Archive for Saturday, May 24, 2008

Final Approach’ hijacks formula

May 24, 2008


For those who care, a whole May sweeps month has passed us by without a deliciously cheesy network miniseries to mark the occasion. The three-hour thriller "Final Approach" (7 p.m., Eastern, today, Hallmark) will just have to do.

A throwback in so many ways, "Approach" features a cast crowded with past movie and network stars. Dean Cain ("10.5: Apocalypse") plays a fired and disgraced FBI agent married to another federal agent, Lea Thompson ("Jane Doe"). Ernie Hudson ("Ghostbusters") stars as a fellow FBI agent, and Anthony Michael Hall ("Dead Zone") does a good job as a creepy terrorist.

After a belabored buildup that hardly justifies the film's long running time, "Approach" settles into a familiar groove. White-supremacist militia terrorists under the leadership of Hall's character hijack a plane and threaten to blow up a hidden nuclear device unless the government knuckles under to their demands. I told you this was a throwback. How many years and movies has it been since domestic terror showed up in a thriller?

"Final" follows all of the conventions of old-fashioned thrillers dating back to "Airport." It has nothing on such post-9/11 thrillers as "24," but at least Cain's tough-guy character is named Jack.

¢ Speaking of all-star flashbacks, "Recount" (8 p.m., Sunday, HBO) recalls the unprecedented chaos, confusion and hard-knuckled politics and legal maneuvering that followed the Florida voting controversy in the 2000 presidential elections.

"Recount" does a remarkable job of illuminating the actions and motivations of major and minor political players, many of whom remain unknown to the average viewer. It also manages to make a nail-biter out of a story in which everybody knows the ending.

And it's just fun to watch familiar actors playing characters known and unknown. Kevin Spacey stars as Ron Klain, former chief of staff for Al Gore, who tries to galvanize the staff into stiffer resistance to the Republican strategy.

Tom Wilkinson ("Michael Clayton") portrays James Baker III, and he's a joy to watch. John Hurt is Warren Christopher, former secretary of state under Bill Clinton, whose gentle, diplomatic manner irks Klain and his fellow staffer, Michael Whouley (Denis Leary), and proves no match for Baker's maneuvers.

Laura Dern steals the show as the most memorable and derided character of the melodrama. She makes Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris seem almost sympathetic. When the storm arrives, she's an unassuming appointed official overmatched by events and ill-equipped for the political intrigue. And, over time, her overly made-up demeanor simply melts in the media spotlight.

Today's highlights

¢ Keira Knightley stars in the 2005 adaptation of "Pride & Prejudice" (7 p.m., Oxygen).

¢ A photo shoot at a dog park challenges the talent on "Groomer Has it" (8 p.m., Animal Planet).

Sunday's highlights

¢ On two episodes of "Cold Case" (CBS), gender confusion (7 p.m.), cold storage (8 p.m.).

¢ Flower's tale unfolds in the movie-length profile of the Whisker clan and its origins, "Meerkat Manor: The Story Begins" (7 p.m., Animal Planet).


Sigmund 10 years ago

"For those who care, a whole May sweeps month has passed us by without a deliciously cheesy network miniseries to mark the occasion. The three-hour thriller "Final Approach" (7 p.m., Eastern, today, Hallmark) will just have to do."Au contraire. Beginning Memorial Day on A&E viewers will find out why it is "a bad day to be human" when virtually the entire town of Piedmont, Utah is wiped out within minutes. I say virtually wiped out because there are two survivors, a old man who drinks Sterno and colicky baby. It's up to a crack team of scientist assigned to a secret US Biological Hazard/Weapons lab known as "Wildfire" to discover the cause, the connections, and the cure before the human race is devastated.Now if this plot line reminds you of Michael Crichton's very first novel nearly four decades ago, the 1969 best seller "The Andromeda Strain" which was made into a 1971 movie of the same name, well I have good news and bad news. it is (wait for it) "a TV adaptation!"First things first. Michael Crichton's original book is brilliant, believable and filled with just enough science to be scary as hell. A top secret government biological project goes haywire and threatens to wipe the planet of human beings, presumably making the entire human caused global warming debate mute and Al Gore even more irrelevant. Stephen King will also recognize this as the same plot line of his first mega blockbuster novel "The Stand" which propelled him into the movie/publishing worlds stratosphere along side Crichton. In King's "The Stand" wiping the planet of nearly all humans takes up a chapter or two while in "The Andromeda Strain" the entire book is composed of very smart humans trying to avoid extinction of the species because of the incompetence of equally smart scientist and despite their own incompetence. This is classic Crichton "Chaos Theory" years before "Jurassic Park" made it a movie cliche. Kings "The Walking Dude" and "Captain Trips" scared me. Crichton's very top scientists who despite their best efforts and good intentions seem fated to destroy the world shook me to my very core and too this very day.

Sigmund 10 years ago

So as you might imagine the two part, four hour, mini series "The Andromeda Strain (2008)" which premiers on A&E this Memorial Day piqued my interest and I can report that the first night it is very, very good. In fact it is every bit as good as the original movie, it is faithful to Crichton's original work, the CGI and sets are first rate, the acting is competent and broadcast in HD looks simply amazing.But like a Crichton novel, despite the very best intentions of the very smart screen writers, directors, actors, set builders and CGI programmers, the second half descends into the silliness that defines the modern cheesy network miniseries. Without giving too much away, these highly paid broadcasters have decided to spice things up a bit with time travel via a wormhole, "swarm intelligence," a slap in the face of Clinton's "Don't ask, don't tell" policies, the dangers of ocean drilling, and a couple of radical eco-terrorists, just to name a few "additions." As a result Crichton's masterpiece becomes a bloated bit of political correct rubbish and is therefore probably destined for high praise, a Emmy, and possibly even a Nobel Prize for literature.Now even though I have warned you not to watch we know you will anyway. After all you watched "Two Girls and a Cup" even though everyone you know told you not to, didn't you? So here is the low down. "The Andromeda Strain (2008)" May 26 and 27 at 8pm/CT on A&E.

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