War Movies

As a kid, I watched a lot of war movies. I would spend an entire Sunday afternoon watching The Longest Day, or as a friend calls it: “The Longest Movie.” One time, my dad and I were at his friend’s house and the film was on televison. My dad’s friend was in the army during the invasion of Normandy, but in a different part of Europe. While we watched the film, he would talk about his experiences, and the stories people who survived told him. I wish I could remember all he said.

To be honest, I was never really a fan of the war movies that John Wayne starred in; I much prefered his cowboy pictures. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it was because I saw him more as a cowboy than a soldier. Or maybe it’s that a lot of his war films came across as moral boosters at best. Then there is the Vietnam era movie The Green Berets. I actually liked that movie, but I haven’t seen it in at least thirty years, and I am not sure I want to.

There are a lot of war movies with “bridge” in the title, and one of my favorites is A Bridge Too Far. It’s the opposite of a propaganda film in that the story is about how the Allied Forces over-reached their grasp. It may be the first war movie I saw in which the good guys didn’t succeed.

In the late Nineties, a friend recommended The Bridge at Remagen, starring George Segal. I had never even heard of this film, but I enjoyed it. There are lot’s of cool explosions for those of you who like that sort of thing.

For some reason, I have always been partial to prison camp movies. Maybe it was all those Hogan’s Heroes reruns as a kid. My favorite is The Great Escape, which is another war film with a less than happy ending. A lot of these movies that end on a down note are based on true stories, which says something about the nature of war.

British comedian Eddie Izzard has made numerous references to The Great Escape over the years. One question he raises is: How the hell did Steve McQueen make his way to Switzerland from Poland so quickly? I guess the answer is: Because he’s Steve McQueen. In another bit, Izzard discusses cats and drilling. Just trust me.

In my opinon, the two masterpiece prisoner of war films are: David Lean’s The Bridge on the River Kwai, and Jean Renoir’s The Grand Illusion; the latter being the granddaddy of p.o.w. films. The Grand Illusion, set in World War I, is one of those films that once you see it, you realize how many other films were influenced by it.

The Eighties brought forth a number of films about the Vietnam War, which were a far cry from The Green Berets. That film was pro-war at a time when the general consensus was that Vietnam was a lost cause.

Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, and the underrated Hamburger Hill, were films about the banality of Vietnam, and of war itself. These were not the type of war film I grew up on, but these were the ones I needed to see. This was not a war, this was something else.

What is the Jurassic Age?

My perception of a film is often based on timing, which can be defined in a myriad of ways. In the case of Jurassic Park, I was probably a bit older than the target demographic at the time of release. I remember thinking the movie was sort of “Jaws for kids,” and that’s a compliment. Steven Speilberg has always been good at making films for kids, without making the films childish. He is the master of “awe and wonder,” and I think those who are young at heart can appreciate that.

What would have been the “proper” age to see Jurassic Park? I have no clue. When I was in the first grade, I loved Land of the Lost. The dinosaurs never bothered me, but the Sleestak freaked me out.

I don’t know what the perfect age to see Jurassic World is, but forty-seven seemed to be just fine. I wonder if Jurassic World will hold up as well as Jurassic Park. Jurassic World has a number of great action scenes, but there was nothing that compared to nail biting tension of the kitchen scene in Jurassic Park. There was a death scene in World that was harrowing. In other circumstances, it could have been played for comedy. There is a fine line, and director Colin Trevorrow managed to find it.

The plot of Jurassic World is… Who am I kidding? If you have seen the trailers, you have it figured out. If not, odds are you know at least one person who has seen the movie, and they told you all about it. I think I will talk about the cast, since I have time to kill, and an unlimited data plan.

Chris Pratt plays Owen Grady, the park’s resident Raptor whisperer. Before you ask, yes, his motorcycle is a Triumph Scrambler, which is the same type of bike as the Doctor’s in “The Bells of St. John.”

Bryce Dallas Howard, not Jessica Chastain, plays Claire Deering, the operations manager and bad aunt. I have no idea why some people confuse the two actresses. Other than hair color, they look nothing alike. I don’t want to say some people are “gingerist” but…

Claire’s nephews, a.k.a. “Kids in Peril,” are played by Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins. Judy Greer plays their mom, which in no way makes me feel old. At least she didn’t get cut out of Jurassic World, as she did in Tomorrowland.

As many have pointed out, the role of “Not Ty Burrell” is played by Andy Buckley. Vincent D’Onofrio is the film’s cartoon villain; not to be confused with the comic book villain he plays on Daredevil. Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) is the owner of the park. I think he has more lines in less screen time in Jurassic World than he had in all of The Lunchbox.

Omar Sy is the token Frenchman, and B.D. Wong is Doctor Wu, the only hold over from Jurassic Park. Katie McGrath plays the World’s Worst Babysitter. Lauren Lapkus and Jake “I’m not Charlie Day” Johnson round out the cast as control room workers.

I think that’s all you need to know. There is one cameo I didn’t spot during the movie–that’s what Wikipedia is for. Here’s hoping that no one yells it out in the theatre. If so, feed them to the nearest dinosaur with carnivorous habits.

The Lunchbox (review)

Now that we are in the midst of blockbuster season, I thought I would watch something different–a palate cleanser, if you will. I have wanted to see The Lunchbox for a while now, and boy, am I glad I did.

I am a sucker for romantic films, but all Hollywood seems to give us is adaptations of Nicholas Sparks books. Spoiler alert! Someone dies. There is a death in The Lunchbox, but it’s a minor character, and the scene is neither manipulative nor overwrought.

The Lunchbox was filmed in India, but it’s not your typical Bollywood movie; there are no musical numbers. It’s just a very moving and wonderful film about two people.

Nimrat Kaur plays Ila, a wife and mother who is trying to put the spark back into her marriage by preparing hot lunches (not a metaphor) for her husband Rajiv (Nakul Vaid). In Mumbai, many people do not leave the workplace for lunch, but they like to have hot meals. These meals are prepared at home, or in restaurants, and delivered by the dabbawalas. More on them later.

Due to a mix up, Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) receives the lunch Ila made for her husband. Saajan is a widower who is nearing retirement. He is told by his boss to train Shaikh, (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) so that he can take Saajan’s place after retirement. And hilarity ensues. Shaikh is the comedy relief in The Lunchbox. Basically, Siddiqui is playing the Jeremy Piven part. Shaikh is rather annoying, and more than a bit cloying at first, but I came to like him. Like I said: the Jeremy Piven part.

Ila discovers that her husband is eating someone else’s lunch. So to speak. She wants to know who is eating Rajiv’s lunch, so to speak, so she includes a note in the lunchbox, which Saajan reads. He replies to Ila, and over the course of the movie, the notes become increasingly personal. The notes light a spark under the two, and it seems that they are making a connection. I don’t want to say any more about the plot for fear of spoilers.

Irrfan Khan is a sublime actor. He doesn’t have a lot of dialogue in The Lunchbox, which is fine, since he can say more with his eyes, face, and body language, than most actors can reciting a Shakespeare monologue. You may remember Khan from Slumdog Millionaire, The Darjeeling Limited, and season three of In Treatment. Or you may not, depending on your viewing habits. If it helps, he was also in The Amazing Spider-man, and can be currently seen in Jurassic World. The way I said that makes it seem like Jurassic World is a Broadway play.

I had never heard of Nimrat Kaur prior to The Lunchbox. Currently, she plays Tasneem Qureshi on Homeland, which is also not a Broadway play. Yet. Some of you may be familiar with her work on Homeland. I would be, but I stopped watching a while back for reasons that have nothing to do with the show, and everything to do with the cable company. It’s a long story.

I want to say that I fell in love with Kaur while I was watching The Lunchbox, but it’s fair to say I actually fell in love with Ila. It has something to do with a Rita Hayworth quote. Long story.

In The Lunchbox, Kaur gets to show a wide range of emotions. There is a scene in a cafe, and I will say no more. She is very charming and funny; especially when conversing with “Auntie,” who lives one floor above Ila.

Finally, a word about the dabbawalas. The dabbawalas are the ones who deliver lunches to workers in Mumbai. They have an elegant system for sorting out which lunch goes where. People come from all over the world to study it, yet my packages still bounce around the next county over, depending on which road you take, for at least a day and a half before they arrive at my house. It’s a long story.

The dabbawala’s system is so efficient, they rarely make a mistake. According to Wikipedia, they may make a mistake once every two months, or one out of eight million deliveries. Wow. If you think about it, The Lunchbox is based on a faulty premise. Kind of like Lucy.

Quick Bits and Leftovers volume 1

Writing is hard. Sometimes I watch a movie and find that I have nothing to say about it, even if I loved it. It’s like I always say: “Love songs are personal, break up songs are universal.”

Sometimes a project never gets past the notes phase. I may have a few random comments, but nothing cohesive; I know that has never stopped me before. Sometimes there is a beauty in the randomness, but more often than not, I am the only one that sees it.

Then there are those bits that don’t make it past the first draft, for whatever reason. One of the greatest pieces of advice I ever read was in an article about writing screenplays. I wish I could remember where I read it, because I want to credit the writer, but it was fifteen or so years ago. Anyway, the advice was somethin like: “Throw everything into your first draft and never let anyone read it. If you know it is going to be read, it may make you self-conscious.” That being said, some of my posts are first drafts.

The final catagory is “Stuff I couldn’t shoehorn into the post without breaking the flow.” That one kind of explains itself. Or at least, I hope it does.

And, we’re off.

Amelie

I love Amelie with all my heart. Yes, I have one. And by “Amelie” I mean the film, but I adore the character played by Audrey Tautou as well. Yes, I am aware that Amelie is a manic pixie dream girl, but so what? I am not being dismissive, I am acknowledging the fact, but choosing to set it aside because the film is so lovely and hopeful, and it never fails to cheer me up.

There is one thing that kind of bothers me, and this could be considered a spoiler for those who haven’t seen Amelie. Here goes: Amelie returns the photo album to Nico, but she never returns his red saddlebag. Or is it a panier? Anyway, Nico is riding around Paris on a moped with one red saddlebag/panier. But he has Amelie, and that’s all that matters.

Tomorrowland

I saw Tomorrowland on the second weekend of its release, and by this time it had been relegated to the smaller theatre in the twenty screen multiplex. It still had stadium seating, but the legroom was nonexistant, and the seats were bolt upright.

I won’t say where the theatre was located, but it was adjacent to the extra Rednecky part of the state. This couple brought their kid and one of the kid’s grandmothers to the movie, and of course they sat next to me. At one point, the dude yells out: “Hey! It’s Tim McGraw! I didn’t know Tim McGraw was in the movie!” So that happened. I felt like telling him about a thing I like to call IMDb, but I didn’t want to also have to explain the Internet.

Spoiler alert! At the end of Tomorrowland, the androids are sent on a mission to find smart, creative types. So why on Earth would they give a badge thingy to someone who designs cars for Chevrolet? If I were looking for creativity, it wouldn’t be at Chevy, or any of the GM brands, since all their cars are designed using only straight edges.

Haywire

Of all the Steven Soderbergh films, why am I writing about Haywire? The answer is simple: It’s the most recent one I have seen.

The first thing that comes up in conversation when Haywire is discussed is Gina Carano. More specifically: her acting ability. She was not a professional actor at the time of filming, but she did a far better job than I could. Soderbergh was the one who cast her, so he has some responsibility in the matter. That being said, Haywire was never going to be the next Bourne franchise, no matter who played the lead; even Scarlett Johansson.

Oh, and Mathieu Kassovitz, who played Nico in Amelie, has a small role in Haywire. So it seems we have come full circle.

Star Wars Memories: Return of the Jedi

I somehow managed to survive freshman year of high school, and more importantly, my last ever P.E. class, and what better way to celebrate than to see Return of the Jedi. I ended the trilogy where it began at Cinemas West. Theatre design has vastly improved over the decades. With “stadium seating,” you no longer have to find a gap to see around the heads of the patrons sitting in front of you. I you arrive late, you don’t have to sit next to a wall; although that would be preferable to sitting next to some people. Some theatres, such as the AMC Prime, have reclining seats, which is very cool. I hate getting stuck in the small theatres inside the multiplex with the seats that force you to sit bolt upright.

Projectors and sound systems have vasty improved. The movie going experience keeps getting more immersive, to the point where it is actually better than watching a film at home. With all the improvements, and new theatres that are being built, my favorite place to watch movies keeps changing. But I will never forget my first.

It seems that trilogies rarely stick the landing, but Return of the Jedi does. That’s not to say that Jedi is a perfect movie, but it could have been worse. If anything, it’s the third best film in the original trilogy, as opposed to the worst; if that makes any sense.

Star Wars set the template for modern film trilogies, for better or worse. A New Hope has its own beginning, middle, and end, and makes for a brilliant stand alone movie. The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi together make one long film. There are those that object to the ending of Empire because plot threads are left unresolved, and the loose ends won’t be tied up until the following film. I can understand the point, since I had to wait three years to get any sort of resolution, but I feel the payoff was worth it.

In my post on Empire, I said that my favorite sequence from the trilogy is when the Rebels are on Hoth. My favorite single moment in the trilogy occurs in Jedi, and I can sum it up in two words: “Now, Artoo!” When Luke uses the plank as a springboard and catches his lightsaber in midair, it’s one of the great “Yes!” moments in the history of cinema.

It was the moment when Luke became a Jedi, and we finally got to see what a Jedi is capable of. It’s when I felt that Luke was finally able to battle Darth Vader on equal terms. The trilogy is a hero’s journey, and Luke finally listened to Master Yoda’s teachings and before our eyes has become the hero that has the ability to bring balance to the Force.

Of course, the Sarlacc pit is also where Boba Fett dies a comedy death. But that is another story for another time.

I’m one of those people who doesn’t really mind the Ewoks. I will admit they are a bit “cutesy” for my taste. I find it both interesting and odd that a tribal culture of small-statured beings could defeat an enemy as powerful as the Empire. Yes, they only had to battle Stormtroopers and not Vader and the Emperor, and Stormtroopers are kind of derppy, but still.

The idea that Leia is Luke’s sister seems a bit last minute, but it works. I have always liked it, and I like it even more, now that the story will continue in The Force Awakens.

Tomorrowland (Discussion)

In Tomorrowland, current day Earth, and by “Earth” I mean North America, is obsessed with dystopian fiction. It seems that Hollywood, and by “Hollywood” I mean studios other than Disney, take what is broadcast on cable news channels and turn it into entertainment for the masses. Basically, we’re ancient Rome, minus the orgies and vomitoriums. Which is weird, considering how many TV evangelists compare the United States to Soddom and Gomorrah.

I always felt bad for Gomorrah. At least Sodom has a sex act named after it, while Gomorrah has nothing; not even a STD.

Never mind the fact that Disney movies have traumatized gererations of children with their depictions of parents being killed in the most brutal and often senseless ways possible. But those are just animals, and animals die every day anyway.

I will agree that we as a people like our dystopian–always have, always will. Mad Max, The Hunger Games, Divergent, Snowpiercer, etc., all depict life, after life as we knew is in the rear view mirror. In many cases there are characters that have no concept of things being any different.

In Tomorrowland, David Nix (Hugh Laurie) is a bad guy who makes some valid points. He had hoped that the human race would see the depictions of famine, war, and despair, and find a way to prevent it. Instead, people embraced and celebrated it, then ran headfirst into it. He also mentions, in a very House-like way, that the human race simultaneously suffers from both starvation and obesity. That is something to think about.

Dystopian fiction has an appeal which is based on one of the oldest storytelling tropes: conflict. Whether it is person vs person, nation vs nation, or a person with inner turmoil; conflict is relatable. Think about it. God vs Lucifer, Cain vs Abel, Greeks vs nightmare monsters, the idea of conflict is as old as time.

What has utopian fiction ever given us? I haven’t read every book, nor seen every film, but there aren’t that many examples of great utopian society fiction that I can think of. Those I can, like Logan’s Run, were examples of a society that wasn’t all that it seems on the surface. A utopia is hard to maintain because you have to placate all human desires, or remove them from the equasion.

Much like The Dark Knight Rises, Tomorrowland is a film that those with certain polital beliefs like to complain about. Some say Tomorrowland, as depicted in the film, is an Ayn Randian think tank for those deemed to be “exceptional.” Those in the other camp say the movie is another example of global warming propaganda that proclaims the world will be saved by “smart people” a.k.a. scientists. Well, did you think the world was going to be saved by idiots? You can get a Kickstarter going to make that movie if you want. Paulie Shore is available, and reasonably priced.

You know, just once I would like to see film reviewers and politcal pundits argue with each other over how a movie supports their own beliefs, and refutes the other side. It will never happen because negitivity sells, and the dumb masses buy.

It’s been said that “the best cynics are jaded optimists,” or something to that effect. I try to remain as optimistic as possible. I am far more Luke Skywalker than Han Solo, but that’s because I am always looking at the sky, trying to find… Something.

Tomorrowland (Review)

Disney’s live action films have always been hit or miss. For every Mary Poppins or Pirates of the Caribbean, there is a The Lone Ranger, or any of the Pirates sequels. As a kid, I enjoyed the Disney movies featuring Don Knotts, but I have no idea if they still hold up today. I also liked The Black Hole, and I wonder if the remake is on its way. I know there isn’t going to be a third Tron film, so that may very well answer my query.

I’l get this out of the way: Tomorrowland is a good film. I wouldn’t call it a “must see;” you can wait until it shows up on the Disney Channel. Tomorrowland itself is stunning; what you get to see of it. I didn’t see in in 3D, but it would have been worth it for the swimming pool scene. It was like nothing I have ever seen. Imagine those old Disney films where Walt has models and concept art for Tomorrowland, and then add in a Calvin Klein cologne commercial, and you have barely scratched the surface.

Flash back to the 1964 World’s Fair, where young Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson) is trying to win fifty bucks in a compitition for inventors with his jet pack built from an Electrolux vacuum cleaner, which is not a device used for cleaning vacuums. He fails to impress David Nix (Hugh Laurie, using his normal, British accent, since he is the villain). He does impress a young girl called Athena, (Raffey Cassidy) who gives Frank a small badge with the letter T upon it. And the adventure begins.

In what I assume is present day Florida–it’s Florida, one can never tell–Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) is upset that her dad (Tim McGraw) a NASA engineer is about to lose his job, so she goes on covert missions to sabotage the equipment used to tear down the facility.

Casey is smart and the adults around her are not. They all talk about how the world is in it’s last days, yet none of them have a clue as to how to fix it. This being Florida, I expected there to be a “Come to Jesus” moment, but this is a godless Hollywood movie and we are all doomed to Hell for watching it; everyone say, “Amen.”

Casey’s real good at fixing things, and sciencey stuff. She rides a motorcycle, but she’s not a Daughter of Anarchy, or anything like that. During a later scene, the present day Frank, (George Clooney) is attenpting to kickstart his old motorcycle, and Casey is being helpful by saying stuff like, “Have you checked the points?” All valid observations. It reminded me of the scene in Nymphomaniac where Jerome was trying to start his moped, and Joe switches the fuel shutoff valve to the “on” position. It also remined me to never watch a Lars von Trier film, and a Disney movie in the same week again.

Back to where I was: Casey acquires a T badge, and gets a glimpse of Tomorrowland. This leads her to the internet, where, with the help of her brother, Nate, (Pierce Gagnon) she finds a shop in Houston called Blast to the Past, that may have some answers.

This seems to be a lot of peoples favorite scene. Kathryn Hahn and Keegan-Michael Key play the shop owners, and they are a hoot. If you didn’t know that Disney now owns the Star Wars rights before seeing Tomorrowland, you will afterward. Funny thing is; the only Marvel merch I spotted was for the X-Men. There were toy robots from some old sci-fi films, but nary a Dalek. I guess they learned from the Warner Bros. debacle.

During a laser gun battle, Casey meets Athena, who takes Casey to meet Frank, and the adventure to sort out Tomorrowland sets off in earnest. I won’t go any further because spoilers. I will return with a spoiler filled discussion for those of you, like me, who are waiting on Jurassic World and have nothing better to do.