Rambo: Last Blood

A movie that should never had been made…and that didn’t need to be…

To be honest, I probably only bought this because a. it is too damn easy to buy stuff through Mighty Ape and b. because it completes the John Rambo collection (hopefully not until another one!). Last Blood adds nothing to the Rambo saga: , the characters are two dimensional and the plot is non-existent, serving only to enables reprises of ‘John Rambo has 100 ways of killing – and they all work‘… (apologies to Charles Bronson’s The Mechanic).

The saga never needed a final movie for closure: Rambo did that well, as did each of the movie prior, from First Blood, through Rambo: Part 2 and then Part 3. Each movies allows the watcher to walk away satisfied leaving no heavy issues for later pondering.

Last Blood could have a been a totally different – and better movie – without resurrecting the spectre of the bitter angry out-of-control veteran. It’s not worth your money…if you must watch it, watch for it to turn up on your streaming service of choice.

If it doesn’t though, no great loss…

Midway 1976

The original Midway movie has been on my mind since I was underwhelmed by the 2019 version. Tonight I made the effort to watch it again.

Either I have grown up somewhat or I was too harsh in my original judgement of it – which is probably why I have avoided it for years – but it is not as bad as I remember it.

It has a similarly contemporary stellar cast to Midway 2019 so it’s not like the quality of the actors is a factor in the failure of 2019; certainly the quality of the acting is though. I feel that the modern attempt simply lacks an awareness of basic storytelling and instead falls back on a series of cliches and one-liners that totally fail to impart any sense of urgency or drama to the story.

Watching Midway 1976 tonight, I really felt the gravity of a battle on which both sides depended for strategic survival. Ultimately for the US, Midway was the end of the beginning; for Japan it was the beginning of the end…that sense of urgency, of great issues at stake, comes through so much better in the 1976 version.

Even though it relies on live footage for most of its combat scenes, the earlier version acknowledges it in the opening credits. Even though some of the scenes cut JAG-like between aircraft types…what was a Vindicator is now a Dauntless is now a Hellcat…it is remarkable effective, more so when one remembers that this footage is of actual young men in combat, where an aircraft explodes in flame or smashes into the ocean, there are actual people aboard…It’s a lot smoother than the incredibly-detailed but chaotically-edited digital imagery of the latter version.

The earlier production also relies heavily on surviving aircraft from the era: the J2F Duck parked outside HQ CINCPAC (fond memories of the Airfix Duck that I finished in a night and painted with Mum’s oil colours – which took a year to cure!); stubby F4F Wildcats on the deck of one of the carriers (Dad brought me one back from one of his trips to Wellington – finished in a day but used the right(-ish) paints this time; and the Catalinas that spotted the Japanese fleet and rescued Ensign George Day, the sole survivor of Torpedo Squadron 8, who spent the day of the battle avoiding attention as he floated in the middle of the Japanese fleet.

1976 makes only scant mention of Pearl Harbor and starts with Jimmy Doolittle’s daring launch from the Hornet on 18 April 1982 with black and white footage from (I think, I’ve never seen the movie) Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. In the first 10-15 minutes, Midway The Earlier has established the Doolittle Raid as the chief catalyst for the Japanese drive on Midway, and established the Japanese objective “AF” as Midway. It does this without any smug smiles or glib one-liners: the characters of Nimitz, Fletcher, Rochefort, etc are well-played and feel authentic.

On the Japanese side, the characters are more Western than their portrayal in either Pearl Harbor or Midway 2019; we are spared the contemporary fascination with subtitles in favour of clear unaccented English. Even so, the characters feel less like caricatures than their modern equivalents, less 2D and more like real people. And Midway 1976 depicts the Japanese as people as well, not the brutal barbarians shown in Pearl Harbor and Midway 2019.

Midway was THE battle that changed the course of the Pacific War: Coral Sea stopped the Japanese advance south, Midway turned them around. After Midway everything was downhill for Japan. It’s a tale that deserves to be told well. Give the 1976 Midway a second chance and hunt down some of the excellent reading available on the battle…

Midway (2019)

Part of our growing up was the classic Kiwi crib (baches are for North Islanders). Ours was in Waikouaiiti, on the coast halfway between Oamaru and Dunedin.

Rajah, Shelley and Melanie with crib in background

This was home away from home on weekends and school holidays. One of the attractions was the local tip, just down the road. This was a primary source of income for us kids, in the good old days of cash deposits on glass bottles. We would harvest dozens of these from the tip and convert them into cold hard cash.

Something else that we rescued in large quantities was books, dozens and dozens of them and these formed the foundation of our holiday reading, mainly pulp fiction, Pan novels and Reader Digest monthly magazines. One of the Reader’s Digests, (December 1973??) had as its monthly condensed books, The Battle of Midway (I think it was the Richard Hough version). I read this story over and again over our baching years and become so familiar with this battle (of this version of it…

A real highlight was when Dad took me to see the 1976 epic Midway in Christchurch, must have been August school holidays that year. I was old enough to think it was really cool but also to pick up that a lot of the combat was rehashed combat footage or borrowed from Tora Tora Tora. Certainly, despite a cast that was epic in size and fame, Midway was not The Longest Day, Zulu or The Battle of Britain. A Bridge Too Far the following year also eclipsed Midway.

We’ve been pretty let down by serious historical war movies in the last two decades. Ridley Scott brought us Blackhawk Down, and at the end of last year, Australia decided it was finally time to tell the Long Tan story in Danger Close. Generally though, the pickings have been slim: Michael Bay inflicted Pearl Harbor on the world around the same time as Blackhawk Down was released; in all fairness the coverage of the actual attack is pretty good, it’s just the other two hours that are problematic. And what the hell was Dunkirk? That epic tale was covered far better in the light Their Finest Hours.

When I was teaching at the Air Power Development Centre, Midway was one of my popular case studies to demonstrate that air power can directly influence the outcome of the battle, a campaign or even a war without “boots on the ground”. It’s a battle that the US probably shouldn’t have won for a whole raft of reasons and so academic debate is still popular with fresh material still being regularly published.

So, yes, I was interested when word of the new movie first came out. Like many with an active interest in aviation and/or naval history, I was hoping for an epic like A Bridge Too Far or The Longest Day that would tell the story of THE pivotal battle of the Pacific War as it deserves to be told. The previews didn’t really give much away and I was keen enough to pre-order it from Mighty Ape so it’d arrive on its New Zealand release date.

Hmmmm….I should have done two things. Heeded the warnings on Neptunus Lex that it was badly flawed and waited until it appeared in the bargain bins or on special. I discounted the NepLex warnings as I took them as mainly targeting the unnatural viewing angles of the air combat enables by the digital imagery.

Yep. Midway 2019 is bad. Worse than the 1976 version and, assuming it’s possible, worse than Pearl Harbor. Michael bay’s notorious 2002 epic at delivers better than fair coverage of the actual attack on Pearl Harbor, it feels like a tragedy. Why Midway has to go all the way to Pearl Harbor to start its story is unclear: that attack is such a significant part of our history that we all get Bluto’s classic “Over? Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor??!!

And then it blunders through the Doolittle Raid in a manner no less clumsy than Michael Bay’s depiction in Pearl Harbor. And it’s not necessary. While the Doolittle Raid was the catalyst that provoked the Japanese to move on Midway, it could be covered, Star Wars-style, in the introductory minutes of Midway. Instead, over half the movie (if you ignore the credits) is dedicated to the precursor attacks and that’s just not necessary. If these scenes were well-produced then there may have been some value in them but they’re not: Pearl Harbor is better in every way – and it pains me to say that…

Instead the coverage of the actual Battle of Midway is compressed, contorted and barely comprehensible. Scenes cut from one to another with barely time to absorb one before the next cut. Where the digital imagery could have provide new perspectives on the air combat, it just fails miserably. Clearly a lot of research has been done into aircraft types etc but then there are horrendous clangers: you would think from this movie that the US Navy or US Marine Corps had no fighters; the B-17s that bombed the Japanese fleet in the early phases of the battle are replaced by the B-26s that conducted low-level torpedo attacks on the fleet; the full magnitude of VT-8’s sacrifice is lost in the jumble of battle scenes.

A good plot and good acting can carry a movie over poor effects and stand in weapons. Midway lacks both. That’s beyond disappointing. The story has a lot of moving parts but is not that complex; the characters are all well-known and well-researched. Midway dishonours them.The screenplay and acting are all at the level of “Win one for the Gipper“, with smug one-liners and staunch chins substituting for a decent screenplay and even average acting.

Midway’s sole redeeming feature is that it’s not three hours long.

I hated it.

Don’t buy it. Hunt down the 1976 Midway or rerun the last hour of Pearl Harbor.

Soldiers Without Guns – a review

Late in 1997, the New Zealand Defence Force led a peacekeeping mission to war-ravaged Bougainville. This wasn’t its first ride in the rodeo, following a couple of years after its three-rotation deployment of an armoured company to Bosnia in 1994/5 and building on its history of peace support operations in Rhodesia, the Sinai, Iraq, Cambodia, Angola, Mozambique and the former Yugoslavia to name a few…

This new operation had a unique point of difference: it would be unarmed, its weapons instead would be smiles and guitars…

To be blunt about it, the New Zealand Defence Force is pretty crap about telling its stories. That’s sad because it has so many great stories to tell. Thus is falls upon independent producers to seek out and tell these stories. Soldiers Without Guns is producer Will Watson’s take on the Operation BEL ISI story, building on an earlier documentary Hakas and Guitars.

Will Watson has assembled quite an ensemble to support this story. Lucy Lawless narrates and the soundtrack draws on such Kiwi talent as Fat Freddy’s Drop, The Black Seeds, Anika Moa, Tiki Taane and Kora. The military leads are Major (rtd) Fiona Cassidy who was, from memory the PRO for the initial deployment, and WO1 (rtd) Des Ratima, who was, from the same memory, Brigadier Mortlock’s key cultural advisor. There are interviews with key leaders like Roger Mortlock, Jerry Mateparae and Don McKinnon, who was the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade at the time of the deployment.

Soldiers Without Guns is, though, very much the Fi and Des Show. That’s not a bad thing and more power to them for seizing this opportunity to tell their part of this unique mission. It does however skip over the scope and scale of the operation and doesn’t really impart the sense of nervousness that surrounded it until the initial lodgement was complete.

The coverage of the repairs to the airfield runway that were only completed just before the first C-130 landed is mildly dramatic in its own right but doesn’t really acknowledge the engineers that completed these repairs in an environment of some uncertainty. The operational coverage skimps over those soldiers who were deployed, unarmed, to remote team sites to engage the local population and defuse tensions. Nor does it do anything more than hint at the logistics (my minor part was procuring the bright yellow hats two weeks out form D Day) and sustainment challenges that had to be overcome for the mission to succeed. This especially applies to the roles of HMZNS Endeavour and 3 and 40 Squadrons RNZAF without which the whole hting probably would have fallen over.

An Iroquois from 3 Sqn RNZAF in its distinctive orange mission colour scheme

Operation BEL ISI’s success was undoubtedly due to its unique and innovative approach to peacekeeping, which was based itself on Roger Mortlock’s insights and analysis of the core issues underlying the conflict – it wasn’t just about copper – and his grasp of the matriarchal societal environment into which he would be deploying. In the mid-90s, the dual themes of female leads and unarmed forces were radical and unheard of – this was a time when the RNZN still thought that Larissa Turner just needed to get over herself, and the shooters were riding the wave of the post-DESERT STORM ‘revolution in military affairs’ – and there were many internal sceptics (but try to find one now).

I don’t remember much media comment at all at the time and certainly nothing along the lines of “… this radical idea of sending soldiers without guns was condemned by the  media because they felt the soldiers would be massacred given the first 14 peace attempts had failed …” If anything, I’m not sure that the media really cared that much about an area of the the South-West Pacific that no one knew or cared much about. Similarly, I think it is misleading to say that “… the first 14 peace attempts had failed …” BEL ISI was built on the foundation of peace initiatives stretching back to the late 80s. Like many things in irregular warfare, there are few quick fixes.

The soundtrack was one of the selling points for me (pre-purchase) and I was looking forward to some pumping Kiwi sounds. The much-touted soundtrack is very subdued to the point of ineffectiveness and it would have been nice to have just the tracks as an option.

It has screened and been well received overseas.

Soldiers Without Guns is definitely worth watching. It tells the story of the group of Kiwis who went off into the jungle and did something that had never been done before. It would be a mistake to think this approach can be cookie-cuttered into any environment but it worked in Bougainville – that’s what Soldiers Without Guns is about…

A Kiwi story told by Kiwis largely for Kiwis…but others will get it too…

You can pick up a copy at Mighty Ape…

Solo – A Star Wars Story

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Getting back online after my stay away, it seems that my last year of posts was pretty much dominated by our successful battle for our rescue helicopters and my not so successful battle with ANZ. Well past time to restore some balance so I’m working to complete some draft posts and mix in new material to get back on tracj and get the writing gene kicked in again…

I was on a weekend course in Palmerston North with a night to spare…Solo has just released and beckoned…

Post-Star Wars, I soaked up the early development of the Star Wars ‘verse through books like Alan Dean Fosters Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (how Kaiburr crystals really fit in, sorry Rogue One!) and Brian Daley’s Han Solo prequels:

Daley’s novels, albeit short and aimed at the younger end of the market were consistent with the slightly worn Han Solo we first meet in a cantina in Mos Eisley.

A flaw in all the Star Wars movies after the Original Trilogy is an annoying trend towards cuteness (which probably started in Return of the Jedi with the cursed Ewoks) and convenient coincidences ladled on thick for an audience apparently too thick to draw its own conclusions or recognise linkages between the movies within having them bludgeoned into them.

Solo starts with young Han in Correllia, skips his flight training and ends with him heading to Tatooine for a ‘deal of a lifetime’. He’s already met Chewie and Lando, and acquired the Falcon – what’s left for any sequels…? It’s all a little convenient and cramped, enjoyable but no classic…

Solo has fallen victim to the malaise as DC’s Justice League movies: sometimes less (story lines) is more (classic). The Justice League movies managed to squeeze the whole Death of Superman plot into about 30 minutes: they are three inch-thick novels, each a movie in its own right…check out the animated versions Death of Superman, and Reign of the Supermen: not quite the production values of the live action movies by better stories…

Overall, I’m pretty underwhelmed by the latest crop of Star Wars movies. Yes, I know I said nice things about The Force Awakens but the more I watch it, the more contrived it seems to be…I’m much happy in the Star Wars ‘verse of Alan Dean Foster, Brian Daley and Timothy Zahn…the written word that works my imagination…

Ice Cold in Alex

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Something else that I picked up from the Warewhare bargain bin, the 60th Anniversary issue…it’s been sitting in the wait list for weeks, til I was in the mood for something like this…

Ice Cold is one of the real British classics, understated and effective with elements of edge of the chair suspense and quiet humour against the backdrop of one of the less known theatres of World War 2. Although all the major Allied nations campaigned in North Africa, few know the details of the battles that raged up and down and back again along the North African coast from 1940 until 1943.

We may know some of the placenames…Tobruk, El Alamein…some of the personalities…Montgomery, Freyberg, Upham…but little of the detail…I’m likely that, as part of my guinea pig role at Waikato, I was able to study the New Zealand Division in WW2 under Laurie Barber and credit that one paper with opening my eyes to the ebbs and flows of this campaign.

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Ice Cold is the story of an Austin K.2 ambulance named Katie – the style brought to life for many in Airfix’s classic Emergency Set – retreating from Tobruk to Alexandria with a very small but very effective cast, only four key characters including Harry “You Can’t Kill a Squadron” Andrews, with a dozen or so minor supporting roles…through minefields, avoiding German land and air patrols, and negotiating steel sand drifts, hard rocky ground, and soft treacherous desert sands…

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The driving motivation through Katie’s odyssey is the vision of an ice cold beer in Alex(andria) and the end of the journey…

There’s plenty of opportunity for spoilers so I won’t go any further other than to say that this is a must-see classic…and the sort that I can watch time and again, each time picking up subtleties that I have missed before…

…possibly quite a timely one as I’m researching potential ‘ice colds’ for this summer…

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…seeking a vision that will motivate Tongariro Alpine Crossing hikers throughout this summer…

…possibly with onion rings…

 

Six Days

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The SAS assault on the Iranian Embassy in April 1980 is still one of the seminal moments in special operations and counter-terrorism. Although the obvious inspiration for Lewis Collins’ 1982 Who Dares Wins, this action has been largely ignored by the entertainment community. Until the Bin laden raid in 2011, this lack of attention has probably not seen as a bad thing by the special operations community.

We had Ultimate Force with the bloke from EastEnders, and then The Unit led by the melting moments Terminator but it wasn’t until Six that we started to see some credible small screen special operations. On the large screen, Blackhawk Down was really an anyman story of soldiers at war, The Great Raid was pretty tame and also the tale of a large scale operation. The Odd Angry Shot is an Aussie classic but more COIN than SO. For the most part, the most significant of special operations have been largely ignored by credible story tellers…Even the first that I remember, Entebbe, has only been told  well once and that is the Israeli Operation Thunderbolt (still worth a watch if you can find it on Youtube)…

I read Bill McRaven’s (the ‘make your bed’ guy)  Spec Ops when it was first published – passing the time during a week in Waiouru Hospital in 1996 – and it must have been a tough decision to note include it as one of the case studies. It contains all the elements of McRaven’s theory of relative superiority and would certainly have survived scrutiny against his principles of special operations: simplicity, security, repetition, surprise, speed and purpose.

I was discouraged from buying Six Days for a long time because of its 90 minute run time: 90 minutes or less always suggests to me ‘made for TV’, never a good sign; and I was wary of whether it would be worth watching or just be loosely based on reality.

I need not have worried. It is very good and gets all the key elements of the story into 90 minutes without feeling crammed or forced. Watching the credits (as I may do if the remote is beyond my reach), I could see why as I recognised, with surprise, some of the consultants’ names. More so when further credits revealed that this is very much a Kiwi movie production-wise as well: another result of Helen Clark’s decision to invest in and support our fledgling movie industry in the early days of the Lord of the Rings saga.

Six Days is a great account of a small team that pulled off a nigh impossible task under the most challenging conditions, not just those of a task never attempted before but one conducted under live TV cameras and global scrutiny. All part of Margaret Thatcher’s hard line of terrorism, and a harbinger of that same hard line two years later when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands.

Searching for it just now, I was pleased to still be able to find Spec Ops on a shelf. When we Bookabached the Lodge while living in Waiouru, we pitched the library as one of its features. That was a little naive as library holdings diminished over that winter – a good reason to inventory everything so you actually know what might be missing and not just tearing the place apart looking for something that’s no longer there.

Nana doing Nana stuff 010.jpgMoving here was the first time  that I was able to have all my books unboxed and shelved since leaving home. Having to rebox it all up again for an indefinite period will be like losing a bunch of old friends:  Kindle just isn’t the same has holding old paper in your hands or glancing around for a reading target of opportunity…

Bill McRaven did much more than just write a book but it may be most remembered popularly for his ‘make your bed’ speech – better than ‘Wear Sunscreen’…

Part of the reason behind this big writing jag at the moment is that I was disappointed to see that my blogging efforts for 2018 fit onto a single WordPress preview page. The rescue helicopter campaign was unexpected – a reminder that stupidity can break out anywhere at anytime – and consumed way more time and effort than expected. I was writing so much in support of our helicopter bases, that it was a challenge to take up the keyboard for anything else…making up for that now…getting back into the swing of a post a day if I can…setting challenges to get me out of bed and keep me of the couch…

Star Trek – Discovery

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In addition to Tight-As Ribs night, Tuesday night at Schnapps Bar in National Park Village, it is also Quiz night – so long as the crowd looks ‘quizzable’…it’s a challenging combination as patrons smear rib sauce over their answer sheets and struggle for a decent grip on their pens…

I wasn’t quizzing last night – in fact, the questions looked way too hard for this former member of the triumphant 2003 Trentham Tote Quiz War team – as I was a bit pushed for time…busy busy busy…an intended quick shop after my ambulance shift turned into a very productive chat with a local Council member…and had plans for the evening at home…

I was probably 6 for 1 in the Name this Event round as I mowed into my caramel sundae (watch this space for a future item on the perfect commercial sundae) and Round Two started up. I think the theme was Who Am I? and the clue started off “I am a TV series that premiered in 1967 and only screened for three seasons but spawned three TV movies” + some other stuff that I can’t remember. I think the actual answer was Gunsmoke but my first thought was – naturally – Star Trek

That random question reminded me that the latest in the long line of Star Trek spin-offs of TV series (6), fan series (2), and movies (13) had been hyped on Netflix for the previous month or so….so much for plans for Tuesday night…

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So, three episodes in [NO SPOILERS}, what does Discovery look like..?

Very flash graphics. Possibly a little too over the top and for their own sake; a distraction from the story.

Alien subtitles. Suck. Total distraction from the very flash graphics and vice versa: the viewer must choose between following alien conversations OR watching what’s happening on the screen, Very annoying. The subtitles add no value. Whatsoever.

Pretentious and bloated. The pilot (episodes 1 and 2) is not much more than the worst angsty bits of the Abramoverse all mixed in together. You could skip the first episodes and dive straight in at Episode 3 without missing too much. Everything prior is covered by statement or implication in Episode 3.

In the ‘verse. Discovery seems to be set around the same time as the Abramoverse Star Trek, or maybe between this and Enterprise (there are some unsubtle references to Spock). The ships seems more angular that those of Kirk’s era and the alien ship designers seem to follow the spiky bumpy school of alien spacecraft design.

Peacenik philosophy. Federation thinking seems to be of the same ‘we come in peace’ as the Abramoverse or the early period of The New Generation. None of Kirk the Original’s “we come in peace – shoot to kill” philosophy here.

In fairness, Star Trek series, on large and small screens, traditionally start from a  weak position. The pilot for The Original Series had to be reworked; the first series of The Next Generation were quite boring and uninspired; Enterprise, well, I only last about two episodes on my first go-round; Voyager picked up with Seven of Nine (there is much to be said for lycra uniforms in certain circumstances) and the stronger Borg story arc; and, despite my best efforts, Deep Space Nine remains on the whatever list…

Apparently, 15 episodes of Discovery have been filmed to date and will be weekly drip feed on Netflix. It has potential but we will have to wait to if this is realised or not. Binning the subtitles will be a tremendous step forward but it remains to be seen if the story will mature or remain a trite collection of what has gone before…

In meantime it can’t hurt to remember the spirit of Star Trek as it was…

Bosch – Season 2

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After being impressed by Season 1, I was looking forward to Season 2 of Bosch when Mighty Ape hammered $30 off the shelf price…I was underwhelmed…

A dead body found in the trunk of a car on Mulholland Drive appears to have mob connections and leads LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch down a dangerous trail of corruption and collusion that stretches to Las Vegas and back. As the case becomes more complex and personal, and Bosch’s search for the truth more relentless, the dark side of the police department is brought to light.

That is a description of Michael Connelly’s Bosch novel Trunk Music. I’ve read Truck Music a number of times: it is a fast-paced story with plenty of plot twists and turns and the novel in which Eleanor Wish re-enters Bosch’s life. It doesn’t need any additional sub-plots to beef up the story and it certainly doesn’t need to marginalise The Last Coyote by adding that plot line to the last few episodes of the Season 2 story. Coyote is one of the best Bosch novels and deserving of its own season – it resolves a number of Bosch issues and sets the scene for the next few novels.

I really like the idea of adapting a  novel to a ten (or so) episode TV series and appreciate that there will always be some literary license applied. I don’t mind that the Bosch-verse has been updated to the current day or that he’s no longer a Vietnam veteran. I do mind when a great story is marginalised for no apparent reason; it’s certainly no improvement on Michael Connelly’s original (although I noted that he is listed on the series production team).

Recommend Bosch Season 1? Absolutely!

Season 2? Meh…maybe if you haven’t read the books or once it turns up on Netflix…

Six

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As the heat – such as it was – slowly increased last summer, my satellite dish became less and less interested in capturing and processing satellite TV signals, and, around Christmas, it finally decided that it wasn’t interested in doing that anymore and took up knitting…so I have no idea if Six made it to ‘normal’ TV screens in New Zealand. Replacement parts for the dish aren’t that much and I suppose I’ll get to doing something eventually but I just don’t miss normal TV that much…

Anyways, as part of transfer my ISP and phone allegiance back to Spark, I wound up with Spotify and Lightbox accounts. These came into their own with the new unlimited broadband account. Lightbox didn’t really float my boat too much: I found the selection rather limited and also that I no longer have a lot of time for binge watching TV. I manged to squeeze in Defiance, Lucky Man and the UK Ashes to Ashes (listed in ascending order of enjoyment) but kinda got over it…

Six was a refreshing new addition to the Lightbox line-up. Unhyped and unheralded, one evening, there it was on the menu – I may have ignored it for a while, mistaking it for The Real SEAL Team Six, a made for TV take on the 2011 bin Laden raid. I was cautious at first as most of the contemporary special operations genre seems to be Desperate Housewives with guns, even The Unit and the unlamented Ultimate Force: way too much domestic angst and not enough boots on the ground.

Six didn’t disappoint on the domestic angst front but its focus remained firmly on the ‘rescue one of our own’ plotline. The ‘one’ was played by Walter Goggins and, do admit that I have watched the full Justified enough times that I was expecting Raylan Givens to amble onscreen and laconically resolve the bad guys.

I like the current trend of episodic story-telling across a season: one story, one season. I’m not sure if that makes it a mini-series or not but it certainly resonates with me: beginning, middle and end. It worked with Bosch; it worked with the TV version of Shooter; and it works with Six. Each episode isn’t a standalone but roll into the next: there are only eight episodes and I was disappointed to get to the end – but only in that the next series was not ready to go (hasn’t been filmed yet ).

The story rolls smoothly and offers some insights into contemporary international security challenges . The equipment looks OK but the US DOD probably didn’t offer a lot of support to the production: too many C-130s, not enough C-17s, too many vanilla Blackhawks, no special ops birds…in this case, I don’t think that makes a big difference to the story or my enjoyment of it – and I tend to be picky on such things…I think that if you liked Band of Brothers and Blackhawk Down, Six is probably for you…