There used to be a French school called L’Institut Jeanne d’Arc in Frederiksburg just west of Copenhagen.
On March 21st 1945 the British carried out a bombing raid on the Gestapo headquarters in the commandeered Shell building in Copenhagen, at the request of the Danish resistance. This in spite of the fact that Danish prisoners were held on the top floor as a human shield. One of the planes in the first wave hit a telegraph pole and two 500lb bombs carried by the aircraft were torn off and exploded, killing twelve civilians. It crashed into a garage near the French catholic school in Frederiksburg. The other airplanes in that wave successfully unloaded six bombs into the Shell building, killing 6 of the prisoners. Unfortunately the second and third waves were confused by the smoke and flames resulting from the crashed Mosquito airplane, and thought that was where their target must be. Apart from 3 aircraft, all the Mosquitos dropped their bombs on the French School.
In the school were 529 people. 482 children, 34 catholic nuns, 8 civil teachers and 5 parents or workers. 86 of the children and 16 adults, mostly nuns, were killed, and 67 children and 35 adults were wounded.
The Danish movie currently showing on Netflix, The Bombardment, is about this event. I’ve seen a lot of movies I’ve really enjoyed since I stopped reviewing, but until now had not been moved to recommend any. This one is absolutely worth your time. It isn’t about the pilots, who get about 10 mins of screen time if that, but about some of the civilians we meet prior to the event, who we see coping during it and the aftermath. And mostly, it’s about the kids. Wonderful acting from all involved. Hard not to fall in love with little Eva played by Ella Josphine Lund Nilsson or laugh with Rigmore played by Ester Birch, and feel compassion for Henry (Bertram Bisgaard Enevoldsen) who becomes mute after seeing a distressing event prior to the bombing. The adults are not too shabby either, with a sterling cast showing us distinctive characters that have an emotional impact as you follow their lives.
Of course it’s impossible to ignore the parallels to what’s happening to Ukraine, nothing really changes in our human endeavours to kill each other and the planet we live on.
If you have a lily on your liver or your heart is inclined to faint this is probably not the movie for you and Netflix still have several cheesy romcoms for your amusement, none of which I’ve seen. But for those of you made of stern stuff this is a must-see. Also FYI the version on Netflix is not dubbed, there are subtitles, but the trailer on Youtube is dubbed.
Now that the abominable 365 has ended over on the Universe blog, it’s time to re~open The Other Place and pop in with some thoughts and pictures.
January has been a fairly busy month, Phil had 2 weeks annual leave and has done house jobs in between playing his bass and starting a new big tank, not sure where he is going to put it when it’s finished.
At the beginning of the month we bought a new mattress for our bed, it’s very high-tech compared to ye ol’ spring and bounce jobbies. Memory foam sort of stuff. We paid a bit extra to have our old one taken away when the new one was delivered, but that all went tits up and we ended up clambering over our old mattress for a week, no small feat as it is 6’6″ x 6′. After a couple of back and forths with the delivery company and a reply of not much use from the mattress company, Phil’s final email is a masterclass in getting things sorted out…
Allow me to explain the facts again. The mattress I purchased from you was scheduled by Route 1 to be delivered between 10.00 and 1300 on Saturday 15th of January. I had also paid for the option of having my old mattress collected. The driver turned up at 0900 which we were unprepared for (we were still abed 🙄!)but nevertheless we were able to take receipt of the mattress. However, the driver explained that as the truck was full of deliveries there was no room for the old mattress. It would seem the transport manager at Route 1 was more focused on profit and efficiency than sticking to the pre arranged agreement. Being sympathetic to the driver’s predicament, I agreed to his suggestion that as he would be travelling through my area upon his return from Scotland’ he would call back for the mattress and gave me his word he would return. He didn’t, not even a phone call to explain why. I am now left with a super king size mattress that I have to clamber over to enter the bedroom. Further to your above email that Route1 would come on Thursday, I have since received a generic delivery of goods email from them claiming the next delivery date is Saturday 22nd which I have declined, I have no wish to have another weekend ruined by their incompetence, and in the meantime have received no apology or explanation despite responding to their feedback page. I will attempt to contact them again but would appreciate you explaining my situation to them directly.Thank you P A Hyslop.
They came on the Thursday 🤣.
Phil also decided it as time for a new kitchen tap (faucet USA folks!) as our old one was looking shoddy, so he purchased a new fangled jobby that has a hose and spray integral to the unit.. Our plumber couldn’t come for a couple of weeks so Phil decided he could save himself a few quid and do it himself. With me as his trusty labourer. Winnie was surprised!
So far we’ve had no leaks so a job well done and £60 saved on a proper plumber! Reee~zult!
I’m continuing to de-wax the ears of the nation, and last week our boss has gone and got herself a new puppy. Regular readers will remember her Billy, her lovely deaf spaniel who died a couple of Christmas’s ago. This time she’s gone for something called a Pomegranite or similar crossed with some other breed, I can’t remember which one. His name is Teddy.
He is very cute and funny, but he also chews things a lot and barks at clients, and his toiletting is a bit hit and miss as well. The Boss is going to Grand Canaria on holiday next week so the girl who works in the printers opposite our unit is taking him for the week, but as the printer also brings a dog to work, will leave him with Lynn and I during the day. That’s going to be fun. 😳
We’ve watched some movies and there are a couple I’ll recommend for anyone who likes true story spy movies.
First up is Mr.Jones.
In 1933, Gareth Jones is an ambitious young journalist who has gained some renown for his interview with Hitler. Thanks to his connections to Lloyd George the former British prime minister, he is able to get official permission to travel to the Soviet Union. Jones intends to try to interview Stalin and to find out more about the Soviet Union’s economic expansion and its apparently-successful 5 year development plan. Jones is restricted to Moscow but jumps his train and travels unofficially to Ukraine to discover evidence of the Holodomor (the devastating famine in Ukraine in which millions died) including empty villages, starving people, cannibalism and the enforced collection of grain. On his return to Britain, he struggles to get his story taken seriously.
The director is Agniezka Holland, and it stars James Norton, Vanessa Kirby and Peter Sarsgaard who are all top notch, as is the ciematography. Most excellent movie.
Then we did The Courier
Directed by Dominic Cooke and starring the ubiquitous Mr.Cumberbatch, Merab Ninidze, Jessie Buckley and Rachel Brosnahan it recounts the activities of British businessman Greville Wynne in helping MI6 with the penetration of the Soviet nuclear programme during the Cold War. Wynne couriered information from his Soviet source, Oleg Penkovsky (codenamed Ironbark), which provided crucial intelligence about Soviet nuclear capabilities and the cuban missile crises. Again, superb acting and faultless cinematography, another Most Excellent.
Both of these are on Amazon Prime, Mr.Jones is free, you have to rent The Courier but it’s under a fiver and very well worth it.
Last weekend we had our pals Paul and Lorraine over for the first time since lockdown 1. We used to have each other over to dinner quite often before the plague so it was good to get together as if everything was normal. I cooked a chinese feast which went down well and everyone had too much to drink but we had a good time and will look forward to our next happeniing.
WInnie has been a constant source of amusement. Does anyone remember the Andrex Puppy?
I’s been quite cold of late and she has found a new way to warm up after she’s been out and prior to having a snooze.
She hasn’t caught any birds of late (that we know about) however, I heard a cafuffle in the garden one day which sounded like an unhappy animal and when I went out to look, saw Winnie coming back across next doors fence and on our conservatory roof, and this..
She must have chased him but there’s no-way she can climb that high. At least I don’t think she can! He stayed there a good 1/2 hour and I kept her in until he turned round and scarpered.
Finally, we’ve had some cracking sunrises and sunsets this month, so I’ll say ta ta for now, and leave you with some spectaclier skies!
Yes I know it’s Tuesday, but a title is a title whatever the day.
This will be the last review for this year, as life has got a bit too busy and the 365 takes priority until the end of this year at least. But we’ll go out with a bang of sorts.
This week on Sunday, sees the 20th anniversary of 9/11, and there have been many, many documentaries about it and a fair few movies as well. This week we have been watching a six part series on National Geographic, entitled 9/11- One Day in America. Directed by Daniel Bogado a British Paraguayan documentary maker in association with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. You would think with all the previous documentaries there would be nothing different to show or say about it all, but you would be quite wrong. Bogado and his team have eschewed using any narration, reconstruction or visualisation, the whole thing is archive footage, more than I’d ever seen before, including building 7, the Marriot hotel, the Pentagon, and new interviews with survivors and relatives or friends of those who died on the day.
Bogado in an interview with Nat.Geo. – ” “I watched as many documentaries as I could to see what was already out there. I didn’t see the point of just doing something that had already been done. But I didn’t see anything that was like what we were doing. What we were doing was a series, which gave it a much wider canvas. What it allowed us to do was to play the archive long. We didn’t want to do illustration – we wanted to do immersive.”
I can’t recommend this highly enough. Yes it’s sometimes harrowing, and brought me nearly to tears, but also it’s uplifting in the stories told by those on the ground, the quiet heroes and the survivors. I also recommend reading the interview with Bogado HERE.
Phil has the DVD of the Oliver Stone Movie World Trade Center, (2006) starring Nicholas Cage and Michael Pena as Sgt John McLoughlin and Officer Will Jimeno respectively. They are both real people, Port Authority Policemen who were trapped under lots of heavy rubble after jumping into an elevator shaft in the concourse between the towers, when the North Tower collapsed. Also Officer Dominick Pezzulo (Jay Hernandez) is trapped with them and tries to free Jimeno as his legs are being crushed by a concrete block, but when Building 7 collapses is killed by falling debris.
The movie tells the story of their rescue by two marines, David Karnes (Michael Shannon) and Jason Thomas (William Mapother) and a paramedic Chuck Sereika (Frank Whaley) and NYPD ESU rescueman Scott Strauss (Stephen Dorff). The movie also covers the effect on their families, Maria Bello as Sgt McLoughlin’s wife Donna, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Jimeno’s wife Allison. The actors put their hearts into it and you can’t ask for more than that in a ‘real life’ movie.
Jimeno was rescued first, having been trapped for 13hrs, and McLoughlin who was even more severeley injured after 22 hours, they were the 18th and 19th people to be pulled out alive. They both had many surgeries and McLoughlin in particular was put into a coma for 6 weeks and ended up having 27 operations. They are both retired, and received the Police Medal of Honour. There’s a lovely scene at the end of the movie where they give a Bar-B-Q for all the people who helped them, and the real guys are attendees in the scene.
Of course it’s an Oliver Stone Movie so there’s always controversy, with people accusing him of pursuing a conspiracy theory, but he didn’t, there’s no sign of anything political, it’s a straightforward story of what happened to these guys. The Marines were both played by white actors when in fact Jason Thomas is black, and Stone’s excuse for that was that they hadn’t realised he was black and had already started filming so carried on with Mapother. McLoughlin, Jimeno and their wives were heavily involved in the making of the movie, with Donna saying “We got involved because we felt it needed to be done accurately. We wanted to do the right thing and I think the filmmakers wanted to do the right thing too.” Officer Pezzulo’s wife Jeanette was not happy about the movie, nor was she happy with McLoughlin and Jimeno, which is a shame, I think they did a great job. The movie does not show that the 2 marines and the paramedic were the only ones trying to rescue the chaps for a full 20 minutes before the ESU men showed up and they were not involved in the making of the movie, so felt a bit shortchanged, but I get why Stone condensed it and I did feel their heroism was catered for.
The documentary has an episode covering the rescue, and Jimeno, Sereika and Thomas all give their accounts, and we were surprised how well Stone did keep to the facts. Also the amazing scenes of the destruction in the movie look just as real as the footage of the time. All in all a Top Notch endeavour by everyone involved.
I would think that most of my regular readers can pinpoint where they were on that morning, I was scrubbed up assisting in a TKR (Total Knee Replacement) operation in Theatre 4 St.Albans City Hospital when someone came in and told us what had happened, we got through the op and then hightailed it to the coffee room to watch events as they unfolded, all of us in shock at the magnitude of it all. And although it was America, and in particular New York which took the hit, the ramifiactions were worldwide, and everything changed that day.
What struck me most watching the documentary and the movie, was the incredible kindness of strangers during those first hours, I don’t know if they were democrats or republicans, but they were black, and white, and asian, mexican, all nationalities young, and old. Helping each other to escape, survive. And the first responders, the firemen, ambulancemen, medics, the police working their butts off to try and help people, save people, dig through dangerous rubble, all the while hugely traumatised by the event, by the loss of their comrades, The amazing heroic actions of those men, told by the people they saved with teary eyes but steady voices and so much gratitude. Bogado has done an exceptional job of showing the humanity that came out of the tragedy.
Nearly 3,000 people died that day, 90 countries lost citizens in the attacks, and more after because of breathing in the toxic powdered concrete, and severe injuries were sustained by many people. The ripples outwards are uncountable.
20 years, and now this is just a history lesson to a generation who were not born when this happened, though it doesn’t feel like that to me. And I wonder if something like this happens now, in this era of hatred for people from other lands, other beliefs, other political ideologies, where it’s every man for himself and ‘sod you Jack, I’m alright’, if the selflessness and sublime humanity that 9/11 engendered, is also consigned to the past.
Monday Movie reports is produced by Fragglerocking Inc, and may or may not be back at some point. Or something else will turn up in it’s place, who knows? Not me at least.
Mission Impossible III(2006) and Mission Impossible Fallout (2018)
We are currently doing (and re-doing some of) the Mission Impossible Movies, somewhat out of order but other than a few follow ons you can guess at, it doesn’t really matter in which order you watch them. I’m not going to do plots as I’m reasonably certain everyone knows from the TV series let alone the movie franchise, that Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, and his bunch of merry men and ladies form the IMF (Impossible Mission Force, and not the International Monetary Fund) are duty bound to save the world by wearing latex masks and doing death defying physical feats. We have only these two on DVD and BluRay, and whilst Fallout is superior in terms of film & sound quality and a more cohesive directing style (Christopher McQuarrie for Fallout and J.J.Abrams for III) the action is terrific in both movies. What is more interesting, at least to me, is that in watching ‘the making of’ special features on both of these, all the CGI we thought had been done, actually wasn’t, and whatever you think of Cruise’s acting abilities, his committment to keeping it real is 100%. There are reoccurring characters throughout the series, Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn starts out in III,as does Michelle Monoghan as Julia Meade-Hunt, Ethan’s wife and ex-wife to be) Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust an ex MI6 operative who started her run in Rogue Nation which we’ve yet to see. Special mention goes to Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell who has been in all the MI movies to date. If you like action movies the MI series should be up there near the top of your list purely for the amount of innovation and skill the crew and cast go through in order to bring the quite gob smacking set pieces to your screens. When Tom Cruise is dangling from a helicopter at a great height, he actually is. These movies are all the better for not using green screens, and nice that people still want to make actual movies and not rely on a computer program for the good bits.
Fraggle Rating : Top Notch action entertainment.
Once Upon A Time in Hollywood (2019)
I’ve seen all of Mr.Tarantino’s movies, with the exception of Django, and for me this is his finest and most nuanced piece of work. Set in Hollywood and L.A in 1969, it concerns a fading character actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double and best pal Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they navigate a changing film industry. At this point in time The Manson Family were living in an old movie lot called Spahn Ranch, and though the murder by them of Sharon Tate et all is not a thing in this movie, the fact that we meet Manson briefly, and his followers, puts that thought in the back of your head. I hadn’t read any reviews or spoilers before seeing this movie (though not sure how that happened!) so I’m not going to do too much of what happens as it was much the better for not knowing. Tarantino has beautifully recreated Hollywood in the late 60’s, the cars, the clothes, the scenery, all lovingly filmed, it is a feast of memorabilia for the eyes. A cornucopia of excellent actors have cameo’s, Michael Madsden, Kurt Russell, Zoë Bell being frequent collaborators on Tarantino movies, and Damien Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Al Pacino, have small parts which they nail. Tarantino has Rick Dalton living next door to Sharon Tate (a luminous Margot Robbie) and Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) although Polanski is a bit part and her pal Jay Sebring (Emile Hersch) stays with her whilst Polanski is off directing a movie somewhere in Europe. Tarantino takes his time with his main characters, Dalton, Booth and Tate, and the actors give him great performances, with Pitt winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting actor, well deserved it was too. Special mention must go to Brandy the dog and really there shoud be an Academy Award section for mutts in movies, Brandy would be well up in the running! There are a lot of laughs along the way throughout the movie, and yes there is some Tarantinoesque violence but only at the end of the movie, and it’s a cathartic kind of violence that makes the world the movie is set in, a better place than it actually was.
Fraggle Rating: I can’t recommend it highly enough.
The Magnificent Seven (2017)
If you are a film maker or a knowledgeable movie buff, you can call yourself a cineaste apparently, a term I learnt reading proper eminent movie critic’s blogs/reviews. I would imagine most cineastes would tell you the movie Seven Samurai (1954) directed by Akira Kurosawa, is on or near the top of their all time best movie lists, and didn’t or doesn’t need a remake. Luckily I’m not a cineaste just an enthusiastic punter, so I’ve not seen that epic movie, or laud it beyond any other. Also luckily John Sturges decided to take Seven Samurai and turn it into an epic Western, starring Yul Bryner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Robert Vaughan, Charles Bronson et al. Now THAT was a western that didn’t need remaking, and I will be re-watching it shortly, but today we have a remake of the remake directed by Antoin Fuqua, who was inspired by Shinobu Hashimoto’s writing- a frequent collaborator with Kurosawa. Denzil Washington has been in a couple of Fuqua movies, ‘Training Day’ and ‘The Equaliser’ remake, and takes the Yul Bryner type part in this version of the seven. I do like Washington in most things, and he does a steady job here. Chris Pratt was chosen for the Steve McQueen type character when Fuqua offered him the part he sang ‘Oh Shenandoah’ to the director who exclaimed ‘He’s it, he IS Steve McQueen’. Well that’s patently not the case as Mr. McQueen is pushing up daisies. He’s not in Steve McQueen’s league here, or anywhere else I suspect but he does a competant job and is the main ‘light relief’. Ethan Hawke takes a similar part to Robert Vaughan and he’s the standout for me in this movie. Fuqua was very politically correct by hiring a diverse cast, substituting the original Hilario (Jorge Martinez de Hoyos) with a young widow played with gusto by Haley Bennett. James Coburn’s part is taken by Byung-Hu Lee and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo takes over the Brad Dexter part. The only actor I did think a bit strange was Peter Sarsgaard in the baddie rôle, he looked like he was high on some nefarious substance with rolling eyes all over the shop. The plot is very similar of course, but somehow the warmth and pathos of the original is lacking. The action sequences are well done, and no-one phones it in in the acting department, but there’s nothing new or innovative here and it just seems a bit pointless.
Fraggle Rating : a serviceable western, especially if you haven’t seen the original, but found I was haunted by the ghosts of Bryner, McQueen et al throughout, and that’s the one to go for.
Chernobyl 1986 (2021)
A while back we watched the excellent HBO 5 hour mini-series Chernobyl (2019) starring Jared Harris, covering the nuclear plant disaster and the political idiocy and tragic ramifications that followed. It covered the fallout of the events and the stories of its real heroes and victims in as faithful, informative and confrontational detail as the drama allowed. In answer to that the Russians have made their own movie about it, which has just turned up on Netflix and is a bit of a mixed bag really. The director Danila Kozlovskiy also is the main star, the fictional Alexy, who is a firefighter and has worked at the reactor. The movie starts out with him re uniting with an ex-girlfriend, Olga (Oksana Akinshina) and discovering he has a 10 year old son. Alexy comes across as a bit of a dick in truth, but very quickly we get into the explosion and Alexy becomes a bit of a reluctant hero. Somehow he manages to be at the scene of the reactor burn-out, then at the hospital, then in the evacuation of the nearby towns, then in the strategy meetings, and finally in the dramatic dive into the radioactive waters of the reactor to save the day. A fair amount of dramatic licence is used here, and the scale of the deaths, diseases and ruined towns which are to this day still radioactive to a dangerous degree, is barely touched upon. Surprisingly a few of the characters do blame the bureaucrats for the cutting of corners which compromised safety, but mostly the focus is on the heroics of the firefighters and Alexey himself. The movie does have it’s saving graces though, with Oksana Akinshina acting her socks off, and the scenes taking place in the reactor site are quite amazing, the soundtrack in particular is almost a character itself as you hear the groans and clangs of the collapsing structures and the wierd sounds that a nuclear fire makes.
Fraggle Rating: worth a watch for the Russian take on this and the brilliantly filmed radioactive underwater scenes and firefighting scenes. On Netflix where you can choose a horribly dubbed verson, or have it in Russian with subtitles, which is much better.
Chris Pratt, moonlighting from fighting aliens and saving the world in the Guardians of the Galaxy, takes time out to star in The Tomorrow War, in order to fight aliens and save the world. Directed by Chris McKay this is a scyfy military action movie that involves time travel and scary aliens. Thirty years into the future, aliens have more or less wiped out most of the people, and there are only 500,000 left. They’ve jerry-rigged a time machine that can only do there and back again to send a group of people to todays’s time, and ask for people to go back with them to help fight the aliens, known as Whitespikes (they’re a whitish colour and shoot lethal spikes from their tentacles.) The world govt’s decides to help and so all the world’s armies go off to fight and when they run out of those, they draft people, anyone is eligible. Notably they get very little training, and are automatically jumped back from the future after a 7 day stint. Only 20% of them are surviving, and the ones that do need a lot of therapy. Pratt plays Dan, a former Green Beret but now a biology teacher. His wife Emmy (Betty Gilpin) is a councellor for returned draftee’s and they have a daughter, Muri, played by Ryan Kiera Armstrong initially, and Yvonne Strahovski further up the timeline. Of course Dan is drafted. J.K.Simmons plays Dan’s estranged Dad, Sam Richardson is Charlie who becomes friends with Dan. There’s a small part for Mary Lynn Rajskub (who I really liked as the grumpy Chloe O’ Brian in the TV series 24) and Edwin Hodge is Dorian, on his third tour of alien duty because he’s dying of cancer anyway and he wants to go out in style. (mini spoiler- he does). So no more spoilers from me.
Fraggle rating ~ a better than average popcorn movie. Visually stunning and I found no problems with the acting, everyone was on board. The aliens are Designed by Ken Barthelmey who did the Grievers for Maze Runner. They’re like a mash up of those in The Quiet Place, Captive State, & Starship Troopers with a bit of Alien chucked in and they move like the Zombies in World War Z, fast and furious. They get a goodly amount of screentime anyway, (unlike Captive State!). Eminent critics have criticised it for being derivative of other, better time travel movies, or other, better alien movies, that’s probably true enough, but Phil & I enjoyed the twist, and how they put it all together. Besides, they’re ALL derivative of H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine in one way or another! Get some popcorn and a beverage, suspend belief, and have a blast!
Flags of Our Fathers 2006
Phil and I have been re-watching the excellent Hanks/Spielberg series The Pacific, set in WW2 and as a supplementary movie, we re-watched Flags of Our Fathers, one of two companion films co-produced and directed by Clint Eastwood (who also wrote the score). Written by Wiliam Broyles Jr and Paul Haggis from the 2000 book by James Powers and Ron Bradley, (the son of Doc Bradley) it covers an incident that happened on Iwo Jima when five marines and a Navy Corpsman (medic) raised the American flag at the top of a cliff on Mount Surabachi, and the effect that had on the rest of their lives. What complicated matters is that the flag was actually raised twice, due to the Secretary of the Navy wanting the flag for himself as a souvenir. It gets taken down and another one is sent up with Corporal Rene Gagnon for the troops. Mike, (Barry Pepper) Doc Bradley (Ryan Phillipe), Ira a Native American, (Adam Beach) Rene (Jesse Bradford), and two other Marines (Corporal Harlon Block and Private First Class Franklin Sousley) are photographed by Joe Rosenthall as they raise the second flag. The photograph becomes famous and becomes a big morale booster. Rene is asked to identify the 6 and he does so in spite of Ira not wanting to, and he also misidentifies Harlon as Sgt Hank Hansen, who actually took part in raising the 1st flag. Rene, Ira and Doc get sent home to do the raising of war bonds, and they are not happy that Harlon has not been given his dues, but Bud Gerber (John Slatterly) of the Treasury Dept tells them the country cannot afford the war and if the bond drive fails, the U.S. will abandon the Pacific and their sacrifices will be for nothing. The three agree not to tell anyone that Hank was not in the photograph. Both Hank and Harlon die in the subsequent fighting. It also shows what happens to the three after the war, with Ira coming to a sad end, Rene ending up as a janitor unable to find meaningful work, but Doc, who is awarded the Navy Cross for extreme heroism during the battle, buys a funeral home and makes a success of his life. He tells his story to his son James on his deathbed, and James it is who wrote the book.
Fraggle rating:- Can’t fault any of it, the fighting scenes don’t hold back and the politics regarding the war bond subterfuge are handled sympathetically. The acting is spot on. As critic Richard Roeper writes “a patriotic film in that it honors those who fought in the Pacific, but it is also patriotic because it questions the official version of the truth, and reminds us that superheroes exist only in comic books and cartoon movies.” Looking forward to Letters from Iwo Jima, when Clint does it all from the Japanese perspective.
Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
In spite of being a petrol head I have not followed the Fast & Furious franchise, but in need of an action movie and with Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson starring I thought it wouldn’t matter that I didn’t really know their back story within the franchise. I was right, it didn’t matter. Directed by David Leitch who cut his teeth on John Wick and followed up with Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2, all of which are great action movies so I was expecting a good one. Hobbs (Johnson) a DSS guy and Shaw (Statham) ex British Forces & MI6 operative have to work together in spite of their mutual animosity to help Shaw’s sister Hattie, (Vanessa Kirby) also MI6. She has led a team of agents to recover a programmable super virus from techno-terrorist organization Eteon. As they find it the baddie turns up, Idris Elba as Brixton Lore, an Eteon operative with cybernetic implants that allow him to perform superhuman feats. Hattie injects herself with the virus and does a runner, whilst Brixton and his henchmen kill off the rest of the MI6 agents. No more spoilers.
Fraggle Rating: The plot is ridiculous, the script is hokey, and the action preposterous but fabulous. Car/bike chases and choreographed fight pieces are very well done as one would expect. Statham is Statham, Johnson is Johnson, and Idris Elba is just wrong. The highlight and saving grace of this movie is Vanessa Kirby, who performs some excellent kickassery, and who’s acting chops are far better than this movie requires.
Letters From Iwo Jima (2006)
Clint Eastwood’s companion movie to Flags of Our Fathers, and the two movies were shot back to back. This time we see the battle from the Japanese point of view, and the movie has subtitles as everyone is speaking Japanese, as they would. The movie begins with present day (ish) archaeologists digging in the caves on Iwo Jima, and one of them finding a buried cache of letters from the men who were living in the caves. Through the letters we get to know a little of the lives of some of the main characters, General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) and Private First Class Saigo, (Kazunari Ninomiya). The story starts with the Japanese getting ready for the inevitable US invasion, and shows their poor living conditions, poor diet – weed soup is the menu du jour, dysentry is rife. Then the US marines land and over run the beaches, climb Mount Surabachi and we follow Saigo as he avoids being killed, survives being ordered to kill himself, and gets to join back up with General Kuribayashi. No need for more than that. We all know how it ended.
Fraggle rating : It’s a Clint movie, so the cinematography and direction is top notch. The actors give it their all and both Saigo and Kuribayashi are sympathetic characters. Eastwood has not portrayed them as evil gits, but tries to escape from those stereotypes, which was appreciated by Japanese audiences, as was the fact that it was also scripted with excellent research into Japanese society at that time. However it has been criticised for having Japanese characters that were capable of being decent, caring fellows, just so long as they’ve spent some time in the United States as Kuribayashi and another ‘kind’ officer had. Not sure I agree with that as a I researched the ‘real’ people and not all the good guys had been to America. Anyway, it’s a good movie well done, which is what I expect from Mr. Eastwood.
13 Hours – The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016) Amazon Prime
On the whole, director Michael Bay is much maligned by proper film critics for his OTT productions, his objectifying of women, his use of offensive racial stereotypes as comedic relief; extreme patriotism, juvenile humor, excessive product placement and (horror) oversaturation of gold and teal colour grading. I can’t argue with that but also none of that applies to this 13 Hours movie. A true story, the movie covers the attack on an American compound in Benghazi and follows six members of the Annex Security Team who fought to defend it, after several waves of attacks by militants on September 11th 2012, the anniversary of the 9/11 attack on America, and during a visit by the US Ambassador to Libya. James Badge Dale, John Krasinski and Maz Martini are the main stars but there’s plenty of back up by Toby Stevens, Dominic Fumusa et al. There’s a goodly amount of build up and scene setting, the back stories of the main characters are given some love, and the action is superbly filmed, as you’d expect from Bay. There is controversy attached as the film portrays the CIA chief in charge of the security team telling them to ‘stand down’ when the poop hits the fan, and eventually they just go to help anyway. That was disputed by the real (unnamed) CIA chief but corroborated by members of the team and others. Also the Libyans were not exactly happy with the portrayal of their people, yet the movie does show the help the team get from the 17th Feb Martyrs Group.
Fraggle Rating ~ Another Rorkes Drift moment in US recent history, it’s told and acted well and we liked this as much as The Outpost from my last review.
The Meg (2018) It’s on Prime for rent but we have the bluray.
Due to the ongoing problems Phil is having with his eyes, we’ve moved the sofa nearer to the TV screen, so he has had to recalibrate the 11 speakers in the room in order to have the optimum sound for where you sit to watch the movie. Why am I telling you this? because after all the fannying on he then has to sit and listen to one of his familiar movies that has a dolby ATMOS soundtrack. Unfortunately he’s loaned them to a work pal and hasn’t seen him for 4 months to get them back. So when it came to Phil’s choice for Thursday movie night, he pulled out The Meg, starring Jason Statham which has a great ATMOS soundtrack. Directed by John Turteltaub and with a supporting cast including the wonderfully named Li Bingbing, Rainne Wilson, Ruby Rose and Winston Chao this is a pretty far fetched story about a pre-historic ginormicus shark called a megaladon. Set on an underwater research facility, Mano One, funded by billionaire Jack Morris (Wilson) and run by Dr. Minway Zhang (Chao) and his daughter Suyin (Bingbing). Statham plays Jonas Taylor a rescue diver who retired after an unpleasant experience where he lost 2 men. Because his ex-wife Lori (Jessica MacNamee) is the pilot of the downed sub, he is persuaded to join the Mano One as one of their subs has been bashed about by the meg and is in need of rescue, which only he can do. After that it’s lots of rescues, a burgeoning romance between Jonas and Suyin, a cute kid, Suyin’s daughter (Sophia Cai as Meiying), hostility from the onboard Doctor Heller (Robert Taylor) who blames Jonas for the previous disaster, a sad death or two, and a happy ending.
Fraggle rating ~ Yes it’s a ridiculous story, but it’s fun, and a different kind of rôle for Statham who usually martial arts his way around the screen, he’s actually really good in this, but sadly there’s only one scene where he has his shirt off. Critics bashed it mostly, but who cares about them, it made a shed load of money because it’s a great popcorn movie, and I’ll definitely be watching it’s sequel which is in the works, and will be directed by Ben Wheatley.
The Ice Road (2019) Netflix
If you see Liam Neeson headlining a movie you can be pretty sure there will be a fair amount of action, and The Ice Road is no exception, though more of a spectacle type of action than Neeson fighting his way through a plot. Well he is 69 yrs old, we can give him a break. Directed by Jonathon Hensley it is a bog standard story of corporate greed versus the little guy worker bees, but set in a diamond mine in Manitoba, which are accessed via ice roads. Neeson, plays Mike, a trucker and has a brother Gurty (Marcus Thomas), an Iraq war veteran soldier and excellent mechanic who suffers from PTSD & aphasia. They are fired from the hauling company they work for when Mike decks a bloke for calling Gurty a retard. When what appears to be a methane explosion happens at the diamond Mine, Ice Road truckers are needed to deliver well heads from Winnipeg up to the mine to free some trapped miners. Unfortunately it’s the just about the end of the season where the ice is safe enough to travel on and most of the truckers have gone home. Jim Goldenrod, another ice road trucker,(Lawrence Fishburn) agrees to run a rescue mission, and employs Mike & Gurty, he also gets another driver out of jail, Tantoo, a Native American girl (Amber Midthunder) whose brother is trapped in the mine along with the 25 others. They team up and set off with 3 wellheads in 3 different trucks, and an accompanying insurance risk assessment dude, Varnay (Benjamin Walker). They’ve got 30 hours before the miners run out of air. It becomes a very eventful journey, and I’ll say no more than that because that would spoil it for you.
Fraggle Rating ~ Not well liked by the critics, but Phil and I enjoyed it. I used to see the odd episodes on TV of the real Ice Road Truckers and it always fascinated me, so the movie gave me the same sort of feels, but with added drama. The script was a bit hokey in places admittedly and the baddie a bit unlikely, but the trucks are great and it was filmed on actual ice roads in Manitoba so the scenery was authentic. Not much in the way of backstories, and the action scenes are not ground~breaking, but on the whole it’s a serviceable action film for a Saturday night in.
The Foreigner (2017) Netflix
I’d always thought of Jackie Chan as a comedic martial arts guy from the couple of movies I’ve seen in the past, but the trailer for this movie didn’t look martial arty and had a plot dealing with a (hopefully fictional) new branch of the IRA, the ‘Authentic IRA’. Directed by Martin Campbell, it stars Chan playing Ngoc Minh Quan, a Nung Chinese man who runs a restaurant in London, but is also a former Vietnam War special forces operator. His daughter is killed by a bomb at the beginning of the movie, and the plot revolves around Quan finding out who killed her. Pierce Brosnan plays Liam Hennesey, a Sinn Féin politician in the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland who was also in the Provisional IRA in his former years. I am stopping there as I don’t want to do spoilers, it’s worth going in without knowing too much. I will say there is a fair bit of martial art stuff from Chan, and a bit of McGuyver thrown in, but no comedy. I was letting Neeson off his action chops being 69, but Chan is 67 and he is still kicking ass, though hurting after it too. Chan definitely does not lack the gravitas to pull off the rôle of a broken hearted father, which surprised us, he is very good in this. Phil and I were complementing Pierce Brosnan on his authentic sounding Irish accent, then I found out he was born in Drogheda, County Louth in Ireland! 🙄 The supporting cast give good performances, Orla Brady as Hennesey’s Missis, Michael McElhatton as Hennesey’s head of security, (loved him as Roose Bolton in GOT) Ray Frearon escapes his mechanic’s job in Coronation Street to become Commander Richard Bromley, head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command.
Fraggle rating: top notch! A twisty, bracing, political action thriller!!
Here we go again wiith a swift appraisal of our latest batch of movies over the past couple of weeks.
Captive State (2019)
A Sci Fi movie directed by Rupert Wyatt and starrting John Goodman, Ashton Sanders and Vera Farmiga. The movie is set in 2027 in Chicago, which, like the rest of the world, is under the control of aliens who landed in 2019 and subjugated all humans. Well most humans because there is the resistance of course. The aliens are known as the Legislators and they conscript people to build underground bases for the aliens, that can only be accessed by government officials. John Goodman is Special Branch Commander William Mulligan tasked with finding the resistance, known as Phoenix, and Ashton Sanders is Gabriel Drummond, the young son of Mulligan’s deceased partner, and the brother of Rafe Drummond (Johnathon Majors) a member of Phoenix. Vera Farmiga plays Jane Doe, a prostitute running a brothel who has bugged her appartment in order to glean secrets from her governmental clients. No spoilers, but obviously it’s about taking the world back from the aliens.
Fraggle rating: well, it was OK though we were disappointed the aliens didn’t appear very often. It’s filmed to look dark and murky and really it wasn’t as exciting as you’d want a sci fi to be, but I can’t find fault with the committment of the actors. They haven’t re-invented the wheel here, but if you fancy riding the bicycle of alien invasion & resistance, there are worse choices you could make.
The Outpost (2020)
A war movie directed by Rod Lurie and based on the 2012 non-fiction book The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor by Jake Tapper. Starring Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones, Milo Gibson, Orlando Bloom amongst others, it recounts the Battle of Kamdesh in the constantly at war Afghanistan. In 2006, Combat Posting Keating was one of several US Army outposts established in Northern Afghanistan. Located in a remote valley surrounded by the Hindu Kush mountains, the base was regarded as a deathtrap; the troops stationed there faced regular attacks by the Taliban culminating in one of the bloodiest American engagements in Operation Enduring Freedom. The film tells the story of the 53 U.S. soldiers and 2 Latvian military advisors who battled some 400 enemy insurgents at the Battle of Kamdesh. Eastwood plays Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha a real person who was in the battle and wrote a book about it, and Landry Jones plays Specialist Ty Michael Carter also there at the time- he also has a cameo in the movie.
Fraggle Rating. An excellent recount of the battle, with all involved giving of their best. I felt old seeing Clint Eastwood and Mel Gibson’s sons in starring roles, both look and sound like Dad and though neither is quite as handsome, the acting chops are apparent . This is a Rorkes Drift situation for the Americans, and Lurie has been very careful to represent the situation faithfully, the film was praised by veterans, including those who fought in the battle, for its realistic depiction of warfare, everyday soldier life, and the looks of the base. The Battle of Khamdesh left 27 Americans wounded and 8 dead, and Romesha and Carter each received the Medal of Honour, members of what became the most decorated unit of the war. All good!
Wag The Dog (1997)
I chose this movie as it was mentioned in glowing terms by Eddie or Alex, can’t remember which. It’s a political satire black comedy, directed by Barry Levinson and stars Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, and Ann Heche. The plot centres on a spin doctor Conrad Brean (De Niro) brought in by presidential aide Winnifred Aimes (Heche) to sort out a scandal with the US President as he’s been caught in flagrante delecto so to speak, in a cupboard with an underage girl and it’s two weeks before his next election is due. Brean decides the best thing to have to distract the American public from the scandal is a war. He meets with a hollywood producer Stanley Motts (Hoffman) to create the fictional war which is to be set in Albania, and this includes a theme song (enter Willie Nelson) and fake footage of an escaping orphan refugee (Kirsten Dunst). Dennis Leary is in as the ‘Fad King’ (wasn’t sure what he was doing for the movie and he talked at 90miles an hour so didn’t get much of whatever he said either), Woody Harrelson as a criminally insane Army convict, William H Macy as a CIA agent, and a few other famous faces pop up here and there. I won’t do spoilers but I will leave a link to Eddie’s review as he liked it more than we did.
Fraggle Rating. A clever movie still relevant in the fake news world we now live in, and as it coincided with the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair was often compared with all the shenanigans around that. Although we appreciated the cleverness we found the acting too cartoonish, Hoffman in particular seemed to be hamming it up, although he was nominated for an Oscar so what do I know? Heche seemed a bit OTT and De Niro more or less phoned it in. For a more in depth and worthy review visit Eddie here, https://film-authority.com/2021/06/09/wag-the-dog/ .
Sexy Beast (2000)
Jonathan Glazer could not have picked a better movie for his debut directing gig if he tried. A crime film starring Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley and Ian McShane. Winstone plays retired criminal Gary ‘Gal’ Dove living high on the hog in a Spanish Villa with his wife Deedee (Amanda Redman). His best friend Aitch, and Aitch’s wife, Jackie live nearby. Not longafter the movie starts Ben Kingsley turns up as Don Logan, an old criminal associate and a complete psycho/sociopath and tells Gal he has to go back to London to do a job for the crime lord Teddy Bass (McShane). Gal tries to decline but things go tits up at the villa and he has to go to London to do the job. That’s it for spoilers!
Fraggle Rating. I can’t recommend this film enough, it really is a good watch. We’ve seen Winstone many times as a London gangster/criminal but this is his piece de resistance in our view. Kingsley knocks it out of the park in a part you would not expect from the esteemed luvvy, and the interaction between these two is electric. No idea why it’s called Sexy Beast, there’s no sex in it and no beast. There’s not much violence in it, but what there is is quite visceral, but also cathartic :).
That’s it for now, will be back in a couple of weeks with some more (hopefully) good movies!
We are starting out with the Netflix movie ‘Army of the Dead’, (2021) written and directed by Zach Snyder, and starring Dave Bautista and a few other people I didn’t really recognise. Anyways, the people don’t really matter in this movie, it’s a zombie/heist fest. Now most people who know me know that I don’t like or do horror movies, but I don’t class Zombies as horror, and have been a fan of ‘The Walking Dead’ for all 10 seasons. I loved ‘World War Z’, ‘The Train to Busan’ and ‘Legend’, my top 3 Zombie movies so far. I was expecting Zach Snyder- he of the visually arresting ‘300’, and the amazing subversive superhero movie ‘Watchmen’- to topple all the zombie movies that came before, and was left disappointed in him. The basic plot is that a group of mercenaries are hired by casino owner Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) to enter Las Vegas and retrieve $200 million from the casino vault. The catch is Las Vegas is now a walled off city inhabited by zombies. Dave Bautista heads the mercenaries as Scott Ward, and along with his team meet up with his estranged daughter Kate (Ella Purnell) who is working in the quarantine centre just outside the city. There’s also going to be a nuclear strike on the city so time is of the essence to get in, get the dosh and get out again, thwarting smart zombies along the way. That’ll do, I can’t really recommend it. Dave Bautista is great in the Marvel series of Guardians of the Galaxy, a good comedic turn from him, but as a leading man he has the charisma of a brick out-house and comes off like a poor man/woman’s Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (who at least can emote a bit). Ella Purnell is adequate as the daughter but the character is both annoying and dim. “Stay with the group, don’t go off on your own’ so what does she do? Goes off on her own. Duh! I didn’t care about any of the characters, they’re all clichéd and one dimensional, and the only time I did feel an emotional scene was when the zombie King (Richard Cetrone) (spoiler) finds the zombie queen (Athena Perample)has had her head chopped off, finally someone cared!
Fraggle rating:- Pfft.
Next up onto something far superior. I got the bluray Lucky Number Slevin (2006) a crime thriller directed by Paul McGuigan and including a great cast that bring their A game to the parts. The plot follows the path of Slevin Kelevra, (Josh Hartnett – looking pretty buff I must say 🤩 ) who is staying in his friend Nick’s (who has mysteriously disappeared) apartment. He meets a neighbour from across the hall, Lindsey (Lucy Liu) and not long after is kidnapped by two henchmen, who take him to “The Boss” (Morgan Freeman) in a case of mistaken identity as they think he is Nick. It becomes apparent he’s caught up in a feud between two gang lords, The Boss and Ben Kingsley playing “The Rabbi”. Bruce Willis comes along as hitman Mr.Goodcat and Stanley Tucci as Detective Brikowski investigating the crime lords. A fun movie with a great script, witty dialogue, and some cool twists in the plot. Slick, pacy direction, and a cast obviously enjoying themselves.
Fraggle Rating:- Top notch.
Next up Synchronic (2019) another Netflix offering, this time a science fiction thriller, written and directed by Justin Benson and starring Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan as Steve and Dennis respectively, who are two paramedics called out to incidents where people have strange injuries they died of, or are totally non-compos mentis. The cases are linked to a new drug ‘synchronic’ and they find that Dennis’s daughter Brianna (Ally Ioannides) has taken some and disappeared. They discover that the drug alters the pineal gland’s perception of time, so users disappear into a different time zone and if that happens to be a place where they get killed, they come back dead. Children/teenagers pineal glands are not calcified so can pass through time, whereas adults can only partially move through. Steve finds out he has cancer in his underdeveloped and non-calcified pineal gland and so buys up a shop’s cache of drugs to use to find Brianna and bring her home. That’s it, any more would be spoilering it. I loved how this was filmed, it had a look and feel to it different from most sci-fi movies. I do think Benson tried to put too many aspects into it, Dennis has a troubled marriage that doesn’t add much to the story really but took time away from exploring the time travel part which I think could have been expanded. All in all though an interesting movie with good performances all round, even Jamie Dornan has improved enough to not let his Irish accent get in the way. Anthony Mackie is the main event here though and he carries the movie effortlessly.
Fraggle Rating :- Interesting and thoughtful, great to look at and devoid of patronising explanations, well worth a watch.
Assembly (2007) is a Chinese civil war movie, directed by Feng Xiaogang, and follows the character of Gu Zidi (Zhang Hanyu) a Captain in the People’s Liberation Army as he leads a small regiment of 46 soldiers left to defend a coal mine on the banks of the Wen River, from the onslaught of the National Revolutionary Army. The attack and defence that occurs is brutal and lengthy, and all are killed in the end except for Gu. Later he fights in the Korean War, and saves the life of his commander Zhao (Den Chao) who becomes his good friend. The 46 men lost in the coal mine have never been found, and are listed as M.I.A so their relatives get little compensation. Gu goes back to the area to find them. Of course it is much changed, and the entrance to the mine where they are buried is no longer apparent, so Gu keeps digging and digging. He doesn’t find them but years later the men are found during an excavation for an irrigation project, and Gu finds peace in that. As with most Chinese war films we’ve seen the battle scenes are just amazing, fire & brimstone, explosions galore, bullets zinging, horrendous deaths and epic sacrifice. The human cost is not passed by though, and the main characters are by no means one dimensional, the inscrutibilty sometimes ascribed to Chinese people is not on show here, they run the gamut of emotional turmoil and it gives the whole experience depth and pathos.
Fraggle Rating :- A compelling war movie, recommended by Pete (thanks) and now by me!
My first on the list is The Evacuation (2015) also known as Come What May and En mai, fais ce qu’il te plaît; a French war movie. In May 1940 the Germans invade Belgium and France. In the village of Lebucquière, the prefecture recommends that the whole village packs up and leaves to avoid being overrun by the Germans, and head for the south coast. Paul, (Olivier Gourmet) the headman of the village is in charge and leads the group, and tries to maintain order, whilst his wife Mado (Mathilde Seigner) plays music and tries to entertain the group of villagers. Prior to them leaving a German anti-nazi activist Hans (August Diehl) finds short-lived sanctuary in the village with his young son Max (Joshio Marlan). But Hans gets arrested when the kid accidentally speaks in German and someone reports them. Max is taken under the wing of Suzanne,(Alice Issaz) a young teacher, and she scouts the route the villagers are taking. Hans escapes accompanied by a Scottish officer, Percy, (Matthew Rhys) whose entire unit died under German bullets, and tries to be reunited with his son.
The actors do a great job, there’s lovely cinematography by Pierre Cottereau, and a great score by Ennio Morricone. Directed by Christian Cabon who loosely based it on his mother’s evacuation experiences. Yes there’s CGI planes & battles, some eye-popping plot co-incidences and some soapy dialogue here and there, but there’s also a duck, and a big feel good factor ending.
Fraggle rating: Well I enjoyed it immensley, it has to be said it’s not as harrowing as perhaps it should have been based on the reality of the displacement of 8 million French people, and as one critic put it –If you ever wanted to see a wartime movie that feels directed by a kinder, gentler Michael Bay “Come What May” is right up your alley. It plays like a more cultured—and very French—version of “Pearl Harbour”. But I’m OK with that! It’s on Amazon prime under The Evacuation title.
Our next movie is Hunter Killer (2018) directed by Donovan Marsh and starring Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman and Common (real name Lonnie Rashid Lynn), and the late Micheal Nyqvist in one of his final rôles. This is an action thriller involving American and Russian submarines, and has a dastardly Russian Admiral doing a Coup d’etat and capturing the Russian President and trying to start a war by torpedoing one of his own subs as well as an American one, the USS Tampa. Navy Seals under the command of Lieutenant Bill Beaman (Toby Stephens) are given the task of rescuing the Russian president whilst Commander Joe Glass,(Butler) commanding officer of USS Arkansas investigates the Tampa incident. Nyqvist plays Captain 2nd Rank Sergei Andropov, commanding officer of the damaged RFS Konek, Gary Oldman plays the warmongering Admiral Charles Donnegan, Common is in charge of the naval command centre as Rear Admiral John Fisk, and Linda Cardellini is Jayne Norquist an NSA security analyst.
Fraggle rating:- Butler and Oldman, both have made some great movies, and both some duds, and this one falls in between. Nothing new in this plot really, it’s a serviceable addition to the genre, but as I found it whilst looking for Hunt For Red October, I’d advise you to watch that one instead. Again on Amazon Prime.
Next up we have Liam Neeson in Honest Thief (2020). Directed by Mark Williams, Neeson plays Tom Dolan, an ex-marine who has been robbing banks without getting caught for 9 years but turns over a new leaf when he meets and falls in love with Annie Wilkins,(Kate Walsh) a psychology graduate student working at a storage unit facility. He wants to give himself up to the FBI, pay the money back, do a short jail sentence and then get on with his life. Enter two corrupt FBI agents Agent John Nivens (Jai Courtney) and his partner Agent Ramon Hall ( Anthony Ramos), who for want of a better phrase f**k him over with the money and hurt his lady. Robert Patrick and Jeffrey Donovan play good FBI Agents Sam Baker and Sean Meyers respectively. No spoilers but I bet you can guess the rest of what happens.
Fraggle Rating :- It’s nothing new really for Neeson who is making a mint out of playing old tough-guy goody/baddie ex marines finding and killing people etc, but he gives a committed performance, as do the others, and at just 90 minutes you could do a lot worse. Amazon prime.
Onwards ever onwards then. Page Eight (2011). A British thriller for a change, and done in a very British manner, which is to say, no action, we’re talking cerebral thrills here. Produced for the currently beleaguered BBC, and was written and directed by David Hare with an excellent cast in tow. Bill Nighy, the quintessential Englishman plays long serving MI5 officer Johnny Worricker caught up in a tangled thread of misinformation and lies induced by the British Prime Minister, Alec Beasley (Ralph Fiennes). Michael Gambon plays Johnny’s Director General who is also his good friend Benedict Baron, whilst Rachel Weiss does a good job of being Syrian activist Nancy Pierpan The cast are impeccable with Marthe Kellar, Holly Aird, Saskia Reeves and Judy Davies all bringing their A game. No spoilers at all for this, you need to go in cold.
Fraggle Rating:- This is a little gem of a political intrigue movie that you need to keep your wits about you to follow but is worth the time. Billy Nighy is just superb, the plot believable and the ending doesn’t disappoint. This one is on Netflix.
Last but not least we have The Man in the Hat (2020). Another British Film, ostensibly a ‘comedy’ but really it’s more ‘light-hearted’ than outright funny, it made me smile a few times but I also was WTH? a few times too. It stars Ciarán Hinds in the titular rôle, and is set in the beautiful South of France. It is the directorial debut of composer Stephen Warbeck and has a kind of plot, though ‘plot’ may be too strong a word. It starts out with The Man (Hinds) driving through the French countryside in a Fiat 500 (old style) with a photo of a woman in the passenger seat. Whilst having dinner al fresco one evening he sees 5 men get out of a Citroën CV and throw what looks like a wrapped up body into the harbour opposite. They see him looking and start walking towards him so he scarpers, and the rest of the movie is about his journey. Kind of like a road trip/chase movie through France, but a very slow one. There is very little dialogue, and what there is is French with subtitles and a lot of what happens doesn’t make much sense, but I think that’s kind of the point. Stephen Dillane plays The Damp Man, Sasha Hailes is The Woman, and there’s a few cameo’s dotted about of people I don’t recognise.
This is what Warbeck says about it “The Man in the Hat represents an everyday man character who reflects that we all experience lives full of peculiarities and unexplained encounters. But as the film progresses, this sense of unfamiliarity evaporates and becomes a ray of positive light. “He is a very solitary character,” Mr Warbeck explains. “During the film we know something tragic or sad is happening in his life but little by little with contact he is warming up and rediscovers warmth in relationships with other humans.”In a way, The Man in the Hat is like a little island who reaches out and starts to contact other people.” And Ciarán Hinds I think sums it up best : “This won’t take too much of your time. And you don’t need to be blown out of your seats; you can just be a human being and watch this little journey and feel things. It has its own heartbeat, unlike anything else”
Fraggle Rating:- I enjoyed the scenery and for me the car was the star. I didn’t mind the whimsical nature of it all and just enjoyed the scenery and music and acting, but Phil would have preferred a proper plot I think as he kept saying he had no idea what was going on. Back to Prime for this one.
We’ve seen a few movies since my last update, so I’ll rattle through them.
Sound of Metal ~ spoilers here.
Firstly I’d been waiting since 2019 to see Sound of Metal (2019), which was on Amazon Prime back then but only just got to the UK site this year. Was it worth the wait? Well yes to a certain degree. Directed and written by Darius Marder, it stars Riz Ahmed as Ruben a metal drummer in a duo with his guitarist/singer girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke). They travel around America in a camper van, doing gigs along the way. Ruben loses his hearing due to noise damage, and through visiting a doctor finds out that he can only make out 20–30 percent of words he hears and that his hearing will deteriorate rapidly. Though cochlea implants could help him, the cost of them without insurance is prohibitive. He ends up in a shelter for deaf people, after Lou insists they stop playing and get him some help, he is also a recovering drug addict. Lou isn’t allowed to stay with him and he is initially hostile to the leader of the shelter Joe (Paul Raci) but eventually learns sign language and is an assett to the kids in the shelter. But Ruben just wants to hear again and sells his van, and all his music equipment in order to go and get the cochlea implants. After he has them, the shelter won’t have him anymore, so he goes and visits Lou at her fathers house, and it’s apparent that the implants are not as perfect as normal hearing, and his relationship with Lou is over, but not acrimoniously.
This was a tour de force performance from Riz Ahmed, and he is just brilliant to watch, he spent 2 months learning how to drum, another two learning sign language, and the soundtrack has it so that we (don’t) hear what he (doesn’t) hear, which is quite an unusual experience. A lot of the actors in the shelter are genuinely deaf which makes the movie very believable. I have a few issues with the hearing treatment part of the movie. Firstly, hearing aids should have been the first port of call to get him used to digital sound, before even going for implants. Secondly it isn’t explained to him that implants can’t give you back normal hearing, consequently when he has them switched on they sound awful and he isn’t happy, but the lady switching them on doesn’t give him any info on how they improve over time as you get used to them, and doesn’t really tune them properly at all. He isn’t given any follow up appointments for re-tuning, infact the whole process you go through once you have implants is cut out so it really wasn’t a good advert for them. But on the whole an interesting take on things, and we really enjoyed it.
Fraggle rating:- Interesting, different, and a powerhouse performance from Ahmed.
Final Stand or The Last Frontier (2020)
Phil’s latest war movie. Not sure why it has two different titles but we watched it as The Final Stand, again on Amazon Prime. It’s made by, and acted by a lot of Russian people with impossible names, actually written and directed by directed by Vadim Shmelyov. It is based on a true story and covers the heroic exploits of thePodolsk cadetsin the Battle of Moscow in 1941. 3,500 cadets were in training at Podolsk to become excellent commanders with sufficient expertise in the art of war. In ’41 when the Germans were on the way to Moscow, the cadets were deployed to slow them down, whilst the General Headquarters relocate the military reserves. The Russians have a way with movies, the heroes are always heroic and self sacrificing, and there is always a sentimental romance. But these cadets really were heroic, doing a lot of damage to the German forces, and buying time with their lives, only 1/3 of them survived,which enabled the Russians to get their forces into place for the defence of Moscow. The script was a bit hokey if the subtitles are to be believed, but the actors gave it their all, and the action scenes are amazing.
Fraggle rating:- definitely one for the afficionado’s of war movies.
The Straight Story (1999) (recommended by Pete ~ link to his review here. )
In 1994, a chap named Alvin Straight, a WW2 veteran travelled from Laurens, Iowa to Mount Zion Wisconsin by means of a motorised John Deere lawn mower, to visit his brother who’d had a stroke. This he did as his legs and eyes were too impaired for him to receive a driver’s license. David Lynch decided to make a movie about it all, and what a beautiful piece of cinema he gave us. That’s the plot in a nutshell, but Alvin’s journey is epic. He meets people along the way who help him out when things go wrong with his lawn mower, he gives advice to a hitchhiker and a cycling group he meets along the way, and the scenery is filmed wonderfully. Richard Farnsworth took the part of Alvin in spite of being terminally ill with metastatic prostate cancer, and the paralysis of his legs we see in the movies is not acting, that’s real, but he had so much admiration for Alvin he determined to get through it, and it is a great piece of acting. Farnsworth committed suicide a year later at the age of 80. Sissy Spacek plays his daughter Rose, a lovely woman but a couple of cans short of a six pack in the brain department, and Harry Dean Stanton plays Lyle, Alvin’s brother, though he’s only in it for a few seconds in the last scene.
Fraggle rating:- absolutely brilliant, a quiet, deep and entrancing movie and quite unlike any of Lynch’s other movies.
The 800 (2020)
Another war movie from Phil, this time made and acted by a lot of Chinese people with impossible names. I think this is my fave war movie ever, as it has such a strange setting. Again based on real events it covers the defence of the Sihang Warehousein Shanghai in 1937 during the second Sino-Japanese war. The Imperial Japanes Army invaded Shanghai and after 3 months of holding them at bay, the Chinese army had to retreat before they became encircled. The Generalissimo of China Chiang Kai-Shek ordered the 524th Regiment of the under-equipped 88th Division of the National Revolutionary Army to stay behind and defend the warehouse. Led by Lt.Col. Xie Jinyuan, (Du Chun), 452 young officers and soldiers, were left facing 20,000 troops of the 3rd Japanese Imperial Army. This suicide mission was decided upon to boost the morale of the Chinese people after they had lost Beijing and most of Shanghai, and also to help spur on support from the allies who could see the battle going on as they were in the International zone just over the river from the Warehouse.
And this was what made the film quite amazing. I didn’t know about concession zones, and if you want to know about them here’s the wiki link but basically it meant that part of Shanghai was under USA & UK jurisdiction so the Japanese would leave that area alone so as not to upset them when they were only at war with China. The film showed the soldiers in the warehouse going through hell, whilst over the river are nightclubs, cafés et al and newpaper reporters filming the goings on happening in front of them. It’s a bit of a heart wrenching movie, and the juxtaposition of the ‘normal’ side and ‘war’ side is used very effectively by director Guan Hu. Great action scenes, a bit of over acting here and there, but nothing that detracts from the movie.
Fraggle Rating :- another must-see for military history/war movie buffs.
Mile 22 (2018) no spoilers
This movie is the 4th collaboration between director Peter Berg and actor Mark Wahlberg. They make a good team! This is an action thriller, involving Russian spies, Indonesian Police, and lots of bullets and car chases and Iko Uwais who makes great use of his stunt/martial art/fight choreography skills playing the part of Li Noor, a policeman who may not be what he seems. Whalberg plays James SIlva, who heads a clandestine elite CIA task force. His boss is played by John Malkovich as James Bishop, and his team consists of Alice Kerr, played by Lauren Cohan who is liberated from being Maggie in The Walking Dead TV show and shows some respectable kick-assery qualities. The other team mates are expendable actors. It’s high tech, fast action and a fairly convoluted plot. I can’t say I felt any emotional attachment to the characters but it was a better choice then my other option which was going to be ‘Without Remorse’ which is getting hammered by all who’ve seen it. Thanks to Ol’10for the advice on that decision!
Fraggle Rating:- Action ahoy, but best to be sober to follow the plot.
So that’s it for now. Stay tooned though, I’ll be back 😘
Thought I’d do a little catch up as I’ve been busy with the 365 over on the Universe Blog and I just know y’all are missing my Movie Monday reviews. We are still watching movies, so I’m going to do quick dash through what I thought about them.
Dead Presidents 1995 and Phil’s choice as he had it on DVD and I hadn’t seen it. Starring Larenz Tate, Keith David, Chris Tucker, Freddy Rodrigues, N’Bushe Wright and Bokeem Woodbine. It’s based partly on the real-life experiences of Haywood T. Kirkland (aka Ari S. Merretazon), whose true story was detailed in the book Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans by Wallace Terry, it chronicles the life of Anthony Curtis (Tate) and covers him from high school to the vietnam war and then home again to where he and his pals rob a bank. A well made film focussing on the experences of black veterans, well acted and paced, co-written, produced, and directed by Allan and Albert Hughes with skill and obvious passion. I imagine Spike Lee watched this and made notes for his Da 5 Bloods movie. I enjoyed this one much more. Fraggle Rating: underated and well worth seeing.
The Mule 2018. Clint Eastwood produces and directs from a script by Nick Schenk. Also based on the true story of a New York times article by Sam Dolnick “The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year-Old Drug Mule” about a WW2 veteran called Leo Sharp who became a drug courier for the cartel in his 80’s. Well this was fun, Clint has still got it and commands the screen even though he’s in his dotage now. Not sure how but he looks good even with that many wrinkles. Anyway it’s his movie though he’s ably assisted by Bradly Cooper on his tail as Colin Bates a D.E.A agent, Michael Pêna as Bates sidekick Trevino, Dianne Wiest as Clint’s estranged wife and a fairly small part for Lawrence Fishburn as Bates’s supervisor. Fraggle rating: Top Notch, especially for Eastwood fans.
The Alamo 2004. I’m sure someone out there will say this isn’t as good as the original Alamo movie made in 1960 starring John Wayne as Davy Crockett (perleeze 🙄🥴 blerk, I do NOT like John Wayne one bit) but Phil wanted the 2004 version as he really liked it so that’s what we did. No need to explain the plot I think, but just in case. In the 1830’s Texas had a revolution, small groups of Texians (that’s what they were called back then) gathered at a little town on the Mexican border called San Antonio where the Alamo compound is, and the Mexican army under the President Santa Anna came and killed them all. Dennis Quade plays Sam Houston, Billy Bob Thornton ~ Davy Crockett, Jason Patrick ~Jim Bowie and Patrick Wilson as William B Travis. I enjoyed this, the characters are well drawn and acted, and John Lee Hancock directs with a steady hand, giving the main characters room to breath. It’s a good history lesson too as we are ‘doing’ American History documentaries at the minute and it all ties in. Fraggle Rating: Good +++
Aquaman 2018. A D.C superhero movie that I hadn’t got round to. Well I have now and it wasn’t totally great, however it does have good points. Firstly it is stunningly beautiful to look at. The CGI under sea world building is easily as good as Avatar which sprang to mind straight away. Jason Momoa who plays him is well, how to put it, built like a brick s**t house as my Mum used to say, has a twinkle in his eye and gave a committed performance, as did Amber Heard as Princess Mera of Atlantis who wants to stop her brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson again) from going to war with humans and needs Aquaman (named Arthur Curry of all things) to step up, return to Atlantis and save the world. William Dafoe is phoning in a performance as the Vizier of Atlantis, and Nicole Kidman looks entirely out of place as a renegade queen who escapes atlantis, washes up at a lighthouse where the keeper Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison) rescues her, falls in love with her, impregnates her and then shortly after has to be a single parent after Atlantian soldiers come to take her back to marry whoever she ran away from. Also Dolph Lundgren is in the mix as an ally King to King Orm. There’s plot holes, a daft script and some dodgy dialogue, BUT this is one of D.C’s more light hearted movies after the darkness of Batman et al, and it was a blast from start to brilliant finish. Fraggle Rating: A mixed bag but well worth seeing.
That’s it for movies!
As most of you who follow this blog also follow the Universe blog, you already know I’m doing a 365 weekly post over there, but other life still goes on of course, and I take photo’s of that along the way. Last Sunday was Mother’s Day here, and Phil’s lovely daughter popped over with an afternoon tea for Phil and I to enjoy for the day. So nice of her to do this.
We still have Sophie’s cats! It’s been over 3 months now and Sophie isn’t back until at least the end of May/beginning of June so we have a ways to go yet. They are a pain in the arse and a total joy depending on what mood they are in, and I can’t resist taking pictures of them.
I’ve been enjoying having a few non rainy days and getting out to take photo’s for the 365, and also found other things along the way.
I found these fragments on the coast. I think it’s a letter of heartbreak, or castigation, I can’t make it all out, but it’s on a broken plate or something. Strange.
The hedgehogs have woken up and are visiting every night now, but we’ve also had a little one that visits during the day, so managed to get a couple of shots.
Hedgehogs are not usually out during the day, and this one is quite small, but she appears to be well, eating, drinking and running about well, so we are not too worried.
And finally, Spring is happening, at last, and soon the Happy Eater tree will do it’s glorious display, I can’t wait for warmer times!
It’s been a while since we did one, but the new Tom Hanks movie is billed as such, and we watched this on Netflix at the weekend. News of The World (2020) directed by Paul Greengrass and based on a novel by Paulette Giles, is set in 1870, during the reparation years following the Civil War. The plot is actually quite simple and straightforward. Hanks plays Jefferson Kyle Kidd a former Captain in the Confederate Army, who now travels from town to town reading the local and global new to people in church halls or saloons and they pay 10 cents to come and hear him. On one of his travels he comes across an upturned wagon and a hanged black soldier and then in the bushes finds a young white girl (Helena Zengel) who is wearing Native Indian clothes and can’t speak a word of English. Her name turns out to be Johanna, and she was captured by the Kiowa when she was very young after her family were killed, and now she has lost her Kiowa family. Kidd takes her to a Union station to see about getting her back to an aunt and uncle from her previous life but they can’t help. Kidd decides he has to take her himself. It’s a 400 mile trek so that’s a bit of a PIA for him, but he can work the towns along the way.
So basically we have here a Western road movie, and the focus is on the relationship between Kidd and Johanna. Hanks embodies the weariness of Kidd, his eyesight is failing and he has been away from his wife for a long time, but he is stoic and stable and kind. Zengel has been rightly lauded for her performance in the movie. Johanna is sad, sulky, feisty, scared, smart, vulnerable and good hearted, and Zengel shows it all in her expressions and in her eyes. Both Zengel and Hanks build their respective characters slowly up to a great relationship. Initially their inability to communicate makes that a difficulty, but bit by bit they get there. It’s not a slow film though, Greengrass balances out the relationship building with the action at a steady pace. There’s plenty of stuff to sort out along the journey. Kidd and Johanna have to work together to overcome several instances, and there are shoot outs, criminals, racist militia and the destruction of their transport all conspiring to prevent them reaching the relatives farm. Even then all is not necessarily well.
We really enjoyed this movie. Having done documentaries and movies on the civil war recently, we got more out of it as we knew about the dreadful times of the reparation, and there are some scenes at the beginning of the movie that touch upon the resentment that still endured between the Union and Confederate peoples. Filmed in New Mexico, the landscapes and scenery are stunning, miles of beautiful landscapes and Greengrass uses it well. The supporting cast all do a great job, but this is a Hanks and Zengler movie, the old and the new, and a combination well worth watching.