Tuesday, February 25, 2014

5 movies I didn’t know I had

Here’s another unconventional route to Overlooked Films at Todd Mason’s blog Sweet Freedom. Hop over and read some real reviews of classic films over there.

Spring-cleaning unearths stuff you didn't know you had in the first place. It can be a tiresome task, but sometimes it pays off. Last weekend, on cleaning up the house, I found five movie CDs I had forgotten about. They were new and still wrapped in cellophane. The CDs are at least a few years old. I must have bought them on a whim, as I did books, films, and music in those days. Fortunately, these are the only CDs I haven't seen yet. By comparison, I have nearly a hundred unread books, mostly used paperbacks.

The five movies in question are...

1. South Pacific (1958)
2. Judgement at Nuremberg (1961)
3. How the West Was Won (1962)
4. Everyone Says I Love You (1996)
5. It Runs in the Family (2003).

It's likely that I have seen films 2 & 3 on cable, on the erstwhile TCM channel.

As I arranged and rearranged the other movie CDs into folders, most notably a precious collection of Laurel & Hardy and Charlie Chaplin, I thought about these films. Why did I buy them? Let me see.

I remember picking up South Pacific because a colleague strongly recommended it along with that other musical Oklahoma! (1955) which also I have yet to see. He had nice things to say about Mitzi Gaynor. I have enjoyed musical comedies ever since I first saw My Fair Lady (1964), The Sound of Music (1965), and Victor Victoria (1982). Julie Andrews was paired off well with Christopher Plummer and James Garner in the last two films.

I can think of at least three reasons why I must have bought Judgement at Nuremberg—multi-star cast, WWII film, and Maximilian Schell and Richard Widmark. People were in awe of these two fine actors. I haven't seen them in many films but I have read about them in film reviews on various blogs.

The epic scale of How the West Was Won probably got me interested in this multi-actor film. Besides, I'm curious about anything that is even remotely connected with the frontier.

I'm quite sure I purchased Everyone Says I Love You only because it was a Woody Allen film. I knew people who swore by his acting and direction. Personally, I have found his films to be rather boring. I can take only so much of dialogue. Considering the star lineup of Julia Roberts, Alan Alda, Edward Norton, Drew Barrymore, Tim Roth, Goldie Hawn, and Natalie Portman, this one might yet prove me wrong. Would you call his films esoteric?

I remember, the father-son duo of Kirk and Michael Douglas was the only reason why I picked up It Runs in the Family, a film said to be so-so.

Now there's my stack of films for the summer holidays. 

We talk about unread books and TBR piles all the time. What about the unseen and forgotten movie CDs and Blu-rays in your trunk?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Footpath libraries

On October 21, 2013, in a post titled Of old books and dying telegrams, I wrote about the famed secondhand bookstalls of south Mumbai, located about 2 km (1.25 miles) from my office and 20 km (12.40 miles) from where I live. The following pictures are of more of these bookstalls situated outside American Express Bank at Flora Fountain, or Hutatma Chowk (Martyrs' Square). So far the municipal corporation has left them alone. Dozens of others on opposite footpaths were not so lucky; they were evicted a few years ago. 

The booksellers don't read books but they know their books—ask for a title and they'll most likely have it. If they don't then they'll get it for you.

One of the good things about these footpath booksellers is that they also lend books on a library basis. For instance, you can borrow an Agatha Christie or a P.G. Wodehouse for Rs.100 ($1.60) and keep it for a month. Upon returning it, the bookseller will repay Rs.70 and pocket the balance Rs.30 as reading price. Prices vary depending on the book you borrow. However, before lending you the book, he makes a small notation on the last page, a sort of identification, so he knows you borrowed it from him. He will scribble 100 - 70 = 30 and put his initials next to it. There is no limit on the number of books you can borrow. In case you don't ever return the book, then he keeps Rs.100 as the actual price of the book. In fact, books are lent on the selling price on the assumption that you won't return them. 

The famous St. Thomas Cathedral Church located a few metres away. Built in 1718, it is the first Anglican church in Mumbai (then Bombay). The nearby Churchgate station, the beginning and end of journey for office-goers and local commuters, gets its name from this church.

I seldom buy books from these sellers. If they know their books well, they know their prices even better. I have found other places, especially in the suburbs where I live, where good used books can be found much cheaper. The two John Gardner's James Bond novels I wrote about in the previous post would have cost me at least Rs.50 each (nearly a dollar) as opposed to Rs.20 (less than half a dollar) that I paid in the suburbs. 

© All photographs by Prashant C. Trikannad

Friday, February 21, 2014

John Gardner’s James Bond novels

What do I review for FFB at Patti Abbott’s blog Pattinase this week? I had a choice between two detective short stories, a few vintage comic books, and a hardboiled crime fiction. I read them all. However, since I didn’t have the time to sit down and review any of them, I decided to write about the two novels I purchased recently from a secondhand bookstore—John Gardner’s James Bond novels—Licence Renewed (1981) and For Special Services (1982). I haven’t read them yet.

It’s always easier and quicker to write about books you haven’t read.

While I have read books by Gardner, I have never read any of his adaptations of Ian Fleming’s master spy. I am aware that Gardner is one of many authors who continued Fleming’s legacy through both novels and short stories. Other worthies include Kingsley Amis (as Robert Markham), John Pearson, Christopher Wood, Raymond Benson, Sebastian Faulks, Jeffery Deaver, William Boyd, and Charlie Higson who introduced the Young Bond series.

I was delighted with my new acquisitions for two reasons—the used paperbacks are in good condition and cost me Rs.20 each (less than half a dollar) and the titles are Nos. 1 & 2 of the over a dozen 007 books Gardner wrote. In fact, I think he wrote a book or two more than Fleming did.

In Licence Renewed, James Bond makes a comeback 15 years after Ian Fleming wrote his last two novels, Octopussy and The Living Daylights, in 1966. He challenges a “dangerously deranged opponent bent on the destruction of the western world in a nuclear holocaust.” And, in For Special Services, 007 is on loan to the United States government and takes on an old enemy, the legendary SPECTRE — the Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion.

I’ll be reading both these novels but I’ll not be reviewing them. Gardner’s Bond novels are already popular and written about more than a bit.

Meanwhile, the crime fiction I mentioned above reads like a cross between an Ed McBain and John D. MacDonald novel. It’s gritty and hardboiled and paints a realistic picture of police procedurals and jurisdictions as well as the very ordinary lives of police detectives and state attorneys. I was struck by the starkness of the style, the story, and the characters. Review to follow soon.

The two stories I read earlier this week were A Warning in Red and The Affair of the Corridor Express, two delightful mysteries by English clergyman and author Victor Lorenzo Whitechurch (1868-1933). The stories deal with a murder and a kidnapping, respectively, and are set around trains in England. They are w
ritten clearly, precisely, and concisely.

The Affair of the Corridor Express is one of 15 stories in Thrilling Stories of the Railway featuring the eccentric detective Thorpe Hazell. John Norris, a keen reader and writer of vintage fiction, has reviewed the short story collection at his blog Pretty Sinister Books. He has also reviewed Whitechurch’s The Robbery at Rudwick House.

Note: The two covers are replicas of my novels.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

We Are the World by USA for Africa, 1985

I haven't done a post on music for a while now, so here's one on a very popular song of the eighties, for Overlooked Films, Audio & Video at Todd Mason's blog Sweet Freedom.

The mid-eighties (1984, 1985 & 1986) was a productive year for music makers and music lovers. The period saw hundreds of hits by singers who became household names overnight. Michael Jackson topped the impressive list. Kenny Loggins’ foot tapping number, Footloose, was a rage. The namesake album contained some fine songs like Let’s Hear It for the Boy by Deniece Williams, Almost Paradise by Mike Reno and Ann Wilson, and Holding Out for a Hero by Bonnie Tyler.

Back then I was in college and my friends and I used to listen to the songs on our radios, cassette players and walkmans, and sometimes watch the videos on state-run television. A local publisher capitalised on the music craze by bringing out booklets of the songs with lyrics and pictures. We collected them for a while.

Several of these popular songs won Grammy Awards during this golden period. The songs, belonging to various categories, included Thriller, Beat It and Billie Jean by Michael Jackson, Every Breath You Take by The Police, Flashdance...What A feeling by Irene Cara, Chaka Khan by Chaka Khan, A Little Good News by Anne Murray, Love Is A Battlefield by Paul Benatar, What's Love Got to Do with It by Tina Turner, Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me now) by Phil Collins, Ghostbusters by Ray Parker, Jr., Caribbean Queen by Billy Ocean, Dancing in the Dark by Bruce Springsteen, Saving All My Love for You by Whitney Houston, Nightshift by Commodores, Freeway of Love by Aretha Franklin, and Money for Nothing by Dire Straits, among others.

There was one other song, a special song for charity, which won four Grammys in 1986 and became a big hit everywhere—We Are the World. It was performed by nearly two dozen contemporary solo artists, a veritable who’s who of the music world, and supported by a fine chorus comprising the likes of Dan Ackroyd, Harry Belafonte, John Oates, Bette Midler, Jeffrey Osborne, Bob Geldof, and Smokey Robinson. The song was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, produced and conducted by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian, and recorded by USA for Africa in 1985. Geldof and Belafonte were the spirit behind the charity single in aid of famine relief in Africa. The idea for 'USA for Africa' came from the 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' project by Band Aid in the UK. You can read the colourful history behind the event right here.

Today, 'We Are the World' is one of the most popular music videos on the internet. It’s a song that appeals to both old and new listeners. It has a great lineup of singers and musicians, each of whom lends his or her distinct voice to a worthy cause. The meaningful lyrics are put to rich and varying music. Over the years I have seen the video many times and have come to recognise most of the singers in the order they sing—Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers, James Ingram, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Willie Nelson, Al Jarreau, Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Loggins, Steve Perry, Daryl Hall, Huey Lewis, Cyndi Lauper, Kim Carnes, Bob Dylan, and Ray Charles.

You may click here and watch the video of the song that has been labelled as sentimental stuff by many. To me, it’s just a wonderful song.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Do you have a favourite Arnold Schwarzenegger movie?

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando
Not such a tough question, is it? Well, I don't know...I'm still thinking. I liked the Austrian-born actor in many of his films like The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Collateral Damage, The 6th Day, Commando, End of Days, True Lies, Eraser, Total Recall, Junior, Kindergarten Cop, Red Heat, Last Action Hero, Predator, Twins, Raw Deal, and Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer.

I might also have seen Red Sonja and The Running Man but I can’t say for sure. I didn’t care for The Expendables 1 & 2. Schwarzenegger looked too old, as did Sylvester Stallone and Jean Claude van Damme. Who let the geezers out of the old-age home?

For me, Schwarzenegger is more than just an actor; he is also a huge entertainer. I can watch his films without my thinking cap on. I prefer him as an action hero rather than as a comedian with a stupid grin. Watch the final scene in Jingle All the Way where he is holding up the last of the Turboman dolls for his son. I wonder if he felt silly later. 

In Conan the Barbarian, Schwarzenegger is crucified to a barren tree in the middle of a desert, the nails hammered right into the centre of both his palms and feet. The vultures are moving in. Schwarzenegger plays dead and when one of the ugly birds attacks him, he turns and seizes its neck with his teeth, bites hard until it goes limp in his mouth, and spits it out. Soon after, he sees one of his men running towards him and Schwarzenegger launches into a bout of insane laughter. He looks almost freaky.

Coming back to my question (do we even need a favourite?), it’d be a toss-up between Commando and Predator. I loved the two films. If I’m forced to pick any one, I’d choose Commando for all-round entertainment—an equal dose of action and humour with plenty of one-liners that Schwarzenegger has honed into an art. Here's a popular one...

Major General Franklin Kirby (James Olson): Leave anything for us?
Matrix (Schwarzenegger, after killing hundreds of men): Just bodies.

He can deliver lines, deadpan.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Father-Thing by Philip K. Dick, 1954, and Rain, Rain, Go Away by Isaac Asimov, 1959

It’s Friday’s Forgotten Books at Patti Abbott’s blog Pattinase. Hop over and read the many other reviews there.

Last week I read two short stories by Shirley Jackson that revolved around families and the turmoil within. This week I read two more stories, under sf, that also centered on families and the disparities within. The two sets of stories have a common theme—there is more (to the families) than meets the eye, or as the forward to The Father-Thing by Philip K. Dick notes, “People are not what they seem to be,” giving rise to a sense of foreboding, perhaps even fear. I just happened to read them that way.

“The other one,” Charles was muttering under his breath. “The other one came in.”

In The Father-Thing, young Charlie Walton discovers, to his horror, that his father is not really his father and is, in fact, an alien who looks and behaves just like him, as normal as Ted Walton in every way. With his mother June merely perplexed over his strange behaviour at the dinner table and no one and no place he can really go to, the boy’s mental anguish is at once felt by the reader. Charlie musters up courage and gets two boys from the neighbourhood, one of whom is a local bully, to help him trap the impostor who has invaded his home, killed his father, and destroyed his family. It is touching to see the boy lose his innocence overnight and come to terms with the disintegration of his family and the people he loves.

What happens to Charlie can be seen as a metaphor for both the strange and familiar things that happen to families, like divorces and estrangements that tear children apart and bring their innocent world crashing down, and the unpredictability of domestic life.

The premise of the story, which first appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Vol.7, No.6, December 1954, has been compared to (Invasion of) The Body Snatchers (1955) by Jack Finney that spawned at least two namesake films in 1956 and 1978 and probably some others too. I read that it was a popular concept at the time.

“She’s always looking at the sky; I've seen her do it a hundred times and she’s never been out when it’s the least bit cloudy.”

In contrast to the above story, Rain, Rain, Go Away is a fun tale about two neighbouring families, the Wrights and the Sakkaros, one seemingly normal and the other seemingly abnormal. Lillian Wright is curious about her new neighbours (in typical fashion, she peeps at them from behind her Venetian blinds) and wants to get to know them better. However, she notices something strange in their behaviour. For instance, she wonders why Mrs. Sakkaro keeps looking at the sky or why the family never steps out even when it’s least cloudy. On the other hand, her husband George is indifferent and would rather sit in front of the television with a king-size coke and watch the ball game. Live and let live is his motto.

But Lillian perseveres and makes friends with Mrs. Sakkaro, if you can call it that. The two families, with sons Tommie Wright and the Sakkaro boy, decide to go out together. The outing has a semblance of authenticity as the Wrights find that their neighbours are cautious and somewhat ill at ease. And then, unexpectedly, a storm comes and it begins to drizzle, the Sakkaros are filled with terror, and the Wrights have no clue what is happening, or what is about to unfold in front of their eyes.

Again, the premise of this story, which appeared in the September 1959 issue of Fantastic Universe, is the same as The Father-Thing—alien invasion being the common thread running through both the short stories that I enjoyed quite a bit. The alien invasion need not necessarily be alien, you know. That's how I saw it. Both the stories are well-written and very readable too.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Looking for a book at free digital libraries is like buying a lottery ticket and waiting with bated breath. You might never win a lottery in your lifetime but you’ll hit the jackpot at online book sites more times than you can count. The magic of it is that, unlike a lottery ticket, you don’t have to pay for a free ebook. Who am I kidding? I’ll take a lottery win any day. 

Anyway, this afternoon, between writing and editing and laying out the pages for my newspaper, I came across an ebook I thought was worthy of download by all those who enjoy the movies, particularly westerns—Stagecoach to Tombstone: The Filmgoers’ Guide to the Great Westerns by Howard Hughes. I’d no hesitation in downloading the ebook from Archive. It was free and legal too.

My excitement over the discovery was, however, shortlived. There was no way Hughes or anyone could have written about the great westerns in just 50-odd pages. I was looking at a fraction of the 272-page book that had a detailed pictorial analysis of only two of the 27 great westerns—Stagecoach (1939) and My Darling Clementine (1946).

Besides the other 25 films, the other missing segments were Preface: Colt Movies, Acknowledgments, Out of the West: An Introduction to Westerns, Ten Top Tens, Western Filmography, and Bibliography and Sources. The Index was intact, but what good would it do?

It felt like the time I won my only lottery, a princely sum of Rs.50, less than a dollar. I don’t think I claimed it.

Amazon is selling Stagecoach to Tombstone: The Filmgoers’ Guide to the Great Westerns for a little over $15 (paperback or kindle). I guess I'll be looking out for the book in a used bookstore.

The book is described as “The true story of the American West on film, through its shooting stars and the directors who shot them…”

Going further, “Howard Hughes explores the Western, running from John Ford's 'Stagecoach' to the revisionary 'Tombstone'. Writing with panache and fresh insight, he explores 27 key films, and draws on production notes, cast and crew biographies, and the films' box-office success, to reveal their place in western history. He shows how through reinvention and resurrection, this genre continually postpones the big adios and avoids ending up in Boot Hill…permanently.”

These are the 27 great westerns according to Howard Hughes.

1 ‘The Tumbril Awaits’
Stagecoach (1939)

2 ‘Shakespeare in Tombstone’
My Darling Clementine (1946)

3 ‘Your Heart’s Soft…Too Soft’
Red River (1948)

4 ‘Tomorrow’s All I Need’
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)

5 ‘What Will I Do If You Leave Me?’
High Noon (1952)

6 ‘You Can’t Break the Mould’
Shane (1953)

7 ‘I Never Shake Hands with a Left-Handed Draw’
Johnny Guitar (1954)

8 ‘We’ll Fool Saint Peter Yet’
Vera Cruz (1954)

9 ‘I Came a Thousand Miles to Kill You’
The Man from Laramie (1955)

10 ‘That’ll Be the Day’
The Searchers (1956)

11 ‘There’s a Hundred More Tombstones’
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)

12 ‘I Bet That Rattler Died’
Forty Guns (1957)

13 ‘There’s Some Things a Man Just Can’t Ride Around’
Ride Lonesome (1959)

14 ‘I’d Hate to Have to Live on the Difference’
Rio Bravo (1959)

15 ‘We Deal in Lead, Friend’
The Magnificent Seven (1960)

16 ‘I Seen the Other Side of Your Face’
One-Eyed Jacks (1961)

17 ‘All I Want is to Enter My House Justified’
Ride the High Country (1962)

18 ‘Ain’t You Got No Respect For Your Elders?’
The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)

19 ‘The End of the Line’
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

20 ‘The Fastest Finger in the West’
Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969)

21 ‘This Time We Do it Right’
The Wild Bunch (1969)

22 ‘Who Are Those Guys?’
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

23 ‘I Got Poetry in Me’
McCabe & Mrs Miller (1971)

24 ‘Here in This Land, Man Must Have Power’
Ulzana’s Raid (1972)

25 ‘Whooped ’Em Again, Josey’
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

26 ‘I’ve Always Been Lucky When it Comes to Killing Folks’
Unforgiven (1992)

27 ‘I’m Your Huckleberry’
Tombstone (1993)

Friday, February 07, 2014

Charles (1948) and The Witch (1949) by Shirley Jackson

It’s Shirley Jackson special at Friday’s Forgotten Books over at Patti Abbott’s blog Pattinase.

“I delight in what I fear.”

Human nature and behaviour is the focal point of many of American writer Shirley Jackson’s stories including Charles and The Witch. Both the stories are about four-year old boys who think, talk, lie, and act like most adults. They are impudent, disrespectful, and even precocious.

"The teacher spanked a boy, though," Laurie said, addressing his bread and butter. "For being fresh," he added, with his mouth full.

In Charles, for instance, Laurie has just started kindergarten and he is already lying to his parents at the dinner table. Every day he returns from school and tells his father and mother about a mysterious classmate who gets into serious trouble with his teacher and the other students. Charles is frequently punished for being bad. If one day he hits his teacher, the next day he whispers an evil word in a little girl’s ear. Laurie’s parents encourage their son to discuss Charles and his antics in class even as you suspect that they know who Charles really is and that they’re merely hiding from the truth.

"I saw a witch," he said to his mother after a minute. "There was a big old ugly old bad old witch outside."

In The Witch, four-year old Johnny is travelling by train with his mother and little sister. He is looking out of the window, bored and making childish talk, like “We're on a river…This is a river and we're on it,” or “We're on a bridge over a river,” or “There's a cow. How far do we have to go?” His mother humours him. And then, just as he is talking about seeing a witch outside the window, an elderly man with white hair and a pleasant face enters the coach and strikes up a conversation with the boy. Among other things, he tells Johnny about how much he loved his own little sister before he cut her head off and put it inside a cage where a bear ate it up. The boy’s mother is shocked and orders the man to get out of the coach. Johnny thinks the man is a witch.

To me, Charles made more sense than The Witch. Both the stories are dystopian in their character. They are about families, not necessarily happy families, even though they may seem like they are. There is a disconnect between Laurie and Johnny on one hand and their parents on the other. I found this line of thought disconcerting. I have never read Shirley Jackson before and therefore I cannot say much except wonder if that is really how she thinks families can be, or really are.

Her writing is best exemplified in an obituary in The New York Times, August 10, 1965: “Shirley Jackson wrote in two styles. She could describe the delights and turmoils of ordinary domestic life with detached hilarity; and she could, with cryptic symbolism, write a tenebrous horror story in the Gothic mold in which abnormal behavior seemed perilously ordinary. In either genre, she wrote with remarkable tautness and economy of style, and her choice of words and phrases was unerring in building a story's mood.”

The two stories number less than 1,600 words each, which appealed to my reading sense. While Charles was first published in Mademoiselle, July 1948, she wrote The Witch in 1949 though I couldn’t trace its original publication. Both the stories are a part of at least two collections that I know of, Shirley Jackson: Novels and Stories and The Lottery and Other Stories. The good news is that many of her stories are available online. I'll be reading many of them, especially her non-macabre horror stories.

Sergio Angelini, George Kelley, John Norris, and Todd Mason have more authoritative reviews of Shirley Jackson's work at their excellent blogs. Click on their names to read them. You'll also find more reviews at Patti's blog.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Flight (2012)

Here’s another film about an airline that nearly comes to a catastrophic end for Overlooked Films, Audio & Video at Todd Mason’s blog Sweet Freedom.

Unlike Passengers (2008) which I reviewed in spite of not really understanding the film, Flight was easier to grasp even though the plot was banal.

Captain Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is a commercial pilot who crash lands his Orlando-Atlanta airliner and saves most of the passengers on board. Six people including a stewardess with whom he had drinks, drugs, and sex hours before take off die in the accident that is apparently caused due to a malfunction.

Whitaker is a hero but not for long. He is injured and admitted to a hospital where blood tests show the presence of alcohol and cocaine, which he probably consumed inside the aircraft. With its reputation at stake, the airline company hires lawyer Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle) and union man Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood) to keep Whitaker and the company out of legal trouble. Lang succeeds in pinning the blame on the maintenance company and diverting attention from the seasoned pilot.

While the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash, accepts malfunction as the reason behind the accident, it is suspicious of Whitaker’s condition before and after the plane took off. Ellen Block (Melissa Leo) heads the inquiry and grills Whitaker eventually forcing him to listen to his conscience and come out with the truth.

Flight is not so much about Whitaker’s flying skills (in one death defying scene he flies the plane upside-down) or landing the aircraft in relative safety as it is about his alcoholism and denial of his addiction. Everyone knows he needs help, his lawyer and union friend, for instance; Nicole (Kelly Reilly), a post-drug rehab hooker who lives with him for a brief while and vainly tries to get him to enroll for AA; his god-fearing co-pilot Ken Evans (Brian Geraghty) who knows the truth but keeps quiet even though he’ll never walk again; close friend Harling Mays (John Goodman in a weird cameo role) who has an instant cure for a hangover; and even his ex-wife and son.

Towards the end of the film there is a scene that I thought was nicely done. The night before the hearing Whitaker is put up alone in union man Charlie Anderson’s apartment. He must be sober the next morning. There is a small refrigerator in the kitchen. Whitaker opens it, rather gingerly, and finds it stacked with non-alcoholic beverages. He has dinner, watches television, and goes to sleep. Somewhere in the middle of the night, he hears the sound of a door opening and closing. For a moment you think someone is going to jump him from behind and kill him. He enters the room and discovers another fridge, this time stacked with all kinds of alcohol. The next morning he is found in the bathroom, sprawled face down with only his black shorts on, a bloody gash on his head, the apartment in a mess, and forty-five minutes left for the hearing.

Director Robert Zemeckis has portrayed Denzel Washington as a smug and a pathetic character who is too weak to resist temptation, one who doesn't have it in him to stand up and admit he has a problem. I believe real alcoholics are loath to admit their addiction and enter into rehab. It’s hard to like his character even though he redeems himself in the end. As an actor, Washington is cheerless. He has done better. As a film, I liked Flight better than Passengers.

I was pleasantly surprised to read that Robert Zemeckis has directed films in many categories like drama, comedy, sf, romance, and animation; films I've seen and liked such as A Christmas Carol (Jim Carrey), The Polar Express, Cast Away, What Lies Beneath, Contact (Jodie Foster), Forrest Gump, Back to the Future (trilogy), and Romancing the Stone.