected herself, taken the name of Cassandra Blair, and maneuvered Roger Collins into wedding her and bringing her into the Collins family mansion where she can continue to make Barnabas’ life a living hell.

As one might expect, the ratings shot through the roof.  But the demographics weren’t your typical housewife.  Suddenly, all across the nation, kids were rushing home and tuning in to watch the bloody mayhem.  Unfortunately, back then kids didn’t steer the family budget and what products to buy with it.  Despite huge ratings the series was cancelled in 1971.

But everyone knows you simply cannot keep a really great vampire dead for long.  In 1991 the series rose from the grave and into prime time on NBC with Ben Cross as Barnabas Collins.  Maggie Evans was no longer the reincarnation of Josette.  That person now resided in the Collins family governess, Victoria Winters.  But, despite great ratings, NBC sabotaged their latest hit by shuffling it around their schedule during Gulf War I.  After only thirteen episodes fans were left confused and bewildered by the lack of schedule consistency, and Dark Shadows once again had a stake driven through its heart.

Ben Cross as Barnabas Collins

Until 2004.  WB Television Network commissioned a pilot starring Alec Newman.  This time WB staked our hero and put him back in the ground without ever airing the completed pilot.

Now it’s 2012, and Barnabas has risen from the grave for a fourth time.  This Barnabas (Johnny Depp) however is played with much more humor than in past incarnations.  The characters of Maggie Evans and Victoria Winters have been rolled into one—a former mental patient named Maggie Evans (Bella Heathcote) who has changed her name to Victoria Winters.  Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) is back as well, and she’s just as vindictive, evil, powerful and even more libidinous than ever.

Johnny Depp’s interpretation of Barnabas Collins

This 2012 resurrection is lighthearted fun.  And that’s the problem.  Dark Shadows was never meant to be lighthearted fun.  Dark Shadows was designed to terrify school children, which is something it did quite well from 1967 until 1971.  Later, it mesmerized these same children, now grown up, in prime time, and introduced the character of Barnabas Collins to a whole new generation of children . . . until NBC programmers sabotaged it.

What’s disheartening here are a number of faux pas that should and could have been easily avoided.

First off, this Barnabas seems to relish in telling all his descendants that he’s a vampire rather than taking the more prudent course of concealing his cursed existence.  The 1972 setting works, but what’s with all the gags concerning ’70s pop culture?  It all seems so out of place in a tale of vampires, witches, revenge, and loves lost.  Sure, there are a few good lines (Caroline Stoddard:  “Are you stoned?”  Barnabas:  “They tried stoning me once, my dear.  It did not work.”), but the humor seems forced and comes off as contrived and irrelevant to the myriad plots and subplots.  And then there’s Mr. Depp’s ridiculous makeup for the part—an unfortunate cross between Count Orlok in the silent classic Nosferatu (check out the long, spidery fingers and extended fingernails) and the pastie-faced zombies in Shawn of the Dead.  Part of the terror was not knowing that Barnabas is a vampire.  One look at Johnny Depp’s version and all doubts are removed—there’s something definitely wrong with this dude.  Finally, the sudden transformation of Caroline Stoddard (no, I’m not going to reveal it) was jarring, distracting, had no logical setup or continuity within the story, and was positively ludicrous in the extreme.  For that one scene alone I deducted a half point from my overall rating.

Fans will probably enjoy spending a couple of hours with a demonic “friend” from the past, but ultimately they’ll leave unsatisfied.  People unfamiliar with the legacy of Dark Shadows may get a few unexpected chuckles out of it, but not enough to carry the day.  In the end it would have been better for all concerned if this Barnabas Collins had been left entombed in Tim Burton’s mind rather than let loose upon unsuspecting theater goers.  It’s definitely worth a rental, but it’s not worth even matinee prices.

Or better yet, do yourself a favor and find a copy of the 1970 film House of Dark Shadows to view instead.  Unfortunately, that one doesn’t seem to be available on Netflix.


Filed under Movies