TV

[TV] The People Vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (2016)

Do you remember where you were the night of June 17, 1994? I remember: I had completed my first year of University, and was home in Sudbury for a visit. My family and I were all hanging out in the rec room of my Mom’s house, trying to stay cool.

Following June 12, 1994, news of Nicole Brown Simpson’s murder was fresh, and we became glued to CNN as speculation of  O.J. Simpson being a suspect transfixed the world. For me, I didn’t know much about O.J. other than from the Naked Gun films (which was one of my favourite movie franchises at the time). So when we were flipping through the channels around 9 P.M. June 17, and saw the live feed of O.J.’s white Bronco navigating the Los Angeles freeways, we made some popcorn and watched the story unfold before our eyes…which was pretty much what my husband and I did this past weekend when we watched the first two episodes of the People Vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, airing Tuesday nights at 10 P.M.on FX Canada. True Crime buffs need to get on cuing up their PVRs for this one, if they haven’t already. The show is pretty damn good.

The show begins the night of June 12, 1994, when Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were found murdered on Brown Simpson’s Brentwood, California estate by a neighbour walking his dog. At the same time, O.J. Simpson is “running late” to catch his limo to LAX where he is due in Chicago. The story runs down the sequence of events as they unfolded in real life: contacting O.J about his ex-wife being murdered., his interrogation, and his wild ride down the LA freeway with his best bud Al Cowlings. All the players of the case are included, such as Kato Kaelin, Johnny Cochran and Robert Shapiro, as well as those on the periphery – Marcia Clark, Lead Prosecutor, and Mark Fuhrman, the infamous lead LAPD detective.

The cast of the People Vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story sort of caught me by surprise: Cuba Gooding, Jr as O.J.? Really? Yes, and it worked! Gooding played a whiny angry O.J. to a T. Then, there is John Travolta as a gaunt-faced Robert Shapiro. This was a little hard to take at first, only because – well, look at him! He looked like he spent too long baking in the tanning bed. That aside, Travolta plays a decent Shapiro. Of course, there can’t be O.J. without a Kardashian – Robert Kardashian to be exact – O.J.’s confidant, played by David Schwimmer. And, yes, we had a couple of guffaw moments watching as Ross counsels O.J. on how not to look as guilty as sin. About my only real complaint about this show is how it paraded every Kardashian family member in the first two episodes. Khloe, Kim, Kourtney, Kris…were all represented here (I swear, Grandma Kardashian was cast but ended up on the cutting-room floor somehow).

Now, I know sometimes T.V. adaptations of real crime stories can get packaged up on the “Sunday Night Movie” Cheez Cart, and true, I did PVR this show initially for the hell of it. But, I couldn’t pull myself away from this story. Be sure to check it out!

People Vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
FX
2016

[TV Movie] On an Endless Loop: Poison Ivy (1985)

Anyone remember the TV movie gem, Poison Ivy? I have to say the hot summer weather reminds me of this movie, namely because it is a hi-jinx summer camp movie, and because it was one of those films that seemed to be on TV all the time in the summer when I was a kid.

Poison Ivy was a film starring Michael J. Fox, Nancy McKeon and Robert Klein. It aired on NBC TV in 1985, and tells the story of one summer at an all-boys summer camp in Maine and the shenanigans that ensued there. Michael J is a Counsellor who falls for nurse Nancy who is engaged to be married to a real pill. Michael J. spends the movie trying to break up that relationship… Robert Klein is the camp director running the show, and takes his role very seriously. The movie also focuses on the campers, and all the movie character stereotypes are represented – the fat kid who wants to be a comedian, the athlete, the handsome con man, and the homesick Timmy who is misunderstood because he doesn’t know how to swim.

Poison Ivy is entertaining…cheesy, of course. And it was one of those films that, at my house, was poorly taped on VHS off of network TV and replayed on an endless loop for a good four months. Why? Because… kids…they like rewatching stuff.

It’s been a long time since I watched this film but, a lot of scenes, lines and even music come back to me in a flash.

Oh, how I prayed to go to a summer camp like Camp Pinewood. Those kids got to run around and eat all the chocolate bars they wanted! They could stay up until all hours of the night telling each other ghost stories. Heck, they had handsome Michael J. as a Counsellor. The stuff kids dreamed of in a summer camp was seen in this movie. It was so far removed from the rigid Bible Camp experience I endured every summer…

Rewatching this, one would assume by the setting and characters that Poison Ivy is meant for tweens. And in terms of plot and shenanigans, the movie generally does follow that formula, but only up until it reaches the blatant sexual content. Yup, there’s a few sexie tymes in Poison Ivy, which lost ten-year-old me a little but doesn’t blow past me today. For example, Robert Klein’s horny housewife flirting and evidently effing every cook, cleaner, Counsellor and bottlewasher in the joint is truly shocking. Not to mention an 11 year old reading a p0rn0 mag and having another friend turn to him and ask him if he can “do that stuff yet,”  to which he responds, “Not yet, but when I can I want to be ready!” Haha, wow.

Then, there is the uncomfortable racist game that takes place in the last half of the movie, called Colour War, which pins one half of the camp against the other, assigning colours to each team, placing a military spin on its execution and telling campers not to talk to that kid from the opposing team because of what colour he’s wearing. Yeah, not terribly P.C.

There are also some sweet moments that cannot be overlooked. Little Brian Firestone, the consumate nerd of the camp who writes books by hand and fashions beautiful love notes, falls for Nurse Nancy McKeon, going so far as to roll in a poison ivy patch to be treated by her in the infirmery. Another moment was having the other campers teach Timmy how to swim.

Not surprising, the entire Poison Ivy is available to watch on YouTube. If you’re up for some cheesy, uncomfortable nostalgia, go check it out.

Poison Ivy
NBC Productions
February 1985

This was originally posted in November 2014.

[TV] The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst

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Last week, my friend Bill over at @STCPod, brought to my attention a new TV show that has been airing on HBO Canada, stating that it would be “super up my alley”. The Jinx, a six-part docudrama was his recommendation, and he encouraged me to block time immediately to watch it.

Was The Jinx up my alley? Boy, was it ever! Being a true crime buff, not only was it up my alley, it actually resides in my alley, pushing that hobo of everything else crime related aside to make more room for the Jinx‘s time-sucking self. I binge-watched this show, and with its subject in the news just this week, everything is coming up Robert Durst. I have been reading and watching everything on this guy, including every similar late-night news exposé on Durst on competing networks. You’d think I’d be bored to death of this story by now. Not a chance.

If you are not familiar with what the Jinx is about, here’s the Coles Notes* version:

New York native, Robert Durst, heir to a fortune from his mogul father’s real estate empire, has had a sordid and suspicious history that began with the disappearance of his wife Kathie in 1982, of which he is the prime suspect (she has never been found). In 2001, he was indicted, for the murder and dismemberment of neighbour, Morris Black. Amazingly, Durst was acquitted of all charges on a self-defense plea. As of March 2015, he is up on charges of murder on the 2000 execution-style death of his best friend, Susan Berman.

At the time the Jinx was in production, Robert Durst was free as a bird. It was after he watched the drama, All Good Things, a movie based on Durst’s life that he called the director of that film, Andrew Jarecki, and offered to be interviewed+ and thus, the Jinx was born.

I am familiar with Andrew Jarecki, particularly from his other crime docs, Catfish (which I reviewed here) and Capturing the Friedmans. Robert Durst’s story, when told through Jarecki’s documentary lens, produces one heck of a yarn that gets stranger with every episode. Interviews and reenactments of the tale through acting montages, and a haunting soundtrack which includes the Eels’ “Fresh Blood,” as the title track, the Jinx is definitely a series that is both fascinating and intense. Definitely check it out!

5/5

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst
Dir: Andrew Jarecki
2015 HBO

* Coles Notes (also known as Cliffs Notes in the U.S.) are student guides to literature, one could buy via Coles Bookstores in Canada.

+ Yes, you read that right!! Durst actually asked to be interviewed, and might have incriminated himself in the process…can you believe the audacity of this guy?

Merry Christmas, Sarca!

Christmas came early to the house of Sim…my Christmas Amazon order came in today!

The hubs and I did something a little different and unconventional this year. We decided to allow ourselves to buy our own Christmas presents. We had a price limit imposed, and we each went to town…virtually-speaking – he on eBay, me on my wish list on Amazon. I know it doesn’t sound very romantic to some people, but the hubs wanted retro video games and knows what he wants and where to get them from…and I knew what I wanted, so there. The holidays can be so stressful, and this is the perfect solution to the spousal gift-giving problem. Seriously, it was perfect for us!

And look at all the loot!

Corner Gas Full Tank (Complete Series)
NYPD Blue Seasons 6 and 7 (YES!!)
Graphic novels, New York Drawings and Sleepwalk and Other Stories by Adrian Tomine
As well, I added Quebecois graphic novelist Michel Rabagliati’s Paul Joins the Scouts (from the “Paul Got a Summer Job” series)
Last, but not least, The Tragically Hip’s Fully Completely Limited Edition CD, DVD and booklet! (Drool!)

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So good!

One little snafu, though. My copy of New York Drawings arrived damaged, so now I get to exchange it. Looks like I have a bit of a procedure to go through with Amazon. Wish me luck on that adventure!

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And on a different note, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank a couple of peeps from my WP email circle that graciously gifted me some great stuff:

Thank you to Brian Z for sending me Ray Lyell’s Desert Winds on CD. It was very nice of him to think of me when he found it. He sent it to me without wanting anything in return. Thank you so much!

Then, a couple of weeks ago I got a package in the mail – full of smurfs!

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Aaron from keepsmealive caught wind that I have a smurf figurine collection from the 80s…and found me a whole box full of more smurf figurines! These are Happy Meal Smurfs released to promote the new Smurf movie that came out a few years ago, so they are bigger in size than my vintage smurf figurines. Some of the smurfs Aaron sent are pretty rough looking, and we joked between us how he sent me dirty smurfs, haha! (I’ve since washed some of them). A big thank you to Aaron for this surprising and thoughtful gift.

At any rate, I am officially on my Christmas vacation. I will be doing some traveling up to Sudbury and hopefully get to spend some quality time with my Mom, Step-Dad and the rest of my fam whom I haven’t seen in a year. That said, I am going to take much needed time off to recharge and renew for the New Year.

To my good WP friends: Mike, Aaron, Heavy Metal Overlord, 1537, Deke, Geoff, and Brian – it’s been fun (and hilarious!) getting to know you guys. Best wishes to you and your families this Christmas! Give ‘Er x-mas-style! \m/ \m/

To the gamer guys on YouTube: The Cartridge Bros, Ram Vox, Duke and his kidlets from Retro Nonsense, Dean Lasagna, JRock, Lo, and anyone else I missed…Merry Christmas!! See you on Twitter!

And to my followers and faithful readers of Caught Me Gaming: Janna, Donna P, Jen, Gretchen, Angie, Bradley, Yvonne and anyone else I missed – thanks for your support. Merry Christmas!

See you all soon! Now I’m off to drink some coffee and Baileys!

[Film] Corner Gas: The Movie (2014)

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Sometimes you don’t know what you’re gonna get when TV shows do a movie. Some are great, some are cringe-worthy.

Thank the stars, someone had some good sense to turn a hilariously entertaining TV show like Corner Gas and make a decent movie out of it. No fuss, no muss: just an hour and a half long epi with Brent, Lacey, Wanda, Hank, et. al.

If you haven’t ever watched Corner Gas, this sitcom starred comedian Brent Butt as Brent Leroy, single 40-something who owns the only gas station in the teeny sleepy town of Dog River, Saskatchewan. The basic premise is that nothing really ever happens in Dog River, and out of the boredom, shenanigans ensue. Wanda works with Brent in the ajacent convenience store. Next door is the Ruby, the only coffee shop in town run by perky Lacey. Brent’s parents, long-time residents of Dog River are always into something. The town cops, Davis and Karen don’t have much crime to solve. And finally Hank, Brent’s forever unemployed best friend loafs around always bumming food from the Ruby and looking for his next employment opportunity.

As usual, I was a late bloomer to Corner Gas. The Canadian TV staple that aired on CTV from 2004 to 2009 was just one of those shows everyone told me I should watch, but never made time for, until the hubs and I started borrowing scratched-to-sh!t season collections of Corner Gas from the Markham, ON library. And now, any Canadian with a TV and an antenna can watch Corner Gas as it airs in syndication. I loved this show – hilarious! And as an aside, I hope my Christmas Amazon order comes through as it should because Santa is supposed to deliver the complete Corner Gas collection straight to my mail box!

In Corner Gas: the Movie, Dog River’s mayor, Fitzie used the town’s entire funds to invest in property in Detroit, bankrupting the town. As a result, the Town’s electricity bill couldn’t get paid so the lights were going out, garbage wasn’t getting picked up and the water pressure was screwed up, so no one could afford to hire a plumber to fix it. People were considering moving away before their properties were devalued. Meanwhile, a big shot coffee company was looking to bulldoze the town to make way for their warehouse operations. Dog River is under threat and it’s up to the townfolk to save it.

The plot is typical, contrived, and clicheed, and exactly what you would expect from Corner Gas. What makes this completely watchable is the infused Brent Butt humour, the loveable actors, and comfort that comes from watching what is essentially a big long episode of Corner Gas, only everyone is a little older and greyer. All the original actors reprise their roles which is great to see, especially the silly Eric Petersen who plays Brent’s dad on the show. The film played in theatres for five days starting December 3, 2014 in limited release. It also aired on TV December 8, which is how I watched the film.

I don’t have anything negative to say about Corner Gas: the Movie, really. It was everything I expected – funny, an easy watch and comfortable like a hot cup of coffee. If you’re a fan of the TV show, and even if you aren’t, I recommend the movie!

9/10

Corner Gas: the Movie
2014
Watched on TV PVR

[TV] The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Season 1 (Netflix)

“Now this is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down. And I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there.
I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel Air…”

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air??

You’re probably wondering why I would be reviewing an old sitcom from 1990 when EVERYONE has seen it before.

Well, everyone has, but me. The Fresh Prince passed me by. I am a first-time watcher.

I wasn’t allowed to watch TV on school nights past 5:30 PM when I was young, and later in high school I really had to work hard to learn anything (studious, yet learning disabled, me) so I missed out on a lot of shows. I’ve caught up on many of them, since.  For example, I didn’t watch the Simpsons until I left for University in 1993. I started watching ER on re-runs in the late 90s. There are some exceptions, of course, but I missed out on a lot of the shows that aired.

Fresh Prince was one of those shows that just was not on my radar. Will Smith and his pal Jazzy Jeff’s funky “Parents Just Don’t Understand” was a big-time song for my sis and I when it first came out. We memorized the lyrics too. But, time passed, and I forgot about him. Then his TV show began, and everyone around me was watching it…except me. When I noticed a few weeks back the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was on Netflix, I decided to see what it was all about.

Will Smith plays a teen from West Philadelphia whose mom shipped him to live with his Aunt Vivian and Uncle Phil in Bel-Air, California to escape schoolyard gangs that were making trouble for him. His Aunt and Uncle are wealthy, live in an affluent neighbourhood and are raising their three children: The snobby fashion conscious Hilary, the serious Carlton and the fun-loving adorable Ashley. Along with butler Geoffrey and his best friend, Jazz (played by Jazzy Jeff Townes) Will attempts to get his bearings as he adjusts to a new family, new school and a new set of house rules.

What is fun about this first season is how the TV show tries to incorporate Will Smith’s rap career by using baseline tracks of his songs in the background of the show, as well as providing the audience with a taste of his talent for dancing and singing. This guy does have talent, and his neon-coloured clothing aside, he really shone in 1990. He certainly is fresh-faced; his delivery, very fun-loving. The story-writing  and humour are derivative, but hilarious. I will say the perpetual fat jokes are alive on Fresh Prince, and I have to admit, they are a bit cringe-worthy with the overweight butt-of-jokes Uncle Phil… who is big…. and loves to eat…You get it…

Overall, the first season of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is a lot of fun. Light as a feather and full of hilarity. If you haven’t watched it yet, you are missing out!

4.5/5

[Review] Cold Case Files: The Game (PC)

Not too long ago, I heard somewhere that you never want Bill Kurtis to narrate a story on your life, because then that means you’re likely dead or in jail.

Bill Kurtis is synonymous with the news, and stories of crime and murder. I’ve been following his career ever since I started watching him on Investigative Reports, American Justice and Cold Case Files on A&E; all fantastic shows that no longer air on TV (at least not where I live). Kurtis’s cool delivery of anything he is given just makes the story that much more interesting. I often find myself on YouTube and beyond looking for those old shows.

Imagine my delight when a recent gaming road trip dug up the coolest gaming find ever: a game starring my favourite news anchor, Bill Kurtis!! And to boot, it was based on one of my all-time favourite crime shows, Cold Case Files! Well, you know I had to buy it!

One challenge I faced, however, was that the game was made to play on Windows XP. I have had some issues with compatability of PC games in the past; Still Life, The Cameron Files and more recently, Myst come to mind. This past Christmas, my hubs had Frankensteined an old Windows XP machine from parts his dad had in his work room that I could use to play these old PC games. That computer’s motherboard has since bit the Big Byte, so I’m back to tricking my Windows 7 machine to make my old games work. Cold Case Files: The Game, unfortunately, was no exception in refusing to play upon install. Window XP compatibility did not work. In the end, I adjusted the screen resolution to 800 x 600, and the thing ran like melted butter. HUZZAH!!

The voice you hear when you first run the game is…Peter Coyote??! This A&E produced game tacked on a ten-year-old unskippable commercial for Cold Case Files (the show), advertising “All New Cold Case Files – Tuesdays at 9/8 central on A&E”, voiced by Peter Coyote. Where’s Bill Kurtis??

Then, Cold Case Files: the Game starts with a short montage, which then opens to the game’s menu, looking very similar to Cold Case Files the show’s title screen. The menu is where you have access to your profile, options and cold cases. The game gives you six cold cases, plus one bonus case once all six are completed.

The start of each case gives you an animated short to set up the story, with Bill Kurtis narrating. Then, you start the case in the Chief’s office; you playing the role of rookie detective. Your boss tells you what you need to do next. You then are given a file to study and an evidence box to sift through. Locations to check out will be added and as you interview suspects or analyse samples, more clues will be added to your file that you can read later. The Cold Case Files game is predominently a point and click adventure, heavily story based. There is very little in the way of puzzles in this game. You click to choose dialogue, you click to go to a location or execute lab analyses, but not much else. The stories themselves hardly constitute as cold cases: basically a suspect says he didn’t do it, and then to quote Bill Kurtis: “…The trail ran cold.” Okay, I’m only half joking, but there were a couple of cases where it seemed like the police decided to take a trip to Tims for a Jo and a Timbit instead of looking into the case further. Lastly, Bill Kurtis lends his voice to each story’s introduction and conclusion, but nowhere else. Still I was glad for that, as it really tied up the Cold Case Files experience.

I know it sounds like the game was sort of sucky, but actually, I enjoyed Cold Case Files a lot. It’s a short game (only 2 hours for six cases). The one thing I enjoyed was that the game very much followed a logical flow to how one would go about investigating a crime – check the files, read up on the suspects, interview suspects. And after you gather all the evidence, you are given the choice to arrest one suspect. It is then that you find out whether you solved the case and get promoted, or the suspect walks and you get demoted. My suspects all got prison terms the first try, and in the end I got promoted to Chief! Gee, I got so good at it, it almost made me want to join the police academy to become a detective! Once you finish the game, you are supposed to be able to download a bonus case, but A&E no longer has it available on the web. The game is just too darn old, I guess!

About the only real critique I have for Cold Case Files: The Game is the graphics are a little funky. The characters are rendered with barrel chests and eyes that pierce right through you, which can be a little unsettling. Some of the characters look downright hilarious! Who would have thought Bruce Jenner’s likeness would be used to play the role of a suspect’s ditsy girlfriend? Thankfully, Bill Kurtis’ likeness wasn’t rendered graphically in this game, ’cause I can only imagine how THAT would have turned out*…The voice acting for what it’s worth, wasn’t bad. The music in the game reminded me very much of the Cold Case Files show, using mysterious and ambient music to set the mood; I thought it was quite good, actually. And lastly, the game ran smoothly without glitches, which is great for a game that is ten years old.

All in all, I started this game not sure what to expect, but I enjoyed the nature of the gameplay and recommend it to those who like simple crime investigation games with a little Bill Kurtis on the side. Cold Case Files: the Game is rare to find in-store, but if you find a copy, I highly recommend you pick it up.

4.5/5

*Rendered so lovingly on a 2000 episode of South Park

Cold Case Files: The Game (PC)
Developer: Activision / A&E
Released: 2004