Tag Archive: Twilight Zone

Review by C.J. Bunce

As Hollywood slowly realizes that Philip K. Dick wrote forty-four novels and 121 short stories, you’ve got to wonder what took them so long.  The best of his works are his short stories.  In a parallel universe you could see each story as its own episode of The Twilight Zone.  It’s probably why more of his short stories have made it to the silver screen than his novels (not to knock any of his novels).

The most recent addition to the PKD stories adapted for the screen is The Adjustment Bureau.  And it may be the best yet.  And yes, I am including Blade Runner.

The Adjustment Bureau pulls ideas from PDK’s short story, “The Adjustment Team.”  The film is good enough and close enough to the original story that you easily feel both the story and movie exist in the same place.  More so than PKD’s complete novels or stories, it is his ideas that still amaze readers and audiences.

In “The Adjustment Team” and The Adjustment Bureau, there are… “others” on this Earth.  Not aliens, but akin to angels.  They are members of the Adjustment Bureau, which in turn works for the Chairman, presumably a manifestation of God, but we don’t need to get into that detail to believe what is happening.  Also, the Bureau–the visitors who are always here–are not frightening aliens or strange apparations like we have seen in The Matrix or They Live.  Very easily this film may not be science fiction at all.  In that concept, this is a very PKD story, as he often toyed with religion in a very serious way and challenged the religious world around us.

There is a Plan–one best timeline for all events–and when circumstances show that the Plan is straying, the Adjustment Bureau is sent in to do what is necessary to get the Plan back on track.  In the short story, that means a dog needs to bark on queue.  In the movie it means the protagonist needs to spill his coffee at a certain moment, or he will end up in a chance encounter with the girl of his dreams.  There lies the rub, for our protagonist is a truly good guy, a good Senator on a path to the White House, compared to other sci-fi senators that usually have ulterior motives, like we saw in The Dead Zone.  If this senator ends up with the girl of his dreams, the woman he is destined for, he will become content, and will lose the desire to complete his political path.  Yet there is no choice when the Plan is involved.  So what is he supposed to do?

As with PKD’s story, the believability of the timeline science and the ability to interfere with chance meetings, coupled with fate and destiny, make the movie nicely high concept for a not-so-elaborate production.  It is also not epic or overblown–it doesn’t need to be; what is at stake is the love of two people for each other.  The treatment of that reflects a similar treatment in an equally great PKD story adapted for film, Paycheck.  You also don’t see a lot of sci-fi that would make a great first-date flick.

I liked Matt Damon’s character and performance here over any other to date.  Emily Blunt is perfect as the target of his affections.  Plenty of cameos are also fun, including Jon Stewart, James Carville, Mary Matalin, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg playing themselves.  The very best performance and role comes from an unusual character that we get to know and appreciate, Harry Mitchell, played by Anthony Mackey.  Terence Stamp (Zod from Superman I and II) as Thompson and John Slattery as Richardson are also perfectly cast as members of the Bureau.

The world of the Bureau is not overly complicated and amazingly easy to fall into.  The themes of fate, happenstance and missed opportunity have rarely seen such a nice treatment in film.  The lack of any need for special effects, overly long action scenes and irrelevant tangents results in a very polished final film that is all about story.  For such a great PKD-inspired film that remains true to PKD’s original world building, for great performances, entertaining twists, and a fun overall movie, The Adjustment Bureau gets 5 of 5 stars.

If you didn’t already spend Fourth of July weekend watching the Twilight Zone marathon, then you may be psyched to learn you can now watch the complete Twilight Zone on streaming Netflix.  And for the first time you can also watch on demand all the episodes ofStar Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek Enterprise anytime you want, all streamed to your TV with a basic Netflix subscription.  

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine will not be available for Netflix streaming until October and the Star Trek movies and Animated Series are not yet available for streaming video and have no projected streaming date.

Need some suggestions to get started on the Twilight Zone?  These are some favorites that you might have skipped over (I have skipped some of the obvious ones that get repeated play).

1. The Thirty-Fathom Grave – a sunk submarine

2. The Hunt – old man and his dog on their last hunt 

3. Little Girl Lost – striking parallels to last year’s Doctor Who plotline

4. Nothing in the Dark – Robert Redford lies wounded outside an old woman’s apartment

5.  Time Enough at Last – Burgess Meredith likes to read

6. I Shot an Arrow into the Air – stranded astronauts

7. Twenty-Two – a little Final Destination story

8. The Little People – astronaut goes a little crazy

9.  Third from the Sun – two families escape during a nuclear war

10. Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up? – a truck stop, and an extra guest

… and here are my top five recommendations for Star Trek: The Original Series:

1.  Balance of Terror

2.  City at the Edge of Forever

3.  A Piece of the Action

4.  The Trouble with Tribbles

5.  Space Seed 

… and here are ten of my favorite (and some of the best) episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation:

1.  Yesterday’s Enterprise

2.  Darmok

3.  Best of Both Worlds, Parts 1 and 2

4.  The Most Toys

5.  Who Watches the Watchers?

6.  First Contact

7.  The Perfect Mate

8.  Parallels

9.  Remember Me

10.  Future Imperfect

… and here are ten of my favorite (and some of the best) episodes of Star Trek: Voyager:

1.  Eye of the Needle 

2.  Heroes and Demons

3.  Year of Hell, Parts 1 and 2

4.  Macrocosm

5.  Gravity

6.  Shattered

7.  Blink of an Eye

8.  Timeless

9.  Tinker, Tailor, Doctor, Spy

10.  Relativity

… and here are ten of my favorite (and some of the best) episodes of Star Trek Enterprise:

1.  In a Mirror Darkly, Parts 1 and 2

2.  Acquisition

3.  Judgment

4.  Civilization

5.  Vox Sola

6.  Carpenter Street

7.  These are the Voyages…

8.  A Night in Sickbay

9.  Dead Stop

10.  Affliction


C.J. Bunce



Cross-promotional marketing is nothing new, whether it’s a tie-in of Coca-Cola and Sony, Pepsi and Michael Jackson’s tour, or a national baseball team and the city’s grocery store chain, we are bombarded everywhere we go with not only that special product we didn’t know we needed, but also that seemingly unrelated product that some marketing whiz decided we also need.

Back in the late 1970s and 1980s it seemed like there was a constant battle for the best tie-in promotion between McDonald’s and Burger King.  For a while, the Star Wars franchise was tied into Burger King, introducing a giant size sticker folder, numerous trading cards (you’d need to cut out yourself), and probably the best drinking glasses anyone ever stamped a movie image on, for Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi

And they were made from actual glass no less.  They even brought the glass concept back in 2009 with the new Star Trek movie.

E.T. the Extraterrestrial (which also had glasses as giveaways at Pizza Hut) made waves by altering its own original story and tying Reese’s Pieces into the actual storyline instead of M&Ms.  At the opening night of the movie I remember everyone was given a free pack, totally taking you along with Elliot on his garage encounter with our new alien friend.  I don’t recall hearing of Reese’s Pieces before E.T.  The M&M guys blew an opportunity there no doubt.

Every year it seems products become more invasive in actual movies and TV shows.  Once upon a time product names were rearranged on TV shows so a Tide laundry detergent box, for example, had the same logo and design but carried a nondescript word.   Morley brand cigarettes, back to not just the X-Files, but as early as 1961 on The Dick Van Dyke Show, became the TV generic cigarette pack of choice, just as 555 became the area code of everyone in movie land.  Morley was Spike’s brand on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, has been seen on Burn Notice, Heroes, Medium, and even William Shatner’s brand in the classic Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at Twenty Thousand Feet.”  But cigarette marketing bans aside, why use a fake brand when you can sell some ad space on your show?

Movie tie-ins are the subject of Hugo- and Nebula Award-winning author Connie Willis’s novel Remake.  The past is “in” and all the women dress in copies of famous Marilyn Monroe dresses and as other stars of classic Hollywood.  But in Remake, the future has arrived and censorship also is “in” and movie studios must edit ads and vices out of old films, essentially undoing all the marketing found in classics of the past. 

In its unabashed, in your face, greatness, no TV show today better uses cross promotional advertising than Subway on the TV series Chuck.  A typical episode has Morgan not just gulping down not just a sub, but a Subway sub and not only a Subway sub but this week’s selected menu sub of the week.  This doesn’t work on the serious drama, but on an off-the-wall genre show like Chuck, it just adds to the shows good-natured fun.  Points go to Chief Brenda Lee Johnson on The Closer.  Her temptation to dig into her drawer for the next Hostess Ding Dong really makes me want to grab the keys and head to the store.

What I find more annoying is cars on TV shows that focus on a car brand, from Claire’s Nissan Rogue in Heroes to the Oldsmobile Silhouette as the “Cadillac of minivans” in Get Shorty to the Ford Taurus conversations (“check out that Ford navigation system”) in White Collar.  That said, I don’t seem to have any issue with all the slick, high-end cars used by James Bond.  Probably because it actually serves to define the character’s wealthy lifestyle.

Subway and Green Lantern teamed up this movie season in a pretty standard ad campaign, with its own website, another current staple of cross-marketing (and even Doritos brand chips get to carry the Green Lantern campaign).  But there’s something not quite right with this campaign.  I don’t know a bigger guacamole fan than me, but spreading the avocado across all things Subway as part of its promotions this season seems a little stranger than usual.  Green is the color for ads this season and all products are apparently welcome.  Bring on the guacamole!

But the Green Lantern avocado is not the strangest thing appearing right now in cross promotions.  Most campaigns, including the Subway campaign, have some reasonable link between the products.  But the X-Men: First Class TV commercial with… Farmers Insurance (?) offers no explanation.  X-Men‘s audience would not seem to be a natural tie to trying to hook a family to a new casualty policy.  So what’s behind this campaign?  Here is one where I have no answer.  Check out the ad for yourself and let me know if you figure this one out:  Farmers X-Men TV commercial

But even this isn’t new.  Check out this old tie-in between the True Blood HBO series and GEICO.  These marketing guys must be on to something…let’s see, what else should we pair with mutants and vampires? 

C.J. Bunce



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