Monday, March 17, 2003

The Movie I Watched Last Night LX

Saturday: The Twilight Zone
In "A Passage for Trumpet," which originally aired May 20, 1960, Jack Klugman plays a down-on-his-luck, alcoholic trumpet player who waits in the back alley of a nightclub to persuade an old friend to let him play. His character's monologue on the meaning of his music and how half of his language is inside his horn is wonderful. But the scene in which he notices that the trumpet he just sold for $8.50 is now in the pawn shop window priced $25 is quite sad. While the purgatory sequence is fun, the ending is slightly disappointing. Still, a good episode with an interesting Angel Gabriel cameo. "Mr. Dingle, the Strong" originally aired March 3, 1955, and is a silly twist on the Willy Loman story. Burgess Meredith plays an inept, cowardly vacuum cleaner salesman who is embued with superhuman strength by two horribly costumed aliens. Meredith's stutter contradicts his strength well, but all in all, the episode isn't that great. Still, it's neat to see Meredith tear a phonebook in half. The dramatic and fey TV announcer with the unplugged but oft-used microphone is a highlight, as is Meredith's growing confidence until his anticlimactic end. Don Rickles' presence is appreciated. The third episode on the DVD, "Two," which originally aired Sept. 15, 1961, has a great opening line: "This is a jungle, a monument built by nature commemorating disuse." After a slightly more interesting title sequence, we are presented with the story of a city that's been abandoned for five years after enemy foot troops land on Earth. Two survivors, one male, one female -- including a young Charles Bronson -- have to determine the future of both of their races. "There are no longer any armies, just rags of different colors that were once uniforms." A good episode to watch on the day the Stand up for Peace rally was held along Massachusetts Avenue. Lastly, "The Four of Us Are Dying" originally aired Jan. 1, 1960. Perhaps the darkest and most twisted take on the human condition on this DVD, the episode features a man who can change his facial features at will. He impersonates several people who have disappeared, tinkering with the lives and loves of those who remain behind. Then he adopts the persona of a boxer to escape some thugs in an alley -- only to encounter the boxer's estranged father, and his own strange end. Rod Serling-era Twilight Zone episodes rock.

Sunday: Sneakers
Movies like this give me hope that Dan Aykroyd isn't a washed-up has been. In fact, for a movie about computer hacking and cryptography, this movie's cast comprises a surprising number of stars: Aykroyd, Robert Redford, a young River Phoenix, and Sidney Poitier. A Ghostbusters-like clutch of cryptographers, hackers, and cat burglars are enlisted to recover a little black box that can break any code. Redford's character has a countercultural past from his days at Harvard (That was the Widener Library, wasn't it?), and the team quickly learns that they were hired by people who weren't as they claimed. So they decide to try to reclaim the box. It's a fun movie that casts security hacking in a surprisingly sensitive light circa 1992, and the mystery is convoluted enough that you're kept guessing for much of the movie. In the end, the hackers win, of course, but it's sure fun getting there. Ben Kingsley plays a wonderful misguided, evil genius. And the scene in which the blind Whistler -- played by David Strathairn -- commandeers a van to save the day is a one to root for. Surprisingly good, and it's held up well for the last 10-plus years.

No comments: