Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Monkees--"The Frodis Caper"

      Here we are, folks! It is the final episode of The Monkees. Our long, blogging nightmare is almost. Okay, I am exaggerating. But the series is much less fun than I remember it. I never realized before how quickly the show deteriorated in quality during the second season. It got so bad, they let Micky write and direct the final episode. I do not know what he was on at the time, but I am glad h stopped imbibing.
  The Monkees wake up to a Beatles song and discover peter entranced by an eye test pattern on the television. When they discover their neighbors are in the same condition, the guys go to the television station to investigate. They are captured by the evil Wizard Glick, who plans to use the power of something called the Frodis to enslave the minds of all humanity. The Monkees escape and recaptured several time before discovering Frodis is a sentient plant from outer space. They return Frodis to his ship where he defeats Glick and saves the world.
   There were number of strange reference to Glick and Frodis throughout the season. Prominent examples are Mike being mistaken for Glick by a gambler in Las Vegas and Frodis written on a chalkboard. Glick implies he has encountered the Monkees five years prior to “The Frodis Caper.” That would make him the closest thing to an archenemy the Monkees ever had. Aside from uncreative writers, of course.
      If nothing else, 'The Frodis Caper” proves why the series needed to mercifully end. The writing is so nonsensical, any of the social commentary, such as poking fun at the self-importance of pop culture, is lost. The frenetic camera work makes the story unpleasant to follow. Micky eventually became an accomplished director in the United Kingdom, but he was trying way too hard here. It is tough the series went out on such a weak note. The episode is weird enough that it needs to be seen at least once to b appreciated, but you would need to do a dangerous amount of narcotics to make any sense out of it.
     Rating: * (out of 5)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Monkees--"The Monkees Blow Their Minds"

     “The Monkees Blow Their Minds” was filmed for the first season, but held back for the second. It was not only held back for the second season, but held back for over a year until the series' cancellation had been announced. It was held back until the penultimate episode of the second season when no one has anything left to lose. So does that mean the episode is bad? Yes. Yes, it does.
     Peter stumbles across a charlatan mentalist named Oraculo while searching for inspiration to write a song. The Monkees are up for an audition for a ten week gig, and Peter wants to knock everyone's socks off. Oraculo uses a potion to take over Peter's mind, then uses him to both sabotage the Monkees and win he gig with his mentalist act instead. The guys figure Oraculo is controlling Peter's mind, o they set out to save him. Mike distracts Oraculo by posing as an amnesiac who lost a briefcase filled with $50,000 while Micky and Davy rescue Peter. They all wind up under Oraculo's control, but are unintentionally freed by Oraculo's assistant, Rudy. The Monkees then ruin his act in revenge.
      Burgess Meredith makes a cameo as Penguin. He is one of the club patrons watching Oraculo's act. Meredith is the third actor, in addition to Julie Newmar and Liberace, to play villains on the Batman television series and appear on The Monkees. Meredith is the only one of the three to appear as the Caped Crusader's villain on both series. Rudy is wonderfully played by frequent episode director James Frawley.
      I can see why this episode was held back as long as it was. The plot is a neat idea, but poorly executed. The musical romp does nothing but fill time rather than advance the pot. There is even a huge editing error inexplicably kept for no good reason. Micky and Davy, both disguised in the audience, work to sabotage Oraculo's act, but they are not freed from his mind control until the subsequent scene. The sequence makes no sense in the order presented. They really did not care about the show by this point.        
     The real highlight of the episode is the opening teaser in which Frank Zappa and Mike play each other for a mock interview. Mock is the appropriate word, as they both rip on the Monkees' music as banal and insipid. The pair end up destroying a truck to the beat of a Mothers of Invention song. In episode, Frawley's portrayal of Rudy is the only saving grace.
      Rating: ** (out of 5)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Monkees--"Some Like It Lukewarm'

      The Monkees found themselves in drag often throughout the series, but none so often as Davy. Davy poses as a woman a grand total of even times during the span of 58 episodes. Maybe that is why he scored so well with the ladies. He could empathize with them. At least the cross dressing was always for a good cause.
      In this case, the good cause is to win a much needed $500 in a band contest. Only mixed groups are eligible, so one of the Monkees must pose as a girl. Davy is deemed the one who can play the most convincing girl. He is not thrilled about the prospect, and the guys must fight to keep him on stage throughout their performance, but thy wind up in a tie with another band of three girls and a guy called the West Minstrel Abbeys. The two bands are set to compete against each other in a week.
      Davy must keep himself hidden until then. He eventually goes stir crazy and sneaks out to some little out of the way place where nobody goes. There, he runs into Daphne. She becomes the latest girl with whom he falls madly in love. She happens to also be posing as the guy in the West Minstrel Abbeys. Everyone comes clean on the day of the tie breaker. They all decide to form a single group in order to follow the only mixed band's rule. I guess they split the prize money? The resolution is left hanging after the performance.
      The West Minstrel Abbeys performs a rendition of 'Last Train to Clarksville” sped up to the Chipmunks' sound. Daphne is played by Deana Martin, daughter of Dean Martin. When the Monkees and the West Minstrel Abbeys combine, the girls are regulated to go go dancing in short skirts while the Monkees perform “She Hangs Out.” With three full songs and a tag in which Davy learns about soul from composer Charlie Smalls, “Some Like It Lukewarm” feature the smallest amount of story content of any episode at a shade under seventeen minutes. It also has the last “live” performance of the band on the series.
      There are many funny moments in “Some Like It Lukewarm.” most of them come at Davy's expense. The music is good, and the girls are hot. One of them is a former Playboy Playmate. What more could you ask for?
      Rating: *** (out of 5)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Monkees--"The Monkees Mind Their Manor"

    Europe simply cannot go along without Davy. If a prince does not need to be saved from assassination by her evil uncle, then a shy doppelganger prince needs him to teach the prince to properly use the old royal to woo a lady. England in particular has difficulties without Davy. If his grandfather is not insisting her return home, he is insisting Davy assist a English race car driver show the Germans what for. But “The Monkees Mind their Manor” is the final chapter in Davy's effort to serve as champion of the homeland.
     Lord kibbee dies and wills his estate to Davy on the condition he live there for five years. Davy is not too keen on leaving the United States for five years. His only two options are to leave, allowing Lance Kibbee the Sot to sell the estate to developers and evict the villagers or raise  £;50,000 to buy the state outright. He opts for the latter, o the Monkees put on a medieval fair. To fill screen time, Davy must also face a three event challenge by Tibee's lawyer, Twiggly Toppermiddlebottom. Davy take two out of three.
      In spit of the victory, the guys fall far short. The villagers refuse to force Davy to remain on the estate for their sake. Myra de Groot takes the opportunity to unload on Kibbee exactly what she thinks of him. In the heat of the moment, they declare love for one another. Tibee decides to marry her o the two can remain on the estate. That should work out well. He is a drunk and she is...not exactly a fine catch. Oh, well.
      Peter becomes he first Monkee to direct an episode. Whoever is in charge should have given him a better script. There was not much to work with here. Micky will become the next Monkee to direct an episode and the first to write one. The series finale, which comes up for review in a few days, is all his for praise or blame.
      I am not a big fan of “The Monkees Mind Their Manor.” The episode comes across as poorly planned. It is mostly because the main comedic action involves the contest between Davy and Twiggly, but the outcome would have no effect on whether the estate is sold even if Davy lost all three. It is nothing but filler. Since the story takes up only about seventeen minutes, that much filler means someone did not put much thought into the script. There are a few laughs, but they mostly rely on in jokes and British stereotypes. The episode's quality is further evidence the series is quickly coming to its inglorious end.
      Rating: ** (out of 5)

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Doctor Who--"The Doctor Falls"

      “The Doctor Falls” is the finale for the tenth series of Doctor Who. The series has been uneven, with a few highs, but mostly lows. Showrunner Steven Moffat appears to be running out of steam. As excited as I was for the writer of 'The Girl in the Fireplace” and “Blink” to take the reins seven years ago, I am equally grateful he is surrendering control to Chris Chibnall after this year's Christmas special. Does Moffat create a solid, last series finale before he goes out? Like most of the series, it is a mixed bag.
     The episode begins with the Doctor at the mercy of the Master, Missy, and Cyber Bill. The army of Cybermen are hunting down all humans and converting them to Cybermen. The doctor managed to sabotage the hunt by reprogramming the Cybermen to hunt beings with two hearts as well as one, so they all must flee. Cyber bill saves the Doctor from a hostile Cybermen attack, thereby proving she is still in control of herself. Nardole comes to everyone's rescue in a shuttle.
      They all wind up on a rural farm where a spinster is holed up with a bunch of children. The Cybermen are especially interested in children. As the Master puts it, because 'there are less parts to throw away.” Cybermen attacks have been sporadic, but when the master and Missy open a hidden portal, advanced Cybermen learn where the children are. Our heroes must prepare a defense for what looks to be a hopeless battle. Nardole tapping into a power source at the bottom of the ship is the only bright spot. The doctor's plea to the Master and Missy to stand with him go unheeded as the two depart. The Doctor plans to ignite fuel lines, killing as many Cybrmen as possible, to buy time for Nardole to escape with the children. The Doctor does not expect to survive. Cyber Bill no longer wants to live, so she joins him.
      All that sounds excitingly tense, and it is. But the emotional elements, which are the most important aspects of any story, fizzle out for me. Just before escaping, Missy changes her mind about helping the Doctor, but is killed by the Master because he cannot stand the thought of even a future incarnation of himself aiding the Doctor. Missy dies with the doctor believing she has betrayed him. The measure of one's character is what is done when no one can see, but Missy's redemption is overshadowed by the doctor never knowing he succeeded in reforming her. That is a bitter pill to swallow since the Doctor's optimism in helping Missy was a running theme throughout the series. 
     There is also Bill's turmoil of being trapped with her emotion intact inside a Cybrmen. In the end, she becomes a water alien and flies off with heather from the first episode. They leave the dying Doctor in his TARDIS. So he does not learn Bill's fate. Not to mention Nardole will be forever hunted by Cybermen with no means of escape. What a rough experience. No wonder he resists regenerating with all that on his mind. But then he encounters the First Doctor. We shall see what that is all about on Christmas.
    “The Doctor Falls” feels smaller than a series finale should. There is not as much action with the Cybermen as I would like. The ending is a serious downer in just about every respect. Yes, bill gets a happy ending, but it is strange and overly convenient for heather to show up, even if it was Bill's tears that attracted her there. Bill and the Doctor do enjoy some nice moments when he helps hr adjust to her new reality as Cyber Bill, but I was hoping for more all around. “The Doctor falls” I good, but it just does not deliver like series finale should.
      Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monkees--"The Monkees in Paris"

      The writing is on the wall. The series is fading away. Scripts that were rejected the previous season are now being filmed. Story lines are being repeated. Sometimes, those story lines are being repeated in almost back to back episodes. The cast's dissatisfaction with the staleness of the series is palpable. They are often phoning it in at best. They are occasionally in open rebellion at worst. Everyone knows the show is about to b canceled. Even clues to the final episode's contents have been hinted at throughout the last few episodes. It is over, folks.
      So if you are the cast and director James Frawley and you are only biding your time until you can move along t the net thing after the current's impending end, what do you do? The answer is crate an episode in which you express your contempt for everything wrong with the current situation while filming yourself enjoying yourselves aboard and promoting as much of your music as humanly possible. That is what “The Monkees in Paris” is. If your favorite part of The Monkees is the musical romps, then this is the episode for you.
   The entire episode is the Monkees being chased through numerous locales in Paris by four young ladies. It starts with riding scooters through the Paris streets to outdoor cafes, boat docks, an amusement park, and a cemetery(!) before ending on the Eiffel Tower with the dark implication the Monkees jumped from the top to escape the pursuing girls. Along the way, they goof around with various people they meet. I do not know how much is staged or improvised, but three appears to be genuine positive and negative reactions from both the Monkees and the people they encounter. Organized chaos would be the best way to describe it.
      There is a blonde in a yellow shirt who is particularly interested in Mike. She is my favorite of the four young ladies. You do not have to know that. I just thought I would share.
      The Parisian romp is book ended by “real world” scenes of the Monkees filming yet another episode about spies threatening them because of some microfilm they inadvertently possess when they stop filming and complain to Frawley about being forced to do the same shtick in every episode. They leave for Paris with the admonition Frawley needs to come up with something fresh by the time they return. When they return, they realize Frawley has only made cosmetic changes, so they storm off set. The show is definitely coming to an end.
      I agree the show's quality is plummeting. I feel a genuine sense of relief I only have a handful more to review. The show amused a heck of a lot better when I was nine than it does now that I am forty. I am not too enthusiastic about “The Monkees in Paris.” Well, aside from that blonde. Ironically, I appreciate her more at forty than I probably did at eight. So there is that.
     Rating: ** (out of 5)