Monday, 29 November 2010

88 Minutes and the Spear of Destiny

This is the last writing of the first week of wall to wall films. I begin with an Al Pacino thriller which was a disaster at the box office and with the critics. The film is called 88 minutes. The film is well acted and cleverly written so that there are three possible suspects for a series of horrendous killings. The fundamental flaw is the basic plot. The concept is good and not knew with one previous version as an episode of the X files and I am sure that there have been others.

A man has been convicted of the murder and after nine years of appeals is due to be executed. Early on in the film we learn that Al Pacino plays a forensic psychiatrist upon whose professional testimony the jury had found the man guilty, something which I suspect would not produce the finding in normal circumstances without substantial other evidence such as DNA!

A young very attractive appeal lawyer appears to convinced by the innocence of her client and that the psychiatrist has fabricated his testimony. I thought the behaviour of the lawyer odd at the time even for Hollywood melodramatics

When the man is sent back down he proclaims to the psychiatrist Tick Tock Doc which you know has some significance to be revealed. The basic plot is the man’s claims that he is innocent reinforced when a series of copy cat murders occur. The contention of the psychiatrist is that the man has an accomplice on the outside. Why he waited for nine years in jail to pass and his death within days before trying to have the conviction quashed is one of many failures leading to the negative critical and public reaction.

The psychiatrist is then targeted, and bombarded with messages saying he has 88, minutes to live, then 72 then 60 etc. He narrowly escapes being shot and then his car blown up although these events are odd because of the original emphasis on 88 minutes. It would be inconsistent for him to die sooner

The original horror occurred in 1997 when the assailant breaks into a home where two sisters, one is asleep and the other subdued with the use of a substance, halothane, and then rapes and tortures hanging the woman upside down with latches and a rope. It struck me that that this method also stretches credulity given it involved a break in to an unknown home and that most premises will not readily have the structural means to carrying out hanging upside down process. The murderer then rapes and tortures the other sister but leaves her alive which is again questionable.

During the time that the Doctor is being targeted he is sent a tape of message made of a young girl calling for help from her old brother, the psychiatrist. His sister was 12 years old and he was 28 having decided to leave her on her own for a short while called away. He has not forgiven himself, failing to take the girl with him or arranging for someone else care for her. It is known that 88 mins elapsed between the call and the time of death. It is not stated how this level of accuracy was obtained. One copy of the tape is with the trial papers and other held by the doctor in his secure records area which only his assistant has access so, so she is one those who comes under suspicion.

There is the usual situation of where the psychiatrist does the subsequent investigation, instructing a police colleagues to undertake inquiries and provide information without fully revealing his concerns and actions until the late moment. This enables the cliff hanging type of suspense ending, especially when the Psychiatrist is implicated in two of the subsequent copy cat murders.

In the spectacular finale the psychiatrist is told to attend a particular location by a female colleague, the Dean at the college when he lectures. For a moment she is under suspicion but she has been kidnapped together with his secretary. One is hanging upside down several floors up in the opened centre of the building while the other is close by with both a holding ropes away from certain death falling to the ground below.

And the accomplice to getting the original murderer off by committing copy cat crimes herself? Who is she?

It is the junior legal officer at the original trial who became the main appeals Counsel and who had come under the spell of the murder, planning a life with him after his release. She would have access to all the original material and intimate first hand knowledge of how the original crimes were committed and it is known that a woman when possessed by a man in such a way, or by another woman, will do anything for her lover, but committing several murders of horrific ferocity stretches credulity.

The psychiatrist has had time to contact the police before attending the notified location and the police are somehow able to position themselves to have a clear view and show of the murderer so that even though she releases the rope to plunge both women to their deaths before shooting Pacino, she is killed and he grabs hold of the rope to rescue the women and save himself.

As the film progressed I realised the original killer was being modelled on the Svengali Hannibal Lecter character. For some inexplicable reason, possible a quirk of the USA judicial system, the original murder is allowed to put his case on TV, accusing the Psychiatrist of prefabricating the case against him Pacino in turn is able to talk back live. Pacino has borrowed the mobile phone from the accomplice after his is damaged and the condemned man uses the phone to contact the accomplice to confirm that Pacino is dead and that confession on tape has been obtained and is therefore horrified when he finds that his plan has gone awry and has less than 12 hours to live, It is also not clear why Pacino fails to immediate connect that the original assistant at the appeal was the same woman who had joined his class, then became the main appeal’s lawyer with access to the condemned man, the trial information and Pacino’s personal history

The film has a budget of $30m and made $32m gross. Only having Al Pacino in the lead role prevented significant financial loss.

In the genre of incredulity but billed as a fun entertainment piece of nonsense offering has been the second in the trilogy of the Librarian, Curse of the Judas Chalice. The hero of the series is a perpetual intellectual with 22 academic degrees funded by his wealthy mother (Olympia Dukasis) who wants him to marry, get a job and be happy.

Flynn Carson played by Noah Wyle is told to leave college and experience the world and then receives an invitation to become the Librarian at the Metropolitan Public Library and only when appointed discovers that he is to become the keeper of mythological, some historical, and some magical artefacts including the Ark of Covenant, the Holy Grail, the Golden Fleece, The Goose that laid the Golden Eggs, a live unicorn, Pandora’s Box, the original Mona Liza and Ali Baba‘s flying carpet, to name a few.

In the first adventure which I saw sometime ago, the quest is to stop the Serpent Brotherhood acquiring the two other parts of the Spear of Destiny as whoever possesses the three parts controls the rest of human destiny on planet earth. Hitler it is claimed possessed only one part. The hero finds a female friend who feels responsible for the death of the previous Librarian and together they have adventures in South America and then to the Himalayas and Shangri-la ensuring that all the part of the Spear and held in the Library out of harms way for human eternity.

In this second part of the trilogy viewed during the first wall to wall film week the artefact is the chalice of Judas made out of the thirty pieces of Silver! As with the Bond films there is an opening that has nothing to do with this story but reminds of the role of the Librarian and his employers. He travels to England to bid for a Ming vase under instructions not to exceed a budget of under £100000. During the auction his girlfriends reminds that he is not keeping a date, the most recent of a succession, taking his mind of the bidding process so that the vase is eventually acquired for £2million. The reason for the pressing ahead is in fact that within the vase is the Philosopher’s Stone which turns whatever comes into contact into pure gold. In a fight involving the other bidder and his henchman he turns something into worth more than the bidding price but the Library controllers reject this as a way to recoup the cost because it is something they do not do.

The film now comes to its actual story, Former KGB agents want to re-establish the old order in Russia and to do this want to resurrect the body of Prince Vlad Dracula by using the Chalice and create a small army of the undead. They travel to Budapest and capture the leading authority of the subject who works out that it is located in New Orleans. By coincidence the Librarian also goes on vacation to New Orleans which provides the opportunity to show off the carnival and traditional jazz world of the city as part of the unfolding plot.. During his holiday experience he visits a nightclub where is drawn to the singer who immediate engages him. She later discloses she became a reluctant vampire victim 400 years previously when as a promising opera singer in France was cruelly selected and has to kill the vampire involved if her soul is to rest in peace. As it is this vampire now seeking to obtain the Spear of Destiny for his own ends, she is join forces with the Librarian to defeat him and those also seeking its power. There are various adventurous and challenging moments before the Librarian is able to destroy the monster and draft all those involved, capture the Spear of destiny and enable the now ageless young woman to find peace, after watching one last sunrise together.

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