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The Curse (1987)
The biggest fear of the locals is the TVA, Tennessee Valley Authority. Claude Akins plays a farmer who is struggling to be independent and to make enough money to go on vacation during the winter. A meteorite brings strange forces that can appear benevolent, but are really evil.
The movie is slapstick in a way about how greed makes people expect wealth, but the forces come in and destroy people. In the end, there is a river of destructive ooze to remind people not to mess too much to the forces of nature.
While the movie was cheesy and amateurish. It was hardly a masterpiece, it was engaging enough. It was the small town where hope springs eternal. Claude Akins played a very Biblical father who could not control his family against the forces of evil...
A Bit Dazed And Confused
The first fifteen minutes of the movie started out very promising. He knew a lot about the realities of Lebanon. He was frustrated and bored with life in the U.S. After that the movie was rather confusing yet trying to make a political statement at the same time.
Why would he even negotiate with a terrorist? The movie tries to make the terrorist look almost sympathetic. Yet, we never really get a sense of who this man is and why we should care.
Israel and The U.S. are portrayed in a negative light, yet we never develop a likeability for the main character nor do we really see why. There is no sense of difference between Muslims and Christians, and who the different factions are. Plus, the main character wanders around like an elephant in a china shop. He runs away from security detail. He gets lured away by a kid and could have very easily have been killed. If Beirut was such a dangerous place back then, why is an American running around with no weapon and with no sense of caution whatsoever? He behaves boldly and blindly and we are supposed to see this as negotiating skills.
Lastly, we never feel a strong connection and sense of shock, like say in the 80s movie The Killing Fields. The movie tries to portray the terrorist as just a pawn in games, and then tries to show that it was all worth it because he saved a buddy who we do not even get to know very well. Then, at the ending Media clips of what happened in 1982 are shown, but do not seem to communicate a strong message.
By the Sea (2015)
Interesting, but not really coherent
Angelina Jolie wrote the script, and shows that she is more talented than I believed. It was hard at first to watch, because Jolie is rather a strange actress (comparison:. Mia Farrow). She always appears so sullen and lost in her own cloud. I found out during the film that this takes place during the 1970s.
A middle aged couple (Pitt and Jolie) stop by a wealthy resort in the Riviera (actually filmed in Malta, however). Pitt befriends an elderly bar tender/restaurant owner who has been through it all, and has found peace in marriage. Jolie's character is sullen and angry. Pitt is jolly and care free, and does not understand her bad mood.
It turns out that Pitt's character is a has been writer who drinks a lot. He is frequently down at the bar. Jolie's character, in her paranoid state, starts to believe that Pitt is having an affair with a beautiful young blond American woman next door to their room who has just married a Frenchman. The couple argues and the woman's mood seems to improve. She discovers a peep hole in the room and starts spying on the couple next door to recapture the young and fun memories of the early state of marriage. Soon her husband finds out and joins in spying on the neighbors. It seems perverted, but it is supposed to represent the passion of newlyweds. Soon, it turns out that all is not well with the younger couple. It was an interesting movie, reminiscent of the French New Wave films. Psychoanalysis of relationships is not as in vogue as it was forty or fifty years ago. In the end, the couple drives away from the hotel feeling like they have survived another stage of married life. Sadly, that has not appeared to have happened in their real life marriage. I think the main flaw of this film is Jolie herself. I never quite understand her. She is Moody and rather depressive person in all her roles, and even when she appears in the tabloids. I felt she had something really important to say about marriage and that the romance eventually meets hard reality of the tedium of married life. However, I felt she appears so odd and jaded that she does not seem like she connects with the audience.
No One Gets Out Alive
You can tell this is not a Hollywood movie. It did not have a happy ending. A unit of 400 German soldiers is reduced to zero in a hopeless situation at Stalingrad (Volgagrad), Ukraine. An idealistic young officer tries to point out the injustices caused by other German officers against Russian civilians and soldiers, but the higher command accuses him of being against the war effort. They hint that the only reason he is not arrested and shot is because his father is an important person. The German soldiers go through an unimaginable hell. All die hopelessly, tragically, and painfully. It is hard for any movie to come close to the horrors of war, but this film does about as good a job as possible. It is not too long before the German soldiers discover that they will never make it back home to Germany again. There is no escape, and the winter is another harsh factor. It is hundreds of miles through barren lands that make Midwest winters look tame. The Russian soldiers and Ukrainian people are seen as victims of the war just as much.
Unlike many Hollywood movies, where there is a happy ending this movie has no consolation as every single one of the soldiers of the original 400 is doomed to die. The majority of soldiers are just ordinary folk led by fanatical and terrified officers. In the end, the powerful officers are reduced to starving, shivering animals themselves with no hope of escape. The only knock I have on this movie, because it was focused on the point of view of the German soldier, is that nothing was shown about how Communism was even worse. Stalin was a complete monster. The reason why the Russian boy who was captured is so silent is because Stalin killed any soldiers who had contact with Germans. Stalin claimed that he himself was responsible for winning the war. Stalin was just a coward who was protecting himself. It was the people who were the real winners of the war. Just to show how vile a person Stalin was. A Jewish prisoner who survived the concentration camps was arrested by the Soviets, accused of being infected by Germanism, and sent to a Siberia camp.
Still, this movie is in the tradition of realistic European films. One feels true sadness for the inhumanity of the whole war. Everyone is a victim of a mad situation where no one comes out alive. In the last scene, the last surviving soldier freezes to death in the open fields of snow and winds.
Kidnapping Mr. Heineken (2015)
Don't mess with a rich man
This movie was quite down to earth, better than I expected. Childhood friends know each other well and their emotions. A decision is made to kidnap Mr. Heineken (Anthony Hopkins). All goes well, but as the days and weeks go by waiting for the ransom and to go back to a "normal life" everything starts to unravel. Mr. Heineken does not seem like he has been the kidnapped. Immediately he plays upon his capture's emotions, even saying that one cannot have friendship and money at the same time. This is exactly what happens to the kidnappers, leading to their capture and ruining their friendship. Mr. Heineken had really been control all along. He makes it his personal mission to get the kidnappers, not for their actual crine but because they dared to slight him and his money and power.
Glorious 39 (2009)
An original movie, with good acting, marred by a confusing plot
This movie had all the ingredients for an unusual movie about World War Two, but failed to do so. Firstly, the star of the film plays a woman adopted by a wealthy landed aristocracy family, but we never know who she really is other than that she is strikingly pretty. She has a baby, but who was the father and why when the baby is briefly kidnapped does the baby disappear completely from the plot? Secondly, the main plot is about British aristocrats who decide to support Hitler in their delusions that it will protect their positions and places. The movie never really solidifies what their move to fascism is all about. One character accused the adopted woman of being "part gypsy", but this only confuses things leading one to believe that the fascists have a lot more motives than protecting their self interest.
Thirdly, it is never explained to what extent these fascists have power to control a whole rural area of England. The heroine cannot escape the fascists, which include her brother, but it is never explained why. How deep is the fascist conspiracy? At one point the heroine flees but British soldiers capture her and one soldier says that habeas corpus has been suspended and the soldiers can imprison her indefinitely. Missed opportunity to suggest that overreaction may have helped the fascists take advantage of the situation and be more powerful.
Lastly, it is never explained at what time this teenager is looking into what happened back in 1939. It is because his mother was now taking care of the heroine, but we do not not even see the face of the teenager's mother's. What was her motivation in finding out what happened in 1939.
Bill Nighy was great. He plays a seemingly very nice and harmless man who is really leading the fascists. I also liked the beginning where an inspiring politician stresses the point of confronting Hitler and supporting Churchill. Even if he was not unknowingly speaking to a group of fascists, it compellingly showed how the perceptions of World War Two changed over time. In 1939, it was still sort of a partisan issue between the Labour and Conservative Party. Many people remembered the horrors of World War One and were anxious about getting into another war. Overall, a good movie, but a lot unexplained. Why were all the animals being killed? I think I remember reading something about this, but the movie does not explain it to the audience at all. Was the local vet in collusion with the fascists or just obeying government orders? The fascists we're a really menacing and creepy bunch, but the movie does not provide much historical basis and evidence so the audience can be more engaged.
So bad and phony
Beautiful landscape and a chance to make a complex and intriguing movie. Instead, the movie was a confusing, pretentious exercise in overacting. The movie never gives a clue what is the point and why should be we believe anyone or anything.
Nicole Kidman plays a mother whose daughter has become wild and uncontrollable. Instead of behaving like a mature adult, she is promiscuous and walks through the town naked. Even nowadays, that will get you banned from a small town forever. Why was she bruised? The movie never explains.
What happened to the daughter? No one knows. Maybe she got away from her family and became a successful millionaire. An Adult beats up the neighbor's kid, but the police chief does not arrest him. On what Planet would that happen? Is the police chief covering up his own role. He shreds the evidence that might indict the neighbor's kid.
When does this take place? If it is 2015, once again, I am sure Australia has the equivalent of Amber Alerts. You bet that some local sheriff would not be running things. There would be Media and every agency in the Australian Government would be in town. I guess movies is the one place that reality can be suspended for the plot. What plot?! This movie was a mess. Was Nicole Kidman trying to win an Oscar? She certainly was overacting.
Eye in the Sky (2015)
Unrealistic, yet compelling
Although not very realistic, the film asks very compelling moral questions. A British Colonel (Helen Mirren) is placed in charge of ordering two American pilots to strike a house in Kenya filled with known terrorists. The problem comes in the face of an innocent girl who is selling bread to feed her family, and that there is at least "a sixty percent chance" she will be killed if the house is struck by a missile.
Because the terrorists have strapped themselves with bombs to commit an act of terrorism after leaving the house, a moral battle ensues. Some members of the British and American Governments and Militaries are supportive of striking the house, while others do not want to risk killing the little girl. Progressively, higher ups to the American Secretary of State and the Prime Minister are suggested to be consulted because no one knows what decision to make.
The British Colonel decides to manipulate "kill ratio" by having the possibility of the girl being killed as low as "45%" in one spot of the house. The strike is finally made and the girl is killed. The British Colonel disobeys the wishes of the British Government to have a British woman who married one of the terrorists captured, and orders the British woman in the house to be killed by another missile.
There were a number of flaws in the movie. Firstly, a pilot would not be able to refuse an order to launch the missile. Secondly, the British Colonel is portrayed so evilly that she starts to side track the message of the movie. Lastly, nothing is mentioned about the fact that the Kenyan Army is on stand by and could easily have seized the vehicle that the terrorists were in when they left the house.
Still, I have to say it was a good movie that asked tough questions. There is no doubt that these extremists are very bad people and a danger to all around. Yet, launching a missile is not an exact science. It cannot be predicted exactly how much damage will be caused. More importantly, these terrorists are operating around a lot of innocent people. It is a tragedy seeing innocent people killed in war, and never easy.
Lastly, pilots have to deal with the realities. The two pilots were from opposite ends of the country, and had never participated in a combat mission. At the end, they both have only twelve hours to report back to duty. We never find out what happens after that, but either the pilots will just serve out their duties or grow from their experience. These terrorists are really bad and dangerous people, but lots of innocent people die wars. Hopefully, this movie will make people think seriously about reality and that can only help themselves grow in understanding what war is. It is the individual's choice how to respond.
A lot of people gave this movie bad reviews, but I am sick of Political Correctness. I am not such a big fan of Family Guy. Find it annoying, but this movie was cute. There was a lot of crude humor, which is to be expected in most films today. However, the movie had a heart. A boy gets a teddy bear as a kid who talks. Both become obnoxious and immature as adults, but when the star's girlfriend gives him an ultimatum to give up Ted the teddy bear and grow up or lose her, both the Teddy Bear and adult start to grow up. I was laughing throughout the movie. Yes, the movie was corny but people nowadays have become too serious and need to chill out. That is what we use to say in the 80s. Have fun and laugh at this movie. Not a great film, but still plenty of laughs.
Over the Brooklyn Bridge (1984)
Amusing Hollywood view of Jewish life
Not being Jewish myself, I would guess traditional Jews will find this plot a bit simplistic and secularist. For most of the audience it is an entertaining movie. It is hard to see Elliott Gould as overweight, but in this file he plays an overweight, neurotic, and diabetic middle aged ma who falls for a pretty young woman from Philadelphia of Irish descent. His extended family lives in the secular World and does not. His mom runs a deli with a black man working there, and his best friend is an Italian American. His uncle is a successful businessman who wants his nephew to marry a Jewish woman. However, he finds that he loves his non-Jewish woman and also wants to open his own restaurant in Manhattan. He is trying to be his own man, and no matter how polite he is about it it inevitably leads to family conflict. His uncle is pressuring him to marry a Jewish woman that he does not love. In the end, he makes his stand and wins. An entertaining movie, but in real life the pressures may be too great and maybe tradition is not all bad, if you look at the points that the movie Avalon made. It is romanticized in this country to be completely independent, but for most people tradition s also security.
A good movie with some flaws.
The movie was very exciting and had a good cast. People on Earth could only grow corn now due to a blight. There were a lot less people and most lived in rural areas growing corn. Even the New York Yankees had relocated to the country. Matthew McConaughey plays a farmer who once was a top pilot. He and his daughter somehow figure out where a secret NASA base is located. When they investigate they are captured and one of the people there is an old professor of his played by Michael Caine. Caine believes that the World will end in two generations due to a projected corn blight. McConaughey is recruited to take a crew through a wormhole to a neighboring galaxy where there are three planets that may support life. An early mission, led by an astronaut played by Matt Damon, disappeared on one of the planets. When the crew arrives on the planet where the astronaut is located, it turns out that the astronaut had been playing a con game. He pretended that there was urgency to come to the planet to save humankind, but in reality he cowardly just wanted to be rescued from the isolation of being the only person on the planet. There is also the duplicity of NASA in believing that they could let all of humanity die while letting a few colonizers continue life on a new planet.
The movie was very good with a great story, but had a few flaws. Firstly, when the crew arrives on the first planet there is nothing but still water a few feet deep. However, suddenly miles away a giant tidal wave about one thousand feet high appears. It only takes a few moments to get to within a few hundred yards of the space ship. The tsunami in Indonesia a few years ago was only about twenty feet high, but traveling at 535 miles per hour. It would seem logical that a thousand foot high tsunami would be traveling faster and with even more deadly force. Yet, suddenly the tsunami slows down and gives the astronauts tons of time to get back into the space ship. Still, one astronaut is killed when the female astronaut, played by Anne Hatthaway, insists on retrieving important data left by the previous exhibition to the planet. One of the four astronauts is killed. And, the force of the tsunami that big would probably destroy and crush even the strongest built space craft.
Another major flaw was that the movie assumed that all of the audience understood what was going on. Not everyone understands all the science involved and the movie needed to do a better job explaining how the science was plausible. The only possible explanation for the spaceship surviving the massive tsunami is the word "gravity of 130%". The significance of 130% was not very well explained.
Another problem had to do with the DVD I was watching. Some DVDs are not very good with sound. Oftentimes, characters were practically whispering, particularly Matthew McConaghey's character. There was some important dialogue going on, but I could not hear a lot of it.
Lastly, the last part of the movie was very complicated. While I did understand the concept of Love and the connections between events in the movie, particularly with his daughter and how she reacted to his abandoning the family for the mission, it seemed fantastic. The robot and the female astronaut eject from the space station, but the main character does not. Not really explained. Also, at some point, he ejects from his space craft. Not really explained. Also, I was wondering how a space craft could travel through this enormous worm hole at fantastic speeds and not hit one of the countless objects in the worm hole. It would take an exact projection of where all possible objects could be located to avoid the space ship from being destroyed.
Fantastically, the main character is rescued by the NASA station. The NASA Station was able to be refitted and went into space, becoming a two-dimensional circular micro World where some of humanity had survived (there was an eighty year time lapse due to the astronauts going deep into space and time becoming relatively faster).
Overall, a very good movie. Some things needed to be explained better. The movie got a bit confusing towards the end.
Keeping Up Appearances (1990)
One of the best class comedies
Hyancinth comes from the lower middle to lower class, but has grown into being a middle class suburban housewife. Hyancinth almost like Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of the butler in Remains Of The Day. She is entirely possessed from dawn to dusk by a fantastic need to impress people that she is worthy of being of the highest caste in England. The problem is that she is about forty to fifty years too late. Even the wealthy she wants to impress have adopted the American appearance of classes not being something to be too openly snobbish about. No one is impressed by her hysterical attempts to show off. She is tragic, because she really has a good heart but drives everyone nuts with her obsession to impress upon people that she is of the highest caste. Her neighbors are a brother and sister. The brother is a struggling composer and the sister is a very nice and apologetic woman whose greatest terror is breaking Hyacinth's precious China. Hyancinth does not even let her neighbor through the front door, because she is afraid the right people will get the wrong impressions and she is terrified of anyone tracking mud or touching her walls. Hyacinth's son we never meet, but she is incessantly bragging about him to others and oblivious to her son's sexual orientation. Her relatives include an idle man named Onslow who drinks beer all day and never changes his shirt, a World War One veteran father who is senile pervert, a plump sister with a husband who shows no interest, and another sister who spends all her time flirting with and chasing men. Her husband is completely controlled by her and can never escape her constant schemes to impress the right people. The only people who are not trying to avoid her are her lower class relatives who always show up and spoil her schemes. I guess there is a little Hyacinth in all of us. Everyone is trying to impress, but most of us have the tact to not drive everyone nuts by it.
I like this show more and more
Like Becker, I think Frasier is even better than Cheers. I like everything about the show. Christopher Lloyd is the Executive Producer and frequently wrote episodes. The number of actors who appeared in the show is amazing. Everything about the show is amazing. An English born actor playing a regular American Dad. An actor who is gay in real life playing a super heterosexual sportscaster. An actress from a completely different part of England playing from Manchester. The comedy and wit is so well written. Two sheltered intellectuals with a dad who is blue collar. Frasier never finding a lasting relationship. Niles secretly loving Daphne, but they never have a relationship. Rose Doyle being so out of place, abrupt and earthy, in contrast to the Crane brothers. It is a combination of great acting and great scripts that make Frasier one of the best shows. Lastly, Eddie, The Jack Russell Terrier. The best actor on the show.
The Last Frontier (1955)
A trapper, played by Victor Mature, ends up at a Union Army fort confronted by Red Cloud and his army. The trapper falls for the wife of the colonel of the fort. The colonel is a very dedicated and brave soldier, but not very diplomatic and smart when it comes to choosing battles. The trapper lures the colonel out into the woods and gets him entrapped in a pit and leaves him to die. The trapper in his delusions hopes that the colonel's wife will be impressed and want to be with him. Instead, her Christian sensibility is horrified by his actions. The trapper goes back and rescues the colonel.
The movie is "war weary". The soldiers at the fort are sick of fighting the local Native Americans and not happy about going out to fight a battle they will inevitably lose. The trapper becomes a hero to them, because he is an excellent fighter and much shrewder than the colonel. The colonel is both liked and disliked. He is a loyal soldier, but the soldiers are not happy about having to go out and fight to their inevitable deaths. I think this was the best thing about this movie. It was not a typical western. It was a rare 50s movie that was more cynical about war and the point of war.
The most well known TV Western.
As a kid in the 70s and 80s, this was one TV Western I watched in rerun. Bonanza is probably the most well known of countless TV Westerns of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. It easy to think that TV Westerns are square and sophomoric. However, compared to most TV shows today these Western TV shows range from decent to great. My favorite one is Gunsmoke, but Bonanza was quite good. Although the cowboy period was actually a lot shorter than most people think nowadays, the Western was a great way to present moral lessons. The small towns with very little formal laws is reminiscent of times when having a moral code was key. The gunfighters in the TV Westerners are both idealized and pitied. Having a quick trigger makes one a celebrity, but also means that people constantly want to challenge you to a duel. In Bonanza, the fists are used more than guns. Lorne Greene plays the widowed father of the Cartwright family of three sons - Adam, Hoss, and Joe. Ben Cartwright is a very moral man who uses words and deeds to show why he is the largest landowner in the Virginia City, Nevada area. He can use his fists, but he is getting a little older. His sons use their fists, but all are heroic. Bonanza ran for 14 years, and had a host of guest stars. For example, Carroll O'Connor plays a ruthless entrepreneur who finds out the hard way that greed has a great cost in the long run. Bonanza is about moral values and lessons that people learn from their behaviors. This is something seriously lacking in the vast majority of today's TV. Too much canned laughter and gutter level, shock the audience humor and action. Lastly, Bonanza does a good job in showing about racism and class prejudice. Native Americans are neither portrayed in the brutal fashion like in A Man Called Horse with Richard Harris or like Dances With Wolves with Kevin Costner that idealized Native Americans. The show tried to show how people really were, and the challenges and conflicts in those days as honestly as they could on TV. The script writing on many of these westerns is underrated. Many, such as Sam Peckinpah, who wrote many of the scripts for The Rifleman, went on to become famous directors. Interesting too that the last season Tim Matheson from Animal House replaced Michael Landon while he went on to do Little House On The Prairie.
A bit of a soap opera, but still very well done.
All the characters are very well developed. The patriarch of the Stasi family (Uwe Kossich) is shrewd enough to survive in the Stasi, but does see that there are flaws in his government. His wife is a typical wife of a member of the Communist Party. She just wants to maintain the image of her family as being loyal, because she can only see the consequences of being otherwise as too dire to even fathom. His two sons, Falk and Martin, are very different. Martin is idealistic, but has a heart that leads him astray. He falls in love with the daughter of a suspect musician and that leads to all kinds of trouble for him and his family. Falk is almost "devilish". As an upstart in Stasi, his whole purpose in life is to use people, incriminate people, advance himself, and protect his self interest. In some ways as "good a communist" as Falk believes himself to be, if he lived in West Germany he could have been an equally good ruthless CEO. One of the most interesting characters is Falk's boss. Falk's boss is the head of Stasi, and was very evidently around during Stalin's time. As scary and ferocious as he is, he is much smarter than Falk. He knows that Falk is basically a "cowardly self serving man who probably would have been eliminated if he were in Stalin's time".
The Ugly American (1963)
I like the humbled Brando roles the best.
Brando appeared a bit over the top in films like The Wild Ones, On The Waterfront, The Godfather, and Apocalypse Now. Having just seen this film for the first time, I compare this role to The Chase (1966) where Brando plays a sheriff in a Texas town humbled by his duties. In The Ugly American, based upon the 1958 novel, Brando plays an LBJ like journalist who becomes ambassador to the fictitious southeast Asia country of Sarkan (but very clearly really Vietnam).
The film was made while JFK was President, but there are great similarities to Brando's Ambassador MacWhite and LBJ. Brando plays a moderate to liberal Democrat who faces an uphill confirmation hearing due to the skepticism of hawkish Senator Brenner (Judson Laire). Laire is a virulent anti communist who is both wrongly and rightly concerned that a journalist who just fought the Japanese in WWII in Sarkan has any experience to be the ambassador of the country of Sarkan in the late 1950s.
The main argument MacWhite makes is that he is good friends with Deung (Eiji Okada), the powerful nationalist opposition leader in Sarkan. MacWhite is confirmed but he is nearly killed by a mob that greets him at the airport. MacWhite may be liberal leaning politically, but he is still 100% a former military man. MacWhite naively believes that it is all about America being the "good" force for progress against "Communism".
MacWhite meets his old friend Deong, but then foolishly starts an argument over the value of building the "freedom road" to the north border of the country, which MacWhite sees as progress, and Deong (with wide popular support) sees as American imperialism. MacWhite denounces Deong as a "communist" and they become enemies.
MacWhite insists on continuing the building of the "freedom road" to the border with the communist neighbors, despite several people telling him that it will just provoke the paranoia of the communists and be seen by the majority of Sarkans will resist it as cultural and economic imperialism. Eventually, his stubbornness and persistence results in a civil war.
Prime Minister Sai (Kukrit Pramo) demonstrates that he is a very wise leader, in contract to MacWhite's foolhardy arrogance. Prime Minister Sai finally convinces MacWhite that Deong is not a communist, Deong himself will be betrayed by the communists, and that Sarkan may fall to the Communists unless the U.S. military intervenes.
I really liked this movie, because Brando's character does realize, albeit probably too late, the errors of his thinking. MacWhite saw everything in "black" and "white" and failed to see what was truly going on in Sarkan. MacWhite tries too late to warn the American people to go back to the principles of our own revolution and show the World that we are for these principles, not lecturing other cultures about how to live.
Decent and Entertaining.
I admit to be only a mild fan of The Star Wars series. Yes, I saw the original back in 1977, and it was the best one. Still, I prefer THX 1138, and the original Star Wars was just very good. The worst one was (this causes the grossest confusion) the sixth one filmed. The one with Ewan McGregor was a horrible letdown, and just abysmal. This one is the seventh one filmed and it is at least as good as New Hope and The Return Of The Jedi. We have the storm trooper who defects,and this pretty woman who we can guess is the daughter of Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker. Right away we see the great actor Max Von Sydow. His part was cut short. Harrison Ford was as funny as ever. The other actors are not really well known yet, but they seemed to be good sidekicks to Han Solo ' s personality. It was neat at the end when the woman heroine just hugged Princess Leia and it ended with She and Luke Skywalker looking at each other, rather than admitting that she must be their daughter. The special effects were good. I think the movie was decent, but then again the original Star Wars was just a very good movie.
On the job stress in a changing World
A great movie with many different points, but the main thing is that this movie was done in 1968. Although I was being born then, I understand this was the year that the U.S. changed quite a lot. Madigan is an aging cop who is clearly a product of the "old days". Detectives still wore suits and ties and were not "politically correct". Madigan is struggling in a new World of hippies, parties, wives and mistresses who have their own needs, and race relations. None of this is very blatant in the movie. It is always there, though, part of the side story. The main thing is that Madigan (Richard Widmark) and his partner (Harry Guardino) are humiliated on a routing arrest when the suspect grabs his gun and escapes. It is apparent that the police department is under more and more scrutiny during the Vietnam War Era. The commissioner (Henry Fonda) is a calm and fair man who has to deal with the fallout of his botched arrest. Madigan has to restore his lost honor and pride. It becomes clear that his whole life revolves around his work, and his wife is extremely depressed by the low pay and long hours. It becomes Madigan's obsession to capture the suspect that he was humiliated by. In the end, he pays with his life to do that. This movie really touched me in very subtle ways. Don Stroud plays a long haired street hustler (not sure what he was exactly - possibly a drug dealer),and he brilliantly represents someone who struggles between being a hippy and being a man of the past - tough guy. Harry Bellaver from The Naked City has a minor role as a man who once may have been something, but now is just a lonely old alcoholic. Madigan is so frustrated and impatient that when the suspect is cornered, he refuses to wear a vest. He pays with his life for this. It is a very symbolic action, because he feels that he has lost his honor and has to restore it at all costs. His wife scolding the commissioner at the end shows that there is no easy solution and answer in the tough World of being a cop and being the commissioner (who has to soft pedal the whole thing).
A movie with messages
I didn't understand everything about this movie, but there were a number of different messages. In the beginning, two old army buddies meet. One of them is temperamental, prone to anger. The other is a cool one, who doesn't lose his temper. One is from the high arctic fishing town on the Barents Sea. The other is a lawyer in Moscow. The lawyer from Moscow is visiting a family whose mayor is taking away their home, so he can develop the area. The family is relatively happy and together with hints of problems. For example, the father is a bit brutal with his wife and son. His son is becoming estranged and rebellious. Probably not too much different than modern families anywhere. The mayor is a bit older and plump. He is no longer quick on his feet and drinks too much. He gets drunk and confronts the family to brag about how it is now his home and they should get out. He comes with a body guard about seven feet tall and mouths off. The lawyer manages to calm his friend down and get them indoors with only a bit of arguments. The father has just been released from prison, too. The family goes to the local court and hears a hilarious, brutal, and robotic litany of information from a woman court reader. The Russian system seems to be struggling between modern democracy and the past. While it seems to be democratic, it is basically a no win description of how they will lose their home. Some say this movie is anti-Russian. I don't know the answer. These kind of things happen in America, too, although a lot of people pretend they don't. Get in a legal dispute or have to face a committee in the U.S. and it is not that much better. The Moscow lawyer is a bit too idealistic and foolhardy. He decides to confront the mayor and blackmail him about his past - I suppose maybe working with the KGB and doing some nasty things in the old regime would not be the best thing for re-election. The mayor appears very calm and shrewd and promises to think it over. The amount that the family is offered for the loss of their home is 680000 rubles. My guess is that is about $40,000 in US Dollars. The lawyer tries to barter for 4.5 Million rubles, which is about $200,000 US Dollars. Big mistake. The mayor doesn't deliver his promise, gets all wound up and bullies his employees to get back at the Moscow lawyer for slighting him. He hires some thugs to kidnap him, and then they bring him to a remote location, tie him up, and the mayor pretends to shoot him. Maybe, the mayor realizes that in the new regime he can only go so far, and does not want a murder rap. There is a relationship between the Moscow lawyer and the wife of his old army buddy. That is one part of the movie that I did not feel was necessary. It confused things and made everyone look like they were in some ways to blame for the loss of their home. It might have worked if it was better developed and explained, but I found it confusing and distracting. In any case, the lawyer leaves the town in humiliation. The situation turns tragic from there. The father starts to drink more, is under more stress, and loses his temper more. He alienates his family, and over the extramarital affair causes his wife to commit suicide. The father is charged with murder of his wife, even though he was almost certainly innocent. He is sent to prison. His son ends up losing both his father and mother. There was another big point to the movie. The relationship between the local orthodox priest and the mayor. Russia's main struggle over the last few centuries has been struggling from one inflexible system to another. The mayor was probably with the KGB at one time, and a fanatical and brutal supporter of the communist system. Now, he has embraced The Russian Orthodox Church with equal zeal as a tool to justify his position and place. There was even a strange relations between the church and Stalin. After all, Stalin once almost became a priest. The church became a tool of nationalism during Stalin's regime. The priest is a powerful person, who basically justifies any and all actions the mayor takes to protect his interests as long as he supports the church. The father visits a lay priest or monk at one point and gets a better and more honest answer. The priest tells him about the Book of Job and about a whale as an analogy to say that it is better to be humble and modest in life to survive and exist in the World happily. The whale is also and important symbol about a town that was once a bustling whaling hunt center, but now is just a place of misery and decay.
Naked City (1958)
Born a few years after this ended, this show is history.
A couple years ago, this television show started airing on Me-TV. I had never seen it before. I love the show. I was not around in the late 50s and early 60s, and the only television images I have are the more romantic and fantasia ones. This show really shows what life was back like then. Surprisingly, not everyone was going to sock hops and living out in Leave It To Beaverland. Life was different then, but it was also very rough. There was poverty, crime, despair - all the things that we learn are today's ills. The "good ole days" were not really so "good", nor so "bad".
I even laugh at shows like That 70s Show, because the main character that rings true is the Dad. I remember Dads like that when I was a kid. Freaks And Geeks was the best show about "ago" - the early 80s. I remember those days. This show is great, because it really shows the life of cops and people in NYC back then. There were great episodes, like when the cops were forced to work long shifts and sleep in cots at the station. You never hear about this reality when people talk about back then.
The cops are not flashy. They are down to Earth. The younger cop is more idealistic, but the older cops have seen too much of life in their careers. The actors who appear in this show, really are the show, though. I, for one, never knew that Dustin Hoffman appeared in anything before 1967. Here, I am ready to faint, because there is Dustin Hoffman in the late 50s. Wow! The number of future actors and present time actors that appeared in this TV show is unparalleled. Here are some of them: James Caan, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Vic Morrow, Robert Walker, Jr., George Segal, and Jon Voigt. It is very interesting seeing Jon Voigt as a teenager, years before he became famous. The acting is first rate. Already, one sees the great talent who was willingly to try a hand on the show. It was James Caan's very first role on camera!
Great idea, but too much of a yawn fest
Robert Altman made great films, such as Nashville, The Player, and McCabe and Mrs. Miller. What defined these movies was a great and engaging script that kept the audience involved for the entire film. Such is not the case with Buffalo Bill And The Indians. It as if Altman was in too much of a rush to make this film, because he wanted to make a statement about Native American history.
There were a lot of interesting bit roles in this film, but these characters were never developed very well. I felt robbed that not much time was devoted to explaining them a little more. Altman assumed that the audience understood that it was 1885 and the Wild West was now "tamed". That was clear, but still I feel that the film would have been much stronger if it began with a flashback to nine years before, explaining where each of these characters were at the time. That way we would have had more understanding for the points Altman was making.
For example, it is hard to believe that the great actor from the Heche days, Burt Lancaster, was reduced to this engaging and enigmatic role, who waxing philosophically, but we have no idea who he is and how he relates to Buffalo Bill. This is the downside of this film. The script seems winding. There is a lot of dull time where one is just yawning and wondering when this movie will start going somewhere. Is that part of the point of the film? Altman never makes it clear. It is quite possible the point was that this town in the prairie had basically become filled with bored, opportunistic townies who sought significance even if it was tormenting someone by hanging him up on a rope and swinging him like a baby.
In many ways this movie was uneven. For example, the ideas were brilliant. The idea was that Buffalo Bill was no longer the man he once was, but now just a money grubbing tool who made up myths and tales about his exploits. Buffalo Bill must have been a very handsome and engaging man in real life. He may well have been a great actor and promoter. You could not help like Buffalo Bill, and Paul Newman plays him brilliantly. Bill was also very childish, probably an alcoholic, who used to have infantile temper tantrums.
The racial arrogance was also very clear. Buffalo Bill was very happy to exploit the myth that Native Americans were just 'savages who brutalized women'. It was a terrible moment when Sitting Bull tried to speak with President Cleveland and was rebuffed and treated with contempt. I also loved the ending. Buffalo Bill had this mad and crazed look, like now he was the great hero he never was. He now was beating and defeating Sitting Bull, which was a complete fabrication of history to promote white man's ego.
I also loved how President Cleveland was just another part of the opportunism to seek significance from Buffalo Bill's mythology about how the West was really "tamed". Although he was "the Great White Father", he was mainly about finding a way to win re-election and defeat his opponents. There was another beautiful moment, where a woman sang an opera song, and the camera showed the various reactions of members of the audience. It was hard to determine whether they were awed by the beauty of her voice or bored. And that was a confusing moment for me, too. I did not quite get it. The whole movie was afraid to really state what it really wanted to state. There were great moments, but not enough to engage the audience and win it over.
Lassie Come Home (1943)
Innocence with a message
I watched this movie specifically because I want to relax and enjoy a film that was innocent and dreamy. It turns out that Lassie was this and much more. It is a great film about how a dog lights up a lonely child's life. Lassie is there every day when school ends to meet his owner (Roddy McDowell).
There is a lot more to this film. The boy's parents are good people, but they are poor and have the survival instinct of their class. They like Lassie, but also see dogs as a burden and an expense that are welcome only when there is work. Unfortunately, the boy's father is unemployed right now, and his Mom explains that it is either us or the dog that they can support.
Lassie is sold to a wealthy landowner played by Nigel Bruce. Bruce plays a decent fellow, but one driven by a desire to breed animals that make him money and prestige at shows. He hires a mean man to tend his dogs, someone who is clearly from the lower classes and is in the wrong profession. He dislikes animals and only wants to control them and make them perform in shows.
Lassie is eventually taken to Scotland, several hundred miles away from home in the Yorkshire. You guessed it. Lassie spends the rest of the movie making the perilous journey trying to get back home to the boy. This was the finest part of the film. The main flaw is the scenery was obviously California, not Scotland and England.
Edmund Gwynn plays one of the most lovable characters - an old man who travels from town to town perform tricks with his dog companion. He represents the best in us all - kindness, honor, and appreciation.
Other memorable characters are the elderly couple who rescue him from a rainstorm. The elderly lady is lonely. However, in one of the most heartwarming scenes of compassion she realizes that Lassie wants to get home to someone. She is willing to let go of the dog who relieves her loneliness so Lassie can be truly happy.
What I liked most about this movie is that it was set in a bygone era of innocence. Dogs really make lives better for people. I also liked that it touched base on the people who are touched by dog's lives - what their dilemmas in life were.
Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973)
Decent movie, with balanced portrayals
Joanne Woodward plays a woman going through a midlife crisis. After spending lunch with her diet obsessed Mom, her Mom collapses at the showing of an Igmar Bergman film. With the sudden loss of her Mom and her husband, an eye doctor, diagnosing her with further impaired vision, she falls into a depression of sorts. I guess this sounds like the typical tearjerker 70s TV movie. Well, sort of. She is not poor. She has a nice apartment and owns a farm through her Mom that she inherited it from. However, there is much more to this movie that makes me long for the old days when movies were about seeming mundane and boring things, rather than superhero comic characters like most of the movies out today.
For example, there is a lot of reality to life and relationships in this movie. At her Mom's funeral the younger generation just wants to watch Joe Namath and the Jets. Her brother-in-law basically wants to argue over the inheritance. Her husband just wants to keep peace. I am sure there are some, if not many families, that can identify with this.
Woodward is someone who one cannot decide whether to love or hate. I think that is a good portrayal, because this adds depth to her. She hears from her daughter, an abandoned single Mom, and her son that she has failed as a mother. Her husband is very kind, wise, and patient, but she is not sure whether she ever loved him or not. I think that the point is that marriages do fall into this doldrum, and there is no easy solution.
She goes off to Europe with her husband as a vacation, but it becomes the chance to move full circle and to wind her way out of the crisis she has entered into. There is a beautiful walk through Hyde Park, but in the subway she encounters crowds and has a daydream that her Mom is alive. That evening she has a long talk with husband, and in the end they conclude that maybe she never loved him but just choose him because she lost out on another love in the past and that he seemed like a reliable person headed for success.
The most magnificent part was at the French village. It was a peaceful and scenic village, but her husband reenacts all his experiences as a soldier during WWII in this village. The village that looks beautiful becomes the sight of horror and nightmares just thirty years before. And it is the remembrance of those horrible days of war through her husband's eyes that help her find peace with her realities.
In conclusion, what I like the most about this movie is that it is a look at real people's lives. I think if this movie was made ten or twenty years later, she would have left her husband and found a multi millionaire lover. It was still the time in the early 70s when real movies were made about real lives without all this escapism and fantasia that destroys the vital points of showing that ordinary people's lives struggles can be grim and yet teach invaluable lessons.
Tito i ja (1992)
Funny, then sad
Yugoslavia is one country I know only a little history about. However, this movie was done in 1992, probably the best time to do a film on this subject. Tito was the Croatian-born leader who led Yugoslavia for about four decades after World War Two. Yugoslavia was Marxist-Communist, but not having as strong ties to Moscow as other Communist countries in eastern and southern Europe.
The beginning of the movie is very light hearted and funny. Zoran's parents are dancers who live in very close proximity to another family in Belgrade, the largest city and capital of Yugoslavia. His parents are in love, but argue. His grandparents live in separate houses, but still come over for the family meal. There is no privacy, and the two mothers argue incessantly with one another because of having to be living in such cramped quarters.
There are very funny comments, such as when his father loses his job at the ballet and finds a job at a jazz nightclub. This leads his Mom to be jealous that he is having affairs with lots of women and they have a big argument. Although not dirt poor, like in many Communist countries most people are always at the edge of poverty. The son, named Zoran, even eats the wall literally to get nutrients.
Zoran is a ten year old boy, but despite not getting all his nutrients, is a bit overweight. This gets him labeled and called all kinds of names. His big passion is a crush on an older girl who grew up in an orphanage.
This leads to the second and main part of the film, the adulation of Tito totally dominates the society. His teacher in his classroom even goes so far to teach her kids the name of Tito's cows in the village he came from. When Tito finds out the girl he has a crush on is leaving for two weeks to participate in the Young Pioneer's camping trip to the birthplace of Tito, he is devastated.
But sort of like the Red Rider BB Gun essay in Christmas Story, Tito finds his ticket when the winner of the best essay praising Tito in his class will be able to go on this camping trip. Zoran makes sure he writes so good an essay that he not only gets to go, but has written the best essay in all of Belgrade. He goes so far as to say that he loves Tito more than his parents.
His parents are very offended when they hear he prefers Tito to his parents. For the first time it intrudes that maybe not everyone is totally happy with the political regime in Yugoslavia. But, still Zoran is merrily sent off on the train to camp where he finds the girl he loves. He is so in love with the girl that he had secretly given his grandmother's valuable ring to her.
The leader of the pioneers is named Raja. He is a very cowardly and obedient servant of the state. He is very charming, but the movie soon turns tragic because Zoran is overweight and cannot keep up with the group. He soon becomes seen as a nonconformist and threat to the group and the Yugoslavian state. Staying in the palace of a disgraced aristocrat, Raja dresses up as a ghost to scare the kids, and the kids knock over all kinds of priceless statues when they flee around the house in terror. The aristocratic owner stupidly informs the police. The police tell the aristocrat to buzz off or they will drag him in and beat him up, but the incident embarrasses Raja, who sees this as both a slight to his authority and makes him look too close to a disgraced aristocratic in the state. In authoritarian states, it is extremely important to save face and look in control. Minor disputes with someone, especially someone seen as right wing to the state, can lead to arrest and humiliation.
Sadly, Raja scapegoats ten year old Zoran and uses his romance with the girl, his slowness in keeping up with the group, and even his going to a church to pray over the fact that he is being now labeled as a troublemaker in the group, as all part of his devious plot to fool people into thinking that he is devoted to Tito.
This part is most sad, and it is very hard not to feel a great deal of sorrow of a poor ten year old, who through his innocence, becomes a scapegoat for his inability to completely conform.
The ending is very significant. Raja is arrested, because he is seen as incompetent in his control of the group and commits suicide. Zoran gets to meet Tito at the palace, but when all the kids run to Tito, Zoran realizes for the first time that the political regime is using these kids to prop up the state through their worship and devotion to Tito. Zoran realizes that the state is not about innocence, youth, and about promoting the image of a great leader who all should totally admire and be devoted to, but beneath that brutality and pain to those who cannot conform and go along with it all. So, in defiance, Zoran goes off to another room filled with food to eat.
The movie is interesting, because although Yugloslavia is not as undemocratic as most of the other Communist states of the time, it is still a place where there is a thin line between getting along with regime and being seen as an obstacle.