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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Obstacles Upon Obstacles

Greetings and salutations. I'd like to start this off by acknowledging how much I like the James Bond theme song. None of those songs they play in the beginning of each film, the ones sung by famous pop stars. I really enjoy the classic instrumental 007 theme. I'm saying this because I just saw a commercial for some many razor blade and they used the 007 theme. Pretty decent commercial too. Anyway, I felt like writing because I finished an exhilarating work-out and my mind is percolating with insights of all sorts. It may be an immature statement to call them insights, but I am very vain when it comes to my online alternate persona. I would never be that vain in person, at least I don't think I would be.... At the moment, I turned on that thing called cable television and was delighted to find that a 90s classic was playing on AMC: Face/Off. I feel as though I've written about this film before since it is an amazing movie, but here's a throwback for Thursday. (Note: This may not be posted until far into the future, as per usual.)

The movie Face/Off was directed by John Woo, a little-known filmmaker who made his fortune in Asia and, for a short period, in 1990s America. The other movies I know from him are Mission Impossible: II and Paycheck, but Face/Off is exceptional enough to instill his name in with the great directors. He's no Scorsese, but I do enjoy a stupidly wonderful 90s action movie. Here we go. The plot for Face/Off is truly ridiculous: Sean Archer (played by John Travolta) is an FBI agent whose son is killed by an assumed terrorist named Castor Troy (played by Nicholas Cage). To infiltrate his criminal posse, Archer undergoes face-transplant surgery with Troy. Yes, face-transplant surgery. The title is a literal reference to what goes down in the movie. The scene where the face-swap occurs is really disturbing. If you are not familiar with this foolish procedure, what happens is a laser is shot around the person's face, allowing doctors to remove the face with ease and place it in water for whatever reason. Then, the face is placed on another human being's skull, somehow fitting the bone structure of a completely different individual. Face/Off. From there, the actors change roles, allowing Nic Cage to portray the good guy he's accustomed to playing and Johnny T to portray the villain he is typically accustomed to. Not sure if the grammar is all right there. 

There's not much really to say about Face/Off other than the fact that is is a good movie. Although the plot is truly absurd, there's just something about the way it was made that creates a classic. Also, the way each of the main actors were able to switch roles and actually act them both out very well...was very impressive. Granted, it's a 90s movie and there's not much to them, but the majority of films made at that time were the ones I remember most fondly. They are all so simple yet entertaining enough to be interested in what's happening. Not stupid simple, but beautifully simple. There's a difference, for sure. You're just going to have to take my word for it. One aspect of the film I find hilarious--I laugh out loud every time I watch it--is Archer's "thing" to display affection towards his family. He takes his hand and runs it down their face. Literally laughing as I type that out. It's so amusing, for that alone I hope I convinced you to sit down and enjoy this 90s gem. Oh, and Mike Delfino makes an appearance here as well. You're welcome, Marc Cherry.


Speaking of criminals and jail scenes, I've recently took on a television series that I intend to watch from beginning to end. Every single episode, no matter how meaningless some may be. It's a little show called Prison Break. I don't know why it took so long for me to watch it, considering I watched Oz--which is honestly one of the greatest shows of all time, boom. The general plot is interesting: Michael Scofield (played by Wentworth Miller) is a brilliant engineer who plans his own imprisonment in order to help his innocent brother on death row escape prison. The primary aspect of the show--season one, anyway--is the character development. By development, I mean the characters throughout the show and in general. I feel the term "character development" just sounds intelligent, like I know what I'm talking about. The reason for this emphasis on characters is that the first season is essentially dull and borderline unnecessary. Of course, the events of season one are crucial for understanding and enjoying the following seasons. However, to make its point, the show drags from episode to episode. The key points of the first season are the riot and the finale, basically. They are the most entertaining and important to making the show a whole. What happens in season one is the planning and execution of the escape, with numerous obstacles that the characters must overcome. Honestly, with the massive amount of obstacles in the show overall, the title should be Obstacles to Escape or something like that. The obstacles are why the season took twenty-two episodes to finish. It could have easily been done in twelve at the most. But they just wanted to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. For twenty-two episodes.

The characters of Prison Break fit the mold of the typical prison scenario, more or less. We have the innocent man, Lincoln Burrows (played by Dominic Purcell, who is the first one in the credits for whatever reason); the mastermind, Michael Scofield; the trusted wingman who fits a necessary minority needed to fill the quota, Fernando Sucre (played by Amaury Nolasco); the street-smart, tough black man, Benjamin Miles "C-Note" Franklin (played by Rockbound Dunbar); the Mafia don, John Abruzzi (played by Peter Stormare, who is absolutely not Italian and is a farce to watch); and the sadistic, manipulative, charming killer who is not to be trusted, Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell (played by Robert Knepper). If you haven't perhaps guessed already, T-Bag is a character I prefer over the others. He's simply wonderful, despite his conviction. We also have the female cast member, Dr. Sara Tancredi (played by Sarah Wayne Callies) who falls for the leading man, Scofield. Then there's the sadistic and disgusting corrections officer, Brad Bellick (played by Wade Williams) who is hilariously gross to observe. Then, the ruthless, robotic secret service agent, Paul Kellerman (played by Paul Adelstein, who is another preferred character of mine, despite his villainy). Now that we got the basic personalities of the characters, here comes the so-called analysis of the show.

As I've said, the show is full of obstacles. Michael Scofield has a plan to break his innocent brother out of prison, and the steps to accomplish this are impeded by various issues. The most glaring are the inclusion of the aforementioned prisoners; therefore, Michael must help guilty criminals escape as well in order to prevent his plot from being discovered. This creates the Fox River Eight who will eventually escape. They include Burrows, Scofield, Sucre, C-Note, Abruzzi, T-Bag, David "Tweener" Apolskis (played by Lane Garrison), and Charles "Haywire" Patoshik (played by Silas Weir Mitchell). Those last two are the latest addition right before the escape and are included solely because they caught them escaping. Tweener is a snitch who got it because Scofield had to return the favor for something. Haywire is a deranged asylum patient who threatened to squeal if they didn't take him with them. There was also an old prisoner by the name of D.B. Cooper who intended to escape and share his million-dollar fortune with them...but he died of a bloody wound. Herein lies a major plot point for season two: the race to the five million dollars D.B. hid in Utah. More plot explanations, I apologize....

The obstacles of the show are intended to keep viewers on their toes, forcing them to exclaim to their television screen, "Come on! Escape! Go!" I had a similar reaction, only mine was accompanied by groans of frustration. As in, "Just get it over with already." The whole prison escape scenario became very tedious after eight or so episodes. I am determined to watch the show in its entirety, so I resisted just skipping to the final escape episode. By watching every episode, I got acquainted with the characters, which in turn made me care about them in some way, which made me care more about the show altogether. It's all relative to understanding and appreciating a show. I just got out of my calculus class, so forgive me if I sound technical. I got a 94 on my first test by the way. The one obstacle I appreciated greatly was the inclusion of T-Bag in the plan, and of everyone else actually. The growing of the escapee group created a sort of sitcom-type posse with all its quirks and tension. The antagonist of the group was, of course, T-Bag, given his crimes and irksome personality. Now, I happen to find him to be irresistible, in a sense, because his comments are always so biting and well-thought-out. I always admire a man who is articulate and able to stand up against confrontation. And his accent is just the right amount of molasses sweet malignancy. Irresistible.

The first season of the show often veers into soap opera territory. It's more prone to cringe-worthy dialogue and plot "twists" than even Desperate Housewives, the queen of drama in early 2000s television. To be fair, the greatest show ever--Desperate Housewives, obviously--did not become pure soap opera garbage until the sixth/seventh season. Meanwhile, Prison Break is already guilty of several counts of melodramatic monologues, heated standoffs between characters, and forced tension. I would have to say the only genuine tense moments in the show came toward the end when they were actually escaping. Up until then, however, it is as if the creators were pulling you in with unnecessary setbacks. There are too many to mention here, but I will say that between the first and last episode of the first season, the Fox River crew bypassed all impediments and escaped. (Except for the old guy.) It smells like eggs where I'm sitting right now. Thought I should share that with you. I hope it doesn't smell like eggs where you are. Unless you're into that. The final posse that escape the walls of prison are known as the Fox River Eight: Lincoln Burrows, Michael Scofield, Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell (my love), Benjamin "C-Note" Franklin (I just realized his name is Ben Franklin), Fernando Sucre, John Abruzzi, Haywire, and Tweener. 

The second season follows the manhunt of these fugitives. Honestly, I thought this season would be a drag since it's just a huge chase of these individual criminals. I've never really watched any manhunt-type shows, or even movies for that matter. The only manhunt film I have watched was The Fugitive, but that was so uninteresting and the opposite of suspenseful that I didn't finish it. Tommy Lee Jones was insufferable as the U.S. marshal, I must say. And an Oscar? And Leonardo DiCaprio doesn't have an Oscar yet? Okay, I'm done. In spite of my skepticism, I am really enjoying the second season. Unlike the first season, this season is full of suspense and I'm actually on the edge of my seat. I don't know how people watched it in time, having to wait every week to see what happens next. That is how television works, after all. What I really like about this season is that the characters have split up, so there are different settings and storylines to follow. Since I'm still watching it, I'll leave my fully developed analysis for another time. If I have the urge to write about it that is. I will say that I very much enjoy what the writers have done with season two. Cheers.

Here is where the post comes to a close. I must say I am mighty proud of myself for writing again. This is probably something I'll keep repeating until it becomes apparent that I am actively writing on a regular basis. Looking good so far, am I right? That's all we have for tonight. Enjoy your evening and days to come. Until next time.

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