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Unclear and Present Danger

Author: Jamelle Bouie and John Ganz

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New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie and freelance writer John Ganz delve into the world of 90s post-Cold War thrillers with Unclear and Present Danger, a podcast that explores America in an age of transition to lone superpower, at once triumphant and unsure of its role in the world.

72 Episodes
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Courage Under Fire

Courage Under Fire

2024-06-1301:14:29

For this week’s episode of Unclear and Present Danger, Jamelle and John watched Courage Under Fire, a 1996 war drama directed by Edward Zwick and starring Denzel Washington and Meg Ryan, as well as Lou Diamond Phillips, Matt Damon, Michael Moriarty and Bronson Pinchot.In Courage Under Fire, Denzel Washington plays Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Serling, an army tank commander who accidentally fires on and destroys one of his own tanks during a nighttime battle in the closing days of the Persian Gulf War, killing his best friend in the process. The Army covers up the details and assigns Serling to a desk job, where he is tasked with investigating and determining whether a solider should receive the award for which they were recommended.He is assigned the case of Captain Karen Walden, the commander of a Medevac Huey helicopter sent to rescue the crew of a Black Hawk helicopter. She was killed in the line of duty, saving both the lives of her crew and those of the downed helicopter. The Army, and the White House, wants to give her the Medal of Honor.As Serling interviews the men involved in the incident, he notices inconsistencies in the testimonies of Walden’s crew. Some praise her strongly, others say she was a coward. Still others testify to events that cannot be confirmed. Under pressure from both the White House and his commanding officer to authorize the award — and struggling with PTSD from his experiences on the battlefield — Serling resolves to discover the truth of the matter, even if it costs him his career.The tagline for Courage Under Fire was “In wartime, the first casualty is always truth.”You can find Courage Under Fire to rent or buy on demand at Amazon and iTunes.Episodes come out roughly every two weeks, and we’ll see you then with an episode on Star Trek: First Contact, the second film starring the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Here is a brief plot summary:The Borg, a relentless race of cyborgs, are on a direct course for Earth. Violating orders to stay away from the battle, Captain Picard and the crew of the newly-commissioned USS Enterprise E pursue the Borg back in time to prevent the invaders from changing Federation history and assimilating the galaxy.Star Trek: First Contact is available to rent or buy on demand and it is available for streaming on HBO Max and Paramount+.And don’t forget our Patreon, where we watch the films of the Cold War and try to unpack them as political and historical documents! For $5 a month, you get two bonus episodes every month as well as access to the entire back catalog — we’re almost two years deep at this point. Sign up at patreon.com/unclearpod. The latest episode of our Patreon podcast is on First Blood, the first film in the Rambo franchise starring Sylvester Stallone.Connor Lynch produced this episode. Artwork by Rachel Eck.Contact us!
Chain Reaction

Chain Reaction

2024-05-1701:04:361

On this week’s episode of Unclear and Present Danger, we watched the 1996 science fiction conspiracy action thriller Chain Reaction, directed by Andrew Davis — whose previous UnclearPod films are The Package, Under Siege and The Fugitive — and starring Keanu Reeves, Morgan Freeman, Rachel Weisz, Fred Ward, Kevin Dunn and Brian Cox.Chain Reaction revolves around a group of scientists at the University of Chicago who are working to convert hydrogen from water into clean energy. They find their breakthrough when their machinist, Eddie Kasalivich (played by Reeves), discovers the secret — a sound frequency that stabilizes the process. Later that evening, a group of mysterious assailants kill the lead scientist and destroy the laboratory. Kasalivich, who had returned to retrieve his motorcycle after escorting Dr. Lily Sinclair (Weisz) home, is the only witness.When the FBI arrives to investigate, they zero in on Kasalivich and Sinclair as their chief suspects, goaded along by the mysterious presence of advanced technology in Kasalivich’s apartment and evidence of espionage in Sinclair’s. With the help of Paul Shannon, the leader of the Chicago project, they escape the clutches of law enforcement only to find themselves fleeing the armed agents of a secretive industrial group. As Kasalivich and Sinclair race against time to uncover the mystery of the explosion, and clear their names of wrongdoing, they realize that their scientific breakthrough is a threat to some very powerful people, and that their friends aren’t who they seem to be. You can find Chain Reaction to watch on demand on HBO Max and also to rent or buy on Amazon and Apple TV.We’ll see you next in two weeks when an episode on Courage Under Fire, the 1996 legal drama directed by Edward Zwick and starring Denzel Washington, Meg Ryan, Lou Diamond Phillips and Matt Damon.Connor Lynch produced this episode. Artwork by Rachel Eck.Contact us!Follow us on Twitter!John GanzJamelle BouieUnclearPodAnd don’t forget our Patreon, where we watch the films of the Cold War and try to unpack them as political and historical documents! For $5 a month, you get two bonus episodes every month as well as access to the entire back catalog — we’re almost two years deep at this point. Sign up at patreon.com/unclearpod.
A Time to Kill

A Time to Kill

2024-05-0401:06:02

On this week’s episode of Unclear and Present Danger, Jamelle and John watched “A Time to Kill,” Joel Schumacher’s 1996 adaptation of a 1989 John Grisham novel by the same name.Starring Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson and Matthew McConaughey, with supporting performances from Kevin Spacey, Oliver Platt, Charles S. Dutton, Ashley Judd, Donald Sutherland, Kiefer Sutherland and Chris Cooper, “A Time to Kill” concerns the trial of Carl Lee Hailey, a black man on trial for capital murder after killing the two men who assaulted his 10-year-old daughter. When Jake Brigance, a white lawyer who previously defended Hailey’s brother, takes the job to keep Carl Lee out of the execution’s chamber, the small Mississippi town of Canton, where the film takes place, is plunged into chaos. Brigance and his team must navigate national attention, a skilled and ambitious prosecutor, and a revitalized Ku Klux Klan, willing, able and eager to derail the trail and stop Brigance by any means necessary. All the while, Brigance must handle the strain on his family and his marriage.The official tagline for “A Time to Kill” was: “A lawyer and his assistant fighting to save a father on trial for murder. A time to question what they believe. A time to doubt what they trust. And no time for mistakes.”You can find “A Time to Kill” to rent or buy on demand at iTunes and Amazon.For our next episode, we’re watching “Chain Reaction,” a science-fiction thriller directed by Andrew Davis and starring Morgan Freeman and Keanu Reeves.Connor Lynch produced this episode. Artwork by Rachel Eck.Contact us!Follow us on Twitter!John GanzJamelle BouieUnclearPodAnd join the Unclear and Present Patreon! For just $5 a month, patrons get access to a bonus show on the films of the Cold War, and much, much more. Our latest episode of the patreon is on the 1995 cyberpunk film, “Virtuosity.”
Johnny Mnemonic

Johnny Mnemonic

2024-04-1901:00:30

For this week’s episode of Unclear and Present Danger, we watched “Johnny Mnemonic,” a 1995 cyberpunk action film directed by Robert Longo and adapted from a William Gibson short story of the same name, by Gibson himself. “Johnny Mnemonic” stars Keanu Reeves, Dolph Lundgren, Takeshi Kitano, Ice-T and Dina Meyer.In “Johnny Mnemonic,” Keanu Reeves plays Johnny, a “mnemonic courier” who transports sensitive data for corporations via storage implant in his brain. He takes a job that requires him to store too much memory, threatening his life if he can’t make the delivery as quickly as possible. While getting the data, his clients are attacked and killed by the yakuza. Johnny goes on the run, where he is betrayed by his handler, befriended by Jane, a cybernetically-enhanced bodyguard, and brought to the attention of the Lo-Teks, an anti-establishment group.They discover that the data Johnny holds is a stolen cure to a technological disease that afflicts much of the planet. The creator, a mega-corporation called Pharmakom, refuses to release the cure because they are profiting off of the treatments. As Johnny is hunted by hired assassins for Pharmakom, he and his allies fight to disseminate the cure and save Johnny’s life.The tagline for “Johnny Mnemonic” was “The hottest data on Earth, in the coolest head in town.” You can find “Johnny Mnemonic” to rent or buy on demand at iTunes and Amazon.For our next episode, we are watching “A Time to Kill,” directed by Joel Schumacher. Connor Lynch produced this episode. Artwork by Rachel Eck.Contact us!Follow us on Twitter!John GanzJamelle BouieUnclearPodAnd join the Unclear and Present Patreon! For just $5 a month, patrons get access to a bonus show on the films of the Cold War. Our next episode, on “Virtuosity,” will be a companion to this one.
On this week’s episode of Unclear and Present Danger, Jamelle, John and special guest Laura Hudson (formerly of Wired and The Verge) watched the 1995 cyber-thriller “Hackers,” directed by Ian Softley and starring Jonny Lee Miller, Angelina Jolie, Fisher Stevens and Lorraine Bracco, with supporting roles for Matthew Lillard, Penn Jillette, Wendell Pierce, Marc Anthony and Felicity Huffman.“Hackers” centers on Dade Murphy, alias “Zero Cool,” who made hacking history 7 years before the events of the film when he crashed 1,507 computer systems and was banned from owning or operating computers and touch-tone telephones until his 18th birthday.On his 18th birthday, he finds himself living in New York with his mother and attending a new high school, where he falls into a crowd of teen hacker. There’s Ramon, the Phantom Phreak. Emmanuel “Cereal Killer” Goldstein, Paul “Lord Nikon” Cook and Kate “Acid Burn” Libby, Dade’s hacking rival and romantic interest.One night, one of the youngest hackers in the group, Joey, breaks into a supercomputer owned by a large energy company. He is noticed and arrested by the US Secret Service, which is working with the company’s security officer. Unbeknownst to the Secret Service or anyone else for that matter, the security officer — Eugene “The Plague” Belford — has essentially orchestrated a scheme in which Joey and other hackers are to be blamed for a virus he created, whose purpose is to extort millions from the company into a private account. Thus begins a race: Belford is desperate to get the only evidence of the virus, downloaded by Joey before he was arrested, and our teen hacker heroes are trying to clear their names and get to the bottom of this conspiracy. The tagline for “Hackers” was, of course, “Hack the planet!”You can find “Hackers” to rent or buy on iTunes and Amazon. Our next film is the 1995 cyberpunk thriller, “Johnny Mnemonic.”Connor Lynch produced this episode. Artwork by Rachel Eck.Contact us!Follow us on Twitter!John GanzJamelle BouieUnclearPodAnd join the Unclear and Present Patreon! For just $5 a month, patrons get access to a bonus show on the films of the Cold War, and much, much more. Our latest episode of the patreon is on the 1964 nuclear war farce, “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”
In this week’s episode of the Patreon we discussed Sidney Lumet’s heady Cold War thriller Fail Safe, based on a novel of the same name by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler, published in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Fail Safe stars Henry Fonda, Dan O’Herlihy, Walter Matthau, Frank Overton and Larry Hagman with cinematography by Gerald Hirschfeld.The story moves between three characters: U.S Air Force General Black who has been having a recurring dream in which a Spanish matador kills a bull before a cheering crowd, Dr. Groeteschele, a hard-line anti-communist and political scientist who believes it is possible to fight a limited nuclear war, and the President of the United States.When a computer error causes a U.S. bomber group to erroneously receive valid orders for a nuclear strike on Moscow — and Soviet countermeasures jam U.S. radio communications, preventing Strategic Air Command from rescinding the command — General Black, the president, the Pentagon and eventually Soviet command scrambles to prevent a full scale nuclear exchange.Working together, they manage to stop some of the bombers, but one fateful aircraft makes it through Soviet defenses to release its weapon. Faced with the unimaginable, the president and General Black decide to make a compensatory sacrifice, in the hopes of avoiding war.The tagline for Fail Safe was “It will have you sitting on the brink of eternity!”To listen to the whole episode, subscribe to the Patreon at patreon.com/unclearpod.
The Rock

The Rock

2024-03-1501:14:30

For this week’s episode of the podcast, we watched Michael Bay’s weirdly prescient action thriller, “The Rock,” released in 1996 and starring Sean Connery, Nicholas Cage, Ed Harris, Michael Biehn and William Forsythe. The supporting cast is also chock full of compelling character actors, including John Spencer, Philip Baker Hall, John C. McKinley, Tony Todd and Bokeem Woodbine. In “The Rock,” Ed Harris plays General Francis Hummel, a disillusioned Vietnam War vet who is angry with the American government for abandoning its soldiers to die behind enemy lines with little to no recognition or compensation. To get his revenge, and to get compensation for his men and their families, he leads his force of rogue Marines in a raid on a naval weapons depot, where they steal a stockpile of VX gas-loaded rockets. They then seize control of Alcatraz Island, off the coast of San Francisco, and hold the area hostage. Either the U.S. government pays him $100 million from a military slush fund, or he launches the rockets, killing hundreds of thousands of people.To disarm the rockets and stop Hummel, the Pentagon and the FBI organize a joint-task force of Navy Seals, special agents and a former convict at Alcatraz. Nic Cage plays FBI agent Stanley Goodspeed, a chemical weapons expert asked with identifying and disarming the weapons. Sean Connery plays John Patrick Mason, a former MI6 officer and current maximum security inmate who was the only person to successfully escape from Alcatraz. The FBI has brought Mason out of prison to aid the mission. The team successfully infiltrates Alcatraz, but then the plan falls apart. The Seals are killed, and Goodspeed and Mason are left trapped in Alcatraz. Their only hope of escape, and survival, is to complete the mission before an airstrike — ordered as a last resort — destroys the island and everyone on it.The tagline for “The Rock” was “Alcatraz. Only one man has ever broken out. Now five million lives depend on two men breaking in.”You can find “The Rock” to rent or buy on demand on iTunes and Amazon.Our next episode will be on the 1995 film “Hackers.”Connor Lynch produced this episode. Artwork by Rachel Eck.Contact us!Follow us on Twitter!John GanzJamelle BouieUnclearPodAnd join the Unclear and Present Patreon! For just $5 a month, patrons get access to a bonus show on the films of the Cold War, and much, much more. Our latest episode of the patreon is on the 1964 nuclear war thriller, “Fail Safe.”
Mission: Impossible

Mission: Impossible

2024-03-0201:08:26

For this week’s episode of the podcast, we watched director Brian De Palma’s 1996 adaptation of Mission: Impossible, starring Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Henry Czerny (Kittridge!), Emmanuelle Béart, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott Thomas and Vanessa Redgrave. It was shot by frequent De Palma collaborator Stephen H. Burum and edited by Paul Hirsch. Screenplay by David Koepp and Robert Towne. Mission: Impossible, based on the television series, was the inaugural project of Tom Cruise’s production company, and the Mission: Impossible franchise has become a core part of Cruise’s celebrity career. The film was generally well-received by critics, although there were complaints about its convoluted plot, and was one of the biggest hits of 1996, grossing nearly $181 million on a budget of $45 million.In Mission: Impossible, Cruise plays Ethan Hunt, a member of the Impossible Missions Force who is on the run after his entire team — including its leader, Jim Phelps, played by John Voight — is killed in a failed mission to obtain a secretive list of every undercover CIA agent. When Hunt learns that the mission was actually a staged hunt for a mole within the IMF — and that the real mole is still out there, seeking the list — he goes on the run in an effort to obtain the list for himself, expose the mole, and regain his freedom. To do so, he recruits his own Impossible Mission Team — comprised of Ving Rhames, Jean Reno and Emmanuelle Beart — and stages a break-in at CIA headquarters in Langley. What unfolds next is a series of twists, turns, surprises and betrayals.The tagline for Mission: Impossible was “Expect the Impossible.” You can Mission: Impossible to rent or buy on Amazon and iTunes, and to stream on Amazon Prime Video and Paramount Plus.Our next episode is Michael Bay’s action thriller, The Rock.Connor Lynch produced this episode. Artwork by Rachel Eck.Contact us!Follow us on Twitter!John GanzJamelle BouieUnclearPodAnd join the Unclear and Present Patreon! For just $5 a month, patrons get access to a bonus show on the films of the Cold War, and much, much more. The latest episode of the Patreon is on the 1961 film “Judgment at Nuremberg.”
The Substitute

The Substitute

2024-02-1601:03:06

For this week’s episode of the podcast, we watched the 1996 action thriller slash high school drama The Substitute, directed by Robert Mandel — a prolific television director — and starring Tom Berenger, Ernie Hudson, Diane Venora, Marc Anthony, Luis Guzmàn and William Forsythe.In The Substitute, Berenger plays Jonathan Shale, a Vietnam veteran and mercenary who takes a break from the business of wet work after a botched operation in Cuba where several of his men were killed. He returns home to Miami to stay with his girlfriend, Jane Hetzko played by Venora, who is a teacher at a local, troubled high school.Jane becomes a target of the largest and most dangerous gang at the school, Kings of Destruction, and its leader Juan, played by Anthony, directs his men to attack her. She is seriously injured and while in the hospital, Shale maneuvers to become her substitute. His plan? To take down the gang, which is using the school as essentially an open air drug market.As he moves to confront Juan, Jonathan discovers that the gang is working with the school’s ambitious and corrupt principal, played by Ernie Hudson, to move and distribute ever larger shipments of drugs from foreign supplies. Eager for revenge after a friendly teacher is killed by Juan, Jonathan gathers his men to make an assault on the gang, its suppliers and their allies.The tagline for The Substitute is “The most dangerous thing about school used to be the students.” You can watch The Substitute for free on Amazon Prime or on Tubi or Pluto or one of those services.Our next episode will on Brian DePalma’s 1996 espionage thriller, Mission: Impossible.Connor Lynch produced this episode. Artwork by Rachel Eck.Contact us!Follow us on Twitter!John GanzJamelle BouieUnclearPodAnd join the Unclear and Present Patreon! For just $5 a month, patrons get access to a bonus show on the films of the Cold War, and much, much more.
For this week's Patreon episode, we watched the 1976 thriller "Marathon Man," directed by John Schlesinger, written by William Goldman, and starring Dustin Hoffman, Laurence Olivier, Roy Scheider, William Devane and Marthe Keller. In "Marathon Man," Hoffman plays a graduate student who becomes entangled in a plot by a Nazi war criminal — and his U.S. government allies — to recover stolen diamonds. The film reflects an of-the-time fascination with the afterlife of the Nazi regime, and especially those Nazis who escaped to South America. We have nothing but positive things to say about this movie and our conversation was interesting as well. You can find "Marathon Man" for rent or purchase on iTunes and Amazon and for streaming on Paramount+. There is also a new 4K blu ray to check out, if you're so inclined.
Welcome back to Unclear and Present Danger! It’s our first episode of the new year and we’re here with a pretty fun movie — “Executive Decision,” directed by Stuart Baird, produced by Joel Silver and starring Kurt Russell, Halle Berry, John Leguizamo, Oliver Platt, Joe Morton, Steven Seagal and many others. Music by, as you might expect, Jerry Goldsmith. In “Executive Decision,” an intelligence analyst played by Russell and a group of commandos, led by Seagal, must infiltrate a passenger jet bound for Washington DC that has been hijacked by a terrorist group. On board the jet is enough nerve toxin to kill everyone on the eastern seaboard. Most of the film is a tense standoff on the airliner, as the commandos try to defuse the nerve bomb and take down the terrorists, while the terrorists move forward with their mission. The tagline for Executive Decision was “Five miles above the earth, an elite team of six men must make an air to air transfer, in order to save 400 lives on board a 747... and 40 million below.”You can find Executive Decision to rent or buy on iTunes and Amazon.Our next episode of the podcast will be on “The Substitute,” otherwise known as “Stand and Deliver if the teacher body-slammed the students.”Connor Lynch produced this episode. Artwork by Rachel Eck.Contact us!Follow us on Twitter!John GanzJamelle BouieUnclearPodAnd join the Unclear and Present Patreon! For just $5 a month, patrons get access to a bonus show on the films of the Cold War, and much, much more. The latest episode of the Patreon is on “Marathon Man.”
On this week’s episode of Unclear and Present Danger — the last episode of the year! — we watched Tony Scott’s 1995 submarine action thriller, “Crimson Tide,” starring Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman, Viggo Mortenson and James Gandolfini, among many others.And to discuss “Crimson Tide,” we have an esteemed guest! Tony Gilroy, who you may know from his work on the Bourne films, political thrillers like “State of Play,” “Beirut,” legal thrillers like “Michael Clayton” or the recent Star Wars Disney Plus series “Andor.” Now, if you haven’t watched “Crimson Tide” — and you should, stop this episode and go put it on — here’s the score. In “Crimson Tide,” the crew of the USS Alabama, a nuclear submarine, is put on high alert as civil war breaks out in post-Soviet Russia. Military units loyal to the ultra-nationalist rebel have taken control of a nuclear missile installation and have threatened nuclear war if threatened. The USS Alabama is commanded by Captain Frank Ramsey, a career veteran of the submarine corps. He has chosen the cerebral and inexperienced Lieutenant Commander Ron Hunter to serve as his new executive officer. The two clash, eventually coming to an impasse over an Emergency Action Message order a missile launch against the Russian base. Ramsey wants to move forward while Hunter wants to delay action until the USS Alabama can clarify a second message received but interrupted as the crew confronted an enemy submarine.What follows is a confrontation, a mutiny, and a race to confirm the Alabama’s true orders lest they fire the shot that starts a nuclear conflagration.The tagline for “Crimson Tide” was “Danger Runs Deep.”You can find “Crimson Tide” for rent or purchase on iTunes and Amazon.Our next episode will be on “Executive Decision,” directed by Stuart Baird and starring Kurt Russell, Halle Berry and John Leguizamo. Connor Lynch produced this episode. Artwork by Rachel Eck.Contact us!Follow us on Twitter!John GanzJamelle BouieUnclearPodAnd join the Unclear and Present Patreon! For just $5 a month, patrons get access to a bonus show on the films of the Cold War, and much, much more. Our latest episode of the patreon is on the 1984 Robert Altman drama on Richard Nixon, “Secret Honor.”
City Hall

City Hall

2023-12-1401:09:02

On this week’s episode of the podcast, Jamelle and John watched “City Hall,” a 1996 political drama directed by Harold Becker and starring Al Pacino, John Cusack, Danny Aiello, Bridget Fonda, David Paymer and Martin Landau. You’ll also notice a beardless Richard Schiff, Lauren Velez, and Senator Fritz Hollings of South Carolina. In “City Hall,” Cusack plays Kevin Calhoun, the loyal deputy to Mayor John Pappas, played by Al Pacino. After a young boy and a police detective are killed in a sting gone wrong, Calhoun has to navigate a tense political situation in effort to bring the crisis to a resolution without harming the rising prospects of his boss. Unfortunately, as he soon discovers with the help of Marybeth Cogan, a lawyer for the slain cop played by Fonda, behind the deaths are a tangled web of corruption that reaches from the political machine to the courts to the mayor’s office itself.The tagline for “City Hall” is “It started with a shootout on a rainswept street and ended in a scandal that shattered New York.”You can get “City Hall” for rent or purchase on Amazon and iTunes.Our next episode will be on “Crimson Tide.”Connor Lynch produced this episode. Artwork by Rachel Eck.Contact us!Follow us on Twitter!John GanzJamelle BouieUnclearPodAnd join the Unclear and Present Patreon! For just $5 a month, patrons get access to a bonus show on the films of the Cold War, and much, much more.
Broken Arrow

Broken Arrow

2023-12-0201:07:12

On this week’s podcast, Jamelle and John watched the legendary Hong Kong director John Woo’s 1996 action thriller “Broken Arrow,” starring John Travolta, Christian Slater, Samantha Mathis, Delroy Lindo and Howie Long.In “Broken Arrow,” a rogue pilot, Air Force Major Vic Deakins, played by Travolta, steals two nuclear weapons with the intent to sell them back to the United States government for a profit. His co-pilot, Captain Riley Hale, played by Christian Slater, is left for dead during the theft of the weapons. When Hale is found by park ranger Terry Carmichael, Samantha Mathis, the two race to stop Deakins, who eventually decides that he is going to detonate one of the weapons and irradiate the Southwest. The tagline for “Broken Arrow” was “Prepare to go ballistic.”You can find “Broken Arrow” to rent or buy on Amazon and iTunes.Our next episode will be on the 1996 drama “City Hall.” Connor Lynch produced this episode. Artwork by Rachel Eck.Contact us!Follow us on Twitter!John GanzJamelle BouieUnclearPodAnd join the Unclear and Present Patreon! For just $5 a month, patrons get access to a bonus show on the films of the Cold War, and much, much more.
This week on the Patreon, Jamelle and John were joined by Beverly Gage — a professor of history at Yale University and author of "G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century" — to discuss Clint Eastwood's 2011 J. Edgar Hoover biopic, simply titled "J. Edgar." We had such a good time discussing the movie with Professor Gage that we thought we should share this episode on the main feed as a bonus! We hope you enjoy it and we hope you consider signing up for the Patreon if you haven’t already."J. Edgar" stars eonardo DiCaprio in the title role, with supporting performances from Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Josh Lucas and Judi Dench. The movie is available for rental or purchase on iTunes and Amazon.You can find Beverly's book at a bookstore near you.This episode was produced by Connor Lynch. Our artwork is by Rachel Eck.
Nixon (feat. Nicole Hemmer)

Nixon (feat. Nicole Hemmer)

2023-11-1301:25:32

For this week’s episode, Jamelle and John watched Oliver Stone’s 1995 dramatization of the life and career of President Richard M. Nixon, appropriately titled “Nixon.” Like Stone’s other mid-century political film, “JFK,” it stars a murderer’s row of A-listers and character actors: Anthony Hopkins, Joan Allen, Ed Harris, Bob Hoskins, Paul Sorvino, Mary Steenburgen, James Woods, Powers Boothe, Tony Goldwyn, J.T. Walsh and many, many others. To talk “Nixon” we were joined by the great Nicole Hemmer, an associate professor of history and director of the Rogers Center for the American Presidency at Vanderbilt University, the author of two great books on conservative politics, and one of the co-hosts of the PastPresent podcast. You can find “Nixon” to rent or stream on iTunes or Amazon Prime. The tagline for “Nixon” is “Triumphant in Victory, Bitter in Defeat. He changed the world, but lost a nation.” Connor Lynch produced this episode. Artwork by Rachel Eck.Contact us!Follow us on Twitter!John GanzJamelle BouieUnclearPodThe next episode of the podcast will be on John Woo’s first American feature, “Broken Arrow.”And join the Unclear and Present Patreon! For just $5 a month, patrons get access to a bonus show on the films of the Cold War. Our latest episode is on “The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover,” written and directed by Larry Cohen.
The Enemy Within

The Enemy Within

2023-10-2801:12:32

For this week’s episode of Unclear and Present Danger, Jamelle and John watched “The Enemy Within,” a 1994 remake of John Frankenheimer’s “Seven Days in May,” starring Forest Whitaker and Jason Robards. Like the original film, “The Enemy Within” concerns a military plot to depose the president and take control of the U.S. government. Like the original film, our hero is an Army advisor who would rather defend the Constitution than his superiors. And like the original film, the story is a race against the clock as the president and his allies try to stop their adversary, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, from executing his plan.“The Enemy Within” stars Forest Whitaker as Colonel “Mac” Casey, Sam Waterston as President William Foster, Dana Delany as his chief of staff Betsy Corcoran, and Jason Robards as General R. Pendleton Lloyd.The tagline for “The Enemy Within” is “You never know who your enemies are.”You can stream the movie on HBO Max or rent it on iTunes and Amazon. Connor Lynch produced this episode. Artwork by Rachel Eck.Contact us!Follow us on Twitter!John GanzJamelle BouieUnclearPodAnd join the Unclear and Present Patreon! For just $5 a month, patrons get access to a bonus show on the films of the Cold War, and much, much more. The latest episode of our Patreon is on “Seven Days in May.” So you can listen to these two episodes to compare and contrast the two movies.
Hidden Assassin

Hidden Assassin

2023-10-1401:06:09

For this week’s episode of Unclear and Present Danger, Jamelle and John watched “Hidden Assassin” — also released under the name “The Shooter” — a 1995 action drama directed by Ted Kotcheff and starring Dolph Lundgren and Maruschka Detmers. In “Hidden Assassin,” Lundgren plays a U.S. Marshall, Michael Dane, tasked with arresting a woman, played by Detmers, suspected of assassinating the Cuban ambassador to the United States. Time is of the essence; the Secretary of State will meet with his Cuban counterpart in Prague — where the movie takes place — in an attempt to ease tensions between the two nations. But Lundgren isn’t so sure that Detmers’ character, Simone Rosset, is the shooter. What unfolds is a conspiracy that threatens Dane’s life and implicates some of his closest allies.The tagline for “Hidden Assassin” is “Seduction is a deadly weapon!” Which doesn’t have much to do with the actual movie.You can find “Hidden Assassin” to watch on Amazon Prime or for free on YouTube.Connor Lynch produced this episode. Artwork by Rachel Eck.Contact us!Follow us on Twitter!John GanzJamelle BouieUnclearPodAnd join the Unclear and Present Patreon! For just $5 a month, patrons get access to a bonus show on the films of the Cold War, and much, much more. he latest episode of our Patreon podcast is on the 1979 film “Winter Kills.” Our next episode of the main freed podcast will be on “The Enemy Within,” a 1994 remake of John Frankenheimer’s “Seven Days in May.” And we’ll watch the original film for the Patreon as well.Links from the episode!The films of Chris MarkerA video essay on “La Jette” and “Vertigo.”
12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys

2023-10-0301:17:07

For this week’s episode of Unclear and Present Danger, Jamelle and John watched “12 Monkeys,” the 1995 science fiction film from Terry Gilliam starring Bruce Willis, Madeline Stowe, Brad Pitt and Christopher Plummer. “12 Monkeys” is an adaptation of sorts of a 1962 French short film “La Jetée,” in which scientists in a post-nuclear apocalypse future send a man back and forward through time in an effort to save their present. The man eventually succeeds in his mission, only to be killed — his death being an image he had seen again and again in his dreams.And in the film “12 Monkeys,” Bruce Willis plays James Cole, a prisoner living in an underground compound beneath Philadelphia, in a future where the human race has been nearly wiped out by viral plague. He is selected to go back in time to find the original virus to help scientists in his present develop a cure. During multiple trips back in time, he encounters people — a patient at a mental health institution played by Pitt, a psychologist played by Stowe — who all seem to have a role in the events that will end the human race. Cole struggles to resolve whether his life and experiences are real or not, but comes to understand that the virus is real, and that the man responsible is in his orbit. He attempts to stop him but is shot and killed, fulfilling the vision he had seen, in his dreams, of his own death. The tagline for “12 Monkeys” is “The Future is history.”“12 Monkeys” is available for rent or purchase on Amazon and iTunes.Connor Lynch produced this episode. Artwork by Rachel Eck.Contact us!Follow us on Twitter!John GanzJamelle BouieUnclearPodAnd join the Unclear and Present Patreon! For just $5 a month, patrons get access to a bonus show on the films of the Cold War, and much, much more. Our latest episode of the Patreon is on “A Face in the Crowd.”
For this week’s episode, Jamelle and John were joined by Linda Holmes of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Our to discuss the 1995 political romantic comedy “The American President,” directed by Rob Reiner, written by — you guessed it — Aaron Sorkin, and starring Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, David Paymer, Samantha Mathis and Michael J. Fox, among others.“The American President” stars Michael Douglas as President Andrew Shepherd, a widow, who falls in love with an environmental lobbyist, played by Annette Bening, while he also runs for re-election and attempts to pass major legislation. The film is both a romantic comedy, depicting the president’s courtship, and a political drama, depicting the effort to win votes, dodge criticism and shore up the White House’s political position.The tagline for “The American President” is “Why can’t the most powerful man in the world have the one thing he wants most?”“The American President” is available for rent or purchase on Amazon and iTunes.Our next episode will on the 1995 science-fiction thriller, “Twelve Monkeys.” Connor Lynch produced this episode. Artwork by Rachel Eck.Contact us!Follow us on Twitter!John GanzJamelle BouieUnclearPodLinda HolmesAnd join the Unclear and Present Patreon! For just $5 a month, patrons get access to a bonus show on the films of the Cold War, and much, much more. The latest episode of our Patreon podcast is on the 1970 film “The Conformist.” Our next episode will be on Elia Kazan’s 1957 political drama “A Face in the Crowd.”
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Comments (3)

michael gilman

Thanks for the content. Boo on presentation style. "I had ran..." Amanda. "Places I have went..." Tim. Like, you sort of, like know what I mean, right? You can do better. If I were reading you, I bet you would be after the copy editor and your prose might be passable or even pretty good. But you present in your voices, and production values matter. The way you present yourself the way you sound matters and can either buttress or interfere with your points and messages with your style. Right?

Jun 14th
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John J Edmund

This movie is too Cynical for you guys? For a podcast with a pretty cynical title itself, I can only logically assume your hatred of Kevin Costner has clouded your logical reasoning. RIP Fred Thompson

Apr 8th
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Todd Tucker

Great podcast, and a cool format, situating movies within news of the day.

Nov 28th
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