Sunday, November 19, 2017

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves


Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Robin of Locksley returns to England from the Crusades to find his father murdered by the Sheriff of Nottingham, who is ambitiously seizing power while King Richard is away. Robin and Azeem, a Moorish warrior, join a band of merry men in Sherwood Forest, and Robin becomes their leader and motivates them to fight for their freedom. After the Sheriff kidnaps Robin's beloved Maid Marian and plans to publicly execute several of the freedom fighters, Robin and his small remaining crew infiltrate the Sheriff's castle.

Memorable Quote:
That's it, then. Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans. No more merciful beheadings. And call off Christmas.  ~Sheriff of Nottingham

Highlight:
The soundtrack is spectacular, from the triumphant main title to the slower ballads. I'm rather indifferent to Bryan Adams' Everything I Do song, which was written for this movie. If it comes on the radio, I don't necessarily turn it off, but I don't necessarily keep it on either. But when you strip everything away (e.g. Bryan's singing [sorry Bryan], the guitar, the drums), you're left with a beautiful melody that really resonates, such as in the scene where Marian is rowing away from Robin in the fog.

Lowlight:
I could have done without the witch, who was too weird for me. The version I just watched was the Director's Cut which includes a bizarre scene where the witch reveals to the Sheriff that she's actually his mother -- they were wise to cut that from the original.

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
A half-hour behind-the-scenes documentary of the film was hosted by Pierce Brosnan, although he did not star in the movie.

Pierce Brosnan is one of my favorite actors, and it's funny to me that he agreed to do this -- even if it's before he was a big movie star, he was still Remington Steele. I found a Youtube video of the documentary and watched the first few minutes, and Brosnan's passionate intensity is amusing to say the least.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Strong opening where Robin off on the Crusades, though I do wonder how he was able to so easily pull his hand out from under the falling sword considering his hand was supposedly strapped to a rock. 
  • Robin's father is played by Brian Blessed, who took a turn in MacGyver: Lost Treasure of Atlantis
  • Alan Rickman = fantastic villain.
  • Like Brosnan, Kevin Costner is very high up there on my favorite movie actor list, and I love his performance here -- he plays Robin with a great combination of charm, gentleness, and swagger. Apparently he took some heat in many corners for his lack of a British accent. Absolute tosh, I say. His lack of an accent doesn't hamper the movie in any way for me, and it's better to not do the accent than to do a bad one. Plus, how do we even know what people talked like back in the 1100s?
    • In fact, Costner and I are backed up by this satisfying piece of IMDB trivia: Kevin Costner got a lot of stick for his use of his natural American accent, however at this time in history American and English accents hadn't diverged. The rhotic accent we hear from Costner and Slater was in fact likely to be closer to the way people spoke at the time. Non-rhotic accents emerged in England much later as a way for a new working class to differentiate themselves, and that later became more common throughout the United Kingdom and is now recognized as the English accent.  Boom. 
  • Clever little twist where it's actually Marian in the knight's costume fighting Robin, but it does seem like she's really trying to stab him. Her character arc is reminiscent of Nikki Carpenter in how she starts out as a bad-ass but by the end of the movie, she's a helpless damsel in distress resolved to screaming and watching from the sidelines as Robin battles Nottingham.
  • Robin and Little John get some good licks in during their stick fight in the river -- was there a concussion protocol back then?
  • One of my favorite moments in the movie: Robin distracting the young boy when he's firing an arrow to teach him a lesson about distraction, but then Marian turns the tables on him and gets him to miss badly while blowing in his ear. The whole scene is great, and it's especially cool to see the target from Robin's viewpoint and how the bullseye gets blurry as Robin focuses on it. 
  • The big battle in the forest ends with Nottingham's large army firing flaming arrows into the treehouses. I don't see how anyone of the foresters got out of that alive -- surely Nottingham would have sent his men in to finish off any survivors. The treehouse community is amazing, by the way -- what a fun place that would have been to hang out with its bridges, rope ladders, rope swings, etc. Too bad it burned down. 
  • I haven't seen many other movies with Christian Slater (in fact, I can't think of a single one at the moment), but I like him here, and his scene where he reveals his true relationship with Robin is excellent.
  • Fun fact: the Celt leader who Nottingham recruits is played by Pat Roach, famous (to me, anyway) for his villainous roles in the first two Indiana Jones movies.
  • Hard to believe that this movie got a PG rating. I remember seeing it in the theater, so I would have been 10 years old at the time. In retrospect, there was probably too much violence for a kid my age, not to mention the ending where Nottingham tries to rape Maid Marian.
  • For some reason, I have a vague association between this movie and Cleo Rocks. I feel like maybe I went to see the movie during the day and then watched Cleo Rocks in the evening.
  • Great surprise cameo at the end from Sean Connery -- they couldn't have picked anyone better for that. 

Final Analysis:
Awesome movie! Even better than I remembered. I had seen it several times as a kid and at least once as an adult, so I knew generally what happened, but it wasn't a movie I was intimately familiar with. It's my kind of movie -- lots of adventure but with a dash of fun and doesn't take itself too seriously. I'm giving this an Outstanding (3rd tier) rating. There are several other Costner movies that I have on my list, so we'll be seeing quite a bit of him in The Movie Project. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Movie Project


Lately I've been in the mood to watch movies instead of blogging, and then it dawned on me: why not just write about the movies that I'm watching?  I ran it by the MacGyver Project board of directors, and they signed off.  There's no rhyme or reason to my choices (other than the heavy dose of 007 and general action/adventure) -- it's just whatever I feel like, maybe a movie I've seen 1000 times, a handful of times, or never before.  I made some preliminary categories and tried not to repeat any from my MacGyver List, such as the elusive "Proof that God exists."

THE GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME

PHENOMENALLY STUPENDOUSLY FANTASTIC

OUTSTANDING
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

ENTERTAINING

DECENT

MEDIOCRE

NOT ENJOYABLE

WORSE THAN THE MOUNTAIN OF YOUTH

Monday, October 2, 2017

MacGyver Fan Fiction -- Lost Love: Chapter 3


Based on the episode Lost Love.

Other Chapters: 
1, 2

The years that followed were good for my career. I traveled the world performing missions for the KGB, and my excellent work was recognized. But I wasn't happy. In fact, I developed a deep sense of self-loathing over what I had done to MacGyver and what I had given up by letting him go. At first, I thought of him every day and imagined the life we could have had together. As time went on, I tried my best to forget that he ever existed, but that effort only resulted in self-pity and depression.

Our paths didn't cross again until two years later when China was participating in a cultural exposition in Seattle. They brought along a priceless artifact, the Ming Dragon, and put a Phoenix Foundation team led by MacGyver in charge of its security. I got my orders from General Racoubian, a wily KGB old-timer -- he and I were to head to Seattle along with Nicolaj Kosov, a major who had previously been thwarted by MacGyver in Hungary, and Tanya Lyaschenka, a brutish and sadistic blonde. Our goal was to compel MacGyver to steal the dragon -- then we'd recover it and return it to China in hopes of irreparably damaging US-Sino relations while strengthening our ties with the Chinese.

The old me would have been over the moon to see him, but I was so depressed by that point that I just wanted the mission to be over with as soon as possible. We met on a boat, and I deceived him by telling him that he had seen me get shot two years ago. I also lied when I told him that I had married Kosov, a fellow prisoner in the gulag, and that we wanted to defect.

I escaped during MacGyver's friend Jack's magic show, but apparently Tanya didn't get the memo from Racoubian as to what was going on, because she went crazy and started firing real bullets at me. As I escaped with MacGyver, who did his best to elude my team, I briefly thought, "What if we get away, what will I do?" But the net closed in on us, and my team proceeded with the plan, which was to hold me as a faux-hostage in exchange for MacGyver stealing the Ming Dragon.

MacGyver did end up stealing the dragon and defeating his own security system to do it -- I never doubted him for a second. After he and Jack traded the dragon for me in an old warehouse, we escaped by car. Incredibly, I found myself in the exact same situation that I had been in two years ago -- as a KGB agent, cover still in tact, with a chance to run away with MacGyver for good.

Whereas earlier I betrayed MacGyver out of fear, this time I did it out of sheer contempt for myself. It may be hard for you to understand, because who among us can be so fortunate as to be gifted such a golden opportunity to rectify a past mistake, but I was so far gone that I truly didn't want myself to be happy. All I could think about was getting rid of MacGyver so that he'd be out of my life forever. When we arrived at the KGB compound and he saw that I betrayed him, his look of disgust hurt me in my core while also beautifully fulfilling my masochistic vision for myself.

I couldn't resist him when he took one of my hairpins to use as a lock pick, even though I knew this would be the end of me, one way or another. After he and Jack started to escape in Racoubian's chopper, Kosov and Racoubian were about to open fire on them when instinct took over and I knocked both of them to the ground. I even gave Kosov a good whack with Racoubian's cane, although not quite good enough as I would learn less than a minute later.

In that brief instant, the old me was back. I yelled to MacGyver to wait for me, and he brought the chopper down. As I ran toward him, he looked deeply into my eyes and time slowed down. I had finally overcome my fear and self-loathing, and now I was going to be where I belonged -- with him.

I wish I could say that my death was faked again and that I was alive and living happily with him, but that is not the case. Kosov put a bullet in my back, and I died in MacGyver's arms. "MacGyver, I do love you."

THE END

Next up:
Walking Dead

MacGyver Fan Fiction -- Lost Love: Chapter 2


Based on the episode Lost Love.

Other Chapters: 1, 3

I was called into my superior's office and given a dossier on my next assignment: a DXS agent named MacGyver. The DXS was involved with a dispute between the Soviet Union and a group of Estonian rebels, and naturally the KGB wasn't looking too kindly at the Americans sticking their noses into our business. Our intelligence indicated that MacGyver would be making contact with the rebels near the Baltic coast in October, and that gave me time to insert myself with them that summer, which wasn't difficult because I'm fluent in Estonian.

Back to MacGyver. His file was quite impressive. He had taken on assignments from all over the world, and he always managed to get the job done. Most amazingly, he completed his missions without the use of weaponry -- perhaps that was why he was consistently underestimated by his adversaries. His file photo showed him to be quite handsome in an American Boy Scout kind of way, but I had no reason to doubt my ability to stay detached.

We first met on a sunny, crisp day at the rebel camp, which was in a forest near the Poruni River. I was immediately struck by his gentle and polite manner -- uncommon traits in a male spy. And what started out as a congenial rapport quickly escalated into a torrid affair.

We had plenty of down time in the camp, and we often took long walks in the woods where we learned about each other. He was from Minnesota, an American state known for its cold climate and hearty people. It didn't take long for him to start confiding in me his most heartfelt wishes and fears, like how he longed to meet the right woman and settle down but that he couldn't bear the thought of getting close to someone and then losing them like he lost his parents.

Somehow this man with an overwhelming fear of commitment worked up the nerve to propose to me after one month. We were in a cabin lying in bed together when he pulled out a ring -- it was much too big, but there weren't exactly any jewelry shops nearby. I never expected to fall in love on the job, let alone have it happen so quickly, but he was just marvelous and a really good man who I loved being around and who made me feel safe.

I told him that I would marry him, but inside I knew that I needed more time to think. Unfortunately I didn't have that time -- all I had was two days before our fateful mission. He thought we were going to blow up a weapons depot, but there were no weapons there. The plan was to let him escape with a disk containing falsified data, specifically to make Soviet troops and tanks in Estonia seem much more numerous and formidable than they actually were, in hopes that the DXS would back off. And I was to appear to be killed with the possibility of using him as an asset if the need ever arose.

The night before our mission, he lay in bed next to me sound asleep while my mind was racing way too much for me to get any rest. What should I do? My heart wanted to forget the mission, tell him the truth, and find a way to go back with him to America. But I was scared -- scared of getting caught, scared of what the KGB would do to my parents, scared of always looking over my shoulder. While I considered myself a risk-taker, I just couldn't find a way to overcome my fear to be with the man I loved.

The next day as we were ready to move in on the facility, I was very fortunate not to cry as I kissed him. The rest of the plan went off without a hitch. As the sirens blared and I ran toward him, I looked up at him and our eyes met. I heard the sound of gunfire and I fell, pretending to be shot by the blank ammunition. My heart sank when I heard him cry out in horror. As I lay on the ground with my eyes closed, I prayed that I would have the chance to make it right with him one day.

TO BE CONTINUED...

Sunday, October 1, 2017

MacGyver Fan Fiction -- Lost Love: Chapter 1



Based on the episode Lost Love.

Other Chapters: 2, 3

In Moldova we have a saying, "Two birds in the bush are worth one in the hand." We're not afraid to take risks, and why wouldn't we? Coming from one of the poorest nations in Europe, with impossible winters and a legacy of subservience to Mother Russia, what have we got to lose?

I was born as Nadia Davalenko, a decade after the end of the terrible war which devastated my homeland. I grew up on an orchard farm near Balti, a northern manufacturing town on the Raut River. The fertile soil was ideal for growing wheat, cherries, and apricots, and we raised cattle and chickens. I learned the value of hard work on that farm, a value that served me well as I excelled in school and caught the attention of the powers that be in the Soviet spy apparatus.

The KGB was always on the lookout for talent, especially female talent. Why female? Well, obviously it's because we're smarter than men. We're also better listeners and more nurturing -- useful traits when cultivating an asset. My first special talent was languages. I can't explain it -- it was just a gift that allowed me to master them so easily. My second special talent? My beauty. No man could resist me when I turned on my charm.

So what motivated me to spy for the KGB? I yearned to see the world and have adventures -- we Moldovans are risk-takers after all, and the opportunities for a farm girl from Balti were few and far between. But after being ordered to seduce enemy agent after enemy agent, my youthful exuberance wore off and was replaced by a hardened ambition and a desire to work my way up the ranks so that I could give the orders. I cared about myself and my career, but did I give a damn about the KGB and its purposes? Nyet.

Seduction was easy for me because beneath my jovial smile lay a cold Soviet heart that was more than capable of staying emotionally detached while being physically attached. I had a job to do, and I did it. There was a time when I was younger that I thought about wanting a family, but that was a very long time ago.

So there I was, on the fast track to a prominent position in the Soviet state, when I met him, the man that changed my life forever. Just when I thought my heart had frozen to the point of being unthawable, I discovered that he and he alone had the key to unlock it. His name? MacGyver.

TO BE CONTINUED...

Friday, September 29, 2017

The MacGyver Fan Fiction Project

It's time to announce The MacGyver Fan Fiction Project!  Fan fiction is where fans write stories based on a preexisting narrative universe.  I've never tried it before, but it sounds like a fun way to write and to get back into the world of MacGyver.

My idea is to write a multi-part story around each episode from the point of view of one of the characters, starting before the episode begins and delving into the backstories.  Then I'll describe some of the episode's events from the character's perspective and hit on what happens after the episode ends. And rather than go in episodic order, I thought it would be more fun to pick them at random.  So I printed out the name of each episode (including the two movies and The Gauntlet opening gambit), cut the paper into strips, and put them in an envelope.

I'm not sure how many I'll do because I don't really know if I'm going to enjoy it until I try it. And it would probably take me at least 20 years to finish the series if I ever stuck with it.  But you gotta start somewhere!  Also coming soon: The James Bond and Indiana Jones review projects...

But let's get back to MacGyver and bring out the envelope!  Drumroll please -- bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum!  And the first episode is.....

LOST LOVE -- I complained in my review that we didn't know enough about Lisa Kohler's backstory.  Let's rectify that!

ARCHIVE

SEASON 1
Pilot
The Golden Triangle
Thief of Budapest
The Gauntlet - opening gambit
The Gauntlet - episode
The Heist
Trumbo's World
Last Stand
Hellfire
The Prodigal
Target MacGyver
Nightmares
Deathlock
Flame's End
Countdown
The Enemy Within
Every Time She Smiles
To Be A Man
Ugly Duckling
Slow Death
The Escape
A Prisoner of Conscience
The Assassin

SEASON 2
The Human Factor
The Eraser
Twice Stung
The Wish Child
Final Approach
Jack of Lies
The Road Not Taken
Eagles
Silent World
Three For The Road
Phoenix Under Siege
Family Matter
Soft Touch
Birth Day
Pirates
Out in the Cold
Dalton, Jack of Spies
Partners
Bushmaster
Friends
DOA MacGyver
For Love or Money

SEASON 3
Ghost Ship
Fire and Ice
GX-1
Jack in the Box
The Widowmaker
Hell Week
Blow Out
Kill Zone
Early Retirement
Thin Ice
The Odd Triple
The Negotiator
The Spoilers
Mask of the Wolf
Rock the Cradle
The Endangered
Murderers' Sky

SEASON 4
The Secret of Parker House
Blood Brothers
The Outsiders
On a Wing and a Prayer
Collision Course
The Survivors
Deadly Dreams
Ma Dalton
Cleo Rocks
Fraternity of Thieves
The Battle of Tommy Giordano
The Challenge
Runners
Gold Rush
The Invisible Killer
Brainwashed
Easy Target
Renegade
Unfinished Business

SEASON 5
Legend of the Holy Rose (1 and 2)
The Black Corsage
Cease Fire
Second Chance
Halloween Knights
Children of Light
Black Rhino
The Ten Percent Solution
Two Times Trouble
The Madonna
Serenity
Live and Learn
Log Jam
The Treasure of Manco
Jenny's Chance
Deep Cover
The Lost Amadeus
Hearts of Steel
Rush to Judgement
Passages

SEASON 6
Tough Boys
Humanity
The Gun
Twenty Questions
The Wall
Lesson in Evil
Harry's Will
MacGyver's Women
Bitter Harvest
The Visitor
Squeeze Play
Jerico Games
The Wasteland
Eye of Osiris
High Control
There But For The Grace
Blind Faith
Faith, Hope, and Charity
Strictly Business
Trail of Tears
Hind-Sight

SEASON 7
Honest Abe
The 'Hood
Obsessed
The Prometheus Syndrome
The Coltons
Walking Dead
Good Knight MacGyver (1 and 2)
Deadly Silents
Split Decision
Gunz 'N Boyz
Off the Wall
The Stringer
The Mountain of Youth

MOVIES
Lost Treasure of Atlantis
Trail to Doomsday

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dodge the Bullet: A MacGyver Balloon Game

Materials Needed to Play:
  • 2 people
  • 1 balloon
  • heart and desire

Rules: 
  1. Player 1 gives themselves the name of their favorite MacGyver villain, and then they grab a balloon and sit on a chair or sofa.
  2. Player 2, aka MacGyver our hero, finds an empty space in front of Player 1.
  3. Player 1 strikes the balloon in an attempt to hit Player 2.  Player 2 attempts to dodge the balloon.
  4. If the balloon hits Player 2 before striking anything else, then Player 2 gets "shot."  If the balloon hits any other surface first such as the floor or another object, then the bullet is "dead" and the play is over without Player 2 getting shot.
  5. After each attempt, Player 2 must return the balloon to Player 1 in a reasonably expedient fashion. Harry's Will showed us that MacGyver is a good sport.
  6. The game continues for a predetermined amount of time.  When the time is up, if Player 1 has been shot less than 8 times (i.e. the number of times MacGyver was shot in the series), then Player 1 wins.  If Player 1 gets shot 8 times or more, then Player 2 is victorious.

History of the Game:
With all due respect to all the other MacGyver Balloon games out there, I'm going to go out on a limb and claim that Dodge the Bullet is the greatest MacGyver Balloon game that's ever been invented.  For more, let's see what Nick from 3 years ago had to say in the On a Wing and a Prayer post:

In this episode, Pete gets shot in the shoulder.  This is the first episode we've covered where either MacGyver or Pete gets shot.  I think we need to add a "shot chart" to keep track of all the times MacGyver and Pete get shot, so I'll add it to the rankings page.  At this point, you're thinking, "that's a little weird."  Let me explain.  When I was a kid, I played a game with my sisters that I called "Dodge the Bullet."  I liked to dodge things, and I was impressed with MacGyver's ability (or luck) to dodge bullets that were frequently whizzing by.  So when I was watching MacGyver with one of my sisters, we would play "Dodge the Bullet" during the commercials.  The rules of the game were that my sister had to sit on the sofa while holding a balloon.  Meanwhile, I would jump and dive around the room.  She would whack the balloon with her hand (like overhand hitting a volleyball) and try to hit me with the balloon, and I would try and dodge it.  As soon at the balloon hit something (like the floor, the window behind me, or the coffee table), the bullet was dead, so to speak, and I was free to pick it up and give it back to her.  Each time the balloon hit me first, however, I was "shot."  My goal was to get shot fewer times than MacGyver had gotten shot all-time in the series--if that happened, then I "won."  If I got hit greater than or equal to the number of times he got shot, then I "lost."  There were many times where it was very dramatic as I was on my last life and waiting for the commercial to end while having to dodge the balloon like my life depended on it.  Back then, there were still new episodes coming out and I was seeing older ones for the first time, so if there was a new one where he got shot, it was actually a good thing for me in the game, because it meant I got an extra life. Although of course I didn't like to see MacGyver get shot.  There you go. See, no weirdness at all.  

Demonstration:
This demo comes from 10 years ago when I was a bit more nimble.  And the gal doing the shooting? None other than Mrs. MacGyver Project.



Your Turn:
Go find a balloon and a friend and play some Dodge the Bullet!